Posted by uscsjp on February 21, 2017
Posted by uscsjp on January 25, 2017
JERUSALEM — In a pointed act of defiance against international pressure, Israel on Tuesday approved a huge new wave of settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.
The announcement made clear that just a few days into the Trump presidency, the Israeli government feels emboldened to shake off the constraints imposed by the Obama administration and more willing to disregard international condemnation.
Leaders from 70 countries met in Paris more than a week ago and issued a warning that the two-state peace solution was imperiled by Israel’s expanding of settlements in Palestinian-claimed territory in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as violence against Israelis. But even though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has endorsed the principle of side-by-side states, in the past few days Israel’s campaign of settlement building has only accelerated.
The first step came on Sunday, when the Jerusalem City Council approved 566 new housing units in East Jerusalem that had been delayed over President Barack Obama’s objections.
Then on Tuesday, the Israeli government announced that 2,500 new housing units would be built in the West Bank. Officials said most would be built in “settlement blocs,” referring to areas of the West Bank that Israel has long intended to keep under any future agreement with the Palestinians, possibly in return for land swaps along the boundary that separated Israel from the West Bank before the 1967 war. But in years of failed negotiations, the Israelis and Palestinians have never agreed on the size or location of such blocs.
The Israeli Ministry of Defense said 900 of the newly announced homes were being planned for Ariel, an urban settlement of about 20,000 residents that Israel considers a “bloc,” but is strategically — and problematically — located in the heart of the West Bank. It also said it would bring to the cabinet a plan to build a large industrial zone to create work for Palestinians in the southern West Bank.
“We are going back to normal life in Judea and Samaria,” Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s hard-line defense minister, said in a statement announcing the new settlement building, referring to the West Bank by its biblical names.
Asked about the Israeli move, the White House spokesman, Sean Spicer, said that Mr. Trump was still getting his team together and that there would be discussions with Mr. Netanyahu. “Israel continues to be a huge ally of the United States,” Mr. Spicer said. “He wants to grow closer with Israel to make sure that it gets the full respect that it deserves in the Middle East, and that’s what he’s going to do.
Palestinian officials immediately denounced the new plans.
“Once again, the Israeli government has proved that it is more committed to land theft and colonialism than to the two-state solution and the requirements for peace and stability,” Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, said in a statement.
“It is evident that Israel is exploiting the inauguration of the new American administration to escalate its violations and the prevention of any existence of a Palestinian state,” she added, calling on the United States and other international players to take concrete measures against Israeli settlement activities.
Israel’s campaign of settlement construction has brought widespread criticism. A month ago, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution condemning Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as having no legal validity and constituting a “flagrant violation under international law” after the Obama administration decided not to veto the measure.
Days later, the departing secretary of state, John Kerry, rebuked Israel’s settlement activities in an impassioned speech, saying, “The status quo is leading toward one state and perpetual occupation.”
But with 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.
It was not immediately clear whether the Israeli announcement had been coordinated in advance with Mr. Trump’s team. But beyond Mr. Netanyahu’s apparent attempt to chart a new course with Mr. Trump, he is also under intense pressure from the right flank of his governing coalition to demonstrate where his domestic loyalties lie.
Naftali Bennett, the education minister and leader of the staunchly pro-settlement Jewish Home party, has been goading the prime minister to seize the moment and take the extreme step of beginning a process of annexing the West Bank settlements to Israel.
“Netanyahu is facing a historic decision: sovereignty or Palestine,” Mr. Bennett said on Monday. “We urge Netanyahu, don’t miss an opportunity that comes along once every 50 years.”
Mr. Netanyahu appeared to postpone any discussion of annexation: “This is no time for off-the-cuff decisions or political dictations, and this is no time for surprises.” This, he added, “is the time for considered, responsible diplomacy among friends.”
The prime minister’s office said that in a phone conversation with Mr. Trump on Sunday, Mr. Netanyahu discussed the peace process and hoped to forge a “common vision” with Mr. Trump “to advance peace and security in the region, with no daylight between the United States and Israel.” No more details were given.
