Israeli Innovation in Africa
Israel’s story is not just political, it is also a story of innovation and overcoming unique obstacles. The benefits of Israeli innovation aren’t just local – they’re global. While other countries have selfishly exploited South Africa, Israel has established itself as a partner rather than colonizer. Luba Mayekiso, the National Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem in South Africa, explains how Israeli innovation can revolutionize Africa. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
We love this group Kippalive כיפה-לייב They are a group of friends that grew up with each other in Raanana, Israel. They all loved to sing, so that’s what they did and now they are touring all over!
“So, on Friday nights, they would get together on a street corner somewhere, and harmonize Jewish songs, songs about Shabbat, songs about the Land of Israel. The Municipality of Raanana got word about them, and asked them to sing at the city’s Independence Day celebrations.
So the group became a real group, and now tours all over Israel spreading the word, singing about coming home, Jewish life and holidays, God’s love for us, the Land of Israel and the People of Israel. The group’s story and spirit sings out with passion, spontaneity and a thrilling sense of being connected.” (ZFA)
Netanyahu after Putin meeting: Iran wants the ‘Lebanonization’ of Syria
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emerged from a three-hour discussion with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday saying that Iran seeks the “Lebanonization” of Syria, something Israel cannot tolerate.
Netanyahu, who held a conference call with Israeli reporters after the meeting, said just as Iran took control of Lebanon through its proxy Hezbollah, its aim is to do the same in Syria through tens of thousands of Shi’ite militiamen already in the country.
Bibi & Putin.
The prime minister, accompanied by Mossad head Yossi Cohen, the newly appointed head of the National Security Council, Meir Ben-Shabbat, and Likud minister Yuli Edelstein who served as his translator, flew to Sochi on the Black Sea for the meeting, returning to Israel shortly after it ended. This is Netanyahu’s fourth trip to Russia in the last 16 months, and his sixth meeting with Putin during this same time frame.
Netanyahu said the majority of his discussions with Putin focused on the situation in Syria. He said the reason he wanted to hold talks now with the Russian leader was because the situation inside Syria has changed very rapidly over the last few weeks.
Similar talks, he said, were held last week in Washington by a high-level security delegation headed by Cohen.
Netanyahu said that Islamic State will soon be defeated in Syria, something he characterized as a welcome development.
However, the problem this creates “is that Iran is going into areas where Islamic State evacuates.”
Netanyahu said Iran is not hiding its intention to create a land bridge from Iran to the Mediterranean, and transfer Iranian forces – air, sea and ground – to Syria to supplement the Shi’ite militia already there.
“The intention is to use this against Israel,” he said.
The prime minister said he made it clear to Putin that this development is very grave for Israel, as well as for others in the region.
“We will not remain passive,” he stressed, adding that he said this in “a clear and detailed manner” to the Russian president.
Netanyahu said he has made clear in the past that Jerusalem cannot agree to the establishment in Syria of Iranian airbases, military bases or a naval port on the Mediterranean, which will then be used against Israel.
He did not reveal how Putin responded, beyond saying that in previous meetings with the Russian president “such conversations served the security of Israel and Israeli interests and I also believe Russia’s interests as well. I think I can say the same thing based on today’s conversation.”
Netanyahu presented Putin with Israel’s understanding of the situation based on intelligence, and he said the Russian president also told him “a couple of things that I did not know.” However, he would not elaborate.
Netanyahu added that there is a notion in Russia, as well as elsewhere around the world, that when Israel sets redlines, it stands behind them. Israel wants to prevent a regional war, he said, adding that therefore it is important to warn beforehand “of things that could lead to a deterioration of the situation.”
Jerusalem is intensively lobbying both Moscow and Washington to ensure that once Syria’s civil war ends, all foreign forces will leave the country.
Russia’s Ambassador Alexander Shane said on Channel 1 on Tuesday evening that Russia agrees that “there should be no foreign forces in Syria, including the Iranian army. [But] at this stage, we must support the peace process, the current government and the struggle against terrorism.”
Netanyahu, sitting alongside Putin for a photo opp before the meeting, said: “We do not forget for one minute that Iran continues to threaten Israel’s destruction every day. It is arming terrorist organizations and is itself instigating terrorism; and it is developing intercontinental missiles with the goal of arming them with nuclear warheads.
