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Latest News in Israel – 13th December

The Truth About Jerusalem

Media logic: Islam is a religion of peace, so if any violence occurs, it’s all Donald Trump’s fault!

Has Donald Trump done anything different than any of the last previous presidents?

Yes – he showed that it’s not just talk and more talk now.

This is a president who does what he says.

We are so used to having presidents who talk and don’t deliver.

President Trump should be lauded for delivering on one of his campaign promises that he was elected to uphold. (Israel Video Network)

IDF demands answers after Palestinian ambulance filmed carting protesters

A senior Israeli commander demanded answers from the Palestinian Red Crescent on Monday after one of its ambulances was captured on video appearing to drop off masked protesters at an active demonstration in Ramallah.

The video distributed by the IDF shows masked men disembarking from the ambulance that then continues to the scene of the confrontation, at a demonstration against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“A Red Crescent ambulance was documented aided Palestinian rioters in Ramallah, under the guise of providing medical treatment,”wrote Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Major General Yoav Mordechai, in what the IDF termed a “sharp letter” to the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross. “I view this with the utmost severity and demand the incident be investigated and that I be updated on its findings.”

Watch the video:

On its Arabic Language Facebook page, COGAT wrote that by taking the actions seen in the video, the Red Crescent violated its self-declared mission to remain neutral by avoiding taking sides in any political, religious or ethnic conflict.

The Red Crescent and the ICRC have yet to issue a public response.

Clashes over the Jerusalem move have been going on since Wednesday when Trump made the dramatic announcement that he was breaking with US foreign policy and authorize the transferring of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The decision sparked a wave of angry protests across the Arab and Muslim World and rebukes from the West. In the West Bank, hundreds continue to answer the calls of nationalist and religious Palestinian groups and take to the streets to confront IDF and Border Police troops who are out in great numbers. Protests often turn violent with demonstrators hurling rocks, Molotov Cocktails and burning tires at the forces who respond with tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets and other riot-dispersal methods.  (Jerusalem Post)

Iron Dome intercepts missile fired from Gaza to Israel

Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted at least one rocket fired from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory Monday night, the IDF’s Spokesperson’s office said in a statement.

No one was injured and no damage was caused as a result of the fire and interception.

Rocket alarm sirens blared across communities surrounding the Gaza Strip, but the rocket fire appeared to be aimed at the coastal city of Ashkelon, some 20 kilometers away.

Earlier today, additional rockets were fired from the Palestinian enclave and Israel responded with tank fire and air strikes on Hamas targets.

This is the second time in the past week that Iron Dome was put into action. On Friday night a rocket was intercepted en route to Israel. On the same day, two rockets landed in the Israeli city of Sderot causing damage to a kindergarten and to vehicles.

Israel traditionally holds Hamas responsible for rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. Both Hamas and the Iranian-linked Islamic Jihad are reported to have the weapons needed to hit the city of Ashkelon. No group has yet to take responsibility for this evening’s fire.

On Sunday Israel said it had neutralised a Hamas-dug tunnel stretching under the Gaza-Israel border, delivering a blow to the terror organization.

The attacks come amid large-scale protests across the Arab in Muslim world in opposition to US President Donald Trump’s announcement last week that his country recognizes Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel. (Jerusalem Post)

Two Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants killed in Gaza

The Israeli army has denied carrying out a strike in Gaza on Tuesday that killed two members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Beit Lahia in the northern part of the Hamas-run enclave.

According to Palestinian Maan News agency, sources close to Islamic Jihad said that the two men — 25 year old Hussein Ghazi Hussein Nasrallah and 29 year oldMustafa Sultan — were part of the group’s armed wing Saraya al-Quds and had been working for its northern brigade’s engineering unit.

The group later posted a statement on its website saying that the two men were on a “jihadist mission” and did not explicitly blame their deaths on Israel.

Earlier Palestinian reports said that the two men were killed in a targeted strike by an Israeli drone. The Israeli army quickly released a statement denying any part in the incident.

