Palestinian Statehood: An Idea Whose Time Has Passed: Stephen M. Flatow, Algemeiner, Dec. 8, 2016— John Kerry and J Street are worried — because they see their cherished dream of a Palestinian state slipping away.
President Trump and the Art of the ‘Ultimate’ Israel-Palestine Peace Deal: Elliott Abrams & Uri Sadot, Foreign Policy, Dec. 4, 2016 — Donald Trump described an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement as “the ultimate deal.”
Abbas' Fatah Victory: Prof. Eyal Zisser, Israel Hayom, Dec. 4, 2016 — Anyone who expected to see dramatic headlines from the discussions of the Seventh Conference of the Fatah Movement, which met last week in Ramallah, met with disappointment.
The Palestinian Jihads Against Israel: Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute, Dec. 13, 2016— The Palestinian Islamist movement, Hamas, which is currently celebrating the 29th anniversary of its founding, misses no opportunity to broadcast its stated reason for being: to wage jihad (holy war) in order to achieve its goal of destroying Israel.
Israel's Prime Minister Welcomes Trump Presidency: Lesley Stahl, 60 Minutes, Dec. 11, 2016
Abbas in a Race Against Time to Choose Successor: Yoni Ben Menachem, JCPA, Nov. 24, 2016
Settlement Bill Marks a Revolutionary Moment in Israeli History: Tovah Lazaroff, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 7, 2016
The UN's Palestine Language: A.J. Caschetta, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 30, 2016
Stephen M. Flatow
Algemeiner, Dec. 8, 2016
John Kerry and J Street are worried — because they see their cherished dream of a Palestinian state slipping away. Kerry’s criticism of Israel at the Saban Forum on December 4 attracted a lot of attention. But the transcript of his remarks reveals an important moment that the media overlooked. Just as he was about to denounce Israel’s policies, Kerry suddenly turned to the audience and said:
“By the way, just let me ask a question. Raise your hands. I mean, I know some of you may not want to acknowledge it, but how many of you believe in a two-state solution, believe two states is critical? Okay, it’s the vast majority of people here. How many of you don’t — are willing to say so? There’s one hand up, one, two — maybe a few of you don’t want to say.”
Kerry is clearly worried that public support for Palestinian statehood is slipping away. And he’s not the only one. Last week, J Street sent a letter to its supporters in which it complained that the Republican Party left Palestinian statehood out of its platform this year, and that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee reportedly left the issue out of a talking points sheet that it recently distributed.
Here’s another reason for Kerry and J Street to worry. Speaking at the Jewish Media Summit in Jerusalem — also on December 4, Israeli MK Michael Oren said that the election of Donald Trump “spells the end of the two-state solution.” Oren is not some extremist. He is the widely respected former Israeli ambassador to the US, a representative of the moderate Kulanu Party, and himself a supporter of Palestinian statehood (with certain limitations).
It’s time to read the writing on the wall: Palestinian statehood is an idea whose time has passed. But it’s not as if creating a Palestinian state is some kind of cherished principle that has been recognized and supported by everybody since time immemorial. In fact, it’s a very recent proposal, and it has always been fraught with problems. There have been 12 US presidents since 1948. Only two (George W. Bush and Barack Obama) advocated creating a Palestinian state.
I’m not including those who advocated Palestinian statehood after they left office, namely Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. When presidents are in office, they need to deal with the real world, which is why a bad idea like creating a Palestinian state has never come to fruition. Once presidents no longer have to deal with real-world consequences, they feel free to advocate any irresponsible policy that suits their post-presidential convenience.
There have been 12 different Israeli prime ministers since the Jewish state was established in 1948. Only two of them (Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert) advocated creating a Palestinian state. I’m not including Benjamin Netanyahu, because his concept of a fully demilitarized “Palestine” that accepts Israel as a Jewish state is so far removed from what the Palestinians and their supporters demand, that his position is really only hypothetical.
There have always been two arguments in favor of creating a Palestinian state. Neither of them has withstood the test of time. The first was that Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Arabs had given up their goal of destroying Israel and had forsaken terrorism. According to this argument, they had changed their ways, so they could be trusted with their own state in Israel’s backyard.
This argument faced two major tests, and failed both times. President George H.W. Bush accepted this argument shortly after his election in 1988, and recognized Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Eighteen months later, when a major PLO faction tried to attack Israeli beachgoers in Tel Aviv and the nearby US embassy, Bush realized he had been wrong and ended his relationship with Arafat. Then the US recognized Arafat and the PLO a second time, after the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993. That blew up when Arafat tried to smuggle 50 tons of weapons into Gaza on the Karine A in 2002.
