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Latest Israel News – 29th May

Taking Trump’s peace push seriously, Netanyahu said looking to broaden coalition

With President Donald Trump pushing for Israeli-Palestinian peace progress, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is again looking to widen his coalition by bringing in politicians from the center left, a TV report said. The report coincided with a new poll showing more Israelis backing than opposing a two-state solution based on the pre-1967 lines.

The report, on Israel’s Channel 2 news on Friday night, said that Netanyahu and opposition leader Isaac Herzog spoke by phone on the eve of Trump’s visit to Israel this week, and have arranged to meet in the aftermath of Trump’s trip. Herzog, who met with Trump briefly on Tuesday, has said repeatedly in the last few days that he would back Netanyahu — from outside the coalition — were the prime minister to push for substantive progress in peacemaking with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu is working to broaden his coalition because he wants room for maneuver should direct Israeli-Palestinian talks resume, said the TV report, which was not confirmed.

The same TV station on Friday night also published a survey showing Israelis backing a two-state accord deal with the Palestinians, based on the 1967 borders adjusted to include the major settlement blocs, by 47% to 39%, with 14% undecided.

The survey also showed Netanyahu backed by 35% as their choice for prime minister, far ahead of centrist Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid on 14%, with no other candidate in double figures. It also gave the Likud a healthy lead in Knesset seats, on 30, compared to Yesh Atid on 22, an improvement for the Likud on previous polls.

Herzog, head of the center-left Zionist Union came close to joining the coalition last October, but their negotiations collapsed amid mutual recriminations, and Avigdor Liberman’s right-wing Yisrael Beytenu party joined the government instead, with Liberman becoming defense minister. Herzog was set to join the coalition to advance peace talks, following a February 2016 summit, attended by Netanyahu, secretary of state John Kerry, Jordan’s King Abdullah and Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, which was intended to jump-start negotiating efforts. Herzog later blamed Netanyahu for spurning the opportunity under pressure from Likud and Jewish Home right-wingers.

Trump reiterated on his May 22-23 visit here that he seeks to broker an Israeli-Palestinian accord. While Netanyahu highlighted his skepticism about Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s readiness for a deal, he did tell Trump that “for the first time in many years — and, Mr. President, for the first time in my lifetime — I see a real hope for change.”

For his part, Trump was adamant in his final speech at the Israel Museum on Tuesday that Abbas and the Palestinians “are ready to reach for peace.”

Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner Kushner, who along with international negotiations envoy Jason Greenblatt has been tasked by Trump with relaunching the peace process, reportedly told Herzog on Tuesday: “We are planning to move fast in starting a diplomatic process in order to reach a deal.”

Senior ministers were quoted in the Channel 2 report saying that it was clear that Trump will be pressing Israel for compromise, and that celebrations on the right because Trump did not refer to Palestinian statehood during his visit, and did not criticize the settlement enterprise, were misplaced. “We’re all dancing on the Titanic,” an unnamed top minister was quoted as saying.

The Channel 2 report quoted Israeli ministers who met with Trump and his team saying that the US president and his key advisers drew three conclusions about peacemaking from their trip: That progress on the Israel-Palestinian front is central to progress elsewhere in the Middle East; that Abbas, with whom he has now met twice, is a viable partner; and that the notion that Netanyahu can’t make compromises because of the constraints of his right-wing coalition is false, since the center-left would support him.

Bringing the Zionist Union into the coalition would be extremely complicated — because of opposition from existing coalition partners and from many in Herzog’s party. Furthermore, Zionist Union is holding leadership elections on July 4, and Herzog faces a serious threat to his hold on the party.

Channel 2 suggested that Tzipi Livni, the former foreign minister who heads a 5-member faction (Hatnua) inside the Zionist Union, could break away from Herzog and join Netanyahu, but noted that Livni is skeptical about Netanyahu’s readiness to move forward. Livni, who shares the sense that there is an opportunity for a breakthrough, is said to have established a good relationship with Greenblatt.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday that Trump “pressured” Israelis and Palestinians to return to the negotiating table during his visit. “There were very substantive discussions in Israel with both PM Netanyahu as well as President Abbas,” Tillerson told reporters aboard Air Force One. “He put a lot of pressure on them that it’s time to get to the table.”

