Surprised Encounters and Important News Stories from Israel
Prepared by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
New Revelations: How the Obama Administration Treated Israel – Ariel Kahana (Makor Rishon-Hebrew-20Jan2017)
On Sept. 30, 2016, as world leaders departed from Israel after attending the funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office suddenly received a phone call from Air Force One, which was carrying President Barack Obama and John Kerry back to Washington.
Netanyahu’s chief of staff, Yoav Horowitz, took the call. “Tell your boss that if he also wants a funeral like Peres, he should begin to move, to make progress,” the American on the phone told him.
Horowitz immediately passed on the message to Netanyahu, who replied, “Tell him that I will forgo the honor, because I have no intention of participating in the funeral of the State of Israel.”
In violation of all accepted practices, there were direct conversations between then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and officers of the IDF Civil Administration in the West Bank.
The American Secretary of State personally cross-examined IDF officers and reprimanded them over the destruction of Palestinian houses.
Islamic State Militants Blow Up Transmission Towers in Sinai (Ma’an News-PA)
Islamic State militants blew up two transmission towers in Sinai in the Red Sea coastal area of Oyoun Moussa south of the Suez canal on Saturday evening, Egyptian security sources said.
The militants had arrived from central Sinai and planted explosive devices under the towers that supply electricity to Jordan.
Jordan Boosts Border Forces amid ISIS Threat from Iraq, Syria (AP-Military Times)
Brig. Gen. Sami Kafawin, who commands Jordan’s border guard forces, says the kingdom faces a growing threat as Islamic State extremists in neighboring Iraq and Syria are being dislodged from their strongholds by military offensives.
He said that nearly half of Jordan’s military personnel and resources have now been deployed along the Iraqi and Syrian borders to safeguard against ISIS.
New Desalination Plant Opens in Gaza (AP)
Gaza’s second and largest desalination plant opened Thursday that will initially produce 6,000 cubic meters of water a day.
The EU invested $10.6 million in the plant with UNICEF. There are plans to double its capacity by 2019.
Hamas did not participate in the project, and it was not represented at the opening ceremony.
ISIS Destroys Part of Palmyra’s Roman Theater in Syria (BBC News)
Militants from the Islamic State have destroyed part of the Roman Theater in the ancient city of Palmyra. The jihadists recaptured the archaeological site in December.
ISIS destroyed other monuments after it first seized Palmyra in May 2015.
Trump, Netanyahu Discuss Iran and Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process – Rory Jones
President Donald Trump spoke Sunday by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about ways to strengthen relations between their two countries and “threats posed by Iran,” according to the White House. Trump invited Netanyahu to meet in Washington in February.
“The President affirmed his unprecedented commitment to Israel’s security and stressed that countering ISIL [ISIS] and other radical Islamic terrorist groups will be a priority for his Administration,” the White House said. Trump also emphasized that peace could only be negotiated directly between Israelis and Palestinians.
With regard to moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, “We are at the very beginning stages of even discussing this subject,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said. (Wall Street Journal)
Israel to Resume Construction in Jerusalem, Settlement Blocs
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the security cabinet on Sunday he will soon announce expanded construction in the settlement blocs and ease all building restrictions in east Jerusalem, Israel’s Channel 2 reported. He told ministers that his “vision” is that all of the settlements in the West Bank will ultimately come under Israeli sovereignty in any accommodation.
The cabinet discussed the proposed extension of Israeli sovereignty to Ma’ale Adumim, a city of 40,000 next to Jerusalem. According to the Walla news website, Netanyahu told the ministers: “I support Israeli sovereignty over Ma’ale Adumim. There is no question about Ma’ale Adumim, and in any future accord it will be under Israeli sovereignty. But right now, at the request of the U.S. administration, we were asked not to surprise them but to formulate a joint policy.” (Times of Israel)
Israeli Defense Minister Sees Regional Agreement as Key to Palestinian Issue
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman met with former CIA Director David Petraeus in Jerusalem on Sunday. Lieberman called for an anti-terrorism coalition that would include Israel and moderate Arab states to fight against radical Islamic terrorism. He said the success of such a coalition would serve as the basis for reaching a comprehensive regional settlement between Israel and the Arab states, including a solution to the Palestinian issue.
