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Latest Israel News – 6th February

Netanyahu: ‘I will speak with Trump about settlements in Washington’

The PM announced his intention to discuss the settlements issue with Trump after the US administration released two recent statements that were critical of Israel’s ongoing settlements construction.

West Bank settlements will be among the wide ranging set of issues Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump will discuss when they hold their first meeting since Trump entered the Oval Office.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu looks forward to his meeting with President Trump on February 15 in which they will speak about a wide range of issues, including this one,” the Prime Minister’s Office said after the publication of two statements from the Trump administration warning Israel to curb such activity.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely gave a more extensive answer, saying on Friday that Israel had an obligation to build in the West Bank.

“This government was chosen to execute the rights of the people of Israel to build in all parts of the country,” Hotovely said.

“Even the White House knows that the settlements are not an obstacle to peace and never were an obstacle to peace.

“The obvious conclusion is that the building is not a problem,” Hotovely said.

“During the last 25 [years] the Palestinians have blocked all attempts to resolve [the conflict],” she said.

“It is therefore important to reexamine the question of what is the essence of the conflict [with the Palestinians] and to provide new alternatives.

(Israeli legislators advance revised bill to legalise settlements)

“We should examine a regional option that doesn’t leave us dependent on the Palestinians who do not want to come to an agreement with us,” Hotovely added.

The Deputy Foreign Minister spoke up in response to two statements by the Trump administration, the first of which was exclusively published in The Jerusalem Post.

A senior administration official told the paper that Israel must cease its settlement announcements, which are “unilateral” and “undermining” of President Donald Trump’s effort to forge Middle East peace.

The White House later published a public statement that said as follows: “While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal.”

Right wing Israelis immediately welcomed the statement as a sign that Trump stood with them, given his statements that settlements are not an obstacle to peace. In addition, his clarification of where Israelis could build in the West Bank seemed very broad and could also be interpreted as including all of the settlements, including those within the bloc.

The White House noted that Trump had not taken a position on settlements and that he was waiting to discuss the matter with Netanyahu when the two meet on February 15.

“The YESHA Council thanks the White House for asserting that our communities were never an impediment to peace. Nothing is more natural and morally just than Jews building in Judea. We look forward to working closely with our friends in the new Trump administration to build a brighter future all,” said Oded Revivi, Chief Foreign Envoy of the YESHA Council.

But MK Eitan Broshi (Zionist Union) linked the White House statement to the evacuation of the Amona outpost, located in an isolated spot in the West Bank, even though it was done under a High Court of Justice order.

“The statement shows that the Amona evacuation was justified and that we have to build according [to] the law and in agreed upon areas,” he said, adding that this meant the security areas and the blocs.

He urged Netanyahu to place the new settlements in the blocs, given that Trump’s message was promoted by the decision to create a new settlement for the 40 families. It would mark the first time Israel has done this since 1991.

Israel has promised the US in the past that it would not create new settlements.

It also followed an unprecedented set of Israeli announcements stating that the state would approve and advance 5,500 new settler homes.

Former US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro tweeted that Trump’s statement that settlement activity could be a negative factor in Middle East peacemaking “is in continuity with US policy for many years.”

Former US Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk tweeted that the statement’s language was akin to what was used when former US President Bill Clinton was in office.

“Settlements may not be helpful to achieving peace. That’s our Bill,” he said.   (Jerusalem Post)

Danon: US statement on settlements is no Trump U-turn

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon on Friday morning sought to downplay a rebuke from the Trump White House on the construction of new Israeli settlements, saying the statement did not reflect a policy shift, but rather indicated that the subject was on the administration’s radar.

The statement, Danon told Israel Radio, was a sign from the new administration that it has not yet set policy regarding the settlements and would do so following the upcoming talks between the Israeli and American leaders later this month.

“I wouldn’t call it a U-turn, the statement is very clear. The meaning is: Wait until the meeting with Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu, who arrives in Washington in less than two weeks for a meeting with President [Donald] Trump and then set policy,” Danon said.

In the less than two weeks since Trump took office, Israel has announced the construction of some 6,000 new homes in existing settlements, drawing rebuke from the international community, but not — until Thursday night — from the Trump White House.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday night: “While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful.”

Danon called the statement “a signal from the administration that the issue is on the agenda.”

“The administration and the president said they intend to advance the process in the region, both talks with regional leaders and during the election campaign,” he said.

