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Israel News – 9th February

White House: Netanyahu, Trump to discuss regulation law

The Judea and Samaria Settlement Regulation Law passed in the Knesset on Monday evening has drawn harsh international criticism, with world leaders warning that it may further derail the already stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Tuesday that the law “crossed a new and dangerous threshold. Such settlements constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten the viability of a two-state solution.”

She said the law “would further entrench a one-state reality of unequal rights, perpetual occupation and conflict.” She also stressed that the EU sees Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria as illegal.

On Tuesday, the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council postponed a diplomatic summit with Israel that had been scheduled to take place later this month. No alternative date has been set at this time.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer stressed that the issue will be discussed in U.S. President Donald Trump’s upcoming meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on Feb. 15.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu will be here on the 15th. I think that will be obviously a topic of discussion right now. I don’t want to get ahead of that.

The U.S. State Department opted to withhold comment, as “the administration needs to have the chance to fully consult with all parties on the way forward,” a Washington official said. “At this point, indications are that this legislation is likely to be reviewed by the relevant Israeli courts, and the Trump administration will withhold comment on the legislation until the relevant court ruling.”

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres denounced the new law, saying it goes against international law and would have legal consequences for Israel.

“The secretary general insists on the need to avoid any actions that would derail the two-state solution,” his office said in a statement.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas slammed the law as “an aggressive step toward the Palestinians. This goes against international law. … It facilitates the theft of Palestinian land and giving them to settlers.”

Abbas said the Palestinian Authority has already approached international legal entities over the issue.

He also lambasted British Prime Minister Theresa May for inviting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to an event marking the centennial of the Balfour Declaration in London in November.

Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat blasted the legislation, saying, “The land theft and occupation have reached the level of war crimes.” Urging international community action, he said, “Why are you waiting? There must be an investigation now. The Hague is the only place where justice can be demanded.”

Hamas and Islamic Jihad condemned the legislation as well.

A Hamas spokesman said Israel’s move was “in violation of international law,” while Islamic Jihad lashed as Abbas for “proving he and his people cannot protect Palestinian lands. They must all resign and allow the Palestinian people to fight for the protection of their land.”

U.N. Middle East envoy Nikolay Mladenov warned that Israel has “crossed a very thick red line” by passing the law.

British Undersecretary for Middle East and North Africa Tobias Ellwood warned that the law “damages Israel’s standing with its international partners. It is of great concern that the bill paves the way for significant growth in settlements deep in the West Bank, threatening the viability of the two-state solution. We reiterate our support for a two-state solution leading to a secure Israel that is safe from terrorism, and a contiguous, viable, and sovereign Palestinian state.”

French President Francois Hollande expressed concern that the law “paved the way for the annexation of the occupied Palestinian territories. … I think that Israel and its government could revise this text.”

The German Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that its confidence in Israel’s commitment to the two-state solution has been shaken, as “some lawmakers in the Israeli government have publicly called for annexing parts of the West Bank and have formulated draft legislation on this issue. This is now an issue of credibility.”

Jordanian Minister for Media Affairs and Communications Mohammad al-Momani warned that “the Israeli provocation could destroy any hope for the two-state solution and peace in the region, and it could also stir emotions in the Muslim world and drag the region to violence and extremism.”

Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit also condemned the law, saying, “I call on all parties to pursue international legal action to thwart it.”  (Israel Hayom)

Most Jewish Israelis oppose annexation

Despite the enthusiasm of politicians on the Right for increased Israeli control over Judea and Samaria following the election of US President Donald Trump, a significant majority of Jewish citizens are against annexing large parts of these territories, a poll by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) has found.

It also found that a majority of Jewish citizens are also against increased settlement construction in Judea and Samaria, another policy that right-wing politicians say they will be advancing in light of the new US administration.

Despite this, a large majority of Jewish Israelis hold that if the territories are annexed, Palestinians living there should not be given full civil rights, such as the right to vote.

The poll, conducted by telephone by the Midgam Research Institute on a sample of 500 Jews and 100 Arabs, found that 50 percent of Jews think it unwise to expand settlement construction at present, compared to 45% who say construction should be increased.

Some 53% of Israeli Jews also said they were against annexing large parts of the West Bank, compared to 37% who said they favor such actions. But affording full civil rights to Palestinians living in any areas which are annexed is something a significant majority of Israelis would oppose.

According to the poll, just 25% of Israeli Jews said Palestinians should be given citizenship, while fully 61% said that they should either be given residency status, without the right to vote, or not afforded any more rights than they have at present.

Prof. Tamar Hermann, co-editor of the IDI’s monthly Peace Index, said that despite the implications such a policy would have in creating a state with two classes of citizens, the results indicate that many Israelis would not be troubled by such a situation.

