Posts Tagged ‘Israeli-Palestinian conflict’

Middle East Peace: Envisioning a Better Future — Trump Must Stop Iran. Israel and the Palestinians Must Make a Lasting Deal.

April 5, 2018

It is possible that if Iran withdraws and begins enriching uranium to military grade levels, the “fire and fury” Trump once threatened North Korea with, will be diverted to Iran.

 APRIL 5, 2018 11:13

The Jerusalem Post

 Imagine a world in which Syria still had its nuclear reactor today

 Netanyahu’s public demonstration of indecisiveness, bad policy

Calm, poised and a steady hand

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque. (photo credit: REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE)

May is going to be quite the month for US President Donald Trump. At some point in the coming weeks, he is expected to sit down for a historic tête-à-tête with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un. Around the same time, on May 12, he will come up against the deadline for the Iran nuclear deal.

And then there is the planned transfer of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on May 15 as well as a proposal to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the White House has been working on for the past year. While the Palestinians’ recent anti-American rhetoric made it seem like the proposal had been shelved, the administration is claiming that the plan is still in the works. When will it be presented? That remains to be seen.

At Press conference with Mogherini, Netanyahu predicts Europeans following Trump on Jerusalem embassy move (Reuters)

Even for Trump – a man who prides himself on being a brilliant deal-maker – this is a lot to handle.

Most presidents would choose one or two massive foreign policy challenges of similar scale to tackle throughout their entire presidency, let alone in the span of just a few weeks.

For Israel, the issue of utmost concern right now is Iran. On the one hand, there is complete agreement within Israel’s defense and political echelons that the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran is bad. It gave the Iranians astounding financial breaks and left them with almost all of their nuclear infrastructure in place. Once the deal’s sunset clauses kick in, Iran’s breakout time to a bomb will be just a few weeks.

On the other hand, there is no arguing the fact that the deal has given Israel a respite. Just a few years ago, the government appeared on the verge of ordering an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. With that threat postponed, the IDF has been able to spend the last few years honing its capabilities ahead of an eventual confrontation while investing in other fronts and needs.

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a vocal proponent of seeing America pull out of the nuclear deal, the question is whether he – or anyone for that matter – knows what will happen the day after. Trump is trying to use the threat of America’s pending withdrawal from the accord as leverage to negotiate a newer and better agreement that will, for example, place restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile program, its regional aspirations and the problematic sunset clauses.

The Europeans warn that the chances of that happening are slim.

The French and German foreign ministers came to Jerusalem recently to explain to Netanyahu that Iran will not agree to a new deal and that if America pulls out, so will Iran.

If that happens, they warned, the only way left to stop Iran will be with military force, and who has the appetite for that? What Europe might not be taking into account though is the possibility that Netanyahu has received assurances from Trump that he will attack Iran if it leaves the deal and begins racing toward a bomb. It is possible that if Iran withdraws and begins enriching uranium to military grade levels, the “fire and fury” Trump once threatened North Korea with, will be diverted to Iran.

But what if that doesn’t happen? What if Trump decides to nix the deal but then fails to follow through with tough negotiations or the threat of military force? Is Israel better off with the deal gone and Iran an even greater threat, or not? What if Trump connects the peace process to the nuclear deal and tells Netanyahu that he will happily take care of Iran, but only if Israel ensures progress on the Palestinian track? This would be the revival of the famous “Bushehr-for-Yitzhar” deal – Bushehr is the site of some of Iran’s nuclear reactors, and Yitzhar is a settlement in Samaria – that Barack Obama reportedly offered Netanyahu in late 2009. Under that deal, Obama was supposed to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program would be stopped, and Israel would, in exchange, facilitate the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The deal, of course, never materialized.

A Palestinian state was never established and the 2015 nuclear deal failed to completely stop Iran’s race to the bomb.

Is Trump planning such linkage between Iran and the Palestinians? It remains to be seen, although the timing of how this all plays out could be a sign of what is coming.

Just days after making a decision on Iran, the US will hold a ceremony marking the moving of its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Some security cabinet members are nervous of what will come next. As one member told me recently: “Even between friends, there never really is a free lunch.”

Whatever happens, Trump is going to have his hands full in the coming weeks. For any of these efforts to work – North Korea, Iran or the Israel-Palestinian peace process – the president will need to be personally involved, become intimately familiar with all of the details, and be prepared to use the full weight of his office when necessary.

Israel is just one piece on the presidential chessboard. It might seem that Israel and the US are aligned as never before, but Netanyahu will need to be careful to ensure Israel’s interests are not disregarded. As demonstrated by Trump’s surprising and off-the-cuff announcement last week that he plans to withdraw US forces from Syria, Netanyahu already knows that, with this president, anything is possible.

Migrants, activists in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv protest Netanyahu’s scrapping of relocation deal, April 3, 2018 (Reuters/Tamara Zieve)

ALL OF THESE scenarios are worth contemplating in light of Netanyahu’s public display of indecisiveness this week vis-à-vis the deportation of Israel’s African migrants.

Calling what Netanyahu did a zigzag doesn’t do justice. It was a political fiasco of national proportions, one that will one day be taught in university-level political science courses.

Up until Monday, the declared government policy was to forcibly deport the vast majority of African migrants, most of whom had come to Israel in search of work. The Interior Ministry hired and trained special inspectors, and while the planned deportations were contentious and divisive, the government seemed determined to move forward.

But then in mid-March, the High Court of Justice froze the plan.

Netanyahu had a few options. He could have convened the cabinet, the attorney-general, and the top minds at the Interior Ministry and thought of a new, refined plan that would have met the court’s requirements.

Instead, he secretly brokered a deal with the United Nations, under which half of the migrants would be moved to Western countries and the other half would be allowed to remain in Israel.

News of the plan – kept secret from his cabinet and party – was revealed at 4 p.m. on Monday in a press conference Netanyahu convened in Jerusalem. It didn’t take long for all hell to break loose.

Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett, Netanyahu’s primary rival on the Right, slammed the deal and warned that Israel would become a migrant haven if so many migrants were allowed to stay. Even Minister Miri Regev, who until Monday seemed to be Netanyahu’s staunchest ally in the Likud, joined the chorus of criticism.

Even for a seasoned politician like Netanyahu, the pressure was too much to bear. Six hours and 45 minutes later, at 10:45 p.m., the prime minister posted on Facebook that he had decided to temporarily freeze the new plan. By Tuesday he had completely nixed it, leaving Israel, once again, in the lurch and without a real policy.

What didn’t make sense is why Netanyahu didn’t try to garner support for the UN plan before going public. In the past, when contentious issues were scheduled to come up in the cabinet – such as the release of Palestinian prisoners in 2014 – he knew to meet with Bennett and reach understandings before going public. The fact that he didn’t do that this time might say something about his state of mind.

This is concerning because, as pointed out above, Israel has serious challenges ahead that will need to be confronted with calm, poise and a steady hand. If Netanyahu zigzags and flip-flops so many times on an issue like deporting migrants, what will happen on issues of graver consequence – such as the Iran deal and the conflict with the Palestinians – that strike at the core of Israel’s national security? Will he repeatedly change his mind then, too, or will he be more focused and stable? After this week, it is difficult to know.


