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Latest Israel News – 16th Februay

Netanyahu visit may be catalyst for ALP policy change on Palestine

Next week’s visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could provide the catalyst for a repositioning of Labor Party policy in relation to the Middle East peace process, federal MP Maria Vamvakinou says.

Ms Vamvakinou, who co-chairs the Parliamentary Friends of Palestine group, said former prime minister Bob Hawke had made a positive contribution by urging Australia to join the 137 countries that have already granted diplomatic recognition to the Palestinian state.

“Hopefully Mr Netanyahu’s visit may actually serve as a bit of a rallying point to encourage the party to proceed with the recognition of Palestine,” she said.

When he arrives next week, Mr Netanyahu will be the first sitting Israeli prime minister to visit Australia.

Writing in Monday’s The Australian Financial Review , Mr Hawke said he was dismayed at the Israeli parliament’s decision to retroactively legalise Jewish settlements in occupied territories.

“The least we can do now, in these most challenging of times … is grant diplomatic recognition to the state of Palestine,” he wrote.

But Mark Leibler, a senior partner at Arnold Bloch Leibler and chairman of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, challenged Mr Hawke’s comments.

“It has been Palestinian intransigence, not settlements, that has consistently stymied peace initiatives,” he said.

“In the face of such Palestinian intransigence, conferring unilateral premature diplomatic recognition, as Hawke proposes, is not only unhelpful, it is counter-productive. It will only reward, and thus encourage, further Palestinian intransigence.”

Labor Leader Bill Shorten’s right-wing faction has been a staunch defender of Israel’s tough security policies for decades. The left faction has sided with the Palestinians.

The ALP National Platform on Palestine, adopted in 2015, commits Labor to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But in the case of a lack of progress on peace, a future Labor government “will discuss joining like-minded nations who have already recognised Palestine, and announcing the conditions and timelines for the Australian recognition of a Palestinian state, with the objective of contributing to peace and security in the Middle East”.

Ms Vamvakinou said: “My view is that we’re there now, and for the sake of salvaging whatever is left of that two-state solution I believe it’s absolutely necessary now to move towards recognising Palestine.”

Recognising Palestinian statehood could reboot the peace process, Ms Vamvakinou added. “Hopefully that could give a deflated process a bit of oomph and life,” she said. “It gives the Palestinians a greater gravitas and signals to Israel that if ever there was an end of the line, this is it.”

Another Labor leader, former foreign minister Bob Carr, previously caused a stir in 2014 by referring to “extreme right-wing” pro-Israel lobbyists, who he said had an “unhealthy” influence on Australia’s policy towards the conflict.  (Australian Financial Review)

White House: Trump will not insist on two-state solution to Mideast conflict

Hours before President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were set to meet for the first time since the president took office, the White House announced Tuesday that Washington will seek to broker a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, but that a two-state solution may not necessarily be the framework to bring that peace to fruition and that the president will not insist on it.

A senior White House official said Tuesday that the United States would no longer seek to dictate the terms of any eventual peace settlement, but would support what the two sides agree to together.

“A two-state solution that doesn’t bring peace is not our goal that anybody wants to achieve,” the official said in a briefing with reporters Tuesday night. “Peace is the goal. Whether it comes in the form of a two-state solution, if that’s what the parties want, or something else, if that’s what the parties want, we’re going to help them.”

“We’re not going to dictate what the terms of peace will be,” that official added. “President Trump has very much indicated that he wants to achieve peace,” he went on, noting also that an accord was a “very high priority for the administration.”

For his part, Netanyahu will reportedly tell Trump during their meeting that the establishment of a Palestinian state is a waste of time, Israel’s Channel 2 reported earlier Tuesday.

Netanyahu is said to have told his advisers behind closed doors that he would tell Trump that there’s no point in establishing Palestinian state in the current climate, Channel 2’s Udi Segal reported.

The past three US presidents have all publicly embraced a two-state solution as the means to achieving the coveted Middle East peace. Any deviation from that posture would mark a dramatic shift in American foreign policy.

During the campaign and subsequent transition, Trump repeatedly suggested he would upend such traditions, including by moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and signaling a more favorable approach to Israeli settlement activity, though since assuming office last month, he appeared to have changed tack.

