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Latest News in Israel – 7th December

President Trump makes history with  Jerusalem announcement

Despite Arab leaders’ warnings, Trump intends to announce Jerusalem embassy move

US President Donald Trump called the leaders of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Egypt on Tuesday to inform them of his intention to move the US Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, 22 years after the US Congress called on the White House to do just that.

What Trump didn’t say, however, was when the move would take place, something that could provide some maneuvering room for him to try to tamp down Arab anger over the highly contentious step.

Trump is expected to address the “when” issue in a much-anticipated speech on Wednesday, during which there is also expectation that he will clarify that the move does not prejudge the final status of the city, which will be dealt with during negotiations.

The speech is set to come two days after the expiration of a six-month deadline for Trump to decide whether to sign a waiver that would keep the embassy in Tel Aviv for another half-year. A 1995 law passed by Congress mandated that the embassy be moved immediately to Jerusalem, unless the president signs a waiver every six months stipulating that for national security reasons the embassy should remain in Tel Aviv.

The New York Times quoted American officials as saying that even though Trump will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in his speech, it is not logistically possible to move the embassy immediately, so he will likely sign the waiver, keeping the embassy in Tel Aviv for at least another six months.

With the IDF and police bracing for possible violence as a result of the developments, the US Consulate General in Jerusalem issued a directive prohibiting US government employees and their family members from traveling in Jerusalem’s Old City or the West Bank until further notice.

Trump spoke about the embassy move on Tuesday with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Jordan’s King Abdullah, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The Prime Minister’s Office did not put out a readout of that call.

Moving the embassy to Jerusalem was one of Trump’ campaign pledges, and it is perceived to be a very important issue for a key component of his electoral base: evangelicals.

Abbas’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeinah said that Trump spoke about “his intention” to move the embassy. According to the official PA news site Wafa, Abbas warned Trump of “the gravity of the consequences” that the embassy move would have “for the peace process and security and stability in the region and world.”

Abu Rudeinah did not say if Trump informed Abbas when he plans to relocate the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

Palestinian officials have said that the relocation of the embassy would spell the end of America’s role as an interlocutor in the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Such a move “totally destroys any chance that he [Trump] can play a role as an honest broker,” Nabil Shaath, Abbas’s international affairs adviser, said on Tuesday.

The Palestinians have long opposed the relocation of the US Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, saying such a move would serve as de facto recognition of all of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. They want east Jerusalem to become the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Fatah officials described Trump’s potential move as a “death knell” to a two-state solution and to any US role in its future diplomatic engagement with Israel.

Palestinian posters on social media calling for ‘Days of Rage’ following reports President Donald Trump planned to move the US embassy to JerusalemPalestinian posters on social media calling for ‘Days of Rage’ following reports President Donald Trump planned to move the US embassy to Jerusalem

“If Mr. Trump comes up and says ‘I recognize the united Jerusalem to be the capital of the state of Israel,’ he [will] have destroyed every chance that he will play to get the deal of century,” Shaath told reporters Tuesday.

Hamas, meanwhile, called for “a day of rage on Friday” to protest Trump’s intention to move the US embassy in Israel. Hamas Politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh said the relocation of the embassy would be “a dangerous escalation” that gives “the extremist Netanyahu government cover to implement its criminal plans to Judaize Jerusalem.”

The IDF and the Israel Police were preparing for possible protests throughout the West Bank over the coming days.

Following Trump’s conversation with Abdullah, the Jordanian royal palace issued a statement saying that Trump “indicated his intention” to move the embassy to Jerusalem. Abdullah, according to the statement, warned of “preempting a comprehensive solution that leads to the establishment of a Palestinian state, with east Jerusalem as its capital,” and also “emphasized that Jerusalem is key to achieving peace and stability in the region and the world.”

Abdullah said the “decision will have serious implications that will undermine efforts to resume the peace process and will provoke Muslims and Christians alike.”

Abdullah spoke afterward to Abbas and reaffirmed “Jordan’s full support for the Palestinians in their efforts to preserve their historical rights in Jerusalem.” He also “called for working jointly to deal with the ramifications of this decision and to counter any action that undermines the Palestinian people’s aspirations for their own independent state, with east Jerusalem as its capital.”

Sisi, according to a Cairo presidential statement, cautioned Trump against “taking measures that would undermine the chances of peace in the Middle East.” According to the statement, “The Egyptian president affirmed the Egyptian position on preserving the legal status of Jerusalem within the framework of international references and relevant UN resolutions.”