Trump, Saudi Arabia in Lockstep: Give Syria Up to Assad, Ignore Gaza

April 2, 2018

Trump’s talk with the Saudi crown prince made him conclude that there’s nothing Washington can do in Syria; they also see eye to eye on the weekend’s events in Gaza and the question of Hamas’ status

.FILE PHOTO: President Donald Trump shakes hands with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House, March 20, 2018, in Washington.
FILE PHOTO: President Donald Trump shakes hands with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House, March 20, 2018, in Washington.Evan Vucci/AP

An old cliché holds that “anything can happen in the Middle East,” because everyone knows Arab leaders aren’t familiar with the Western concept of “rationality”; they make decisions from the gut or, even worse, obey God’s dictates. But the Mideast now seems to have an unbeatable rival in the White House, one who is constantly trying to demolish rationality even more thoroughly.

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Last week U.S. President Donald Trump left his aides and cabinet secretaries agape when he said America was “coming out of Syriavery soon.” Just a few days earlier, Defense Secretary James Mattis said the exact opposite, declaring that America would be in Syria indefinitely. Senior American officials made similar statements last month, explaining that America’s presence was necessary until a diplomatic solution to Syria’s civil war was found.

Smoke rises from buildings following a reported regime surface-to-surface missile strike on a rebel-held area on the southern Syrian city of Daraa, March 23, 2018.

Smoke rises from buildings following a reported regime surface-to-surface missile strike on a rebel-held area on the southern Syrian city of Daraa, March 23, 2018.MOHAMAD ABAZEED/AFP

>> WATCH // Trump: U.S. leaving Syria ‘very soon, let other people take care of it’ ■ A Syrian town counts on Americans to stick by it against Turkey’s threat ■ Saudi-backed Syrian rebels face a stark choice: Surrender to Assad or die

What pushed Trump, who also used the occasion to freeze $200 million in aid for Syria’s reconstruction, to make this announcement? Apparently, his conversation with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made him conclude that there’s nothing Washington can do in Syria.

Granted, Mohammed said in an interview with Time magazine that it’s important for American forces – some 2,000 combat soldiers and trainers – to remain in Syria to block the spread of Iranian influence there. But in the same interview he said of Syrian President Bashar Assad, “Bashar is staying. But I believe that Bashar’s interest is not to let the Iranians do whatever they want to do.”

If Trump’s announcement was a U-turn in America’s Mideast policy, the prince broke the rules of the game entirely. Saudi Arabia, the last Arab state to stand firm against the possibility of Assad remaining in power, is now coming down from the ramparts and effectively admitting the failure of its Syria policy, a direct continuation of the failure of its efforts to reshape Lebanon’s government.

The American president and the Saudi prince evidently have only one card left to play in the region, and it isn’t a terribly impressive one – the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They still agree that Trump’s “ultimate deal” is a treasure. But this treasure is so secret that nobody knows what it includes, aside from leaked crumbs of information and unrealistic ideas like establishing a Palestinian state in which Israeli settlements would remain comfortably, and with its capital in Abu Dis, outside Jerusalem.

Hamas found a more effective way to agitate Israel ■ With riots and live fire, Gaza just went 25 years back in time ■ Palestinian generation of hope now plagued by fury


Youth react after deaf Palestinian Tahreer Abu Sabala, 17, was shot and wounded in the head during clashes with Israeli troops, at Israel-Gaza border, in the southern Gaza Strip, April 1, 2018.

Youth react after deaf Palestinian Tahreer Abu Sabala, 17, was shot and wounded in the head during clashes with Israeli troops, at Israel-Gaza border, in the southern Gaza Strip, April 1, 2018. \ IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/ REUTERS

They also see eye to eye on the weekend’s events in the Gaza Strip and the question of Hamas’ status. Last Friday, the United Statesopposed a Kuwaiti motion in the UN Security Council to condemn Israel for the violence. Riyadh did its part by refusing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ request that it convene an emergency Arab summit to discuss the killing of Palestinians in Gaza. The kingdom gave Abbas the cold shoulder, saying the regular Arab League summit would take place in a few weeks anyway, so no additional summit was needed.

The disinterest Mohammed and Trump both showed in the events in Gaza, combined with their capitulation to reality in Syria, reveals a clear American-Saudi strategy by which regional conflicts will be dealt with by the parties to those conflicts, and only those with the potential to spark an international war will merit attention and perhaps intervention.

>> Gaza carnage is a victory for Hamas – and a propaganda nightmare for Israel ■ With riots and live fire, Gaza just went 25 years back in time  >>

An example of the latter is the battle against Iran, which will continue to interest both Washington and Riyadh because they consider it of supreme international importance, not just a local threat to Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Syria, in contrast, doesn’t interest the world, and to the degree that it poses a threat to Israel, Israel’s 2007 attack on Syria’s nuclear reactor and its ongoing military intervention in Syria show that it neither needs nor even wants other powers involved.

>> Ten years of silence on Syria strike. Why now? ■ A turning point in Israel’s history ■ Before successful strike, Israel’s most resounding intel failure

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is also no longer seen as a global threat, or even a regional one. Therefore, it’s unnecessary to “waste” international or pan-Arab effort on it. If Egypt can and wants to handle the conflict from the Arab side, fine. But for now, that will be it.

Russia and Iran, which in any case have managed the Syrian conflict between them for some time now without American or Saudi involvement, will derive practical conclusions from this policy. The competition between Tehran and Moscow over control of Syria’s meager resources has waned since Russia took over Syria’s main oil fields and most future contracts to exploit them. Iran will make do with the status of Assad’s strategic guest, and will apparently retain permanent military and political access to Lebanon.

The Kurds realized weeks ago that Washington won’t stretch out its neck for them, after it let Turkey invade and conquer the Syrian town of Afrin. Now they won’t receive the full amount of American aid they were promised, either.

Once again, Ankara has proven more important to Trump than the Kurds, who, as far as Washington is concerned, had finished their job once the Islamic State was defeated. So, like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the “local” conflict in Syria, the Kurdish-Turkish conflict will take place between the parties, without U.S. involvement.

In the absence of American and Saudi backing and involvement, Syria’s rebel militias are also likely to recalculate their path, understanding that they can no longer recruit either the superpower rivalry or the Saudi-Syrian one to obtain diplomatic gains. Russian dictates will be the only game in town.

And this last, perhaps, nevertheless provides some good news for Syrian civilians, who are still being slaughtered by the dozen every day.

Gaza Carnage Is a Victory for Hamas – and a Propaganda Nightmare for Israel — Hamas Outsmarts Israel this time…

March 31, 2018


Trump’s unqualified support bolsters Netanyahu but could also spark international backlash from critics of both

Medical staff help an injured Palestinian man during clashes with Israeli security forces following a demonstration near the border with Israel,March 31, 2018.
Medical staff help an injured Palestinian man during clashes with Israeli security forces following a demonstration near the border with Israel,March 31, 2018.SAID KHATIB/AFP

For the first time in a long while, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict took a central place over the weekend in international media news reports. Israeli spokespersons did supply evidence of Hamas militants trying to breach the border fence in Gaza under the guise of a supposedly popular protest, but Western opinion makers preferred the viral video of a Palestinian teen getting shot in the back and an overarching narrative of despondent Gazans protesting their oppression and blockade. Fifteen Palestinians were killed, hundreds were injured and the fence remained intact, but in the battlefield of propaganda, Hamas scored a victory.

