Israel News for June 5, 2017

New Construction Slashed
Prior to Trump’s Israel visit the government had indicated that it would approve the construction of 4,000 new housing units in the West Bank. But now reports say that the government has slashed that number to 2,291, out of which only a few hundred are planned for immediate construction. The reduction is apparently out of fear of clashing with the Trump administration, which is attempting to spark negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) urged the government to consider, saying, “The Likud government’s construction policy should be very clear: free construction in Jerusalem and free construction in accordance with the needs of settlement in all of Judea and Samaria, in an orderly process. The return to the quotas system is wrong, morally unacceptable, and is similar to the British policy toward the Jewish community before the establishment of the State of Israel.”

Settler leaders expressed disappointment and frustration at the decision. Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council, alluded to potential political replications saying, “if necessary, it will have political consequences. I hope it won’t come to that because I really think that this is a good government and a good prime minister, but the statement today is a clear one. No more, we’ve had enough.”

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Embassy Move
UN ambassador Nikki Haley told CNN that Trump still intends to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, but that he is using the embassy as a bargaining chip in his negotiating strategy. She said, “I think that he knows that it could be very much a part of the peace process. And so I think that what he did want to do is make sure that he wasn’t interrupting the negotiations that are happening with the peace process. I think that they feel like it’s moving forward in a constructive way, and he didn’t want this to get in the way.”

The White House press secretary also told reporters on Friday that Trump intends to move the embassy and that the question was only “when” not “if”.

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Gulf Turmoil
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed their ties with Qatar on Monday, accusing it of supporting terrorism, including the Muslim Brotherhood and Iranian interests. The three Gulf States and Egypt announced the closure of transport ties with Qatar and gave Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave their countries. Qatar was also expelled from a Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

In a statement Egypt said that Qatar’s policy “threatens Arab national security and sows the seeds of strife and division within Arab societies according to a deliberate plan aimed at the unity and interests of the Arab nation.” 

Did Trump help make this happen?

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Holocaust Volumes
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has released the first two volumes of its comprehensive work titled, Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933—1945. The 4,000 page work is available in searchable PDF form on the Museums website.

The first volume called EARLY CAMPS, YOUTH CAMPS, AND CONCENTRATION CAMPS AND SUBCAMPS UNDER THE SS-BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION MAIN OFFICE contains entries on 110 early camps, 23 main SS concentration camps (including Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Dachau), 898 subcamps, 39 SS construction brigade camps, and three so-called youth protection camps. The volume is more than 1,700 pages, with 192 photographs and 23 maps.

The second volume, GHETTOS IN GERMAN-OCCUPIED EASTERN EUROPE, provides a comprehensive account of how the Nazis conducted the Holocaust throughout the scattered towns and villages of Poland and the Soviet Union. It covers more than 1,150 sites, including both open and closed ghettos. Each entry discusses key events in the history of the ghetto; living and working conditions; activities of the Jewish Councils; Jewish responses to persecution; demographic changes; and details of the ghetto’s liquidation. The volume includes personal testimonies as well as hundreds of previously unknown or overlooked ghettos.

Six more volumes have yet to be published.

To gain access to the volumes in their entirety, click here.

Israel Parade
According to reports around 40,000 people participated in the Celebrate Israel parade yesterday. But from a spectator’s perspective (mine), most of those thousands must have been marching because the crowd watching on the sidelines was very thin. The weather could have been partially to blame (it drizzled a bit and was unseasonably chilly), but I think the reason goes much deeper. There are a few million Jews in the NYC area. So where were they all?

Well, the ultra-Orthodox community, which makes up a hefty portion of that number was absent for the most part, except for the radical Satmar hassidim who came out in force to demonstrate against Israel’s existence. The ultra-Orthodox absence doesn’t mean they don’t support or care about Israel. They might just not be into parades (Jews don’t parade, right?).

So what about the rest of the Jews? Well, the day schools were all there and many of the parents came too. Then there were the zionist groups and some of their followers. And of course the politicians, dignitaries, Israel organizations and African American marching bands. But the fact remains that most American Jews have never even visited Israel and don’t feel any connection to it. And among those that do, there are better things to do on a Sunday than shlepping out to the city, right?

The numbers of people attending the parade appear to be dropping, at least according to my memory. Years ago the sidewalks of Fifth Avenue were crowded. Yesterday they were pretty much empty. Maybe it’s time to re-energize the parade, or maybe the parade is fine and we need to re-energize ourselves?