How Israeli moves in Jerusalem are scotching Trump’s ‘Ultimate Deal’


Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies, including in the US Congress, are doing their best to pressure Trump to go their way.

By Jonathan Cook in Nazareth

A decision by Donald Trump this Thursday could prove fateful for the immediate future of Jerusalem, the wider Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the region.

He must decide whether to renew a presidential waiver, signed by his predecessor, Barack Obama, that expires on June 1. The six-month waiver delays implementing a law passed by Congress in 1995 that requires the US to recognise occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate its embassy there from Tel Aviv.

It is a law every president for the past 22 years has baulked at. It would pre-empt the Oslo accords and negate Washington’s assumed role as “honest broker”. Carrying out Congress’s wish would deny the Palestinians East Jerusalem, the only credible capital of a future Palestinian state.

But equally significantly, the law would recognize Israel’s efforts to claim sovereignty over the Old City’s holy places, especially the incendiary site of Al Aqsa mosque. That could provoke a conflagration both locally, among Palestinians, and more generally in the Middle East.

Trump’s key advisers are reported to be bitterly divided. Some, such as secretary of state Rex Tillerson, warn that, if the president fails to approve the deferral, his claims to be crafting the “ultimate deal” to bring peace to the region will be doomed from the outset.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies, including in the US Congress, are doing their best to pressure Trump in the opposite direction.

On Sunday, Netanyahu staged a provocative stunt, holding his weekly cabinet meeting in a tunnel under Al Aqsa mosque compound to announce measures to bring millions more Jewish visitors to the occupied Old City, including a new cable car to the edge of the mosque.

It was Netanyahu’s decision to open the Western Wall Tunnel in 1996, when he first became prime minister, that brought the Oslo process into almost terminal crisis at an early stage. Three days of clashes killed more than 100 Palestinians and 17 Israeli soldiers.

Next Tuesday, meanwhile, the US Congress and Israel’s parliament in Jerusalem are due to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Israel’s illegal occupation of the city in a ceremony conducted via video link.

The Jerusalem Post reported on Monday that either Trump or vice-president Mike Pence are due to participate, in what could be interpreted as the first tacit recognition by the White House of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

That would be a continuation of Trump’s break with official US policy towards Jerusalem during his visit to the region last week. He became the first sitting president to visit the Jewish prayer plaza at the Western Wall, below Al Aqsa. It was unclear whether his advisers had explained that where he stood had been a Palestinian neighborhood 50 years ago, before it was ethnically cleansed.

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He’s in

What did they do to Trump? The other 3 look to be on the same page.

But the Western Wall visit was more probably an effort to placate his core supporters. Christian evangelicals paid for dozens of billboards across Jerusalem reminding Trump that he won the election only because of their votes – and that they expect the US embassy to be moved to Jerusalem.

The day after Trump’s departure, Netanyahu exploited the president’s attendance at the wall to further damage prospects for peacemaking. He made a provocative speech to mark “Jerusalem Day”, Israel’s annual show of strength in East Jerusalem.

He claimed that Trump had disproved the “lies” promoted by the United Nations cultural body, Unesco, when it voted this month to re-state that Jerusalem is occupied.

In truth, it was Netanyahu who indulged in gross mendacity, claiming that East Jerusalem had been “desolate” and “neglected” before its occupation. Israel had “redeemed” the city, he said, while Al Aqsa mosque would “always remain under Israeli sovereignty”.

His supporters tried to give that claim concrete expression by staging the largest-ever march through the Old City on Jerusalem Day. Palestinians were forced into hiding or fled early as police allowed 60,000 Jewish ultra-nationalists to besiege the heart of East Jerusalem.

In a sign of the power balance in Israel, a small group of 50 left-wing Jews – many from the US – linked arms to try to block the march at the Old City’s entrance. Footage showed police brutally arresting them, grabbing them in chokeholds and breaking one woman’s arm.

Jerusalem is the most intractable of the final-status issues set out in the Oslo process. Those expecting miracles of Trump are going to be disappointed. His commitment to pressuring Netanyahu is weak, while the Israeli prime minister’s commitment to making concessions is non-existent.

Whether Trump signs the waiver or not on Thursday, all indications are that the US president – faced with domestic pressures and an intransigent Israeli government – is going nowhere with his “ultimate deal”.

The only real question to be decided on Thursday is whether Trump prefers to take the fast or protracted route to failure.

Clashes in Jerusalem as Occupation Forces Serve Demolition Orders

The continued international decisions against the occupation and its policy including that of UNESCO regarding Jerusalem and the al-Aqsa Mosque form a clear message from the international community that it does not agree with the policies that protect the occupation and contribute to the creation of chaos and instability.

