Israel News for February 3, 2017
A female Palestinian terrorist rammed her car into a police car guarding the entrance to the settlement of Adam, not far from Jerusalem. Two 52 year old police officers and one 34 year old security guard were lightly injured. The security gate to the settlement was also damaged. The terrorist was arrested at the scene.
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Trump Warns Israel
In response to Israel’s recent announcements to build over 5,000 new housing units in settlements in Judea and Samaria (West Bank), the White House released a statement saying that settlement expansion “may not be helpful” in achieving peace and that “The Trump administration has not taken an official position on settlement activity.”
Here’s the entire White House statement:
“The American desire for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians has remained unchanged for 50 years. While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal.
As the President has expressed many times, he hopes to achieve peace throughout the Middle East region. The Trump administration has not taken an official position on settlement activity and looks forward to continuing discussions, including with Prime Minister Netanyahu when he visits with President Trump later this month.”
An unnamed White House official told the Jerusalem Post, “As President Trump has made clear, he is very interested in reaching a deal that would end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is currently exploring the best means of making progress toward that goal. With that in mind, we urge all parties to refrain from taking unilateral actions that could undermine our ability to make progress, including settlement announcements.”
He added. “The administration needs to have the chance to fully consult with all parties on the way forward.”
The State Department said that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke with PM Netanyahu by phone yesterday, but no details of the content of the conversation was revealed. Netanyahu and Trump are set to meet in Washington on February 15th.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon was the first Israeli official to respond to the White House’s statement. Speaking to Israel Radio on Friday morning, Danon said that it was still too early to tell how the White House’s latest remarks will affect the construction of settlements.
He said, “I would not categorize this as a U-turn by the U.S. administration but the issue is clearly on their agenda … the issue will be discussed when the prime minister meets the president in Washington.” He added,“We will not always agree on everything.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely responded to the White House statement saying, “The current Israeli government has chosen to exercise the right of the Jewish people to build in all parts of the country, and we are committed to respect the [wishes of] the people of Israel, who elected us to continue to build.”
She also said, “The White House also knows that settlements are not an obstacle to peace, and indeed, never constituted an obstacle to peace. Therefore, the obvious conclusion is that construction is not the problem.”
While the statement did not condemn settlement activity, it clearly serves as a warning for Israel to stop more construction of new housing units until Trump figures out what he wants his policy to be.
During the election campaign Jason Greenblat and Robert Friedman, at the time co-chairmen of Trump’s Israel Advisory Committee, released a joint statement spelling out Trump’s position regarding Israel in which they implied that he did not support a two-state solution.
They wrote, “The U.S. cannot support the creation of a new state where terrorism is financially incentivized, terrorists are celebrated by political parties and government institutions, and the corrupt diversion of foreign aid is rampant. The U.S. should not support the creation of a state that forbids the presence of Christian or Jewish citizens, or that discriminates against people on the basis of religion.”
They also wrote, “The U.S. will recognize Jerusalem as the eternal and indivisible capital of the Jewish state and Mr. Trump’s Administration will move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.”
But Trump has always been very clear that he intends to use his negotiating expertise to negotiate a peace deal between the Palestinians and Israel. Any unilateral move by Israel to build more settlement housing would disrupt that negotiation. It is becoming clear that moving the US embassy will also be a negotiating impediment, which is why it seems unlikely that the promise to do so will be kept.
Any plans by Israel’s Right Wing parties to pass a law to begin annexing parts of the West Bank containing Jewish settlement blocks, like Ma’aleh Adumim, should probably be filed away along with the vision of a one-state solution. At least for the foreseeable future. [Is anything really foreseeable these days?]
The White House has clearly given Israel a reality check. Trump might claim to be the best friend Israel has ever had, but that’s from his point of view. He’ll do what he, and his close advisors, believe to be in the best interests of America. If that includes maintaining close relationships with the moderate Arab and Moslem states in order to wipe ISIS and Radical Islam from the face of the earth, then Israel will just have to fall in line and possibly take one for the team. Don’t forget, America first.
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Jordan Warns Trump
According to the Jordanian state news agency, Jordan’s King Abdullah warned Trump not to move the US embassy to Jerusalem because doing so could threaten the two-sate solution and have a detrimental effect on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The White House said the two enjoyed a “good conversation” on a range of regional issues, but did not mention the issue of the embassy relocation.The two leaders met on the sidelines of the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.
The King has been in Washington since Monday and has also met with Vice President Mike Pence, Defense Secretary James Mattis and senior members of Congress.
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