The second argument for a Palestinian state was what became known as the “demographic time bomb” — the claim that because of the high Arab birthrate, Israel would need to agree to a Palestinian state or will become an apartheid-like ruler over the Palestinians. Yitzhak Rabin resolved that problem. In 1995, he withdrew Israel’s forces from the cities where 98 percent of the Palestinians reside. Now they are residents of the Palestinian Authority, and they vote in Palestinian elections. They will never be Israeli citizens, will never vote in Israeli elections and will never threaten Israel’s Jewish demographic majority.
So Arafat settled the first debate, and Rabin settled the second. It is now plain as day that the Palestinians have not given up terrorism or forsaken their goal of destroying Israel, and would use a Palestinian state to advance that goal. There may be no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in our generation; not all international conflicts have solutions. One thing has now become clear: a Palestinian state next to Israel is not the solution.
Elliott Abrams & Uri Sadot
Foreign Policy, Dec. 4, 2016
Donald Trump described an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement as “the ultimate deal.” As his administration takes shape and begins to look at the problems it will inherit from President Obama, it would do well to avoid the mistakes of the outgoing administration that doomed its attempt at Middle East peacemaking. Even Obama supporters should use this moment to reflect on a key question: Why have eight years of intensive diplomacy led to little or no results at all?
Obama’s policy was set on his second full day in office, Jan. 22, 2009, with the appointment of George Mitchell as special envoy for Middle East peace. That decision ushered in a strategy heavily focused on Israeli settlements rather than on encouraging practical steps to improve the security and livelihood of the people it supposedly endeavored to help. The administration immediately demanded an absolute freeze on Israeli housing construction not only in the entire West Bank, including in the major blocks that Israel will obviously keep in any peace agreement, but also in Israel’s capital of Jerusalem.
This was a precondition for peace negotiations, Mitchell and Obama said, because settlements were gobbling up land and closing the window for a future negotiation that would partition territory between Israel and a future Palestinian state. The strategy, however, was blind to both the facts and their implications on the ground. Since no Israeli government will agree to stop Jews from building homes in their capital, and with the Palestinian leadership reluctant to negotiate even under these far-reaching terms, peace talks never got off the ground in Obama’s first term. What did the administration learn from all of this? Not much. A repeated effort led by Secretary of State John Kerry four years later — driven by similar logic — predictably ended once again in failure.
Developments that have had massive influence on Israeli public opinion, like the deteriorating prospects for peace in Gaza despite removal of all Israeli settlements there, were viewed from the White House and the State Department as irrelevant. Instead, the Obama administration focused on the construction of homes as the primary threat to a negotiated peace. Just two months ago, a State Department spokesman said “Israelis must ultimately decide between expanding settlements and preserving the possibility of a peaceful two state solution.”
As we approach the 50th anniversary of the “occupation” the State Department keeps calling unsustainable, it is past time to reexamine basic assumptions that have guided the U.S. pursuit of a peace agreement over the past eight years. A series of American administrations have dedicated endless efforts to reach that two-state solution — Bill Clinton did it, as did George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice, and likewise Barack Obama and John Kerry. None acted as if they believed the two-state solution was dead or dying, despite comments like Kerry’s in 2013 that in a year or two hopes of a settlement would be “over.” Nor does the State Department today, despite its warnings of impending doom.
The bright side is that despite all that doomsday rhetoric, and despite Obama’s failure to secure his goal of a long-term freeze of settlement construction, not much has changed in the status quo during his two terms. A careful look into the numbers shows that neither the population balance between Jews and Palestinians, nor the options for partition in the West Bank have materially changed.
Here is the breakdown on what changed during Obama’s term in office. According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, outside the five major block townships, a total of 6,818 housing units were approved for construction in West Bank settlements between January 2009 and June 2016. That would suggest a population increase of up to 34,000 people, assuming five people per unit. A separate analysis of voter registration data between February 2009 and March 2015 shows an increase of approximately 20,000 residents in the 70 settlements that are outside the major blocks, averaging about 4 percent growth per year.
While it is difficult to get an exact picture of population growth in the West Bank settlements, the ranges are clear. Israeli population in the settlements is growing, but at a rate that reflects mostly births in families already there, and not in-migration of new settlers.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian population is also growing. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the Palestinian population of the West Bank, excluding Jerusalem, has increased from 2.1 million in mid-2009 to 2.5 million in mid-2016, thus growing at close to 3 percent a year. That means that in comparative terms, the demographic balance between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank has changed very little since Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu’s entry to office. Considering all that data, the working assumptions guiding Obama’s policy — as well as the administration’s alarmist predictions — were simply and flatly wrong…
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Prof. Eyal Zisser
Israel Hayom, Dec. 4, 2016
Anyone who expected to see dramatic headlines from the discussions of the Seventh Conference of the Fatah Movement, which met last week in Ramallah, met with disappointment. The headline actually came from head of Israeli military intelligence, Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi, who assessed that 2017 would see escalation and instability in Judea and Samaria, mostly due to the battle to succeed PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who is already 81 years old.
