Thursday, February 16

Trump and Netanyahu Meeting - Friendly Futility!

US President Donald Trump (R) welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a joint press conference at the White House in Washington, DC, February 15, 2017. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)
After watching the Trump-Netanyahu Joint Press Conference before the meeting between the two leaders, it became obvious that the conference was an exercise of “friendly futility”. The words of both PM Netanyahu and President Trump were a back-slapping exercise of a “budding friendship” and chemistry between the two leaders. There was no hint of any substance whatsoever apart from vague statements open to interpretation by a hungry bunch of press reporters seeking a scoop. A scoop -  it certainly was not apart from photo opportunities and lavish praise uttered between the two leaders for each other and Trump’s praise of Sarah Netanyahu for her “graciousness”.

President Donald Trump hinted to Netanyahu that he should “hold back” on settlements. Netanyahu promised to “examine” that issue. There was no commitment on either side, just vague, meaningless statements. Netanyahu was obviously minding his p’s and queues. He did not wish to say anything that would antagonize his extremist right wing flank led by Naftali Bennett, Leader of the extremist right wing party, Habayit Hayehudi, back home. No mention was made of the Two-State Solution. Trump somehow saved the day by saying that he will go with any solution, one-state or two-state depending on what the parties to the conflict want. Trump has no knowledge of the conflict at all or at best, a very superficial knowledge. Maybe it is better that way. President Trump is very unpredictable in any case and even if he would “close a deal” he may change his mind later because of a personal whim or fancy.

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump rejected the long-established US framework for Middle East peacemaking at a White House visit with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday as he announced his desire to reach "the ultimate deal." 1

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters at a press briefing on Wednesday that he asked U.S. President Donald Trump in their meeting to have the U.S. recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel. 2

What was significant in this Joint Press Conference was what was not even mentioned. There was no mention of the resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who had misled the White House over his phone calls with the Russian ambassador to Washington. According to press reports, it was Flynn that helped organize the Trump-Netanyahu meeting. The cozy and admiring relationship between Trump and Putin also raises questions. Is it possible that Putin knows something about Trump that if revealed could result in Trump’s downfall? Time will tell. Putin of Russia is a wily and ruthless leader. He has well honed skills from his experience in the KGB.  

President Donald Trump said he would support the peace agreement Israel and Palestinians "like the best" in a joint press conference during which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu railed against Palestinian efforts to reach a deal. 3

In the biggest blow to Mr. Trump's nascent presidency, his National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigned after it emerged he held secret talks with Russia before entering the White House. 4

General Flynn's resignation also raises further questions about the Trump administration's intentions towards Vladimir Putin's Russia, including statements by the president suggesting moral equivalence between the United States and Russia,” Arizona Sen. John McCain said in a statement Tuesday. 5

The whole Trump-Netanyahu meeting appears to be a shallow show of meaningless platitudes uttered between the two leaders in order to satisfy those whose ears are tuned to what they wanted to hear.

An Israeli press reporter asked a question about the increase of anti-Semitic incidents on President Trump’s watch so far. While Trump did not deny the racism issue, he did not make any mention of anti-Semitism. Was he skirting the anti-Semitic issue because he did not wish to antagonize his anti-Semitic supporters, some of whom are in his administration? He skirted the issue in a way that satisfied everybody by making statements that the American people are very divided and under his watch and that “we will see a lot of love”.  

President Trump is a successful businessman and tycoon. He views the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict as nothing more his desire to reach “the ultimate deal” in which his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, will be a partner (mediator). A One-State or Two-State Solution makes no difference to him. As long as it is the “Art of the Deal”, it looks as if we have no room for any form of optimism even with improvement of Israel’s relationship with the Arab States as Netanyahu claims.

It appears that the Trump-Netanyahu meeting is nothing but a back-slapping, supercilious charade with no substance that can raise our hopes for peace between Israel and its Palestinian neighbours.

2.15 Feb. 2017, Accessed 16 Feb. 2017.

Friday, February 10

The Knesset Fascists pass the "The Theft Bill"

The third and final reading of the “Theft Bill” was passed by 60 - 52 votes in the Knesset. This odorous bill is now on its way of legalizing theft of privately owned Palestinian lands for the establishment of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. In other words, there will be no more evacuations of settlements and outposts by Supreme Court order if a Palestinian landowner has proof that the outposts and settlements were built on privately owned land as in the case of recently evacuated Amona.
Israeli parliament members vote during a Constitution, Law, and Justice,
Committee meeting

The Regulation Law:The law legalizes and protects thousands of Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria which were built with government backing and lacked absentee land claims, but against which there are now property claims.

