A highlight of President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel next week will be a major speech in Jerusalem — with an audience full of students — where he will speak directly to Israelis for the first time.
That’s just one stop of Obama’s first foreign trip of his second term, designed to show — through substance and symbolism — the ironclad U.S. commitment to Israel, as the nation faces a potential nuclear threat from Iran and conflicts in Egypt and Syria threaten Israeli security.
The speech will give Obama an opportunity to bypass often critical Israeli media and hostile political figures during his first trip to Israel as president.
The U.S. Embassy in Israel is running an essay contest on Facebook, with up to 20 winners “who submit the most original and creative responses” to be invited to the speech, the embassy website said.
I wrote earlier this month how the visit — coming after Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election victories — give the leaders a chance to reset their strained relationship. Netanyahu was seen as a Mitt Romney supporter while Obama had to continuously prove his pro-Israel credentials during his campaign.
Obama’s swing includes Israel, the West Bank and Jordan. Obama has met with U.S. Arab-American and Jewish leaders in separate sessions in recent weeks to discuss his trip.
Israel’s prime minister has vowed to move ahead with settlement building in a Palestinian-claimed area near Jerusalem, after Israeli security forces evicted more than 100 Palestinian protesters from the site.
In an interview Sunday on Israeli radio, Benjamin Netanyahu said “there will construction” in the disputed E-1 zone between Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem and the major West Bank Jewish settlement of Maaleh Adumim. But he said it will take time for Israel to complete the planning process for 3,000 housing units.
Israeli security personnel entered the zone before dawn Sunday and quickly removed dozens of Palestinians who had set up tents Friday to protest the proposed settlement project. The protesters resisted passively and there were no serious injuries.
The defendant has nothing to complain about in this case except for himself, writes Judge Schneider after conducting an in depth investigation as to the validity of the claimant’s assertion that the defendant no longer had the status of “Protected Tenant” (a status granted to certain East Jerusalem Palestinians who had had rental agreement with the Jordanian Custodian for Enemy Property prior to the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967) and that the property should be ”returned” to Jewish control, based on Jewish ownership documents from before 1948. Having ruled in favor of the claimant’s argument, the Judge ordered that the Shamasneh family leave their home and that the property to be transferred to the Israeli General Custodian, a governmental body that then has the ability to rent or sell the property to whomever it wishes. Like other cases in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the process was carried out in a rational, civilized manner, the competing claims were weighed against one another, and in this case, the Palestinian family’s claim did not convince the Israeli judge. The law ruled. Had the case gone differently, the Palestinian family could have won, and the government ministry and its settler partners would have been sent away empty handed. Although we may not like the results, there is little that is more important in a democracy than the rule of law. Isn’t that so?
That is so. Only here’s the catch: Israel is not a democracy and the “law” with which it governs millions of Palestinians living under occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is fundamentally discriminatory, unequal and, ultimately, illegal.
In this case and in thousands of others, as described powerfully by Military Judges themselves in Ra’anan Alexandrovich’s brilliant documentary film, The Law in the These Parts (2011), the Israeli Judge examined, questioned, pried and prodded, searching for details, for facts, for dates, for truths. There are a few questions that Judge Schneider never asked, and which Israeli judges dealing with the Occupied Territories could never ask without the pillars of their invented Legalistic and Seemingly-Just universe beginning to crumble. One of them is this: Why should Israeli Jews — whether in government positions or as private individuals — be allowed to use documents from before 1948 to reclaim ownership of houses lived in by Palestinians for decades when there are tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees with pre-1948 ownership documents who are not even allowed to visit their old homes, let alone sue for ownership and legally expel the current Jewish residents? This question cannot be asked, because the only answer is as follows: Israeli law grants one set of rights to Jews and another to Palestinians living under occupation; Israeli law, as manifested primarily — but not exclusively — in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, is based neither in values of equality nor of democracy, but rather is a complex code of ethnic privilege, and even supremacy.
The Islamic militant group Hamas staged on Thursday its first public demonstration in the West Bank since 2007, illustrating its improving ties with the rival Fatah movement after a five-year rift.
The show of force by Hamas reflected the group’s popularity in Palestinian society following an eight-day battle against Israel last month and its rising influence as Islamists rise to power across the region.
Hamas said about 5,000 supporters of the Islamic militant group took to the streets in Nablus after prayers Thursday.
Marchers chanted, “Hamas — you are the guns; we are the bullets,” and, “Hamas, fire more rockets on Tel Aviv.” Some women held models of the rockets Gaza militants fired at Israeli cities in last month’s fighting.
CAN there ever be a lasting peace between Arabs and Jews in the Middle East? Another round of bloodshed (see article) suggests that any such hope is vain. Amid the usual futile arguments over who started it, scores of buildings have been reduced to rubble; more than 140 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and six Israelis have been killed; and, for the first time, missiles from Gaza have landed near Tel Aviv, Israel’s metropolis, and the holy city of Jerusalem.
But though the Israelis and Palestinians seem stuck in their ancient conflict, all around them the Middle East is changing. The Arab spring has thrown the pieces up in the air, and, like it or not, the Palestinians and Israelis are caught up in the regional turmoil. Maybe this will make their struggle bloodier than before. However, there are reasons for thinking it could just break their lethal stalemate.
A war that is neither lost or won
At first sight, optimism looks very hard to justify now. Even if the ceasefire agreed on November 21st holds, this week’s fighting has strengthened the hawks on both sides.