For all these reasons, Israel continues to oppose Iran’s entrenchment in Syria. We will defend ourselves in any way against this threat and any threat.” (Jerusalem Post)
US State Department: Endorsing two-state solution would make us biased
Committing to the two-state solution would bias Washington in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, a US official said Wednesday, as a high-level delegation arrived in the region to try and jump start talks amid Palestinian protests over a lack of clarity from the White House.
“We are not going to state what the outcome has to be,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. “It has to be workable to both sides. That’s the best view as to not really bias one side over the other, to make sure that they can work through it.”
Her comments came as Palestinians have increasingly complained over the White House’s refusal to endorse the two-state solution, breaking with longstanding US policy and an international consensus.
On Sunday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told a group of dovish Israeli lawmakers that he had met with Trump officials 20 times, but had no idea what their stance on issues was, describing the administration as “in chaos.”
Other officials have expressed dismay as well and accused the US of being biased toward Israel, even as a delegation led by Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner arrives in the region to try and find a way forward.
On Tuesday, Ahmad Majdalani, a top aide to Abbas, said the Palestinians asked Kushner for the US position on two key issues — Israeli settlements and support for Palestinian independence — during his last visit to the region in June.
“Since then we didn’t hear from them,” he said.
US presidential adviser Jared Kushner meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on June 21, 2017 (PA press office)
“We hope they bring clear answers this time,” he added. “If not, then the peace process cannot be resumed because we cannot negotiate from scratch.”
Nauert’s comments appeared to reflect recognition of a lack of support for the two state solution in Israel’s right-win government.
While most members of the current Israeli government are not on record supporting two states, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has at least rhetorically held that stance since 2009, although he has wavered on it in recent years.
Abbas supports a two-state outcome, which he articulated in remarks alongside President Trump during their last joint appearance in Bethlehem in May.
Trump, however, broke with his predecessors last February when Netanyahu visited Washington. Standing alongside the Israeli premier, Trump said, “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.”
On Wednesday, Nauert suggested that the United States inserting its view into the negotiations would not yield to an agreement. Rather, only Israelis and Palestinians can find a lasting resolution.
“It’s been many, many decades, as you well know, that the parties have not been able to come to any kind of good agreement and sustainable solution to this,” she said. “So we leave it up to them to be able to work that through.”
Her remarks came as Kushner, Special Envoy for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt, and Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategy Dina Powell arrived in Israel to meet separately with Netanyahu and Abbas.
The delegation arrived in Israel after several meetings with other leaders around the Middle East on the topic, including in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
On Tuesday, King Abdullah II of Jordan told the Kushner-led team that the two-state solution is the only way to solve the conflict.
A US diplomatic source told reporters Wednesday night in Jerusalem that the president wants discussions “to focus on the transition to substantive … peace talks, the situation in Gaza, including how to ease the humanitarian crisis there, and the economic steps that can be taken.”
That being said, Trump acknowledges “there are likely to be a lot of ups and downs on the way to peace and making a peace deal will take time,” but that he “remains optimistic that progress toward a deal can be achieved,” the source said. (the Times of Israel)
PA, Hamas rehash lie that Jews planned 1969 burning of Al-Aqsa Mosque
The Palestinian Authority and Hamas both revived the lie that a Jew or Jews were behind the 1969 arson of the Al-Aqsa Mosque by a Christian fundamentalist, which took place 48 years ago.
Marking the August 23 anniversary, both parties again blamed Jews and tied the old incident to recent conflict at the Temple Mount, which saw weeks of protests and violence.
Denis Michael Rohan, a 28-year-old mentally ill Christian fundamentalist from Australia, set fire to the Al Aqsa Mosque, believing he had been given a “sign from God” to carry out his crime. The Palestinians and much of the Arab world blamed the Israeli government for the fire, which destroyed part of the old wooden roof and a 800-year-old pulpit a gift from the Islamic hero Saladin.
Dr. Mahmoud Habbash, Supreme Sharia Judge in the Palestinian Authority and a close adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday, in statements published by the official PA news site Wafa, that “the fires that erupted in the Al-Aqsa Mosque 48 years ago by a Jewish terrorist of Australian origin are still burning today, as long as the noble sanctuary and the holy city [of Jerusalem] are violated by the Israeli occupation.”