Israeli military officials believe that the blast was the result of a “work accident,” the term generally used when explosives intended to be used by terrorists against Israel ignite prematurely.

Tensions along Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip have been high as of late, with several rockets fired toward Israeli territory over the past week and the IDF retaliating against Hamas targets in the Strip with airstrikes and artillery fire

Several large scale clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel have also broken out on the Gaza border, with two Palestinians killed by Israeli fire.

In late October, the IDF destroyed a cross-border Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) attack tunnel, killing 12 terrorists including two senior Islamic Jihad commanders and two Hamas members. The group threatened to retaliate against Israel for the deaths of its members, leading the IDF to deploy Iron Dome missile defense batteries in central Israel.

Two weeks ago the group fired 12 projectiles aimed at the IDF post and a cement factory on the north-eastern edge of the Gaza Strip where construction crews are working on Israel’s new underground barrier with the Strip.

The IDF announced on Sunday that they had neutralized a large Hamas tunnel that had infiltrated into Israeli territory from Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip. IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis said that “locating two terror tunnels in recent weeks is an operational success based on advanced technology, attesting to a rise in the level of the tools developed and used by the IDF,” stressing that “the tunnel project in the Gaza Strip has suffered a heavy blow.”

Gadi Yarkoni, the head of the Eshkol Regional council said that they are in “constant and close contact” with relevant military officials who informed them about the tunnel.

“There is no change in the guidelines (to residents),” he said, adding that “Eshkol residents are experienced in facing these challenges and are an example of resilience to Israeli society.” (Jerusalem Post)

Netanyahu tells EU to stop ‘spoiling’ the Palestinians

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the EU ministers he met in Brussels Monday that they needed to stop “spoiling” the Palestinians.

Unlike the EU, Netanyahu said, US President Donald Trump told the Palestinian people the truth when he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

In a conversation with reporters on his plane before taking off from Brussels after meeting almost all of the EU foreign ministers, Netanyahu said settlements were not the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To the Palestinians, he argued, even parts of sovereign Israel, such as Jaffa, are “settlements.”

The prime minister also accused the EU of hypocrisy. The federation constantly nags Netanyahu on the question of settlements, but how often does it raise with the Palestinians the question of their failure to recognize Israel as a Jewish state? Netanyahu asked.

When the ministers inquired about whether Israel was willing to take steps to improve the life of the Palestinians, Netanyahu responded that this was already being done in the fields of infrastructure development and the granting of job permits.

When’s they asked Netanyahu whether he would accept a two state solution, he replied with another question. Would it be a stable or failed state?

According to the prime minister, the discussion did not only focus on the Palestinians, but also on Iranian designs in the regions. He said he told his interlocutors that the Islamic Republic’s hegemonic designs in the region will have ramifications for them as well.

He said Iranian efforts to transplant tens of thousands of Shia forces to Syria is not only bad for Israel, but something that will lead to negative reactions in the region “and the renewal of a religion war that will lead to a flow of people to Europe.”

Earlier in the day, at a photo op with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, Netanyahu said Israel was a force for stability in the Middle East, and as a result, was acting as a bulwark against forces that threaten other states in the region, forces that have led to a massive migration of refugees to Europe.  (Jerusalem Post)

Israel clears 300 landmines in major Golan Heights operations

Israel cleared 300 landmines in the Golan Heights on Monday in the largest controlled explosion to date in an ongoing project to secure the strategic platuea.

The operation began in August and is expected to continue for two to three years.

The plan is to clear thousands of mines from an area of two to three square kilometers (0.7-1.15 square miles), which makes up some 10 percent of the total mined area in the Golan and on the bank of the Sea of Galilee.

The mines were laid by the Syrian army some 50 years ago, prior to the 1967 Six Day War.

Israel has thousands of fields that are off-limits due to both anti-personnel and anti-tank minefields. Some were placed there by Israel but are no longer necessary for security. Others were laid by the Syrian, Jordanian and Egypt armies. Other areas are dangerous due to the mines shifting due to the soil moving.