Under the Regulation Law, homes built on such properties will be allowed to remain, and owners with proven claims to the land will be given a choice of receiving an alternate plot of land or monetary compensation for 125% of their land's value”.

The amazing situation is that Israel has the power of jurisdiction over the Palestinian land owner in the occupied territories according to this law.

There is another viewpoint that claims that the Regulation Law does not contravene International or Israeli Law. According to several leading legal scholars, the “Regulation Law” does not contradict Israeli law, and precedents both inside and outside Israel can be invoked to justify its passage within the context of international law.

This is an extremist right wing Bayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home Party) attempt to weaken the Supreme Court and strengthen the settler movement as well as destroying any attempt to reach a peace agreement based on the Two-State Solution (which is moribund).

This very controversial Regulation Law has been condemned not only by the Israeli left of center political parties, but also by many members of the Likud Party. Even PM Benjamin Netanyahu is aware of the dangers that this law presents to Israel in International World forums including the Secretary General of the UN. Even the Attorney-General, Avichai Mandelblit, has stated that the law is illegal and he will not support it.

This move to pass the Regulation Law was a political move from the right and PM Netanyahu was sucked in by Bayit Hayehudi leader, Naftali Bennett, (who Netanyahu dislikes and fears) on his extremist right wing flank to put his weight behind this law. Netanyahu did not participate in this vote as he was on a plane returning to Israel from London.

The French statement came shortly after the United Kingdom issued a condemnation of the law; a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with British Prime Minister Theresa May in London, saying that the legislation damages Israel's international standing.1

If ICC prosecutors take their duties seriously, the legalization law significantly raises the pressure on them to put Israeli officials – even Mr. Netanyahu – on trial for complicity in the war crime of establishing and nurturing the settlements.2

If members of the Likud Party as well as the official opposition express opposition to this odious law then it is obvious that this law is against the interests of Israel. With the “theft law,” to quote Likud Knesset member Benny Begin, about to be voted on in Jerusalem, Netanyahu did not dare divulge the contents of his talk with British PM Theresa May about the UN resolution condemning the occupation in general and the land-grabbing settlement enterprise in particular.3

Many Knesset members in the ruling government coalition are not really as patriotic as they appear to be on the surface. They are interested in remaining in power even if it means being tools in the passing of laws that are populist in order to gain support from the various settler movements in the occupied territories. Netanyahu views Bennett and his gang as a threat to his power base and he will do what he can to prevent his support base from moving towards the Bayit HaYehudi Party.

It is hoped that the Supreme Court will examine this odious piece of legislation and annul it. This is the only hope that we in Israel have of getting this law out of the statute book.

A Foreign Ministry document approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and obtained by The Jerusalem Post tells foreign capitals: “The [settlement regulation] law will be reviewed by the Supreme Court.”4

There is no doubt that this right wing Government Coalition is the most polarizing government since Israel’s establishment. Most of its members pander to the most basic racist mentality in Israeli society in its widest context. The hatred for Arabs, prejudice towards those who do not believe in the official government line is viewed as traitors and as potential Fifth Column that needs to kept under observation. Even culture is moving towards strait jacketing under Israel’s Minister of Culture and Sport, Miri Regev. She “punishes” cultural activity if it is avante garde politically by threatening to remove financial subsidies for their activities on a personal basis.

Democracy in Israel is about to be subjected to a very rough ride and the definition of traitor will be a very wide definition indeed. Beware! “Trumpism” is on the rise!

  1.  7 Feb. 2017, Accessed 10 Feb. 2017.
  2.  7 Feb. 2017, Accessed 10 Feb. 2017.
  3. 9 Feb. 2017, Accessed 10 Feb. 2017.
  4. 9 Feb. 2017, Accessed 10 Feb. 2017.

Saturday, February 4

The Evacuation of Amona

“Thou shalt Not Steal” Exodus 20:15

The evacuation of Amona has been achieved over the past few days. Most of the 41 families, who lived on this outpost, were evacuated by the police without any violent resistance. The police carried out a High Court order for the evacuation of this outpost on legal grounds that it was built on stolen Palestinian land. It may not be a happy day for those illegal settlers, who were evicted, but certainly a happy day for Israel that still holds the decisions of the Israeli Supreme Court as legally binding, beyond ruling party coalition government desires.

