J Street Uses A Pro-Terrorist EU Bureaucrat To Malign Jewish Neighborhoods

J Street, in a mid-November email appeal, quoted an unnamed “top EU diplomat” in its tirade against an Israeli government call for bids for new homes in a nearly 30 year-old Jerusalem neighborhood where Ethiopian Jewish and Russian immigrants live. What’s more than J Street’s vitriol against the construction of Jewish homes is that the name of the EU functionary was intentionally left off of J Street’s rant because he is an anti-Israel extremist who earlier this year gave outright support for terrorists according to Israel’s Foreign Ministry when he stated that Palestinian Arabs affiliated with blacklisted groups remain eligible to participate in projects funded by the EU.

J Street is the controversial Washington, D.C., based Jewish pressure group that was created specifically, and almost exclusively, to lobby for an independent Palestinian state. J Street maintains, as a central theme of its propaganda, that Jews do not have a right to live wherever they choose and must be transferred out of their homes and neighborhoods in wide swaths of Judea-Samaria where Israeli citizens have lived for nearly fifty years.

The EU bureaucrat who opposes Jewish homes in Givat Hamatos, and was quoted by J Street, is a German named Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff.

von Burgsdorff previously was the head of the EU’s delegation to South Sudan and in a May 8, 2020 JTA article [https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/eu-may-fund-palestinian-supporters-of-terrorist-group-official-assures-aid-recipients] he was identified as heading the “EU mission to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”

The Times of Israel news website reported on May 7, 2020 [https://www.timesofisrael.com/foreign-ministry-rebukes-eu-ambassador-over-support-for-terrorism/] that an Israeli Foreign Ministry official stated that the letter by “von Burgsdorff, constituted a ‘violation of all our agreements with the European Union’.”

The Times also reported that explicitly due to von Burgsdorff’s letter, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz harshly rebuked the EU saying “we demand that the EU immediately end all support, financial or otherwise, for any entities that support terrorism whether directly or indirectly.”
Debra Shushan, J Street’s Director of Government Affairs signed the email that was titled “BREAKING: Outrageous steps by Netanyahu to expand settlements.” In the email J Street made the wild claim that “this week the Netanyahu government announced it will begin the tender process for the major new settlement of Givat Hamatos — a move which a top EU diplomat branded a “de facto annexation attempt.” Construction in Givat Hamatos is part of a deliberate settlement movement strategy to cut off Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem from the West Bank Palestinian city of Bethlehem.”

The reason why J Street’s Shushan left out von Burgsdorff’s name should be clear: he has been widely discredited as a supporter of anti-Israel terrorism.

Another issue with J Street’s email that must be confronted is the use of a place named “East Jerusalem” when no such place has ever actually existed in history. The name “East Jerusalem” is an artificial construct that supporters of the Arab cause use in their propaganda in order to make it appear as if that part of the city is an intrinsically Arab area that Jews are illegally entering. In reality, there are Jewish neighborhoods throughout the eastern, western, northern, and southern parts of Jerusalem. It’s a shameful thing when Jewish organizations choose to use such geographically inaccurate, and politically loaded, language. At the time anti-Israel extremists created the name “East Jerusalem” it was for one reason: they sought to rip Israel’s capital apart in order to defeat Israel. “East Jerusalem” does not actually exist and what they are really saying is that Jerusalem’s Old City and its surrounding neighborhoods are not part of Israel or part of Israeli Jerusalem itself. The original and oldest parts of Jerusalem are what they falsely label “East Jerusalem.”

J Street needs to be honest with Americans. If it opposes Jews living in certain places because they are Jews then why obfuscate on this? If they want to quote an extremist diplomat J Street should at least name that diplomat and not hide his identity due to the fact that he has been accused of supporting terrorists.

The political climate of the Middle East has changed remarkably in the last several years and J Street doesn’t seem to like it at all. The United Arab Emirates has two synagogues and yet if J Street would get their way, synagogues in Judea and Samaria would be dismantled and the Jews in these neighborhoods would be forced from their homes. Haven’t we had enough of Jews being told where they can and cannot live? What was gained by the Israeli government destroying Jewish homes and synagogues in Gush Katif in Gaza in 2005 to hand over Israeli held land in the name of a “peace” that never came about? The Judean Hills, since the times of antiquity considered to be the heart of the Land of Israel, should, especially, be an area where Jewish families feel secure in the idea that their homes will never be destroyed.

PACKER’S CORNER: More Housing Approvals in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria

As promised in last week’s update (you can check), this week was much more exciting!!!
For starters, over 100 missiles/mortars were shot from Gaza at Israel. That might seem crazy, but for years, it used to be normal. Before that, Jews lived in Gaza and rockets were NEVER shot into Israel. Just sayin’.
Of course Israel retaliated for these attacks and claims to have destroyed all kinds of terror infrastructure in Gaza. Oddly, there don’t seem to be very many terrorist casualties from these strikes. Makes you wonder. Thankfully, the missiles from Gaza only caused slight damage, a few injuries and no deaths!!! The Iron Dome system worked very well and a few open miracles as well!
For now, things seem to have calmed down, with both sides publicly expressing their lack of desire for escalation. The short story is: the arabs/hamas don’t really have a solution for the Iron Dome and Israel doesn’t really have a solution for what to do if they reconquer Gaza. So nothing has really changed.
Very unfortunately, prior to the Gaza drama, an Israeli soldier from the elite Duvdevan unit was killed in a village outside of Ramallah during an arrest mission. The arab terrorist threw a marble slab down from a building and hit the soldier in the helmet. The original terrorists sought during the raid have all been captured and now the search is on for the murderer.
So let’s hear some good news, shall we?!! Yes, we shall!
Today, the Israeli government approved construction for roughly 700 new houses in Judea and Samaria. Additionally, about 1200 houses received preliminary approval. Plus another 1000 or so houses will be marketed to builders in the near future, so they will be built soon as well.
The numbers are not so striking – they could be so much higher! Nonetheless, let’s examine the impact of the decisions made today:
-Kfar Eldad (eastern Gush Etzion) – 84 new houses (60% increase in the overall size of the community)
-Ateret (central Binyamin, right next to Rawabi)  -70 new houses (50% increase in the size of the community
-In the Har Hevron Area (southern Judea) – where my fingers are on the attached map
Negohot – 102 new houses (50% increase)
Tene Omarim – 136 new houses (100% increase)
Clearly, “isolated” Jewish communities are being significantly strengthened. More construction in the Hevron area, in places like Kiryat Arba and Pnei Hever, is also coming. Why that area? Let’s hear from the head of the local government:
“The South Hebron Hills regional council chairman Yochai Damari thanked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman in a Wednesday statement. “In recent years, we have been working with the help of government ministers to build and develop the communities of the South Hebron Hills into a strong and well-established settlement bloc that maintains thousands of acres of state land and constitutes a security buffer protecting southern Israel,” Damari said.
“Settlment Bloc” – that’s the name of the game. Once an area is a “settlement bloc” it means the Jewish population is high enough that it can never be evacuated/ethnically cleansed of Jews.  Examples of such places are Maale Adumim, Gush Etzion, Modiin Illit, Ariel and a few others. The magic number generally needed to attain this status is 20,000 residents. Although Ariel had slightly less when they were designated a bloc. Now they have much more, and so will everyone else if they can hit their numbers’ population targets.
Expect much more to come! Probably something in Jerusalem next!!!

Is Trump Preparing to Slay the Palestinian Fairy Tale?

With rumors flying that President Trump is readying the release of his long awaiting Israel-Palestinian peace plan, obersvers have noted the non-commitment there still is to the two-state paradigm.  Trump Assistant Victoria Coates can be heard below  insisting that the administration “is not committed to the two-state formul” and explains that it means “whatever the sides want.”

So what is Trump planning to release?

Given the recent events surrounding his decertification of the Iran deal, moving the embassy to Jerusalem, the Gaza riots, as well the Palestinian Authorities response to all of this, it would seem improbable that Trump is banking on the kleptocracy and mafia of Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah to be able to commit to a peace plan.

With all of the noise in the past week there has been one country conspicuously quiet and that is Jordan. The fact is, Trump’s non-committal to a two-state paradigm appears to be setting the stage for the only real solution to the Israel-Palestinian conundrum and that is the “Jordan is Palestine” model with some tweaks.

The original Palestinian Mandate was made up what is today Israel (both pre 1967 and post 1967) and Jordan.  While the Balfour declaration said that the Jews deserved a homeland in Palestine clearly meaning both sides of the Jordan River, the British ended up splitting the Mandate in two along the Jordan River (although originally it as supposed to be 10 km East of the Jordan River).  The East side became Trans Jordan and was given to the Hashemites in 1922 as a reward for their help during World War One.  The Hashemites were originally from Mecca and were chased out by the House of Saud.

In 1922, Abdullah, the emir and soon to be King of (Trans) Jordan was placed in power over a people not his own and effectively came to rule a majority population of Palestinian Arabs. Jordan today is a shaky monarchy having need to keep the Palestinian population from gaining too much power in order to survive.  This is why the current King Abdullah often uses Israel as a scapegoat to hide his own policies.  This strategy is no longer working.

Trump’s plan appears to be in favor of some sort confederation between the Hashemite Kingdom in Jordan as a Palestinian entity and an autonomous area in most of Areas A and B in Judea and Samaria. Area C would be retained by Israel.   When it comes to Jerusalem the current situation appears to be the best way to make all sides happy.  Jordan would still hold onto its custodial rights over the Muslim and Christian holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem and Israel would retain security control.

Essentially a combination of the Jordan is Palestine model and Naftali Bennett’s plan seen below. The difference being Jordan would control A and B as noted above, while Bennett leaves it in the hands of the Palestinian Authority.

Why do I think this is the plan?  Because Trump wants a deal and yet he wants a deal that works.  Relying on the Palestinian Authority to sign or even uphod a deal is pointless. Doing so would destablize both Israel and Jordan. By basing his deal on the peace deal already agreed to by Israel and Jordan, Trump would effectively be ending the Palestinian-Israel conflict simply by recognizing history and reality.

So if this plan makes sense, why hasn’t it been tried before? The answer lies with the King of Jordan.  Up until now he has always used the Palestinian issue as a distraction. The King fears that an acceptance of the “Jordan is Palestine” model would effectively doom his regime in a rapid fashion.

The Trump team appears to understand that and is perhaps readying some sort of carrot for the royal family. It remains to be seen what that is

The Devil is in the Implementation

Yossi Klein Halevi is a wonderful writer. I recommend his book Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation to anyone who wants to appreciate the nuances of Israel’s political tribes.

But like many wonderful Israeli writers on such subjects, his brain is stuck.

It is stuck on the horns of the dilemma Micah Goodman calls Catch-67: if Israel tries to absorb all of Judea and Samaria, it will either have to undemocratically deny the franchise to the Arab population or become an unstable binational state (or both). But on the other hand, if Israel gives up Judea and Samaria, it will have to deal with a security nightmare in which terrorists will be in easy shooting range of Israel’s most populated regions. A Gaza times ten. Neither choice is acceptable. Stuck.

So how does he get unstuck? Like many Jewish intellectuals, he sees the demographic problem as worse than the security problem, and opts for partition. In a recent Wall Street Journal article (unfortunately behind a paywall) he argues that both sides have legitimate aspirations to possess all of the land; but although partition is unjust for both, it is the only practical solution.

