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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Israel approves settlement homes following Trump inauguration

BBC News reports: srael has approved hundreds of new settlement homes in occupied East Jerusalem, after the staunch pro-Israel US President Donald Trump took office.

Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Meir Turgeman told AFP: “Now we can finally build.”

Israel’s PM reportedly delayed approval given the opposition of Barack Obama, who infuriated Israel by allowing a UN resolution against settlements to pass.

Settlements in East Jerusalem are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that Mr Trump had invited him to a meeting in Washington in February, on a date yet to be decided. [Continue reading…]

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Netanyahu calls for pardon of convicted soldier Azaria

Al Jazeera reports: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for a pardon of Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier found guilty of manslaughter after he shot and killed a wounded Palestinian last year.

“This is a difficult and painful day – first and foremost for Elor, his family, Israel’s soldiers, many citizens and parents of soldiers, among them me … I support granting a pardon to Elor Azaria,” Netanyahu said Wednesday on his Facebook page.

The country’s president, Reuven Rivlin, who has the authority to issue pardons, said he will wait for the legal process to run its course before making a decision.

“In the event that a pardon should be requested, it will be considered by the president in accordance with standard practices and after recommendations from the relevant authorities,” he said in presidential statement.

The remarks were made just hours after Azaria was convicted on Wednesday in the high-profile case that raised questions over rules of engagement towards perceived threats by Palestinians.

A judge read out the court’s decision for more than two hours before announcing the verdict. The 20-year-old soldier could now face a maximum 20 years in prison. [Continue reading…]

The Washington Post reports: David Enoch, a professor in the faculty of law and philosophy at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said that the trial and public debate surrounding it marked a “horrible deterioration in Israeli society.”

“It’s not as if racism or violence against Palestinians is new, but at least in the past there were attempts to be civilized. There was at least some sanity,” Enoch said. “Now, many of those asking for Azaria to be pardoned have not mistaken the facts of the case. They just see an Israeli Jewish soldier shooting a Palestinian terrorist, and they don’t care about anything else.”

Even before the verdict was read, some Israeli leaders, including senior government ministers, called for the soldier to be pardoned.

“He should not sit one day in jail. We expect the defense minister to stick to his promises and initiate an immediate amnesty for Azaria,” read a statement from the far-right Jewish Home party, headed by Education Minister Naftali Bennett. [Continue reading…]

The Associated Press reports: An Israeli advocacy group on Tuesday criticized what it called an “exceptionally low” prosecution rate by the Israeli military in cases of violence committed by soldiers against Palestinians.

The report by Yesh Din, a human rights group that is often critical of the Israeli military, came a day before a military court’s verdict is to be delivered in a high-profile manslaughter case against a soldier.

In its annual report, Yesh Din said the army opened 186 criminal investigations into suspected offenses against Palestinians in 2015, but just four of those investigations yielded indictments. The group said the 2015 figures, based on official army data, were the most recent available.

In the fall of 2015, a wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence erupted, characterized by Palestinian stabbing and car-ramming attacks on Israelis. The report said that of 76 Palestinians killed in clashes with soldiers in the West Bank in 2015, only 21 deaths resulted in investigations.

“The fact that in 55 incidents no criminal investigation was considered necessary raises doubts about the implementation of Israel’s declared policy on investigating civilian fatalities,” the report said. It said the data signaled an “inability and unwillingness” to address unlawful conduct. [Continue reading…]

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Israeli settlements grew on Obama’s watch. They may be poised for a boom on Trump’s

The Washington Post reports: Through eight years of escalating criticism from the world’s most powerful leader, Israeli construction in these sacred, militarily occupied hills never stopped.

Thousands of homes were built. Miles of roadway. Restaurants. Shopping malls. A university.

Here in Shiloh, a tourist center went up, with a welcome video in which the biblical figure Joshua commands the Jewish people to settle the land promised to them by God.

