The optics, certainly, were fine. It was good to see an American president and an Israeli prime minister standing together on the podium with what appeared to be genuine good will. Most important, and promising for the future, perhaps, was how they dealt with the “two state solution” mantra. There was, for the first time in years, nuance in both the American and the Israeli position toward what has become a slogan without meaning.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated the possibility of two states with caveats he noted:
- Palestinian acceptance of the legitimacy of Jewish sovereignty, echoing the words of the UN Partition Plan for Palestine for “a Jewish state.”
- Israeli security control from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River. “Israel must retain the overriding security control over the entire area west of the Jordan River. Because… otherwise we’ll get another radical Islamic terrorist state in the Palestinian areas exploding the peace, exploding the Middle East.”
President Donald Trump deferred, as befits someone who won’t live with the consequences of actions taken 6,000 miles away:
“I like the (solution) that both parties like… I can live with either one. I thought for a while that two states looked like it may be the easier of the two. To be honest, if Bibi and the Palestinians, if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.”
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I know them both — Netanyahu better than Trump — and I believe they will get along well. They are both no-nonsense pragmatists who understand the relationship between economic development and political progress. We all know of Trump’s business background and focus on jobs and trade. Less well-known is Netanyahu’s business background. Like Trump, Netanyahu went to business school and began his career as a businessman, working for Boston Consulting Group. When he entered politics, he helped transform Israel from an agrarian-based economy into “start-up nation,” which has become a technological superpower with a strong economy. He is the Alexander Hamilton of Israel, to David Ben Gurion’s Jefferson. Trump has to admire that.
Trump will also admire Netanyahu’s strong nationalism and love of country. He has made Israel great, militarily, technologically and economically. He may soon become Israel’s longest serving Prime Minister, surpassing the legendary Ben Gurion.
Each leader would like to be the one who succeeds in bringing a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So many others — people of good will and considerable effort — have been unable to achieve this goal. There is no certainty that Trump and Netanyahu can succeed when so many others have come close but have never been able to close the deal. Both are respected for their deal-making capabilities — Trump in business, Netanyahu in domestic politics.
But there are considerable barriers to achieving a peaceful resolution. Netanyahu and his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, each have domestic constituencies that would oppose the compromise necessary to achieve a two-state solution. Some of Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition partners oppose a two-state solution in which Israel would turn over most of the West Bank to establish a Palestinian state. And many West Bank Palestinians — not to mention Hamas in Gaza — oppose recognizing the legitimacy of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. They also demand the “return” of millions of Palestinian refugees to Israel, despite the reality that there are probably only a hundred thousand or so actual refugees who themselves left Israel in 1948-1949, many voluntarily.
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The new campaign by the Amona families is part of a number of right-wing initiatives designed to pressure Netanyahu to stand against the cautionary warnings by the Trump Administration to restrain settlement activity.
Among the diplomatic red lines they want Netanyahu to cross, is the creation of a new settlement.
It’s a move that goes against past Israeli obligations to the United States.
Boaron said the Prime Minister’s Office promised two weeks ago that Netanyahu planned to keep his promise, but they have heard nothing since his return from Australia earlier this week, in spite of repeated efforts to make contact.
“We are completely disconnected. If the Prime Minister and his people want to contact us, they know where to find us. We are not far away,” he said.
To move forward, he said, the government must formally vote to approve the new community, without that nothing can happen, Boaron said.
The PMO said in response that Netanyahu intended to fulfill his promise to the Amona residents. But Netanyahu has also indicated to reporters that this is not something that can happen now.
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I recently returned from a visit to Israel, where the headlines focused on two investigations involving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The first is about conversations between the prime minister and Arnon Mozes, the publisher of Yedioth Ahronoth, a popular Israeli newspaper. The second concerns gifts of cigars for Netanyahu and pink champagne for his wife from a long-time personal friend. According to news accounts, the prime minister will soon be questioned for the fourth time about the two cases. The first one poses significant dangers to freedom of the press and to democratic governance. The second is an example of a widespread problem in many democracies: namely the effort to criminalize political and policy differences.
I write this article not to defend the incumbent prime minister. I would write it regardless of who served in that office. I have made similar points over many years opposing overzealous criminal investigations of political figures – such as former Congressman Tom DeLay and former Governor Rick Perry – whose politics I oppose and whom I don’t know personally. I have also criticized Republican efforts to turn Hillary Clinton into a criminal for her misuse of a private email server. The criminalization of policy and political differences poses a grave danger to democracy, regardless of who the target of the criminalization happens to be.
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Over the past week, Israel was subjected to the diplomatic equivalent of a lynch mob in Paris. It received unexpected assistance from Britain, which twice in two days departed from its traditional anti-Israel stance and blocked the Paris conference’s anti-Israel declaration from being adopted as the official position of the European Union.
Also over the past week, outgoing US President Barack Obama, outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry and outgoing UN Ambassador Samantha Power used their final appearances in office to blast Israel.
On the other hand, President-elect Donald Trump and his team played a key role in bringing about Britain’s change of heart toward Israel.
While these events have been widely covered by the foreign media, they have barely been mentioned in the Hebrew broadcast media, from which the majority of Israelis receive their news.
Instead, led by Channel 2 with its monopoly ratings share, the local media spent the past week covering almost nothing but the criminal probes being carried out against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu is the subject of two probes. The first, which police investigators dubbed Affair 1000, involves allegations that Netanyahu improperly received gifts from his friends.
That probe seems to be withering on the vine. Consequently, over the past week, most of the media’s attention has been focused on what the police call Affair 2000.
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The international diplomatic conference held in Paris on Sunday was “like having marriage counseling with neither the husband nor the wife present,” a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told BBC News.
After calling the confab attended by representatives of more than 70 countries a “relic of the past,” David Keyes noted, “The barrier for this two-state solution for two peoples isn’t the prime minister of Israel.”
Instead, Keyes went on to say, the true obstacle to peace is Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
In a never-before-released recording obtained by The Algemeiner of part of a closed-door anti-Zionist student conference at Virginia’s George Mason University in…
“He’s said no to recognizing Israel as a Jewish state; he’s said no to direct negotiations with Israel; and, frankly, he’s said no to stopping the glorification or murderers and the horrific hate speech which is indoctrinating children from a very young age,” Keyes stated.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon tweeted that Sunday’s summit in the French capital “turned as flat as a failed soufflé.”
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French President Francois Hollande on Sunday said the world cannot impose a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a lasting peace accord can only be clinched through direct talks.
Addressing a Paris peace conference in Paris with the representatives of 70 countries in attendance, Hollande also warned the international community not to forsake peace efforts as it focuses on the fight against the Islamic State, as the region cannot be stabilized without a resolution to the “oldest conflict in the Middle East.”
The French president noted in his address to diplomats that the “fight against ISIS has occupied the international community.”
“But how can you think that the Middle East can be stabilized if you don’t deal with its oldest conflict? The world must not resign itself to the status quo,” said the French president.
Warning that the two-state solution is “threatened” by settlements, a dwindling peace camp, and terrorism, the French president emphasized that the goal of the conference was to reaffirm the global commitment to peace rather than impose a deal.
“The two-state solution is still the objective of international community for the future. With this conference I wanted to inscribe the two-state solution on the international agenda.
We do not want to impose any solutions… as some argued to dismiss our effort,” he said, apparently referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “It can only come after direct negotiations.”
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