Lets talk about our relationship

Trigger warning: Donald Trump is mentioned in the following post. I ask that those of you who hate or love him to refrain from sending me angry emails accusing me of loving or hating him. I dont. Unlike the Nobel Prize Committee, I prefer to wait for a president to be in office for at least a year before deciding.

During the Obama era, my advice to Israel regarding her relationship to the US was simple:

Reduce dependence on the US in every area; for military aid, intelligence cooperation, diplomatic defense, and facilitation of negotiations with the Palestinians.

Obamas staff was overwhelmingly anti-Israel, and the president himself his background, associations, ideology and temperament was hostile to Israel. There has never been a president less friendly to Israel than Barack Hussein Obama, something that was proven to us over and over, from the Iran deal to the withdrawal of support for Israel at the UN Security Council last December.

With the election of Donald Trump, some suggested that now everything would change. And much has. Trump has some very pro-Israel advisors, notably Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. He himself is overwhelmingly pragmatic rather than ideological. He made early commitments to pro-Israel policies, such as moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, maintaining Israels qualitative military edge, and dismantling (later changed to strictly enforcing) the Iran nuclear deal.

But my advice remains the same.

The first reason is that despite the very positive changes, some things remain the same. For every Friedman or Haley, there is someone like Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who maintains that the capital of Israel is Tel Aviv, or National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster who refuses to say whether the Western Wall is part of Israel. And the State Department, unsurprisingly, is still the State Department, refusing to admit that any part of Jerusalem belongs to Israel.

Trump himself has flip-flopped on some of these issues. There have been several conflicting reports on whether he will sign the waiver that will keep the embassy in Tel Aviv. The most recent announcement attributed to a senior administration official is that he will not allow the embassy to move, but until the June 1 deadline, anything can happen.

Trump seems to view American interests particularly where Iran is concerned as closer to those of Israel than Obama did. But the golden handcuffs are still handcuffs.

The second reason is that Trump is apparently in the grip of a traditional delusion of American presidents the idea that he can and should try to solve the Israeli-Arab conflict. This is exacerbated by his view of himself as the worlds greatest dealmaker.

Trump has given no indication that he understands the nature of the conflict, that the intractability of it is a consequence of the contradiction between the Arab narrative and the existence of a Jewish state of any size between the river and the sea. The fact that he continually refers to a deal that he wishes to mediate illustrates this. A deal is an agreement in which both sides can find an advantage. In real estate, almost everything can be measured in dollars. But this conflict cant be ended by a deal.

Palestinian honor requires an acknowledgement that every inch of the land belongs to them, and insists that several million refugees (who are in fact not refugees) have a right to return to the places some of their ancestors may have lived (for as little as two years) before 1948. Loss of honor cant be compensated for with dollars, especially when several generations have been raised on precisely this Palestinist ideology.

The religion of Islam also plays a role. As long as there is Jewish sovereignty over what is seen as Muslim land, there will be an obligation for Muslims to pursue jihad to re-impose Islamic domination and Islamic law over it. Not all Muslim Arabs are prepared to engage in violent jihad, but many are. 69 years during which refugees in UN-supported camps have been paid to have children with no possibility of a permanent home and few opportunities for careers have ensured that there will be plenty of soldiers for the jihad.

The Palestinians have shown, over and over, that they are prepared to kill and die for their perceived honor and their religion. The combination of the ideology of Palestinism with the religion of Islam and the honor-shame Arab culture has closed the door to a negotiated compromise solution.

Although some Israelis feel a religious imperative to hold on to Judea and Samaria, they are in the minority. Almost all, however, understand that an influx of Arab refugees or the re-establishment of indefensible borders will be the end of their state, and probably the lives of many of them. And none of them trusts the PLO or Hamas to live up to any agreement that they may sign.

There arent technical solutions for the contradiction between Palestinian desires and the survival of a Jewish state. There is no deal here. And yet, Trump insists that there is, opening the way for the Palestinian extortion that has characterized the phony peace process to continue. There is no benefit for Israel that can come out of Trumps dealmaking. We can only try to control the damage.

The third and final reason that Israel should distance herself from the US is painful for me to discuss, as someone who grew up in America and who believes that in many ways she is still the greatest nation in history.

I think the third reason can be summed up by a simple analogy: dont go out on a date with an 800-pound gorilla who has recently started hearing voices in his head. And if you have to go, make sure to bring cab fare for a ride home.

No, I dont mean Trump. The gorilla is the USA. I am talking about theres no other word for it the madness that has recently gripped the political and cultural life of the United States.

I dont know where to start, but here are some examples off the top of my head: the political polarization and official gridlock; the failure of public education system in many places; the high cost, poor quality and often futility of higher education; the rejection of the ideal of freedom of expression in the academic world; the contest to see who can be the most extreme in matters of sexual preference, race and gender; the prevalence of conspiracy theories on both the Right and the Left; the failure of the healthcare system; the increase in political and racial violence; the epidemics of meth and opiates; the sheer number of people incarcerated; and the total lack of credibility of the media on both sides of the political divide.

Trumps own position is unsteady. Today, while the President is traveling in the Middle East, his opponents at home who never accepted the fact of his election are fulminating with plans to oust him in one way or in another. There is a strong odor of instability coming from Washington. Whether you love Trump or hate him, there is no doubt that the situation is dangerous.

It isnt safe for Israel to depend on a US that very clearly has its own problems to solve, where support for Israel has become a partisan issue, and where its not clear what the political weather will be tomorrow.

Tell the gorilla thanks for the offer, but Israel is going to stay home and wash her hair.

Evil Council

Armon Hanatziv, in the days of the British Mandate

Armon Hanatziv, in the days of the British Mandate

[The British High Commissioner] grabbed the most fantastic place in the world built a palace there, and every morning when he wakes up and opens his eyes can see from the palace windows the loftiest and most holy view in the world, as if it were his.

Yehuda Haezrahi, City of Stone and Sky, quoted by Nadav Shragai

After the First World War, the British became the last in a line of foreign powers ruling over Judea, including Jerusalem. Like any conqueror, the British built monumental palaces for its administrators. From 1920 to 1927, the High Commissioners residence and offices were located in the Augusta Victoria Church and hospital compound on the Mount of Olives. A beautiful place, but after it was damaged in an earthquake, the Empire decided to build a new and even more glorious seat of power at a spot with an even better view, the Hill of Evil Council (not Counsel) so called by the Byzantine Christians because it was said to be where Temple priests met to discuss betraying Jesus.

