Diplomacy

Week in Review: Trump-Netanyahu Meeting Has Leaders Rethinking Peace Proposals

Trump, Netanyahu Rethinking Peace Proposals

President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s joint White House press conference on Wednesday, in which the two leaders hinted at a “regional approach” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that may or may not include a two-state solution, spurred observers to carefully parse their words in order to understand their policies going forward.

Tower senior editor Ben Cohen argued on Friday that the press conference marked an end of the “Palestine first” strategy of peacemaking that was operative during President Barack Obama’s two terms in office.

That embittered and failed strategy, which saw Palestinian representatives verbally assaulting the historical and religious connections of the Jewish people to Jerusalem and the land of Israel, is the principal memory of the Obama years when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian dimension of the region’s multiple conflicts. It didn’t deliver for anybody, and served only to deepen Israeli fears of Palestinian eliminationism, as evidenced on a minute-by-minute basis in Palestinian school textbooks, on Palestinian TV and across the internet.

Editorials in The New York Times and The Washington Post excoriated the new approach to Israeli-Palestinian peace, contending that the Palestinians and the wider Arab world would never accept a framework other than two states for two peoples. But as Cohen pointed out, the Obama administration’s diplomatic efforts on that front came to naught, a point neither editorial board addressed. (Three years ago, the administration offered a framework for peace that Netanyahu accepted but Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rejected.)

Furthermore, reports that new CIA director Mike Pompeo met with Abbas in Ramallah, and that the United States is seeking to form a NATO-like alliance with moderate Arab states, suggest that the Trump-Netanyahu announcement is part of a broader initiative and did not take place in a vacuum.

In a conference call with reporters, former Israeli national security advisor Yaakov Amidror mapped out the form he expects this new diplomatic initiative will take. Both Israel and Arab nations feel that they need to grow closer because of the threat of Iran. While Israel would in all likelihood only be tangentially involved in the formal U.S.-Arab alliance at first, Israeli security contributions to the program could eventually lead to an “evolution” in Arab thinking towards Israel.

In a separate conference call, Israeli deputy minister for diplomacy Michael Oren, pointed that while many observers are fixated on the press conference’s deprioritization of the two-state solution, it is important to remember that the Palestinians have never accepted such an outcome.

The Palestinians never accepted it because it meant that they had to recognize the Jews as a people and the Jewish state as a legitimate nation-state. They would never ever do that. So from my perspective, that they could claim that the two-state solution is the only solution is something close to ludicrous, because not only was it not the only solution, it wasn’t any solution, because the Palestinians never accepted it. So I think what the president and the prime minister were saying was, “Well, any solution is possible now, but we have to look at alternative solutions.’ And there are alternative solutions. They may not be ideal solutions, but they are solutions that would involve interim measures and recognition of the fact that there may be a two-state reality on the ground which may not conform to what we know as a two-state solution, but would enable the Palestinians to lead their lives, and to gain prosperity and security, and also redound to Israel’s benefit.

Hamas’s New Leader is Extreme Even By Terrorist Standards

Convicted murderer Yehya Sinwar, a Hamas operative whom Times of Israel reporter Avi Issacharoff called “an extremist even by comparison to other high-ranking members,” was selected on Monday to be the new leader of the Iran-backed terror group’s Gaza operations.

Sinwar’s elevation came in the wake of a report that Hamas has now fully rebuilt its military capabilities—including its rocket arsenal and terror tunnels—to the level they were at prior to the terror group’s July 2014 war with Israel. By prioritizing rebuilding its terror infrastructure instead of building homes for Gaza residents, Hamas has demonstrated that, in the words of Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh, “the last thing Hamas cares about is the welfare of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.”

Hamas once again proved this principle this week when a Hamas terrorist “met his lord as a martyr” after a tunnel collapsed on him on Monday, and when the terror group announced on Friday that it had rejected an Israeli offer of infrastructure assistance in exchange for demilitarizing.

This was just one week after one of its engineers was killed testing a new rocket, followed a few days later by the terror group rejecting an Israeli offer to improve Gaza’s economy in exchange for releasing three living Israeli hostages and the bodies of two soldiers killed in the 2014 war.

All of these events show that for Hamas, life is cheap. They are dedicated to killing Israeli Jews, they ignore the needs of Gazans, and they just promoted a killer, known within Gaza as “the man of the twelve” for having personally killed twelve people believed to have collaborated with Israel.

Ironically, Sinwar is alive today because Israeli doctors removed a brain tumor while he was serving time in Israeli prison for murder.

BDS Takes a One-Two Punch in Europe

The anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign suffered two setbacks in Europe this week.