In a ruling that caused outrage in Israel, in 2014 the Supreme Court found that Amona, a settlement built on private Palestinian land, was illegally constructed, and ordered its demolition.1

The resistance and violence against the police, who carried out their duties was committed by skull capped, earlocked(peyot)
Violence against evacuation
and fringes (tzitziit)-wearing hooligans also known as the “hilltop youth”, who do not live in Amona, only arrived to cause violence and destruction. This is the same rabble that carried out attacks against Palestinians and their property as well as setting fire to mosques and churches.

They injured dozens of police members with stones, bars and chains. These “religious” hooligans were treated with kid gloves and this explains the high amount of injuries suffered by members of the police force in carrying out the court order for the evacuation of Amona. These hooligans were bussed away to neighboring Ofrah, where they smashed bus windows and jumped out of the bus creating havoc. These hoodlums should have been taken into custody and brought to justice. Can you imagine what the police would do to Palestinians, who behaved in this manner?

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said some 3,000 police officers were operating “carefully and slowly” to evacuate the Amona settlement ahead of its court-ordered demolition — in stark contrast to their heavy-handed approach to knocking down Palestinian homes.2

Those responsible for the Amona debacle were not the settlers, but Likud coalitions, present and past, who gave carte blanche to settle on Palestinian owned land in order to strengthen the settler enterprise in the occupied territories, rendering the two-state solution not viable. They had stopped short of giving official permission to build on Palestinian land.The settlers, imbued with right wing ideology over Greater Israel, have been living in Amona for more than twenty years. It boggles the mind how the government of Israel had turned a blind eye to building this outpost and many others for so many years. This should never have happened.
Israeli policemen clash with protesters during the evacuation of Amona, on Wednesday. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

In desperation, the government wishes to pass a law preventing the further evacuation of outposts built on Palestinian-owned land called the Regulation Bill that basically legalizes theft of Palestinian land for building outposts for Israeli settlement. This Bill is about to have its final third reading before being passed into law. The Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has expressed his opposition to this bill on the grounds that it is illegal.

It appears that Amona was evacuated before this contentious Regulation Bill was made into law. If the the bill is passed, it will weaken the High Court and the rule of law in Israel. This will be a threat to Israel’s democracy and will open the door for further bills to be enacted in order to suit the ideology of the right wing government and to weaken opposition to bills destined to erode democracy in order to suit the political platform of the ruling Likud Coalition.

"There is a use of the Amona issue to hide the Israeli decision to build another 3,000 new housing units, [part of a plan] to divide the West Bank in two, surround Jerusalem, and prevent any opportunity for a Palestinian state and the option of two state solution."3

Al-Ayyam said in this regard Israeli occupation authorities evacuated settlers from 40 caravans in Amona outpost, noting that the evacuation served as a smokescreen for Israel's plan to construct 3,000 new units in settlements across the West Bank.4

Now with the new Trump Administration in place, it remains to be seen if the present right wing Government Coalition will get support from the new administration for the settler enterprise in the occupied territories. To date the issue has been treated with “soft-serve” by the new Trump Administration. To date their attitude towards the settlement enterprise in the occupied territories is that it is not an obstacle for peace, but continuing to build new settlements or enlarging existing ones may be an obstacle to peace in which case it is not encouraged even by the new Trump Administration.   

  1. 1. 2 Feb. 2017, Accessed 3 Feb. 2017.
  2. Accessed 3 Feb. 2017.
  3. 2 Feb. 2017, Accessed 4 Feb. 2017.
  4. 2 Feb. 2017, Accessed 3 Feb. 2017.

Tuesday, January 31

The Unpredictability and Sanity of President Donald Trump

Now that Donald Trump is the new president of the United States, many voters in the US and people all over the world are beginning to question the sanity and unpredictability of the new president. There have been a large number of articles on the net written by psychologists of all specialties on President Donald Trump’s sanity.

