White House warns Israel on settlements

Trump was reportedly blindsided by Israel’s announcement of 5,500 new housing units to be built in the West Bank

Jordan Fabian, The Hill, 02/02/17

The White House on Thursday warned Israel to stop settlement announcements that could undermine peace with the Palestinians, according to the Jerusalem Post. 

The surprising statement comes as President Trump signaled he would depart from former President Obama’s Israel policy and forge a close relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a strong proponent of settlements. 

But Trump was reportedly blindsided by Israel’s announcement of 5,500 new housing units to be built in the West Bank, which would have been the first new settlement in around 20 years. 

“As President Trump has made clear, he is very interested in reaching a deal that would end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is currently exploring the best means of making progress toward that goal,” an official told the paper. 

“With that in mind, we urge all parties from taking unilateral actions that could undermine our ability to make progress, including settlement announcements,” the official added. “The administration needs to have the chance to fully consult with all parties on the way forward.”

In a separate statement Thursday, the White House made clear its opposition to the recent burst of settlement activity. But in a departure from the Obama administration, the statement does not call settlements an impediment to a two-state solution.

“While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal.”

“The Trump administration has not taken an official position on settlement activity and looks forward to continuing discussions, including with Prime Minister Netanyahu when he visits with President Trump later this month.”

Trump’s election is believed to have emboldened Netanyahu’s government, which has moved aggressively to expand its settlement activity.  

Netanyahu is set to meet with Trump at the White House on Feb. 15. 

Trump signaled during the transition he would make moves to align the U.S. closer with Israel’s government.  

He announced his intent to nominate David Friedman, a strong settlement supporter, as ambassador to the Jewish state.

In December, Trump’s team reportedly pressured Obama to scuttle a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement construction. But the previous administration allowed the controversial measure to pass, abstaining from the vote. 

But since entering the White House, Trump has backed off some of his more aggressive promises, including a plan to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  

Trump repeatedly said during the campaign he wants his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to help broker a Middle East peace deal. 

– This story was updated at 6:39 p.m.

David Friedman Is Unfit to Be Ambassador to Israel

, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, 31 Jan 2017

DavidFriedman

Donald Trump’s first ten days in office have resulted in a whirlwind of policies that have led to major protests, from blocking refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, to ordering a wall built on the US-Mexico border, to moving forward with the Keystone and the Dakota Access Pipelines, to name just a few.

Amid his flurry of Executive Orders, you may have missed the fact that on Inauguration Day, Trump formally submitted to the Senate his nomination of David Friedman to be US Ambassador to Israel.

In case you haven’t heard of Friedman, here’s what you need to know:

He personally identifies with Israel’s illegal colonization of Palestinian land and raises millions of dollars each year to fund an Israeli settlement.

He opposes Palestinian exercising sovereignty over any portion of their historic homeland and speaks approvingly of Israel’s annexation of the West Bank.

And he’s an ardent advocate of moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognizing Israel’s claims to sovereignty over the entire contested city.

These extremist views and actions contradict decades of stated bipartisan US policy. Our ambassador to Israel must uphold US opposition to Israeli settlements, not represent Israel’s settler movement.

Contact your Senators today to tell them that David Friedman is unfit to be Ambassador to Israel and urge them to vote against his nomination.

And after you do so, please spread the word on Facebook and Twitter.

Here are a few select quotes illustrating Friedman’s extremist views:

  • The idea of a Palestinian state is a “damaging anachronism. It is a discussion of an illusory solution in search of a non-existent problem.” Friedman conspiratorially holds that US support for Palestinian statehood is part of a “scam” designed to “access the wealth of the Persian Gulf.”
  • “As a general rule, we should expand a community in Judea and Samaria,” Friedman writes, using the Biblical terms for the West Bank, “just like in any other neighborhood anywhere in the world. Until that becomes the primary consideration for development, how can we expect to be taken seriously that this is our land?”
  • According to Friedman, President Obama and former Secretary of State John Kerry were guilty of “engaging in ‘blatant anti-Semitism’” because, in his view, they did “little more than condemn the proverbial ‘cycle of violence.’”

And this is just the tip of the iceberg of Friedman’s extremism. For additional reasons why Friedman should be disqualified from serving as US Ambassador to Israel, please check out our new policy memorandum.

Thank you for contacting your Senators to oppose David Friedman’s nomination to be Ambassador to Israel.

