Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
December 29, 2016


In-Depth Issues:

Australian Foreign Minister Backs Israel rather than U.S. over UN Resolution - Peter Martin (The Age-Australia)
    Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said in a statement released Thursday that "in voting at the UN, the Coalition government has consistently not supported one-sided resolutions targeting Israel," indicating that Australia would most likely have opposed the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements if it had been a member of the Council.




Dennis Ross Pans Kerry's "All or Nothing" Approach to Israel, Palestinians (Jerusalem Post)
    Former U.S. envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross, speaking to Israel's Army Radio on Thursday, characterized the timing of Secretary of State John Kerry's speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Wednesday as "puzzling."
    Ross criticized his emphasis on the matter in light of the "paradox of what is happening in the region." "This is what he gives a 75-minute speech on - not what's happening in Syria, not what's happening in Iraq, not what the Russians are doing."
    "Part of the problem with the Kerry approach is that it's an all or nothing approach - and the problem with an all or nothing approach is that it always produces nothing."




What Was the Point of John Kerry's Israel Lecture? - Editorial (Telegraph-UK)
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday set out the terms for what a new Israeli-Palestinian peace deal might look like.
    In normal times this would have been a profound and dramatic intervention, setting the agenda possibly for years to come.
    But in just 22 days Kerry and Barack Obama will be out of a job and the administration of Donald Trump - already tweeting his disagreement and disapproval - will take over.
    As a result, Mr. Kerry's intervention may have been in earnest, but parting shots from lame duck administrations change little.




It's Not the Settlements - Rick Richman (Commentary)
    Immediately after the UN voted last week to vilify Israel, Ben Rhodes, the White House deputy national security advisor, held a conference call to argue that the Obama administration was motivated by its "grave concerns" about "the continued pace" of Israeli settlement activities.
    Rhodes said, "Since 2009, the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank has increased by more than 100,000."
    The figure of 100,000 sounds significant until you realize that 80% of it has been in the settlement blocs "everyone knows" Israel will retain in any conceivable peace agreement.
    The 20,000 person increase east of the separation barrier translates into less than 1% of the population in the disputed territories over a period of eight years.
    The vast majority of Israeli settlement activity has been within settlement blocs that no one can realistically expect Israel to dismantle.
    During the Bush administration, the U.S. and Israel agreed on a formula for settlementsŁ: building could continue within the boundaries of existing settlements, but not outside them, so that construction would not affect the amount of land available for a Palestinian state, which was more than 90% of the disputed territories.
    It was the Obama administration that reneged on that agreement in 2009 and made an issue out of something that had already been resolved.




Fatah Official at Hamas Rally Salutes Al-Qassam Brigades: Anyone Who Bears Arms for Palestine Is Sacred to Us (MEMRI)
    On Dec. 17 at a Hamas rally held in Ramallah in the West Bank, Fatah Central Committee member Abbas Zaki said that "we are working to cooperate and reach a true partnership in politics, and to stand side by side, in the same trench, against our common enemy - Israel."
    "I salute the Al-Qassam Brigades [of Hamas]. Therefore, anyone who bears arms for the sake of Palestine is sacred to us."



