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Latest Israel News – 7th April

Funeral of IDF soldier Sgt. Elchai Taharlev  killed in car ramming terror attack near Ofra on April 6, 2017

Twenty-year-old Elchai Teharlev, who was posthumously promoted to sergeant, loved to sing and play music. In one photograph, he can be seen standing on the edge of a hilltop with a guitar strapped over his shoulder.

Several thousand people stood shoulder-to-shoulder near his freshly dug grave as the sun set, singing and humming soulful religious tunes.

A friend of Elchai’s stood on a stone wall above them, quietly strumming a guitar, as cold gusts of wind blew through the air above Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem.

His father, Ohad, recalled how imaginative Elchai had been as a small child. “You made yourself some wings. You wanted to jump from the window so you could fly to the sky. Now you have flown to the sky,” he said in a tearful voice.

Earlier in the day, Ohad, a well-known rabbi and head of the Israeli program at the Lindenbaum Seminary, spoke with reporters about the first moments after his son was killed in a car-ramming attack.

Elchai was waiting with others at a bus stop outside of the Ofra settlement when a Palestinian terrorist rammed him with his car.

Upon hearing of the incident, Ohad tried to call his son, but there was no answer. He then called one of Elchai’s friends. When the friend stammered and did not respond, Ohad said, “I understood clearly what had happened.”

He headed home to the Talmon settlement, arriving just as an army officer pulled up to his door to deliver the news.

Wearing a torn shirt as a sign of mourning, Ohad described his son as a creative, spiritual and giving young man who was filled with life and had a ready smile.

“You had the type of smile that melted the hearts of anyone who was near you,” said Ohad of his son, the middle child of seven siblings. When you were little you would catch the candies that were thrown and give them to the children who could not catch them,” he said.

“We didn’t have time. Everything happened so fast. We refuse to believe we are parting,” said Ohad. “You were an angel and you were taken from us as an angel.”

Elchai is the third terrorism victim from Talmon in the last 13 years. Three years ago, the community lost Gil-Ad Shaer, 16, who was one of three teenagers kidnapped and murdered by Hamas in June 2014. Both Elchai and Gil-Ad studied at the Mekor Chaim Yeshiva in Kfar Etzion.  (Jerusalem Post)

Earlier Report:

Israeli killed, another hurt, in suspected West Bank ramming attack

One Israeli was killed and another lightly wounded in a suspected car ramming attack on Thursday morning near at a bus stop on Route 60, just outside of the Ofra settlement, according to initial reports.

Magen David Adom said that the two victims were young men. The second victim, 19, was fully conscious after the suspected terror attack.

He was taken to Hadasah Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Mt. Scopus and was whisked into surgery.

The suspected attacker was quickly taken into custody by security forces and is still alive.

Nachum Bienenfeld, a volunteer EMT with United Hatzalah, which also responded to the attack said, ”The Palestinian vehicle had come up on the sidewalk, and rammed into a  group of soldiers who were standing near the bus stop.”

“The vehicle had continued and landed in a ditch by the side of the road. IDF medical teams treated those injured in the attack. Security poles that had been set up near the bus stop due to a previous ramming attack that  had taken place at that bus stop prevented injury to other civilians who were standing at the bus stop.”

Authorities were checking the circumstances surrounding the incident.

But a Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassim declared that it was a terror attack.

“The Jerusalem Intifada is continuing its work that will only end with with freedom,” he said. “Once again, the Jerusalem Intifada proves that it isn’t a passing event, but rather a Palestinian decision to continue the struggle until freedom from occupation.”

The Hamas spokesman threatened Israel, saying: “Once again, there is no safety for the occupation army or settlers as long as they deny our rights, occupy our land, and attack our people and its holy sites.”

The attack comes as Israeli officials have warned of a possible increase in violence surrounding the Passover holiday. Security forces regularly step up their preparedness prior to the holidays, regularly imposing closure on the West Bank as there is often an uptick in tensions and violence.

Scene of ramming attack

Scene of ramming attack

On Saturday, three Israelis were hurt in a stabbing attack in the Old City in Jerusalem. Two civilians were lightly hurt and a police officer was moderately wounded. The suspected assailant, a 17-year-old Palestinian from Nablus, was shot dead.

In late March, Shin Bet Director Nadav Argaman warned that the current relative calm is “deceiving” and that Hamas and other organized terror cells will try to carry out attacks over the Passover holiday.

