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Latest News in Israel – 30th December

Kerry: ‘The settler agenda is defining the future of Israel’

An historically rightwing government in Israel is pushing their nation toward annexation of the West Bank, intentionally eroding the viability of a Palestinian state through its settlement enterprise with the goal of creating a “irreversible one-state reality,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday.

In a speech billed by US officials as the secretary’s comprehensive vision for peace between the two peoples, Kerry spoke for over an hour from the State Department of his commitment to Israel’s longterm security as a Jewish and democratic state. As he has stated in the past, Kerry warned that future is in grave jeopardy.

“There really is no viable alternative” to a two-state solution, Kerry said. But “the settler agenda is defining the future of Israel, and their stated purpose is clear.  They believe in one state: greater Israel.”

“Separate and unequal is what you would have, and no one can explain how that works,” he warned.

Kerry offered some criticism for the Palestinian Authority, as well, lamenting its glorification of terrorism on official media channels. But most of his speech focused on Israel’s entrenchment in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, where he accused government officials of orchestrating a strategy to kill the two-state solution.

He specifically criticized a bill under consideration in the Knesset that would effectively legalize settlement outposts in the West Bank, applying Israeli civilian law in the territory for the first time— a “major step toward annexation,” he warned.

“The status quo is leading towards one state and perpetual occupation,” Kerry stated. “The truth is that trends on the ground – violence, terrorism, incitement, settlement expansion and the seemingly endless occupation – they are combining to destroy hopes for peace on both sides and increasingly cementing an irreversible one-state reality that most people do not actually want.”

“Trends indicate a comprehensive effort to take the West Bank land for Israel and prevent any Palestinian development there,” he said. “Now leaders of the settler movement have advanced unprecedented new legislation that would legalize most of those outposts.  For the first time, it would apply Israeli domestic law to the West Bank rather than military law, which is a major step towards the process of annexation.”

Kerry warned that, if the occupation becomes permanent, the PA would simply dissolve and turn over all the administrative and security responsibilities to the Israelis.

“What would happen then?  Who would administer the schools and hospitals and on what basis?,” he asked. “Does Israel want to pay for the billions of dollars of lost international assistance that the Palestinian Authority now receives?  Would the Israel Defense Force police the streets of every single Palestinian city and town?”

“How would Israel respond to a growing civil rights movement from Palestinians, demanding a right to vote, or widespread protests and unrest across the West Bank?  How does Israel reconcile a permanent occupation with its democratic ideals? How does the U.S. continue to defend that and still live up to our own democratic ideals?”

“Nobody has ever provided good answers to those questions,” he continued, “because there aren’t any.”

He slammed Israel’s approval of settlements closer to the Jordanian border than to its own, and the government’s failure to offer the PA reciprocal rights to build on land that, under any scheme, would be Palestinian territory under a two-state solution.

“If more and more settlers are moving in to the Palestinian areas, it’s going to be that much harder to separate,” he said, adding: “Settlement expansion has nothing to do with Israeli security.”

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 reemphasis 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.

Kerry delivered his concluding argument on Middle East peace less than a week after the Obama administration infuriated Israel by abstaining from a vote at the UN Security Council condemning its settlement enterprise, thus allowing the vote to pass. Israel has concluded that the outgoing president “colluded” to bring the measure to a vote, secretly encouraging it.

But the secretary rejected this characterization, insisting that the US had not pushed for the resolution. He did acknowledge, however, that the US indicated to partners that it would not oppose a resolution that was “balanced and fair.”

“In literally hundreds of conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu, I have made clear that continued settlement activity would only increase pressure for an international response.  We have all known for some time that the Palestinians were intent on moving forward in the UN with a settlements resolution, and I advised the prime minister repeatedly that further settlement activity only invited UN action. Yet the settlement activity just increased,” he said.

“In the end,” he continued, “we could not in good conscience protect the most extreme elements of the settler movement as it tries to destroy the two-state solution.  We could not in good conscience turn a blind eye to Palestinian actions that fan hatred and violence.”

About 90 minutes after Kerry’s speech, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a response in front of the cameras, in both Hebrew and then English, calling the speech a “big disappointment.”

He said that Kerry obsessively deals with settlements in Israel, “instead of dealing with the root of the conflict: the stubborn and continued refusal of the Palestinians to recognize a Jewish state in any borders.”

Netanyahu said that he was “surprised” that this was what the secretary of state of the biggest power on earth had to focus on for an hour as the Middle East is going up in flames, entire countries are collapsing, and terrorism is running wild.

“For a full hour, the secretary of state attacked the only democracy in the Middle East, that preserves the stability in the Middle East, not only for our citizens _– Jews and Arabs alike – but also contributes to the stability and security in our region, and for many many of our neighbors.”