Palestinian Jews before the Zionist invasion.

“The (crazy) idea of bringing world’s Jews to leave their homelands, settle in the occupied (Palestinian) land and ‘inventing a Jewish People’ out of them is the real ‘theatre of the absurd’.”

May 15, 2017

Clashes erupted on Sunday, between Palestinians in the al-Matar neighborhood, to the north of occupied Jerusalem, and Israeli soldiers, after the latter stormed the area and handed out notices for the demolition of four buildings there, according to witnesses.

WAFA correspondence reported witnesses as saying that Israeli forces stormed the neighbourhood and shut down a building, before serving demolition orders against four under-construction buildings in the area, provoking clashes with residents. No injuries were reported.

The orders came under the pretext of being constructed too close to the apartheid wall, which separates the neighbourhood from Qalandia airport.

Forces also seized two vehicles belonging to residents in the neighbourhood.

UNESCO voted on a resolution which denied any Jewish connection to Al-Aqsa Mosque and Al-Buraq (Western) Wall in occupied Jerusalem.

Twenty-four member states voted in favour of the resolution, six against and 26 abstained.

The proposal was put forward by Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Sudan and the Palestinians.

Outlining that the city is holy to all three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the resolution says Al-Aqsa Mosque and its courtyards are only sacred to Muslims (As it always has been!)

Britain must atone for its sins in Palestine

 November 2, 1917, British imperialism in Palestine began when Lord Balfour, the then British foreign secretary and former prime minister, sent a letter to Baron Rothschild, one of the leaders of the Zionist movement. This letter became known as the “Balfour Declaration”.

In that letter, Balfour promised British support for the Zionist programme of establishing a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. This pledge of support was made without consulting the indigenous Christian and Muslim inhabitants of Palestine, the Palestinian people. And it was made before British troops had even conquered the land.

Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Dushinsky, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem (1867-1948) “We wish to express our definite opposition to a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.”

 


The British are criticized for not actively defending the Arab villages but there were insufficient troops and the US had refused assistance in the form of troops or other support (many US and other factions, including British, were actively supporting the Zionist takeover and had powerful backing). General Stockwell had specific orders that troops should only be used for defense. He was in liaison with both Arabs and Zionists and knew how strong the Haganah were (contrary to myth) and that the Palestinian Arabs, though they had plenty of courage, were badly organized, equipped and trained so stood no chance against the Zionists. Consequently, the Haganah was quickly able to occupy territory way beyond that designated by the UN. britishforcesinpalestine.org

Balfour, on behalf of Britain, promised Palestine – over which Britain had no legal right – to a people who did not even live there (of the very small community of Palestinian Jews in Palestine in 1917, very few were Zionists). And he did so with the worst of intentions: to discourage Jewish immigration to Britain. No wonder Lord Montagu, the only Jewish member of the Cabinet, opposed the declaration.

And yet, just two years earlier, Britain had committed herself to assisting the Arab nations in achieving their independence from the Ottoman Empire. Arab fighters all over the region, including thousands of Palestinians, fought for their freedom, allowing Britain to establish her mandate in Palestine.

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These Jews are Indigent to the Caucasus, not the Middle East.

In shift, Trump warns Israel against new settlements

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Shortly before taking office, he vigorously criticized the Obama administration for not vetoing a United Nations Security Council measure condemning settlements.

Trump administration NOW says new or expanded settlements ‘may not be helpful’ in Middle East peace efforts

WASHINGTON (AP) —

Feb 2, 2017

President Donald Trump on Thursday warned Israel that constructing new settlements “may not be helpful” to Middle East peace efforts, striking a tougher line with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s government.
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Trump has been perceived as sympathetic to the settlements, which are considered illegal by most of the international community. Shortly before taking office, he vigorously criticized the Obama administration for not vetoing a United Nations Security Council measure condemning settlements.

But in a statement Thursday, the White House said, “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 White House said the administration “has not taken an official position on settlement activity” and the president would discuss the issue with Netanyahu when he travels to Washington later this month. The two leaders are scheduled to meet at the White House on Feb. 15.

The U.S. statement came hours after Netanyahu vowed to establish the first new West Bank settlement in over two decades “as soon as possible,” promising to make up for the court-ordered demolition of an illegal settler outpost. It was his latest step to expand Israeli settlement construction in the wake of Trump’s inauguration.
Abir Sultan via AP
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Netanyahu repeatedly clashed with President Barack Obama during the Democrat’s eight years in office, and Trump has vowed to be a better partner for Israel. But he’s already appeared to slow his promises to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — a promise often made by presidential candidates, but never carried out in office because of fears the move would inflame tensions in the region.