Future developments are also in the hands of the Islamic organization. The more Hamas persists with the “March of the Million,” as it has been dubbed, and the more it succeeds in separating the protests from acts of violence and terror, the more it will succeed in defying and embarrassing Israel as well as Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. If commanders of the Israel Defense Forces don’t find a way to repel efforts to breach the fence without causing so many casualties, Israel’s predicament will grow exponentially. Friday’s day of bloodshed may be quickly forgotten if it remains a solitary event, but if the bloodshed recurs over and over during the six-week campaign that is slated to culminate on the Palestinian Nakba Day in mid-May, the international community will be forced to refocus its attentions on the conflict. Criticism of, and pressure on, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which has virtually evaporated in recent months, could return with a vengeance.

The working assumption on the Israeli side is that terror and violence are an inherent part of Hamas’ self-identity; the Islamist group is supposedly incapable of suspending its “armed struggle,” even temporarily. If this is the case, Israel’s distress will soon pass and Hamas will squander the advantages it gained in the mass skirmishes near the fence. If the Israeli conception turns out to be wrong, however, and Hamas proves itself capable of tactical discipline and restraint, it could manufacture what has always been Israel’s hasbara nightmare: Mass, nonviolent Palestinian protests that compel the IDF to kill and maim unarmed civilians. Analogies to Mahatma Gandhi, apartheid South Africa and even the struggle for civil rights in America, superficial and preposterous as they may be, will frame the next stage of the Palestinian struggle.

>> Forget rockets and tunnels – Hamas found a more effective way to agitate Israel | Analysis ■ Gaza’s refugees have always haunted Israel. Now they’re on the march | Opinion >>

The immediate support of the Trump administration, expressed in a Passover-eve tweet by special envoy Jason Greenblatt, who lambasted Hamas incitement and its “hostile march,” is ostensibly a positive development from Israel’s point of view. Contrary to Trump, Barack Obama would have been quick to criticize what is being widely described as Israel’s excessive use of force, and might have conferred with Western European countries on a proper diplomatic response. Israel welcomes and Netanyahu often extols its unparalleled coordination with the Trump administration, but it could also turn out to be a double-edged sword, which will only make things worse.

.Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh at a protest along the Israeli border with Gaza, March 30, 2018.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh at a protest along the Israeli border with Gaza, March 30, 2018.\ MOHAMMED SALEM/ REUTERS

Trump, after all, is one of the most despised U.S. presidents in modern history, in Western public opinion in general and among American liberals in particular. Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his decision to move the U.S. Embassy there are widely perceived as contributing to Palestinians frustration and sense of isolation. As long as Israel maintains a low profile and doesn’t star in negative news headlines, its intimate relations with Trump cause only marginal damage; in times of crisis, however, the damage can be substantial. The criticism that would have been leveled at Israel in the wake of “Bloody Friday” in any case is fueled by widespread resentment of Trump and his policies – and by a wish to punish his favorites. The more the U.S. administration defends Israel’s unpopular actions, the more its critics, including American liberals, will treat Trump and Netanyahu as one unsavory package.

The unqualified U.S. support strengthens the resolve of Netanyahu and his ministers to stick with their do-nothing polices toward both Gaza and the peace process. Most Israelis view Hamas purely as a terror organization, and their gut reaction is that Israel can’t and shouldn’t be perceived as caving in to terror and violence. At a time when early elections seem just beyond the horizon, the last thing Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition wants to do is deviate from its established policies, which would be tantamount to admitting the error of its ways. Calls from the left to review the IDF’s conduct in Gaza and reassess Netanyahu’s policies toward the Palestinians overall could bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict back to the center of public discourse after an extended absence, but will also provide the prime minister with an excuse – as if he needs one – to divert attention away from the crisis in Gaza to backstabbing internal enemies from within.

The Book of Hosea, however, taught us “He who sows the wind shall reap the whirlwind.” Israel’s ongoing diplomatic paralysis on the Palestinian issue and its misguided belief that the status quo can be maintained indefinitely provided the opening for Hamas’ propaganda coup: The Islamist group can suddenly see light at the end of the tunnels that the IDF is systematically destroying. Hamas may shed crocodile tears over the dead and injured, but even if their numbers are doubled and tripled over the next few days, it is a small price to pay for resuscitating its prominence and for pushing both Netanyahu and Abbas into a corner. The fact that Jerusalem maneuvered itself into a position in which a proven terrorist group that still dreams of destroying “the Zionist entity” can outmaneuver Israel in the court of public opinion and cast it as malevolent occupier with an itchy trigger finger is a monumental failure, one that can only get worse as long as Netanyahu and his government prefer to entrench themselves in their obtuse self-righteousness.

Palestinians slam Trump security advisor pick Bolton — Pakistan and Iran also likely angry…

March 23, 2018


© AFP | John Bolton addresses the United Nations Security Council on 14 October 2006, when he was United States Ambassador to the UN

RAMALLAH (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) –  A senior Palestinian official on Friday slammed US President Donald Trump’s choice of hardliner John Bolton as his new national security advisor.Trump on Thursday announced that Bolton, an arch-hawk and former United Nations ambassador, would replace army general HR McMaster.

Bolton is known for his strong support for Israel and hostility to Iran. He has previously said the idea of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is dead.

“This man has a long history of hostility to Palestinians, dating to when he was at the United Nations, where he was protecting Israeli immunity,” senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi told AFP, referring to US vetoes of UN resolutions targeting Israel.

With Bolton’s appointment, she said, the Trump administration “has joined with extremist Zionists, fundamentalist Christians and white racists”.

“All this will lead to a devastating reality for Palestine and the region.”

In contrast, members of Israel’s government, considered the most rightwing in the country’s history, hailed the appointment.

“President Trump is continuing to appoint true friends of Israel to senior positions. John Bolton stands out among them,” said Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, of the far-right Jewish Home party.



Why can’t Israel make peace? Because Palestinian elites have no interest in doing so

February 21, 2018

Enjoying the good life themselves, Palestinian leaders have created a misrepresentation of their people as ‘the wretched on earth.’ It’s a recipe for endless conflict

Jordan's King Abdullah II (right) speaks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas upon his arrival in the West Bank city of Ramallah on August 7, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

Jordan’s King Abdullah II (right) speaks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas upon his arrival in the West Bank city of Ramallah on August 7, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

This article is excerpted from Ben-Dror Yemini’s new book, Industry of Lies: Media, Academia, and the Israeli-Arab Conflict, published by ISGAP.

We must admit that there is no chance for peace in the foreseeable future.