Abbas also reached out to a number of international leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Moroccan King Mohammed VI and Pope Francis to rally support against Trump’s plan, Wafa reported.

Putin told Abbas that he supports the resumption of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians including on the status of Jerusalem, the Kremlin said.In addition, Abbas spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron, who spoke with Trump about American policy pertaining to Jerusalem on Monday and Tuesday.

“[Abbas] expressed his appreciation for the efforts Macron is undertaking and France’s position that seeks a just peace and establishment of stability in the region,” Wafa reported.  (Jerusalem Post)

Netanyahu: Israel’s historical, national identity is being recognized on this day

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided not to comment on the expected American announcement Wednesday declaring Jerusalem Israel’s capital, he posted a video hinting at the upcoming event, saying that on this day, Israel’s national identity is “being recognized.”

U.S. President Donald Trump was expected to officially announce Wednesday that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and that it is making preparations to move its embassy there, breaking with longtime U.S. policy and potentially stirring unrest.

In an impromptu video featuring the prime minister riding in his car to the Knesset, Netanyahu remarked that “our historical, national identity is being recognized in important ways every day, but particularly on this day. I will obviously have something to add to this later today on something having to do with Jerusalem.”

But many other governments in the Middle East and around the world were not as pleased. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei proclaimed Wednesday, hours before the expected American announcement, that the move was a sign of “incompetence and failure.”

“That they claim they want to announce Quds [Jerusalem] as the capital of occupied Palestine is because of their incompetence and failure,” Khamenei said, using the Arabic name for Jerusalem, according to his official website.

Iran has long supported a number of Palestinian militant groups in their fight against Israel.

“On the issue of Palestine, [U.S.] hands are tied and they cannot advance their goals,” Khamenei said, declaring that the Palestinian people would be victorious.

“American government officials have said themselves that we have to start a war in the region to protect the security of the Zionist regime [Israel],” Khamenei said.

There are certain rulers in the region who are “dancing to America’s tune,” he added in an indirect reference to Iran’s main regional rival Saudi Arabia.

“Whatever America wants, they’ll work against Islam to accomplish it,” he said

The endorsement of Israel’s claim to all of Jerusalem as its capital would reverse long-standing U.S. policy that the city’s status must be decided in negotiations with the Palestinians, who envision east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

The Kremlin said on Wednesday that Russia was also concerned that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians could be aggravated further by Trump’s plans to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

“We will not discuss the decisions which have not been taken yet,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with reporters.

China also expressed concern Wednesday, saying the declaration could spark new hostility.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters at a prescheduled news briefing that the status of Jerusalem was a complicated and sensitive issue and China was concerned the U.S. decision “could sharpen regional conflict.”

“All parties should do more for the peace and tranquility of the region, behave cautiously, and avoid impacting the foundation for resolving the long-standing Palestine issue and initiating new hostility in the region,” Geng said.

China has long maintained that Palestinians must be allowed to build an independent state, although it has traditionally played little role in Middle East conflicts or diplomacy, despite its reliance on the region for oil.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Wednesday that it would be a “grave mistake” for the U.S. to move its embassy and that he had warned U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that the move would have dire implications.

Before a bilateral meeting with Tillerson at NATO headquarters, Cavusoglu said: “It would be a grave mistake. It will not bring any stability … but rather chaos and instability.”

“The whole world is against this,” he said, adding that he had already told Tillerson how he felt and would reiterate it at the meeting at NATO during the alliance’s foreign ministers’ meeting.

Concerned that violent clashes could erupt in the wake of the Trump announcement, Germany’s Foreign Ministry posted a warning on its website that demonstrations were expected and that its nationals should avoid them and any large crowds in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

In an update of its travel advisory for Israel and the Palestinian territories, the ministry in Berlin said: “From Dec. 6, 2017, there may be demonstrations in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Violent clashes cannot be ruled out.”

The ministry advised travelers in Jerusalem to closely monitor the situation via local media and avoid the affected areas.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also voiced concern Wednesday about Trump’s imminent announcement, telling reporters in Brussels: “Let’s wait and see what the president says exactly. But, you know, we view the reports that we have heard with concern because we think that Jerusalem obviously should be part of the final settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”

The Syrian government also condemned Trump’s decision, the government-controlled Syrian Arab News Agency said. “[The move] is the culmination of the crime of usurping Palestine and displacing the Palestinian people,” SANA said, quoting a Foreign Ministry source.

