From left: Jibril Rajoub, Secretary of the Fatah Central Committee, DF Brigadier General (Res.) Michael Herzog, and moderator Tamara Cofman Wittes, director of the Center for ME policy at Brookings

We need to ‘seize opportunity’ with Trump, Palestinian official says

Conditions are ripe for a regional peace initiative given President Donald Trump’s interest in achieving a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians with the backing of Arab countries, says IDF Brigadier General (Res.) Michael Herzog, who was involved in every round of negotiations since the Oslo Accords, including in the years 2013-2014 on behalf of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

[This story originally appeared on]

During a panel on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process with Jibril Rajoub, Secretary of the Fatah Central Committee, hosted by the Israel Policy Forum in New York on Wednesday, Herzog said that one of the reasons the most recent regional peace initiative (in 2016) fell apart was because the Obama administration didn’t want to be part of it. “I think they did not believe that this would yield results. To my knowledge, both sides – the Israelis and Palestinians – did not trust the [Obama] Administration to be the leading part of that initiative and the administration didn’t want to be part of it,” he explained.

The principles of the initiative were agreed upon during a secret peace summit between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi in Aqaba, according to a report by Haaretz. The proposal later served as a basis for talks between Netanyahu and Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog on joining a national unity government. As reported by Haaretz, the plan was laid to rest after the coalition talks fell through in late 2016.

During Netanyahu’s meeting with President Trump in February, the two leaders agreed on reviving that plan with the backing of Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Gulf region.

“This administration is willing to involve the region in the peace process,” said Herzog. “I still don’t know how they are going to design the process. I don’t know if they have a strategy yet. We just have to wait and see. But it’s clearly a priority for this administration.”

Following a meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan on Wednesday, Trump said, “I’m working very, very hard on trying to finally create peace between the Palestinians and Israel, and I think we’ll be successful,” The President called Abdullah a “tireless advocate” for a peace settlement “and he’s going to help me with that and help me at the highest level. And we will be consulting with him closely in the days ahead.”

Rajoub, after expressing regret at some of his past statements and promising to be more cautious in the future, agreed that the Palestinians need to “seize this opportunity” with the Trump Administration to renew peace talks. Asked if the Palestinians would agree to enter into negotiations without a full settlement freeze, Rajoub told Jewish Insider, “The settlements, believe me, brother, its existence is a threat to the state of Israel. We are talking about two states – with two territories. Why expand it? Listen, I think it’s the time to freeze all settlement activities. Believe me, it’s a benefit to the Israelis like it’s a benefit to the Palestinians.”

According to Herzog, Trump has leverage on the Palestinian Authority to bring them to the negotiation table if Israel follows through with the new policy restraint in settlement activity. “I think the Palestinians will demand a freeze,” Herzog told Jewish Insider after the event. “However,  I believe that if the Trump Administration pushes them to enter negotiations even with Israel just restraining settlement activity, I don’t think they have an alternative. I do think Trump has leverage over them. You don’t want to mess with him. And since he prioritizes the peace process and wants a deal, he has leverage on them. They will have to do with some kind of restraint, and if he pressed them they will follow.”

Israeli security forces and emergency personnel inspect the scene of a Palestinian car ramming attack near the Jewish settlement of Ofra near the West Bank city of Ramallah on April 6. Photo by Mohamad Torokman/Reuters

Israeli soldier, 20, killed in suspected West Bank car-ramming attack

An Israeli soldier was killed and a second injured in a suspected car-ramming attack in the central West Bank.

Sgt. Elhai Teharlev, 20, from the West Bank settlement of Talmon, was killed in the attack Wednesday morning at a bus stop near the West Bank settlement of Ofra, located northeast of Ramallah. He served in the elite Golani Brigade.

The Palestinian driver of the vehicle, a silver Audi, was apprehended by other soldiers on the scene and detained. He was identified by the Palestinian Maan news agency as Malek Ahmad Moussa Hamed, 23, from the village of Silwad near Ramallah.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin mourned the soldier’s death.

“We have lost today a dear son, Elhai Teharlev, in the State of Israel’s ongoing struggle to ensure its security, and safeguard its citizens,” Rivlin said in a statement. “We will never allow terror to weaken us. Israeli society is strong, and we must stand firm in defense of our state and our land.”

Hamas praised the attack, calling it “a response to Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people and a direct continuation of its heroism in the al-Quds Intifada,” the wave of violence, mostly stabbing and car-ramming attacks, that started in October 2015.

Tough love for David Suissa

This past week, David Suissa penned an article that misrepresented our movement, as well as the American Jewish community.

We, IfNotNow, compose a community that is motivated by Jewish traditions of fearless questioning and an uncompromising pursuit of tikkun olam. It is not, as Mr. Suissa articulated, the desire to “look like an anti-establishment rebel,” that motivates us; rather, it is the values of love and justice that inform our movement.

Our upbringings, grounded deeply in Jewish ethics, have prepared us for this moment in history, as the first year of a Trump presidency converges with the fiftieth year of an Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

In what one might term “tough love” for Suissa’s piece, Jewish Journal Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman correctly declares that, “the occupation has twisted our communal soul.” Now, especially, is the time for bold opposition to hate-filled politics. Yet so many of our communal institutions, including AIPAC, have demonstrated the ease with which the pro-Israel establishment can be swayed by fearmongering tactics and Islamophobic sentiments. At last year’s AIPAC policy conference, Donald Trump’s speech – characterizing Palestinian society as bloodthirsty and anti-Semitic – was given a standing ovation by the majority of those in the room. Since then, AIPAC has continually failed to condemn the policies and rhetoric of Trump and his administration – policies that encourage racism, sexism, and even anti-Semitism – in the name of unconditionally rewarding those who promote the right-wing, pro-Israel party line.

Just as importantly, an unquestioning antipathy towards communities who criticize Israel is placing our communal institutions on the wrong side of history. Their pro-Israel criterion has not only prompted hostility towards disapproving members in the Jewish community, but also of other marginalized communities. One need not look farther than Mr. Suissa’s own track record to see this trend. Long before he appealed to the Jewish community to give IfNotNow a dose of “tough love,” Suissa called for, among others, “Tough Love for Islam,” “Tough Love for Black Lives Matter,” and “Tough Love for Obama.”

Not only do Suissa’s calls for “tough love” mischaracterize and dismiss communities, movements, and figures, but they also indulge in blatant bigotry. They minimize the struggle of communities who experience daily mistreatment by illustrating a world in which the oppressed are coddled. Suissa’s article advocating that the Jewish community “offer [Black Lives Matter] some tough love and constructive criticism,” for example, completely diminishes the often-violent sacrifices protesters make in order to bring attention to a dire reality. He also suggests that the difficulties faced by the Jewish community are equivalent to those faced by the black community — they are not.

Suissa asserts that Jewish organizations, out of fear of “losing” young Jews critical of Israel, are handling them with “kid gloves.” But one must ask: who is, in fact, doing this? Hillel at Ohio State has disbanded its Jewish LGBT support group because it participated in an event alongside Jewish Voice for Peace. The Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations refused to admit J Street, an explicitly pro-Israel organization that supports a two-state solution.

In Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago, AIPAC ensured the arrest of seven IfNotNow members for occupying its lobby. Many IfNotNow members have family who will not speak to them because of their work in our movement. Each of our members – many of whom love the country deeply and have family there –  risks a refusal of entry into Israel. We are regularly shouted at, told that we aren’t Jewish, or that we’re kapos. With such rhetoric, it is no surprise that the Jewish Defense League, a right-wing terrorist organization, attacked IfNotNow demonstrators and a Palestinian man during a peaceful action at AIPAC last week. So, we must ask again: who is handling us with “kid gloves?”

Suissa argued that our last action in Los Angeles simplified the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He will get no argument from us when he says that it is complicated. Even now, Israel just approved the first settlement construction in the West Bank in over twenty years.

Every day that Israel denies Palestinians basic rights and freedoms is another day it cannot hope for any sort of security or an improvement in international standing. And, even more importantly, the chance of reaching a just and peaceful resolution grows increasingly slim.

We are under no illusions that ending the occupation will be easy. It is not “social justice on demand”; it will involve considerable risk. But the current methods by which alleged security is held in place are unacceptable, and we, as American Jews who are implicated in this violence, must work to end it.

In the face of this issue’s complexity, we ask a simple question – a question that our communal institutions have failed to answer for too long: Do we, as a community, believe that all peoples deserve freedom and dignity?

If the answer is yes, then we can no longer afford to advocate solely for ourselves. We cannot accept the vindication of a bigoted, xenophobic, and delusional leader based solely on his proclaimed support for Israeli policies. It is engrained in our Jewish heritage to stand with people in need. Will our communal institutions use their power to stand with those most targeted by a Trump administration? By a Netanyahu administration?

We reimagine an American Jewish community that fights for dignity and freedom for all, even if it goes against the policies of a particular Israeli government. We are building a community that is no longer complicit in upholding a system of violence against Palestinians. Mr. Suissa, join us!

The authors are members of IfNotNow.

David Suissa responds:

I stand by every word I wrote. By blaming only Israel for the absence of peace, the movement IfNotNow (INN) hurts peace. By ignoring Palestinian refusals to end the occupation, Palestinian teaching of Jew-hatred and Palestinian glorifying of terrorism, INN hurts Palestinians. And by ignoring the reality that Hamas and ISIS are likely to swoop in and massacre Palestinians after Israel leaves the West Bank, INN is dumbing down a complicated conflict. The community conversation is much healthier when everyone is challenged. Just as INN is free to challenge AIPAC and other groups, they should have no problem getting the same treatment. As they write, it’s the “Jewish tradition of fearless questioning.”

President Donald Trump listens to Vice President Mike Pence. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

The art of the deal

Following Netanyahu’s visit to the White House, a leaked transcript of President’s Trump’s daring proposals about a final settlement between Israel and the Palestinians has come to light.

The White House has refused to comment, but Julian Assange of WikiLeaks said “more would be released very soon.” According to WikiLeaks, the following conversation took place on 22 February 2017.

Trump:” We’re gonna get the deal of the century…”

Pence:” Yeah…”

Tillerson: ”But what are we gonna do that’s new? Basically everything that’s been tried before hasn’t worked.”

Trump: “Can you summarise all the different proposals quickly, so we can review them?”

Tillerson: “Sure…hang on a minute please while I look them up.”

Trump: ”We’ll get a beautiful deal…a real beautiful deal, believe me, that will be the envy of the world.”