I strongly disagree with him about the legitimacy of Palestinian aspirations (so does Yisrael Medad, here), but that isn’t what I want to discuss in this post. I want to look at one small piece of the issue that is a show-stopper for everyone that takes a similar pro-partition line: the question of implementation.

Halevi writes,

Like a majority of Israelis—though the numbers are dropping, according to the polls—I support the principle of a two-state solution, for Israel’s sake no less than for the Palestinians. Extricating ourselves from ruling over another people is a moral, political and demographic imperative. It is the only way to save Israel in the long term as both a Jewish and a democratic state—the two essential elements of our being. Partition is the only real alternative to a Yugoslavia-like single state in which two rival peoples devour each other.

But in order to take that frightening leap of territorial contraction—pulling back to the pre-1967 borders, when Israel was barely 9 miles wide at its narrowest point—we need some indication that a Palestinian state would be a peaceful neighbor, and not one more enemy on our doorstep. The practical expression of that goodwill would be Palestinian agreement that the descendants of the refugees of 1948 return to a Palestinian state and not to Israel, where they would threaten its Jewish majority.

We know, and Halevi notes, the depth of Palestinian hatred for Israel and that “the relentless message, conveyed to a new generation by media and schools and mosques, is that the Jews are thieves, with no historical roots in this land.” We know, from our experience with Gaza and South Lebanon, how easy it is for a terrorist organization like Hamas or Hezbollah to establish itself in areas from which Israel withdraws. We know that the geography of the Land of Israel, with the commanding high ground of Judea and Samaria makes a pre-1967 sized Israel almost indefensible.

No Palestinian leadership has ever indicated that it is prepared to give up the “right of return.” Indeed, this idea – that all of the land from the river to the sea has been unfairly taken from them – is the single essential ideological principle of Palestinian identity. Any Palestinian agreement to two-state plans has always been hedged as temporary, as in the PLO’s “phased plan” or Hamas’ proposal of a temporary truce. Palestinian leaders deny that there is a Jewish people, or that it has a historical connection to the land. This implies that there is a strong possibility that the Palestinian side will not negotiate in good faith or keep its side of the bargain.

There are perhaps 400,000 Israeli Jews residing in Judea and Samaria (excluding Jerusalem). Even with land swaps enabling the Jewish communities with the largest populations to remain in Israel, a partition which required Jews to leave the Palestinian parts of the country would require tens of thousands, perhaps more than a hundred thousand Jews to be resettled elsewhere. Leaving aside the manifest injustice of this, it’s clear that once done it is very difficult to undo.

When a concrete concession by one side – the withdrawal of soldiers and civilians, perhaps (as in the Sinai and Gaza) the physical destruction of communities – which is hard or impossible to undo is balanced against a paper commitment to be peaceful by the other, there is little cost to the latter side to renege on the agreement.

But let’s assume that there have been negotiations and both sides have signed an agreement to give up what they consider their historic rights: Israel’s right to settlement in all the Land of Israel, and the Palestinians’ right of return to Israel for the descendents of the refugees of 1948. Now here are a few questions:

  1. Once the IDF has withdrawn from Judea and Samaria and given control to the Palestinians, what happens if they violate their agreement to be a peaceful neighbor? Our experience during the Oslo period argues that they will not keep their word. How will the agreement be enforced? Will we be asked to depend on the UN or foreign powers? Or will Israel need to invade and retake the areas in yet another war? Neither of this options is acceptable.
  2. Sometimes even democratic Western nations don’t live up to agreements after administrations change (for example, consider the Obama Administration’s renegingon the promises in the Bush letters to Ariel Sharon). Autocratic leaders are even less likely to maintain commitments made by their predecessors. What guarantees that the next Palestinian “President” will observe the agreement? And what if, for example, a Fatah administration is replaced by a Hamas one, or even one aligned with the Islamic State or Iran? All of these things are possible.

So we have a one-sided agreement which is almost impossible to undo, with a party that historically does not negotiate in good faith or keep its commitments, whose basic identity opposes such an agreement, which has an unstable autocratic leadership, and which is prone to being overthrown by extremists.

One of the good things about Halevi’s piece is that he understands that any agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is not in the cards for the near future. There is too much extremism (“on both sides,” he says, but I think it is mostly on the Arab side). And he doesn’t think that “the status quo is not sustainable.” We’ve been sustaining it for 50 (or 70, if you prefer) years, and we can sustain it a bit longer. He seems to agree with Micah Goodman that there is no “solution” that can be implemented next week:

A deepening Israeli-Sunni strategic relationship could evolve into a political relationship, encouraging regional involvement in tempering if not yet solving the Palestinian conflict. One possible interim deal would be gradual Israeli concessions to the Palestinians—reversing the momentum of settlement expansion and strengthening the Palestinian economy—in exchange for gradual normalization with the Sunni world.

Unfortunately, this too is wishful thinking. Regardless of what the Sunni leaders would prefer, the Palestinians are moving in the direction of more extremism, not less. If they don’t get support from Saudi Arabia, they are happy to take it from Iran or Turkey. The Death Factory set in motion by Yasser Arafat maintains itself, and concessions by Israel just encourage it.

I believe that the Jewish state has a legal, moral and historical right to all of the Land of Israel that the Palestinians do not have (although they do have human rights and ought to have at least a limited right of self-determination). I have argued this at length elsewhere. But that’s not the point.

The point is that implementing partition of the Land of Israel would risk national suicide. There’s no rush. Perhaps the best “solution” is not to look for a political agreement, but just to keep the status quo with small modifications as needed. If you must have a program, there are other options than partition for an end game. So could we stop insisting on this one?

Originally Published in Abu Yehuda.

Must all our residents be citizens?

Someone asked me a question on Facebook. Social media demands that all answers be given while standing on one foot, and since I’m not Hillel, I’m going to present my answer here, using both feet.

