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I had expected to be writing about the visit of Vice President Pence in this posting, but that visit has been delayed until mid-January because of the important vote taking place in Congress on tax reform.
Envoy Jason Greenblatt is here holding meetings.
None of those meetings will be with representatives of the PA, however. They are stonewalling him. And this is hardly the end of what Abbas is planning/threatening. He’s going to apply for membership to dozens of international organizations, and challenge Israel in international forums, and….
Place of honor this week goes to US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who is nothing short of magnificent.
In response to the recent decision of the Trump administration to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the American Embassy there, the Egyptians drafted a resolution that was brought to the Security Council for a vote on Monday.
Without specifically mentioning the US, it “affirmed” that “any decisions or actions that purport to have altered the status, character…of the Holy City of Jerusalem are null and void and must be rescinded…” and “calls upon all States to refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in the Holy City of Jerusalem.”
In any event, this is nonsense (in Hebrew shtuyote, which sounds better to me). The Security Council does not have the authority to tell a sovereign state what capitals to recognize or where to place its embassies.
In this instance, as was expected, the US, a permanent member of the Security Council, vetoed it. America stood alone against 14 affirmative votes. Haley called the actions of the Council an “insult.” “It will not be forgotten” she said. See her full statement here:
There will now be some sort of “consensus” vote in the General Assembly on the issue of Trump’s policy. I laugh when I read in some news sources that the vote is to “rescind” Trump’s position. The GA has no power to do anything of the sort. It will pass, as the US has no veto power in this body. But it has no import beyond PR and propaganda value.
All of this does not sit well with President Trump, who says he’s going to take note of how nations vote.
Speaking of President Trump, he has just released a document of over 50 pages on “National Security Strategy.” You can see it here:
I have not read it in detail but, skimming it, have found many elements that sit well with me: a tough stance on Iran and jihadists, a readiness to lead through strength, the building up of the armed forces that Obama had weakened, etc.
What I particularly want to point out is this (emphasis added):
“For generations, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has been understood as the prime irritant preventing peace and prosperity in the region. Today, the threats from jihadist terrorist organizations and the threat from Iran are creating the realization that Israel is not the cause of the region’s problems. States have increasingly found common interests with Israel in confronting common threats.”
Amazing: another official statement reflecting sanity.
Raymond Ibrahim has written a piece about the importance of Trump’s readiness in his security strategy of returning “words relevant to understanding Islamic terrorism—such as “jihad”—that had been expunged from the Intelligence and Defense communities’ lexicon.”
This is in contrast to the Obama order to remove all references to Islam from training materials for national security and law enforcement groups.
We watch with pleasure as new Trump policies unfold, yet all is not smooth going. (Did we expect it would be?) In particular, I note certain stances of the State Department.
It is a given that State is traditionally not pro-Israel. Reportedly, Rex Tillerson, on assuming the position of secretary of state, was going to “clean the swamp.” But his stated positions are not the same as his boss’s, and, if anything, the swamp is co-opting him.
It was understood upfront that Tillerson was not in favor of moving the embassy to Jerusalem. But once Trump announced the move, he fell in line, as well he should have. Or so it appeared. Now we are seeing troublesome blips that bear close watching.
First, State let it be known that the policy of not including “Israel” on birth certificates of American babies born in Jerusalem, or on American passports renewed in Jerusalem, was not about to change at present. And precisely why not, we might ask.
Then there’s the question of actually, physically, moving the embassy. Tillerson said work on this would begin immediately – architects would be hired, etc. etc. It was understood that all of this would take time.
However, more recently Tillerson reported that the process of implementing the move was so complex that it was unlikely to take place in Trump’s first term.
Come now, we’re talking about three years. What is more, there are ways to do a partial move in the interim – e.g., having Ambassador Friedman work in Jerusalem part of the time, or utilizing the current Jerusalem Consulate in the Talpiot neighborhood for some embassy functions – in order to establish the principle.
Call it foot-dragging or call it low-key stonewalling, this is not responding with all possible speed.
There were a number of rumors some weeks ago about Tillerson’s imminent departure, but so far this has not happened.
One of the ways in which the PA and Hamas respond to Israeli or American actions or policy they do not like is via incitement to violence. The “days of rage” in response to the new Trump policy on Jerusalem have been difficult, but far less virulent than had been expected.
Yesterday’s “day of rage” saw an estimated total of 800 people on the streets, in Jerusalem, Hevron, Bethlehem, Tulkarem, and Kalkilya. Demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails and rocks at IDF troops and set tires afire. Roughly 60 Palestinian Arabs were injured as troops responded.
There also have been separate terror attacks, most notably the knifing of a security guard outside the Central Bus station of Jerusalem three weeks ago. The victim was near death; now stabilized, he remains in serious condition.
Often potential attacks are foiled. Yesterday, Border Police arrested two Palestinian Arabs carrying knives outside the Machpela in Hevron.