The grand building was constructed between 1928 and 1933, and its first resident was High Commissioner Sir Arthur Grenfell Wauchope, who seems to have been one of the better ones. It is a stunningly beautiful building (the UN renovated it in 2012) in one of the most beautiful spots in the world. I cant imagine how much the property is worth (maybe Donald Trump could). In Hebrew, its called armon hanatizv (the commissioners palace), and that also became the name of the neighborhood around it.

In 1948 when Britain was forced to retreat from Palestine by yet another indigenous revolt in its rapidly fragmenting Empire, it transferred control of the property to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which gave it to the UN. It was part of the Demilitarized Zone which existed until 1967, when it came under Israeli control. The UN demanded it back, and after an abortive struggle, Israel knuckled under. Nadav Shragai explains the historical details and legal issues here.

The UN has since made modifications to the building, appropriated land adjoining the main structure and put up additional buildings, all needless to say without obtaining permits from the municipal authorities. The UN did not purchase the site, and never paid rent or municipal taxes on it. The most recent official reason for the UN presence there was to house the observers responsible for monitoring the truce in effect after 1967. This has long since become irrelevant; as Shragai notes Israel has peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt, and in Syria everyone is fighting everyone.

The UN is an organization that is hostile to the state of Israel, as is shown by the continual flow of anti-Israel resolutions from its various agencies. The cost of any improvements that it has made are a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of back rent Israel would be owed, if anyone chose to try to compute it.

Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev is the most recent Israeli official that has called for the property to be returned to Israel (in this she joins Levi Eshkol, various literary figures and numerous government officials over the years since 1948). The UN and some in the Israeli Foreign Ministry claim that the UN is protected by diplomatic immunity and that we cant make them leave.

I think this controversy encapsulates the attitude of the Christian and Muslim world toward Jerusalem, and indeed the land of Israel. They have never accepted the possession of the Holy City and the Holy Land by its true owners, its Jewish indigenous inhabitants, and have tried continuously in one way or another to take it away from them.

Time and again the government of Israel takes a pragmatic attitude and allows the UN, the Islamic wakf, the US Department of State and others to symbolically deprecate Jewish sovereignty in Jerusalem, our capital city.

Here is an opportunity to take a stand for sovereignty and against the corrupt and anti-Jewish UN. Despite the absolute aptness of placing the UN on the Hill of Evil Council, the site does not belong to them. If they need a headquarters in our country, they should be required to rent office space like anyone else.

I know a presently unoccupied spot in Tel Avivs Central Bus Station that they can get cheap.

Concentrate on the signal, ignore the noise

The latest UNESCO resolution on Occupied Palestine is both nothing and something.

It is nothing because it changes nothing. It cannot render null and void Israels possession of Jerusalem or its status as our capital city (echoing Hamas new document of principles, p.11). It cannot make maarat hamachpela or kever rachel Palestinian sites. And it cannot make UNESCO something rather than the nothing it has become, because its passage of a series of similar resolutions shows that it is a creature of anti-Israel politics rather than an organization to promote international cooperation.

On the other hand, the resolution adds to the massive accumulation of documents, maps, slogans, manifestos and resolutions in UN agencies, churches, and universities none of which in themselves change anything that declare that we, the Jewish people in their sovereign state, are nothing. A historian of the 30th century might come upon this pile of documents and believe that there is a country called Palestine that is occupied, although there would be a far smaller collection of sources testifying to the existence of a state called Israel. They might wonder how nothing can occupy something.

Although millions of Arabs, other Muslims, Europeans, Haaretz writers, and other enemies of Israel have been so far unable to dislodge the tenacious grip of the Jewish people from their land by force or the combination of force and guile called diplomacy, they have been able to produce thousands of tons of paper attesting to the proposition that we dont exist, and to the extent that we do, we oughtnt to.

When it comes to mass production of content, we cant compete. There is a UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, as well as a Division for Palestinian Rights which maintains the United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine. And thats just the UN. Think about the thousands of journalists and academics around the world who at this very moment are writing articles and publishing papers that explain how everything from Palestinian honor killings to American police shooting black people is Israels fault.

News coverage from world media is abysmal. Nobody expects good treatment from Al Jazeera, owned by our friend the Emir of Qatar; and of course the New York Times is terrible, possibly thanks to its historic discomfort with the fact of its Jewish ownership. Reuters and AP are also very problematic. I could go on, but then Id have to mention my favorite, Americas National Public Radio.

Dont forget the NGOs, both the international ones like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, and the Israeli ones like Btselem, Breaking the Silence, ad infinitum. All of them get much of their money millions of dollars annually from entities hostile to Israel, and the funders get what they pay for: countless reports and testimonies accusing Israel of war crimes and oppression of Palestinian Arabs.

What can we do? There are just a few million of us, and there are more than a billion of them. How can we possibly keep up with and counteract the flow of words, memes, columns, Facebook posts, movies and TV programs, and every other imaginable expression of the simple idea that motivates them: Jews out!

Perhaps we dont need to. All human understanding requires discrimination. We receive a flood of data through our senses, some of it relevant to our survival, some of it interesting in some way, and some of it worthless. Our job is to pick out the important stuff, the signal, and reject the noise. If we cant do that, we flail around, unable to take the actions necessary for our survival. What applies to individuals also applies to states. Ive been saying for years that we have to fight harder to win the information war, but maybe Ive been wrong all along. Maybe the object of the campaign against us is to upset us, to distract us to hide the signal in a plethora of noise. If that is true, then the less we play this game, the less damage it will do.

Here are some ideas:

Lets start by kicking the UN out of Jerusalem, as Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev suggested yesterday. The UN has been squatting in Jerusalems Armon Hanatziv neighborhood since 1967, engaging in illegal construction and anti-Israel activities. This is a perfect time to teach the UN who is actually sovereign in Jerusalem (hint: it isnt them and it isnt the non-state of Palestine). The less we have to do with the UN, the less noise they introduce into our channel.

Then we can continue by modifying the NGO Transparency Law to give it some real teeth. An NGO that violates the law is fined a measly $7,500, a drop in the bucket for an organization like Breaking the Silence with an annual income (2015) of $1.3 million. Personally, I would like to see all foreign funding of political organizations banned, period. If an Israeli NGO cant survive on Israeli contributions, then maybe it doesnt need to survive. Shut down their noise output!

Israel worries too much about all these words on all this paper. There is a serious lack of housing in and around Jerusalem. Thats the signal. We should ignore the noise and build some more. The UN will condemn Israel, the NGOs will have fits, the NY Times will write a critical editorial, but what else will be new? We could even use some of that land the UN is squatting on.

