Israel, Palestine/Gaza 2017 – 2018

Written by  //  December 24, 2018  //  Israel  //  Comments Off on Israel, Palestine/Gaza 2017 – 2018

How Arafat Eluded Israel’s Assassination Machine
The Last Nail in Bethlehem’s Coffin
The Annexation Wall in Cremisan

Israelis, Palestinians look ahead with conflicting views
More on Israel
J Street

24 December
Israeli government falls, early elections called for April
Netanyahu said his coalition “unanimously” agreed to disband the government and hold a new election.
Netanyahu’s coalition has been roiled by internal divisions for months. Avigdor Lieberman resigned as defense minister last month to protest what he perceived to be the government’s weak response to rocket attacks from Hamas-ruled Gaza.
But a new law extending the military draft to ultra-Orthodox men appears to have triggered the government’s downfall. Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox partners are demanding the legislation be weakened and his razor-thin parliamentary majority seems to be making such a compromise impossible.

13 September
EU: Israel’s planned demolition of Khan al-Ahmar would be a war crime
(Mondoweiss) The European Parliament passed a resolution on Thursday saying Israel’s planned demolition of Khan al-Ahmar would amount to a war crime, and demanded Israel compensate the EU for the demolition of EU-funded structures in the village.
The resolution, which is being hailed by activists as the harshest condemnation to come from the EU regarding Khan al-Ahmar, comes just days after Israel’s High Court gave the government the final green light to demolish the village.
Khan al-Ahmar, which is home to some 200 Palestinian Bedouins, sits in the “E1 area” of the central occupied West Bank, directly in the path of the West Bank settlements — Kfar Adumim and Maale Adumim — that Israel hopes to annex and connect with occupied East Jerusalem.
If carried out, Israel’s E1 plan would virtually cut the West Bank in half, making a future contiguous Palestinian state impossible.
The Bedouins of Khan al-Ahmar are part of the Jahalin tribe, who are native to what is now the Negev desert in southern Israel. Like some 750,000 other Palestinians, they were forcibly displaced from their homeland in 1948 when Israel was created, and moved to where they currently live.

31 August
A Vengeful and Shortsighted Act
The Trump administration, currying favor with hard-liners in Israel, eliminates funding for the United Nations agency that aids Palestinian refugees.
(NYT Editorial Board) The Trump administration has offered various explanations for cutting aid to the Palestinians and stopping all contributions to the United Nations agency that supports five million Palestinian refugees: They need to learn to help themselves. Other Arabs should pay. Most of them are not really refugees and should stop claiming a right to return to what is now Israel. This will push them to the negotiating table. They’re not grateful enough.
The decision to stop all funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, formally announced on Friday, …  affects an agency that provides critical schooling, health, food and other services for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. The United States finances about a third of the budget, or about $350 million a year.  The planned cut to the agency, moreover, follows an announcement last week that the State Department is cutting $200 million in other aid to Palestinians in the West Bank, primarily intended for development and infrastructure projects.

20 August
Robert Fisk: Uri Avnery, the Israeli optimist who played chess with Yasser Arafat, has died – he was one of my few Middle East heroes
There he is in my six-year-old notebook, very much alive, still demanding peace with the Palestinians, peace with Hamas, and generosity and a Palestinian state on the old 1967 borders – and he believes Israel could have peace tomorrow
It was somehow fitting that first news of Uri Avnery’s plight should reach me from one of Israel’s staunchest enemies, the Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt. One legend sending sad news of another, you see, a socialist preparing to mourn a fellow socialist, sending his sympathy for the 94-year-old Israeli political philosopher. That same philosopher was once a German Jewish schoolboy, originally called Helmut Ostermann, who refused to give the Hitler salute at school, but who was, when I received Jumblatt’s message – still, just – “an indispensable mind to understand the history of fascism, a major destructive element of the 20th century”. Jumblatt’s words. Avnery, he added, also understood “the history of Zionism, another despicable apartheid theory that is an offshoot of fascism”.
Uri Avnery suffered a massive heart attack at the weekend and died on Monday morning, but he was himself a Zionist, or at least a believer in a left-wing, courageous but humble “light among the nations” Israel; the kind many of us, in our heart of hearts, would like to believe in. He was the sort of Israeli that we bleeding heart liberals go and see when we arrive in Israel because they say what we want to hear.

26 July
Palestine elected presiding country of Group of 77 at UN
Palestine will preside over Group of 77 which promotes economic interests and represents 80 percent of world population.
(Al Jazeera) The move is widely regarded as a progressive move on behalf of Palestine, which holds an observer non-member state status at the UN. However, Israel has already voiced its strong opposition.

22 June
L.A. TIMES TRACY WILKINSON: “White House team visits Mideast to advance its still-secret Israeli-Palestinian peace plan”: “Details of the plan that Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, and Jason Greenblatt, the special envoy for the Mideast, are shopping around have not been publicly disclosed except for broad outlines. It is likely to focus on what are called interim issues, such as security and the economy, and not on ‘aspirational’ issues like Palestinian statehood.”

22 May
Netanyahu’s risky romance with Trump
(Brookings) When Israel is the beneficiary of Trump’s largesse—motivated either by Trump’s own political calculus or Israel’s interest—it positions itself smack in the middle of America’s ideological debate. If Trump’s replacement follows his lead and repudiates the legacy of his predecessor, Israel could then suffer the consequences. And with most American Jews opposed to Trump, Israel may not be able to count on their spirited advocacy, either.

