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Netanyahu visit ‘very exciting’ for Australian business

The largest ever delegation of Israeli companies, who are accompanying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a historic two-day visit to Australia, will meet with business and government leaders this week in Sydney as both nations seek to forge closer ties.

Prominent business leaders including tech venture capitalist Paul Bassat, the co-founder of SEEK and Square Peg Capital, businessman, investor and former Hoyts Cinemas chief executive Peter Ivany and non-executive director Jillian Segal will be among those attending a range of meetings during the visit.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will host Mr Netanyahu, the first sitting Israeli prime minister to visit Australia.

The meetings, which begin on Tuesday, have been kept secret even from participants until the last minute amid tight security. Many Australian business leaders contacted by The Australian Financial Review declined to comment because of the sensitivity and security around Mr Netanyahu’s visit.

Paul Bassat’s Square Peg Capital has invested at least $65 mill Paul Bassat’s Square Peg Capital has invested at least $65 million in 25 Israeli start-ups. Pat Scala

Mr Netanyahu’s arrival in Australia, after his meeting with US president Donald Trump, comes amid controversy for him at home. In Israel, he’s facing a corruption investigation. Gaming billionaire James Packer has been caught up in the investigation after he was accused of giving lavish gifts to Mr Netanyahu and his family.

The group of 23 Israeli companies visiting Australia span energy, technology and medical innovations, and their arrival comes after the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce led 20 business and government trade and investment delegations to Israel last year.

These included visits headed by then NSW premier Mike Baird and businesswoman Lucy Turnbull, who’s also the prime minister’s wife.

Such activity is continuing apace in 2017.

In June, non-executive directors Diane Smith-Gander and Helen Coonan will lead a delegation to Israel. A few months later, another will be hosted by Macquarie Group chief executive Nicholas Moore, whose delegation will focus on the water and energy sectors.

Inna Braverman,co-founder of Eco Wave Power, giving a TED talk. Inna Braverman,co-founder of Eco Wave Power, giving a TED talk. Eco Wave Power is one of 23 Israeli companies visiting Australia on a delegation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Eco Wave Power

Towards the end of the year, ANZ Banking Group chairman David Gonski and Commonwealth Bank of Australia chief executive Ian Narev will lead another business tour to Israel.

“It’s a very exciting time for Australia and Israel’s relationship,” said Michelle Blum, chief executive of the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce.

“There’s a great deal of interest not only in the learnings from the success of Israel’s innovation ecosystem, but there’s a great interest in both sides in building partnerships between businesses in a range of different areas.”

Among the Israeli companies with executives accompanying Mr Netanyahu’s visit is cyber security firm CyberGym, which appointed former Australian diplomat Geoff Raby as its chairman last September.

Another is Teva Pharmaceuticals, the world’s largest manufacturer of generic medicines and drugs. As well there’s Eco Wave Power, a company co-founded by Inna Braverman, which harvests wave power and converts it into electricity. The company through its technology provides 15 per cent of Gibraltar’s power, and separately has a 50-megawatt project in development in China. The company also has interests in Britain, Chile, Mexico and India.

Ms Braverman’s interest in such alternative energy sources is personal. She was born in Ukraine two weeks before the Chernobyl nuclear reactor exploded in 1986 and radiation spread into the city where she lived.

Paul Bassat’s Square Peg, which has invested at least $65 million in 25 Israeli start-ups in the past few years, said a common theme among Israeli companies was that many focused on “solving really difficult and important problems”.

Mr Bassat, who is a director of the federal government’s Innovation Australia board, said Israel had over the course of several decades developed “a strong ecosystem of entrepreneurs, investors, software engineers, mentors and accelerators”.

“You don’t often see that. It is important in the development of technology companies.”

Israel has the world’s highest concentration of high-technology start-ups per capita.

Mr Bassat said the visit by Mr Netanyahu was an important one for Australia. “It’s been a big issue in Israel that no sitting prime minister has been to Australia before.”

In the 2015-16 financial year, two-way trade between Australia and Israel tallied $1.1 billion while Australian investment in Israel in 2015 was $663 million, and Israel’s in Australia was $262 million.

