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“The Forces at Play” in the Palestinian Authority

‘Avenge’, ‘cycle’, ‘retaliation’, ‘disproportionate’.  Most media scripts of recent days could have been written by machines.  Three Israeli teenagers have been murdered, callously and ruthlessly.  Their abductions were barely covered by most of the non-Israeli press during the weeks in which they were missing.  But now that they have been confirmed dead the Western press really knows what to do and how to cover it.

As with the United Nations, and other international bodies, the story appears to start not when an outrage is perpetrated against Israelis but rather when Israel is thought to be considering a ‘response’.  So ‘calm’ was urged upon Israel by the UN while options were being ‘weighed up’.

And then we enter the period of ‘backlash’.

Unconnected to events in the West Bank, in recent days Israel has struck sites in the Gaza responsible for the ongoing barrage of rockets being fired into Southern Israel.  Does anyone other than Israel get accused of ‘pounding’ an enemy even when the action is targeted precision strikes?  Everything to do with Israel’s wars for security and survival is portrayed in this way.  And those in the West who are sanguine about this treatment when it is meted out to Israel need to reflect that this is the same situation in which they will find themselves when the time comes.

In the meantime, as we go through the latest replay of an endless media story it is all too easy to ignore the bigger movements which are going on behind this.  As we have often said here at HJS, the erasure of borders, the clarification of old alliances and revived fundamentalist hatreds are the real movements going on underneath the Middle East and North Africa region during this period.  And the events of recent days give a deep reminder of Israel’s long-term territorial questions.  ISIS – or the ‘Islamic State’ as it is now more simply known – is not only causing the Saudi Arabian army to mass on its own Iraqi border, but is attempting next to erase the borders of Jordan.  This should be a moment for specific clarity in a regional mess.

If the Palestinian Authority wants to achieve a state then it must show that its state would be law-abiding and peaceful.  In doing a unity deal with Hamas earlier this year, Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah showed that they were more interested in terror and annihilation than they were in peace. Fatah has tried to draw comparisons with the tragic murder of a Palestinian youth this week in Jerusalem to paint the Israeli government into a race to the bottom about which community should be more outraged. But this is nonsensical. Even if the worst fears are realised and extremist Israelis are found to have committed this act, the Israeli state cannot be held responsible for the acts of vigilantes. But the Palestinian Authority certainly can be for the behaviour of a constituent part of its leadership. And since Hamas is to blame for the killings of the Israeli teenagers, what does Fatah’s refusal to uncouple from it tell us?

Would a Hamas-Fatah state in the West Bank be a barrier to ISIS and ISIS-like organisations?  Or would it be a sponge for it?  Would it withstand the forces of the region or would it fall in step with them?  Given the responses of the Palestinian leadership in recent days, we have had an opportunity to stare into the future.  People often say that the window is closing on the two-state solution.  Unless something changes, this will become an inevitable conclusion.

IDF Raids Seek an American and Two Israelis Allegedly Abducted by Hamas

Saturday night, the IDF and Shin Bet arrested more than 80 Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad activists in Hebron in the disputed territories. This is in connection with the abduction of three youths, one American and two Israelis. The IDF has committed a paratroop brigade to the operation sealing off the area of the abduction. The IDF and Israel’s General Security Service (Shin Bet) launched a massive manhunt last Thursday for the alleged Hamas abductors of 16 year old American Naftali Frenkel and two Israelis, Gilad Shaar, 16 and Eyal Yifrach, 19. They were allegedly abducted while hitchhiking home from religious school in the Gush Etzion bloc between Bethlehem and Hebron.  According to a Washington Post report, one of the abductees got off a cell call saying, “we’ve been kidnapped”.

Hamas is believed to be behind their abduction.  At a Sunday Cabinet meeting, Israeli PM Netanyahu said:

Those who perpetrated the abduction of our youths were members of Hamas; the same Hamas that Abu Mazen (Abbas) made a unity government with. This has severe repercussions.

The WaPo report cited Israeli American Naftali Bennett, economics minister in the Netanyahu ruling coalition, saying: “We will respond with an iron fist to terror.”  Thousands of Israeli prayed for the safe return of the three youths at the Kotel, Western Wall, of the Temple in Jerusalem. The National Council of Young Israel in New York issued a call for a Prayer Service for the safe return outside the Israeli Consulate in Manhattan on Monday, June 16th. The announcement used the Twitter hashtag, #BringBackOurBoys.

Hamas issued a statement praising the abduction.   According to an updated report by The Daily Mail, Senior Hamas spokesperson, Sami Abu Zuhri in Gaza called the accusation by PM Netanyahu “silly”. Really?   While cooperating with the Palestinian security service, Israel also relies on their own resources in the West Bank to identify the abductors and the possible location of the three teens. This despite PA senior official Hanan Ashrawi cited  by The Daily Mail saying , “this is something we have no information on”.  However, what can you expect from the Palestinian unity government with Hamas.  Its Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah acknowledges that it has no control over Gaza.