“The relative calm that we are experiencing at this time is quite deceiving, it’s misleading and deluding because Hamas and global jihadi infrastructure are working every day in attempting to conduct terrorist attacks in Israeli territory,” he said, adding that “our goal is to ensure that the holidays are as quiet as possible.”   (Jerusalem Post)

Israeli Officials Say Assad Regime Would Not Use Chemical Weapons Against Jewish State for Fear of IDF Response

A day after dozens of civilians, including children, were killed in a suspected gas attack in the northwestern Syrian town of Khan Shiekhoun, IDF military intelligence personnel were continuing to gather information about the incident and trying to determine its implications for Israel’s security, the Hebrew news site nrg reported on Wednesday.

For now, Israeli defense officials told nrg, the assumption is still that Syrian President Bashar Assad would not use chemical weapons against the Jewish state, largely due to the fact he knows the price exacted by the IDF in response would be too high for his regime to bear.

Despite Tuesday’s attack in the Idlib Province — believed to have been carried out by the Assad regime — Israel does not intend to renew the distribution of gas masks to its citizens, a process that was halted three years ago, the report said. However, the IDF Home Front Command will adjust its contingency plans regarding the distribution of gas masks in the Golan Heights if chemical weapons are used in the border region.

The Assad regime, the Israeli defense establishment assesses, maintains chemical weapons capabilities, despite the 2013 international agreement to remove such arms from Syria, according to the report. That deal, in Israel’s eyes, did reduce the chemical weapons threats it faces, even if not all were removed from Syria. Assad, Israel estimates, will use any such weapons in his possession against his own citizens, and not in the Israeli border area. (the Algemeiner)

Israeli intelligence believes Assad behind chemical attack

Israeli military intelligence believes Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces were behind the suspected chemical attack that killed at least 72 civilians, defense officials said Wednesday.

The officials said that Israel believes Assad has tons of chemical weapons currently in his arsenal. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity as they are not allowed to brief media.

Other countries also blamed Assad’s regime for the attack, which took place in Khan Sheikhun in the rebel-held Idlib province.

US President Donald Trump denounced the attack. “These are very troubled times in the Middle East,” he said as he welcomed King Abdullah II of Jordan to the White House on Wednesday.

He called the attack a “horrible thing, unspeakable” and added, “It’s a terrible affront to humanity.”

Asked how he planned to respond to the attack, which he blamed on Assad, Trump said, “You’ll see.”

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley lashed out at Russia for failing to rein in its ally Syria.

“How many more children have to die before Russia cares?” Haley told an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. “If Russia has the influence in Syria that it claims to have, we need to see them use it. We need to see them put an end to these horrific acts.”

Doctors Without Borders said that its team had found victims showing symptoms consistent with toxins such as sarin gas after the attack.

The team saw victims at the Bab al-Hawa hospital, 100 kilometres (62 miles) north of the attack, the charity said in a statement Thursday.

“Eight patients showed symptoms –- including constricted pupils, muscle spasms and involuntary defecation -– which are consistent with exposure to a neurotoxic agent such as sarin gas or similar compounds,” the statement said.

The teams reported smelling bleach at other hospitals treating victims, suggesting they were also exposed to chlorine gas. The organization said the reports “strongly suggest that victims… were exposed to at least two different chemical agents.”

Matthew Rycroft, Britain’s UN ambassador, said that the attack “bears all the hallmarks” of Assad’s regime and the United Kingdom believes a nerve agent capable of killing over a hundred people was used.

“We are talking about war crimes here, war crimes on a large scale, war crimes with chemical weapons,” French Ambassador Francois Delattre told reporters as he entered the council chamber.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also blamed the attack on the Syrian regime and accused the world of not speaking out against it.

However, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it opposed a Western draft UN resolution condemning the attack on the grounds that there was no proof Assad was behind the attack. The ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said the draft blamed the Syrian government for Tuesday’s attack without any credible investigation.

Syria’s army has denied any use of chemical weapons, saying it “has never used them, anytime, anywhere, and will not do so in the future”.

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon called the attack “evil incarnate.”

“The use of chemical weapons and the appalling murder of innocent children are evil incarnate,” he said Wednesday. “The Security Council must use all its authority to put an end to the situation in Syria.”

He also called on the international community to take immediate action.

“The world must not remain silent in the face of crimes against humanity,” he said. “The international community should act immediately to stop the ongoing massacre of civilians.”