During an interview last week with the Sheldon Adelson-owned Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom, Trump was noncommittal on any plans to relocate the embassy and, for the first time, expressed direct criticism of the settlement enterprise and its implications for future peace negotiations.

“Every time you take land for settlements, there is less land left,” Trump said. “But we are looking at that, and we are looking at some other options we’ll see. But no, I am not somebody that believes that going forward with these settlements is a good thing for peace.”

The official who spoke with the White House press pool Tuesday, however, suggested a full shift to vocally urging a two-state outcome may not be in the cards so soon.

The term “two-state solution,” he said, was not well defined or adequately delineated. “If I ask five people what a two-state solution is, I get eight answers,” he said.

For Wednesday’s highly-anticipated meeting, the topics of discussion between Netanyahu and Trump will include the possible embassy move to Jerusalem, settlement expansion and deterring Iranian aggression and preventing it from going nuclear — the issue of utmost concern to the Israeli leader.

They will also discuss a United Nations Security Council resolution passed last December that branded Israeli settlements as illegal and an obstacle to peace. It also called for a complete halt to all construction in areas Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War.

The motion passed 14-0 after the Obama administration opted to withhold its veto power.

“The posture that the US takes at the UN under this administration would be to veto anything that is biased against Israel,” the official said of the current administration. “So we view the vote that took place as biased against Israel … We’ll have to see what the potential impact is to Israel and so I’m not sure what can be done yet.

Netanyahu and Trump are set to hold a joint press conference on Wednesday, followed by a private meeting and then a bilateral meeting.

The prime minister will then head to Capitol Hill for meetings with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Netanyahu met with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday, where in their two-hour meeting, “all regional issues were discussed, including Iran,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.

Netanyahu invited Tillerson to visit Israel, and “also to establish direct connections between the secretary of state and the PMO,” the statement said.

Mortar explodes in Israeli Golan Heights; none injured

A mortar shell landed in an open area in Israel’s northern Golan Heights region on Tuesday evening, the IDF reported.

No injuries or damage were reported in the incident.

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The IDF added that it has opened an investigation into the matter. The origin of the projectile was not initially known but is suspected to be ‘spill-over’ from the civil war in Syria.  (Jerusalem Post)

Israel pulls Cairo ambassador over security fears

The Israeli ambassador to Egypt and his team were quietly returned to Israel several weeks ago due to security concerns, the Shin Bet security agency said Tuesday.

“Due to security concerns we have limited the return of the Foreign Ministry embassy team to Cairo,” the Shin Bet said in a terse statement following a report in the British Daily Telegraph.

Ambassador David Govrin left at the end of last year and is now carrying out his duties from Jerusalem, although he hopes to return soon to Cairo, the report said.

The Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the report.

Govrin, who speaks fluent Arabic, took up his post last July. He posted a video at the time on the internet in which he addressed the Egyptian people and spoke of his hopes for developing ties.

According to the Telegraph report, the Israeli embassy website shows that Govrin visited a museum in Cairo in November but since then there are no updates on any activities of his in Egypt.

The Telegraph said that Govrin’s departure was first reported by Egyptian political analyst Amin el-Mahdy in a post to his Facebook page. Mahdi said the recall was due to heightened tensions between Jerusalem and Cairo over the Gaza Strip and its border with Egypt.

“Why is the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, hiding from his people the details of his conflict with his Egyptian military junta and with his obedient servant the slaughterer El-Sissi?” Mahdy wrote last week in English as well as Arabic. “Why have he called back the entire Israeli diplomatic mission from Egypt three months ago, and never sent them back to Egypt?”

The Telegraph report noted that Israeli officials denied Govrin’s quiet exit was due to political pressure.

Israel’s new Ambassador to Egypt David Govrin presents his credentials to President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi at his palace in Cairo, August 31, 2016 (Egyptian Presidential Palace)

Israel’s new Ambassador to Egypt David Govrin presents his credentials to President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi at his palace in Cairo, August 31, 2016 (Egyptian Presidential Palace)

On September 9, 2011, several thousand protesters forcibly entered the Israeli embassy in Giza, Cairo, after breaking down a perimeter wall to the compound. The protests began in response to the inadvertent killing of five Egyptian security guards by IDF soldiers during an attempt to catch terrorists who had ambushed and killed eight Israelis along the Israel-Egypt border.