After a July 14 terror attack in which three Arab Israelis shot dead two Israeli police officers with weapons they had smuggled onto the site, Israel installed new security measures, including metal detectors and cameras, which set off near-daily clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces in and around the Old City, East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
It also triggered a boycott by Muslim worshipers who threatened not to return to the site until all the installations were removed.
Five Palestinians died in clashes and a Palestinian terrorist killed three members of a family sitting down to Shabbat dinner in the West Bank settlement of Halamish, saying he was avenging Al -Aqsa
Habbash said “the recent events in the occupied city of Jerusalem were a message that the Palestinian people will neither forgive nor forget and cannot not relinquish any of their legitimate rights guaranteed by international and humanitarian law.”
According to a Monday report by the Israeli watchdog group Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), the official television station of the PA broadcast a documentary that claimed the 1969 fire was “planned by senior Jews of high position.”
On Tuesday, the Hamas terror group, which controls the Gaza Strip, released a statement blaming the arson on a “Zionist criminal.”
“On this day in 1969, Al-Aqsa Mosque was severely damaged after the Zionist criminal, Denis Michael Rohan, burned the holy site,” the statement said.
The statement added that Hamas pays tribute “to the people of Jerusalem who have shown great courage and steadfastness in resisting the Israeli Occupation’s plots of seizing Al-Aqsa Mosque, Judaizing it and distorting its historical reality.”
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency on Tuesday also incorrectly referred to Rohan as “an extremist Jew,” in a report about Palestinians marking the anniversary of the fire.
Notably, the Palestinian news agency Ma’an wrote an article based off of Anadolu’s report, but correctly referred to Rohan as a Christian.
The Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Haram-al-Sharif, is the holiest site in Judaism and third-holiest in Islam. The compound, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque atop it, have been a recurring source of tension in Jerusalem in recent years.
Palestinians have cited Israeli “provocations” there as one of the main catalysts for violent attacks in recent years. They have become increasingly wary of Israel’s intentions at the holy site, often accusing the Jewish state of attempting to impose greater control over the compound, and even of planning to eliminate the mosque and establish Jewish hegemony there.
Israel has repeatedly denied any change in the status quo at the site. (the Times of Israel)
IAF declares Hermes-900 drone fully operational
The IAF declared the full operational capability of its upgraded Elbit Systems Hermes-900 “Kochav” unmanned aerial vehicle on Wednesday after a lengthy series of tests performed by the flight-test squadron.
According to a statement released by the IDF, the main objective of the upgrade was to double the power and capabilities of the UAV in as many aspects as possible, including its size, carrying capacity, flight time and flight range. Other upgrades to the UAV included its communication systems, modes of operation and maintenance methods.
“This was done in order to optimize and facilitate the absorption of the new UAV into the existing infrastructure, without changes in length of training,” the statement read, adding that despite the similarity of the UAVs, the process included a series of trial flights and the adapting of combat doctrines.
The Hermes-900 is Elbit Systems’ next-generation multirole, medium altitude, long endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial system (UAS), with a flight altitude of more than 30,000 feet and flight capabilities in all weather conditions.
The Hermes-900 has a wingspan of 15 m., is 8.3-m. long, has a max takeoff weight of 1,100 kg. and has a maximum payload weight of 300 kg.
Based on Elbit’s Hermes-450 UAS with over 300,000 operational flight hours, the Hermes- 900 is used for both ground support and maritime patrol missions, as well as for integrated multi-platform, multi-sensor operations.
It has double the power and capabilities of the Hermes-450 and is able to carry a wide range of intelligence-gathering payloads and capable of performing missions for area dominance and persistent surveillance, target acquisition and intelligence gathering.
The Kochav had its first operational mission in the IAF on July 15, 2014, over the skies of the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge, supporting a mission that ended with an air strike that destroyed Hamas terrorist infrastructure. During the conflict the Kochav accumulated hundreds of flight hours with an extremely high success rate.
In a December 2015 interview with The Jerusalem Post, Elad Aharonson, executive vice president and general manager of the Intelligence and ISTAR (intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance) Division at Elbit, the upgrades were done to tailor the Hermes-900 to the IDF’s need to monitor quickly disappearing guerrilla-terrorist targets.
According to foreign media reports, Israel is considered a leading exporter of drones, with IAI and Elbit, selling UAVs to countries including Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, India, Mexico and Singapore.