Chemical weapons have killed hundreds of people since the start of Syria’s civil war, with the UN blaming three attacks on the Syrian government and a fourth on the Islamic State group.  (the Times of Israel)

Abbas Adviser: No negotiations without settlement freeze, limited release of prisoners

There will be no peace talks without a complete settlement freeze in the West Bank and east Jerusalem and a limited release of prisoners, a senior adviser of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in an interview published on Wednesday.

“The leadership’s position is clear: There will be no return to the negotiations’ table until there is a complete settlement freeze in the Palestinian territories which were occupied in 1967,” Abbas’s adviser for international affairs Nabil Sha’ath told the pan-Arab daily Al-Quds al-Arabi.

Sha’ath’s comments come against the background of meetings between US President Donald Trump and Arab leaders this week and before an expected meeting between the American leader and Abbas in the next month.

The Palestinian leadership has consistently stated that a settlement freeze must precede the renewal of negotiations, after the collapse of the last round of US-sponsored peace talks in May 2014.

Abbas told UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson in a meeting in early March that Israel “must halt its settlement construction…, if it wants to give the peace process a chance.”

Nabil Shaath on International Peace Conference in Feb. 2016: Anything is better than US-led Israel and Palestinian peace negotiations

Sha’ath added that peace talks are also conditioned on the release of 26 prisoners, known as the “fourth tranche of prisoners,” which were supposed to be released during the last round of peace talks.

Israel is reticent to release the fourth tranche because it considers them “high-risk” and the Palestinians are requesting they be released to their homes, all of which are located in Israel.

Sha’ath told The Jerusalem Post in a phone interview on Wednesday that he does not know if Trump will support Palestinian conditions.

“I do not know what he will do, but we will not concede our requirements for renewing negotiations,” Sha’ath said.

“We will not sit and talk for the sake of sitting and talking. We want negotiations that have a real chance of achieving a deal.”

Sha’ath, however, admitted that he would not be surprised if Trump threw his support behind “something worthwhile.”

“Trump is unpredictable. He has two characters – on the one hand, he makes tough statements; and on the other hand, he is a calculating businessman, who calculates costs and revenues and makes careful decisions,” Sha’ath said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he comes out with something worthwhile.”

Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, has traveled to the Middle East twice in the past month.   (Jerusalem Post)

6 Israelis killed or injured abroad recognized as victims of terror

The Defense Ministry has recognized six Israelis killed or injured in recent attacks abroad as state victims of terror following a legislation amendment recently approved by a Knesset committee.

They are Shmuel Benalal, killed in Mali in November 2015; Chaim Winternitz and Mendy Farkash, injured in Brussels in March 2016; Dalia Elyakim, killed in Berlin in December 2016 and her husband Rami who was injured in the attack; and Lian Zaher Nasser, killed in January 2017 in Istanbul.

Israeli victims who die or are injured in terror attacks either within Israel or abroad are considered “victims of hostilities” by the state, under a law drafted in 1970. Those injured receive special benefits from Israel’s tax authority and compensation from Israel’s social security, as do the families of those who are killed. But the terror attacks must specifically target Israelis for the victims to be eligible for the benefits.

After the amendment approved on March 21, the law would apply to those injured or killed outside of Israel in terror attacks if the group behind the attack states that one of its objectives is to harm Israel, citizens of Israel or Jews, even if the purpose of the specific attack was not directed at Israelis or Jews.

The law change applies retroactively to those injured or killed since April 1, 2012.

Benalal was 60 at the time of an attack which killed 27 people on November 20, 2015. Terrorists stormed the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako and laid siege to the luxury hotel for some nine hours. Thirteen foreign nationals were among the dead, including several Russians, three Chinese, two Belgians, an American and a Senegalese.

Ultra-Orthodox brothers-in-law Winternitz and Farkash were waiting to board a flight in Brussels on March 22, 2016 when they were injured in a double attack in which 32 people were killed and 340 were injured in twin bombings at the airport and at a metro station.

Dalia Elyakim of Herzliya was one of 12 people killed on December 19, 2016 when an alleged Islamic State terrorist plowed a truck into the Berlin market. Her husband was wounded in the attack.

Nineteen-year-old Nasser from the Arab Israeli city of Tira was killed in a shooting attack on New Year’s Eve on December 31, 2016 in the exclusive Reina nightclub in Istanbul. A total of 39 people, including many foreigners, were killed in the assault.  (the Times of Israel)

Israel appoints its first female Muslim diplomat

The Foreign Ministry on Wednesday appointed Rasha Atamny, 31, to represent the Jewish state in Ankara, Turkey, making her Israel’s first female Muslim diplomat.

