Postmortem of a Disastrous Month: Isi Leibler, Israel Hayom, Aug. 9, 2017 — The dramatic setbacks of the past month have been somewhat destabilizing in contrast to the almost euphoric atmosphere which prevailed.
Recurring Patterns: The Temple Mount Riots: Manfred Gerstenfeld, BESA, Aug. 6, 2017— On July 14, two Israeli police officers were murdered in Jerusalem.
What are Trump's Next Steps to Help Forge Peace?: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 7, 2017 — Last week the world was exposed to some of the Trump administration’s internal thinking with regard to the way it views the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Even Kushner Knows Negotiation Can't Solve the Palestinian Conflict: Gregg Roman, The Hill, Aug. 4, 2017— In a recently leaked off-the-record speech to a group of congressional interns, White House senior advisor Jared Kushner said that the administration is committed to working "with the parties very quietly to see if there's a solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Rejection of Peace in the Israeli-Arab Process: Stephen Hughes, Jerusalem Online, Aug. 14, 2017
The Terrible Timing of the Newest American Peace Delegation: Avi Issacharoff, Times of Israel, Aug. 13, 2017
Recognizing a Palestinian State Before a Peace Agreement with Israel Undermines the International Rule of Law: Peter Wertheim, JCPA, Aug. 7, 2017
Is China Intervening in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?: Roie Yellinek, BESA, Aug. 13, 2017
Israel Hayom, Aug. 9, 2017
The dramatic setbacks of the past month have been somewhat destabilizing in contrast to the almost euphoric atmosphere which prevailed. It is an awesome burden of responsibility to serve as a leader, obliged to make decisions that affect the future of the Jewish people, in both Israel and the Diaspora. Over these last few weeks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has probably been under the greatest pressure he has ever encountered. Barbaric acts of Arab terrorism and intensified incitement, problems with the Trump administration, excessive demands/blackmail from the haredim creating tensions with American Jewry, constant pressure and criticism from ministers in his own government and above all, the campaign to indict him personally on a myriad of alleged acts of corruption, have taken their toll and destabilized him.
In hindsight, the installation of metal detectors on the Temple Mount following the bloody terrorist murders there was a major blunder. Under any normal circumstances, it would have been an absolutely legitimate reaction, but having regard to the frenzied religious fanaticism endemic among Palestinians, Netanyahu should have anticipated that this would be exploited by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the Islamists to incite hysteria. He also should have realized that this would create major domestic problems for our more moderate neighbors who face enormous pressure from their own citizens when swept by the hysteric accusation that Al-Aqsa mosque is being defiled by the Jews.
Had Netanyahu remained firm and resisted the demand to remove the detectors, Israeli public opinion would have supported him. But he considered the broader picture, recognizing that if he refused, he would risk a violent new intifada that would cost many more lives and would probably set back his emerging covert alliance with the more moderate Arab states. Any responsible Israeli leader weighing up the issues would have been obliged to act in a similar manner.
The issue was compounded by the inept way in which Netanyahu handled the Jordanian crisis. There appears to be no doubt that the security guard acted in self-defense. But Netanyahu’s parading him as a hero was a grossly inappropriate, given our delicate relationship with King Abdullah, who is under pressure from the powerful Palestinian and Muslim Brotherhood elements to sever diplomatic relations with Israel. And the government should have instituted a legal review of what happened even though it would have exonerated him. Besides, an apparently innocent bystander was accidentally killed, which probably merited at the least an apology and restitution.
To add to our discomfort, the international community reverted to its classical posture with the U.S. State Department issuing statements applying moral equivalence to both parties which seemed like a throwback to the Obama era. President Donald Trump, admittedly facing his own domestic problems, remained silent. This was certainly grounds for considerable disappointment as one would surely have anticipated this administration to deal with reality and condemn the bogus Palestinian hysteria instead of understating it and indulging in appeasement. To top it off, Netanyahu faced a barrage of demagogic criticisms of the government policies from both factions, including ministers from his coalition and even from within the Likud.
We should ensure that we learn from our mistakes. Clearly, the Palestinians are emboldened and believe that they have humiliated Israel and won a major battle. But we should not exaggerate the negative repercussions of what transpired, nor engage in masochism and allow these events to blur reality. Setting aside the status quo originating from Moshe Dayan’s blunder in 1967 when he handed control of the Temple Mount to the Wakf, whatever rage and frustration the Palestinians may express, Israel remains firmly in control.
