Some Jews in East Jerusalem view Trump as ‘a messiah’

Times of Israel reports: In recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, US President Donald Trump calculatedly avoided detailing how broadly he thinks the holy city’s Israeli borders should extend. But residents of a Jewish enclave in the municipality’s eastern half said Thursday they trust that the president kept them in mind while making his decision.

“He was being intentionally vague, and I’m totally fine with that,” said Ma’ale Hazeitim resident Mordechai Taub. “Recognizing the entire borders of the city [as Israeli] will be a process, but I’m sure it will happen at some point.”

Taub is one of roughly 500 residents in the religious neighborhood established adjacent to the Mount of Olives in 1997. Located southeast of the Old City, Ma’ale Hazeitim was constructed alongside the Arab neighborhood of Ras Al-Amoud, and has drawn protests from those opposing Israeli presence in East Jerusalem.

The Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state and fiercely oppose any changes that could be regarded as legitimizing Israel’s control over East Jerusalem, which it captured in the 1967 Six Day War. Israel annexed East Jerusalem and claims sovereignty in all of Jerusalem as its undivided eternal capital.

While all seven Ma’ale Hezeitim residents who spoke with The Times of Israel on Thursday applauded Trump’s declaration, some tempered their praise. “I congratulate him on being the one who merited the opportunity to make the announcement, but I do not thank him for doing so,” insisted Eyal Yechezkel. “God is the one that decided that Jerusalem is ours. It is not something that starts or ends with him.”

At the same time, however, Yechezkel also compared Trump to Persia’s King Cyrus, who allowed the exiled Jews to return to Israel from Babylon and Persia and rebuild the second Temple. “Even though he was a goy (a gentile), he’s called a messiah. This is how we refer to those who join our fight and aid in of our redemption.” [Continue reading…]

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Palestinians clash with Israeli troops ahead of ‘day of rage’ at Trump’s Jerusalem move

The Washington Post reports: Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers clashed Thursday in Jerusalem, Ramallah and other places in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with some demonstrators burning American flags and posters of President Trump a day after he sided with Israel by announcing U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as its capital.

But at nightfall, after the skirmishes died down, the region was bracing for worse.

More than 100 people were injured Thursday, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent, despite the deployment of several extra battalions of Israeli troops. The critical test comes Friday, when larger demonstrations are expected as crowds leave mosques after the weekly noon prayers.

In Gaza, the Islamist Hamas movement urged its followers to ignite a third intifada, or uprising, against Israel. The Palestinian Authority called for a general strike. Shops were shuttered in Jerusalem’s Old City. [Continue reading…]

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Why Trump’s Jerusalem gambit will only hurt Israel

Peter Beinart writes: On its face, Donald Trump’s speech on Wednesday announcing that America would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital seemed entirely reasonable. “Today,” he declared, “We finally acknowledge the obvious. That Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality.”

Yes, Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. That is obvious. But something else is obvious too: Israel and the Palestinians are radically unequal negotiating partners. Israel is a modern state. The Palestinians are a people who, in various ways, live under Israeli control without equal rights. As the vastly more powerful side, it’s clear what Israel can give the Palestinians: a state on the territory that Israel now occupies. What the Palestinians can give Israel is less clear. After all, no Jews live without basic rights under Palestinian control. Palestinians want the Israeli army to withdraw from Hebron, Nablus and Jenin. There is no Palestinian army occupying Beersheba, Haifa and Ashdod.

As Noam Sheizaf recently detailed in 972mag, the most valuable thing the Palestinians can give Israel is international legitimacy. When Palestinian leaders say their struggle with Israel is over, Israel’s days as a semi-pariah will end. By blessing the Saudi Peace Initiative, the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation –with its 57 members—have both made it clear that when the Palestinians make peace with Israel, they will too. When that happens, global anti-Zionism will collapse.

To many Zionists, the idea that Jews need the Palestinians’ blessing to make Israel legitimate is offensive. What legitimizes Israel, they say, is a Jewish connection to the land that dates back thousands of years. Fine, but Palestinians have a connection to the land too. They constituted the vast majority of people living on it when Zionists began showing up in the late nineteenth century. If the bonds of memory and the requirements of self-protection justify a Jewish state, they justify a Palestinian state too. Israel has the right to exist, but it doesn’t have the right to hold millions of Palestinians as colonial subjects. So, in this way, the international legitimacy that Palestinians can bestow when they gain a state is bound up with the moral legitimacy Israel can only gain when it becomes a country that offers the right of citizenship to everyone living under its control.

