U.S. Plans Middle East Peace Push after "Cooling Off" over Jerusalem (AFP-France 24)
The White House is to renew efforts to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, senior administration officials said Friday.
"We understand that the Palestinians may need a bit of a cooling off period, that's fine," said one senior administration official after President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
"We still continue to be focused on a peace process and how we ultimately bring that situation to a conclusion," said a second official.
"We will be ready when the Palestinians are ready to reengage," said the first official.
Rocket Fired at Israel Hits Hamas Official's Home in Gaza - Lilach Shoval (Israel Hayom)
A rocket fired at Israel on Friday by Palestinians in Gaza fell short and hit the Beit Hanoun home of Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri's brother, who is also a top Hamas official, Palestinian media reported.
"This is another example of terrorist organizations launching rockets at residents of Gaza,"
said IDF Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai.
Druze Officer to Head Unit Dealing with Palestinian Issues - Tovah Lazaroff (Jerusalem Post)
IDF Maj.-Gen. Kamil Abu-Rokun, 58, has been appointed to head the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.
During Abu-Rokun's 40 years of IDF service, he has served as deputy head of COGAT and head of the Civil Administration. Since 2010, he has been in charge of the Crossing Authority which oversees the crossings into Gaza.
Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan said that Abu-Rokun's appointment was a testament to the state's strong ties with the Druze community.
Did the U.S. Let Hizbullah Off the Hook as Part of the Iran Deal? - Josh Meyer (Politico)
The U.S. launched Project Cassandra in 2008 after the Drug Enforcement Administration amassed evidence that Hizbullah had transformed itself into an international crime syndicate collecting $1 billion a year from drug and weapons trafficking, money laundering and other criminal activities.
Over the next eight years, DEA agents used wiretaps, undercover operations and informants to map Hizbullah's illicit networks, with the help of 30 U.S. and foreign security agencies.
The agents traced the conspiracy to the innermost circle of Hizbullah and its state sponsors in Iran.
But when Project Cassandra leaders sought approval for some significant investigations, prosecutions, arrests and financial sanctions, Obama administration officials at the Justice and Treasury departments delayed, hindered or rejected their requests.
Former Treasury official Katherine Bauer told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs last February that "under the Obama administration...these [Hizbullah-related] investigations were tamped down for fear of rocking the boat with Iran and jeopardizing the nuclear deal."
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- White House Says Western Wall Has to Be Part of Israel - Ken Thomas
Senior Trump administration officials outlined their view Friday that Jerusalem's Western Wall ultimately will be declared a part of Israel. "We cannot envision any situation under which the Western Wall would not be part of Israel. But as the president said, the specific boundaries of sovereignty of Israel are going to be part of the final status agreement," a senior administration official said. Another official added, "We note that we cannot imagine Israel would sign a peace agreement that didn't include the Western Wall." (AP-Chicago Tribune)
See also Palestinians Say U.S. Position on Western Wall Remaining in Israeli Hands Is Unacceptable - Jack Khoury and Amir Tibon (Ha'aretz)
- U.S. Defense Secretary: Iran Working to Destabilize Middle East - Jim Garamone
"Everywhere you find turmoil [in the Middle East], you find Iran's hand in it," Defense Secretary James Mattis said Friday. Referring to U.S. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley's briefing Thursday which included physical evidence that Iran is providing ballistic missiles to the Houthis, Mattis said, "What we are doing in that region is standing by allies and partners, and we're, on one hand, exposing, on the other hand, helping them build their own capability to reject Iranian influence."
"We find Iran actively engaged in keeping [Syrian President] Assad in power, despite the murder of his own people on the industrial scale, including the use of chemical weapons. We see what [Iran has] done with Lebanese Hizbullah in Lebanon and the threat to peace and the support they've given to Assad and the threat to Israel, for example." Mattis added, "The reason Ambassador Haley was there, and not one of our generals, is this is a diplomatically-led effort to expose to the world what Iran is up to." (DoD News-U.S. Defense Department)
- Saudi Academic Says Arabs Should Accept Israel's "Historic Right"
Abdulhameed Hakeem, head of the Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, told the U.S.-based al-Hurra TV channel on Saturday that the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital "will prompt a positive shock towards moving the stagnant water surrounding negotiations....We have to admit and realize that Jerusalem is a religious symbol for the Jews that is just as holy for them as Mecca and Medina are for Muslims."