But we must face reality. A substantial proportion of the Palestinians and, alas, as was recently demonstrated, also a highly vociferous minority of Israeli Arabs, are vicious barbarians who would slaughter us at any opportunity. They behave like savages as evidenced by the murder of the Israeli policemen at the Temple Mount and the butchering of the Salomon family at their Shabbat table in Halamish. The spontaneous street celebrations after the murders and adoring mass of 10,000 Israeli Arabs in the Israeli town of Umm al-Fahm led by the head of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah, and other senior members of the outlawed organization, who at the funerals of their murderous kinsmen, chanted “you are the shahids of Al-Aqsa,” speak volumes. They were hailed by the PA as well as Hamas as heroes and their families were financially rewarded. The murderer of the Salomon family will receive a massive pension despite his anticipated incarceration.
Almost $345 million per annum is allocated to families of “martyrs” and those in prison—representing almost half the annual foreign aid provided to the PA. This despicable practice of paying pensions to murderers may now belatedly be dealt with by Congress. But it must continue to be highlighted as a central policy issue and we should not equivocate because Abbas threatens to terminate cooperation with Palestinian security forces.
If one thing has been reaffirmed over the past month, it is that the Palestinian leaders and the bulk of their followers are unwilling to reach any peace agreement and are determined to fight on for their ultimate objective—the obliteration of Jewish sovereignty in the region. Besides, with the impending retirement of Abbas, there is every likelihood that chaos will prevail and the Palestinian security forces could well turn their weapons against Israel. We are strong but must be well prepared for this eventuality…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
BESA, Aug. 6, 2017
On July 14, two Israeli police officers were murdered in Jerusalem. They were members of the Druze community, a religious and ethnic minority. The three Muslim murderers came from the town of Umm al-Fahm in the north of Israel. They had hidden their weapons on the Temple Mount, where the al-Aqsa Mosque, which is managed by the Waqf, a Muslim religious trust, stands. The three terrorists were killed by Israeli police. The day before the killings, one of the perpetrators published a selfie in which he stands before al-Aqsa. The photo is accompanied by the text, “Tomorrow’s smile will be more beautiful, God willing.”
Israel reacted to the murders by increasing security measures through the installation of metal detectors. The alternative would have been to wait passively until the next contingent of terrorists arrived, ready to employ the proven formula of bringing in weapons and hiding them at that place of worship. The installation of metal detectors led Palestinian preachers to call upon the worshipers to pray publicly outside the mosque on the morning of Friday, July 21. Riots followed during which three Palestinians were killed and a number wounded. On the same day, a Palestinian terrorist murdered a Jewish father, seriously injured his wife, and killed their two adult children in the village of Halamish during their Shabbat meal.
It is estimated that this terrorist’s family will receive more than $3000 per month from the Palestinian Authority for many years to come. These payments are co-financed by Western countries. In the meantime, the metal detectors have been removed. Due to the riots, Israel has opted instead to install more expensive and technologically advanced tools to detect weapons from entering the holy site in the future. Despite the removal of the detectors, Palestinian riots in Jerusalem have continued.
When we examine the reactions of the actors in this saga, it becomes possible to discern recurring patterns. In the past, the PLO-dominated Palestinian Authority was able to control riots. A typical case in point was the “al-Aqsa Intifada,” which began in late September 2000. Though presented as a spontaneous response to Ariel Sharon’s Temple Mount visit, several PLO/PA officials (including Marwan Barghouthi and Minister of Communications Imad Faloudji) were to admit that the violence had been planned well in advance by Yasser Arafat. All that was required was a handy pretext to start it.
Since then, the stature in the western world of the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas has steadily increased. In 2016, many members of the European Parliament gave Abbas a standing ovation after a speech in which he made the vile anti-Semitic accusation that an Israeli rabbi had urged Israelis to poison the water of the Palestinians. Two days later, Abbas had to admit that his libel was a complete falsehood.
In contrast to his glowing image among Europeans, Abbas is seen by most Palestinians as very weak. His Fatah movement supports the riots, partly because it fears losing even more influence if it does not. He is playing a dangerous game, however. If the riots continue, Abbas may lose control over them. If it is true that he has canceled the PA’s security collaboration with Israel, he might find himself in immediate danger. If he is without the protection of the Israeli security services, it will be much easier for Hamas sympathizers to target him.
Another recurrent pattern is the abuse of holy or protected places. During Israel’s military campaigns against Hamas, the terrorist group often hid weapons in mosques, universities, and schools. This included schools of the UN agency UNRWA. During the December 2008-January 2009 exchange, several Hamas leaders hid in a Gaza hospital because they knew Israel would not target it. Hamas also uses civilians as human shields.