So here is the question (I’m paraphrasing): Isn’t the only just and practical solution to your conflict with the Palestinians to create one state between the Jordan and the Mediterranean and give everybody equal rights? Make all the Arabs in the region citizens. The fellow added something about a right of return for “refugees” living elsewhere; I’ll get back to that later.

There could be an acceptable one-state solution. But it could not be created by simply making all the inhabitants citizens with equal rights in every respect.

First, there is an assumption here that every country must be like Canada or the United States, a state of its citizens. But Israel is not that. It is the nation-state of the Jewish people. That implies that there must be a difference between the status of Jews and other citizens. We go to great lengths to insist that Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel have exactly equal rights, and that is true – up to a point. But in some important respects it is not. I can call my Jewish cousin in America and invite him to come and live in Israel, and the government will allow him to do so and even give him special benefits. An Arab citizen cannot do this. This is a fundamental point, an explication of what it means to say that the state belongs to the Jewish people and not merely to everyone who lives here, even if everyone has the right to be represented in the Knesset.

The nation-state of the Jewish people, if it allows all of its citizens to vote must have a Jewish – no, a Zionist – majority. If it did not, then the Knesset could vote to remove the special status of the Jewish people. There is a dispute about the how many Arabs there actually are in the region, although it is relatively certain that Jews would still be a majority, especially if Gaza weren’t included. But the Arabs would have the support of left-wing Jews and maybe political opportunists a well. There would be massive campaigns (paid for by European governments and the New Israel Fund, no doubt) to promote reducing the Jewish majority, changing the symbols of the state, or even weakening or repealing the Law of Return. It could happen.

The Jewish state is a refuge for Diaspora Jews who are persecuted, but it is also a reservoir and an incubator of Jewish culture. Today, given the degree of assimilation in the Diaspora, it is possible to imagine the Jewish people disappearing from history if there were not a Jewish state to nurture and nourish it. The Jewish character of the state is, even today, under attack, and it is imperative to protect it.

Does this mean that Israel must never consider annexing Judea and Samaria, land that arguably (and there are many arguments) belongs to Israel and must remain under our control for strategic reasons, out of fear of losing its Zionist majority? Not necessarily.

In some countries, the great majority of the inhabitants are citizens. But this is not true in general, especially in the Middle East. In Jordan and Saudi Arabia, only about 70% are citizens, in Lebanon 75%, and in Bahrain, 48%. An extreme example is Qatar, where less than 15% of the residents are citizens.

But, you say, most of these countries aren’t democratic. Well, in ancient Athens, where the word ‘democracy’ originated, only 10-20% were citizens. But I get the point. It is more democratic when a greater percentage of the population shares the rights and duties of citizenship. Nevertheless, in the fractious Middle East, where ethnic conflicts are the rule rather than the exception, real democracy is often theoretical rather than real. Both Lebanon and Iraq are theoretically democratic republics, but their elections play out along strict ethnic lines, and it would be hard to say that “democracy” greatly benefits their inhabitants.

Democracy is not an absolute. What it means and how it is implemented varies from place to place and from time to time. Even the most democratic of countries place limitations on immigration, on suffrage (consider that in most states of the US, convicted felons have restrictions placed on their right to vote, some of them permanent), and on eligibility for naturalization of non-citizens. In my opinion, given the stresses placed on Israel by the hostility of its neighbors – indeed, the hostility of much of the world – it is miraculous that it is as democratic as it is, particularly in respect to the full civil rights enjoyed by its 1.5 million Arab citizens.

One of the most liberal policies associated with citizenship is the practice of automatically granting it to any child born on national soil. Interestingly, even in the developed world, citizenship by birthright is uncommon: only 30 countries (out of 194 UN member nations) automatically grant citizenship to children born on their soil, with the most prominent among them being the US and Canada. None are in the Middle East. Pakistan is the only country in Asia which grants this right (but there is an exception if the father is considered an “enemy of the state”).

My Facebook acquaintance mentioned a “right of return for ‘refugees’ living elsewhere.” This demand, repeated ad infinitum by anti-Zionists, is legally indefensible and practically unacceptable. It is not supported in international law. In addition, the unsustainable definition of Palestinian refugee status as a hereditary property is not applied to any other refugee population. It was invented – along with policies of preventing the resettlement of the refugees or their descendants anywhere but Israel, encouraging the growth of this population (today more than 5 million), and indoctrinating them with the idea that some day they would “return to their homes,” as a cruel exploitation of innocent people as weapons in the continuing war against the Jews.

At this point, what is supposed to be “just and practical” becomes the elimination of the Jewish state and its replacement by yet another Arab-dominated state added to the 22 already existing in the region. It seems reasonable to assume that the Jews of Israel would not sit still for this, and so it should be clear that this plan, supposedly a peaceful solution, would actually lead to war.

While an argument can be made that the Arab population of Judea and Samaria has some kind of right of self-determination that is not actualized – although it can also be said that today the rule of the autonomous Palestinian Authority does constitute self-determination – a full actualization of what Palestinians see as their rights would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state. That is, self-determination for the newly-created “Palestinian people” would come at the expense of Jewish self-determination, and possibly of the survival of the Jewish people.

And I admit that I’m biased. I admit that I care more for my people than for the Palestinians. A lot more, and not just for the obvious reason that the Palestinian Arabs have been particularly unkind to us for the past 100 years or so. There is a human drive for cultural self-preservation just as there is for individual self-preservation, although it may be suppressed in unhealthy cultures – just as unhealthy individuals sometimes lose the will to survive, or even commit suicide.