The peace process has been at an impasse since the last round of American-brokered talks collapsed in the spring of 2014. During the nine months of talks, Mr. Netanyahu attempted to appease Israel’s right wing by advancing plans for about 13,000 new housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, infuriating the Palestinian side. The weakened Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, who appeared reluctant to take risks of his own, never responded to the ideas that Mr. Kerry’s team had formulated for a framework to guide further negotiations.
Now, with the change of American administrations, some Israeli analysts have recommended that Mr. Netanyahu take the opportunity to try to reinstate understandings that Israel had with President George W. Bush, who wrote in a 2004 letter that “already existing major Israeli population centers” should be taken into consideration in redrawing the borders between Israel and the West Bank — a reference to settlement blocs.
But that came in the context of Israel’s plans to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza and from a section of the northern West Bank. And the case of Ariel serves to illustrate the contentiousness of unilaterally defining the blocs.
Israelis have long labeled Ariel part of their national “consensus,” meaning that it would be included in Israel’s borders under any peace deal, and it often appears as one of the regular dots on Israeli weather maps. But Palestinian negotiators have always rejected that idea, arguing that Israeli control over Ariel would preclude the territorial contiguity of a Palestinian state. They also note that Ariel sits on a major aquifer.
According to Tuesday’s announcement, 20 of the new units are to be built in Beit El, a settlement deep in the West Bank that has particularly benefited from Mr. Friedman’s fund-raising activities. The government promised in 2012 to build 300 units in Beit El, a settlement of about 7,000 residents, to compensate for the court-ordered evacuation of part of a neighborhood there that was illegally built on private Palestinian land. So far, the promise has remained unfulfilled.
According to Israel’s Ministry of Defense, bids will now be solicited for the construction of about 900 of the 2,500 new units around the West Bank. But the rest, including most of those planned for Ariel, still have to go through additional planning phases, a bureaucratic process that can take months, if not years, and requires additional government approval at each stage.
Oded Revivi, the chief foreign envoy of the Yesha Council, an umbrella organization representing the more than 400,000 settlers in the West Bank, said in a statement, “We hope that this is just the beginning of a wave of new building across our ancestral homeland after eight very difficult years.”
But some in the settler camp played down the construction plans and expressed suspicions about Mr. Netanyahu’s intentions.
“We are not stupid,” Bezalel Smotrich, a legislator from the Jewish Home party, wrote in a post on his Facebook page. Objecting to the government announcement mostly describing the advancement of existing plans in settlement blocs, Mr. Smotrich accused Mr. Netanyahu of “throwing a candy” to the settlers and playing “public relations tricks.”
An earlier version of this article misstated part of the name of the world body that passed a resolution last month condemning Israeli settlements. It is the United Nations — not States — Security Council.
–New York Times, ISABEL KERSHNER, JAN. 24, 2017
Posted by uscsjp on January 25, 2017
POSTED ON: JAN 25, 2017
BY: Nisreen Eadeh/Staff Writer
President Trump is expected to sign executive orders today that include a temporary ban on most refugees and a suspension of visas for citizens from the Middle East and North Africa. In a tweet he sent late Tuesday night, President Trump said “Big day planned on NATIONAL SECURITY tomorrow.”
According to the immigration and congressional aides briefed on the issue, the ban on refugees, with the exception of those facing religious persecution, is likely to last for several months. President Trump wants the ban in place until a more aggressive vetting plan is in place.
However, the fact remains that most Syrian and Iraqi refugees fled because they faced religious persecution from the Islamic State. It is unclear if President Trump will allow them to be included in the small number of refugees who will be permited under his administration.
For the other executive order, visas will be banned for citizens from mostly Arab countries, including Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Iran, and Somalia. The aides say the president has it in his power to limit which countries refugees come from and who gets visas if the plan matches public interest. President Trump was elected partially for his plans to deport undocumented immigrants, stop the refugee resettlement program, and temporarily ban all Muslims from entering the United States.
Since becoming president, Trump and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions have said they would not ban all Muslims, but rather, anyone who comes from certain terror-prone countries. Many Trump supporters feared that allowing refugees from the Middle East into the country would bring Islamic terrorist attacks to U.S. soil. However, executive orders discriminating against a certain religion are unconstitutional and illegal.
Furthermore, the orders would wrongfully stigmatize and stereotype people from an entire region, who have been living in the U.S. for generations. They also apply a double standard to people of Middle Eastern and North African descent because their crimes are seen as more threatening than those of American mass shooters, who pose a larger danger to society than refugees.