What does this have to do with moving America’s embassy to Jerusalem? Everything. Previous presidents didn’t keep the US embassy in Tel Aviv because “they lacked courage,” as Trump suggested. They did so because blessing Israel’s control of West Jerusalem before Israel permitted a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem would diminish Israel’s incentive to do so. For an Israeli prime minister, accepting a Palestinian state based in East Jerusalem means risking your government, if not your life. Why take those risks if you can gain international recognition without them? Why pay for something you can get for free? [Continue reading…]

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Trump’s Jerusalem speech won’t kill the Mideast peace process: It’s already dead

Christopher Dickey writes: In 1995 [when the Jerusalem Embassy Act was passed], the Palestine issue and the future of Israel were at the very center of the Mideast miasma. The occupation of Palestinian territory was the festering wound from which much of the regional stink seemed to emanate. But 9/11 sidelined the Palestinians, their problems—and their aspirations—making their complaint just one element in the epochal battle being pushed by Osama bin Laden and his jihadist acolytes. The Palestinians were fighting for a homeland. Bin Laden was pushing for Armageddon.

After the Bush administration was foolish enough to occupy Afghanistan and Iraq, the latter with massive cheerleading from neocons who thought the Iraq invasion would help the cause of Israel, the injustice that attached to Israel’s own occupation of the West Bank was attenuated once again. It came to seem a limited problem, not an all-consuming one like, say, the disintegration and carnage that has swept the Fertile Crescent since 2003.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu has been able to take Israel into a holding pattern on the bet he could build walls and special access roads, maintain security, and wear down the Palestinians to the point where they would have no ability to affect the lives of most Israelis, even those living in the territories. His old enemy Syria has self-destructed. Egypt and Jordan are willing to play along with him. Only Iran presents a real threat to Israel’s security, but Trump—and the Saudis—are likely to back Bibi’s play should he decide be has to make a move against Teheran.

Again, the Palestinians lose out.

So, after three decades covering “the peace process”—and having learned early on that it was all about process, and only very rarely even remotely about peace—my sense is that Trump’s Jerusalem speech is more nuanced than one might have expected, but also naïve. It is, yes, a milestone, but not a game changer. In fact, the game changed long ago. [Continue reading…]

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On Jerusalem, Trump is proving that the Israeli right was right all along

Noam Sheizaf writes: Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan is said to have hesitated before ordering the IDF to conquer the Temple Mount and Jerusalem’s Old City in 1967. “What do I need this Vatican for,” he said at one meeting. But even the secular Dayan was swept by the wave of religious euphoria that took Israel after the war. A few weeks later, the government decided to annex the eastern part of the city, along with a sizable territory around it, including over 20 Palestinian towns and villages that had never been part of the city. The size of the annexed land was 10 times bigger than what the Jordanians defined as East Jerusalem during the 19 years they ruled over it.

No country has recognized Israel’s unilateral annexation of the territory (and people) of Jerusalem; and since the Oslo process in the 1990s, it was commonly understood that the fate of the city would be decided in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. To complicate things further, Israel didn’t grant East Jerusalemites citizenship; it has kept them as “permanent residents” – a legal status usually meant for immigrants, which deprives them of many rights (most notably, the purchase of state land and the participation in the general elections), and which can be revoked at any moment by the Interior Ministry.

Today, Palestinians make up over one-third of Jerusalem’s population. Jewish neighborhoods have spread mostly east, beyond the Green Line. In the Israeli political discourse this is simply “Jerusalem”; the rest of the world sees it as occupied land, and calls those neighborhoods settlements. Trump’s announcement will completely align U.S. policy with Israel’s positions. [Continue reading…]

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Jared Kushner failed to disclose he led a foundation funding illegal Israeli settlements before UN vote

Newsweek reports: Jared Kushner failed to disclose his role as a co-director of the Charles and Seryl Kushner Foundation from 2006 to 2015, a time when the group funded an Israeli settlement considered to be illegal under international law, on financial records he filed with the Office of Government Ethics earlier this year.

The latest development follows reports on Friday indicating the White House senior adviser attempted to sway a United Nations Security Council vote against an anti-settlement resolution passed just before Donald Trump took office, which condemned the structure of West Bank settlements. The failure to disclose his role in the foundation—at a time when he was being tasked with serving as the president’s Middle East peace envoy—follows a pattern of egregious omissions that would bar any other official from continuing to serve in the West Wing, experts and officials told Newsweek.