Netanyahu slammed Kerry for making a “false moral equation” between building a home in Jerusalem or its suburbs, and terrorism that attacks innocent civilians.

Referring to the time Kerry devoted in his speech to the settlements, he said that after making the false equation between homes and terrorism,  he speaks only about the home in Jerusalem, and “pays lip service alone to condemnation of terrorism.”

“In the UN resolution that he initiated and moved forward, there they talk only about anonymous incitement, we don’t know whose it is,” he said. “The settlements are Israel’s the incitement is out there, we don’t know whose it is.”

If the administration had invested as much energy in fighting Palestinians terror as in condemning building in Jerusalem, perhaps there would be a better chance in moving peace forward.

Switching to English, Netanyahu said that Israel would not be “swayed by mistaken policies that have caused great, great damage. Israelis do not need to be lectured about the importance of peace by foreign leaders.”

Israel believes that direct negotiations are the only way to make peace with the Palestinians, he said, adding that this has also always been America’s policy as well.

“Secretary of State Kerry said that the United States cannot vote against its own policy, but that is exactly what it did at the UN,” he charged.

Netanyahu said that Israel looks forward to working with President-elect Donald Trump and both parties in Congress to “mitigate the damage the [UN] resolution has done, and ultimately to repeal it.”

Netanyahu said that Israel hopes that the outgoing administration will prevent any further moves in the UN in its waning days.

He said he was not comforted by Kerry’s comments that the US would not bring any more resolutions to the UN. “That is what they said about this resolution. We have it on absolutely incontestable  evidence that the United States organized, advanced and brought this resolution to the United Nations Security Council,” he said, refuting denials that Kerry made in his speech.

President-elect Donald Trump weighed in to the diplomatic crisis once again on Wednesday, criticizing the White House for its treatment of Israel over the course of the last eight years.

“We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect,” the president-elect tweeted, noting both Resolution 2334 as well as the Obama administration’s role in brokering an international nuclear deal with Iran. “Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!”

Toward the end of his speech, Kerry acknowledged that the incoming administration has indicated it would work to reverse decades of bipartisan US policy opposed to Israel’s settlement enterprise.

That is for them to decide,” Kerry said. “This is a time to stand up for what is right.”   (Jerusalem Post)

Netanyahu: Kerry obsessed with settlements, ignores ‘root of conflict’

Shortly after the conclusion of the speech, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Office described Kerry’s focus on Israeli settlements as obsessive, calling his comments “biased.”

Israeli officials spanning across the political spectrum responded to US Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech after the American official outlined his vision for Middle East peace in Washington DC Wednesday.

Kerry claimed an historically right-wing government in Israel is pushing their nation toward annexation of the West Bank, intentionally eroding the viability of a Palestinian state through its settlement enterprise with the goal of creating a “permanent one-state reality.”

Shortly after the conclusion of the speech, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described Kerry’s focus on Israeli settlements as obsessive, saying his “biased” comments ignored the “root of the conflict.”

“For more than an hour, Kerry obsessed over the issue of settlements and hardly touched on the root of the conflict – Palestinian resistance to a Jewish state within any borders,” the premier said.

Coalition partner and leader of the pro-settlement faction in the Knesset, Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi), also remarked on Kerry’s speech, saying that Israel should not support the establishment of a Palestinian state.

“If it was up to me, we would not allow the establishment of another terror state in the heart of the country,” Bennett said, rejecting Kerry’s call to preserve a two-state solution.

Opposition leader in Israel’s parliament, Zionist Union MK Issac Herzog, was much more conciliatory towards the secretary, calling Kerry a “great friend” who has shown “true concern” about Israel’s future.

“John Kerry has always been a great friend of Israel and will always be. His speech expresses true concerns about Israels well-being & future,” Herzog wrote in a tweet.

Kerry’s speech came less than a week after the United States abstained from vetoing an anti-settlement resolution passed in the United Nations Security Council.

Kerry claimed in his speech Wednesday that the US’s decision not to veto the motion, known as resolution 2334, was a positive step in the pursuit of peace between the two parties.

But Israel envoy to the UN Danny Danon rejected Kerry’s assertion, saying the Obama administration’s abstention at the UNSC damaged prospects for ending the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

“To coordinate anti-Israel steps with the Palestinians and to advance one-sided resolutions against Israel at the Security Council is not support for Israel, it’s the opposite,” Danon said.

“The Obama administration acted against Israel at the UN and any statement suggesting otherwise is a distortion of reality,” he charged.

“Speeches, declarations and one-sided UN resolutions will not advance peace in our region, but rather condemnation of terror, a halt to incitement and a return to direct negotiations will,” the UN envoy added.  (Jerusalem Post)

Following UNSC resolution, PLO wants ICC to open full investigation into settlements

The International Criminal Court Prosecutor should move swiftly in opening a full investigation into the legality of settlements, a senior Palestine Liberation Organization official said on Wednesday.