“Israel is at the forefront of technology,” said businessman Peter Ivany, of the business delegation’s opportunity to deepen business relationships between the two countries. “We can relate to each other and share things and work together.”

Mr Ivany, through his own investment vehicle, has investments in a number of technology companies globally.  (Australian Financial Review)

Protests expected to greet Israeli leader’s Australia visit

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be greeted with protests during his historic visit to Australia in the coming week.

It’s the first visit down under by a serving Israeli prime minister and comes on the heels of Mr Netanyahu meeting US president Donald Trump.

The United States is trying to smooth diplomatic tensions over President Donald Trump’s apparent retreat from support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is standing by Australia’s commitment to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine amid moves by the US to abandon the policy.

The White House said Thursday that building new Israeli settlements or expanding existing ones “may not be helpful” in securing Middle East peace.

More than 60 prominent Australians, including former Labor politicians, senior legal professionals and clergy, have signed a statement opposing Mr Netanyahu’s visit because of his government’s policies towards Palestinians.

“It is time for the suffering of the Palestinian people to stop and for Australia to take a more balanced role in supporting the application of international law and not supporting Mr Netanyahu and his policies,” they write.

Protests are planned throughout the week in Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney.

Israel’s recent controversial push to expand Jewish settlements on land it occupies in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are likely to feature in talks between Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Israeli leader.

Mr Turnbull says his government’s position in support of a two-state solution has not changed.

They’re also likely to discuss cyber security and economic issues.

During the visit, Mr Netanyahu is expected to also meet federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and attend community functions.

Mr Netanyahu originally planned to visit Australia in mid-2014 but postponed the trip.  (SBS News)

Sam Dastyari berates Labor Party push to endorse Palestinian state

Labor senator Sam Dastyari has rebuked party MPs and elders, including former foreign ministers Bob Carr and Gareth Evans, for advocating recognition of a Palestinian state ahead of the visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week.

Labor supports a two-state solu­tion to the conflict but commits the party in government only to “discuss joining like-minded nat­ions” in recognising a Palestinian state if the peace process stalls.

The party’s Left faction, and many in the Right, see this policy as untenable.

Mr Netanyahu, the first sitting Israeli PM to visit Australia, will meet with Malcolm Turnbull.

A Right faction powerbroker, Senator Dastyari, who does not support immediate recognition of a Palestinian state as advocated by Bob Hawke, Mr Evans and Mr Carr, said the party should not ignore­ other humanitarian challeng­es abroad.

“In recent years, there have been atrocities in Syria, Libya, Iraq and throughout the Middle East,” he said. “Palestine remains an important­ foreign policy issue.

“I have always been a strong supporter of a two-state solution and of Australia playing a role to help facilitate that (but) the Labor Party can’t afford to focus on the Palestinian question at the expense of the other humanitarian challenges.”

The Iranian-born senator said he supported the party reviewing its policy but made it clear the recent­ interventions in support of Palestine by Mr Hawke, Mr Evans and Mr Carr were unhelpful prior to Mr Netanyahu’s visit.

“There is no doubt it will continue­ to be debated in Labor forums,” he said. “I support that. But I want to make sure we do it in ­addition to — and not to the exclu­sion of — other debates.”

Bill Shorten will meet with Mr Netanyahu at a time when the party’s fragile consensus on ­Middle East policy adopted at the 2015 national conference is losing support.

It is likely to be dumped in favour of recognising a Palestinian state at next year’s conference.

The national Left faction has increased its authority throughout the party and is expected to have a majority of votes at the conference to change the policy.

At the same time, the national Right’s historic support for Israel has fractured, leaving the Oppos­ition Leader’s Victorian Right ­increasingly isolated.

The party’s pro-Israel policy with qualified support for Palestine was adopted by a motion moved by senior Labor front­bench­er Tony Burke and seconded by Wendy Turner, then Queensland Labor vice-president.

Mr Burke said he supported the current policy, but Ms Turner said it was no longer defensible and the party should change its policy to support recognition of a Palestinian state.

“We sought recog­nition for Palestine at the last conference because we felt it was appropriate to give some hope to the peace process, which is now non-existent,” Ms Turner said.

