Palestine: On eve of Netanyahu visit, illegal settlements at tipping point – Green Left Weekly

In the first ever visit by a serving Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to arrive in Australia this month as part of an international tour aimed at shoring up Israels reputation abroad.

The visit has actually attracted attention but not the kind Netanyahu would like.

In the wake of a growing corruption scandal around the PM and the recent passage of the so-called regularisation law that retrospectively legalises illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, the situation of Palestinian communities across the occupied territories is becoming increasingly desperate.

With increasing rates of demolitions of Palestinian houses, Netanyahus whirlwind international tour seems to be about shoring up both his and Israels reputations in the face of criticism over the contentious law.

Last year featured a record number of housing demolitions across the West Bank, which led to a record number of displaced people of which more than half are minors. In what amounts to a policy of de-Palestinianising previously Palestinian territories, the numbers of demolitions and displacements last year outstripped 2014 and 2015 combined.

The destruction of Palestinian homes and the displacement of Palestinian families across the West Bank have combined with the ever-growing numbers of illegal Israeli settlements to set the stage to complete the de facto annexation of the whole West Bank.

The West Bank is divided into three areas. Area C, for example, is under direct Israeli administrative control and makes up 60% of the West Bank. The practical consequences of Israeli administration of security and land management includes almost total refusal of any Palestinian application for building permits.

Palestinians are effectively prevented from building on about 70% of Area C.

Palestinians in the area also face outright seizures of property for live firing exercises (declaring a closed military zone), encroachment onto their land by the notorious separation barrier (as Israel calls the Apartheid Wall), the declaration of areas as state lands that can only be used by Israelis, and even nature reserves from which Palestinians are forbidden.

Responses around the world to the regularisation bill, passed on February 6, have been muted. No leader or foreign minister has really challenged the tired orthodoxy of the two-state solution.

However, a dramatic exception came on February 15 when Donald Trump used a joint press conference with Netanyahu on February 15 to seemingly imply support for a one-state solution in which Israel would exercise total control over historic Palestine.

Of course, being Trump, the actual meaning of his statement was unclear. One interpretation of Trumps garbled comments was support for officially establishing what increasingly exists on the ground: one state with two very different systems or apartheid, as many observers label it.

For their part, Germany, France and Britain have issued cautious statements about the dangers posed to the two-state solution by the new law and growth of Israeli settlements. European Union representatives came closest to outright condemnation by warning that the law would entrench a single state, but with very different rights and consequences for Israeli versus Palestinian citizens.

Israels own attorney-general has said that he will not defend the bill should it be brought before Israels high court.

Former Australian politicians have queued up to offer modest support to the idea of Palestinian statehood, while neatly sidestepping the issues brought to a head by the regularisation law and growing demolitions and evictions.

Former Labor PM Bob Hawke and Labor foreign minister Gareth Evans have joined calls to recognise the state of Palestine albeit with a view to continuing negotiations for a peaceful, two-state solution.

Another former Labor foreign minister Bob Carr has been the most critical. Carr dared suggest the slew of additional settlements on the West Bank might indicate Israels desire to annex the West Bank and finally torpedo any remaining chance of a negotiated settlement.

Naming settlements as an obstacle to peace between Israel and Palestine is a bold move and will most likely be ignored by Israel.

What almost no one outside progressive media is saying even the EU is that the never-ending expansion of settlements are an insurmountable stumbling block to any negotiated solution. Nor is it noted that this is actually what Israel intended all along.

The more Israeli settlements and Palestinian housing demolitions frustrate peace talks, the more time Israel creates for itself to consolidate its hold on stolen Palestinian territories.

While mainstream media is distracted by Netanyahus PR tour, the expansion of Israeli settlements continues unchecked and towns throughout the West Bank are rapidly becoming de-Palestinianised.

[Protests have been called against Netanyahus visit for Melbourne on February 19 and Sydney on February 23. Visit the Australian Friends of Palestine Association website for details.]

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Palestine: On eve of Netanyahu visit, illegal settlements at tipping point – Green Left Weekly

Memoir helps map Palestine’s struggle – Green Left Weekly

Mapping My Return: A Palestinian Memoir By Salman Abu Sitta American University in Cairo Press 2016

Given the centrality of memory and history to the modern Palestinian identity, it is fitting that the number of memoirs and diaries being published by Palestinians seems to be rising.

In recent years, two subgenres of Palestinian autobiography and memoir have emerged. First are accounts by diarists who witnessed World War I and British Mandate rule in Palestine, and experienced the Nakba the mass displacement of Palestinians during the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 as adults.

Second are memoirs of those who were children or young adults when the Nakba occurred. These are often written with a more explicit purpose memoirs of lives as exiles and refugees fighting for Palestinian rights, rather than diaries kept for personal use.

These common themes are also found in Mapping My Return, including the trauma of war and refugee life, lives of constant struggle (with Israel, but also often with Yasser Arafat) and fierce love for their homeland.

Abu Sittas autobiography, however, gives a unique insight not only into refugee life and Palestinian politics throughout the decades, but into how he, as a Bedouin Palestinian from the southern Naqab desert within the Israeli state, experienced the Nakba and its aftermath.

His life story is rooted in the vast, fertile plains of the south-western Naqab, and the bayt al-shaer (literally house of hair or tent) in which his mother lived. The familys fields were plowed by camel, and many of the men and women who came to work on the harvest were from Egypts Sinai peninsula.

Rather than flee north into Lebanon or east towards Jordan, his escape from the Zionist forces who destroyed his childhood home was to Khan Younis near the border between Gaza and Egypt, ultimately attending school and university in Cairo.

As the son of a paramount chief of the Tarabin Bedouin, whose influence stretched from Cairo to Bir al-Saba, Abu Sitta frankly admits that his tale is not one of the most tragic, painful or traumatic fates of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians made refugees.

His elite background and family connections cushioned him from the grinding poverty that hundreds of thousands of refugees in Gaza faced.

But the trauma of the night-time attack on his fathers home in the village of al-Main during the Nakba, the destruction and theft of its fields and the sight of Israeli massacres in Gaza started off his lifes mission to try to put a face to this invisible enemy.

Although Abu Sitta forged a career as an acclaimed engineer, he also became a historian of Palestine. He meticulously documented the villages, shrines, homesteads and traditions that Israeli laws, bulldozers and museums have sought to eradicate or appropriate.

Abu Sittas childhood reminiscences evoke a time when Palestine was undergoing rapid change. His grandfathers and uncles lived in constant tension with the Ottoman Empire, sometimes going into hiding in Jordan. Even so, they fought on the Ottoman side in World War I, against British forces invading Palestine from the south.

Abu Sittas father had to adapt to change under the British Mandate. He opened the areas first school in 1920 some of the students, already regarded as men at 16, arrived to class wearing swords and introduced new plant strains.

The contradictions in Palestinian life at this time are encapsulated in Abu Sittas observations on the education he received. He writes: The British Mandate saw fit to impose Roman history and Latin on the Arab students curricula at the expense of Arab and Palestinian history.

Despite this, Abu Sitta notes: But perhaps it was not so strange. After all, Palestine had more and longer-running cultural, political and commercial links with Rome (and Greece) than England.

The story of Abu Sittas community highlights Gazas historical connections to Egypt. Family members supported the 187982 Urabi rebellion, in which Egyptian officers tried to declare independence but were defeated by a British invasion.

Despite the value attached by Western culture to written tales, Abu Sitta asserts that they just made him more confident that, in the end, it is those storytellers at the shigg [a place where men met to drink coffee] who are the real source of our history.

As an adult, Abu Sitta became a successful engineer and urban planner, working and teaching around the world.

These later sections of his memoir highlight the diversity and often the anguish of refugee existence, and lift the message of the book beyond that of one mans story.

This is a highly readable book, much recommended to anyone with an interest in Palestinian history. More than that, it is a significant piece of documentation, recounting events and ways of life that have largely been forgotten or erased.

As the generations who directly experienced the Nakba are slowly lost, writings of this kind will only become more important.

[Abridged from Electronic Intifada. Sarah Irving is author of Leila Khaled: Icon of Palestinian liberation and co-editor of A Bird is not a Stone.]

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Memoir helps map Palestine’s struggle – Green Left Weekly

Between Israel and Palestine: reflections on a House of Commons debate – Open Democracy

A checkpoint in Hebron – image, Adam Ramsay

On 9 February 2017, the House of Commons debated the following motion:

That this House reaffirms its support for the negotiation of a lasting peace between two sovereign states of Israel and Palestine, both of which must be viable and contiguous within secure and internationally recognised borders; calls on the Government to take an active role in facilitating a resumption of international talks to achieve this; welcomes UN Security Council Resolution 2334 adopted on 23 December 2016; and further calls on the government of Israel immediately to halt the planning and construction of residential settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories which is both contrary to international law and undermines the prospects for the contiguity and viability of the state of Palestine.