It’s not that the solution is complicated. Despite the disagreements, despite the fantasy of mass Return, and despite the isolated settlements, there are clear parameters for peace. Bill Clinton presented them in late 2000; the Geneva plan presented a similar plan in 2002; Ehud Olmert repeated it, with semantic changes, in 2008; John Kerry introduced two versions with almost the same parameters in 2014. Even the Arab initiative, if we take away the fantasy of mass Return, could have been the basis for an agreement.

Although the parameters are known, peace cannot be achieved.

In the past century there have been many conflicts. Almost every actualization of the right to self-determination created a bloody conflict, years of struggle, and the expulsion of populations. Yet, eventually, agreements were reached. Enemies have become neighbors. Peace agreements have also been signed between Israel and two Arab states — Egypt and Jordan, and Israel maintains cooperation with many other Arab states.

So why this should not have happened in the Israeli Palestinian conflict? Because it has another dimension, which was absent in other conflicts. The Palestinian elites have reached a status that no elite had before. The Palestinian struggle is not one more struggle.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, left, then-US President George Bush, and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in Annapolis, Maryland in 2007. (Courtesy Ian Black)

It became the most famous, most celebrated, and the most prestigious of all — the crown jewel of causes. The Palestinian refusal to accept any peace proposal is not only due to historical reasons or a sense of injustice. It is not about more or less concessions. It stems from the fact that the Palestinian elites only benefit from the continuation of the conflict. The Palestinians have become not only the ultimate global symbol of a “victim” and an “oppressed people,” who are supposedly fighting against colonialism and occupation. They have become global celebrities.

On the one hand, members of the Palestinian elite come and leave the capitals of the world dressed in the most tailored and fashionable of men’s apparel. They enjoy the good life. On the other hand, they succeed in creating a misrepresentation of “the wretched on earth.”

According to any objective measure of life expectancy, infant mortality, natural increase, education, and so forth, the Palestinians are not in the worst shape among the world’s needy populations. Just the opposite. Most people in the world live in much worse circumstances. But they are not in the headlines. No one is demonstrating for them. The claim that those who identify with the Palestinians are concerned with human rights is one of the most ridiculous claims of the present era; supporters of the Palestinian struggle are, after all, not bothered by the tens of millions who suffer from internal or external oppression.

* * *

Let’s imagine a student from northern Nigeria on an American campus. He represents one of the most miserable communities in the world, suffering from non-stop Jihadist terrorism of Boko Haram: thousands have been massacred; 1.4 million children have become refugees, 100,000 of them on the verge of starvation. But nobody cares about them. There are no demonstrations. No global protest. No conferences. Nigeria is not included in the latest buzz words about oppression. Yet, for many, Israel has become representative of all other injustices in the world, in addition to one’s own as an African-American, woman, or homosexual, as illustrated by the phenomenon of intersectionality.

An image taken from a video released on August 14, 2014 by the Nigerian jihadist group Boko Haram purportedly shows dozens of girls kidnapped by the group in 2014. (screen capture: YouTube)

In any case, the world stage is dominated by the Palestinians. Couple this with intersectionality, and it ensures that countless opponents of injustice half way across the world will be aligning themselves against “the oppressor Israel.” It doesn’t help that “colonialism,” one of the magic words in post modern discourse, can, through selective interpretation and a web of lies, be used to tag Israel as an oppressor. It is a little difficult to use the word “colonialist” against the Jihadists even if they have extreme imperialist ambitions.

Not only is there no worldwide protest against the Jihad affiliates, there is even support for those who champion an anti-Semitic, fascist, and murderous ideology. Italian philosopher Gianni Vattimo displayed his stripes in the middle of the 2014 Gaza War, declaring “shoot those bastard Zionists,” encouraging the Europeans to buy weapons for Hamas, and arguing that “Israel is worse than the Nazis.” The feminist organization Code Pink organized no less than seven solidarity missions to Gaza, meeting with Hamas members (never mind that the mufti of Gaza tells male viewers how to beat their wives without leaving scars that would make them ugly or alert the police).

Then there are high-profile entertainers, such as the aging British rocker and lead singer from Pink Floyd, Roger Waters, who compares Israel to Nazi Germany and supports BDS, or British film director Ken Loach, who called for a cultural boycott of Israel. Even if they don’t convince their fellow artists, who keep on coming to Israel, they still encourage the Palestinian elites to keep on with the struggle against Israel instead of fighting for peace.

British Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks during a meeting of the Party of European Socialists in Brussels, on October 19, 2017. (AFP Photo/John Thys)

There is a whole chapter in the work at hand about major producers in the industry of lies, such as academic Noam Chomsky, who made a pilgrimage to visit Hezbollah leader Nasrallah in Lebanon; UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who embraced Hamas and Hezbollah as his “friends”; Judith Butler, who turned them into progressive bodies; and Canadian writer Naomi Klein, who cuts Hamas out of the equation when attacking Israel as the aggressor in the 2014 Gaza War.

British musician Roger Waters of Pink Floyd. (AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL)

There are even some academics who have turned their anti Israel positions into a career— such as Norman Finkelstein, a highly visible figure on the lecture circuit, as well as a talented and highly entertaining speaker who attracts droves of students on campuses around the world, and elsewhere.

Individual academics are not the only ones who participate in the industry of lies, and MESA (the Middle East Studies Association in the United States) presidents are not the only supporters of BDS. The same evil spirit extends to campus life — awash in anti Israel “academic gatherings.”

With all the big bucks flowing in, with no strings attached, what are the chances that Palestinian activists will give up this abundance of status, honor, prestige and jobs?

For example, at University College Cork Ireland in April 2017, a three-day academic conference was held under the heading “International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy Exceptionalism and Responsibility.” Speakers pilloried Israel as an exception to the world order (as if it was the only nation state) in order to deliberate whether Israel could legitimately exist as such an exception. The keynote speaker was Richard Falk, who used the occasion to charge that the foundation of Israel was “the most successful terror campaign in history.” There was actually a conference slated to take place in the UK at the University of Southampton (but prohibited at the last-minute by campus authorities on “health and safety concerns”) devoted to the question “does Israel have the right to exist.” No such conference was contemplated to discuss England’s right to exist, of course.

UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk (photo credit: UN Watch)

Richard Falk (photo credit: UN Watch)

Some Israel bashing gatherings take place under a cloak of polite respectability such as a July 2017 two-day conference at the University of Sydney in Australia, called “BDS: Driving Global Justice for Palestine,” hosted by none other than the Department for Peace and Conflict Studies. The use of benign language is disarming: the objective of the gathering was to promote “greater public understanding of the BDS campaign,” which, the organizers stressed, would be devoted to “harness rational argument to support a more peaceful and more just world.” (One needs to understand the subtext of “a just world”: it includes a Palestinian right of return, demanded by Students for Justice in Palestine, in order to rectify Israel’s alleged ethnic cleansing.)

This intellectual disease extends to the American political arena, where anti Israel currents have gained a foothold within the Democratic Party, reflected in a one-sided amendment to the Middle East plank of the Democratic platform, suggested by Bernie Sanders’ people, that was rejected by a narrow margin of 95 to 73, as well as the rising popularity of movers and shakers with strong anti Israel orientations, such as Keith Ellison and Linda Sarsour.