The executive orders would also threaten a refugee resettlement deal the U.S. has with Australia. There are about 1,000 refugees and asylum seekers currently waiting to be resettled to the U.S. from Papua New Guinea on Australia’s behalf. Their plans to migrate to the U.S. were approved under President Obama’s administration, but are now unclear with President Trump.
–Arab America, Jan 25, 2017
Posted by uscsjp on December 31, 2016
PM Binyamin Netanyahu of Israel and his cabinet ministers are trying to punch above their weight. He wants to punish the UN, and apparently even the United States. Netanyahu has forbidden Israeli officials to travel to 12 of the countries on the UN Security Council who voted last Friday to condemn Israeli squatter settlements in the Palestinian West Bank (including in East Jerusalem, which Israel illegally has tried to annex).
Netanyahu also summoned the ambassadors of these countries in Tel Aviv on Christmas Day, producing some irritation, according to the Guardian; one diplomat observed, “What would they have said in Jerusalem if we summoned the Israeli ambassador on Yom Kippur?”
This sort of temper tantrum reminds us of Donald J. Trump’s petulant twitter wars with his critics. It is for the benefit of the Israeli right wing, since none of the 12 countries really cares whether Likud Party officials visit them or not.
Netanyahu also seems to have threatened to withdraw from the United Nations. What is ironic is the effort the Israeli government has put in to combating the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel’s Apartheid policies toward the stateless Palestinians. IF the BDS supporters could get 12 countries to refuse to see the Israeli ambassador and could get the UN to kick Israel out, they would be ecstatic. Netanyahu is self-BDS-ing, via his tantrum.
Israel is a small country of 8 million people, only 6 million of them Jews, and its annual gross domestic product, at around $300 billion, is similar to that of Denmark and Ireland (both less populous countries, so Israel is poorer than they per capita). Nobody much really cares in world affairs if Denmark gets in a snit about something, though to be fair the Danes haven’t really gotten in many snits in recent centuries.
I suppose center-right Danish PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen is capable of making noise about issues he cares about, but I haven’t ever even once seen him on American television.
One difference between Denmark and Israel is that the US Israel lobbies have extorted from the American people something on the order of $124 billion in aid for Israel, and President Barack Obama just authorized another $38 bn for Tel Aviv over the next ten years. Israel thus has an enormous military arsenal and a stockpile of several hundred nuclear warheads. The figures do not count all the indirect ways the US aids the Israeli economy. Although the Israel lobbies maintain that the US gets security help from Israel in the Middle East in return, actually Israel has sat out the Gulf War, the Iraq War, the Afghanistan War, the recent struggle against Daesh/ ISIL in Syria and Iraq, etc., etc. It is only fair to say that the US would not have wanted Israeli participation, because its reputation is so poisonous in the region that such participation would do more harm than good. But nevertheless, if Israel couldn’t help in any of these crises, it isn’t actually very useful. Worse, Israel’s often creepy policies against the stateless Palestinians cause security problems for the United States.
BBC Monitoring translated a broadcast of Chanel 2 TV in Hebrew, quoting the words of Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy, and Water Yuval Steinitz (Likud). Steinitz fulminated, Trump-like, “This is not a resolution against the settlements.”
It was literally a resolution against the settlements!
Steinitz is making up his own false news. He then continued, “This is an anti-Israel resolution against Israel, the Jewish people, and the state of the Jews.”
The resolution isn’t anti-Israel, doesn’t mention anything about Jews, and doesn’t challenge the Jewish state. It just points out that Israelis are not at liberty to steal Palestinian land. The United Nations Charter forbids the acquisition of territory by military force, so Israel’s conquest of the Palestinian West Bank in 1967 is no warrant for it to colonize said territory or to expropriate and keep in a condition of statelessness the people who live there.
Steinitz then turned to the United States’ role, “The United States tonight simply abandoned its only friend and ally in the Middle East. This is no way to treat a friend. I do not think that Russia would abandon a friend in the Middle East this way.”