The motion was a model of clarity and the MPs who sponsored the debate were extremely well prepared and persuasive. On the surface this was a debate in which a predictable range of diverse views was expressed. Impassioned and well informed speeches were made about the dire effects of settlement expansion on the lives of Palestinians as well as its damage to the viability and contiguity of any future Palestinian state. On the opposing side, Israels status as a British ally was emphasised and its conduct justified in terms of the threat that Palestinian violence poses to the Jewish state.

However, a close look at the Hansard text reveals more clearly the limitations of the debate, its repeated refrains and its omissions. While MPs congratulated themselves on not being straitjacketed by polarised views, they rarely sought to transcend the narrow terms of the debate itself. While being restrained in language use can clearly be helpful, what was remarkable in a debate as important as this was how constrained was the language employed to advance the various arguments. All the participants, whatever their positions, seemed to be trapped within a similarly narrow discursive frame.

Here are a few examples.

Perhaps most remarkably, there was unanimous consensus, that, as stated in the motion, two states, one Jewish and one Palestinian, constitute the only possible solution. Not one MP challenged this assumption although several friends of Israel complained that the motion concentrated on the actions of one party only, the Israelis. No-one argued that one state with equal rights for all its citizens could be a just solution. It was taken for granted that Israel must continue to be a state with a Jewish majority. Even though many MPs acknowledged that the window of opportunity for two states is fast diminishing, if not already gone, none took this argument to the next logical stage what alternatives might there be? It is surely unusual that a debate with, at one level, such disparities of opinion about the situation and its protagonists, would have such a narrow consensus about the desired outcome. Despite all the evidence that the Israeli government has no interest whatsoever in working towards a two- state solution, everyone who spoke seemed bent on deluding themselves that it is still achievable.

The proposition that Israel has been a colonial settler state since its inception rather than only since 1967 failed to get a mention. The blander word settlements was always employed rather than the word colonies meaning that, with one or two exceptions, even the Israeli apologists in the chamber could assert their opposition to settlement expansion. Settlers were thus depicted as somehow an aberration rather than an integral part of the overall Zionist project, even though the current Israeli government now proclaims this position quite openly. Even then many MPs were eager to point out that settlement building was not the only, nor even the main obstacle to peace; Palestinian violence and obduracy were frequently cited as being equal contributory factors. This only highlights another extraordinary absence: any attention to the power imbalance.

The asymmetry of power was mentioned by only one MP, thus leaving open and largely unchallenged the contention that this is somehow a conflict which, as many MPs enthusiastically argued, can only be solved by direct negotiations between the two sides. The Palestinians, the weaker side, were criticised for internationalising the conflict presumably by having finally achieved a few meagre victories in the form of a handful of parliamentary votes to recognise a Palestinian state and finally a UN resolution which did not attract the US veto. The occlusion of power, the failure to define the situation clearly in terms of colonial oppression, meant that for many MPs, criticism of Israel, the dominant power, always had to be balanced by condemning Palestinian violence despite the fact that resistance to occupation is allowed under international law.

Although Security Council Resolution 2334, endorsed by the majority of MPs, clearly highlights the illegality of Israels actions under international law, the precise question of how Israel should therefore be held to account was barely debated. While several MPs stated that the UK needed to do more than make representations to Israel the most that was proposed (and that by only two MPs) was that the government should not collude with illegality through any financial dealings with settlements or through the import of settlement goods to the UK and that it should prohibit dealings with charities involved in illegal settlement projects.

Equally squeamish were MPs few references to Israel as an apartheid state. Of the four MPs who used the word, two referred to petty apartheid, and the boldest described a form of or a creeping culture of apartheid.

There were ten references to the Balfour Declaration, the one hundredth anniversary of which falls this year. This declaration supported national rights for the Jews who in 1917 constituted 10 per cent of the population of Palestine while denying them to the Arabs who constituted 90 per cent. Of the ten MPs, some were laudatory, some described the responsibility it continued to place on Britain, and two referred in particular to the failure to implement the second half of the declaration which states that nothing should be done to prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine. Only one referred, in this context, to the rights of Palestinian refugees. Not one MP, however, challenged the colonial premises of the Declaration itself, nor Britains culpability in unleashing colonisation-by-proxy in Palestine.

It is important to point out that referring to these lacunae in the debate does not mean criticising individual MPs. Many interventions were powerfully argued and impressively well informed, made by people who had visited the region and studied it closely. Several MPs demonstrated their detailed knowledge of the effects of military occupation and settler violence on the lives of individual Palestinians and their communities. The question is rather, given these MPs level of knowledge, strong sense of justice and solidarity for the oppressed, given the wide range of strong opinions they must represent, why did the debate so rarely move beyond the narrow parameters and assumptions of the motion itself?

Here the role of self-censorship needs to be raised. Participants, knowingly or unknowingly, participated in what Ilan Papp calls the hegemonic discourse on Palestine commonly employed by the powers that be.(Narrating Gaza in Gaza as Metaphor edited by Helga Tawil-Souri and Dina Matar) Language use clearly influences both thought and action which is why politicians and governments alike are so keen to shape it. Papp highlights the difference between using words like occupation versus colonisation or peace process versus decolonisation or Israeli democracy versus Israeli Apartheid. Changes in language use, he argues, create the freedom to narrate Israel/Palestine in less constrained and more emancipatory ways, thus redefining the space of thought.

What might lead our representatives to be so cautious in their language? First, the UK governments complicity with Israel has been repeatedly demonstrated in all its bilateral dealings, its failure to condemn Israeli atrocities, and its reluctance to hold Israel to account for its breaches of international law. UN resolution 2334, drafted with British help, at last offered an opportunity for MPs to assert themselves forcefully in opposition to the Prime Ministers shameful retreat from the momentum of international opinion. The status of this resolution has thus assumed a particular significance; the need to protect it may have organised MPs to stick closely to its premises. In this they were successful since the motion was passed without a vote.

Second, parliamentarians who support Palestine have in the past year been subjected to relentless attacks if they voice any opinions which are disapproved of by Israel. Even putting forward this motion would have attracted criticism. The Israeli government and its London embassy does its utmost to control the debate on Palestine, its terminology and its representation in the media. These bullying tactics are well known, if often unspoken for fear of further retribution and they have had powerful effects in silencing dissent. The UK government, even if it had wished to take an alternative position, has fallen compliantly into line by, among other things, condemning and trying to render illegal the peaceful Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, by its recent adoption of a definition of antisemitism which includes over-sweeping condemnation of Israel, and by its declared intention to celebrate the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.

Third, we have to look at those organisations within parliament itself which work tirelessly to control the terms of the debate, most notably the Conservative and Labour Friends of Israel. Although there is a parallel organisation in Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East, it has been unable to exert as much influence and there is none within the Conservative Party in which CFI boasts an 80% membership of all Tory MPs, including many cabinet ministers.

It is within the Labour party, however, following its election of the first party leader to unequivocally support Palestinian rights, that the most relentless pressure has been exercised. The use of accusations of anti- Semitism to silence supporters of Palestinian rights has been discussed elsewhere. Its effect on stifling criticism of Israel, and the licence it gives Israeli apologists to claim that arguing for anything other than a two-state solution or supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement means demonising and delegitimising the worlds only Jewish State has been profound.

We saw the results of such pressure in the debate of 9 February. It is a supreme irony that the person who has now driven a coach and horses through the two-state orthodoxy is one Donald Trump and we can be sure that, whatever he had in mind, it was not emancipation for Palestinians.

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Between Israel and Palestine: reflections on a House of Commons debate – Open Democracy

Israeli soldier gets 18 months for killing wounded Palestinian attacker – USA TODAY

The Israeli soldier, Sgt. Elor Azaria, who was convicted of manslaughter in the fatal shooting of wounded Palestinian, 21-year-old Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, in a knife attack, has been sentenced to 18 months in military prison. USA TODAY

Israeli soldier Elor Azaria is embraced by his mother at the start of his sentencing hearing in a Israel military court in Tel Aviv, Feb. 21, 2017.(Photo: JIM HOLLANDER / POOL, EPA)

A military court sentenced an Israeli soldier to 18 months in prison Tuesday for fatally shooting a Palestinian attacker as he lay wounded in a street in the occupied West Bank.

