I promised good news in this posting, and you will have it. We should always be looking up, but sometimes it is easier than at other times.
In my last posting, I mentioned talk about annexing Ma’aleh Adumim.
This was proposed last Sunday, by the heads of the Knesset Land of Israel Lobby, MK Yoav Kisch (Likud – first picture immediately below) and MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi).
Among those supporting them were Ma’aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel, Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) and Minister Haim Katz (Likud), as well as MK Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beitenu), MK Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid), MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid), MK Shuli Mualem-Refaeli (Habayit Hayehudi) and MK Eli Cohen (Kulanu).
Attendees at the Lobby meeting signed a “Declaration of Sovereignty of Ma’ale Adumim,” which read in part (emphasis added):
“We the undersigned view Israeli sovereignty over Ma’ale Adumim as part of an Independent Israel, regardless of any political agreements, as a correct step, which is Zionist, necessary and responsible. The nations of the world should accept [this decision] with understanding. But even if it provokes international opposition, the State of Israel should do so because it is her right and her duty.”
These are leaders who are holding their heads high. Ze’ev Elkin made the point that even if the application of sovereignty over Ma’ale Adumim does not happen now, having the discussion will increase public awareness of the issue.
This is exactly right, and it is what Jeff Daube, my Legal Grounds Campaign co-chair, and I say all of the time with regard to our work promoting recognition of Israel’s legal rights to the land. It is a process, which happens one step at a time as the paradigm of thinking shifts.
The important thing is to know that we are headed in the right direction.
One day later, Minister Yisrael Katz, in a radio interview, advocated the annexation as well of Gush Etzion, and Beitar Illit, which is on the edge of the Gush. These areas, he says are clearly part of Israel.
Again, the fact that he is advocating this does not mean it will happen tomorrow (although Gush Etzion is so thoroughly part of Israel, it should). But we see the conversation is changing.
On the same day that the Land of Israel Lobby released its declaration on sovereignty for Ma’aleh Adumim, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Lieberman announced plans for construction of 560 new housing units in Ma’ale Adumim, 140 for Ramot in northern Jerusalem, 100 for the Har Homa neighborhood, in southeastern Jerusalem. (How new these plans are, I do not know.)
It was also announced that 600 units would be built in Beit Safafa, an Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem. There were immediate protests with regard to this.
Minister Naftali Bennett says it effectively divides Jewish Jerusalem. Minister Elkin maintained that if a Jewish majority is to be maintained in Jerusalem, then such building for Arabs must be matched with corresponding building for Jews. Both called for building in Givat Hamatos, which is directly adjacent to Beit Safafa.
It took only until Tuesday for the US State Department to respond to these announcements of plans for building of apartments. Said State Department spokesman John Kirby (emphasis added):
“If it’s true, this report would be the latest step in what seems to be a systematic process of land seizures, settlement expansions, and legalizations of outposts that is fundamentally undermining the prospects for a two-state solution.
We oppose steps like these, which we believe are counterproductive to the cause of peace. In general, we are deeply concerned about settlement construction and expansion in East (sic) Jerusalem and the West Bank. “
Kirby said the US was having “tough discussions” with Israeli leaders about the construction plans.
Well…I might like to have a “tough discussion” with Mr. Kirby, or his bosses, as I suspect would many of my readers. But it would all be to no available. This is about a political position, not about logic or realities on the ground.
Before sharing Prime Minister Netanyahu’s response to this, I would like to make a few comments, with more to follow below:
- There is a conflation of the concepts of the “two state solution” and “peace.” They are not the same: I have said this before and I will continue to say it. The “two state solution” will NOT bring peace, but the opposite. People imagine that if a piece of paper is signed, all will be well, and this is nonsense. For the intentions of the Palestinian Authority are not peaceful.
- There is no such thing as “East Jerusalem,” there is only a unified Jerusalem, which is Israel’s eternal capital. Sooner or later, people are going to have to get this. It blows my mind when members of the international community refer to neighborhoods of Jerusalem as “settlements.”
- Please notice: there was no comment about the fact that plans included housing for Arabs in Jerusalem, as well.
The EU, I should note, joined in the condemnation of Israel, saying,
“Israel is continuing its settlement policy, which is illegal under international law.”
This is simply not the case. It is so convenient to be able to invent international law as it suits.
How can it be illegal for Israel to build on land that was allocated for a Jewish homeland by the Mandate for Palestine (which remains an article of international law)? Even Oslo says nothing about Israel not being able to build in Judaea and Samaria.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Prime Minister Netanyahu retorted that (emphasis added):
“I know the US position, it is not new and not acceptable to us. Building in Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim is, in all due respect, not distancing the peace…
“What is preventing peace is, first of all, the continuous incitement against the existence of Israel on any borders, and it is time that the nations of the world recognize that simple truth.”
Go get them, Mr. Prime Minister! Telling it like it is, head tall. (Netanyahu was in Rwanda at the time, which I will come to.)
Here, I wish to make a serious request:
If I thought it would be productive, I would ask you to write to the State Department and White House. I do not.