Newly sworn-in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke by phone Thursday with Netanyahu.

The prime minister’s vow to establish new West Bank settlements came as Israeli security forces were completing the evacuation of Amona, where they broke into a synagogue to remove dozens of Israeli protesters who had barricaded themselves inside. Netanyahu’s pro-settler government had unsuccessfully tried to block the evacuation of Amona, but Israel’s Supreme Court rejected all appeals after determining the outpost was built illegally two decades ago on private Palestinian land.

Speaking at a ceremony in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, Netanyahu expressed “great pain” over the removal of Amona.

In all, some 400,000 Israelis now live in West Bank settlements, in addition to 200,000 others living in east Jerusalem.

The Palestinians claim both areas, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as parts of a future independent state. The international community has opposed the settlements, built on occupied lands sought by the Palestinians, as obstacles to peace.

Britain and Germany, close Israeli allies, as well as the European Union criticized Netanyahu’s approval this week of 3,000 new settlement homes in the West Bank.

“This spike in settlement activity undermines trust and makes a two-state solution — with an Israel that is safe from terrorism and a Palestinian state that is viable and sovereign — much harder to achieve,” said Britain’s minister for the Middle East, Tobias Ellwood.

Amona is the largest of about 100 unauthorized outposts erected in the West Bank without formal permission but with tacit Israeli government support. It witnessed violent clashes 11 years ago when police demolished nine homes found to have been built on private Palestinian land.

The Supreme Court last year determined that the entire outpost was built illegally and ordered it demolished.

Shocked by Donald Trump’s ‘travel ban’? Israel has had a similar policy for decades

When you forget to hide your shit #CNN

January 30 2017 independent.co.uk

An Israeli official admitted in 2010 that the Separation Wall was ‘built for political and demographic reasons’, while the man who designed it revealed how ‘the main thing the government told me in giving me the job was to include as many Israelis inside the fence and leave as many Palestinians outside’

In US President Donald Trump’s first week in office, three policy issues dominated the headlines: his plans to build a wall on the Mexican border, the President’s support for torture, and his executive order targeting refugees, residents and visitors from seven Muslim majority countries.

All three have prompted widespread outrage, in particular, the ban on refugees and blanket immigration restrictions being applied on the basis of national origin and religion.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, however, only issued a reluctant and mealy mouthed criticism of Trump’s scorched-earth approach to his first few days in the White House. May is one of only a handful of world leaders seemingly eager to position themselves at Trump’s right hand side.

One other leader, however, has gone even further than the British PM in seeking to praise Trump, both before and since his inauguration – and that’s Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu. There are a few reasons for this, including the tacit approval a Trump administration is expected to give to the settlement expansion bonanza already underway.

But there’s another element at play here, which goes deeper than Netanyahu’s political agenda. For what many do not realise, is that the policies – and their undergirding ideology – that Trump is unleashing on the US have been pursued by the state of Israel for decades.

First, let’s take the wall. Israel began the construction of its Separation Wall in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) almost fifteen years ago. Justified in the name of “security”, some 85 percent of the wall’s route is built inside the OPT, to incorporate illegal West Bank settlements.

It was on that basis that, in 2004, judges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague deemed the wall illegal, and called for its immediate dismantling.

Israel’s Wall is not even the security miracle that its defenders claim. None other than Israel’s own security services attributed a sharp decrease in “terror attacks” in 2005 to the “truce” unilaterally adopted by Hamas. Tens of thousands of Palestinian workers without permits enter Israel every day, with some 200 miles of “gaps” in the Wall’s route remaining.

The real link to Trump’s ideas comes in the justification of Israel’s Wall on “demographic” grounds; in other words, keeping Palestinians out because they are Palestinians – and note that the idea of a wall aimed at “separation” actually pre-dates the Second Intifada.

An Israeli official admitted in 2010 that the Wall was “built for political and demographic reasons”, while the man who designed it revealed how “the main thing the government told me in giving me the job was to include as many Israelis inside the fence and leave as many Palestinians outside.”

Then there’s torture. Trump’s unabashed endorsement of torture has horrified politicians, human rights activists and former prisoners alike. In Israel, however, the torture of prisoners is routine – and rubber-stamped by not just the state, but also by Israel’s Supreme Court.

Just last week, Israeli interrogators confirmed in Haaretz some of the methods used on detainees – including physical and psychological abuse. The revelations came as no surprise to Palestinians, nor those Israelis who have documented practices such as sexual torture.

This grim reality is also well-known to international human rights groups – Amnesty’s most recent annual report described how “Israeli military and police forces, as well as Israel Security Agency (ISA) personnel, tortured and otherwise ill-treated Palestinian detainees, including children.”