18 May
Israel’s response in Gaza was ‘disproportionate’: UN human rights chief
Israel, U.S. slam the UN session, with an American official calling the council ‘a broken body’
(CBC) The special session of the Human Rights Council was convened after the bloodiest day for Palestinians in years last Monday, when 60 were killed by Israeli gunfire during demonstrations that Israel said included attempts to breach its frontier fence.
Israel said the deaths took place in protests organized by Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, which intentionally provoked the violence, an accusation Hamas denies.
The resolution was approved 29-2, with the United States and Australia against. Among the 14 abstentions were Germany, Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom, while Ukraine and Mongolia were not present for voting.

17 May
Robert Fisk: How long after this week’s Gaza massacre are we going to continue pretending that the Palestinians are non-people?
Remember how they were to blame for their own exodus seven decades ago, because they followed the instructions of radio stations to leave their homes until the Jews of Israel were ‘driven into the sea’. Only, of course, the radio broadcasts never existed

16 May
13 Inconvenient Truths About What Has Been Happening in Gaza
The reality is much messier than the partisan echo chambers would have you believe
By Yair Rosenberg
(Tablet Magazine) 12. A truly independent, respected inquiry into Israel’s tactics and rules of engagement in Gaza is necessary to ensure any abuses are punished and create internationally recognized guidelines for how Israel and other state actors should deal with these situations on their borders. The United Nations, which annually condemns Israel in its General Assembly and Human Rights Council more than all other countries combined, and whose notorious bias against Israel was famously condemned by Obama ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, clearly lacks the credibility to administer such an inquiry. Between America, Canada, and Europe, however, it should be possible to create one.
13. But because the entire debate around Israel’s conduct has been framed by absolutists who insist either that Israel is utterly blameless or that Israel is wantonly massacring random Palestinians for sport, a reasonable inquiry into what it did correctly and what it did not is unlikely to happen.

14 May
Michelle Goldberg: A Grotesque Spectacle in Jerusalem
(NYT) On Monday, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and other leading lights of the Trumpist right gathered in Israel to celebrate the relocation of the American Embassy to Jerusalem, a gesture widely seen as a slap in the face to Palestinians who envision East Jerusalem as their future capital.
The event was grotesque. It was a consummation of the cynical alliance between hawkish Jews and Zionist evangelicals who believe that the return of Jews to Israel will usher in the apocalypse and the return of Christ, after which Jews who don’t convert will burn forever.
Religions like “Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism” lead people “to an eternity of separation from God in Hell,” Robert Jeffress, a Dallas megachurch pastor, once said. He was chosen to give the opening prayer at the embassy ceremony. John Hagee, one of America’s most prominent end-times preachers, once said that Hitler was sent by God to drive the Jews to their ancestral homeland. He gave the closing benediction.
(The Atlantic) Jerusalem and Gaza: Israeli and American officials celebrated the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, even as Israeli forces opened fire on Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza, killing dozens. While President Trump has expressed hope that his decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will bring peace in the Middle East, it’s already inflamed long-standing tensions between Israel and Palestine.
Jerusalem welcomes the new U.S. Embassy as Palestinians decry ‘hostile’ move

President Trump, in a video message, pledged support for Middle East peace efforts but did not offer any new outreach to Palestinians.
(WaPost) the backdrop underscored the repercussions unleashed by the decision.
European allies offered more denunciations of the move as a serious blow to peace efforts between Israelis and Palestinians, who also view part of Jerusalem as capital for a possible future state.
Reuters:Israeli forces kill dozens in Gaza as U.S. Embassy opens in Jerusalem
Israel and Palestine in 2018: Decolonisation, not peace
by Ilan Pappe, Director of European Center of Palestine Studies at the University of Exeter.
(Al Jazeera Opinion) Seventy years after its establishment, Israel stands as a racist, apartheid state, whose structural oppression of the Palestinians remains the principal obstacle to peace and reconciliation.
It has achieved a lot in fusing together Jewish communities from around the world into a new Hebrew culture and established the strongest army in the region. However, all these achievements have not legitimised the state in the eyes of many across the world.
Paradoxically, it is only the Palestinians who could grant full legitimacy to such a state or accept as legitimate the presence of millions of Jewish settlers by pursuing a one-state solution. … In 2018, one cannot talk about the Arab-Israeli conflict any more. Arab regimes are willing to enter strategic relations with Israel, despite the objection of their citizens and while there is still a risk for an Israeli war with Iran, at this moment in time, it does not look like it is going to involve any of the Arab states.
It seems that from our vantage point it is useless to talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict either. The correct terminology to describe the present state of affairs is continuing Israeli colonisation of historical Palestine.
12 May
Trump’s decision to open Jerusalem embassy complicates promise to seek Middle East peace
(WaPost) President Trump has been telling friendly audiences that he is proudly fulfilling a campaign promise with the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. … The president said nothing about another campaign promise to seek a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians, or the fact that meeting the first promise has, at least for now, foreclosed a chance for the second.
A regional peace initiative led by presidential adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner has been shelved because of Palestinian anger over the shift in decades of U.S. policy regarding the embassy, which held that Jerusalem’s disputed status was an issue to be resolved through negotiations.

