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Latest Israel News – 14th February

Netanyahu: Trump won’t give Israel carte blanche to do what it wants

US President Donald Trump will not give Israel free rein to do what it wants, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Israeli ministers who have called on him to rescind his support for a Palestinian state when the two men meet in Washington on Wednesday.

“Even after eight years of complex navigation in the tenure of [former US President Barack] Obama, we still need to continue to act wisely with the Trump administration. While it is a more comfortable administration [to work with], there will still be restrictions,” Netanyahu told the ministers in his party, prior to the weekly government meeting.

Netanyahu has publicly accepted the principle of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since his public address on the matter at Bar-Ilan University upon entering office in 2009.

But his coalition’s right flank, the Bayit Yehudi party, as well as members of his own Likud party, have pressured him to back away from that position, particularly given that support for a Palestinian state is not part of the Republican party’s platform.

In a meeting of Likud ministers with Netanyahu Sunday, Ze’ev Elkin and Yariv Levin also called upon the premier to disavow his endorsement of a Palestinian state.

Yuval Steinitz also commented on the matter, saying that if Netanyahu were to take back his commitment from the Bar-Ilan speech it would harm Israel internationally.

Since taking office, US President Donald Trump has spoken about his desire to be the one that would make a deal to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The White House said that his administration does not believe settlements are a stumbling block to peace. Trump  has not condemned Israeli settlement activity, but he has said that it is not helpful.

The right-wing has presumed that Netanyahu hopes to come to an agreement with Trump, in which the peace process with the Palestinians would move forward with an understanding that Israel can build in the settlement blocs, but would freeze the isolated settlements.

They feel that this is the  moment to come up with alternative solutions to the idea of two-states and to speak of imposing Israeli sovereignty, in short, to annex Area C of the West Bank.

Prior to the government meeting, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said “The Republican party has taken the idea of a Palestinian state out of its platform. There is no reason for a right-wing Israeli government to be more left than the Republican party.” She called on Netanyahu to present Trump with alternatives to a Palestinian state.

In his opening remarks to the government before its closed door session, Netanyahu spoke of his meeting with Trump in which it is expected that three primary topics will be addressed: Iran, Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He spoke globally and did not mention the issue of Palestinian statehood.

“Tomorrow I leave for Washington to meet with President Donald Trump. We’ve known each other for many years, but this is our first meeting in which he is president of the United States and I am the prime mintier of Israel.

“This meeting is very important for Israel’s security, and for the State’s of Israel’s international standing, which has been gaining strength,” said Netanyahu.

He added that it was significant for Israel’s national interests as well.

Netanyahu told the ministers that he has held many consultations in the past days, including with the IDF, the Defense Ministry, the National Security Council and the Foreign Ministry.

“I understand that there is a lot of excitement ahead of this meeting and there are many motivations behind this. I have only one motivation — first and foremost to take care of Israel’s security, to strengthen its alliance with the US and to shore up our national interests, which are intimately linked with the strong bond with the US.

“This requires a responsible policy, this requires discrete judgment and that is how I am going to operate. I have wisely steered Israeli-US relations and will continue to do so even now.”  (Jerusalem Post)

Egypt-Israel relations have quietly reached a high point

The vast six-lane boulevard from Cairo International Airport into the city center is lined with buildings and offices connected to Egypt’s powerful military. Hotels cater to air force officers, and buildings commemorate, with glorious murals, the country’s fighting history. One shows Egyptian soldiers crossing the Suez Canal in 1973 to strike at Israeli forces in Sinai.

Many Egyptians see the 1973 war as a victory. From that war came the peace treaty signed in Washington in 1979 between president Anwar Sadat and prime minister Menachem Begin. Insiders say that Israel and Egypt are experiencing the closest cooperation in decades, based on shared interests.

On the surface there is nothing about the Egyptian-Israeli cold peace that appears warm. Israel was not represented at the Cairo International Book Fair that wrapped up on Friday. Official meetings with Israelis are controversial – a parliamentarian named Tawfik Okasha was heavily reprimanded for sitting down with the Israeli ambassador last year.

Israel reopened its embassy, albeit in smaller quarters, in September 2015, four years after an angry mob stormed it during the chaos of the Arab Spring. “We’re working together for the sake of stability and prosperity in the Middle East. Egypt will always be the largest and most important state in our region,” then-Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold said. However, reports noted that the embassy building itself would not be re-opened and the ambassador’s residence would be used until a suitable location could be found.