Sincerely,


JOSH RUEBNER
Policy Director

 

P.S.: In these troubling times, it’s important for us to lift up our victories. Throughout January, thousands of you contacted your Senators to oppose S.Res.6, a resolution objecting to the Obama administration’s abstention on UN Security Council Resolution 2334 reiterating the illegality of Israeli settlements.

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A Dangerous Road to Education

Dear Friends,

It is absolutely bizarre to be watching Trump’s policies of hatred unfold from inside Palestine — here where ANY traveler or foreigner finds herself overwhelmed by kindness and hospitality. If we find ourselves at a loss to imagine resisting over the long haul we should take courage from these schoolchildren who for the past THIRTEEN YEARS have required a military escort in order to reach their school safely in the face of settler violence and intimidation. We have a long long road ahead!

Thank you so much for helping me to spend this time working here — and for all your efforts to stop the madness in the US!!!

Mary House of Hospitality

The second semester of school has just started for these children, and Operation Dove has compiled the following report of the challenges faced by the children during the first semester.

A DANGEROUS ROAD TO EDUCATION

Palestinian students under settler violence and military negligence
SUMMARY OF THE 2016-2017 SCHOOL YEAR – 1ST SEMESTER
Period: 2016/08/28 – 2017/01/10
Full report here: http://tuwaniresiste.operazionecolomba.it/a-dangerous-road…/

Children from the Palestinian villages of Tuba and Maghayir Al-Abeed began the first semester of the 2016-17 school year with Israeali soldiers escorting them to their school in the nearby Palestinian village of At-Tuwani. This is the thirteenth continuous year that these children have needed a military escort in order to walk to school safely.

To get to school the children must walk along a road which once provided easy travel between the villages, but which now runs between the Israeli settlement of Ma’on and the illegal outpost of Havat Ma’on. For the past thirteen years violent behavior by settlers from the outpost, the existence of which is illegal under both Israeli and International law, has made the road inaccessible to Palestinians. Even escorted by Israeli soldiers the schoolchildren continue to face the possibility of violence, harassment and intimidation as they walk to and from school.

During the first semester of the 2016-2017 school year an average of eight children between the ages of six and 16 walked with a military escort to and from school in the Palestinian village of At- Tuwani. Under Israeli Knesset Committee for Children’s Rights order, the military escort is responsible for protecting the children from settler violence and intimidation throughout their walk to school in the morning, and their return trip home in the afternoon.

Even with a military escort the walk between home and school remains difficult for the children of Tuba and Maghyir al Abeed. During the first semester of the 2016-17 school year the escort arrived late 23 times (in the morning) out of a total of 88 monitored school days. As a result the children missed a total of 7 hours of school (441 minutes).

Operation Dove volunteers reported an even greater incidence of late arrival by the escort in the afternoon, forcing the children to arrive home late and to lose their free time waiting. On 33 out of 88 school days (37%) the children were forced to wait in At- Tuwani after school for the arrival of the escort. During the first semester they waited for a total of more than 27 hours (1630 minutes).

The meeting points with the military escort, for both the morning and the afternoon walk, are very close to the illegal outpost of Havat Ma’on, and as a result, when the escort is late, the children must wait where they are vulnerable to settler violence and harassment. During the first semester of the 2016-17 school year the children waited for the escort at these dangerous meeting points for a total of 35 hours.

During the first semester the military escort failed to arrive on four occasions, once in the morning and three times in the afternoon. These incidents constitute extremely serious failures on the part of the escort to adequately protect the children. The children cannot use the road without the presence of the soldiers, due to the danger of settler attacks. In previous years, when the escort has failed to arrive, the children used an alternative footpath which runs around the outside of the illegal outpost of Havat Ma’on. However settlers from the illegal outpost have now built a new structure near the path, some distance from the outpost, making this path nearly impassable. The presence of this structure and an increased level of settler violence and intimidation of Palestinians using this path has made it too dangerous for the children, and as a result they must now take a much longer route between school and home if the soldiers fail to arrive. This longer path takes between 45 minutes and one hour, and is extremely difficult, especially for the youngest children. Even on this longer path the children are vulnerable to violence and harassment from settlers. During the first semester the children used this longer route on three of the four occasions on which the escort failed to meet them.

In one case the escort failed to meet the children after school because the soldiers did not know the location of the meeting point, which has been unchanged for thirteen years. The schoolchildren began to take the longer route, even though it is also dangerous for them if they are unaccompanied. They found the soldiers on the path and reached the village of Tuba safely, escorted by Israeli soldiers under strong pressure of Operation Dove volunteers.