Elor Azaria, 21, was convicted last month ofthe manslaughter of Abdel Fatah al-Sharifin Hebron in March2016. Sharif was incapacitated and did not pose animmediate danger, the Jaffa Military Courtheard previously.Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi, another attacker, was also killed.

A video that emerged of Azaria shooting Sharifafter he tried to stab another soldier went viral.An autopsy found Sharif died from a gunshot to the head, Haaretz reported.

The Tel Aviv courtalso demoted Azaria from sergeant to private in the sentencing, the Jerusalem Post reported. Prosecutors had asked for a3 to 5 year sentence.

Azarias lawyers said they will appeal and asked for the start of the sentence to be delayed until the papers are submitted, according tothe Post.

The court ruled that Azaria, a combat medic,would begin hissentence on March 5, the Times of Israel reported. Following the sentencing, Azaria’sfamily and friendssang the Israelinational anthem and called him a hero.”

Trump and Netanyahu waver on support for two-state solution in Middle East

Israel-Palestinian peace: One-state, two-state solutions explained

The court case deeply divided Israel, where military service is compulsory.Hundreds of protesters assembledoutside thecourt in the hopes thatAzaria would walk free.

Nadav Weisman, the chief prosecutor,said in a statement:We know this was a hard day for the accused, but justice needed to be done and justice was done.”

This sentence is a joke, and it shows how much discrimination Israeli courts practice against Palestinians, said Issa Karaka, the Palestinian government minister for prisoners, according to the Associated Press.

Yisrael Katz, the minister of transportation, called forAzaria to be pardoned, joiningcalls by politicians includingPrime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.The court said its piece, the legal process is done. Now is the time for clemency, to return Elor to his home,” Katz saidin a Facebook post.

Sari Bashi, Israel/Palestine advocacydirector at Human Rights Watch, welcomed the prison term.

“Pardoning Israeli soldier Azaria would only encourage impunity for unlawfully taking the life of another person,” she tweeted.

“Azaria’s prison term-important message about reining in excessive force. But Israeli officials should also repudiate shoot-to-kill rhetoric,” she added.

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Israeli soldier gets 18 months for killing wounded Palestinian attacker – USA TODAY

ISIS Group Expands in Southern Syria Near Israel Border – Newsweek

Islamic State-linked Syrian militant groups on Monday launched a surprise attack on moderate rebels in southwestern Syria near the Golan Heights near where the Jordanian and Israeli borders converge, seizing several villages and a large town, rebels and witnesses said.

Rebels said the militants were able to extend their area of control in territory that forms a natural barrier between Syria and Israel where the Yarmouk River flows after they overran the towns of Tseel, Sahem al Golan, Adwan and Tel Jamoua.

“In a surprise attack Islamic State made an attack on positions held by the Free Syrian Army FSA groups which no one expected to happen so fast,” said Colonel Ismail Ayoub, a Syrian opposition army defector.

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The militants launched a wide-scale dawn attack from their enclave where they are entrenched in the towns of Jamla, Ain Zakar Nafaa and al Shajra, deploying dozens of armored vehicles and several tanks to overrun nearby towns aided by sleeper cells among locals who helped the attackers, two rebel sources said.

Smoke from explosions rises during fighting in the village of Jubata Al Khashab, held by Syrian rebel groups fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, as seen from the Israeli side of the border fence between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights September 11, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner REUTERS/Baz Ratner

The jihadists were later driven out of at least two villages – Jileen and Heet – after a counteroffensive by Southern Front groups, an alliance of FSA factions that coordinates operations from a joint command center in Jordan, said Abu Yahya, a rebel official in the Jabhat Thwar Surya faction.

It includes groups that have received some support from foreign states including Gulf Arab governments.

The Sunni hardline militants are members of the so-called Khalid Ibn Al Walid Army, a grouping set up last year from a merger of two main militant jihadist factions who are believed to have pledged allegiance to Islamic State and now control the strip of territory southeast of the Golan Heights.

Jordanian army units stationed along the border were put in a state of heightened readiness, a Jordanian security source said, and residents in the area said sounds of mortars were heard clearly from the fighting across the border.

A rebel official told Reuters that several FSA rebel groups were expected to get fresh supplies of arms from Jordan in the next few weeks to beef up their defenses against the ultra-hardline Sunni radicals.

Earlier this month the Jordanian air force said it conducted air strikes against the militants in the area, destroying an ammunition depot, a car bomb factory and barracks.

Militants had reportedly executed several people in Tseel, the largest town that fell into militants’ hands on Monday and which has been a haven for tens of thousands of displaced peoples

Tseel and most of the area captured by the militants had until early last year been in their hands until an alliance of FSA groups and rival Islamist groups wrested control and then managed to lay siege on their territorial enclave.

The ultra-hardline militants’ offensive came as heavy fighting between rebels and the Syrian army entered its second week in Deraa city, nearly 40 km (25 miles) east of the Yarmouk Valley, in the first such surge of violence in over a year and a half.

The timing of the Islamic State-affiliated group’s offensive has prompted accusations they had exploited the preoccupation of the FSA rebels in ongoing battles with the Syrian army.

Rebel advances in a strategic district held by the army have prompted Russia to wage an intensive bombing campaign of rebel-held parts of the southern city for the first time since Moscow’s major intervention in September 2015.

The capture of Manshiya district would put the remaining government-held part of the city within firing range of the rebels and thwart repeated army attempts to rupture supply lines linking rebel-held areas to the east and west of the city.

ISIS Group Expands in Southern Syria Near Israel Border – Newsweek

‘Israeli-Arab with ISIS ties planned Tel Aviv bus attack’ – Jerusalem Post Israel News

Enes Haj Yahia/ISIS in Syria . (photo credit:SHIN BET/ REUTERS)

Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) along with the police announced on Monday the recent arrest of an Israeli-Arab citizen on suspicion of planning a terror attack in Israel as well as contacting the Islamic State terror group in Syria.

According to the Shin Bet, 35-year-old Enes Haj Yahia, a resident of Taybeh was arrested following intelligence that he was promoting terror activities inside Israel. The suspect was also accused of being in contact with Islamic State militants and distributing material and military knowledge about the preparation of explosives.

Yahia is reported to have sworn allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed Caliph or leader of the jihadist group, and is said to have considered joining the group in Syria.

A statement released by the security agency stated that Yahia planned instead to set up a terror cell to carry out attacks in Israel, and even tried to recruit others. According to the Shin Bet, Yahia was asked by the group to carry out a terror attack on a bus in Tel Aviv and harm IDF soldiers, but the plan was never carried out.

During investigations, Yahia was found to be a member of several online groups in which Islamic State activists distributed information about the production and assembly of explosive belts, and how to incorporate hazardous substances, including sarin gas, into the devices.

During his arrest, images of military materials as well as a detailed guide of jihadist fighters used by terrorists affiliated with the Islamic State were seized by security forces.

Charges were filed against Yahya on Monday by the Central District Attorney.

The Shin Bet sees support for the Islamic State as a serious security threat to Israel and therefore uses every means at its disposal to prevent threats and bring those involved in this activity to justice, the agencys statement read.

Israel has so far largely avoided an attack by the Islamic State group, although several Israelis-Arabs have been arrested on suspicion of links with ISIS and plans to carry out attacks inspired by the Sunni extremist group.

Israeli security officials have said two Palestinians who shot dead four Israelis at Tel Avivs Sarona Market last June and the Israeli-Arab who killed three people in a 2016 New Year’s Day shooting spree in Tel Aviv, had all been inspired by the jihadist group.

In September, five Israeli-Arabs were sentenced to jail by an Israeli court for terms from 30 months to six years for seeking to join ISIS in Syria.

According to the Shin Bet, around 50 Israeli citizens have traveled to Syria or neighboring Iraq to fight with rebel groups including the Islamic State. Several are reported to have been killed and less than a 10 are estimated to have returned to Israel, either by their own accord or after being caught by Turkish authorities while trying to cross the border, leading to their deportation back to Israel.

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‘Israeli-Arab with ISIS ties planned Tel Aviv bus attack’ – Jerusalem Post Israel News

Trump’s pick for ambassador to Israel faces hecklers and …

David Friedman, President Trumps nominee to be ambassador to Israel, had barely started his opening remarks at his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday when the protests began.

Palestinians will always be in Palestine, shouted a man waving a red, green and black Palestinian flag.

You do not represent us! an American Jew in a kippa shouted a few minutes later.

After guards escorted the hecklers out, Friedman faced tough questioning from members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who are skeptical he can conduct diplomacy given his harsh pro-Israel views and incendiary insults.

