Back in 2012, I warned a friend who was working on international trade issues: pay attention to what’s happening with the Palestinians at the UN, because it could cause problems for the U.S. on a wide range of issues, including the ones you deal with. I recall clearly his response, mainly because it was so patronizing. In essence, he told me: “don’t kid yourself – nobody is going to let a boutique issue like Israel-Palestine harm truly important U.S. interests (like trade).”

Now, five years later, President-elect Trump and his surrogates are dropping heavy hints about plans to break with longstanding U.S. positions vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in the direction of changes that both Israelis and Palestinians would view as turning away from a negotiated peace agreement. And like my friend in 2012, few people today seem to grasp the consequences – entirely unrelated to Israel and the Palestinians – such changes are set to unleash, or the profoundly negative implications they would have for all Americans.

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israeli-separation-barrier-Newsweek-AnatBenNun320x265With the election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States, speculation is running high in regard to Washington’s policy on Israeli settlement construction and the future of the Middle East peace process.

While many unpredictable variables are in place, one thing is certain—the viability of the two-state solution is at stake. After 50 years of occupation and as the point of no return grows closer, Trump’s administration is set to carry an even heavier responsibility on its shoulders than previous U.S. administrations.

When it comes to Trump’s settlement policy, I argue that instinctual assumptions of reckless Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank during his presidency may be misleading. Unfortunately, the likely alternative also contains substantial risks for the two-state solution.

Celebrating Trump’s election, the Israeli right-wing was single-minded. It was not worried about democratic values, nor was it concerned with pluralism or for the American Jewish community. Rather, it expected that starting from January 20, all restraints on settlement construction would be removed. Without restraints from either Trump or Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, continued settlement developments will create irreversible damage to the two-state solution.

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Peace Now Director Avi Buskila profiled in YNet

Buskila_YNet_profile_2016-320x265On October 21, the Israeli Hebrew-language daily Yedioth Ahronoth published a comprehensive interview and profile of Avi Bouskila, Peace Now’s new executive director. The interview was subsequently translated into English and published by Yedioth’s online service, Ynet. Following is a selection of quotes from the article. To read the feature in its entirety, click here.

 

“Avi Buskila, the new director of Peace Now, is the opposite of a stereotypical leftist leader: his parents emigrated from Morocco, he grew up in the periphery, and he served as a combat soldier in the IDF.”

 

"I won’t apologize for serving in the IDF longer than Naftali Bennett or for living in the periphery longer than Miri Regev,’ he says defiantly.”

 

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The New York Times: At the Boiling Point With Israel

If the aim of the Israeli government is to prevent a peace deal with the Palestinians, now or in the future, it’s close to realizing that goal. Last week, it approved the construction of a new Jewish settlement in the West Bank, another step in the steady march under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to build on land needed to create a Palestinian state.

The Obama administration, with every justification, strongly condemned the action as a betrayal of the idea of a two-state solution in the Middle East. But Mr. Netanyahu obviously doesn’t care what Washington thinks, so it will be up to President Obama to find another way to preserve that option before he leaves office.

The best idea under discussion now would be to have the United Nations Security Council, in an official resolution, lay down guidelines for a peace agreement covering such issues as Israel’s security, the future of Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees and borders for both states. The United Nations previously laid down principles for a peace deal in Resolution 242(1967) and Resolution 338 (1973); a new one would be more specific and take into account current realities. Another, though weaker, option is for Mr. Obama to act unilaterally and articulate this framework for the two parties.

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Lars Faaborg-Andersen in YNet: Why Israelis should not give up on peace

Op-ed: Tonight, on the International Day of Peace, EU Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen and his colleagues will be talking to Israelis at bars in Tel Aviv, Kfar Saba and Haifa, hoping to hear how they think peace can be achieved.
Today, September 21, is the International Day of Peace. This evening, my colleagues and I —the ambassadors of five EU countries—will be talking to ordinary Israelis at bars in Tel Aviv, Kfar Saba and Haifa about peace in this region and the role of the European Union in supporting it. We are looking forward to the conversation.

It is no secret that nowadays many Israelis have lost hope in the possibility of ever reaching a resolution to the conflict with their Palestinian neighbors and have adopted a fatalistic attitude. Many in Israel do not understand why the EU, among others, keeps pushing for something that appears to them to be unattainable.

We in the EU have no illusions that attaining peace between Israel and the Palestinians is an easy task. But we certainly do not think that it is an impossible task either. Indeed, compared to other conflicts in the region—from Syria to Libya—we believe that it is actually among the more resolvable conflicts. Moreover, there are very good reasons to encourage both Israel and the Palestinians to take confidence building steps, even small ones, that would gradually pave the way back to a credible peace process.