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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • In Parting Shot, Kerry Tears into Israel over Settlements - Josh Lederman and Matthew Daly
    Secretary of State John Kerry tore into Israel on Wednesday for settlement-building and forcefully rejected the notion that America had abandoned Israel with a controversial UN vote. In a farewell speech, Kerry laid out a two-state vision for peace that he hoped might be heeded even after President Obama's term ends, deviating from the traditional U.S. message that foreign powers shouldn't impose a solution.
        Most of his speech focused on Israel, and he said the two-state solution was "now in serious jeopardy." Yet he offered fewer details about how to get to such a deal, given the failure of so many previous attempts, including his own nine-month effort that collapsed in 2014. (AP-Washington Post)
        See also Kerry's Peace Principles: Jerusalem Would Be Capital of Two States - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
        See also Text: Kerry's Remarks on Middle East Peace (U.S. State Department)
  • Top Senate Democrat Says Kerry's Speech Inflamed Tensions - Mark Hensch
    Incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Secretary of State John Kerry inflamed tensions between the Israelis and Palestinians with his Wednesday speech. "While Secretary Kerry mentioned Gaza in his speech, he seems to have forgotten the history of the settlements in Gaza, where the Israeli government forced settlers to withdraw from all settlements and the Palestinians responded by sending rockets into Israel....While he may not have intended it, I fear Secretary Kerry, in his speech and action at the [United Nations], has emboldened extremists on both sides."  (The Hill)
        See also Kerry's Blunt Words for Israel Denounced by Lawmakers in Both Parties - Jonathan Martin
    Secretary of State John Kerry's rebuke of the Israeli government on Wednesday set off a wave of criticism from lawmakers in both parties. Republicans denounced what they said was the Obama administration's harsh treatment of a steadfast ally and Democrats signaled that they were uneasy with Kerry's pressure on Israel. (New York Times)
        See also below Observations - Netanyahu: Israelis Do Not Need to Be Lectured about the Importance of Peace (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinian Official Rejects Kerry Peace Plan
    PLO Executive Committee member Mustafa Barghouti issued a rejection of the peace plan outlined in Secretary of State John Kerry's speech on Wednesday, indicating how far from compromise the Palestinian leadership remains on the core issues. Barghouti said, "First, you cannot make the issue of Palestinian refugees only an issue of compensation," claiming a "right of return." "Second, recognition of Israel as a Jewish state...is totally unacceptable." "Third, his formula about Jerusalem is absolutely something that the Palestinians cannot accept....East Jerusalem should be the capital of Palestine. How can it be a capital of two states?"  (Hamodia)
        See also Russia Rejects Kerry's Proposal for Quartet to Adopt U.S. Principles on Israeli-Palestinian Conflict - Barak Ravid
    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov rejected U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's proposal that the Quartet adopt the principles he presented in his speech on Wednesday. Kerry raised the proposal in a telephone call to Lavrov on Tuesday. (Ha'aretz)
  • Christian Leaders Laud Freedom of Worship in Israel - Greer Fay Cashman
    At the annual reception hosted by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin for spiritual and lay leaders of Christian communities in Israel on Tuesday, Greek Patriarch Theophilos III said: "We take the opportunity of this holiday gathering to express our gratitude to you for the firmness with which you defend the freedoms that lie at the heart of this democracy - especially the freedom of worship....The State of Israel takes pride in the fact that this state was founded on democratic principles in the Middle East and that it guarantees full freedom of worship."
        Earlier, Rivlin had spoken of the suffering of the Syrian population and asked his guests to join him in praying for their well-being. Rivlin spoke of the ongoing effort to build good relations between Christians and Jews, saying that Jews, Christians and Muslims alike share many common values. Rivlin added: "United Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel and it will remain so. There is no international body with the power to revoke this."
        Rivlin also said, "Time and again we have held out our hand in peace and called for direct negotiations without preconditions and without any delay. The decision to take Israel to the UN Security Council was wrong in trying to force preconditions, but also in the way it was done....The Security Council vote was a blow to peace, and it was a blow to trust."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also President Rivlin Addresses Annual Reception for Christian Leaders (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
        See also Greek Orthodox Patriarch under Fire from PLO for Praising Israel's Freedom of Religion (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Kerry's Rage Against Israel - Editorial
    John Kerry delivered a marathon speech Wednesday excoriating Israel. It's not for lack of U.S. diplomacy that there is no peace. In 2000 then-President Bill Clinton brought Israeli and Palestinian leaders to Camp David to negotiate a final peace agreement, only to watch Palestinians walk away from an offer that would have granted them a state on nearly all of Gaza and the West Bank. That failure was followed by another Palestinian terror campaign.
        Israelis remember that they elected leaders - Yitzhak Rabin in 1992, Ehud Barak in 1999, Ehud Olmert in 2006 - who made repeated peace overtures to the Palestinians, only to be met with violence and rejection. Israelis also remember that Netanyahu ordered a settlement freeze, and that also brought peace no closer.
        The lesson is that Jewish settlements are not the main obstacle to peace. If they were, Gaza would be on its way to becoming the Costa Rica of the Mediterranean. The obstacle is Palestinian rejection of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state in any borders. A Secretary of State who wishes to resolve the conflict could have started from that premise, while admonishing the Palestinians that they will never get a state so long as its primary purpose is the destruction of its neighbor. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Obama's Betrayal of Israel at the UN Must Not Stand - Editorial
    President Obama's ill-advised decision to order the U.S. to abstain on a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements breaks with past U.S. policy, undermines a vital ally and sets back the cause of Middle East peace. As Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) correctly noted in condemning the administration's decision, the "fervently anti-Israel" UN is "the wrong forum" for Israel and the Palestinians to settle their differences.
        If the Palestinians want a lasting peace based on a two-state solution, they must accept that Israel, not the UN or the "international community," is their negotiating partner. That means negotiating in good faith, not embracing empty resolutions that ignore agreements they have already reached to redraw Israel's borders. It also means ending the "stabbing intifada," condemning and fighting terrorism, and upholding their security obligations.
        It is ill-advised for the U.S. to walk away from an ally critical both to U.S. security and to that of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. To abandon a friend - a lawful, stable democracy with a dynamic, innovative, outward-looking economy - is inconceivable.
        Fortunately, the bipartisan uproar sparked by Obama's UN decision provides an opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to rally around a more constructive policy. They should start by agreeing to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. That would provide a powerful reaffirmation to Israel of the U.S.' enduring commitment. In the choice between terror and peace, and democracy and repression, there can be no room for impartiality, let alone abstention. (Bloomberg)
  • With New Resolution, the UN Drives Stake into Israeli-Palestinian Peace Hopes - Michael Oren
    The UN Security Council resolution denouncing Israel's presence in territories it captured in 1967 poses untold dangers not only to Israel but to the Palestinians themselves, and greatly diminishes the chances for peace. The resolution means the Western Wall and other places sacred to Jews for 3,000 years are considered as illegally occupied. It labels 600,000 Israelis as "flagrant violators of international law." The goal of the initiators of the resolution was not to achieve a better two-state solution, but to deny Israel the right to defend itself and, ultimately, the right to exist as a sovereign Jewish state. Israel will survive this legal onslaught and continue to thrive. The Palestinians, by contrast, will remain stateless.
        A strong Israel is virtually all that stands between the Sunni Arab states and the radical jihadists in Iran and ISIS. The Security Council vote will undoubtedly reinforce those radicals and embolden them to mount further attacks not only against the Jewish State but also against its Arab neighbors. And the long-tormented peoples of the Middle East will receive an unequivocal message from the UN: the massacre of more than half a million Arabs in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen is unimportant. All that matters is Jews living and praying in their homeland.
        Finally, the resolution impairs American credibility, casting doubts on the reliability of American commitments. By abstaining on the resolution, and in effect abandoning its only democratic Middle Eastern ally, the U.S. has called into question its dependability to its other friends. No American ally should rest easily. The writer, a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., is deputy minister for diplomacy in the Israeli Prime Minister's Office. (Newsweek)
Observations:

