Trump Shows No Daylight With Israel
President Donald Trump began his historic visit to Israel last week by underscoring the “unbreakable bond” between the United States and the Jewish state.
Much of what he did and said during his two-day trip showed that, unlike his predecessor, he does not look to create daylight between Jerusalem and Washington.
Trump on Monday became the first sitting president to visit the Western Wall, where he was accompanied by Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the holy site, as well as Mordechai (Solly) Eliav, director general of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.
During his subsequent meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump remarked that the “terrible” nuclear deal ensured that the Iranians “now feel emboldened” to destabilize the Middle East. He shared his hope that Israel could see a warming of relations with the Arab world and vowed that “Iran will never have a nuclear weapon.”
In a joint appearance with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday, Trump said, “Peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded and even rewarded.”
Even the closest of friends can have disagreements, but on matters such as the millennia-old Jewish connection to Jerusalem, the conventional and non-conventional threats Iran poses to the Middle East, and the danger of Palestinian incitement, Trump signaled that there is little or no daylight between his administration and Israel.
In an assessment of Trump’s visit to Israel, legal scholar Eugene Kontorovich observed that the president’s stance toward Iran marks a significant reversal from his predecessor’s. “That is a major shift in the security situation, and a huge reversal in US policy, on a country that can only be said to be one of Israel’s mortal enemies. And, of course, there is no discussion in the Trump Administration now about pressuring Israel to return the Golan.”
Kontorovich also noted a change in tone regarding peace talks with the Palestinians,as the “notion that the onus is on Israel seems to be entirely absent from Trump’s vision of the peace process.”
Paid to Hate
Given the spotlight Trump put on the Palestinian Authority’s policy of paying salaries to terrorists, a recent study by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs takes on a new significance. The JCPA report found that between 2013 to 2016, the PA paid over $1 billion to terrorists and their families.
The payments are grounded in Palestinian law, which considers terrorists “a fighting sector and an integral part of the weave of Arab Palestinian society,” and guarantees “the financial rights of the prisoner and his family.” Since those sentenced to longer prison terms receive more generous benefits, the law creates incentives for Palestinians to commit heinous acts of terror.
Disturbingly, these payments take up a huge percentage of the PA’s budget.
In 2016, the PA made terror-related payments totaling 1.152 billion shekels (about $303 million). “This equals about seven percent of the overall budget and almost 30 percent of the projected foreign aid, most of which goes to the general budget,” the JCPA report stated. “2.925 billion shekels out of the 3.881 billion in foreign aid go to the general budget and salaries to terrorists and families amount to almost 40 percent of the aid directed to the general budget.”
Another news story this week tells of a different way those who hate Israel get paid: by donations from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF). According a report by Armin Rosen in Tablet Magazine, “at least $880,000 in RBF funding has also gone to groups working to advance a boycott of the world’s only Jewish state.”
Among the recipients of the fund’s largess are groups that promote the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, including the fringe Jewish Voice for Peace, which recently featured convicted killer Rasmeah Odeh as a speaker at its annual convention. (It’s safe to say that Odeh is neither Jewish nor a champion of peace, so what exactly did she have to say to JVP?)
Founders and leaders of the BDS campaign publicly admit that it does not seek to promote peace, but to isolate and ultimately destroy Israel. So why does any amount of money from RBF’s “peacebuilding” program go to pro-BDS groups?
Reunified Jerusalem at 50: Celebrating High-Tech and Nature
Jerusalem celebrated the 50th anniversary of its reunification on Wednesday. Two news items this week showed the unique nature and timelessness of the Israeli capital.
It was reported this week that a herd of gazelles in a Jerusalem’s first urban nature reserve had tripled in size since the reserve opened two years ago. Not only does Gazelle Valley serve as a home to local animals, but it is also used by the Society for the Protection of Nature as a place to rehabilitate injured deer and antelope.
Also this week, city officials announced that Jerusalem would soon be offering cutting edge wi-fi access using millimeter-wave technology. “We are placing Jerusalem in line with the world’s leading smart cities,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said.
It will allow the city to offer advanced services in areas of security and safety, emergency response, parking and traffic solutions, fast internet access for schools, and free wi-fi access.
Other cities currently implementing millimeter-wave technology for wi-fi are New York, San Francisco, and London.
“From one of the oldest cities in the world, we are sending the most innovative news in the country, and the innovative technology we will establish in Jerusalem will enable us to upgrade many services,” Barkat said.
In an op-ed for The Tower this week, Julie Lenarz reflected on what drove Salman Abedi to detonate himself at an Ariana Grande concert, killing 22 and wounding at least 59 others. Abedi wasn’t driven to kill innocents, as some would have it, by the misdeeds committed by the West against Muslims.
To be sure, that’s what ISIS claimed when taking credit for the deadly terror attack. “With Allah’s grace and support, a soldier of the Khilafah [caliphate] managed to place explosive devices in the midst of the gatherings of the crusaders in the British city of Manchester,” the terror group said in a statement released by its official news agency.
Lenarz rejected the premise that teenage girls are “crusaders” and fair targets in ISIS’s war against the West, noting:
It is not our bombs that “trigger” disadvantaged young men to drive cars into pedestrians. It is not our drones that “make” them cut the throat of an old rabbi at a bus stop. It is not our intervention in Muslim countries that “forces” them to blow themselves up among a crowd of young children at a concert.
“It is them,” Lenarz wrote. “It is their contempt for life itself, grounded in an ideology that only knows the language of violence and destruction. And it has a name: Islamism.”
“Soft targets such as nightclubs and concert halls have been targeted before in Paris, Orlando, and Istanbul and it is the sad reality with which Israel has been dealing with for decades,” she observed. “Israel, in many ways, is the ground zero of modern terrorism.”
Tanya Weiz, who was 17-years-old at the time, survived a similar suicide bombing attack by Hamas in Tel Aviv in 2001, and wrote about her experience in a New York Times op-ed this week.
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Three Big Questions
In an op-ed published in the Times on Friday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who once falsely insisted that Iran doesn’t jail people for their opinions, criticized Trump’s apparent tilt to Saudi Arabia, arguing that aligning with Riyadh will only bring “more death and destruction and further complicates the path to a lasting solution.” (In his Washington Post column, Charles Krauthammer explained why the White House chose to support the Saudis.) Has Zarif not noticed that since Iran agreed to the nuclear deal, its external aggression and internal oppression have both worsened?
Zarif also called Iran’s “de-escalation mechanism” in Syria “a credible formula for conflict resolution elsewhere in the region.” But that mechanism, as described by Hanin Ghaddar last year in The Tower Magazine, involves moving Sunni residents out of certain areas in Syria and moving Shiite residents in, often with financial inducements. This, she noted, is ethic cleansing. Is supporting such egregious violations of international norms truly “credible?”
The Wall Street Journal called Trump’s warning to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday that “peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded and even rewarded,” a “veiled criticism of the PA’s practice of paying terrorists.” A Times report called it an “indirect plea” to stop the practice. Trump has warned that the PA’s practice of rewarding terrorists harms peace since his speech to AIPAC in March of last year. Is there anything “veiled” or “indirect” about his statement, given the consistency with which he has emphasized it?
[Photo: Government Press Office / YouTube ]