11 May
The Coming Storm in Israel
A confluence of major events, within the country and beyond, threatens serious violence in the days ahead
(The Atlantic) While predictions of doom in Israeli-Palestinian relations tend to come easy, the worst doesn’t always come to pass. But thanks to a pair of major upcoming anniversaries, the vagaries of the Jewish and Muslim calendars, and the whimsy of President Donald Trump, the coming week could be different. The confluence of numerous events set to take place over a few days in May has felt, as it approaches, like a perfect storm gathering.
In truth it has already begun, encouraged by a decision made far away in Washington, when President Trump on Tuesday withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear agreement. That night Israeli jets struck inside Syria against what Israel said were Iranian militiamen preparing to launch rockets against Israel. The following evening, Iranian proxies under the command of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps fired a barrage of rockets against Israeli positions on the Golan Heights

10 May
Why Netanyahu Really Wanted Trump to Scuttle the Iran Deal
By Bernard Avishai
(The New Yorker) The Netanyahu government is both anticipating a crisis and helping to precipitate one. On April 26th, Avigdor Lieberman told the London-based Saudi newspaper Elaph that Israel did not want war, but, if the “Islamic regime” attacks Tel Aviv, Israel “will strike Tehran and destroy every Iranian military site that threatens Israel in Syria, whatever the price.” Lieberman has also insisted that Israel will maintain freedom of operations in Syria and “respond forcefully” to any party there with the capacity “to launch missiles or to attack Israel or even our aircraft.” Not coincidentally, Trump’s abandonment of the nuclear deal means that the U.S. will have to prepare detailed contingency plans for an attack on Iran’s nuclear sites, which are spread throughout the country. Meanwhile, the U.S. has been backing Israel’s preëmptive actions in Syria and southern Lebanon.
For Israel, then, the goal may be deterrence, but the danger is an escalation that gets out of control, because deterrence means an ever more elevated threat.
Why Iran and Israel Are Clashing in Syria
(NYT) A simmering conflict between Israel and Iran escalated overnight when Israeli jets struck dozens of Iranian targets in neighboring Syria. The strikes came after what the Israeli military described as an Iranian rocket attack against its forces in the Golan Heights.

9 May
These Three Billionaires Paved Way For Trump’s Iran Deal Withdrawal
GOP megadonors Sheldon Adelson, Bernard Marcus, and Paul Singer are getting exactly what paid for when they threw their financial weight behind Trump
(Foreign Policy in Focus) … today’s unpopular announcement may have been exactly what two of Trump’s biggest donors, Sheldon Adelson and Bernard Marcus, and what one of his biggest inaugural supporters, Paul Singer, paid for when they threw their financial weight behind Trump. Marcus and Adelson, who are also board members of the Likudist Republican Jewish Coalition, have already received substantial returns on their investment: total alignment by the U.S. behind Israel, next week’s move of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and the official dropping of “occupied territories” to describe the West Bank and East Jerusalem. … Adelson, for his part, has advocated launching a nuclear weapon against Iran as a negotiating tactic and threatening to nuke Tehran, a city with a population of 8.8 million, if Iran does not completely abandon its nuclear program.

7 March
Israel passes law to strip residency of Jerusalem’s Palestinians
(Al Jazeera) Palestinians slam new ‘breach of loyalty’ legislation as ‘extremely racist’ and a violation of international law
The Israeli parliament has passed a law that allows the minister of interior to revoke the residency rights of any Palestinian in Jerusalem on grounds of a “breach of loyalty” to Israel.
The bill, ratified on Wednesday, will also apply in cases where residency status was obtained on the basis of false information, and in cases where “an individual committed a criminal act” in the view of the interior ministry.
Under the new measure, Israel’s Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, leader of the ultra-Orthodox political party Shas, will be able to strip the residency documents of any Palestinian whom he deems a threat.

21 February
Top Aide to Netanyahu Turns State Witness as Graft Cases Multiply
(NYT) One of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s closest and longest-serving aides appears ready to incriminate him.The aide’s agreement to become a government witness was the latest twist in a spiraling graft scandal dimming Mr. Netanyahu’s legal and political chances of survival, despite his insistence that he has done nothing wrong.
The police are investigating whether Mr. Netanyahu — who is already battling separate bribery allegations — provided official favors to Israel’s largest telecommunications company in exchange for positive coverage in online news.

13 February
The Case Against Netanyahu: Highlights From the Police Investigation

7 January

Netanyahu tiptoes around U.S. threat to cut off Palestinian aid
(Reuters) With Palestinians seething over U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition last month of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he threatened on Tuesday to withhold aid money, accusing them of being “no longer willing to talk peace”.
On Friday, in a report denied by a State Department official, the Axios news site said Washington had frozen $125 million in funding for UNRWA. The U.N. agency, founded in 1949 to aid Palestinian refugees, is a main provider of educational and health services in the Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu said UNRWA was “an organization that perpetuates the Palestinian problem.”
“It also enshrines the narrative of the so-called ‘right of return’. Therefore, UNRWA should pass from the world,” he told a weekly cabinet meeting.
Praising Trump’s “critical approach” on the aid issue, Netanyahu steered clear of advocating a suspension of funding for the Palestinians. He said U.N. money for them should be transferred gradually to its global refugee agency UNHCR “with clear criteria for supporting genuine refugees and not fictitious ones, as is happening today under UNRWA.”


17 December
UN Security Council to vote on resolution voiding Trump’s Jerusalem announcement: report
The United Nations Security Council on Monday will vote on a draft resolution that would nullify President Trump‘s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, according to Reuters.
… the one-page draft, which diplomats told Reuters enjoys broad support among the council, comes less than two weeks after Trump announced the U.S. would formally recognize the contested city as Israel’s official capital.
In order to pass, the resolution would need the votes of nine of the 15 members of the council. It also cannot be vetoed by the U.S., France, Britain, Russia or China.