Israeli settlements may be illegal in the eyes of the U.N. Security Council and a major obstacle to Middle East peace in the view of the Obama administration.

But every day they become a more entrenched reality on land that Palestinians say should rightfully belong to them. As the parched beige hilltops fill with red-tiled homes, decades of international efforts to achieve a two-state solution are unraveling.

And global condemnations notwithstanding, the trend is poised to accelerate.

Already, Israel has a right-wing government that boasts it is more supportive of settlement construction than any in the country’s short history. Within weeks, it will also have as an ally a U.S. president, Donald Trump, who has signaled he could make an extraordinary break with decades of U.S. policy and end American objections to the settlements. [Continue reading…]

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The world has finally called Israel’s bluff on its non-existent Palestinian peace process

Tony Karon writes: Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long based his settlement strategy on the assumption that the international community will ignore the plight of the Palestinians. But the United Nations proved him wrong on Dec. 23, passing Security Council resolution 2334, which reaffirms the longstanding UN ruling that all Israeli settlements built outside Israel’s pre-1967 borders violate international law.

Israel has reacted with predictable fury to the UN resolution, with Netanyahu engaging in theatrical attempts to humiliate the resolution’s supporters. Netanyahu has also jousted verbally with US secretary of state John Kerry over the Obama administration’s reasons for withholding its veto, presumably hoping to impress his domestic political audience with an almost comical display of assumed international authority.

But even though Israel has made it clear that the non-binding resolution won’t restrain its continued settlement construction on the ground, the tone of its response reflects a well-grounded anxiety over the potential consequences of renewed international engagement on the conflict.

Despite Netanyahu’s confidence that the incoming Trump administration will back Israel on its settlement enterprise, the fact that not a single Israeli ally voted against the resolution deals a staggering blow to the prime minister’s core belief that Israel can normalize its international standing while denying the rights of millions of Palestinians. Netanyahu frequently boasts of Israel’s diplomatic gains, claiming it has made common cause with Sunni Arab states against Iran. But these statements are based on the unspoken assumption that amid more dramatic developments elsewhere, the world will simply forget about the Palestinians’ plight. [Continue reading…]

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Diana Buttu & Gideon Levy on Israeli settlements, Kerry, military aid & end of two-state solution

 

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Under every scenario, Israel continues expanding settlements

In an editorial, the New York Times says: Many of Mr. Netanyahu’s accusations and those of his supporters misrepresent the history of Israeli-American relations, malign Mr. Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry, and confuse what should be a serious debate over the future of a negotiated peace between Israelis and Palestinians, which seems further away every day. With less than three weeks before Mr. Obama leaves office, Mr. Kerry on Wednesday finally gave the speech he wanted to give two years ago — a passionate, blunt and detailed warning about why the two-state solution is in jeopardy and how it might yet be salvaged before incalculable damage is done to Israel and the region.

Inconveniently for Mr. Netanyahu’s claim that the Security Council resolution was the result of perfidy by Mr. Obama, the measure was adopted 14 to 0, with support from Russia, China and Egypt, among others. It declared that the settlements, in territory that Israel captured from Jordan during the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, have no legal validity; affirming longstanding United Nations and American policy, it cited the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which prohibits any occupying power from transferring its own people to conquered territory.

The most politically volatile feature of the new resolution was that it explicitly condemned Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem. Mr. Netanyahu has emphasized that the language did not distinguish between Jerusalem and the West Bank and hence treated the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City and the Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews can pray, as occupied territory.

Under any negotiated solution to the conflict, Israelis expect their capital to be Jerusalem. But Palestinians also expect to have areas of Jerusalem as their capital, and to have access to Muslim holy sites there. That is why this resolution did not represent a change in the position of the United Nations, which has referred to Jerusalem in many such statements backed by past American administrations. Under Mr. Obama, the United States continues to subscribe to the position enshrined in the 1993 Oslo accords that the future of Jerusalem, like that of the West Bank, should be decided through negotiation — not by diktat by either side.