Meanwhile, speaking to Palestinians ahead of Trump’s scheduled speech, Pope Francis said Wednesday that “recognizing the rights of all people” in the Holy Land was a primary condition for dialogue.

The pope, who spoke to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas about the crisis on Tuesday, made his comments to a group of visiting Palestinians involved in interreligious dialogue with the Vatican.

“The Holy Land is for us Christians the land par excellence of dialogue between God and mankind,” he said.

He spoke of dialogue between religions “and also in civil society.”

“The primary condition of that dialogue is reciprocal respect and a commitment to strengthening that respect, for the sake of recognizing the rights of all people, wherever they happen to be,” he said. (Israel Hayom)

Israel braces for violent protests over Trump Jerusalem announcement

Palestinians burned pictures of US President Donald Trump in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Tuesday night, as anger ramped up over an expected announcement by Trump Wednesday of US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Israeli troops girded for the possibility of violence.

The picture-burning protest came hours after Trump told the leaders of the Palestinian Authority and Jordan in phone calls that he intends to move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, despite intense Arab and Muslim opposition to a move that would alter decades of US policy and risk potentially violent protests.

Trump is to publicly address the question of Jerusalem on Wednesday and US officials familiar with his planning said he would declare Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, though he would not order the embassy move immediately.

Palestinian factions have called for protests against the moves, which would de facto recognize Israeli sovereignty over the city despite Palestinian claims to part of it.

Israeli security services were preparing for the possibility of violence in the West Bank in light of Palestinian terrorist groups calling for demonstrations in response to US Trump’s expected moves, sources said.

There were no immediate reports of large troop call-ups or significant reinforcements to West Bank units.

Intelligence minister Yisrael Katz warned Tuesday that “violent protests would be a big mistake for the PA.”

“I suggest they don’t create security tensions and don’t lead down this road. We are ready for every possibility,” he said, according to the Ynet news website.

In a statement earlier Tuesday, Hamas called for Palestinians to “make Friday a day of rage against the occupation, rejecting moving the American embassy to Jerusalem and declaring it the capital of the Zionist entity.”

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh warned that a US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and recognize the city as Israel’s capital would be a “dangerous escalation” that crosses “every red line.”

Political factions led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement also called for daily protest marches this week, starting Wednesday, and Fatah’s youth wing said “all options [are] open for defending Jerusalem.”

The US State Department on Tuesday ordered government employees to avoid Jerusalem’s Old City and the West Bank until further notice in anticipation of an outbreak of Palestinian violence over Trump’s upcoming announcements on Jerusalem.

Jerusalem’s Old City includes the holiest ground in Judaism. It is also home to Islam’s third-holiest shrine and major Christian sites, and forms the combustible center of the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Any perceived harm to Muslim claims to the city has triggered volatile protests in the past, both in the Holy Land and across the Muslim world.

Within the Trump administration, officials on Tuesday were still debating the particulars of the president’s expected speech as they fielded a flood of warnings from allied governments.

As international pressure has mounted, officials have said Trump could try to limit the impact of anything he says on Jerusalem. Among the ideas under consideration: A Trump nod to Palestinian “aspirations” for a capital in East Jerusalem or his endorsement of a two-state solution to the conflict, something he hasn’t clearly given. The officials said it’s unclear if any of that might be included.

Majdi Khaldi, Abbas’ diplomatic adviser, said Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital could end Washington’s role as mediator.

“This would mean they decided, on their own, to distance themselves from efforts to make peace,” Khaldi told The Associated Press in perhaps the most sharply worded reaction by a Palestinian official. He said such recognition would lead the Palestinians to eliminate contacts with the United States.

Changing Jerusalem’s status would be “a stab in the back,” Husam Zomlot, the Palestinians’ chief delegate to Washington, told the AP. (the Times of Israel)

TV: Netanyahu and aides were ‘active partners’ with Trump team on Jerusalem move

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his aides have been “active partners” working in “total coordination” with US President Donald Trump and his administration in the lead-up to the president’s anticipated speech Wednesday recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and declaring his intended relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Israel’s Hadashot TV said Tuesday evening.

Trump’s phone call to Netanyahu on Tuesday updating him on his scheduled Wednesday speech was not their first recent conversation on the highly sensitive subject, Hadashot news reported. Netanyahu’s team has been “encouraging, supporting, [and] reassuring” the Trump team over the likely fallout, the TV report said, “and this total coordination came while the Palestinians knew nothing about this move” until very recently. “They’d heard nothing about it.”

