Monday, May 15, 2017

From Ian:

Eugene Kontorovich: Russia Recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital. Why Can’t the U.S.?
Note what happened next: No explosions of anger at the Arab world. No end to Russia’s diplomatic role in the Middle East. No terror attacks against Russian targets. Moscow’s dramatic Jerusalem reversal has largely been ignored by the foreign-policy establishment because it disproves their predictions of mayhem.
To be sure, Russia limited its recognition to “western Jerusalem.” Even so, it shifted the parameters of the discussion. Recognizing west Jerusalem as Israeli is now the position of a staunchly pro-Palestinian power. To maintain the distinctive U.S. role in Middle East diplomacy—and to do something historic—Mr. Trump must go further. Does the U.S. want to wind up with a less pro-Israel position than Vladimir Putin’s ?
The American response to real attacks against U.S. embassies has always been to send a clear message of strength. After the 1998 al Qaeda bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Washington did not shut down those missions. Instead it invested in heavily fortified new facilities—and in hunting down the perpetrators.
Moving the embassy to Jerusalem would also improve the prospect of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. It would end the perverse dynamic that has prevented such negotiations from succeeding: Every time the Palestinians say “no” to an offer, the international community demands a better deal on their behalf. No wonder no resolution has been reached. Only last week, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas insisted that new negotiations “start” with the generous offer made by Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008. Relocating the embassy would demonstrate to the Palestinian Authority that rejectionism has costs.
If Mr. Trump nonetheless signs the waiver, he could do two things to maintain his credibility in the peace process. First, formally recognize Jerusalem—the whole city—as the capital of Israel, and reflect that status in official documents. Second, make clear that unless the Palestinians get serious about peace within six months, his first waiver will be his last. He should set concrete benchmarks for the Palestinians to demonstrate their commitment to negotiations. These would include ending their campaign against Israel in international organizations and cutting off payments to terrorists and their relatives.
This is Mr. Trump’s moment to show strength. It cannot be American policy to choose to recognize a capital, or not, based on how terrorists will react—especially when they likely won’t.
Mordechai Kedar: Increasing nervousness: Trump's approaching visit to the Middle East
If there are no last minute changes, President Trump will be embarking on a trip to the Middle East that includes Israel, the PA and Saudi Arabia. The trip has a very tight schedule because those planning it at each stop are trying to cram as many events, places and people as they possibly can into the time alloted for the President's visit.
In the nature of things, there will be long lines of people who want to shake hands with the important visitor, the most powerful man in the world. Each one of them is confident that Trump will remember the one sentence he manages to slip in between the shoves of those who are next in line and the elbows of the security detail protecting Trump from all angles. Trump's speechwriters are putting in long hours to prepare suitable texts for each stop and its audience, hoping the listeners will take his words to heart.
One thing is certain, a week affter Trump's visit, he won't remember a word of the texts he read out loud. A week? That long? I must be an incurable optimist.
Everyone knows that Trump himself knows very little about the Middle East's problems and hasn't the sliightest idea where to find a solution for them and how to go about doing so, especially when compared to the presidents who preceded him, who spent a good deal of time learning the problems involved and put much wasted effort into attempting to find solutions for them. The 100 days of Trump's presidency presented the world with a leader imbued with a feeling of power, who acts according to his own instincts and whose reactions are not predictable. As I write these lines, Trump has fired the head of the FBI and my heart tells me that this was not the result of a long, carefully considered analysis of the situation. (h/t Elder of Lobby)
PM: Embassy move will help peace by ‘shattering Palestinian fantasy’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem would boost peace efforts by impressing on the Palestinians the city is the capital of the Jewish state.
After US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said earlier Sunday that the Trump administration was evaluating whether relocating the US mission to Jerusalem would help or harm the peace process, Netanyahu released a statement arguing the move would advance peace efforts.
“Israel’s position has been stated many times to the US government and to the world,” Netanyahu said. “Moving the US embassy to Jerusalem will not only not harm the peace process, it will advance it by correcting a historical wrong and by shattering the Palestinian fantasy that Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel.”
On Thursday, Netanyahu said that all foreign embassies in Israel should be located in Jerusalem, chief among them the American embassy.