Tillerson further said that Trump “very forceful” pushing both sides that a peace deal will require them to make difficult compromises. “The president was very forceful in his encouragement to both of them to be serious about approaching these discussions in the future and recognize they have to compromise; everyone has to compromise,” he said.

America’s top diplomat also suggested that Israeli-Palestinian peace could be a catalyst to greater regional peace, what is sometimes referred to as the linkage argument.

Trump “has made the point several times: We solve the Israeli-Palestinian peace dilemma, we start solving a lot of the peace throughout the Middle East region,” Tillerson said.  (the Times of Israel)

US increased military aid to Israel ahead of Trump visit

The US has promised to increase military aid to Israel to help maintain the country’s military edge in the region as it faces mounting threats from its neighbors, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said as he spoke at Wednesday’s Mount Herzl ceremony marking Jerusalem Day.

“The US has promised to maintain Israel’s qualitative advantage in the Middle East,” the premier stated. Netanyahu then revealed that three days earlier, before US President Donald Trump’s visit to the Jewish state, “the US added another $75 million to the aid package for [Israel’s] missile defense program.”

Trump’s promise to preserve Israel’s advantage came amid concerns in Jerusalem about the recently announced $110 billion US-Saudi Arabia arms deal.

Marking the victory in the 1967 Battle of Jerusalem at the capital’s military cemetery, Netanyahu added that while Israel greatly appreciates the US assistance and support, “history has proven that Israel’s security depends on our readiness and our ability to defend ourselves, by ourselves, against any threat.”

In September 2016, Israel inked a landmark deal with the US, who agreed to transfer $38 billion to Israel until 2028.

The deal incorporates several budget lines that have previously been negotiated and approved by the United States Congress each year, and requires Israel to abide by these terms over the course of the next decade, through 2029, without further lobbying of the US legislature for additional funds.

Israel received $3.1b. in foreign military financing over that fiscal year, which will be followed by $3.3b. in the subsequent years, plus $500 million designated to missile defense. Israel will return any money Congress may allocate in its 2017-2018 budget for Israel beyond the $3.1b., said Israel’s acting National Security Adviser Yaakov Nagel, who negotiated the deal on Israel’s behalf. (Jerusalem Post)

Palestinian Youth Arrested With Pipe Bombs Next to West Bank Military Court

A Palestinian youth was arrested Wednesday morning after being found in possession of two pipe bombs near an Israeli military court in the northern West Bank.

The youth had arrived together with another Palestinian to a checkpoint adjacent to the Samaria Military Court near the village of Salem when at metal detector at the checkpoint went off, alerting security forces to search him and find the pipe bombs.

Army sappers who arrived at the site later neutralized the explosives. The two Palestinians, residents of the Jenin refugee camp, were arrested and taken for further investigation, according to the Border Police.

A similar incident took place earlier this month, when a Palestinian was caught at the same checkpoint also carrying a pipe bomb. He was arrested and the subsequent investigation revealed that he had intended to detonate the explosive inside the court.            (Ha’aretz)

After Palestinians end hunger strike, Israel says it held no talks, conceded no demands

Hours after Palestinian security prisoners called off a 40-day hunger strike, Israeli officials denied Palestinian claims that Israel negotiated with the inmates to end the mass protest or conceded to any of the prisoner’s demands.

Senior Israeli officials told Channel 2 that Israel did not so much as consider the prisoners’ demands. They also said the deal was brokered between the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Palestinian Authority, and was not the result of US pressure.

The deal announced Saturday morning will apparently see just one of the prisoners’ demands met: that their monthly visits from family members be brought back from one to two per month.

However, the issue of visitation is not an Israeli one. Family visits to Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jails are administered solely by the Red Cross. Last year, the organization reduced the number of visits it coordinated, citing a lack of funds and little family interest in the initiative.