“Large sections of Jewish Israeli society do not see this as racism,” Hermann said. “Many people believe that this is a Jewish state and we should do everything to control the land, whether for religious or security purposes, and that we cannot allow Arabs to get equal civil rights, because we should keep the land in the hands of the Jewish majority.”

Somewhat surprisingly, of those defining themselves to be on the “moderate Left” of the political spectrum, only 50% said Palestinians in annexed areas should be given full civil rights, while 26% said they did not know or declined to answer. Fully 64% of those defining themselves as “Left” said such people should be given full civil rights.

Other results of the poll found that the public trust of Jewish Israelis in the police remains substantial, with 58% saying that they accept the police’s claim that the Beduin teacher Yacoub al-Kiyan was shot by officers because he tried to carry out a ramming attack that caused the death of the officer Erez Levi during the evacuation of the unrecognized Beduin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev.

However, a huge majority, some 80%, of the Arab public, however, does not believe the police’s version.

Regarding the police’s handling of the various investigations into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 60% of the Jewish public believe that the police are conducting the investigations professionally and objectively, while 27% said they think the investigations are not being conducted in such a manner.

Against the background of Netanyahu’s claims that the Left is heavily pressuring the attorney- general with the aim of undemocratically ousting the Likud government, 60% of the Jewish public said it trusts the attorney-general to do his work faithfully, while 33% said they do not trust him.

Fully 52% of the Jewish public are also of the view that if an indictment is served against Netanyahu, he should resign immediately, even though the letter of the law states that the prime minister must resign only if he is convicted and a subsequent appeal is rejected. Forty-three percent said the prime minister should remain in his post as long as the law allows.

The IDI poll also revealed a startling lack of trust in the Israeli media, with only 15% of the Jewish public and 18% of the Arab public expressing trust in the information provided by print media; while information from television is trusted by 29% of the Jewish public and 17% of the Arab public; and information coming from the social networks is trusted by only 19% of the Jewish public and 14% of the Arab public.

Separate research conducted by the Berel Katznelson Foundation showed a significant rise in expressions of hatred in Hebrew on social media toward settlers and those on the right wing of Israeli politics.

According to the foundation’s “Hatred Document” conducted together with the Vigo company, hatred toward settlers and rightwing Israelis increased by 50% in January against the background of the evacuation of the Amona settlement outpost and the violent protests against it.

However, the majority of hate speech on social networks is still directed against Arabs and the Left. Some 40% of hate speech on social media is directed towards Arabs, 15% to left-wingers, 7% against settlers, 5% against right-wingers, 9% against haredim, 8% against LGBTs and 6% against Israelis of Sephardi heritage.

“Every political event increases the level of polarization and [verbal] violence among the different groups of Israeli society,” said Anat Rozalin, director of the public arm of the Berel Katznelson Foundation. “While we were once witness to empathy toward victims, today the automatic feeling is hatred of the other.”           (Jerusalem Post)

Tensions with Gaza flare shortly after IDF drill preparing for escalation

Tensions between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip flared on Monday, one day after a Hamas militant died in an “accidental explosion” in the northern Gaza Strip and shortly after a large-scale IDF drill along the border.

The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, said that 37-year-old Muhammad Walidal-Quqa died after succumbing to wounds he sustained a day earlier and had been involved in “jihadist activities, including manufacturing and assembling explosives.”

Early Monday morning, rocket alert sirens sounded in several southern Israeli communities bordering the northern Gaza Strip. According to the army, a projectile landed in an open area and security forces were sweeping the area for remnants. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage in the attack. The IDF later struck several Hamas targets over the course of the day on Monday following the rocket fire and late afternoon gunfire toward troops.

Both Hamas and splinter Islamic organizations have launched rocket attacks into Israel. There has been no official claim of responsibility for the launching of the projectile, but Israel holds Hamas accountable for all fire emanating from the Strip.

The IDF recently completed a large-scale training exercise along the Gaza Strip that would respond to a future, multi-pronged terrorist assault from the Strip by land, sea, and air. The five-day-long drill, part of an annual training cycle, simulated the infiltration of large numbers of Hamas terrorists into border communities by attack tunnels, para-gliders and naval commandos.

The training exercise took place as Hamas has been investing a significant amount of money and effort into rebuilding and constructing new attack tunnels.

The defense establishment has warned that the IDF must pay special attention to the strengthening of Hamas’s naval commando unit, which has reportedly increased the number of its divers since 2014’s Operation Protective Edge. During that war, five Hamas commandos attempted to infiltrate Kibbutz Zikim and were killed by troops.