This shows the relationship with Israel is multi-layered. Large portions of the population are hostile to Israel, fed by populist media. That may have changed slightly for the better in recent years. “There is still a lot of hearsay and conspiracy theories going on,” said Ayman el-Khatib, a former teacher.

There is a bifurcation between the political and diplomatic level – which officially demands that Israel make peace with the Palestinians and sees the Palestinian issue as a core of the region’s problems – and the strategic and military sector, which sees potential in cooperation with Israel.

Egypt and Israel quietly share strategic interests in the region. Egypt’s leadership sees the result of the Arab Spring as incredible instability and rising Islamist extremism. In discussions with people knowledgeable of the current situation, it was stressed that Cairo views the conflict today in the region as one between political Islam, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates, and more traditionally “secular” regimes.

It also fears the rising influence of Iran as Iranian proxies in Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq creep closer to Cairo’s eastern flank. In this set-up Israel is a key ally. Egypt treads a fine line in its relations with Saudi Arabia and Syria. It needs financial support from the Gulf, but wants to retain its traditional position as a military and cultural powerhouse in the region and see Islamist extremism defeated.

The Egyptian-Israeli relationship is also a foundation of US policy in the region. With the US providing more than $80 billion in funding for Egypt since the 1978 Camp David Accords, and similar military support for Israel, the two countries have much in common. “Bilateral relations are the best in recent history” and “the relationship with Israel has never been better,” said insiders.

On December 22, Egypt withdrew a draft UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements, after what reports described as “frantic” lobbying by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s spokesman told reporters that they would allow the incoming US administration of Donald Trump to address the issue.

In an embarrassment for Cairo, the Security Council then passed a resolution a day later that was submitted by New Zealand, Venezuela, Senegal and Malaysia. Egypt ended up supporting a resolution it had withdrawn.

Today Egypt wants Washington to declare the Muslim Brotherhood, which was ejected from power in 2013, a terrorist organization and it sees an interest in fighting terrorism alongside Israel. Hamas’s brand of political Islam is viewed as similar to that of the Brotherhood. Last week Egypt destroyed six tunnels linking the Gaza Strip and Sinai.

The new US administration provides Egypt opportunities and potential pitfalls relating to the Israeli issue. On the one hand there is a feeling that “the US always takes advice from Israel,” according to one knowledgeable source who asked to remain anonymous. “But Israel is not an Arab state – Washington should listen to our advice.” Some influential Egyptians believe that the US State Department is influenced by Israeli interests. Only a small minority openly speaks of more open public relations with Israel.

Egyptian diplomats and politicians fear that relocating the US Embassy to Jerusalem could inflame the region. Comments by Trump prior to being sworn in about moving the embassy caused much concern in Cairo, and they stress that it must not happen.

In 1978, Sadat emphasized the need to provide Palestinians with rights. Egypt still argues that Israel must make peace with the Palestinian Authority and create what one source said is a “win-win solution for the Palestinian and Israel.” This should be modeled on the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which calls for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank in return for recognition by the Arab states, locals said.

They are worried about the Israeli public’s continued drift to the Right, which makes any solution impossible. They paid close attention to the passage of the “settlement regulation law” last week and think it will lead to an attempt to annex the West Bank.

According to Dr. Eric R. Mandel, founder and director of the Middle East Political and Information Network, who recently led a trip to Egypt organized by Keshet Insight Seminars, there is reason to be optimistic. “They should broaden and strengthen their relations with Israel, not as a favor to Israel, but to advance Egyptian interests, including strengthening the US relationship.”

Mandel sees much to gain for Egypt in cooperation on developing fresh water resources and desalination that can benefit the country’s growing population. He argues that the relationship should not be held hostage by the Palestinian issue. “They are handicapped by generations of incitement against Israel,” he pointed out. “If they can somehow think out of the box, they could profoundly improve their economic situation and relationship with the United States.”   (Jerusalem Post)

Israelis lead secret operation to deliver coats to refugees in Syria

Refugees in Syria will soon be receiving donated winter supplies — but they won’t know that the coats and boots keeping them warm came from Israel, an enemy state.