Naturally those who support Trump blindly in the desperate hope of radical change in the US from the previous Obama Administration were jubilant at his winning the presidential election. Many Trump supporters are accusing the media of a witch-hunt and the left inclined voters of mass hysteria against him. They view Trump as almost a godsend for the people of the US. He has made many promises of making America great once again after the “foreign countries have bled America dry” because of billions of dollars spent on help to foreign countries by the previous administration. Trump, in his inauguration speech, has stated that this aid will stop. The big question is: Will this sweeping statement apply to the billions of dollars aid that the previous administration has given to Israel’s security? Will Israel be exempted from Trump’s blanket statement on US foreign aid? There are no answers to these questions, especially from a president that is very unpredictable and of questionable sanity.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Friday that put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily barred travelers from Syria and six other countries.1 

These seven countries are listed under section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12) of the U.S. code, and it is this code that Trump's executive order cited while banning citizens of those nations. 2

Who would have thought that President Trump would override the Constitution in his desire to sign an order to close all airports to entry of Muslim citizens of the US on their return from oversea, including their families and travelers who have visas and are legally entitled to entry into the US? The acting Attorney General of the US, Sally Bates, was fired for speaking out against Trump’s travel ban and not because of the change from previous Obama Administration to the present Trump Administration. Trump pundits will say that she was relieved of her post because of change in the administration from Obama to Trump. This is not the case here. She questioned the legality of the Executive Order signed by Trump. It is obvious that if you question Trump’s Executive Orders, whether you are a Trump appointee or not you will be on the firing line. Below is her letter to the Justice Department Attorneys on Trump’s Travel Ban:

“On January 27, 2017, the President signed an Executive Order regarding immigrants and refugees from certain Muslim-majority countries. The order has now been challenged in a number of jurisdictions. As the Acting Attorney General, it is my ultimate responsibility to determine the position of the Department of Justice in these actions.

My role is different from that of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), which, through administrations of both parties, has reviewed Executive Orders for form and legality before they are issued. OLC’s review is limited to the narrow question of whether, in OLC’s view, a proposed Executive Order is lawful on its face and properly drafted. Its review does not take account of statements made by an administration or it surrogates close in time to the issuance of an Executive Order that may bear on the order’s purpose. And importantly, it does not address whether any policy choice embodied in an Executive Order is wise or just.

Similarly, in litigation, DOJ Civil Division lawyers are charged with advancing reasonable legal arguments that can be made supporting an Executive Order. But my role as leader of this institution is different and broader. My responsibility is to ensure that the position of the Department of Justice is not only legally defensible, but is informed by our best view of what the law is after consideration of all the facts. In addition, I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right. At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the Executive Order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the Executive Order is lawful.

Consequently, for as long as I am the Acting Attorney General, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of the Executive Order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so.”
President Donald Trump proudly showing his signature to the executive order -the Travel Ban

The travel ban has caused much pain and difficulty for innocent Muslim travelers (many of whom are US Citizens and many non-citizens have legal visas for entry into the US) and their families at airports all over the US. The excuse - they compromise US security by being Muslims who happen to be born in the 7 Muslim States that have been blacklisted by Trump as security threats. The US has every right to screen people from countries that are a terror threat to the US before granting them visas of entry. However, once they have been screened and granted visas, it is unacceptable morally to refuse them entry on the grounds of their religious denomination. This applies to refugees as well.

Moreover, a report released this week shows that Muslim Americans with family backgrounds in those seven countries have killed no Americans over the last 15 years.
Twenty-three percent of the Muslim Americans involved with violent extremist plots since Sept. 11, 2001, had family backgrounds in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen, according to a Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security report released this week. None of those plots resulted in American deaths.
Similarly, none of the 19 plane hijackers on 9/11 were from any of those seven countries. 

What about Mexico and the security wall that Trump wishes to build with Mexican money to keep Mexicans out?

The president of Mexico has canceled a state visit to Washington, and prominent Mexican leaders say that Trump's border wall plans “could take us to a war — not a trade war.”3 

Can you imagine what would happen if Israel built a security fence using Palestinian Tax money for that purpose? Even Israel never stooped to that low level. The cherry on the Mexican cake is PM Bibi Netanyahu’s tweet supporting Trump’s decision on the wall. Mexico’s Foreign Minister called in Israel’s Ambassador for a dressing down over the matter.    

PM Netanyahu should not have sent the tweet on this matter It was unnecessary and in very bad taste.

It appears that the Government Coalition in Israel is ecstatic over President Trump. The fact that he appears sympathetic to the right wing settler enterprise in the occupied territories and his declaration of moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem is lovely music to the present Israeli leadership. They expect a carte blanche from the Trump Administration to do what they like in the territories. Even the new incoming US Ambassador, David Friedman, is on record as supporting the settler movement by donations in his own private capacity. What the Israeli leadership does not seem to take into consideration is the unpredictability of President Donald Trump.

