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Latest News in Israel – 18th January

Britain, Balkan countries block EU from adopting Paris declaration

Jerusalem heaved a sigh of relief on Monday when the 28 EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels adjourned without issuing a statement adopting either UN Security Council Resolution 2334 or the declaration that emerged from the Paris conference on Sunday.

The Council of the European Union met for a discussion on the Middle East peace process without issuing any conclusions. Israel has in recent days worked to prevent the council from issuing a final statement that would adopt the language of the Security Council’s anti-settlement resolution that also declared the Western Wall as ‘occupied territory,’ or the Paris declaration.

France was pressing inside the meeting for the EU to adopt the Paris declaration, but these efforts were rebuffed by Britain and some Balkan states keen on getting off on the “right foot” with US President-elect Donald Trump when he takes office on Friday.

The British Foreign Office gave voice to this sentiment on Sunday, when it refused to endorse the Paris declaration.

“We have particular reservations about an international conference intended to advance peace between the parties that does not involve them – indeed, which is taking place against the wishes of the Israelis – and which is taking place just days before the transition to a new American president, when the US will be the ultimate guarantor of any agreement,” a Foreign Office statement said.

The Paris declaration reaffirmed support for a two-state solution, and called for a stop to the violence and “ongoing settlement activity.” It also called on each side “to refrain from unilateral steps that prejudge the outcome of negotiations on final-status issues, including, inter alia, on Jerusalem, borders, security, and refugees, which they will not recognize.”

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said at a news conference after the meeting of the foreign ministers that while no conclusions were formally adopted, the ministers “strongly reconfirmed our consolidated position on the two states, and on the trends that are endangering this perspective,” namely “the settlement expansion, the violence and the incitement to violence, and the situation in Gaza.”

Mogherini said that the Paris declaration “reflects fully the EU consolidated position.” She added that UN Security Council Resolution 2334 “also reflects the EU consolidated position.”

She denied that the British blocked the adoption of the Paris declaration, saying the purpose of the meeting was an “informal exchange” on the issues. Although there was “some exchange” about whether the foreign ministers should issue conclusions on the Middle East peace process, she did not exclude the possibility that this may take place at a later time.

She said that the Paris conference was “useful” in gathering a large international community and “reconfirming the commitments of the international community to the two-state solution, [and] keeping this as a top priority for the international community.”

Regarding the possible movement of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Mogherini said that the EU will “continue to respect the international consensus embodied in UN Security Council Resolution 478 from 1980.” In that resolution, taken after Israel annexed Jerusalem, the Security Council strongly censured Israel for the move and called on countries with embassies in the city to remove them.

“We will for sure not move our delegation – that is in Tel Aviv,” she said. “And we hope that there can be reflection on consequences on any move that is taken. I believe it is very important for us all to refrain from unilateral actions, especially those that can have serious consequences in large sectors of public opinion in large parts of the world.” She specifically mentioned the Arab world, Africa, Asia and parts of Europe. (Jerusalem Post)

Palestinians slam UK, Australia for not supporting Paris peace declaration

PLO Executive Committee Secretary-General Saeb Erekat on Tuesday slammed the UK and Australia for their refusal to support a declaration that emerged earlier in the week from an international conference on Middle East peace in Paris.

“We regret and denounce the reservations made by the United Kingdom and Australia to the final statement of the Paris Peace Conference,” he said in a statement.

Erekat stated that the peace declaration “emphasized the commitment of the international community to the two-state solution and to end Israel’s occupation of Palestine.”

On Sunday the British Foreign Office refused to endorse the Paris Declaration, which reaffirmed support for a two-state solution, and called for a stop to the violence and “ongoing settlement activity.” It also called on each side “to refrain from unilateral steps that prejudge the outcome of negotiations on final-status issues, including, inter alia, on Jerusalem, borders, security, and refugees, which they will not recognize.”

“We have particular reservations about an international conference intended to advance peace between the parties that does not involve them,” the office declared. Adding that its timing right before America transitions into a new president also wasn’t ideal.

Australia expressed similar sentiments, ABC Australia reported.

“While the Australian Government was represented at the Paris conference, this does not mean we agree with every element of the final statement,” a spokesperson from Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s office told ABC.

“The most important priority must be a resumption of direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians for a two-state solution as soon as possible.”

Erekat, however, called the reservations of the countries “groundless.”