Israel must control the land area of Judea and Samaria and its airspace for simple geographic reasons. Any solution needs to be one that recognizes this. Another signal. Why do we waste time and energy and make dangerous concessions like freeing prisoners for the sake of an agreement to give up control of this land? Why do we let the noise obscure the signal?

Some decades ago I believed that we were headed toward world government. Like it did in Blackhawk Comics, the UN would police the world, and international forces would crush evildoers before they got started. Nations would wither away (well, maybe not the USA!), and the great systems of capitalism and communism would evolve toward each other, ultimately to reconcile. Nationalism, being irrational, would also die out (it didnt occur to me to wonder about the Zionism I strongly supported), to be replaced with peaceful coexistence.

In hindsight, its obvious that this vision ignores basic facts about human nature which (thank goodness) prevented it from coming to pass. Today the Soviet Union is gone and the US is struggling to survive, perhaps as divided as it was prior to the Civil War. The international institutions that were to have given rise to the utopian world government are dying. The EU is on its last legs and the UN has passed from marginal usefulness to almost total parasitism, a parasite that its hosts cant bring themselves to kill. The Blackhawk Squadron will not take off again to save the world.

The world is changing, getting less rational, more dangerous and more fragmented. Nobody will give artificial respiration to weak nations in a world dominated by Putins, Xi Jinpings and (maybe) Trumps. Israel wont be protected by international organizations or laws, even if they were not subverted politically and turned against us. And it cant depend on the US, which has its own problems that will only get worse.

What will matter in the future, and already matter today, are facts on the ground and the ability to deter aggression. This is the real signal. The posturing of international diplomacy is just part of the noise that is intended to obscure it.

Historical/cultural appropriation and reality inversion

From AbuYehuda.com Posted on by Vic Rosenthal

Imitation may really be the sincerest form of flattery. We Zionists, therefore, should be flattered that our deadly enemies have claimed our history and our land for themselves.

The enemies of the Jewish state and the Jewish people have been trying to reverse history and re-disperse the Jewish people. They employ increasingly sophisticated means, including war, terrorism, and lately a combination of these with a carefully planned and executed diplomatic and cognitive assault aimed at Israels supporters and Israelis themselves.

The cognitive part of the attack on our state and people is intended to delegitimize our claim to be the indigenous people of the land of Israel, and to replace us with a fictitious people, the Palestinians, who actually are a group of heterogeneous Arabs who have little common history prior to the 20th century.

Nevertheless, the story is that Jews are actually Europeans (this doesnt account for the half of Israelis whose ancestors did not live in Europe, but nobody cares), and that the Arab inhabitants of the land of Israel have been here for hundreds, even thousands, of years. Jewish history and provenance in the land of Israel are denied, and Palestinians are falsely cast as victims of oppression, expulsion and genocide thus appropriating the historical experience of the Jewish people.

Denial of Jewish provenance is pervasive. Yasser Arafat said that there was no Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, and his successor Mahmoud Abbas joined him, despite massive archaeological and historical evidence for the existence of both the first and second Temples. UNESCO, prompted by Arab members, passed a resolution in 2016 referring to the Temple Mount only as Al Aqsa Mosque/Haram al Sharif, thus attempting to erase Jewish connections to the site. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat claimed to be the proud son of the Canaaniteswho were there 5,500 years before Joshua bin Nun burned down the town of Jericho, but he is actually descended from Hashemites who lived in Arabia before coming to Israel many decades ago, but not centuries nor millennia. Erekat is actually an old-timer among Palestinian Arabs, because many (if not most) of them are descended from migrants who came to Israel in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Jewish history, the story of a people dispossessed from its land treated cruelly in exile, and triumphally reestablishing sovereignty in its historic homeland, seems to the Palestinian Arabs to be a powerful and appealing narrative, so they appropriate it and fit it to their purposes.

Palestinian history is a compressed version of Jewish history, with its expulsions and massacres. The nakba, the establishment of the Jewish state which resulted in some 650,000 Arabs fleeing their homes, is presented as a deliberate mass expulsion, an ethnic cleansing at gunpoint. According to historian Benny Morris, probably the most respected authority on the subject, only a small number of Arabs were actually evacuated at gunpoint, and most fled the violence of war or the collapse of Arab society after community leaders left. There was no master plan as Palestinian supporters often allege, to ethnically cleanse the land of Arabs. Needless to say, accusations of genocide need not be dignified by a response; Arab populations have multiplied several times in Israel after 1948 and in Judea/Samaria/Gaza after 1967.

The process also includes the inversion of reality, in which the Jews are accused of doing to the Palestinians what the Palestinians have done, or wish to do, to them. Israel is accused of ethnic cleansing, targeting children and noncombatants, committing terrorism, establishing an apartheid regime, and racism. But in fact it is the PLO, Hamas and Hezbollah who deliberately target civilians and children, and who are proud to announce that when Palestine is declared, no Jews will live in it. Israeli self-defense is called terrorism, and Hamas and PLO media report the arrests of actual terrorists as kidnappings. Palestinian terrorists, who like the biblical Amalek always choose the softest of targets, refer to their exploits as military operations, even when the objective is a school bus.

More than just misrepresenting history and current events, our enemies engage in systematic cultural theft. Jesus was a Palestinian, they say, a literally absurd statement could he have been a Muslim, seven centuries before Mohammad, was he not a Jew, were the inhabitants of Judea the ancestors of the Arabs that call themselves Palestinians and not of todays Jews? All of these things are nonsensical, but yet the proposition resonates.

Another kind of reality inversion is moral equivalency, in which the actions of both sides are considered comparable, and the death of a suicide bomber is supposed to be as tragic as those of her victims.

Today is Israels memorial day for the victims of war and terrorism, and last night saw a particularly offensive manifestation of moral equivalency, in which the Palestinian narrative was internalized by traumatized Jewish survivors of Arab violence. An organization of former Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants called Combatants for Peace held an Alternative Memorial Day observance:

The Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony, which has been held on the eve of Memorial Day for the last eleven consecutive years, comes to remind us that war is not an act of fate but one of human choice. This ceremony is the largest annual event held by the Combatants for Peace movement. On this particularly difficult day we call upon both sides to acknowledge the pain and the aspirations of those living on the other side of the fence and for each of us to strive to prevent the next war. Perhaps during next years Memorial Day, additional losses will not have to reckoned with. At the ceremony, Israeli and Palestinian bereaved families speak about their personal pain.

