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April 2, 2017

“We Are Not Surprised”

Before I begin my news, I would like to make a request of my readers:

The Legal Grounds Campaign, which I co-chair with Jeff Daube, is seeking to increase its membership.  Numbers are very important in demonstrating the strength of our campaign.  This is especially so with regard to the Knesset, as we lobby MKs to speak out on the issues.

And so I ask you please to consider joining.  All that is required to become a member is to sign up, there is no fee.   You will receive occasional Alerts letting you know about issues relevant to the fight for Israel’s rights.

If you are not Israeli, by all means do sign up, but, please, also ask Israelis you know to consider doing the same.

http://legalgroundscampaign.org/en/join-us-now/

Thank you.

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As you read down, you will find another request I make for action on Israel’s behalf.  Your assistance is needed.

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We saw this coming:  The US and Israel have reached an “agreement” regarding Israeli building in Judea and Samaria.  It’s billed as a “good will gesture” to President Trump.  Although for Israel it comes to the same thing, this perhaps suggests a different motivation and beats describing it as a good will gesture to the Arabs who wish to destroy us.

Credit: Westernjournalism

Clearly, Netanyahu is grateful that Trump has replaced Obama – who brought him nothing but grief – and is seeking to keep things smooth.  As he reportedly said to the Security Cabinet (emphasis added):

This is a very friendly administration and we need to be considerate of the president’s requests.”

I honestly do not believe Trump is leveling threats as his predecessor regularly did, and even as I am decidedly not pleased with this, I think it is important to keep the difference in mind.

Obama said that “settlements” were an obstacle to peace.  Trump would rather that the pace of building be slowed and that it be limited to certain areas only.

The agreement:

Israel will build a new town for the residents of Amona near Shilo in Samaria.  This was unanimously approved by the Security Cabinet Thursday night.

According to a high level Trump Administration official:

“We would note that the Israeli prime minister made a commitment to the Amona settlers prior to President Trump laying out his expectations, and has consistently indicated that he intended to move forward with this plan.” (Emphasis added)

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/227556

We know that our prime minister was holding out for this, which is to his credit. The logic that is being advanced by the American side gives them an “out” on why they accepted this; but it does not sit well with me.

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In addition, Israel will restrict future building to within the construction boundaries of existing communities.

As columnist Raphael Ahren observed, there is question as to whether these restrictions “constituted any significant change in policy.”  It is very likely that that they do not.  This is where we have been building: inside the construction perimeters—which are actually more restrictive than the municipal boundaries—of existing communities in Judea and Samaria.

We have agreed not to put up any new communities beyond the one for the Amona residents.  But as this is the first time there will be a new Jewish town in Judea and Samaria in over 20 years, agreeing not to put up additional new ones does not exactly represent a major policy change.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-says-it-will-curb-settlement-expansion-to-satisfy-trump/

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What I’m actually seeing from a statement that Netanyahu put out on Friday is that Israel is agreeing to build inside the construction perimeters, but where this is not possible, building will be along the construction perimeters, and if neither is possible, due to legal, security, topographical or additional concerns, Israel will allow building in proximity as close as possible to the existing development line (but still inside existing municipal boundaries).

This suggests a bit of flexibility, and speaks to Israel’s right to continue to build.

This is in theory, however, and we have to see what really transpires.

We have learned how cheap words are.  And here the flip side is an expectation that building will be “slowed down”: Yes, these are the parameters within which Israel can build, but there shouldn’t be too much of that.

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The Yesha Council – the umbrella organization for municipalities in Judea and Samaria – released the following statement in this regard (emphasis added):

“In light of the decisions and despite certain limitations, the understandings reached between Israel and the Trump Administration in the US enable continued building in all communities of Judea and Samaria, as well as the establishment of the new community for Amona residents.

“…the true test will be the immediate renewal of building planning and development in all the areas of settlement and the facts on the ground.

We will stand guard and work with the government of Israel to make sure that this plan does, indeed, come to fruition.”

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/227557

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Spokespersons for the Amona residents echoed this sentiment and said more, cautioning that the commitment made by the prime minister was for a new community and that a new neighborhood of an existing community will not suffice.

What is more – and this is a significant point – they are distressed by the linkage between the building of the new town and the slowdown elsewhere:

Creating a paradoxical equation whereby the establishment of a new community comes at the expense of building is a manipulation – no less…Just as Amona must be rebuilt as soon as possible, so life and building must be added in Judea and Samaria, and all of the land of Israel.”

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/227510

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The international response to our having made concessions is precisely as might be expected.  Never praise for our “good will,” but rather criticism and warnings.

On Friday, a White House official said (emphasis added):

“While the existence of settlements is not in itself an impediment to peace, further unrestrained settlement activity does not help advance peace

“Going forward… the Israeli government has made clear that Israel’s intent is to adopt a policy regarding settlement activity that takes President Trump’s concerns into consideration.”