“For years substantial efforts were made by France and many other countries around the world to push the political process forward on the basis of international law, and we were expecting the United Kingdom, in particular, to play an effective role in the international system that rejects the Israeli occupation and its settlement enterprise,” Erekat stated.

“We call upon both countries to correct this mistake and to recognize the State of Palestine in line with their support and commitment to the two-state solution.”  (Jerusalem Post)

Foreign Ministry chief Yuval Rotem chalks up Paris conference as win for Israel

Israel’s new Foreign Ministry chief on Monday hailed the lackluster outcome of Sunday’s Paris peace conference as a victory for Israel, saying Israel’s decision not to show up sent a message to the international community.

Director General Yuval Rotem took over as head of the Foreign Ministry at the end of December and gave his first interviews to the Israeli media a day after diplomats gathered in Paris to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and reinforce the need for a two-state solution.

“The fact that the Paris conference has no followup is from our perspective the most meaningful accomplishment,” Rotem told Israel Radio Monday morning.

As far as Israel is concerned, the most important outcome from Paris was that it imposed “no new obligations” on Israel and “finished without any mechanism to apply or follow up” on the provisions it laid out for achieving peace, Rotem said.

“We also succeeded to a certain extent in preventing any followup, any new enforcement mechanism and any new supervision mechanism,” he said.

Rotem also noted in an interview with Army Radio the “importance in the direct recognition of a national home for the Jewish people” as part of the concluding declaration, something he said many in the international community do not recognize.

In addition, he said the conference’s declaration affirms Israel’s view that “the only way to arrive at peace is by means of direct negations between the sides.”

Neither Israel nor the Palestinians had representatives present at the conference — the second in the past year hosted by France with the aim of setting a concrete agenda for renewed peace efforts.

However, “even though we did not attend the conference, we succeeded in getting across our position,” Rotem told Army Radio.

International activity on the matter, like Sunday’s peace conference and December’s Security Council Resolution 2334, only further “encourages the Palestinians to refuse direct negotiations with Israel.”

Going into the conference, Israel had feared that the participants would build upon the Security Council resolution against settlements and formulate new measures against Israel.

Israeli officials on Sunday credited the efforts of the National Security Council and the Foreign Ministry for a “significant weakening” of the text of the final joint declaration issued by the participants of the peace conference.

The Israeli officials were jubilant that “problematic passages” from the recent UN Security Council resolution on the settlements were not included in the Paris document. Furthermore, the Israeli officials expressed satisfaction over the fact that no further action against Israeli settlements is planned at the Security Council. US Secretary of State John Kerry promised as much to Prime Minister Netanyahu in a phone call from Paris earlier Sunday.

Rotem also noted the absence of the British and Russian foreign ministers at the conference, as well as that of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. He credited them for wanting to develop a coordinated position with US President-elect Donald Trump, who takes office Friday. Britain refused even to sign the conference’s final joint declaration.

“Not just us, but many players in the international arena are waiting to see Trump’s approach,” Rotem noted.

Regarding Trump’s promise to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault warned at the conference would result in “extremely serious consequences,” Rotem said the Foreign Ministry’s stance was to wait and see, just as with many other of Trump’s declarations and intended policies.  (The Times of Israel)                          [Yuval Rotem was previously Israel’s Ambassador to Australia   RW]

Netanyahu: Campaign to topple government is outrageous

To raucous cheers, applause and chants of “Bibi, king of Israel,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu entered the Likud Knesset faction meeting on Monday in a defiant mood and issued a message of harsh criticism against the press, who he accused of trying to topple his government.

With the cloud of two police investigations hanging over his head, the prime minister could at least take comfort in the warm and enthusiastic welcome he was given by his MKs, advisers and Likud activists in the room. And if Netanyahu was upset by the poor showing of just three of the 10 Likud cabinet ministers at the meeting, he did not show it, although the same could not be said of coalition chairman MK David Bitan, who fumed afterward that he would start blocking legislation of truant ministers if their absenteeism continued.

Addressing the media at the faction meeting, Netanyahu scolded them for what he described as “a huge media campaign against me designed to topple the Likud government which I lead,” describing the situation as “outrageous.”

The prime minister claimed that certain members of the press were acting not just as journalists but also as “investigators, judges and hangmen” in an effort to politically decapitate him.