Any logos or tags featuring Hebrew writing has been removed from the more than 100 tons of supplies collected by three Israeli groups, in order “to protect the effort and the recipients,” according to a statement.

The organizers — the Zionist youth movement HaNoar HaOved VeHaLomed, its alumni group Dror Israel and the Combat Genocide Association — collected about 3,000 boxes of blankets, coats, sleeping bags, gloves, boots and other winter supplies as part of an initiative dubbed “Operation Human Warmth.”


The items have been taken to a collection point, a representative confirmed to JTA. From there, a partner aid organization is facilitating the delivery of the goods to the refugees, who won’t know their country of origin. The representative said the delivery date and method could not be revealed due to the sensitive nature of the situation.

“I thought people would be reluctant to support an effort they would not get credit for,” Gilad Perry, Dror Israel’s international collaborations director, said in a statement. “I was amazed to see how wrong I was. The generosity of people just caring for those who suffer from the cold winter on the other side of the border, in an ‘enemy country,’ overwhelmed me.”

This year the initiative, which began in 2014, saw a record number of donations, with supplies collected from Jewish, Arab and Druze neighborhoods across Israel.

“The most moving part of the operation for me is to see thousands of Israelis from different religions join forces in a humanistic effort, emphasizing the similarities in the core values of all of us who simply try to make good on this planet, no matter what our backgrounds may be,” Perry said.

HaNoar HaOved VeHaLomed (Youth Who Work and Learn) is a sister movement of Habonim Dror, long affiliated with the Labor Zionist movement.  (Jerusalem Post)

Australian pop star cancels Israel concert after BDS pressure

Australian pop-music star Natalie Imbruglia has apparently cancelled her planned performance in Israel after being pressured by the anti-Semitic BDS movement, which calls on artists and businesses to desist from cooperation with Israel – under pretense to criticism of Israeli policy.

Although Imbruglia had been scheduled to perform in Tel Aviv on March 1st, a recent look at her website showed that the performance had been removed from her list of upcoming performances.

The concert was apparently almost sold-out at the time of her cancellation; Imbruglia’s ticket-ordering site shows that only 29 seats are left for the concert.

The cancellation was hailed by BDS groups. One group called “Don’t play Apartheid Israel” praised the pressure exerted on Imbruglia “after a solid campaign by concerned groups and Indigenous people [sic].”

In late January, the BDS movement sent an open letter to Imbruglia calling on her to cancel her concert in Israel, citing the “Zionist colonization of Palestine” and Israel’s “collective punishment” of Palestinian Arabs, among a litany of other anti-Israel accusations.

Imbruglia’s cancellation came even as a host of high-profile international performers are still set to perform in Israel over the course of the year. Among these are Fatboy Slim, Radiohead, The Pixies, Justin Bieber, Aerosmith, Rod Stewart, Guns N Roses, and Nick Cave.    (Arutz Sheva)

Might Olmert save an embattled Netanyahu from an indictment?

By  Yonah Jeremy Bob                 The Jerusalem Post


It is getting harder and harder for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to say that “there will be nothing because there is nothing” when it comes to his legal issues.

He has already been questioned under caution three times and will reportedly be questioned a fourth time in the Case 1000 (allegedly illegal gifts) and Case 2000 (alleged media bribery) affairs.

The stakes could not be higher, with expectations that an indictment would mean resigning the premiership.

And yet, as things heat up for Netanyahu, his saving grace may come from the unexpected corner of – none other – than former prime minister and current prisoner, Ehud Olmert.

How are the two prime ministers connected? Before we answer, we need to better understand the nature of the issues Netanyahu is confronting.

If the media leaks are true, the two cases come down to whether the prosecution can prove Netanyahu had criminal intent, based on various items of circumstantial evidence.

How does the prosecution come up with such proof? It appears that there is no clear evidence of the quid pro quo needed for bribery charges, in which Netanyahu received expensive gifts or favorable media coverage, in exchange for using his direct powers to help in some financial way those who gave him those favors.

But can the prosecution go after him for breach of public trust? Here, the standard is supposed to be lower. If a public servant receives gifts or some kind of benefit from someone over whom he has direct power – a conflict of interest – they can violate breach of trust. If they actively conceal benefits they receive from authorities when they have a duty to report those benefits, they can also be accused of violating that law.