In addition to growing its missile stockpile from self-made weapons using material smuggled through the Egyptian-controlled Rafah border crossing, Hamas has also constructed outposts along the border with Israel and is also patrolling the area. Hamas terrorists reportedly cross from Gaza via Egypt to third-party countries, and later return to the Strip.

Hamas has also been investing in its drone capability. In recent years, Hamas drones have sometimes breached Israeli airspace, causing the IDF to scramble jets.

Earlier on Monday, Defense Ministry officials working alongside the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) intercepted hundreds of drones, computer parts and other electronic equipment that the ministry said were being smuggled for terrorist activities against Israel.

Over the past year, the ministry’s Crossings Authority, along with the Shin Bet, foiled 1,225 attempts to smuggle dual-purpose material into Gaza, such as drones, model airplanes, commando knives, truck motors and diving gear.

In April 2015, Tal Inbar, head of the Space Research Center at the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies in Herzliya, told the Post that Hamas produces its own drones, including some that carry explosive devices. A senior IDF officer told Channel 2 last week that Hamas has replenished its military capability since the 2014 war, adding that the terrorist organization has used the years since the offensive to develop its tunnels and missile programs.

Following that report, Hamas’s military wing said that Israel’s concern with its network of tunnels is proof of Hamas’s success during the war, citing the anticipated Comptroller’s Report on Operation Protective Edge, which is expected to contain scathing criticism of Israel’s military and political leadership. (Jerusalem Post)

”How Would You Feel if Israel Funded Welsh or Scottish Independence Groups?’ PM Netanyahu Asks UK Counterpart in Call for Foreign Governments to Stop Giving Money to NGOs That ‘Slander’ the Jewish State

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called on the leaders of both the United Kingdom and Belgium this week to stop funding left-wing NGOs that “slander” the Jewish state.

“I will continue to fight the lies and do everything to protect our soldiers,” Netanyahu vowed in a Facebook post on Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, the Israeli leader met in Jerusalem with visiting Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel. On Monday, Netanyahu was the guest of British Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street in London.

In a Facebook video he filmed while in the UK, Netanyahu said, “I asked the British prime minister today: How would you feel if I was funding with Israeli government money organizations that call British soldiers ‘war criminals’? Or called for independence for Wales or independence for Scotland with Israeli government funding?”

“Well, unfortunately,” he continued, “this is what many governments do when they fund groups like Breaking the Silence, B’Tselem, Adalah, etc. So I asked that the British government cease funding these groups. I think the time has come.”                       (the Algemeiner)

PM: Israel protecting Europe from even worse refugee crisis

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday told his Belgian counterpart that Israel’s fight against jihadist terrorism was preventing an even worse migrant crisis in Europe.

Speaking at a press conference with Charles Michel at his official residence in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said the Jewish state was the only stable power in the region and was preventing the “collapse of the Western part of the Middle East.”

“Israel has been at the forefront of the countries that fight militant Islam,” said Netanyahu, noting intelligence-sharing with European countries.

“I think in a larger sense, Prime Minister, it’s important to recognize that Israel is the strongest force in the Middle East that prevents the collapse of the Western part of the Middle East. If that were to happen, we would have untold misery to many, many more millions of residents of the Middle East and a great increase flow to Europe. Israel prevents that,” Netanyahu said.

“And I think in this sense, Israel is doing an important service for the peoples of Europe, including Belgium,” the prime minister added.

The migration crisis has seen more than one million people flee war, poverty and oppression in Syria, the Middle East and North Africa for Europe. The Syrian civil war alone has forced 4.8 million people to leave Syria, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Turkey has taken in more than 2.7 million Syrians, the UNHCR says, and is now the main host country. It is followed by Lebanon with more than one million Syrian refugees, according to the UN. The UNHCR says Jordan has taken in 655,000 Syrians, but Amman says the number is much higher, at 1.4 million. Syrian refugees have in increasing numbers traveled to, or tried to reach, Europe, making the perilous journey overground or by sea.

There are some 55,000 migrants in Israel, many of them from Sudan and Eritrea. However, the flow into Israel has been slowed to almost none since Israel built a fence on its southern border with Egypt.

Netanyahu went on to praise intelligence-sharing between Israel and Belgium on counter-terrorism efforts, as well as the $3 billion in annual trade between the two countries.

The prime minister also attributed the stalled peace process to “the persistent Palestinian refusal” to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. “This is the core of our particular conflict. I look forward to the day when we have Palestinians who are willing to recognize, finally, the Jewish state. That will be the beginning of peace and a great step forward to achieving it,” said Netanyahu.