To date, some 200,000 mines have been cleared from a total of some nine square kilometers (3.5 square miles) across the country. (the Times of Israel)

Why the ‘Arab street’ didn’t just explode

by Ralph Peters              The New York Post


In the wake of President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last week, the “experts” crowding the media predicted strategic calamity: Vast, violent protests and a wave of terror would sweep the Muslim world in the coming days.

Instead, the largest demonstration anywhere this weekend was the funeral procession for Johnny Hallyday, the “French Elvis.” Nothing in the Middle East came close.

We have witnessed, yet again, the carefully phrased anti-Semitism of the pristinely educated; the global left’s fanatical pro-Palestinian bias; and the media’s yearning for career-making disasters.

Rather than waves of protest, the waiting world got tepid statements of disapproval from otherwise-occupied Arab governments; demonstrations in the West Bank and the Gaza strip that, combined, barely put a thousand activists in the streets; and yes, four deaths: two demonstrators and two Hamas terrorists hit by an Israeli airstrike.

Sunday did see a smallish protest outside the US Embassy in Lebanon, but it was hardly Benghazi under Barack Obama. Predictably, Turkish president and self-appointed sultan Recep Tayyip Erdogan (officially our NATO ally) didn’t miss the chance to spew venom toward Israel, the US and Europe. But even in Turkey things were all quiet on the Bosporus front.

An act of justice for Israel did not ignite Armageddon.

A generation ago, a US president’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would, indeed, have led to mass demonstrations and widespread violence. But now? While the endlessly recycled experts snoozed, the Middle East changed profoundly.

Once upon a time, the Palestinians were the only game at the propaganda casino, a marvelous tool for Arab leaders to divert attention from domestic failures. Then came al Qaeda. And Iraq. Iranian empire-building. The Arab Spring. The oil-price collapse and the rise of ISIS, with its butcher-shop caliphate. The civil war in Syria, with half a million dead. And, not least, the region-wide confrontation between decaying Sunni power and rising Shia might.

Nor did it help the Palestinians that many of them sided with the Assad regime, alienating former partners from Amman to Beirut.

But by far the most-significant factor is that Israel has become an indispensable, if quiet, ally of Sunni states against Iran. Although well-armed, Saudi Arabia remains inept on the battlefield, bogged down in Yemen and terrified of Iranian gains in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Israel doesn’t need Saudi Arabia, but Saudi Arabia definitely needs Israel.

Nor does the United States automatically do Riyadh’s bidding these days.

As for Iran, the regional ambitions of Israel’s top enemy have ironically made it Israel’s unintentional benefactor. To the Arabs, yesteryear’s Israeli boogeyman now looks more like Caspar the Friendly Ghost. “Palestine” is so over . . .

And blame the Palestinians, not Israel, for their lack of statehood. Since the failed 1948 Arab assault on newly reborn Israel, the Palestinians have had literally dozens of opportunities for an advantageous peace. Yet, even Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton — no friends to the blue-and-white flag — ended up frustrated as Palestinian leaders, on the cusp of peace time and again, decided that three-quarters of the pie was insufficient.

Inevitably, the pie got smaller over time — but the Palestinian leadership continued to profit from “occupied” status. Now it’s too late for anything that looks like a viable Palestinian state. It’s time we all faced that reality.

In Paris this weekend for talks with the French president, Israel’s plainspoken prime minister stated that Jerusalem always has been and always will be Israel’s capital, and that the city has never been the capital of any state but the Jewish state. Trump simply recognized that moral, practical and historical truth.

And lest any reader mistake this as a partisan paean to our president, let it be noted that I am not and never have been among the president’s fans. But Trump got this one right. The reflexive condemnation of his action by the usual suspects was indecent.

As for the long-term strategic effects: We don’t know. But we do know that the cherished “peace process” doesn’t even have zombie status.

Will there be more terrorism? Sure. As there would have been more terrorism, anyway. Terrorism isn’t about us, it’s about them.