Combatants for Peace receives significant funding from Germany, Switzerland and Belgium, among other foreign sources. According to NGO Monitor, Combatants for Peace activities reflect a strong affiliation with the Palestinian agenda and narrative, placing most of the blame for the conflict on the occupation.

While I dont doubt that the Palestinian mother whose child was shot to death while trying to stab a random Jew or while throwing a firebomb feels a pain that is similar to that of the Jewish mother of a child that was stabbed or burned in such an attack, the idea that both the victim and the perpetrator deserve to be honored on memorial day is obscene. Apparently some Jewish Israelis felt it was obscene enough to try to disrupt the events; and while I oppose disruption of peaceful speech no matter how stupid and offensive, I can certainly see their point.

The accumulated weight of UNESCO decisions, Arab propaganda, and yes the subversive actions of (mostly) well-meaning Israelis weakens the state both from within and without. The Palestinian narrative seems unbelievable to those of us who have even a slight acquaintance with Jewish history, but many people believe it, even in supposedly advanced countries.

Its ironic that the same people that accuse us of cultural appropriation of falafel are the greatest historical/cultural thieves of all.

Supersessionism, new and old

From AbuYehuda.com Posted on by Vic Rosenthal

Dr. Richard Landes has written a great deal about honor-shame cultures, like the Arab culture. In an honor-shame culture, whats important is not how you see yourself, but how others see you. Loss of honor in such a culture is disastrous and can lead to suicide or murder as in the case of so-called honor killings carried out to recover the honor of a family after a perceived act of sexual delinquency.

Modern Westerners are usually less concerned with honor and shame. Especially in America, it is laudable, even heroic, to do the right thing no matter what others think. This would make no sense in an honor-shame culture.

In the West, the operative concepts are usually morality and guilt, which are independent of what others think. Landes explains the difference:

for guilt, its the awareness of the deed and its meaning, for shame, its whether others know. In some countries in the world, its not a question of whether youre corrupt or not (everyone is, everyone knows), but just if you get caught. How many teenagers apologize for getting caught? Some adulterers have no sense of wrongdoing, as long as no one else knows. On some level everyone is subject to these concerns.

While honor-shame cultures have moral codes, however, their vulnerability to the fear of shame can readily lead to a jettisoning of any moral concerns. After all, the limbic dread of shame its disastrous psychological and practical impact on them kicks in in times of humiliation and fear.

Guilt is expiated by compensating the victim of an evil act and vowing to never commit the offense again (in Jewish terminology, doing tshuvah). Shame only requires that the awareness of the crime in the public consciousness be cancelled out.

But the honor-shame dynamic still does exist to some extent in the West, and Landes finds it in the European obsession with Israel. In traditional Christian supersessionim, the Church replaces the Jews as Gods people. Landes refers to a different supersessionist narrative, in which the Israelis replace the Nazis and the Palestinians become the Jews:

When Europeans (orChristians) adopt the Palestinian replacement narrative, when the universalization of the Holocaust leads to silence about its prime victim, the driver of the megadeath industry, when academics and politiciansengage in holocaust abuse by replacing the (old) Jewish victim, with the (new) Palestinian one, and denouncing Israelsgenocide against the Palestinians, they reveal that they are driven not by Holocaust guilt, but Holocaust shame, and the result is the exact opposite of what one might/should expect.Instead of making sure they dont participate in another genocide against the same people their foreathers had so grievously treated only a couple of generations ago Nie Weider! they adopt the narrative of those who would finish the job.

Young Europeans especially feel shame rather than guilt. After all, they werent even born when their grandfathers committed the crimes that they are constantly pressed to remember and atone for. They arent guilty of anything. But still, who wants to be known as a descendant of mass murderers or part of the nation that committed the greatest genocide in history?

This new supersessionist narrative works by canceling shame. If the Jews are Nazis, Israels crimes replace and supersede those of the Nazis and their collaborators in the public consciousness. Europeans and especially Germans have struggled with their feelings since the war, and here is a way to finally lift the burden!

Landes discussion is thought-provoking. And it occurred to me that it explains something that has been puzzling me about the behavior of Germany today for some time.

Since the war, Germany has had what is called a special relationship with Israel. Germany has paid reparations to the state of Israel and to Holocaust survivors there and gives Israel aid in the form of large discounts on purchases of military items like submarines. There is close security cooperation. Germany has often voted against anti-Israel initiatives in the UN, and for several years, it even gave Israel the maximum number of points in the Eurovision contest, regardless of the quality of our entry. There are extensive contacts in the areas of trade, science, education and culture. Israel and Germany have numerous sister cities.

And yet, the German government both by itself and through the EU is by far the largest donor to Israeli NGOs that support BDS, anti-Zionism, anti-Israel lawfare and even terrorism. The activity of foreign-funded anti-state NGOs in Israel is on a massive scale involving millions of Euros a year, and constitutes a form of cognitive warfare against the Jewish state. Just yesterday, PM Netanyahu canceled a meeting with the German foreign minister after he met with representatives of two particularly subversive NGOs, Btselem and Breaking the Silence. German money, as Tuvia Tenenbom wrote in his book Catch the Jew is everywhere in Israel, even funding pro-Palestinian movies.

How can we explain this seeming contradiction? Do they want to support us or to help our enemies kill us? Landes analysis suggests an answer. If hes right and the Germans today are primarily motivated by shame, then it makes sense that they would do as much as possible in public to counteract the perception that they are the heirs of the murderous Nazis. On the other hand, their shame drives them to work privately at the same time to transfer the responsibility to Israel, to make the Jewish state into the new Third Reich. And as a matter of fact, German funding for anti-state NGOs in Israel is highly non-transparent. While Germany is a public friend of Israel, in private it helps our enemies drive their knives into our collective back.

In a way, were stuck. We dont want the world to forget the horrors of the Holocaust, but the more we remind them, the more ashamed, and thus angry, they become. My own view is that we should stop trying to get sympathy for what was done to us 70-odd years ago, and concentrate on gaining respect for forcefully defending ourselves today.

Celebrating liberation in Gush Etzion

In September of this year, Israel plans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and the Golan heights. The main event will be held at Kibbutz Kfar Etzion, in the Gush Etzion area of Judea, south and slightly west of Jerusalem.

Zahava Galon, the leader of the Meretz party, which represents approximately 4% of Israeli voters with its 5 Knesset seats, and Chemi Shalev, writing in the left-wing Haaretz newspaper expressed their outrage that anyone would celebrate what they consider an oppressive and evil occupation of Palestinian land, and that Israel would add insult to injury by holding the ceremony in what they insist on calling the West Bank.