“The Executive Committee wants the ICC Prosecutor to expedite her initial examination into settlements and subsequently proceed to opening a full investigation now that the Security Council has established that they are illegal,” Wasel Abu Yousif, a PLO Executive Committee member, told The Jerusalem Post.

UN Security Council resolution 2334, which was approved on Friday, said settlements “have no legal validity” and constitute an obstacle to peace.

At the same time, the resolution called them a “flagrant violation” of international law, not a “grave violation.” The motion was passed under the less-binding UN Charter Chapter 6, not the most-binding Chapter 7, leaving an unclear picture of whether the ICC will view the settlements as a mere non-prosecutable violation or a prosecutable war crime.

The ICC Prosecution opened a preliminary examination of alleged war crimes connected to the 2014 Gaza war and to the settlement enterprise in January 2015.

Jerusalem disputes the ICC’s jurisdiction since Israel is not a member of the intergovernmental organization. Israel also says that there is no “State of Palestine” to request ICC intervention and argues that internal legal institutions within Israel, which have opened over 500 examinations and over 30 criminal investigations, make any ICC intervention superfluous.

The Palestinians argue that Israeli investigations are not sufficiently impartial and are used to shield senior officers from being charged.

The ICC Prosecution must decide to accept or reject Israel’s arguments before deciding whether to proceed to a full criminal investigation.

A full criminal investigation could be years off and Israel could appeal the ICC Prosecutor’s decision to a pretrial panel of judges of the ICC themselves.

Abu Yousif added that the PLO plans to turn to a number of other international bodies in addition to the ICC to hold Israel accountable for its settlement construction.

“We are going to ask the parties of Geneva Accords and the UN Human Rights Council to discuss and take a position on the issue of illegal settlements,” Abu Yousif remarked  (Jerusalem Post)

Julie Bishop backs Israel rather than the US over UN resolution

Australia has broken ranks with the United States and New Zealand over Israel, indicating that it would most likely have opposed the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Israel recalled its ambassador to New Zealand for consultations after NZ co-sponsored the resolution demanding that Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem”, and saying the settlements had “no legal validity and [constitute] a flagrant violation under international law”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned New Zealand’s Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, to warn him the resolution was a “declaration of war”, according to a leading Israeli newspaper.

After the resolution, Israel’s government said it would move ahead with thousands of new homes in East Jerusalem and said it had received “ironclad” information that Washington had helped craft the resolution.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who instructed his UN representative to abstain rather than veto the resolution, later delivered a strongly worded speech attacking settlements, saying “the settler agenda is defining the future of Israel, and their stated purpose is clear. They believe in one state: Greater Israel. Separate and unequal is what you would have, and no one can explain how that works.”

In a statement released on Thursday, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Australia was not currently a member of the Security Council and was not eligible to vote on the resolution.

However, she said, “in voting at the UN, the Coalition government has consistently not supported one-sided resolutions targeting Israel”.

She urged both sides to refrain from steps that damage the prospect for peace and to “resume direct negotiations for a two-state solution as soon as possible”.

Acting Opposition Leader Chris Bowen said Labor has long supported, and continued to support, a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Settlement building on occupied Palestinian land that undermined a two-state solution was “a roadblock to peace”.

Labor had called on Israel to halt the expansion of settlements and to support renewed negotiations towards peace.

The Secretary of State said Israel’s leadership was “the most right wing in Israeli history, with an agenda driven by its most extreme elements”.

While America supported a two-state solution, “the policies of this government – which the Prime Minister himself just described as ‘more committed to settlements than any in Israel’s history’ – are leading in the opposite direction, towards one state”.

The UN vote was a reasonable extension of US policy that went back to the Johnson administration: that the land conquered in 1967 could be traded for a lasting peace with Israel’s neighbours, Mr Kerry said.

President-elect Donald Trump, who takes office on January 20, tweeted his support of Israel’s position, saying, “stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!”  (SMH)

‘Arrested Hamas operative reveals Gaza tunnel secrets to Israel’

The operative “supplied a good deal of information on the location of tunnels and their routes in northern Gaza, as well as Hamas’ tunnel digging methods,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.

Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) cleared for publication Wednesday that Bilal Razania, brother of Mustafa Razania, head of the Hamas internal security apparatus, was arrested while crossing the border from Gaza into Israel on November 27, 2016.

Bilal is a member of the Hamas militant wing Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.

Razania was taken in for questioning where he gave details of his role within Hamas, the jobs of other Hamas members as well other wanted Hamas operatives who were active in Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

Razania also revealed the terror organization’s activity in recent years, which included their focus on tunnels.

“[Razania] supplied a good deal of information on the location of tunnels and their routes in northern Gaza, as well as Hamas’ tunnel digging methods,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.

