I do not want to give the impression that everything is going smoothly and that there are no problems here. It’s unlikely that anyone would believe me even if I said that.
However…there is the sense that more is going well than has been the case for some time — even with the difficulties, which remain serious.
It has made news here that US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman recently asked the State Department to cease using the term ‘occupation’ to describe Israel’s presence in Judea, Samaria, and eastern Jerusalem… (Emphasis added here and below.)
The State Department was not exactly receptive and has in fact put out a statement that the ambassador’s comments do not represent the official position.
Yet the fact remains that in an interview with the Israeli website Walla, Freidman said, “I think the settlements are part of Israel.”
“I think that was always the expectation when Resolution 242 was adopted in 1967. It remains today the only substantive resolution that was agreed to by everybody.
“The idea [behind the resolution] was that Israel would be entitled to secure borders. The [then] existing borders, the 1967 borders, were viewed by everybody as not secure, so Israel would retain a meaningful portion of the ‘West Bank’, and it would return that which it didn’t need for peace and security.
“So there was always supposed to be some notion of expansion into the ‘West Bank’, but not necessarily expansion into the entire ‘West Bank’. And I think that’s exactly what, you know, Israel has done. I mean, they’re only occupying two percent of the ‘West Bank’.” (Note: Israel controls all of Area C in Judea and Samaria, but the Jewish communities constitute only a small portion of that area.)
Friedman also said that the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria have an “important nationalistic, historical, religious significance…I think the settlers view themselves as Israelis and Israel views the settlers as Israelis.”
Kudos to President Trump, as well: Prior to the UN GA vote condemning his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he warned that he would withhold funds if the vote was hostile to the US.
Before the vote the president said: “This isn’t like it used to be where they could vote against you and then you pay them hundreds of millions of dollars and nobody knows what they’re doing…”
And he was true to his word. US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley announced that $250 million would be cut from the funds it provides to the UN for the 2018 – 2019 year.
Think that’s a lot? It represents only a bit more than 20% of America’s annual commitment of $1.2 billion. Precisely what is achieved with this money?
“In addition to these significant cost savings, we reduced the UN’s bloated management and support functions, bolstered support for key US priorities throughout the world, and instilled more discipline and accountability throughout the UN system.”
On to the Palestinian Arabs, and the “good” news about them:
It is more obvious than ever now – although to me it was apparent from the get-go – that there is not going to be a Fatah (PA) – Hamas “reconciliation.” It may take some time yet until there is final acknowledgement of this, but we’re getting very close.
We’ve been reading about the charges each makes against the other. The PA says they have not been given full control in Gaza, while Hamas says the PA has not paid salaries in Gaza as it was supposed to, and the PA says well, Hamas has not released all funds it was committed to.
Now we have this, from the Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar (emphasis added):
“The reconciliation project is falling apart. Only a blind man can’t see that.
”Reconciliation is collapsing because some people want to get from it the relinquishing of arms and the closing of tunnels.”
The PA, left hanging, is in terrible shape. Abbas has been enormously weak for some time. But now he has severely over-played his hand with regard to Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem, declaring that he is finished with the US and will cut off all communication. That includes with the US Consulate on Agron Street in Jerusalem, which has been an unofficial embassy to the PA.
Algemeiner cites a Jordanian official who says Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt are furious with Abbas and are attempting to form a committee to place matters in the hands of the Arab League.
“We are very worried about the Palestinians’ actions over Jerusalem. Their efforts to shun the US from the peace process and their insistence on international intervention are a double-edged sword that could hurt first and foremost Jordan’s status in Jerusalem and could bring about the exact opposite of the intended result. Many more countries could do what the US has done after seeing that the region has not been destabilized and only a few thousand protesters have taken to the streets.” (Emphasis added)
Before moving on, I want to cite Khalid Abu Toameh, an Arab Israeli journalist, a truly moderate Muslim, and a man of integrity. He used to write for the JPost and now writes for Gatestone. And he tells it like it is.
His authority is considerable, for he goes into Ramallah and sits with members of the PA. He knows.