Anyone who doesn’t think so hasn’t looked at the map or studied the history of the settlement movement. Right-wing Israeli settlers have been quite open for decades about their patient approach to claiming Jerusalem and the West Bank by strategically placing settlements to prevent the creation of a viable Palestinian state. Since 2009, when Mr. Obama took office, the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank has grown to around 400,000, a gain of more than 100,000, and the number of settlers in East Jerusalem has grown to roughly 208,000, from 193,000, according to Americans for Peace Now. During the same period, construction has begun on over 12,700 settlement units on the West Bank.

Supporters of Mr. Netanyahu argue that Mr. Obama has now only inflamed the Israeli right and encouraged more settlement-building, as if this Israeli government would otherwise show restraint. This is the cynical logic of the settlement movement: When the world is silent, Israel can build settlements; when the world objects, Israel must build settlements. Under any scenario, settlements will grow, and the possibility of a two-state solution will recede. [Continue reading…]

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How the U.S. came to abstain on a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements

The Washington Post reports: On Dec. 21, amid his morning workout, an afternoon round of golf and a family dinner with friends, President Obama interrupted his Hawaii vacation to consult by phone with his top national security team in Washington. Egypt had introduced a resolution at the U.N. Security Council condemning Israeli settlements as illegal, and a vote was scheduled for the next day.

The idea had been circulating at the council for months, but the abrupt timing was a surprise. Obama was open to abstaining, he said on the call, provided the measure was “balanced” in its censure of terrorism and Palestinian violence and there were no last-minute changes in the text.

Skeptics, including Vice President Biden, warned of fierce backlash in Congress and in Israel itself. But most agreed that the time had come to take a stand. The rapid increase of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, despite escalating U.S. criticism, could very well close the door to any hope of negotiating side-by-side Israeli and Palestinian states. Pending Israeli legislation would retroactively legalize settlements already constructed on Palestinian land.

The resolution’s sponsors, four countries in addition to Egypt, were determined to call a vote before Obama left office. A U.S. veto would not only imply approval of Israeli actions but also likely take Israel off the hook for at least the next four years during President-elect Donald Trump’s administration.

The United States, in discussions with New Zealand and indirectly with Egypt, insisted it would not even consider the matter unless the resolutions were more balanced to reflect criticism of Palestinian violence along with condemnation of Israeli settlements, according to U.S. officials.

The officials categorically denied Israeli allegations this week that the United States secretly pushed the resolutions. An Egyptian newspaper report alleging that Rice and Kerry met in early December with Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and the head of Palestinian intelligence to plot the resolution was false, officials said. While Kerry and Rice met separately with Erekat during a visit here, they said, there was no intelligence official and no discussion of a resolution. [Continue reading…]

As far as these claims of orchestration go, the most likely collaboration going on has been between the offices of Prime Minister Netanyahu and Egyptian President Sisi. The Egyptians don’t want to get punished by Israel or the incoming Trump administration and thus duly conjured up or at least obligingly published a “leaked document.”

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Kerry rebukes Israel, calling settlements a threat to peace

The New York Times reports: Secretary of State John Kerry warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Wednesday that the Israeli government was undermining any hope of a two-state solution to its decades-long conflict with the Palestinians, and said that the American vote in the United Nations last week was driven by an effort to save Israel from “the most extreme elements” in its own government.

With only 23 days left as secretary of state, Mr. Kerry, the former presidential candidate who made the search for peace in the Middle East one of the driving missions of his four years as secretary, spoke with clear frustration about Mr. Netanyahu’s continued support of settlements “strategically placed in locations that make two states impossible.” But he spoke knowing that the incoming administration of President-elect Donald J. Trump may well abandon the key principles that the United States has used for decades of Middle East negotiations.