Tillerson: “We have the roadmap where Israel will retain major settlement blocs and the Palestinians establish a state in the West Bank and Gaza. We also have a situation where Israel trades land [in Israel] for land of equal size in the West Bank. Another scenario is Israel withdrawing completely to the pre-1967 cease fire lines in exchange for diplomatic relations with all Arab countries underwritten by American and European security guarantees. Another possibility is a single Israeli state from the Jordan River, and Jordan becomes Palestine. It already has a Palestinian majority and was Eastern Palestine before 1918. Or they can be compensated and go elsewhere—Chile already has a significant Palestinian community.

Trump: “Why did these proposals not work?”

Greenblatt: ”The Palestinians said that any agreement would not mean the end of the conflict as Israel had demanded and that they won’t recognise Israel as the nation state of the Jews. ..this was a key Israeli demand.”

Trump: That doesn’t make sense. How can you sign a final agreement that says that it’s not the end?”

Pence: ”There are a lot of things that don’t make sense Mr President.”

Tillerson:”So then, what are you proposing?”

Trump: “We have a scenario where Israel wants to be recognised as the Nation State of the Jews. The Palestinians refuse. They also want … actually I’m not really sure…but certainly they want some kind of state.”

Greenblatt: “Seems impossible to reconcile.”

Pence: “Yeah.”

Trump:” There will be a new country that can satisfy both parties. It will guarantee the aspirations of Israelis and the Palestinians. I am going to initiate a massive aid program like the Marshall Plan, but bigger. Ramallah will have the best golf course in the world…believe me…”

Greenblatt: ”With respect Mr President, massive aid projects have never worked with the Palestinians in the past.”

Trump:” They got it wrong…this will be different. I am going to get Jared to start a massive building scheme, run by a new subsidiary of Trump Towers called Trump Minarets…believe me…Ivanka will advise on fashions…stunning hijabs and burkas are going to be the envy of Paris…believe me. I will also make Palestine great again.”

Friedman:” And the Israeli demands for recognition as nation state of the Jews?”

Trump: ”I will pull of an amazing deal…believe me, just amazing.”

Tillerson: “How?”

Trump: “The new state will be called Palestein.”

Greenblatt: ”The Israelis won’t agree to that.”

Trump: Not Palestine, but Palestein… spelt differently as in s-t-e-i-n, that rhymes with Goldstein.

So, both should be happy. Sounds Jewish and retains the old name.”

Friedman: “What happens if the Israelis want to pronounce it Palesteen or Paleshtein?”

Trump: “They can pronounce it anyway they want…that’s the art of the deal. It’s about the spelling.”

Tillerson: ”And the territory?”

Trump: “All the pre-1967 West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem. That‘s what the Palestinians wanted.

And also include Israel too. It will all be Palestein.”

Greenblatt: “And the Israeli communities… settlements there?”

Trump: “They remain but will fall under the government of Palestein, which will be a federal system. There will also be a rotating system of a Jewish president and Palestinian prime minister, every four years.”

Friedman: “If the country is called Palestein, then what are the people going to be called?”

Trump: “Good question—Palesteins…rhyming with Philistines. Call Bibi and Babbi…Abbas… and tell them about our deal.”

Tillerson: “It’s already been leaked Mr President. They know.”

Trump: “What the hell..?”

Tillerson: “In fact, we already got a response from the Israelis. They say it’s an interesting idea and want to study it.”

Trump: “Great! Believe me that’s the art of the deal. A fair win for all!”

Tillerson: “Mr President, the Palestinians have already rejected it.”

Trump :”Huh?”

Tillerson: “They say Palestein sounds too Jewish.

Ron Jontof-Hutter is a Fellow at the Berlin International Center for the Study of Antisemitism and the author of the satirical novel, “The trombone man: tales of a misogynist.”

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

Israel/Palestine: Standing Firm Means Never Getting Anywhere

As Jason Greenblatt meets with Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu, you can’t help wondering: will anything change? Through several U.S. administrations, the talking points have remained virtually the same. Meanwhile, confidence in a two-state solution is waning in both Palestine and Israel.

“Young Palestinians start to lose faith in two-state solution,” declared a Financial Times headline recently. NPR had the same story last month. In a piece broadcast on February 17, reporter Joanna Kakissis interviewed two students at Bir Zeit University. Both of them said they don’t recognize Israel as a country. “It’s not even their home,” says one of them, referring to Jewish Israelis.

This is hardly news. In 2014, when the journalist Nir Baram interviewed people living in Israel and the West Bank, a Palestinian woman told him “We can’t live with you, we want our own state. The Jews can go back to America or Europe.” As one man put it: “All of Palestine is Palestine, from sea to sea. I don’t believe there is such a thing as Israel. All the Israelis came here from far away and conquered our lands.”

Yaasir Arafat made the same argument over 40 years ago. To him, Palestine was like Algeria under French rule. He saw the Jews as European invaders, promoting a colonialist, imperialist project which should be overthrown in favor of national sovereignty. Arafat explicitly promoted an armed struggle whose “causes do not stem from any conflict between two religions or two nationalisms. Neither is it a border conflict between neighboring States.” His goal was a single Palestinian state where Jews might also live.

On the Jewish side, advocates of two states have consistently believed in negotiations to establish agreed-upon borders between the states, arguing that nothing else could preserve Israel as both Jewish and democratic. Skeptics, on the other hand, foresee a Palestinian state that would resemble some of its Arab neighbors: unstable, undemocratic, and a greater threat to Israel’s security than the status quo. Over more than 40 years, those arguments haven’t changed much either.

All that these efforts have accomplished is to maintain a stalemate. Whether you believe that they reflect high principle or simple intransigence, the inescapable fact is that the predicament remains the same as 50 years ago. Maybe that’s the best we can hope for: an uneasy ceasefire in a multigenerational conflict, with occasional eruptions of individual and military violence.

What else could be done? The parties might accept the status quo as preferable to any of the alternatives and abandon the pretense of seeking negotiations. On the other hand, they might conclude that the situation is deteriorating and unsustainable, and be willing to modify their long-held beliefs as the basis for new negotiations. Or, combining elements of both outlooks, they might conclude that the status quo is unsustainable but that negotiations are ineffectual, and that the conflict can be resolved only by force.

Of course the participants in the Israel/Palestine debate may prefer to stick to their long-standing positions rather than contemplate something new. But is that really tenable? It takes a lot of courage to reconsider one’s own fundamental assumptions and consider changing them. But it’s a necessary step towards progress. Standing in place won’t get us anywhere.

Israeli security forces on the scene where a Palestinian man stabbed two Israeli Border Police officers in Jerusalem’s Old City on March 13. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

2 Israeli police officers stabbed in Jerusalem, Palestinian assailant shot dead

A Palestinian man who allegedly stabbed two Israeli Border Police officers in Jerusalem reportedly was shot and killed by another officer.

The stabbing took place overnight Sunday at the officers’ post in the Old City near the Lions’ Gate. The officers were taken to a Jerusalem hospital with moderate injuries.

The Palestinian Maan news agency identified the assailant as Ibrahim Mahmoud Matar, 25, of eastern Jerusalem.

According to the Israel police, police took Matar into the post to be searched after he was stopped at the Lions’ Gate before entering the Old City. Police said he then took out the knife and attacked the officers. Palestinian witnesses told Maan that Matar was carrying a stick and was taken out of the post by a police officer and shot at point blank range.

Early Sunday morning, police raided Matar’s home in the Jabal al-Mukabar neighborhood, arresting four members of his family, identified by Maan as his parents, brother and uncle. A flag featuring the logo of the Hamas terrorist group was removed from the home, according to The Times of Israel.

Jerusalem is under increased security Sunday and Monday due to the Purim holiday, which is observed a day later than in the rest of Israel.

President Donald Trump reading the first of three Executive Orders he will sign in the Oval Office on Jan. 23. Photo by Ron Sachs/Pool/Getty Images

Trump reiterates neutrality on two-state solution, but says he ‘likes’ it

President Donald Trump said he “likes” the two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict while reiterating his noncommittal approach.

Asked during an interview with Reuters Thursday whether he had backed away from the two-state concept during his Feb. 15 joint White House appearance with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump said, “No, I like the two-state solution.”

But, he added, “I ultimately like what the both parties like.”

His position diverges with that of previous U.S. presidents, who said two states was the only viable solution for resolving the conflict.

According to Reuters, Trump “expressed his preference” for the two-state solution over the one-state one during the interview. But the article published by the news agency based on the interview contained no direct quotes by the president expressing such a preference.

During the meeting with Netanyahu, Trump told reporters, “I’m looking at two states and one state, and I like the one both parties like. I can live with either one.”

2 Palestinians reported dead in Gaza tunnel blast

Two Palestinians were killed and five were injured in what Gaza authorities said was an airstrike on a smuggling tunnel between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

Hamas’ health minister, Ashraf al-Qidra, said Thursday, the day after the strike, that it was carried out by Israel, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported. An Israel Defense Forces spokesman told Maan that the army was not involved in the incident.

Maan identified the two fatalities as men aged 24 and 38.

On Wednesday, four rockets were fired from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula towards the southern Israeli city of Eilat. No casualties were reported in the incident, which an affiliate of the Islamic State group said it had carried out.

A number of Palestinians in Gaza have been killed in the vast tunnel networks that lie below Hamas-controlled enclave. They are largely used for smuggling in the south and military purposes in the north.

Both Israel and Egypt have targeted the tunnels for destruction in the past.

On Thursday, six people were wounded in a shooting attack in the central Israeli city of Petach Tikvah.

Israeli police said a 19-year-old Palestinian man, Sadeq Nasser Awda from Nablus, opened fire Thursday afternoon near an outdoor market, Army Radio reported. The alleged assailant was arrested at the scene.

None of the wounded suffered life-threatening injuries, according to media reports.

The assembly hall of the Knesset on Oct. 31, 2016. Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Knesset passes historic bill to legalize settlements on Palestinian land

The Israeli parliament passed a bill that would retroactively legalize some West Bank settlements built on private Palestinian land.

Knesset lawmakers voted 60-52 in favor of the measure late Monday to legalize some 4,000 settler homes.

The law, which prevents the government from demolishing the homes, comes less than a week after police forcibly evacuated the Amona outpost. It represents the first time the government has tried to implement Israeli law in Area C, part of the West Bank that is under Israeli civilian and military rule, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Knesset member Shuli Muallem-Refaeli of the pro-settler Jewish Home party said Monday that the bill was “dedicated to the brave people of Amona who were forced to go through what no Jewish family will have to again,” The Times of Israel reported.