In recent years, Friedman has called President Obama, other Democratic leaders and critics of Israeli actions anti-Semitic. He likened liberal American Jews to Holocaust-era kapos, Jews who collaborated withthe Nazis in concentration camps. He once said the entire State Department had been anti-Jewish for the last half-century.

On Thursday, Friedman said he regretted his heated language.

“I cannot justify these hurtful words, which I deeply regret,” said Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer who has worked for Trump. I have rejected and I continue to reject the inflammatory comments.

Friedman, the son of a rabbi, said he was qualified to be ambassador because of his deep knowledge of Israeli history, born of a life of study and more than 50 visits. He also cited his close friendship withTrump and his fluency in the Hebrew language.

Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) called on the Trump administration to withdraw the nomination, saying Friedman was completely unfit for the job. He also introduced a letter from five former ambassadors to Israel from Republican and Democratic administrations who objected to the nominee.

We need a steady hand in the Middle East, not a flame thrower, Udall said.

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, ranking Democrat on the committee, said he was especially distraught over Friedmans characterization of Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, the Senate minority leader, as having capitulated to terrorism for comments made during the heated debate on the 2015 deal that blocked Irans ability to produce nuclear weapons.

“I’m having difficultyunderstanding whether you really can be a diplomat,” Cardin said.

Friedman is a financial backer of expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank, land claimed by the Palestinians.

He also has dismissed as unworkable the proposed two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The diplomatic strategy, which envisions an Israeli nation and a Palestinian nation existing side by side, has been the cornerstone of U.S. policy since the Clinton administration, although Trump said Wednesday that he is willing to abandon it if Israel and the Palestinians can produce a better plan.

Friedman told the committee he would be “delighted” to see Israeli and Palestinian states coexist but questioned whether that was feasible.

He also is a strong advocate of moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a shift sure to inflame Palestinians who also consider Jerusalem their capital. No other country has put their embassy in Jerusalem because the issue is so sensitive.

During the campaign, Trump vowed to relocate the embassy, but he said Wednesday at a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the proposed move is still under study.

In response to questions, Friedman said Israels annexation of the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 war had worked out quite well. But he said he does not support calls by Israels right wing to annex the West Bank in an effort to block creation of a separate Palestinian state.

Friedman repeated the Israeli argument that a major impediment to peace is that the Palestinians dont have leaders with whom Israel can negotiate. The Gaza Strip is controlled by the radical Hamas organization, while the West Bank is controlled by the more moderate Palestinian Authority.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who introduced Friedman, acknowledged the nominee had made some offensive comments, but backed himas experienced and passionate.

“I believe he is the right guy at the right time, Graham said. He’ll be Trump’s voice.

Other Republicans on the GOP-led committee also appeared supportive, meaning he probably will be confirmed.

For more on international affairs, follow @TracyKWilkinson on Twitter

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Trump’s pick for ambassador to Israel faces hecklers and …

Netanyahu must stand up to Israel’s right (Opinion) –

Of course, the world does not expect a deal to be made tomorrow — or even soon. These days, no one is that naive. But it does want to hear from Israel that there has been no paradigm shift, no retreat to the old dream of a Greater Israel by annexation, and no abandonment — once recognition, security guarantees and the formal end-of-claims by the Palestinians have been secured — of the commitment to Palestinian statehood.

Israelis have taken to wondering aloud if Bennett, with his eight seats in the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, is the real prime minister and Netanyahu, with his 30 seats, is his ambassador to Washington.

On issue after issue, Bennett is perceived to have dragged Netanyahu and Israel to the wilder shores of the right and away from the two-state paradigm.

A pattern is being established.

Bennett appears principled, while Netanyahu appears pliable, a man with a wafer-thin Knesset majority who can be dragged against his better judgment and his own long-held policy positions into Bennett-land.

Netanyahu risks looking reactive: he appears to be for the two-state solution, against it, or unsure, depending on the audience and the short-term political need.

Here are eight reasons why Netanyahu should now say that enough is enough:

Bennett is undermining the possibility of a regional peace effort between Israel and the “Sunni pragmatic” states such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, who understand Netanyahu’s caution perfectly well. None of these nations believe a final status deal and a two-state solution with the Palestinians is possible tomorrow, but they will never agree to live with Bennett’s plan to annex most of the West Bank to Israel.

If Bennett manages to make the two-state solution impossible then a bi-national reality — one state between the river and the sea for two peoples — will be created, and in time that will result in Israel having to choose between being Jewish or democratic. On that, former US Secretary of State John Kerry was dead right. The “Boycott Israel!” crowd are licking their lips.

Giving way to Bennett has only emboldened him, and he now thinks he can dictate the terms of the relationship between an Israeli prime minister and the new US president. For this, the word chutzpah was invented.

Neither Trump nor regional actors respect weakness, and right now Bennett is making Netanyahu look weak: a man being led, not a leading prime minister, looking for shelter from the rain made by Bennett.

Netanyahu has the opportunity to make the weather with Trump and those regional actors who seek new relations with Israel in the face of the shared threat from Iran and jihadists. Both men have hinted — I think wisely — that creating a new regional paradigm for Middle East peace is the way forward.

They know that the “get in a room and sort it out in ten months” paradigm has been tested to destruction. It has failed four times in the last 20 years: Camp David in 2000, Taba in 2001, Annapolis in 2007-08, and the Kerry talks in 2014.

To create that new regional approach to the two-state solution, and to secure the future of the Zionist dream of a Jewish and democratic state, Netanyahu must first decide to call Bennett’s bluff.

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Netanyahu must stand up to Israel’s right (Opinion) –

US ambassador contradicts Donald Trump on two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict – The Independent

Americas ambassador to the United Nations has said the US absolutely supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, directly contradicting comments made by Donald Trump just a day ago.

The US President told reporters after a meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyahu that his administration was no longer wedded to the creation of a Palestinian state.

The remarks signalled a departure from America’s decades-old approach to Middle East foreign policy.

But Nikki Haley, Mr Trump’s appointment for ambassador to the UN, said the US remained committed to a two-state solution.

She said anyone who believed the US was abandoning the policy did so in error.

The UN envoy said: “We are thinking out of the box as well, which is: What does it take to bring these two sides to the table? What do we need to have them agree on?

“We absolutely support a two-state solution.”

The development came as senior figures involved in the Middle East peace process voiced their concern at Mr Trump’s apparent U-turn.

Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator and Secretary-General of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), warned that Mr Trumps vision was akin to apartheid”.

Palestine’s chief negotiator warns Trump against one-state solution

He said the only alternative to a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be one single secular and democratic state with equal rights for everyone, Christians, Muslims and Jews, in all of historic Palestine”.

He called for concrete measures in order to save the two-state solution”.

Mr Trumps media conference with Mr Netanyahu on Wednesday continues to send shock waves throughout the region and the wider Muslim world.

The two leaders mainly talked about the threat of Iran and the cherished relationship between their respective countries.

The new US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, waits to address the Security Council on the situation in Ukraine (EPA)

However, when asked by reporters whether the US will continue its policy of support for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel as was suggested by an anonymous White House official a day earlier Mr Trump was equivocal in his answer.

Im looking at two-state and at one-state, and I like the one that both parties like… I can live with either one, he said, in what would be a momentous break from what has been a cornerstone of US policy in the Middle East peace process since Bill Clintons administration.

Trump: Im looking at two-state and at one-state, and I like the one that both parties like

I thought the two-state [solution] looked easier for a while, he added, before reaffirming he would let Israeli and Palestinian negotiators take the lead on the issue.

Mr Netanyahu also dismissed what he said were just labels such as one-state and two-state, saying he would rather focus on a peace deal with the Palestinians of substance.

The UN and the Arab League have since issued a joint statement reiterating their support for the creation of a Palestinian state, exposing a widening rift with Mr Trumps stance.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Arab League Chief Ahmed Aboul-Gheit told reporters in Cairo on Thursday that a two-state solution is “the only way to achieve comprehensive and just settlement to the Palestinian cause”.

The international community generally supports a two-state solution in order to preserve the Palestinian identity and Israels unique status as a Jewish-majority state. However, increasing Israeli expansion in the West Bank which shows no sign of slowing under President Trump and the rise to power of Hamas in Gaza has led the two-state peace process to stumble in the last decade.

The Israeli political landscape has also swung to the right in recent years. Many prominent hardline politicians in Mr Netanyahus coalition government are against any form of Palestinian statehood.

A new EU-funded poll released on Thursday found that the number of Israelis and Palestinians who support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state has dropped recently but more people continue to prefer a two-state solution overall.