Ms Turner opposed Mr Netanyahu’s visit to Australia but hoped Mr Shorten would raise the plight of the Palestinian people with him.

Labor’s frontbench is committed to the current policy.

A spokesman for Mr Shorten said he supported a two-state solution.

Last week, Mr Hawke urged Australia to join 137 nations in providing diplomatic recognition to Palestine.

He was supported by Mr Evans and Mr Carr.                     (the Australian)

Report: Netanyahu rejected peace plan proposed by Kerry at secret 2016 meeting

Former US secretary of state John Kerry presented a proposal on a regional approach to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a secret convening in the southern Jordanian town of Aqaba in early 2016, Haaretz reported on Sunday.

Kerry garnered Jordanian and Egyptian backing for the plan, which included two sticking points for Israel – Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and the resumption of direct talks between the sides – among the principles outlining a path to a comprehensive peace deal, according to the report citing former senior Obama administration officials.

Netanyahu rejected Kerry’s plan, allegedly citing the difficulties he would face to gain approval by the Israeli government’s right-wing coalition.

Jordanian King Abudllah II and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi were also at the summit in Aqaba and met separately with Kerry.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was not present at the meeting in Aqaba, but he was reportedly informed of it by Kerry.

Abdullah and Sisi were reportedly urged to gain support for the plan from other regional Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. According to a former senior US official, Kerry also petitioned the Jordanian king to press Abbas to agree to relaunch talks with Israel on the basis of the US blueprint.

The four-way meeting in Aqaba also allegedly set the stage for the short-lived rumored talks of a unity government between Netanyahu and opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union).

The reported February 21 meeting in Aqaba came nearly two years after the collapse of the latest round of US-moderated negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

John Kerry lays out Mideast peace vision

The plan presented by the top American diplomat at the time, was said to have included six principles – allegedly the same as those he presented in a fiery December speech on the Middle East conflict weeks before leaving office.

Kerry, who in 2013 and 2014 attempted to restart direct talks between the two sides, offered several US principles that he said would enshrine such a solution, including a re-emphasis of international support for two states for two peoples — one Jewish and one Arab; the outlining of secure and recognizable borders for a “contiguous” Palestinian state; a “fair and just” settlement for Palestinian refugees consistent with the recognition Israel as a Jewish state; and an end to all claims, including a final resolution on the status of Jerusalem.

The Haaretz report emerged days after Netanyahu met in Washington with US President Donald Trump for the first time since the latter’s inauguration.

During the visit, Trump said he was open to ideas beyond a two-state solution, the long-standing bedrock of Washington and the international community’s policy for a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

In a sharp pivot from the Obama-Kerry approach to the conflict, Trump said that the United States would work toward peace but said he was leaving it up to the parties themselves ultimately to decide on the terms of any agreement.  (Jerusalem Post)

ISIS claims Israeli drone attack killed 4 terrorists in Sinai

An unmanned Israeli drone has allegedly bombed and killed four ISIS members in Egypt’s northern Sinai region, according to Arabic media reports Sunday.

According to outlets affiliated with “Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis,” the Egyptian branch of the terror group, the four died when they “fell as martyrs to the Jewish enemy.”

The Egyptian Army said it was opening an investigation into two large explosions in the area, however an army spokesman denied that it was Israel who was responsible.

About two weeks ago ISIS shot four missiles from the Sinai Desert into the southern city of Eilat.

In a message published to the media, ISIS proudly stated they there were indeed responsible for the fire that was directed at southern Israel late on Wednesday, boasting of their intentions to commit further attacks.

“With the grace of God alone, a military squad fired several Grad rockets at encampments of Jewish usurpers in the city of Um al-Rashrash [Eilat] in order to teach the Jews and the crusaders that a proxy war will not avail them of anything.”

Threatening to proceed with the aggression, the message went on to say that “the future will be more calamitous with Allah’s permission.”

During the incident, four projectiles were fired into southern Israel and three were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, according to the IDF Southern Command.  (Jerusalem Post)

Two rockets from Sinai explode in southern Israel; none hurt

Two rockets launched from the Sinai Peninsula exploded in southern Israel’s Eshkol Regional Council on Monday morning, the IDF reported.