The bill has drawn sharp condemnation. Leaders of the Zionist Union and Yesh Atid, the second and fourth largest parties in the Knesset, respectively, both warned against its passage.

Israel’s attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, has said the bill violates local and international law and would likely be overturned by the Supreme Court.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not present for the vote, as his scheduled return from a trip to the United Kingdom was delayed.

Following a Monday meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Netanyahu denied he had sought to delay the vote after Feb. 15, when he is set to meet with President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., Haaretz reported.

“I never said that I want to delay the vote on this law,” Netanyahu said. “I said that I will act according to our national interest. That requires that we do not surprise our friends and keep them updated – and the American administration has been updated. This process was important for me because we are trying to act this way, especially with very close friends.”

On Thursday, Trump in his first statement on Israeli settlements since taking office said construction of new settlements “may not be helpful” in reaching a peace agreement, though he denied that existing settlements are impediments to a deal.

The Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, which have traditionally been hesitant to weigh in on Israeli domestic issues, both criticized the measure on Monday.

ADL leaders said it would harm Israel’s image abroad and lead to legal repercussions.

“[I]t is imperative that the Knesset recognizes that passing this law will be harmful to Israel’s image internationally and could undermine future efforts to achieving a two-state solution,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s national director.

The director of ADL’s Israel office, Carole Nuriel, added that the measure “may also trigger severe international legal repercussions.”

AJC said it was “deeply disappointed” about the bill’s passage and called on the Supreme Court to “reverse this misguided legislation.”

“The controversial Knesset action, ahead of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s meeting with President Trump in Washington, is misguided and likely to prove counter-productive to Israel’s core national interests,” said AJC CEO David Harris.

B’Tselem, a watchdog monitoring human rights abuses in the settlements, slammed the bill.

“The law passed by the Knesset today proves yet again that Israel has no intention of ending its control over the Palestinians or its theft of their land,” the group said in a statement. “Lending a semblance of legality to this ongoing act of plunder is a disgrace for the state and its legislature.”

Peace Now, a left-leaning group promoting the two-state solution, also criticized passage.

“By passing this law, Netanyahu makes theft an official Israeli policy and stains the Israeli law books,” the group said in a statement. “By giving a green light to settlers to build illegally on private Palestinian land, the legalization law is another step towards annexation and away from a two state solution.”

Courtesy of Simone Zimmerman.

Building a Jewish Left: A Q&A with Simone Zimmerman

In the space of five days in April, San Fernando Valley native Simone Zimmerman went from a rank-and-file activist against Israel’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza to the most reviled figure of right-wing Zionism.

In the midst of an emotional and dramatic election campaign, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders tapped Zimmerman, then 25, to head his Jewish outreach. Shortly after, a year-old Facebook post surfaced where Zimmerman referred to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu using expletives.

She edited the curse words out about 10 hours later, but it was too late: Somebody had taken a screenshot, and her post spread through the press like a virus. She was Sanders’ national Jewish outreach coordinator for less than six days before the campaign acceded to the demands of various Jewish leaders and removed her from the post.

But before all that, Zimmerman grew up in a rather normal Jewish childhood in Los Angeles, spending 10 summers at Camp Ramah in Ojai and attending a Jewish high school. By the time she went to college, at UC Berkeley, she was beginning to question what she’d been told about Israel and whether she’d gotten the full picture. The questions never went away.

While living in New York City in 2014, Zimmerman was part of small group of young, progressive Jews who founded IfNotNow, a nationwide network of activists that objects to the status quo in the Palestinian territories and challenges mainstream Jewish organizations to do the same.

“For me, a lot of my identity, the work that I do, is a direct result of coming to the institutions of the Jewish community, asking hard questions and being turned away, and often being attacked and vilified,” she said.

Zimmerman spoke to the Journal this week in a phone call from Israel, where she’s spending a year. The interview was her first with the press, Jewish or otherwise, since the Sanders controversy. (A previous interview published in +972 Magazine was conducted by a fellow activist, Isaac Luria.)

The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Jewish Journal: You’re in Israel for the yearlong Dorot Fellowship. Can you tell us what that means?

Simone Zimmerman: The Dorot Fellowship chooses a cohort of [American} Jews, mid-to-late 20s, for a personal a leadership development program. … We plan seminars for each other about Israel and Israeli society and we have community days that include everything from a storytelling workshop to… personal feedback sessions, learning how to give and receive feedback. It’s a laboratory for individuals to work on different aspects of themselves that they want to reflect on, grow in.

JJ: What do you hope to get out of your year in Israel?

SZ: First and foremost, I’m here in Israel very much to reconnect with the humanity of this place — the humanity, the complexity, the beauty of the world that Israelis and Palestinians live in here… I’m spending a lot of time getting to learn about the narratives and avenues for hope and change … I guess you could say it’s an opportunity to get beyond the headlines.

JJ: Your story seems to have turned you into something of an archetype for perhaps thousands of other likeminded young American Jews. Does that feel like a burden on you and if so, do you accept it?

SZ: Yes and yes. … [After the controversy] I did need a space to breathe, take care of myself, kind of be out of the spotlight a little bit, reflect, recharge, reorient. … I think my experience on the campaign, there are aspects of it that I really see as a tremendous opportunity. It gave huge visibility to IfNotNow. It broadcast a story … It’s really important that lots more people know that there are many, many young American Jews like me whose politics developed not, in spite of the Jewish establishment, but because of our experience there. For me, a lot of my identity, the work that I do, is a direct result of coming to the institutions of the Jewish community, asking hard questions and being turned away, and often being attacked and vilified. … For me, I think it’s important that people know this story.

JJ: Abraham Foxman came out shortly after retiring as head of the Anti-Defamation League to call for your firing. Why do you think the Jewish establishment was so terrified of — no offense — some 25-year-old from the San Fernando Valley?

SZ: They attack us so much because they know that we are not a minority and that we are a growing voice in the community. If they didn’t see us as a growing threat they wouldn’t feel the need to attack us. I think they know that as the occupation hits its 50th anniversary, as the Israeli government moves more and more to the right, American Jews are moving left, a lot of us, and we’re not willing to check our values at the door to maintain this pro-Israel consensus. True safety and liberation for Jews in the U.S. and in Israel actually depends not on supporting the occupation but fighting for freedom for all people.

JJ: Are you optimistic that the Jewish establishment will come around to your position on Israel, or do you think some institutions will have to be toppled before all is said and done?

SZ: I hope some institutions might come around. I think a lot of the institutions of our community were really founded to serve really just causes. And it makes me sad, it really hurts me to see that so many of them have strayed from what I think is their founding mission. … But IfNotNow, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, a lot of these organizations, even T’ruah, these organizations and movements are going to be seating the leaders that are going to start our own institutions … that in a few decades might make those other organizations totally irrelevant.

JJ: What does the future hold for Simone Zimmerman? Are you going to continue doing anti-occupation work?

SZ: I feel pretty clear that building a Jewish left and being part of the fight to end the occupation — that’s the work I’m going to be doing for a pretty long time. Exactly where and how, I’m not so sure yet.

JJ: Are you considering making aliyah and staying in Israel permanently?

SZ: Look, this place is really important to me. I have a lot of friends and family here. But I’m an American.

JJ: In 2014, you help start IfNotNow. Can you tell me about that?

SZ: IfNotNow started in New York City during the 2014 war in Gaza. The basic call to action was around Hillel’s three questions: “If I am not for me who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?” … The actual action that we started doing was saying the Mourner’s Kaddish outside of Jewish institutions and reading the names of Israelis and Palestinians who were killed in the violence. It quickly moved to about eight other cities around the country. … Well over 1,000 people took action with us that summer. And we were shocked. … Once the war ended, we knew it was only a matter of time before there was another crisis, and we felt pretty committed to harnessing the voices of all the people who had come out to protest with us that summer. … We launched our training program a little over a year ago and at this point, there are 700 leaders in eight cities and quickly expanding, and over 4,000 people have taken action with IfNotNow.

JJ: Where do you see the future of the Jewish community moving at this point?

SZ: I’m more terrified and more hopeful in this moment than maybe I’ve ever been in my life. I’m terrified because I believe the threats that Donald Trump and his administration have made. I believe that real people are going to get hurt in the next four years. And as much as I believe that the Jewish establishment is out of touch and as many times as they’ve disappointed me over the years, it still really hurts to see them cozying up to white nationalists in the name of maintaining the status quo in Israel. On the flip side, I’m really hopeful because I really believe I’m part of a majority in the U.S. that actually believes in a better future. … We’re really excited to see more and more people in our community being forced to choose a side. I think that polarization [can be] such a really important opportunity and I hope a lot more people are really going to get involved and stand up for their values.

Israeli soldier guilty of manslaughter in shooting Palestinian attacker

This story originally appeared on

An Israeli military court convicted Sgt. Elor Azaria, a 19-year-old Israeli soldier of manslaughter after he shot dead a seriously wounded Palestinian attacker in the West Bank city of Hebron ten months ago. The shooting was filmed by the dovish Btselem organization, and ignited a furious debate in Israel. Azaria will be sentenced at a future hearing in several weeks.

Azaria did not show any emotion as the verdict was delivered, although he walked into the courtroom smiling, and hugged his mother.  After the verdict was delivered, one of Azaria's relatives was kicked out of the courtroom for screaming at the judge.

“Tomorrow there is no IDF,” she yelled, referring to the army. “The IDF is over.”

Another relative screamed “disgusting leftists” at the court and stormed out.

After the judges left the room, Azaria's mother screamed, “You should be ashamed of yourselves.” Azaria tried to comfort her and calm her as she screamed and cried.

In her opinion, Central Command Chief Justice Maya Heller said that Azaria had changed his story several times and that his version of events, that he believed the terrorist posed a threat to him, was “not credible.” She also said that it was Azaria's shooting that killed the terrorist, Abed al Fatah a-Sharif, who was lying wounded on the ground after he tried to stab a soldier.

“He opened fire in violation of orders, the terrorist did not pose any threat,” the judges wrote.

Before reading the verdict, Judge Heller read out claims of both the prosecution and the defense. She said that Azaria offered different version of what happened last March, first saying that the terrorist moved while he was lying on the ground, and Azaria thought his life was in danger. Later he said that the terrorist was already dead before Azaria opened fire.

During the trial, another soldier, named only as TM, testified that Azaria asked him, “How is it that my friend was stabbed and the terrorist is alive?” She said that statement had “significant weight in the decision.”

