A Syrian refugee child holds a bread at a camp for Syrian refugees near the town of Qab Elias, in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, Aug. 8. Photo by Jamal Saidi/REUTERS.

A modest proposal: Short-term camps for Syrian refugees in America


What to do about Syrian refugees?

Their ongoing flight from civil war and poverty continues to challenge America socially, economically, and morally. While the United States did not create the conditions for the migration, human beings in distress surely deserve our compassion. But absorbing people who are completely alien to the American lifestyle endangers both our cultural values and our economic well-being.

There is a third way: admit Syrian refugees, but house them in camps rather than set them loose on our streets – where they are already attempting to join American society. Segregated villages for Syrian refugees would solve their short-term problem – finding a place to survive (however uncomfortably) – without creating long-term problems for the United States and our cultural unity. Most importantly, once things return to normal in Syria, these temporary foreign guests (and their descendants) can simply go home.

Wait, that’s offensive to you? You think it would shock the conscience of good people everywhere? Funny, because that’s precisely how the world has treated Palestinian refugees living in Arab countries neighboring Israel over the last 70 years.

During Israel’s 1948 War for Independence, at least 700,000 Arabs were expelled or fled from what became Israel. Most went to refugee camps in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt, which expected them to return to their homes when the fighting ended. But Israel, busy building a Jewish homeland for refugees of their own group, blocked their re-entry. The 1967 Six-Day War produced another 300,000 migrants, and today the total number of Palestinian refugees and their descendants is nearing 5 million.

Life for Palestinian refugees has been hard, in large part because the countries where they’ve lived (except the Kingdom of Jordan) have made no effort to integrate them, and in fact created obstacles to their absorption. Egypt had no interest in absorbing the Arabs living in Gaza in the 1950s, for example, and in fact when poised to regain the Sinai Peninsula as part of the Camp David Accords, Egypt rejected annexing the adjacent Gaza Strip, despite a shared ethnic and religious background with Palestinians. The story has been similar for refugees mired in camps in Lebanon and Syria.

Displaced persons present moral and practical challenges to civilized nations, but that’s nothing new. Since World War II alone the world has unfortunately had to succor refugees hundreds of times – Chinese flooding British Hong Kong in the early 1950s, say, or Hungarians moving to Austria in 1956.

In fact, the United Nations constantly deals with such emergencies through its Refugee Agency, whose mission statement defines its job as “finding solutions that enable refugees to live their lives in dignity and peace.” They specify three strategies: voluntary repatriation, resettlement and integration.

So for decades, the world’s nations have had a simple goal for all the world’s refugees: that they stop being refugees.

Well, that’s been the goal for all the world’s refugees except Palestinians.

You see, Palestinians are the only category of refugees “helped” by a separate agency – the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Armed with an annual $1.2 billion budget, UNRWA’s structure prevents Palestinians from thriving in the places where they live. Unlike with other ethnic and national groups, the United Nations treats even the descendants of original displaced persons as permanent refugees, and eschews most steps to integrate them.

The reason is clear: a deliberate Arab-led campaign to embarrass and delegitimize Israel.

Arab leaders have been remarkably blunt about their motivations. In 2004, Arab League spokesman Hisham Youssef, told the Los Angeles Times that Palestinians live “in very bad conditions,” but said the official policy is meant “to preserve their Palestinian identity.” After all, he continued, “if every Palestinian who sought refuge in a certain country was integrated and accommodated into that country, there won’t be any reason for them to return to Palestine,” he said.

Under the status quo, all the Arab elites win. Arab nations escape the upheaval of integrating a poor and alienated subgroup, and Palestinian leaders keep their ideology that the refugees already have a home – the future nation of Palestine to be built on land currently occupied by the Jews.

But the refugees themselves don’t win. Their physical, political, and legal suffering continues. Outside Jordan, they and their children are not citizens of the countries where they live, and they face legal and practical obstacles to progress in areas like employment, education, and health care. Many can’t even own property.

Now, here’s the truly obscene part: some of the Palestinian refugees living in Syria have joined the exodus to Europe, where they are being resettled like everyone else. Think about that: When their suffering was agitprop theater to hurt Israel, they were stateless. But with a non-Zionist antagonist, suddenly they’re on track to becoming French and Dutch.

Migrations and displacements are a regular feature of world history – and Jews have been no exception. From our days weeping by the waters of Babylon to the mass transfer of nearly a million Jews from Arab and Muslim nations soon after Israel’s founding, our people have known dislocation and exile. Absorption of foreigners has placed many countries on trial, as the Syrian crisis is doing today. But nobody’s suffering should be part of an international puppet show designed to jerry-rig an impractical solution to a longstanding morass.

Here’s another modest proposal: Israel’s neighbors can welcome – as equal citizens – the Palestinians who for generations have lived within their borders. Would that be so hard?

David Benkof is a frequent contributor to the Jewish Journal. Follow him on Twitter (@DavidBenkof) or Facebook, or E-mail him at DavidBenkof@gmail.com.

David Friedman testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on his nomination to be the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Feb. 16, 2017. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Image.

Trump to meet with US ambassador to Israel over Temple Mount crisis


President Donald Trump will meet with the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, in Washington, D.C., to discuss the Temple Mount crisis.

The meeting is scheduled for late Monday morning, Haaretz reported. An unnamed White House official told the Israeli newspaper that Friedman was coming to Washington this week “as part of a long-planned trip.”

“In addition to a variety of meetings, he will be meeting with the president, Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt tomorrow to discuss the events that transpired in the region over the past two weeks where tensions have recently lowered,” the official told Haaretz.

Friedman reportedly was involved in working to reduce tensions over the increased security measures at the Temple Mount, which ultimately were removed. The metal detectors and other measures were installed after a July 14 attack by three Arab-Israeli men that left two Druze-Israeli police officers dead.

Greenblatt, Trump’s special envoy for international relations, also visited Israel last week, also in a bid to help lower the tensions at the Temple Mount.

Both men last week visited the shiva for three members of the Salomon family who were killed by a Palestinian assailant as they sat at their Shabbat table in the West Bank settlement of Halamish celebrating the birth of a baby boy in the family. Friedman also visited the families of the Israel Police officers killed on the Temple Mount.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaking about Iran and North Korea at the State Department in Washington, D.C., April 19, 2017. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

ZOA calls on Tillerson to quit over State Department saying Palestinian terrorism stems from ‘lack of hope’


The Zionist Organization of America called on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to resign over the State Department terrorism report which the ZOA called “bigoted, biased, anti-Semitic, Israel-hating (and) error-ridden.”

“This Tillerson State Department Report blames Israel for Palestinian Arab terrorist attacks on innocent Jews and Americans, ignores and whitewashes the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) ‘pay to slay’ payments to Arabs to murder Jews, among other travesties,” said a ZOA statement Monday about the report, published last week.

In the report, the State Department listed as “continued drivers of violence” a “lack of hope in achieving Palestinian statehood, Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, the perception that the Israeli government was changing the status quo on the Haram Al Sharif/Temple Mount, and IDF tactics that the Palestinians considered overly aggressive.”

It also said that Palestinian leaders had addressed incitement.

“The PA has taken significant steps during President [Mahmoud] Abbas’ tenure (2005 to date) to ensure that official institutions in the West Bank under its control do not create or disseminate content that incites violence,” it said. “While some PA leaders have made provocative and inflammatory comments, the PA has made progress in reducing official rhetoric that could be considered incitement to violence.”

The ZOA said that the report directly contradicted multiple criticisms of the Palestinian Authority for incitement by President Donald Trump and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley.

The ZOA statement praised Rep. Pete Roskam, R-Ill., for his letter to the State Department last week seeking changes in the report.

“I strongly you encourage to modify this report to accurately characterize and hold accountable the root causes of Palestinian violence — PA leadership,” Roskam said.

Israeli forces patrolling in Bethlehem, in the West Bank, July 20, 2017. (Mamoun Wazwaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Three Israelis reportedly killed, one wounded in West Bank stabbing attack


Three Israelis reportedly were killed and one wounded in a stabbing attack in a West Bank settlement north of Ramallah.

Two men and a woman reportedly died of their wounds, while a woman in her 60s was seriously injured in the attack in Halamish, according to The Times of Israel. Israeli media reports said the attacker was shot but survived.

Israel TV’s Channel 10 said the assailant, who entered the home of victims, was in his late teens and had posted on Facebook that he was upset by events at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, where Palestinians and Israeli security forces clashed this week over the Israeli government’s decision to keep in place indefinitely metal detectors at the entrance to the Temple Mount.

Eli Bin, the head of Israel’s rescue service Magen David Adom, said an off-duty soldier next door heard screams, rushed to the home and shot the attacker through a window, according to ABC News. Bin said the attacker was wounded and evacuated to hospital.

On Friday, three Palestinians reportedly were killed in clashes between rioters and police in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Six Israeli police officers were injured in the rioting, touched off after Israel installed metal detectors at the Temple Mount in response to a July 14 terrorist shooting near the holy site that killed two Israeli police officers. The previous night, some 42 people were wounded in clashes between security forces and Palestinian protesters, who rioted during rallies against the introduction of the metal detectors, Army Radio reported.

The Temple Mount compound contains the Haram al Sharif area that is holy to Muslims.

AIPAC and the meaning of love


How do we show our love for the things we hold dear?

How do we express this love when things get complicated?

Israel is a complicated country. Despite all of its amazing accomplishments in the face of relentless hostility, despite its courage, its resiliency, its vibrant culture, it still manages to attract serious opposition and even anger among many American Jews who claim to love the Jewish state. The key reason for this anger is well-known: Israel’s inability to make peace with the Palestinians.

Over the past 48 hours, I’ve seen two radically different approaches to loving Israel.

The first is the love I felt at the AIPAC Policy Conference, where 18,000 people came to network, listen to speeches, learn more about Israel, present their ideas, lobby Congress, and, essentially, find a safe space to show their love for the Jewish state.

Outside the main conference hall, I saw a whole other approach –demonstrators on the street, many of them angry, protesting AIPAC’s support of Israel.

In an ideal world, I’m sure these demonstrators would like nothing better than to see AIPAC join their protest against Israel. In fact, I’m sure they’d love to see all Jewish organizations follow their approach and bash Israel for failing to make peace with the Palestinians.