In all four of these cases the Israeli soldiers gave no reasonable explanation for their failure to meet the children, either to Operation Dove volunteers or to the children themselves.

MILITARY ESCORT MISCONDUCTS

Even when the military escort does arrive, the soldiers often fail to provide adequate protection to the children.

In contravention of the agreement between the Israeli Civil Administration (DCO) and the mayor of At-Tuwani, Israeli soldiers often do not walk with the children during the escort, even when asked by Operation Dove volunteers to do so. On 52% of the trips made by the children with the escort this semester (90 of 173 total trips) the soldiers remained in the jeep and did not walk with the children as they passed between the settlement and the illegal outpost.

The soldiers charged with escorting the children also frequently fail to complete the escort, either forcing the children to meet them closer to the outpost that the agreed-upon meeting point, or leaving the children before they reach the end of their walk. This forces the children to travel a portion of the road near the illegal outpost unprotected. On 73% of the trips made by the children with the escort this semester (127 of 173 total trips) the soldiers failed to escort the children for the full agreed-upon distance.

Operation Dove volunteers also reported another extremely serious failure of the military escort during the first semester: On 27 October the soldiers who were escorting the children threw rocks towards the schoolchildren they are charged with protecting, and carried a slingshot, which is illegal for them to use or possess.

When the military escort fails to arrive on time, when the soldiers fail to walk with the children, and when the escort fails to accompany the children for their entire walk, the soldiers not only fail to protect the children, but actually place the children whom they are charged with protecting in dangerous situations.

SETTLER VIOLENCE

On three occasions during the first semester of the 2016-17 school year settlers used violence against the children during their journey to and from school.

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Violence: the language of a Jewish state

Jonathan Cook Blog, January 19, 2017

(copyright: Keren Manor)

Here is another image that conveys the situation of Palestinians – these ones Palestinian citizens of Israel – more completely than any words. The man on the ground is Ayman Odeh, a member of the Israeli parliament, the head of the Joint List, the third largest party in the parliament, and the highest-ranking Palestinian politician in Israel.

Israeli police have just shot him with rubber-tipped bullets, not once but twice – including to the face. Odeh is one of the least confrontational politicians among Israel’s large Palestinian minority, a fifth of the population. His message is consistently one of peace and amity between all Israeli citizens, whether Jews or Palestinians. That does not seem to have protected him from the shoot-first, ask-questions-later approach of Israel’s security forces towards Palestinians.

This image should be as shocking as seeing a bloodied Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn crawling in the dirt, watched impassively by US or UK police.

Context is important too. Odeh had joined the 1,000 inhabitants of Umm al-Hiran – all Palestinian citizens of Israel – early this morning in a demonstration to stop demolition crews destroying the 150 homes of their village in the Negev. Israel allowed these families to move to the area of Umm al-Hiran in the 1950s after it had driven them from their original, and much more substantial, lands during the Nakba. The pretext then for expelling them was that Israel needed their ancestral lands for an exclusively Jewish kibbutz.

That all occurred during a military government that ruled over Israel’s Palestinians for nearly two decades. More than 60 years later, exactly the same thing is happening again, but this time in front of the cameras. Umm al-Hiran is being destroyed so that an exclusively Jewish community, with the same name of Hiran, can be built over these families’ homes. Israel never issued Umm al-Hiran with a master plan, so now it can be declared illegal and its inhabitants called “squatters” and “trespassers”. The families are being ethnically cleansed a second time – not during hostilities or in a time of war, but by their own state in a time of peace.

They are far from alone. Thousands of other families, and their villages, face the same fate.

The truth is nothing has changed from the 1950s. Israel still behaves as if it is ruling militarily over its Palestinian citizens. It is still a Jewish state, one that privileges the rights of Jewish citizens over Palestinian “citizens”. It still treats all non-Jews as a threat, as an enemy.

Israel is not a normal kind of state. It is an ethnocracy, and one driven by an ideological variation of the ethnic nationalisms that tore apart Europe a century ago.

Odeh is a leader who campaigns for peace and equality between Jewish and Palestinian citizens. Today, he got his answer. His place is bruised, bloodied and bowed, crawling through the dirt. This is the language of a Jewish state.

Israel as the Lights Go Out

In America there is always a domestic political reason for not doing the right thing on Israel-Palestine. It’s ugly, but then ugliness is having its day.