Yet another recurrent pattern is the behavior of foreign governments and leaders. Many excuse and condone Palestinian terror, incitement, and violence. Others feel the need to step in with condemnations or recommendations. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, for example, is a staunch supporter of Hamas, using any available opportunity to condemn Israel. This time, he said: “By occupying the al-Aqsa Mosque, Israel has exceeded the boundaries.” France issued an anodyne statement mainly to create the illusion that it is still an important international player while it struggles with critical domestic issues. Still another recurrent pattern is the behavior of foreign media, which habitually turns aggressors into victims and vice versa. The media watch organization Honest Reporting Canada created a detailed list of many such distortions in the Canadian media alone during the first days of the riots.
In view of these recurrent patterns, a peace agreement is likely to be useless. The Palestinians may one day sign such an agreement, and indeed maintain quiet for a while – but they will ultimately resort once again to riots, violence, and murder, as they invariably have in the past. The Temple Mount riots created a perfect model for such a pattern. Commit a crime against Israel related to al-Aqsa. If Israel reacts with enhanced security measures, incite rioting by declaring the mosque to be in danger. Israel cannot undo the concessions it makes for “peace.” Those concessions are likely to include the removal of isolated West Bank settlements and an exchange of land in return for the larger settlement blocs. The Temple Mount riots provide tangible evidence that as matters stand now, a peace agreement is not a credible option.
Jerusalem Post, Aug. 7, 2017
Last week the world was exposed to some of the Trump administration’s internal thinking with regard to the way it views the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A recording of a briefing Jared Kushner gave White House interns made its way to Wired Magazine, which then shared it with the world. In it, Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, gave a sober review of the last 40 years of Middle East peacemaking and the chances that a deal can be reached to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the near future.
“What do we offer that’s unique? I don’t know,” said Kushner. “I’m sure everyone that’s tried this has been unique in some ways, but again we’re trying to follow very logically. We’re thinking about what the right endstate is. And we’re trying to work with the parties very quietly to see if there’s a solution.” He continued: “There may be no solution, but it’s one of the problem sets that the president asked us to focus on,” he added. “So, we’re going to focus on it and try to come to the right conclusion in the near future.”
There were three big takeaways from Kushner’s remarks. The first was that, seven months after taking office, the Trump administration does not yet have any new ideas for how to advance the peace process. Its thinking seems to be no different than that of previous administrations: Push for negotiations between the parties, mediate between them and try to hammer out an agreement.
The second takeaway is that there seems to be a growing assessment within the White House that a deal might not even be possible. The third is just as interesting and has to do with the motivation for why Kushner and Deputy Assistant to the President Jason Greenblatt are even working on a deal to begin with. The president, Kushner revealed, had asked them. Kushner made his remarks before news broke in Israel that Ari Harow, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former chief of staff, had turned state’s witness and is going to provide the police with key evidence in two investigations being conducted of the prime minister.
This is relevant, since from now forward, any step Netanyahu takes will need to be looked at through the prism of the investigations of his conduct. If he breaks Left – like Ehud Olmert and Ariel Sharon respectively did as prime ministers under investigation – he will be perceived as doing so to save himself from indictment. If he turns further Right – as it seems he will – it will be seen as an attempt to shore up his support among right-wing voters ahead of elections. What this means is that real progress will likely not be made in the near future. The criminal cloud over Netanyahu’s head will prevent him from taking any real steps toward peace, which Kushner anyhow doesn’t appear to have much faith in the chances of achieving.
If this is the case, what can be done? Now would be a good time to invest in grassroot initiatives aimed at improving the quality of life for all residents of the West Bank, Israeli and Palestinian. This could include several major undertakings: improving infrastructure like roads and electricity plans, building more industrial zones to create employment, setting up hi-tech incubators for Palestinians and Israelis and improving the import-export process for Palestinian businesses seeking to expand their reach overseas. Israel is often referred to as the Start-Up Nation. There is no reason it should not be working to share its culture of innovation with its Palestinian neighbors and help to advance them in a more positive direction.
All of these initiatives can be carried out without connection to the top-down approach needed to reach a political resolution to the conflict. They are not affected by politics or dependent on the lack of leadership in Jerusalem or Ramallah. These are measures that will create a better atmosphere for peace and will be conducive to later attempts at reaching a long-term, final-status agreement when and if the political conditions make that possible. Kushner should be applauded for his honesty. He articulated what a lot of people already believe regarding the chances for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.But that doesn’t mean that he or the administration should give up. Moreover, it doesn’t mean that Israelis and Palestinians should give up. A lot can still be achieved.