“The status quo is leading toward one state, or perpetual occupation,” Mr. Kerry said, his voice animated. He argued that Israel, with a growing Arab population, could not survive as both a Jewish state and a democratic state unless it embraced the two-state approach that a succession of American presidents have advocated. [Continue reading…]

The New York Times reports: Israeli leaders postponed plans on Wednesday to move ahead with new housing in East Jerusalem, just hours before Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a much-anticipated speech outlining an American vision for peace with the Palestinians.

The Jerusalem city planning committee, which was reported to be acting at the behest of the national government, canceled at the last moment a scheduled vote on permits for 618 new housing units in the predominantly Palestinian eastern section of the city. Members of the committee said the delay came at the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. [Continue reading…]

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John Kerry, in a final, pointed plea, will outline a vision of Mideast peace

The New York Times reports: In a last-chance effort to shape the outlines of a Middle East peace deal, Secretary of State John Kerry is to outline in a speech on Wednesday the Obama administration’s vision of a final Israeli-Palestinian accord based on bitter lessons learned from an effort that collapsed in 2014.

A senior State Department official said that Mr. Kerry, who will be out of office in less than a month and no longer in a position to negotiate any deal, will use his remarks to confront Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who has charged that the United States “orchestrated” a United Nations Security Council resolution last week condemning Israel’s continued building of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The United States abstained from the resolution, infuriating Mr. Netanyahu.

The speech, the latest salvo in a final conflict between Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Obama as Donald J. Trump prepares to assume the presidency, will make the case that “the vote was not unprecedented” and that Mr. Obama’s decision “did not blindside Israel.” Mr. Kerry, the official said, would cite other cases in which Washington officials had allowed similar votes under previous presidents.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a coming speech, said Mr. Kerry would also argue that, with the notable exception of Israel, there was a “complete international consensus” against further settlements in areas that might ultimately be the subject of negotiations.

At this late date, weeks ahead of the inauguration of Mr. Trump, who openly lobbied on Israel’s side against the United Nations resolution, it is unclear what Mr. Kerry hopes to achieve from the speech, other than to leave a set of principles that he believes will one day emerge as the basis for talks, if and when they resume.

Mr. Kerry, the official said, has long wanted to give a speech outlining an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal but was held back by White House officials, who saw it as unnecessary pressure on Israel that would anger Mr. Netanyahu. But that objection was lifted last week as Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry agreed the time had come to abstain on the United Nations resolution. That decision led to one of the biggest breaches yet in the rocky American-Israeli relationship during the Obama years. [Continue reading…]

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Netanyahu ‘told New Zealand backing UN vote would be declaration of war’

The Guardian reports: Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told New Zealand’s foreign minister that support for a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlement-building in the occupied territories would be viewed as a “declaration of war”.

According to reports in Israeli media, the Israeli PM called Murray McCully, the foreign minister of New Zealand, before Friday’s resolution, which was co-sponsored by Wellington. Netanyahu told him: “This is a scandalous decision. I’m asking that you not support it and not promote it.

“If you continue to promote this resolution, from our point of view it will be a declaration of war. It will rupture the relations and there will be consequences. We’ll recall our ambassador [from New Zealand] to Jerusalem.”

McCully, however, refused to back down, telling Netanyahu: “This resolution conforms to our policy and we will move it forward.”

A western diplomat confirmed that the call took place and described the conversation as “harsh”.

The details of the call – disclosed in Haaretz – suggest a mounting sense of panic on the part of Netanyahu in the run-up to the UN security council resolution that passed on Friday demanding an end to settlement building.

As well as the Netanyahu call, a senior official in Israel’s foreign ministry called New Zealand’s ambassador to Israel, Jonathan Curr, and warned that if the resolution came to a vote, Israel might close its embassy in Wellington in protest.

Israel responded furiously to the vote, threatening diplomatic reprisals against the countries that voted in favour. Diplomatic ties with New Zealand were temporarily severed and ambassador Itzhak Gerberg was recalled.

But in a sign that the international pressure may be being felt by the Netanyahu administration, scheduled plans to consider for approval 600 new settlement houses in occupied east Jerusalem were abruptly removed from the agenda of the city’s municipality on Wednesday.