Channel 10, meanwhile, said Netanyahu and Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer have been privy to the details of what Trump is planning, and had played a key role.

Trump “accepted the Israeli argument that said, Let’s separate the issue of Jerusalem recognition from the peace process. Prime Minister Netanyahu and Ambassador Dermer succeeded in convincing President Trump that this is a case of righting a historical wrong,” Channel 10 reported. (In fact, candidate Trump, while on the presidential campaign trail, pledged to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.)

In response to a threat by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to consider severing ties with Israel over Trump’s expected recognition, Israel’s Minister of Intelligence Yisrael Katz declared earlier Tuesday: “There is no more historically justified and correct step now than recognizing Jerusalem, which has been the capital of the Jewish people for the past 3,000 years, as the capital of Israel.”

Overall, however, the TV reports said Netanyahu has asked his ministers not to speak out on the issue ahead of the Trump speech on Wednesday. And the Channel 10 report said Trump specifically asked Netanyahu to “keep a low profile” and see to it that Israel’s ministers do not demonstrably “rejoice” over the move, for fear of exacerbating a highly tense situation.

Netanyahu did not make any public comments on the issue on Tuesday.

Israeli TV reports have for days been predicting that Trump would make a declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announce he intends to move the embassy. Despite ongoing Arab and international efforts to persuade Trump to change his mind ahead of his Wednesday speech, Hadashot news on Tuesday evening asserted definitively that “it’s done.”

US officials said Tuesday they expected Trump would make a generic statement about Jerusalem’s status as the “capital of Israel.” They said they did not expect the president to use the phrase “undivided capital,” which would imply Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem, which is not recognized by the United Nations.

The Hadashot TV report said it was expected Trump would also highlight Jerusalem’s importance to all monotheistic faiths, and stress his desire to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts — an ambition that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has warned this week will be dashed if Trump goes ahead with his planned speech.

The TV reports said Trump would likely sign the waiver delaying for another six months a US legal requirement to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, but that this was a strictly logistical and budgetary issue, since the logistics for moving the embassy would take months. US officials said Trump would likely give wide latitude to David Friedman, the US Ambassador to Israel, to make a determination on when such a move would be appropriate. Friedman has spoken in favor of the relocation, and said before he was confirmed as ambassador that he looked forward to working from Jerusalem.

The Israeli army on Tuesday evening raised its alert ahead of possible violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank. The US told government employees to avoid Jerusalem’s Old City and the West Bank until further notice in anticipation of an outbreak of Palestinian violence over Trump’s upcoming announcements on Jerusalem.  (the Times of Israel)

War with Iran’s proxies looming, Israel’s US envoy warns

Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, said Monday that his country is closer to a full-blown military conflict along its northern border than people think.

In a wide-ranging interview with US news site Politico, Dermer reiterated Israel’s assertion that it will not tolerate the presence of Iranian proxies in Syria.

“If Iran is not rolled back in Syria, then the chances of military confrontation are growing. I don’t want to tell you by the year or by the month. I’d say even by the week,” he warned.

Tehran was responsible for stoking the tensions in Syria, he said. “Because the more they push, we have to enforce our red lines, and you always have the prospects of an escalation, even when parties don’t want an escalation, because we will not allow Iran to establish that presence and establish another terror front against Israel in Syria,” he added.

Asked exactly how likely war was, Dermer replied, “I wouldn’t put a percentage on that, but I think it is higher than people think.” He also asserted that the likelihood of conflict in Lebanon, where the powerful Iranian proxy Hezbollah is based, is higher now than it was two years ago.

“Absolutely. There’s no question. And it’s much higher in Syria,” he said. “I mean Assad basically is a vassal of the Iranian regime. And the forces that are on the ground, Shia militias and Hezbollah.”

A poster bearing an image of Syrian President Bashar Assad (R) and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is seen in Damascus on September 7, 2017. (AFP/Louai Beshara)

However, he said, Israel had no issue with Russia maintaining a long-term presence in Syria.

Israel has long warned that Iran is trying to establish a permanent presence in Syria as part of its efforts to control a land corridor from Iran through to the Mediterranean Sea, as it attempts to expand its influence across the Middle East.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said often that Israel will not allow Iran to establish a permanent presence in Syria, and was reported late last month to have sent a warning to that effect via a third party to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Israel has for years been widely believed to have carried out airstrikes on advanced weapons systems in Syria — including Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and Iranian-made missiles — as well as Hezbollah positions, but it rarely confirms such operations on an individual basis.