“An entire investigation is being conducted on television,” Netanyahu said. “Every evening they are disseminating selectively and carefully filtered transcripts and deliberate lies on the two issues in question,” referring to the steady stream of broadcasts by Channel 2 on recorded conversations between the prime minister and Yediot Aharonot publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes.

Netanyahu alleged that the purpose of the media focus on the recordings, and the other investigation into alleged illicit gifts he may have received while in office, was to create a groundswell of pressure on the police and the attorney-general to file an indictment against him.

“So I want to say to you, friends: in a democracy, governments are changed at the polling booth, not through orchestrated pressure on the attorney-general and the law enforcement services,” the prime minister declared.

Speaking earlier in the day, opposition leader and Zionist Union head MK Isaac Herzog defended the press, and took Netanyahu to task for his Facebook post on Sunday in which the prime minister said that he had called elections after a bill was submitted that would have prevented the Israel HaYom newspaper from being distributed free of charge.

In his post, Netanyahu was defending himself from accusations that the law had been concocted together with Mozes as part of a deal to ease the financial stress Israel HaYom was causing Yediot Aharonot, in return for Yediot softening its fiercely critical stance of the prime minister.

The prime minister said he had prevented the Israel HaYom bill from being brought to a preliminary vote “for many months,” that he had voted against it, and that after the law passed, he “dismantled the government and went to elections, because of the subversion within the government to pass this law, among other [reasons].”

But Herzog upbraided the prime minister for this statement, claiming it was proof that Netanyahu had a direct connection to Israel HaYom, as has always been claimed by his opponents.

“Netanyahu has been revealed as someone who trades away Israeli democracy as if it is his private property, and all citizens in Israel should tremble for the image of Israeli democracy,” Herzog proclaimed.

He said that even if no crime had been committed by the prime minister, “we are however talking about a severe breach of trust between the government and the citizens of the state.”

Herzog also warned that if Netanyahu does not relinquish his role as communications minister, Zionist Union would file a petition to the High Court of Justice demanding that he do so.

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid was less scathing in his assessment of the situation, but said that the investigations into the prime minister have distracted the government from actual governing.

“The prime minister should be considered innocent until proved otherwise, and we must remember and respect that,” he said, adding that the police, attorney-general and State Attorney’s Office need to be given time to complete their investigations and deliberations.

The Yesh Atid leader stated, however, that this process must not be dragged on too long because of the need to govern the country.

“We have real problems, and we cannot allow ourselves a prime minister who spends more time with his lawyers and in interrogation rooms than he does in cabinet discussions and hearings on the economy,” Lapid said. “The attorney-general needs to take this into account as well.”  (Jerusalem Post)

Israel gives Pal. Authority limited water autonomy in West Bank

The Palestinian Authority now has autonomy over water projects in Palestinian towns and villages in the West Bank, a Palestinian official told The Jerusalem Post.

Dib Abdel Ghafour, a top official at the PA Water Authority, announced the change Monday, just one day after Israelis and Palestinian signed an agreement to reconvene the Joint Water Committee for the West Bank, which last met in 2010.

The document was signed by the Coordinator for Government Affairs in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai and Palestinian Authority Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh.

“I believe this is a step in the direction of comprehensive peace agreement with the Israeli government and a real and serious peace that gives Palestinians and Israelis a real chance…I know there is a huge crisis of trust between the two sides, but what strengthens trust [between us] is what it is agreed upon between us,” Sheikh said after signing the agreement.

The reestablishment of the committee will allow for the advancement of 97 Palestinian water and sewerage projects that have been suspended for more than six years.

The newly signed agreement is also the latest in a series of steps the IDF has taken to give the Palestinians increased autonomy over their own affairs, particularly in the areas of electricity, telecommunications and postal services.

The PA Water Authority, which operates mostly in Areas A and B of the West Bank, said that, as part of the new agreement, a mechanism had been formed that allowed it to implement infrastructure and sewerage projects without receiving the approval of the Joint Water Committee.

“The agreement pertains to an amendment to the working mechanism of the Joint Water Committee. There were many problems previously and 97 projects have been suspended since 2010,” Ghafour told the Post.

“Most of the 97 projects have funding. We now need to speak with the donors before we start work on the projects,” he said. “After the signing of this agreement, we can now work on these projects easily, which are infrastructure projects. The different projects include water network, sewerage, and storage projects,” he added.

The amendment, he explained, would also give the PA the ability to operate in Palestinian sections of Area C, which is under Israeli military and civilian control.