The Hermes-900 was used during the 2014 soccer World Cup in Brazil, and last year the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali signed a three-year contract with Thales UK to lease the drone for use in Mali, with the option to extend the contract another two years if necessary. (Jerusalem Post)
Arab bus driver in Israel turns in $10,000 cash left by haredi Orthodox passenger
An Arab bus driver in Israel turned in $10,000 in cash that turned out to belong to a haredi Orthodox passenger.
The driver for the Afikim bus company found the wad last Thursday on his bus running between Jerusalem and Bnei Brak in central Israel, east of Tel Aviv.
He was identified by the AFP news agency as Ramadan Jamjoum, 35, who lives in a Palestinian neighborhood of eastern Jerusalem. Jamjoum did not receive a reward for his honesty, but did get a certificate of thanks from the bus company.
The passenger claimed the cash after providing details about it. (JTA)
The Syria hangover
by Prof. Eyal Zisser Israel Hayom
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi on Wednesday is perhaps the most important between the two leaders since Russia began intervening in the Syrian civil war over a year ago.
This military intervention, which turned Russia into Israel’s neighbor along its northern border, initially sparked concerns over possible friction and even an outright clash between Russian air and naval forces, operating freely and unhampered in Syria, and Israel, which has south to maintain its freedom to operate in the Syrian arena when necessary. One such clash, between Russia and Turkey, occurred when a Russian fighter jet was shot down by Turkish forces in November, 2015, led to a serious diplomatic crisis and forced Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to apologize to Putin.
In the case with Israel, however, dialogue as well as personal chemistry between Putin and Netanyahu has prevented potential military friction and has allowed both sides to continue pursuing their respective paths. Russia pummeled Syrian rebels across the country, decimated them and saved Syrian President Bashar Assad from assured demise. Israel, in the meantime, continued unabated to target weapons convoys from Iran to Hezbollah inside Syria.
The problem is that the understandings between Netanyahu and Putin were ideal for a certain point in time. On the ground, in Syria itself, the reality is rapidly changing. The war there is approaching its conclusion, sooner than expected, with Assad still in power and Israel questioning what it can expect from the Syrian tyrant in the war’s aftermath. Will it be the same tyrant with whom Israel sought peace in exchange for the Golan Heights, in the hopes that such a deal would sever him from Iran and Hezbollah?
Assad delivered a partial answer in his speech Sunday in Damascus. He declared the war was close to over and said Syria survived the campaign despite losing its best sons, and that’s its victory was due in large part to Russia and mostly to Iran and Hezbollah, whose actions on behalf of Syria would enter the pages of history.
To be sure, when the war in Syria ends the winner will be Putin, who put the entire weight of his country behind Assad to save him. The other central actors, of course, were Iran and Hezbollah, who fought shoulder to shoulder with the Russians and in return received from them a foothold in Syria.
Israel has been working in recent weeks to ensure that the cease-fire deals concocted by the Russians will keep Iran and Hezbollah away from the border with Israel, and that Iran will not be allowed to build military bases or facilities in Syria to pose a threat to Israel. The Russians are willing to listen to Israel; they are not hostile to it as they were in the past. Moscow, though, has its own interests in Syria, and in its view Israel must learn to live with Iran and Hezbollah, two vital allies for Russia in the region.
The Russians have seemingly forgotten their own outrage upon learning of U.S. plans to deploy forces in Baltic countries, in Poland and countries in central Asia. Superpowers, however, are apparently held to different standards than smaller countries.
The meeting with Putin is important because the Americans aren’t in the game. It turns out the Obama and Trump administrations are rather similar when it comes to the cold and even cynical decision to abandon the Syrian rebels to their fates and focus on far more profitable and accessible endeavors, such as eradicating Islamic State.
It’s easy to understand why Russia and the U.S. want to fight Islamic radicalism and ensure stability. However, when the big boys celebrate, the small players more often than not pay the price, and Israel is now being asked to pick up the tab for the feast in Syria by coming to terms with Tehran’s presence there.
Israel would be wise to formulate policy regarding developments inside Syria, which it has avoided doing these past eight years of war, and mainly red lines. What’s clear is that it cannot place its security in the hands of Putin or Trump when Iran’s shadow looms near.