Prison officials told Channel 2 that hunger strike leader Marwan Barghouti negotiated the additional monthly visit in a phone conversation with PA Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein al-Sheikh. They said officials at Ashkelon’s Shikma Prison allowed Barghouti to speak with al-Sheikh and meet with other leading prisoners in an effort to end the hunger strike before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

According to the Israeli officials, Barghouti and the other prisoners agreed to call off the strike after the PA promised to pay for the additional visits, at an estimated cost of $6 million per year.

Israel Radio said a message had been conveyed to the prisoners that Israel would be prepared to discuss other living condition issues with them at a later stage, but not under the threat of a hunger strike.

The only person to speak to the prisoners on behalf of Israel was Yuval Biton, the head of the Prisons Service Intelligence Division, who relayed the Shin Bet’s approval for the additional monthly visit, the Israeli officials said.

The Palestinians had earlier claimed, by contrast, that negotiations were held directly between Barghouti and Israeli officials and that the deal was reached after 20-hours of marathon talks. PA officials claimed in a statement reported by the Maan news agency that the prisoners suspended their strike “after reaching an agreement” with Israeli Prisons Service in the talks. “The statement added that IPS officials announced the end of the strike after negotiating with Barghouthi, who they had consistently refused to speak with throughout the strike’s duration,” the Maan report said.

The Hamas terror organization sought on Saturday to paint a picture of Palestinian victory, congratulating the prisoners in a statement for “forcing Israel to surrender to their demands.” The group said Palestinian prisoners would remain at the forefront of the group’s agenda.

The hunger strike was initiated by Barghouti, a prominent Fatah terrorist and political figure on April 17. Barghouti is serving five life sentences for murders committed during the second Palestinian intifada.

Israel has all along refused to negotiate with the prisoners, noting that many were convicted terrorists and their conditions were in line with accepted norms.

But the strike has also provoked wide-spread solidarity protests among the Palestinians and in recent days there have been dozens of clashes with the IDF in the West Bank and Gaza.

On Friday some of the prisoners, who have been only drinking a mixture of water and salt, had threatened to join in the Ramadan fast too, abstaining from drinking during daylight hours. This would have rapidly exacerbated their condition.

Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners had been refusing food over conditions for about 6,500 Palestinian inmates.

Among their demands were access to telephones, more family visits, improved medical care and an end to punitive solitary confinement.

According to the Palestinian Authority, over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners reached their 40th day of the strike. Israel said the number was closer to 800.

Israel largely viewed the strike as having less to do with actual conditions and more to do with internal Palestinian politics, saying it was a strategic political move by Barghouti, who wanted to demonstrate his influence on the Palestinian street ahead of a bid to succeed PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Nevertheless, Israel worked hard to undermine Barghouti during the strike, including planting a candy bar in his cell and releasing a film of him eating it.

Israel also released a handwritten note from Barghouti listing his demands in an effort to show how soft the demands were.

Among the demands Barghouti made were 20 channels of television, unrestricted books and magazines, air conditioning, a greater selection of items available for purchase in the canteen, family visits, the restarting of open university studies, public telephone use, and annual medical checks for prisoners.

On Thursday, Abbas asked US President Donald Trump’s special representative Jason Greenblatt to mediate over the strike, but there is no indication Washington was involved. (the Times of Israel)

Israel’s eyes in the sky gather intel in a shifting Middle East

The Air Force’s reconnaissance aircraft have been flying more intelligence missions in light of rising threats along Israel’s borders and the continuing wave of Palestinian violence in the West Bank.

The small and unassuming Sde Dov Airport is tucked between the city’s Tel Aviv Port and the Ramat Aviv neighborhood, taking civilians away on vacation. But the hybrid civilian/military airport is also where the air force’s First Squadron planes is based, and took off to fly at least 6,000 hours in 2016 alone.

“We are living a historic decade, where everything in the Middle East is changing; the superpowers, the local powers, and religious powers are all changing,” a senior IAF officer told The Jerusalem Post this week. “What happened in 2010 across the Middle East, you can call it the ‘Arab Spring’ or now the ‘Arab Winter,’ but I call it ‘50 Shades of Black,’” he said, referring to the jihadist groups across the region.