I know its a little thing and that most of my readers already know this, but I cant say it too often: it was called Judea and Samaria from biblical times until 1948 when Jordan occupied it, ethnically cleansed it of Jews, and renamed it the West Bank. We really ought to stop calling it that.

Lets talk a little about the Gush Etzion area, and specifically Kibbutz Kfar Etzion. Here is a summary of its early years by Ami Isseroff, zl:

The Etzion Bloc, or Gush Etzion as it is called in Hebrew, is located on the main road from the south to Jerusalem, northwest of Hebron. The Etzion bloc was settled and resettled three times, on land purchased by the Jews, beginning in 1927. Each time, residents were forced to abandon their homes in the face of Arab violence. The final saga of the Etzion bloc included two separate massacres and a prolonged and stubborn defense against hopeless odds. The bloc was finally overrun by soldiers of the British armed and officered Jordan Legion, who were responsible for the final massacre of surrendered defenders, a war crime.

The first settlement in this area was called Migdal Eder, built on land purchased from local Arabs by the Zichron David Company. It was founded in 1927. The pioneers included orthodox Yemenite Jews. During the Arab riots of 1929, Migdal Eder settlers were evacuated to the Russian Orthodox monastery and thence to the Arab village of Beit Umar, from which they were evacuated to Jerusalem by British mandate police. The British made no attempt to guard the settlement or safeguard property, and it was completely destroyed.

Additional lands were purchased by the El Hahar Company, which founded a kibbutz called Kfar Etzion in 1934. Like Migdal Eder, Kfar Etzion was abandoned during the Arab violence of 1936-1939 and destroyed by the Palestinian Arabs.

A third settlement attempt was made beginning in 1942 under the auspices of the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet). Kfar Etzion was re-founded in the Spring of 1943. In October 1945, a second kibbutz, Massuot Yitzchak, was added. Its members were Holocaust survivors from Eastern and Central Europe. A third Kibbutz, Ein Tzurim, was founded in 1946 by Israeli members of the Bnei Akiva religious Zionist movement. All three kibbutzim belonged to the religious Zionist movement, but in February 1947, a fourth kibbutz, Revadim, was established by the Marxist Hashomer Hatzair Youth Movement.

On May 13, 1948, the area was overrun by the Jordanian army. The remaining defenders of Kfar Etzion surrendered to the Jordanian Legion, who together with Arab irregulars, massacred some 128 (all but five) of them. The defenders of the other three kibbutzim surrendered in the presence of the International Red Cross, and were taken to Jordan as prisoners of war.

After Israel liberated the Gush in 1967, Kfar Etzion was rebuilt yet again. The other three, Revadim, Ein Tzurim and Massuot Yitzchak were reestablished within the Green Line shortly after the original kibbutzim were destroyed. I lived in Revadim in 1980-82 and worked in the musach (garage), where my boss told me about being forced to repair Jordanian military vehicles as a war prisoner.

There are many stories of heroism around the area, including the lamed hay (thirty-five), members of the Palmach (an elite force part of the Hagana) who were massacred trying to bring supplies through hostile Arab villages to the kibbutzim of the Gush.

So the complaints about holding a celebration in the Palestinian West Bank ring false to me. The land upon which Kfar Etzion stands was purchased dearly, with Jewish money and not a little Jewish blood.

It is true, as the kapos of +972 Magazine write, that the area of todays Gush Etzion Regional Council is larger than that of the original land purchased in the 1920s and 30s. But they accept as they did in the case of the settlement of Amona the fanciful ownership claims of Arabs without verification, and do not accept Israels right to adjudicate land as state land.

Their uncritical acceptance of Arab claims is why they object to any celebration of the liberation of Judea and Samaria (they are quiet about the Golan and about Gaza, for different reasons), no matter where it is held. They believe that all land outside of the 1949 lines belongs to the Palestinians, simply because the Palestinians and their supporters say so, and despite the fact that the armistice agreements explicitly declare that the Green Line is not a political boundary.

They will tell you over and over that it is forbidden to acquire territory by war, as Israel did in 1967, but apparently do not object to Jordans conquest and annexation of Judea and Samaria in 1948 areas that had been designated in the Mandate as the site of a future Jewish national home.

They will ignore the geostrategic imperative that says that our state cannot be defended without the high ground and the Jordan Valley. They will forget or ignore the fact that the hills and deserts of Judea and Samaria are the place where our people became a people. They will talk about the need of the newly-created Palestinian people for self-determination, but abandon the Jewish people.

Legal and political arguments may go on forever, but what will ultimately determine the ownership of the land will be who lives in it who settles it and controls it. The original settlers of Gush Etzion, who put their bodies on the line for the land understood that.

The strategic and spiritual value of these lands is more important today than ever. Celebrating their liberation is appropriate, because they both make our country defensible and give us something important to defend, the historical heartland of the Jewish people.

And what better place to celebrate it than Kfar Etzion?

Vladimir Putins evil stroke of genius

As a child, one of my great fears was being the victim of a chemical attack. I read and reread the article on chemical warfare in the Encyclopedia Britannica in the school library with horrified fascination. When we practiced getting under our desks in case of an atomic attack I was relieved that it was only an atomic attack that was expected. Gas would be 100 times worse, I thought. Maybe this was because I was a Jew and heard that the Nazis had gassed Jews, even though as far as I knew my own relatives in Ukraine had been shot and not gassed.

The sarin gas attack carried out this Tuesday in Idlib by forces controlled by Bashar al Assad (the word alleged is not necessary) was a war crime, a mass murder of civilians by horrific means. To make it even worse, hospitals where victims being treated were also bombed. Its not the first time the same criminal has committed the same crime. But Assad could not have done it alone. He has a powerful accessory to his crimes.

Russian planes are not dropping sarin (or chlorine or barrel bombs), but they are supporting Assads forces with more conventional weapons, and killing plenty of civilians in the process. The Obama Administration, which initially provided some minimal support for the rebels that had opposed Assad, more or less gave up on the idea of deposing him when Russia stepped in, and recently the Trump Administration admitted that it too is focused on defeating Daesh and not on removing Assad.

Interestingly, although Putin initially claimed that he was intervening in Syria in order to defeat Daesh, he has actually done very little against it. The Atlantic Council, which is funded primarily by European governments, said this about the Russian intervention in Syria:

The results have been grievous. Russia carried out its air strikes with scant regard for the rules of war: Open-source footage shows the repeated use of banned cluster munitions, and strikes on targets including mosques, hospitals, and water treatment plants. Imagine the outcry if the United States or its allies conducted military operations in this manner. Russias military campaign allowed Assads forces to retake lost ground, a task they did with great brutality and immense human suffering. It barely dented the ISIS terrorist group, whose recent territorial losses have largely come at the hands of Kurdish militias backed by a US-led coalition. Far from shortening the war, it exacerbated itand in so doing, it sent yet more waves of refugees flooding into Turkey and Europe.