If Arab leaders refuse to let the “Palestinian question” shape their policies, why should we allow it to deform ours?

A Central-Asian proverb runs that “The dog may bark, but the caravan moves on.” The hounds of appeasement have barked for generations, but the Israeli caravan kept going, arriving at the only admirable (or even livable) state in the Middle East, an island of civilization amid vast deserts of barbarism.

Trump’s support for a two-state solution is being ignored

by Jennifer Oriel                The Australian


“Death to America!” “Open the gates of hell!” The international community has issued a calm, measured and diplomatic response to the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city. Consistent with their obligations under international law, Islamists have refrained from political violence, and inciting race hatred and genocide.

The UN and EU have responded to outbreaks of jihadi violence by affirming Israel’s right to self-­determination and praising the only liberal democracy in the Middle East. One can dream.

In a world set against Israel, it is unfashionable to counter propaganda with basic facts. US President Donald Trump recognised a historical fact and political reality by stating that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. While Trump might have specified Jerusalem west of the 1967 line, the omission could only be viewed as an invitation to violence by those eager to damn Trump or shed Jewish blood.

The head of Hamas, Ismail Haniya, used America’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty to call for an intifada. The President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said the region had been thrown into “a ring of fire”.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, waxed poetic in a grand conspiracy: “The modern day pharaoh is represented by the US, the Zionist regime and their accomplices.” Islamist groups from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Africa incited jihad.

And Desmond Tutu caught a glimpse of divine omniscience: “God is weeping over President Donald Trump’s inflammatory and discriminatory recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”

A special meeting of the UN Security Council was convened to discuss Trump’s Jerusalem statement. Despite the US representative reiterating that the President took no position on the boundaries of Jerusalem and expected Israel and Palestinians to resolve such matters, UN members rushed to denounce him.

UN discussions on Israel and the West often encourage blame-shifting. It is common for UN members to blame Israel and the West for Islamist violence. The blame-shifting game is common in the media also.

After militants fired into Israel from Hamas-governed Gaza, Fairfax ran the headline “Israeli planes hit Gaza Strip as Donald Trump-driven violence ramps up”.

Trump doesn’t govern Hamas. The headline might have read ­“Israel responds to militants as Hamas-driven violence ramps up.”

The global media outrage about Trump’s Jerusalem statement is fake news. Rather than address the substance of his statement, media pundits are engorging themselves on apocalyptic conspiracies featuring all the usual stereotypes about Jewish fin­ance and Zionist intrigue.

The truth is plainer and more interesting.

In 1995, the US congress adopted the Jerusalem Embassy Act with bipartisan support, urging both recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem. It defined Jerusalem as an “undivided city in which the rights of every ethnic and religious group are protected.”

This year, the Senate re­affirmed the act by a unanimous vote. Trump has chosen to act where his predecessors failed to deliver. However, the rationale for recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is more than a mere technicality.

Trump argues the case by appeal to national sovereignty. He believes that like every other sovereign nation, Israel should be allowed to decide its own capital. In The Atlantic, analyst Einat Wilf prosecuted the argument that Israel’s capital in Jerusalem is west of the 1967 line.

The relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is pragmatic and legal. Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, is located in Jerusalem. Trump is following the standard international practice of having parliaments and foreign embassies located in the same city.

Much of the global media has chosen to misrepresent the most important part of Trump’s Jerusalem statement where he calls for peace and the two-state solution. Since it has been so widely misreported, it is useful to consider a direct quote from the relevant section: “I want to make one point very clear: this decision is not intended, in any way, to reflect a ­departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace agreement. We want an agree­ment that is a great deal for the Israelis and a great deal for the Palestinians. We are not taking a position of any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders. Those questions are up to the parties involved.”

The UN, the EU, the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation and key Islamist regimes are choosing to ignore Trump’s emphatic support for the two-state solution. His insistence that the status quo be maintained at Jerusalem’s holy sites has been drowned out by the international community’s confected outrage.