So Steinitz seems to be suggesting that Israel would be better off allying with Putin. If that’s how he feels, could he please give us our pledged $38 bn back? In fact, if he’d please just give us back all the money we’ve given the Israeli government on the false pretense that Israel makes America more secure in the Middle East, that would be a nice year-end bonus for American families.
Steinitz intimated that the US should not have allowed the resolution to pass because there are more urgent issues in the Middle East, which is “burning around us.” This argument is pure propaganda. That there is a civil war in Syria or an air war in Yemen does not have any impact on whether the Council should speak up about illegal Israeli actions against the Palestinians. The demand that Israel’s crimes be dealt with last after all other issues in the region is the definition of special pleading. Most of us learned in kindergarten that two wrongs do not make a right.
Steinitz’s proof that the settlement issue did not drive the resolution (against settlements!) is that the resolution affects Israeli land theft in annexed East Jerusalem. News flash: It is illegal to annex occupied territory or to flood your own citizens into such territories. Steinitz is demanding that the UN Security Council recognize an illegal act.
Steinitz owns a house. If he went on vacation and came back to find that strangers had moved into his house and were alleging that they were the real owners, he could go to the police and the courts in Israel and they would uphold his property rights. Palestinians living in the Palestinian city of al-Khalil (Hebron), however, don’t have the same deal. They see Israel bringing in tens of thousands of Israelis to live in their city, disadvantaging and stealing from Palestinian owners. When Palestinians complain, they are arrested and charged with terrorism.
He criticized President Obama: “The heart aches that after eight years of friendship and cooperation with the Obama Administration — a friendship that did see some disagreements over the Iranian issue and other issues — this is the parting shot; a painful, unpleasant, unfair one.”
So let’s see. Barack Obama sent George Mitchell out to negotiate between Netanyahu’s cabinet and the Palestine Authority of Mahmoud Abbas. The Palestinians asked for a settlement freeze, otherwise it would be like negotiating over a pie while the other person was eating it. Netanyahu got a settlement freeze, but then abruptly cancelled it in the fall just when the talks were getting started. The Palestinians rightly felt disrespected and the talks began collapsing. Netanyahu began announcing settlement expansion to coincide with the visit of high American officials, just to humiliate them. Later on in another round of talks, Secretary of State John Kerry was publicly insulted as “messianic” for trying to pursue the negotiations. In the end they collapsed. In the meantime, Netanyahu publicly humiliated President Obama on several occasions, lecturing him at a joint appearance at the White House, openly campaigning for Romney in 2012, and then trying to get Congress to derail Obama’s Iran negotiations. Netanyahu actually ran the last time on the issue of no Palestinian state, and has made it clear he wants to send hundreds of thousands more Israelis into the Palestinian West Bank, where they will steal Palestinian land.
Steinitz and his colleagues have been about the most unpleasant supposed allies the US could possibly suffer with. They successfully blunted Obama’s attempt at kick starting the peace process. They want annexation, Apartheid, and colonization. They are open about it.
Obama simply let the world body have a say on whether these crimes against humanity are acceptable. They are not.
Posted by uscsjp on December 23, 2016
UNITED NATIONS — Defying extraordinary pressure from President-elect Donald J. Trump and furious lobbying by Israel, the Obama administration on Friday allowed the United Nations Security Council to adopt a contentious resolution that condemned Israeli settlement construction.
The administration’s decision not to veto the measure broke a longstanding American tradition of serving as Israel’s sturdiest diplomatic shield.
It came a day after Mr. Trump personally intervened to keep the draft measure, proposed by Egypt, from coming up for a vote on Thursday, as scheduled. Mr. Trump’s aides said he spoke to the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Both men also spoke to the Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Egypt postponed the vote.
But in a show of mounting frustration, a group of other countries on the 15-member Security Council — all of them relatively powerless temporary members with rotating two-year seats — snatched the resolution away from Egypt and put it up for a vote Friday afternoon.
It passed 14 votes in favor, with the United States abstaining.
The departing Obama administration has been highly critical of Israel’s settlement building, describing it as an impediment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Mr. Trump has made clear that he will take a far more sympathetic approach to Israel when his administration assumes office in a month.
Mr. Trump’s comments on the issue amounted to his most direct intervention on United States foreign policy during his transition to power.
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, had urged the American delegation to block the measure.