But, the ambassador and former Likud minister added that Israel would determine its own policies.

“We are a sovereign state,” Danon said. “We will not be in full agreement with the United States on everything over the next four years, but there is communication and messages are being passed.”

He also favorably compared the new administration to the policies of the Obama administration, which in its final days declined to veto an anti-settlement resolution at the UN, thereby guaranteeing its passage.

“This period seems to be much better than the last eight years,” Danon said.

Spicer also said Thursday that Trump was looking forward to continuing to discuss the issue with Netanyahu when he visits the White House on February 15. Later Thursday, the State Department said new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson phoned Netanyahu. It was not immediately clear what the two discussed.

Meanwhile, the Yesha Council of settlements chose Friday to highlight the apparent US support for the communities in general, and glossed over the warning about unbridled construction.

“The Yesha Council thanks the White House for asserting that our communities were never an impediment to peace,” said Oded Revivi, the council’s spokesman. “Nothing is more natural and morally just than Jews building in Judea. We look forward to working closely with our friends in the new Trump administration to build a brighter future all.”

Netanyahu on Wednesday announced plans for the establishment of a new West Bank settlement to replace the illegal outpost of Amona, which was evacuated and largely demolished on Wednesday and Thursday in keeping with a High Court of Justice order.

The settlement would be the first new one to be built in some 25 years.

While Israel stopped establishing settlements in the early 1990s, outposts set up since then have been retroactively given approval, and existing settlements have expanded their footprints, sometimes being neighborhoods of existing settlements in name only.

Settlements in both the West Bank and East Jerusalem are viewed by nearly all the international community as illegal under international law and major stumbling blocks to peace as they are built on land the Palestinians envision for their future state.

Trump had signaled a more tolerant approach to Israel’s settlement enterprise, nominating a prominent US settlements supporter, David Friedman, to be his ambassador to Israel. He also invited a delegation of settler leaders to his inauguration last month.

This has both emboldened and created difficulties for Netanyahu, who repeatedly clashed with President Barack Obama over settlements. The sense that the pressure against settlement building disappeared with the end of Obama’s tenure has led to calls from Netanyahu’s right to renew widespread construction that was brought to a crawl during his term, and even raised demands for annexation of certain large settlement blocs, including the city of Ma’ale Adumim.    (the Times of Israel)

Trump sidelines Palestinians, as aide rules out building ties for now

Two weeks into his presidency, the administration of Donald Trump appears to be entirely ignoring Palestinian leadership.

On Friday, London-based Arabic-language newspaper A-Sharq Al-Awsat reported that Washington has not responded to overtures by the Palestinian Authority, reinforcing top negotiator Saeb Erekat’s claim to that effect earlier this week.

The Times of Israel has learned that Jason Greenblatt, the administration’s special representative for international negotiations, met on Friday with three Palestinian businessmen with close ties to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, and informed them that the administration does not intend to build relations with the PA at this juncture.

According to Palestinian sources, the three met Greenblatt in their capacity as businessmen, and not as formal representatives of the PA, although they did have Abbas’s blessing. The sources said the three told Greenblatt that they believe a strong Palestinian economy is essential for the two-state solution to become reality.

According to the Palestinian sources, Greenblatt told the three that, for now, the administration has no intention of engaging with the PA. It was understood that the administration will likely only do so after Trump meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on February 15, the sources said.

The three businessmen did not respond to efforts to reach them on Saturday evening.

American relations with the PA may soon be put to the test, in light of Trump’s repeated promises to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The prospect of a relocation has angered Palestinian and Arab leadership, with the former threatening such action would create a regional crisis.

Since his inauguration, Trump has appeared to back away from that pledge, saying in a recent interview that the move was “not easy” and giving it no more than “a chance” of occurring.

In another development that may encourage PA leadership, the White House said Thursday that settlement expansion “may not be helpful,” in a possible blow to Israeli leadership that has seen the Trump administration as wholly supportive of the settlement enterprise.

In late January, a senior Palestinian source told The Times of Israel that Washington froze the transfer of $221 million which was quietly authorized by the Obama administration in its final hours.

US officials conveyed to PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah that the funds were not expected to be handed over in the immediate future, said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Erekat lashed out at the White House on Monday, telling Newsweek that if Trump’s first days in office were representative of the shape of things to come, “God help us, God help the whole world.

“We have sent them letters, written messages, they don’t even bother to respond to us,” he said of the new administration.