Secretary of State Kerry issued a statement today saying:

The United States strongly condemns the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers and calls for their immediate release. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families. We hope for their quick and safe return home. We continue to offer our full support for Israel in its search for the missing teens, and we have encouraged full cooperation between the Israeli and Palestinian security services. We understand that cooperation is ongoing.

We are still seeking details on the parties responsible for this despicable terrorist act, although many indications point to Hamas’ involvement. As we gather this information, we reiterate our position that Hamas is a terrorist organization known for its attacks on innocent civilians and which has used kidnapping in the past.

Three Israelis? Frankel is a US citizen. The Daily Mail noted Frankel’s mother’s   public message to her son that reflected the concerns of many Israelis and Americans:

Mommy and Daddy and your brothers love you until the end of the world and you should know that the people of Israel are doing all they can to bring you back home.

Israelis and Americans are more than concerned about the fate of three abductees given prior occurrences, including former IDF Sgt. Gilad Shalit snatched during a cross border raid in 2006 and released in an exchange for more than 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in 2011.

Then there is the case of 13 year old Israeli American Koby Mandell and Israeli Yosef Ishran abducted and murdered while on a hike in the disputed territories near the Israeli settlement of Tekoa in May 2001. Mandell’s family had made Aliyah to Israel in the mid-1990’s. The US Congress passed the Koby Mandell Act in 2004 that authorized the Justice Department to arrest foreigners, including Palestinians, who had murdered Americans overseas.  The Koby Mandell Foundation was established in his memory to provide bereavement counseling to the parents and widows of terrorist victims.

In 2012, 52 members of Congress signed a letter sponsored by the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) urging the Department of Justice’s Office for Justice of Victims of Overseas Terrorism (OJVOT), which was formed in 2005, to implement The Koby Mandell Act.  Sarah Stern of EMET said that the letter was to “ensure that the investigation and prosecution of terrorist attacks against American citizens overseas remain a high priority within the Department of Justice.”  Z Street, of which this writer is a board member, was one of several sponsors of the EMET letter to prod Attorney General Holder to recognize the responsibilities of OJVOT.

Sherri Mandell in a Jerusalem Post oped during the EMET 2012 campaign cited the dismal OJVOT track record since the law’s enactment in 2004:

The OJVOT is supposed to investigate, apprehend, indict, extradite and punish terrorists. At least 54 American citizens have been killed, and 83 wounded here in Israel. Neither the OJVOT nor the Department of Justice has done anything to enforce American law in these cases. The only terrorist prosecuted under the law was the killer of a Christian missionary in Indonesia. I’m happy that the killers were prosecuted, but still one wonders. Why is there no communication, investigation, prosecution, or indictment here in Israel? The OJVOT is supposed to protect us. Instead it neglects us.

We sincerely hope the massive IDF-Shin Bet dragnet can free American Naftali Frenkel, Israelis Gilad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach and capture their abductors. In view of the abject failure of the US government to pursue justice for the families of the US victims in Israel and the disputed territories, we trust the Israeli government can bring these perpetrators to justice.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.

The Two-State Solution is Dead. Long live what?

Ted Belman, editor and publisher of the blog Israpundit writes: The Two-State Solution is dead.  All that remains is for the US to declare it so. Palestinians leaders and Israeli leaders have made it clear.

In a speech on Jan 10/14, Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud  Abbas made it crystal clear that he would never abandon the “right of return”, would never recognize Israel as a Jewish state and would never make a deal unless East Jerusalem was given to the Palestinians as their capital, all of which cross Israel’s red lines.

When the latest “peace process was getting started, Israeli leaders kept referring to Abbas as a moderate, contrary to the truth, and even referred to him as a partner in peace, also not the truth. No more.

Upon Israel’s release of the third batch of murderers in December and in response to the leaders of the PA celebrating them as heroes, PM Netanyahu said:

“Murderers are not heroes. [..] This is no way to educate toward peace. This is no way to make peace. Peace can be achieved only when the education toward incitement and toward the destruction of Israel is stopped. There will be peace only if our security and settlement interests are ensured. Peace will be established only if we could defend ourselves, by ourselves, against any threat.”

In the past week, Netanyahu, Yaalon and Bennett all criticized Abbas.

Netanyahu told VP Biden that recent comments by Abbas were proof that he does not want peace.

Min of Defense Boogie Yaalon said, Mahmoud Abbas “lives on our sword,” “Once we leave Judea and Samaria, he is finished. In fact, throughout the recent months, there is no negotiation between us and the Palestinians – but rather, between us and the Americans. The only thing that can ‘save’ us is that John Kerry will get a Nobel peace prize and leave us alone.” and “I live and breathe the conflict with the Palestinians, I know what they think, what they want and what they really mean,” he went on. “The American security plan that was presented to us is not worth the paper it was written on.”

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett denounced Abbas as “no different than Yasser Arafat,”

The fact that Yaalon was forced to apologize does not invalidate the truth of his remarks.

No doubt that Kerry is now looking for an exit strategy from his doomed efforts to force Israel to make concessions.