Atamny, who is completing the final months of the ministry’s cadet course, will serve as the embassy’s first secretary in the influential Muslim nation.

Turkey is an important regional ally for Israel, with strong economic ties. The two countries signed a reconciliation agreement in June, 2016, ending a six-year rift.

Atamny hails from the Arab town of Baqa al-Gharbiya in central Israel, located just inside the pre-1967 Green Line between Israel and the West Bank.

She is not Israel’s first female Arab diplomat. Christian-Arab Rania Jubran, the daughter of Supreme Court Justice Salim Jubran, worked for the ministry from 2006 to 2009, but left shortly before she was due to be sent to Cairo.

Israel also has several male Muslim and Christian diplomats.

Atamny, who studied psychology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said in a blog (Hebrew) posted to the Foreign Ministry’s website that she honed her diplomatic skills in her collegiate Model UN club.

Rasha[1]

Rasha

While in university, she wrote,”The concept of the ‘UN’ fascinated me. At the time I did not know too much about the organization, but I did know that I, a girl who grew up in Baqa al-Gharbiya and experienced the Israeli-Palestinian and Arab-Jewish conflict in the flesh, believed and still believe in peace between nations of the world.”

One year after joining the Model UN club, Atamny applied for and was accepted to represent Israel at the actual UN in New York City as a youth ambassador for three months.

“From the three months I was at the UN, one turning point will forever accompany me. One day, I sat at the Israeli seat as usual in the Human Rights Assembly Committee, and I listened with great interest to the discussion that took place — the violation of women’s rights,” she wrote.

She continued: “By this point, I had become used to hearing the series of charges against Israel from many countries on the council, as [United States UN envoy] Nikki Haley recently described in the media. The discrimination against Israel is very prominent in the UN, and disappointing.”

However, this time, Atamny said, it was different.

“This time I listened to the speeches from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, and Egypt condemning Israel’s ‘systematic violations of women’s rights’ while I, an Arab-Muslim woman of Palestinian origin represent Israel at the UN General Assembly,” she said.

“That day at the UN, which made me desperately disappointed, pushed me to take the matter into my own hands,” she concluded. “I believe in peace because I believe that people can make a positive difference in the world, and I want to be part of the change. So I started by choosing to join the Foreign Ministry cadets course.” (the Times of Israel)

Trump’s surprisingly conventional Israel policy

Despite drawing skepticism for trying to broker a deal, the administration has prompted Netanyahu to rein in settlement construction, while the White House envoy is getting raves from left and right.

By Annie Karni            Politico

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/04/donald-trump-israel-middle-east-236878

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s mantra, throughout his career, has been never to give an inch without getting an inch in return.

But last week he announced that Israel would voluntarily impose some limits on future construction in the West Bank — and, according to Israeli news reports, he cited as the reason the imperative of getting along with President Donald Trump.

Pressure to slow settlement growth was not what some on the Israeli right anticipated under Trump. “The era of the Palestinian state is over,” declared Naftali Bennett, Netanyahu’s hard-right education minister, after the Nov. 8 election.

Instead, Trump has taken a surprisingly nuanced approach when it comes to the Middle East: The same administration that threatened members of Congress who didn’t support the doomed health care bill, in this case, is reaching out to both sides and appears to be making a serious effort at brokering Trump’s “ultimate deal” — peace in the Middle East. Many are still skeptical that he can achieve a deal that has bedeviled ambitious American presidents for decades.

But for now, the early steps have been something of a coup for the struggling Trump administration. Crippled by major policy setbacks at home, it appears to have the Israeli government on a tighter leash — and heeling in a way that President Barack Obama, for the most part, never managed.

“The Israeli government has made clear that going forward, its intent is to adopt a policy regarding settlement activity that takes the president’s concerns into consideration,” said one White House official. “The United States welcomes this. The president is a renowned negotiator.”

Foreign policy experts said Trump’s approach in the Middle East has been surprisingly conventional.

“You wouldn’t have a fundamentally different approach under a President Hillary Clinton, who would also be looking for a reset,” said Ilan Goldenberg, director of the Middle East security program at the Center for a New American Security, who worked under former Secretary of State John Kerry on Middle East issues. “In an administration where every day is a new shock, and there is so much breaking of china, this is totally normal,” with the added bonus that the Israelis are treading lightly, for now, careful not to get on the wrong side of Trump.