Netanyahu: Israelis Do Not Need to Be Lectured about the Importance of Peace (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Responding to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's speech on Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said:

  • "Israel is deeply grateful to the United States of America, to successive American administrations, to the American Congress, to the American people. We're grateful for the support Israel has received over many, many decades....I have no doubt that our alliance will endure the profound disagreement we have had with the Obama Administration and will become even stronger in the future."
  • "But now I must express my deep disappointment with the speech today of John Kerry - a speech that was almost as unbalanced as the anti-Israel resolution passed at the UN last week....What he did was to spend most of his speech blaming Israel for the lack of peace by passionately condemning a policy of enabling Jews to live in their historic homeland and in their eternal capital, Jerusalem."
  • "Hundreds of suicide bombings, thousands of rockets, millions of Israelis in bomb shelters are...the realities that the people of Israel had to endure because of mistaken policies, policies that at the time won the thunderous applause of the world....The Jewish people have sought their place under the sun for 3,000 years, and we're not about to be swayed by mistaken policies that have caused great, great damage."
  • "Israelis do not need to be lectured about the importance of peace by foreign leaders. Israel's hand has been extended in peace to its neighbors from day one....No one wants peace more than the people of Israel. Israel remains committed to resolving the outstanding differences between us and the Palestinians through direct negotiations. This is how we made peace with Egypt; this is how we made peace with Jordan; it's the only way we'll make peace with the Palestinians."
  • "Last week's Security Council resolution...reflects a radical shift in U.S. policy towards the Palestinians on final status issues....That shift happened despite the Palestinians walking away from peace and from peace offers time and time again, despite their refusal to even negotiate peace for the past eight years, and despite the Palestinian Authority inculcating a culture of hatred towards Israel in an entire generation of young Palestinians."
  • "This conflict is not about houses or communities in the West Bank, Judea and Samaria, the Gaza district or anywhere else. This conflict is and has always been about Israel's very right to exist....The persistent Palestinian refusal to recognize a Jewish state remains the core of the conflict and its removal is the key to peace. Palestinian rejection of Israel and support for terror are what the nations of the world should focus on if they truly want to advance peace."

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