In the place of truth, leading ­Islamists are peddling lies by omission that foster a climate of hostility towards the US and ­Israel. EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini courted irony by echoing key points of Trump’s Jerusalem statement before lamenting its “potential to send us backwards to even darker times than the ones we’re already living in”. Mogherini’s judgment on Islamism is flawed. In 2015, she stated that “political Islam” should be part of Europe’s future.

Supranational organisations are becoming less trustworthy as they develop ideologically polarised positions and a pronounced hostility towards democracies that dissent from their world view. The EU and UN have a common legacy of systematic bias against conservative politicians who defend Western values, such as Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Victoria’s state Liberal leader Matthew Guy has lent support to the US position on Jerusalem in contrast to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

Although Bishop couched her criticism in fairly mild terms, it is difficult to deduce why the ­Coalition government would object to Trump’s Jerusalem statement. He has affirmed the status quo on the two-state solution between Israel and Palestine and urged protection of Jerusalem’s holy sites.

As a liberal democracy, Israel is better equipped to protect the diversity of faiths in Jerusalem than neighbouring Islamist regimes or the UN’s illiberal member states. Political leaders should turn down the volume on Islamist outrage, turn off the fake news and foster instead a steadfast commitment to the elusive two-state solution.

Trump’s Jerusalem move could help revive peace prospects

by Dave Sharma        The Australian


When Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in a speech on Wednesday and announced plans to move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv, he overturned almost seven decades of US foreign policy.

Since Israel’s founding in 1948, successive US administrations — and indeed almost the entire international community, Australia included — have maintained that the status of Jerusalem is disputed.

It was 100 years ago this month that Anzac troops marched into Jerusalem, capturing it for the ­Allies from the Ottoman Empire in December 1917. The subsequent 30-year period as a British mandate territory came to an end with the UN partition plan of 1947, which provided for the creation of two states: one Jewish, one Arab. Jerusalem was to be governed by a special international regime because of its unique status.

The Jewish leadership at the time accepted the partition plan. The Arabs rejected the plan and attacked the newly declared state of Israel. When the fighting ceased, Israel was in control of the western half of Jerusalem while the eastern half, including the Old City, was controlled by Jordan. When Israel again came under attack from neighbouring Arab states during the Six-Day War of 1967, it ended up in possession of all of Jerusalem, which has been under full Israeli control since.

It makes no sense to deny the centuries of history that link the Jewish people to Jerusalem, the capital of the ancient kingdoms of Israel, or the revered place Jerusalem holds for the Jewish faith. UN resolutions that attempt to deny this connection are a disservice to history and a discredit to the multilateral system.

It also makes little sense to pretend the western part of Jerusalem is not sovereign Israeli territory — Israel’s Knesset, ­Supreme Court, the official residences of its prime minister and president, and many other state institutions lie within it.

Foreign dignitaries, including Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, base themselves at west Jerusalem’s King David Hotel during official visits. As an ambassador, I would travel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem several times a week to meet ministers and officials.

Even if Israel were to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders, it would ­remain in possession of west ­Jerusalem.

In this sense, the US President’s announcement recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is, as he described it, “nothing more or less than a recognition of ­reality”.

And moving the US embassy to Jerusalem is an acknowledgment that under any possible future scenario, west Jerusalem will remain part of Israeli territory.

But Trump’s new approach does carry with it significant risks. Jerusalem is a hot-button issue in the Middle East and the merest mention of changes to its status are enough to set off violent upheavals throughout the Islamic world. Opinion in the Arab and ­Islamic worlds will be inflamed by this decision.

Fulfilment of a campaign promise alone cannot justify the risks. If this move is to support efforts towards a peace agreement, as Trump declared, rather than derail the prospects, several steps must accompany it.

First, the US should make clear that Trump’s statement is not an endorsement of Israel’s claim of sovereignty over the entire city of Jerusalem, and that it expects a Palestinian capital in the predominantly Arab neighbourhoods of east Jerusalem will emerge during final-status negotiations.