Egypt is battling extremist Islamic terrorists in the Sinai Peninsula, some of which are aligned with the Islamic State group. Hundreds of police and security forces have been killed in attacks that have also targeted civilian sites. There have also been deadly attacks inside Cairo.

Israel, which is a bitter enemy of the Hamas terrorist group in the neighboring Gaza Strip, sees Egypt as an important ally in the battle against Islamic militant groups in the region and the two countries have close security and intelligence ties.       (the Times of Israel)

Jerusalemites laud first direct bus route to Ben-Gurion Airport

By any standard, Jerusalem’s first direct bus route to Ben– Gurion Airport represents a public transportation victory, if not a revolution, for the capital’s 850,000 inhabitants.

For decades, millions of residents and tourists were forced to rely on expensive taxis, indirect bus and train routes, or communal van rides known as sheruts, to get to and from the ever-elusive international hub, located outside of Tel Aviv.

On a rainy Tuesday, the Afikim Bus Company, aided by the Transportation Ministry, launched its first fleet of buses, which will run hourly in each direction, 24-hours a day, except for Shabbat, at a cost of NIS 16.

On Fridays, the line will run until 2 p.m., and resume service Saturday at 7 p.m.

The white and green No. 485 buses will travel from Ruppin Boulevard, down Jaffa Road towards the Central Bus Station, before taking Route 1 and making stops at the Hemed and Shoresh Interchanges, then driving directly to the airport’s Terminals 1 and 3.

According to Itamar Bernstein, 25, who waited with his wife, Liron, 24, for her first ride at a Jaffa Road stop, the service is long overdue.

“It’s the first time that a bus is going directly to Terminal 3 from the capital, and it should have been here for years already,” said Itamar, who works as a security guard. “I used to take Nesher [a sherut service] for nearly NIS 70, or had to go to the bus station and then catch a different bus to Terminal 1, but [it didn’t go to] Terminal 3.”

While Itamar lauded the service for improving the quality of life for residents and tourists hoping to get to Ben Gurion Airport in a timely and cost-effective manner, he nonetheless said he remains incredulous that the initiative took so many years to go into effect.

“This [service] is a basic necessity,” he said. “This is not some random place – it’s the capital of Israel, and should have happened long ago.”

Liron, who is a political science and communications major at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, when she is not working as a security guard at the airport, said she is excited to finally get to work directly.

“This is great, because I used to have to take two buses to get there, so this will cut down my travel time by close to 45 minutes,” Liron said, adding that she heard about the new route from colleagues.

Ayana Yurovskaya, a 30-something dental assistant who was accompanying a friend to the airport, said she is delighted by the new service.

“This is excellent, and I’m really glad because there was never a straight route to the airport,” she said, noting she previously relied on Nesher.

“Nesher would pick me up at home, which was good because I don’t live in the center of town, but it would pick up several more people, so it took a long time. Today’s my first time using the bus, but hopefully it will be good.”

As he waited for the shuttle, resident Yoel Wallerstein, 29, described it as “the best thing to happen to Jerusalem.”

“It’s very important because Ben-Gurion Airport is the gateway from Jerusalem to the rest of the world,” he said. “Before, I paid NIS 70 for the sherut, and now I can get there faster for NIS 16. I travel a lot, and this operates 24 hours a day, so I’m happy. This is cheaper and more comfortable than Nesher.”

Meanwhile, residents excited about the direct bus route will likely be over the moon next year when a high-speed train will take passengers from Jerusalem’s International Convention Center to Tel Aviv in 28 minutes, with an intermediate stop at Ben-Gurion Airport.

The train will traverse eight bridges and six tunnels, cutting travel time by 45 minutes compared to the current train service to Tel Aviv.  (Jerusalem Post

First Shipment of Heavy Vehicles, Military Equipment Purchased Through $38 Billion US Aid Package Arrives in Israel for Integration Into IDF

The first 20 of a much larger number of heavy military vehicles and other engineering materiel purchased by the Israeli defense establishment from the American company “Caterpillar” arrived in the Jewish state this week, the Hebrew news site Walla reported on Tuesday.