15 December
Richard Sindelar: Why Jerusalem policy makes art of the deal hard for Trump
In announcing U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the only country to so declare, President Trump argued “it is the right thing to do,” would advance U.S. interests in the Middle East, and the Arab-Israeli peace process itself. It will do none of those things. Indeed, it was the wrong action on many levels: Jared Kushner’s peace mission will be vastly complicated; U.S. influence will be diminished for years to come among Middle Eastern nations; and violent, potentially bloody, protests have already begun. … Recognition of Jerusalem, then, can only be seen as almost entirely a “thank you” to Sheldon Adelson for his massive financial support of Trump’s campaign, and Republican causes generally, and nothing more. Adelson has furiously ridden the hobby horse of Jerusalem since Trump’s 2016 election, constantly pushing him to declare U.S. recognition of that city as Israel’s capital. Ever mindful of needed campaign funds for 2018 and 2020, Trump apparently felt he had to make good on the only deal about which he really cared: his own Las Vegas side deal with his main financial backer.

7 December
Trump Is Making a Huge Mistake on Jerusalem
By Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian lawmaker and a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee
(NYT Op-ed) President Trump announced on Wednesday that his administration is making a radical break with nearly 70 years of official United States policy and with the international community: He is recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
This decision will be interpreted by Palestinians, Arabs and the rest of the world as a major provocation. It will cause irreparable harm to Mr. Trump’s own plans to make peace in the Middle East, and to any future administration’s efforts, as well. It will also undermine the United States’ own national security. The president should reconsider this decision immediately.
Since Israel was established in 1948, the United Nations and the United States, like most countries, have refused to recognize any country’s sovereignty over Jerusalem, a city holy to Muslims, Jews and Christians.
For this reason, the United States has always maintained its embassy to Israel in Tel Aviv. Since Israel militarily occupied East Jerusalem in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, the United States and the international community have rejected as illegal Israel’s attempts to cement its control over the city by expanding its boundaries, annexing it and constructing a ring of settlements on occupied Palestinian land around its outskirts to sever it from the rest of the West Bank.
Members of Israel’s hard-right government were overjoyed at Mr. Trump’s election, believing they would have a free rein to accelerate the expansion of settlements. The president’s selection of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to lead his administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and the appointment of David Friedman as ambassador to Israel, both of whom have ties to Israel’s settlement movement, further emboldened the settlers and their supporters in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. Indeed, Israel has expanded its settlements over the past year.

5 December
Trump tells Abbas he will move US embassy to Jerusalem
(Al Jazeera) Jerusalem’s status is an extremely sensitive aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel claims the city as its capital, following the occupation of East Jerusalem in the 1967 war with Syria, Egypt and Jordan, and considers Jerusalem to be a “united” city.
Palestinians have long seen East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
They say that a US move to relocate the embassy would prejudge one of the most sensitive issues in the conflict – the status of Jerusalem – and undermine Washington’s status as an honest mediator.
No country currently has its embassy in Jerusalem, and the international community, including the US, does not recognise Israel’s jurisdiction over and ownership of the city.
World reacts to US Israel embassy relocation plan
Leaders from the Middle East and elsewhere have cautioned Donald Trump against relocating the US embassy in Israel, warning that such a move could destabilise the region and spark turmoil in the region
Israeli right hails ‘historic’ trump decision, left predicts regional chaos
(Jerusalem Post) US officials warn Trump not to call Jerusalem Israel’s capital
Jerusalem mayor says US embassy move can be done in ‘two minutes’
U.S. to Recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital, Trump Says, Alarming Middle East Leaders
(NYT) Mr. Trump’s decision, a high-risk foray into the thicket of the Middle East, was driven not by diplomatic calculations but by a campaign promise. He appealed to evangelicals and ardently pro-Israel American Jews in 2016 by vowing to move the embassy, and advisers said on Tuesday he was determined to make good on his word.
Jerusalem explained: The city where three religions collide, and violence is never far away
(The Independent) Unrest ebbs and flows, never as great as many other cities in the Middle East, but never entirely absent
Turkey president Erdogan tells Trump declaring Jerusalem Israel’s capital is a ‘red line’ for Muslims

3 December
Talk of a Peace Plan That Snubs Palestinians Roils Middle East
(NYT) In a mysterious trip last month, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, traveled to Saudi Arabia’s capital for consultations with the hard-charging crown prince about President Trump’s plans for Middle East peace. What was said when the doors were closed, however, has since roiled the region.
According to Palestinian, Arab and European officials who have heard Mr. Abbas’s version of the conversation, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman presented a plan that would be more tilted toward the Israelis than any ever embraced by the American government, one that presumably no Palestinian leader could ever accept.
The Palestinians would get a state of their own but only noncontiguous parts of the West Bank and only limited sovereignty over their own territory. The vast majority of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which most of the world considers illegal, would remain. The Palestinians would not be given East Jerusalem as their capital and there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
The White House on Sunday denied that was its plan, saying it was still months away from finalizing a blueprint for peace, and the Saudi government denied that it supports those positions.
That left many in Washington and the Middle East wondering whether the Saudi crown prince was quietly doing the bidding of Mr. Trump, trying to curry favor with the Americans, or freelancing in order to put pressure on the Palestinians or to make any eventual offer sound generous by comparison. Or perhaps Mr. Abbas, weakened politically at home, was sending out signals for his own purposes that he was under pressure from Riyadh.