For the protestors, this failure is all-consuming. Yes, the conflict is complicated. Yes, the Palestinians have refused several offers in the past to end the occupation. Yes, Israel has made its share of mistakes. Yes, right now, with the region in violent turmoil, it could be disastrous for everybody — including the Palestinians — if Israel abandoned the West Bank and terror groups would walk in and wreak more havoc.

Yes, but.

A failure is still a failure. The bottom line for these anti-AIPAC demonstrators is that Israel has failed to make peace with the Palestinians, and that is simply unacceptable.

My question for the demonstrators, then, is this: Since you claim to be pro-Israel, how else do you show your love for Israel besides protest?

I get the tough love thing. I get that you want Israel to do as you wish, because it would be better for Israel and the Palestinians. I get that you’re tired of waiting. I get all that, and I also get that protest is a great Jewish value and that it’s part of the Jewish tradition.

I’m just curious: Is this your only way of engaging with Israel?

I’m especially interested because, when I love someone who does something I think is wrong, I always make sure to remind them how much I love them, how I value the things they do right, and how I value our relationship. For their own good, I will show some “tough,” but I always show some “love.”

I’ve seen your “tough” on Israel, but where are you hiding the love?

Are you looking for a safe space?

An Israeli flag is seen near the minaret of a Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City. Nov. 30, 2016. Photo by Ammar Awad/REUTERS.

The two-state solution won’t die


This opinion tackling the two-state solution is the “pro” argument published in conjunction with Yishai Fleisher’s “con” argument, “Five Alternatives to Designating Separate States.

Seldom has an idea been pronounced dead more often than that of making peace between Israel and the Palestinians through a two-state solution. Politicians, experts, pundits and columnists have lined up to deliver their eulogies, lay it to earth, fill in its grave and recite Kaddish over its remains.  

Except that it still lives.

Even President Trump, who last month said he had no preference between a two-state solution and a so-called one state solution, has apparently reverted to a fairly classic two-state policy. His envoy, Jason Greenblatt, who met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas this week, was discussing reining in the Israeli settlements, presumably to preserve land for a future Palestinian state.

The reason even skeptics eventually come back to the two-state solution is that it remains the only viable, equitable and reasonable way of ending the seemingly endless conflict. Two peoples, who live side by side in the same land, can either fight over control of every square inch, denying the other side any ownership or control or dignity, or they can decide to share. The two-state solution does not pretend to give either side everything that they want – but it does give them everything that they need.

True, ultra-nationalists, who base Israel’s claim to the West Bank on their interpretation of God’s will, will never accept any solution that involves Israel relinquishing control over Judea and Samaria. Among this small group, various other “solutions” are regularly floated. A good example were the five “alternatives” proposed in a New York Times article last month by Hebron settler Yishai Fleisher (with whom I will debate at Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills on the evening of March 30).

The five alternatives all have one thing in common: they do not treat Palestinians as equal to Jews and do not afford them anything close to equal rights. They do nothing to acknowledge Palestinian aspirations to control their own destiny in a state of their own. Fleisher himself recognizes this, stating that all his so-called plans have “potentially repugnant elements.”

The first of these alternatives — allowing Palestinians in the West Bank to become Jordanian citizens, while continuing to live in the West Bank under Israeli rule –would probably destabilize Jordan, a key US and Israeli bulwark against ISIS and al-Qaeda. And the plan itself is preposterous. Imagine if all the African-American residents of Michigan were suddenly told they were henceforth citizens of Canada and not the United States. They could send delegates to Parliament in Ottawa and help determine policies north of the border – but not where they live.

Two of Fleisher’s other so-called alternative solutions are based on Israel’s annexing most of the West Bank, leaving the cities as small Palestinian islands in charge of sewage collection and street lamps but not much else. They would be, in effect, Bantustans – a system attempted unsuccessfully by South Africa during the apartheid era.

The fourth solution suggested by Fleisher would give Palestinians full citizenship in Israel. They would have to swear loyalty to the Jewish state to earn this privilege. While this would not violate their human rights, it would effectively mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state with a Jewish majority, if the Palestinians accepted the conditions. It’s hard to imagine any of the Zionist parties in Israel even pretending to consider this or many Palestinians signing on.

The final alternative in Fleisher’s list is the “voluntary” emigration of some 800,000 Palestinians from the West bank who would be financially “incentivized” to leave for their ancestral lands and rights. Where would they go? Jordan, which is already staggering under the weight of some  1.4 million refugees? Western Europe, where anti-immigrant populist movements are vying for power? Or perhaps Israel could persuade President Trump to accept a few hundred thousand Palestinians in the United States.

All of these false formulas, based on self-deception and fundamental injustice, should persuade us once more that the two-state solution is the only way to end the conflict. The moment the two-state solution really does dies, both peoples condemn themselves to a future of conflict without end, generation after generation – and that is a future too awful to accept.

At the core of this idea are the fundamental principles of peace and justice. With beautiful simplicity and economy, Psalm 34 tells us to “seek peace and pursue it.” With equal terseness, Deuteronomy 16:20 commands us, “Justice, Justice shall you pursue.”

Though current prospects are bleak, I believe that the moment for the two-state solution will come because eventually both sides will realize they have no other choice and that the status quo will become intolerable. The moment may come in five years, it may take longer. But ideas, unlike mortals, have the power to persist for generations, centuries and even millennia when they stand on the fundamental human principles of peace and justice. This is an idea that is too strong to die.

The author is Special Adviser to the President of J Street.

Local and national media report on more than 170 toppled Jewish headstones after a weekend vandalism attack on Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, a suburb of St Louis, Missouri. Feb. 21. Photo by Tom Gannam/REUTERS.

Stop celebrating Muslim decency


Being congratulated for basic civility is no compliment

Since the recent wave of anti-Semitic bomb threats, vandalism, and cemetery desecrations, journalistic and social media have vocally celebrated condemnations, fund-raising, and volunteer efforts by Muslim groups in an attempt to bolster interfaith cooperation and rehabilitate the reputation of the Islamic community precisely when its very welcome in America is being questioned like never before.

But nobody deserves congratulations for basic decency. Condemning bomb threats and making donations to repair damage from bias crimes is something good people of all backgrounds do. Liberal hoopla over proper Muslim responses to anti-Semitism is no more than a religious riff on the soft bigotry of low expectations. When Muslims go to extraordinary lengths to show they embrace their Jewish neighbors – and they sometimes do – public praise is appropriate. But headlines about Islamic press releases condemning cemetery vandalism send the opposite message – that in normal circumstances Muslims are callous and heartless.

Imagine these headlines:

  • Asian Driver Arrives At Work Without Incident
  • Jamaican Musician Passes Drug Test
  • Black Man Marries His Children’s Mother

 

While those headlines aim to challenge nasty stereotypes, they actually reinforce their legitimacy.

News stories about broad community efforts to help besieged Jews that contain a sentence “Even the local Muslim community turned out in force” are entirely appropriate. But special congratulations when Muslims act like, well, people are not compliments.

I know how it feels to have my own group celebrated for simple propriety.

As a Zionist, I am perpetually annoyed by hasbara (roughly, propaganda) that celebrates Israeli actions that are only minimally admirable – like an Israeli soldier who shares her sandwich with a starving Palestinian child or an Tel Aviv hospital that provides an impoverished dying Arab woman with free medical care. Yes, I understand that these examples are intended to debunk the idea that Israelis are not decent (although I have yet to see anti-Israel discourse accusing Israelis of withholding sandwiches from orphans). But the very act of highlighting basic decency legitimizes the slander, which is particularly offensive given the many good Israeli actions that are far from just minimally proper.

The people spotlighting Muslim attempts to repair desecrated cemeteries may think they’re rebutting negative stereotypes. But they aren’t. Sorry to say it, but Americans who fear or hate Muslims don’t do so because they think Muslims tolerate vandalism. They do so because they think Muslims tolerate terrorism. These stories will not dent that perception.

Americans are rightly proud of the way its citizens of many groups came together to help one group among them recover in a time of distress – and Muslims should be part of that celebration. But breathless reports that American Muslims aren’t jackasses after all help nobody – including American Muslims.

David Benkof is a columnist for the Daily Caller, where this essay first appeared. Follow him on Twitter (@DavidBenkof) and Muckrack.com/DavidBenkof, or E-mail him at DavidBenkof@gmail.com.

 

 

 

Israeli soldiers stand guard as Palestinians wait to pass during a protest calling for reopening of a closed street, in the West Bank city of Hebron Feb. 9. Photo by Mussa Qawasma/REUTERS.

Palestinian support for two-state solution drops, poll finds


A majority of Palestinians do not support a two-state solution to the conflict with Israel, a survey found.

The survey released Wednesday found that 44 percent of Palestinians back the two-state solution, a decline from 51 percent who supported this approach in a similar survey from June. The later survey had 59 percent of Israelis supporting two states, down from 55 percent in the earlier poll.

The survey, called Palestinian-Israeli Pulse: A Joint Poll, was released by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah with funding from the European Union.

The poll, which surveyed 1,270 Palestinians and 1,207 Israelis, Jewish and Arab, was conducted in December. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percent.

It also found that just over one-third of Palestinians and a majority of Arab Israelis supported one state as well as a confederation, while 24 percent of Israelis backed one state and 28 percent a confederation.

Nearly identical numbers of Jewish Israelis (58 percent) and Palestinians (57 percent) said they supported a broader regional peace involving the Arab world and Israel.

The survey also found that 86 percent of Palestinians feel Israeli Jews are untrustworthy, while 71 percent of Israeli Jews do not trust Palestinians. In addition, 51 percent of Israeli Jews, 48 percent of Israeli Arabs and 68 percent of Palestinians agreed with this statement: “Nothing can be done that’s good for both sides; whatever is good for one side is bad for the other side.”

In addition, 66 percent of Jewish Israelis fear the Palestinians; among West Bank settlers the number rises to 72 percent. Nearly half of Jewish Israelis also fear their fellow Arab citizens of Israel, and 60 percent of West Bank settlers feel this way.

Some 43 percent of Palestinians said they fear Jewish Israelis in general, and 52 percent fear soldiers and armed settlers. Most Arab Israelis, or 82 percent, do not fear Jewish Israeli.

