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Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
December 14, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Ambassador "Proud to Light Menorah in Israel's Capital, Jerusalem"  (Ynet News)
    U.S. Ambassador David Friedman lit the Hannukah menorah at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Wednesday evening.
    "I am extremely excited to be standing here at this holy site and to light the second Hannukah candle in Jerusalem, the holy city and the capital of the State of Israel," Friedman said in Hebrew.

Islamic Summit on Jerusalem Showcases New Mideast Alliances - Seth J. Frantzman (Jerusalem Post)
    The leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and the UAE did not attend the emergency meeting in Istanbul on Wednesday of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, called in response to U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, sending a message that they would not be standing shoulder to shoulder with Iran.
    Attendance was also weak from Muslim states in Central Asia and Africa.

Syrians, Gazan Arrested for Firebombing Swedish Synagogue - David Stavrou (Ha'aretz)
    Three people arrested Sunday in connection with a firebomb attack on a synagogue in Gothenburg, Sweden, on Saturday were identified by local media as two men from Syria and another from Gaza who had arrived in the country this year.
    Police used material from surveillance cameras to make the arrests.
    See also When the "Arab Street" Comes to Sweden - Noah Feldman (Bloomberg)
    It's no surprise that President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital has sparked violence in the West Bank and Beirut. But Sweden?
    The Swedish city of Gothenburg saw the firebombing of a synagogue, while in Malmo, demonstrators called for their own "intifada" and threatened to shoot Jews.
    This reflects a changed demographic reality. The "Arab street" is no longer restricted to Arabic-speaking countries.
    Arab and other Muslim immigrants now living in Europe increasingly play an active role in enacting collective political opinion.
    Indeed, because Western European states respect civil liberties, Arabs and Muslims living in places like Sweden may have more freedom to protest than their counterparts in majority-Arab or Muslim countries.
    The writer is a professor of constitutional and international law at Harvard University.

Beauty Pageant Contestant's Family Forced to Flee Iraq over Joint Selfie with Israeli (Times of Israel)
    Relatives of the Iraqi contestant to the Miss Universe pageant, Sarah Idan, who now lives in the U.S., were forced to flee Iraq over photos with her Israeli counterpart, Adar Gandelsman, and Miss Iraq's modeling in a bikini, Miss Israel told Hadashot news on Wednesday.
    Miss Iraq had written that "the purpose of the picture was only to express hope and desire for peace between the two countries."