According to the report, the multi-million-shekel deal was made possible through the $38 billion 10-year defense aid package agreement reached between the administration of former US President Barack Obama and the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in September.

The need for the massive purchase, the report said, arose not only because much of the IDF’s equipment is outdated, but due to the nature of the army’s current missions, chief among them detecting Palestinian terror tunnels and maneuvering in enemy territory.

IDF Caterpiller

A meeting between the governments of Germany and Israel that was scheduled to take place in May has been canceled…

“The new materiel will be integrated into the IDF over the course of the next few years,” a senior Israeli officer told Walla. “It will enable the army flexibility during ongoing and emergency operations.”

During a complex engineering operation last year to locate terror tunnels extending from Gaza into Israel, the IDF was forced to rent heavy engineering vehicles and other equipment from civilian companies.

As reported in August, the IDF conducted a different large-scale engineering operation, this one to secure the Lebanese border against infiltration by Hezbollah terrorists. The operation involved the digging of trenches and erection of a fence around the seven-mile-long area of Har Dov (also known as the Shebaa Farms) — a strip of land at the intersection of the Lebanese-Syrian border and the Israeli Golan Heights.  (the Algemeiner)

2,700-year-old jug found in south helps archaeologists focus digs

Last week, Israel Korenfeld, an Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist in the Ramla district, was going between floors when he met a young man who identified the IAA logo on Korenfeld’s shirt and told the archaeologist that he had an ancient jug that had been pulled up from the sea and that he wanted to hand over to the IAA.

The young man, who asked to be identified only by his first name, Alexei, told Korenfeld that about a year ago, he had been visiting the Ashdod beach with a relative. The two men met friends who were fishing and had hooked a stone anchor and jug, the latter of which the fishermen gave to Alexei’s relative. The fate of the anchor is still a mystery.

Korenfeld visited Alexei at his home and was given the jug, which has been identified as an amphora typical of the First Persian Empire, dating from the sixth century BCE. The IAA believes that the amphora was part of a ship’s cargo, which is how it found its way to the bottom of the sea.

IAA researchers plan to send samples of the remaining traces of the amphora’s contents for laboratory testing to determine what the vessel used to contain.

Kobi Shavit, director of the Marine Archaeology Unit at the Israel Antiquities Authority, said: “The archaeological finds from Ashdod coastal sites show evidence of trade ties and extensive seafaring activity [between Ashdod] and many port cities in the Mediterranean Sea, whereas there are relatively few archaeological finds from the sea itself. Therefore, finds from the seabed are very important to completing the archaeological and historical knowledge of ancient Ashdod in the Phoenician period and the Babylonian exile (597 BCE).

“Alexei returning the amphora and the general information about the area in which it was found, along with information from other sources we have collected, will allow us to focus our searches on a fairly limited area in the hope that the single find will lead to a more significant archaeological discovery. Amphorae like this were in wide use along the Mediterranean coasts and were used to transport oil and wine,” Shavit said.

Under the Antiquities Law of 1978, antiquities — a definition that includes all man-made objects produced before the year 1700 C.E. — discovered in Israel are the property of the state.

Alexei, who will receive a good citizenship commendation for his decision to return the amphora, said: “I didn’t think that something could be preserved in the sea for so long. When I realized it was an ancient object, I decided to give it to the Antiquities Authority. Then I met the right man in the elevator.”

The IAA encourages all members of the public who might be in possession of ancient artifacts to hand them over to the IAA so they can be properly researched and preserved as part of the cultural legacy of everyone in Israel.           (Israel Hayom)

Support for two-state solution ‘likely outcome’ of the Trump and Netanyahu meeting

by  Jeremy Sharon                     The Jerusalem Post

http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Support-for-two-state-solution-likely-outcome-of-the-Trump-and-Netanyahu-meeting-481456

A commitment to the Bush-Sharon understandings of 2004 and the notion of two states for two peoples as a solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict appears to be one of the likely outcomes of the upcoming meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump, current and former government officials and diplomats have said.