President Donald Trump must be treated with suspicion by Israel as he is not what he seems to be. There are many faces to Trump. A healthy, discreet distance between the Israeli Government and the Trump Administration will be a positive direction. His macabre relationship with President Vladimir Putin of Russia is also ominous. He will be ruling America as if it is his own business enterprise. 


Thursday, January 5

Elor Azaria, the Israeli Soldier - a Hero or Criminal?

The biggest military trial in Israel’s history has ended with a verdict. Sgt. Elor Azaria has been found guilty of manslaughter in a Military Court, on 4th January 2017. The verdict was surrounded by much controversy in Israel and it has shown up the divisions in Israeli society. The verdict is a reasonable verdict, and is just short of cold blooded murder.

It was a trial overshadowed by politics and many members of the ruling government coalition expressed support for the convicted soldier right throughout the trial for the purpose of scoring populist points with the electorate. It was wrong and unjustifiable for the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to even contact the parents of Elor Azaria to express his sympathy. This was obviously a populist move to rabble rouse the right wing in order to increase support for his coalition.
Elor was filmed by B’tzelem shooting a prone Palestinian terrorist, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, who had stabbed a fellow soldier before being neutralized. About 11 minutes after al-Sharif was lying neutralized on the ground, Azaria decided to take revenge for the stabbing of a fellow soldier by shooting a bullet into the terrorist’s head. Despite Azaria’s claims that he felt that his life (Azaria’s) was endangered by the fact that the terrorist may have explosives and endangered the lives of fellow soldiers. Apart from that, is there any logic shooting a prone terrorist who may have an explosive vest as Elor claimed in his trial? If this was the case, he should have warned his fellow soldiers that their lives were endangered before shooting.

The attitude towards the shooting of the terrorist by Elor Azaria by the previous Minister of Defense, Moshe Yaalon, had cost him his portfolio.

The presiding judge, Col. Maya Heller, unraveled version after version of Azaria’s testimony, and claim after claim made by his attorneys. Her ruling was unequivocal, and had the backing of the other judges on the military court panel. One of them, Lt. Col. Yaron Sitbon, is a combat officer who today commands the army’s anti-terror unit. The only plausible conclusion is that the prosecution’s charge of manslaughter against Azaria was proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

The result was the violent reaction of the crowd outside the military court. It was so disgraceful and all the extreme right wing scumbags started chanting threatening the judge, press and TV of influencing the verdict as well as the IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot. All the racist scum arrived from all over the country to demonstrate and to support the convicted soldier. La Familia of Betar Soccer Club, Jerusalem, extreme right wing supporters of the Late Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Kach movement, Benzi Gopstein the leader of Lehava, Baruch Marzel (who shook Elor’s hand after he shot the terrorist). To this extremist right wing, racist rabble, Elor Azaria is a hero, who was wrongly convicted of manslaughter. He was saving his fellow soldiers from being stabbed by the prone terrorist. The reaction of the Government Coalition to this hate rhetoric from the demonstrators was relatively mild.

The IDF orders of firing a weapon is for neutralizing those who endanger the lives of others. Many Palestinian terrorists were killed in their stabbing sprees against innocent civilians in order to save lives. Nobody, apart from Palestinian terrorist groups and their pundits, condemn the use of firearms to kill terrorists in action. This was not the case of Elor Azaria, whose act was nothing but an act of vengeance as was proved by the military court.

Despite that, many Israelis believe that Azaria is a hero and did what was required of him in order to save lives. Even Israel’s cabinet members, PM Netanyahu, Education Minister, Naftali Bennett, Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman have expressed views that Elor should be pardoned for what he did. Even on the so-called left, Shelly Yachimovich has expressed the populist view of pardoning Elor Azaria. It would have been prudent of them not to comment or get involved apart from stating that they accept the court judgment and allow matters to take their course according to the law of the land without political involvement. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he supports a pardon for Sergeant Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier convicted of shooting and killing a Palestinian attacker who had been disarmed and was lying on the ground.1

Killing a shackled prisoner, neutralized terrorist, or any criminal in custody is an offense and this case is no different. IDF Protocol is very specific about when to fire a weapon. The right wing extremists accuse those who agree with IDF protocol on using a firearm as being treacherous. They seem to have a bloodlust.

The hype surrounding the Elor Azaria case and its political overtones have done much harm to the IDF, democracy and freedom of the courts that also ensures the freedom of all Israelis. The demonstration of the rabble rousing scum outside the military court has done nothing but harmed Israel.