So let’s assume that at some point in the future Israel were to annex Judea and Samaria. I can find no legal, moral or practical reason for automatically granting citizenship to all the Arab residents, as my interlocutor suggests, and plenty of reasons not to. Indeed, it only seems reasonable in view of the extreme and violent hostility of much of the Arab population of the area to Israel and Jews, that Israel should follow Pakistan’s example and exclude “enemies of the state” from citizenship.

The Left argues that either we accept a partition of our country according to the 1949 armistice lines or something close to them – and lose our ability to defend the country – or we will get their disastrous version of a one-state solution. But there are numerous other possibilities, and one of the keys to developing them is the understanding that not every resident must be a citizen.

Originally Published on Abu Yehuda.

Israeli Security Forces Uncover an Arms Smuggling Cell Connected to French National

(Communicated by the ISA)

The following has been cleared for publication:

The Israel Security Agency (ISA), in conjunction with the Israel Police, has uncovered a cell of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem that – in recent months – smuggled weapons from the Gaza Strip to Judea and Samaria via a French national, Romain Franck, who worked at the French Consulate in Jerusalem.

Roman Franck (ISA)

Franck smuggled weapons five times in recent months in a vehicle belonging to the French Consulate, which received lighter treatment at the border crossing security check, as is customary for such vehicles. Franck thus smuggled approximately 70 pistols and two assault rifles.

Franck received the weapons from a Palestinian resident of the Gaza Strip who was employed by the French Cultural Center in the Strip. The smuggled weapons were delivered to a Palestinian in Judea and Samaria who sold them to arms dealers.

Among those arrested for their involvement in the smuggling are a resident of eastern Jerusalem who works as a security guard at the French Consulate in Jerusalem and Palestinians from the Gaza Strip who were present in Judea and Samaria without permits. Nine suspects have been arrested so far, six of whom have been indicted by the State Attorney’s Office (Southern District).

The investigation clearly shows that Franck acted for financial gain, of his own accord and unbeknownst to his superiors. It was also learned that several of the suspects were involved in smuggling funds from the Gaza Strip to Judea and Samaria.

A senior ISA officer states, “This is a very grave incident in which the immunity and privileges granted to foreign missions in Israel was cynically exploited in order to smuggle dozens of weapons which could have been used in terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and members of the security forces.”

The foregoing investigation was conducted in coordination with the Foreign Ministry; the French authorities were updated regularly.

PACKER’S CORNER: Building in Israel Continues and There is Nothing the Left Can Do

The drama in Syria just gets better and better.  At least 2 major developments this week. President Assad and his government forces are agressively massacring sunni muslim rebel supporters (maybe) just outside of Damascus in an area called Eastern Gueta. The area has been under siege for a few years and now Assad is attempting to clean it out completely, ie. kill every man, woman, and alot of children. You’ll excuse my language, but the world doesn’t seem to give a flying…. He’s killed at least 250 civilians (a good number of them children) over the last two days. #arablivesmatter? Not even close.
Meanwhile, Turkey continues their bloody cross-border attack into Syria in the northwest and have begun to make observable progress against the Kurdish defenders. Consequently, the Kurds have apparently made a deal with the Syrian Government to have them send in reinforcements to theoretically defend the “sovereign borders” of Syria. This has thrown all the alliances up in the air with Syria/Hezbollah/Iran/Russia now allied with American supported Kurds against NATO member Turkey and sometimes America supported Sunni rebels. Quite a masterpiece here. Much more exciting than that new movie about Black superheroes.
Two important developments happened in Israel just today – and we’ll get to Prime Minster Netanyahu’s legal troubles soon, but first something that is quite real and not fabricated. Significant progress was made in the establishment of 2 new LEGAL communities in the “West Bank” – Amichai in the Binyamin region (just north of Jerusalem) and Netiv Avot in Gush Etzion  (just south of Jerusalem). Amichai is intended for those Jewish residents who were expelled from Amona a year ago and the new area of Netiv Avot is meant for those Jewish residents whose houses are scheduled to be destroyed in the current community of Netiv Avot by Supreme Court order at some point in the next 3 months.
We aren’t talking about that many people here – just a few hundred. Why is this so important? It’s important because it shows how incredibly worthless the efforts of the extreme left in Israel have been. Every time they succeed in getting their fellow ultra-leftist self-hating friends at the Supreme Court to knock down a few Jewish houses in the “west bank” for dubious “legal” reasons, the Government responds with large-scale development in a nearby location. Both Amichai and the future Netiv Avot will be exponentially larger than their predecessors and unlike them – WILL BE TOTALLY LEGAL!!! While Netiv Avot’s existence strengthens the Jewish presence in Gush Etzion, Amichai’s very strategic location is a much more serious victory for the overall settlement enterprise. The still-not-legal neighboring communities of Achia, Adei Ad, Yishuv HaDaat and Eish Kodesh must be ecstatic at the establishment of a legal community that physically links them back to the also legal communities of Shvut Rachel and Shiloh (see map pic). The Shiloh Bloc is a crucial area, for historical and religious reasons as well, for preventing the expulsion of the Jewish presence in the area between the cities of Ramallah and Shechem (Nablus). BIG BOOST for them right here. HUGE LOSS for the left. Wait for the pics of the families moving in and dedicating the synagogues. Alot of #winning.

We had to get here eventually. Things appear to have gone south for Prime Minister Netanyahu on the legal front. More of his close associates have turned into state witnesses against him – at least according to the press. There is now a fourth official investigation and many are saying this is the most serious. Yes, even more serious than cigars. Objectively, all these accusations appear pathetic and irrelevant, however, legally (Israeli legally) things aren’t looking good for Netanyahu’s political future. Its hard to understand why the Israeli police would make deals with witnesses who themselves appear guilty of crimes without good reason. But as we’ve said before numerous times, the Israeli police has a solid reputation for a special kind of stupid. With that said, Bibi may finally actually be in trouble, but its the lucky Jewish month of Adar so anything good for the Jews is possible!