Netanyahu has claimed that he did not ask for and gave nothing for the expensive gifts he received; that he either was playing games with Yediot Aharonot publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes to tape him and use the tape as a defense against extortion, or that he was told by his lawyers to tape Mozes.

He has also said he did not know about certain gifts given to Sara Netanyahu or the high value of the gifts he was given.

The latest reports indicate Netanyahu asked Israeli businessman Arnon Milchan to give Sara an item of jewelry worth NIS 10,000, which she had asked Milchan for and about which he had expressed unease.

That would seem to disprove parts of his narrative and indicate he was actively seeking the gifts – possibly using his political power to press for them.

There have also been some reports about Netanyahu possibly helping Channel 10, in which Milchan is an investor.

Further, the prosecution just this week indicted Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni for helping a real estate businessman get municipal approvals in exchange for toning down negative media coverage against him. Some are saying this is no different than Netanyahu’s talks with Mozes.

But the hard, cold truth for those who have been hoping to get rid of Netanyahu via one of the investigations, is that in December 2015, the Supreme Court set such a high standard for using circumstantial evidence to prove intent for the charges of breach of trust and bribery, that an indictment is still a long shot.

The big headline at the time was that Olmert would be sent to jail for at least 18 months.

Few looked at the court’s reasoning as to why it clipped four-and-a-half years off his six year sentence in the lower trial court.

The Supreme Court only convicted Olmert of accepting NIS 60,000 in bribes, out of a conviction for NIS 560,000, and an original accusation of NIS 1,500,000.

Four of the five justices tore apart the conclusions by Tel Aviv District Court Judge David Rozen.

Rozen said the state’s main witness Shmuel Duchner, who died mid-trial, was not trustworthy all the time, but could be relied on where there was supporting evidence and noted that he had been extensively cross-examined before dying, even if not on every issue.

The justices essentially tossed out Duchner’s testimony in its entirety.

Justice Neal Hendel explained a variety of scenarios which could contradict Duchner’s testimony against Olmert – some seemingly logical, but other somewhat wild – as to how to explain that Olmert could be innocent, even if Olmert’s alibi was a factual mess.

Hendel and the other justices also seemed unimpressed with the carefully built external evidence of the prosecution showing that Olmert would try to help his younger brother Yossi and that Duchner would only give a bribe if he got credit from Olmert.

For example, there was a mountain of evidence of Olmert honoring Duchner at various events in ways which seemed hard to explain without a concrete reason – such as Duchner’s story of paying bribes to Yossi at Olmert’s request.

The evidence against Olmert which the Supreme Court tossed was much more damning than that which has been produced against Netanyahu.

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit has made it clear he will only indict Netanyahu if the case is super airtight.

The Shimoni indictment does not really drag Netanyahu down, since even if it proves bribery and breach of trust can happen with media benefits, the benefits that Shimoni gave to the businessmen were much more concrete and provable than what the police appear to have on Netanyahu.

Many would laugh at the idea that Netanyahu has helped Channel 10, with which he is constantly at war, and it appears that Milchan is mostly an uninvolved investor in the station.

Taking all of this into account, it is hard to see Mandelblit rolling the dice on a case weaker than the one the prosecution ultimately lost regarding Olmert.

Ironically, this would effectively make Olmert Netanyahu’s savior.

What happens to Netanyahu if the police recommend indicting him?

By  Yonah Jeremy Bob                        The Jerusalem Post


A significant change may have occurred in the fate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the weekend with the Channel 2 report that the police will recommend to indict him.

Until then, the Jerusalem Post had learned that Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit viewed those wanting to indict Netanyahu in the police and the state prosecutor’s office as lower level officials.

At the highest levels of the police and the state prosecutor’s office, Mandelblit believed that there was unanimity that the Netanyahu cases, while problematic in appearance, were borderline and risky cases when it came to trying to win a conviction in court.

If the police recommend indicting Netanyahu it would be a watershed moment. No longer would he be able to credibly say there is nothing. No longer would he be able to say that he will provide answers and it will all go away after being questioned – just like happened with Opposition leader Isaac Herzog.

One of the primary arms of law enforcement in the country would be saying that its highest levels officials believe the prime minister is guilty of a crime.