But even if such sentiments should be voiced during and after the meeting, officials say it is likely that Netanyahu will seek interim measures alone toward such a goal, given the instability of the region, the volatility and lack of unity in the Palestinian body politic itself, and the lack of trust the government has in the Palestinian leadership.

Such an outcome would come as a severe disappointment to the right-wing, given its earlier expectations from Trump. The prime minister would likely refrain from speaking explicitly about two states to avoid a backlash from Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett and the right wing of the Likud Party.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office MK Michael Oren of Kulanu said he believes that Netanyahu could reach understandings with the Trump administration for building inside the major settlement blocs, and even allowing for natural growth outside the settlement blocs.

In addition, Oren said the prime minister would have to insist on the explicit formula of two states for two peoples if Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is part of the agreement.

“The prime minister is interested in exploring interim measures; he doesn’t want to have an interim Jewish state that eventually becomes a Palestinian state, which is what the Palestinians want,” continued Oren.

“[Former president Barak] Obama refused to discuss interim agreements and so we had no progress. We can make progress, but we need in the US a partner that is willing to think creatively.”

The deputy minister said he would “not be surprised” if Trump suggests a return to the parameters of the Bush-Sharon exchange of letters in 2004, when Bush reiterated that the US was committed to the creation of “a viable, contiguous, sovereign, and independent” state, but accepted that “in light of new realities on the ground,” Israel would not return to the armistice lines of 1949.

Oren noted, however, that it would be politically difficult for Netanyahu to embrace such a stance, because of the opposition to a two-state solution among many members of his own party, as well as that of Bayit Yehudi and the recent clamor for the unilateral annexation of Area C of Judea and Samaria.

Former deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon, who is currently in the US and has held meetings of late with officials in the White House and in Congress, said that he believes it is “very clear” that Trump wants to make a deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

“If Trump wants a deal that means compromises on all sides. He’s a deal maker, so that means Israel will not get everything it wants,” said Ayalon, who is currently a visiting professor at Yeshiva University and the founder and director of the Truth About Israel advocacy group.

“The only consequence of Trump’s desire to make a deal can be support for a two-state deal, and I would not be surprised if Trump himself talks of the two states for two peoples formula,” he told the Post.

Ayalon added that he does not believe the new US president would accept Israeli annexations of Area C.

“What we can hope for realistically is something along the lines of the Sharon and Bush understandings, keeping the major settlement blocs such as Gush Etzion, Ariel and the settlements around Jerusalem; not enlarging them, but building within them.”

He added that the concept of “defensible borders” for Israel – which was mentioned explicitly in the Bush letter, and a requirement that any future Palestinian state be demilitarized, as well as the need for an Israeli military presence in the Jordan valley – may also feature in Netanyahu’s discussions with Trump.

But in a change from the Obama administration, Ayalon said he expects Trump and his administration to restore the situation in which there is “no daylight” between Israel and the Palestinians, rhetorically and in terms of policy.

Such a stance would make it harder for the Palestinians to refuse negotiations with Israel as they did almost throughout Obama’s two presidential terms, said Ayalon.

He mentioned as well that the Trump administration is much less likely to tolerate the diplomatic warfare of the Palestinians in the UN, a stance that has already been evident in the actions of new US Ambassador to the UN Nikkey Hadley.

In exchange for this more supportive position though, Ayalon said that Trump would likely seek Netanyahu’s commitment, either in public or private, to a two-state solution, although he noted that the president “understands the prime minister’s “political position” and the challenge he is facing from Bennett and the hard-line figures from the Likud’s right.

He added though that, due to “the intransigence of the Palestinians, their radical approach which includes Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas]” and the “likelihood” that a Palestinian state could quickly become a failed state rife with terrorism, Netanyahu is unlikely to make major long-term decisions any time soon.

Regarding Netanyahu’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, Ayalon said that Trump will likely be much more willing to “hold Tehran’s feet to the fire” when it comes to enforcing the strict letter of the agreement.

He said, however, that the Trump administration would walk away from the deal, but might be willing to impose stricter sanctions on Tehran for violations over its ballistic missile program.