Trump, Netanyahu and the Post-Oslo era

If the peace process ends, Netanyahu will present his own plan.

You wouldn’t know it from the news, but this week, the probability that Israel will apply its law to areas of Judea and Samaria rose significantly.

This week was first time that either Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu or the Trump administration ever addressed the possibility of Israel applying its law to areas of Judea and Samaria.

Lawmakers from Bayit Yehudi and the Likud have prepared separate bills on the issue. MK Bezalel Smotrich’s Bayit Yehudi party bill calls for Israel to apply its law to Area C – the parts of Judea and Samaria located outside Palestinian population centers.

The second bill, proposed by Likud MK Yoav Kisch, calls for Israel to apply its law to the Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria. The Likud’s central committee unanimously passed a resolution in December calling for the government to implement such a policy.

On Monday, Netanyahu met with the Likud Knesset faction to convince the lawmakers to postpone consideration of Kisch’s bill. Netanyahu gave two justifications for his position.

First, he said that he wants to discuss the issue with the Trump administration. Netanyahu explained, “On the topic of applying sovereignty [in Judea and Samaria], I can tell you that for some time now I have been discussing the issue with the Americans.”

Netanyahu continued, “Our relationship with them is a strategic asset to the State of Israel and the settlement enterprise.”

Netanyahu’s statement was very general. The media chose to interpret it to mean that Netanyahu was lobbying the Trump administration to support the application of Israeli law to parts of Judea and Samaria.

But that is not at all what he said. He said that he is discussing the issue with the Americans and that he wants to maintain the good relations Israel now enjoys with the Trump administration because those relations are a strategic asset for Israel.

The second guiding principle Netanyahu said inform his position on applying Israeli law to parts of Judea and Samaria contradicts the notion that he wants the Trump administration to adopt the cause of applying Israeli law in Judea and Samaria as an American position.

Netanyahu said he opposes Kisch’s bill because he believes that applying Israeli law to the Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria is “an historic undertaking.”

Netanyahu said, “This has to be a government initiative and not a private one, because this is a historic undertaking.”

Before considering the implications of Netanyahu’s second guiding principle, we need to examine carefully consider the US position on the issue.

Netanyahu’s general statement to the Likud Knesset faction provoked a media maelstrom. The outcry compelled the Trump administration to respond. The manner it responded to the media storm was instructive.

The administration’s first response came at the conclusion of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in Cairo. Tillerson was in Egypt on the first leg of his regional tour to Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Given his hosts’ opposition to President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last December, the State Department was certainly not interested in having the US embroiled in Israeli discussions about applying Israel law to areas in Judea and Samaria.

And yet, in his media appearance, Tillerson ignored the issue. He told reporters, “The Trump administration remains committed to achieving a lasting peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”

As the media storm in Israel and the region over Netanyahu’s remarks expanded with Palestinian condemnations of his statement, a senior diplomatic source in Jerusalem clarified Netanyahu’s remarks to reporters.

The senior diplomatic source explained that Netanyahu “has not presented the United States specific proposals for annexation, and the US has not expressed its agreement with any such proposal. Israel updated the US on the varying proposals that have been raised that the Knesset. The US expressed its clear position that it wishes to advance President Trump’s peace plan. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s position is that if the Palestinians maintain their refusal to negotiate, Israel will present its own alternative.”

This statement is the most revealing statement any senior official has made on the issue of applying Israeli law to areas of Judea and Samaria. The senior official told us several things we didn’t know.

First, Netanyahu plans to wait to present any new Israeli position on Judea and Samaria until after Trump presents his peace plan.
Second, Netanyahu will postpone consideration of any plan to present an independent Israeli initiative if the Palestinians agree to return to the negotiating table.

Finally, like Tillerson, the senior Israeli official did not say that the US opposes Israeli plans to apply Israeli law to parts of Judea and Samaria.

Later on Monday, in response to virulent criticisms of the US following Netanyahu’s remarks, the Trump administration stiffened its tone.

White House spokesman Josh Raffel issued what the media presented as a harsh rebuke of Netanyahu’s statement before the Likud Knesset faction members.

“Reports that the United States discussed with Israel an annexation plan for the West Bank are false, Raffel said.

“The United States and Israel have never discussed such a proposal, and the president’s focus remains squarely on his Israeli-Palestinian initiative.”

Did Raffel’s statement tell us anything new? Not really.

The senior diplomatic source said Netanyahu has updated the administration on the various proposals for applying Israeli law to areas of Judea and Samaria. He didn’t say Netanyahu held discussions with administration officials about the various proposals. And the senior diplomatic source said that the US remains committed to advancing Trump’s peace plan.

In other words, there is no inherent contradiction between Netanyahu’s statement at the Likud faction meeting, the statement by the Israeli senior diplomatic source, Tillerson’s statement and Raffel’s statement. None of them said that Israel is interested in having the US support applying Israeli law to Judea and Samaria. None of them said the Trump administration opposes applying Israeli law to Judea and Samaria.

They all said the Trump administration is committed to advancing its own peace plan.

The sense that the dispute between Netanyahu and the White House was more apparent than real was reinforced on Tuesday at the State Department press briefing.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Neuert had no response to the news that the Knesset passed legislation placing Ariel University under the auspices of the Council of Higher Education, instead of a designated special council that deals specifically with higher education institutions in Area C. Like everyone else, she restated the administration’s commitment to advancing its own peace plan.

And this brings us to the peace plan the administration is now preparing.

Diplomatic sources in Jerusalem say that Netanyahu has presented two positions that he believes must be incorporated in any peace plan to ensure that the plan, if implemented will produce peace rather than war.

First, Netanyahu insists that the Palestinians must recognize Israel’s right to exist.

Second, Netanyahu insists that Israel must maintain permanent control over the eastern border with Jordan.