The remarks I cite here—a small part of a larger presentation—were delivered at the 2017 Restoration Weekend of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, in November.
Please, pay careful attention, even though he spoke before the unfolding of the events I’ve been describing, which render discussion of a “two state solution” quite moot now.
“I need to warn you: I don’t have a lot of good news but as someone who covers Palestinian issues, I want to point to two major obstacles that I think we have over there and we will continue to have, and they both relate to the Palestinians. Obstacle No. 1 is the absence of education for peace with Israel, which I’m sorry to tell you, it never really existed, and Obstacle No. 2, the absence of leadership on the Palestinian side that is authorized to sign an agreement with Israel…
“…In the last 30plus years that I’ve been traveling back and forth to Ramallah and Gaza, I haven’t been able to find one Palestinian leader who has the courage to stand up and tell his people in Arabic, not in English, in Arabic something along the lines of ‘Oh, my people, listen, it’s time for compromise, it’s time for painful concessions, we are not going to get from the Jews 100 percent but we might get 95, 94, 93 percent’… Yasser Arafat died in November 2004 and Mahmoud Abbas is still around, at least until 25 minutes ago, last time I checked…but anyway, both Palestinian presidents have already shown that they are not authorized to offer Israel even a 1 percent concession in return for peace.
“…after Camp David, and I remember when he [Arafat] came back to Ramallah…one of my colleagues asked him, ‘Oh, Mr. President, what happened? Why did Camp David fail?’ And Arafat’s response was: ‘Oh, Camp David failed for two reasons. First of all, the Jews did not give me 100 percent. Secondly…the Jews wanted me to end the conflict after I get what I get and who am I, Yasser Arafat, to end the conflict. I’m not authorized to give up the right of return. I am not authorized to make any concessions in Jerusalem on behalf of 1.5 billion Muslims, because if I make such concessions, I will end up drinking tea up there with Anwar Sadat [i.e., dead].’
“You look at this president, Mahmoud Abbas. He’s actually in the same situation, if not worse. Like Yasser Arafat, he…does not have a mandate to negotiate, let alone sign, an agreement with Israel…I mean the man is now in his 12th or 13th year of his 4year term in office, which makes it very problematic…”
If you encounter anyone who still believes in a “two-state solution” show him/her these words delivered by someone who knows.
Hamas leaders know how weak Abbas is, and they are looking for an opportunity to grab power from the PA in Judea and Samaria. This is not a new story, but it is perhaps more serious now.
Nadav Argaman, head of the Shin Bet (security services) has warned that Hamas is most interested in fomenting unrest in Judea and Samaria (emphasis added):
“This year, we broke up 148 local Hamas cells in the West Bank. This high number of cells shows the increase in efforts by the Hamas high command in the Gaza Strip and abroad.
“Hamas sees the West Bank as being the main front for terror, with the intent of upsetting the security stability there, but it is having trouble doing that, mostly because of Israel’s efforts to stop it.”
Hamas is very thoroughly in bed with Iran now. Hamas’s leader in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, has said that he had a conversation by phone with Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ elite Quds Force, and was told that:
“All of our [Iran’s] capabilities and potential are at your disposal in the battle for the defense of Jerusalem.”
As a result of this promise, Hamas is speaking in bellicose and threatening terms about what they intend to do to Israel.
Analysis by our security experts, however, indicates that Hamas is not ready to go to war with Israel yet. Yet is the key word here. They prefer, as noted above, to promote unrest in Judea and Samaria.
In fact, they are actually behaving on the ground in Gaza in a manner intended to avoid a direct confrontation with Israel. There has actually been a reduction in the number of rockets fired at Israel in recent days.
Says Avi Issacharoff: “According to reports from Gaza, the relative (if temporary) calm should be chalked up to intensive work by Hamas, which has been taking a series of steps to prevent a military escalation…steps include the arrest of terrorists suspected of involvement in the rocket fire.
“In addition…Hamas operatives have been working more forcefully than ever in areas where rocket launches are common…erecting roadblocks, carrying out inspections, and patrolling launching grounds in order to prevent rocket fire.”