On Friday night, Israeli jets reportedly hit an Iranian military base being constructed in Syria, some 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Israel’s northern border, reportedly killing as many as 12 Iranian military personnel. Satellite images published on Monday showed the destruction at that site, the al-Qiswah base south of Damascus. There were reports of another air strike late on Monday.

‘Moderate to high’ chances for regional peace

In his interview, Dermer also discussed the close relationship between Israel and the Trump administration, and said he was optimistic about the chances for a regional peace deal, though he remained skeptical the Palestinians would agree.

“I would put those chances as moderate to high that we could be in that process,” he said. “Again, whether the Palestinians 71 years after the UN resolution, the Partition Resolution, will cross a Rubicon that they haven’t crossed in the first 70, I’m a little more skeptical about it. But it might be that the chances of them crossing the Rubicon will go up if they see that the region is prepared to reconcile with Israel.”

The ambassador refused to be drawn out as to whether Israel knew that former national security adviser Michael Flynn had spoken to the Russians about undoing the “anti-Israel resolution at the UN,” but said that at the time — December 2016, before Trump entered office  — Israel spoke to everyone it could, including members of Trump’s latent administration, in an effort to counter one of president Barack Obama’s final moves.

Michael Flynn, former national security advisor to US President Donald Trump, leaves following his plea hearing at the Prettyman Federal Courthouse December 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)

“If the president’s team reached out and who they reached out to and all the details I don’t know, but from our point of view it was the more the better because they were actually not only helping Israel in that case, they were helping themselves,” he said.

Dermer stressed that notwithstanding Trump’s strong popularity among Israelis, the Obama administration also did much to help the Jewish state.

“[T]here were many things that we are grateful that President Obama did. We did sign — and this I was involved with a lot deeply — a memorandum of understanding on long-term military assistance. That was actually signed during the Obama administration,” he said. “The intelligence sharing and security cooperation and many other things that happened during the Obama administration.”

In the interview Dermer also spoke extensively about the Iranian nuclear deal, and explained that Israel does not want it to be overturned yet.

Rather, he hopes that Trump and European nations will be able to amend the controversial pact in a way that ensures Iran does not have a clear path to nuclear weapons in a few years’ time.

“Israel still thinks there is a path to get a fix for the deal,” he said. “And the fix could be better than the US walking away alone.”  (the Times of Israel)

Trump and Jerusalem: Breaking a consensus

By Herb Keinon              The Jerusalem Post


In business, they say, it’s all about the leverage.

This is something worth keeping in mind when considering what US President Donald Trump – who at his very core is a businessman – will do on the Jerusalem issue.

Because if, as some are speculating, he will “split the difference” on the issue – meaning that he will not move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem but will issue a statement in the coming days recognizing at least part of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – then this would give him leverage going forward with his peace plan with both the Palestinians and the Israelis.

If the Palestinians prove inflexible in negotiations, he could hang over their head the prospect of not only issuing a declaration of recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but also actually moving the embassy. By the same token, he could threaten Israel – if he thought it was the recalcitrant party in negotiations – with not moving the embassy.

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and his main point man on the Mideast diplomatic process, revealed nothing about the plan the administration is working on in an interview with Haim Saban on Sunday at the Saban Forum in Washington. Not only did he say that Trump was still “looking at a lot of different facts” concerning the Jerusalem decision, he provided no details at all about the parameters of the peace plan the team was considering.

One thing he did say, however, is that his team – a team Saban spoke condescendingly of as one with lawyers but no Mideast experts – is trying to do things differently.

“We’ve been deliberate about not setting time frames,” Kushner said, “about not trying to do this the way it’s been done before, so we have more room and opportunity to hopefully be successful.”

Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – even if it did not include moving the embassy to Jerusalem – would definitely constitute not doing things as they’ve been done before.

At least not doing things the way the Americans have done them before.

Moscow set a precedent for this in April when it announced that it was recognizing west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, though at the same opportunity it reaffirmed its “commitment to the UN-approved principles for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement, which includes the status of east Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state.”

Still, Russia became the first country in the world to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and no one batted an eyelid.

Obviously, a different reaction would await any similar American move, with the Palestinians threatening to cut the US out of the peace process, and both they and the Arab world warning of violence.

Eran Lerman, the vice president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies and a former deputy head of the National Security Council, said in a conference call put together by the Israel Project, that such threats are likely to have little impact on this administration.

Furthermore, he said, “both sides of the Ramallah-Gaza divide have no wish for another round of violence, certainly not because of a symbolic reason that basically changes nothing on the ground.”