Lieberman stressed that there is no possibility of a bilateral agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, noting that such an arrangement has been attempted many times over the past 24 years. Resolving the conflict, he said, will only come as part of a broader regional arrangement. (Jerusalem Post)
U.S. Ambassador-Nominee Friedman to Reside in Jerusalem – Itamar Eichner
The new U.S. Ambassador-nominee to Israel, David Friedman, has decided not to live in the ambassador’s residence in Herzliya, and declared his intention to “work and live in Jerusalem,” where he owns an apartment. Israel has decided not to take an active role in the campaign to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem since it is an internal, American decision and Israel cannot be perceived as pressuring the American government to make the move. (Ynet News)
Israel Eyes Iranian Presence in Syria – Sima Shine
In addition to Israel’s reservations about the Iran nuclear deal, a weighty and more urgent issue is Iran’s desire to establish a massive military presence, together with Hizbullah, in Syria. High-ranking Iranian figures, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, present this as a top security interest, in part as a counter to Israel. Ali Akbar Velayati, Khamenei’s top foreign policy adviser, recently confirmed that Iran and Hizbullah will not leave Syria. The chief of staff of Iran’s armed offices has said that Tehran may establish a naval base in Syria.
An Iranian presence in Syria, particularly in the south, near the Golan Heights, has grave significance. It would create an additional front for Israel against Iran and Hizbullah that could lead to a possible future confrontation. An Israeli demand to include the removal of all foreign forces in any future agreement regarding Syria is vital to Israel’s security, and should be made of both the Russians and the U.S.
The writer, a senior research fellow at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, was a deputy director general in the Strategic Affairs Ministry and the head of the Mossad’s research division. (Ha’aretz)
An American-Israeli Partnership to Prevent Iran from Obtaining Nuclear Weapons – Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin
It would be wrong to give up the Iran nuclear agreement’s achievements, particularly in the first years, before the main restrictions on the nuclear program start becoming invalid. At the same time, it would be wrong to allow the radical regime in Iran to reach advanced nuclear capabilities which are made possible in the later years of the agreement.
With the arrival of the new U.S. administration, Israel has a second chance to influence U.S. policy toward the Iranian nuclear program: an opportunity for joint action against Iran and advancing a parallel agreement, an Israeli-American one, aimed at changing the strategic reality without violating the agreement.
First of all, the two countries must agree on a new public red line. They should respond undauntedly to Iranian attempts to take advantage of breaches in the agreement. Second, the two leaderships must agree on the intelligence system to be operated to discover Iranian violations, and on a basket of responses to any such violation. It is also necessary that understandings with the U.S. will put Israel’s military option back on the table as a last resort in order to prevent a nuclear Iran.
Finally, Washington and Jerusalem must come up with a plan of action against Iranian support for terror organizations in the region and enforce UN Resolution 2231, which prohibits Iran from developing ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear warheads. If deterrence and diplomacy fail, the American-Israeli partnership will be the way to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The writer, former chief of Israeli military intelligence, is director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). (Ynet News)
Netanyahu’s Message to the Iranian People: “We Are Your Friend, Not Your Enemy“ (Prime Minister’s Office)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has recorded a conciliatory message to the people of Iran. In a video uploaded to his Facebook page Saturday, he addresses the people of Iran in English, with Farsi subtitles.
- I’ve spoken a lot about the Iranian regime and not enough about the Iranian people, or, for that matter, to the Iranian people. So I hope this message reaches every Iranian.
- I know you’d prefer to live without fear. I know you’d want to be able to speak freely, to love who you want without the fear of being tortured or hung from a crane. I know you’d like to surf the Web freely and not have to see videos like this one using a virtual private network to circumvent censorship.
- You have a proud history. You have a rich culture. Tragically, you are shackled by a theocratic tyranny. In a free Iran you will once again be able to flourish without limit. But today, a cruel regime is trying to keep you down.
- This ruthless regime continues to deny you your freedom. It prevents thousands of candidates from competing in elections. It steals money from your poor to fund a mass murderer like Assad. By calling daily for Israel’s destruction, the regime hopes to instill hostility between us.
- This is wrong. We are your friend, not your enemy. We’ve always distinguished between the Iranian people and the Iranian regime. The regime is cruel – the people are not; the regime is aggressive – the people are warm.
- Our two peoples can work together for a more peaceful and hopeful future for both of us. We must defeat terror and tyranny and we must ensure that freedom and friendship win the day.