And yet Netanyahu would still have a strong chance of staying in power and dodging the bullet.

At the end of the day, the police do not decide who to indict, only Mandelblit does.

In fact, the past in major cases involving public officials, Mandelblit’s predecessor, Yehuda Weinstein overruled the police a number of times.

Weinstein overruled the police who had recommended indicting Avigdor Liberman in a massive multi-million dollar money-laundering scam (he was eventually indicted and acquitted in a much smaller affair) and former IDF chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi for breach of trust in the Harpaz Affair.

Notably, in the same Harpaz Affair, Weinstein overruled the police who wanted to indict Mandelblit, at the time Netanyahu’s cabinet secretary, for obstruction of justice in delaying advising Ashkenazi to provide evidence to the police in the Harpaz Affair.

The fact that the police in the past wanted him indicted, could also give Mandelblit some skepticism about automatically endorsing their recommendations for other public officials.

Little can be learned from the impact of a police recommendation regarding Ehud Olmert as he resigned even before they made their recommendation due to a much larger mountain of evidence and corruption affairs and much weaker political support.

But there are also other reasons that the police and an attorney-general see things differently.

Police interrogators often feel officials should be indicted if they are lying or seeming to evade questions or conceal something.

Attorney-generals think more in terms of what can be proven in court and what are the chances of a conviction.

The police also know that they will not be held responsible for bringing down a prime minister, since their recommendation is not binding.

In contrast, Mandelblit has made it clear that his standard for indicting a prime minister is super high in terms of chances of conviction since he would shoulder full responsibility for bringing down Netanyahu with an indictment.

That said, a police recommendation to indict shifts the incentives for Mandelblit.

As long as the top police and top prosecutors recommended not to indict, then Mandelblit could still be in a strong position defying lower level police and prosecutors, many in the media and Netanyahu’s detractors by not indicting him. He could fall back on simply following the recommendations of the rest of the system.

If the police at the highest levels recommend indicting Netanyahu, and Mandelblit overrules them, he is sticking his neck out.

Mandelblit at the end of the day is a man of the system and his next aspiration in five years would be an appointment to the Supreme Court.

For that, he will need to be taken seriously by the legal establishment far more than he will need political favors, even from Netanyahu.

In that sense, Netanyahu’s fate could come down to head state prosecutor Shai Nitzan. If Nitzan goes with the police, Mandelblit might be hard-pressed to agree. If Nitzan goes against the police, Mandelblit will still have cover to override the police claiming support from within the system.

Of course, Mandelblit could still override Nitzan, as Weinstein overruled the state prosecutor in his day regarding the multi-million dollar Liberman case.

But Weinstein was far older (about 20 years) and had no great future ambitions to join the Supreme Court (and he was too old to be eligible.)

At the end of the day, the chances of Mandelblit indicting Netanyahu are still low, due to prior Supreme Court rulings making it harder to win public corruption cases, but a recommendation by the police as an institution to indict Netanyahu would definitely move the flagpoles against the prime minister.

The new anti-Israel alliance

Israel used to have bipartisan support in the US. The Democrats have not turned into Israel haters, but only a blind person can’t sense the change. This can be stopped, but the current government – with its illusion of an alliance with the new administration – is likely incapable of doing what is best for Israel.

by Ben-Dror Yemini               Ynet News


Three weeks have passed since Donald Trump entered the White House, and one thing must be clear: Israel’s situation on campuses and in public opinion is going to get worse, possibly much worse. And the more officially Israel is associated with Trump, the worse things will get.

I was at the protests against him last week. I spoke to countless pro-Israel Jewish activists. There is one conclusion: Israel is playing with fire. In the past, Israel received bipartisan support. The Democrats have not turned into Israel haters. But only a blind person can’t feel the change. This isn’t predetermined destiny. It can be stopped. But I’m not certain that the current government is capable of doing what is best for Israel. It is enthusiastic over the illusion of an alliance with the new administration. This is dangerous.

Trump became president even though he did not have the Republican Party’s support and even though most Americans did not vote for him. He appointed Stephen Bannon as his senior advisor. Bannon may not have been caught making an anti-Semitic comment himself, but he has been connected—and it is a real connection—to white supremacists who are usually also anti-Semites. And the combination between the two announces a rise in the level of anti-Semitism.