President Donald Trump, second from right, and wife Melania, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and wife Sara, left, at the South Portico of the White House, Feb. 15, 2017. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/REUTERS

Jewish groups express dismay as Trump says he can ‘live with’ one-state solution


Liberal and centrist American Jewish groups expressed dismay following remarks by President Donald Trump that he “can live with” a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Speaking Wednesday at a White House news conference prior to closed-door meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump was asked if he were “backing off” from the two-state solution, a pillar of U.S. policy under at least three former presidents.

“So, I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like,” Trump replied, going on to refer to Netanyahu by his nickname. “I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two but honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians — if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.”

The Reform movement called Trump’s response “potentially devastating to the prospects for peace and Israel’s Jewish, democratic future.”

“The question is: can Israelis and Palestinians live with it in a way that allows for a Jewish, democratic State of Israel and realization of the legitimate rights and aspirations of the Palestinians,” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said in a statement. “Only a two-state solution can achieve the goals of the Israelis and Palestinians.”

The American Jewish Committee, while welcoming the “spirit of cooperation and friendship expressed at the press conference,” also reaffirmed its support for a two-state solution. Its statement quoted from a policy issued by the AJC National Board of Governors in December reasserting that “a two-state solution is the only realistic resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as established through direct bilateral negotiations between the parties themselves.”

Trump’s comment came days after a senior White House official said a two-state solution was not a necessary outcome of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. If formalized, it would represent an official retreat from U.S. policy since 2002, when President George W. Bush said Palestinian statehood was a goal of peace talks. A two-state outcome was also the implied policy of Bush’s predecessor, President Bill Clinton.

Israelis and Palestinians have different conceptions of — and fears about — a “one-state” solution. The pro-Palestinian movement has promoted the idea of a single binational state of Jewish and Palestinian citizens, which many Israelis warn would erase the Jewish majority in Israel. The right wing in Israel has spoken of annexing most or all of the West Bank, but without extending citizenship to the Palestinians living there.

“The only alternative to that [two-state] outcome is one bi-national state and increased violence, with tragic consequences similar to the recent war in Syria,” Ami Ayalon, Gilead Sher and Orni Petruschka wrote in an op-ed in USA Today on Tuesday. The authors are principals of the Israeli nonpartisan organization Blue White Future.

Rep. Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, also urged the president to reaffirm a policy that “secures two states for two peoples — a democratic, Jewish state of Israel and a democratic, Palestinian state.”

“Today President Trump refused to lend his voice toward this goal. Not only were his remarks shameful, they were short-sighted,” she said in a statement. “A two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians is the only means to ensure Israel’s long-term security and enable Palestinian aspirations for their own state. That is why Presidents from both parties, the vast majorities of the House and Senate, and the American people have consistently supported this objective, and why President Trump must as well.”

In its statement on Wednesday’s meeting, the Republican Jewish Coalition did not mention the president’s remarks on one- or -two-state solutions.

“Today’s meeting between President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu is a welcome sign that a new era has arrived for United States-Israel relations,” the RJC said. “It is in the interests of both our nations’ securities that we recognize the fundamental challenges facing the region, and their root causes. Whether it’s preventing a nuclear Iran, or the responsibilities of the Palestinians to come to the negotiating table in order to reach peace, we will only achieve our mutual goals if we stand united in the process. Thankfully, it’s clear that going forward there will be no daylight between the U.S. and our closest ally in the Middle East.”

World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder welcomed the meeting as “extremely positive” and called it “an encouraging sign that the historic alliance between Israel and the United States is back on strong footing.”

President Donald Trump speaking with executives and union representatives from the Harley Davidson company at the White House, Feb. 2, 2017. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Trump says settlements not good for peace, but won’t condemn Israel


President Donald Trump said the expansion of Israeli settlements does not help peacemaking efforts between Israel and the Palestinians, but added he did not wish to condemn the Jewish state.

Trump spoke about the peace process during an interview with Israel Hayom, an Israeli daily owned by Sheldon Adelson, a Republican donor and close associate of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli daily published an excerpt Friday and promised to publish the interview in full on Sunday. Adelson and his wife dined with Trump at the White House Thursday.

Asked about Israeli settlements, Trump said they “don’t help the process. I can say that. There is so much land left. And every time you take land for settlements, there is less land left.”

But when asked whether he would condemn Israel for its settlements activities, he said: “No, I don’t want to condemn Israel. Israel has had a long history of condemnation and difficulty. And I don’t want to be condemning Israel. I understand Israel very well, and I respect Israel a lot, and they have been through a lot.”

In addition to the settlement issue, Trump also addressed the Iran nuclear deal.

“The deal with Iran was a disaster for Israel. Inconceivable that it was made. It was poorly negotiated and executed,” Trump said.

The 2015 agreement reached between Iran and the United States under former President Barack Obama and five other world powers offers Iran sanctions relief in exchange for a partial scaling back of some of its nuclear activities. Israel has opposed the deal, claiming it paved the Islamic Republic’s path to obtaining nuclear weapons. Obama defended it as the best way to prevent Iran from obtaining those capabilities.

Instead of Iran “being thankful” to Obama “for making such a deal, which was so much to their advantage, they felt emboldened even before he left office,” Trump said. “It is too bad a deal like that was made.”

Last week the Trump administration imposed sanctions on 25 individuals and entities from Iran two days after the administration had put Iran “on notice,” as a White House spokesman phrased it, following a ballistic missile test.

Speaking about Netanyahu, Trump said they “have good chemistry” and the prime minister “is a good man.”

“He wants to do the right thing for Israel. He would like peace; I believe that he wants peace and wants to have it badly. I have always liked him,” Trump said.

Asked about his plans on whether to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, Trump said Israel should act “reasonably” in the peace process and expressed hopes for a breakthrough. He added that both sides should act reasonably.

Asked again about the embassy specifically, he said he was studying the subject and added it is not an easy decision and has been discussed for many years. Trump also said no one wanted to carry out the decision and that he is thinking about it very seriously.

“I am thinking about the embassy, I am studying the embassy, and we will see what happens,” he said.

During the campaign, Trump said he favored moving the embassy, which Congress said in 1995 should be moved, but which has been kept in place by presidential decrees.

Asked whether he believes the Palestinians need to make concessions, Trump replied in the affirmative.

Small majority of Israelis and Palestinians support a two-state solution


A new poll finds that only a small majority of Palestinians (51 percent) and Israelis (59 percent) support a two-state solution, meaning an independent Palestinian state next to Israel. There is a high level of distrust and fear on both sides and both sides believe there is little chance for an independent Palestinian state.

These were the findings of a joint Israeli-Palestinian poll, published by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) in Jerusalem, and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) in Ramallah. The poll, which has a margin of error of three percent in either direction, surveyed 1,270 Palestinians and 1,184 Israelis and was released Monday in Jerusalem.

For many in the region, the results come as no surprise. There have been no substantial Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in years, and a recent wave of violence of Palestinian attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians have left more than 30 Israelis and 200 Palestinians dead in the past year. Yet the poll’s results can be seen as hopeful or pessimistic depending on your frame of mind.

“I thought the situation would have been much worse,” the Israeli pollster responsible for the survey told The Media Line. “I think we are not yet at the point of no return. We still have a majority believing in the idea (of a two-state solution) and it’s all about leadership. Public opinion is not the main obstacle (to a peace deal).”

Others however, see the glass as half-empty.

“I am worried — it underlines the fact that there is a diminishing level of support on the Israeli side for the mere substance of peace,” Elias Zananiri, a former journalist who is today the Deputy Chair of the PLO’s Committee for the Interaction with Israeli Society, told The Media Line. “The fact that only 48 percent of Israelis want peace is really frightening for me as a Palestinian.”

When it comes to the question of perception of the other, the situation is even more bleak. The survey found that 89 percent of Palestinians feel Israeli Jews are untrustworthy, while 68 percent of Israeli Jews feel the same way about Palestinians. Two-thirds of Israelis say they fear Palestinians, while close to half of Palestinians feel the same way.

The survey was partially funded by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, a German political foundation, and the European Union. EU officials said they saw cause for hope in the findings.

We need to continue to articulate our support for the two state solution, and publicly outline what we can do to bring the parties back to the negotiating table,” David Geer, the Deputy EU Representative in Jerusalem said. “There is no room for complacency and a great deal of work needs to be done.”

Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki said he was most surprised by the reactions of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, which has been controlled by the Islamist Hamas movement since 2007. Shikaki said Palestinians in Gaza were more in favor of a peaceful solution with Israel than Palestinians in the West Bank.

“It seems a lot of people who liked Hamas do not necessarily buy into Hamas’ policies regarding the issue of the peace process,” Shikaki told The Media Line. “Support for Hamas in Gaza is due to other factors and it doesn’t mean they share Hamas’s value system.”

The survey asked about support for a peace agreement “package” based on issues discussed in previous rounds of negotiations. It suggested a demilitarized Palestinian state, Israel withdrawal to the pre-June 1967 lines with agreed-upon territorial swaps, a group of 100,000 Palestinian refugees being allowed to return to Israel, West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and east Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, and an end to all future claims.

Support for this nine-point plan is highest among secular Israeli Jews (56 percent) versus just nine percent for ultra-Orthodox. On the Palestinian side, some 57 percent of voters from the Fatah movement of Mahmoud Abbas support the plan, compared to 25 percent of Hamas voters.

But adding incentives can change people’s minds. If the agreement includes a wider or regional Arab-Israeli peace, one quarter of Palestinians and Israelis would change their mind and support a deal. In 2002 Saudi Arabia offered the Arab Peace Initiative that would give Israel peace with dozens of  Arab and Muslim states but it did not get off the ground as the second intifada broke out. Some in the region say it is time to revive that initiative.

“Regional peace is a winner,” Shikaki said. “If I have any advice for the next US administration, it is to think regionally.”

UNRWA’S dark agenda


UNRWA was founded under UNGA Resolution 302 in 1949. Set apart from the UNHCR that deals with all the world’s refugees, UNRWA is unique and only deals with Palestine refugees. Its separateness and absurd definition of inherited refugee status is reminiscent of Augustine’s “eternal witness,” whereby Jews were permitted to exist, but only in perpetual impoverishment. UNRWA does not merely permit ongoing refugee status: it demands and encourages it.