And there have been the rocket attacks from Gaza. None, thank Heaven, have caused injury. But they make life difficult and cause fear, in particular among the children.
Each rocket launching has been met with an Israeli response. In the last two weeks, we have hit over 40 Hamas targets in Gaza, and Defense Minister Lieberman believes they are beginning to get the message.
Said Lieberman on Tuesday (emphasis added):
“It was clear to us that there would be a price to pay for Trump’s declaration to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but it’s a price we are willing to pay. We are ready to pay the whole price.”
The acerbic, spot-on British commentator Douglas Murray has written a fascinating and alarming piece about the rising up of the “Arab Street” (emphasis added):
“The speech which announced that America would drop the pretense that Jerusalem is not the capital of the State of Israel was relayed live around the world. Across the major networks and the world’s front pages the response was almost unanimous… Many predicted…a third intifada.
“The world’s cameras immediately turned to Bethlehem where a small group of enterprising Palestinians burned an American flag for the cameras. This picture went around the world. Otherwise, not very much appeared to be happening.
“Hamas called for a ‘Day or Rage’ – as opposed to the days of peace and harmony the terrorist group ordinarily calls for – but this did not spill out very far.
“The Friday immediately following the announcement might have been a flashpoint…And yet, as the BBC’s veteran reporter Jeremy Bowen tweeted from the scene, ‘At Damascus Gate in Jerusalem press pack outnumbering demonstrators.’ The fabled ‘Arab Street’ had been meant to rise up. And it did rise up. But not in the Arab world…”
A crowd in London chanted, “’Khaybar Khaybar, ya yahud, Jaish Muhammad, sa yahud.’ That is, ‘Jews, remember Khaybar, the army of Muhammad is returning.’ For the crowd outside the American embassy in London, threatening Jews with the memory of the seventh century obliteration of a Jewish community near Medina was clearly an entirely appropriate move…
“Spontaneous protests erupted in the city of Malmö [Sweden] on the Thursday and Friday evenings after the Jerusalem announcement. In a city whose name has become a byword for the new, imported form of European anti-Semitism, the crowd shouted chants such as ‘We’re going to shoot the Jews.’
“Farther north, in the city of Gothenburg…a group of around 20 masked men attacked the local synagogue, hurling objects and Molotov cocktails. At the time of the attack, there was a youth event happening at the community centre connected to the synagogue. The 20-30 young people attending the event were herded down into the building’s basement as the gasoline began to be smelled.
“In Stockholm, meanwhile, the new ‘locals’ contented themselves with setting light to the Star of David rather than to real live Jews as their compatriots in Gothenburg had tried to do.”
I want to share this, which is emblematic of what we deal with:
Last Friday, in Nabi Saleh, a village near Ramallah in PA territory, two teenage Arab girls—cousins, accompanied by one older woman—deliberately taunted and attacked two Israeli soldiers, one a company commander, who were standing guard.
What news sources reporting on the incident did not mention is that the soldiers were there in the first place because there had been violent rioting in Nabi Saleh.
The soldiers showed enormous self-restraint. The goal of the girls’ behavior, of course, was to provoke them into responding violently and causing an incident. They love showing the world how “abusive” Israeli soldiers are, especially towards innocent girls.
The goings-on were filmed in the expectation that a hoped-for violent response would be captured. In the end there was no violence on the part of the soldiers but the video was put out on social media by the Arabs to show how “cowardly” the soldiers were, and how “brave” the young girls.
The video clip went viral; I provide it for you from the Israellycool site, where you get a story with a bit more depth.
One of the girls, Ahed Tamimi, is exposed as someone who has done this sort of thing repeatedly over the years, most clearly with encouragement from her elders – a fact not to be overlooked.
My gut impulsive, as perhaps yours, was to wish those girls had been smacked so hard their heads would have spun. But, of course, the soldiers’ restraint was appropriate.
A senior IDF officer explained that (emphasis added):
“Very quickly, you give up on being right and you want to look for a way to be smart. The person who’s right speaks from his gut, while the smart one speaks with the tools he’s been given…
“…they [the soldiers] don’t regret their response for a moment and would have done the same even without the presence of a camera…
“The soldiers…should be praised for the way they acted: professionally and ethically…
“We have fighters and commanders who are top of the line, and we need to equip them with a toolbox that contains tools for every eventuality … I teach my soldiers to act based on the IDF’s values.
“There are dozens of incidents in the different sectors, provocations done by radicals on all sides, sometimes a few times a day,”
The Judea and Samaria Division of the IDF now provides soldiers with workshops and classes to help them know how to respond in various situations. The soldiers are made aware that someone who provokes them will be dealt with later.
And, sure enough, first Ahed and her cousin were arrested, and now three members of the Tamimi family have been arrested.
“No one involved, not only the girl but also her parents and those around them, will escape from what they deserve,” said Minister Lieberman.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.