These goals are eminently reasonable. Israel cannot share sovereignty west of the Jordan River with an entity that rejects its right to exist. So any peace deal must involve Palestinian acceptance of the Jewish state’s right to exist.

By the same token, even in an era of peace, Israel cannot surrender its ability to defend itself. Since Israel cannot defend itself without perpetual control over the Jordan Valley, Israel cannot sacrifice its control over the Jordan Valley. Any deal Israel strikes with the Palestinians that does not include perpetual Israeli control over the Jordan Valley is a recipe for war.

If Trump accepts Netanyahu’s position and incorporates it into his peace plan, then as far as Netanyahu is reportedly concerned, the negotiations can begin in earnest.

On the other hand, if the Palestinians refuse to accept these conditions, then the peace process will be over.

And if the peace process ends, Netanyahu will present his own plan. That plan, apparently will look a lot like the Likud central committee’s plan to apply Israeli law over the Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria.

Rather than supporting someone else’s bill, Netanyahu will present the plan to the cabinet for approval and then introduce it as a bill to the Knesset, just as then prime minister Menachem Begin applied Israeli law to the Golan Heights in 1981.

While all of these developments may appear odd, we have been here before.

In many ways, the situation today recalls the situation in 1992. In 1992, the US was sponsoring peace talks between Israel and its Arab neighbors in Washington. Without informing the Americans, after taking office in 1992, the government of Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres began carrying out secret talks with the PLO under the auspices of the Norwegian government in Oslo.

After the first Oslo deal was concluded in August 1993, Rabin sent Peres and then-Foreign Ministry legal adviser Joel Singer to the US to brief then-secretary of state Warren Christopher on the agreement. Rabin hoped Christopher would agree to present the deal as an American peace plan. Rabin believed that the Israeli public would be more supportive of a deal with an American imprimatur.

In a 1997 interview with Middle East Quarterly, Singer described the meeting with Christopher. Singer recalled that as Christopher read the agreement for the first time, a shocked look came over his face. “His lower jaw dropped, and for the first and last time in my life, I saw Warren Christopher smile.”

But Christopher rejected Rabin’s request, all the same.

“Secretaries of state are not supposed to lie,” he told Peres and Singer.

Just as the Clinton administration was not willing to take the lead on a new strategic trajectory that placed Israel and the PLO on equal footing, so the Trump administration is not willing to initiate a new post-Oslo Middle East.

That is Israel’s job today just as it was Israel’s job in 1993.

A close reading of Netanyahu’s statement to the Likud Knesset faction makes clear that he understands this basic truth. And a close reading of the statements and counter-statements from Jerusalem and Washington following his briefing to the Likud Knesset faction indicates that if and when Netanyahu embarks on a new course, like Bill Clinton and Warren Christopher in 1993, Trump and his advisers will not stand in his way.

Likud Votes to Extend Sovereignty to Judea and Samaria

The Likud Central committee voted unanimously this evening to extend Israel’s sovereignty to Judea and Samaria.

“Fifty years ago we liberated our ancestral homeland, Judea and Samaria, greater Jerusalem, the Tomb of the Patriarchs [in Hevron], Rachel’s Tomb [in Bethlehem], and the Western Wall,” said Minister Haim Katz ahead of the vote.

“But today, unfortunately, after 50 years, when half a million Israeli citizens… are discriminated against when it comes to construction and security.”

“The time has come to end the [requirement] that the army approve the [construction] of every kindergarten, road, or even repair work for [public] lighting.”

Although many Likud ministers including the Prime Minister were not in attendance, the vote is significant as the Central Committee wields tremendous power behind the scenes.  Many observers have noted that Prime Minister Netanyahu has given a tacit nod, but just remaining silent about the event.

MK Yoav Kisch said the following to Arutz 7 before the event “if the Prime Minister were opposed he would have expressed it though his channels. I don’t think his position is against. Far from it. The Likud is a democratic party and there’s great importance to what the members of the Center and the rank-and-file members think. We grant freedom of action in the matter and not everything that comes up conforms to what each senior party official thinks. It’s clear the party head’s position has special status, but the fact that we’re conducting the discussion, and that every discussion must be approved by the Chairman of the Central Committee and by the Movement Chairman, shows we’re not in conflict.”

“I don’t think his position is against. Far from it.” 

So will the vote push the government to institute sovereignty? Perhaps not tomorrow, but it lays the ground work for such a move far faster than most people have believed.

But for the grace of God- Iran in Syria & the lessons for Israel

Only by resisting territorial concessions on the Golan, Israel prevented deployment of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on the fringes of the Galilee; only by resisting territorial concessions in the “West Bank” can Israel prevent them from deploying on the fringes of Greater Tel Aviv.

Israel has a strategic interest in disassociating Syria from the extremist axis that Iran is leading. Syria is not lost, Assad is western educated and is not a religious man. He can still join a moderate grouping. –  Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, Chief of Staff of IDF, Nov 13, 2009.

…we should not belittle the signals of peace coming from Syria. – Ehud Barak, Israeli Defense Minister, Nov 13, 2009.

Syria is the key to regional change for us. If I was prime minister, I would pin all my hopes on Syria.” – The late Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, former Israeli Defense Minister (2001-2002), May 23, 2010.

Just how appallingly wrong these assessments by the most senior echelons of the Israeli security establishment proved to be was driven home by a recent BBC report, indicating that the Iranian military is engaged in the construction of what appears to be a permanent military base in Syria. But more on these—and other—disturbing lapses in judgment a little later.

Permanent Iranian presence in Syria?

Based on satellite images commissioned by the BBC, the report suggests extensive ongoing construction between January and October this year, just outside a site used by the Syrian army near the town of El-Kiswah, 14 km (8 miles) south of Damascus.