Jerusalem Municipality to Distribute Free Christmas Trees to City Residents (Jerusalem Municipality)
    The Jerusalem Municipality will distribute 150 complimentary Christmas trees to city residents.
    The city will also hang festive lighting and flags in areas of the city where the holiday is celebrated.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Abbas: Palestinians No Longer See Role for U.S. in Peace Process - Noga Tarnopolsky
    "The United States has chosen to lose its qualifications as a mediator....We will no longer accept that it has a role in the political process," PA President Mahmoud Abbas told the Organization of Islamic Cooperation meeting in Istanbul on Wednesday. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Abbas: "We Reject the Decisions of the U.S. Congress" and Must "Force the U.S. to Go Back on This Sin"
    PA President Mahmoud Abbas told the OIC on Wednesday: "Jerusalem has been, and will remain forever, the capital of the State of Palestine and its crown without which there will be no peace, nor stability....It is a Palestinian Arab Muslim Christian city, the eternal capital of the state of Palestine. There can be no Palestinian state without the city of Jerusalem as its capital."
        "We reject the decisions of the U.S. Congress, which considers the PLO a terrorist organization....Now we must...force the United States to go back on this sin and prevent other countries from taking similar steps."  (WAFA-PA)
        See also White House: Abbas "Distorting" Trump Remarks on Jerusalem and Preventing Peace - Michael Wilner
    The White House is hitting back against PA President Mahmoud Abbas over his speech Wednesday dismissing any future role for Washington in the Middle East peace process following President Trump's recognition last week of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. A senior White House official told the Jerusalem Post, "This rhetoric, which has prevented peace for years, is not surprising, as we anticipated reactions like this. We will remain hard at work putting together our plan, which will benefit the Israeli and Palestinian peoples."
        "It is also important to ignore the distortions and instead focus on what the president actually said last week - the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations between the parties, the United States continues to take no position on any final status issues, and the United States would support a two-state solution if agreed to by both sides."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • As ISIS Recedes, U.S. Steps Up Focus on Iran - Dion Nissenbaum
    As the U.S. military campaign against Islamic State winds down, the Trump administration is turning its focus to what it sees as a bigger threat: Iran. U.S. officials are wrestling with where and how to repel what they describe as a significant Iranian military expansion across the region. "Our leadership has set as an objective not to allow Iran and its proxies to be able to establish a presence in Syria that they can use to threaten our allies or us in the region," one senior U.S. administration official said. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Video: Iron Dome Missile Defense System Intercepts Two Palestinian Rockets Fired from Gaza - Anna Ahronheim
    The IDF intercepted two rockets over the city of Sderot on Wednesday night after Palestinians in Gaza launched a barrage of rockets at Israel for the sixth night in a row. Over a dozen rockets have been fired at Israel over the past week. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Fired at Israel Hits Gaza School
    A Palestinian rocket fired at Israel on Wednesday struck the Ghazi al-Shawa public school in Beit Hanun in Gaza and destroyed a classroom there. The IDF Government Coordinator of Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said, "The terrorists in Gaza...are destroying their children's future with their own hands."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Hamas Is Permitting Rocket Attacks on Israel - Avi Issacharoff
    The firing of over a dozen rockets at Israel in less than a week means that Hamas has given its blessing to these attacks.
        At the same time, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has not abated, despite the reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah. On Wednesday, Gazans had three hours of electricity followed by 24 hours of blackout. Egyptian trucks transporting diesel fuel to the Gaza power plant have stopped arriving due to internal problems in Egypt.
        In addition, as of mid-December, the November salaries for 45,000 Hamas employees in Gaza have yet to be paid. So while Arab and Muslim leaders gather in Istanbul for futile discussions and empty statements regarding U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Gaza is forgotten. (Times of Israel)
  • U.S. Jewish Leaders Accuse Abbas of Derailing Efforts to Restart Peace Talks
    The Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Stephen M. Greenberg, and CEO Malcolm Hoenlein, said Wednesday that PA President Mahmoud Abbas was derailing efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. "President Abbas has consistently openly promoted the denial of any Jewish connection to Jerusalem to his own people, in the UN and its agencies and bodies, and in international legal fora. His threat to go to the United Nations to undo the U.S. measure - which it cannot do - and to gain recognition of the State of Palestine is the death knell for negotiations."
        The Jewish leaders said Abbas' refusal to negotiate "in good faith" over the years was the reason a peace agreement has remained elusive. "It is up to responsible leaders in the region and around the world to prevent President Abbas from proceeding toward a dangerous dead end."  (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • What Life Was Like for Christians and Jews When Arabs Ruled Jerusalem - Richard Pollock
    How exactly did Arab Muslims treat Christians and Jews when they ruled over eastern Jerusalem for 19 years from 1948 until 1967? The Jewish Quarter of the Old City and many of the most sacred Jewish sites were located in the eastern half of the city ruled by Jordan. Even though the armistice promised "free access to the holy sites and cultural institutions and use of the cemeteries on the Mount of Olives," Jews were banished entirely from the holy city.
        From 1948 onward, there were no Jewish homes, synagogues or businesses in ancient Jerusalem. Some 17,000 Jews had to leave the area, their homes taken over and occupied by Arabs. When the Israelis entered the eastern part of Jerusalem after the Six-Day War in 1967, they found 56 synagogues desecrated or totally destroyed by the Jordanian army or local Arabs.
        The Arab governing bodies also persecuted the Christian church and its followers during the same period. Edicts prohibited Christians and later Christian churches from buying land and houses in the Old City of Jerusalem, according to the Gatestone Institute. Arab Muslims restricted the number of Christian pilgrimages permitted in Jerusalem and Bethlehem during Christmas and Easter. They further imposed strict rules on Christian schools, including mandatory teaching of the Muslim Koran. Between 1948 and 1967, two-thirds of the Christians left areas of Arab control in Jerusalem. (Daily Caller)
  • Why the Fuss about Jerusalem as Israel's Capital? - Marc D. Angel
    After President Trump made it official that the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, many voices expressed outrage and threatened violence. People raised the concerns of Palestinians, of the Arab world, of Muslims, of the sanctity of Christian holy sites. They worry about everyone's rights - except the rights of Jews.
        The Muslim Ottoman Empire, which controlled the Land of Israel for hundreds of years, could very easily have established a Muslim country there with Jerusalem as its capital city. The thought never occurred to them. Jerusalem was an old, decrepit city that no one (except Jews) cared very much about. There was no call for a Palestinian state, and no claim that Jerusalem should be the capital of a Muslim country. Between 1948 and 1967, when Jordan controlled the West Bank and the Old City of Jerusalem, it did not cede one inch of territory to Palestinian Arab rule and did not declare Jerusalem the capital city of the Palestinians.
        Israel is the only country in the world to have given territory to the Palestinian Arabs. Israel has a legitimate claim to much of this territory, but for the sake of peace decided not to press its claims. The writer is founder and director of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals and rabbi emeritus of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue of New York City. (Jerusalem Post)

The Uncompromising Palestinians - Shlomo Avineri (Ha'aretz)

  • President Trump said explicitly that recognizing Jerusalem and moving the embassy do not in any way determine the borders and the U.S. supports the two-state solution - if it is acceptable to both sides.
  • The Palestinian response ignored these two statements, which in practice say that as far as the final agreement is concerned, the Trump administration's stance is not significantly different than the position of previous American administrations.
  • A responsible Palestinian leadership that strives to reach an agreed upon solution and does not make do with aggressive rhetoric could have seized on these statements.
  • Only the Palestinian unwillingness to understand that if a solution is found, it will realistically have to be a compromise formula and not the fulfillment of all their demands, prevented the Palestinian leadership from relating to these aspects of Trump's speech.
  • Instead, the Palestinian leadership attacked the U.S. and its president, declared that America cannot be an honest broker, and announced that Trump's speech irreversibly buried the two-state solution.
  • The roots of this response, which joined a long list of historic missed Palestinian opportunities, can be found in the inability to live with compromise, which characterizes the Arab political discourse in general.

    The writer, professor emeritus of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, served as director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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