Oren said that Netanyahu would be looking for Trump to continue his tough stance against Iran and “tie in the nuclear deal and Iranian behavior,” in terms of the regime’s support for terrorist groups around the Middle East.

The deputy minister added that the prime minister would also likely try and get the Trump administration to “exact a price” for Tehran’s ongoing support for terrorist groups, and also seek to keep Iran and its various agencies and armed proxies out of Syria as far as possible.

Dennis Ross, the former US Middle East envoy in the Clinton administration, largely echoed Oren and Ayalon’s sentiments regarding both Iran and the conflict with the Palestinians.

Speaking in a telephone press conference organized by The Israel Project, Ross said that Netanyahu would focus heavily on these concerns regarding Iran, but would not demand that Trump scrap the JCPA deal.

“Netanyahu wants more done to deter Iranians, and renegotiate the end point at year 15 of the deal, which allows Iran to create as large a nuclear infrastructure as they want which will make them a nuclear threshold state,” said Ross.

“The prime minister wants the administration to revisit this end point, if not make it clear that if Iran weaponizes, it will be faced with a military response by the US.”

He said, however, that he does not expect the Trump administration to do anything concrete regarding Iran in the short term, although Trump would likely make strong comments about Iranian aggression while standing next to Netanyahu.

Ross added that he expects Iran to try and test Trump’s resolve in strict enforcement some time soon, as well as possible further sanctions on Tehran from Congress.

Regarding the conflict with the Palestinians, Ross said, like Oren and Ayalon, that it is very possible “we are going to see a resurrection of the Bush-Sharon letter,” in terms of supporting existing settlement blocs.

“That’s a significant issue to re-establish in light of UN Security Council resolution 2334, which created the 1967 lines as a default position, but there will be limitations outside those blocs.”

A Settler’’s View of Israel’s Future

by Yishai Fleisher                   The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/14/opinion/a-settlers-view-of-israels-future.html?ref=opinion

Last week, Israel’s Parliament passed a controversial bill that allows the government to retroactively authorize contested West Bank Jewish communities by compensating previous Palestinian land claimants. Opposition parties warn that this law could open Israel to prosecution at The Hague, and the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said, “Israel’s Parliament has just approved a law to legalize theft of Palestinian land.” This theme has been echoed recently at the Paris peace conference, in a United Nations Security Council resolution and by a major policy speech by then Secretary of State John Kerry, which all condemned settlements.

Israel never seems to have a good answer to accusations against the settlement enterprise. Whenever the claim that Israel stole Palestinian lands is heard, Israel’s answers inevitably are: “We invented the cellphone,” “We have gay rights,” “We fly to help Haiti after an earthquake.” Obvious obfuscation. And when pushed to explain why the much-promised two-state solution is perennially stuck, the response is always to blame Arab obstructionism.

This inability to give a straight answer is a result of 30 years of bad policy that has pressed Israel to create a Palestinian state in the historic Jewish heartland of Judea and Samaria, which the world calls the West Bank. This policy has worked to legitimize the idea that the territory of Judea and Samaria is Arab land and that Israel is an intractable occupier. Today, as Israel is beginning to walk back the two-state solution, it is not easy to admit we were wrong; and many people’s careers are on the line. This is why Israel mouths the old party line, yet takes no steps toward making a Palestinian state a reality.

But for us settlers, the truth is clear: The two-state solution was misconceived, and will never come to pass, because Judea and Samaria belong to the Jewish people. Our right to this land is derived from our history, religion, international decisions and defensive wars. Jews have lived here for 3,700 years, despite repeated massacres, expulsions and occupations ­ by the Romans, Arabs, Crusaders and Ottomans. And the world recognized the Jewish people’s indigenous existence in this land in the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the San Remo Accords of 1920.

When Israel declared independence in 1948, Jordan, along with five other Arab states, attacked Israel, occupied Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem, and drove out Jewish residents. Again, in 1967, Jordan attempted to wipe out the Jewish State, but this time, Israel forced the Jordanian army back across the Jordan River. While the government of Israel was ambivalent about whether to retain the newly emancipated areas, the settler movement was not. We set about holding and developing the land, just like the pioneers of the Kibbutz movement.

