Trump’s Vision of Peace: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, May 23, 2017 — Maybe US President Donald Trump really believes that, given recent developments in the region, peace between Israel and the Palestinians is possible.
Can Trump’s Outside-In Formula Work?: Jonathan S. Tobin, JNS, May 22, 2017— Much of the attention being given to President Donald Trump’s visit to the Middle East has focused on whether his first foreign trip will provide much of a distraction from his growing domestic troubles.
Re-Liberating Jerusalem: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, May 15, 2015 — It's been almost 50 years since Israel unified Jerusalem and turned it from a dusty and depressed backwater into a truly radiant international capital city sparkling with energy and creativity.
Preparing For War: Jerusalem, 1967: Abraham Rabinovich, Jewish Press, May 19, 2017— As tensions mounted in late May, 1967, Jerusalem was pervaded by a feeling that if war came it would be a bloody block-by-block battle in which no quarter would be given.
Full Text & Video: US President Donald Trump’s Address in Riyadh at Arab Islamic American Summit : Hana Levi Julian, Jewish Press, May 21, 2017
Trump Rebukes Abbas and the Palestinian Authority During Bethlehem Visit : Jewish Press, May 23, 2017
Trump Can Break the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse: A.J. Caschetta, Gatestone Institute, May 22, 2017
Jerusalem Post, May 23, 2017
Maybe US President Donald Trump really believes that, given recent developments in the region, peace between Israel and the Palestinians is possible. Maybe he sees a successful conclusion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a necessary preamble to economic cooperation and resurgence in the region led by the US. Maybe he sees it as a personal challenge – the ultimate deal.
Whatever the reason, US President Donald Trump is remarkably focused on the goal of bringing together Israelis and Palestinians and resolving once and for all a conflict that has received the attention of every US president in recent history. And when Trump talks of peace he is taken seriously. When Barack Obama or John Kerry invested time, energy and clout in bringing together Israelis and Palestinians they were said to be naive, messianic and dangerous to Israel’s security. Yet, when the same optimism is expressed by Trump, the Saudis, the Egyptians, the Jordanians, the Palestinians and Israel keep an open mind.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has begun using “peace” again, a word which tends to elicit cynicism on the Right due to the bad track-record of peace initiatives. If peace is mentioned at all these days it is normally in conjunction with “security.” Yet during a meeting with Trump in Jerusalem on Monday night, Netanyahu said, “I also look forward to working closely with you to advance peace in our region… The Arab leaders who you met yesterday could help change the atmosphere and they could help create the conditions for a realistic peace.”
Trump seems to have been impressed by his meeting with Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia and their willingness to engage with Israel. But unlike Netanyahu who envisions peace with the Palestinians as an extension of improved relations with the Arab nations of the region, Trump and the Arab leaders he met in Riyadh view resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian as a precursor to better ties between the Jewish state and the Muslim world. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan will not facilitate an atmosphere more conducive to peace between Israel and the Palestinians by improving ties with the Jewish state. Rather, open relations between Israel and “moderate” Sunni states will be conditional upon headway in peace talks with the Palestinians.
For its part, Israel has agreed to make some confidence building gestures. Trump asked for, and received, a promise from Israel that it would slow down building in Judea and Samaria. On Sunday, the security cabinet voted in favor of a package of steps that included easing travel restrictions for Palestinians on Allenby Bridge which connects the West Bank to Jordan, the development of two new job-producing industrial zones, and new allowances for Palestinian building in Area C of the West Bank, which is under full Israeli control.
Trump has called on the Palestinian Authority to stop incitement against Israel. He also criticized Palestinian funding of imprisoned terrorists. Speaking alongside PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, Trump condemned the terrorist attack in Manchester that killed 22 and left dozens injured. Trump noted that “peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded and even rewarded.” This was a clear reference to Palestinian society’s glorification of terrorists who murder Israelis and the PA ’s funding of the families of “martyrs” who died carrying out terrorist attacks against Israel or prisoners incarcerated in Israeli jails for terrorist activities.
As Trump takes leave of the region and heads to Italy, his major contribution to the peace process so far has been his successful resuscitation of non-cynical discourse on the prospects of peace. But the truly hard work has barely begun. Will Palestinian leaders take Trump’s advice and stop glorifying terrorists? Can Israel make additional gestures that would make Palestinians’ lives easier? If there is goodwill on both sides, perhaps Trump’s self-confidence and optimism are not so misplaced after all.
Jonathan S. Tobin
JNS, May 22, 2017
Much of the attention being given to President Donald Trump’s visit to the Middle East has focused on whether his first foreign trip will provide much of a distraction from his growing domestic troubles. But the real substance centers on his plan to solve a problem that has eluded all of his predecessors: the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
The key to Trump’s foray is an effort to forge an “outside-in” breakthrough, in which bilateral talks will be shelved in favor of an attempt to use the leverage of Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab nations over the Palestinians to forge a pact with Israel. But the problem is that, like other peace plans, it seeks to finesse the main obstacle to peace rather than to confront it. As long as Palestinian national identity is inextricably linked to their war on Zionism, this effort will fail as miserably as its predecessors.