As for the Arab world, nobody in the Arab leadership is eager to confront Trump at this stage, Lerman maintained, adding that he believes Saudi Arabia would “support an American initiative that helps the Palestinians adjust their expectations to a level that is deliverable and implementable.”

And that, in the final analysis, would be the true significance of a US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital: It would send a strong message to the Palestinians that their dream of rewriting history so that it does not include any Jewish historical ties to Jerusalem is simply not going to work. Such a recognition would correct a historical anomaly that denies Israel the right to say where its capital is, and it would serve as important recognition of Israel’s claim to the city.

With such recognition, Lerman said, the US would go a long way toward debunking the idea “that somehow this is not a negotiation between two sides, but an international court of law in which Israel is in the dock.”

In other words, it is doing things differently.

Not all, however, are thrilled about the prospect of a different approach.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that under the plan being drawn up by the White House, “The Palestinians would get a state of their own but only noncontiguous parts of the West Bank and only limited sovereignty over their own territory. The vast majority of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which most of the world considers illegal, would remain. The Palestinians would not be given East Jerusalem as their capital and there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants.”

The tone of the report was one of being aghast that the Trump administration would consider a plan that did not meet Palestinian maximalist demands, or fall into line with how the peace process has been handled for the last 25 years.

“But the news on Friday that Mr. Trump would recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital suggested that ideas once considered beyond the pale are now seriously being considered,” the Times said. “Recognizing an Israeli capital there, even without explicitly denying the Palestinians one, would overturn decades of consensus among international peacemakers that any change in Jerusalem’s status must come as part of a negotiated deal.”

What is worth noting, however, is that the “decades of consensus” among international peacemakers has led nowhere. Perhaps breaking with that decades-old consensus is what is needed, which is something Trump will do if he goes ahead and recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state.

Why It’s Precisely the Right Time for Trump to Recognize Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel

by Dovid Efune                 The Algemeiner

Why It’s Precisely the Right Time for Trump to Recognize Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel

Ahead of his expected recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Wednesday, US President Donald Trump has faced a virtual torrent of criticism.

He should pay the critics no heed. The move is not only morally the right thing to do, it’s also a political masterstroke. Let me explain.

Generally, the critics can be divided into two categories.

The first group — among them the Ramallah-headquartered Palestinian Authority and Gaza Strip-ruling terror organization Hamas (along with various Arab and Muslim states, and even the US State Department) — has made the case against recognition as being vital to prevent the inevitable violence and outrage that will follow as a result.

November 29 marked 70 years since the 1947 decision by the United Nations General Assembly to partition the British League…

But Arab blackmail doesn’t feel like a compelling argument against implementing American law and doing what’s right — certainly for the United States. In addition, neither of these entities has much of a track record in furthering the cause of peace.

The second group, who are generally supportive of the move, have questioned the timing — ahead of the expected unveiling of a White House peace initiative in the coming weeks.

The timing however, appears to be very well considered. It’s highly appropriate to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel at the outset of a peace push for the following reason.

When Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, whom Trump has tasked with the Mideast peace brief, embarked on their “listening tour” soon after the president took office, they were advised by at least one regional actor that, in the words of Albert Einstein, one can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results. In many ways, it seems that this word of advice — frankly, a matter of common sense — has served as a guiding principle in the nascent peace efforts.

From what we have seen so far, the peacemaking team has sought to implement new approaches on at least four fronts.

Firstly, there’s the “regional approach” concept which was mentioned by both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump in their first White House meeting. The practical manifestation of this alignment between Israel and the Sunni Arab states has yet to be clearly presented, but remains a constant subject of peace discussions.

Second is the commitment to push the parties to the table without imposing a predetermined outcome. “We’re trying to find a solution that comes from the region, not to impose,” Kushner told attendees at the Saban Forum over the weekend.

Third, there’s the focus on “bottom up” actions, seeking to build cooperation between individual Palestinians and Israelis by appealing to interests. This “economic peace” concept was behind the US-facilitated landmark water deal inked in July by Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is the administration’s willingness to apply pressure on the Palestinian Authority. Whereas some past presidents have handled PA leaders with kid gloves, Trump has taken a far more forthright approach, bringing up prickly issues like PA payments to terrorists without thinking twice.