“Projects in encampments and villages in Area C do not need approval. We only need to inform the JWC. However, projects that cross through parts of Area C outside the encampments and villages need approval from the committee,” Ghafour said.

“All matters pertaining to wells and underground water will need to be discussed and approved through the JWC as was done previously,” he explained. “We are to some extent optimistic. We resolved part of the problem. We are now optimistic that the situation can be better than in the past.”

Ghafour added that a schedule for JWC meetings has yet to be created. Israel had blamed the absence of JWC meetings on the Palestinians, explaining that they had boycotted the meetings.

The Palestinians in turn had said that they did not want to sit on a committee that dealt with water for the settlements.

“The issue of the settlements is over. There will be no discussion of issues related to the settlements anymore. We will be discussing Palestinian projects on the JWC.”

The UN on Monday lauded the reestablishment of the JWC.

“I welcome the signature of an agreement to renew the activity of the Israeli – Palestinian Joint Water Committee to improve the water infrastructure and supply in the occupied West Bank and Gaza,” UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nikolay Mladenov said.

“This, along with previous joint agreements on electricity, water, mail and 3G cellular coverage, is in line with the Middle East Quartet’s recommendations,” Mladenov said.

“If fully implemented, this agreement would be an important step toward preserving the two-state solution. I encourage further cooperation between the two sides which is critical to the viability of a future Palestinian state,” Mladenov said.

Gidon Bromberg, Israeli co-director of EcoPeace Middle East, praised the decision to revive the JWC, stressing the importance of reaching a fair agreement as the parties pursue new water projects.

“Though all details have yet to be made public, EcoPeace Middle East welcomes in principle the news that the Israeli Palestinian Joint Water Committee will be reinitiated under new terms that will advance on the ground water supply and sanitation solutions, improving the livelihoods and the environment for Palestinians and Israelis alike,” Bromberg told the Post on Monday.

Over the past several years, EcoPeace Middle East – which has offices in Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan – has been promoting a campaign called “Water Issues Cannot Wait.” The campaign has focused on “the lose-lose for both peoples of the status quo arrangements,” Bromberg said.

“Advancing water projects and reaching an equitable agreement as to the fair share and sustainable management of our shared water and environmental resources will have a transformative impact, building trust and confidence that positive change can take place on an issue vital to life,” he said. (Jerusalem Post )

Border Police shoot and kill Palestinian stone-thrower near Bethlehem

Border Police officers shot and killed a Palestinian stone-thrower during clashes near Bethlehem in the West Bank on Monday.

“Hundreds of rioters hurled rocks at the security forces in the area,” an Israeli military spokeswoman said. “Due to the extent of the violence, border police fired 0.22 calibre rounds towards a main violent instigator, resulting in his death.”

According to the Ma’an News Agency, 17-year-old Qusay Hasna al-Umour was shot in the chest three times during clashes in the village of Tuqu.

Ma’an also reported that four other Palestinians were shot during the clashes.

The Palestinian Red Crescent claimed that al-Umour was detained for an unspecified amount of time after he was shot before he was handed over to the Palestinian paramedics for treatment           (Jerusalem Post)

Trump: Jared Kushner a ‘natural’ to solve Mideast conflict

President-elect Donald Trump reiterated that his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner could head efforts to broker a Middle East peace deal.

In an interview with the German newspaper Bild and The Times of London published Monday, Trump was asked what role Kushner, husband of Trump’s daughter Ivanka, would play in his role as an unpaid adviser to his administration

“Oh, really . . . Ya know what, Jared is such a good kid and he’ll make a deal with Israel that no one else can — ya know he’s a natural, he’s a great deal, he’s a natural — ya know what I was talking about, natural — he’s a natural deal-maker — everyone likes him,” replied Trump, according to a transcript of the interview in The Times of London.

Neither interviewer, British Conservative Party parliamentarian Michael Gove nor Kai Diekmann, former chief editor of Bild, pressed Trump on Kushner’s qualifications for the Mideast negotiator’s role, but instead asked what role if any Ivanka would play in his administration.

“Well, not now, she’s going to Washington,” Trump replied, “and they’re buying a house or something, but ya know she’s got the children, so Jared will be involved as we announced — no salary, no nothing. If he made peace — who’d be better at that then Jared, right — there’s something about him . . .”

