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Latest Israel News – 28th June

Jewish Agency laments freeze of Western Wall plan

A host of Jewish leaders in Israel and the Diaspora, including the heads of the Reform and Conservative movements, strongly denounced the government’s decision Sunday to scrap the agreement to formally establish a state-recognized egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall.

Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel and a central figure in formulating the plan, expressed deep disappointment over the determination to indefinitely freeze implementation of the agreement.

“Five years ago, the prime minister asked me to lead a joint effort to bring about a workable formula that would transform the Western Wall into – in his own words – ‘one wall for one people,’” Sharansky said.

“After four years of intensive negotiations, we reached a solution that was accepted by all major denominations and was then adopted by the government and embraced by the world’s Jewish communities.

“Today’s decision signifies a retreat from that agreement and will make our work to bring Israel and the Jewish world closer together increasingly more difficult. The Jewish Agency, nevertheless, remains staunchly committed to that work and to the principle of one wall for one people.”

President of the Jewish Federations of North America Jerry Silverman called the decision “deeply disappointing,” saying it would do nothing to bring the global Jewish community together.

“This agreement was embraced by North American Jewish communities and it was negotiated in good faith,” said Silverman. “I believe that this decision creates divisiveness especially towards our non-Orthodox brothers and sisters.”

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union of Reform Judaism, was far more blunt, denouncing the behavior of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to say ‘no’ to his previous ‘yes’ is an unconscionable insult to the majority of world Jewry,” fumed Jacobs, who said the High Court of Justice may intervene on the issue.

“The stranglehold that the Chief Rabbinate and the ultra-Orthodox parties have on Israel and the [dis]enfranchisement of the majority of Jews in Israel and the world must – and will – be ended,” he asserted.

Rabbi Philip Scheim, president of the Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative Rabbis, described the decision as “hurtful and deeply disappointing” but specifically said it would not impact “the love and devotion” of Conservative Jews for the State of Israel.

“Many Diaspora Jews feel disrespected, but love is still there,” said Scheim.

“This won’t have a cataclysmic effect on Israel-Diaspora relations because hurting those you love is not necessarily a good tactic and not what the Jewish people need at this time. But it isn’t in the interests of the State of Israel to be governed by a haredi hegemony.

Nevertheless, we will continue to advocate, raise money and get political support for Israel in all our communities around the world.”

The Women of the Wall prayer group, whose activities led to the compromise agreement in the first place, were fiercely critical of the decision to repeal it and of Netanyahu.

“The fact that the prime minister, who himself initiated the agreement, is retreating from that historic decision, is shameful to the government and its women ministers who were exposed using their vote against women,” said WOW chairwoman Anat Hoffman.

“It’s a terrible day for women in Israel when the PM sacrifices their rights while kowtowing to a handful of religious extremists who force their religious customs on others and intentionally violate the rights of the majority of the Jewish people – 51% of whom are women.”

MK Nachman Shai, chairman of the Lobby for the Strengthening of the Jewish People and Lobby for US-Israel Relations, said the issue has caused feelings of “disappointment, frustration and a sense of betrayal” for much of US Jewry.

He added that the agreement had given hope, but now “that hope is gone.”

“The US Jewish community is a strong and stable bridge in the relations between the two countries. This morning it cracked.”

Yesh Atid MK Aliza Lavie, head of the Knesset caucus on religion and state, echoed this, accusing the government of “systematically leading a deep Jewish rift.”

“The Israeli government has slammed the door on Diaspora Jews and created an unprecedented crisis in the relationship,” she said.

The American Jewish Committee also expressed deep disappointment over the development.

“The Kotel belongs to all Jews worldwide, not to a self-appointed segment,” said AJC CEO David Harris. “This decision is a setback for Jewish unity and the essential ties that bind Israel and American Jews, the two largest centers of Jewish life in the world.”

Along with Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, the only other cabinet member to vote against the decision was Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.

“The cancellation of the decision today is a severe blow to the unity of the Jewish people, Jewish communities and the fabric of relations between the State of Israel and Diaspora Jews,” said Liberman “I call upon my friends in the nationalist camp to return to sanity, to prevent a rift within the Jewish people and to follow in the footsteps of [Theodor] Herzl, [Ze’ev] Jabotinsky and Max Nordau.”

The chief rabbis and ultra-Orthodox, political parties, however, expressed satisfaction with the outcome.

United Torah Judaism and Shas leaders, Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman and Interior Minister Arye Deri, and UTJ MK Moshe Gafni said the freeze amounts to “de facto repeal of the Western Wall agreement and a return to the previous situation.”