During an additional interrogation, the operative divulged information about Gaza based terror organization, Islamic Jihad, as well as Hamas outpost positions and details on other members of Hamas.

The Shin Bet also learned from Razania Hamas’ use of civilian structures, including the use of hospitals during Operation Protective Edge.

Razania’s brother, Mustafa, and other senior Hamas officials hid in the Kamal Adwan hospital in the northern Gaza, which they used as a base to give orders.

“The information that came forward in the Shin Bet investigation reveals the use of civilian buildings to advance terror activities and is another example of Hamas and other terror organizations in Gaza violating international laws,” stated the Shin Bet.

“The information collected in this investigation, as well as from other Hamas operatives arrested over the past year, shows the effort Hamas is going though in order to prepare for a military confrontation with Israel.”  (Jerusalem Post)

Shin Bet foiled over 400 significant terror attacks in 2016, service says

The Shin Bet general security agency prevented over 400 terror attacks over the course of 2016, the service’s chief revealed Tuesday during an award event for its most valued operations over the past two years.

During a ceremony to present the Prime Minister’s Prize for operational-intelligence in 2015-2016 held at the Shin Bet headquarters, director Nadav Argaman praised the service’s efforts in thwarting the attempted attacks.

“It is thanks to the quality intelligence, the advanced technology, and the excellent human capital that the Shin Bet this year thwarted more than 400 significant attacks,” Argaman said during the event.

“You saw everything that we saw, but you thought what no one else thought before,” he told his agents.

Prime Minister Benjmain Netanyahu was at the ceremony to hand out awards for the six most complex and advanced operations the Shin Bet carried out in the past two years in the fields of intelligence, technology and cyberspace.

Among the operations that won prizes, awarded every two years, were the development of sophisticated technologies for dealing with lone-wolf attacks, an operation to obtain groundbreaking intelligence information, and the thwarting of terror infrastructures planning major attacks, the Shin Bet said in a statement.

“The Shin Bet carries out hundreds of operations that are a protective wall against the terror [threatening] to harm the security of Israel and its citizens,” Netanyahu said according to a report from the Hebrew-language Ynet website.

“The men and women of the service who took part in these operations demonstrated creativity, boldness, sophistication and exceptional courage,” he said.

“The lives of many citizens were saved thanks to the amazing preventative actions the Shin Bet takes, by using advanced technology, groundbreaking cyber information, and in particular creativity and never-ending determination. In the name of the citizens of Israel — I salute and thank you for your actions as an unseen shield,” Netanyahu said.

Earlier Tuesday the Shin Bet said it had foiled a plan by Arab Israelis to attack soldiers in the southern Negev desert, apparently in retaliation for Israel’s decision earlier this year to outlaw the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement.

Two of the suspects — Muhammad Masri, 37, of Beersheba, and Abd Allah Abu Ayash, 26, from Kasifa — are accused of plotting to attack soldiers at three possible locations, Dimona, Arad, and the Nevatim air force base in the Negev Desert, the security service said in a statement  (the Times of Israel)

In Bahrain, Arabs and Jews Gather (and Dance) at a Hanukkah Celebration

Orthodox Jews in black coats and skullcaps danced with Arabs in flowing robes and checkered kaffiyehs at a Hanukkah celebration over the weekend in Bahrain, a Muslim-majority monarchy whose king has sanctioned celebrations of the Jewish holiday.

Video of the celebration, which included a Jewish delegation giving a large silver menorah to Arab dignitaries and members of both groups dancing together, appeared on Monday on YouTube, where many commenters lauded the multicultural celebration.

Jews and Muslims celebrate Hanukkah in Bahrain Video

The event drew the ire of Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, which called the celebration a “humiliating and disgraceful display” in a statement.

“The positive energy that there was tonight needs to be spread around,” an unidentified Jewish man tells the group in American-accented English before handing over the menorah, which he called symbolic. “The symbol is that hopefully through this night we can bring infinite light to the world.”

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that Bahraini officials hosted the Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony on Saturday, the first night of the eight-day holiday, and that it was attended by members of the country’s small Jewish population, foreign businessmen and “other local Bahrainis.”

The identities of the members of either delegation could not immediately be determined, but American Orthodox Jews suggested online that the Jewish group might have been backed by Eliezer Scheiner, a businessman and philanthropist from Brooklyn. Calls to Mr. Scheiner were not answered.

In 2015, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain invited European Jewish leaders to conduct a Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony in the capital, Manama, the first such ritual performed in the country since 1948, according to the Conference of European Rabbis.

“Here in Bahrain members of all the religions live with no fear, and we will continue to allow Jews to live peacefully and quietly, maintaining their lifestyle, their customs and the commandments of their religion without any fear,” the king said at the time.