The first son-in-law has repeatedly amended his financial records since his initial filing in March, along with three separate revisions to his security clearance application. Despite correcting his financial history on multiple occasions, he has yet to include his role as co-director to the family foundation. [Continue reading…]

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Israel and U.S. race to prevent publication of UN settlement ‘blacklist’

The Associated Press reports: Weeks ahead of the expected completion of a U.N. database of companies that operate in Israel’s West Bank settlements, Israel and the Trump Administration are working feverishly to prevent its publication.

While Israel is usually quick to brush off U.N. criticism, officials say they are taking the so-called “blacklist” seriously, fearing its publication could have devastating consequences by driving companies away, deterring others from coming and prompting investors to dump shares of Israeli firms. Dozens of major Israeli companies, as well as multinationals that do business in Israel, are expected to appear on the list.

“We will do everything we can to ensure that this list does not see the light of day,” Israel’s U.N. ambassador, Danny Danon, told The Associated Press. [Continue reading…]

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Gaza’s wasted generation has nowhere else to go

The Washington Post reports: They are the Hamas generation, raised under the firm hand of an Islamist militant movement. They are the survivors of three wars with Israel and a siege who find themselves as young adults going absolutely nowhere.

In many circles in Gaza, it is hard to find anyone in their 20s with real employment, with a monthly salary.

They call themselves a wasted generation.

Ten years after Hamas seized control of Gaza, the economy in the seaside strip of 2 million has been strangled by incompetence, war and blockade.

Gaza today lives off its wits and the recycled scraps donated by foreign governments. Seven in 10 people rely on humanitarian aid.

Young people say they are bored out of their minds.

They worry that too many of their friends are gobbling drugs, not drugs to experience ecstasy but pills used to tranquilize animals, smuggled across Sinai. They dose on Tramadol and smoke hashish. They numb.

Hamas has recently stepped up executions of drug traffickers.

Freedoms to express oneself are circumscribed. But the young people speak, a little bit. They say their leaders have failed them — and that the Israelis and Egyptians are crushing them.

Why not revolt? They laugh. It is very hard to vote the current government out — there are no elections.

“To be honest with you, we do nothing,” said Bilal Abusalah, 24, who trained to be a nurse but sometimes sells women’s clothing.

He has cool jeans, a Facebook page, a mobile phone and no money. [Continue reading…]

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Palestinians met with tear gas upon return to al-Aqsa

Al Jazeera reports: More than 100 Palestinians have been injured as Israeli forces fired tear gas, stun grenades and sound bombs at worshippers who returned to Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque compound for the first time in nearly two weeks.

As the call to prayer sounded from al-Aqsa Mosque again, thousands of men, women and children made their way to the compound on Thursday, after Israel removed surveillance equipment and other obstacles from the gates leading to the holy site.

On Thursday night, dozens of Palestinians who have taken shelter inside the al-Qibli Mosque were surrounded by Israeli forces who cut off electricity in an attempt to force them outside of the compound.

Earlier in the day, the scenes of eupohria and celebrations inside the compound were cut short by Israeli forces who stormed in at the heels of the crowds that had entered the al-Aqsa Mosque complex.

Raed Saleh, a resident of occupied East Jerusalem, said that re-entering the compound on their own conditions was a victory for Palestinians.

“We never saw this kind of win for our people,” he told Al Jazeera. “People are coming from everywhere just to support us in this occasion.

“The Israeli government will now understand that Palestinians from Jerusalem will not accept everything they [Israelis] will tell them. We control ourselves. No one is controlling us.” [Continue reading…]

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This piece of pro-Israel legislation is a serious threat to free speech

David Cole and Faiz Shakir write: The right to boycott has a long history in the United States, from the American Revolution to Martin Luther King Jr.’s Montgomery bus boycott to the campaign for divestment from businesses serving apartheid South Africa. Nowadays we celebrate those efforts. But precisely because boycotts are such a powerful form of expression, governments have long sought to interfere with them — from King George III to the police in Alabama, and now to the U.S. Congress.

The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, legislation introduced in the Senate by Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) and in the House by Peter J. Roskam (R-Ill.), would make it a crime to support or even furnish information about a boycott directed at Israel or its businesses called by the United Nations, the European Union or any other “international governmental organization.” Violations would be punishable by civil and criminal penalties of up to $1 million and 20 years in prison. The American Civil Liberties Union, where we both work, takes no position for or against campaigns to boycott Israel or any other foreign country. But since our organization’s founding in 1920, the ACLU has defended the right to collective action. This bill threatens that right.