Though Israel is often portrayed in the press as isolated, the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has actually made substantial progress in its outreach efforts. The most remarkable diplomatic breakthrough involves some of Israel’s most bitter Arab foes, such as Saudi Arabia, becoming tacit allies. Netanyahu doesn’t deserve credit for this since the Saudis have been looking for a way out of the dead-end conflict with Israel for years and were pushed into the arms of the Israelis by President Barack Obama’s efforts to appease Iran. But however favorably Arab governments have come to view Israel, their populations are still being raised on antisemitic incitement against Jews. They can’t formalize their ties with Israel so long as the Palestinians still seek the Jewish state’s destruction to the cheers of the Arab street.
That’s why many serious people believe the Saudis, Egyptians and Jordanians can supply the diplomatic muscle to finally push the Palestinians to take yes for an answer and end the conflict. Since it is clearly in the interests of these nations to remove the one barrier to better relations with a Jewish state that they view as a security and economic partner, they hope to convince the Palestinians that peace with Israel will be beneficial for them too. That’s a logical concept, but if common sense determined the course of Middle East history, the Arabs would have embraced the Jewish state decades ago.
Still, Trump’s effort is not based entirely on the delusions that led Obama to believe pressure on Israel would convince the Palestinians to meet him halfway. As the Wall Street Journal reported, the Saudis and other Gulf nations are putting forward a scheme in which they would make strides toward normalizing relations with Israel in exchange for Netanyahu enacting a partial settlement freeze in the West Bank and entering talks with the Palestinian Authority.
This is a far cry from the blind faith that some in the US foreign policy establishment have in the idea that the 2002 Saudi peace initiative is a game-changer. In theory, that plan called for complete Arab recognition for Israel in exchange for a complete withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines. But what the Arab states are offering may actually be a way for them to sideline the Palestinians and avoid dead-end peace talks rather than to jumpstart them.
The Saudis understand that no matter how much money they give the Palestinians, any negotiation that depends on the Fatah and Hamas movements being willing to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state and ending the conflict will ultimately founder. Nor are Sunni nations thrilled with the idea of creating yet another unstable Arab state that might fall under the influence of Islamist terrorists and/or the Iranians. What they may really want is not so much the real estate deal of the century that Trump dreams about, but an effort to keep the conflict under control. That’s why the Saudis are asking for a lot less from Israel than the peace processors thought. Like Netanyahu, they may want to manage an unsolvable conflict rather than a pyrrhic quest to end it.
Israel has good reason to do what it can to work with the Saudis. But the idea that the “outside-in” concept will transform Trump into the prince of peace is a pipe dream. Let’s hope the president won’t let his ambition to achieve a deal — one that must await a sea change in Palestinian political culture that is nowhere in sight — get in the way of a less grandiose effort that makes sense.
David M. Weinberg
Israel Hayom, May 15, 2015
It's been almost 50 years since Israel unified Jerusalem and turned it from a dusty and depressed backwater into a truly radiant international capital city sparkling with energy and creativity. There is more to come. The dynamic vision for Jerusalem 2020 in the transportation, cultural, recreational and business fields unveiled this week by Mayor Nir Barkat is exciting and uplifting.
Yet as we approach Jerusalem Liberation Day…hefty question marks hang over the city's future. These uncertainties stem from government hesitations in the face of international and Arab pressure for re-division of the city (Heaven forbid). Instead of acting decisively to buttress Israel's sovereignty, security, economy and social vibrancy in Jerusalem, we have a stalemate in government decision-making. In fact, the threats to Jerusalem as a living, breathing, growing, safe and open city — and to Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state and the epicenter of the global Jewish community — come mainly from neglect on Israel's part. The fourth Netanyahu government…must rebuff deleterious foreign pressures, stop dithering and act to re-establish forward motion, Zionist momentum, in Jerusalem. Here's how:
Housing: Except for luxury skyscrapers and fancy villas in central Jerusalem that are purchased by very rich (and mostly foreign) buyers, there is no significant new building underway in the city or its immediate environs for young families. For fear of international censure, the government has shrunk from critically needed expansions of peripheral, middle-class neighborhoods like Ramot, Ramat Shlomo, Pisgat Ze'ev, Gilo and Givat Hamatos (all of which are over the stale "Green Line"). No new neighborhoods have been established in the city since Netanyahu's first term in the late 1990s (Har Homa). For the same reason, successive governments going back to Yitzhak Rabin have failed to follow through on plans to build housing in the large E1 quadrant on the eastern slopes of the city (along the road toward Maaleh Adumim).