The problem is that the Palestinians read such undercurrents as proof that they are on a winning streak, at least in terms of the Democratic Party, giving them no reason to rethink their positions or seek reconciliation.

The limelight as a livelihood

Palestinians are riding a wave of support from celebrities in a host of professions, including academia, with few, if any, strings attached.

It is not only the Palestinian leadership that enjoys ideological and moral support. Dozens of Palestinian or pro Palestinian organizations receive extensive financial support from dozens of celebrated foundations and political structures: the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Open Society Foundation (George Soros), the European Union, individual European countries, and church funds. Then, of course, there is UNRWA and other United Nations funding entities.

With all the big bucks flowing in, with no strings attached, what are the chances that Palestinian activists will give up this abundance of status, honor, prestige and jobs? Is it at all surprising that Palestinian activists of such well-funded NGOs are against reconciliation and peace?

The Palestinians’ special status as the blue-eyed boy everyone embraces creates some very strange anomalies. Palestinian activists stand shoulder to shoulder with LGBT activists, although everyone knows — or should know — that members of the LGBT community in the Palestinian territories are at severe risk, facing persecution and often mortal danger. As a result, many prefer to flee to Israel.

Too many Palestinians have a huge vested interest in intransigence and violence

These are the facts, but anti Israel demonstrations are also held under the charge of “pink washing” — the idiotic theory stating that Israel grants freedom and rights to people of different sexual orientations only as a mask to conceal the horrors of the occupation. Thus, members of the Palestinian and anti Israel elites have succeed not only in disseminating ridiculous theories, but also in obtaining an exemption from violations of basic human rights for Palestinian authorities. This is another expression of racism of low expectations.

Palestinian women chant slogans as they hold Palestinian flags during a sit-in in the Bourj al-Barajneh Palestinian refugee camp, in Beirut, Lebanon, December 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

There are Palestinians who suffer. These are mainly those in Lebanon, who experience apartheid (subject to separate laws) with all its implications, or those in Syria who suffer, together with the rest of the Syrian population, from terrible bloodshed. They can only dream to live under Israeli rule. Yet, they do not interest anyone because they are not under Israeli control.

Under Israeli rule, on the other hand, the Palestinians in the territories enjoy the highest rate of higher education in the Arab world. In fact, the rise in the level of education has led to the emigration of tens of thousands of young Palestinians to Europe and the United States, subsequently eligible for graduate studies in the most prestigious universities (hundreds of them subsequently became faculty).

Industry of Lies, by Ben-Dror Yemini

In an era dominated by a postcolonial school of thought, the Palestinians have become the icon for struggle against colonialism. If the symbol in the 1960s was Che Guevara, the contemporary symbol is to sport a Palestinian keffiyeh scarf.

There are a thousand and one rivalries between student organizations that represent different groups, but they are united about one subject: their support for the Palestinians, with no knowledge about the conflict. Instead of focusing their efforts on the rights of African-Americans, the Black Lives Matter movement has become fixated on Israel, even accusing the Jewish state of the events in Ferguson. There will always be Jews and Israelis to tell them that Israel is the source of their troubles. In the past, it was said that Jews were the source of global evil. Today, it is said that Zionists are the source of every evil.

This is the madness consuming the free and academic world. This distortion does not support peace, reconciliation, or compromise. The common denominator of these bodies, which are supported by academia and funded by the EU and various other foreign governments, is usually their opposition to the very existence of Israel. It is doubtful whether there is one body among them that supports peace and reconciliation and that is funded by the same sources.

Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli troops following protests against U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

Does this encourage the Palestinian elites towards reconciliation with Israel, or does it encourage them to perpetuate the struggle? And if this is the position of the progressive elites of the free world, why would a rational Palestinian change direction and support reconciliation and compromise? Why should any of the Palestinians give up the special status they now enjoy that bundles together victimhood, prestige, legitimacy for all their actions, economic benefit and a comfortable livelihood?

A peace agreement would undermine this special status. Instead of talking about racism and colonialism, instead of being the stars of academia and the darlings of the progressive elites, and instead of enjoying generous funding as activists against oppression, the Palestinians will have to worry about welfare, sewage systems, and building a state. They will have to take responsibility for themselves and their fate. They will stop receiving tens of millions of dollars each year for political struggle. They will not be the stars of the campuses. That is the last thing they want.

They have succeeded in convincing many intellectual circles in the world that BDS is a “nonviolent movement” against racism and for equal rights. There is no greater lie than that. The BDS movement is fighting to deny the right of self-determination of one state among all the countries of the world: Israel.

What should rational and decent people do?

What can rational and decent people do against this mind-boggling phenomenon?

First, expose the absurdities. Do not give in to the thought police. Maintain independent and critical thinking, connected to reality. Make a hierarchy of global injustices. The Alice in Wonderland-like lunacy that is taking place in significant sectors of the academic and media elites is not a problem for Israel. It is a problem of the free world. This is fake knowledge that produces fake realities.

The attention, top priority, aide and grants underwrites an entire sector of the economy and society that “makes a living from the conflict” — from elite Palestinian leaders flying around the world in first class and elegant suits to academics paid to write a flood of studies on the feasibility of the right of return, to tunnel operators in Gaza, and families who depend on stipends for sons killed in terrorist attacks (shahids).

Palestinian women take part in a protest in Gaza City on January 29, 2018, against the US move to freeze funding for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA. (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

The Palestinian public sector is gigantic, and the bonanza of cheap money as the world’s favorite humanitarian cause is reflected on the landscape in the West Bank — glass clad skyscrapers and public institutions, private villas, and virtual mansions that Westerners rarely see. The Pan-Arab paper Asharq al Awsat in London investigated the phenomenon and concluded that there are 600 millionaires in Gaza! Too many Palestinians have a huge vested interest in intransigence and violence.

There is a conflict of interest between rewarded Palestinian elites who want to perpetuate the conflict, and the Palestinian masses who suffer from the conflict. Reaching a peace agreement would lead, for example, to reducing the distress of the Palestinians in Lebanon who are legally, socially and geographically marginalized. They will not be able to return to Israel because Israel has no plans to commit demographic suicide, but they will receive new options, such as an international compensation fund, naturalization in some countries, options for returning to the Palestinian entity, and more. When the elites perpetuate the fantasy of the right of return, they perpetuate the continuation of suffering and plight.

It is possible and necessary to resolve the Israeli Palestinian conflict. The outlines are known. There is not much to innovate. For this to happen, it is permissible and, indeed, necessary to criticize Israeli policy. But this will not happen as long as a widespread and well oiled academic and political apparatus provides the Palestinian elites with honor, money and prestige that perpetuate the conflict.

This march of folly must be stopped. Not to harm the Palestinians, but to give them hope and to save them.

Ben-Dror Yemini is a senior journalist with the Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth who lectures about the spread and impact of anti-Israel propaganda.