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9-Vnir-ori-withnameOn a trip to Israel last month, I visited a friend who runs a small store in downtown Jerusalem, my hometown. Outside, on the street, there were dozens of young American Birthright tourists. “Business must be hopping, with all these Birthrighters,” I said. “Not quite,” my friend replied. “Their parents send them here with pocket money, but stay home in the U.S., with their credit cards.”

To my dismay, he said that as he saw it, American Jews don’t care enough about Israel’s future. They see Israel as a Jewish Disneyland of sorts, a place where they go for its history, but they don’t do enough to secure Israel’s future as a liberal democracy. This is not an unusual view among Israelis.

Albeit blunt, over-generalizing and overstated, my Israeli storeowner friend has a point. Sure, American Jews don’t vote in Israel. They don’t serve in the IDF and don’t pay taxes. They don’t have as much of a stake and as much of a say in Israel’s future as Israeli citizens do. But they definitely could do more to advance peace, reconciliation and tolerance in Israel, particularly when upsetting things are being done in Israel in their name.

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Earlier this week, we called on Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, to speak out against Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement that demanding a future Palestinian state free of Israeli settlements is supporting “ethnic cleansing.” We called on our activists to urge these groups to speak up. The ADL’s CEO and national director Jonathan Greenblatt did just that in an excellent article in today’s digital edition of foreign policy.

We commend Greenblatt and the ADL for speaking up, and thank our activists for taking action. To urge other national Jewish groups to follow ADL’s suit click here.

 

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Since March, the California legislature has struggled to draft a bill aimed at thwarting BDS - the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.  As readers of these pages know, BDS is a movement that promotes South Africa-style boycott and divestment strategies to oppose Israel and its policies. For many of its supporters, BDS is a way to challenge the very legitimacy of the Jewish state.

After a torturous path of amendment and revision, the State legislature now has in AB 2844 something it thinks it can live with.  But the revised bill, however well-intentioned, remains seriously flawed.  Governor Brown should veto it.

Earlier versions of the bill would have created a list of companies that participate in BDS – defined to include boycotts targeting Israel or settlements – and prohibited companies on the list from becoming state contractors (a blacklist). After being cautioned by its own legal counsel that economic boycotts qualify as protected free speech under the First Amendment, the legislature abandoned its original scheme and converted AB 2844 into a generic anti-discrimination law.

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The New York Times: Israel Quietly Legalizes Pirate Outposts in the West Bank

Unauthorized settlements dot hilltops in the West Bank, and anti-settlement groups and Palestinians say retroactively legalizing them is a methodical effort to change the region’s map.

ISABEL KERSHNER

MITZPE DANNY, West Bank — One night in the fall of 1998, a self-professed “outpost entrepreneur” brought three trailers to a rugged hilltop in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and established his first pirate settlement.

Dozens of youthful supporters came to cheer on the entrepreneur, Shimon Riklin, whose wife, newborn and toddler joined him a few days later. A second family also moved in. To their initial surprise, nobody from the military or government came to remove them. “After six months,” Mr. Riklin said in a recent interview, “I understood it was a done deal.”

They named their outpost Mitzpe Danny, after a British immigrant stabbed to death by a Palestinian at the settlement across the highway, and went on over the next few months to help establish Mitzpe Hagit and then Neve Erez a short drive away. “I jumped from hill to hill,” Mr. Riklin said.

Today, more than 40 Orthodox Jewish families live in Mitzpe Danny, one of a string of outposts on a strategic ridge with breathtaking views southwest to Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives and east all the way to Jordan. They are part of an expansive network of about 100 outposts established mostly over the past two decades without government authorization.

At least one-third of these have either been retroactively legalized or — like Mitzpe Danny — are on their way, in what anti-settlement groups that track the process see as a quiet but methodical effort by the government to change the map of the West Bank, now in its 50th year under Israeli occupation, by entrenching the outposts that spread like fingers across it.

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The Washington Post: Israel wants to bulldoze this ramshackle village, but Europe is providing life support

 By William Booth,  August 28, 2016

For a quick reality check on the current stalemate in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there’s no better place to visit than this little village of miserable huts and sheep pens in the middle of nowhere.

The hamlet in the hills south of Hebron has become an improbable proxy in a cold war waged among Jewish settlers, the Israeli government, Western diplomats, peace activists and the 340 or so Arab herders who once inhabited caves on the site and now live in squalid tents.

Israel’s military authority in the West Bank wants to demolish the Palestinian community, contending that the ramshackle structures, made of old tires and weathered tarpaulins, were built without permits and must come down.

The Palestinian residents insist they are not squatters but heirs to the land they have farmed and grazed since the Ottoman era.

They say Israel wants to depopulate the area of Arabs and replace them with Jews.

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