16 October
Will Palestinian Reconciliation Revive the Two-State Solution?
By Daoud Kuttab
If Israel doesn’t accept the deep concessions it will have to make for peace, the recent reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah will not mark the beginning of the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It will merely be the start of a new chapter.
(Project Syndicate) When representatives of the two major Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, signed a new reconciliation agreement in Cairo on October 12, the focus was not on those actually doing the signing, Fatah Central Committee member Azzam al-Ahmad and Deputy Head of the Hamas Politburo Saleh al-Arouri. Instead, all eyes were on the man standing behind them: Khaled Fawzy, the head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Directorate.
The ceremony, held at the intelligence agency’s headquarters, was orchestrated entirely by the Egyptians, who view the reconciliation as a stepping-stone to a much larger goal. As the agreement stated in its opening, it stemmed from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s “insistence” on ending the divisions among Palestinians, “with the aim of creating an independent state” along pre-1967 borders.

24 August
Kushner chases Trump’s ‘ultimate deal’ in Middle East
Accompanied by a high-level American delegation, Kushner reiterated Trump’s commitment to finding a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which Trump has referred to as “the ultimate deal.”
Netanyahu said such a deal is “within our reach,” and promised to work with the Trump administration “to advance peace, stability and security in our region.”
But the short readout of the introduction provided by Israel’s Government Press Office lacked clear specifics or any stated goals. The White House, in pursuing a peace deal, has yet to lay out a framework for negotiations following multiple meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
U.S Vows to Fund a U.N. Agency For Palestinian Refugees Israeli Leader Wants Shuttered
The Trump administration defies Bibi in hopes of restarting peace talks and averting upheaval.
(Foreign Policy) The moves run contrary to the administration’s push to rein in spending on U.N. relief programs elsewhere. It reflects growing concern that the imposition of sharp cuts to Palestinian relief programs could thwart the White House campaign to restart Middle East peace talks, and inject further political instability in a region that stands permanently perched on the brink of political upheaval.
It also highlights one of the curious realities of Washington politics: While Israel and its Congressional backers routinely bash UNRWA for what they view as its pro-Palestinian bias, U.S. officials find ways each year to raise hundreds of millions to fund the organization, which provides a range of services to 5 million Palestinian refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
How to win friends and influence … . Disgusting!
Israel destroys Palestinian classrooms ahead of first day of school
(The Independent)  Over the past two weeks, four Palestinian communities have seen their educational facilities – donated by international bodies and NGOs – destroyed on the grounds that they had been built without proper planning permission.
The security forces also removed solar panels powering a school for Bedouin children near Jerusalem  on 9 August, ignoring a High Court petition over their removal in the process.
The High Court ended up issuing a temporary restraining order against removing the panels, but it came an hour after they had already been dismantled.

6 August
Netanyahu’s Looming Fall Is No Cause for Celebration
King Bibi’s departure is a necessary step, but by no means enough. Only a revolution in thinking will generate change in Israel
(Haaretz) Such happiness hasn’t been seen in Israel for a long time: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is about to fall. The decent center-left is celebrating, in Tel Aviv suburbs like Ramat Hasharon the champagne is flowing. “The tyrant has fallen,” one commentator wrote. Some people hosted a festive barbecue.
For a moment it’s as if Elena and Nicolae Ceausescu have been executed, Muammar Gadhafi has been taken out, Saddam Hussein has been captured, the Berlin wall has fallen, Nelson Mandela has been freed and the Soviet Union has crumbled. Israel has gone from darkness to light, from slavery to freedom. Netanyahu’s going home, maybe to jail, and Israel is liberated.
The schadenfreude for Netanyahu and his family is understandable. …   Netanyahu bears a great deal of the blame for Israel’s situation, especially domestically. His years have been hard ones for justice, equality, freedom, peace, democracy and humaneness, as well as for minorities and the weak. These years have also been good for arrogance, brute force, recklessness, nationalism, violence and the settlements. But as strong as he was, Netanyahu doesn’t bear the blame alone. There was a broad coalition around him, a weak opposition and a nation that supported him.
Netanyahu will go and the right-wing ministers Naftali Bennett, Ayelet Shaked and Avigdor Lieberman will stay. Netanyahu will go and the hatred of Arabs will stay. Netanyahu will go and the certainty that we’re a chosen people will stay. And most certain of all: Netanyahu will go and the occupation will stay, even if the unbelievable happens and Labor’s new leader, Avi Gabbay, becomes prime minister.
Hunger for vengeance and schadenfreude aren’t enough to change this reality. Nor is it enough just to replace the person at the top. To generate change, Israeli society has to undergo a painful process, no sign of which is on the horizon. Only a revolution in thinking will generate change. But for now this revolution has no one to implement it, with or without Netanyahu.

12 July
Thomas Friedman: Israel to American Jews: You Just Don’t Matter
Under the leadership of Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, Israel is overstretching itself by simultaneously erasing the line between itself and the Palestinians — essentially absorbing 2.5 million Palestinians, which could turn Israel into a de facto Jewish-Arab binational state — and drawing a line between itself and the Jewish diaspora, particularly the U.S. Jewish community that has been so vital for Israel’s security, diplomatic standing and remarkable economic growth.
Netanyahu is setting himself up to be a pivotal figure in Jewish history — the leader who burned the bridges to a two-state solution and to the Jewish diaspora at the same time.
In recent weeks, Netanyahu collaborated with the Orthodox Jewish parties in his right-wing ruling coalition to deal a double blow to the non-Orthodox Jewish diaspora living around the world, particularly in America. There are roughly six million Jews in Israel, six million in the U.S. and four million spread elsewhere. About 75 percent of the 10 million diaspora Jews are non-Orthodox, mostly followers of the Reform and Conservative streams of Judaism.
First, in order not to risk his hold on power, Netanyahu bowed to the demands of the Orthodox parties and canceled a 2016 agreement to create a distinct egalitarian prayer space adjacent to the Western Wall of the ancient Jewish temple in Jerusalem — the holiest site of the Jewish faith — where men and women of the non-Orthodox movements could pray together. The Orthodox rabbis who control the Western Wall insist that men pray in one area and women in a separate, smaller area.
At the same time, Bibi caved and endorsed an Orthodox party bill in the Knesset that handed the ultra-Orthodox what amounts to a monopoly over conversions to Judaism in Israel “by pulling government recognition for private conversions” — basically those done by non-Orthodox rabbis, The Times of Israel reported.