55 per cent of Israelis and 44 per cent of Palestinians currently support a two-state arrangement, but just 24 per cent of Israelis and one-third of Palestinians prefer a single binational state, the poll jointly conducted by Tel Aviv University and the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research found.

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US ambassador contradicts Donald Trump on two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict – The Independent

In Arab world, fresh doubts about the chances for a Palestinian state – Los Angeles Times

Four years ago, the West Bank city of Ramallah rejoiced when the United Nations voted to recognize a Palestinian state a symbolic move, surely, but seen at the time by many as a hopeful step on the road to self-determination.

Now few in the city believe that the new U.S. administration will help advance the cause of Palestinian statehood, and that doubt is echoed across much of the Arab world.

The people are very confused, said Somida Abbas, a 58-year-old Palestinian insurance executive sitting in a caf on Ramallahs main square. Im sure that I will not ever live to see a Palestinian state now.

There was little surprise over the deliberate show of bonhomie Wednesday at a joint White House appearance by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Trump, who throughout his campaign had signaled willingness to break with decades of U.S. policy.

But many in the Palestinian territories, and across the region, were shaken by the presidents almost casual dismissal of the longstanding U.S. commitment to the eventual creation of a Palestinian state, a diplomatic bedrock known as the two-state solution.

Im looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like, Trump told reporters at a news conference by the two leaders. I can live with either one.

A single state encompassing both Israelis and Palestinians has long been viewed as an unsatisfactory solution to the Mideast conundrum. By absorbing the West Bank and a Palestinian population roughly equal to its own, Israel would be confronted with the choice of either sacrificing its Jewish character or — if it relegated Palestinians to second-class stature without full citizenship rights — its democracy.

Some longtime observers of the region said Trumps stance lacked the gravitas of past policymaking efforts.

Its hard to even have a serious conversation based on Im fine with whatever you guys agree to, said Mouin Rabbani, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Institute for Palestine Studies.

Speaking by phone from Amman, Jordan, Rabbani said that when the president makes such a seemingly off-the-cuff remark, you take it seriously at your peril, and you ignore it at your peril.

Even with no peace talks in sight, the prospect of a U.S. retreat on commitment to Palestinian statehood threatens to undermine the stability of the already struggling Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian self-governing body set up after the 1993 Oslo Accords.

The new CIA director, Mike Pompeo, was in Ramallah the same day as the Trump-Netanyahu meeting and reportedly got an earful from Palestinian officials about the danger of extremists being emboldened by the U.S. pullback from a commitment to Palestinian statehood.

The lack of attention to the Palestinian sideshould alarm the Palestinian Authority, Nabil Amr, a former Palestinian government minister, told Palestinian radio Thursday. It is obvious that there will be no pressure exerted on Netanyahu.

Some regional analysts poured cold water on the notion that warming ties with some Sunni Arab states due to a common threat posed by jihadist groups and the ambitions of Shiite Muslim Iran could lead to any meaningful Arab engagement in a peace bid.

Jared Kushner, the Trump son-in-law touted by the president as a potential Mideast dealmaker, has been making Arab-world contacts thought to be aimed at laying the groundwork for drawing regional powers such as Saudi Arabia into Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. That idea dates to at least the early 1990s, but has never moved forward.

At the White House news conference, Netanyahu made a point of referring to a changing relationship with Arab states other than Jordan and Egypt, with which Israel has peace treaties.

We can seize an historic opportunity because for the first time in my lifetime and for the first time in the life of my country, Arab countries in the region do not see Israel as an enemy, but increasingly as an ally, the Israeli leader said.

But conservative Gulf monarchies, mindful of domestic constituencies, are seen as highly unlikely to step up without significant Israeli concessions, which do not appear on the horizon as long as Netanyahus right-wing government is in power.

None of those states has formal diplomatic ties with Israel, and would almost certainly seek to keep any dealings covert and compartmentalized, Rabbani said.Few Gulf governments, he said, would want to stake their prestige on a peace process that was not aimed at culminating in Palestinian statehood.

There is a strong Israeli interest in bringing countries like Saudi Arabia plus Egypt and Jordan into the fold, said Yossi Mekelberg, an associate fellow at the British think tank Chatham House. If you want to go for a big move and reach the region involved, at the end of the day it is the Israelis who need to deliver the minimum requirements.

Jerusalem Post columnist Gershon Baskin said on Twitter that if there were a U.S. push to seek an Arab-brokered plan, the Trump administration would realize after fiveminutes of talks with Arab states that there is no regional peace without twostates Israel and Palestine.

Saudi Arabia, for its part, made no public move to leap into the diplomatic breach. Saudi Foreign Minister Abdel Jubeir, attending the G-20 meeting in Bonn a day after the Trump-Netanyahu meeting, said little about the U.S. stance on Palestinian statehood other than that the kingdom looked forward to working with the new administration.

We are very, very optimistic about our ability to resolve issues in the region, he said.

Many Arab governments, even Western-friendly ones, have long been cynical about successive U.S. administrations attempts to broker a peace between Israelis and Palestinians,feeling that such efforts were doomed by a failure to press Israel to take steps like halting the building of settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

In his joint news conference with Netanyahu, Trump raised the subject, but only gingerly, telling the Israeli leader, Id like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit. Well work something out.

Palestinian officials said the mild admonition on settlement-building, coupled with the lack of commitment to a two-state goal, left them with little hope of a breakthrough.

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior official in the Palestine Liberation Organization, evoked a phrase used by Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway, who in January referred to alternative facts during an interview.

I dont know if President Trump can afford to drop the two-state solution and claim to want peace, she said. Hes dealing with alternative realities.

In Ramallah, caf waiter Mohammed Alawi had little to offer but a sarcastic smile when asked about the White House parley.

I didnt expect anything from them, he said.

Special correspondent Mitnick reported from Ramallahand Times staff writer King from Washington.


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In Arab world, fresh doubts about the chances for a Palestinian state – Los Angeles Times

Is Trump reconsidering moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel …

President Trump is still weighing moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, according to an interview he gave to an Israeli news outlet.

In the interview published Friday with Israel Hayom, the president was asked how soon he would make a decision on relocating the embassy to the holy city of Jerusalem from Tel Aviv — a controversial shift that could inflame tensions across the Islamic world.

I am thinking about the embassy, I am studying the embassy [issue], and we will see what happens, Mr. Trump said. The embassy is not an easy decision. It has obviously been out there for many, many years, and nobody has wanted to make that decision. Im thinking about it very seriously, and we will see what happens.

Thats a slight softening from the presidents original campaign promises about the embassy.

In the spring of last year, then-candidate Trump vowed in a speech to pro-Israel lobbying group the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) that he would make the move during his presidency.

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Late Monday, the Israeli Knesset passed a law retroactively legalizing settlements in the West Bank. Ilan Goldenberg, with the Goldenberg Center …

We will move the American Embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem — and we will send a clear signal that there is no daylight between America and our most reliable ally, the state of Israel, Mr. Trump said in March.

And in December after his election win, he nominated bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Israel, signaling his intention to follow through with this campaign promise. Friedman, who is an Orthodox Jew, said after his nomination in a statement that he looks forward to having the U.S. embassy in Israels eternal capital, Jerusalem. That month, top aide to the president Kellyanne Conway also called the promised relocation a very big priority for the next administration.

The interview with Israel Hayom — a paper owned by casino magnate and Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson — also touched on the issue of Israeli settlements and their effect on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The president seemed to strike a harder line on the construction of more settlements.

They [settlements] dont help the process, I can say that, Mr. Trump said. There is so much land left. And every time you take land for settlements, there is less land left. But we are looking at that, and we are looking at some other options well see. But no, I am not somebody that believes that going forward with these settlements is a good thing for peace.

Mr. Trumps comments come just days before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to visit the White House.

In the weeks since Mr. Trump officially took office, the Israeli government announced the building of more than 5,000 new houses in the occupied West Bank and retroactively legalized thousands of settlement homes on Palestinian land. Netanyahu has also floated the idea of constructing completely new settlements — the first in years.

Last week, however, the White House issued a statement warning against the continued construction of new settlements.

We dont believe that the existence of current settlements is an impediment to peace, but I think the construction or expansion of existing settlements beyond the current borders is not going to be helpful moving forward, White House spokesperson Sean Spicer said in a statement.

In the interview with Israel Hayom, however, the president stated he did not want to condemn Israel.

Israel has had a long history of condemnation and difficulty. And I dont want to be condemning Israel, he said. I understand Israel very well, and I respect Israel a lot, and they have been through a lot. I would like to see peace and beyond that. And I think that peace for Israel would be a good thing for the Israeli people, not just a good thing, a great thing.