Abbas at Security Council calls for a peace conference mid-2018 to recognise Palestine

February 20, 2018

Photo showing Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas at UN security council where he called Tuesday for the convening of an international conference by mid-2018 to pave the way for recognition of Palestinian statehood, Feb 20, 2018 (AFP)
NEW YORK:The Security Council in New York convened on Tuesday to discuss developments in the Middle East and the future of the peace process in Palestine.
President Mahmoud Abbas addressed the session, which started with an update to the council members by the UN special envoy to Palestine Nicolas Mladenov.
In his remarks Mladenov said that Palestinians are suffering due to Israel’s excessive use of violence and that the settlements are an obstacle to peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Abbas accused the UN of failing the Palestinians and leaving them without a viable solution.
He also condemned Israel for acting as a state “above international law.” On Jerusalem, Abbas criticized Washington for pushing the fate of Jerusalem away from the negotiating table.
In his speech, President Abbas called for a multilateral international peace conference to work on finding a solution between Israel and Palestine.
The talks  according to President Abbas should be held later this year and should call on the UN to recognise an independent Palestine.
The peace conference should also serve as a platform for mutual recognition between the Israel and Palestine.
Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, expressed disappointment that President Abbas left the room when the American official started her speech, in a clear snub to the US  representative since President Trump decided to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem. Haley said that many have opposed the ambassy dedcision, “You don’t have to like that decision…But that decision will not change” she said.


At UN, Abbas Calls on World Leaders to Recognize Palestinian State — Israel says, we want peace but “we will not chase after you.”

February 20, 2018


Palestinian president calls for international conference on Israeli-Palestinian peace by mid-2018, slams U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as ‘unlawful decision’

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, February 20, 2018.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, February 20, 2018.TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called in an address to the United Nations Security Council Tuesday to convene an international conference by mid-2018 that would result in the recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.

Abbas speaks at UN Security CouncilUnited Nations / YouTub

“We call for the convening of an international peace conference by mid-2018, based on international law and the relevant UN resolutions,” Abbas told the UN Security Council in New York.

The Palestinian president slammed the Trump administration, describing Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as an “unlawful decision which was rejected by the international community, to remove the issue of Jerusalem ‘off the table.'”

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley talks with Israeli counterpart Danny Danon as Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt listen before a Security Council meeting, February 20, 2018.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley talks with Israeli counterpart Danny Danon as Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt listen before a Security Council meeting, February 20, 2018.Mary Altaffer/AP

Abbas said that the only way to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is by establishing “a multi-lateral international mechanism emanating from an international conference and in line with international law and the relevant resolutions.”

Abbas demanded that Israel halt settlement construction during any future negotiations, as well as during any other unilateral move that could have implications on a future peace deal. The American decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital should be frozen, he said.

Abbas’s plan is based on the Arab peace initiative, international and UN Security Council resolutions, rejecting an interim solution to the conflict.

The Palestinian leader said that “Israel is acting like a state above the law” and blamed the Israeli government for past failures to achieve peace. “Israel shut the door on the two-state solution,” the Palestinian president said.

Abbas stressed his commitment to non-violence, but said the Palestinians will oppose any attempt to impose a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon responded to Abbas’ speech, telling him that it “proves that you are no longer part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”

Danon said that “the only way it [Israeli-Palestinian peace] is going to work is with direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.”

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said following Abbas’ remarks that, while Washington is ready to speak to the Palestinian leadership, “we will not chase after you.”

Haley said that the Palestinian leader “must choose between two paths,” one that rejects America’s role in peace talks, or moving forward with Washington toward a negotiated compromise.

“The choice, mister president, is yours,” Haley concluded.

Jared Kushner, U.S. President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, arrived at the UN’s headquarters Tuesday for meetings about the peace process ahead of Abbas’ speach.

Kushner was accompanied by Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s special envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Abbas has been boycotting the Trump administration ever since Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December.

A White House spokesperson told Haaretz that “as we continue to finalize our plan, we came to the United Nations to hear President Abbas’ speech. We strongly hope that he shares fresh and constructive ideas that can create a comprehensive and lasting peace for both sides because merely recycling the same talking points has not led to peace for decades.”

Kushner and Greenblatt were seen talking with Danon before Abbas’ speech began.

Putin discusses Mideast with Trump, hosts Abbas

February 13, 2018

After Russian president conveys Trump’s regards to PA leader, Abbas reiterates stance that US can no longer be sole mediator in peace talks

Times of Israel and Agencies

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, on February 12, 2018. (AFP PHOTO/SPUTNIK/Mikhail KLIMENTIEV)

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, on February 12, 2018. (AFP PHOTO/SPUTNIK/Mikhail KLIMENTIEV)

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday at the start of talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that he had discussed the Middle East conflict with his US counterpart Donald Trump.

“I just spoke with American President Trump,” Putin told Abbas before continuing the talks behind closed doors. “Obviously, we spoke about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict…I would like to convey to you his best wishes.”

The Palestinian leader was visiting Moscow in a bid to secure Putin’s support, after Trump outraged the Palestinians and their allies by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“It is very important for us to know your personal opinion in order to set the record straight and put in place a common approach to solve this problem,” Putin told his guest.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, at the Kremlin in Moscow, on February 12, 2018. (AFP PHOTO/SPUTNIK/Mikhail KLIMENTIEV)

Abbas has refused any contact with Trump’s administration since Washington’s decision at the end of last year.

The December 6 White House declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital outraged Ramallah and others across the Muslim world. Palestinian leaders have said it means Washington can no longer serve as a Mideast peace broker.

Trump, on the other hand introduced his decision as merely based on reality. The president stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites. Afterward, however, he said several times that his decision had taken Jerusalem “off the table.”

“Given the atmosphere created by the United State’s actions, we… refuse any cooperation with the United States as a mediator,” Abbas told Putin.

“In case of an international meeting, we ask that the United States be not the only mediators, but just one of the mediators.”

The PA has been trying to convince Russia to play a much more prominent role in the peace talks since Trump’s Jerusalem declaration.

Earlier this month, Abbas met in his Ramallah office with two senior Russian officials, Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the security council, and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov. PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat and PA General Intelligence Chief Majed Faraj also attended the meeting.

Abbas told them that the PA was interested in developing and strengthening its relations with Russia. He also expressed appreciation for Russia’s support for the Palestinians in various areas, according to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.

Abbas emphasized the importance of Russia’s political stance, due to its “great weight in the international arena and as part of the Quartet, which should continue to play a fair and just role,” Wafa quoted him as saying.

Wafa quoted the Russian officials as saying that Putin was looking forward to his meeting with the PA president. The envoys also affirmed Russia’s continued support for the Palestinians and efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East, it said.

Monday’s meeting with Putin came two weeks after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also visited Moscow.