Trump has been trying to reset his predecessor’s fractured relationship with Israel, while forging new relationships with Arab leaders. On Wednesday, Trump will welcome King Abdullah II of Jordan to the White House, where the leaders are expected to discuss, among other issues, how to advance peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the White House said.

Trump’s lead adviser on Israel, Jason Greenblatt, a former lawyer for the Trump Organization with no foreign policy experience, impressed Israelis and Palestinians alike with the seriousness of his listening tour across the region, where he visited Palestinian residents of the Jalazun refugee camp, near Ramallah, as well as Palestinian students and business leaders.

The visit, which he documented extensively on Twitter, was welcomed by the left. “He took all of the meetings we would have wanted him to take,” said Jessica Rosenblum, a spokeswoman for the liberal American Jewish lobbying group J Street.

At the White House, Greenblatt is considered a valued adviser, with an office on the first floor of the Old Executive Office Building, looking into the White House.

At the moment, Trump has more leverage over Netanyahu than his predecessor did in part because of the perception that he is a friend and ally to Israel. “When I become president, the days of treating Israel like a second-class citizen will end on Day One,” Trump declared during a 2016 campaign speech before the Israel lobbying group AIPAC.

His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who has been charged with brokering peace in the Middle East, among a host of other responsibilities, has a personal relationship with Netanyahu dating back to his childhood, thanks to his family’s financial support for pro-Israel causes.

Obama, in contrast, undercut some of his own negotiating power with a call for a complete settlement freeze, including to accommodate population growth, early in his administration.

Israel hasn’t officially started a new settlement in 20 years, but illegal outposts dot the West Bank. Obama’s edict followed his 2009 trip to Cairo, a visit that did not include a trip to Israel — a move that tainted his standing with the Israeli public from the starting block.

“The one thing any American president needs, to have influence, is a perception from the Israeli public that this guy is on their side,” said Dennis Ross, who led President Bill Clinton’s ill-fated peace push in the 1990s. “Obama never established that. Standing up to Obama was a good thing, politically. Now, if you have a problem with Trump, it’s a bad thing politically.”

Another benefit to Trump: With Congress controlled by the same party as the president, Netanyahu can’t play the two branches of government against each other, like he did in 2015. At that time, his ambassador to Washington coordinated with then-Speaker John Boehner to plan Netanyahu’s address before a joint meeting of Congress to criticize the Iran nuclear deal — without consulting the White House.

Added Ross: “What I’m struck by now is how Trump genuinely wants to see something happen. The Greenblatt visit was a very serious one, based on what I heard from both sides. Both sides saw a demeanor of someone who was learning as much as he could.”

For Netanyahu, there is a strong impulse to get along with the new administration.

To be sure, Trump may be enjoying a grace period from an Israeli government that is eager to show it can get along with its new American allies in the White House. At home, he has told members of the right-wing Likud faction of his government that Trump was serious about slowing down construction of settlements, a person familiar with the conversations told POLITICO.

And he announced last week that new construction in the West Bank would be limited to within boundaries that have already been built, or sites directly adjacent to them, Haaretz reported. Israel would also no longer allow the construction of illegal outposts, under the new rules, and a committee that approves plans for settlement construction will meet once every three months, rather than weekly.

That alone is viewed as an effort on Netanyahu’s part to show a good-faith effort that the Israeli government is slowing down the planning process, Ross said.

The Israeli embassy declined to comment for this story.

But some on the right are concerned that the anti-ideological American president, who wants a deal for a deal’s sake and cares less about the terms, is moving in the wrong direction. Among the more hard-line American Jewish groups, there is a growing distrust, for one, of Yael Lempert, the National Security Council senior director for Israel and Palestinian Affairs, who also handled the Israel portfolio under Obama. The career diplomat traveled with Greenblatt to the region during his listening tour and is seen as a guiding hand in the administration’s Middle East policy.

There is also eye-rolling about Greenblatt, who said in an interview with Washington Jewish Week,

describing the complicated peace process: “If you take out the emotional part of it and the historical part of it, it is a business transaction.” The quote was forwarded internally among right-wing groups who carped at his perceived naiveté.

But on the right, there is less fear of Trump’s edict on settlements because of a sense of impermanence to Trump’s open-mindedness toward the Palestinians and a two-state solution.

“The Israelis think this is a short-lived gambit,” said a foreign policy operative in Washington familiar with the thinking of the Israeli government. “Trump right now is convinced that the Palestinians want a deal.”

The operative added: “The attitude of the Israelis is, we need to get along for four years; he’s fundamentally inclined to like us; and his approach will become better informed by experience in a few months.”