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/227571

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres responded to the news about a new town to be built in Samaria with “disappointment and alarm.”

Alarm?  I do not believe he has expressed alarm about PA incitement. It’s the same old, same old, folks.  Even someone like Guterres, who is more balanced than his predecessors, focuses on “settlements” and the “sin” of Israel, to the exclusion of other factors.

Many others in the international community – France, the EU, the UK, etc. – saw fit to criticize Israel as well.

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Of course our “peace partners,” exemplified here by Saeb Erekat, saw an opportunity to attack us:

“Israel, the occupying power, has approved a further expansion of its colonial settlement enterprise in Occupied Palestine with thousands of new units to further deny the people of Palestine the right to freedom and self-determination…we are not going to accept any formula that aims at legitimizing the presence of  Israeli colonies on occupied Palestinian land.” (Emphasis added)

https://www.nad.ps/en/media-room/press-releases/dr-saeb-erekat-latest-israeli-colonial-settlement-approvals-occupied

Credit: UnitedwithIsrael

“Occupied Palestinian land” At a bare minimum, this means all of Judea and Samaria. In reality Palestinian Arabs have in mind all of Israel. There is not, and never will be, comprise on this.

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We expect the sort of statement made by Erekat.  But here we also find a spokesman for the Jordanian government, Mohammad Al-Momani, who said Israel’s decision to build a new town “constitutes a blatant violation of the Palestinian nation’s rights, especially their right to create an independent state on their national land, within their pre-1967 boundaries.” (Emphasis added)

The decision, he claimed, is in direct opposition to UN Resolution 2334, which termed all Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria illegal. (The resolution carries no legal force, but we have Obama and his refusal to veto this to thank for its existence.)

Israel’s action “harms peace negotiations” and encourages terrorists, he maintained.

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/227588

He has it absolutely backwards: terrorists are encouraged when Israel does not stand up for her rights and is thus perceived as weak.

As to his contention that Judea and Samaria represent Palestinian Arab “national land,” I would remind him that this area has been the Jews’ national land going back 3,000 years.

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The statement by al-Momami is representative of the professed thinking not just of Jordan, but of the Arab League as a whole.  The League held a summit on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea last Wednesday, at which time they said they would be supportive of a “two state solution” that calls for Israel to withdraw to the 1949 armistice line (which they call the 1967 line). If Israel were to do this, they would be willing to consider diplomatic relations.

http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Arab-leaders-at-summit-endorse-two-state-solution-485572

But wait!  This is what was called for by the Saudi plan of 2002: First Israel had to make “peace” with the PA, and withdraw from Judea and Samaria, and then they would move to diplomatic relations with Israel.  This was soundly rejected by Israel.  Today, 15 years later, we find no change, no growth, no concessions.

We are not surprised.

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Jordanian King Abdullah, in opening statements declared that regional stability depends on the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by way of a two-state solution.

http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Arab-leaders-at-summit-endorse-two-state-solution-485572

What claptrap.  And the king, as much as anyone, knows it is.

He is struggling with a flood of refugees from war-torn Syria, and worried about the presence in his country of ISIS.  None of this will be ameliorated by a “two state solution.” In fact, he knows that a Palestinian state at his border will decrease, not increase, regional stability.

No matter, he plays the game.  A pox on all their houses.

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The PA’s Mahmoud Abbas was at the summit and negated any notion of modifying the original Saudi plan:

“We reaffirm that it is not worthwhile in terms of peace and justice for some to talk about… manipulating the essence of the Arab Peace Initiative.  We want it to be implemented as it was in 2002, without amendments.”

Abbas further indicated that it is the plan for Arab leaders who will be meeting Trump in coming weeks to speak to him in “one voice.”

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So there it is.  Trump and members of his administration have been talking about “regional peace.”  In fact, Jason Greenblatt was at the Arab summit last week and met with the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia to discuss moving “Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process” forward.

http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Greenblatt-meets-FMs-of-Saudi-UAE-amid-talk-of-summit-485573

How did the Americans respond to the statements that came out of that summit? Did Greenblatt hear something different in private conversation?

President Trump will be meeting in the White House with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Tuesday and with King Abdullah of Jordan on Wednesday.  A good deal depends on how the president conducts himself in these meetings.

We should, at the very least, make sure he is apprised of happenings that have relevance for his meetings.

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Perhaps the president needs to learn about news that broke on Friday regarding the intentions of the Arab states:

A draft text for a resolution to be submitted by Arab states to UNESCO has been obtained by Israeli officials, according to the JPost on Friday.