6 July
(Reuters) In the nine days since Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu reneged on a decision that would have allowed men and women to pray together at Jerusalem’s holy Western Wall, the outrage among American Jews is only getting worse.

22-23 May
Daniel Estrin of NPR: “He spoke a lot about peace, but he was very short on specifics. And that was very emblematic of his whole trip here. He didn’t want to wade into any thorny issues. He didn’t talk about a two-state solution. He didn’t talk about Israeli assessments in the West Bank, where Palestinians want to build a Palestinian state. He didn’t talk about the U.S. Embassy. This trip was much more about smiles. It was much more about relationship-building.”

Trump Comes to Israel Citing a Palestinian Deal as Crucial
(NYT) President Trump began a two-day visit to Israel on Monday with a blunt assessment for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: If Israel really wants peace with its Arab neighbors, the cost will be resolving the generations-old standoff with the Palestinians.
For years, Mr. Netanyahu has sought to recalibrate relations with Sunni Arab nations in a mutual bid to counter Shiite-led Iran, while subordinating the Palestinian dispute as a secondary issue. But as Mr. Trump arrived in Jerusalem after meetings in Saudi Arabia, the president indicated that he and those Arab states see an agreement with the Palestinians as integral to that new regional alignment.
Mr. Trump did not formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, as some Israeli officials hoped he would do since he has shelved his promise to move the American Embassy here from Tel Aviv. Nor for that matter did he publicly press Israel to curb settlement construction in the West Bank as Palestinians hoped.
Mr. Netanyahu offered nothing more than a few modest gestures like extending the hours at the border crossing between the West Bank and Jordan, recycled from previous moments in the long-running dispute with the Palestinians. During his most extended comments, toward the end of the day, Mr. Netanyahu skipped right over the Palestinian question to focus on Iran.
… a visit that was once anticipated as a powerful expression of solidarity between two like-minded leaders, Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu, has become more complicated amid a series of logistical and political stress points.
Among other things, Mr. Trump last week disclosed to Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador some classified information that came from Israel about an Islamic State plot, potentially jeopardizing the Israeli intelligence source and deeply angering some Israeli security officials. Determined not to spoil the visit, Mr. Netanyahu had resolved not to mention the intelligence breach publicly. When a reporter asked the two leaders about it on Monday, the prime minister brushed it off. “Intelligence cooperation is terrific,” he said. “It’s never been better.” Mr. Trump, who said last week that he had every right to disclose the information, denied identifying Israel as the source. “I never mentioned the word or the name Israel,” he said. “Never mentioned during that conversation. They’re all saying I did, so you have another story wrong. Never mentioned the word Israel.”
Mr. Trump repeated his criticism of the nuclear deal on Monday with Mr. Netanyahu standing by his side. He also credited Mr. Netanyahu with being serious about peace with the Palestinians, an assessment the prime minister’s critics do not share, and expressed optimism about reaching an agreement.
“I’ve heard it’s one of the toughest deals of all,” he said, “but I have a feeling we’re going to get there eventually. I hope.”

21 May
Preparations for Trump’s Visit Expose Political Rifts in Israel
(NYT) Unlike the royal pomp and ceremony with which President Trump was greeted over the weekend in Saudi Arabia, the plans for his arrival on Monday in Israel had devolved into an unseemly political ruckus before Air Force One touched down.
An infuriated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to order his ministers to attend the airport welcome ceremony, the Hebrew daily newspaper Haaretz reported, after he learned that most of them were planning to skip it because there was no time scheduled for Mr. Trump to shake their hands on the tarmac.
Mr. Netanyahu also had to wrestle much of Sunday in a closed cabinet meeting with right-wing ministers of his coalition to win approval of even modest gestures meant to encourage the Palestinian economy and ease conditions in the West Bank and elsewhere. The confidence-building measures were aimed as much at convincing Mr. Trump of the Israelis’ commitment to seek an agreement as they were intended for the Palestinians. Mr. Trump has said that he wants to seal the “ultimate deal” to resolve the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an ambitious goal that has so far eluded two generations of American presidents and numerous international mediators.

15 February
Israel/Palestine mapTrump says US not committed to two-state Israel-Palestine solution
Speaking alongside Benjamin Netanyahu, US president appears to dismantle years of policy by saying he is looking at multiple options for peace
(The Guardian) Donald Trump has dropped a two-decades old US commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel as part of a permanent Middle East peace agreement.
The US president, speaking on Wednesday at a joint press conference with the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, did not rule out a two-state solution but stated that his administration had no preference when it came to the final geographical shape of the region.
Asked what he thought about a two-state solution on Wednesday, Trump said: “I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like,” he said. In an otherwise effusive welcome for his Israeli ally, Trump used the occasion to deliver a mild rebuke to Netanyahu on the pace of settlement construction, suggesting that it would be one of the compromises necessary to strike a deal.
“I’d like to see you pull back on settlements for a little bit,” he said.
Analysis: Trump casts aside decades of Middle East diplomacy in one sentence
Speaking with Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, president says US is not committed to two-state solution, showing alarming lack of understanding
Trump barely mentioned the Palestinians at all, and at times, his comments seemed identical to the Israeli government’s talking points: he mentioned the threat of Iran, incitement in Palestinian schools, and the Palestinian need to recognise Israel as a Jewish state.
Netanyahu, it seemed, could barely contain his pleasure. In return for a public request to hold back on settlement building “a little bit” he was able to hear the new US president commit himself to Netanyahu’s own obsession – pushing back Iran – while offering a formulation with the Palestinians that offers little concrete prospect of real negotiations or a lasting peace.
But it was in what the neophyte president did not say – and perhaps does not even understand – that the real substance lay.
Gone was any talk about Palestinian ambitions for a state. Instead, Trump’s remarks reinforced the inherent asymmetry in the two parties’ positions.