In the fourth century, Church founder Augustine coined the term “eternal witness” to proscribe the purpose of Jews. Under this dictum, Jews were cast into a pariah status of rejection, homelessness, loathing and impoverishment. This status developed with European culture, expressed not only in church sermons, but also in the arts and socio-political structures. In 1215, The Fourth Lateran Council decreed that Jews wear distinguishing clothes and badges to be identified as objects of loathing.

While some changes occurred after the Enlightenment including Napoleon’s liberation of Jews, Augustine’s stigma remained. Consequently, about half of German and Austrian Jews converted to be accepted into mainstream society, Heine and Mahler being well known examples. The Hep-Hep riots, the Edgardo Mortara and Dreyfus Affairs as well as the Holocaust, significantly occurred after the Enlightenment.

The arts, maintained the image of the homeless Jew. Writers such as Goethe, in his Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre wrote of a new society in America, that excluded Jews. Wagner’s operas reflected his political beliefs such as the metaphor of the wandering Jew in the Flying Dutchman.  Despite Jewish assimilation, artists such as Manet, Cezanne and Degas publicly supported French popular incitement against Jews while Renoir considered Jews to be “natives of no country.” The theme of “eternal witness” prevailed well after the Holocaust—in the popular Arthur Mee Childrens’ Encyclopaedia, Jews were depicted as having been condemned to wander for having rejected Christ.

In 1904, Pope Pius X advised Herzl that he could not support a Jewish state, “as Jews had not recognised our Lord, therefore we cannot recognise the Jewish people.” He further said that while it was unpleasant to have the Turks in control of Jerusalem, Jewish control was out of the question.

In 1964, Pope Paul Vl, visiting Jerusalem, declined to refer to Israel by name, meet the Chief Rabbi or visit places of Jewish significance.  The following year, he promulgated Nostra Aetate which absolved Jews of collective responsibility for the death of Christ and decried antisemitism. Yet the Vatican only established relations with Israel in 1993. The present Pope, Francis usually refers to Israel as “the Holy Land” rather than by its name which implies sovereignty.

Leon Poliakov referred to Israel as “the Jew among the nations.” The implication was that Israel as a sovereign state, experiences similar pariah status as envisaged by Augustine.

Accordingly, Israel is singled out for multiple condemnations at various UN bodies. Displaying its anti-Jewish bias, UNESCO dejudaizes the Judaism’s holiest places, reassigning Arab names to the Western Wall and other Jewish sites.  The EU, whose constituent states mostly do not vote against such resolutions, also insists on special labelling of Israeli products from the disputed territories, ignoring all other territorial disputes. The ICRC only permits Israeli membership without its Star of David insignia. The list is by no means exhaustive, but illustrates the extent to which “the Jew amongst the nations” has to struggle against isolation.

UNRWA, originally meant as a temporary refugee agency for displaced Arabs in the 1948 war with Israel, is the only refugee agency that specifically has an agenda that differs substantially from the other UN refugee agency, the UNHCR. Whereas UNRWA employs nearly 30,000, to service some 5 million people, uniquely including the descendants of the original 650,000, UNHCR has 8500 employees to service 65 million worldwide and does not include descendants of resettled refugees.

Unlike UNHCR, UNRWA has politicised its role, colluded with Hamas and continues to perpetuate the plight and uncertainty of refugees and their destinies. It has tailored its refugee programs to enhance the misery of these people for its own dubious ends. UN Watch has documented UNRWA staff posting anti-Semitic cartoons while UNRWA school pageants proudly incite and demonise Jews and their state.

Some seventeen centuries after Augustine’s “eternal witness,” contempt and loathing have morphed into many forms including the current concept of UNRWA. The purpose was always to shame the Jew. UNRWA has enthusiastically adopted this role, reinforced by annual  commemorative events such as Nakba (catastrophe) Day that encourages resilience and hope to return to Palestine, rather than resolving the refugee crisis per se. Noteworthy are rejections of offers such as by Canada in 2001,to absorb Palestinian refugees. In other words, UNRWA primarily seeks to replace a UN member state, rather than improve lives.

UNRWA encourages Nakba events in order to label Israel as a nation of guilt, shame and born in sin. Encouraging Palestinians to be resilient and hopeful, instead of fomenting new lives as UNHCR does, Palestinians are openly encouraged to await their “return to Palestine”—a euphemism for Israel’s dissolution.

UNRWA’s role is the “Jew badge” of Israel—a modern manifestation of Augustine’s “eternal witness,” primarily meant to shame and loathe.

Some US lawmakers are reviewing the efficacy of UNRWA which is to be welcomed. Yet UNRWA’s purpose goes beyond refugees and a balance sheet.

The time has come for the US and EU, both committed to fighting antisemitism, yet also UNRWA’s largest donors, to take a sober and honest look as to what exactly they are funding. Denial and rationalisation are no longer defensible.

Ron Jontof-Hutter is a writer and fellow at the Berlin International Centre for the Study of Antisemitism. His satire on political correctness and antisemitism, “The trombone man: tales of a misogynist,” was recently published.

Moral people cannot support the Palestinians


I understand those who yearn for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. I do, too.

I understand those who fear a bi-national Jewish-Palestinian state. I do, too.

I understand those who wish Israel never came to rule over millions of Palestinians. I do, too.

But there is something wrong with the moral compass of anyone who sides with the Palestinians in their conflict with Israel.

While every nation has good individuals, as a collective, the Palestinians are among the world’s most morally unimpressive national groups.

• Palestinian immorality was manifest before there was even a distinct Palestinian national identity. The Palestinians’ leader, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammed Amin al-Husseini (1897-1974), was an ally of Hitler who pushed for the annihilation of Jewish people in Europe. As Abraham Cooper and Harold Brackman of the Simon Wiesenthal Center wrote in the Jewish Journal:

“The Grand Mufti will be remembered as one the 20th century’s most virulent Jew haters and a key cheerleader for Hitler’s genocidal Final Solution.  … [He] helped organize a Muslim Waffen SS Battalion, known as the Hanjars, that slaughtered 90 percent of Bosnia’s Jews, and were dispatched to Croatia and Hungary.”

• The next Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, another Jew-hater, responded to Israel’s offers of a Palestinian state with two “intifadas,” a fancy name for what was nothing more than the terror-slaughter of Israelis on buses, in restaurants and at schools.

• Palestinians adore those who murder Jews. According to a Palestinian poll conducted in December 2015, two-thirds of Palestinians support the recent wave of knife attacks on Israeli Jews.

• Every Palestinian who murders Jews is deemed a national hero of the Palestinian people by both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) and is celebrated among the majority of Palestinians. Squares and schools are named after Palestinians who murder Jews.

• The Palestinians have been the single greatest reason the United Nations has become the moral cesspool it now is. Instead of combating the world’s most horrific evils, the U.N., under relentless pressure from the Palestinians and their Muslim allies, have made Israel almost its sole concern. 

Recently, for example, Anne Bayefsky, director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust, reported:

“On March 24, 2016, the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) wrapped up its annual meeting in New York by condemning only one country for violating women’s rights anywhere on the planet — Israel, for violating the rights of Palestinian women.

“On the same day, the U.N. Human Rights Council concluded its monthlong session in Geneva by condemning Israel five times more than any other of the 192 U.N. member states.”

• The Palestinians living in Gaza voted Hamas into power. Unlike the PA, Hamas makes it clear that its one agenda is to exterminate Israel. Thus every Palestinian murder of a Jew —whether a baby or a 90-year-old or an entire family – is hailed by Hamas. 

• Palestinians routinely engage in libels as wild and toxic as the medieval blood libel. 

Most recently, even The New York Times reported:

“Echoing anti-Semitic claims that led to the mass killings of European Jews in medieval times, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority accused rabbis in Israel of calling on their government to poison the water used by Palestinians. He made the unsubstantiated allegation during a speech to the European Parliament. … ”

Under international pressure, Abbas later retracted the lie. But, of course, the retraction meant nothing. Palestinians probably don’t even know it was retracted. It was done for gullible Westerners. 

And, as the Times further reported:

“Anadolu, the Turkish state-run news agency, repeated the claim on Sunday. It was echoed in the Gulf News, a daily newspaper in Dubai. The Anadolu article said that a Rabbi Shlomo Mlma, whom it called the ‘chairman of the Council of Rabbis in the West Bank settlements,’ had issued an ‘advisory opinion in which he allowed Jewish settlers to poison water in Palestinian villages and cities in the West Bank.’ ”

The rabbi, the council of rabbis and the call to poison the water were all made up by the Palestinians.

Palestinians spread lies about Israel on a regular basis. Lying is a Palestinian art form.

• In what many consider the finest history of the 20th century, “Modern Times: The World From the Twenties to the Nineties,” English historian Paul Johnson wrote this about the African dictator Idi Amin, the cannibal-murderer of hundreds of thousands of his fellow Ugandans:

“Idi Amin’s terror was a Muslim-Arab phenomenon … run by Nubians, Palestinians and Libyans.”

• And, of course, there is the record of Palestinian suicide bombings, the form of mass murder of the innocent that violent Muslims have now spread around the world. The Palestinians did not invent it, but they can look with pride upon a practice that they made popular and respectable.

Despite all this, left-wing Jews and non-Jews speak about the Palestinians as if they are a moral people oppressed by an immoral one. 

They should be ashamed of themselves.

Dennis Prager’s nationally syndicated radio talk show is heard in Los Angeles on KRLA (AM 870) 9 a.m. to noon. His latest project is the Internet-based Prager University (prageru.com).

How California’s anti-BDS bill became ‘no longer a pro-Israel bill’


A growing split over Israel within the Democratic Party appears to be spilling over into the California legislature.

Just three months ago, an anti-Boycott, Divest, Sanctions (BDS) bill being considered in Sacramento appeared to be on track to become a sure win for pro-Israel politicians and advocacy groups aiming to stem the growing BDS movement.

That bill, AB 2844, finally passed the California Assembly on June 2—but not before a Democratic-controlled Appropriations Committee had transformed it, to the point that many of the bill’s original backers say they will not support it further unless the state’s Senate makes significant changes.