Kushner, 36, an Orthodox Jew who is the grandson of Holocaust survivors, has headed his family’s real estate business and is the publisher of The Observer, a New York newspaper covering real estate and finance. Although Kushner has no experience in government or diplomacy, Trump has said that Kushner “knows the region, knows the people, knows the players.”

Kushner’s views on solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have not been made public, although he was said to have contributed to a speech Trump gave to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in March 2016. In that speech, Trump vowed to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, “the eternal capital of the Jewish people,” and said the Palestinians must accept as a given the closeness of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have been moribund and figures on both sides have been pessimistic about their revival. Trump has offered no details on how he would approach Israeli-Palestinian peace, although he said he would like a crack at negotiating a deal. With his campaign’s approval, the Republican Party over the summer adopted a platform that for the first time since 2004 does not mention a two-state solution, deferring to Israel on what the parameters of peace negotiations should be. (JTA)

Netanyahu messed up, but it is time to move forward

by Isi Leibler                      The Jerusalem Post


Enough is enough. Since the beginning of his public life, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been subject to the most ferocious ongoing campaign of vilification endured by any politician in the democratic world.

For two decades, Noni Mozes, the publisher of the daily Yediot Aharonot, which until recently had the highest circulation and was most influential newspaper in Israel, waged an ongoing campaign employing the worst form of character assassination, defamation and double standards aimed at achieving the downfall of Israel’s prime minister.

There were even unsuccessful efforts to introduce Bolshevik- style legislation into the Knesset making it illegal to provide the public with a free newspaper (Israel Hayom) because of its support for Netanyahu and popularity among Israeli readers. The promoters of this reprehensible legislation – political opponents and the hostile media – had the chutzpah to initiate it in the name of democracy.

Over the past few weeks, the public was shocked to learn that in the very midst of this battle with his greatest enemy, Mozes, their prime minister had actually been indulging in crude horse trading with him. The disclosure of contents of extensive taped telephone conversations between Netanyahu and Mozes prior to the last elections stunned Israelis.

Israel Hayom, the free daily newspaper whose primary shareholders are Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, had emerged as the largest Israeli daily, overtaking the giant Yediot Aharonot in circulation, and many argue it was a crucial contributor to Netanyahu’s electoral success. The tapes disclose bizarre offers from Netanyahu to Mozes to allow passage of legislation which would limit the expansion of Israel Hayom and eliminate the weekend supplement – in return for political support and a guarantee that Mozes would promote him as prime minister indefinitely.

The fact is that Netanyahu has no control whatsoever over Israel Hayom and, not surprisingly, the deal was never consummated. In his defense, Netanyahu pathetically claims that the recordings were made to protect himself from extortion by Mozes.

This deplorable demonstration of amorality by both parties nauseated Israelis of all political persuasions and reflects badly on Netanyahu’s lack of trust even in those who have been his strongest allies and supporters.

Although there is no justification for Netanyahu’s behavior, he has been treated outrageously by the media.

Since the 1990s and his first term as prime minister, Netanyahu has been confronted by a barrage of unsubstantiated, politically motivated allegations in unsuccessful efforts to discredit him.

The most virulent defamation was the despicable personal attacks on his family. The ad hominem, front-page screaming headlines day after day attacking Netanyahu, his wife and even his children go beyond what is considered “yellow press.” They reflect a total absence of moral compass and represent a disgrace to the nation.

His son was accused of being invited to fly on private jets by and receiving guest accommodation from Netanyahu admirers – hardly corruption. His wife was headlined as augmenting her income with NIS 20 weekly by “stealing” 1,000 bottle refunds for her own credit. At one stage, the prime minister’s household expenses were headlined as extravagant because of Netanyahu’s penchant for quality ice cream.

In recent weeks, there were front-page headlines about Netanyahu and his wife receiving gifts of luxurious Cuban cigars and expensive wines from well-wishers amounting to “hundreds of thousands of shekels.” The consumption of a bottle of wine per day either from “gifts” or from the household budget was considered extravagant “while poor Israelis suffered.”

Ronald Lauder, a multi-billionaire and one of world Jewry’s most generous philanthropists, is reprimanded for giving gifts that go back nearly 20 years. The hint that in return he was obtaining benefits from Netanyahu in Israel where he has invested millions of dollars in projects that were valuable contributions to the state is absurd.

Moreover, Lauder is a shareholder in Channel 10, which has been at the vanguard of defaming Netanyahu and his family.