This is the same Bannon who was behind the statement issued two weeks ago, in honor of International Holocaust Day, which fails to mention the Jews. And the Israeli Right turned a blind eye.

I personally heard a senior Jewish official at a closed forum. We are talking about a person who works day and night for Israel. A peace process is needed, he cried out there. Even if nothing comes out of it, even if it’s clear that the Palestinian side will say no, there is a need for an impressive presentation of an Israeli willingness for peace. It’s not that this senior official doesn’t know that there is zero chance of that happening. It’s not that he doesn’t know that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has turned down every offer. He does know that. But in the battle against delegitimization, more has to be done. Much more.

Israel can do more. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can do more. But he’s not doing more. He has turned himself into a caricature of Emile Zola. He accuses. All he does is accuse. Everyone is to blame. He is perfect and wonderful. It’s sad, because there is another Netanyahu. The smart Netanyahu. More than smart. He can be at the top of the list of Israel’s most impressive leaders. It’s time for the small politician, the talkbacker, the haggler, to return to the drawer, and for this smart person to spring into action. It would be good not only for Israel, but also for Netanyahu.

The United Nations decided to mark an international Holocaust remembrance day in 2005. It was the initiative of Silvan Shalom, who served as foreign minister at the time. The decision stated as follows: “The Holocaust, which resulted in the murder of one third of the Jewish people, along with countless members of other minorities, will forever be a warning to all people of the dangers of hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice.” Representatives of Muslim countries expressed reservations. The Indonesian ambassador argued that “the Holocaust is not the only human tragedy,” and an Egyptian diplomat said that “the resolution must cover all over cases of genocide.” They protested the fact that the resolution talks about Jews.

In January 2014, then-EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton issued a statement in honor of International Holocaust Day. She refused to mention the word “Jews.” She was clearly anti-Israel. She drew angry reactions in Israel. Now it’s Trump, and the silence is deafening. It won’t stop the radical right in Israel from worshipping the man following the path taken by Ashton and Muslim countries. No, it’s not Holocaust denial. It’s Holocaust distortion. As long as he gives them permission to settle in every Kasbah and on every hill, in order to replace the Jewish state with one big state.

The deterioration is on the left as well. Bernie Sanders, the unshakable leader of the Democratic Left in the United States, tweeted congratulations to Linda Sarsour for organizing the mass protests following Trump’s inauguration as president: “Thank you for helping to build a progressive movement. When we stand together, we win.”

Something bad is happening to the world’s greatest and most important democracy. Trump is carrying a dark cloud of racist comments and a group of supporters that includes anti-Semites and racists. But the Democratic response is as scary. Because the Sanders-Sarsour coalition is basically the red-green coalition. Left and jihadists.

In the anti-Israel protests, mainly in Europe, there is a collaboration between radical left and Islamists. In Britain, it’s reflected in the Labour Party, which has turned into an incubator of anti-Semitism. The party’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, announced in the past that he was friends with Hamas and Hezbollah. In the US, it’s the cooperation on campuses between members of the red-green coalition. The common denominator is of course hatred for Israel. It infiltrated the Democratic Party very quickly and climbed all the way up to a leader of Sanders’ caliber. And what Corbyn did to the British Labour Party Sanders is doing to the Democratic Party in the US.

Because Linda Sarsour, the protest leader, opposes the State of Israel’s existence, supports BDS and “one big state” (like part of the Israeli Right, because edges always meet). She is also an Islamist for all intents and purposes and supports, for example, Sharia law. When the Shalom Hartman Institute initiated a collaboration with Muslim American activists, Sarsour signed a petition opposing the initiative. She is against cooperation with bodies seeking peace. She supports cooperation only with bodies that deny Israel’s right to exist.

And this Islamist activist receives Sanders’s blessing, as well as the blessing of “progressive” Jews across America. There are always the useful idiots, useful Jews this time, who will support this direction, under slogans of “justice and human rights.” What is happening in the campuses, we should take notice, is reaching the top very fast. It’s too early to say that this stream will take over the Democratic Party. But it has happened to the British Labour. It could happen in the US as well.