Until recently, I hadnt understood Putins motives. Its been clear that he wants to protect and expand his naval and air installations in Syria, but by putting his eggs in Assads basket he is enabling the Iranian project of creating a corridor from its western border to the Mediterranean, something that might prove dangerous to Russia in the long term.

But if his goal is to destabilize his traditional enemies in Europe by flooding them with refugees, then both his intervention and the brutal way it is carried out as well as his tolerance of Assads even worse behavior become understandable. The wars going on in Syria and Iraq serve his purpose, and so does the continued existence of Daesh.

This also explains why Russia has not interfered with Israeli activities in Syria. Although Assad and his Iranian patron are interested in building up Hezbollah as a threat against Israel, Putin doesnt necessarily share their goals, and may even wish to limit the advance of Iranian hegemony in the region. Russia has its problems with radical Islamic jihadism, and Iran either has or shortly will have missiles that can reach Moscow. What does serve Putins purpose is chaos which he promotes by helping Assad stay in power and kill anyone associated with (or stuck in the same town with) the opposition. Israels bombing of weapons bound for Hezbollah doesnt detract from his goal.

Its also an incentive for Israel to not interfere. There have been suggestions that Israel should intervene against Assad for humanitarian reasons. It is highly unlikely that Israel would take such a step. Not only would it place Israel in direct conflict with Russia, but Israel is dependent on Russia to allow it to operate against Hezbollah in Syria. The greatest direct threat against Israel today is Hezbollah as a proxy of Iran, and it would be disastrous if Putin were to decide to protect it.

I think Putin is the big winner here. In a stroke of malevolent genius, he managed to turn the Syrian civil war, the rise of Daesh, the struggle between the Sunni and Shia worlds, the advance of Iran toward the Mediterranean, and the concomitant suffering of the peoples of the region, to his advantage. He now controls the airspace of the eastern Mediterranean region and is building up important air and naval bases here, a strategic coup against Europe and the US. Meanwhile, Europe is being destabilized by the waves of refugees from the conflicts in our region. All this on the backs of a few million dead and displaced Arabs!

Whether or not Russian activities had any effect on the American election, there is no doubt that Russia is carrying out psychological warfare against the US with the intent to create as much dissension and chaos there as possible. This isnt anything new the Soviet regime did it too but social media have made it easier and increased the leverage of a small number of operatives.

Putin is a remarkable figure. I would call his actions in fanning the flames of war in Syria psychopathic, although maybe any despot has to be a psychopath. He seems to have suppressed internal opposition to his regime quite effectively (and brutally, in part by murdering anyone that threatens him). He has drastically improved the strategic position of Russia relatively cheaply, and is on his way to restoring the Soviet empire.

Various pundits have said that Putin is playing chess while Western leaders play checkers (or even simpler games, like marbles). I agree except that the pawns he sacrifices so unemotionally are people.

If you love me, let me go

We recognize that some boycott advocates are driven by opposition to (and even hatred of) Israel. Our motivation is precisely the opposite: love for Israel and a desire to save it. Steven Levitsky and Glen Weyl, We are lifelong Zionists. Heres why weve chosen to boycott Israel.

I have something to say to the Jewish-American we love Israel but we know what is good for you better than you do crowd:

Stop it.

You dont know better than we do. Even if you know a lot. And even if you did know better, you dont have the right to tell us what to do.

Israel is a democracy. That means that the Knesset and the Prime Minister are chosen by its citizens. Even with 20% of those citizens being Arabs, we chose Benjamin Netanyahu to form our government. You dont think that was a wise choice; I get that. But can you deny us the right to make that choice?

You say that our country is becoming less democratic. So you want to fix that by intervening in our politics?

You demand that we should make peace, or end the Occupation, or grant the Palestinians their rights. But do you know that only a minority of Jewish Israelis agree with you that withdrawal from Judea and Samaria is a good idea? Only 29% agree with the moderate idea of withdrawal to the Green Line with land swaps for the large settlement blocks!

The Israeli political party whose foreign policy most closely matches the views of J Street or the Union for Reform Judaism is Meretz. Meretz won five seats in the 120-seat Knesset. Only five, even though some of its domestic policies are relatively popular. There is a reason for that.

What do you, living in America, know that the majority of Jewish Israelis dont? After all, they have to serve in the army or send their children to do it. Do you know what it feels like to know that your son (and lately, daughter) who is serving in a combat unit is on a battlefield in a hostile country? It really makes you care about the quality of your national leadership.

You dont like the policies of our government. Thats your right. I think youre misinformed, but go ahead and have whatever opinions you like about our government, yours, or North Koreas. But you go farther. You say that as Jews you have a special right not only to criticize us, but to tell us how to behave. Thats ridiculous.

Yes, Israel views herself as the homeland of the Jewish people, and Israel will grant citizenship to any Diaspora Jew that asks for it. This degree of openness to immigration is uncommon, but came about because of the unique history of persecution of the Jewish people. Nevertheless, this doesnt imply that potential citizens have a right to determine Israeli policy. Ireland will grant citizenship on request to someone with a grandparent who was born there, but eligible Irish-Americans dont insist on the right to determine the policy of their ancestral home.

You are fond of telling us that your patience is running short and you will stop supporting us if we dont do what you tell us. But that support is not all that it is cracked up to be.

Financial support is already politically targeted. I was the treasurer of a small Jewish Federation belonging to the Jewish Federations of North America. I was explicitly told by officials of the national organization that no Federation funds would support projects in Judea and Samaria, and that there are procedures in place to ensure that money given by JFNA to the Jewish Agency was not spent in settlements. Large independent federations like New York, Chicago, Boston, and others also limit the use of their funds in this way (J Street actually complained that in some cases they do it but dont admit this publicly!)

You also contribute to J Street and the New Israel Fund, organizations that sharply criticize Israeli policy and try to get the US to pressure Israel, or fund NGOs that do. And you strongly supported Barack Obama in both of his elections, despite the fact that he was the US president least supportive of Israel since the founding of the state (even Jimmy Carters policies as president were not as bad).

At this point I want to distinguish the distressed lovers, like the academics responsible for the quotation at the beginning of this post or the Reform Movement leaders who invariably declare their love before bashing Israel, from the haters who skip the ritual profession of love, and claim that Judaism justifies siding with Israels enemies for example, the members of If Not Now and Jewish Voice for Peace.