Mr. Trump is expected to meet with Netanyahu in Washington Wednesday.

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Is Trump reconsidering moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel …

Israel bill in Minnesota House hits an international nerve – Duluth News Tribune

Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, introduced the bill Jan. 23, and the House’s Government Finance committee discussed it Wednesday afternoon.

Previously, Kresha equated boycotting Israel with discrimination against Jews as a whole. He said 16 other states passed similar language, and that it also was the policy of the Obama administration to not do business with companies that boycotted Israel.

During a phone press conference last week, Gov. Mark Dayton said the state’s Department of Administration had found no companies that contracted with the government and that were also boycotting Israel.

“So, this is really a debate about foreign affairs and not about something that directly affects Minnesota,” Dayton said.

Although he added that Kresha’s bill was a “double negative” he said he would support it.

The Minnesota branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, however, said in a letter that Kresha’s bill, House File 400, violates both the U.S. and Minnesota constitutions.

“HF 400 would require persons who wish to boycott Israel as a means of political expression to sacrifice their First Amendment rights in order to do business with the state of Minnesota,” the group wrote.

The ACLU went on to assert the bill specifically targeted the “Boycott, Divest, Sanctions” movement, which opposes the actions of the Israeli government in relation to its conflict with Palestine.

“While the ACLU-MN takes no position on the BDS movement, we oppose bills like these that would require state and local governments to deny benefits (such as contracts) in retaliation for the exercise of freedom of expression and association,” the letter said. “They place unconstitutional conditions on the exercise of constitutional rights.”

The House’s Government Finance Committee voted 10-6 to advance the bill to its third committee hearing, Ways and Means. If H.F. 400 passes there, it will head to the House floor for a vote by the whole body.

Before the committee voted Wednesday to approve the bill, Kresha said the proposal’s objective was simply to prevent Minnesota’s government from subsidizing discrimination against Israeli companies. He compared it to the provision in the Women’s Economic Security Act, passed into law by the Legislature, that prevented discrimination on the basis of gender.

Ethan Roberts, director of government affairs for the local branch of the Jewish Community Relations Council, testified in favor of the bill by reiterating that it was bipartisan response to the “economic warfare” of the BDS moment.

“The goal of the BDS movement is nothing short of the destruction of the state of Israel,” he said.

He said the bill was in fact constitutional, and that his group had been in conversation with the ACLU beginning Tuesday. They were working on compromise bill language that would be ready in time for the bill’s next committee hearing, he said.

Several BDS supporters attempted to differentiate their opposition to the Israeli government with an opposition to Jews, and compared BDS to peaceful nonviolent protest actions throughout American history, such as those carried out by the African-American civil rights movement.

Rep. Ilhan Omar, DFL-Minneapolis, a Muslim and Somali-American, asked a Palestinian pro-BDS testifier to spell out the difference between the Israeli government and Jewish people. The testifier was a young woman who said she had received a Fulbright Scholarship to study at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. In response to Omar’s prompting, she said she was against the policies of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government that violated human rights, not Jewish people.

“The conflict was never about religion pre-1948,” she said. “My grandma is from … Israel. She told me a story about living with Jews in peace before 1948 and the establishment of the Israeli state.”

The cost in money and time

The responsibility of actually implementing Kresha’s bill falls to the state Department of Administration, which handles Minnesota’s contracts with private companies.

Matt Scherer, the legislative director for the department, cautioned the bill would add one more contracting rule to an already 43-page list companies have to navigate when seeking to do business with the state. He also said adding rules contractors have to comply with can have the effect of reducing competition among them, and increasing the risk of “bid protest.” Scherer explained bid protests are when the losers of a bidding process to get a state contract say that the winner violates contracting rules.

The bill’s “fiscal note,”or estimate of how much a particular piece of legislation will cost once it’s put into place, said H.F. 400 would mean an extra $7,000 being spent for the 2017-2018 biennium. Kresha amended his bill Wednesday so the Department of Administration is required to use only its existing budget as appropriated by the Legislature, and they don’t get extra money in order to implement H.F. 400.

During an interview Thursday, Kresha said the fact his bill would cost money didn’t change his position.

“If the Department (of Administration) thinks it’s going to cost money to implement this, they’re going to make that argument,” he said. “However, when other bills have come up, they have not raised that concern. So, it is what it is.”

Kresha said requiring the department to use its existing budget didn’t mean they would have to cut something else to account for the added cost of his bill they would simply have to allocate resources differently. It was the department’s job to check for discrimination among potential contractors, and the rule in H.F. 400 barring contractors from Israel boycotts was doing just that, Kresha said. In addition, his bill didn’t take away people’s right to boycott Israel, he said it simply prevented the state from doing business with them.

“People are going to vote on this, and they’re going to choose whether they support Israel or not,” he said.

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Israel bill in Minnesota House hits an international nerve – Duluth News Tribune

Israel-Palestinian conflict: US ‘thinking outside box’ – BBC News
Israel-Palestinian conflict: US 'thinking outside box'
BBC News
The US ambassador to the UN has said her country "absolutely" supports the idea of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. But Nikki Haley also said the Trump administration was "thinking outside the box as well", suggesting it was
US 'absolutely' supports two-state solution to Israeli-Palestine
US Still Supports 2-State Solution for Israeli-Palestinian Conflict – UN EnvoySputnik International

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Israel-Palestinian conflict: US ‘thinking outside box’ – BBC News

The UN, Salam Fayyad and Israel – Jerusalem Post Israel News

THEN-PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY Prime Minister Salam Fayyad arriving at a meeting in Ramallah in 2012.. (photo credit:REUTERS)

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is to be commended for recommending former Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad as UN representative for Libya, overseeing the UNs support mission there.

I have known Fayyad who also served as finance minister in the Palestinian Authority before becoming prime minister for some 15 years and had an opportunity to work with him on a variety of issues, including in my capacity as minister of justice and attorney-general of Canada, and then during my time as a member of Parliament.

I found Fayyad to be a responsive and active leader in matters relating to combating the culture of corruption in the Palestinian Authority upholding the rule of law, combating incitement and condemning terrorism. In a word, Fayyad was engaged in state building for the Palestinian people as distinct from denying statehood for the Jewish people concerned more with preparing the Palestinian people for creating a responsible and accountable independent Palestinian state rather than expending Palestinian resources in obsessing against Israel.

Indeed, I recall sitting in his office on more than one occasion when he countered a hateful Palestinian communiqu or opposed a PA internationalization initiative at the UN or elsewhere, actions that did not endear him to many in the Palestinian leadership.

Accordingly, it was surprising to see United States Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley first green-lighting Fayyads appointment, and then surprisingly opposing it, saying for too long the UN has been unfairly biased in favor of the Palestinian Authority to the detriment of our allies in Israel, adding that the US does not currently recognize a Palestinian state or support the signal this appointment would send within the United Nations.

While Ambassador Haley is correct about the UN singling out Israel for selective and discriminatory treatment, her criticism ignores the salient fact that Fayyad was being recommended for appointment irrespective of his nationality not because he was a Palestinian, but because of his effective track record, which dovetailed well with the needs for the mission to Libya.

It is equally surprising that the Israeli ambassador to the UN addressed the issue through the lens of Fayyad being appointed because he was a Palestinian rather than because he might have merited the position regardless of his nationality. Said Ambassador Danny Danon in praising the US decision to oppose Fayyads appointment: This is the beginning of a new era at the UN. An era where the US stands firmly behind Israel against any and all attempts to harm the Jewish state.

But the Guterres decision had nothing to do with harming the Jewish state or with prejudicial UN action against Israel.

It had nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, let alone the suggestion that this was implied recognition of a Palestinian state. Simply put, one need not be a representative of a state to be a UN representative, and many like Fayyad are appointed without reference to their nationality.

Indeed, even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who felt that the prospective appointment lacked reciprocity in that an Israeli was not being appointed to a UN position, did not appear to appreciate that Fayyads nationality was not at issue.

Even if regard were to be had to reciprocity which would otherwise be a legitimate concern that the UN secretary-general had otherwise asked former Israel justice and foreign minister Tzipi Livni to be deputy secretary-general, frankly, it is hard to understand why Israeli officials weighed in on this at all, as it had nothing to do with Israel or with Palestinian nationality, and everything to do with the qualities of the person being recommended.

Regrettably, the overheated political environment that underpins the Israeli- Palestinian conflict seems to invite people to make comments when sometimes the issue has nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at all. The appointment of a qualified person to a UN role gets confused with the accumulated baggage of a historical UN bias against Israel, thereby clouding peoples vision and understanding.