About 400 protestors gathered outside the military court to support Azaria. Waving Israeli flags, they accused the army and the government of unfairly targeting the soldier. They chanted “Death to the Terrorists” and “Free Elor.” Several protestors were arrested when they tried to block the street in front of the military court.

“I'm here for Elor – he should be freed,” Yardena Arbel told The Media Line. “Every terrorist should die. He (the terrorist) came to kill. Elor is the son of all of us. He entered all of our hearts.”

In Israel, there is universal conscription and most men and women serve in the army, with the exception of most Arab citizens of Israel, who can volunteer, and most ultra-Orthodox men. Soldiers are popular in Israeli society, and widely supported.

The case of Azaria deeply split the Israeli public. Some, like the demonstrators and others, believe that Azaria was unfairly targeted.

“They preferred the version of Btselem over the version of an IDF fighter,” Sharon Gal, the Azaria family's media advisor said. “They didn't give any weight to the evidence. It was like the court was detached from the fact that this was the area of an attack. I felt that the court picked up the knife from the ground and stabbed it in the back of all the soldiers.”

Some in Israel felt that the verdict was a victory for the rule of law in Israel, and a reminder that there are strict rules about when a soldier can open fire.

“Today's conviction is a positive step toward reining in excessive use of force by Israeli soldiers against Palestinians,” said Sari Bashi, Israel advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. As Human Rights Watch has documented, however, the problem is not just one rogue soldier but also senior Israeli officials who publicly tell security forces to unlawfully shoot to kill.”

The shooting in Hebron came amid a wave of Palestinian stabbing and shooting attacks that have killed 42 soldiers and civilians in the past 15 months, and wounded dozens of others. 

Ayman Odeh, member of the Israeli parliament’s Joint List political bloc — representing parties led by Arab citizens of Israel in the Knesset — told the Ma’an News Agency  that the “main difference in this case was the presence of cameras which documented the crime thanks to Btselem.” 

Palestinians said that while the court did rule that B’Tselem’s videos were authentic and admissible, many other crimes against Palestinians are never investigated. The dovish Israeli Yesh Din organization issued a report that of the 186 investigations the Israeli army opened in 2015 investigating offenses against Palestinians, just four yielded indictments. Human Rights Watch criticized Israel's “shoot to kill” policy.

Many Israelis seemed torn about Azaria's verdict.

“I am afraid that after the verdict, soldiers will be afraid to shoot Palestinian terrorists and they will just run away,” Roni Yitzhayek, a Tel Aviv taxi driver told The Media Line. “I think he should be convicted, but sentenced only to time served.”

Yitzhayek's daughter is currently serving in the army as a combat soldier at the Qalandia checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah. He said that after watching the Azaria trial, he told his daughter that if a Palestinian ever tries to attack her, she should shoot at her legs, not try to kill her.

Last week, he said, that is exactly what happened. A female terrorist tried to attack soldiers at the checkpoint with a knife. His daughter opened fire, wounding the women in the legs.

The U.N. resolution, flawed as it is, supports the State of Israel

So here we are, entering 2017, still carrying 1967 on our backs.

Nineteen-sixty-seven was the year of the Six-Day War, when Israel, fearing imminent attack by its Arab neighbors, launched a pre-emptive strike that resulted in the capture of East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

It was a world-shaking moment, so much so that from that week until now, the status of these territories, the millions of Palestinians who live there, and the Jewish Israelis who have taken up residence in them has been an ongoing source of contention.

And by “contention” I mean violent revolts, war, civil disobedience, terror, negotiation, threats of apocalyptic holy war (in the case of Jerusalem) and one United Nations resolution after another.

Which brings us to the last couple of weeks.

If you want to understand the United Nations Security Council’s vote on Resolution 2334, the United States’ abstention, the apoplectic response of much of the American Jewish community to the abstention, and the subsequent speech by Secretary of State John Kerry laying out his vision for a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, you have to go back to 1967.

The country’s leaders never intended to capture the Golan, the West Bank and Jerusalem. Israel’s intention was to avoid destruction. Syria’s relentless pounding of Israeli villages from the heights pushed then-Prime Minister Levi Eshkol to stall the war’s ceasefire in order to quiet Syrian artillery once and for all. And King Hussein of Jordan’s unexpected entry into the war more than justified the capture of East Jerusalem and the takeover of the West Bank.

When word came that an Israeli unit had just conquered the Arab city of Hebron on the West Bank, David Ben-Gurion, the founding prime minister of Israel, called the unit commander.

“Well done,” Ben-Gurion said. “Now give it back to them.”

Neither then nor now does anyone think the conflict can be solved simply by “giving it back.” But Ben-Gurion’s warning reminds us that there is no one “Israeli” way of looking at this crisis.

There have always been alternate and deeply conflicting visions of what Israel should do with the territories. Keeping them would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state, or the creation of an apartheid state, or a multinational state of dubious stability. Dividing them into two states is no picnic, but that is American policy, and the official Israeli and Palestinian view.

Over the past couple of weeks, as I followed the outrage to President Barack Obama’s abstention on Resolution 2334 and over Kerry’s speech, I wondered whether we Jews, who so ably recollect our ancient past, have lost the ability to remember all this recent history.

Fifty years ago, at the war’s end, President Lyndon B. Johnson led the effort to draft and pass United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, “Concerning Principles for a Just and Lasting Peace in the Middle East.” Since then, the policy of every U.S. administration has been based on the principles set forth in that resolution: an end to hostilities based on a negotiated territory-for-peace settlement, East Jerusalem included.

You could create a palimpsest over Kerry’s speech, the recent Security Council resolution, and the language of Resolution 242 and not see through any major differences.

So, why the outrage?

Partly because over the past five decades, the American-Jewish community has come to see the territories Israel captured in 1967 as birthright. The absence of a sincere Palestinian negotiating partner, the weakness of the Israeli “peace camp,” the fervor and activism of Israel’s right-leaning governments and their American supporters, the reluctance of major American-Jewish organizations to challenge the settlements, the hypocrisy of a U.N. that obsesses over Israel while glancing at Syria, have all played a role in helping to normalize settlements.

But make no mistake: the goal of the settlement movement has never been to gain leverage for eventual peace negotiations.  As Gershom Gorenberg documents in “The Accidental Empire,” the goal of the settlement movement is to make a two-state solution impossible, to claim and hold all the Land of Israel for the State of Israel.

The U.N. resolution, flawed as it is, supports the State of Israel, just not activities across the Green Line.

“A solid majority of the countries that voted for the U.N. Security Council resolution are not anti-Israeli or anti-Semitic,” wrote Barak Ravid in Yedioth Ahronoth. “The message of their vote was simple: It’s the settlements, stupid.”

But all that, as they say, is so 2016.

Now comes President Donald Trump and his promise to toss out the Israel policies of Obama; indeed, of seven previous administrations. This may mean moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, or encouraging more settlements, or sanctioning the plans of those in the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to annex part of the West Bank.

Should those things come to pass, something tells me the furor of late December will seem like the good old days — and the Six-Day War will continue to rage.

ROB ESHMAN is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. Email him at You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism and @RobEshman.

Obama’s fatal legacy: Killing the peace process

You can make a strong case that President Barack Obama’s decision to allow United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 to pass was very harmful to Israel. By endorsing the anti-Israel narrative that every square inch of territory captured by Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967 — including the Jewish Quarter in East Jerusalem and the Western Wall — is “Occupied Palestinian Territory,” and that Jewish presence in those areas is a “flagrant violation of international law,” Obama didn’t just throw renegade West Bank settlers to the wolves — he threw all of Israel.

If a Tel Aviv dairy company, for instance, sells its cottage cheese to Jews in East Jerusalem, does it make that company complicit in a crime? And if a Jew lives in the Old City, can that Jew be arrested and tried in international legal courts?

I know, it sounds preposterous. But when you see the anti-Israel venom spewed by such movements as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), would it really surprise you to see them come after Israeli Jews in international criminal courts with the lethal weapon of Resolution 2334 firmly in their hands?

That resolution is the weapon Obama has provided to Israel’s enemies. It would be silly to expect they won’t use it. So, yes, allowing this resolution to pass is harmful to Israel and is a shameful final act for a president who has always claimed to have Israel’s back.

But it is shameful and tragic for another reason as well — because it has virtually killed the peace process.

By endorsing a resolution that effectively turns Israel into an outlaw state, Obama has eliminated all incentive for the Palestinians to negotiate, let alone compromise. In other words, if Israel’s No. 1 ally already has decided that 550,000 Israeli Jews are illegally occupying “Palestinian territory,” what is there for the Palestinians to negotiate?

What is often overlooked is that previous U.N. resolutions and international and bilateral agreements did not put Israel in such a box and allowed plenty of room for the parties to negotiate.

You can start with the 1922 League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, which, as Evelyn Gordon has documented in Commentary, explicitly allocated all of what is today Israel, the West Bank and Gaza as a “Jewish national home,” a right that was legally preserved by Article 80 of the founding U.N. Charter.

But even if you reject those 1922 Jewish rights, there is the venerable U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, which followed the 1967 war. That resolution, which both parties have been quoting for decades as a basis for negotiations, was explicitly worded to allow Israel to keep parts of the disputed territory it captured during the war, by referring to “defensible borders” and requiring an Israeli withdrawal only from “territories” captured in 1967, not “the territories” or “all the territories.”

Even the 1993 Oslo Accord lists “Jerusalem” and “settlements” as “issues that will be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations.” The point is, whether they thought settlements were illegal or not, peace processors were always savvy enough to allow Israel some leverage and wiggle room to negotiate.

Resolution 2334, by bluntly characterizing Israel as a land thief and making no distinction between illegal outposts and the Western Wall, pretty much obliterates that wiggle room.

Obama himself, at the very beginning of his term, also left no wiggle room and was equally blunt when he demanded that Israel freeze every brick of construction in every inch of post-1967 territory, including the settlement blocs and the Jewish Quarter. Since no Israeli government could ever meet such a draconian demand, Obama’s move essentially froze the peace process by undermining Israel’s negotiating position and giving the Palestinians the perfect excuse to stay away from peace talks.

With his failure to veto Resolution 2334, Obama has come full circle. His draconian demand from nearly eight years ago is now enshrined in the inner sanctum of the United Nations. He may have convinced himself he was only showing “tough love,” but the reality is that Obama has empowered Israel’s enemies, stripped Israel of its negotiating leverage and rewarded the Palestinians for their intransigence.

It is the height of chutzpah when Secretary of State John Kerry now lectures Israel on the importance of negotiating a two-state solution. It’s like saying: “We’ve taken away your negotiating chips — now go make a deal!”

This is why some of my pro-Israel friends who voted for Obama are in a state of disillusionment. They may be against Israeli settlements, but they fail to see how this late hit on Israel will be helpful. They see only harm — harm to Israel, harm to the peace process and harm to Obama’s legacy as a friend of the Jews.

David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at

Trump: Israelis and Palestinians must negotiate peace themselves

In his first long statement about Israel since winning the U.S. presidential election, Donald Trump called the Jewish state a “beacon of hope” and vowed to help it make peace with the Palestinians without imposing solutions.

Trump made the statement to Israel Hayom, an Israeli daily owned by Sheldon Adelson, a Jewish casino tycoon who donated significant funds to the Republican candidate’s campaign. The newspaper published the interview with Trump on Friday.

“Israel and America share so many of the same values, such as freedom of speech, freedom of worship and the importance of creating opportunities for all citizens to pursue their dreams,” Trump was quoted as saying. “Israel is the one true democracy and defender of human rights in the Middle East and a beacon of hope to countless people.”

Trump added that he hoped his administration would play a “significant role in helping the parties to achieve a just, lasting peace,” saying that any deal would have to be directly negotiated between the two sides. Peace, he added, “must be negotiated between the parties themselves and not imposed on them by others. Israel and the Jewish people deserve no less.”

France is currently pushing for an international conference to discuss peace in the Middle East, but Israel says any talks should be bilateral ones between the two sides.

The Palestinians have called for international involvement, accusing Israel of reneging on past agreements and expanding its settlements in the West Bank, as well as in eastern Jerusalem. Israel under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas of inciting against Jews and Israelis, refusing to meet with Israeli officials to conduct peace talks and insisting on preconditions that Israel says effectively bar such talks from taking place.

Israel’s education minister, Naftali Bennett, who heads the Jewish Home party, said Wednesday that the U.S. election result meant the idea of a Palestinian state was over. He was one of several right-wing politicians in Israel to hail Trump as a turning point from the policies advanced by President Barack Obama.

Trump, who defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in the vote on Tuesday, has been widely perceived as favoring a more impartial American attitude to the conflict than that of his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush.

Jeremy Ben Ami and Morton A. Klein talk Israel, Palestinians, settlements and the two-state solution

Palestinians arrested for visiting sukkah of West Bank mayor released

Four Palestinians who were arrested by Palestinian Authority security forces after they visited the sukkah of a West Bank mayor were released following Israeli intervention.

The men who visited the Efrat sukkah of Oded Revivi were from the nearby Palestinian village of Wadi Al Nis. They were released from PA custody on Sunday evening after the intervention of COGAT, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories unit of Israel’s Defense Ministry.

The men had joined several dozen other Palestinians living near Efrat in visiting the sukkah along with about 30 Jewish Israelis during the harvest holiday as part of a peace event.

Earlier on Sunday, Revivi had issued a statement calling on the PA to release his guests. “It is absurd that having coffee with Jews is considered a crime by the Palestinian Authority. Initiatives that seek to foster cooperation and peace between people should be encouraged, not silenced,” the statement had said.

In a Sunday afternoon Facebook post, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chastized human rights organizations for their silence in the wake of the arrests, calling it the organizations’ “great shame.” He called on the international community to intervene.

“I call on the international community to work to help free these innocent Palestinians whose imprisonment is yet another proof of the Palestinian refusal to make peace,” Netanyahu wrote.

Khaled Tafish, a parliamentarian in the Palestinian Legislative Council, said on Palestinian television, according to the Jerusalem Post, “If they knew that there would be a punishment and that they will be pursued for doing that, then the incident would not have happened.”

Palestinian Authority Deputy Governor of Bethlehem Muhammad Taha said the incident was under investigation and the men will be held accountable under Palestinian law, according to The Jerusalem Post. He also said Palestinians “condemn” the visit and that “visiting settlers is completely unacceptable.”

Iran’s president blames ‘Zionist groups’ for US ruling that he says violates nuclear deal

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani blamed “Zionist pressure groups” for a U.S. Supreme Court ruling he said could undermine the Iran nuclear deal.

“The lack of compliance of the United States with the JCPOA in the last several months represents a flawed approach,” Rouhani said Thursday, addressing the annual opening of the U.N. General Assembly, using the acronym for the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action, the formal name for the deal that traded sanctions relief for a rollback of nuclear development in Iran.

“The latest case in point is the United States Supreme Court ruling to seize billions of dollars of the Iranian regime’s assets,” he said. “This demonstrated that the Zionist pressure groups could go as far as having the U.S. Congress pass offensive legislation forcing the highest judicial institution to uphold peremptory violations of international law.”

In April, the high court upheld a 2012 law that allows U.S. victims of Iran-backed terrorism to claim funds from the $2 billion in Bank Markazi’s assets held in the United States. Bank Markazi is Iran’s central bank.

Litigants include families of Marines killed in the 1983 Hezbollah attack on barracks in Beirut, and the Rubin family, whose family member was injured in a 1997 double suicide bombing on Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem. The family is represented by the Israeli NGO Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center.

Rouhani said such rulings should be seen as a “wrongful international act” in violation of the deal.

The deal does not include the unfreezing of U.S.-held assets, although the Obama administration, in what was seen as a good-will gesture, unfroze $400 million in separate Iranian assets and delivered the money to Iran.

The Anti-Defamation League slammed what it said was Rouhani’s anti-Semitic language.

“President Rouhani’s U.N. address demonstrates clearly that there is no evidence of Iranian moderation,” Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL’s CEO, said in a statement. “His espousing of noxious anti-Semitic conspiracy theories alleging ‘Zionist’ control of Congress must be condemned by the international community.”

Rouhani was otherwise bullish on the deal, saying Iran’s economy had improved – an implicit rebuke to hard-liners in his country who said the deal was not worth it.

He otherwise referred to Israel only once, unlike predecessors such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who made hostility to Israel a centerpiece of their speeches. Rouhani was more focused on Islamic State terrorists, blaming Saudi Arabia for creating the environment in which they flourished.

“The oppressed Palestinians are still afflicted by a web of apartheid and oppressive polices set by the Zionist regime,” he said in his only reference to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

At the General Assembly: Abbas slams UN inaction, Netanyahu says UN ‘war against Israel’ is over

At the United Nations, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he would push for a resolution condemning West Bank settlements, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said ties between Israel and the rest of the world were improving and that “the war against Israel at the U.N. is over.”

Speaking to the crowd of international leaders in New York on Thursday, Abbas continually blasted Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands, while also criticizing the U.N. Security Council for not coming down harder on the Jewish state’s settlement expansion.

In his speech, during which he kept emphasizing that the Palestinian Authority was “the sole representative of the Palestinian people,” Abbas said the P.A. will push for a resolution condemning Israeli settlements and that he hoped “no one will cast a veto against this draft resolution.”

“What the Israeli government is doing in its pursuit of its expansionist settlement plans will destroy whatever possibility and hopes are left of the two-state solution on the 1967 borders,” he said.

Abbas, who referred to Palestine as “a state under occupation,” also said Britain should apologize for signing the “infamous” Balfour Declaration, a 1917 letter that declared its support of Israel as the Jewish homeland.

The declaration, he said, “paved the road for the nakba,” an Arabic term referring to Israel’s victory in its war of independence and the displacement and dispersal of Palestinians that resulted.

The Palestinian leader also appealed to countries who had not yet recognized Palestine as a state to do so.

“Those who believe in the two-state solution should recognize both states, and not just one of them,” Abbas said.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, told the international leaders that their governments at home were changing their views of Israel for the better.

“The change will happen in this hall because back at home your governments are rapidly changing their attitudes toward Israel, and sooner or later that’s going to change the way you’re voting on Israel in the U.N.,” he said after blasting the international body’s past condemnations of Israeli policy.

The Israeli prime minister cited improved ties with African and Asian countries, but said relations with neighboring countries were the most significant change.

“The biggest change in attitudes towards Israel is taking place elsewhere, it’s taking place in the Arab world,” he said, calling peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan “anchors of stability” in the Middle East.

Netanyahu said he welcomed “the spirit of the Arab Peace Initiative,” a nod to Saudi Arabia, which initiated the peace proposal that has not been accepted by Israel.

He mocked Abbas’ call to  launch “a lawsuit against Britain” over the Balfour Declaration, saying it was as “absurd” as suing Abraham for buying land in Hebron in the Bible.

But Netanyahu also said he was open to dialogue, inviting Abbas to speak in the Knesset and saying he would be open to speaking to the Palestinian parliament in Ramallah.

In his speech, which came a day after he sat down with President Barack Obama, Netanyahu also emphasized the strong bond between Israel and the United States.

“We never forget that that our most cherished alliance, our deepest friendship, is with the United States of America, the most powerful and most generous nation in the world,” he said, adding that while “the U.N. denounces Israel, the U.S. supports Israel.”


Eliyahu Abramson

Israel must defeat the Palestinians

There is a recent controversy over Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments about ethnic cleansing in regards to the Palestinian leadership process on East Jerusalem and the territories. During the 46 years of my turbulent but interesting life, East Jerusalem was my third-longest residence, after my native city, Lvov, where I was raised, and Los Angeles, to where I immigrated in 1987. I was an international program student on Mount Scopus in Hebrew University living within view of the Wailing Wall and the Dome of Rock. I walked every day in East Jerusalem among Arab villages.

There is no equivalent and parallel in moral philosophy between Arabs and Jews. When Arabs took over East Jerusalem in 1948 they kicked out all the Jews, including those ultra-Orthodox and Sephardic ones, who lived there for centuries before the prophet Muhammad from East Jerusalem. Arabs cut Jewish access to the Jewish holiest sights. For the first time in history, Jews were not allowed to pray at the Wailing Wall, the holiest of holy sights of the Temple. Since Israel liberated Jerusalem in 1967’s preventative war, and up to now, almost half-a-century later, there was, is and will be hundreds of thousands, more than 300,000, to be more specific, of Palestinian Arabs living in the Jewish eternal capital.

In order for Israel to attain peace with the Palestinians, Israel must win and Palestinians must lose, despite the fact that unlike Prime Minister Netanyahu I recognize the existence and history of Palestinian Arabs.  During my visit as part of a Hillel student leadership mission to Israel, in 1990-1991, we met with then-Deputy Prime Minister, rising star in Israeli politics and dynamic English speaker Netanyahu. To my question, “Why cannot we be more humane to Arabs?”  Netanyahu answered by dismissing Arabs having even any basic rights. Arabs came to the land of Milk and Honey only after it was revived by the Zionists to work for the Jews, Bibi said, quoting Mark Twain.

I disagree with Netanyahu. But, Israel wants to survive, Palestinians want to annihilate Her.

Israel in every war against the Arabs was held back before finishing the job by the United States. That allowed Israel’s enemy to claim a victory each time despite their crushing defeats.

There is a change between my earlier position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict last year to my latter one articulated now.   In the earlier position I asserted that Israel gave up its trump card for peace by withdrawing from Gaza, in 2005, under Ariel Sharon’s leadership and George W. Bush’s presidency.  I criticized doing it without the framework of direct peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and PA leader Mahmoud Abbas.  My more recent position is that the only way for Israel to survive is to win an all-in war against Palestinians.  Thus, withdrawing from Gaza and allowing Hamas terrorists to come into power there, was a move in the right direction, not a mistake. This is an indication of my switch from a more leftist position in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a more moderate and even hawkish one.

This change is a reflection of my greater self-awareness of my leadership amongst the Jewish people, and my personal experiences in peace and stability in Israel.  I lived in Jerusalem after Israel defeated the First Palestinian Intifada and before Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yassir Arafat was revived from the dead. Arafat lived in his de facto fiasco exile in Tunis, but was brought forth by the leftist administration of Israeli Prime Minister Izhak Rabin. Rabin was elected in 1992, by Olim Chadashim, the new immigrants from the former Soviet Union, under the pressure from the George Bush Sr./Secretary of State James Baker administration. Bush and Baker were not big friends of Israel or even American Jews. The Republican administration was able to tie the American loan guarantees for Soviet Olim Chadashim resettlement to the re-election of Likud’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. Shamir would never recognize PLO as a partner in peace.  Rabin did. The result was the escalation of Palestinian violence against Israel on a much grander scale.

Palestinians I met in Jerusalem in 1991 were friendlier than Israeli Jews.  Palestinians in Jerusalem today are the cornerstone of the anti-Israel struggle to establish a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem, the latest manifestation of this being the yearlong stabbing attacks and rein of terror.

My stronger pro-Israel stance necessitates a more pragmatic, even if less humanistic, approach toward Palestinians.  In order for Israel to survive, Palestinians, as a power, have to be defeated, as long as Palestinians’ true objective is the destruction of the Jewish State of Israel. From the terrorist aspiration of driving all Jews into the sea, to their  “moderate” position of bringing millions of Palestinian refugees back to Israel, Palestinian leadership does not recognize the Jewish nature of the State of Israel.

Only after crushing defeat would Palestine accept Israel as the majority Jewish State with its capital in Jerusalem.

A former Refusenik (Soviet Dissident), Eliyahu Abramson came to Los Angeles to pursue creative writing and a career in the Jewish community. 

Israeli troops kill 3rd assailant on a day with several attacks

Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian man who stabbed a soldier in Hebron — one of several attacks reported on Friday.

The assailant had slashed the soldier in the face, The Times of Israel reported, citing the Magen David Adom emergency medical service.

Earlier, Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian who was trying to run over Israeli soldiers with a vehicle near Hebron, according to the Israeli army. A Palestinian woman in the car was critically wounded.

In eastern Jerusalem, Israeli troops shot and killed a man reported to be a Jordanian citizen who allegedly was trying to carry out a stabbing attack outside the Damascus Gate.

Also Friday, perpetrators threw rocks and glass bottles with paint at a bus between Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement Maale Adumim, lightly injuring the driver, according to The Times of Israel. Police were searching the area to find the attackers.

On Thursday, a 30-year-old Palestinian, Muhammad Ahmad Abed al-Fattah al-Sarrahin, died of gunshot wounds he sustained during a clash earlier in the day with Israeli forces that raided his village of Beit Ula in the southern West Bank district of Hebron.

Israel building an underground barrier along Gaza border, sources say

Israel has begun construction of an underground barrier along the frontier with the Gaza Strip that is meant to block cross-border tunnels built by Palestinian militants, Israeli defense and political sources said on Thursday.

Since being blindsided during a 2014 war by tunnel raiders from the Hamas Islamist group that controls Gaza, Israel has stepped up work on technologies for spotting the secret passages. Currently Israel has a fence along the border.

Military engineers unearthed and destroyed 32 tunnels during the war, Israeli officials say, and the military has since uncovered two others.

One Israeli political source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the government has already budgeted some 600 million shekels ($160 million) to build one section of the underground concrete barrier.

The barrier will eventually be about 65 km in length, the source said.

Israel's Defense Ministry declined to comment on the issue.

Pro-Palestinians disrupt NYC Council hearing on anti-BDS resolution

Pro-Palestinian activists and members of the Black Lives Matter movement on Thursday continuously disrupted a hearing held by the New York City Council Committee on Contracts on a 

Pro-Palestinian activists now interrupting “>

— Jacob Kornbluh (@jacobkornbluh) " charset="utf-8">

U.S. ‘deeply concerned’ over plans for settlement expansion

The U.S. State Department criticized an Israeli announcement approving the construction of hundreds of housing units in four West Bank settlements.

We’re deeply concerned by the government’s announcement to advance plans for these settlement units in the West Bank,” State Department Spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday, in answer to a reporter’s question during a briefing, hours after reports of the approval. “Since the Quartet report came out, we have seen a very significant acceleration of Israeli settlement activity that runs directly counter to the conclusions of the report. So far this year, Israel has promoted plans for over 2,500 units, including over 700 units retroactively approved in the West Bank.”

The Mideast Quartet, made up of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the U.N., called on Israel in June to stop building in the settlements and on the Palestinians to halt incitement.

Kirby said that the State Department is “particularly troubled by the policy of retroactively approving unauthorized settlement units and outposts that are themselves illegal under Israeli law. These policies have effectively given the Israeli Government a green light for the pervasive advancement of settlement activity in a new and potentially unlimited way. This significant expansion of the settlement enterprise poses a very serious and growing threat to the viability of the two-state solution.”

“Potentially unlimited” is a recent term used by the State Department, and seems to indicate U.S. concerns that Israel wants to annex the West Bank.

The Civil Administration’s High Planning Committee on Wednesday approved construction of 234 living units in Elkana in the northern West Bank, designated to be a nursing home; 30 homes in Beit Arye in the northern West Bank; and 20 homes in the Jerusalem ring neighborhood of Givat Zeev.

The committee also retroactively legalized 179 housing units built in the 1980s in Ofarim, part of the Beit Arye municipality.

The approval comes less than a week after Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, criticized Israel for continuing to build in West Bank settlements and neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem, going against the recommendations issued in June by the Mideast Quartet.

Lone Duma firebombing survivor, 6, taken for ‘solidarity visit’ to Hamas terrorist’s demolished home

The Palestinian boy who was the lone survivor of an attack on his family’s West Bank home in Duma was taken for what was described as a “solidarity visit” to the demolished home of a Hamas terrorist who killed three, including an American citizen.

On Saturday, Ahmed Dawabsheh, 6, went with his grandfather Hussein to the Hebron home of Mohammad Abed al Basset Harub, Ynet reported. They were accompanied by Mohammad Qiq, a Hamas member who in February ended a 93-day hunger strike in an Israeli prison to protest his administrative detention — being held without charge or court appearance.

Ahmed was released from an Israeli hospital near Tel Aviv in July, though he returns for ongoing treatment. His grandfather has been by his side since the July 2015 firebombing in the Duma village that killed the boy’s parents and younger brother. Right-wing Jewish extremists have been indicted in the attack.

In November, Harub shot into a minivan filled with passengers as well as another car in Gush Etzion, and then rammed his car into several other cars and bystanders. Among those killed in the attack was an 18-year-old yeshiva student, Ezra Schwartz, of Sharon, Massachusetts. Harub was shot and killed by Israeli security forces while trying to flee the scene.

‘Sausage Party’: Where food meets faith (and the F-word)

A new movie out just last weekend focuses on the role of faith in our daily lives: Who shapes our beliefs and what do we do when confronted with facts that directly contradict our belief system? Do we reject faith or double down on embracing it, despite any looming truths? The movie also tackles concepts of ethnic tribalism, moral relativism and more. You might not have guessed that this is Seth Rogen’s latest vehicle, “Sausage Party,” an R-rated animated film.

Don’t mistake the Pixar-spoofing CGI film for “Toy Story” or “Finding Dory” — this film featuring characters cursing a blue streak, is saturated with sexual innuendo and engages in one visually overwhelming and unbelievably graphic sex orgy. NPR called the film “gleefully profane.” 

The film centers on Frank, a protagonist sausage trying to find (and fill) his bun. But the writers — including actor-writer Rogen (who stars as Frank) and his longtime collaborator Evan Goldberg, along with their frequent collaborators and executive producers Ariel Shaffir and Kyle Hunter — went beyond the joke to construct a belief system for sentient food.

“We didn’t set out to write a movie about [faith],” Shaffir said in a phone interview. “The genesis was ‘the secret life of food.’ ” But as the writers discussed it, they realized that “the food can’t believe that they get eaten is the starting point, so what do they believe?” 

The food characters at the film’s fictional Shopwell’s supermarket expresses their beliefs every morning, in a musical number titled “The Great Beyond,” that deliberately recalls show-stoppers in “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast.” Indeed, the song was composed by eight-time Oscar winner and 19-time Oscar nominee Alan Menken, who composed those Disney classics with his late partner, Howard Ashman, and with lyrics by Tony-nominated and Grammy-Award winning lyricist Glenn Slater. 

In the writing process, the filmmakers realized the song — in the script from the start — was actually the key to setting up the structure of faith for the film’s characters. 

“We tied it to the belief system and who created it and how it got changed and perverted throughout the aisles, making them at odds with each other,” said Hunter, who co-wrote the lyrics with Slater, along with Rogen, Goldberg and Shaffir.

Trump’s Israel gatekeeper: Like his boss, no Room for ‘PC’

Love him or hate him, Republican candidate for president Donald J. Trump is doing it his way, ignoring what the American professional political world believed was the only way to become a party’s nominee and win “the Oval.”

No issue is more imbued with slogans and adherence to conventional wisdom than is the Middle East. Two-state solution, occupied territories, illegal settlements, incitement and even terrorism — the list is long.