I too am a strong Zionist, so I think a lot about whats right and wrong about my country. Every day I thank God for the privilege of living here. But it bothers me that my daughter cant afford to buy her own apartment because real estate prices are insane. It bothers me to know that my children and grandchildren are within rocket range of our enemies (all of us are). It bothers me to know that unless something unforeseen happens, there will be a major war within the next few years in which many Israelis and Arabs will die. It bothers me to know that Haredim are blocking traffic because they think they have a right to live in the state of the Jewish people but not the obligation to help defend it. A lot of stuff bothers me, and when we have elections, I try to sort it all out and vote for the party that I think represents the best balance of policies and people to deal with these issues.

So here is what I think: stop trying to help us be better people, because it is much more complicated than you think. There are a lot of things in the USA that are, shall we say, suboptimal, that you can work on. There are ways that you can make your country fairer and more democratic. There are Americans who cant exercise the rights guaranteed them in the constitution. There are even people who dont have enough to eat.

Let me know when youve fixed that stuff and well talk about improving Israel.

A discussion at the seder table

So we are sitting around the seder table with our American Uncle Max and he says,

[I] remain convinced that a two-state solution is the only outcome that would quell ongoing incidents of violence, maintain Israel as a secure, Jewish and democratic state, and provide a just and stable future for the Palestinians.

Having had the traditional four cups of wine, my first, immediate reaction would be to say something about 1993 calling and wanting its policy back. But actually this and other surprisingly stupid things appeared in a letter signed by 191 members of the US Congress, read at AIPAC by Nancy Pelosi, and sent to Donald Trump.

Many things have happened in the past 24 years, both in the US and especially in the Middle East, but for these (mostly Democratic) lawmakers, nothing has changed. One wonders exactly what could happen that would change their minds, which seem to have accepted the necessity of an additional partition of the land of Israel as an article of faith.

My second thought is an almost overwhelming feeling of fatigue over the fact that this irrational and dangerous idea will not go away, and that I am yet again forced to argue about it.

So, pay attention, Uncle Max. I am not going to repeat this like the verses of had gadya.

First, there wont be a 2-state solution. The Palestinian leadership and man-in-the-street will not agree to anything acceptable to Israel. They have already rejected deals that were better than what Israel would offer today. Their conditions, including the right of return for millions of descendents of Arab refugees and the expulsion of Jewish residents of Judea/Samaria, will always be unacceptable.

But even if some kind of agreement were reached with the PA/PLO, why would we expect them to adhere to it? They have broken countless promises made in the framework of the Oslo agreements, including essential ones like ending official incitement and changing the PLO charter; and they have an ideological/religious mandate to break promises on the smallest of pretexts.

But even if the signers of the agreement did not break it, what guarantee is there that their successors who could represent Hamas or even more militant radical Islamists would honor it? If they didnt, the only option for Israel would be war.

In this connection, its interesting that 2-staters often say that Mahmoud Abbas is the most moderate PLO leader, and that therefore we should get an agreement with him before he is replaced and it is too late. But this is exactly why an agreement with him will be worthless.

But even if Abbas successors did not break the agreement, an additional partition of the land of Israel more or less along the Green Line would restore Israels pre-1967 indefensible eastern boundary. In addition to the absurdity of reversing the outcome and punishing the winner of a defensive war, it would leave the most populated parts of Israel vulnerable both to terrorism from the high ground in Judea and Samaria, and invasion from the east.

At this point I get my relief map of Israel off the wall and wave it under Uncle Maxs nose. How is it possible to defend Tel Aviv and Ben-Gurion Airport from short-range rocket and mortar attacks when terrorists can sit on commanding hills only a few miles away? How can Israel prevent the introduction of weapons and terrorists into these areas if it doesnt control the Jordan Valley to the east? There are five mountain passes across the Judean and Samarian hills. With Iran controlling more and more territory in Iraq and the unstable country of Jordan tottering, what will prevent Iranian forces from reaching them?

John Kerry in 2014 suggested implementing American-assisted security arrangements that would theoretically protect Israel while allowing Palestinian sovereignty in most of the territories. But former Defense Minister and Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon considered the plan ludicrous, and not worth the paper it was printed on. Others have since come up with more sophisticated plans, but Israel is loathe to depend on high-tech sensors, Palestinian cooperation, or (especially) foreign troops. We also need to keep in mind that future American administrations might be even less friendly than the previous one. Only Israel can defend Israel.


But its Palestinian land. Theres an international consensus. The settlers are motivated by extremist religious ideas, says Uncle Max.

Wrong. According to the Palestine Mandate, whose guarantee to the Jewish people is still in force, its Jewish land. And the border of Israel legitimately extends to the Jordan River. The international consensus is a consensus between the Islamic bloc and the Europeans, both of whom are offended by the idea of a sovereign Jewish state. Both the Muslims and the Europeans, although in different ways, are no less religious in their convictions than the observant residents of the territories. The consensus is no more than a correspondence of racist anti-Jewish attitudes.

But wait. Most Israeli Jews support the 2-state solution.

No they dont! A new poll shows that there has been a large decrease in support for a withdrawal from Judea and Samaria from 60% in 2005, when Israel withdrew from Gaza, to 36% in 2017. Apparently Israeli Jews learned something from the Gaza experience.

But, Max continues, the alternative to two states is one state, and Israel cant absorb all those Arabs and still be Jewish and democratic.

Wrong. There is no exhaustive dichotomy. Who said Israel has to absorb them? Who said there has to be a sovereign Palestinian state in almost all of Judea and Samaria? How about creating an autonomous territory in a contiguous part of the area like Puerto Rico is to the US where the population votes in local but not national elections, and in which external security is provided by the sovereign? Thats just one of many possibilities. Sure, working out the details would be complicated, but no more complicated than the security arrangements John Kerry tried to foist on us. And although some Arabs and some Jews might have to move, it would be far less traumatic than the massive expulsion of Jews that is envisaged under a 2-state plan.

I dont know, he says. There must be a way to make 2-states work.

No, there isnt, and that is exactly the problem. You are searching for an answer to the wrong question, one that does not have an answer. The real issue isnt how to partition the land of Israel yet again. Its how to guarantee the security of the state and its citizens within its rational, legitimate and defensible borders.

Its time to say dayenu to the 2-state solution. The starting point must be defensible borders, not a Palestinian state.

Of course the Palestinians would find this approach unacceptable, but they also find any 2-state deal that doesnt provide for the ultimate replacement of the Jewish state with an Arab one equally unacceptable. So why does it matter?