Moving from occupation to normalization in the West Bank
by Tovah Lazaroff The Jerusalem Post
The Israeli government wants the High Court of Justice to stop viewing Area C of the West Bank as being in a state of belligerent occupation.
The government submitted one of its more forceful documents to date to the High Court of Justice this week, pushing to change the legal interpretation underpinning 50 years of its judicial treatment of Area C of the West Bank.
After the Six Day War in 1967, the government voluntarily applied to the West Bank the humanitarian provisions of the laws for belligerent occupation as promulgated by the 1907 Hague Convention and the 1949 Geneva Convention.
The High Court of Justice has adjudicated based on those international norms. At the state’s request, it has persistently ruled that settler homes illegally built on private Palestinian property must be evacuated.
Harel Arnon’s 159-page legal brief on behalf of the government changed the state’s position and argued that the principle of eminent domain could be applied to these cases and that the court should do so.
The court now has to decide if that argument meets the dictates of Israeli and international law.
If the court accepts his argument, it will have taken a significant step in the normalization of Israeli life for the 400,000 citizens who live in Area C, which is outside the country’s sovereign borders, instead of viewing it as belligerent occupation.
The brief comes in the midst of a seemingly unbridgeable schism between a legal system operating according to the laws of belligerent occupation and the territorial ambitions of a right-wing government whose members want sovereignty over the region.
Under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, this legal tension has become particularly acute with regard to property rights and the application of Israeli law in Area C, which is believed to be outside the Knesset’s purview.
In February, the Knesset challenged the state and the court’s legal presumptions on this issue by approving the Settlements Regulation Law, which retroactively legalizes 4,000 settler homes on private Palestinian property in exchange for monetary compensation for the landowners.
A consortium of 13 leftwing, nongovernmental groups petitioned the High Court against the law, which it argued is unconstitutional and goes against the IDF’s obligation under international law to prioritize the rights of the Palestinian civilian population under its protection – with the exception of cases involving security issues.
The law runs so counter to five decades of normative Israeli and international legal interpretation that Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit refused to argue the state’s position to the court.
The government therefore hired private attorney Arnon, a graduate of Harvard University, as an outside legal consultant to represent it in court. He argued for the law on two central points. First, that the Knesset could legislate for Area C as an extraterritorial region, without formally annexing it.
“The Knesset can legislate whatever it wants,” Arnon told The Jerusalem Post, explaining that it did so when it annexed east Jerusalem in 1980 and applied Israeli law to the Golan Heights in 1981.
If the Settlements Regulation Law is illegal, then those actions are illegal as well, he said.
The Knesset has already passed legislation following common law principles for Judea and Samaria and for that matter for places around the world, and “no one said it was illegal,” Arnon said. “The Knesset can legislate on the moon,” he said.
He disputed one of the main contentions of the plaintiffs – namely, that the courts are required to abide by international law over Israeli law.
The IDF can’t be an independent body from the state, he said, adding that this is what happens when there is a coup.
“The idea that the military commander’s source of authority is international law – not Israeli law,” he wrote, “is no less than the dissolution of the state from its sovereignty.”
But one doesn’t need to go that far, because even under the laws of belligerent occupation, he argued, there is a strong argument in support of the Settlements Law.
Respect for the property of the local population – in this case, the Palestinians – does not exclude expropriation. This law ensures that Israel meets that component of the international code by offering to compensate the Palestinians, he said.
Second, the interpretation of “local population” can also include Israelis living in the area. This law addresses the rights of both groups. The settlers’ right to not be uprooted from their homes is as significant as that of the Palestinians on whose property those homes were built.
In other instances of occupation, such as Cyprus, international law has recognized the concept of compensation, Arnon wrote.
Arnon’s arguments mark a dramatic turn for Israel, whose government until recently supported a sacrosanct principle that private Palestinian property cannot be used for settlement.
In 2005 it published a report, authored by private attorney Talia Sasson, on West Bank outposts, and it appears on the Foreign Ministry’s website to this day.
Sasson addressed the issue of settler construction on private Palestinian property, which she said is criminal and could even be viewed as a felony.
She even suggested changing Israeli law to allow for the prosecution of such offenses. The IDF has a constitutional obligation to protect the Palestinians’ right to their properties, Sasson wrote.
Her report, she said, was an extension of the 1979 Elon Moreh High Court of Justice ruling, which also forbade settler use of private Palestinian property and insisted that settlements could be built only on state land.