Netanyahu’s language and behaviour – which has resulted in ambassadors being reprimanded and consultations with foreign leaders, including the UK’s Theresa May, cancelled – has raised eyebrows among foreign diplomats, who point out that the UN resolution does no more than confirm the longstanding view of the international community on Jewish settlements. [Continue reading…]

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Netanyahu’s conviction that the world needs Israel more than Israel needs the world

Raphael Ahren writes: One of the thirteen principles of the Jewish faith, compiled by the medieval philosopher Maimonides, reads as follows: “I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah, and although he may tarry, I wait every day for his coming.”

Replace “the Messiah” with “a drastic increase in Israel’s global popularity,” and you’ll get the first article of faith from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s foreign policy gospel.

It is his ironclad belief, despite significant evidence to the contrary, that Israel’s standing in the world is terrific and will imminently become even better that lies behind the array of dramatic punitive steps he took this week against the 14 countries who supported Friday’s anti-settlement resolution at the UN Security Council, and the one who abstained — the United States.

Netanyahu’s deep-seated conviction that the world no longer much cares about the settlements, or Palestinian statehood, but is extremely thirsty for Israel’s high-tech prowess and anti-terrorism know-how, has been undented by even the most crushing diplomatic defeats. [Continue reading…]

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Netanyahu goes to war with the world

David Horovitz writes: …the failed pre-vote diplomatic maneuvering by Netanyahu gives credence to those of his critics who argue that he has entered panic mode. For all the serenity and confidence he exudes in his public appearances, and for all that he is appeasing parts of his right-wing constituency — a critical imperative for retaining power — his tactics on Thursday were a mess, and he now seems to be deepening the damage.

While you might justify calling in the next president to thwart the current president if you’ve thought the high-risk gambit all the way through, you’re going to look worse than foolish if you fail to do your homework and wind up losing.

And that’s exactly what happened. Trump answered Netanyahu’s call, reached out to Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, and the resolution was withdrawn. A Pyrrhic victory. Within hours, Senegal, Venezuela, Malaysia and New Zealand had stepped in to advance the very same resolution, and there was nothing that even the president-elect could do about that. So Trump wasted his pre-presidential capital, Sissi was humiliated, and Israel lost the vote.


Netanyahu, and those advising him, might be sensibly dismayed by Trump’s dispassionate response to the setback. Initially, at least, there was no fervent defense of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, no pledge to reverse the pernicious decree, just a mild, rather ho-hum tweet on Saturday, that the “big loss yesterday for Israel in the United Nations will make it much harder to negotiate peace. Too bad, but we will get it done anyway!”

More urgently, though, the prime minister should be considering whether a similar inadequately calculated process is now playing out again. Those who seek to harm Israel will themselves be harmed, he has been warning. This is “the swan song of the old world, that is anti-Israel,” he declared on Saturday night. Soon Trump will be president, and the Israel-bashers will have hell to pay.

But there are two major flaws in that argument. Trump is not yet president. And not everybody who voted for that UNSC resolution loathes Israel.

Yet Netanyahu has taken them all on. With a lack of courtesy he would rightly castigate if the tables were turned, he summoned the ambassadors of the 12 yes-voting countries with which Israel has diplomatic relations for a dressing-down on Christmas Day. Imagine the outrage were a host country to call in the Israeli envoy on, say, Rosh Hashanah.

He ordered his ministers to minimize their dealings with these 12 countries. He canceled, or chose not to schedule, a meeting — depending on whose account you believe — with Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May at the World Economic Forum in Davos next month. Theresa May, who last week enthused about “remarkable” Israel at a Conservative Friends of Israel lunch, in a speech overflowing with admiration and empathy for the Jewish state. Likewise, he chose not to arrange a meeting with Xi Jinping, the president of China, a country with which Netanyahu has striven for years to bolster relations. He summoned home his ambassadors from Senegal and New Zealand. He cancelled a visit to Israel this week by the prime minister of Ukraine, who just so happens to be Jewish.