Christian Zionist Group Publishes Policy Paper Urging Trump to Relocate Embassy to Jerusalem
The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) has called on President Donald Trump to right a “historic injustice” and move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The Christian Zionist group issued a policy paper outlining proposals for how such a move could take place. It listed reasons why Jerusalem has not been accepted de jure as Israel’s capital: the first harks back to 1947 and the United Nations Partition Plan that delineated Jerusalem as a corpus separatum under international supervision. The second is the international community’s persistence in maintaining an “even-handedness” on the issue of Jerusalem and the third is “fear of a potential Islamic backlash.”
Therefore, the paper said, the current policy was not grounded in “fairness or historical right,” but based on “weakness and fear.”
Trump should “officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” and the upcoming Jerusalem Day marking 50 years since the city’s reunification in the 1967 Six Day War is an opportune time to move the embassy, the paper said.
Report: Adelson 'furious' over White House stalling on US embassy move
Billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is reportedly "furious" by comments made by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after America's top diplomat appeared to waver on the US president's pledge to relocate the US Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, according to online publication Axios Monday.
Two sources close to the Jewish entrepreneur told the news site that Adelson was outraged with the White House's apparent shift in rhetoric surrounding the embassy issue.
Speaking in an interview aired Sunday with Chuck Todd on NBC's Meet the Press, Tillerson said the president's decision will be informed "by the parties involved" in the Middle East peace process.
"The president, I think rightly, has taken a very deliberative approach to understanding the issue itself, listening to input from all interested parties in the region, and understanding, in the context of a peace initiative, what impact would such a move have," Tillerson said.
Bennett: Trump campaign pledges on Jerusalem were just for votes
US President Donald Trump spoke positively about settlements and Jerusalem during the election campaign in an effort to impress his voters but since then "changed his mind," Education Minister Naftali Bennett told his Bayit Yehudi faction in the Knesset Monday.
Bennett noted that Trump also called for moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem during the campaign.
"These expressions were for his voters," Bennett said. "Since then, his words have changed. The source of the change is not clear."
Bennett advised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to follow American business practices of telling the truth and asking for what is wanted.
Liberman: No need to pick a fight over moving US embassy
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Monday warned against turning the issue of the US moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem into a spat with Washington, even as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his call for the move.
Netanyahu was joined by political leaders from both sides of the aisle urging that the US mission be brought to the capital as a way of cementing Israeli sovereignty over the city.
“Our stance has been clear over the years: Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” Liberman declared, responding to a question on the proposed relocation at the start of the weekly Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting.
“And even among the greatest friends there are differences of opinion. This is not the first time we’ve had differences of opinion with the United States, on this question or any other,” he said, adding that US President Donald Trump was leading a “friendly administration.”
Trump set to become first sitting US president to visit Western Wall
Donald Trump is slated to become the first incumbent US president to visit the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem.
George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all have visited the Jewish holy site, but either before or after their tenures as president.
“I don’t recall ever hearing of a sitting US president visiting the Western Wall,” said Shlomo Slonim, a professor emeritus of American history and the former chairman of Hebrew University’s Department of American Studies. Trump’s anticipated, but as of this writing unconfirmed, visit to the site would be “an innovation,” he added.
The White House has yet to publish the itinerary for Trump’s May 22-23 visit to Israel — the 11th presidential trip to the country since Richard Nixon came in 1974 — but according to sources involved in planning the trip, he is set to visit the Western Wall. If he indeed goes to the site, it would likely be interpreted by some as akin to an American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem. (Despite some reports to the contrary, Trump has never visited Israel before.)
Ambassador Friedman arrives in Israel New US Ambassador to Israel assumes post 1 week before visit of US president to Israel.
Newly-appointed US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman arrived in Israel Monday afternoon.
Friedman will travel to the president's residence in Jerusalem together with the new ambassadors from Spain and Thailand tomorrow to present his credentials to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.
Friedman is also expected to visit the Western Wall during his first days as US Ambassador to Israel.
He will also spend the next week preparing for US President Donald Trump's first visit to Israel on May 22,
Ambassador Friedman has repeatedly stated that he hopes to be able to work out of Israel's capital, Jerusalem, and that the US embassy will be moved to the capital from Tel Aviv.
What are the strategic demands Benjamin Netanyahu is going to make during Trump's visit?
When President Donald Trump arrives in Israel next week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have the opportunity to make specific requests from the administration.
These are the key issues Israel is expected to bring up with the US.
