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After raising some pro-Israel concerns early in his campaign by saying that he would remain “neutral” in navigating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, President Donald Trump has increasingly taken positions that mirror the Israeli government’s views, including his vows to dismantle the Iran nuclear deal and move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But upon his Jan. 20 inauguration, Trump’s emerging Cabinet contains a mix of assurances and mysteries when it comes to the officers’ pro-Israel credentials. JNS.org examines the Israel-relevant records of six Trump Cabinet nominees and one appointee with Cabinet-level status.
While the change of presidential administration in Washington may strengthen Israel's diplomatic position for the immediate period, and while the Palestinians will have to get to the back of the line in terms of international priorities, the Palestinian question itself will not disappear. We can assume that if President-elect Donald Trump does a 180-degree turn on President Barack Obama's approach to the Israelis, the narrative of the Palestinians—ignored by America, facing 50 years of "occupation" under Israel—will become emblematic of public resistance to the foreign policies of the Trump administration, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
American victims of Palestinian terrorism are applauding Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson’s criticism of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and are urging him to press the PA to take specific anti-terror steps. During his Senate confirmation hearing, Tillerson said that while the PA has renounced terrorism, "it's one thing to renounce it and another thing to take serious actions to prevent it." He also said Palestinian leaders have to do "something to at least interrupt or prevent [terrorism]" before there can be "any productive discussion around settlements.” Sarri Singer, who was seriously wounded in a June 2003 Jerusalem bus bombing, said she is “encouraged” by Tillerson’s comments and urged Tillerson to press the PA to honor the 36 requests Israel has submitted for the extradition of Palestinian terrorists. Arnold Roth, whose teenage daughter Malka was killed in the 2001 Sbarro pizzeria bombing in Jerusalem, said he hopes the incoming Donald Trump administration will “actively pressure” the PA to reform its educational system.
In the aftermath of the Obama administration’s refusal to veto the U.N. resolution against Israel's settlement policy, Israeli political figures are increasingly mulling the idea of annexing the West Bank and implementing a “one-state solution” during the incoming Donald Trump era. “The U.N. resolution destroyed any residual chance there might have been to achieve peace with the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization),” said Caroline Glick, an influential Israeli-American columnist and author of the book “The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East.” Eli Hazan—director of communications and international relations for Israel’s ruling Likud party—said that despite how Trump’s victory is “raising hopes and expectations on the right regarding government policy in Judea and Samaria,” he believes “the status quo will continue despite all the talk.”
On an unseasonably warm Friday, the tune of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” drew more than a hundred baseball fans to an empty lot in Beit Shemesh, a small town nestled in the hills outside Jerusalem. In a country where Little League Baseball is unheard of and Cracker Jack snacks are nonexistent, this was no typical weekend in the Jewish state. Jan. 6 marked the groundbreaking for the new Beit Shemesh Baseball Complex, which will be Israel’s fourth major baseball field. The excitement was palpable for an event attended by 10 current and former American-Jewish Major League Baseball players who will represent Team Israel at the March 2017 World Baseball Classic. Many in the crowd recently immigrated to Israel. Jewish National Fund (JNF) spreads awareness for the sport in Israel through its Project Baseball initiative, a relevant endeavor for American immigrants. “This initiative gives children who have made aliyah a taste of home and an opportunity to get close to their Israeli peers,” said Eric Michaelson, JNF’s chief Israel officer.
The incoming Donald Trump presidency likely means a sharp break from President Barack Obama’s foreign policy. For Egypt and Jordan, the only two Arab countries that have peace treaties with Israel and two of the most reliable U.S. allies in the Middle East, the Trump administration will provide new opportunities and challenges going forward on issues such as Islamic extremism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the status of Jerusalem. JNS.org interviews Mideast experts about prospects for the region's future dynamics during the Trump era, including how American policy might affect relations between Israel and Arab states.
Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center will be giving a benediction at Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration ceremony Jan. 20. Liberal Jews are petitioning Hier to decline the honor. In how many nation-states outside of Israel would a rabbi be asked to give the benediction at the swearing-in of a national leader? Perhaps if Jewish liberals began with this question, they might understand the sheer obscenity of what they are demanding. Fortunately, Hier understands the historical and political significance of the honor bestowed not just upon him, but also upon Judaism as a religion, writes columnist Abraham H. Miller.
A former State Department official’s new plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace is the latest in a long series of Foggy Bottom proposals for a Mideast solution that went nowhere. Writing on the op-ed page of The New York Times Jan. 5, former Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk argued that dividing control of Jerusalem between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is the key to “moving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process forward.” JNS.org's Rafael Medoff recounts 10 major State Department proposals for Israeli-Arab peace.
Jewish leaders are criticizing a former U.S. diplomat for using what they say is “dehumanizing rhetoric” in his denunciation of Israeli settlements. David A. Korn, who served at American embassies in the Middle East and Africa, ignited the controversy with a Jan. 3 letter in the Washington Post, in which he wrote that “settlements speckle the area like a rash.” Rabbi Dr. Irving (Yitz) Greenberg, former chair of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, said, “I favor a two-state solution, but I strongly object to the demonization of the settlers and the tarring of all of them with the brush of a marginal few fanatics.” Korn said it is “ridiculous” for Jewish leaders to consider his rhetoric offensive, telling JNS.org that he is “not going to apologize to anyone.”