“This decision reflects the will of the majority of the people who want to protect the sanctity of the Western Wall and its status as it has been since time immemorial,” they said.

Chief Rabbi David Lau, meanwhile, said the initial decision “to split the Western Wall, the heart of the Jewish people, was a mistake from the very beginning,” and welcomed the repeal.

“The Western Wall should not be portioned up. For many years, the Jewish people have come to the site in droves from around the world and will continue to do so as one people, with one heart, in accordance with the Jewish laws and traditions that are the customs of the site,” he said. • SHAMEFUL Continued from Page 1 call home, the government is leading this relationship toward an even greater divide.

For years, Netanyahu has told the Israeli public there is no one who understands America and American Jewry better than he does. Now, we finally understand what that means – he doesn’t really care about them.

Also, where was Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett, the cabinet member who is supposed to represent Diaspora Jewry’s interests in the government? In January 2016, after the cabinet passed the original Kotel deal, he called the vote “historic” and told this newspaper: “From today, the Kotel is open to all Jews.”

On Sunday, though, Bennett was conveniently absent from the cabinet meeting in which ministers voted to cancel the deal. He was apparently in a briefing with the National Security Council. Although his opposition wouldn’t have changed the outcome, it would have had some symbolic significance.

Israel’s relationship with Diaspora Jewry needs to change. For most Israelis, the Diaspora is only important when something antisemitic happens – a synagogue is vandalized, a Jew is attacked or a Jewish supermarket is shot up.

Only then does it make the headlines and do Israelis care.

Until that changes, our politicians will also only care as long as there is no political price to be paid. What we learned Sunday is that the moment their careers are on the line, their concern goes out the window.

Israelis need to understand that a lot more is at stake. If they value Israel’s relationship with the US, they need to realize it will not remain what it is today without the involvement of the American Jewish community.

Studies – such as the one released last week showing a sharp drop in support for Israel among Jewish college students in the US – are part of a growing trend that will continue to deteriorate as long as the Diaspora feels maligned by what it was led to believe was its eternal homeland.

Prayer at the Western Wall and conversion might not mean a lot to the average Israeli, but they are issues of importance for our fellow Jews around the world. It is time we confront these issues with a bit more seriousness. It will soon be too late. (Jerusalem Post)

Netanyahu: Israel will be Here Long After Iranian Regime Disappears

“We were here in this country for thousands of years before the Ayatollahs took the Iranian people hostage, and we will be here long after their theocratic tyranny becomes a footnote in history,” Netanyahu stated.

Israel will live on long after Iran’s theocracy has disappeared, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told thousands of Jews during Birthright-Israel’s annual Mega Event in Rishon Letzion on Sunday night.

“Maybe the Iranians need to learn Jewish history, since last week in Tehran they set up a digital clock counting down the time to Israel’s destruction” said Netanyahu.

“We were here in this country for thousands of years before the Ayatollahs took the Iranian people hostage, and we will be here long after their theocratic tyranny becomes a footnote in history,” the prime minister underscored.

Last week, Iranians burned Israeli and American flags and unveiled an “Israel Doomsday Clock” in Tehran’s Palestinian Square during festivities marking al-Quds Day. The clock predicts Israel’s demise by 2040; the date refers to a September 2015 speech by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, asserting that Israel will “not see the end of these 25 years.”

Netanyahu said that Israel is a strong country with the ability and willingness to defend itself from threats as well as to reach out in peace to those who wish for it.

Students could hold their heads high while expressing their support for Israel, he added. “When they attack us, stand proud and say whose side you are on: The free people of Israel or those chopping off heads? If you stand for the free, stand for Israel, stand for the truth.”

Furthermore, “By coming here, you join Israeli soldiers in helping secure Israel’s future,” said Netanyahu.  “I want you to take everything that you see and share it with others, tell others about the miracle of Israel, this rare and thriving democracy in the Middle East.”

In 2017, Birthright Israel is hosting 33,000 first-time visitors to Israel between the ages of 18 and 26, from 33 countries. Participants during the summer season will take a free 10-day educational tour.

The program has brought 600,000 young Jewish men and women to Israel since its inception a decade ago. Birthright-Israel International CEO Gidi Mark explains that the encounter between young Jewish adults and IDF soldiers allows for unmediated interface between the two groups and contributes to a mutual strengthening of Jewish identity and commitment to Israel. (WIN World Israel News)

SA State Labor Government goes it alone with call to recognise Palestine

Labor has used its parliamentary majority in South Australia to call for the recognition of “the state of Palestine alongside the state of ­Israel”, making it the only Australian legislative body to formally back Palestine statehood.