New Study: European Union a Major Financial Backer of BDS Organizations
|Despite its stated opposition to BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaigns against Israel, the European Union (EU) is a major financial backer of organizations that advocate for the country’s economic isolation, according to a new research report published today by NGO Monitor.|
NGO Monitor reviewed a number of recent EU regional funding programs designated for Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, and found that 29 out of 100 EU grants administered through the frameworks reviewed, funnel funds to BDS organizations (€16.7 million out of €67.1 million – roughly 25%). 42 out of 180 EU grantees in total support BDS – either through participation in activities and events, signing of petitions and initiatives, and/or membership in explicit BDS platforms. Several organizations were the recipients of more than one grant.
Due to the lack of EU transparency, the extent of humanitarian aid funding, funding for other designated regions, and other frameworks is largely unknown. As a result, the precise overall amount of EU funding to BDS organizations cannot be determined.
Non-governmental organization (NGO) funding is a central component of EU foreign policy, claiming to promote peace, cooperation, and human rights. However, in contrast to the stated objectives, the EU funds a number of highly biased and politicized NGOs that exploit the rhetoric of human rights to promote anti-peace campaigns that oppose a two-state framework.
According to Olga Deutsch, Director of the Europe Desk at NGO Monitor, “When confronted with the evidence that it is funding NGOs that contradict EU policy, the EU’s standard response is that it ‘funds projects submitted by NGOs, in line with [the] EU’s fundamental principles and values, but not NGOs themselves.’ However, this distinction is misleading, as project funding is inevitably used for overall organization and activity expenses.
Even without necessarily intending to, the EU grants legitimacy to BDS organizations – in several cases funding over 50% of an organization’s entire budget. We continue to reach out to our European colleagues in Brussels explaining the EU’s detrimental impact, as many of these BDS-supporting organizations would not even exist without their financial backing.”
The Dangers of a Unilateral Israeli Withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem
- In February 2016, the Labor Party adopted a unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank as a cornerstone of its platform.
- Thus, the two main political parties in Israel now agree that a negotiated peace agreement with the Palestinians based on two-states-for-two-peoples, by trading territory for peace, is not attainable at this time.
- This comes in the wake of the recognition that the Palestinians have opted for a “Plan B” based on doing everything and anything to avoid recognizing Israel as the legitimate state of the Jewish People while, at the same time, focusing on delegitimizing Israel and seeking to isolate Israel internationally.
- Labor’s policy of “constructive unilateralism” entails a withdrawal from some 80-85 percent of the West Bank, including dozens of neighborhoods in east Jerusalem; enticing, through incentives and legislation, 80-100,000 Israeli residents to give up their homes in the areas to be vacated and move to Israel proper or the settlement blocs; the completion of the security barrier; and maintaining a military presence on the Jordan River.
- Israel has withdrawn unilaterally twice before: from Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza in 2005. The unintended consequences of both these cases far outweighed the assumptions and predictions made at the time and did not foresee the collateral damage caused in their wake. These included four full-scale wars, thousands of cross-border incidents, and the transformation of tactical problems into strategic ones, all of which have left deep and indelible scars on Israel.
- The unilateralists say that by withdrawing, Israel is taking its future into its own hands and ending the “Palestinian veto” over our lives. The opposite is true. By standing firm and not running in the face of adversity, Israel controls its own destiny, maximizes security and fully maintains the only cards it has with which to negotiate its future.
- The way to make peace is not by giving away assets, but maintaining them until the partner comes to the table to negotiate, in accordance with the obligations to which it is committed and pursuant to its existing agreements with Israel.
- In “Israel’s Strategy of Unilateral Withdrawal,” published by the Institute for National Security Studies in June 2009, Dr. Shmuel Even writes: “In the end, the strategy of unilateral withdrawal caused Israel significant damage…. The strategy of unilateral withdrawal did not meet expectations because of some erroneous basic assumptions, estimates, and concepts that lay at the heart of the approach” – precisely the same mistakes about to be repeated by those now propagating a unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank.
- “When standing on the edge of a cliff, it is wiser to keep still than step forward,” Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror, a former head of the Israel National Security Council, wrote in June 2016. “It is wiser to defer action than to take unilateral steps that threaten to make a bad situation worse.”
Click here to read the Goodman study.