1) Keep the pressure on Iran
In the coming days, we will see if Trump waives sanctions on Iran and allows Tehran to keep funding its military assistance to Bashar Assad in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
While Israel does not want to see Iranian funds freed up to meddle more in Syria, Lebanon and Gaza (which would seriously endanger the country's security), it also does not want the nuclear deal to fall apart prematurely (or if it does, only due to an Iranian violation, not a US failure to meet an obligation), lest Iran be free to dash to the bomb even sooner than Israel worries it will.
David Horovitz: President Trump, you can start making peace. Here’s how
On your visit, atop Masada, redolent with tragic history, you will doubtless want to stress that the Jewish nation must be able to defend itself from all threats, and that it deserves a peaceful future. In Bethlehem, invoking Jesus as prince of peace, you can remind Abbas of his pledge, of the foundational imperative to educate in a spirit of reconciliation.
And away from the cameras, you can tell the leaderships that you mean business, and that you expect progress. That you don’t intend to start formulating complex security plans and other legalistic paperwork that have no meaning in the current trust-free reality. That you don’t plan on twisting arms and setting timelines. But that you want to see the atmosphere changing. You want to see courageous leadership. No more incitement. No more glorification of terrorism. An effort, in the interests of both sides, to confound the cynics and the doubters. And the extremists.
“I think there’s a very, very good chance” to get a deal done, you said two weeks ago, with Abbas at your side. I’m not as optimistic as you are, Mr. President, and certainly not in the short term. I’m one of those doubters you spoke about. I fear that hatred for Israel, rejection of our history, and demonization of every aspect of our presence here is deeply embedded on the Palestinian side, and that many Israelis have lost hope in the face of intransigence and terrorism and are becoming increasingly intolerant.
PreOccupiedTerritory: Masada Staff Hoping Someone Told Trump Site Not Air-Conditioned (satire)
Administrators of the archaeological park centered on this ancient hilltop fortress worried today that whoever advised US President Donald Trump to deliver a momentous address atop the mountain may not have informed him that temperatures there typically reach in excess of 100ºF (about 38°C) during the day, and that the plateau atop Masada has no air conditioning.
Maintenance and tourism personnel at the preserve have shared puzzlement and anxiety since officials in the Trump administration announced the president would deliver a speech at the historic site known for the mass suicide of its Jewish defenders facing Roman legions in 73 CE. The staffers voiced apprehension over the simplistic picture of the world the 45th president gains from his advisers, and expresses, specifically expressing doubt as to whether anyone on Trump’s team noticed that Masada is located smack in the middle of a desert where tourists dehydrate all the time, and that the sprawling outdoor compound has no climate control facilities at the summit of the mountain where the last stand of the ancient Jewish zealots took place.
“I wonder if he’s ever been exposed to the elements fro more than a minute or two in his life,” remarked Hadas Hel, a guide at the site. “We have air conditioning at the entrance facility and the guest house that’s on site, but that’s down in the valley much close to the Dead Sea. Do you think it even occurred to anyone in the Trump administration, let alone Trump himself, to inquire as to the availability of what from his perspective is a basic necessity? He’s not going to want to take off his suit jacket where all the pomp and circumstance is supposed to be happening – I don’t think anyone even told him.”
David Collier: The ‘Nakba’: The ongoing catastrophe of bad Palestinian decisions
Today is the 15th May, one day after the Gregorian calendar date for Israel’s Independence Day. Today, Palestinians and anti-Israel activists will commemorate the ‘Nakba’, or Catastrophe.
Why the 15th May? Let me take a brief journey through history to find out if there are more suitable dates that should have been chosen. For example, just 11 days after the handshake between Arafat and Rabin in September 1993, Yigal Vaknin was murdered by a Hamas terrorist. Imagine, if during the Oslo peace process, violence had not exploded on the Israeli streets. For this reason perhaps September 21st would provide a good alternative date to commemorate.
Here are some others:
September 16th. The day in 2008 the peace initiative of Israeli PM Olmert began to unravel as the Palestinian leadership didn’t think the offer generous enough.
Or maybe, by this point, the Palestinian Authority was already incapable of representing the entire Palestinian population. If this is true then the day for commemoration should be 25 January. For on that date in 2006, the Palestinian population gave power to Hamas. Civil strife began and tore the Palestinians apart. Within weeks rockets had flown from Gaza. Perhaps the date that Palestinians voted for a radical Islamic terrorist group is the best date to commemorate the catastrophe?