The amended motion, quietly passed in the lower house on budget day last week, calls on the Australian government to “recognise the state of Palestine (as we have recognised the state of ­Israel) and announce the conditions and time lines to achieve such recognition”.

The resolution, put forward by dumped Labor frontbencher Tony Piccolo, also seeks confirmation that unless measures are taken, a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict will “vanish”. The non-binding motion also opposes continuation of Israeli settlement building. A similar motion will be raised in the upper house by the Greens.

Mr Piccolo, who on the day the motion passed handed out fake newspapers to commuters to spruik the state budget, said Palestinians “have been the victims of dispossession for 70 years” and have “suffered under what could effectively be described as a military occupation for 50 years”.

Mr Piccolo was elected alongside Deputy Opposition Leader Vickie Chapman as co-convener of the Parliamentary Friends of Palestine, less than two years after the SA Parliamentary Friends of Israel was launched. Ms Chapman, a member of both groups, joined Liberal MPs in unsuccessfully moving to adjourn the motion, and later spoke against it.

She said parliament should be “looking at how we advance and ensure the management of this in a structured way that is not just going to cause further discourse”.

Liberal frontbencher Dan van Holst Pellekaan said most state MPs “do not have nearly enough information to make a genuinely informed decision on this issue, which has perplexed the international community for decades”.

But Mr Piccolo, backed by Labor MPs including Katrine Hildyard and Nat Cook, accused the international community of “turning a blind eye … at the victimisation, discrimination and ­injustices experienced by the Palestinian people in Israel”.

He said the UN General ­Assembly and 138 countries had recognised the state of Palestine, while 12 European parliaments had asked their governments to follow suit. “We are not breaking new ground here but we will hopefully be on the side of history,” Mr Piccolo said.

Anti-Defamation Commission chairman Dvir Abramovich slammed the motion as unhelpful, premature and harmful to chances for lasting reconciliation.

“With this one-sided and unconstructive motion, which turns reality inside out and which does not bother with the facts, the SA parliament has embraced long-time inaccuracies and misguided narratives,” Dr Abramovich said.

“Worse, the motion blames the Israeli government for the impasse, but fails to hold the Palestinian Authority responsible for their own obstructionist actions, particularly its continuous incitement and refusal to engage in ­bilateral talks.”

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham, a South Australian, said the motion showed the “warped priorities” of the Weatherill government as the state faced the nation’s highest jobless rate and a crippling energy crisis. “It’s beyond laughable that the Weatherill government … thinks they know the pathway to Middle East peace,” he said. (the Australian)

Israel strikes Hamas targets following Gaza rocket attack

The Israeli Air Force targeted Hamas infrastructure in the Gaza Strip on Monday night following an earlier rocket attack from the Hamas-controlled territory, according to a statement released by the IDF.

According to the statement, the airstrikes targeted two military facilities belonging to Hamas in the north and south of the Gaza Strip.

As Hamas controls the Gaza Strip it is considered responsible for all attempts in Gaza that seek to harm Israel, reads the statement.

Earlier on Monday, Islamic State-affiliated group Ahfad al-Sahaba claimed responsibility for the firing of a rocket.

The group claimed responsibility via a statement that was shared through Israeli media. This is not the first time that the group, which has sworn allegiance to Islamic State, has claimed responsibility for a rocket attack.

The projectile landed in an open area near the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council in southern Israel, the IDF said.

No injuries and no damage were reported. A red siren alert was not activated as it was detected early on that the projectile was aimed at an open area. (Jerusalem Post)

Blair: Need to break from peacemaking ‘theology’, seek regional approach

The real dividing line in the Middle East is the battle against extremism – be it of the Sunni or Shi’a variety – and in this battle Israel’s place should be with nations of the region “connected to the modern world, not in opposition,” former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said.

Blair, who following his tenure as British prime minister was also the Quartet envoy, made these comments at speech to the Herzliya Conference where he advocated a wider regional approach to solving the Israeli—Palestinian conflict. He noted that this was his 182nd trip to Israel.

“There exists today a new path to peace. It is based not only on conventional Israeli-Palestinian negotiation, but on the potential for a new relationship between the Arab nations and Israel,” he said. “It is an opportunity of unprecedented promise. We must grasp it with both hands.”

Having been involved in peace processes initiated by former president George W. Bush, Mideast envoy George Mitchell, and former US Secretary of State John Kerry, Blair said that the credibility of the peace process has been damaged because Palestinians have concluded that Israel is not serious about negotiating a Palestinian state, and Israelis have concluded the Palestinians are “incapable of running one consistent with Israel’s security.”