Netanyahu threatened to build in E1 if the Palestinian Authority sued Israel for war crimes in the International Criminal Court, then failed to follow through on his threat even when the PA launched an ICC assault. But this only highlights the fact that the expansion of Jerusalem eastward, so critical to the viability and livability of the city for the long term, is being held hostage to global politics. Jerusalem also has been boxed into an affordable housing stalemate by environmental lobby groups who want to protect the green mountains to the west of the city, and who have stymied all plans for significant housing projects in this area (adjacent to Tzur Hadassah, Mevasseret Zion and more). Netanyahu's new government must move to break these "settlement" logjams.
Security: Just this week, security services broke up a big terrorist cell operating out of Silwan. But cars and buses traveling to or parking near the Western Wall are regularly stoned, and almost every Jerusalem light rail streetcar has been hit with stones in the north of the city. Travel to the hallowed ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives is extraordinarily risky; Jewish mourners are sure to be assaulted. As a result, almost nobody ventures there. The few, brave bereaved families who do so travel in organized convoys with bullet- and stone-proof windows. There is also frequent Arab vandalism of the graves.
This is, of course, a shameful abdication of Israeli sovereignty and Jewish national dignity. Were such violence against Jews or vandalism against a Jewish cemetery to occur regularly abroad, it would be an international scandal. Even though he was from a "nationalist" political party, the previous public security minister took a light policing approach to the lawlessness in Jerusalem. He and his police brass wanted to avoid incidents that could become major conflagrations and international trouble for Israel. While understandable, this low-profile strategy is no longer sufficient.
Netanyahu's new government must devote much more attention to the re-securing (dare I say, re-liberation) of Jerusalem, by boosting the manpower, resources and authority of the Jerusalem police force, and by renewed enforcement of civil law in the Arab neighborhoods of the city, including building and tax codes, noise pollution bylaws and traffic rules. Some will say that another part of the answer is the devotion of more municipal services and funds to the eastern parts of the city. That's true, but let's face it: The developmental gap is not why the violence is growing. Barkat is indeed advancing Arab neighborhoods of the city, through more money for education and infrastructure.
The Temple Mount: Netanyahu's new government must also redress the gross violations of Israeli sovereignty and Jewish rights implicit in the prevailing situation on the Temple Mount. Jewish visitors to the mount — the very few who are occasionally let in — are systematically accosted by paid professional Islamic provocateurs, while the police stand aside. It goes without saying that the almost five-decade-long ban on Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount outrageously remains in place, lest the Arabs become too angry. And of course, illegal Waqf excavations continue on the Temple Mount without Israeli archaeological supervision. We know that over the past decade the burrowing out by the Waqf of the underground Solomon's Stables has wantonly destroyed thousands of years of Jewish relics and history.
Jewish prayer should be facilitated in some symbolic way on the vast Temple Mount plaza. This can be effected either through a time-sharing arrangement similar to that in place at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, or through a small synagogue tucked away on the fringes of the plaza that will not overshadow the two large Muslim structures on the Mount. Waqf violence should be dealt with compellingly.
The bottom line is that to hold on to a united Jerusalem, Israel needs to act. It must build homes extensively to keep the city alive and young. It must wield a big baton against Arab insurgents and radicals. It must restore its full and active jurisdiction and reassert Jewish national rights in all parts of the city. These initiatives will engender Palestinian (and American) resistance, but with both resoluteness and sensitivity Israel can succeed and overcome the opposition. Jerusalem is still a consensus issue in Israeli society and politics. The new Netanyahu government would enjoy widespread public backing for action to shore up Israel's stake in the holy city.
Jewish Press, May 19, 2017
As tensions mounted in late May, 1967, Jerusalem was pervaded by a feeling that if war came it would be a bloody block-by-block battle in which no quarter would be given. Unspoken but widely envisioned was the image of the Warsaw Ghetto; buildings turned to rubble from which the battle would continue. The municipality began to bulldoze a hillside near Mount Herzl to prepare gravesites. The slope chosen was out of sight of the Jordanian lines to prevent a repetition of 1948 when, at funerals of people killed by shelling, the mourners themselves came under fire.
Some officials expected 2,000 dead in Jerusalem. These were the optimists who assumed the Jordanians would not attempt aerial bombardment because of the proximity of Arab neighborhoods. The pessimists, those who believed the Arabs would bomb anyway, estimated 6,000 dead and several times that number in wounded in Jerusalem alone. Events had taken on a momentum of their own beyond either side’s calculation. In the Arab world, rhetoric was whipping passions into white heat. “If you want war,” declared Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser in a public challenge, “we are ready for you.”