Jerusalem’s inhabitants include Israelis and Palestinians, and the city is holy to the three main monotheistic faiths. Its ­future status should reflect this character, and the US announcement should not be seen as prejudging this.

Second, the US and Israel must reaffirm, in word and deed, their commitment to maintain the status quo at the holy sites of Jerusalem, including Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount) and the Western Wall, and ensure close co-ordination with the Jordanian religious body, the Waqf, that administers Haram al-Sharif. This is critical in addressing Muslim concerns about continued freedom of access to Jerusalem’s holy sites.

Finally, the US — having spent a year in preparatory talks and stocktaking, and much time talking about the “ultimate deal” — should launch a new Israeli-­Palestinian peace effort.

This effort should encompass an Israeli-Palestinian track but also extend to a broader peace between Israel and the Arab world. Neither is possible without the other.

With converging interests between Israel and the Arab world over the shared threats of Iranian expansionism and Islamic extremism, and a modernising leadership in Saudi Arabia, the prospects for a peace settlement are more promising than they have been for some time.

Israeli-Palestinian conflict dip­lomacy is characterised by stale thinking and stale approaches. Too often it has sought to treat the conflict as a simple border dispute, when the source of the conflict runs much deeper.

Too often it has ignored the ­realities on the ground, seeking to turn back the clock to a fictional 1948. And too often it has failed to confront the myths both sides use to frustrate progress.

One such myth, disturbingly prevalent, denies the legitimacy of the Jewish people’s connection to Jerusalem and the land of Israel, and patiently awaits the day that the Jewish people are vanquished in the Middle East. Another myth, favoured by a small but vocal minority, believes that the entirety of Jerusalem and the West Bank rightfully belong to Israel, and the Palestinians will eventually be forced to make way.

If accompanied by a serious peace effort and renewed commitment to the creation of a Palestinian state, Trump’s disruptive announcement could help puncture these myths, inject some sorely needed reality into this frozen conflict, and lay the groundwork for genuine progress.

Australia should proceed cautiously. We cannot play a lead role in resolving the conflicts of the Middle East. The most we can be is a supporting actor.

We should encourage the US administration to ensure Trump’s announcement is followed by moves that underpin a renewed peace effort, and we should support such an effort. But we should be gauging developments carefully and be in no rush to replicate US policy or move the Australian embassy to Jerusalem.

Dave Sharma was the Australian ambassador to Israel from 2013 until June this year.

The Sunni Arab States Are Tired of the Palestinians’ Refusal to Negotiate with Israel – Tom Gross (Mideast Dispatch Archive)

President Trump’s move regarding Jerusalem, far from ending peace talks – which in any case have hardly been going anywhere for years – will more likely revive them.

The Arab governments in particular have had enough of Palestinian intransigence. They are much more concerned now about the Iranian threat and their own domestic problems, and many want to be rid of the Palestinian issue which is no longer as politically useful for them as it used to be. Speak to them in private as I do, and you will hear this time and again. The Sunni Arab states want and need cooperation with Israel and are tired of the Palestinians’ refusal to even negotiate with Israel.

Nowhere in world history, to my knowledge, has the party that lost militarily (and in this case it would be the Palestinians) been allowed to dictate the terms of the peace. Israel should be generous to the Palestinians so the peace will hold, but I believe it is the international community that has done a disservice to the Palestinians by encouraging them to believe that they can dictate the terms of peace and therefore not compromise.

Can you imagine the Tibetans, or Kurds, or Chechens saying “no” if they were offered independence on 98% of the land that they said they wanted. And yet the Palestinians have said “no” and walked away from negotiations when they have been made similar offers by Israel.

President Obama, who was generally well disposed to the Palestinian cause, pleaded with them to negotiate, as did his secretaries of state Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. Yet in those entire eight years, President Abbas agreed to sit down for only about four hours with the Israelis.

The writer, a British-born journalist and human rights campaigner, is a former Jerusalem correspondent for the London Sunday Telegraph.