Yet, notwithstanding the extreme sensitivities of the regional players and the long history of seasoned diplomats failing to broker anything that even remotely resembles a lasting peace deal, Trump, the first-time-out candidate, has selected gatekeepers for Israeli-Palestinian issues whose loyalties undeniably lie on the side of the Jewish state; who are personally and professionally erudite and successful, but who are also noticeably lacking the political trial-by-fire one would expect of a senior adviser on a lightning rod issue in a presidential campaign. Nevertheless, both of the two lawyers tapped for this delicate representation qualify for the position by virtue of what Trump himself was quoted as saying he looks for in an adviser on Israeli affairs: “people who truly love Israel.”

Jason Greenblatt, 49, who has worked for Trump for almost two decades and who is religiously-observant, told the Jewish news agency JTA that he stays apprised of issues by accessing a number of pro-Israel sources and advocates along with members of the Israeli government. His colleague – in law and in the Trump campaign – is 58-year old David Friedman, a native New Yorker whose father, a prominent rabbi, became the first Jewish clergyman to host a sitting president for a Shabbat meal when President Regan joined the Friedman family for lunch in 1984.

Speaking to Friedman, of whom it has been rumored that if Trump wins he will trade in his Jerusalem apartment for the US Ambassador’s residence in Herzliya, it becomes quickly apparent that he intends to be well-served by his lack of political experience if judged by responses more akin to a deposition than to a politician’s news conference.

David Friedman, thank you for speaking with the The Media Line.

TML:  Who is David Friedman and why has Mr. Trump made you the gate keeper on policies relative to Israel?

Friedman: Well, first and foremost I’m somebody who loves Israel and someone who has Donald Trump’s trust. We’ve known each other for 15 years. I’ve worked with him in some challenging circumstances and have gained his trust and I would hope his respect. When he was called upon to select advisers in various areas, one of those areas was the relationship between the US and Israel and he wanted to select advisers who he knew had a deep love and commitment to the state of Israel.

TML:  Are you going to tell us that one of the first acts is to move the embassy to Jerusalem?

Friedman: I think one of his first acts is going be to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. I think the movement of the embassy to Jerusalem is logistically something that can’t be done on the first day [but] I think that will happen in due course.

TML: How did you first meet Donald Trump?

Friedman: My first meeting was in his office. A mutual friend introduced us. He had some issues relating to Atlantic City. From time to time I’ve been his lawyer, but for all the time I’ve been his good friend.

TML: Why do you think Donald Trump should be the next president?

Friedman:  The president is the chief executive of the United States. He’s not a legislator, he’s not a committee member, and he’s not an adviser. Donald Trump has outstanding executive skills. He is a terrific decision maker. His heart is in the right place. Contrary to what people say about him he’s not impulsive. He is someone who listens to his advisers, and when called upon to make decisions, actually exhausts material on the subject.

He’s also the right person at the right time because in America, we are very much hungering for non-teleprompted leadership and authentic leadership actually accessible to the press. If you compare Donald Trump to any other candidate in history, he dwarfs the field in terms of his accessibility to the media and being on TV every night.

I think he’s what the country needs and I think his message is resonating with people who feel that globalism has failed them. And it’s a fairly large constituency in this country.

TML: Many believe that a candidate who doesn’t utter the mantra of a two-state solution won’t be taken seriously. Is the Trump position on a two state solution a one state solution?

Friedman: His position is not a one-state solution. His position is that he’s observed the obvious, which is that a two-state solution over the past generation has been attempted over and over again and has been a failure. The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result — and he’s not insane. To blindly embrace a two-state solution because it’s been an American policy for the past 25-years is not something he’s going to do, any more so than one would have expected a president in the 1970s embrace the Vietnam war because it was a 20-year policy of the United States. Policies are only good if they work.

TML: So what’s his answer?

Friedman: I don’t think this is an area which is susceptible to jingoism. It’s a very complex issue. The conventional wisdom is that Israel has to be a Jewish state or a democratic state, but can’t be both. It’s essentially a demographic assessment which I think is wrong. With the removal of the Gazan population from the denominator, I think a one-state solution would reduce Israel from about 75 percent of a Jewish state to maybe about 65 percent. I don’t think it’s existential to do that. Ultimately, the issue is one of reducing tension and improving quality of life. That ought to be the first step, not the geography. The geography will follow if appropriate advances are made in quality of life.

TML: A good chunk of the world uses the word “illegal” before the word “settlement” when speaking about Israel. You don’t. Will President Trump?

Friedman: I think it’s almost silly to talk about settlements in terms of legal or illegal. I’m saying that as a lawyer who has actually studied the issue. My experience has been that the legal conclusions follow the political views. I can make an argument for legality; I can make an argument for illegality. I happen to be the view that the settlements are not illegal. I think they were captured in a defensive war from a country that no longer wants them back. You could obviously make an argument for why they are legal but it’s a waste of time to debate the issue.

TML: The United States is part of the quartet which has again condemned Israel for its expansion of Jewish communities in post-1967 areas. Would a President Trump change minds and policies of the European Union, United Nations, and Russia — its partners in the Quartet — or withdraw from the Quartet?

Friedman: It’s a good question. I haven’t really given it enough thought as to whether he’d withdraw from the Quartet and what the consequences would be. He would certainly use his influence within the Quartet to have a significant change of direction. The recent criticism of Israel in regards to Gilo and Ma'aleh Adumim [Jerusalem neighborhoods which the Palestinians claim for their state-in-waiting and object to Israeli building in those areas – Ed.] I think is just ridiculous. These are significant Israeli population centers. There is no scenario under any peace accord where Gilo or Ma'aleh Adumim would ever be evacuated or become part of a new Palestinian state.  I think it jeopardizes the credibility of the Quartet and it jeopardizes the credibility of the United States when they focus on these types of issues.  It’s really a mistake.

TML: France is planning to throw a bash for Middle East peace before the end of the year: an international conference the Palestinians support and Israel says is a bad idea. How is David Friedman advising candidate Trump?

Friedman:  My advice is that it’s a bad idea. The international community should not be dragging Israel against its will to a conference. I don’t think France has the type of gravitas in the world community to be making that demand in any event. A Trump perspective is to support Israel and its approach to the peace process.

Trump policy first and foremost is to trust Israel that they know what they are doing. Israel has now been independent for 70 years. They’re a grown up country. They are not a client state of the United States. They are a partner with the United States in a global war on terrorism. We trust our partner and we want our partner to be secure and safe. We trust them to do the right thing.

TML: Assume rumors are true and Donald Trump decides to fly Trump Force One to Israel before the election. To maintain his status as honest broker would he meet with Palestinian Authority President Abbas?

Friedman: I think he might. I don’t know. I haven’t had that discussion with him. I think there are good reasons not to and I think there are some reasons not to do it. I’m not sure what the decision will be.

I personally think putting the Israeli leadership on a common level with Abbas is a mistake. In one case you have a sovereign nation that is democratic, and in the other case you have a leader who is hanging on by a thread, who does not have an actual mandate and who funds stipends to pay to families of terrorists while they are in jail. These are difference types of governments — if you even want to call the Palestinian leadership a government. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have a meeting. The answer is, I don’t know. We haven’t had the discussion.

TML: What is Trump’s message to Abbas and the Palestinians who fear another pro-Israel president in the White House?

Friedman: The message to Abbas is that you have a burden that you have to carry to be taken seriously as a potential nation state. You haven’t met that burden yet. That includes renouncing violence, recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, creating infrastructure where money and funds are handled in a non-corrupt manner.

TML: What will Trump do to prevent Iran from creating nuclear weapons?

Friedman: This is at the very height of his foreign policy concerns and what he’s going to try to do is re-engage with the other significant players in the region to try and re-assert leverage with Iran. The situation is absolutely untenable right now. I don’t know if the agreement gets rips up at the beginning.

TML: Where do you and Donald Trump come down on the belief that the Israeli Palestinian conflict is the region’s core conflict, even when compared to Syria, ISIS and Sunni vs. Shia?

Friedman: That’s obviously not true. The Israeli conflict with its neighbors predated the Six Day War. Obviously there were two wars before then, from 1948 to 1967. This is not about battle about land. It’s an ideological battle about whether there will be a Jewish state and it’s a battle between a radical jihadism and the rest of the Muslim world.

TML: Hillary Clinton has just about everyone suggesting she is the most qualified person ever to be president. Where did she go wrong with the Middle East — if she did?

Friedman:  I don’t think she has made a right decision. I think she said some helpful things when she was the senator from New York when she had a Jewish constituency. As soon as she became secretary of state, the first thing she did was to embrace a unilateral settlement freeze. I think it completely poisoned the environment. I’m not aware of anything she did that is particularly good. I can name off the top of my head things that were nasty, like ripping up the letter from George Bush to Ariel Sharon, which I think was the only thing Israel got from evacuating Gaza. I don’t think she particularly likes Israel. I think she likes the kind of elite left among the Jewish people of Israel and in America like the Max Blumenthals, the Sidney Blumenthals and the people of that ilk who would like to turn Israel into a sort of Singapore. I think she’s terrible for Israel.

TML: Who advises David Friedman when Donald Trump wants to change the world?

Friedman: Nobody. I have never really spoken of myself in the third person. I spend three to four hours a day reading everything I can up on the subject. I have had really good access to Israeli leadership who I think are doing the right thing by not endorsing anybody. I have a high level of information available to me and I study it.

TML: Are you in touch with Palestinians or Arabs?

Friedman: Both the Palestinians and Israelis that I’ve spoken to have asked me and I’ve agreed not to mention who they are.

TML: American Jews have shown little interest in voting foreign policy in a Presidential election. How will you change that? Can you change that?

Friedman: Look, it’s a great disappointment to me that the Jewish Left doesn’t support Israel as a priority. I’m hoping that as the American Jewish community recognizes the stark differences between a Trump administration and a Clinton administration on Israel that they will reprioritize Israel in their voting calculus. I think for a lot of the Jewish Left that does not prioritize Israel, it’s because they assume that Israel no longer faces existential threats. A strong Israel untethered to American pressure is essential to Israel’s ongoing survival.

TML: Will Donald Trump become “45”?

Friedman: I hope so. At the core, the American people are very much ready for a change. He is obviously the change candidate. Hillary Clinton is the antithesis of change. She’s been around for 25 years. It will come down to that. In many of the battlegrounds states, people feel tremendously neglected.

I don’t know if you saw a very good piece done by [Israel’s] Channel Ten here on the rust belt. It is extraordinarily depressing. These are good people who served in the military, supported the country and never really asked for much. They’ve been abandoned by multiple administrations. They are very much in large number supporting Donald Trump.

TML: David Freidman, if you’re right, will we see you in the US ambassador’s residence?

Friedman:  I sure hope so. It’s not my decision. It’s Donald Trump’s decision but I would love that opportunity.