“It’s time for President Trump to… focus on what this region needs,” Erekat said. “What we need in this region is peace, what we need in this region is dialogue, what we need in this region is to bring Israelis and Palestinians back to the table.”

On Thursday, Trump met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC. According to Jordan’s official news agency Petra, the two “agreed on the need to intensify efforts to reach a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” (the Times of Israel)

Attempted vehicular attack in West Bank, three wounded

An attempted vehicular attack occurred in the West Bank settlement of Adam on Thursday evening.

According to the IDF, a female terrorist came to the entrance of the settlement and hit a police vehicle. Three civilians were lightly wounded and evacuated to the hospital for further treatment.

The terrorist was also given medical treatment and arrested, according to the ZAKA rescue and recovery organization.

United Hatzalah volunteer EMS personnel reported that they treated three people following the incident.

“When I arrived at the scene, I saw a private vehicle had rammed into a police cruiser and the gate of the town. I treated three people at the scene who all suffered from light injuries, thankfully. I joined other medical teams as we continued treatment during transport. All injured persons were transported to Hadassah-University Medical Center, on Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus,” EMT Michael Cohen said.  (Jerusalem Post)

Hamas reportedly rejects prisoner swap deal offered by Israel

Hamas reportedly turned down an Israeli prisoner swap offer that would have allowed for one Israeli to be exchanged for one Hamas member.

According to the source from the terror organization that spoke with Israel Radio on Sunday, the offer proposed to exchange one Hamas prisoner for one of two Israelis in the Gaza Strip who are thought to be alive.

The unnamed source in the report said that the offer was turned down because it had to be “all or nothing.” The source added that Hamas would welcome a deal brokered with Israel as a mediator.

Avraham “Abera” Mengistu  was last seen in Israel on September 7, 2014, when soldiers saw him climb the fence into the Gaza Strip.

Hisham al-Sayed, a young Israeli-Beduin man who suffers from schizophrenia, was last seen when he crossed into the Gaza Strip in April 2015.

Hamas is also thought to be holding the bodies of Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, two IDF soldiers killed in 2014’s Operation Protective Edge.

In July 2015 a senior Hamas official said Israel had begun back channel negotiations to return the bodies of the two soldiers. Negotiations stalled after the terror organization insisted all prisoners in Israeli jailed Israel has re-arrested after the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap.           (Jerusalem Post)

IDF completes large-scale Gaza drill simulating Hamas infiltration

Gaza Division and the Southern Command completed their largest annual training near the Gaza Strip on Friday.

According to the army, hundreds of soldiers, including reservists, participated in the five-day training. The exercise simulated among other things, a massive infiltration by Hamas commando units into communities in southern Israel.

In the simulation, which was planned ahead of time as part of the 2017 training programs, large numbers of Hamas commandos managed to infiltrate Israeli communities using not only tunnels, but by parachute and sea.

During Operation Protective Edge in 2014, five Hamas frogmen (naval commandos) tried to infiltrate Kibbutz Zikim before they were engaged by the IDF. All five commandos were killed.

The Israeli defense established has warned that the IDF must pay special attention to the strengthening of Hamas’s naval commando unit, which is reported to have more divers than before the conflict two years ago.

IDF special forces units as well as regular infantry and armored brigades as well as the Navy, Air Force and Home Front Command took part in the exercise.

According to Commander of the Gaza Division, Brig. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, “the Gaza Division exercise was an excellent opportunity to strengthen the preparedness of both active duty and reserve battalions.”   (Jerusalem Post)

Anti-Semitic incidents in UK up by 36% in 2016

The number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United Kingdom increased by 36% in 2016, according to a report by Community Security Trust, an organization dedicated to the protection and defense of Britain’s Jews.

In its 2016 Anti-Semitic Incidents Report, the group said there were 1,309 incidents last year compared to 960 incidents in 2015.

“While Jewish life in this country remains overwhelmingly positive, this heightened level of anti-Semitism is deeply worrying and it appears to be getting worse. Worst of all is that, for various reasons, some people clearly feel more confident to express their anti-Semitism publicly than they did in the past,” CST Director David Delew said Thursday.

The report points to a number of factors driving the increase in anti-Semitism, including Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip in 2014; terrorist attacks on Jewish communities in Europe; anti-Semitism among Labour Party members; the perception of increasing racism and xenophobia following Britain’s decision to exit the EU; and regular discussions about the problem of anti-Semitism in British society.