There are fewer than 50 Jews living in Bahrain, but the king has embraced them, adding Jews to his Shura Council, which advises him, and appointing a Jewish woman, Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo, as ambassador to the United States in 2008. She is the first Jewish ambassador posted abroad by any Arab country.

In a statement, Hamas criticized the celebration in light of a recently passed United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s construction of settlements in disputed territory.

“In light of the increasing pace of international sympathy for the Palestinian cause and support for the rights of the Palestinian people, and the growing international boycott of the Zionist entity movements in all forms, that a group of dignitaries and traders in the State of Bahrain hosted a Jewish, Zionist, racist, extremist delegation and danced with them is a humiliating and disgraceful display,” the group said in a statement posted on Twitter.   (the New York Times)

Israel makes public 200,000 documents on missing Yemenite children

Netanyahu: Declassifying information “corrects historical injustice.” Yemen Immigrants


Immigrants from Yemen in a tent encampment in 1949

Israel on Wednesday made public for the first time some 200,000 pages of documents related to the fate of the 1950s missing Yemenite children, something Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said was meant to “correct the historical injustice” of hiding the fate of the children.

“It is difficult to believe that for almost 70 years, people did not know what happened to their children,” Netanyahu said. “And as difficult as the reality may be, we are not willing for this to continue.”

Netanyahu’s comments came at a ceremony in the Prime Minister’s Office where a website was launched with the documentation about the children.

The documents are those that three inquiry committees had at their disposal over the years in investigating the case of the missing children – in 1967,

1988, and 1995. From now on, Netanyahu said, “with one touch of the keyboard,” everyone will have access to the documents and can trace what happened to the children.

In June, Netanyahu appointed Tzachi Hanegbi to re-examine the evidence in the three previous inquiries, and in November the cabinet decided to released the classified documents. This decision overturned a 2001 decision to seal the documents until 2071.

During the early days of the state, from 1948 to 1954, hundreds of babies and toddlers of families of Mizrahi descent, mostly from Yemen, mysteriously disappeared during the massive wave of immigration at the time. In the vast majority of cases, parents were told in the hospital that their newborn baby had died, though they never received any official confirmation.

Over the years, families have claimed that their children were in fact kidnapped and given away or sold off to Ashkenazi families.

At the ceremony on Wednesday, Hanabi termed this a “big day to correct a big injustice.”

The reason this is happening now, he said, “is that we feel a moral need to reveal the truth.  (Jerusalem Post)

Kerry leaves stage locked into failed assumptions

by Herb Keinon     The Jerusalem Post


The six principles that Kerry set down as the way to move forward were predictable, and not much different from the parameters President Bill Clinton issued before he left office 16 years ago.

Long. That is likely how many will remember US Secretary of State John Kerry’s more than hour-long speech on the Middle East delivered Wednesday, less than a month before he leaves the world’s stage.

Long, and without many new elements in it. What a tired-looking, hoarse Kerry did for more than an hour was pretty much compile the “greatest hits” from numerous speeches he and US President Barack Obama have given over the last number of years on the Mideast.

He talked about the detrimental effects of the settlements; how Israel needs to chose whether it wants two states or one state, meaning it can either be a Jewish state or a democratic one, but not both; and how the settlements are making a two state-solution impossible.

All of this has been said multiple times before by the Administration, no surprises there. A good part of the speech, however, was devoted to defending the US’ abstention at the UN last week – a sign that the harsh criticism by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s, ambassador to the US Ron Dermer and other government ministers had unnerved him a bit.

Kerry’s speech is a momentary snapshot of where the world stands on the issue right now, because just as the Security Council hall erupted in applause after Friday’s resolution was passed, so too it is fair to say that the vast majority of the international community agrees wholeheartedly with the sentiments Kerry expressed about the settlements.

That is now. But things may change. If President-elect Trump comes into office and questions the two-state orthodoxy that Kerry pledged allegiance to that could have a trickle down effect to other countries as well.

The six principles that Kerry set down as the way to move forward were predictable, and not much different from the parameters President Bill Clinton issued before he left office 16 years ago.

Nevertheless, two elements of the speech were striking.

The first was the insistence that the only solution to the conflict is either two-states,  or one. This is the mantra that has been repeated for so long, that it has become axiomatic. But it also drowns out any possibility of creatively looking at other options, a different way.

If the efforts to negotiate two states has failed for so long, perhaps it is time to consider whether there may be other options that might bring Egypt and Jordan into the equation. Perhaps what is needed is a reassessment of all the the assumptions over the last 23 years that have ended in the current stalemate — first and foremost that the only option is two states from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River.

For instance, in 2010 former National Security Council Giora Eiland spelled out a plan for a Jordanian-Palestinian federation, in which the West Bank and Gaza would be states in an expanded Jordanian kingdom.