In his recent speech about Israel and the Palestinians, Secretary of State John Kerry unfairly blamed Israel and minimized Palestinian violence. But he also did something else: he grievously dishonored the African-American civil rights movement, just weeks before Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Kerry charged that Israeli policies are creating “segregated enclaves” for Palestinians and a “separate but unequal” system for Israelis and Palestinians. Yet he got it exactly backwards. It is the Palestinians, not Israel, whose behavior is similar to the segregationists of America’s civil rights era, writes JNS.org columnist Stephen M. Flatow.
A leading Palestinian spokesperson is telling American television audiences that she rejects the concept of Islamic countries—but an investigation by JNS.org has found that the largest donors to the organization she heads are self-described Islamic countries. The controversy began with a recent CNN appearance by Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, who has served as a spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority (PA) to American audiences for more than two decades. CNN anchor Don Lemon asked Ashrawi whether the Palestinians are willing “to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.” Ashrawi replied, “If you want to give religion to states, that is against our principles.” Her statement, however, appears to contradict an official PA document that states, “Islam is the official religion in Palestine.”
The onset of 2017 comes several weeks before President-elect Donald Trump takes office, ushering in a new era in the U.S.-Israel relationship. The new year and new administration bring intrigue and unanswered questions on a number of major storylines that could shape the complexion of American-Israeli ties both this year and for years to come. JNS.org presents five potential major developments to watch for this year.
The timing of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s so-called farewell speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seemed to stem largely from “personal animosity” between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and obsessively focused on Israeli settlements while ignoring illegal Palestinian construction in the West Bank, Middle East experts told JNS.org's Sean Savage.
While Secretary of State John Kerry was addressing the media Dec. 28 in Washington, D.C.—castigating Israel for criticizing the Obama administration’s refusal to veto the United Nations Security Council resolution against Israeli settlements—a different crowd took the streets of New York City to protest America’s inaction on the U.N. measure. Organized by the New York-based Jewish Voice newspaper, the rally outside the U.S. Mission to the U.N. featured speaker after speaker deriding President Barack Obama and Kerry for the administration’s policy, while encouraging attendees to remain strong and to stand with the Jewish state.
Several Jewish organizations and leaders are expressing alarm over former U.S. diplomat Martin Indyk’s role in the Obama administration’s recent Israel policy moves. Indyk was President Barack Obama’s envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in 2013-2014, and reliable Washington sources report that the maps and proposals he formulated in recent years are still central to Obama’s strategy for the Palestinian issue. Now, several Jewish organizations are urging Indyk to clarify whether or not he made a series of harsh remarks about Israel and Jews in a tape-recorded private conversation in 1989. In that conversation, Indyk reportedly said Israelis are “paranoid,” “arrogant,” and think that “the rules of society do not apply [to them]” because “they are the goy’s rules.”
As chair of The Judy Fund, film producer Elizabeth Gelfand Stearns channels Jewish values and personal experience in her work to motivate action in support of people dealing with Alzheimer’s disease. The Judy Fund is the fastest-growing private fund in the history of the Alzheimer’s Association, raising more than $6 million to support Alzheimer’s research and public policy initiatives. “Both my mother and father made giving a priority, thus my siblings and I had great role models exemplifying the core concepts of tikkun olam (repairing the world),” Stearns told JNS.org. “The Judy Fund is a fine example of the impact that one family can have on millions to help repair the world.” Stearns was the co-producer of “Still Alice,” which earned Julianne Moore the Academy Award for Best Actress and has been an important conversation starter for Stearns’s organization and for the Alzheimer’s community in general.
Like many others, JNS.org columnist Stephen M. Flatow sat at his computer with baited breath Wednesday waiting for Secretary of State John Kerry to explain the background to the U.S. abstention on last week’s United Nations Security Council vote. There were so many things wrong with what Flatow calls Kerry’s farewell anti-Israel speech—spending 45 minutes on settlements, and 45 seconds on terrorism; claiming the Palestinians “live under Israeli military occupation” when 98 percent of them live under the Palestinian Authority; condemning Israeli construction even within Jerusalem. But if he needs to choose the one aspect that bothered him the most, Flatow picks Kerry's false moral equivalence.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry slammed the Israeli government over settlement building, warning that the two-state solution is “in jeopardy,” in a lengthy speech Wednesday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu swiftly called “almost as unbalanced” as the United Nations Security Council’s recent anti-settlement resolution. “If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or Democratic, it cannot be both, and it won’t ever really be at peace,” Kerry said in his speech, which lasted an hour and a half and detailed the outgoing Obama administration’s vision for Mideast peace. Netanyahu expressed “deep disappointment” in how Kerry blamed Israeli policy for the conflict and merely “paid lip service” to the unrelenting terrorism waged against the Jewish state.
President-elect Donald Trump, who frequently takes pride in his track record as a negotiator, this week named one of his campaign's Israel advisers as the incoming administration’s special representative for international negotiations. Real estate transactions lawyer Jason Dov Greenblatt, who alongside U.S. ambassador to Israel appointee David Friedman co-chaired the Trump campaign’s Israel Advisory Committee, earned high praise from Trump in the president-elect’s announcement of his White House role. “He has a history of negotiating substantial, complex transactions on my behalf, as well as the expertise to bring parties together and build consensus on difficult and sensitive topics,” Trump said in a statement on Greenblatt, who has worked for The Trump Organization since 1997.