ROGER COHEN, The New York Times, January 17, 2017

Elon Moreh, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank, seen from the Palestinian village of Azmout, last week. (Credit: Jaafar Ashtiyeh/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The bizarre burst of diplomatic activity on IsraelPalestine in the waning days of the Obama administration has been tantamount to an admission that, on this subject, things only get said too late and when they no longer mean anything. The rest of the time political cowardice in the form of silence prevails.

In a matter of weeks we have had a United Nations Security Council resolution calling on Israel to “immediately cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory;” a long speech by Secretary of State John Kerry setting out the Obama administration’s parameters for a two-state peace agreement and defending the American abstention that allowed the U.N. resolution to pass; and a Paris peace conference that urged Israelis and Palestinians, neither of them present, to take concrete steps to get the two-state idea off life support.

None of this piety will change anything on the ground, where settlements continue to grow, the daily humiliations that constitute Palestinian life continue to accumulate, and the occupation that will mark its 50th anniversary this year continues to entrench itself. The only possible change will come with President-elect Donald Trump, whose dalliance with moving the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem amounts to pyromania, and whose choice of ambassador, his sometime lawyer David Friedman, suggests hard-line American support for Israeli settlements.

Trump’s thirst for the “ultimate deal” in the Holy Land could not be more far-fetched, however much his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, hones his skills with Henry Kissinger. There’s nobody and nothing to work with after a half-century of moral corrosion and progressive estrangement.

Speaking of Kushner, I was told he refused to meet with a senior French diplomat after a demand from Trump Tower that the Paris conference be canceled was ignored. Get used to my-way-or-the-highway diplomacy with team Trump.

U.N. resolution 2334 infuriated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who called it “shameful.” He seemed surprised that ignoring Obama’s veto of an earlier settlements resolution in 2011 would have consequences. Obama ran out of patience because, despite his forbearance, Israel went right on planning housing for tens of thousands more settlers while absorbing “more than one half of our entire global foreign military financing,” in Kerry’s words. Gratitude is not Netanyahu’s forte.

There was little new in the resolution, given America’s consistent opposition to settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, over several decades. In fact, the twinning of criticism of Israel with condemnation under international law of “incitement” — a reference to persistent Palestinian practice — was among the fresher elements. Still, the language was sharp. The resolution called on states to distinguish “in their relevant dealings” between Israel and “the territories occupied since 1967”; and it declared that “The cessation of all Israeli settlement activities is essential for salvaging the two-state solution.”

I doubt that solution remains viable. But let’s be clear on the settlements. They may or may not constitute a primary cause of the conflict, but they do demonstrate Israel’s decades-long commitment to building in a way that makes a viable Palestinian state impossible. You cannot be a Palestinian in the West Bank watching the steady growth of Israeli settlements, outposts and barriers without concluding that Israel’s occasional murmurings about a two-state peace are mere camouflage for a project whose objective is to control all the land in perpetuity without annexing it. Annexation would be awkward; some 2.75 million Palestinians would demand the vote. Better to play games and let millions of strangers squirm.

Kerry’s speech was almost three years in the making. He should have made it in April 2014, when his diplomacy collapsed. Obama said no. There were the midterms, then there was the Iran deal to negotiate, so better not to anger Israel further, and finally there was the U.S. election in November. In America there is always a domestic political reason for not doing the right thing on Israel-Palestine.

It’s ugly, but then ugliness is having its day.

Kerry finally set out the terms of a two-state peace: secure borders based on the 1967 lines with agreed land swaps; a state for the Jewish people and a state for the Palestinian people where the rights of all citizens (Arabs in Israel, Jews in an eventual Palestine) are upheld; a just solution for Palestinian refugees including compensation and acknowledgment of suffering but without changing “the fundamental character of Israel” — so only very limited return to Israel proper; Jerusalem as “the capital of the two states;” a demilitarized Palestinian state, a full end to the occupation after an agreed transition, and elaborate Israeli security guarantees; an end to the conflict and all outstanding claims along with broader peace for Israel with all its Arab neighbors and a regional security partnership.

Why was this unremarkable formula unsayable for so long? Because cowardice inhabits Washington, Jerusalem and Ramallah: This little diplomatic flurry has been obscene. Kerry was honorable; Obama lacked courage. Netanyahu dismissed the “last twitches of yesterday’s world.” It is a measure of where we are that tomorrow’s may well be worse.