Today, the estimated number of Arabs living in Judea and Samaria is 2.7 million, though some researchers dispute the data and argue that the figure is far lower. Yet the presence of these Arab residents alone does not warrant a new country. Arabs can live in Israel, as other minorities do, with personal rights, not national rights. But many Arabs reject that option because they do not recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish State, with or without settlements.

This pervasive intolerance was laid bare in the aftermath of Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, when Hamas seized control in 2007 and turned the territory into a forward base for jihad, starting three wars in seven years. As a result, most Israelis, however pragmatic, no longer believe in a policy of forfeiting land in hopes of getting peace in return. While a Hamas-controlled Gaza is now a reality, no Israeli wants an Islamic State of Palestine looking down at them from the strategic heights of Judea and Samaria.

Therefore, most settlers say without ambivalence that the two-state solution is dead, and the time has come for a discussion of new options by which Israel would hold onto the West Bank and eventually assert Israel sovereignty there, just as we did with the Golan Heights and eastern Jerusalem. Yes, Israel will have to grapple with questions of the Arab population’s rights, and the issues of the country’s security and Jewish character, but we believe those questions can be worked out through the democratic process. At least five credible plans are on the table already.

The first option, proposed by former members of Israel’s Parliament Aryeh Eldad and Benny Alon, is known as “Jordan is Palestine,” a fair name given that Jordan’s population is generally reckoned to be majority Palestinian. Under their plan, Israel would assert Israeli law in Judea and Samaria while Arabs living there would have Israeli residency and Jordanian citizenship. Those Arabs would exercise their democratic rights in Jordan, but live as expats with civil rights in Israel.

A second alternative, suggested by Israel’s education minister, Naftali Bennett, proposes annexation of only Area C ­ the territory in the West Bank as defined by the Oslo Accords (about 60 percent by area), where a majority of the 400,000 settlers live ­ while offering Israeli citizenship to the relatively few Arabs there. But Arabs living in Areas A and B ­ the main Palestinian population centers ­ would have self-rule.

A third option, which dovetails with Mr. Bennett’s, is promoted by Prof. Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Ilan University.  His premise is that the most stable Arab entity in the Middle East is the Gulf Emirates, which are based on a consolidated traditional group or tribe. The Palestinian Arabs are not a cohesive nation, he argues, but are comprised of separate city-based clans. So he proposes Palestinian autonomy for seven non-contiguous emirates in major Arab cities, as well as Gaza, which he considers already an emirate. Israel would annex the rest of the West Bank and offer Israeli citizenship to Arab villagers outside those cities.

The fourth proposal is the most straightforward. Caroline Glick, a Jerusalem Post journalist, wrote in her 2014 book, “The Israeli Solution: A One State Plan for Peace in the Middle East,” that, contrary to prevailing opinion, Jews are not in danger of losing a demographic majority in an Israel that includes Judea and Samaria. New demographic research shows that thanks to falling Palestinian birth rates and emigration, combined with opposite trends among Jews, a stable Jewish majority of above 60 percent exists between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean (excluding Gaza); and this is projected to grow to about 70 percent by 2059.

Ms. Glick thus concludes that the Jewish State is secure: Israel should assert Israeli law in the West Bank and offer Israeli citizenship to its entire Arab population without fear of being outvoted. This very week, Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, announced his backing for the idea in principle. “If we extend sovereignty,” he said, “the law must apply equally to all.”

Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotovely, similarly advocates for annexation and giving the Palestinians residency rights ­ with a pathway to citizenship for those who pledge allegiance to the Jewish State. Others prefer an arrangement more like that of Puerto Rico, a United States territory whose residents cannot vote in federal elections. Some Palestinians, like the Jabari clan in Hebron, want Israeli residency and oppose the Palestinian Authority, which they view as illegitimate and corrupt.

Finally, there is a fifth alternative, which comes from the head of the new Zehut party, Moshe Feiglin, and Martin Sherman of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. They do not see a resolution of conflicting national aspirations in one land and instead propose an exchange of populations with Arab countries, which effectively expelled about 800,000 Jews around the time of Israeli independence. In contrast, however, Palestinians in Judea and Samaria would be offered generous compensation to emigrate voluntarily.