“So the fundamental challenge is not a simply one of negotiation – borders, security etc. It is one of context, cultural acceptance and credibility,” he said.

But, he added, since the Arab Spring in 2011, “several elements have emerged which alter the regional context.”

The first is the realization that the battle is against extremism in the region. Secondly, he said, “a new generation of leaders is emerging who govern young and impatient populations and who know that their route to progress lies in opening up to the world in friendship. And in each of these countries, this leadership is showing courage and determination in making change.”

He noted a survey of Arab youth saying that the country most young Arabs would like to emulate is the United Arab Emirates.

“So we have the objective reason for a regional alliance; and the subjective leadership capable of delivering it,” he said. This does not mean, however, that the Palestinian issue is any less important.

While it is no secret that there are many forms of cooperation between Israel and the region, he said, the “key to a true relationship, where there is overt, public and strategic collaboration – what I call ‘above the table,’ not below it – remains the Palestinian question.”

Therefore, he said, a new way forward is needed, a way that integrates the regional approach with a traditional negotiation.

The engagement of the region would provide “the strength to help carry any peace process,” he said. “It gives the Israelis the comfort of knowing that the region as a whole stands behind any agreement with the Palestinians and offers Israel the huge prize of normalization.”

And, he added, it gives the Palestinians the reassurance that any agreement will be supported by the wider Arab and Muslim world and gives them local partners in the building of the Palestinian state. Crucially, it can help bring about the unification of Palestinian politics – an absolutely essential precondition of peace – but on a basis fully consistent with peace.”

To forge this path, he said, “we must break with some of the ‘theology’ of peacemaking which has become hallowed doctrine over the past 25 years.”

While he said that there can be no separate “economic peace” distinct from a political solution, he said that “measures on the ground, building peace from the bottom up, provide vital ballast to any political process.”

Blair called for a step-by step political process where confidence is built over time.

“This is not the same as so-called ‘interim solutions’ which Palestinians fear become permanent; it is rather a recognition, that without an organic evolution towards statehood, we are left with an ‘all or nothing’ position which so far has actually resulted not in ‘all’ but in nothing,” he said.

Likewise, he added, normalization between the Arab world and Israel “can be turned into a process rather than a one off event. Sensitivity to the politics of both Israelis and Arabs should lead us to create a set of inter-locking points where everyone gets comfortable that change is happening, but in a way which is manageable.”

Blair said that active Arab engagement in a traditional peace negotiation is necessary, not only Arab support for it.  “I can tell you frankly from the conversations and interactions I have with those in the region as well as obviously those here in Israel that this regional approach is now, virtually by consensus, accepted as the right road to travel,” he said. “There is goodwill, a real sense of shared purpose and an appetite.” (Jerusalem Post)

Israel bars UNESCO team from Hebron field visit

Israel is refusing to allow a UNESCO investigatory team to make a field visit to Hebron in advance of a pending July vote to register its Old City on the list of World Heritage in Danger under the “State of Palestine.”

This is a “principled and strategic” stand, Israel’s Ambassador to UNESCO in Paris, Carmel Shama Hacohen, said on Saturday.

Hebron’s Old City, including the Tomb of the Patriarchs, is one of 35 sites the World Heritage Committee plans to consider for inscription on the World Heritage List when it meets in Krakow, Poland, July 2-12.

The Palestinian Authority has fast tracked the inscription process by claiming that the site is endangered.

Since UNESCO recognized Palestine as a member state in 2011, the Palestinian Authority has similarly fast tracked inscription of two other sites on the list of World Heritage in Danger – the Church of the Nativity and Pilgrimage Route in Bethlehem in 2012 and the ancient terraces of Battir in 2014.

The International Council on Monuments and Sites, a professional body that investigates nomination requests and provides recommendations for inscription on the list of World Heritage in Danger, had recommended, after making field visits to both sites, that those nominations go through the normal process.

This time, Israel has rejected its request to make a field visit to Hebron, including a refusal to grant entry visas to Israel for the group, Shama Hacohen said.

The 21-member World Heritage Committee rejected the ICOMOS conclusions not to place the Church of the Nativity and terraces of Battir on its endangered list, Shama Hacohen said.

Therefore, it’s “a shame to waste the time and money” of the ICOMOS committee whose recommendations are otherwise typically adhered to with regard to the inscription process, Shama Hacohen said.

“Israel won’t take part in and won’t legitimize any Palestinian political moves under the guise of culture and heritage,” he said.

The only steps it will take is to wage a diplomatic campaign to organize a large majority to block a process filled with “lies that plots against the state of Israel as well as the history and the connection of the Jewish people to this important holy site,” Shama Hacohen added.

