Israel News for February 17, 2017

US Confusion
On Wednesday President Trump lifted the spirits of PM Netanyahu and the entire right leaning Israeli political spectrum by dismissing the longstanding US two-state solution policy . It seemed to be a huge game changer.

But wait. Yesterday, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said, during a press conference, that the United States “absolutely” supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and anyone who thinks it doesn’t is in “error.” In fact, she repeated and stressed several times, “We absolutely support a two-state solution.”

Earlier Thursday, the United Nations and the Arab League issued a joint statement in support of the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, saying the two-state solution is “the only way to achieve comprehensive and just settlement to the Palestinian cause.”

When asked whether the United States would carry out its obligations under a U.N. Security Council resolution that called for the establishment of two states, Haley said, “Understand that the United States supports the two-state resolution. That’s never been wavered.”

She added, “What we’re saying is, ‘OK, let’s not just talk about the old way of doing things.'” She said, “Come to the table with all the fresh atmosphere and perspectives that we now have, and think, ‘OK, what can we do knowing all of the factors, knowing where we sit present day, and how can we move forward.'”

So does the US support a two state solution or not? It seems like it does, if that’s what the Palestinians and Israelis agree upon. But if they don’t, then the US isn’t going to force them to. Everything is on the negotiating table.

In other words, the rest of the world is adamant that the two-state solution is, in the words of the U.N.’s Mideast envoy Nickolay Mladenov, “the only way to achieve the legitimate aspirations of both peoples.” The US feels that there could be other solutions, and that it will support the one that both parties agree upon — including the two state solution…and the one state solution. The art of the deal.

Also in her press conference, Haley blasted the UN’s constant bias against Israel and said, “I’m here to emphasize the United States is determined to stand up to the U.N.’s anti-Israel bias.”

For further reading click here.

Ambassador Hearing
President Trump’s nominee for ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, is testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as part of his confirmation hearings. In his opening remarks Friedman apologized for a slew of remarks he made in the past against liberal Jewish groups and politicians. For example, he called the liberal Middle East policy group J Street “kapos” and the Anti-Defamation League “morons.” He also likened Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., to Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister who appeased Adolf Hitler. Friedman said that there was “no excuse” for the remarks and that they were simply “partisan rhetoric” during the heated presidential election campaign.

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., the ranking member of the Foreign Relations committee (who happens to be Jewish), which must approve Friedman to advance his nomination to the full Senate, said the terms seemed to go beyond partisan rhetoric.

Cardin said he and Friedman had in common that “our parents were proud Zionists who worked and did everything they could in support for the State of Israel.” But noting his father was the president of a synagogue Cardin added, “My father taught me to respect different views.”

Cardin also said, “I’m having difficulty understanding your use of those descriptions and whether you really can be a diplomat.”

Protesters interrupted the hearings at least three times.

With a republican majority, it’s unlikely that Friedman will not be confirmed.

For further reading click here.

Hamas Rejects
A senior Hamas leader has rejected Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s offer of massive assistance to Gaza in return for Hamas giving up their rockets and attack tunnels, saying that if Gaza wanted to be like Singapore, it would have done so already. He also said that Hamas would release the bodies of Israeli soldiers held in Gaza only if Israel releases all of its Hamas prisoners.

For further reading click here.