“Methods included beating with batons, slapping, throttling, prolonged shackling, stress positions, sleep deprivation and threats”, Amnesty added, further noting how despite almost 1,000 complaints since 2001, the authorities have not opened a single criminal investigation.

And finally, what about immigration? As horrendous as Trump’s orders have been, thus far they pale in comparison in scale and duration to what Israel has been implementing for some seven decades.

Since 1948 Israel has enforced a “Palestinian Ban” (Muslims and Christians), designed to ensure that no refugees can return to the lands and homes from which they were expelled. In parallel, the state’s borders are open for any Jewish person, from anywhere in the world.

Not only that, but in more recent times, Israel has also passed legislation – backed again by the Supreme Court – that prevents Palestinians with Israeli citizenship from family reunification – purely “on the basis of the ethnicity or national belonging of their spouse.”

Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said of the law: “There is no need to hide behind security arguments. There is a need for the existence of a Jewish state.” Trump – and the likes of Steve Bannon – would approve. Just as they would, no doubt, of the fact that Israel approved just eight requests for asylum, out of 7,218 requests filed by Eritreans from 2009 to 2016.

Writing in +972 Magazine, Edo Konrad noted the double standards of those who condemn Trump, but who back institutionalised racism in Israel. Here in Britain too, Trump’s critics include those who justify, or ignore, Israel’s own toxic mix of walls, discriminatory immigration system and torture.

This dissonance is only likely to become more publicly uncomfortable for Israel’s friends in the West. For Netanyahu’s embrace of a Trump White House is not just political manoeuvrings – it is reflective of a disturbing reality with which the Palestinians are only too familiar

 

Marketing blitz fails to stop across-the-board slide in tourism to Israel

27 January 2017

Tourism to Israel fell again in 2016, continuing a negative trend that began with the 2014 assault on Gaza that left more than 2,200 Palestinians, including 550 children, dead.

Figures from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics show that the expensive efforts to brand the country as a fun, carefree destination, especially for Europeans, are failing.

Overall, the number of visitors to Israel last year dropped by 1.2 percent. This comes after even sharper drops in previous years – 4.4 percent in 2015 and 8.2 percent in 2014.

Big budget

In December, the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz reported that Israel’s tourism ministry “was granted its biggest marketing budget ever in the past year as it tried to change Israel’s image as a travel destination and expand the range of tourism offerings.”

The flagship “Two Cities, One Break” campaign was directed at European tourists to attract them to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

It cost more than $23 million, but ministry sources told Haaretz that “the campaign fell flat.”

Israel has also brought D-list celebrities over on free junkets in the hope that their social media postings would draw visitors.

But the number of visitors from Israel’s biggest market, Europe, fell 6.5 percent last year compared with 2015.

The largest number of visitors to Israel comes from France – and those numbers fell from 300,000 in 2015 to 293,000 last year.

There were 18,000 fewer visitors from Germany – a drop of nine percent. The number of visitors from Russia plummeted from 414,000 to 285,000.

Israel did make up some of its losses in Asia: it hosted 86,000 tourists from China, compared with 52,000 in 2015. It also saw about 37,000 more visitors from North America, mostly the United States.

Israel’s woes are not unique: Turkey, which suffered a military coup attempt in July and has been beset by horrific bombing and shooting attacks, saw tourist visits plummet by 21 percent last year.

Egypt continues to see double digit declines in visitors.

But a general sense of danger due to violence in the region is not the whole story.

Jordan managed to buck the trend, recording an increase in tourist arrivals of 2.6 percent in 2016, according to its tourism ministry.

Jordan attracted 3.8 million visitors, compared with just over three million to Israel.

Mixed message, harsh reality

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Israel tries to market itself as distinct from the rest of the region – a gay-friendly outpost of “Western” civilization and fun in a tumultuous neighborhood.

But this branding is undermined by the fact that Israel is usually in the headlines because of its brutal occupation and aggressive colonization of Palestinian land, violence in the streets of the cities it is hoping tourists will visit, the racist declarations of its politicians and its underhanded efforts to sabotage the nonviolent boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.

Indeed, Israeli leaders continue to insist that the country is beset by dangers that could “wipe out every Israeli.” While this line is aimed at gaining political sympathy, it hardly makes it an enticing place for people who want to have a good time.

Meanwhile, destinations in Southern Europe, especially Spain, are smashing tourism records.

Incidentally, there’s another notable trend in Spain: since the 2014 attack on Gaza, more than 50 Spanish cities have declared themselves “free of Israeli apartheid.”