“This resolution is a Palestinian initiative, which is intended to harm Israel,” he said in a statement.
–The New York Times, 23 Dec. 2016
Posted by uscsjp on September 26, 2016
Israeli PM Netanyahu Meets Trump, Clinton in New York
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on Sunday in closed-door meetings. Trump hosted Netanyahu at his New York penthouse, where his campaign said Trump compared Israel’s separation wall favorably with his proposed wall along the Mexican border. Netanyahu later met with Hillary Clinton, whose campaign said she expressed support for the new U.S. military aid package to Israel of $38 billion over 10 years.
–Democracy Now!, September 26, 2016
Posted by uscsjp on September 4, 2016
Dear Governor Brown,
We urge you to veto AB 2844, an unconstitutional and costly attack on Californians’ free speech and the movement for Palestinian human rights.
AB 2844 chills free speech by falsely associating legal and time-honored boycotts for human rights with unlawful discrimination, and by creating a vague new crime in the process. The bill could cost California taxpayers over $140 million (Department of Finance estimate) and unknown additional sums for fielding complaints and lawsuits.
Although the title and some of the content of AB 2844 have changed over time, its intent remains the same: to stigmatize and suppress protected political speech, especially advocacy for Palestinian human rights through the nonviolent tactics of boycott, divestment and sanctions.
Stop this attack on Californians’ free speech. Veto AB 2844.
Sign the petition here:
Posted by uscsjp on August 5, 2016
After three days of talks in Washington, negotiators close in on agreement for unprecedented 10-year defense package
BY RAOUL WOOTLIFF, August 4, 2016, 8:58 am
Israel and the US have made significant progress in negotiations over a 10-year American military aid package, with a final agreement expected to be signed soon, Israeli government sources said Thursday.
Following three days of closed-door discussions in Washington, “progress has been made and gaps have been closed” between the two sides, an Israeli diplomatic official said.
“Israel and the US are hoping to arrive at an agreement soon,” the official added.
Sources in Washington had similar assessments of the talks.
“We’ve made progress and closed many of the remaining gaps. We hope to be able to reach a final agreement soon,” a senior official told Reuters after the talks concluded on Wednesday night.
Brigadier General (res.) Yaakov Nagel, the acting head of the National Security Council, has been meeting with his American counterparts to work on the final draft of a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) set to come into effect in 2018, when the current one expires.
Negotiations on the deal have been going on for months amid tensions over the Iranian nuclear deal reached last year, which Israel vociferously opposed. Israel has charged that the accord signed between Tehran and six world powers, including the US, poses an existential threat to Israel and warrants increased aid to the Jewish State.
The Prime Minister’s Office said last week that Israel “places great value on the predictability and reliability of the military assistance it receives from the United States and on honoring bilateral agreements.
“Therefore, it is not in Israel’s interest for there to be any changes to the fixed annual MOU levels without the agreement of both the US administration and the Israeli government,” it added.
Netanyahu also said last week that he hoped to conclude the aid negotiations under the Obama administration, which ends in January 2017.
The US offer currently on the table, outlined to members of Congress earlier this month in a letter from US National Security Adviser Susan Rice, includes a pledge to substantially increase the aid package, now worth some $30 billion, and ink a new one that would constitute “the largest pledge of military assistance to any country in US history.” The letter was sent in response to a missive signed in April by 83 out of 100 senators calling on President Barack Obama to increase foreign aid to Israel and sign the new deal.
Under the existing agreement, Israel is permitted to spend about 25 percent of the aid it receives outside the US and another 13% on fuel for its aircraft — allowances no other recipient of US aid is granted.
That arrangement originated in the 1980s to build up Israel’s defense industry, which has thrived, helping Israel to become among the top 10 arms exporters in the world — and in some fields a competitor with US firms.
In an apparent concession, Israel will reportedly not request supplemental funding for the entire 10 years, and in the second half of the decade, will incrementally increase the amount it spends in the US per annum, until the entire amount of aid is invested in the American domestic market.
Israel has already indicated that it will not seek additional military funding for 2017, which still falls under the terms of the previous 10-year package. The defense aid for 2017 currently stands at $3.1 billion.
Cliff Churgin and Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.
Posted by uscsjp on July 29, 2016
Posted by uscsjp on July 12, 2016