This is vital because, as has been very well documented, the greatest obstacle to progress in the region has been Palestinian intransigence. The Israelis have shown — perhaps mistakenly — an incredible capacity to offer painful concessions for the cause of peace, including land transfers and dangerous security arrangements, often at great political risk. Time and again, these gestures were rebuffed, and the Palestinians were excused as being the weaker, aggrieved, more delicate party.

The Palestinians first introduced the Trump administration to their duplicitous strategies when PA President Mahmoud Abbas told Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in June that they were ending the terror payments, only to recommit themselves to the sponsorship shortly afterwards.

But now we have a White House that favors results over process, and understands that presenting the Palestinians with real, permanent and painful costs for their rejectionism may provide the best opportunity for progress. Both carrots and sticks are necessary, and the White House appears to be preparing one hell of a stick.

There’s the ever present threat to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; the threat to shut down the PA office in DC; the specter of White House support for the Taylor Force Act, which will see significant cuts to US financial aid to the Palestinians; Trump’s unwillingness to specify the two-state solution as the only solution to the conflict; and even the threat to withhold funds from international bodies that give the PA and the PLO full membership that was circulated in the administration’s early days. In addition, the Palestinians will not be quick to forget that it was a matter of months before they were even able to establish contact with Trump’s team. They should not be taking that access for granted.

The Israelis have long been concerned — with due reason — that the Palestinians have never intended to pursue a genuine peace and that the peace process is seen as a tactic to secure more land from which to launch continued attacks on the Jewish state. Leaders of the PA have paid lip service to the peace initiatives over the years, but the statements in the PA’s founding and guiding documents, its glorification of terrorists, the curriculum taught in its schools and its constant incitement on social media, among other things, have all long-told another story.

Here we have an administration that for the first time seems prepared to call the Palestinians’ bluff. The recognition of Jerusalem at the onset of a peace initiative — and the lining up of further repercussions — shows them and the international community just how serious the president is.

It’s a thoroughly worthwhile and commendable move.

Of Course Jerusalem Is Israel’s Capital

by Shmuel Rosner                    The New York Times

How long do you think there has been a Jewish temple on Temple Mount in Jerusalem?

That is a question I like to ask when I’m leading a discussion with Israelis or Jews from other countries. The most common response is, “Two thousand years.” But that’s actually the answer to a separate question: How long ago did the Romans destroy the Second Temple, beginning the Jewish exile?

According to many scholars, there was a temple on that site for nearly 1,000 years before the Roman destruction. That would mean that for about 3,000 years, Jerusalem has been the center of the Jewish people: a physical center when a temple was standing, and a center for prayer and longing from afar after the Jews were dispersed around the globe. Every year, at the very end of Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, and at the end of the Passover Seder, Jews recite, “Next year in Jerusalem.”

Then the Jews came back. In the 19th century, Jews began building neighborhoods and settling outside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City. Then the Six-Day War of 1967 ended the short Jordanian rule over the Old City and united Jerusalem under Israeli jurisdiction. But this return has proved more controversial internationally. Even the United States, Israel’s closest ally, has not recognized the city as our capital even though our government has been based there since 1949.

President Trump will reportedly soon change that, and even announce that he is moving the United States Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. “Next year, an American Embassy in Jerusalem” was never in our prayers, but it’s still something we welcome as a sign of support — and a recognition of reality.

Jerusalem through a gate

Not that a statement from an American president will actually change Israelis’ commitment to Jerusalem. This is our capital and it always will be. It was taken away from the Jewish people by force. It was recaptured by force. If necessary, it will be preserved under Israel’s jurisdiction by force, too.

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Israel will, of course, embrace Washington’s change of tune on Jerusalem. But the truth is, Mr. Trump’s announcement is not going to change as much as you might expect. History shows that: Last week, the world marked the 70th anniversary of the United Nations’ 1947 vote on the Partition Plan, when the international community formally adopted a plan for a Jewish state alongside an Arab state in Palestine.

This was an important achievement for the Zionist movement, a cause for celebration and a foundational part of Israel’s history and its legitimacy. But the resolution was not the decisive factor in Israel’s birth. More crucial was the reality on the ground. By the time the United Nations passed the resolution, the foundations for a Jewish state were in place. Jews living in Palestine “had achieved a critical developmental and demographic mass,” as the historian Benny Morris recently explained. They were ready and determined. A United Nations resolution was just icing the cake.

Similarly, Jerusalem is unmistakably Israel’s capital, whether outsiders accept this fact or not. That’s not to say there aren’t challenges to this reality: The international community is not yet ready to accept it and the Palestinians claim that the city is theirs. The demographic realities are, indeed, tricky. About a third of the city’s residents are Arab. Nonetheless, the facts are the facts.