“They are spitting at us,” he was reported on Sunday to have been telling colleagues. “We will respond with power.” But we are one, small Israel, and it is our interest to widen support for our cause among the nations, to engage, to dialogue, to explain. We rightly condemn boycotts. Now Netanyahu is instituting them.

For all his fury at the perfidy of the international community, his sense of grievance and injustice, the question he must be asked is whether this is going to work. The Obama administration still has more than three weeks left in office. Kerry has said he will soon make a speech setting out his Middle East vision. On January 15, France is convening a summit on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Netanyahu now reportedly fears that the scheming US administration, in coordination with the other Middle East Quartet members — Russia, the EU and the reviled UN — will utilize that gathering to draw up a second UN Security Council resolution to enshrine the parameters of a Palestinian state.

To again quote Kerry at the Saban Forum, “we have always stood against any imposition of a, quote, ‘final status solution.’” But in the current frenetic atmosphere, Netanyahu — rightly or wrongly — sees danger. Casting around for leverage, on Saturday night he warned that Israel’s friends in Congress would draw up legislation to punish states and organizations, such as the UN, that seek to harm Israel. “We won’t let anybody hurt the State of Israel,” he vowed.

But the inconvenient truth is that while 14 nations supported Resolution 2334, and the US chose not to oppose it, those 14 are not all enemies of Israel, far from it, and the United States certainly isn’t. The Czech Republic and Panama might, just might, have voted no, or abstained, but basically the entire world rejects the legality of the settlement enterprise. And much of that world, as Netanyahu has in the recent past enthusiastically highlighted, either broadly supports Israel or is moving in that direction. [Continue reading…]

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Defying UN, Israel prepares to build more settlements

The New York Times reports: Undeterred by a resounding defeat at the United Nations, Israel’s government said Monday that it would move ahead with thousands of new homes in East Jerusalem and warned nations against further action, declaring that Israel does not “turn the other cheek.”

Just a few days after the United Nations Security Council voted to condemn Israeli settlements, Jerusalem’s municipal government signaled that it would not back down: The city intends to approve 600 housing units in the predominantly Palestinian eastern section of town on Wednesday in what a top official called a first installment on 5,600 new homes.

The defiant posture reflected a bristling anger among Israel’s pro-settlement political leaders, who not only blamed the United States for failing to block the Council resolution, but also claimed to have secret intelligence showing that President Obama’s team had orchestrated it. American officials strongly denied the claim, but the sides seem poised for more weeks of conflict until Mr. Obama hands over the presidency to Donald J. Trump.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lashed out at Security Council countries by curbing diplomatic contacts, recalling envoys, cutting off aid and summoning the American ambassador for a scolding. He canceled a planned visit this week by Ukraine’s prime minister even as he expressed concern on Monday that Mr. Obama was planning more action at the United Nations before his term ends next month.

The prime minister defended his retaliation. “Israel is a country with national pride, and we do not turn the other cheek,” he said. “This is a responsible, measured and vigorous response, the natural response of a healthy people that is making it clear to the nations of the world that what was done at the U.N. is unacceptable to us.” [Continue reading…]

Let’s suppose the resolution that just passed in the Security Council was now presented to the General Assembly. It would, without doubt, also receive overwhelming support there too.

In that event, what would Netanyahu then do? Look for ways in which Israel can punish the whole world?

That Netanyahu insists Israel does not “turn the other cheek,” says two things:

He views the resolution as a form of victimization. The UN, supposedly under Obama’s direction, is “ganging up” on Israel.

And this victimization is an expression of anti-Semitism — by referencing the Christian dictum, he is insinuating that the resolution is implicitly an attack on Jews.

But this is a reflex doomed for endless repetition. Those who truly believe that the whole world stands against them, not because of what they do but because of who they are, allow themselves to be snared by their own identity.