The group said that while these issues led to an increase in anti-Semitic incidents, they also made it more likely such incidents would be reported to police.

Of the 1,309 anti-Semitic incidents recorded in 2016, 107 were violent — an increase of 29% from the 87 violent incidents the previous year. Sixty-five incidents involved vandalism or desecration of Jewish property, while the majority, 1,006 cases, involved abusive behavior, including verbal abuse, online abuse and hate mail.

The most common type of incident involved verbal abuse randomly directed at visibly Jewish people in public, the report said.

These numbers are the highest ever recorded, it said.

The report also said that social media has become “an indispensable tool for coordinated campaigns of anti-Semitic harassment, abuse and threats toward Jewish politicians, students, activists and others.”

Over 75% of anti-Semitic incidents took place in the Greater London and Greater Manchester areas, where the majority of British Jews live. The Greater London area experienced an increase of 65% in anti-Semitic incidents from 2015.

Following the report’s release, U.K. Home Secretary Amber Rudd said the government must do everything in its power to prevent “these deplorable incidents.”

Rudd said anti-Semitism is “a deplorable form of hatred that has absolutely no place in a tolerant, open and diverse Britain that works for everyone. It is vital we ensure the safety and security of our Jewish community, and this government will continue to do all we can to stamp out these vile attacks and encourage those who experience them to come forward.”

Deputy Labour Party leader Tom Watson called the findings “extremely distressing.”

“I don’t want to live in a country where any member of the Jewish community feels unsafe, afraid or discriminated against, and it is shocking that the number of anti-Semitic incidents is on the rise in the U.K. It’s vital that we continue to highlight the abuse Jewish people are experiencing and as deputy leader of the Labour Party I have made a commitment to do exactly that. We must root out anti-Semitism whenever it takes place and wherever it exists, as a party and as a country,” Watson said.  (Israel Hayom)

Israel, Settlements, and the Media

by John Podhoretz               Commentary Magazine


Two important things happened on Thursday night: Donald Trump reversed Barack Obama’s policy toward Israel’s settlements, and the New York Times headline on the story about it was “Trump Embraces Pillars of Obama’s Foreign Policy.” #1 is obviously the matter of the greatest importance. #2 is meaningful because it’s part of a pattern of reporting on the Trump administration by the mainstream media that features breathless and hurried assertions of fact on a policy that turn out not to hold water once they are examined.

First, to Trump and Obama and Israel and the settlements. On Thursday night the White House released the following statement: “The American desire for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians has remained unchanged for 50 years. While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal. As the President has expressed many times, he hopes to achieve peace throughout the Middle East region. The Trump administration has not taken an official position on settlement activity and looks forward to continuing discussions, including with Prime Minister Netanyahu when he visits with President Trump later this month.”

What this letter does, in effect, is return the United States to the status quo ante before the Obama administration—specifically, to the policy outlined in a letter sent from George W. Bush to Ariel Sharon in 2004. In that letter, Bush said, “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final-status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.”

This language was an acceptance of the reality that the most populous Israeli settlements beyond the pre-1967 borders would certainly remain in Israeli hands at the end of any successful peace negotiation with the Palestinians. And according to the officials who negotiated the matter, primarily Elliott Abrams of the Bush National Security Council (and full disclosure: my brother-in-law), it was understood that the expansion of existing population centers due to natural growth (families getting larger, people moving in) should not be considered a violation of the idea that there should be no new settlements. For if, like New York City, Ariel gets more populous, its land mass does not increase in size, just the number of people living there.

The Obama administration did not like these ideas, and reversed them. Its conception of a “settlement freeze” was that it be a freeze on the number of settlers as well as the number of settlements. Add new apartments to Ariel, and you were “expanding the settlements.”

The Trump language puts an end to that idea. It says “the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful.” This returns U.S. policy to the notion that the physical acreage holding settlers should not increase but that the number of settlers is not at issue. This is a wholesale shift in America’s approach.

Astoundingly, the New York Times completely missed this. Its article states: “In the most startling shift, the White House issued an unexpected statement appealing to the Israeli government not to expand the construction of Jewish settlements beyond their current borders in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Such expansion, it said, ‘may not be helpful in achieving’ the goal of peace.”

This is, at best, shockingly ignorant of existing U.S. policy. Indeed, the Trump statement can be read as a radical break even from Bush: as the international law scholar Eugene Kontorovich pointed out on Twitter, it doesn’t even endorse the two-state solution. It merely calls for “peace.”