The result is gratuitous comments that, however inadvertent, appear to impugn the appointment, if not the nationality of the appointee, and impute bias where it is not the case, thereby also misrepresenting the secretary-generals actions and gratuitously making Israel the issue.

There is enough cause to take issue with the United Nations where it warrants. As The Jerusalem Post itself put it in its February 13 editorial Support Fayyad, he is an exception in a landscape of leaders who openly support terrorism, preach hatred, incite… and are corrupt. US and Israeli support for Fayyads appointment would be an important statement on what kind of Palestinian leadership is conducive to coexistence and peace.

It could also support Israel working with the UN secretary-general at the outset of his mandate, rather than opposing him.

Irwin Cotler is former minister of justice and attorney-general of Canada, a longtime parliamentarian and emeritus professor of law at McGill University.

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The UN, Salam Fayyad and Israel – Jerusalem Post Israel News

Jewish Campus Leaders: ‘No Coincidence’ Cartoon Mocking … – Algemeiner

Email a copy of “Jewish Campus Leaders: No Coincidence Cartoon Mocking Judaism Published on Day One of Palestine Awareness Week at California University” to a friend

The cartoon published in UCLAs The Daily Bruin. Photo: Twitter.

Jewish leaders at a California university toldThe Algemeinerits no coincidence that a cartoon mocking Judaism was published in the student newspaper on the first day of Palestine Awareness Week (PAW).

Rabbi Dovid Gurevich, co-director of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)Chabadcenter, said, Its highly improbable that the timingofThe Daily Bruinsprinting of the drawing ofIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu standing in front of an edited Ten Commandments that reads, Thou shalt steal, withthecaption, Israel passes law legalizing seizing any Palestinian land and a bubble saying, #7 [Thou shalt not kill] is next was not meant to coincide with the start of PAW.

They [the cartoon and PAW]have the same goal of focusing on and demonizing Israel, Gurevich said.

February 15, 2017 3:13 pm

Rabbi Aaron Lerner executive director of Hillel at UCLA called the cartoon disturbing, and said it went beyond the anti-Israel editorials he has come to expect during theannual PAW, which is hosted by the schools chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) toraise awareness about the Palestinian struggle for justice & the Palestinian peoples resistance against the Israeli occupation, according to organizers.

I believe the cartoon is the result of SJPs desperation for attention, Lerner toldThe Algemeiner.Their exhibits and programs are largely ignored by UCLA students. Only a handful of students visited their [apartheid wall] display on campus Monday. When they do manage to fill a classroom or theater, half the attendees are pro-Israel advocatesthere to monitor the event.

Whilethe drawing has sincebeen removed from the papers website following widespread denunciation as well asapologized for by the editorial staff andcondemned by university administrators Lerner saidSJPs statement that the illustrator has no affiliation with the group is simply a lie. He cited a2015Daily Bruins article identifying the cartoonist, Felipe Bris Abejn,as SJPs education and resources director as proof of a relationship. (Abejndid not respond toThe Algemeiners request for comment.)

Though Lerner commended the UCLA administration and The Daily Bruin editorsfor their swift response to the cartoon, he saidthatthe underlying complaint remains.

We see time and again that anti-Jewish is not understood to be as serious as other forms of racism and prejudice, he said. Such a cartoon would never have been published by The Daily Bruin targeting a different group. Its a double standard.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper,associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, agreed that thedisgusting and incendiary cartoon is part of a larger problem plaguing campuses worldwide.

Extreme anti-Israel activists feel a sense of empowerment, where they feel that university officials and most of their peers wont punish any bad behavior when it comes to Israel, he said.

UCLA was recently ranked byThe Algemeineras the sixthworst campus for Jewish students in North America in 2016, due tothe harassment and targeting of the pro-Israel community on campus.

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Jewish Campus Leaders: ‘No Coincidence’ Cartoon Mocking … – Algemeiner

Angela Merkel angrily cancels Israel summit over new settlements law, report says – The Independent

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has reportedly nixed a conference in Berlin with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu because of a bill recently passed by the Knesset which retroactively legalises 4,000 settler Jewish settler homes.

While the annual summit with the Israeli government scheduled for May 10 was officially cancelled because of Germanys general election in September, an Israeli source connected to the German Foreign Ministry told Haaretz that the real reason for the cancellation is that Berlin is angry at both the Regulation Bill and other recent Israeli settlement policy moves.

Last week Israel voted to legalise 250 outpost settlements built without government approval on privately owned land in the West Bank.

Barack Obama uses final interview as President to slam Israeli policy on settlements

Under the new legislation – which the countrys attorney general has warned he will not defend, and could put Israel at risk of breaching international law – Palestinian owners are to be given other land, or compensated financially.

The international community, which views all Israeli construction over the 1967 Green Line as illegal, does not recognise the difference between outpost settlements and those authorised by the government.

The controversial new law came into effect almost immediately after Israel announced plans for more than 11,000 new settler homes in the West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem.

It is thought that the bold new moves from Israels ruling coalition have been encouraged by the election of US President Donald Trump. The new president has signalled he is far more sympathetic to Israeli interests than predecessor Barack Obama.

Berlin released a statement condemning the new policies, which it said endangered the peace process and signal that Israel is no longer committed to a two-state-solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

Haaretz Israeli source said that the German government had been instructed to express its dismay at the legislation both publicly and in diplomatic channels.

German officials approached by the paper did not deny the Regulation Bill was the reason the conference – held to show the closeness between the two countries – was cancelled.

The governments summit will most likely not take place in May, one German Foreign Ministry source said. Regarding the elections they are only in September.”

Angela Merkel angrily cancels Israel summit over new settlements law, report says – The Independent

Erekat calls on EU to recognize Palestine, implement UNSC resolution 2334 – Palestine News Network

PNN/ Ramallah/

PLO Secretary General, Dr. Saeb Erekat on Monday met with the Heads of Missions of the European Union to Palestine, where he requested the EU members to uphold their responsibilities, including a few countries that have decided to reward the anti-peace agenda of Benjamin Netanyahu.

We have called upon all countries who havent recognized the State of Palestine to do so. Also, we believe that it is important to implement UNSC Resolution 2334, including a total separation between Israel and its illegal settlements in Occupied Palestine.

This is a crucial moment in order to save the prospects for justice and peace. The Israeli government believes that they can go ahead with their colonization plans and to finally bury the two-state solution, replacing it for the consolidation of a one state/two-systems reality, known as Apartheid, Erekat said in a statement.

In this regard, while we have welcomed the EU labeling of settlement products, we think it is insufficient. We are talking about one of the most blatant Israeli violations of international humanitarian law. Therefore we demand a total ban on Israeli settlement products, including services, he added. Erekat also stressed that there is no contradiction between taking action against Israeli violations of international law, implementation of UN resolutions and calls for resumption of negotiations.

Our position regarding meaningful negotiations has been clear with our support for the Paris Peace Conference. We are at a crucial moment where concrete measures, rather than recycled statements, are the only way to move forward.

Erekat calls on EU to recognize Palestine, implement UNSC resolution 2334 – Palestine News Network

What Would A Unified Israel-Palestine Look Like? – Seeker

For decades, Palestine and Israel have been entrenched in a seemingly endless conflict and many are starting to wonder if peace will ever be established in the conflict-torn region. Experts theorize that there are only have two viable options for peace: a one-state solution or a two-state solution.

Advocated since the 1970s, the two-state solution, or the creation of two entirely separate states, once saw broad support. However that solution is becoming increasingly less likely, as Israel is expanding its settlements against the outcry of the international community. Taking this into consideration, many are predicting that the one-state solution, or the creation of a singular, unified state, looks far more likely.

But there are some major issues the two countries would have to resolve in order for that to happen. Israel and Palestine have different cultures, religions, languages and even radically different understandings of history. With all this considered, could a one-state solution really bring peace?

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The New York Times:The Two-State Solution: What It Is and Why It Hasn’t Happened

CNN:What you need to know about the Israeli settlements

Reuters:Obama says Israeli settlements making two-state solution impossible

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What Would A Unified Israel-Palestine Look Like? – Seeker

Jewish group: London Assembly antisemitism vote a charter for censors – Palestine News Network

PNN/ London/

Free Speech on Israel, a Jewish-led organisation, on Monday condemned thedecision of the London Assemblyon Feb 8 to adopt a position on antisemitism, saying it is a charter for censors, that threatens to make effective campaigning for justice for Palestinians impossible.