The latest development of AB 2844 is a twist for a law that Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), who introduced the bill, along with other backers, had expected would receive broad support. But AB 2844 had difficulty getting through the Democratic-controlled Assembly’s Committee on Accountability, as well as its Judiciary Committee and, finally, the Appropriations Committee, which is chaired by Lorena Gonzalez (D-Chula Vista). 

The bill was initially named the “California Combating the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions of Israel Act of 2016” and was intended to force all California government agencies to stop doing business with companies participating in a boycott against Israel, which is currently California’s 18th-largest export partner.

But on May 27, by the time the bill came to a vote in the Appropriations Committee, it had been renamed, “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions of Recognized Sovereign Nations or Peoples,” and all mention of Israel had been deleted. The revised bill also does not distinguish between nations that are U.S. allies and those that are not, nor does it mention protecting major California trading partners. The revised bill also stripped a demand that the state cease business with companies participating in economic boycotts.

The new version of AB 2844 states only that the attorney general shall create “a list of companies that have engaged in discriminatory business practices in furtherance of a boycott of any sovereign nation or peoples recognized by the government of the United States.” Also, to the chagrin of some of AB 2844’s original backers, the amended version instructs the attorney general to assess “the constitutionality of prohibiting a company on the list…from entering into a contract with a public entity.”

“The bill came out with amendments that really, in my view, took the whole meaning away from the bill, stripped out all references to Israel and all of the important operative language, and turned it into something very different,” Bloom told the Journal on Friday.

On the Assembly floor Thursday, ” target=”_blank”>introduced an anti-BDS bill virtually identical to the one Bloom introduced in March, but the California Legislative Jewish Caucus (CLJC) was

Palestinians reject Netanyahu’s call for direct talks, support French plan


The Palestinian Authority’s prime minister rebuffed the latest call by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for direct talks, opting instead to join a French-led multilateral peace initiative.

“Time is short,” Rami Hamdallah said Tuesday, according to Agence France-Presse. “Netanyahu is trying to buy time … but this time he will not escape the international community.”

Hamdallah made the remarks during a meeting in Ramallah with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who is in the region this week to promote the French peace initiative. The initiative calls for a multilateral international conference later this year to jump-start peace talks. If the initiative fails, France has said it will recognize a Palestinian state, though adding the conference would not “automatically” spur any action.

“Peace just does not get achieved through international conferences, U.N.-style,” Netanyahu said. “It doesn’t get to fruition through international diktats or committees from countries around the world who are sitting and seeking to decide our fate and our security when they have no direct stake in it.”

Three Palestinians arrested in plan to carry out Passover attack


Three West Bank Palestinians, including two teenagers, were arrested for allegedly planning to carry out a Passover terror attack on Israelis.

The three suspects from the Nablus area in the West Bank were arrested by the Shin Bet security service at an apartment in eastern Jerusalem on Monday night, Ynet reported. None of the suspects — ages 15, 16 and 23 — had a known association with a terror organization.

During questioning by the Shin Bet, they reportedly admitted to the plan, according to Ynet, which cited unnamed Israeli security officials.

The three allegedly planned the attack for a crowded area with a bomb and a gun. During Passover week, many Israelis have off from work and children are out of school.

Sanders: Netanyahu is ‘wrong on occasion’


Bernie Sanders is not backing down on his claim that Israel used ‘disproportionate’ force against Hamas in the 2014 Gaza war.

“You cannot ignore the needs of the Palestinian people,” Sanders said during an interview on ABC’s “This Week” program on Sunday. “I think in the Gaza, it was a disproportionate response. You had some 1,500 civilians killed. I think you had 10,000 or so wounded. That was a disproportionate response.”

Sanders took the role of Israel’s opposition leader in suggesting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is wrong “on occasion.”

“You can’t just always nod your head to Netanyahu,” he told George Stephanopoulos. “He is wrong on occasion.”

The Democratic presidential hopeful also responded to ADL’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt accusing him of playing into the hands of those who claim that Israel is the main problem in this conflict.

“Well, they can say what they want,” said Sanders. “I didn’t say Israel’s the main problem. All I am saying is you cannot ignore the needs of the Palestinian people. And right now, as you know, in Gaza, there is mass destruction that has not been addressed right now. Poverty rate is off the charts; 40 percent people are unemployed. We are United States of America. If we want to bring people together, we have got to address those issues.”

Asked to rate President Barack Obama’s approach to settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Sanders said, “I think he’s done much better than his predecessors. But I think we still have a way to go. And I was not criticizing President Obama; I was criticizing Secretary Clinton.”

 

The Arab-Israeli conflict: Time to move on


This article originally appeared on Ynetnews.com

As a result of the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, roughly 800,000 Jews were expelled from various Arab countries in which they had been living for generations. 

Consequently, they were forced, like millions of other refugees throughout the 20th century, to resettle elsewhere. Although certainly not an easy task, eventually both the initial refugees and their descendants were able to let go of the past and move on with their lives.

Unlike the Jewish refugees from Arab countries, the story of the roughly 500,000 Arab refugees created by Israel’s War of Independence has been vastly different. Rather than being encouraged to resettle elsewhere, they were turned into permanent refugees to be used as a political tool against Israel. For this purpose, a special UN agency, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), was created in 1950 for the sole intent of maintaining, as opposed to resettling, the original refugees. 

Even today, nearly seventy years later, UNRWA continues with this policy unabashedly. As they boldly state on their site “We are committed to fostering the human development of Palestine refugees by helping them to acquire knowledge and skills, lead long and healthy lives, achieve decent standards of living and enjoy human rights to the fullest possible extent.” Noticeably absent from this list is any attempt to help the refugees restart their lives in another place.

The exact opposite is the case for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), an agency that was also established in 1950 and which deals with every other other refugee population in the world. According to its site, “The agency is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide.”

In addition, it “strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country.” In other words, the emphasis is on problem resolution, a point that is proudly stated on its site: “Since 1950, the agency has helped tens of millions of people restart their lives.” 

Thus, while UNHCR is constantly trying to lower the number of refugees in the world, UNRWA is actually working in the opposite direction. By an absurd policy that is unique to UNRWA and which states that “the descendants of Palestine refugee males, including legally adopted children, are also eligible for registration.” UNRWA has succeeded in turning the original half million into five million and counting.

In addition to the detrimental policies of UNRWA, which have deliberately kept the refugee issue alive for years, the refugees themselves—both the originals and their descendants—as well as the other Arabs living in Judea and Samaria, have been led to believe that eventually they would receive their own country somewhere west of the Jordan River. By some, they were told the new country would include their former homes in Haifa and Jerusalem, while by others they were promised a more modest state side by side with a tiny Jewish one. Different variations of these assurances have repeatedly been made to them over the years by assorted Arab leaders, western/international leaders and even some Israeli leaders.

Hence although the Arabs themselves, refugee or non-refugee, are partly to blame for not letting go of the past and simply moving on with their lives, it’s obvious that their permanent statelessness is also due to the fact that they’ve been a pawn in a much larger game.

What’s more, the seemingly endless bloody conflict between Jews and Arabs is the direct result of intentionally keeping this issue alive. This is by far the most tragic aspect of all the false promises and misleading UN policies. Nevertheless and despite the fact that at the moment there appears to be no end in sight to the conflict, something must be done since Israel cannot rule forever over another population with roadblocks and security checks and the Arabs cannot live eternally in a state of limbo.

Therefore, in order to finally break this vicious cycle and to allow everyone to move on with their lives, some truths must be faced. For starters, despite all the promises that have been made it’s clear to nearly everyone today that Israel cannot allow for the creation of an Arab state in any shape or size west of the Jordan River since such an entity would pose an existential threat to the very existence of the Jewish state. Thus, despite all the headlines that the two-state solution receives, practically speaking it’s a non-starter. More than twenty-two years of the failed Oslo Process and all the accompanying wars and terrorist attacks, as well as the still unfolding events of the “Arab Spring”, makes this point self-evident.

Equally suicidal for Israel is the granting of citizenship to another one or two million Arabs living in Judea and Samaria – many of whom consider Israel an enemy state – as part of any future process of Israel declaring sovereignty over these areas. The demographic and economic problems of such an endeavor, combined with the obvious security problem of absorbing a large hostile population, would surely overwhelm the Jewish state.

The only solution therefore, and by far the most humane one, is to rectify the injustice that was done to the Arabs by both the negligent polices of UNRWA and by years of being misled by false promises of statehood west of the Jordan River. Practically speaking, the Arabs need to be financially compensated and helped to resettle elsewhere, as the Jews from Arab countries did seventy years ago and as millions of refugees have done over the course of the last one hundred years as a result of various wars and conflicts. The new host country could be neighboring Jordan or another Arab country or wherever as long as it’s part of an international agreement. Such an agreement would also need to allow Israel to fortify its long-term security by extending Israeli sovereignty up to the natural border of the Jordan River.

Although such a suggestion may sound harsh to some people, the truth is it is the only way to resolve the one hundred year conflict and to stop the pointless and never-ending bloodshed between Jews and Arabs. Moreover, the idea of financially compensating the Arabs and helping them to resettle elsewhere as part of an international agreement is the only solution that will both guarantee the continued existence of the world’s only Jewish state as well as enable the Arabs to escape their prison of false promises and to finally start building normal productive lives. For the well-being of both Jews and Arabs, the time has come to embrace the only solution that is truly capable of ending the conflict.

Yoel Meltzer, a freelance writer living in Jerusalem, has an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from New York University. He can be contacted via yoelmeltzer.com .

Thousands run Bethlehem marathon to protest Israeli restrictions


More than 4,000 people participated in a Bethlehem marathon designed to highlight travel restrictions imposed on Palestinians by Israel.

First conceived in 2013, the fourth annual “Right to Movement” marathon set out Friday from the Church of the Nativity past Israel’s security barrier, which cuts around much of the city, before passing Duheisha refugee camp and the town of al-Khader, near Gilo military checkpoint, the Ma’an News agency reported.

“Restriction on movement is one of the major challenges for the Palestinian people living under occupation. Palestinians cannot move freely on roads, or from one city to another,” the marathon’s organizers from the Right to Movement group had written on their website.