These hurried reports filled with inaccuracies have become standard issue over the past two weeks, driven by breathless and overly fast reporting whose assertions turn out either to be ignorant or wrong. For example, Peter Alexander of NBC News earlier on Thursday tweeted this: “BREAKING: US Treasury Dept easing Obama admin sanctions to allow companies to do transactions with Russia’s FSB, successor org to KGB.” After 5,800 retweets and assertions that this demonstrated Trump’s fealty to Putin’s Russia, Alexander tweeted this: “NEW: Source familiar w sanctions says it’s a technical fix, planned under Obama, to avoid unintended consequences of cybersanctions.”

The number of retweets of this correction: 240.

There are multiple examples of this pattern, too many to recount here. At a time when the country needs the most accurate and exact reporting on the issues at hand out of Washington due to the hyper-partisan moment we’re living through and the administration’s rather tenuous connection to fact, institutions that would never have made such basic mistakes 30 years ago—because they would have taken the time to talk to several sources before going into print or on TV many, many hour later—are now hurrying things onto the Internet when they don’t really know what is going on. Rather than clarifying things, the media are muddying them and making them worse.

Is Trump reversing course on settlements and Iran?

By Ron Kampeas             JTA


Israeli settlements are no big problem. Wait — maybe they are, after all.

The Iran deal is trash. No, the deal is here to stay, despite being “weak.”

On Thursday, the White House pronounced on Israel’s announced settlement expansion that it “may not help” peace, and it put Iran “on notice” for testing ballistic missiles and announced new sanctions while the president fought with the regime on Twitter.

Was the settlements announcement a back-to-Obama moment, auguring renewed U.S.-Israel tensions? Was it a return to Bush — W, that is — setting the stage for a compromise and anticipating resolution of an issue that has dogged U.S.-Israel relations for decades?

Is the Iran nuclear deal, reviled by the Netanyahu government, on its last legs? Or is it getting a new lease on life?

Let’s have a look at what President Donald Trump said and what was actually done.


What’s new:

The Trump administration for the first time since his election pronounced on settlements.

“While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal,” the White House said in a statement.

Back to Obama?

No, not even close.

The Obama administration repeatedly and pronouncedly said settlements were an impediment to peace, and into its final days, it allowed a U.N. Security Council resolution to pass that condemned the settlements.

“It is not this resolution that is isolating Israel, it is the pernicious policy of settlement construction that is making peace impossible,” former Secretary of State John Kerry said in December in one of his final speeches in the job.

Back to Bush?

Closer, but not quite.

Focusing on “the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders” sounds a lot like the policy President George W. Bush is said to have endorsed after he sent then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon a letter in 2004, saying the United States recognized that some settlements constituted “realities on the ground.”

Israeli and U.S. officials at the time said Bush quietly agreed that this formulation would allow for “natural growth” in existing settlements. (What’s at dispute is whether Bush adhered to this formula throughout the rest of his presidency. Some officials have said he believed that Sharon took too many liberties with what constituted “natural growth” and that by the time Bush left office in 2009, the agreement to abide “natural growth” was not active.)

The departure from the policies of George W. Bush – considered, with Bill Clinton, the friendliest president to Israel – and their predecessors is in the use of “impediment.” Bush used the word in 2008, at least to describe settlements built beyond existing settlement boundaries.

Sean Spicer, Trump’s spokesman, appeared to say Friday during a briefing that what’s built — established settlement, recent outpost, the whole shebang — can stay in place. The key word is “current.”

“We don’t believe that the existence of current settlements is an impediment to peace, but we don’t believe the construction or expansion of settlements beyond current borders is helpful,” he said.

Another major departure from the policies of both Clinton and George W. Bush is the absence of any mention of a two-state solution. Trump has said he wants to broker a deal, and has tapped his Jewish son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as his point man. But as of Friday, Spicer would not be pinned down on two states.

“At the end of the day the goal is peace, and that’s going to be a subject that they discuss, and that’s all I’m going to say,” he said in response to a reporter’s question, referring to the White House meeting scheduled for Feb. 15 between Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

This might not be the final word. There was a jarring sentence at the end of Thursday’s White House statement.

“The Trump administration has not taken an official position on settlement activity,” it said, rounding out a statement that of itself was an official position on settlement activity. Translation: Wait until Netanyahu and Trump pow-wow and we may know more.