That is how they explain the silence from political leaders close to the settler movement — including Bennett — in response to Netanyahu’s settlement slowdown: They see potential loopholes and believe that, ultimately, Trump will be on their side.

“They may think there are loopholes here they can exploit,” said Ross. “The settlers also know if they make an issue, they’re going to alienate the Israeli mainstream, which sees Trump as sympathetic to their cause.”

And while some former Obama administration officials believe that Trump is acting the same way Clinton would, many conservatives view Trump’s approach to Israel as a classic example of Republican orthodoxy.

“What they’ve done is revert to Bush policy,” said Elliott Abrams, a neoconservative foreign policy veteran who was briefly considered to serve as deputy secretary of state in Trump’s administration. He was referring to the fact that there is, so far, no written agreement on settlements, and that the Trump administration does not view construction in Jerusalem as “settlement activity.”

He also pointed out that the only new settlement that will be built is for people who were evicted from Amona, a highly sensitive and controversial spot because it was private land of Palestinians and the Supreme Court of Israel ruled that the settlement was illegal — and one that the Trump White House did not object to. A Trump administration official said of that settlement: “these particular settlement tenders were announced previously, before President Trump had a chance to lay out any expectations.”

Abrams compared the deal to the agreement forged between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2003. “This is not shocking for a Republican administration,” he said. “There can be construction of new houses; there are no numerical limits; there is an effort to be sensible and moderate on the part of the government.”

The Obama policy, in contrast, he said, created a broad Israeli consensus against U.S. policy. “This is part of a new era of good feeling,” Abrams added. “They certainly want to have very smooth relations with the president. And the position the administration is taking — that we understand there will be construction and settlements, we just would like it to be restrained — helps Netanyahu a lot. Now he can say, we have to act in a responsible manner, because I’m protecting our relationship with the new president.”

Do Palestinians Want a Two-State Solution? – Daniel Polisar

It is commonly asserted that there is majority support among Palestinians for a two-state solution. I examined 400 surveys carried out by five Palestinian research centers which have conducted regular polls in the West Bank and Gaza for many years.

The depth of Palestinian opposition to a prospective deal becomes clearer when one examines responses to specific components. There was vehement antagonism to limitations on the Palestinian state’s sovereignty, with 70% or more consistently rejecting the idea of a demilitarized state.

Moreover, Palestinians overwhelmingly repudiated the idea of east Jerusalem becoming the capital of their state and incorporating its Arab neighborhoods. Presumably, the obstacle was that, in parallel, Israel would exercise sovereignty over the Jewish neighborhoods, the Jewish quarter of the Old City, and the Western Wall. The mere mention of west Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in parallel with east Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state, led more than 2/3 of Palestinians to express their opposition.

In June 2014, a poll commissioned by David Pollock of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy found that the runaway first choice, selected by 60% as the main Palestinian national goal over the next five years, was “to work toward reclaiming all of historic Palestine from the river to the sea.” On every survey in the last five years, clear and growing majorities of Palestinians have expressed opposition to the best deal Israel might agree to in the foreseeable future. No one committed to laying out the facts honestly can defend the proposition that majorities of Palestinians support a two-state solution.

The writer is executive vice-president at Shalem College in Jerusalem. (Mosaic)

The Trump Administration Settles In on Settlements – Elliott Abrams (Council on Foreign Relations)

The Trump administration is steadily defining its policy regarding Israeli settlement activity. What has emerged is a sensible, flexible, and realistic policy.

There is no written agreement and that’s a good thing. There are understandings. That means there can be no accusations that “you’re violating what you signed.”

The Trump administration understands that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and does not view construction there as “settlement activity.”

There will be no new settlements built except the one being created for the people evicted from Amona, a settlement deemed illegal by the Israeli Supreme Court. Netanyahu apparently persuaded the administration that he had made that commitment last year, before the Trump presidency, and needed to keep it.

New construction in settlements in the West Bank will be in already built-up areas, or if that’s impossible, as close to them as possible.

There will be some restraint in the pace of settlement expansion.

Apparently Netanyahu agreed not to permit new “outposts” to be built without government permission.

There will be no annexation of land in the West Bank.

The goals are to limit the physical expansion of settlements so that the Israeli footprint in the West Bank does not become larger and larger; to keep most population growth in the larger blocs that will remain with Israel in any final status agreement; and to prevent this issue from occupying center stage and being a constant irritant to the two governments.

What it means to be an Israeli