The leaders of Hamas, the Islamist movement that has ruled Gaza since 2007, will claim to have forced the Israelis to back off, even though Gaza has taken a drubbing. Despite killing some of its leaders and bottling up Gaza’s 1.7m people in one of the most wretched and crowded corners of the planet, Israel has failed to destroy Hamas. Indeed Hamas is gaining on the West Bank, the other bit of Palestine currently run by its bitter rivals in Fatah, the more moderate Palestinian faction.
Farouk Kaddoumi, a veteran PLO official, dropped a political bombshell Wednesday with a call for ‘returning’ the West Bank to Jordan.
Kaddoumi, who is based in Tunisia, said he supported the idea of a federation or confederation between the West Bank and Jordan. His remarks, which came during an interview with the London-based Al- Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, are the first of their kind to be voiced by a senior PLO figure in decades.
Kaddoumi is one of the founders of Fatah, and for decades served as head of the PLO’s ‘political department.’ He is one of the few PLO leaders who refused to move from Tunisia to the Palestinian territories after the signing of the Oslo Accords, which he had strongly opposed.
Kaddoumi told the newspaper, during an interview in his office in the Tunisian capital, that giving the West Bank back to Jordan would be a ‘positive move.’ He added, nevertheless, that the Palestinians should not drop their demand for a right to return to Israel proper.
‘We launched our revolution for all of Palestine, and that’s why we need to be very cautious,’ Kaddoumi said.
‘We must safeguard our people’s right to return,’ he stressed. ‘We must insist on the right of return for all refugees, because this is the minimum that we could accept.’
It’s that last bit that gives the game away. This guy still committed to destroying Israel, but adding that many Palestinians to Jordan suggests to me he’d like to see King Abdullah overthrown as well. Because adding such large radicalized population to Jordan would be the death of such a fragile nation. Mr. Kaddoumi remains what he has always been: a dangerous, murderous radical.
Ehud Barak looks like he’s planning on running to be Israel’s next prime minister when elections are finally called. To that end, he’s floated a proposal to disengage from large parts of the West Bank and to hand control over to the Palestinian Authority.
While this might garner support from the Israeli left, Likud and other right wing parties aren’t going for the idea - and they point to how the Gaza disengagement turned out. They note the thousands of rocket terror attacks that have occurred since the 2005 disengagement as proof that a West Bank plan wouldn’t work.
There are serious reasons to doubt a West Bank plan, but there are also good reasons for Israel to consider it. The demographics don’t favor Israel, and the Israelis don’t have a partner in peace with the Palestinian Authority so long as Hamas remains part.
A disengagement would potentially lead to a 3-state solution: Hamas-controlled Gaza, a Fatah-controlled West Bank, and Israel. It’s not what the peace process envisioned by Oslo would ever have considered, but based on the facts on the ground, it’s one of the only ways Israel could break through the impasse on the peace process. Fatah isn’t willing to give up the ghost of a right of return - one that would use demographics to overwhelm Israel. Uprooting Israeli settlements has been done in the past, and it would likely happen again. It’s not about the settlements - it never has been.
Consider this an opening salvo in Israeli domestic politics towards their next election.
The Palestinian Authority on Saturday accused Hamas of exploiting peaceful protests against the high cost of living to spread chase and anarchy in the West Bank.
Adndan Damiri, spokesman for the PA security forces, also accused Hamas of working to overthrow the PA regime in the West Bank.
Damiri claimed that the PA security forces have received information about Hamas’s efforts to destabilize the situation in the West Bank. Damiri did not provide further details.
However, he told the PA’s Voice of Palestine radio station that Hamas has never stopped trying to “export its coup to the West Bank and spark violence and discord among Palestinians
Pro-settler vandals attack West Bank monastery in retaliation for Israeli eviction of their illegal settlements
This shows that the West Bank religious settlers are every bit a threat to Palestinians as well as the Israeli state. This act should not be reflected as something Israel or Israelis in general are responsible for and the blame for these ‘price tag’ retaliations falls on the settlers and the extremist political parties who back them including elements of the American conservative movement.
Pro-settler vandals attack West Bank monastery
(Reuters) - Vandals set fire to the doors of a Christian monastery in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Tuesday and daubed pro-settler graffiti on its walls in a possible retaliation for the eviction of families from an unauthorized outpost.
The name of the unauthorized Migron outpost, cleared of Israeli settlers following a court order on Sunday, was scrawled on the well-known 19th century Latrun Monastery, alongside the words “Jesus is a monkey” in Hebrew, police said.
Israeli security officials had said they were worried Sunday’s eviction of 50 families from Migron, in another part of the West Bank near Ramallah, might provoke more attacks by a vigilante settler group known as “Price Tag”.
The “Price Tag” name refers to retribution some Israeli settlers say they will exact for any attempt by their government to curb settlement in the West Bank, an area Palestinians want as part of a future state.
The group has targeted mosques and, less commonly, Christian churches, regarding any non-Jewish religious sites as an intrusion on the land. continued
Israel completed evacuation of a large unauthorized West Bank settlement outpost on Sunday, culminating years of legal wrangling in a case that has become a rallying cry for hardline settler groups opposed to any withdrawal from occupied land claimed by the Palestinians.
By midday, all of Migron’s roughly 300 residents had left, authorities said, two days ahead of a court-ordered deadline to clear out.
The fate of Jewish settlements lies at the heart of a three-year impasse in Mideast peace efforts. The Palestinians refuse to negotiate while Israel continues to expand settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war and claimed by the Palestinians for a future state. They say the settlement construction is a show of bad faith.
Most of Migron’s residents left voluntarily and peacefully, but officers dragged out a few youths who had holed themselves up in an evacuated trailer home. At another white prefab home, where a toy tractor and a bicycle with training wheels were left discarded outside, several youths climbed to the roof waving a large Israeli flag and refused to come down.