During his trip to the Jewish state, Michel also met with President Reuven Rivlin and young Belgians living in Israel. He also visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.  (the Times of Israel)

Israeli ammonia tank set to close following Hezbollah threat

Haifa Local Affairs justice Sigalit Gatz-Ofir issued a closure order for Haifa’s controversial ammonia tank on Wednesday, until a discussion occurs about the facility on Thursday morning.

The order occurred in response to the Haifa municipality’s appeal to the court requesting the container’s closure, after a report published last week indicated that the tank could kill thousands in the region. While the report drew particularly devastating conclusions, politicians and environmentalists alike have been fighting for the removal of the facility from the Haifa Bay area for years.

The report, prepared by a team of researchers led by Prof. Ehud Keinan of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, concluded that a strike on the 12,000-ton facility and ammonia delivery vessels could bring catastrophe to the region. While an attack on the container itself could lead to the deaths of thousands of residents, an attack on the ships conveying the ammonia to the region could kill hundreds of thousands – “numbers that were inconceivable in any apocalyptic scenario ever described by the security establishment in the State of Israel,” according to the report.

The tank was slated to move to a less populated location, Mishor Rotem in the Negev Desert, but the Environmental Protection Ministry announced in November that the tendering process for the transfer had failed. Long seen as a security risk to the region, the ammonia container received international attention when Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah threatened to attack it in February.

“To bring down the Twin Towers in New York, the terrorists did not need dozens of tons of explosives; rather, they realized the destructive potential of a giant passenger plane, full of fuel, traveling at high speeds,” the report said. “The Hezbollah secretary-general was absolutely right about the inherent destructive potential of the container, and more importantly, of the ammonia ship.”

Ammonia is a highly toxic gas, to which an exposure of just a 0.5% concentration can cause death within 5-10 minutes, the report explained. Ordinary homes cannot be sealed from ammonia completely, and after the gas is leaked into a room, residents can only survive for a few hours.

In response to Wednesday’s decision, Knesset Haifa Bay Caucus chairwoman MK Yael Cohen Paran (Zionist Union) praised the court decision to issue an order to close the ammonia plant and said that she wishes that the temporary status would become permanent.

“800,000 people are under a daily threat in the bay, it is about time for change,” she said.

MK Dov Henin (Joint List) echoed these comments and said that when the government abandons the life of the people of Haifa, it is good that the court steps in. “The ammonia tanks should be closed for good,” he added. “Only then we will find out that there are better alternatives to this dangerous tank.”

MK Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union) said that the threat that is posed by the ammonia plant is bad as a nuclear threat. “Letting the plant to continue operating is irresponsible,” she said. “The Israeli government is putting a million citizens under threat. I hope that the right thing will be done and this plant – that is more dangerous from the rockets of Hizbollah and Hamas – will be closed for good.”  (Jerusalem Post)

5 soldiers arrested for taking bribes to let Palestinians into Israel illegally

Five Israeli soldiers were arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of accepting bribes in exchange for allowing Palestinians without permits to enter Israel.

The five soldiers all serve at the Te’enim checkpoint between Israel and the West Bank, near the town of Tulkarem. Channel 10 news reported that one was the commander of the checkpoint.

The soldiers allegedly accepted tens of thousands of shekels and drugs from an Israeli Arab man in exchange for turning a blind eye to the Palestinians illegally entering Israel. The man, Ziyad Hadija, a resident of the nearby Israeli Arab town of Qalansawe, is suspected by police of heading a human smuggling operation of unauthorized Palestinians.

Hadija was also arrested for his involvement in the affair, as was Fadi Hantash, a Palestinian resident of Tulkarem who police say shepherded the unauthorized Palestinians to the Te’enim checkpoint, from where Hadija ensured their entry to Israel by bribing the suspected soldiers.

A lawyer for Hadija told Channel 2 that his client denies all charges against him.

Hantash was arrested last week in his home near Tulkarem.

The investigation, which was carried out by both the Israel Police and the Military Police, was opened after a Border Police unit received intelligence regarding the smuggling of illegal Palestinians into the country.

Detectives carried out six months of undercover intelligence work at the Te’enim checkpoint, where they observed how the Palestinians were smuggled into Israel, as well as how the soldiers received bribes of drugs and money, with the soldiers going so far as setting up a bank account in which Hadija would deposit the bribe money.

The questioning of the suspects will likely be completed in the coming days, upon which the soldiers, Hantash and Hadija are expected to face severe charges, according to Channel 2.

In August, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot said that an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 Palestinians enter Israel illegally every day in order to work by exploiting weak points in Israel’s West Bank security barrier.