None of these options is a panacea. Every formula has some potentially repugnant element or tricky trade-off. But Israeli policy is at last on the move, as the passing of the bill on settlements indicates.

Mr. Kerry’s mantra that “there really is no viable alternative” to the two-state solution is contradicted by its manifest failure. With a new American administration in power, there is a historic opportunity to have an open discussion of real alternatives, unhampered by the shibboleths of the past.

The Two-State Solution”: What Does It Really Mean? – Alan Baker (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

The phrase “two-state solution” is repeated daily by international leaders and organizations. However, the phrase is bandied about without a full awareness of its history or of the practical aspects of its implementation in the realities of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

It is accepted that a situation in which a neighboring Palestinian state would be politically and economically unstable and open to manipulation by terror elements could never be acceptable to Israel and would constitute a threat to Israel’s security.

It is accepted that a unified Palestinian leadership must be able to speak in the name of the entire Palestinian people and capable of entering into and fulfilling commitments. Such a situation does not exist at present.

On the basis of experience gained with the existing agreements, any permanent status agreement between the sides will need to include solid guarantees – legal, political, and security – that a Palestinian state will not abuse its sovereign prerogatives and international standing in order to violate or void the agreements.

It is clear that a Palestinian state will only emanate from direct negotiations between Israel and a unified Palestinian leadership. Issues such as borders, Jerusalem, refugees, and settlements will only be resolved by negotiation and not by partisan political resolutions emanating from the UN or any other source.

Any such state must recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, in the same manner in which Israel would recognize a Palestinian state as the nation state of the Palestinian people.

Amb. Alan Baker, former legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians.

A Step toward Mideast Peace: Tell the Truth – Max Singer (Wall Street Journal)

If President Trump wants to advance the possibility of peace, he should begin by challenging the five big untruths that sustain the anti-Israel consensus:

Israel occupies “Palestinian territory.” This is nonsensical: There never has been a Palestinian government that could hold any territory, meaning Israel could not have taken “Palestinian land.” The West Bank is “disputed” land. Israel came to the territory it holds not only during a defensive war but also through historical and legal claims, including the 1922 League of Nations mandate to establish a Jewish homeland.

Millions of Palestinian “refugees” have a “right of return” to Israel. Practically none of the people so defined are refugees as normally defined; rather they are the descendants of refugees. The Arab world has kept them in misery for three generations to preserve their plight as a weapon against Israel. Privately, American diplomats understand that the normal description of Palestinian “refugees” is a fraud and that these descendants have no legal “right of return.”

Israelis and Palestinians have comparable claims to Jerusalem. Although Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque is significant in Islam, the city itself has essentially no religious importance. It is not mentioned in the Quran or in Muslim prayers. It was never the capital of any Islamic empire.

There was no ancient Jewish presence in Israel. Palestinian leaders insist that this is true. It feeds their claim that the Jews came to Israel as foreign colonialists. This falsehood can be sustained only because it is politely tolerated by the U.S. and Europe.

The Palestinians are ready to accept a “two-state solution” to end the conflict. The U.S. has a tendency to assume that Palestinian leaders are ready to accept Israel if suitable concessions are offered. But what is the evidence for this? When did the Palestinians give up their long-term commitment to destroy Israel? Undoubtedly, many Palestinians are willing and even eager for peace. Yet it is still taboo in Palestinian debate to publicly suggest accepting Israel’s legitimacy.

The writer, a founder of the Hudson Institute, is a senior fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.

An aerial journey through Israel that will actually make you feel like you are here

In a land that has experienced so much of history’s turmoil, these landscapes are not just beautiful sights. Each and every hilltop of the Holy Land holds a story waiting to be uncovered. Full screen and HD are mandatory for this one…

For so many people, for one reason or another, travelling to Israel is simply not possible. This is the next best thing.

This tranquil aerial view will put you right in the lap of the Land of Israel as you experience the vast vistas and sprawling deserts alongside the beautiful colors of the Dead Sea

(Israel Video Network)

http://www.israelvideonetwork.com/an-aerial-journey-through-the-holy-land-that-will-actually-make-you-feel-like-you-are-here/?omhide=true