“We are in the midst of a campaign against the opening of an additional Palestinian front in the religious and cultural war they are trying to force on us.”

The PA has warned that Israeli actions have placed the Herodian structure and Hebron’s historic Old City in danger and has provided UNESCO with a list of complaints that includes placement of road blocks and checkpoints; the tear gas used to quell Palestinian demonstrations; and failure to make necessary repairs. It has included on that list recent attempts by the Jewish residents of the city to purchase property on Shuhadah Street.

Israel has rejected all claims that it has harmed the Tomb or the structures in the Old City, and has further argued that Israel’s military control of that area of the city is based on a 1997 agreement with the PA. (Jerusalem Post)

Syria warns Israel: Further attacks will have serious repercussions

The Syrian military threatened Israel on Sunday evening that should it launch any further attacks on Syrian army targets, Israel will have to take the responsibility for repercussions that can ensue, according to The Jerusalem Post’s sister publication Maariv, citing Lebanese television news outlet Al Mayadeen.

 

This threat comes after  the IDF struck targets belonging to forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime in response to the errant fire that hit northern Israel earlier in the day.

Several projectiles fired from Syria landed in open territory in Israel’s Golan Heights on Sunday afternoon, the IDF confirmed. No injuries were reported in the incident.

The military stated that the errant projectiles were the result of internal fighting in Syria.

Sunday was the second day in a row that the Israeli-Syrian border has been effected by a spillover from the ongoing conflict in Syria. (Jerusalem Post)

The Ongoing Drama of Palestinian Lies

by Bassam Tawil             The Gatestone Institute

https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/10573/palestinian-lies

The current policy of the PA leadership is to avoid alienating the Trump administration by continuing to pretend that Abbas and his cronies are serious about achieving peace with Israel. This is why Abbas’s representatives are careful not to criticize Trump or his envoys.

When Israel does not comply with their list of demands, the Palestinians will accuse it of “destroying” the peace process. Worse still, the Palestinians will use this charge as an excuse to redouble their terror against Israelis. The Palestinian claim, as always, will be that they are being forced to resort to terrorism in light of the failure of yet another US-sponsored peace process.

No doubt, Abbas cannot find it within himself to clarify to the American envoys that he lacks a mandate from his people to make any step toward peace with Israel. Abbas knows, even if the American representatives do not, that any move in that direction would end his career, and very possibly his life. Abbas also does not wish to go down in Palestinian history as the treacherous leader who “sold out to the Jews.” Moreover, someone can come along later and say, quite correctly, that as Abbas has exceeded his legitimate term in office, any deal he makes is illegal and illegitimate.

US envoys Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner, who met last week in Jerusalem and Ramallah with Israeli and Palestinian Authority (PA) officials to discuss reviving the peace process, have discovered what previous US Middle East envoys learned in the past two decades — that the PA has not, cannot, and will not change.

During their meeting in Ramallah with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, the two US emissaries were told that the Palestinians will not accept anything less than an independent state along on the pre-1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Abbas also made it clear that he has no intention to make concessions on the “right of return” for Palestinian “refugees.” This means he wants a Palestinian state next to Israel while flooding Israel with millions of Palestinian “refugees” and turning it, too, into another Palestinian state.

At the meeting, Abbas also reiterated his demand that Israel release all Palestinian prisoners, including convicted murderers with Jewish blood on their hands, as part of any peace agreement. The release of terrorists in the past has only resulted in increased terrorism against Israel.

According to Abbas’s spokesperson, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, the PA president told Kushner and Greenblatt that a “just and comprehensive peace should be based on all United Nations resolutions (pertaining to the Israeli-Arab conflict) and the (2002) Arab Peace Initiative.” Translation: Israel must withdraw to the indefensible pre-1967 lines and allow armed Palestinian factions to sit on the hilltops overlooking Ben Gurion Airport and Tel Aviv.

Abbas’s position reflects accurately the policy of the PA leadership over the past two decades — a policy that has been regularly relayed to all previous US administrations, successive Israeli governments and the international community.

To his credit, Abbas has been nothing short of consistent. He has never, ever, displayed a willingness to offer any concessions to Israel. He misses no opportunity to reaffirm his demands to all world leaders and government officials, with whom he meets on a regular basis.

Nonetheless, some in the international community still believe that Abbas or any other Palestinian leader will be able to make concessions in return for peace with Israel.

Incredibly, Kushner and Greenblatt seem to believe that they can succeed where all others have failed.