The IDF chief also said that over 40 percent of the terror attacks carried out during a roughly year-long upsurge in violence beginning in October 2015 were in some way connected to Palestinians who were in Israel illegally.

Last June, Palestinian cousins Muhammad and Khalid Muhamra of the southern West Bank town of Yatta killed four Israelis in a shooting attack at Tel Aviv’s popular Sarona Market after entering Israel illegally, with the attack leading to widespread scrutiny in the country over the ability of tens of thousands of Palestinians to enter the country illegally every day. (the Times of Israel)

The true significance of Israel’s settlement legalization law

The flurry of hand-wringing over the Regulation Law has largely missed what may be its most dramatic consequence — that it makes it harder for Israel to stick to its longstanding policy of permanent indecision in the West Bank

By Haviv Rettig Gur                   The Times of Israel


Criticism of the Regulation Law that passed Monday in the Knesset has been visceral and widespread. It comes from Israeli politicians on the deepest left as well as the right, from Palestinian officials as well as pro-Israel advocates, from European and Muslim-world governments as well as Israel’s own attorney general, and even from some Knesset Members who actually voted for it.

All seem to believe the law, which authorizes retroactively Israeli settlement homes built illegally on privately owned Palestinian land, is a watershed moment in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But with so many voices vying to explain precisely why it is so bad, it can be easy to miss, or to misunderstand, the indigenous Israeli political impulses that forged it, and thus to misrepresent what it means for Israel’s presence in the West Bank.

In an important sense, the Regulation Law changes very little. Under Jordanian land law that still applies in the West Bank – Israel never applied its own civil law, and so the territory is run under a combination of various legal systems imposed by past rulers and IDF orders issued since 1967 – the governing authority in the territory is already permitted to seize privately owned land for public benefit. The Jordanian law is far more expansive and permissive as to what constitutes “public benefit” than is Israeli civil law within Israel’s borders, and more even than what Israel’s military administration has actually done in the West Bank.

And so the new Regulation Law does not, as often claimed, suddenly allow the Civil Administration, the Israeli agency administering the West Bank under the army’s auspices, to seize private property for Israeli settlements. The Civil Administration is already allowed to do so, at least on paper, and leaving out for the moment the rather significant question of international law and its obligations. Rather, the Regulation Law requires that it do so.

In places where Israelis built settlements on privately held Palestinian property in good faith – i.e., without knowing it was privately owned – or received the government’s de facto consent for squatting there, the Civil Administration is now forced to carry out the seizure in the squatters’ name in exchange for state compensation to the owners equal to 20 years’ rent or 125 percent of the assessed value of the land.

Here lies the most important fact of the law from the perspective of the internal Israeli debate: that it is not actually directed against the Palestinian owners (though, of course, it affects them most of all), but against the Israeli state.

For decades, the Israeli left accused state agencies of coddling and abetting the settlement movement. In 2005, the government of Ariel Sharon published the Sasson Report, written by a former senior state prosecutor, Talia Sasson, that detailed these agencies’ collusion in illegal building in the West Bank.

As one right-wing supporter of the Regulation Law noted to The Times of Israel this week, the first few hundred homes built in the Ofra settlement in the northern West Bank during the 1980s and 1990s were constructed without appropriate zoning or approval of any kind.

But in the wake of the report, and in keeping with the policies of various governments since the late 1990s, enforcement of zoning and planning requirements has grown much more stringent. It is no longer easy to build without permission in places like Ofra or Beit El. Critics of the settlements talk constantly about their unrelenting growth, but actual residents of the more ideologically rooted settlements nestled deep within the West Bank feel the opposite, that their growth is being choked by a state that even under right-wing rule views them as an enemy.

Ironically, nowhere is this tension between the settlement movement and the state clearer than in the way the law justifies the seizure of land. To authorize the seizure, article 3 of the law requires that either of two conditions be met: the aforementioned “good faith” requirement, “or that the state gave its agreement to the [settlement’s] establishment.”

This is an important “or,” as it means seizure is possible even in bad faith, where the land was explicitly settled in the full knowledge that it was privately owned by Palestinians, as long as state support can be demonstrated.

And article 2 of the law ensures that it won’t be hard to demonstrate such support. It defines “agreement of the state” thus: “Explicitly or implicitly, beforehand or after the fact, including assistance in laying infrastructures, granting incentives, planning, publicity intended to encourage building or development, or financial or in-kind participation” in the settlement’s establishment.

If any state agency paved a road, provided electricity or, arguably, merely sent security or law enforcement forces to protect a settlement, the squatters may be able to claim “agreement of the state.”

The Sasson Report put the question of unacknowledged government assistance to illegal settlement construction on the national agenda as an explicit first step to stopping that assistance. The Regulation Law flips that intention on its head, turning that governmental support into the legal reasoning for retroactively authorizing the very construction the report was intended to help freeze.