Why do you think we followed Moshe out of comfortable Egypt and into the desert, Uncle Max? It wasnt in order to create Palestine!

No deal, Donald

Donald Trump likes deals. He likes the idea of brokering a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, and thinks that he can do it. He cant, and heres why:

The insurmountable obstacle to a deal is that the essence of the Palestinian movement is the denial of a state belonging to the Jewish people (they dont even agree that we are a people) in any part of the land between the river and the sea. Questions of borders, Jerusalem, Palestinian unity, and settlements no matter how difficult are all secondary to this major problem.

This is why the Palestinian understanding of two state solution includes a right of return to Israel for the descendants of Arab refugees, and why it does not include recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, or a renunciation of their claim to all of the land. This is the Palestinian bottom line.

Israel is willing to make many compromises (including some that are extremely stupid and dangerous to our security) but we are not prepared to agree to disappear. This is the Israeli bottom line.

Neither side can go any lower.

Mahmoud Abbas understands this very well. This is why he correctly considers direct negotiations with Israel a waste of time. This is why he insists that PM Netanyahu does not accept the two state solution, because he understands that he and Netanyahu mean different things by that expression. This is why he favors getting the Europeans and the UN to force Israel to give him what he wants. He knows that deep down (or not so deep down) many of these elements believe there should not be a Jewish state and would be happy to see it disappear.

There is no hope of changing the bottom line of Abbas and the PLO. But couldnt we appeal to the ordinary Palestinian, the man or (very occasional) woman on the street? Dont they want to succeed like all of us, to raise their children in peace, to be secure economically and physically?

No. Or maybe they do want these things, but other things are more important.

Khaled Abu Toameh, an Arab citizen of Israel, often writes about the repression of Palestinian Arab journalists by the PLO and Hamas. He has written about the corruption and brutality of the Palestinian Authority and the attitudes of the Palestinian street. Unlike pro-Palestinian Jewish writers like Gideon Levy, he understands the language and culture of the Palestinian Arabs and has contacts that provide information rather than propaganda.

So when he tells us that PA Arabs favor armed struggle against Israel, despise Mahmoud Abbas as a collaborator with Israel and the US, and reject the idea of a peace agreement, we should pay attention. Last week, he reported on a demonstration against Abbas in Ramallah:

On the eve of US envoy Jason Greenblatts visit to Ramallah last week, hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated in the city, calling on Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas to resign. The protesters also condemned the ongoing security cooperation between the PA and Israel.

Listen, listen to us, Abbas; collect your dogs and leave us alone, the Palestinian protesters chanted during what has been described as the largest anti-Abbas demonstration in Ramallah in recent years. They also called for the abrogation of the Oslo Accords with Israel, and denounced Abbas as a coward and an agent of the Americans.

Yet this was far from a simple a protest against Abbas and his security forces. It was also a rallying cry for pursuing with further vigor the armed struggle against Israel.

No to peace and no to all the nonsense, we want bullets and rockets, some of the protesters chanted. Notably, these calls in favor of an armed struggle against Israel were coming from the streets of Ramallah and not the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

The protests also reflect Palestinians rejection of the so-called peace process with Israel. In addition to the calls on Abbas to step down, the protesters demanded as well that the PA leadership cancel all agreements with Israel, first and foremost the Oslo Accords.

In other words, Palestinians are trying extremely hard to get their message across: Israel is our enemy, not our peace partner.

This has been clear since Arafats intifada in the early 2000s. Polls consistently show that a majority of Palestinian Arabs believe that an armed intifada would help achieve national rights in ways that negotiations could not.

Its interesting to note that polls show that a majority of Palestinians also say they favor a two state solution. This is because they define it just like Abbas, with a right of return, no recognition, no end of claims. This is why they too consider negotiations fruitless. When they are asked, a majority also say that the two state condition is only a temporary step on the way to the unification of Palestine.

But despite the fact that both the leadership and the population do not want a deal, the Trump administration still thinks one is possible, and this week we have been hearing about it in the context of a regional solution involving the Arab league. The theory seems to be that the PLO will make concessions like recognizing a Jewish state or giving up their demand for a right of return if the Arab states tell them to. Abu Toameh believes that this approach is probably even less likely to succeed than direct Israel-Palestinian talks.

First of all, Palestinians dont trust the Arab regimes, who have always preferred to talk about how badly Israel treats Palestinians to doing anything for them themselves. Lebanon, Jordan and Syria have all oppressed and even killed Palestinians. Palestinians in those places today are second-class inhabitants (in Syria, most are dead or have become refugees). They also provide little or no financial help to the PA. What the PLO wants, Abu Toameh explains, is for the Europeans and the US to force Israel to give in and meet their demands. But this is not going to happen, regardless of whether the Arab League is involved in the negotiations or not.

Secondly, most of the Arab countries dont see anything good for them in a possible deal. Jordan is afraid that it might end up with the Hashemite regime replaced by a Palestinian one; Lebanon worries about possibly being forced to grant citizenship to the Palestinian refugees it presently treats like dirt; and Egypt fears being asked to cede part of the Sinai to Gaza Palestinians. The Syrian regime is presently in chaos, hates Palestinians and Jews almost equally, and isnt likely to be a constructive partner.

Finally, Abu Toameh notes that,

Israel as a Jewish state is anathema to Palestinian aspirations. No Arab leader in the world can persuade the Palestinians to give up the right of return for Palestinian refugees or accept a solution that allows Israel to retain control over certain parts of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Any Arab or Palestinian leader who promotes such compromise is taking his life in his hands. And Palestinian history will record him as a traitor who sold out to the Jews and surrendered to American and Israeli pressure.

Abbas has been straightforward about rejecting negotiations. But Israeli leaders have acted as though they believed that something positive could come out of them. They have done this either out of navet or because they wanted to placate the Americans who were demanding it and threatening to withhold diplomatic or financial support. Israel paid a high price for this: murderers were released who murdered again, and Israels honor vis–vis her enemies was weakened; Israel froze construction in Judea and Samaria and weakened her claim to be a sovereign nation. But even despite this, the Palestinians didnt change their bottom line.

Trump should know from his real estate experience that a deal is only possible when both sides think they are getting something that they want. But what the Palestinians want is something that Israel isnt selling.

It doesnt matter how persuasive you are. It doesnt matter what sweeteners one side or the other can throw in. It doesnt matter how hard you push or what you threaten. Sometimes there just isnt a deal.

This is what Netanyahu should explain to Trump. There isnt a deal here.

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