The two inexperienced US envoys are laboring under the illusion that they will persuade Abbas and the PA leadership to drop demands such as the “right of return,” the release of imprisoned terrorists and a cessation of construction in settlements.

Why President Trump’s envoys are creating the dangerously misleading impression that peace is possible under the current PA leadership is nothing short of a mystery.

Creating such an impression is likely to boomerang with a vengeance; the higher the expectations, the greater the disappointment. Giving the Palestinians the feeling that the Trump administration holds a magic wand for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will eventually increase Palestinian bitterness and hostility towards both the Americans and Israel. When the Palestinians wake up to the fact that the Trump administration will not strong-arm Israel to its knees, they will resume their rhetorical attacks against Washington, accusing it once again of being “biased” in favor of Israel.

This was precisely the fate of previous US administrations and presidents who disappointed the Palestinians by failing to impose dictates on Israel. The Palestinians are still dreaming of the day that the US or any other superpower would force Israel to comply with all their demands.

When Israel does not comply with their list of demands, the Palestinians will accuse it of “destroying” the peace process.

Worse still, the Palestinians will use this charge as an excuse to redouble their terror attacks against Israelis. The Palestinian claim, as always, will be that they are being forced to resort to terrorism in light of the failure of yet another US-sponsored peace process.

The Trump administration is making a colossal mistake in thinking that Abbas or any of his Palestinian Authority cronies can exhibit any flexibility whatsoever toward Israel, particularly concerning Jerusalem, settlements and the “right of return.”

No doubt, Abbas cannot find it within himself to clarify to the American envoys that he lacks a mandate from his people to make any step toward peace with Israel. Abbas knows, even if the American representatives do not, that any move in that direction would end his career, and very possibly his life.

Abbas also does not wish to go down in Palestinian history as the treacherous leader who “sold out to the Jews.”

Despite the best intentions of the US envoys and others in the international community, Abbas knows full well the fate of any Palestinian leader who even considers “collaboration” with the “Zionist entity.”

Abbas, whose term in office expired in 2009 and is seen as an illegitimate president by many Palestinians, is not even in a position to offer Israel any concessions for peace. First, someone can come along later and say, quite correctly, that as Abbas has exceeded his legitimate term in office, any deal he makes is illegal and illegitimate.

Abbas also cannot halt anti-Israel incitement; he cannot stop payments to convicted murderers and their families and he cannot accept Jewish sovereignty over the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Even if some of his aides sometimes come out with statements suggesting that the PA leadership is prepared to consider some concessions on these issues, these remarks should not be taken seriously: they are only intended for Western audiences.

The PA’s declared position is that it has already made enough concessions by merely recognizing Israel’s right to exist and dropping Palestinian claims to “all of Palestine.” This position argues that it is Israel, and not the Palestinians, that needs to make concessions for peace.

“We have reached the red line with regards to making concessions [to Israel],” explained Ashraf al-Ajrami, a former PA cabinet minister. “We have already made a series of concessions on the core issues, while Israel has not presented us with anything.”

It might be recalled that this statement by the former PA official is a staggering lie, given the generous offers, gestures and concessions made by successive Israeli prime ministers and governments over the past two decades.

Again and again, all Israeli initiatives have been met with Palestinian rejectionism and stepped-up violence.

The offer made by Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David in 2000 to withdraw from most of the territories Israel captured in 1967 was met with the Second Intifada.

The Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip five years later was misinterpreted by Palestinians as a sign of weakness and retreat, and resulted in thousands of rockets and missiles being fired at Israel.

Another generous and unprecedented offer by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert fell on deaf ears.

The current policy of the Palestinian Authority leadership is to avoid alienating the Trump administration by continuing to pretend that Abbas and his cronies are serious about achieving peace with Israel. This is why Abbas’s representatives are careful not to criticize Trump or his envoys.

Abbas wants to deceive the Trump administration into believing that he has the courage, will and mandate to make peace with Israel, the same way he lied to previous Israeli prime ministers. This is the same Abbas who, for the past 10 years, has not been able to even go back to his private residence in the Gaza Strip, which remains under Hamas control.

But in private, some senior Palestinian officials have been criticizing the Trump administration for simply daring to make demands of the PA leadership, such as halting anti-Israel incitement and the payment of salaries to imprisoned terrorists and their families. In other words, what the Palestinian officials are saying is that either Trump accepts our demands or he can go to hell.

“The Americans have actually endorsed the Israeli position,” complained Hanna Amireh, a senior PLO official.

“The Palestinian leadership rejects the demand to stop financial aid to the prisoners and their families… Instead of setting preconditions for the Palestinians, the Americans must demand an end to Israeli settlement construction and incitement.”