Abbas’ government sued over alleged CIA-backed wiretapping

February 6, 2018

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is accused of continued intelligence-sharing with the US even after announcing he was suspending contacts with American officials dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (AP)
RAMALLAH, West Bank: A former Palestinian intelligence chief and the head of the West Bank bar association are suing the Palestinian self-rule government after a purported whistleblower alleged the two were targeted, along with many other allies and rivals of President Mahmoud Abbas, in a large-scale CIA-backed wiretapping operation.
Allegations of continued intelligence-sharing with the US could prove embarrassing for Abbas who has been on a political collision course with Washington since President Donald Trump’s recognition in December of contested city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The claims are contained in a 37-page anonymous document that was been shared widely among Palestinians, mostly on WhatsApp. The document alleges that three of the Palestinian security services set up a joint electronic surveillance unit in mid-2014 and monitored the phone calls of thousands of Palestinians, from senior figures in militant groups to judges, lawyers, civic leaders and political allies of Abbas.
The author describes himself as a former member of the surveillance unit who quit “this dirty job” several months ago because of his growing opposition to Palestinian government practices, including intelligence-sharing with the US. He wrote that Trump’s policy shift on Jerusalem provided another impetus to go public.
Bar association head Jawad Obeidat said on Monday that transcripts of his phone conversations, as published in the document, were accurate.
“I made these phone calls and this is evidence that the leaked report is true,” said Obeidat, who spearheaded recent protests by lawyers after one of them was arrested from a court room during a legal case against the government.
“This is a blatant violation of human rights,” he said.
Tawfiq Tirawi, an outspoken Abbas critic and West Bank intelligence chief from 1994 to 2008, said he checked with his contacts and believes the document is authentic.
Image result for Tawfiq Tirawi, photos
Tawfiq Tirawi
The CIA declined comment.
In mid-January, when the document first surfaced, Palestinian security services said in a joint statement that it was part of a “plot” seeking to harm the political and security establishments.
Adnan Damiri, the spokesman of the security services, dismissed the document Monday as “nonsense.”
The allegations come at a low point in Palestinian relations with the US, following Trump’s policy pivot on Jerusalem, whose Israeli-annexed eastern sector the Palestinians seek as a future capital.
Abbas said at the time that he was suspending contacts with US officials dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The US shift on Jerusalem angered many Palestinians, and in this context, allegations of continued intelligence-sharing with the US could pose a domestic political problem for Abbas.
The 82-year-old has also faced pushback from critics who say his rule has become increasingly authoritarian.
Elected in 2005, Abbas has ruled by decree since 2007, when the Islamic militant Hamas overran Gaza, leaving him with autonomous enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The territorial split and deep animosity between the Abbas- and Hamas-led camps paralyzed political institutions, including parliament, and prevented new elections.
Last week, Tirawi and Obeidat filed a complaint over the alleged wire-tapping against the Palestinian self-rule government, calling for a criminal investigation. The lawsuit asked that those who ordered the monitoring of their phones be punished and demanded an end to all wiretapping as a violation of privacy.
Attorney General Ahmed Barrak confirmed that he received the complaint, but declined further comment.
Separately, the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq demanded an investigation of the extent of the wiretapping and an explanation from the government. The head of Al-Haq, Shahwan Jabareen, said he has not received a response from the attorney general or the office of Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.
Jabareen said an investigation must determine if the wiretapping went beyond monitoring militants who pose an immediate security threat. If the bar association was targeted, he said, the government might also be spying on other civil society organizations and ordinary people.
“We are not against security, but it has to be legal,” he said.
The document alleged that thousands of phones are being monitored without legal authorization, including those of leaders and senior operatives in Hamas, the militant group Islamic Jihad and other factions.
Others being monitored include members of Abbas’ inner circle, such as the No. 2 in his Fatah movement and members of the decision-making body of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the document said.
Abbas rivals are also on the list, including the family of imprisoned uprising leader Marwan Barghouti and supporters of Abbas’ former top aide-turned-nemesis, the exiled Mohammed Dahlan, according to the document.
It said that in 2013, the then-head of the Palestinian Preventive Security Service asked the CIA for help with wiretapping and that the CIA agreed, in exchange for oversight.
The document said the equipment was provided by ISS World, a company based in Virginia.
Jerry Lucas, the president of the ISS World parent company, TeleStrategies, declined comment when contacted by email Monday.
The document said members of the Palestinian surveillance unit were trained on the new equipment on the sidelines of an ISS World conference in Dubai.
The document included a copy of an invitation letter purportedly issued by TeleStrategies to two senior Palestinian security officers to attend an “ISS World Middle East Intelligence Support Systems Conference” at the Dubai Marriott from March 3-5, 2014.
The date and venue of the conference in the invitation match those on the ISS website.
Palestinian security officials acknowledged in the past, in private conservations, that they were engaged in domestic phone monitoring and other types of surveillance, going back to the 1990s.
However, the latest allegations, if confirmed, suggest spying has become more sophisticated and broader in scope.

Opinion: There’s No Chance Europe Will Solve the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

January 25, 2018

Despite the Palestinians’ high expectation, the handshakes and fine words in Brussels, the EU is incapable of ending Israel’s occupation and creating a Palestinian state

European High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini welcomes Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Brussels, Belgium, January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman
European High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini welcomes Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Brussels, Belgium, January 22, 2018\ YVES HERMAN/REUTERS

When the European Union issued its famous guidelines in 2013, which prohibited grants, prizes and funding from the EU to the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, it was hailed by many as a potential game-changer in the over 100 year-old conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Israeli political analysts, from left to right, saw the guidelines as the first actual step against Israel’s occupation to be taken by a major international power.

Haaretz’s diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid wrote at the time that that it was the “biggest scoop” he had ever had. The prominent Israeli commentator, Dan Margalit, commented, “Make no mistake, this is an important document. Not because of its content…Its importance steems from its function as a dangerous stepping stone for further boycotts.”

Senior Israeli government officials described the new guidelines as an “earthquake” and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was even quoted in the Israeli press as saying that Israel’s failure to stop the EU from issuing the guidelines represented the biggest failure he had encountered in 30 years of dealing with diplomatic and security issues.

Palestinian commentators, from the PA to Hamas, were generally supportive too of the guidelines, even if many saw them as coming too late and consisting of too little to actually roll back Israel’s occupation.

Today, it is clear that the earth did not shake in Israel and none of the predicted tsunamis arrived.

One year later, Israel signed the Horizon 2020 research agreement (albeit with a face-saving clause stating that Israel did not recognize the EU clause stipulating that the occupied territories were not part of Israel). Later in 2014, Israel agreed to set up different production lines for those chickens raised in the settlements and within the Green Line, after the European Commission implemented a policy of non-recognition of Israeli veterinary supervision beyond the Green Line.

In 2015, after several years of deliberation and hesitation, the EU decided, despite protests from some member states, to start labelling settlement products.

Netanyahu responded by calling the labels “heinous” – a term normally reserved for terror attacks in the political lexicon in Israel. The U.S.-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, which normally combats anti-Semitism, ranked the EU’s labelling of settlement products as the third worst outbreak of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism in the world that year, higher than Palestinian incitement and the threat from Iran.

By 2016, 18 out of 28 EU members had issued business advisories warning businesses of the legal and financial consequences involved in doing business with entities linked to Israel’s occupation.

Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in Jerusalem.Amos Ben Gershom / GPO

Israel’s government itself seems to have decided quiet compliance is its best strategy. Just recently, in late 2017, Israel signed the ‘ENI CBC Med agreement’ for cross-border cooperation in the Mediterranean basin, which excluded Israeli projects that originate beyond the Green Line. Except for very minor protests from a maverick politician and two settler groups, no one in Israel or Europe took much notice of that tacit acceptance.