It is hard to imagine that this perfect inversion of the Sasson Report is accidental. The Regulation Law’s earliest drafts were written by advisers to Jewish Home MK Betzalel Smotrich, the former head of Regavim, an Israeli right-wing advocacy group that works on issues of land rights and settlements. That is, it was formulated by lawyers deeply familiar with the issues and questions raised by the Sasson Report, and with Israeli settlement policy since its publication.


For Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, however, the problems posed by the law go deeper than this cantankerous shot across the bow of the left-right culture war.

In its very first sentence, the law proclaims: “The purpose of this law is to bring order to the settlement in Judea and Samaria and to allow its continued establishment and development.”

For 50 years, Israel has officially argued that the West Bank is not “occupied” as the term is understood in the Fourth Geneva Convention, but merely “disputed.” The legal reason – that the Convention defines as “occupied” only tracts of land taken by a state in wartime from another state that had sovereignty there; the West Bank was not sovereign Jordanian territory when Israel captured it from Jordan in 1967 – may be convincing to many Israelis, but sways almost no one else on Earth.

This argument also has the thorny disadvantage of leaving unanswered the rather fundamental question of what, exactly, is the status of millions of Palestinians living in this non-occupied territory who are not, and don’t want to be – and Israelis don’t want them to be – citizens of Israel.

Since 1967, Israel’s response, both in international forums and to its own High Court, has been to distinguish between the people and the land, applying to the Palestinian population, but not to the land, the protections of “occupation” granted by the Fourth Geneva Convention. (This distinction is not wholly innovative. The Convention’s own broad definition of “protected persons” is, simply, “those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals.”)

Mandelblit’s complaint is a simple one. The Regulation Law charges into this delicate and, for Israel, indispensable legal construct like a bull in a china shop. It marks the first direct Knesset legislation of a civil law that applies directly to Palestinians in the West Bank, and it does so without even conferring on them, as Israel did in the past in East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights, the broader edifice and legal protections of Israeli civil law more generally.

“A state can only legislate where it is sovereign,” Talia Sasson told The Times of Israel in an interview Tuesday. “The basic theory is that the people are sovereign, we choose representatives and they decide the way we behave within this [sovereign] territory.”

So, for example, the Israeli Knesset does not have the authority to legislate traffic laws in Paris or zoning rules in London. Law follows sovereignty.

“So this law that claims to apply outside Israeli [sovereign] territory cannot be a constitutional law,” said Sasson, who now chairs the board of the left-wing New Israel Fund.

And it is why the law is sure to be struck down by the High Court of Justice, she predicted. “If I’m a High Court justice, my first question to the state’s attorney [defending the law] would be, ‘Explain to me not what claims we have to the territory – that’s not the question here – but by what authority’” Israel is legislating a civil law there without first defining the territory as subject to Israeli civil law, with all the ramifications such a designation would carry.

The Regulation Law is a potential watershed moment not because of the powers it confers or the requirements it demands of state bodies, but for the simple fact that it appears to penetrate this carefully constructed legal membrane between democratic, sovereign Israel on the one hand, and the occupied – or at least, under the Fourth Geneva Convention to which Israel is a signatory, specially protected as though occupied – Palestinian population on the other.

Tear down this barrier, this legal balancing act that has endured for five decades, and Israel faces a stark question: Why are some of the people living under the civil control of the Israeli state enfranchised as full citizens, but others are not?

Critics of Israel scoff at such legalisms. Fifty years after the Six Day War in 1967, they ask, isn’t that the de facto situation of the Palestinians in any case?

Yet within the Israeli discourse, in Israeli law and judicial precedent, the West Bank’s liminalism is seen as a fundamental protection for Israeli democracy. The Palestinians have not been naturalized, Israeli governments and courts have been insisting for decades, only because we are holding out for peace and separation. Their condition is provisional, temporary, even if its resolution has been long in coming.

If you rob me of that argument, if there is no longer a clear distinction between the legal status of sovereign Israeli territory and that of the West Bank, Mandelblit has told lawmakers in recent months during debates about the law, how will I continue to defend Israel’s current policy in the West Bank? If the Palestinians can now be subjected directly to Israeli civil law, how much longer will we be able to continue justifying the fact that they cannot vote for the body that creates that law?


None of this is lost on the bill’s supporters. Nor are they unaware that the law is all but certain to be struck down by the High Court of Justice.

Yet the campaign by the Jewish Home party and Likud’s rightist flank to advance the law, which was resisted even by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was worth the trouble and potential fallout, they feel, because of the vital message it is meant to convey.