The Hill, Aug. 4, 2017
In a recently leaked off-the-record speech to a group of congressional interns, White House senior advisor Jared Kushner said that the administration is committed to working "with the parties very quietly to see if there's a solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He followed this up with what seemed like a throw-away line that's actually very significant: "There may be no solution, but it's one of the problem sets that the president asked us to focus on. So we're going to focus on it and try to come to the right conclusion in the near future."
Even for those who agree with that statement, hearing a senior White House official admit that the conflict may not have a solution is remarkable, especially since president after president has made achieving peace such a priority. Still, the United States is not out of options, nor should we read Kushner's words as an indication that the White House intends to abandon hope or forgo attempts to make progress towards peace.
Admitting that the conflict may not have a solution presents an opportunity to try something different. In fact, this could present an opportunity to try something different, to fly in the face of the so-called conventional thinking that has ended in a resounding failure for the past 24 years. In order to hasten the end of this conflict and create conditions for peace, security and prosperity for both Israelis and Palestinians, American policy must be changed in five key areas.
First, Palestinian terror organizations like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad must be defeated. The Trump administration has made significant progress in isolating and targeting Hezbollah in Lebanon, and they should use that success as a model to cut off funding and root out the structures that support terrorism in the Palestinian territories. Second, we must use diplomacy — no small feat for this administration — to convince our allies in Turkey and Qatar to end their support for these groups. For too long, Turkey and Qatar have provided funding and, perhaps more importantly, safe haven for the leadership of Hamas. The United States must use every tool available to convince these nations that supporting terrorism, even tacitly, will be costly.
Third, the United States should use economic leverage to prop up those in the Palestinian territories who oppose terror and to punish those who support it. The Taylor Force Act aims to force the Palestinian Authority (PA) to end salaries for the families of terrorists. While this law would help end this abhorrent practice, it would do little direct harm to terrorist groups or those who support them. Instead, all economic assistance and benefits provided by the United States — through qualified industrial zones, favorable trade agreements and direct assistance should be tailored to incentivize the Palestinian Authority to get serious about coming to the table for the kind of negotiations with Israel that they have been unwilling to enter for decades.
Fourth, security cooperation between the United States and the Palestinians must be reimagined so that Washington is no longer agnostic on the question of whether the PA forces cooperate with Israel. In fact, Palestinian-Israeli security coordination is frequently halted when it is needed most, like at the beginning of the latest furor surrounding security on the Temple Mount. The State Department's Office of the U.S. Security Coordinator should make funding and training for the PA forces conditional. If they meet targets to cooperate with Israeli forces — both security and political conditions — then we provide support, if not, like PA President Abbas announced recently, then they're on their own.
Finally, the United States should give serious consideration to the messages that reach the Palestinian people. The U.S. Board of Broadcasting Governors should adopt an anti-rejectionism platform and cease funding any media that calls for Israel's destruction, instead offering support to the minority of voices in the region that encourage cooperation and peace. Generations of Palestinian leaders have made entire careers out of rejecting Israel while perpetuating this conflict. If we are smart about how we engage in the region, the United States can make it very costly to continue this strategy.
The time for the U.S. to act as an 'honest broker' has come to an end. The time for the U.S. to act as a neutral convener — an "honest broker" — has come to an end. In order to move forward in a way that advances our interests and supports the safety and security of our closest ally in the Middle East, we must stop allowing the Palestinians to perpetuate this conflict, which is what is driving many to assume there is no hope towards its end. They must accept they have been defeated so they can come to the table with an eye toward building their society into one that can move past the seventy-year old war they're still fighting.
Rejection of Peace in the Israeli-Arab Process: Stephen Hughes, Jerusalem Online, Aug. 14, 2017—There is nothing in the Islamic religion or doctrine that prohibits the placement of security features before the entrances of Mosques and related holy sites.
The Terrible Timing of the Newest American Peace Delegation: Avi Issacharoff, Times of Israel, Aug. 13, 2017—There’s no reason to envy Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and Dina Powell, US President Donald Trump’s point-people on Middle East peace who will soon be arriving in Israel and the Palestinian Authority to “restart the peace process.”
Recognizing a Palestinian State Before a Peace Agreement with Israel Undermines the International Rule of Law: Peter Wertheim, JCPA, Aug. 7, 2017—According to the Palestinian Authority, 136 (70.5 percent) of the 193 member states of the United Nations and two non-member states have officially recognized a State of Palestine.
Is China Intervening in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?: Roie Yellinek, BESA, Aug. 13, 2017—On July 18, 2017, PA President Mahmoud Abbas met for the fourth time with Chinese President Xi Jinping in China. The meeting was apparently good, judging by the declarations of continued cooperation between the sides.