TML: Thank you.

RJC ad ridicules Democrats for anti-Israel tone at convention

The Republican Jewish Coalition on Friday released a 60-second ad that highlights the display of a Palestinian flag on the floor of the convention and the burning of an Israeli flag outside the convention hall to make a point that today’s Democratic Party is less supportive of Israel than in the past. 

“Anti-Israel Democrats are on full display at the democratic convention,” the ad states. “While the Palestinian flag was waving inside the Democratic convention, the Israeli flag was burned right outside.” 

The Hillary Clinton campaign 

On her big night, Hillary Clinton stresses Israel’s security, not the quest for peace

It was Hillary Clinton’s night, but the Rev. William Barber II was the sleeper star.

The self-described “theologically conservative, liberal, evangelical biblicist” drew repeated, enthusiastic applause –including when he described Jesus as a brown-skinned Palestinian Jew and declared that “when we love the Jewish child and the Palestinian child … we are reviving the heart of our democracy.”

With his focus on commonality instead of grievances (terrorism, occupation), Barber seemed to hit the sweet spot that could excite everyone in the arena, from Bernie supporters to old-school pro-Israel Democrats. The Clinton and Sanders camps took a similar approach to the Israel section of the party platform — focusing primarily on the mutual benefits of a two-state solution.

So it was striking later in the night when Clinton got to her Israel line: “I’m proud that we put a lid on Iran’s nuclear program without firing a single shot – now we have to enforce it, and keep supporting Israel’s security.”

No talk of a two-state solution or kick-starting Israeli-Palestinian issues. Nothing about Israeli settlements. Just Israeli security.

The applause was mild (at least in the part of the arena where I was standing, on the floor, in front of the California delegation).

This isn’t the first time during the campaign that Clinton has stuck to the Israel security message. There was her fairly red meat speech to the annual AIPAC conference in March. And then her debate exchange with Sanders a few weeks later over said speech. “You barely mentioned the Palestinians,” Sanders complained, before suggesting she was unwilling to confront Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Clinton reiterated her support for a two-state solution and said she worked to make progress as secretary of state. But, with the New York primary just days away, she seemed quite comfortable putting Israel’s security first. “I can tell you right now, I have been there with Israeli officials going back more than 25 years that they do not seek this kind of attacks,” she said. “They do not invite the rockets raining down on their towns and villages.”

Since then, on certain issues (trade, college tuition), Clinton has displayed a willingness to embrace Sanders’ positions as part of her effort to win over those feeling the Bern. In her convention speech, she told Bernie backers that when it comes to economic and social justice issues, “I want you to know, I’ve heard you. Your cause is our cause.”

In talking about Israel, not so much.

Israel has had success against ‘lone wolf’ terrorists — here’s how

“Lone wolf” terrorism in Europe is making headlines around the world. But in Israel, the phenomenon of angry or troubled individuals taking up arms is old news.

Since October, Israelis have endured a wave of violence that has been carried out largely by individual Palestinians without backing from terrorist groups — so much so that some have called this the “lone wolf intifada.”

As of the end of June, 38 people had been killed and 298 injured by attackers, according to the Shin Bet security service.

Yet the violence appears to be winding down, at least for now. In October, when the wave of violence is said to have started, the number of attacks against Israelis spiked to 620. In June, there were 103 attacks, lower than in September, before the wave of violence began.

A large majority of the attacks — some 1,500 out of 2,000 — were in the West Bank, where the Israel Defense Forces is responsible for protecting Israelis. Here are five key methods the army used to turn the tide of violence.

Keep the terrorist groups out of it

The wave of violence may be considered a lone wolf intifada, but that’s because the army has put a lid on the terrorist groups, a senior IDF officer told reporters during a briefing this week. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the nature of his job.

Since the second intifada, the last major Palestinian uprising in the early 2000s, the Israeli army has managed to largely dismantle the networks run by Hamas and other terrorist groups in the West Bank, according to Shlomo Brom, a retired brigadier general and an analyst at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies think tank. 

“Basically the terror networks are dismantled, and basically the security forces are dealing with maintenance,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean terrorist groups have stopped trying to launch attacks against Israelis. In the past three months, the army has thwarted dozens of attempted attacks by Hamas alone in what the senior official called the “old war” against organized terror. 

“We’re still having day-to-day indications of them trying to find people in the West Bank, fund them, give them weapons, give them explosives and tell them to shoot Jews,” he said. “This hasn’t changed.”

Predict the unpredictable

A new war is being waged against the lone wolves. Their attacks started last fall in Jerusalem, sparked by Palestinian fears of Jewish encroachment on the Temple Mount. But the center of the lone wolf intifada quickly shifted to the West Bank city of Hebron, with attacks on soldiers and settlers in the area, as well as across Israel.

Around that time, at the end of last year, the army began building a system to deal with the new threat that was emerging, the senior officer said. The goal was to predict the unpredictable: when, for example, a particular Palestinian youth might grab a knife from his mom’s kitchen and take to the streets to spill Israeli blood. Motives can range from nationalism to family problems, he said.

“Unlike terrorists who belong to Hamas or the Islamic Jihad, if you get to their house the week before the attack, the kid doesn’t know that he’s a terrorist yet,” the senior officer said. “So that’s the main challenge.”

Based on what was known about previous attackers, the army created an alert system that is constantly being tweaked. These days, army analysts feed huge amounts of intelligence information into that system — a combination of “social media, human intelligence, signal intelligence,” according to the senior officer, who declined to provide further details about intelligence gathering. In return, he said, the system produces a small number of alerts about potential future attacks.

“One of the ways you produce an alert is, what are the last actions that a specific individual did,” the senior officer said. “For example, if he’s exposed to incitement and right afterwards he rents a car, maybe an unregistered car, this raises questions.”

In response to an alert, options include arresting a suspect, monitoring his or her actions, intervening through the family or deploying troops to a potential target area. When attackers are arrested or killed without managing to cause carnage, future attackers are thought to be deterred.

“The attacks are decreasing because of their ineffectiveness, because most of them fail,” said Brom, the Institute for National Security Studies analyst. “There is a limit to the number of even frustrated young people who are willing to give their life and to achieve nothing. So it makes sense that over time, the numbers of attacks are fewer and fewer.”

Go after the inciters

Incitement to violence can occur in person, through traditional media or over social media. Hamas is responsible for a large portion of the incitement of Palestinians against Israel, the senior officer said.

“They create some of the memes of the high-level incitement, or the incitement which is very powerful that you see on the web,” he said. “So when you handle most of the Hamas incitement, or when you stop some of the incitement from getting to social media, you also have less incitement by private people that are just sharing a specific post or adding incitement.”

Get guns off the streets 

Despite Israel’s control of the West Bank’s borders, weapons manufacturing in the territory has “increased drastically” in the past couple years, according to the senior officer. He estimated there are hundreds of production centers there.

In recent months, he said, the army has launched an organized crackdown, including closing some 20 locations producing homemade Carl Gustav submachine guns, or “Carlos,” like those used last month by two Hebron-area cousins in a deadly shooting at the upscale Sarona market in Tel Aviv.

“They paid for their suits more than they paid for the weapons,” the officer said of the Sarona shooters, who wore dress suits during the attack. “And our logic is very simple … If not everyone can get a weapon with 2,000 shekels [about $500], the price will go up and they’ll have to make all sorts of arrangements and meet more and more people in order to get the weapon they want, we will see fewer attacks with weapons because people will make more mistakes.”

Israeli soldiers guarding the home where Hallel Yaffa Ariel, 13, was stabbed and killed in a terror attack in the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, in the West Bank on June 30, 2016. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Limit blowback

At the same time, the army tries to minimize its footprint on Palestinian society. That starts with trying to arrest rather than kill attackers and would-be attackers, the senior officer said.

According to Brom, the army also pushes to limit collective punishment, like the withholding of taxes that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, which governs parts of the West Bank, or revoking permits to work in or visit Israel.

“The more you can separate between the public from the perpetrators, the better,” he said.

When the army does implement measures with punitive effects, like refusing to return the bodies of Palestinians killed during attacks or destroying attackers’ homes, it aims only to target the attackers’ supporters, according to Brom.

Col. Ido Mizrachi, the head of engineering in the Central Command, which is responsible for the West Bank, acknowledged in another briefing with reporters that demolishing Palestinian homes causes resentment, but said he thinks the deterrent effect is stronger. To maintain that balance, he said, his engineers work quickly and use techniques to ensure that surrounding homes, or even adjoining apartments, are not damaged.

While the senior officer downplayed the Palestinian Authority’s security cooperation with Israel, Brom said the partnership is one of the main factors that enables the army to limit wider tensions.

“If the Palestinian Authority stopped cooperating, the Israeli security services would be in a situation in which they would have to do themselves what the Palestinian Authority is doing,” he said. “The problem is, that would create much more friction with population at large. And more friction with population at large means more motivation for more youngsters to join terrorist groups.”

Overall, the army believes this combination of tactics has helped to change the mentality of Palestinians in the West Bank, reducing the number of people willing to risk their lives to attack Israelis.

“We saw more and more people not becoming pro-Israeli or pro-Zionist, but understanding that they don’t achieve anything from this escalation, that it hurts them economically, that it doesn’t help the life conditions, that it doesn’t achieve anything on the national level,” the senior officer said.

Palestinian gunman in attack that killed father of 10 dies in shootout with Israeli troops

The Palestinian gunman who killed a rabbi and father of 10 in a West Bank ambush nearly a month ago was killed in a shootout with Israeli security forces near Hebron.

Soldiers and police surrounded the house of Muhammad al-Fakih, 29, who is said to have been the member of the Hamas terror cell who pulled the trigger in the attack on the family as they traveled in their car on Route 60, a main thoroughfare in the southern West Bank.

Rabbi Michael “Miki” Mark, head of the Otniel Yeshiva, was killed in the July 1 attack. His wife was shot in the head and seriously wounded, and two of their teenage children were injured.

Three other men have been arrested in connection with the attack. One of the arrested has been identified as a member of the Palestinian Authority security forces, according to Israel’s Channel 2.

Al-Fakih reportedly fired on the Israeli troops who surrounded his house. The troops returned fire, including reportedly hitting the building with an anti-tank missile. The building was then mostly knocked down by an Israeli army bulldozer. Weapons including a Kalashnikov rifle and a homemade grenade were discovered in the house, Ynet reported.

Al-Fakih reportedly served time in an Israeli jail for ties to the Islamic Jihad terror group, but switched his allegiance to Hamas while in prison.