The draft states that “any action taken by Israel, the Occupying Power, to impose its laws, jurisdiction, and administration on the City of Jerusalem, are illegal and therefore null and void and have no validity whatsoever.” (Emphasis added)

http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Arab-states-to-UNESCO-Reject-Israeli-sovereignty-over-all-of-Jerusalem-485608

Previous UNESCO resolutions have challenged Israeli sovereignty in eastern Jerusalem (which means sovereignty over the Temple Mount in particular).  This would be the first time the Arab states have sought to challenge Israeli administration in any part of Jerusalem.

The betting is good that this is being done because President Trump is “thinking about” moving the US Embassy to western Jerusalem. When the Arabs object to the US Embassy being situated in Jerusalem (it would not be in the eastern part), the obvious retort is that the “two state solution” calls for a division of Jerusalem, so there should be no problem.

Now they seek to nullify that objection.

A pox on all their houses.  Oh, I said that already.  Never mind.

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Please! write to President Trump.  Share this with him:

The Arab states are drafting a resolution to be submitted to UNESCO that reads:

any action taken by Israel, the Occupying Power, to impose its laws, jurisdiction, and administration on the City of Jerusalem, are illegal and therefore null and void and have no validity whatsoever.” (Emphasis added)

http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Arab-states-to-UNESCO-Reject-Israeli-sovereignty-over-all-of-Jerusalem-485608

Tell him this is an attempt to contest Israel’s rights in any part of Jerusalem.  Ask him what sort of partners for peace these Arabs states are, and request most urgently that he oppose this action.

https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact

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So we sigh, knowing that the roller coaster is about to start again.  And we move on, also recognizing that things are not all bad by any means:

David Friedman was sworn in as US Ambassador to Israel, last Wednesday.  Here he is right after his swearing in by Vice President Pence.

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This is definitely good news, but Trump’s comment about his new ambassador generated a certain unease for me:

Friedman had difficulty with the Democrats in the Senate because of his close connections to Israel, including Judea and Samaria.  Now according to White House spokesman Sean Spicer:

Trump “is glad that Ambassador Friedman will be officially on board as we strive for a lasting peace in the Middle East.

“Mr. Friedman’s strong relationships in Israel will be a tremendous asset to the president in furthering that mission.”

http://www.timesofisrael.com/white-house-trump-believes-envoys-ties-to-israel-are-an-asset-toward-peace/

To me, this means: Since the Israelis trust him, he will be able to extract concessions that would not otherwise be possible.  But this is Trump’s observation, and I do not question Friedman’s motivation.

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Support among the Israeli Jewish public for a withdrawal from Judea and Samaria and the establishment of a Palestinian state is decreasing, a new poll, conducted on behalf of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, revealed.

The poll found that only 36 percent of Israeli Jews back a pullout from the West Bank as part of a peace agreement with the Palestinians, compared to 60% in 2005.

https://www.algemeiner.com/2017/03/28/new-poll-support-among-israeli-jews-for-west-bank-pullout-establishment-of-palestinian-state-decreasing/

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In other ways as well, we see indication here in Israel of a shift away from that “two state solution.”

Last Monday, Prime Minister Netanyahu delivered a 10 minute address broadcast live from his Jerusalem office to the 18,000 attendees of the AIPAC conference.  What was notable about this address was that he did not mention, did not embrace, that “two state solution.” He spoke instead about the fact that Israel’s hand is extended to its neighbors in peace.

This contrasts significantly with what he said a year ago.

http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Netanyahu-Israel-committed-to-working-with-Trump-for-peace-485328

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“The Israeli economy grew by 4% in 2016, exceeding projections by 1.2 percentage points and marking the most solid economic performance for the country since 2012, the Bank of Israel said Wednesday.”

Israelis’ overall standard of living increased by 5%.

http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=41433

Not bad, when a BDS war is being waged to weaken us economically.

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I wish I had room here to address the extremely disturbing phenomenon of American Jews, especially young Jews, who have turned sharp left and away from support for Israel.

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We are fast approaching Pesach, which begins on the eve of April 10th.  Already security officials are warning about an increase in terror attempts.  Happens every year.  Yesterday a terrorist stabbed two young people in the Old City of Jerusalem.

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I might have an opportunity to post again before the holiday, but in the event that I do not (a distinct possibility), I take the time here to wish one and all a Chag Pesach Kasher V’Sameach – a joyous holiday rich in meaning.

Credit: Chabadrc

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It is my practice every year before Pesach to share a video of Yehi She’Amda done to the musical arrangement of Aharon Razel.  I find it especially beautiful and meaningful and hope you will as well:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPCo9g3nlpQ

This is from the Haggadah for Pesach, but speaks to us for all time.  And it is our answer to all those Arabs who would squeeze us out or destroy us:

“This is what stood for our fathers and for us.

“It was not only one person who stood up against us to destroy us.

“In every generation they try to destroy us.

 

“And the Holy One, Blessed be He, saves us from their hands.”

 

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© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.

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