What’s new:

On Sunday, Iran tested ballistic missiles. On Wednesday, National Security Adviser Mike Flynn said Iran was “on notice.” The next two days, Trump followed up with tough-talking tweets. The Iranians dished back, also on Twitter.

Back to Obama?

More or less, without the rhetoric.

The last time Iran tested a ballistic missile, in January 2016, Obama slapped sanctions on 11 entities and individuals. On Friday, Trump more than doubled that to 25.

The effect is the same: An acknowledgment that the missile tests do not directly violate the Iran nuclear deal, but a reminder nonetheless that because they do violate U.N. Security Council resolutions, they will trigger penalties.

Spicer acknowledged Friday that the sanctions were an Obama redux, noting that their architect in the last administration, Adam Szubin, who ran the sanctions regime for Obama, is acting Treasury secretary.

The sanctions were “in the pipeline,” Spicer said, and Szubin had lined them up well before Trump was inaugurated in anticipation that Iran would launch a provocation of some kind.

“He served in the last administration,” Spicer said of Szubin, “and these kind of sanctions don’t happen quickly.”

That said, there was a ratcheting up of rhetoric. Szubin, as an Obama official a year ago, was specific in describing the penalties.

“We have consistently made clear that the United States will vigorously press sanctions against Iranian activities outside of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — including those related to Iran’s support for terrorism, regional destabilization, human rights abuses and ballistic missile program,” he said at the time.

Flynn, by contrast, was more vague – and, as a result, at least seemed more threatening.

“As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice,” he said Wednesday.

Announcing the sanctions Friday, Flynn again sounded a warning but did not make clear any precise actions.

“The Trump Administration will no longer tolerate Iran’s provocations that threaten our interests,” he said. “The days of turning a blind eye to Iran’s hostile and belligerent actions toward the United States and the world community are over.”

Trump sounded a similarly belligerent if unspecific tone on Twitter on Thursday and Friday, and like Flynn took swipes at the Obama administration for being too soft on the Iranians.

“Iran is playing with fire,” Trump said in his tweet Friday. “They don’t appreciate how ‘kind’ President Obama was to them. Not me!”

Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister who was his country’s lead negotiator in the 2015 deal exchanging sanctions relief for a nuclear rollback, replied quickly.

“We will never use our weapons against anyone, except in self-defense,” he said in the same forum. “Let us see if any of those who complain can make the same statement.”

Spicer was asked at his briefing whether the tough talk meant Trump was ready to scrap the Iran nuclear deal.

“The deal that was struck was a bad deal, that we gave Iran too much and we got too little for it,” he said. Spicer did not say, however, whether Trump was ready to take that leap.

That’s consistent with the posture of Trump’s secretary of defense, James Mattis, who has agreed the deal is weak but advised that scrapping it would be unwise.

Coming to Israel

Coming to Israel, and seeing the Western Wall, is a step into the pages of the Torah and the Talmud. Men grab kippot, cleanse their soiled hands, and breathe into the bricks. Crevices are filled with appeals to the Almighty. It’s not a large wall, but it still manages to be enormous. It’s not enough to see it, it demands to be touched, to be felt. The state is young, but it’s been forced to age quickly.


“What makes a place foreign? Its location, the placement of its borders. But this designation is more than geographic. It’s sartorial, it’s culinary, it’s modal, it’s political, and it’s also religious. But for the Jews of the diaspora, is the Jewish State foreign? Or is it familiar?

Visitors to America sometimes say coming to New York feels like stepping into the set of their favorite American movie. Coming to Israel, and seeing the Western Wall, is a step into the pages of the Torah and the Talmud.

Men grab kippot for a head-covering, cleanse their soiled hands, and breathe into the bricks. Crevices are filled with appeals to the Almighty. It’s not a large wall, but it still manages to be enormous. It’s not enough to see it – it demands to be touched – to be felt.

The state is young, but it’s been forced to age quickly.

The land, though, is old. Grottoes are shaped by years of pounding from the sea, tumult and trauma you see in the jagged walls and uneven ceilings of their pathways. The same grottoes stood when the pogroms of 1881 and 1906 sent millions to America. The same grottoes stood when the Holocaust of 1939 to 1945 sent most those who didn’t leave to their death. The same grottoes stood when those who survived found in Ben Gurion their hope and in Israel their future.

We walk through the crush, rub shoulders with Jews from Canada, from Ethiopia, from Russia.

We don’t know them, but they’re not strangers.”            (Israel Video Network)