Another idea would see the establishment of a Palestinian state, but it would be based on land swaps between Egypt, Israel and a future Palestinian entity that would significantly expand the size of Gaza, allow Israel to retain a good percentage of the the West Bank, and provide Egypt with a land link to Jordan.

These ideas are too often dismissed as unrealistic, something that the Palestinians would never accept. Kerry reinforces that way of thinking with his stating as truth that it is either two states or one state.

The Kerry speech was also telling in that it included a call for Israel to withdraw from the territories and uproot settlements. This is a demand for Israel to make huge compromises.  There was, however, no comparable demand for compromise on the Palestinian side.

Kerry called, and says that the US has done so on innumerable occasions,  for the Palestinians to stop the terrorism and the incitement, and to build up good governing institutions. But those are not compromises.

A Palestinian compromise would be to recognize that — given everything going on in the Middle East —  Israel must retain security control of the Jordan Valley. A compromise would be for the Palestinians to state that they are giving up on the “right of return,” and that they recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish state.

“Recognition of Israel as a Jewish state has been the US position for years,” Kerry said. “And based on my conversations in these last months, I am absolutely convinced that many others are prepared to accept it as well, provided as well that the need for a Palestinian state is also addressed.”

So there’s the deal: Israel withdraws, uproots settlements, and then based on Kerry’s conversation in recent weeks, “many others” may be prepared to recognize Israel as a Jewish state that has the right to exist as well.

That type of gamble is not going to find much resonance with Israelis, who have to live with the consequences.

Throughout his career, both in the senate and as secretary of state, Kerry’s speeches on Israel give the listener a sense that he knows what is better for Israel, its future, and security than the Israelis themselves. His speech Wednesday night was true to that rather patronizing form.

Security Council resolution on Israel and Palestine will just make the standoff worse

by Peter Wertheim and Alex Ryvchin    The Sydney Morning Herald


In his last address to the United Nations Security Council on December 16, outgoing Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon recognised that the UN is biased against Israel.

“Decades of political manoeuvrings have created a disproportionate volume of resolutions, reports and conferences criticising Israel,” Ban said. “In many cases, rather than helping the Palestinian cause, this reality has hampered the ability of the UN to fulfil its role effectively.”

Only one week later, the Security Council itself passed another Israel resolution. Resolution 2334 said that Israel’s settlements in the West Bank have “no legal validity” and constitute a “flagrant violation” of international law.

Settlements and borders are actually among the more resolvable of the core issues of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Two precedents are instructive.

In 1982, following the signing of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty, Israel withdrew its military forces and civilians from the Sinai Peninsula, dismantling all 18 settlements that had been built there, and returned the territory to Egypt. There has been peace between Israel and Egypt ever since.

In contrast, in 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew its military forces and civilians from the Gaza Strip, dismantling all 21 settlements there. Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007 and stepped up rocket and mortar attacks against Israeli towns and cities, resulting in three wars.

Given that experience, Israel will not take any action on the settlements or relinquish territory in the West Bank unless it is pursuant to a negotiated peace treaty with the Palestinians.

Any Israeli concessions on settlements, borders and territory must mark the end of the conflict, and not the beginning of the next phase of the conflict.  In the 1995 Interim Agreement with Israel, the Palestinians themselves agreed that this must be the case.

Apartment blocks and paved roads have never prevented two warring sides from finding peace. Rather, it is the absence of political will to make painful compromises and lead nations beyond generations of enmity that makes peace so elusive.

Within a year of signing the Oslo Accords with Israel in 1993, Yasser Arafat told congregants at a mosque in Johannesburg that “the jihad will continue”. He said any agreement with Israel would be no more than a temporary truce.

It is this tradition of Palestinian double-speak, of promising peace to international audiences while stoking the flames of hatred and war to their own people, that stands between Israelis and Palestinians.

More problematical than settlements is the Palestinians’ claim to a “right of return” to Israel, not only for the 30,000 Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war who are still living, but also for all of their descendants ad infinitum, some 5 million people. The notion of refugee status being inherited and passed down in perpetuity to remote descendants who have never fled from their homes is without parallel in international law. It is not applied to, nor is it claimed by, any other refugee group – only by the Palestinians. This is artificially hindering a resolution of the refugee issue.

Then there is the question of Palestinian disunity and extremism. Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, ruthlessly purged the rival Fatah organisation from the territory and stepped up rocket and mortar attacks against Israeli towns and cities, resulting in three wars.

The unwillingness or inability of the Palestinians to make peace was demonstrated by the collapse of the 2008 round of negotiations, during which Israel agreed to the creation of a Palestinian state. Israel proposed that it annex 6.3 per cent of the West Bank, within which all of the government-authorised settlement construction and expansion occurs and where 80 per cent of the settlers live. This would be compensated with 1:1 land swaps and an access way between the West Bank and Gaza to create a contiguous Palestinian state with a capital in east Jerusalem. The Palestinians rejected the offer without making a counter-offer.