Because the Palestinian Authority does not control a contiguous 42 kilometers, or 26 miles, in Bethlehem district — the distance of a full Olympic marathon — the run was instead forced to loop around a seven-mile stretch.

Nearly 4,400 runners took part in this year’s marathon — up from 3,100 last year— with a record 46 percent of them women, far surpassing the 39 percent that joined 2015’s run, Ma’an reported.

The Palestinian Authority, which helped organizers facilitate conditions for the race, asked Israel to allow 102 runners from Gaza to attend as well, but they were not allowed into the West Bank, the report said.

Ma’an quoted Israel’s Coordination for Government Activities in the Territories as saying the Palestinians deliberately had not given them enough time “for dealing with such requests,” adding: “It’s unfortunate to witness cynical using of the sport.”

France presents proposal for peace summit to Israel, Palestinians


France has presented Israel and the Palestinians with a proposal for an international peace conference.

The French ambassador to Israel, Patrick Maisonnave, in a meeting Tuesday morning with the head of the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s diplomatic office, Alon Ushpiz, disclosed details of the initiative to bring the two sides together for a conference that would include officials from the United States, Europe and the Arab countries.

The summit would be held in the summer, according to the proposal, and would launch new negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

U.S.-brokered negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, the last diplomatic process to try to solve the conflict, broke down in April 2014.

Ushpiz told the French ambassador at the meeting that Israel supports direct negotiations and opposes any attempt to predetermine the outcome of talks, Haaretz reported, citing the Foreign Ministry. Ushpiz reportedly also discussed the recent wave of Palestinian terror, as well as incitement in Palestinian media, schools and other areas.

French diplomats said the Palestinian response to the French initiative was very positive, according to Haaretz.

On Monday while visiting Japan, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said the Palestinians would never again hold direct talks with Israel.

“We will never go back and sit again in a direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations,” he said at a news conference.

The French initiative to convene an international peace summit was first announced in a Jan. 29 speech by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius at the Foreign Ministry in Paris. Fabius also said in the address that if the French initiative to convene a peace conference fails, then Paris would officially recognize a Palestinian state.

Israel reacted strongly to the threat and called it “an incentive for the Palestinians to come and not compromise.”

Fabius has since resigned from his position. His successor, Jean-Marc Ayrault, is continuing with the initiative.

Spain ‘deeply worried’ over Palestinian deaths from Israel’s use of force


Spain’s government expressed “deep concern at the loss of many dozens of lives” of Palestinians as a result of Israel’s “use of force” in response to attacks against its citizens.

The statement Tuesday by the Spanish foreign ministry also said that Palestinian murders of Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Palestinian attacks on other Israelis are “terrorist attacks” and “hate crimes.”

However, pro-Israel activists lambasted the ministry for the statement, which the ACOM lobby group condemned Thursday as “infamous” and creating a false moral equivalence between aggressor and victim.

The Spanish ministry’s statement was in reaction to the killing of Dafna Meir, a Jewish mother of six, on Jan. 17 at her home in the West Bank settlement of Otniel, and two other attacks that occurred thereafter in settlements, the statement said.

But, in addition to condemning those attacks, the statement read: “The government is also deeply worried about the loss of many dozens of human lives among the Palestinian population as a consequence of the use of force by agents of Israeli authorities in reaction to the attacks and calls on all parties to abandon all acts of violence or instigation thereof, as those can exacerbate the situation.” The statement added: “It is necessary to break this cycle of violence.”

But to ACOM, the statement suggests that the ministry “explains that the Palestinian kill as a logical result of the use of force” by Israelis, noting that many of the Palestinians killed in recent weeks were shot while trying to kill Israelis.

“The ministry apparently considers attacks against Jewish girls in supermarkets and others comparable to shooting the terrorists that perpetrate them,” the organization wrote in a statement Thursday.

Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused U.S. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of justifying Palestinian terrorism when he said about these attacks that, “As oppressed peoples have demonstrated throughout the ages, it is human nature to react to occupation, which often serves as a potent incubator of hate and extremism.”

Hamas announces its ‘heroes’ are digging new tunnels and ‘experimenting with rockets’


Palestinian “heroes” are digging tunnels to be used in future attacks on Israel, Hamas’ senior political leader said.

At a funeral in Gaza City Friday for seven Hamas operatives killed when rain and flooding caused a tunnel they were working on to collapse, Ismail Haniyeh said preparations are underway for the next confrontation with Israel, Agence France Press reported.

“East of Gaza City, heroes are digging through rock and building tunnels, and to the west they are experimenting with rockets every day,” Haniyeh said. “The resistance continues on its path of liberation of the land.”

Thousands of people attended the funeral, with many chanting slogans urging violence against Israel.

According to the Times of Israel, Hamas has more than 1,000 people working around the clock, six days a week, digging tunnels, which are lined with concrete and are “being dug 30 meters deep, with sophisticated engineering equipment more advanced technological support, including engineers’ blueprints.”

Hamas’ vast network of tunnels, many leading into Israel, was a major issue during Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s 2014 war in the Gaza Strip. During the war, Israel destroyed more than 30 tunnels, which were used to smuggle weapons, as well as stage terrorist attacks and kidnappings inside Israel. Thousands of people, the majority of them Palestinians, were killed in the 2014 war, and much of Gaza’s infrastructure was severely damaged.

On Thursday, the head of Israel’s Eshkol Regional Council, near the Gaza border, reported that residents of Moshav Pri Gan there can hear and feel the tunnel digging below. Israelis near the border remain vulnerable, because the Israel Defense Forces still has not built protective barriers to block cross-border tunnels, despite promises to do so after Operation Protective Edge, its summer 2014 war in Gaza.

When Palestinians kill


My current foray into Israeli-Palestinian coexistence efforts began a year and a half ago, in the summer of 2014, when a group of Israelis and Palestinians in Gush Etzion marked a joint day of fasting on the 17th of Tammuz, which fell that year during Ramadan. At the height of Operation Protective Edge, a month after the abduction and murder of Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel, and two weeks after the revenge killing of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, groups of Jews and Arabs cropped up around Israel with a simple but powerful message: Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies.

It isn’t that I’d never tried to get to know Palestinians before. I tried to bridge the Israeli-Palestinian divide almost immediately after making aliyah in 1994. In contrast to many Orthodox Jews, and especially to many Orthodox Israelis, I’d been an early supporter of the Oslo process and was hopeful that the political process would create the conditions to make real interpersonal relationships possible. But my efforts had consistently dissipated — I quickly discovered that “dialogue” in this part of the world consisted of Palestinians blaming Israel for every ill known to man, and left-wing Israelis agreeing with them. 

In that atmosphere, and especially in light of the Palestinian explosion of September 2000, I shared the view of most Israelis:  Israel’s peace overtures had been met with little more than Palestinian terror, and Israel was left with little choice but to construct the West Bank security fence and to wait for Palestinians to get sick of living behind it. As Golda Meir said, when they decide they love their children more than they hate us, they’ll come around to make the sort of peace that doesn’t include blowing up Israeli buses. 

Back to 2014: Six months before Gilad, Naftali and Eyal were murdered, I’d interviewed Ali Abu Awwad for a story about Palestinian nonviolence. I’d walked away from our two-hour interview deeply inspired and hopeful; now, the sight of Palestinians praying together with Israelis for the boys’ safe return filled me again with hope. Once again, I began spending time with coexistence activists, this time in Gush Etzion, and allowed myself once again to hope that Jews and Palestinians were not doomed by some outside power to be enemies forever. 

Since then, I’ve met terrific people and made important friendships with both Israelis and Palestinians who believe that a different future is possible. Ali and I have become close friends, and his generous spirit and deep understanding have allowed me to open up to Palestinian emotions in a way that years of reporting from the Palestinian arena have not. Sami Awad, founder of the Bethlehem-based Holy Land Trust, has challenged me to consider new lenses for Zionism (sorry, Sami, I know this was not your intention!) and models for coexistence. Abdallah (a pseudonym for a senior Fatah activist who I’ve become friendly with, but who does not want to become known for “normalizing” with Judea and Samaria Israelis) has asked serious, probing questions about the nature of Judaism, Zionism and the Jewish relationship to the Land of Israel. There are many more, too many to name here, but all have opened windows into Palestinian society and forced me to connect with a deep sense of empathy within myself, even as I have not become sympathetic to traditional Palestinian arguments about the ongoing conflict with Israel. 

And yet, despite the presence of many inspiring individual Palestinians, the realization that there really is no Palestinian society with which Israel can make peace has been devastating. Whereas Palestinian Israelis work and shop freely in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Netanya, my visits to Bethlehem and Hebron must be shrouded in secrecy by removing my kippah and bearing in mind at all times not to lapse into Hebrew. Palestinians insist there is a sharp imbalance of power between Palestine and Israel, and here they are correct: When Baruch Goldstein murdered 29 Palestinians in cold blood in 1994, Israeli society was rocked to the core by the horrible thought that such a depraved terrorist could emanate from our midst. Same for the killers of Mohammed Abu Khdeir in 2004 and for the Dawabsheh family last summer. 

Palestinian society has no such reticence about killers that emerge from their families. Poll after poll confirms one of Israel’s greatest fears: that Palestinian society as whole remains deeply supportive of murdering Israeli civilians. In December, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research indicated that two-thirds of Palestinians support knife attacks against Israelis, a sharp rise from a 2011 poll that reported one-third of Palestinians said they approved of the murder of the Fogel family in Itamar. The simple fact is that our society is defined by the revulsion and deep sense of soul searching that has followed each incident. Theirs, simply, is not. 

That realization (or, more correctly, that re-realization) is a thousand times more painful this time around, specifically because I know so many Palestinians with deep moral convictions and close relationships with Israelis. But too many individuals and peace organizations — including Israeli-Palestinian organizations in which I am active — have remained silent. Last summer, we Israeli settlers prayed for the Dawabsheh family, but the response by the Palestinian peace community to the murders of Dafna Meir, Yaakov Don, Eitam and Na’ama Henkin and more than two dozen more innocent Israelis has been silence. I’m not sure where to go with all this. 