If not the Two-State Solution, then what?

Wm Galston writing in The New Republic on June 2011, said: “Benjamin Netanyahu offers no viable alternative to the status quo, and the opposition offers no viable alternative to Netanyahu. [..] The majority of Israelis actually seem comfortable to the point of complacency with today’s de facto truce and limited Palestinian autonomy.”

He was right. Netanyahu, Yaalon and many Israelis, though they prefer the Two State Solution on their terms, in its absence, are quite comfortable with maintaining the status quo.

But not everyone embraces the status quo. They fear Israel’s further isolation and deligitimation. They are clamouring to be pro-active rather than passive or defensive.

They all want to annex Judea and Samaria (West Bank) but differ on what to do with the Arabs that live there.

Deputy Minister of Transportation, MK Tzipi Hotovely recently said:

“The goal is for Judea and Samaria to be under Israeli sovereignty. It is ours and it was acquired legally in a bloody, defensive war. We must now implement the vision of the Greater Land of Israel and begin to apply sovereignty in all of the territory. This is the vision reflecting belief in the holy precept that the Land of Israel is ours and we have no right to revoke this precept. It is fidelity to the ideology of the Right and the religious public, which believes that this is our land.”

“We must begin a gradual process of 25 years under the heading of ‘annexation-naturalization’.”

‎” We must bear in mind that this is a hostile entity and it is impossible to ‎turn them into citizens overnight.”

Caroline Glick recently published her latest book, ‘The Israeli solution: A One State Plan for Peace in the Middle East’ arguing that whereas in Israel, the conversation has begun about alternatives to the ‘Two-State’ model, no such conversation is taking place in America. Instead American policy beginning with Nixon was and is to appease the PLO, now PA, at Israel’s expense.

“The only thing that should interest us is that Judea and Samaria is Israel,” she says and notes that even though providing the Palestinians with permanent residency and the right to apply for citizenship is not a perfect solution and will damage Israel on certain levels, “it is absolutely clear that it is better than establishing a Palestinian state. Such a state would be the ruin of Israel.”

Prof Martin Sherman, while totally supporting the annexation of Judea and Samaria, warns Glick and Hotovely, to “look before you leap” for reasons he makes clear.  He is adamantly against offering citizenship.

“Topping the list of bad ideas is the notion that, given the proven infeasibility of the two-state paradigm, Israel should extend its sovereignty over the entire area of Judea-Samaria and offer “immediate permanent residency to all its [Arab] Palestinian residents, as well as the right to apply for citizenship.” This is an approach so fraught with manifest disaster that it pains me that someone of the caliber of Caroline B. Glick, for whom I have the utmost regard and with whom I am seldom in disagreement, has chosen to advocate it.

“An almost childlike naiveté is required to entertain the belief that Israel could sustain itself as a Jewish nation-state with a massive Muslim minority of almost 40% – as the societal havoc that far smaller proportions have wrought in Europe indicate.”

Instead, he argues for a  “humanitarian solution” which envisages voluntary Arab emigration induced by generous compensation.

Glick rejects this and the Jordan Option as “irrelevant ideas that no one will accept, especially the Palestinians themselves.”

But were Sherman’s idea be adopted by the US and the EU, the conflict would be fully and finally solved in a decade.

Kerry for his part has resorted to threatening Israel with dire consequences should she not capitulate. In a November interview in Israel he said: “If we do not resolve the issues between Palestinians and Israelis, if we do not find a way to find peace, there will be an increasing isolation of Israel, there will be an increasing campaign of delegitimization of Israel that’s been taking place on an international basis,” In fact Governmental sources report that US Secretary of State John Kerry is behind the European boycott threats on Israeli products and companies operating in Judea, Samaria, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

At the Saban Conference in November, he said “Force cannot defeat or defuse the demographic time bomb.”

What Demographic Bomb

While the left, the EU and the USA continue to threaten Israel with claims that Israel is losing the demographic war, the opposite is the truth.  Amb (ret) Yoram Ettinger has been studying the demographics in Israel for a decade and has often written that the demographic trend supports Israel now in the foreseeable future. According to him, Jews outnumber Arabs from the river to the sea, excluding Gaza, by a 2:1 majority and the numbers will only get better.

But the Two-State Solution carries with it a real demographic bomb. If a  Palestinian state was created, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan would demand that the descendants of the original refugees now living in their countries, numbering now over 4 million, be returned to Palestine. If the PA gives up the “right of return”, and most of these “refugees” were to return to Palestine, both Palestine and Israel would be greatly destabilized. So much so, as to require no return to Palestine either.

Glick advises:

“I brief the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate several times every year. Each time I present this plan on Capitol Hill, the response borders on euphoria. In the United States, just as in Israel, there are millions of people who understand that the ‘Two-State’ solution is a disaster. They are just waiting for someone to tell them that they can abandon it. My book gives them, and the Israeli public as well, the alternative that they are waiting for.”

Let’s hope they adopt it.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.