International law requires that an “occupying power” care for the needs of the inhabitants of a captured or occupied area. Over the past 20 years, Israeli governments have assiduously avoided carrying out significant seizures of privately owned Palestinian land solely for the benefit of Israeli settlements, such as the construction of access roads to such settlements.

As Mandelblit himself has argued to any lawmaker who would listen, Israeli authorities in the West Bank have clung to a consistent policy of only seizing privately owned Palestinian land in cases where the land’s public use will also, or even primarily, benefit the local Palestinian population.

One supporter of the Regulation Law familiar with its development told The Times of Israel this week that “the net result of this Israeli policy is that we accept a legal interpretation that sees the Israeli population [in the West Bank] as not part of its ‘inhabitants.’ That includes Israelis who have lived there for 40 years.”

Here lies the deeper message, the statement of principle that makes palatable the legal risks and diplomatic fallout, even if the law is ultimately overturned by the High Court: that the Israeli population in the West Bank belongs there, that its presence is legitimate and just, that they are as much the “inhabitants” of Judea and Samaria as the Palestinians.

This is not a message intended for foreign audiences, but for Israelis, and especially for government officials who, in practice, and despite often extravagant proclamations otherwise, seem to doubt the point.

This is the strange irony at the heart of the Regulation Law: that it is less a reliable signal of what the future holds for Israel’s policy in the West Bank – no one who voted for it expects it to survive the High Court challenge – and more a reflection of the deep sense of alienation and vulnerability that permeates the very settlements that, superficially at least, appear so empowered by its passage.

Are Trump and Israel on the same page?

by      Isi Leibler                        The Jerusalem Post


The first two weeks of US President Donald Trump’s administration have been more active than those of any president in recent memory.

The unprecedented executive orders, not to mention the initial exchanges with other heads of state, have generated headlines that under normal circumstances could have filled the daily news cycle for several months.

The most controversial action was the president’s brutal, impulsive executive order implementing his campaign promise to block refugees from entering the US. He barred Syrian refugees indefinitely and citizens from seven Muslim-majority states for 90 days.

Although a recent Rasmussen poll showed that his order was supported by 57% of Americans, with 33% opposed, it was introduced with such haste and mismanagement that many innocents, even some supporters of the US, were denied entry. Hopefully, following the court intervention, this will soon be fine-tuned, because the crude implementation of such drastic procedures is counterproductive.

There is also considerable disquiet concerning alleged religious discrimination and denial of sanctuary to devastated refugees. This resonates especially with Jews – many of whom are delusional and identify the plight of Syrian refugees with that of their kinsmen during the Holocaust – and is magnified by the biased media.

This is a travesty. The limited number of Jewish refugees admitted during WWII posed no security risks.

On the contrary, they enriched and contributed to the welfare of the societies into which they settled.

It is an abomination to compare them with the substantial proportion of thuggish, anti-democratic and antisemitic elements that have already had a shocking impact throughout Europe.

Yes, as Jews we have an emotional affinity for refugees, but we are surely obliged to give priority to our own security. In our interest and that of democratic societies as a whole, we should support all efforts to exclude extremists who would undermine Western civilization – even if in the process, some innocents suffer.

This Trump policy is in fact an extension of a similar ban imposed by Obama in 2011, which suspended the entry of Iraqi refugees into the US for six months.

But we heard no outcries or breast-beating from bleeding hearts then.

Trump refuses to pander to the irresponsible compassion that has pervaded Europe with catastrophic, probably irreversible effects on the quality of life in many cities. It is these grounds that justify special surveillance on Middle East “refugees” seeking entry into the US.

As Jews, we should welcome Trump’s efforts to halt the appeasement of aggressive Islam. Radical Islam is not a “religion of peace.” Trump’s objective, even if the implementation to date has been clumsy, is neither discriminatory nor Islamophobic. It is common sense which was suppressed by the Obama administration that sought to deny the existence of a global Islamic threat and encouraged US Muslim organizations, including those supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

It must be noted that the wealthy Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia and other rich sheikhdoms, have pointedly refused to condemn Trump, and have themselves adamantly refused to accept “refugees” because they regard them as security risks. But that hasn’t warranted any protest by the pseudo-liberals who are accusing Trump of fascism.

Instead of shrieking Islamophobia, Muslim leaders should look in the mirror and realize that by their endorsement of or indifference to the violent jihadism emanating from their own ranks, they have created enormous concern and resentment.

They should also observe that six of the seven countries “discriminated against” are among the 16 Muslim- majority states that deny entry to Israelis.