14 February
White House Upheaval Complicates Netanyahu Visit
Given the still-fluid nature of the Trump administration and its policies, Mr. Netanyahu’s visit is likely to be more symbolic than substantive.
The resignation of Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, deprives Mr. Netanyahu of his strongest ally inside the White House for raising pressure on Iran. And the emergence of Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, as an aspiring Middle East peacemaker has increased the president’s appetite for a peace initiative between the Israelis and Palestinians — something Mr. Netanyahu is not especially eager to discuss.

12 February
Trump and Israel
(Baltimore Sun) When he was on the campaign trail, President Donald Trump painted himself as an uncritical champion of Israel — meaning he was willing to endorse pretty much anything Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s government did, no matter how destructive it might be to the peace process. But with Mr. Netanyahu’s first visit to Washington since Mr. Trump’s inauguration looming on Wednesday, the new president has moderated his position on some key issues, leaving open at least the possibility that he could be a constructive player in the quest for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If Mr. Netanyahu is serious about peace, that is.
The Israeli prime minister has made stringing American presidents along into something of an art form. He has consistently preached the need for peace while taking steps that make the possibility of its realization narrower and narrower. He and his supporters blame Palestinians for rejecting chances for peace when they had them and for continuing to support terrorist activities. There’s truth to that. But Mr. Netanyahu has also played a critical role in driving the two sides apart, principally by indulging the more hard-line elements of his governing coalition by allowing continued expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, gradually taking up land that would eventually form the heart of a Palestinian state. …
This month, Israel complied with a November court order to remove an illegal West Bank settlement, a move that angered hard liners in his coalition, and immediately thereafter, Mr. Netanyahu’s government announced plans for thousands of additional settlements. He was evidently banking on a permissive reaction from the Trump government.
But Mr. Trump, who had appointed as ambassador to Israel a staunch supporter of settlement building, made a surprise move by calling on Israel to halt such construction, at least until after his meeting with Mr. Netanyahu.  In [an interview with the Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom ] on Friday, he went further, [saying] that he did not think “going forward with these settlements is a good thing for peace.”

7 February
Israeli settlements: Land grab in the West Bank
[On Monday] the Knesset passed a law to allow the government retroactively to expropriate private Palestinian land on which Israeli settlements have been built. The move marks the first time since 1967 that Israel has acted to extend Israeli law to the occupied West Bank. It could alter the status of some 4,000 housing units built on Palestinian land. The prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, had previously opposed such a law. His government’s attorney-general has refused either to endorse it or to defend it if it is challenged in Israel’s High Court, as it is widely expected to be.

5 February
Thousands of Jews and Arabs March Together Against Racism and House Demolitions in Tel Aviv
The organizers say the protest, in which the speeches were given in both Arabic and Hebrew, is a new stage in the civil struggle of Jews and Arabs.
The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee said they had decided to step up their appeal to Israeli and international public opinion. Hundreds of Jewish citizens have participated in the recent protests against house demolitions, said Raja Za’atra of Hadash, who chairs the party’s subcommittee responsible for contact with the Israeli public.
Since the establishment of the Joint List, more politicians in the Arab community see strategic importance in building bridges for dialogue and cooperation with the democratic forces in Israeli society, said Za’atra. This is especially true in light of the ramping up of racism and the harsh attacks by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government against the Arab public and democracy, he added.

31 January
Israeli Officials Actually Don’t Want The US To Move Its Embassy To Jerusalem
During a meeting with the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Jordan’s King Abdullah revealed that Israeli intelligence is concerned that moving the embassy would “enflame tensions.”
(BuzzFeed) According to a lawmaker present at the meeting who asked not to be named, King Abdullah said Israeli officials are concerned that moving the embassy would “enflame tensions among radical groups.” Jordan’s Information Minister Mohammed Momani has also called the move a “red line” for Jordan that would “inflame the Islamic and Arab streets” and serve as a “gift to extremists.”
“This has been a hypothetical for a long time and we prefer it stay that way,” said one Israeli intelligence officer, who spoke with BuzzFeed News earlier this month. “Moving the US Embassy is something which gains us little and which could, potentially, inflame tensions.”