It comes on the heels of evermore disturbing accounts of the increasingly pervasive presence of Iranian forces throughout Syria – with Russian endorsement and US acquiescence – together with growing concern that Tehran will soon attempt to deploy both air and naval forces, including submarines and set up weapons production plants to supply its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah.

In the discussion of the ramifications of these revelations, attention appeared to focus mainly on two cardinal issues: (a) The significance for the completion of the “Shi’ite arc of influence”, stretching from east of the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean and the creation of a land-based logistical supply line from Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon; and (b) the stern warnings issued by Israel that it would not permit an Iranian takeover of Syria, hinting that it would be prepared to use military force to prevent this.

However, there is another vital element germane to the expanding Iranian military presence in Syria—and one that has received remarkably little media attention. It is, however, one whose relevance Israel will ignore at its peril.

Inconvenient but incontrovertible fact

After all, as ominous as the current Iranian military deployment in Syria is, it might well have been far more menacing. Indeed, the fact that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is not perched on the Golan Heights, overlooking the Sea of Galilee, is solely because Israel did not fall prey to the seductive temptation of the land-for-peace formula, as urged by many, in both the international community and in its own security establishment (see introductory excerpts)—and did not cede the strategic plateau that commands the approaches to the entire north of the country.

One can only shudder with dread at the thought of the perilous predicament the country would be in, had it heeded the call from the allegedly “enlightened and progressive”  voices, who – up until the gory events of the Syrian civil war that erupted in 2011—hailed the British trained doctor, Bashar al-Assad, as a moderate reformer, with whom a durable peace deal could be cut – f only an intransigent Israel would yield the Golan to his regime.

Indeed, it is an inconvenient—albeit incontrovertible—fact that every time Israel has relinquished/abandoned territory, to Arab control, that territory has – usually sooner rather than later – become a platform from which to launch lethal attacks against Israel – almost immediately in Gaza; within months in Judea-Samaria; within years in south Lebanon and after several decades in Sinai, now descending into the depravity and brutality of a Jihadi-controlled no-man’s land—with no good options on the horizon.

This is something Israeli policy makers dare not disregard. For as dangerous and detrimental as the outcomes of previous withdrawals proved to be, they are likely to pale into insignificance compared to consequences of territorial concession in Judea-Samara (a.k.a. the “West Bank”).  

Compounding the gravity

Indeed, even the Golan, with all its vital strategic significance, cannot match the importance of the highlands of Judea-Samaria, commanding Israel’s urban megalopolis in the coastal plain. As I have pointed out elsewhere, any forces deployed on these highlands command all of the following: major airfields (civilian and military) including the country’s only international airport; major sea ports and naval bases; vital infrastructure installations (power transmission, water systems, and communication networks); main land transport routes (road and rail); principal power plants; the national parliament and most government ministries; crucial centers of civilian administration and military command; and 80% of the civilian population and the commercial activity in the country.   

Significantly, all of these strategic objectives will be within easy range of weapons being used today against Israel from territories previously relinquished to Arab control.

Compounding the gravity of any threat entailed in Israel yielding sizeable portions of Judea-Samaria to the Palestinian-Arabs are reports of renewed ties between Iran and Hamas, purported to be stronger than ever.”  

An Iranian proxy over-looking Tel Aviv?

Addressing journalists in Gaza last August, Hamas leader, Yehiyeh Sinwar declared that the terror group had restored relations with Iran after a five-year rift, due to Hamas’s refusal to support Assad, and is using its newfound financial and military aid to gear up for new hostilities against Israel. According to Sinwar, “Today, the relationship with Iran is excellent, or very excellent”, adding that Iran is “the largest backer financially and militarily” of the organization’s military wing.

Clearly, were Israel to withdraw from Judea-Samaria, there is little that it could do to curtail the spread of Iranian influence. Indeed, without the IDF to prop up the corrupt kleptocracy of Fatah, it is more than likely that Hamas, increasingly an Iranian proxy in the mold of Hezbollah—despite being on opposite sides of the Sunni-Shia divide—could mount an effective challenge for power. This could be done either via the ballot (a recent Palestinian poll shows that Hamas’s Ismail Haniyeh would trounce Fatah’s Mahmoud Abbas) or by the bullet—as it did in in Gaza in 2007, and could well do again in Judea-Samaria, especially if bolstered by Iranian backing

Accordingly, just as it was only Israel’s resistance to territorial concession on the Golan that prevented the deployment of Iranian Revolutionary Guards on the fringes of the Galilee, so only by resisting territorial concessions in the “West Bank” can Israel prevent Iranian Revolutionary Guards (or any other Jihadi elements) from deploying on the fringes of Greater Tel Aviv.

Assessing new “peace initiatives”: Rank is no recommendation

These are the grim realities that any future “peace initiative” must take into consideration.

This caveat takes on special significance in light of rumors that a new “peace” initiative is currently brewing within the Trump administration, seemingly enamored with the allure of cutting “the ultimate deal”.

In this regard, Israel must internalize the lessons of the past and robustly resist pressures to relinquish further territory to Arab control. In particular, it must be wary of counsel from individuals and organizations, who have demonstrated, consistently and conclusively that—no matter what their past experience and seniority—their judgement cannot be trusted (see introductory excerpts). After all, as the past clearly indicates, when assessing such initiatives, rank is rarely any recommendation.

Indeed, not only have the “top brass” of Israel’s security establishment been hopelessly and hazardously wrong in appraising Assad’s role as a peace partner, they have been equally wrong in predicting his imminent fall – see for example here,  here, here, here, here and here.

Israel can ill-afford such lapses in judgement when it comes to making fateful decisions regarding concessions in Judea-Samaria that would critically imperil the vast majority of the nation’s population.  

With this in mind, it cannot for a moment forget what–but for the grace of God—our fate in the Golan would have been.