"Arab mentality must free itself from the heritage of Gamal Abdel Nasser and political Islam of both the Sunni and Shia sects, which has instilled for purely political interests the culture of hating Jews and denying their historic right in the region." (Al-Araby Al-Jadeed-UK)
- Does Israel Want Peace? - Dani Dayan
In its editorial on Dec. 5, "Does President Trump Want Mideast Peace?" the New York Times argued that Israel has "shown no serious interest in peace." This sentiment is wrong.
In recent months, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has been more concerned about making peace with Hamas, which has not renounced its genocidal ideology or laid down its weapons, and has consistently refused to come to the negotiating table with Israel. It is Israel that has stated continuously that it is open for negotiations, without preconditions.
You also mention that "Palestinians anticipated being able to locate their capital in east Jerusalem and to have access to Muslim holy sites there." The truth is that Palestinians and Muslims from around the world continue to worship at Islamic holy sites year-round, and Israel has guaranteed, still guarantees, and will continue to guarantee freedom of worship for every faith. We continue to hope that the Palestinians will see the value in talks and dialogue so that we can achieve real peace. The writer is Israel's consul general in New York.
(New York Times)
- Trump's Statement on Jerusalem Does Not Contradict the Arab Peace Initiative - Oded Eran
In his announcement on Dec. 6, President Trump stated explicitly that the American position on the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty had not changed.
If the leaders of U.S. allies Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia analyze his words carefully, they will understand they contain nothing that contradicts the Arab peace initiative.
In the wake of the announcement, Palestinian negotiators have rejected the U.S. as an honest broker. But that does not change the reality that the American administration is the only international element that has any degree of influence on Israel's positions in negotiations with its neighbors.
The writer, a senior researcher at INSS, is a former deputy chief of mission at the Israel Embassy in Washington (1986-1990) and head of Israel's negotiating team with the Palestinians (1999-2000). (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
- Is It Time to Cut Off U.S. Financial Support to Abbas? - Kevin D. Williamson
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he will no longer accept a role for the U.S. in Arab-Israeli peace negotiations, which have produced little in the way of meaningful peace.
The Palestinian cause has devolved into an instrument of ordinary grift. To keep this grift going, it is necessary that there be no settlement between Israel and the Palestinians and no meaningful progress toward it. That means that every step toward resolution must be met with murder and terrorism - terrorism is in fact the main Palestinian mode of negotiation.
Whatever sympathy one may feel for the Palestinian people themselves, their leaders are not good-faith negotiating partners and are not likely to become such partners. It is difficult to negotiate a lasting peace when one side does not want peace at all.
In 2016, the U.S. gave more in aid to the Palestinians than any other country. The U.S. should consider accommodating President Abbas' demand and step away from the situation for a while, taking our aid money with us. If President Abbas must have his obstinacy and his cheap theatrics, then let him pay the full price for them.
Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's Capital Is Good for Peace. Britain Should Do So Too - Israeli Ambassador to the UK Mark Regev (Telegraph-UK)
- The Oxford English Dictionary defines a "capital" as "the city or town that functions as the seat of government and administrative center of a country." Jerusalem meets this definition exactly as the base for Israel's executive, legislative and judiciary branches since 1949.
- It is an accepted norm in international relations that every sovereign state has the right to decide its own capital city. Only in the case of Israel has this norm not been applied.
- The White House decision helps to advance peace by eroding the dangerous fantasy that the Jews can somehow be wrested from Jerusalem, and that we have neither a valid claim to the city, nor a right to a capital there. This type of extremist thinking renders peacemaking all but impossible.
- Whenever the international community has put forward comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace plans over the past 20 years, they have consistently acknowledged Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
- In Jerusalem today, religious freedom is strongly upheld: each faith community autonomously administers its own holy places. In a region where in recent years many religious sites have been desecrated or destroyed, contemporary Jerusalem stands out as a beacon of tolerance and freedom.
- Other countries, including the United Kingdom, should follow the U.S. in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moving their embassies there. Such a move would be both just and good for peace.
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