Israel did not want war. The likely price even for victory was grim. Six thousand Israelis, one in every 100, had died in the victorious War of Independence, a conflict that had seen little air action. When Israel had next gone to war, in the 1956 Sinai campaign, it had been on only one front and in collusion with two powers, England and France. Even so, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion had insisted that France station air squadrons in Israel to protect its cities from air strikes.
Now, in 1967, Israel stood alone against what was beginning to look like a broad Arab coalition with three times as many tanks and warplanes as Israel. Moshe Dayan, on the eve of being named defense minister, estimated that there could be tens of thousands dead. “An entire generation of paratroopers and tank crews will be lost,” he told the general heading Israel’s Southern Command, “but you will win.” Despite this dire casualty estimate, the general, Yeshayahu Gavish, found solace in the remarks because Dayan at least predicted victory. Not all national leaders were sure of that. Even IDF chief of staff Yitzhak Rabin was pushed to the edge of nervous collapse by the responsibility that had fallen on him.
In search of reassurance, Rabin called on Ben-Gurion, now retired, for an informal chat. It turned out to be the most traumatic meeting of Rabin’s life. Ben-Gurion was as decisive as Prime Minister Levi Eshkol was hesitant, but his decisiveness lay in warning against going to war without the support of a foreign power. Otherwise, it would be an adventure that risked national disaster, he said, and the responsibility would be Rabin’s. The chief of staff had made a grave mistake, said Ben-Gurion, in ordering mobilization and thereby accelerating the war momentum.
Rabin was shaken by Ben-Gurion’s remarks. His air force commanders were promising dramatic results if Israel struck the first blow. The army commanders likewise expressed confidence in victory. Rabin was not sure the government would permit a first strike, but even if it did he could not be certain that the generals’ predictions would prove realistic when put to the test. Against this uncertainty, Ben-Gurion’s powerful “thou shalt not” was a warning Rabin could not shrug off. Ben-Gurion had proved prophetic in the past. If he was correct now, Rabin could be leading the nation to another Holocaust.
On May 22, Egypt announced the Straits of Tiran would be closed to Israeli shipping from the following day. The closure was a clear casus belli. To let it pass without a military response would be a devastating sign of weakness. Eshkol told a ministerial meeting the following day that Washington had asked Israel not to attempt to send a ship through the straits while the U.S. attempted to resolve the matter by diplomatic means. In the mood of indecision that prevailed, the American request offered a welcome respite. Rabin was subdued during the meeting with the ministers. He chain-smoked and his face was taut. In the evening, he asked General Ezer Weizman, head of operations on the general staff, to come to his home. Speaking candidly of the strain he was under, Rabin asked Weizman whether he believed that he, Rabin, should resign. Weizman, a former air force commander, persuaded Rabin that he needed only a brief rest.
Mrs. Rabin, concerned at her husband’s distress, called the IDF’s chief medical officer who diagnosed “acute anxiety.” The doctor sedated him and Rabin slept until the next afternoon. Word was put out that Rabin had been temporarily incapacitated by nicotine poisoning. When he returned to his headquarters, he was calm and knew what had to be done. There was no way out but war. With moblization, the largest source of manpower remaining in Jerusalem were yeshiva students exempt from the draft. Of the 2,000 volunteers who turned out each day for trench-digging in areas without shelters, 500 were yeshiva students. On the Sabbath after the closing by Egypt of the Tiran Straits passageway to Eilat, the civil defense commander in the Katamon quarter was amazed to see a group of yeshiva students being marched to a digging site by two bearded rabbis.
The prohibition against working on the Sabbath is one of the strictest injunctions of Judaism, but the rabbinate had declared the crisis one of pikuach nefesh (life or death) in which vital work is not only permissible on the Sabbath but mandatory. The two rabbis took off their jackets and joined the students in the trenches with shovels…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Full Text & Video: US President Donald Trump’s Address in Riyadh at Arab Islamic American Summit : Hana Levi Julian, Jewish Press, May 21, 2017—U.S. President Donald Trump urged leaders of Arab nations in his speech to the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh on Sunday to “drive out” terrorists from their places of worship, their communities, from their “holy land,” and ultimately from “this Earth.”
Trump Rebukes Abbas and the Palestinian Authority During Bethlehem Visit : Jewish Press, May 23, 2017—President Trump rebuked PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority at their joint statement in Bethlehem on Tuesday morning. During his talk, Abbas talked about easing the conditions for the PA’s terrorists being held in Israeli jails, some of whom are currently holding hunger strikes so they can get more cable TV channels and earn college degrees. Many of these jailed terrorists are mass murderers.
Trump Can Break the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse: A.J. Caschetta, Gatestone Institute, May 22, 2017—In Saudi Arabia on Sunday, President Trump declared unswerving American commitment to help Riyadh in "confronting the crisis of Islamic extremism and the Islamist and Islamic terror of all kinds." A new coalition of American lawmakers believes he should make an equally important commitment to Israel when he lands there today.