The Israel Anti-Boycott Act is designed to stifle efforts to protest Israel’s settlement policies by boycotting businesses in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. The bill’s particular target is the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, a global campaign that seeks to apply economic and political pressure on Israel to comply with international law. [Continue reading…]

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ACLU urges senators to oppose bill targeting Israel boycotts

JTA reports: The American Civil Liberties Union called on U.S. senators to oppose a measure targeting boycotts of Israel and its settlements.

The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, introduced in March by Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, would expand 1970s-era laws that make illegal compliance with boycotts of Israel sponsored by governments — laws inspired at the time by the Arab League boycott of Israel — to include boycotts backed by international organizations. Those adhering to boycotts would be the subject of fines.

While the measure is aimed at the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, it also targets efforts by the United Nations and the European Union to distinguish products manufactured in Israel from those manufactured in West Bank settlements.

In a letter Monday, the ACLU urged senators not to co-sponsor the measure and to oppose its passage.

“We take no position for or against the effort to boycott Israel or any foreign country, for that matter,” wrote Faiz Shakir, ACLU’s national political director. “However, we do assert that the government cannot, consistent with the First Amendment, punish U.S. persons based solely on their expressed political beliefs.”

Shakir added that “the bill would punish businesses and individuals based solely on their point of view. Such a penalty is in direct violation of the First Amendment.” [Continue reading…]

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‘Last secret’ of 1967 war: Israel’s plan to use nuclear weapons

The New York Times reports: On the eve of the Arab-Israeli war, 50 years ago this week, Israeli officials raced to assemble an atomic device and developed a plan to detonate it atop a mountain in the Sinai Peninsula as a warning to Egyptian and other Arab forces, according to an interview with a key organizer of the effort that will be published Monday.

The secret contingency plan, called a “doomsday operation” by Itzhak Yaakov, the retired brigadier general who described it in the interview, would have been invoked if Israel feared it was going to lose the 1967 conflict. The demonstration blast, Israeli officials believed, would intimidate Egypt and surrounding Arab states — Syria, Iraq and Jordan — into backing off.

Israel won the war so quickly that the atomic device was never moved to Sinai. But Mr. Yaakov’s account, which sheds new light on a clash that shaped the contours of the modern Middle East conflict, reveals Israel’s early consideration of how it might use its nuclear arsenal to preserve itself.

“It’s the last secret of the 1967 war,” said Avner Cohen, a leading scholar of Israel’s nuclear history who conducted many interviews with the retired general.

Mr. Yaakov, who oversaw weapons development for the Israeli military, detailed the plan to Dr. Cohen in 1999 and 2000, years before he died in 2013 at age 87.

“Look, it was so natural,” said Mr. Yaakov, according to a transcription of a taped interview. “You’ve got an enemy, and he says he’s going to throw you to the sea. You believe him.”

“How can you stop him?” he asked. “You scare him. If you’ve got something you can scare him with, you scare him.”

Israel has never acknowledged the existence of its nuclear arsenal, in an effort to preserve “nuclear ambiguity” and forestall periodic calls for a nuclear-free Middle East. In 2001, Mr. Yaakov was arrested, at age 75, on charges that he had imperiled the country’s security by talking about the nuclear program to an Israeli reporter, Ronen Bergman, whose work was censored. At various moments, American officials, including former President Jimmy Carter long after he left office, have acknowledged the existence of the Israeli program, though they have never given details. [Continue reading…]

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The past 50 years of Israeli occupation. And the next

Nathan Thrall writes: Three months after the 1967 war, Israel’s ruling Mapai Party held a discussion on the future of the newly conquered territories. Golda Meir, who would become Israel’s leader a year and a half later, asked Prime Minister Levi Eshkol what he planned to do with the more than one million Arabs now living under Israeli rule.

“I get it,” Mr. Eshkol jokingly replied. “You want the dowry, but you don’t like the bride!” Mrs. Meir responded, “My soul yearns for the dowry, and to let someone else take the bride.”