The fact that the news came from Tel Aviv and not from Ramallah illustrates that the Palestinians' fate is, again, not in their own hand and that the Palestinian national movement is backtracking to where it started, a tool in the hands of the various Arab countries, who dictated what it would decide upon and do. Then, like today, others have their fingers in the Palestinian pie. These include Egypt, which supports Abbas' rival Mohammed Dahlan as heir to the Palestinian throne after Abbas. Jordan, which prevented many of the conference delegates from arriving through its territory, and Qatar and Turkey, as well as Iran in the background, all of whom want to see Hamas in power throughout the PA. We can't forget Israel, under whose auspices the PA exists, and under whose watchful eyes the Ramallah conference took place.
At last week's conference, Abbas was elected for another five-year term. The institutions that would choose his successor were also elected: 21 members of the Fatah Central Committee and 51 members of its Supreme Committee. Only about 1,400 delegates took part in the conference, compared to the 2,600 who attended the conference seven years ago, which means that hundreds of participants would might have bolstered Abbas' rival and guaranteed that he was elected as his successor were kept away…
Ahead of the conference, Dahlan declared that he had no intention of running for PA president and that he supported Marwan Barghouti, who is imprisoned in Israel, as the next Palestinian leader. But at the same time, he put together an alternative conference to take place in Egypt and promote him as successor to Abbas.
Hamas' situation isn't much better. In April, the movement is slated to elect a new leader, but it's doubtful that he will be able to improve Hamas' relations with Egypt, which has effectively imposed a siege on the Gaza Strip, and bring about the economic and security stability that will ensure that Hamas remains in power in Gaza. It seems that the Palestinians are still refraining from the tough decisions their situation demands, and cannot unite around a legitimate, effective leadership and start out on a new path, which would be tough for the Palestinians to swallow, as any concession or compromise always is.
And on the sidelines, one interesting announcement did come out of the conference discussions when Abbas said that thanks to the Oslo Accords, which met with resistance among some Palestinian sectors, some 600,000 Palestinians had "returned" to Judea and Samaria. That declaration comes after candidate for the throne Dahlan said back in the days of the Second Intifada that thanks to the Oslo Accords and the founding of the PA, the number of Israelis wounded and killed had risen from a few in the First Intifada to over 1,000 in the Second Intifada. This was due to suicide bombers deployed by terrorist infrastructures that were operating unhindered in Palestinian cities governed by the PA. Israel should take note of both statements.
Khaled Abu Toameh
Gatestone Institute, Dec. 13, 2016
The Palestinian Islamist movement, Hamas, which is currently celebrating the 29th anniversary of its founding, misses no opportunity to broadcast its stated reason for being: to wage jihad (holy war) in order to achieve its goal of destroying Israel. Those who allege that Hamas is moving toward pragmatism and moderation might take note.
Last week, tens of thousands of Palestinians took to the streets of the Gaza Strip to participate in rallies marking the anniversary of the founding of Hamas. As in previous years, the rallies were held under the motto of jihad and "armed resistance" until the liberation of all Palestine, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Another message that emerged loud and clear from the rallies: Hamas will never recognize Israel's right to exist.
This year's rallies once again also served as a reminder of the enormous popularity that Hamas continues to enjoy among Palestinians — not only in the Gaza Strip, but also in the West Bank, where supporters of the Islamist movement celebrated the occasion, but on a smaller scale and with a lower profile, out of fear of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israeli security forces. Khalil Al-Haya, a senior Hamas official, outlined in a speech before his supporters in the Gaza Strip his movement's strategy, namely to pursue the fight until the elimination of Israel. "We will not recognize Israel because it will inevitably go away," he declared.
"And we will not backtrack on the option of armed struggle until the liberation of all Palestine. Since its establishment, Hamas has been — and will remain — a Palestinian Islamic national and resistance movement whose goal is to liberate Palestine and confront the Israeli project. The liberation of the Gaza Strip is just the first step toward the liberation of Palestine — all Palestine. There is no future for the Israeli entity on our homeland."