Some experts warn, however, that in spite of this, matters might get out of hand—igniting a war— because of the severe unrest in Gaza. The failing reconciliation has created more instability in Gaza, and the fact that salaries are not being paid has exacerbated the situation.
Another factor that might influence a Hamas decision to go to war now: Israel is on the cusp of making Hamas use of tunnels impossible, both via the underground fence being constructed and new detection equipment. Hamas might decide to do battle while there is still some window for using tunnels.
I want to return for a moment to the issue of vile young Palestinian Arabs, girls in particular, who harass and attack our soldiers, and the question of whether it’s appropriate for the soldiers to respond when they know they are being filmed for propaganda purposes.
I had written with regard to Ahed Tamimi and her cousin; they had harassed and even slapped two soldiers, who remained passive. The video of this went viral. As I wrote, my gut response would have been to smack her hard enough so that her head would spin. But I then cited IDF trainers who praised the behavior of the soldiers, and spoke about how that “gut” response is not the appropriate one. Soldiers, they said are getting training on how to stay cool, so they do not react in a way that feeds negative PR, which is utilized for BDS and other campaigns against Israel.
In the days after this happened, Ahed and her cousin, as well as other members of her family were arrested.
I thought that an important move. She did not simply walk away from what she had done.
However, the PR from the Arab side is making her a heroine: she is someone who was brave enough to confront Israeli soldiers, and is now imprisoned for this: Free Ahed! Is the cry, and the charge is that we have arrested a child, when in fact she is at least 17 and possibly more.
I encountered criticism of the IDF policy from a number of sources who charge that this method for handling matters reduces our deterrence and emboldens others to act similarly. What finally convinced me, as I struggled with the two sides of this issue, was an interview of General Uzi Dayan (Res.), for whom I have a great deal of respect. He said (emphasis added):
“We have to get to the point – and I am not attacking the officer – where the Palestinians do not dare to approach our soldiers beyond a certain range.
“…you have to use what you call ‘reasonable force.’ Maybe it doesn’t look the best on camera, I understand that, but pictures will not win this war. They cannot be allowed to approach and attack soldiers and officers like this, both because it is simply dangerous, and because it can lead to a stabbing or shooting from point-blank range.
“Palestinians must show respect for soldiers…
“As policy in this matter, we must also protect the safety of the soldiers, enable them to fulfill their role, but also protect national honor.”
Briefly I want to allude here to a similar situation, with regard to negative PR against the IDF generated by Arabs.
During the unrest that followed Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem, there were Arabs at the border of Gaza who pelted soldiers with rocks.
In the course of this protest, Ibrahim Abu Thuraya—a man in a wheel chair who was participating in the “protests”—was shot dead. The PR was severely negative. According to the major interpretation that made the rounds, an innocent man had been taken down by an IDF sniper. The claim was that he was in a wheelchair in the first place because he lost his legs when his house had been bombed by the Israelis in 2008. The UN commissioner for human rights condemned what had happened.
The IDF investigated and what they found was that: “Riot control equipment was used in the protest area. A few live rounds were fired towards the main instigators. Troops received approval prior to shooting each round by a senior commander in the field. No live fire was aimed at Abu Thuraya.”
What is more, he wasn’t “an innocent man,” he was a terrorist. Reports surfaced about the fact that that he was a Fatah Force 17 member who was shot in the leg during fighting between Hamas and Fatah in 2005.
Apparently he joined Hamas subsequently, and lost his legs in April 2008 in battle with the IDF, as a Hamas combatant.
The kicker is this: there are several media reports citing his family members, who say that his last words the day before the protest were, “Brother, forgive me. This is the last night you will see me. And you, my mother, forgive me, and you my sisters, you all forgive me” He kissed the hand and the leg of his father and said to him:
“Father, forgive me. This is the last night you will see me, as I intend to be a martyr. I am bored of this life, I have no legs and I have nothing. I want to die and rest from life.”
Please, if you encounter an inaccurate version of this story, set it straight.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.