And so we continue. Ultimately, there is little choice but to forge ahead, if only in the hope, however forlorn, that our Israeli commitment to justice and peace for all residents of our tortured, holy land, will one day create the necessary conditions for Ali, Sami, Abdullah and so many others to sound their brave voices, and that one day their messages of peace and reconciliation will penetrate the values of their society.

Inshallah.


Andrew Friedman is a member of Shorashim/Judur, a grass-roots movement of local Israelis and Palestinians creating relationships and friendships in Judea and Samaria, as well as of the Interfaith Encounter Forum.

European liberal left leaves Europe in decay, blames the victim for failed policies


Recent incidents highlighted the dangerously failed European left-wing politics that has draped itself in the false cloak of morality and judgment.

Israel has been hit by over a thousand terror attacks perpetrated by Palestinian Arabs in a four month period.

With knifing, car ramming, fire bombing, rock throwing and occasional shooting attacks, about thirty Israelis have been killed and another two hundred hospitalized. Fortunately, the rapid response of armed Israeli citizens and the presence of highly trained security personnel managed to neutralize hundreds of attackers both in their terror acts or immediately after, thereby successfully reducing the number of victims.

Swedish Foreign Minister, Margot Wallstrom, a regular anti-Israel provocateur, however demanded an international investigation into what she called “extrajudicial killings of Palestinians” in order to bring about “possible accountability.”

Her demand was yet another of her public acts of anti-Israelism. As with her past statements, she ignored Palestinian-incited mass terrorism against Israel and, instead, targeted the Israeli victim for possible prosecution.

Wallstrom has a talent for finding Israel guilty for all of Sweden’s woes. When, according to Swedish intelligence, over two hundred Swedes were reported to have joined ISIS, Wallstrom pointed at Israel when she said, “Clearly we have a reason to be worried not only here in Sweden but around the world because there are so many who are being radicalized. Here again, you come back to situations like that in the Middle East where not least there isn’t any future. The Palestinians either have to accept a desperate situation or resort to violence,” implying that Israel is responsible for the radicalization that is driving so many Swedes into the arms of Islamic terror groups.

Wallstrom is typical of the political sickness that has swept Europe and America. Her attitude of blaming the victim makes her a kindred political spirit to the Mayor of Cologne, Henriette Reker, who told the women of her city that they should have kept an “arm’s length” distance of the thousand migrant men that raped, sexually abused, and robbed almost two hundred German females in the central Cologne square on New Years Eve.

This is yet another example of a left-wing pro-immigration politician blaming the victim.

Swedish leftist politicians also advocated a badly flawed policy that allowed masses of unverified migrants into their country. As in Germany, one result has been the rapid rise of violent and disturbing crimes committed by this flood of undisciplined humanity, mainly from the Middle East.

Under politicians like Reker and Wallstrom, European nations have shifted from being homogenous countries into dysfunctional societies. In Sweden in 2104, there were 80,000 requests for asylum and leftist politicians allowed them to enter in the name of cultural tolerance.

Last year, the number of accepted migrants rose by 150% to 190,000 in Sweden, this time in the name of compassion. The Swedish Prime Minister said at the time, “My Europe doesn’t build walls.” 

Sweden’s Socialist generosity grants welfare benefits to non-Swedes. It also grants permanent resident status to stateless persons after four years, and citizenship after a number of years as residents. Little wonder that this has attracted hundreds of thousands of migrants to target Sweden. When the growing flood stormed over the Oresund Bridge that connects Denmark to Sweden and homeless people began camping out in Swedish town squares the same prime minister changed his tune by saying, “Sweden is no longer able to accept the high number of asylum-seekers we’re seeing today.”

Compassion, it seems, has its limits even in Sweden.

Wallstrom-style compassion for terrorism will also find its limits in Sweden, it seems, only after it experiences murderous terrorism on its soil.

Only then will a Swedish Foreign Minister, perhaps, understand how to fight terrorism and allow citizens and security forces to neutralize the killers in the same manner that Israel has done.

The only other way that countries such as Sweden and Germany will change the dangerous misguided and failing leftist socialist politics and rhetoric is by a frustrated and beleaguered population rising up and electing right-minded politicians able and willing to shift both domestic and foreign policies in defense of traditional and core values.

Israel is finding that countries that “get it” and shift to the right suddenly discover the way to solve their terrorism and migrants problems is to follow Israel’s examples.

Barry Shaw is the Senior Associate for Public Diplomacy at the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. He is also the author of ‘Fighting Hamas, BDS and Anti-Semitism.’ www.barrysbooks.info

Israel sees 25 percent drop in terrorist attacks


The number of terrorist attacks on Israelis decreased significantly in December over the previous month, Israel’s security agency said.

The Israel Security Agency, or Shin Bet, recorded in December a total of 246 attacks by Palestinians on Israel compared to 326 in November, the organization said in its monthly report released earlier this week.

The 25 percent drop led to fewer casualties. While November had 10 fatalities and 58 wounded from terrorist attacks, December had three fatalities and 44 wounded.

In the December report, the Shin Bet for the first time added the category “Jewish terrorism” to the synopsis of its monthly report. It listed only one incident: The hurling of two smoke grenades into a home near Ramallah, resulting in no injury.

Of the attacks against Israelis documented by Shin Bet in December, 183 involved the hurling of firebombs. All three fatalities were in stabbings.

The attacks are part of what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu termed a “wave of terrorism” that began in September amid claims by Palestinians that Israel was plotting to increase its control over or destroy Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. Dozens of Palestinians have been killed by security forces and civilians while carrying out the attacks and in subsequent rioting.

Since Sept. 1, the Shin Bet has documented over 1,415 attacks, which resulted in the death of 25 victims and dozens of wounded. Of those, 620 attacks occurred in October alone.

On Thursday night, Israeli troops in the West Bank killed a Palestinian man whom they said tried to stab a soldier. Earlier that day, three Palestinians were killed elsewhere in what the Israel Defense Forces said was an attempted stabbing attack.

Defiance among rogue settlers as Israel accuses Jewish youth of murder


The caves around this windy settler outpost, whose name is Hebrew for “Of Sound Mind”, have served as places of meditation and prayer – and, according to Israel – staging ground for the worst Jewish militant attack on Palestinians in years.

It was from Yishuv Hadaat, prosecutors say, that 21-year-old Amiram Ben-Uliel set off on a moonlit July night to firebomb a house in the nearby West Bank valley town of Duma, killing a baby, Ali Dawabsheh, and his parents Saad and Riham.

Ben-Uliel's indictment for the murders on Sunday met with denial and defiance from other members of the so-called “Hilltop Youth”, a new generation of ultra-religious settlers whose resentment of the secular Israeli state rivals their hostility toward Arabs.

“I don't think Jews did it. Even if they did do it, you need to look at why … The (Israeli) police and government really fight them in every way,” said Refael Morris, a 20-year-old friend of Ben-Uliel's from a neighboring settlement enclave.

Steeped in messianic Jewish mysticism and rebelling against what they see as adulterated modern Zionism, the Hilltop Youth number in the hundreds, by most accounts. But they pose a deep-rooted challenge even for the nationalist government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as it struggles to stanch Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed in the absence of peace negotiations.

Security officials say that Ben-Uliel is among a few dozen hard-core militants, many of them school drop-outs or estranged from their families, who long eluded surveillance due to their secrecy and determination to clam up under police interrogation.

Critics say the Duma murders, which marked an escalation from the vandalism and assaults previously attributed to the militants, were inevitable given Israel's at times murky policing of its citizens in the West Bank – all of whom are deemed by some world powers to be squatters on Palestinian land.

The inconsistency is in plain view in Yishuv Hadaat and other outposts erected in recent years by the Hilltop Youth without state permission. What began as rogue clusters of shacks are now often orderly trailer parks or shepherds' hamlets with power lines, paved roads, bus stops and Israeli army sentries.

Still, residents style these communities that dot the strategic highlands as the vanguard of a dreamed-of Jewish theocracy where gentiles would be expelled, putting paid to decades-old Israeli talk of making way for a Palestinian state.

“If we wouldn't be here, the Arabs would be here, and whatever the Arabs get now it will be very hard to take back,” said Morris, who sports the Hilltop Youth trademark shaggy beard and religious sidecurls along with a crocheted skullcap.

TRIAL AND ERROR

A 20-year-old son of British immigrants, Morris is a married father of two. He works as a baker, having been exempted from the Israeli military draft, he says, on ideological grounds. Many settlers with far-right affiliations say they are also denied private gun permits and subject to police monitoring.

But the Duma arson, and what Israel's Shin Bet security service said were manifestos circulated among the suspects and which called for insurrection against the state, prompted the crackdown that officials hope will rout the Jewish militants.

Outside experts see a rocky road ahead.

The Duma case is already beset by defense lawyers' allegations that Ben-Uliel, as well as a 17-year-old charged with planning the arson but not turning up to the cave rendezvous, were tortured to give false confessions.

While most Israelis condemn the hate crimes and Netanyahu has defended the Shin Bet's methods as legitimate and necessary, within the far-right Jewish Home party that sits in his coalition there have been misgivings about the probe. One party lawmaker asserted there is no such thing as Jewish terrorism.

Tomer Persico, who researches the Hilltop Youth for the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, described the militants as an extremist distillation of the views of wider circles of settlers, a community driven by a sense of pioneering patriotism and hardened by almost daily friction with the Palestinians.

“They are taking these elements and, in a fundamentalist way, accentuating them to the point where they live in unlawful settlements anywhere they want and (their relationship) with the Palestinians is violent and sometimes murderous,” he said.

Another scholar, Sara Yael Hirschhorn of Oxford University, said that while the Hilltop Youth's religious doctrines had only fringe appeal, sympathizers reached deeper into Israeli society.

On Tuesday, a soldier who lives in a West Bank settlement was jailed for 45 months after being found guilty of leaking information to Jewish militants about law-enforcement moves planned against them by the army.

“I find it hard to believe no one else (in the settler community) knew what was going on those hilltops,” Hirschhorn said.

“I think they (authorities) will manage to throw the book at these people, but it will be perceived by the right as a show trial, and such trials are also a way to organize these people.”