What I ask here is something I have not requested in a long time: Speak out for Israel’s position – in letters to the editor, op-eds in local papers, talk-backs on the Internet, statements on call-in radio, postings on your Facebook page, and more. If you all do this, it will have an impact.
Say that the US government has unmitigated gall (I like this term, you can select your own), in accusing Israel of being the stumbling block to peace, in light of the behavior of the Palestinian Authority. Ask why the White House and the State Department never level criticism against the Palestinian Authority.
Point out that a 13 year old Jewish girl, Hallel Ariel, was knifed by a Palestinian Arab terrorist. It was so bad that he not only killed her, he also severely mutilated her body. And yet, the PA has chosen to identify him as as a “martyr,” thus qualifying his family for a monthly stipend from the PA.
Share with them information from this link, which addresses testimony by Yigal Carmon, president of MEMRI, regarding continuing PA support for terrorists, which has the effect of
“encouraging terrorism in violation of its Oslo commitment.”
So few know these facts. You have them. Share them, please. Challenge current thinking.
Point out, as well, that a “two state solution” and peace are not synonymous. This is something people need to start to wrap their heads around. There is no magic bullet here.
Not long after the prime minister made his statement, it was announced that the government was advancing a plan to spend some 50 million shekels for infrastructure upgrades in the Kiryat Arba-Hevron area. This is being spearheaded by Minister Uri Ariel.
Reportedly, plans include improvement in an archeological park, new signage around the Machpela (Tomb of the Patriarchs), a heritage trail, etc. I will try to follow these plans if and as they materialize (i.e., if the government will proceed when the Arabs start screaming), but what is projected sounds good.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has just completed a tour across four East African nations – the first prime minister to travel into the continent in decades. He has been greeted with considerable warmth and it seems the tour was a diplomatic success.
His first stop was Uganda, timed for a ceremony on July 4, marking the 40th anniversary of the daring rescue by Israel of hostages held at Entebbe (a rescue operation in which his brother Yonatan was killed). During his speech there, he spoke of the courage needed “to defend our values and our lives”: “we and all the civilized nations must rededicate ourselves to the spirit of Entebbe, a spirit of daring and resolve, a spirit of courage and fortitude…”
He met there with several African heads of state – from Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Zambia, South Sudan and Tanzania.
Netanyahu on Thursday revealed that one of the leaders at this summit meeting arranged a phone call for him with a (as yet unnamed) Muslim leader of a Muslim African country with which Israel does not have diplomatic relations, and they have agreed to meet at a future date.
The JPost on Friday further shares reports that in recent months the prime minister met secretly in Tel Aviv with Somalia’s president, Hassan Sheikh Mohammud. (Netanyahu says this is not who he spoke to by phone this week.)
Here we have a video of a talk he gave in Kenya, on Tuesday, which provides a very good sense of how he has handled himself in Africa, and how he was received:
Following this, in Rwanda, he spoke of a painful shared heritage of genocide, and visited a memorial for the one million Tutsis killed in 1994. Incitement to murder precedes genocide, he cautioned. Take words seriously. Don’t rely on the international community, and have the capacity to defend yourself.
In Ethiopia, his last stop, he declared that:
“All African countries can benefit from renewed cooperation with Israel. Israel is coming back to Africa.”
Agreements on bi-lateral cooperation were signed, and he delivered an address to the Ethiopian parliament.Among those who came with him were Ethiopian-born MK Avraham Neguise (Likud – pictured) and Penina Tamano-Shata, lawyer and former MK.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn declared Ethiopia ready to back Israel’s bid for observer status in the African Union.
This is a status that will serve Israel well, diplomatically and politically. It provides an example of the sort of connections Netanyahu is seeking.
Israel, in her early years, had a strong relationship with several African nations. But this fell apart in the sixties, with the tensions of the Arab-Israeli conflict. By the 1970s, many African nations had broken ties with Israel and were firmly in the Arab camp. Israel is working hard to reverse this situation now – offering badly needed expertise in a variety of areas, from agriculture to water management to combatting terror, and looking for diplomatic support in international venues such as the UN.
And so, we are “looking up.”
But I want to close with another video that might be best thought of as bittersweet. Perhaps not the right word. Here is Orit, a daughter of Rabbi Micki Mark, who was killed by a terrorist this week. There is the terrible pain in her words, but, with it, an attitude that is so strong, so resilient and so remarkably free of bitterness that we cannot but be deeply moved. The world needs to see this.
Rabbi Mark’s wife, Chava, badly injured in the attack, has regained consciousness and is said to be getting stronger.
Also incredible: The family of Hallel Ariel got up from shiva (the week of mourning) on Thursday morning. Hallel’s parents – Rina and Amichai – then took themselves from Kiryat Arba, where they live, to Otniel, where the Mark family is still sitting shiva, to pay a condolence call. Out of their pain, they reached out to provide comfort. This is Israel.
“May there be peace within your walls….For my brothers and companions’ sake, I will say, Peace be within you!”
From Psalm 122.
There are many versions. I rather like this one:
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.
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