No air raid sirens were activated in the area as the projectiles were headed toward open territory, a military source added. There were no reports of injury or damage in the incident.

Monday’s rocket attack came the day after Islamic State-linked media claimed that an unmanned Israeli drone had bombed and killed four members of ISIS in Egypt in the northern Sinai region.

According to the Islamic State linked Amaq agency, the four “fell as martyrs to the Jewish enemy” in a strike which targeted a car carrying the militants in the village of Shibana located south of the town Rafah.

Earlier this month the group claimed responsibility for a rocket barrage fired from the Sinai towards Israel’s Red Sea resort of city of Eilat. The Iron Dome missile system intercepted three projectiles while a fourth landed in open territory. There were no casualties but at least four people were treated for anxiety.

The group said the attack was launched “in order to teach the Jews and the crusaders a proxy war will not avail them of anything,” and threatened future “calamitous” attacks.

Israel has not retaliated against the rockets .

Israel has a 240-kilometer border with the Sinai and since Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi rise to power, Cairo and Jerusalem have been closely cooperating in the Sinai peninsula in the fight against ISIS militants. According to a infographic released by ISIS, the jihadist group operates in Arish, Bir Abd and Sheikh Zuweidin the Sinai Peninsula.

While Israel is not the terror group’s principal target, and incidents along the Israel-Egypt border are rare, there have been several attacks, some deadly, in recent years.  (Jerusalem Post)

A warning to Nasrallah: ‘Israel will respond harshly to Hezbollah’

Arab States have reportedly warned Hezbollah that Israel will “respond harshly,” to any attacks against it, a senior Arab official told the London-based Lebanese newspaper Al Hayat on Sunday. This warning comes closely after Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah spoke out against Israel on Thursday, threatening a missile strike on the Dimona nuclear reactor, an unprecedented threat in the struggle between Israel and the terror organization.

According to the source, Israel would issue a harsh military response against the Lebanese organization if Hezbollah makes any military moves, even into Syria from Lebanon. They mentioned that Israel is closely following Hezbollah’s armament and movements in Syria and Lebanon, including its presence in various areas of Syria that could be seen as a threat to Israel.

The source explained that this warning was issued from Israel to Nasrallah via an Arab official because it is “serious and indicates the Netanyahu government’s readiness to strike targets within the organization and within Lebanese territory, since Hezbollah has received the backing of the Lebanese government, which is what prompted Nasrallah to increase his threats.”

With the warning, Netanyahu has established his ability to react against Hezbollah. This ability is strengthened by Israel’s regional backing and the support of US President Donald trump, which is greater than that of his predecessor, Barack Obama. The source also speculated that Netanyahu’s intention is apparently to receive the full support of the Gulf States and other countries in the region who have defined Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, and who are concerned about its presence in Syria.

The source also said that Israel considers the Lebanese government responsible for Hezbollah’s actions, including Lebanese President Michel Aoun, as he provided arms to Hezbollah, which makes the Lebanese army a legitimate target of the IDF should a war break out.

Sources said that Israel is waiting for the right time to attack Hezbollah, based on the statements of Israeli officials and the Israeli media’s focus on the Shi’ite organization. According to the same sources, Israel wants Hezbollah to exhaust itself in Syria so that it would in turn become vulnerable to attack.   (Jerusalem Post)

Ambassador Dermer to liaison with White House on Pollard

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer to speak to the White House about easing parole restrictions for Jonathan Pollard after raising the issue on Thursday with Vice President Mike Pence.

“Clearly, this is a positive sign that he new administration will give the matter serious consideration,” said National Council of Young Israel president Farley Weiss, who has been active in efforts to help Pollard for 20 years.

“Pollard should be allowed to go to Israel, and we hope the Trump administration, once they review the matter, will agree,” he added.

At a press briefing following his press conference with President Donald Trump, The Jerusalem Post asked Netanyahu whether he raised the issue with Trump, and the prime minister declined to respond.

Pollard was released on “mandatory” parole November 20, 2015, after serving exactly 30 years in prison for the crime of conspiracy to commit espionage without intent to harm the United States, by delivering classified information to Israel in 1984 and 1985.

But his parole conditions require him to be monitored by a GPS device that forces him to violate Shabbat and Jewish holidays, and his computers also must be monitored, which his lawyers say has prevented him from being employed. He must remain in his New York home from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., and he may not leave the state of New York.

Pollard is currently appealing a court decision that had ruled the parole conditions not be eased. (Jerusalem Post)

Tackling unsettled affairs

Two state policy, settlements on Benjamin Netanyahu’s agenda

by Greg Sheridan    The Australian


It is a bleak, miserable night in Beitar, one of the biggest Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Beitar sits just across the green line from Jerusalem. Its residents are not rich and as the winds of a harsh winter swirl around, seeming to push the fitful, sleety rain ­directly against the dark-clad ­figures making their way homeward, bus stops are crowded and people walk briskly to get out of the cold.

On the corner is a small synagogue and walking towards it is a thickset figure with ginger locks spilling out from under the broad, round, black hat, and on to the padded black frock coat of the ultra-Orthodox man. Women are in long skirts and their hair is covered. The only person I see not dressed in religious garb is a soldier in the Israeli army.

With 55,000 people, Beitar is a small city, but it’s set to grow and keep growing rapidly for a long time. About 35,000 of its people are aged under 18, part of a demographic bulge brought about by the high birthrate of the ultra-­Orthodox. Before 1988, the present Beitar didn’t exist at all.

Beitar is just next door to a Palestinian village and about 1000 Palestinians work in Beitar each day. But the Beitar residents are all ultra-Orthodox, divided within — or at least differentiated within — by their varying ethnic origins and religious practices.

Before going to Beitar I had a coffee at the nearby Gush Etzion bloc of settlements. Even bigger in population than Beitar, it is also a very short drive — less than 20 minutes without traffic — from Jerusalem. Most of the Jewish settlers in Gush Etzion, or at least the ones I’ve met on a couple of reporting trips, are what Israelis call ­“national religious”. They sometimes call themselves modern ­Orthodox. They serve in the army, engage fully in the workforce, inter­pret the religious elements of Judaism in a manner that doesn’t discomfit modern living. What strikes me at the coffee shop is how many cars outside have Palestinian numberplates. A lot of Palestinians use the Gush Etzion shopping centre.

That morning my day began at one of the least religious settlements, Maale Adumim, a princely 7km from Jerusalem. I went there to visit ­Michael, a well-known professional who works in Jerusalem. What struck me was how small his nice apartment was. Perhaps three bedrooms, with a combined living, dining and television area that we’d regard as suitable for a starter apartment in Sydney or Melbourne.

Benny Kashriel, the mayor of Maale Adumim, tells me that fewer than a third of his more than 40,000 constituents are religious at all and only 1 or 2 per cent ultra-Orthodox. At lunch at the shopping mall, I don’t see a single person in religious, or even recognisably Jewish, attire. Instead it has the air, and most of the shop brands, of any outer suburban shopping mall in any big Australian city. I can’t even find a sal­mon bagel.

Michael tells me he and his wife moved to Maale Adumim for one simple reason: apartment prices. They have four children and their apartment in Maale Adumim, modest enough as it is, was better than anything they could afford in Jerusalem.

A cosmopolitan, urbane and liberal man, Michael nonetheless makes two ideological points to me. He takes me out to his tiny balcony and we survey the bald, empty landscape around Maale Adumim. He says this is the road down which for hundreds of years attacks on Jerusalem have come.

The other is that the second ­intifada, at the turn of the millennium, was in his view as big a turning point for Israel as the wars of 1967 or 1973. He tells me of all the residents in his building who suffered some loss or damage from the terrorism of that time.

The second intifada soured the Israeli population on the idea that a permanent peace with the Palestinians could be achieved anytime soon, he says.

But Michael is also steadfast in his opposition to the idea that ­Israel should annex much or most of the West Bank. He wants Israel to keep the big settlement blocs but not much more.

“Do Israelis still want peace?” he asks. “Of course we do.” He’s just not sure how it’s going to be achieved.

In Beitar the discussion is much less political.

Rabbi Yitzak Ravitz, Beitar’s deputy mayor, receives me in his small office and plies me with Pepsi and cakes. His wife, who works for the Israeli President in Jerusalem, translates, for the rabbi doesn’t speak English. He wears a conventional black suit and black skull cap, and only a modest beard. His wife is wearing a wig. Ultra-­Orthodox women typically don’t display their hair.

Some secular and even national religious Jews resent the ultra-Orthodox for not serving in the army and not fully participating in the modern economy. Rabbi Ravitz tells me that 50 per cent of the men in his community engage in paid work — and that is enough, he believes. The rest study the Torah full-time.

Ravitz says that, like ­Michael at Maale Adumim, people came to Beitar at first because of price. “They didn’t have money to buy apartments in the city,” he says. “But today people come here ­because it’s a calm place, it ­offers better education. It offers everything an ultra-Orthodox person needs. On Shabbat (the Sabbath) the streets are closed, there is a ­kosher market on every corner, a shul (synagogue) on every ­corner.”

But Ravitz is uncompromising on one thing: not territory or politics in the conventional sense, but on the overriding value of the lives his people lead. “Learning the Torah (Jewish scriptures and commentaries) also requires living by the rules of the Torah. The highest value is learning the Torah and living to its values. This is more ­important than the city, the state, the media or public ­opinion.”

Even the ultra-Orthodox men who work for money spend several hours a day of their own time studying the Torah, and for those men who study full-time, typically their wives work for an income. He is not easily drawn, because he is not truly that interested, into the political discussions that occupy so many Israelis. His mind, like that of any truly religious person, is not entirely susceptible to secular analysis.

He makes another point both religious and cultural. There are eight million men and boys in ­Israel. Only about 100,000 of them study the Torah. That 100,000, he thinks, is the living and preserving of a precious inheritance.

Beitar, Maale Adumim and Gush Etzion, all a stone’s throw from Jerusalem, together account for nearly half of the 400,000 Jewish settlers who live in the West Bank, beyond Jerusalem itself. Not a single Israeli, even those committed to the fullest vision of the two-state solution, would agree to giving up any of those three settlements. Given the size of their populations, it would be all but ­impossible as a practical exercise anyway. Yet the territory they ­occupy is small. A recent analysis suggests that nearly 80 per cent of the settler population is contained within just 5 per cent of West Bank territory.

The settlements themselves don’t make a deal impossible. In previous negotiations with the Palestinians, Israel has committed to giving up an equal amount of territory from Israel in ­exchange for something in this order of land.

But where does Israeli public and political opinion now stand on settlements and the two-state solution? Ahead of the visit to Australia this week by Benjamin Netanyahu, the first by a serving Israeli prime minister, I spent a week in Israel asking this question of leaders from most of the country’s mainstream parties.

Let’s go first to a voice too little heard. Isaac Herzog, the Leader of the Opposition and head of the ­Israeli Labor Party, met me in the members’ cafe at the Knesset. He is a smart, witty, engaging guy, full of insider jokes about politics.

Labor, he says, has suffered since the definitive failure of the Oslo Accords in the period around 2000. While it was Israel’s pioneering party and dominated politics for decades, it has not won an election since, though it came close last time.

“Labor paid a heavy price,” Herzog tells me, “but Labor still believes Israel must separate from the Palestinians and move to peace. We are seen by some as naive but we are really nationalist because we are the camp of the two-state solution and that is in ­Israel’s interests.”

He understands that a full peace settlement is not possible in the short term and proposes getting there by several difficult steps, such as establishing a period of 10 years during which there is no incitement or terrorism in the West Bank.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is Naftali Bennett, Israel’s Education Minister, whose Jewish Homeland party is in coalition with Netanyahu’s Likud in government. Bennett, a smooth and highly articulate former hi-tech entrepreneur, is at the maximalist end of Israeli territorial ambition.

In a long discussion in his Tel Aviv office, he tells me he was ­delighted at last week’s summit ­between Donald Trump and Netanyahu. While the Turnbull government will reaffirm its commit­ment to a two-state solution, Trump said he would support whatever the parties agreed on, whether that was one state or two.

Bennett sees the meeting ­between Trump and Netanyahu as a clear move away from the two-state paradigm, which he says has yielded no positive results. His program would be to proclaim ­Israeli sovereignty — he doesn’t want to use the word annexation — over two-thirds of the territory of the West Bank, where about 80,000 Palestinians live. These Palestinians, he says, would be ­offered the choice of full Israeli citizenship or permanent resi­dency. The more than 2.5 million Palestinians left in the remaining 40 per cent of the West Bank would receive heightened autonomy — autonomy on steroids, as he calls it, with better work rights within Israel proper and a land bridge to a sea port through Haifa, which would allow them to engage in international trade. Needless to say, this idea has no support among Palestinians.

“I see the Netanyahu-Trump meeting as very good news for everyone,” Bennett says. “I see it as the sunset of the Palestinian state and now we are entering a new era. There are already two Palestinian states — one in Gaza and one in Jordan. Discussion of a third Palestinian state is now over. After 24 years of the two-state paradigm, we can now explore new ideas.”

Most Israelis do not share Bennett’s views.

Yuval Steinitz, the Energy Minister and a senior Likud figure, whose views I reported in detail in The Weekend Australian, tells me that he and his party regard the two-state solution as the logical best outcome, but regard it as completely impractical at the moment.

One of the biggest problems with international discussion of the settlements and their effect on a possible two-state solution is that the term covers so many different types of neighbourhoods, not only the big settlement blocs but the more radical outposts, many ille­gal under Israeli law. But in the ­recent UN Security Council resolution that Barack Obama managed to have passed, every bit of territory Israel did not control before the 1967 war is ­regarded as an illegal settlement. That includes Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall, where Jews pray so publicly, the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem and many of the city’s Jewish and mixed suburbs.

Nir Barkat, Jerusalem’s mayor, wants to talk about the Jerusalem economy. But when asked about Obama’s resolution, he says: “The UN Security Council resolution has zero effect on day-to-day life in Jerusalem. It has nothing to do with all the positive trends in this city. The majority of Jerusalem Arabs don’t want Jerusalem divided.”

What is clear is that there is an enormous swirl of divergent Israeli opinion on how to move forward with all this. There is no consensus on the future but there is, among many, an openness to dialogue. From Wednesday, when Prime Minister Netanyahu arrives in Sydney, some of that dialogue will take place in Australia.

Trump: Palestinians Must Earn a Two State Solution

by Alan M. Dershowitz                       The Gatestone Institute


President Trump raised eyebrows when he mentioned the possibility of a one state solution. The context was ambiguous and no one can know for sure what message he was intending to convey. One possibility is that he was telling the Palestinian leadership that if they want a two state solution, they have to do something. They have to come to the negotiating table with the Israelis and make the kinds of painful sacrifices that will be required from both sides for a peaceful resolution to be achieved. Put most directly, the Palestinians must earn the right to a state. They are not simply entitled to statehood, especially since their leaders missed so many opportunities over the years to secure a state. As Abba Eben once put it: “The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

It began back in the 1930s, when Great Britain established the Peale Commission which was tasked to recommend a solution to the conflict between Arabs and Jews in mandatory Palestine. It recommended a two state solution with a tiny noncontiguous Jewish state alongside a large Arab state. The Jewish leadership reluctantly accepted this sliver of a state; the Palestinian leadership rejected the deal, saying they wanted there to be no Jewish state more than they wanted a state of their own.

In 1947, the United Nations partitioned mandatory Palestine into two areas: one for a Jewish state; the other for an Arab state. The Jews declared statehood on 1948; all the surrounding Arab countries joined the local Arab population in attacking the new state of Israel and killing one percent of its citizens, but Israel survived.

In 1967, Egypt and Syria were planning to attack and destroy Israel, but Israel preempted and won a decisive victory, capturing the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Sinai. Israel offered to return captured areas in exchange for peace, but the Arabs met with Palestinian leaders in Khartoum and issued their three infamous “no’s”: no peace, no recognition, and no negotiation.

In 2000-2001 and again in 2008, Israel made generous peace offers that would have established a demilitarized Palestinian state, but these offers were not accepted. And for the past several years, the current Israeli government has offered to sit down and negotiate a two state solution with no pre-conditions– not even advanced recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. The Palestinian leadership has refused to negotiate.

President Trump may be telling them that if they want a state they have to show up at the negotiating table and bargain for it. No one is going to hand it to them on a silver platter in the way that former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon handed over the Gaza strip in 2005, only to see it turned into a launching pad for terror rockets and terror tunnels. Israel must get something in return: namely real peace and a permanent end to the conflict.

The Palestinian leadership’s unwillingness to come to the negotiating table reminds me of my mother’s favorite Jewish joke about Sam, a 79 year old man who prayed every day for God to let him win the New York lottery before he turns 80. On the eve of his 80th birthday, he rails against God:

“All these years I’ve prayed to you every day asking to win the lottery. You couldn’t give me that one little thing!” God responded: “Sam, you have to help me out here– buy a ticket!!”

The Palestinians haven’t bought a ticket. They haven’t negotiated in good faith. They haven’t accepted generous offers. They haven’t made realistic counter proposals. They haven’t offered sacrifices to match those offered by the Israelis.

Now President Trump is telling them that they have to “buy a ticket.” They are not going to get a state by going to the United Nations, the European Union or the international criminal court. They aren’t going to get a state as a result of the BDS or other anti-Israel movements. They will only get a state if they sit down and negotiate in good faith with the Israelis.

The Obama Administration applied pressures only to the Israeli side, not to the Palestinians. The time has come – indeed it is long past – for the United States to tell the Palestinians in no uncertain terms that they must negotiate with Israel if they want a Palestinian state, and they must agree to end the conflict, permanently and unequivocally. Otherwise, the status quo will continue, and there will be only one state, and that state will be Israel.

The Palestinians are not going to win the lottery without buying a ticket.

How to get to two states: Netanyahu shines a bright light on the obstacles to a lasting peace

New York Daily News Editorial


Setting aside a perplexing remark by President Trump, he and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a strong and important show of unity at the White House Wednesday.

Bad news first: Trump’s apparent ignorance of the two-state solution, which for very good reason has been the basis for Mideast peace negotiations for decades.

“I’m looking at two states and one state. I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one,” said the President, perhaps unaware that a one-state solution would either consign Palestinians to permanent second-class status — or, via demographic change over the course of a few generations, end Israel’s status as a Jewish state.

But that shaky statement was an aberration in a joint appearance that otherwise helpfully reset relations that, over two terms under President Obama, were pained and strained.

Trump won’t insist on a two-state solution for Israel, Palestine

Most meaningfully, Netanyahu delivered a bracing articulation of the true obstacles to a lasting agreement:

“First, the Palestinians must recognize the Jewish state. They have to stop calling for Israel’s destruction. They have to stop educating their people for Israel’s destruction.

“Second, in any peace agreement, Israel must retain the overriding security control over the entire area west of the Jordan River. Because if we don’t, we know what will happen — because otherwise we’ll get another radical Islamic terrorist state in the Palestinian areas exploding the peace, exploding the Middle East.

“Now, unfortunately, the Palestinians vehemently reject both prerequisites for peace. First, they continue to call for Israel’s destruction — inside their schools, inside their mosques, inside the textbooks.  You have to read it to believe it.

Trump won’t insist on a two-state solution for Israel, Palestine

“They even deny, Mr. President, our historical connection to our homeland. . . . Jews are called Jews because they come from Judea. This is our ancestral homeland. Jews are not foreign colonialists in Judea.

“So, unfortunately, the Palestinians not only deny the past, they also poison the present. They name public squares in honor of mass murderers who murdered Israelis, and I have to say also murdered Americans. They fund — they pay monthly salaries to the families of murderers, like the family of the terrorist who killed Taylor Force, a wonderful young American, a West Point graduate, who was stabbed to death while visiting Israel.

“So this is the source of the conflict — the persistent Palestinian refusal to recognize the Jewish state in any boundary; this persistent rejection. That’s the reason we don’t have peace.”

And we say, Amen.