Nine organizers of an attempt to boycott Jewish-American singer Matisyahu from a Spanish reggae festival in 2015 were indicted by a court in Spain’s southeastern Valencia province. The boycotters were charged with using “pressure, coercion and threats” against the organizers of the festival. Matisyahu, alone among festival performers, had been asked to denounce Israel or withdraw from the concert. Matisyahu refused, but when news of the incident emerged, the ensuing outrage prompted the festival to re-invite him. Matisyahu ended up performing and singing his song “Jerusalem” despite the presence of numerous Palestinian flags in the audience.

The lawsuit “will establish a precedent where anti-Semites in Spain hiding under an anti-Israel cloak will think twice before inciting violence or slandering Jews or the Jewish state,” David Hatchwell, president of the Jewish Community of Madrid, wrote in an email to The Tower.

On Monday, the United Kingdom’s Department for Communities and Local Government issued new guidelines forbidding city councils from boycotting countries that are not themselves being boycotted by the British government. Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said in a statement that the guidelines strive to “stop councils from introducing restrictions on the companies and countries they use – particularly by introducing boycotts on goods from Israel.” The new guidelines strengthen rules issued last year barring local councils from singling out Israel for boycotts.

Anti-BDS legislation has progressed through a number of statehouses across the United States as well, including in Texas, Maryland, and Minnesota. Jacob Millner, Midwest regional director and senior policy analyst for The Israel Project (which publishes The Tower), wrote in the St. Paul Pioneer Press that Minnesota’s anti-BDS bill should be supported due to the BDS movement’s discriminatory intentions:

BDS is directed solely against Israel because Israel is the only Jewish state in the world. BDS advocates ignore the plight of people in Iran, Syria, Sudan, Russia, China, North Korea and every other country where human rights abuses are the norm.

Instead, they focus all of their attention on the only place where Jews have autonomy, and attempt to delegitimize that state altogether.

Feature: Israel’s Influence Spreads Across Africa

Seth Frantzman highlighted the work of MASHAV, Israel’s agency for international development, particularly its initiatives in Africa.

Frantzman opened the article by focusing on one of its projects in Ethiopia, where it has helped the country expand its avocado exports to meet a growing international demand.

According to [MASHAV deputy director Yuval] Fuchs, the nurseries that Israel has supported in Ethiopia are producing 200,000 seedlings a year. These can be used to plant thousands of acres. “It’s a lot, in two to three years it can already yield [fruit], which is a strong contribution to farmers and exports,” he adds.

According to estimates from other countries, each acre can yield thousands of dollars in profits. In Ethiopia, which is among the poorer countries in the world—monthly salaries can be around $70 or less—these kinds of crops can make a huge difference.

Mashav has many advantages over nonprofit aid programs, including the fact that MASHAV is focused on the long-term implementation and continuation of projects.

[Fuchs] explains that “Our strength is in capacity building,” that is, ensuring that the countries have the ability to continue with MASHAV-generated projects long after the Israelis have left. This is an important distinction from several larger countries engaged in international aid. Japan, Canada, Sweden, and France give more than a billion dollars in aid a year to Africa, and countries like Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, and Nigeria receive billions from around the world. But despite massive transfers of wealth, these funds often prove ineffective in improving conditions on the ground.

Frantzman also covered the on-again, off-against Israeli-African diplomatic relationship—which is now on again, as Netanyahu’s historic trip to East Africa attested.

This week’s top three posts

Pentagon Contractor Lockheed Martin Bought $1 Billion of Israeli Parts to Build F-35 Jets
Hezbollah Launches Crowdfunding Campaign to Finance Fight Against Israel
• Five Ways Israel is Smoking the Rest of the World in Cannabis Innovation

Three Big Questions

Hamas just elected a convicted murderer to lead its Gaza operations. Two months ago, Fatah, the moderate political party that rules the West Bank, elected a convicted murderer to lead its central committee. Notice a pattern?

With no designated person to succeed Abbas as head of the Palestinian Authority, Fatah has for the first time named a deputy party leader: Mahmoud al-Aloul. In 2015, when Israeli parents Eitam and Naama Henkin were shot to death in their car while driving with their family, al-Aloul took credit for the terror attack in the name of Fatah, writing “The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the military wing of the Palestinian National Liberation Movement Fatah, accepted responsibility for the Itamar operation [i.e. the Henkin murder], carried out against settlers, leading to their deaths.” Is it still correct to call Fatah “moderate” if its deputy leader praises terror attacks?

Gen. Qassem Soleimani, leader of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps- Qods Force, once again violated a United Nations Security Council travel ban on Tuesday, this time flying to Moscow. Just two months ago, Soleimani appeared in Aleppo to survey the results of the battle that restored control of the city to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. When will the Security Council take action against this serial violator of their resolution?

[Photo: Prime Minister of Israel / Facebook ]