Notwithstanding that, it is totally appropriate for Jewish organizations to call on the administration to fine-tune the regulations to minimize the impact on our friends. To be productive, such criticism must be constructive and communicated in a responsible manner.

Those who now accuse Trump of introducing fascism and draw lurid comparisons with the Holocaust are hypocrites of the first order. They previously endorsed Obama for his sanctioning of regional hegemony for the Iranian terrorists who publicly proclaimed their intent to commit genocide against the Jewish people, for his bracketing of Israelis and Palestinians as birds of a feather and for his silence while Israel was treated as a rogue state. In so doing, they contributed toward an atmosphere that strengthens extremists and erects barriers to a reasonable and constructive discourse.

Some of the most offensive outbursts emanate from “progressive” rabbis who, on purportedly Jewish ethical grounds, have assumed the vanguard role in demonizing Trump.

One should compare their frenzied statements with the tempered and constructive criticism of the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America.

This also applies to the response to the administration’s appalling statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Omitting any reference to Jews was a shocking blunder, compounded by subsequent efforts to justify rather than modify the statement. The Holocaust becomes trivialized if Jews, the principal target of the Nazi genocide, are not specifically mentioned. The European Union, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and others (including Jews) have been guilty of the same offense in the past.

The statement can be attributed to a combination of chaos, ignorance and stubbornness.

Jews were obliged to speak out forcefully and, to their credit, responsible Jewish bodies, including fervent supporters of Trump, criticized the statement.

But the Jewish pseudo-liberals once again engaged in baseless accusations of antisemitism, even accusing Trump of deliberately promoting Holocaust revisionism to placate Nazi followers. Such hysterical responses were utterly counterproductive and render it difficult to conduct a civilized discourse on the issue.

American Jews, other than the Orthodox, are unquestionably suffering trauma over recent developments that challenge their liberal DNA. I refer to them as “pseudo-liberals” because genuine liberals have not forsaken Israel. But even a dedicated Zionist like David Harris, CEO of the American Jewish Committee, seems to have lost the plot.

There have been some needlessly provocative statements by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ministers about settlement construction beyond the settlement blocs, even before his meeting with Trump. These statements, largely pandering to shortterm domestic political interests, are not merely counterproductive to Israel-US relations, but are not endorsed by the majority of Israelis who share a consensus about the ultimate objective of separating from the Palestinians in order to avoid a binational state.

But it was outrageous when Harris condemned as “unhelpful” Netanyahu’s reference to construction within the settlement blocs, and when he accused Netanyahu of engaging in “optics “that “could hand anti-Israeli forces a PR victory.” Harris may have been under pressure from some of his more radical constituents to follow the lead of the Anti-Defamation League in distancing his organization from the Israeli government. But such a statement at this time, publicly reprimanding the Israeli prime minister on what is a consensual issue in Israel, reflects the chaos prevailing even in some mainstream American pro-Israel groups. What makes this worse is the absence of a response or condemnation to such remarks by other establishment leaders, except those of the Zionist Organization of America.

Indeed, although likely to be fervently denied by most of the established Jewish leaders, Mort Klein, head of the ZOA, who until recently was dismissed as a fringe extremist, has filled the vacuum created by the pseudo-liberals and their silent leadership and has emerged as a major voice in the American Jewish community whose views receive extensive coverage in the national media.

Next week, Netanyahu will be holding critical discussions with Trump that will set the parameters for the new administration’s relationship with Israel.

Until then, responsible mainstream Jewish leaders should be supportive of Israel and, if critical of new administration’s policies, convey their concerns in a respectful and constructive manner and dissociate themselves from the extremists in their ranks who exploit their origins as a vehicle to demonize Trump.

Likewise, Israeli ministers, including our prime minister, should not seek to push a mercurial Trump to the point where he becomes exasperated.

All the indicators suggest that Israel will benefit from even greater support than it had during the George W. Bush administration. With respect to the new administration’s tough responses and renewal of sanctions against the Iranians, its approach to the United Nations and the anti-Israeli Europeans, it has already clearly reversed the anti-Israel policies of the Obama era.

Trump has also clearly intimated that Israel will not be condemned if it expands and builds homes within the settlement blocs. The new administration will certainly revoke Obama’s efforts to force Israel to return to the indefensible 1949 armistice lines or define Jerusalem as occupied territory. But, like the majority of Israelis, it is unlikely to endorse the Greater Israel concept or support the creation of new settlements in densely populated Arab areas.

If we act rationally and dissociate ourselves from the right-wing extremists who would transform us into a binational state, there is every probability that on the eve of 50th anniversary of the Six Day War, Netanyahu’s meeting with Trump will be highly productive and hopefully represent a prelude to a major improvement in our global standing and security.