On this 50th anniversary of the war, it is clear that over the half-century that followed, Israel managed to fulfill Mrs. Meir’s wish, keeping control of the land indefinitely without wedding itself to the inhabitants. This resilient and eminently sustainable arrangement, so often mischaracterized as a state of limbo assumed to be temporary, has stood on three main pillars: American backing, Palestinian weakness and Israeli indifference. Together, the three ensure that for the Israeli government, continuing its occupation is far less costly than the concessions required to end it. [Continue reading…]

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Israel approves first new West Bank settlement in 20 years

BBC News reports: Israel has approved the establishment of its first new Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank in two decades.

The security cabinet voted unanimously late on Thursday to begin construction on a hilltop known as “Geulat Zion”, near the Palestinian city of Nablus.

It will be used to house some 40 families whose homes were cleared from an unauthorised settlement outpost.

Palestinian officials have condemned the move and called on the international community to intervene.

It comes despite US President Donald Trump asking Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month to “hold back” on settlement construction. [Continue reading…]

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New Hamas charter would name ‘occupiers,’ not ‘Jews,’ as the enemy

The New York Times reports: Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that has governed the Gaza Strip for a decade, is drafting a new platform to present a more pragmatic and cooperative face to the world, Hamas officials confirmed on Thursday.

The document would represent a departure from the group’s contentious 1988 charter, in which it promised to “obliterate” Israel and characterized its struggle as specifically against Jews. The new document defines Hamas’s enemies as “occupiers.”

“It means that we don’t fight Jews because they are Jews,” said Taher el-Nounou, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza. “Our struggle is only against those who occupied our lands.”

The new document would accept borders of the territory captured by Israel in the 1967 war as the basis for a Palestinian state. It would not recognize Israel, however, nor would it give up future claims to all of what Hamas considers Palestinian lands.

Mr. Nounou said the document, the result of four years of work, is not yet final and has not yet been approved by Hamas’s governing bodies. Nor are its contents wholly new, even though they seem now to carry both practical and symbolic weight, particularly in Hamas’s relations with Egypt. [Continue reading…]

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‘Worst view in the world’: Banksy opens hotel overlooking Bethlehem wall

The Guardian reports: The Walled Off hotel may sound utilitarian, even bleak. Its owner says it has “the worst view of any hotel in the world”, while its 10 rooms get just 25 minutes of direct sunlight a day.

But, nestled against the controversial barrier wall separating Israel from the Palestinian territories, the West Bank’s answer to the Waldorf offers travellers something more elusive than any luxury destination.

The lodging in Bethlehem is a hotel, museum, protest and gallery all in one, packed with the artworks and angry brilliance of its owner, British street artist Banksy. [Continue reading…]

 

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Trump warns Israel: stop announcing new settlements

The Jerusalem Post reports: The White House warned Israel on Thursday – in a surprising statement – to cease settlement announcements that are “unilateral” and “undermining” of President Donald Trump’s effort to forge Middle East peace, a senior administration official told The Jerusalem Post.

For the first time, the administration confirmed that Trump is committed to a comprehensive two-state solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict negotiated between the parties.

The official told the Post that the White House was not consulted on Israel’s unprecedented announcement of 5,500 new settlement housing units over the course of his first two weeks in office. [Continue reading…]

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For hardline West Bank settlers, Jared Kushner’s their man

Reuters reports: For many in the Israeli settlement of Bet El, deep in the occupied West Bank, Donald Trump’s choice of Jared Kushner as his senior adviser on the Middle East is a sign of politics shifting in their favor.

They regard Kushner, whose family’s charitable foundation has donated tens of thousands of dollars to their settlement, as part of a diplomatic rebalancing after what they view as eight years of anti-Israel bias under the U.S. administration of Barack Obama.

“He will stand up for our interests. I suppose he will lean in our favor,” said Avi Lavi, 46, who has lived in Bet El for more than 40 years. “He’ll be fair, as opposed to Obama, whose policy leaned always towards the Arabs.”

New U.S. President Trump says his son-in-law Kushner, 36, is capable of brokering the “ultimate deal” to deliver peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Roi Margalit, manager of the Bet El Yeshiva, a seminary complex with around 400 students, said Kushner, an Orthodox Jewish father of three, understood the position of Israeli settlers better than previous envoys.

“At least now we have someone who knows us,” the 43-year-old added. “He will now have to study the other side (the Palestinians) and see if there is any common ground.”

Trump’s pick for Israeli ambassador has sparked particular enthusiasm in the community: David Friedman, who chairs the American Friends of Bet El Institutions fundraising group. [Continue reading…]

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