25 January
Emboldened by Trump, Israel Approves a Wave of West Bank Settlement Expansion
(NYT) [W]ith Israel’s occupation of the West Bank in its 50th year, the Israeli government, dominated by right-wing and religious parties, is clearly expecting a friendlier approach from the White House after years of tension with the Obama administration.
David M. Friedman, the bankruptcy lawyer President Trump has nominated as his ambassador to Israel, has led a fund-raising arm of the settlement movement and has dismissed the idea of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. He has declared that he intends to work in Jerusalem, not Tel Aviv, where the American Embassy has been for decades, under the State Department’s insistence that the holy city’s status be determined as part of a broader deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

15 January
Summit tackles elusive Israel-Palestine peace
International effort to re-ignite moribund talks between Israelis and Palestinians under way in French capital.
(Al Jazeera) A French-led effort to kick-start long-stalled discussions on a two-state solution between Palestinians and Israelis got under way with the two main players absent from the summit.
Though representatives from 70 countries and organisations arrived, hopes of a breakthrough in the stagnant peace process were low on Sunday without any representatives from either the Palestinian Authority or Israeli government at the “Conference for Peace in the Middle East” held in France’s capital, Paris.
Netanyahu: Paris peace conference is ‘useless’
(CNN) “I must say that this conference is among the last twitches of yesterday’s world. Tomorrow’s world will be different — and it is very near,” said Netanyahu seemingly referencing the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump in five days.
BBC analysis: Israel and the Palestinians: Can settlement issue be solved?

On the eve of the Paris talks, this worthwhile read from Paul Heinbecker
Ignore the political theatre, Resolution 2334 has global support
Israeli and Palestinian narratives notwithstanding, resolution 2334 reflects what the world thinks.
Resolution 2334 is important because it joins other milestone UN resolutions, including General Assembly resolution 181 that partitioned Palestine and led to the proclamation of Israel; resolution 194 which resolved that peace-minded refugees of the 1948 war should be permitted to return to their homes; and Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 that emphasized the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.” Together these and a small handful of other resolutions guide the judgments of the vast majority of UN member-state governments on Israeli-Palestinian issues.
Resolution 2334 was passed under Chapter VI of the UN Charter on the peaceful settlement of disputes and thus does not entail enforcement options. The language of resolution 2334 is nonetheless unequivocal that Israel’s settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, have “no legal validity,” that they constitute “a flagrant violation of international law,” and that they are “a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.” (29 December 2016)

13 January
A new scandal rocks Israel’s prime minister
But he insists there is nothing to explain
(The Economist) Arnon “Noni” Mozes, the secretive owner of Israel’s largest and most influential media group, has been considered Mr Netanyahu’s nemesis for years. In February 2015, at the height of the last election campaign, Mr Netanyahu wrote that “the primary force behind the wave of mudslinging against me and against my wife is Noni Mozes. He will stop at nothing to bring down the Likud government I head.” Now Israeli media reports say that the tapes show that the two enemies were holding secret meetings in which it is alleged that they were discussing a deal whereby the prime minister would receive favourable treatment from Mr Mozes’ Yedioth Ahronoth group. In return Mr Netanyahu would act to limit the distribution of Israel Hayom, a free sheet financed by Sheldon Adelson, an American casino owner who supports Mr Netanyahu.
The deal did not come to pass. Mr Netanyahu’s political rivals continued to receive the backing of Yedioth Ahronoth while Mr Adelson continued to pour hundreds of millions of shekels into the Netanyahu-supporting Israel Hayom. According to data published this week by Haaretz, an Israeli daily, Mr Adelson spent 730 million shekels ($190m) on the free sheet during its first seven years of operations, approximately a shekel for every copy of Israel Hayom handed out across the country.
The investigation could hurt not only Mr Netanyahu but also the two publishers. Israel Hayom has poached a big chunk of Yedioth Ahronoth’s advertising revenue. If Mr Netanyahu could indeed have prevailed on his benefactor to limit its distribution, this would have been worth millions to Mr Mozes and could constitute a bribe.
10 January
Israel’s anti-UN steps could lead to ‘isolation’
Israel is threatening to undertake punitive measures against the UN after it passed a resolution condemning settlements.
(Al Jazeera) Last Friday, the Israeli government announced that it had suspended $6m in funding to the United Nations (UN), a move described as “an act of protest” against the recent Security Council resolution condemning illegal settlements.
But is this just the opening salvo in what could be an unprecedented offensive? …
But is it all just bluster and symbolism? The funding suspension is $6m from a total Israeli annual contribution of more than $40m. “The amount of money is so small,” [Israeli political journalist and blogger Tal] Schneider commented, “that it’s more of a statement: neither the Israeli nor UN budget will feel it.”
3 January
Far-right Israeli minister plans bill to annex one of biggest settlements
(The Guardian) Naftali Bennett vows to introduce a bill this month to formally annex Maale Adumim in the occupied Palestinian territories
The hardline leader of the Jewish Home party also made clear that he saw the annexation of Maale Adumim as a first step in annexing all of “area C”, the part of the occupied territories still under full Israeli control.
“For this reason,” said Bennett, “by the end of the month, we will submit the bill for applying [Israeli] law to Judea and Samaria [the name used by Israelis for the occupied territories] and will embark on a new path. We will present to the cabinet a bill for applying Israeli law in Maale Adumim.”
The timing of Bennett’s announcement, and of his plan to introduce the legislation in the first place, appears to have been designed to exploit the inauguration of Donald Trump on 20 January. The US president-elect has indicated he will be more supportive of Israel in international arenas that regard the settlements as illegal. Dahlia Scheindlin: Israelis now face a fateful choice as hope for a two-state solution fades – For a long time, Israelis wanted to agree with Netanyahu and believed that represssing the problem would make it go away. One speech won’t change that overnight, but it may be a clarifying moment that certain truths can only be ignored for so long. Then, one of the options on the menu will happen either way.
On the cusp of the New Year
Israeli police grilled the prime minister. They questioned Binyamin Netanyahu over gifts he allegedly got from domestic and international businessmen—the latest in a series of corruption and mis-spending allegations, all of which Netanyahu denies. There’s also a conflict-of-interest investigation involving his personal lawyer and an Israeli purchase of submarines from Germany.

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