Netanyahu Chooses Trump Over U.S. Jews…Again

On Saturday, Robert Bowers, a right-wing gunman strode into a synagogue in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh and began shooting. When he was finished, he’d murdered 11 people.

Donald Trump led the quick march to bizarrely defend one of the most prominent U.S. cult symbols, the gun, by blaming the synagogue itself for not having an armed guard at the synagogue, as if such a guard would have fared better than the three Pittsburgh police officer that Bowers shot.

Trump later blamed the media for violent attacks, saying, “There is great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news.” That was to be expected, given the increasing attention to Trump’s own lengthy history of anti-Semitic dog-whistling and the scrutiny it was finally coming under in the wake of the terrorist attack in Squirrel Hill.

But the worst anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history was not going to remain a domestic issue for very long. Given the disdain the government of Israel has been showing to the U.S. Jewish community for so long now, it was difficult to imagine that Israel’s response to the Squirrel Hill massacre would be positive. But few could have anticipated its cynical and opportunistic response. Read more at LobeLog

United Against the Muslim Ban

A very large and diverse coalition of groups have come together to launch a web site, United Against the Muslim Ban. The site offers visitors a variety of ways to take action not just against Donald Trump’s recent attempt to close the US off to Muslims from several countries and to refugees, but against his anti-Muslim agenda more broadly. The video below is short, but powerful. It will be very useful for you to use to educate others. Please disseminate the video, promote the web site, do all you can. Now is the time for all of our resources to be pooled.

Jerusalem of Tarnished Gold

Take a particularly provocative and grandstanding Israeli government and shift its focus from Hamas and Gaza to Jerusalem and you have a 8148113621_de93dc64a3_kmost explosive recipe. That potion is being stirred now, and the results could shake up the status quo in a way that we have only seen a few times in Israel’s history. Read more at LobeLog

Hope and Pessimism as Israelis and Palestinians Resume Talks

via IPS News

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators returned to the negotiating table on Thursday, ready to put claims by the United States that it will engage more forcefully in the negotiating process to the test.

The talks, which paused for the meetings of the United Nations General Assembly, have been struggling amidst Palestinian complaints of Israeli foot-dragging and the lack of U.S. participation.

Yet for all the enthusiasm around the revived peace talks, there remains considerable doubt about the prospects for ultimate success.

Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the Jerusalem Fund, a non-profit organisation working to raise funds to aid the Palestinian people, believes it unlikely that a permanent agreement will be possible.

“Ideally, all parties would like a comprehensive agreement, except Israel wants one on their terms, the Palestinians want on their terms, and the U.S. wants something that can stick,” he told IPS.

“None of these goals are really in line now. Israeli and Palestinian positions are so far apart that the U.S. may want to save face with an interim agreement. It would be in Israel’s interest at very little cost to them but at a high cost to the Palestinians. And this would be a disaster.”

Yet some see hope as dovish lobbying groups are gaining more prominence in Washington. The moderate group J Street appears to have overcome attempts by more hawkish pro-Israel groups, such as the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), to marginalise it.

This week, U.S. President Barack Obama dispatched his vice president, Joe Biden, to speak at J Street’s annual conference and rally its supporters behind the peace-making efforts of Secretary of State John Kerry.

Biden’s appearance, along with those of Obama’s special envoy Martin Indyk, Israel’s lead negotiator Tzipi Livni and Israeli opposition leader Shelly Yachimovitch, as well as House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, offered strong evidence that J Street has established itself as a significant force here.

“It’s become an accepted notion that there is not only one mass movement lobbying org in DC, which is AIPAC,” Ori Nir, spokesperson for Americans for Peace Now (APN) told IPS.

“What J Street can do now, having been around for five years, it can authentically and credibly claim that its positions [supporting robust negotiations for peace] represent the pro-Israel community much more authentically than the traditional leadership. That puts wind in the sails of the Obama administration.”

Indyk, a former ambassador to Israel and a top Middle East policymaker under former President Bill Clinton, believes there is a real chance for success in the current talks.

“We’ve agreed to intensify the talks, and the U.S. will increase its involvement,” Indyk said at the conference. “All the core issues are on the table and our common objective is a final status agreement, not an interim one.

“The parties have agreed to resolve all the issues in nine months,” he continued. “Both sides have negotiated for years. The outline of an agreement is clear. What is needed is leadership and political decisions.”

However, Daniel Levy, director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at the European Council on Foreign Affairs, and former senior policy adviser to Oslo Accords architect Yossi Beilin, expressed strong scepticism about the current talks.

“I don’t see [Netanyahu] as having walked toward a realistic two-state solution,” Levy said. “From what I understand there is a refusal to present a map, not even of the borders of the settlement blocs. He wants to not remove any settlements and maintain an ongoing military presence…

“I fear that we may repeat some of the old mistakes: an over-emphasis on bilateral negotiations, lack of a frame of reference, and a fetishisation of process [over results].”

J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben Ami, laid out his vision for a two-state solution, emphasising that both sides would have to make sacrifices. On the Israeli side, this includes sharing Jerusalem and evacuating some settlements.

On the Palestinian side, it means accepting a de-militarised state, which many Palestinians see as a denial of their full sovereignty, and acknowledging that virtually no Palestinian refugees would return to Israel, a key Palestinian national aspiration.

“The two-state solution is the only solution for the Israeli people and the Palestinian people and the only way we can secure the future of the region for all their children,” Ben-Ami told his supporters.

Asked by IPS if he was concerned that the proposed solution might not prevail in referendums, which both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority have conditionally set as requirements for any final agreement, Ben-Ami said, “The publics on both sides have hardened their positions in the last 20 years. So the selling of a deal is harder than it was.

“I think the ultimate deal will involve sacrifices and compromises. I don’t know what they will be but they will be hard to sell and all of us will have a tough selling job to do and we have to be ready to do that.”

But Husam Zomlot, the executive deputy commissioner for international affairs of the Palestinian Authority, spoke passionately at the conference about the rights of Palestinian refugees.

“Some of [the refugees] want to stay where they are. Some of them might want to resettle somewhere else in a third country. Some of them might want to come back to the State of Palestine. And some of them might want to return to their original homes. But all of them want one thing: full recognition of the Nakba (catastrophe, referring to the dispersion of Palestinians during Israel’s war of independence from 1947-49) that has befallen our people.”

Zomlot cushioned his point by indicating that his own father would not choose to physically return, suggesting that many Palestinian refugees would feel similarly. Still, this issue seems far from easily resolved.

As far as Palestinians are concerned the right of return is a human right,” Munayyer said. “In my view, human rights are not negotiable.”

New Israel-Palestine Talks: Is Peace Really Possible?

This piece originally appeared at LobeLog.

John Kerry meeting with Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, July 19, 2013 (from State Department photos)

John Kerry meeting with Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, July 19, 2013 (from State Department photos)

I’m always pleased when something surprises me in the realm of Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy. It doesn’t happen often. Today’s announcement that Secretary of State John Kerry has apparently succeeded at bringing Israel and the Palestinian Authority back to the table was one such surprise.

The announcement should not be overstated, of course. At this writing, there is a proviso out there that a few details still need to be worked out. So, there’s a convenient back door that both parties can exit through.

Even if the talks did resume, there is no reason to believe they will succeed. As Stephen Waltdetails, Israel’s governing coalition remains hostile to a two-state solution, the Palestinians remain divided and, despite whatever pushes and prods Kerry used to achieve this outcome, the US remains politically paralyzed and feckless. Coming up with a positive scenario that is even marginally realistic is therefore not easy. But here is one shot at it. Continue reading