That in itself is bad news for the EU’s differentiation strategy, as it needs overt political confrontation to serve its purpose of putting pressure on Israel to end its occupation. But there is limited appetite and also real opposition from governments and major political parties in some EU member states to confront Israel, and Federica Mogherini, the current High Representative of the EU’s foreign policy, is also widely seen as being against further differentiation measures against Israel.

From a purely normative perspective, the differentiation strategy has been very successful. Many other actors in international politics – from the United Nations Security Council (in Resolution 2334), to the Chinese government, to the leading human rights organizations Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, to American liberal Zionist groups – have all expressed support for the EU’s differentiation strategy or have implemented it themselves.

In addition, and probably encouraged by the EU’s more formal differentiation, there seemed in 2016–2017 to be a growing trend of what might be called more “grassroots differentiation,” where the PA, civil society organizations and other activists involved were trying to get organizations like FIFA and companies like Airbnb, PayPal, Hewlett Packard and others to suspend their activities with Israeli entities beyond the Green Line.

Again, the logic behind these measures is to create political confrontations by urging these actors to uphold what the activists perceive to be the internal regulations already mandated by those organizations and companies themselves. This type of grassroots differentiation largely bypasses political establishments and can be exercised through social media and email campaigns by activists outside the Israel-Palestine region.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrive for a lunch with EU foreign ministers at the EU Council in Brussels. Jan. 22, 2018
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrive for a lunch with EU foreign ministers at the EU Council in Brussels. Jan. 22, 2018Olivier Hoslet/AP

The differentiation strategy has worked in many aspects and Israel has indeed caved in and accepted several differentiation measures by the EU, but these have changed very little on the ground. This, of course, raises questions about the value of normative power and of having the ability to create international consensus around these kinds of issues.

It is worth remembering that opposition to Israel’s settlements has been a consistent EU policy since 1977, when what was then called the EC, first started to condemn them. Despite the fact that opposition to Israel’s settlements probably is the most consensus-oriented issue of all in international politics, the settlements have grown exponentially over the decades alongside the opposition to them.

This has led leading analysts, like Nathan Thrall of the International Crisis Group, to argue that differentiation measures that only focus on settlements, and not the Israeli state behind them, are a distraction. They have become a substitute for real pressure, they’ve become measures that actually help the Israeli government and prolong the occupation, by their implicit assurance that only the settlements – and not the government that creates them – will suffer consequences for their repeated violations of international law.

Thrall then, incorrectly, states that supporters of differentiation reject penalizing Israeli state entities, like Israeli financial institutions, that help and profit from the settlements. But that is exactly what the leading EU think tank, the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), has called for since it first started to publish reports on differentiation in 2015.

Israeli, Palestinian and some U.S. officials, have, for a number of different reasons, continuously tried to connect the EU’s differentiation strategy to the BDS movement, claims which have almost always been repudiated by both EU officials and spokespersons for the BDS movement.

But those repudiations haven’t always been so resonant: Today, 24 U.S. states have enacted legislation against boycotts of Israel, including not just the internationally-recognized Israel within the 1967 borders, but also against what they call “Israeli-controlled territories,” another term for the illegal settlements.

Of course, the idea that there is no difference between targetedsanctions of the settlements and the entirety of Israel, and that both constitute an “anti-Semitic” act victimizing the Jewish state, is precisely the line taken by the Israeli government.

A Palestinian flag, bearing the slogan: "EU recognize Palestine" sponsored by the non-governmental U.S. organization, flies in front of European Union headquarters in Brussels. September 12, 2011
A Palestinian flag, bearing the slogan: “EU recognize Palestine” sponsored by the U.S. NGO, flies in front of European Union headquarters in Brussels. September 12, 2011AFP

As Israel has struggled for five decades now to erase the Green Line, the EU has likewise struggled for almost the same period to reaffirm the Green Line as the border, with some modifications, between Israel and what it hopes will one day be a Palestinian state.

This has been mostly a verbal commitment, with the exceptions of some of the differentiation measures mentioned above and the billions of euros in aid to the Palestinians over the years.

In his first major interview with the Israeli press, the new EU ambassador to Israel, Emanuele Giaufret, was asked whether the EU was planning “more steps in the future against settlement building”: he answered, “No.”

That, of course, reinforces the perception that the EU’s commitment to end Israel’s occupation and create a Palestinian state will continue to be verbal rather than practical.

It is not that the EU lacks practical tools vis-à-vis Israel. The EU’s economy (in nominal GDP) is more than 50 times bigger than Israel’s, but the EU has chosen not to use its economic leverage against Israel.

This is probably mostly because of American opposition, rather than because of the legacy from the Holocaust, internal division or pro-Israel lobbying. The EU is unwilling to stray too far out of the lines of U.S. Mideast policy. If a U.S. president – be it Obama, Trump or anyone else – would have used all its leverage to force Israel to end the occupation, the EU would actively assist in such a process.

But the EU can’t lead the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in place of the U.S.

A Palestinian protester wears a mask during clashes with Israeli forces on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Ramallah, near the Jewish settlement of Beit El. January 23, 2018
A Palestinian protester wears a mask during clashes with Israeli forces on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Ramallah, near the Jewish settlement of Beit El. January 23, 2018ABBAS MOMANI/AFP

With some relatively minor exceptions, the historical record clearly shows that the EC/EU played at best a marginal role, if indeed it was present at all, in the series of important peace negotiations through the years: the 1978-1979 Camp David Accords, the 1993-95 Oslo Agreements, the 1994 Israel-Jordan Treaty, the 2000 Camp David Summit, the 2003 Road map, the 2007 Annapolis conference and the 2013-2014 Obama-Kerry negotiations. There is nothing suggesting that this pattern will change in the Trump era, even if his much-expected peace plan won’t lead anywhere.

A final EU measure on the conflict that might have repercussions – one that falls somewhere between the verbal and the practical – is recognition of the State of Palestine, even before a final status agreement is reached. Some analysts, such as David Makovsky in a recent Haaretz op-ed, contend “a big wave of European countries” will recognize Palestine in 2018. My own diplomatic sources in Europe tell me that things are indeed moving, but it will be more like a small wave of about five European countries may together recognize Palestine, if France takes the lead, but it is not yet certain to happen.

Since Sweden recognized Palestine in 2014 – a move which changed the political climate more in Sweden than in Palestine, with bitter divisions in the Swedish Parliament, a harsh Israeli pushback campaign and massive online hate against Foreign Minister Margot Wallström  – it has been rumored many times that other European countries were about to follow.

So far it has not happened, but even if it would, the critical question plaguing the EU for 50 years will still be there, namely: What commitment and capability does Europe really have to help resolve the conflict, end the occupation and create a Palestinian state?

With an EU in relative decline and with the rise of various right-wing, nationalist or populist governments and parties in Europe, many of whom are pro-Israeli and anti-Muslim, it seems that the EU’s commitment and capability to help resolve the conflict is, in fact, far less than it has been – and way below Palestinian  expectations.

Anders Persson is a postdoctorate researcher at the Centre for European Politics at the University of Copenhagen. This op-ed is based on research from his recent study EU differentiation as a case of “Normative Power Europe” (NPE) in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, published in the Journal of European Integration.