The First Squadron and the Kings of the Air Squadron execute reconnaissance missions using the Beechcraft-200 “Zofit,” Beechcraft King Air C-12 “Kukiya” and Beechcraft A-36 “Hofit” aircraft. The planes are versatile, gathering both visual and signals intelligence, with advanced cameras and electro-optic sensors installed on their underbellies, making them some of the most advanced manned surveillance aircraft in the world.

The intelligence gathering planes of the squadrons take off several times a day and operate alongside other units of the IAF, such as the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and Helicopter divisions. According to the senior officer, these planes, alongside the UAV drones, are vital to Israel’s intelligence gathering capabilities, “making our part of the puzzle as clear as it can be.”

While some weather conditions hinder the cameras’ operation, intelligence gathering missions take place at all hours of the day, with several reconnaissance planes in the air at all times.

“Israel is a UAV superpower, one of the best in the world,” he said, emphasizing that “the fusion of UAVs and piloted aircraft gives Israel the best possible intelligence coverage. We are able to get the best intelligence for the country’s leaders, so as to enable the best decisions in a region which is filled with upheaval.”

One of the main challenges for the next generation of pilots is to train for the next war, which will be completely different than in the past, the senior officer said.

“We cannot ignore what is going on around us. Each side is learning, and therefore we must not only stay one step ahead of our enemy, but be a hundred steps ahead of the threat we think the enemy might pose,” he said.

“We are very adaptive and rational in facing regional developments, and revolutionary action is being taken to keep our qualitative military edge.”

The IAF’s first operational mission took off from Sde Dov Air Base in December 1947 to rescue a wounded soldier south of Beersheba. In 2019, the base is set to close and be moved to Hatzor Air Base near Ashdod, a move praised by the officer, who said that the move would be an improvement for the air force.

“I’m very enthusiastic about the move; operationally it’s better, there are longer runways and it’s not hybrid.

While there may be logistical issues at the beginning, in the end the air force will have better operational capabilities,” the officer summed up.        (Jerusalem Post)

Norway slams PA for glorifying terrorists with its money

Norway on Friday condemned the Palestinian Authority’s naming of a woman’s center in the West Bank after a female terrorist who took part in the 1978 Coastal Road massacre that killed 37 people. Oslo also asked the PA to repay money it provided for the center.

The move came just three days after US President Donald Trump, standing alongside PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, said that peace “can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded or rewarded.”

Norway’s Foreign Minister Borge Brende issued a sharp statement noting that the center, named after Dalal Mughrabi, received funding from Norway via the Palestinian Election Commission and UN Women to promote participation of women in elections. The center is in Burka, northwest of Nablus.

“‘The glorification of terrorist attacks is completely unacceptable, and I deplore this decision in the strongest possible terms. Norway will not allow itself to be associated with institutions that take the names of terrorists in this way. We will not accept the use of Norwegian aid funding for such purposes,” he said.

According to Brende, Norway asked that its logo be immediately removed from the building, and that “funding that has been allocated to the center be repaid.”

“We will not enter into any new agreements with either the Palestinian Election Commission or UN Women in Palestinian areas until satisfactory procedures are in place to ensure that nothing of this nature happens again,” he said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon praised the Norwegian move as the “right step.”

“A strong position against the glorification of terrorists is an integral part of international efforts to stamp out terrorism,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “We recommend that the international community investigate very well where the money it invests in the Palestinian Authority is going, and expect that all the partners in this project act as Norway did.”  (Jerusalem Post)

Netanyahu to make second trip to Africa in year to attend summit in Liberia

In a sign of Israel’s blossoming ties with Africa, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced Thursday evening that in two-weeks he will attend a summit of the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to be held in Liberia.

This will be Netanyahu’s second trip to Africa in less than a year. Last July he travelled to four east African countries – Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia – for the first visit by a sitting Israeli prime minister to Africa in 29 years. He is also scheduled to take part in a summit in Togo in September.

The ECOWAS summit is scheduled for June 4 in Monrovia. According to a statement put out by the Liberian foreign ministry, all the heads of state or governments of the 15-member ECOWAS countries are expected to attend, including two countries with whom Israel does not have diplomatic ties – Mali and Niger.

ECOWAS represents west African countries with a combined population of 320 million.