Israel must apologize for ‘Nakba,’ says top PA negotiator
Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Sunday that Israel must recognize that its founding in 1948 was a “catastrophe” for the Palestinians and apologize for it “in order to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israel and Palestine.”
Palestinians and some Arab Israelis mark the Nakba, or “catastrophe” — namely the dispossession that accompanied the creation of the State of Israel — every year on May 15, the anniversary of the declaration of the State of Israel 69 years ago.
Erekat said that the day “means an ongoing journey of pain, loss, and injustice.”
Erekat called on the Israeli government to “open all its 1948 archives and show their own nation the truth of what was done to our people, including its ethnic cleansing policies and the policy of shooting to kill Palestinians that attempted to return home.”
Latin American lawmakers see humanitarian aid pass into Gaza
The first parliamentary delegation ever - a group of 20 senior lawmakers from Latin America - visited the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza with MK Haim Jelin (Yesh Atid) Monday.
The legislators were able to see humanitarian goods pass through the crossing to Gaza.
Jelin, who used to be the head of the Eshkol Local Council along the Gaza border, told the delegation: "Israel is in a conflict with Hamas, not the Gazans."
"We are responsible and committed to providing the [Gaza] Strip with what they want and buy form Israel and the world. We are working to rehabilitate the [Gaza] Strip, not to make the humanitarian situation worse," he added.
Killer of off-duty soldier sentenced to 15 years
A man who stabbed an off-duty soldier to death after a nightclub brawl was sentenced to 15 years in prison after reaching a plea deal with prosecutors.
Ben Ganish was sentenced in Lod District Court Tuesday for stabbing Iftach Grady, a 19-year-old from Givatayim, to death in a Raanana nightclub in 2014.
Ganish, 23, was also ordered to pay compensation of NIS 258,000 ($71,500) after a plea deal in which he admitted to manslaughter and obstructing the course of justice.
“I am very sorry for what happened,” said Ganish in court. “I never dreamed that such a thing could ever happen. Every night, every minute, every moment, it’s something that will accompany me all my life. I caused the destruction of whole families, and especially of the Grady family, and my family.”
Grady’s father, Ezer, told the court that he did not accept the sentence and rejected the deal struck with Ganish.
Police Suspect Israeli Arab Man of Imprisoning Brother Who Wanted to Convert to Judaism, Join IDF
A 21-year-old Israeli Arab man has been arrested by police on the suspicion he imprisoned his 19-year-old brother for three weeks in a room at their family home because of the younger sibling’s desire to convert to Judaism and join the IDF, the Hebrew news site nrg reported on Sunday.
Police received a tip about the situation last week from a female resident of the central Israeli city of Tayibe and went to the home to free the younger brother.
The older brother was not home at the time, but was found and taken into custody later.
He was brought to court for a remand hearing on Sunday.
Abbas visits India
Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas landed in New Delhi late Sunday for a three-day visit looking to strengthen ties with India ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's historic trip to Israel.
Abbas arrived with a delegation for his third state visit to India, where he will hold key talks on bilateral, regional and international issues, including the peace process in the restive Middle East, according to India's foreign ministry.
On Monday -- day one of his visit -- he will zip to an IT centre in Noida, a satellite city outside the Indian capital, aiming to forge greater cooperation in technology.
He is also slated to make an address at New Delhi's India Islamic Cultural Centre in the evening.
North Korea: New long-range missile can carry heavy nuke
North Korea said Monday the missile it launched over the weekend was a new type of “medium long-range” ballistic rocket that can carry a heavy nuclear warhead. A jubilant leader Kim Jong Un promised more nuclear and missile tests and warned that North Korean weapons could strike the US mainland and Pacific holdings.
North Korean propaganda must be considered with wariness — Pyongyang has threatened for decades to reduce Seoul to a “sea of fire,” for instance — but Monday’s claim, if confirmed, would mark another big advance toward the North’s goal of fielding a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the US mainland. Some experts, including officials in Tokyo, estimate that Sunday’s launch successfully tested a new type of missile in Pyongyang’s arsenal.
The test is also an immediate challenge to South Korea’s new leader, Moon Jae-in, a liberal elected last week who expressed a desire to reach out to North Korea. Pyongyang’s aggressive push to boost its weapons program also makes it one of the Trump administration’s most urgent foreign policy worries, though Washington has struggled to settle on a policy.



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