Ignore Palestinians’ gripe, Jerusalem is the capital

by Colin Rubinstein      The Australian


The city of Jerusalem, holy to the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths, is known to cause its own particular kind of madness. About 50 foreign visitors to the city a year experience what is known as “Jerusalem Syndrome” ­ psychotic delusions that they are ­biblical figures or harbingers of Armageddon.

The city also causes some pec­uliar diplomatic madness. Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, but almost no country recognises it as such. Israel is the only country in the world which other nations refuse to allow to choose its own capital.

Many commentators and ­journalists say or imply that is ­because other countries don’t want to recognise Israel’s supposed occupation of the eastern half of the city, which Israel captured in the 1967 war, and which the Palestinians want as the ­capital of their own future state.

This is just wrong. Jerusalem has been Israel’s capital since 1950, long before the 1967 war, and even between 1950 and 1967, most states refused to recognise it as Israel’s capital.

So it’s not about the “occupation” of east Jerusalem.

So what is it about? It’s because of a completely obsolete element of the UN Partition of 1947 which called for a Jewish state and an Arab state in what had been the British mandate of Palestine. This had called for Jerusalem to be an “international city” under UN control, reaffirmed by a couple of subsequent General Assembly resolutions.

Yet during the 1948 war between a fledgling Israel and several Arab states after the Arabs rejected partition, the UN made no effort to enforce its plans for Jerusalem, or defend its majority Jewish residents from a siege launched by the Jordanians and Palestinian militias to starve them out. Nonetheless, after the war, it was thought by some diplomats that the old idea of an “inter­­national city” might be revised in peace talks.

It never happened. Moreover, not only does no one in the region today want Jerusalem to become an international city under UN control, the original 1947 plan was only to make it an international city for 10 years, until a referendum of the majority Jewish ­residents could decide its future. So this idea passed its use-by date in 1958.

Yet most countries continued to refuse to recognise Israel’s capital even in west Jerusalem ­ largely because of inertia. Any plan to end this ridiculous situation whereby Israel was not ­allowed to pick its own capital on land no one seriously disputed was legally Israeli was met with two claims: first, any pro-Israel change would upset Arab states and actors, who might react ­violently; second, any move might interfere with hopes for progress toward peace.

With the new Trump administration in Washington looking like it is seriously considering a move of the US embassy to Jerusalem ­ something promised by almost all recent US presidential candidates ­ the Palestinians and others are making both the above claims.

They are also claiming that any recognition of any part of ­Jerusalem as Israel’s capital somehow forever precludes the eastern part of the city becoming a Palestinian capital. This, as noted, is nonsensical given that west ­Jerusalem has been Israel’s capital since 1950.

Moreover, another form of diplomatic madness has also surrounded Jerusalem in recent years. The Palestinians, using the fact that they can almost always generate an automatic majority at the UN from Arab and Muslim-majority states and their allies, have succeeded in passing a series of resolutions on Jerusalem at UNESCO, the UN cultural organisation. These essentially declare all holy sites in the city, including Judaism’s holiest sites, the Western Wall and Temple Mount, as wholly Muslim shrines.

Not content with this blatant and ugly exclusionism against two of the three religions to which the city is holy, they are now ­demanding history also be rewritten to deny any past Jewish connection to the city whatsoever.

Thus, when UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently gave an interview in which he acknowledged that “it’s clear as the sun is clear that the Temple (in Jerusalem), which was demolished by the Romans, is a Jewish temple” and added, “no one can deny the fact that Jerusalem is holy to three religions today”, this led to a frantic reaction from ­Palestinian officials.

Adnan al-Husseini, the Palestinian Authority’s Jerusalem Affairs Minister, demanded that Guterres “issue an apology to the Palestinian people”. Similarly, the deputy secretary of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, Faiz Abu Ita, stated Guterres’ comments were “infuriating” and “unjustified” from “ethical, humanitarian, and political” standpoints.

It is time to end the diplomatic madness over Jerusalem.

Whatever other controversies are surrounding the Trump administration, its plans to move the US embassy there are both a matter of common sense, and a positive intervention at a time when international debates about Jerusalem are becoming increasingly unhinged. Nor should threats of violence sway this debate.

Given Canberra genuinely wants to progress Australia’s bipartisan policy of promoting a two-state peace agreement negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians, it would be well advised to consider following suit, if and when the US administration actually decides to make this long overdue embassy move.