In the twisted world of the Palestinian Authority leadership, Israeli demands for an end to the Palestinian glorification of murderers is itself an act of “incitement.”

How dare Israel demand that the PA leadership halt funds to imprisoned terrorists and their families? How dare Israel expose incitement and glorification of murderers and terrorists?

The PA leadership simply cannot fathom the problem with naming streets, public squares and youth and women’s centers after murderers of Jews.

It is only a matter of time before the PA leadership begins openly to accuse the Trump administration of being biased in favor of Israel. In the world of Abbas and his cronies, any US administration that does not swallow their lies and fabrications is a “hostile” party that is controlled by Jews and Zionists.

This is precisely what the Palestinians said about Trump and his team during the US presidential election campaign.

The PA leadership has indeed softened its tone against Trump and his advisors since they won the election. Yet this modified tone has one goal: for the PA to avoid accusations of being anti-peace.

In fact, the PA leadership has changed its tone, not its tune. We are witnessing a tactical and temporary move on the part of the Palestinians. This play-acting will end soon enough. The question remains, will the West notice that the curtain has gone down on the show?

Trump’s team faces reality in the Middle East

By Herb Keinon               The Jerusalem Post

http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Trumps-team-runs-onto-the-shoals-of-Mideast-reality-497720

The statement the White House issued late Wednesday night following a more than two-hour meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump’s Mideast point man Jared Kushner was, at first glance, extremely innocuous.

Kushner was joined by Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt and Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, and the communiqué that followed the session with the prime minister was bland and seemed to reveal – true to form for these types of statements – very little.

“The meeting was productive and the two sides reaffirmed their commitment to advancing President Trump’s goal of a genuine and lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians that enhances stability in the region,” the statement read.

Yawn.

“The three United States officials discussed Israel’s priorities and potential next steps with Prime Minister Netanyahu, acknowledging the critical role Israel plays in the security of the region.”

Ho-hum.

But then came this: “The United States officials and Israeli leadership underscored that forging peace will take time and stressed the importance of doing everything possible to create an environment conducive to peacemaking.”

Boom. There it is. Hidden inside all the diplo-speak was an acknowledgment that – you know what – this Mideast peace-making stuff is tough going and will take time.

While that may appear as the ultimate no-brainer, when put into the context of some of Trump’s previous comments on the Mideast, it is nothing short of an epiphany. It is a sign that after five months of meetings with everyone across the board – from Israeli and Palestinian leaders and thinkers and opinion-shapers, to leaders from throughout the Arab world – the Trump Mideast team has hit the shoals of reality.

Consider this: During his meetings with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the White House in May, Trump said that reaching an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal “is something that I think is frankly, maybe, not as difficult as people have thought over the years.”

Or consider this: In December 2015, when he was still a candidate, Trump said in an interview that within six months in office he would let the public know whether a peace deal – a deal he characterized as the “ultimate deal” – was indeed possible.

The statement that the White House issued after Wednesday’s meeting – a strikingly similar statement was issued after the team’s meeting with Abbas a few hours later – was a clear indication that the Trump team now realizes things are going to take a lot longer than first expected.

That being said, Washington is adopting a much different approach to peacemaking than the previous administration, a sign that it has learned from US President Barack Obama’s mistakes.

And the mother of all Obama’s mistakes on the Israeli-Palestinian issue came when – just a few months after being sworn into office – he made a very clear demand for Israel to stop all settlement activity, everywhere: in Ramot in Jerusalem and Yitzhar in Samaria; in Gush Etzion, Ma’aleh Adumim, Hebron and Avnei Hefetz. It was all the same, and it all had to stop. Now.

That demand essentially handcuffed the entire diplomatic process for the next eight years. No Israeli government – especially not a right-wing government headed by Netanyahu – could cede to that demand. And the Palestinians, from that moment onward, could never ask for anything less.

And that demand did something else as well. In negotiations, what happens if the other side calls your bluff? What if the other side hears your demand and quite simply says “No?” The answer: You are stuck.

What if the US demands that Israel stop settlement construction, or there will be no negotiations, and then Israel does not stop settlement construction? There will be no negotiations.

The same is true of the Palestinians. What happens if Washington demands the Palestinians recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people before there are negotiations, and they refuse? There will be no negotiations.

The Trump administration is taking a different approach. It is making no public demands. It is not saying that Israel must stop construction, rather that unbridled construction everywhere does not help the process.

It is not saying that the Palestinians must end paying salaries to terrorists and their families, rather that – as Trump said during his recent visit to Bethlehem – peace “can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded or rewarded.”

Similarly, it is not publicly asking the Persian Gulf states and Saudi Arabia to make some normalization steps toward Israel, rather suggesting that this would be helpful.President Trump Gives Remarks at the Israel Museum

And, all the while, it is probing the sides to see what they are – and are not – willing to give, and then trying to see if there are ways to bridge the gaps. And it is doing this all very much behind closed doors, without megaphone diplomacy, without public threats of laying down an American blueprint, or dangling promises of high-profile summits.

It is hard work, and it is slow work.

Trump – both in the campaign and in his first few months of office – raised expectations that he knew the magic formula for Mideast peace, or would find it relatively soon.

The statement put out after Kushner’s visit is an obvious effort to lower expectations.

The words “forging peace will take time” do not constitute a brilliant diplomatic insight. But it is acknowledgment of a reality that this diplomatic process is hard and will take a long time, much more so than Trump first anticipated or declared.

And that realization itself is a good place to start.

Shameful day for Israel as it freezes plan for pluralistic prayer site at Kotel

By Yaakov Katz               The Jerusalem Post

http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Shameful-day-for-Israel-as-it-freezes-plan-for-pluralistic-prayer-site-at-Kotel-497886

Sunday will go down in history as a shameful day for the State of Israel, another nail in the coffin of Israel’s failing relationship with Diaspora Jewry.

The determination by the cabinet to cancel its January 2016 decision to establish a third plaza at the Western Wall for egalitarian prayer services is nothing less than a disgrace.

This was a decision taken by Netanyahu’s government – the same one currently in power – and now it is simply being overturned with complete disregard for the ramifications.

The decision to advance a controversial conversion bill on the same day just adds fuel to the fire.

Netanyahu’s office made sure to issue a statement saying Sunday’s cabinet decision was not to cancel the previous deal but merely to freeze it.

This is a sham. The deal had already been frozen for the last 18 months and wasn’t moving forward.

By taking the decision Sunday, Netanyahu is simply signaling to Diaspora Jewry that, at the end of the day, his political survival is more important than Israeli-Diaspora relations.

The haredim, the ultra-Orthodox, wanted the Kotel deal dead and that is what they achieved.

A part of me understands Netanyahu. He was presented with threats from Haredi leaders Ya’acov Litzman, Moshe Gafni and Arye Deri, who said they would topple his coalition if he didn’t cancel the Kotel deal. Without them, he has no government.

On the other hand, Israel is meant to be the state for all of the Jewish people. It is meant to be a place where all Jews can feel at home, can pray freely and practice their religion the way they want – with respect and dignity. It was one thing when the cabinet passed the Kotel deal in 2016, but then got stuck with its implementation.

At least on the surface it seemed to be trying to move things forward. Now, the message to millions of Jews around the world is that Israel simply doesn’t care about them.

Reform and Conservative Jews throughout the US already feel like second-class citizens when it comes to rituals in Israel such as conversion and marriage. By annulling the decision to create a prayer space that all Jews can is leading this relationship toward an even greater divide.

For years, Netanyahu has told the Israeli public there is no one who understands America and American Jewry better than he does. Now, we finally understand what that means – he doesn’t really care about them.

Also, where was Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett, the cabinet member who is supposed to represent Diaspora Jewry’s interests in the government? In January 2016, after the cabinet passed the original Kotel deal, he called the vote “historic” and told this newspaper: “From today, the Kotel is open to all Jews.”

On Sunday, though, Bennett was conveniently absent from the cabinet meeting in which ministers voted to cancel the deal. He was apparently in a briefing with the National Security Council. Although his opposition wouldn’t have changed the outcome, it would have had some symbolic significance.

Israel’s relationship with Diaspora Jewry needs to change. For most Israelis, the Diaspora is only important when something antisemitic happens – a synagogue is vandalized, a Jew is attacked or a Jewish supermarket is shot up.

Only then does it make the headlines and do Israelis care.

Until that changes, our politicians will also only care as long as there is no political price to be paid. What we learned Sunday is that the moment their careers are on the line, their concern goes out the window.

Israelis need to understand that a lot more is at stake. If they value Israel’s relationship with the US, they need to realize it will not remain what it is today without the involvement of the American Jewish community.

Studies – such as the one released last week showing a sharp drop in support for Israel among Jewish college students in the US – are part of a growing trend that will continue to deteriorate as long as the Diaspora feels maligned by what it was led to believe was its eternal homeland.

Prayer at the Western Wall and conversion might not mean a lot to the average Israeli, but they are issues of importance for our fellow Jews around the world. It is time we confront these issues with a bit more seriousness. It will soon be too late.