When Netanyahu came into office, he initially also held that position. But his government has changed its stance, partially in response to the scores of NGO petitions to the High Court of Justice to force the state to protect private Palestinian property against settlement building.
Netanyahu has stated publicly that he would never uproot settlers, only to watch his security forces carry out court rulings to evacuate settlers.
The long list of settler court losses underscored for right-wing politicians the idea that they would never win in court, under what they termed as a “left-wing” legal paradigm.
They pushed to change not only the understanding of how such illegal construction had occurred but, even more significantly, the legislative and legal fabric of decision-making from one that opposed their actions to one that supports it.
The settlement building that occurred without permits, they argued, was not illegal but unauthorized. Government officials were not breaking the law, but offering nods of approvals which were never actualized. Building on private Palestinian property was accidental, not theft, and compensation was the best form of restitution.
Right-wing politicians attempted to pass the outpost bill to legalize construction in those unauthorized communities.
When that failed, they supported the publication of a government-commissioned legal report by former Supreme Court justice Edmond Levy, which provided a legal defense for the settlement enterprise and provided an option to legalize the outposts.
The right wing finally had success with the Settlements Law.
This subsequent court case has now become a testing ground for what right-wing politicians hope will be a 180-degree shift in the country’s legal paradigm with respect to Area C.
Attorney Michael Sfard, who is among the attorneys representing the NGO consortium before the High Court, dismissed Arnon’s arguments as a form of legal fantasy.
The Knesset, he said, cannot legislate for Area C.
“Situations of extraterritorial legislation are narrowly tailored to exclusively apply in certain conditions to citizens abroad, including when they commit, or are victims of, criminal activity,” Sfard said.
Theoretically, he said, the Knesset could pass a law nationalizing Oxford Street in London, but that would not make it legal or enforceable.
“The only difference is that because Israel controls the West Bank, it can implement [the Settlements Law],” he said.
“It now appears that the government has retained a private lawyer to reinvent international law for it,” Sfard said.
“The state’s reply is a 100- page legal fantasy in which confiscation of land from Palestinians to benefit Israeli settlements and settlers is legal, and in which the setters are considered protected persons of the territory,” he said.
“International law provides a limited power of legislation to the occupying army and only for two objectives. It can legislate either to enhance security or benefit the occupied people and help them restore their civil life,” he said.
This law would strip Palestinians of what they do have – title to their property. In the future, should justice be established in the area, they could get back possession over their property, Sfard said.
Imposing legislation on people who are ineligible to vote or run for office signals autocracy, he said.
This law would help cement a two-tiered system of people in Area C: one group, the settlers, who have rights; and the other group, the Palestinians, who do not, he argued.
“If they do not have rights, we are officially declaring that we are an apartheid state; and if we give them rights, then it is annexation,” Sfard said.
The never-ending peace process farce
by Isi Leibler The Jerusalem Post
The PA and its leaders continue honoring mass murders as freedom fighters, dedicating mosques, city squares, schools and other institutions in their names to commemorate their murderous acts.
Unless the US is willing to bite the bullet and finally confront Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, the forthcoming mission to the region by US representatives Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt to “restart the peace process” on behalf of President Donald Trump may prove to be highly counterproductive.
Abbas is coming to the end of his reign. A brutal and corrupt dictator, he is determined that his legacy be that of an embattled “freedom fighter” committed to reversal of the Nakba, his ultimate objective being the restoration of Arab hegemony from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. His means to achieve this necessitate the dismemberment of the Jewish state in stages through terrorism and international pressure.
Until now, he has basically ignored Trump’s requests and demands. Incitement and calls for “resistance” via the media and imams urging Palestinians to kill Israelis and become shahids (martyrs) have reached a record high. Abbas himself whipped up religious hysteria based on the false cry that Jews were taking over and desecrating the Aksa mosque, thus triggering the recent riots and encouraging further terrorist attacks. Children are brainwashed into regarding Jews as subhuman descendants of apes and pigs, propaganda reminiscent of and frequently replicated from Nazi sources.
The PA and its leaders continue honoring mass murders as freedom fighters, dedicating mosques, city squares, schools and other institutions in their names to commemorate their murderous acts.