According to Haaretz, Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan (who is reputed to have been of great assistance to Israel and is also a shareholder and board member of Channel 10) was allegedly a major contributor of pink champagne and cigars, and it was ominously disclosed that Netanyahu “had visited his Herzliya home four times.”

Winston Churchill was renowned for his luxurious cigars and for consuming huge quantities of expensive brandy. Nobody would have dreamed of challenging his lifestyle or dared to suggest that gifts of this nature could possibly have constituted criminality or corruption. No other Western leader has been subject to such concentrated, venomous attempts to portray them as despicably avaricious.

Prime ministers David Ben-Gurion and Menahem Begin were never concerned with the material quality of their lives, as was reflected by their ascetic lifestyle. Very modest homes, no cigars and no pink champagne. After them came the hedonists – Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon and Netanyahu.

But the situation is aggravated by the double standards applied to Netanyahu compared to other prime ministers.

None of his predecessors or any past presidents have been under such hostile and obsessive scrutiny. Barak’s electoral manipulation through Isaac Herzog was quietly hushed up. Allegations of Sharon’s corruption investigation were terminated by the left-wing media when he initiated the Gaza disengagement. It was even suggested by the late David Landau when he served as editor of Haaretz that political motivations justified avoiding further investigation into Sharon’s financial affairs.

The worst example is Ehud Olmert, who, until the day of his indictment, despite evidence of huge amounts of cash being transferred to him in envelopes, was fully backed and heralded as innocent by Yediot Aharonot and the left-wing media. This even though according to public opinion Olmert had failed disastrously during the Second Lebanon War.

Despite huge pressure from the media, it is unlikely (although still possible) that Netanyahu will be indicted for corruption or criminality. But his recorded discussions with Mozes played into the hands of his foes and disgusted most Israelis.

On top of that, in addition to his social weaknesses, the use-by date for most politicians in the democratic world rarely extends beyond 10 years, which Netanyahu has exceeded.

But notwithstanding this, the fact remains that, according to all opinion polls, he currently remains vastly more popular than other potential candidates for prime minister. Israelis believe that at this moment there is nobody who could remotely fulfil the role as adequately as Netanyahu. It will be the voters of Israel – rather than the hostile media or scheming politicians – who will ultimately determine his political fate.

This applies especially now when Israel has so much at stake in relation to the incoming Trump administration which will usher in a new era that could have massive positive implications for the future of Israel.

There is currently no Israeli who has the connections, standing and ability to communicate the case for Israel with the eloquence and effectiveness in the United States as Netanyahu.

In all probability, this may be Netanyahu’s last term.

If over the next two years he succeeds in rehabilitating the alliance with the US, rationalizes the question of the settlement blocs, finds a solution to separating from the Palestinians, turns back the international tide of hostility and rebuilds relations between Israel and other civilized countries, he will go down in history as a great prime minister. His personal idiosyncrasies and the current scandal will become minor footnotes in the context of his genuine legacy.

Most Israelis, notwithstanding their exasperation, recognize this. Despite the obvious stains in Netanyahu’s lifestyle (and assuming that he will not be indicted for criminality or corruption), we should hope that, in the national interest, this obnoxious issue will be brought to an end and we should close ranks in support of his forthcoming efforts on our behalf in the United States.

We should pray for the success of Netanyahu’s efforts to achieve our long-term goal of peace and security during this critical turning point in our relationship with the new US administration.

Obama’s Mideast Legacy Is One of Tragic Failure

by Alan M. Dershowitz                  The Gatestone Institute


The Middle East is a more dangerous place after eight years of the Obama presidency than it was before. The eight disastrous Obama years follow eight disastrous George W. Bush years, during which that part of the world became more dangerous as well. So have many other international hot spots.

In sum, the past 16 years have seen major foreign policy blunders all over the world, and most especially in the area between Libya and Iran — that includes Israel, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey and the Gulf.

With regard to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, the Obama policies have made the prospects for a compromise peace more difficult to achieve. When Israel felt that America had its back — under both Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush — they offered generous proposals to end settlements and occupation in nearly all of the West Bank.

Tragically the Palestinian leadership — first under Yasser Arafat and then under Mahmoud Abbas — did not accept either offers from Israel Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Clinton in 2000-2001, nor Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s offer in 2008. Now they are ignoring current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s open offer to negotiate with no preconditions.

In his brilliant book chronicling American-Israeli relationship, Doomed To Succeed, Dennis Ross proves conclusively that whenever the Israeli government has confidence in America’s backing, it has been more willing to make generous compromise offers than when it has reason to doubt American support.

Obama did not understand this crucial reality. Instead of having Israel’s back, he repeatedly stabbed Israel in the back, beginning with his one-sided Cairo speech near the beginning of his tenure, continuing with his failure to enforce the red line on chemical weapons use by Syria, then allowing a sunset provision to be included in the Iran deal, and culminating in his refusal to veto the one-sided UN Security Council resolution, which placed the lion’s share of blame on the Israelis for the current stalemate.

These ill-advised actions — especially the Security Council resolution — have disincentivized the Palestinian leadership from accepting Netanyahu’s offer to sit down and negotiation a compromise peace. They have been falsely led to believe that they can achieve statehood through the United Nations, or by other means that do not require compromise.

The Iran deal, while it delayed Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, virtually guaranteed that it would be allowed to develop a nuclear arsenal as soon as the major restrictions on the deal expire in the next decade. Israel will never allow a regime sworn to the destruction of the nation-state of the Jewish people to secure such a weapon.

So the likelihood of an eventual dangerous military confrontation has been increased, rather than decreased, by the poorly negotiated Iran deal.

Obama’s failure to carry out his red-line threat against the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons has weakened American credibility among its allies and adversaries alike. It has created a power vacuum that Russia was quick to fill. Turkey, too, has flexed its bullying muscles, as its irascible and egomaniacal leader has used the excuse of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to go after another American ally, the Kurds, who have at least as strong a claim to statehood as the Palestinians.

America’s traditional allies in the Middle East — Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan — have all been weakened by Obama’s policies, most especially the Iran deal. America’s traditional enemies — Iran, Syria and Hezbollah — have been strengthened, along with Turkey.

Terrorism has increased and moved northward to Europe, partly as a result of the Syrian crisis. ISIS, al Qaeda, the Taliban and other terrorist offshoots, though weakened, remain a serious threat to regional stability and to civilians.

A destabilized Middle East poses increasing dangers to American allies and to peace. The blame for this instability is shared by Presidents George W. Bush and Obama. The invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein divided that country, rendering it ungovernable, and invited Iran to play a major role in its current destabilized condition.

The toppling of Moammar Gadhafi left Libya open to increasing terrorist influences. The attempt to replace Bashar Assad has turned Syria into a nightmare.

The forced resignation of Hosni Mubarak initially placed Egypt under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood, and strengthened Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Only a coup, opposed by the Obama administration, restored some semblance of stability to Egypt.

Lebanon has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hezbollah, a terrorist group under the influence of Iran that has 100,000 missiles aimed at Israel’s population centers. The “Shiite arc” now runs from Iran through parts of Iraq and Syria and into Lebanon.

This is the tragic legacy of the Obama administration’s failed efforts to undo the harms caused by the George W. Bush administration. Radical Islamic terrorists have replaced authoritarian secular tyrants.

Both are bad, but tyrants at least produce a degree of stability and predictability. They also tend to keep their tyranny domestic, whereas terrorists tend to export their evil tactics.

We should have learned the lesson from the replacement of the tyrannical Shah of Iran by the far more tyrannical and dangerous ayatollahs. But we did not. We insisted on supporting the “democracy” of the Arab spring, which resulted in the replacement of undemocratic domestic tyrants by undemocratic international terrorists.

History will look kindly on Obama’s domestic successes, but it will judge his mideast policy harshly.

The Real Situation of Arab Citizens of Israel

by Robert Cherry                    The Real Clear World


The liberal press has two staples in its coverage of Israeli politics. It consistently stresses that the major obstacle to settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the behavior of anti-Arab right-wing politicians, led by Naftali Bennett, who promote more Jewish settlements in the West Bank. We are also told incessantly that Jewish anti-Arab attitudes, nourished by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rhetoric, threaten the civil rights of and the opportunities available to Israel’s Arab citizens. Sprinkle in stories about the pending government destruction of Bedouin towns and its mistreatment of African refugees, and it is no wonder that many college students now consider Israel among the most racist countries in the world. U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s announcement of his proposed ambassador to Israel has only further intensified criticism.

What has been happening to the Israeli Arab population defies these demonizing narratives. In the past decade, the Netanyahu government has initiated efforts that have dramatically improved the occupational and educational attainment of its Arab citizens. Today, Israeli Arabs comprise 21 percent of the Israeli population and 23 percent of Israeli doctors. More generally, Arabs comprise 16 percent of first-year students in higher education, compared to 8 percent a decade earlier.

Between 2005 and 2011, inflation-adjusted Arab net family income increased by 7.4 percent. As a result, the share of Arab families that were “very satisfied” with their economic conditions rose from 40 percent in 2004-2005 to 60 percent in 2010-2011.  Indeed, recent surveys show Arab families have virtually the same level of satisfaction with their lives as Jewish families.

These gains have made integration into Israeli society a realistic goal for many within the Arab populace. Three-quarters of Israeli Arabs consider “Israeli” a part of their identity. They demand that their elected officials — the Joint List — pursue reforms that better their lives rather than those that promote solidarity with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. As a result, 73 percent disagreed with the decision of the Joint List not to attend the funeral of Shimon Peres.

In general, the leader of the Joint List, Ayman Odeh, has followed the desires of the Israeli Arab populace. Working together with Sikkuy in December 2015, the Israeli government passed Bill 922. The legislation aimed to correct the longstanding inequities of government funding by allocating an unprecedented sum for Arab communities. For example, it dedicated to Arab towns 40 percent of the transportation budget for the next few years, particularly in Bedouin areas. At the same time, under the direction of Merchavim, the Education Ministry’s goal of increasing by 500 the number of Arab teachers in Jewish schools whose subject of instruction is not language is moving forward. In the labor market, the number of Arabs in high-tech fields continues to grow. Arabs now comprise 28 percent of students at Technion University and more than 4,000 are employed in the high-tech industry compared to less than 400 eight years ago.

These advances are occurring because of the active role of members of the Netanyahu coalition, particularly those in Shas and Likud. Probably one of the most important backers of these advances has been Bennett. When he became director of the Education Ministry, many government critics feared that he would suspend the efforts to expand the number of Arab teachers of non-Arab-language subjects in the Jewish school system. Instead, he readily gave supplemental funding when Merchavim pointed to the need to support retention efforts. This fall, the increased number reached 300, so that for the first time, a majority of Arab teachers in Jewish schools taught subjects other than Arabic. When Merchavim communicated this to Bennett, he became emotional, his eyes tearing up. And a recent study found that these Arab teachers reduced dramatically the anti-Arab attitudes among Jewish students.

When I told this to the co-directors of Tsofen, the group most instrumental to the growth in employment in the high-tech sector, they were not surprised. When the group began operations in 2008, Bennett was instrumental to Tsofen’s ability to gain the government funding it needed to succeed. Indeed, thanks now to Bill 922, Tsofen hopes to implement an ambitious plan to convince high-tech firms to build facilities in Arab towns, making it easier for Israeli Arabs to work in the sector.

A decade ago, the government approved the opportunity for young women to enter National Service where, for one year, they engage in social service activities. For the first few years, a number of Arab political parties and organizations used intimidation tactics to discourage Arab participation. The nationalist Balad party, working with some of the Arab feminist organizations, were successful in limiting Arab participations to Bedouins, Christians, and Druze. Eventually, however, it became clear that National Service was beneficial both to individual Arab women and the communities they served. As a result, it has become a personal choice that is no longer stigmatized, leading to a broader participation.

In 2000, Jewish police fired on Arab protestors, killing 13. In response, the Abraham Fund helped initiate changes in police training and the integration of Arabs into the national police force. By 2010, almost 100 Arab towns had some Arab police, up from less than a dozen a decade earlier. Now with the tacit approval of many Arab mayors, the government has instituted an aggressive campaign to further add to the number of Arab police in Arab towns. As more participate in national service and police forces, Israeli Arabs will be further integrated into the national fabric.

Certainly, there are still many obstacles to the full membership of the Arab community in Israeli society. However, it is totally inappropriate for government critics like the New Israel Fund to ignore if not suppress information on how much progress has been made in the last decade. These critics and their Palestinian nationalist allies are wedded to a strategy of confrontation with an allegedly racist government. By contrast these improvements overwhelmingly demonstrate the benefits of constructive engagement with those right-wing members of the current government coalition who have a genuine commitment to improving the situation of Arab citizens. It is about time this more accurate story is told.