The real difficulty in resolving the settlements issue is therefore not physical but political.  In delivering its settlement-centric resolution, the Security Council has, in effect, ignored the issues that go to the heart of the conflict, preferring to fall into the bad habits that Ban Ki-Moon warned about.  This will ultimately be counter-productive for all parties.

Resolution 2334 simply indulges the Palestinian refusal to negotiate or compromise. It will only serve to validate hardliners on both sides in the eyes of their own people, and thus cement Israelis and Palestinians into mutually irreconcilable positions.

Peter Wertheim is executive director and Alex Ryvchin is public affairs director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

A knife in the back with Obama’s fingerprints

By Wesley Pruden                  The Washington Times


Barack Obama couldn’t pass up his last opportunity to put a knife in the back of the Israelis, whom he has demonstrated for years in word and deed that he doesn’t like very much. He doesn’t like Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, at all.

With his 15 minutes in the spotlight running out, as it must for every celebrity, even a president, the president no longer has to fool Jewish voters that he’s a friend of the Jewish state, which he has done through oft-gritted teeth. He can speak with abandon, and if mischief at the United Nations makes life difficult for the new president, so much the better.

But his knife in the back comes at a fortunate time for the country, because the new administration will be eager to make things right with America’s only reliable friend in the Middle East. That friend is fighting mad. So deep is the anger that the Israelis have dispensed with diplomatic language and are telling it like it is, with the bark on and with candor not often seen and heard in public. The whole world can hear.

The Israeli ambassador to Washington said Monday that his country would present “evidence” to President-elect Donald Trump that the Obama administration did not merely step aside, to abstain from voting while the U.N. Security Council adopted a mean-spirited and one-sided rebuke of Israel for enabling settlements on the West Bank, but plotted to make sure the resolution was drawn and adopted.

“It’s an old story that the United Nations gangs up against Israel,” Ambassador Ron Dermer told CNN News. “What is new is that the United States did not stand up and oppose that gang-up. And what is outrageous is that the United States was actually behind the gang-up.”

He said the proof Israel has will be presented to the new administration “through appropriate channels and if they want to share it with the American people, they are welcome to do it.”

Presidents are usually eager to depart the White House premises with dignity intact and with a reasonably clean slate left for the new man. There was no love lost between Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, and the air in the ride up Pennsylvania Avenue to the steps of the Capitol for the Eisenhower inauguration was said to have been cooler inside the limousine than outside, but good faith and civility of a sort nevertheless prevailed.

Hillary took a few sticks of furniture with her when the Clintons departed the White House, but when it was called to her attention that she had somehow mixed up family goods with the nation’s own antiques, she sent the purloined goods back (whether reluctantly or not). Perhaps Bubba thought he was only getting back at the yankees for their having taken some of the family silver a century and more ago.

But the mischief last week at the United Nations was far more serious, because it was intended to hurt the nation’s interests beyond petty thievery. If President Obama was worried about leaving a memorable and lasting legacy, he can relax. Now he’s got one.

The Israeli prime minister’s spokesman said separately that “we have ironclad information that the Obama administration really helped push this resolution and helped craft it, from sources internationally and sources in the Arab world.”

Mr. Obama’s White House denied everything, as expected, but the denial was carefully crafted to deny with a certain precision what had not actually been alleged. “We did not draft this resolution, we did not introduce this resolution,” Ben Rhodes, the president’s deputy national-security adviser said. “We made the decision [not to veto the resolution] when it came up for a vote.”

The Israelis called the denial the work of “a master of fiction,” a barb at Mr. Rhodes, who holds a master’s degree in creative writing, and aspires to be a novelist.

The Israeli evidence, such as it may be, obviously was gleaned from sources within the Arab world, where Israeli agents are quite at home. Mr. Obama’s men may learn that alliances shift in unexpected ways in the Middle East, where deceit is a practiced virtue.

The Israelis clearly perceive Donald Trump as the friend they have wanted in the White House, and expect President Obama to make further diplomatic mischief before all his dreams and schemes turn into pumpkins at the stroke of noon on Jan. 20.

His aggressive pushback to the U.N. resolution and its mischief is to make it clear and plain that Israel thinks it will soon have a friend in Washington.

John Kerry is Dead Wrong about Israeli Settlements

by Gregg Roman                       The Los Angeles Times/Middle East Forum


United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which describes Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as illegal, should never have passed last week. But the U.S. refused to use its veto power, in part because, as Secretary of State John F. Kerry explained in a speech on Wednesday, the Obama administration believes settlements are an obstacle to peace in the Middle East. In the outgoing administration’s view, extreme criticism is, conversely, necessary to advance the peace process.