In addition to Netanyahu, others scheduled to attend the meeting are new UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the new chairperson of the African Union, Moussa Faki from Chad, and a high level delegation from Morocco.

Netanyahu is scheduled to spend only one day in the Liberian capital, and meet a number of African leaders while at the summit. He has spearheaded intense efforts to improve ties with Africa, under the slogan “Israel is coming back to Africa, and Africa is coming back to Israel.”

Coincidentally, on the day of the summit, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn will arrive in Israel for a four-day visit. This will be the first visit of an Ethiopian prime minister in over a decade, and is a reciprocal visit to the one Netanyahu made to Ethiopia last summer. Netanayhau and Desalegn are scheduled to meet soon after Netanyahu returns from Liberia.

Ethiopia is diplomatically a significant country for Israel on the continent because it houses the African Union, because it is currently on the UN Security Council, and because its former foreign minister and health minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus this week won an election to become the next head of World Health Organization, the first time an African will head the organization.

His election was greeted positively in Israel, because he is considered a friend. The Palestinians have in the past tried to politicize the WHO, to the same degree they have politicized UNESCO, often trying to pass anti-Israel resolutions.

Last July Netanyahu met in the Jerusalem with Marcel Alain de Souza of Benin, the president of the ECOWAS Commission. The two men signed a joint declaration of intent for greater cooperation between Israel and the organization. The declaration stated that both parties “positively view the participation of the prime minister of the State of Israel in the ECOWAS summit in the near future.”

In December, ECOWAS chose Israel as the site for its first-ever seminar outside of Africa, with representatives from 13 ECOWAS states attending a three-day agricultural summit.(Jerusalem Post)

2,000-Year-Old Evidence of Final Pre-Second Temple Destruction Battle in Jerusalem Between Roman Army and Jewish Rebels Unveiled

Stone ballista balls discovered in the archaeological excavation.

Amid this week’s celebrations making the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority unveiled evidence of the battle of Jerusalem that took place before the destruction of the Second Temple 2,000 years ago.

Arrowheads and stone ballista balls fired by catapults were uncovered on the main road that ascended from the city’s gates and the Pool of Siloam to the Jewish Temple, the IAA said Thursday.

The artifacts, excavated with the financial support of the City of David Society, tell the story of the final battle between the Roman army and Jewish rebels that ended with the destruction of the Second Temple and the rest of ancient Jerusalem, events that are famously described by historian Flavius Josephus.

“Josephus’s descriptions of the battle in the lower city come face-to-face for the first time with evidence that was revealed in the field in a clear and chilling manner,” said Nahshon Szanton and Moran Hagbi, directors of the IAA excavation, in a joint statement.

“Stone ballista balls fired by catapults, used to bombard Jerusalem during the Roman siege of the city, were discovered in the excavations. Arrowheads, used by the Jewish rebels in the hard-fought battles against the Roman legionnaires, were found exactly as described by Josephus,” the directors added.   (the Algemeiner)

If Kushner has a Mideast peace plan, it’s a secret so far

By Jeff Mason and Luke Baker                      Reuters

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-kushner-israel-palestinians-idUSKBN18J1MF

If Jared Kushner has a plan to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict, so far he’s giving little away. In the four months since President Donald Trump took office and gave his 36-year-old son-in-law the job of forging peace between Israel and the Palestinians, Kushner has kept his plans under wraps for a conflict that is nearly twice as old as he is.

The assignment would pose daunting challenges for the most seasoned diplomat, much less a novice. Peace talks have been stalled for years, most recently breaking down in 2014 following disagreements over Israeli settlement-building and a Palestinian move to reconcile with the Islamist group Hamas.

By making the Arab-Israeli conflict the centerpiece of his first trip abroad, and putting such a high-profile figure in charge of it, Trump has jumped headlong in without the usual caution and discretion shown by his predecessors.

Dating back decades, presidents have typically waited until later in their administrations to engage publicly on one of the world’s most intractable diplomatic issues. The initiatives that won Nobel Peace Prizes, the Camp David accords in 1978 and the Oslo agreement in 1993, arose from talks begun in secret.

But although Kushner has been given the task with a higher profile and at an earlier stage in his father-in-law’s presidency than usual, he has so far brought an understated style to the role, which veterans of Middle East diplomacy say could work in his favor.

“At this stage of an administration, keeping your cards close to your vest is probably not a bad thing,” said Dennis Ross, who served as a Middle East peace envoy under President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton.

“To be revealing too much before you know what you can achieve and when you can achieve it … is probably the best way to undermine your ability to get anything done soon,” he said.

TREMENDOUS CLOUT

Kushner, who wields tremendous clout within the White House on a broad range of issues, is not a full-time envoy in the traditional model that previous U.S. administrations have employed when peace negotiations were under way.

In addition to his foreign policy portfolio which also includes China, Mexico and Canada, he has responsibility for trade and domestic topics in his father-in-law’s administration.

Rather than broadcasting his plans and dashing among the parties in a high-profile display of shuttle diplomacy, as more traditional envoys such as Ross were known to do, his approach has been decidedly low-key, delegating much of the work.

The shoe-leather tasks of day-to-day discussions with leaders in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Amman and the Gulf to gather input and regional perspective has been handled by Jason Greenblatt, a real-estate lawyer and long-term Trump loyalist.

While Kushner has visited Iraq and now Saudi Arabia, and has long had business ties to Israel, including supporting a settlement in the West Bank, Greenblatt has taken the day-to-day lead and reported back to Kushner on progress.

A handful of senior officials on the Israeli and Palestinian sides confirmed they had met with Kushner, but just as quickly underlined that they had nothing to say about what was discussed. It is as if a veil of secrecy is drawn over anything to do with the real-estate developer husband of Ivanka Trump.

One senior administration official said Kushner was treadling carefully to avoid stepping into “the same traps” that have tripped up previous efforts. “He’s a good listener and he’s trying to learn as much as he can,” the official said.

But another former official said a more high-profile and hands-on approach may eventually be needed to achieve progress.

“If this thing is to get traction and to have real credibility, somebody is going to have to be the public and private face of this negotiation,” said Aaron David Miller, who has advised Republican and Democratic U.S. secretaries of state on Arab-Israeli talks.

EVEN-HANDED?

His first task with the Palestinians will be persuading them that he can act as a neutral intermediary. Kushner, a practicing Orthodox Jew, has known Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for about 20 years, dating to his childhood, when Netanyahu knew Kushner’s father.

He also has personal ties to Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States. Nevertheless, Israeli officials say they do not think Kushner takes their side uncritically.

“In the beginning it looked like Kushner really admired Dermer, really hung on his every word. That created the sense that it was all going to be good: Jared’s young, he’s Jewish, he likes us, he understands us, it’s going to be easy,” said one person close to the prime minister’s office.

“But as time has gone by, that impression has changed somewhat. Now people are not so convinced they were right. Jared is his own man.” Also In World News

To demonstrate its fairness, the Trump administration invited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the White House weeks before Trump’s trip to Israel. Kushner and Greenblatt had a two-hour breakfast in Washington with Abbas before Abbas met with Trump, according to a source familiar with the meeting.

Yet many Palestinians say they are skeptical that someone with such close ties to Israel can ever be even-handed. The Palestinians believe that Israel is deliberately stalling any peace process while it builds settlements on Palestinian land, and Israel will negotiate only if Washington applies pressure.

“Kushner is good for Israel because of his … fanatic positions,” said Hani al-Masri, a Palestinian political analyst based in the West Bank city of Ramallah. It was probably better that Kushner was slow to unveil any peace plan, because “if he acted it would be for the sake of Israel,” he said.

But Masri also said he suspected the Americans would take their time in laying out any concrete proposals to restart the peace process, because Israel did not want to make concessions.

“Both of them (Kushner and Trump) are not in a hurry because they know that the current Israeli government will not give anything.”

Still, both sides have to be cautious about how they deal with Kushner. Nobody will want to insult someone so close to the president by dismissing a proposal out of hand, said Dan Shapiro, the U.S. ambassador to Israel for six years under President Barack Obama.

“If he gets involved, I think the strongest element that he brings to it is that he’s the president’s son-in-law,” said Shapiro, now a fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.

Kushner’s special status as both a Trump family member and a top adviser was evident during the trip to Saudi Arabia and Israel. In Jerusalem, he and Ivanka Trump joined the dinner between Netanyahu, the president and their wives.

“Netanyahu doesn’t invite his own cabinet to this dinner,” said David Makovsky, an expert on Israeli-Palestinian relations at the Washington Institute in Washington.

The Over-Dramatization of Israel’s “Dilemma”

By Dr. Max Singer                   BESA Center  (Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Affairs)

The Over-Dramatization of Israel’s “Dilemma”

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Israel is not facing a dilemma about how much, if any,  land to give up from the West Bank, because the Palestinians will not agree to take land and cannot be forced to do so. The Palestinian community sees peace with Israel as defeat in their 100-year struggle. Continued Israeli occupation is one of the Palestinians’ best weapons against Israel, and they will not give it up while their war to eliminate Israel continues. Israelis should recognize that since the Palestinians are forcing Israel to continue the temporary but long-term occupation, Israelis need to a) cooperate in reducing the moral and other costs of that occupation; and b) stop telling the world that Israel could choose to end the occupation. The occupation, like the need for military strength and to absorb casualties, is part of the price Israel has to pay to live here. Maturity means being able to go forward with no solution in sight.

Ehud Barak recently had a long review in Haaretz of Micah Goodman’s important new book, Catch 67, to which Goodman responded the following week. Goodman argues that Israel’s 1967 victory created a “catch” or trap reflected in Israel’s current dilemma, in which both sides (the Israeli political left and right) are correct. Barak disagrees. In his view, the choice is clear: the left is correct.

Both Barak’s own view and his telling of Goodman’s ignore the reality of Israel’s actual choices today. We are not facing a dilemma about giving up territory. We are facing a distasteful task, and a need for patience over a period of decades.

Israel does not now have a choice about giving the Palestinians land or creating a Palestinian state; Israel is therefore not facing a dilemma.

While there are undoubtedly peace-seeking Palestinians, as a community, the Palestinians have not even begun to discuss the possibility of making a peace that accepts Israel and ends the Palestinian effort to gain all the land “from the river to the sea.” Nor have they begun public discussion of the possibility of most of the “refugees” settling outside Israel. Without debate among Palestinians, there is no way they can give up their determination to destroy Israel and make a genuine peace.

There is zero chance that there could be a real peace agreement now regardless of how much land Israel would be willing to give up.. A true two-state solution would finally defeat Palestinian and Arab efforts of a century, and they are not yet ready to accept defeat. Whatever disagreement there is among Israelis about how much land, if any, Israel should give up to get  peace, that disagreement is not what is standing in the way of peace.

Theoretically, there are two other possibilities that might create a dilemma for Israel about giving up land. The first would be an agreement with the Palestinians to take over some of Judea and Samaria without making a full peace with Israel.  The second would be a unilateral action by Israel to separate the peoples and end the occupation without Palestinian agreement.

For the reasons discussed below, neither of these is a realistic possibility regardless of how much of Judea and Samaria Israel is willing to give up.  Again, no real dilemma.

The Palestinians have a voice in what happens. The choice they have made is to force Israel to “occupy” them, because they want to keep up the struggle to destroy Israel.  Being a victim, an “occupied people,” improves their diplomatic position, causes Israel pain, and provokes internal conflict within Israel. These effects are bad for Israel and good for the Palestinians. Indeed, the more harmful they are for Israel, the more desirable they are for the Palestinians.

There would have to be a lot more disadvantages to the status quo for the Palestinians before they would give up such a weapon against Israel to improve their living conditions. This is especially true for the Palestinian leadership, which suffers less from the status quo than most Palestinians and benefits more from the continuation of the conflict.

But if the Palestinians will not make an agreement that would sacrifice the advantage of forcing Israel to be an “occupier”, is there any way that Israel can force them to do so by taking unilateral action to separate the peoples? This idea appealed to Sharon, and so he organized Israel’s “disengagement” from Gaza. Some Israelis say the withdrawal was a good idea that only worked out badly because it was done unilaterally. But why should we think the Palestinians would have agreed to arrangements that would have been better for Israel? They consider themselves to be at war with us. They want to cause us pain and put us at a disadvantage, and are willing to accept casualties and suffering to do so.

Gaza was simple, but the West Bank is complicated. There is no way Israel can separate itself from the Palestinian population in the West Bank without Palestinian agreement. This is because of Israel’s military need for access to the Jordan Valley, which would be true even if there were no settlement blocs.

Even if all the ideological settlements and hilltop outposts were gone, no unilateral Israeli withdrawal could produce a stable new status quo that we could impose on the Palestinians. Also, Israel is still regarded internationally as occupying Gaza even though it has withdrawn completely. The same would be true for Judea and Samaria after an Israeli unilateral withdrawal. The Palestinians would insist that they are still occupied and would take steps to force Israel to act in the evacuated areas.

So the Palestinians have us trapped. Although we have committed ourselves to the principle that the occupation in Judea and Samaria is temporary, we will be stuck with it for a long time. We also have to continue taking casualties and sending our children to become soldiers and to kill people. We were not given our home on a silver platter.

This reality means that the question of what land we should give up is a question for the fairly distant future. When there is a real possibility for improving things by giving up land, conditions in our region and perhaps the world will be unpredictably different than they are today. Our disagreements over how much land, if any, to give up make no difference right now. We are not facing a practical dilemma.  There is no reason we should continue to beat up each other about what land, if any, we should be willing to give up for what benefits.

A solid majority of Israelis and our government have decided that Israel should be willing to give up most of Judea and Samaria in order to have peace, and perhaps even to separate ourselves from the Palestinians without peace. An even bigger majority is opposed to any withdrawals while the Palestinian community is in its current state. Therefore it is not true that our conflict with the Palestinians is the result of a stubborn or selfish insistence on holding onto all of the land of Israel. But there is nothing we can do at present to implement our willingness to give up most of the West Bank.

What can we do to make things better while we are living with the status quo?  First, if we recognize that the Palestinians will not give us any way of getting out of being “occupiers,” we can work together, left and right, to reduce the moral and other harm of the “occupation.”  And we can stop the internal name-calling and harsh charges against each other for not trying hard enough to end the occupation. We shouldn’t be fighting over something we have no power to change. The energy used for such fights should be directed towards making the occupation less harmful.

Our diplomatic position would also improve if there were fewer Israelis blaming one another for the continued occupation when Israel has no choice in the matter.

For the longer term, we  should do whatever we can to make the Palestinians and the Arab world more willing to give up their determination to destroy us.  Being nicer to them might help, although that is not usually a very effective strategy in the Middle East. It may be more useful to let them see that we are not riven by internal division or unable to bear the moral burden of being occupiers, so we are as willing as they are to continue living with the status quo indefinitely. The US could help by replacing false “even-handedness” with a truth-telling strategy that shows the Arab world that the US will not help them destroy Israel.

Many Israelis argue that we have to find a solution for our conflict with the Palestinians, and some insist that the problem is urgent (“Peace Now.”) But the experience of Israel’s first sixty years should teach us that patience is an advantage and perhaps even a necessity. What entitles us to have a solution available?

This is not to argue that the status quo does not have dangers. Israel is not safe. We are strong but also vulnerable, and quite capable of making decisive mistakes. But eagerness to settle our conflict with the Palestinians will not make us safe. Neither will anything else. Keeping our home here requires that we accept dangers and human costs of all kinds.

Key Tov Orchestra Celebrates Yom Yerushalayim with Jerusalem Song Medley

The songs included in the medley are:

Yerushalayim Shel Zahav – Naomi Shemer

Im Eshkachech Yerushalayim – Yaakov Shwekey

Jerusalem, If I Forget You – Matisyahu

Al Chomotayich Yerushalayim

Sisu Et Yerushalayim – Akiva Nof

Lach Yerushalayim – A. Rubinstein & Amos Etinger

Yerushalayim Oro Shel Olam – Avraham Fried

L’Shana Habah B’Yerushalayim – Reb Shlomo Carlebach

The Truth about Jerusalem from Danny Ayalon

The secrets of King George Street  in Jerusalem are revealed