Despite personal demands from Trump, Abbas has vowed that he will never close the Palestine National Fund, which provides generous pensions and massive financial awards for imprisoned or killed terrorists and their families, the amounts proportionate to the success of the terrorist act. Incarcerated murderers top the list with monthly payments of NIS 11,000 (more than $3,000), which is augmented with $25,000 if they are released from jail. This year the fund has distributed $345 million, comprising half of the $693m. the PA receives in foreign aid. Thus the US and European countries have effectively been providing funds to incentivize Palestinians to murder Israelis.
The US Congress has now passed legislation to deduct an equivalent of these funds from aid provided to the Palestinians. The Europeans have taken no action, although Germany, the UK and Norway are “reviewing” the situation.
Abbas has responded by vowing to maintain the payouts, which he describes as “social welfare,” and in recent weeks has even increased the payments.
His recent proclamation that security arrangements with the Israelis had been terminated was never effectively implemented. The reality is that the Abbas regime would be undermined if it annulled the security coordination whereby police constrain the enormous popular resentment by the people against the regime. While the security arrangements did reduce pressure on the IDF, the party with the most to lose if it were terminated would be the corrupt PA – which would then probably collapse or be taken over by Hamas.
Abbas has now condemned the US as being biased and unfit to act as an intermediary.
The Israelis, on the other hand, appreciate that with the Trump administration in disarray, mixed messages have emerged in relation to the peace process. Trump repeatedly reaffirms that he stands by Israel, but he has yet to fulfill his promise to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has been exceptionally forthright; the recent flow of statements from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his departmental releases, however, are highly disconcerting and ominously reminiscent of the Obama era.
Tillerson informed the Senate that the Palestinians were moving forward positively in the peace process and had undertaken to bring an end to “martyr” payments. This was promptly denied. In July, the State Department released a report commending Abbas for having “significantly” addressed incitement. The report also stated that Palestinian terrorism was prompted “by a lack of hope in achieving Palestinian statehood, Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, the perception that the Israeli government was changing the status quo on the Temple Mount and IDF tactics that the Palestinians considered overly aggressive.” Such observations could match those issued two years ago, at the height of then-president Barack Obama’s diplomatic campaign against Israel.
This should not be interpreted as an indication that the US has abandoned Israel. It merely reflects the divisions inside the administration, which were unlikely to have emerged had Trump not been diverted by the chaos in other areas. Fortunately, Tillerson has largely been excluded from direct engagement in peace negotiations and Trump has now authorized Kushner and Greenblatt “to restart the peace process.” They will visit the region in the next few days.
To further complicate matters, both the Palestinians and Israelis are entangled in domestic turmoil. Abbas, the duplicitous rogue with the forked tongue, rules as a dictator and has created a culture of death. However, he is aged and his people realize that his time in office is limited. He has never been willing to make any meaningful concessions to Israelis, who were desperate to separate themselves from the Palestinians, and is now unlikely to make any moves in that direction. On the contrary, he has been actively strengthening relations with the Iranians and the Turks, who now support him as well as Hamas. But the people are restless and there is already jockeying among those seeking to replace him.
Israelis are also facing domestic problems, with the endless campaigns to demonize Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and indict him on charges of corruption. Fortunately, he is unlikely to face major political pressures in relation to the peace process because the opposition would become a laughingstock if it sought to pressure him to make concessions to the PA.
In this context – setting aside the problem of Hamas in Gaza – it is impossible to envisage Trump’s representatives making any progress. Kushner has even recently conceded that he feared that a realistic solution to the impasse at present could well be impossible.
The question is, how will the American representatives respond when, as is likely, Abbas gives them the thumbs up? Will they once again engage in the farce of an ongoing “peace process” that fails to bring Abbas to account? Or will they urge Trump to realize that it is time to state openly that the protective cover for the aggressive Palestinian leaders is over, and call on the world to cease providing them with the power to continue their incitement and terrorism against Israel? They should outline an economic program, which Israel will certainly endorse, focused on building institutions and creating infrastructure that will enhance the living standards of Palestinians, few of whom have benefited from the huge amounts of foreign aid that their corrupt leaders siphoned off into their own bank accounts. They should also encourage the moderate Arab states to press for a new leadership that would be willing to make peace with Israel.
However, should they decide, yet again, to paper over reality and continue “pursuing peace,” the visit will actually prove to be counterproductive and Israel by itself will be compelled, as was the case hitherto, to look after its own interests.