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The genius of the UN’s resolution on Israeli settlements

Bob Carr, Australia’s former Minister for Foreign Affairs, writes: In 1967 Israel won control of the West Bank as a result of its success in the Six Day War. Its then prime minister Levi Eshkol​ wanted to consolidate control by planting settlements on the occupied territory. He asked Theodor Meron​, his chief legal adviser, whether this would be legal.

No, said Meron. The Geneva Convention says no nation may settle its own population on land it wins in war.

Meron is alive today, an eminent international jurist. He says he was right then and is right now.

All those settlements, all illegal.

I recall a conversation about 12 years ago with an Australian business leader, just back from Israel. He held out some hope for a negotiated peace.

“But what about the settlements?” I asked. At the time I was premier and patron of Labor Friends of Israel.

“Bob, don’t worry. If the Israeli people get a peace deal they will withdraw the settlements.”

Next time I looked settlement population numbers had soared another 150,000, something which left me with the distinct impression of having been conned – no, having been lied to – by the Israel lobby. Sure we subscribe to a two-state solution, they insist, but while you’re looking the other way we’re spreading settlements as fast as possible to render it impossible. [Continue reading…]

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Israel: Humbled Netanyahu places hopes in Trump

The Associated Press reports: The Israeli government’s furious reaction to the U.N. Security Council’s adoption of a resolution opposing Jewish settlements in occupied territory underscores its fundamental and bitter dispute with the international community about the future of the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists that there is nothing wrong with his controversial policy of building Jewish towns in occupied areas that the Palestinians, with overwhelming world support, claim for their state. But Friday’s U.N. rebuke was a stark reminder that the rest of the world considers it a crime. The embattled leader is now placing his hopes in the incoming administration of Donald Trump, which is shaping up as the first major player to embrace Israel’s nationalist right and its West Bank settlements.

In a series of statements, Netanyahu has criticized the Obama Administration for letting Resolution 2334 pass Friday by abstaining, using unprecedented language that has turned a policy disagreement into a personal vendetta.

“From the information that we have, we have no doubt that the Obama Administration initiated it, stood behind it, coordinated on the wording and demanded that it be passed,” Netanyahu told his Cabinet on Sunday.

In turning his anger toward Israel’s closest and most important ally, Netanyahu has underplayed the embarrassment that all 14 other nations on the Security Council voted in favor of the measure. Those votes came from countries that Netanyahu loves to boast of cultivating relations with, including Russia and China and nations across the developing world. [Continue reading…]

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UN vote will strengthen the boycott movement

Joseph Dana writes: After two decades of relentless settlement building and domination over Palestinian life, Israel has rendered its footprint on the West Bank indistinguishable from the terrain itself. From street signs to motorways, the dividing line between where Israel ends and the West Bank begins has slowly been erased on the ground. The only borders are walls, checkpoints and fences – none of which correspond to the internationally recognised demarcation line that resulted from the 1967 war.

Pessimism is a tempting reaction to just about everything in Israel and Palestine these days. So what could a toothless United Nations resolution do to reverse the years of colonisation? There have been other resolutions and they never forced any real change. What is different today?

A reasonable question, yet there is some hope on the horizon, even if the short-term future looks bleak. Throughout Israel’s colonisation project in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Tel Aviv has been shielded from biting backlash by the United States in forums such as the UN.

Late on Friday afternoon, however, a crack in the partnership appeared. The US abstained on a Security Council resolution that reaffirmed the illegality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The resolution itself was nothing new; it merely confirmed decades of international consensus on the conflict. In fact, many analysts felt it was far too little, far too late.

After eight years of snubbing and inappropriate behaviour from Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US president Barack Obama could have done much more to assert the illegality of Israel’s actions against Palestinians to send a clear message to Israel as to who the superpower in the alliance is. But Mr Obama acted with restraint, and that might prove to be a good thing in the long run. [Continue reading…]

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