Responding to Kerry article, Netanyahu blames Palestinians for lack of peace progress


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the Palestinians for the lack of progress toward peace in an apparent response to statements by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

“The time has come for the international community to understand that the reason there is no negotiation and no progress toward peace is not Israel’s fault but that of the Palestinian side,” Netanyahu said Tuesday during a tour of the Israel Defense Forces Southern Command headquarters, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement released to the Israeli media.

Netanyahu cited a poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research released Monday regarding Palestinian attitudes toward the two-state solution and stabbing attacks on Israelis, which said that 45 percent of Palestinians still support a two-state solution and 67 percent support stabbing attacks on Israelis. The statement inflated the percentages, however, saying that “some 75 percent of the Palestinians reject the two-state solution and about 80 percent support continuing stabbing attacks.”

“That’s not surprising because Abu Mazen is continuing constantly to stir things up with false propaganda about Al-Aqsa, false propaganda about executions and by rejecting any genuine attempt at coming to negotiations,” Netanyahu also said, referring to the Palestinian Authority’s president, Mahmoud Abbas.

A New Yorker profile of Kerry published Monday tracing his work with Iran, Syria, Israel and the Palestinians quoted the secretary of state as criticizing Israel for not knowing whether it wants a two-state solution or to become a binational state, and whether it wants to be a democratic state or a Jewish state. Kerry also criticized Israel for continued settlement building and demolishing the homes of Palestinian terrorists.

Obama calls on Israelis and Palestinians to ‘exercise restraint’


President Barack Obama, making a surprise address, told a Haaretz-sponsored conference in New York that Israelis and Palestinians must “exercise restraint.”

“Inexcusable violence has taken too many lives — Israelis, Palestinians, Americans and others,” Obama said via teleconference on Sunday morning at HaaretzQ, the liberal Israeli newspaper’s event with the New Israel Fund. “I’ve been clear that Palestinian leaders have to condemn the ongoing attacks and stop the cycle. Individuals responsible for violence, including violence against Palestinians, have to be brought to justice, and we call on both sides to work to diffuse tensions, exercise restraint, prevent more loss of life and restore hope.

“Of course, the best way to reduce tensions and ensure Israel’s own security is to continue working in concrete ways towards a two-state solution.”

A spate of attacks since October has killed 22 people, according to the Israeli government. In the same period, 106 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers, police or civilians either while committing attacks or in their aftermath, on suspicion that they were about to carry out attacks or clashes with Israeli forces, Reuters reported last week.

The U.S. leader, who was not on the program of speakers, told the audience of approximately 600 at the Roosevelt Hotel that they would always have a partner for peace in him and in the United States.

“Peace is necessary, just and possible,” Obama said.

Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, in his keynote address noted his visit last week with Obama and emphasized that “the president’s commitment to a secure Israel is beyond any question.”

Saying peace is important for Israel’s safety and security, Rivlin said, “For that we need to think outside of the box.”

The conference, the first of its kind for Haaretz in the United States, is designed to provide a “unique platform for robust debate and intelligent reflection” on key issues regarding Israel, according to the newspaper.

“Isolated under [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, the editors of Israel’s leading liberal newspaper are coming to New York to try to restore a sense of reason,” Aluf Benn, editor-in-chief of Haaretz, wrote in the Daily Beast on Friday. “We begin by turning to our American friends whose voices have been drowned out for too long.”

Rivlin, saying he sometimes is “annoyed and angry” by what he reads in Haaretz, said however that the newspaper is “a beacon for freedom of expression in Israel” and “I am here today because I believe the free market of ideas is a holy principle.”

With Breaking the Silence, an Israeli organization of military veterans that accuses Israeli soldiers of mistreating Palestinians, presenting on one of the panels, Rivlin praised the morality of the Israel Defense Forces and earned vigorous applause.

“The IDF does everything in its power to keep the highest moral standard possible, even under impossible conditions,” he said, adding that no other army in the world is as moral.

Tzipi Livni, a Knesset lawmaker from the center-left Zionist Union party and Israel’s former justice minister, in her address criticized the settlements.

“Settlements don’t give security to Israel,” she said, “settlements take security from Israel.”

Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the PLO and a leading negotiator for the Palestinians, said the source of the current violence is failed peace talks.

“When every day we bury our loved ones — it’s for one thing,” Erekat said. “It’s our failure to achieve peace. It’s out failure to achieve a two-state solution.” He begged the audience not to give up on the idea.

Erekat insisted that Israel has a partner for peace with the Palestinians, saying the conflict with Israel is purely political. He also called the Islamic State terrorist group “criminals and thugs,” saying they have nothing to do with Islam.

Others scheduled to speak are the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, and Arab-Israeli Knesset member Ayman Odeh.

In wake of stabbing, Palestinians and Jews clash in Hebron


Hours after a Palestinian stabbed a Jewish man in the already tense West Bank city of Hebron, Palestinians and Jews clashed violently there.

In the aftermath of the stabbing Monday that left the Jewish victim critically wounded, dozens of Jewish residents marched in protest to Hebron’s old city, where they threw rocks at Palestinians, the Times of Israel reported.

The clashes, in which the Palestinians sent rocks back in retaliation, occurred outside the Tomb of the Patriarchs, where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Leah are believed to be interred. The site, which is holy to both Jews and Muslims, houses a synagogue and mosque.

Israeli security forces forced the Jewish protesters to retreat to Hebron’s Jewish neighborhood and restrained Palestinian demonstrators. There were no reported injuries or damage.

In the attack, a 21-year-old Palestinian man stabbed a Jewish man in his 40s near the Tomb of the Patriarchs, leaving several wounds to his upper body. The victim was moved to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, where he arrived in severe condition, according to the Times of Israel.

Israeli forces shot and killed the assailant, Ihab Fathi Miswadi.

Hebron, which is home to several hundred Jewish settlers and approximately 170,000 Palestinians, has been the site of several Palestinian terror attacks in recent days and has been the scene of some of the largest atrocities in the Arab-Israeli conflict. In 1994, Jewish settler Baruch Goldstein opened fire at Muslims worshipping at the Tomb of the Patriarchs mosque, killing 29 and wounding more than 125. In 1929, more than 60 Jews were murdered by Palestinians during a pogrom in Hebron.

Israeli government, military disagree over unrest


Two months into a wave of stabbings, shootings and vehicle attacks by Palestinians targeting Israelis, gaps are emerging between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the military and intelligence chiefs over what is driving the violence.

The rifts raise questions about whether the right tactics are being used to quell the unrest, the most sustained that Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank have experienced since the last Palestinian uprising, or intifada, ended in 2005.

While there is agreement between Netanyahu, the military and the Shin Bet security agency about broad aspects of the violence – that it is being carried out by “lone-wolves” active on social media and that tensions over the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem have contributed – the deeper causes are disputed.

Netanyahu has repeatedly accused 80-year-old Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of directly inciting the unrest. He also describes it as a manifestation of Palestinians' hatred of Jews and unwillingness to accept Israel's right to exist.

“What is driving this terrorism is opposition to Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, within any borders,” he said as he left for the climate talks in Paris on Sunday.

In contrast, the military and Shin Bet have tended to point to a variety of economic and socio-political factors that they see fuelling Palestinian anger and frustration, particularly among young men and women in the West Bank.

While they have criticized Abbas and his Fatah party for tacitly condoning the violence, including praising “martyrs” who have carried out stabbings, they have avoided accusing the Palestinian leader of inciting it directly.

“The motivation for action is based on feelings of national, economic and personal discrimination,” the Shin Bet wrote in an analysis last month. “For some of the assailants an attack provides an escape from a desperate reality they believe cannot be changed.”

At a cabinet meeting in November, the head of the army's intelligence division gave a similar description, leading to a row with at least one minister who was angry that the general's briefing was not in line with the government's position.

The details were leaked to Israeli media and confirmed to Reuters by a government source who attended the meeting.

Since Oct. 1, when the violence began, 19 Israelis and an American have been killed. Over the same period, Israeli forces have shot dead 97 Palestinians, 58 of whom were identified by Israel as assailants.

“PINPOINT ACTION”

As well as differences in identifying the causes, there are gaps in the approach being advocated to quell the situation.

The military, which has been in the West Bank for 48 years and is minutely involved in maintaining stability, in coordination with Palestinian security forces, is pushing for pinpoint operations that target specific perpetrators.

Senior ministers who sit on Netanyahu's security cabinet want a heavier toll to be exacted on the Palestinian population, arguing that it is the only effective deterrent.

So far, Netanyahu has shown no inclination to launch a large-scale military operation, despite ramping up deployments in the West Bank by 40 percent and calling up reserve units.

He has also rejected suggestions by Israeli and U.S. officials that he offer concessions to the Palestinians to diffuse tension. Violence has to end first, he says.

Instead, there is a strong presence of Israeli troops and checkpoints across the West Bank, without the sort of iron-fisted tactics that marked the last intifada, although the homes of several attackers have been destroyed.

“This is about taking pinpoint action to tackle specific challenges,” a senior army officer told Reuters, saying operations focused on three particularly unruly areas.

Kobi Michael, a senior researcher at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies, said the military was trying to ensure that the bulk of the population, which is not involved in violence, is as unaffected as possible.

One example of the balance the military is trying to strike is in Beit Ummar, near Hebron, the most volatile West Bank city. On Friday a 19-year-old from the village, Omar Zaakiek, got into his car and drove into six Israeli soldiers, who shot him dead.

Within hours Netanyahu's security cabinet announced Beit Ummar would be put under “closure”, with cars barred from entering or exiting, except via a winding back road, and pedestrians having to pass through an Israeli checkpoint.

Locals accused Israel of collective punishment. The mayor said Zaakiek's family was told their home faced demolition, a tactic the army and Shin Bet have called counterproductive.

Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz acknowledged the rift between some ministers and the military and said the latter's policy of trying to isolate the attackers was flawed.

“It is legitimate to have an argument about distinguishing terrorists from the Palestinian population,” he told Channel 10 TV. “It is completely clear that the more you differentiate, the more your ability to deter is limited.”

So far Netanyahu has headed off the pressure. But the situation remains precarious. Given the complex roots of the violence, Michael said there was no military solution.

“This reality cannot last long,” he said. “Ultimately one side will make a mistake and the situation will spin out of control.”

+