When Hamas leaders talk about the "liberation" of the Gaza Strip, they are referring to the total unilateral Israeli disengagement from that area in 2005. Hamas and many Palestinians have never viewed the full withdrawal from the Gaza Strip as a gesture on the part of Israel. Nor have they ever considered the disengagement as a sign that Israel is no longer interested in controlling the lives of nearly two million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.
On the contrary, Hamas and many Palestinians continue to see the Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip as a sign of weakness. In fact, this disengagement is why Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary election in 2006, when it took credit for driving Israel out of the Gaza Strip through suicide bombings and rockets. Back then, this abandonment of land by Israel drove the Palestinian vote for Hamas. It also explains why many Palestinians continue to support Hamas — because they still believe that violence is the way to defeat Israel.
Many Palestinians see Israeli concessions, gestures and unilateral moves as proof of capitulation, rather than positive signs testifying to Israel's peaceful intentions. These "concessions for peace" by Israel further increases Palestinians' appetite for launching armed attacks against Israel. Today, many Palestinians are convinced that they can achieve more through stabbings, vehicular rammings and shooting attacks than sitting with Israel at the negotiating table.
The Qatar-based Hamas leader, Khaled Mashaal, seized the anniversary as an opportunity once again to remind everyone of his movement's real goals. Speaking on the Al-Jazeera TV network, which serves as a platform for the Muslim Brotherhood organization (Hamas is an offshoot of Muslim Brotherhood), Mashaal said: "We are moving forward with our resistance to achieve our national project… We are looking forward to liberating Palestine and cleansing the Al-Aqsa Mosque and protecting it from division and demolition. We also seek the return of the refugees to their homeland and the liberation of our prisoners from Israeli jails."
When he talks about "cleansing" Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Hamas leader is referring to Jewish visits to the Temple Mount. Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have been exploiting these visits to incite their people against Israel. They claim that Jewish visitors are "desecrating" the holy site and should not be allowed to set foot there. These words mirror those used by President Mahmoud Abbas, who said that Palestinians will not allow Jews to "defile with their filthy feet" the Al-Aqsa Mosque (although no Jew has entered the mosque itself).
Mashaal, who in the past few years has been living as royalty in Qatar (the country that is the main patron of Muslim Brotherhood), went on to emphasize that Hamas has "not changed its strategy of liberating Palestine." He also said that, "Military work remains the backbone of liberation." Hamas, he added, "Continues to believe in the full liberation of Palestine and that jihad and resistance are the only means to expel the occupation and liberate Palestine and the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque." According to Mashaal, Hamas continues to look toward Arab and Islamic countries, including Iran, for the military, financial and political support to achieve its goal of destroying Israel.
Hamas's armed wing, Ezaddin Al-Qassam, boasted on this occasion that 22 of its men have been killed since the beginning of 2016, while preparing for the next war with Israel. Most of the Hamas men were killed when the tunnels in which they were working in collapsed. Hamas continues to build new tunnels and renovate those that were destroyed during the last war with Israel in 2014. Hamas says it wants to use these tunnels in the future to infiltrate Israel and kill or kidnap Israeli civilians or soldiers.
Ironically, while Hamas pursues its round-the-clock efforts to prepare for war against Israel, its leaders do not hesitate to depict themselves as victims, and warn of supposed Israeli plans to launch a "new aggression" against Palestinians. Hamas believes that Israel does not have the right to defend itself against rockets and terror attacks. It even considers Israel's self-defense as an "act of terror." Take, for example, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum's recent assessment. Lashing out at U.S. aid to Israel, Barhoum said that the American military and financial aid to Israel constitutes "official support for terrorism."…
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Israel's Prime Minister Welcomes Trump Presidency: Lesley Stahl, 60 Minutes, Dec. 11, 2016 —Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells 60 Minutes Israel has never been in a better place; part of his optimism relates to the election of Trump
Abbas in a Race Against Time to Choose Successor: Yoni Ben Menachem, JCPA, Nov. 24, 2016—Time is not on the side of 81-year-old Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. His state of health is not the best, he has heart problems, and soon he will need medical treatment in Jordan after having already undergone a cardiac catheterization. His age is what it is, and his body is letting him know.
Settlement Bill Marks a Revolutionary Moment in Israeli History: Tovah Lazaroff, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 7, 2016—A bill that could be the first step toward annexation of Area C of the West Bank, and which would overturn almost 40 years of judicial rulings on private Palestinian property rights, was approved by a Knesset vote of 58:51 on its first reading Wednesday night.
The UN's Palestine Language: A.J. Caschetta, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 30, 2016—US President-elect Donald Trump won the White House promising to reform our dysfunctional government. But will he also stand up to the even more dysfunctional United Nations?