Antisemitism is an age-old visceral hatred of Jews simply because they are Jews. It must be vigorously fought against, along with all forms of bigotry.To confuse it with opposition to a state which calls itself Jewish, or to the founding ideology of that state, Zionism, is to obscure the real meaning of the term antisemitism and make combatting it more difficult. This is exactly what the motion passed by the Assembly does, the group said in a statement.

Setting the limits of debate about the Jewish state is a key goal of pro-Israel lobbyists onlyrecently unmaskedas working hand in glove with the Israeli Embassy to brand any criticism as antisemitic. Labour Friends of Israel, to which the motions proposer Andrew Dismore belongs, were shown to be key players in this witch hunt, which has resulted in a wave of suspensions and interrogations of pro-Palestinian Labour Party members. The victims include Jews who, contrary to the claims of the pro-Israel lobby, do not have Zionism woven into their DNA. Jewish organisations have been among thosecalling for a full inquiryinto the extent of Israeli interference in UK politics, statement added.

We defer to Avi Shlaim, professor emeritus of history at Oxford and an Israeli Jew,who writes: Israeli propagandists deliberately, yes deliberately, conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism in order to discredit, bully, and muzzle critics of Israel.

It is not necessary to agree with Palestinians and their supporters when they question the founding principles of the State of Israel, compare it to Apartheid South Africa or call it to account for its well-documented racism, in order to recognise their right to say such things. The London Assembly has taken a position which endangers that right.

At a time when minority ethnic communities, particularly Muslims, are under constant attack in our society, the London Assembly, on the pretext of defending Jews against racism, has placed itself in the invidious position of defending Israeli propagandists against Palestinians and their supporters. This can only have the unintended consequence of stoking new hostility to Jews who will be seen as attempting to determine what non-Jews may or may not say about a foreign state.

The motion passed by the Assembly is based upon a new definition which is being widely promoted by We Believe in Israel and similar propagandist groups, to local government, universities and other institutions. It threatens to convert legitimate political debate into a taboo.

The group urged members of the Assembly to reconsider this politically ill-advised move.

On February 8 the London Assembly rubber-stamped a motion proposed by former MP Andrew Dismore, a vociferous pro-Israel lobbyist, redefining antisemitism to include a range of statements related to the state of Israel.

Free Speech on Israel (FSOI) is a predominantly Jewish organization founded in Spring 2016 to counter themanufactured moral panic over a supposed epidemic of antisemitism in the UK.

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Jewish group: London Assembly antisemitism vote a charter for censors – Palestine News Network

In Israel, Artists Engage With East African Immigration and Netanyahu’s Southern Wall – artnet News

When Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent out a tweet praising Trumps plan to build a wall along the US-Mexico border, he didnt expect the backlash that would ensue, or Mexicos no-nonsense reaction. Sent from his personal account, the tweetwhich was shared 40,000 timesread President Trump is right. I built a wall along Israels southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great Success. Great idea.

The wall Netanyahu was referring to is a steel fence, replete with cameras and motion detectors, that Israel completed along the border with Egypt in 2013, mainly to keep out migrants and asylum seekers fleeing civil wars and conflicts in east Africa since the 2000s, including Somalis, Sudanese, and Eritreans.

Currently, tens of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers are denied recognition by the Israeli state, and live in legal limbo in communities gathered mostly around the south of Tel Aviv and southern Israel, or detained in a jail-like center. Here are some exhibitions currently on view in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv that engage with the policies of the Israeli state of handling this humanitarian crisis:

Ron Amir, Dont Move (2015). Courtesy The Israel museum, Jerusalem

1. Ron Amir, Doing Time in Holot, at the Israel Museum, JerusalemHolot is a detention facility in the Israeli Negev desert, where thousands of Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers are heldwhile awaiting their status to be processed. Israel refuses to grant them refugee status, yet it cannot deport them to their native countries as their lives could be at threat. Detainees are thus stuck in a double limbo, legal and physical: though permittedto leave the facility every morning, failing to be counted between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. could land them at the nearby prison.

Over 3,000 men and women exit the facility into the vast Negev desert each day. Israeli photographer and video artist Rom Amir has documented, over the past couple of years, the traces of lives lived passing time in the arid landscape around Holot. Evidence of temporary, ingenious structures folded up overnight and unpacked again every morning show a system of make-do solutions: A carpet laid under a tree functions as a caf, a pit in the sand becomes an oven,a rectangle of rocks on the ground marks the area designated as a mosque.

Ron Amir, Kitchen, front view (2015). Courtesy The Israel museum, Jerusalem

An outsider toa community whose social structures he grew to know through his engaged artistic work, Amir is aware of his position of privilege, both as an artist, and a free man. Thus, many of the works speak of a precariousnessof relationships, structures, lives. Not always knowing himself what the seemingly haphazard collection of branches, stones, plastic bottles, and textiles that he encounters serve as, some of the photographs in the exhibition end up highlighting the sculptural qualitiesof these sites as well as their social ones.

Working with a long-exposure camera, one video placed at the entrance to theexhibition clocks in at nearly 20 minutes. Showing the artist taking a portrait of a group of men, he asks them not to move for the entire duration. Time stretches under the punishing desert sun, but thats the least of their problems.

Ron Amir: Doing Time in Holot is on view at The Israel Museum, Jerusalem fromDecember22,2016 April22,2017

Guy Ben Ner, Still from Escape Artists (2016). Courtesy of the Artist and Sommer Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv

2. Guy Ben Ner, Escape Artists, at Sommer Contemporary, Tel AvivIsraeli artist Guy Ben Ner has been teaching detainees at Holot an introductory course to cinema, and clips from classes from the last two and a half years form the core of his new work, Escape Artists, concurrently on view at Sommer Contemporary in Tel Aviv, and at Pinksummer in Genoa, Italy.

Restricted from filming inside Holot, or holding the classes within its premises, sessions were held in various abandoned sites, and footage created by the detainees was done using cellphones. Ben Ner shows the students editing techniques and points out acting cues used to enhance the cinematic suspension of disbelief, exposing the manipulations in scenes from such classics as Michelangelo Antonionis Blowup (1966), The Invisible Man (1933), directed by James Whale, and Jacques Tatis Mon Oncle (1958). But the key film he unpacks with the students is Robert J. Flahertys Nanook of the North (1922). Considered the first full-length documentary, it is full of such manipulative story-telling and editing techniques, and othering.

Guy Ben Ner, Still from Escape Artists (2016). Courtesy of the Artist and Sommer Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv

Fusing clips from these movies with the artists own shots and footage created by the studentsseveral of which have been released by nowthe 38-minute video work addresses its own trickery, needed to provide answers to the conditions and challengesof its own making, for example continuity.

Imbued with Ben Ners acerbic humor and poignant, if simple, editing stunts, Escape Artists, as the title reveals, is a tribute to the asylum seekers, who crossed several borders on foot on their way from East Africa through the Sinai Desert and into Israel.

Guy Ben Ner, Escape Artists, is on view at Sommer Contemporary from December 15, 2016 March 4, 2017

Florian Pumhsl,fidl study (My land), (2016). Courtesy Dvir Gallery, Tel Aviv

3. Florian Pumhsl, Formed Speech, at Dvir Gallery, Tel AvivFor his first solo exhibition with Dvir Gallery, Austrian artist Florian Pumhsl created a two-part series of sculptural works, shown on two separate floors in the gallerys spacious south Tel Aviv location.

Currently on view is only one part of the show Formed Speech, which features six plaster paintings evocative of chalk writings on a school blackboard. The fine white-grey figures set against a dark green background are words written in the Geez script, or fidl, used in modern Amharic and Tiringya, languages spoken by the east African refugees.

Florian Pumhsl, fidl study (My air), (2016). Courtesy Dvir Gallery, Tel Aviv

But what starts as legible sentences that spell out My land, My water, My air, or My horse gradually disintegrates in the sequence of works into isolated phonemes, signifying less and less as each piece deconstructs the markings even further, until they are entirely de-familiarized.

With the gallery located just a stones throw away from the citys central station, around which large communities of refugees live, the paintings muted aesthetics contrast the loud signs that hang on the busy streets and alleys around the station advertising businesses, social events, international calling cards, and internet cafs. Its this visibility, in part, that has worsened the refugees status in Israel, with the government even being accused of having created this density as a strategy, keeping the disenfranchised within already weak neighborhoods plagued by poverty, crime, and unemployment. The Holot facility may not have been created if it werent for the political gain to be made from responding to the xenophobia this has caused.

Florian Pumhsl, Formed Speech is on view at Dvir Gallery.

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In Israel, Artists Engage With East African Immigration and Netanyahu’s Southern Wall – artnet News