In 1947, ahead of the United Nations vote, the C.I.A. warned that “armed hostilities between Jews and Arabs will break out if the U.N. General Assembly accepts the plan to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states.” President Harry Truman decided to support partition despite the warnings. The C.I.A. was right; the Arabs responded with violence, leading to Israel’s War of Independence. Thanks to that, the Jewish state was even larger than the borders mandated by the United Nations and the Palestinians still don’t have a state. But Truman was right, too; he proved himself a friend of the Jewish people, willing to take risks for what was right.

Will a statement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital ignite a similar round of defiance and violence? It’s possible. Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian negotiator, has said that American recognition would “discourage many of those who still believe that a peaceful solution is achievable,” which sounds a lot like a veiled threat. Hamas, the terrorist organization that controls Gaza, called on Palestinians to “incite an uprising in Jerusalem so that this conspiracy does not pass.”

It would be a great exaggeration to argue that Mr. Trump bears much resemblance to Harry Truman. But the president — often criticized for being blunt and never shying away from saying what he wants to say — will have his Trumanesque moment by refusing to pretend that Israel has no capital. If violence is the result of that, we will all regret it. But it is worth remembering that Truman’s recognition of Israel was also met with violence — and it is still remembered as a great American moment.

Where Was the Fallout When Russia Recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital?

by Eyal Zisser               Israel Hayom


U.S. President Donald Trump is moving cautiously toward the goal he set for himself during his presidential campaign: recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Truth be told, every step forward has been followed by two steps back, and State Department officials are desperately trying to block the president’s move. Still, it appears Trump has indeed made up his mind and will declare so this week. Relocating the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will have to wait a while longer.

It is interesting to see that in declaring recognition for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, even without moving the embassy there, the Russians have been one step ahead of the Americans. It is further testament that Russian President Vladimir Putin, with his realpolitik policies, has both feet firmly on the ground when it comes to developments in the Middle East. Moscow, if we recall, announced in April that Jerusalem (despite only referring to the western part of the city) and not Tel Aviv is the capital of Israel.

Putin’s declarations carry weight because he is perceived as the strongest person in the region. Arab leaders, from the presidents of Syria and Egypt to the king of Saudi Arabia, make pilgrimages to the Kremlin to meet with him.

Just a few weeks ago, at his vacation resort in Sochi, Putin hosted a summit between the presidents of Iran and Turkey. None of these leaders remonstrated with Putin’s declaration that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, and the matter did nothing to weaken Russia’s standing in the region – quite the opposite, in fact.

Perhaps this is the lesson Trump needs to learn from Putin. If a leader is confident in himself and his command of the world’s largest and mightiest superpower, he should act accordingly and everything else will fall into place.

In the meantime, beyond the predictable yet relatively minor protestations from the Palestinians and the Jordanian king, who fears for the stability of his regime, Trump’s declaration of intent to recognize Jerusalem has not particularly reverberated throughout the Arab world. It seems Arab countries are not even bothering to pay lip service to the Palestinian issue, let alone raise a finger to help the Palestinians act on their ultimatum to the Americans not to touch Jerusalem before a final status agreement is reached to Ramallah’s satisfaction.

Persian Gulf states are in the midst of an accelerated process – a surprising one, it must be said – of normalization with Israel. In any case, they are clearly giving priority to blocking Iran’s expansion in the region, which they view as the central threat to their stability and security, not Israel. The same can be said for Egypt, which is battling Islamic extremists who do not require, it appears, an excuse to keep carrying out atrocities, as evidenced by the mass slaughter of worshippers in a northern Sinai mosque two weeks ago.

Ultimately, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital does not fundamentally veer from traditional American policy, not even policies implemented by administrations perceived as tough on Israel, such as the George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations. Both of these recognized Jerusalem as the de facto capital of Israel. It would be preferable, of course, if this recognition were part of an American policy and even overall Middle East strategy, predicated on standing with regional allies against the threats they face. In the unfortunate absence of such policy, however, even an isolated act is most welcome.

The Trump administration has been in office for almost a year, with bright spots but also blemishes on its record. North Korea is not particularly perturbed by the administration’s warnings, and Iran is methodically subjugating large swathes of the Middle East. Washington’s friends in the region have applauded the harsh tones emanating from the White House but are still waiting for actions. More than that, they, along with the world, are waiting to see a person in the White House whose promises and declarations are worth taking seriously.