This argument is dead wrong. Still, let’s examine it.

Although administration officials have been reluctant to explain the precise reasoning behind their last-minute series of attacks on Israel, as near as I can tell it rests on three assumptions.

The first, as Kerry outlined in his speech, is that a freeze on Israeli settlement growth makes it easier for Palestinian negotiators to make painful compromises at the negotiating table. It supposedly does this by easing Palestinian suspicions that Israel either won’t make major territorial concessions at the negotiating table, or won’t implement these concessions once made.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put this assumption to the test in November 2009 when he imposed a 10-month moratorium on new housing construction (East Jerusalem excepted) at the urging of the Obama administration.

What happened? Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refused to return to talks until the very end of the moratorium and remained every bit as intransigent as before.

The main impediment to Palestinian compromise is not Palestinian suspicion; it is the fundamental unwillingness of Palestinian leaders across the spectrum to accept the existence of a Jewish state alongside their own.

What’s more, a strong case can be made that some settlement growth actually makes it easier for Palestinian moderates to build public support for compromise by underscoring that a continuation of the status quo is untenable and injurious to Palestinian national aspirations in the long run.

The Obama administration’s second assumption is that pressure from the international community or from the United States will bring about this supposedly desirable settlement freeze.

However, by collapsing the distinction between East Jerusalem and bustling Israeli towns just inside the West Bank — which no major Israeli political party will contemplate abandoning — and the remaining settlements, most of which Israelis are willing to give up, this policy does the opposite.

“It is a gift to Bibi Netanyahu, who can now more easily argue to Israelis that the bad relationship with America these last eight years wasn’t his fault,” notes the writer Jonah Goldberg.

Finally, even if it were true that a settlement freeze would make it easier for Palestinian negotiators to trust Israel and that international pressure would increase the willingness of Israeli leaders to accept such a freeze, these effects would be far overshadowed by the problems created by branding Israeli claims outside the 1949 armistice line illegal and invalid.

Since Palestinian leaders already have trouble justifying to their people the abandonment of territorial claims to Ma’ale Adumim, the Jewish quarter in Jerusalem, and so forth, they will have double the trouble now that the United States has endorsed these demands. What Palestinian leader can sign away territory to which Washington and the Security Council have declared Israelis have no legitimate claim?

Kerry stated plainly that Israel is to blame for the demise of the two-state process, and that — unless its leaders listen to counsel — Israel will not survive as both a Jewish and a democratic state. Now that the administration’s views are crystal clear, pundits should spare us the back and forth on whether its eleventh-hour obsessions are good for peace – no one as smart as Obama or Kerry can possibly believe that it is.

The more interesting question, sure to be the focus of congressional hearings next year, is why the administration used its last few weeks to damage relations with Israel.

The Dangers of UN Security Council Resolution 2334 (2016) – Alan Baker (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

The Palestinian leadership, having initiated the UN Security Council resolution regarding Israel’s settlement policy, is celebrating its adoption on Dec. 23, 2016, as an affirmation of its claims against Israel.

Israel sees this resolution as a major impediment to continued peace negotiations in light of the fact that it bypasses the negotiation process in an attempt to prejudge central issues that are on the negotiating table.

The resolution (as all previous resolutions regarding Israel) was adopted under the sixth chapter of the UN Charter (Pacific Settlement of Disputes) and as such is not mandatory. Its determinations as to the lack of legal validity of Israel’s settlements are no more than declaratory.

Expressions not previously included in major Security Council resolutions regarding the peace process, such as a “two-state solution based on the 1967 lines,” as well as references to the “Arab Peace Initiative” and the “principle of land for peace” as additional bases for peace, clearly are intended to instill concepts that have never been agreed-upon elements in the negotiating process.

The reference to the “4 June 1967 lines” as a basis for negotiations would appear to be a new element, running counter to the 1967 Security Council Resolution 242, which is the basis for the entire Arab-Israeli peace process, which calls for negotiation of “secure and recognized boundaries.” The Israeli-Palestinian Oslo Accords make no specific reference to the 1967 lines. As such, this reference would appear to be an attempt to prejudge or unduly influence the negotiating issue of borders.

The outrage voiced by Israel stems from five basic components:

The text of the resolution, which is unprecedented in the extent of the condemnatory language used.

Israel’s frustration at the irresponsible behavior by the Obama administration.

The evident irreversibility of the resolution and the potential for future damage.

The imbalance between accusations of Israeli violations of the Oslo Accords and the Palestinians’ blatant violations of international law in their incitement and payment to terrorists.

The issue of settlements is not the core of the conflict. It remains the Palestinians’ refusal to recognize the Jewish State and its right to any part of the land west of the Jordan River.

Amb. Alan Baker, former legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians.