Posts Tagged ‘Mahmoud Abbas’

Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner meets with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to help broker Middle East peace

June 22, 2017

Mr Kushner holds separate talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

By Alexandra Wilts Washington DC
The Independent


White House senior adviser Jared Kushner AP

Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and top White House adviser, has met Israeli and Palestinian leaders with the aim of helping revive a US effort for a peace deal.

A former real estate developer with little experience in international diplomacy, Mr Kushner met the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before travelling to Ramallah, located in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, for a late-night meeting with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Jared Kushner with Mahmoud Abbas (Photo: Getty Images)

Mr Netanyahu warmly greeted Mr Kushner with a smile and hug. “This is an opportunity to pursue our common goals of security, prosperity and peace,” Mr Netanyahu said. “The President sends his best regards and it’s an honour to be here with you,” Mr Kushner replied.

Mr Kushner’s trip follows the President’s visit to the region last month, when Mr Trump also had discussions with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Appearing at a press conference with Mr Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Mr Trump declared that the Palestinians are “ready to reach for peace”.

Mr Kushner played a key part in planning Mr Trump’s stops in Israel, Saudi Arabia and Rome during the President’s tour abroad. The 36-year-old also appears to be taking on a more public role in his father-in-law’s administration, giving his first public remarks as a White House adviser this week.

The President has tasked Mr Kushner with the ambitious goal of laying the groundwork for what he calls the “ultimate deal,” but significant obstacles remain

This month marked the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Mideast war — a seminal event in which Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinians claim these territories for their future independent state. Mr Netanyahu opposes a return to the 1967 lines and also rejects any division of Jerusalem. The eastern part of the city, which the Palestinians claim as their capital, is home to sensitive Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites.

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The White House appeared to play down expectations for a breakthrough ahead of the visit, saying that “forging a historic peace agreement will take time” and that Mr Kushner and envoy envoy Jason Greenblatt will likely make “many visits” to the region.

For now, the United States is expected to pressure each side to make goodwill gestures in hopes of improving the overall climate.

Mr Greenblatt landed in Israel on Monday for preliminary talks in both Jerusalem and Ramallah, and will also remain for follow-up discussions after Mr Kushner has left.

“Part of it is to figure out how to make incremental change that results in a lasting peace,” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said on Monday. “Part of this is really to utilise the trust that has been built up, and not have these negotiations out in public. But I think that they had a very successful visit when the President was over there, and they’re going to continue to build on that.”

For more than 20 years, the US has pushed for a “two-state solution”, meaning an independent Palestinian state living side-by-side and at peace with Israel.

But during a February meeting with Mr Netanyahu in Washington DC, Mr Trump declared that he was not fixed on two states saying, “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like”.

Discussions over a peace deal will mean putting pressure on Israel to restrain its construction of settlements on occupied lands sought by the Palestinians. It also could mean working with Israel to take new steps to help improve the struggling Palestinian economy, such as easing restrictions to allow more development of West Bank lands.

However, hours before Mr Kushner’s arrival in Israel for his 20-hour vist, Mr Netanyahu announced the beginning of construction on a new Jewish settlement in the West Bank, despite the White House’s position that “further unrestrained settlement activity does not help advance peace”. In the past, the Palestinians have called for a stop to settlement building before any peace negotiations can occur.

“This is the way Mr Netanyahu is meeting Trump’s envoys,” said Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian official told Reuters. “The real question here is will the administration of Trump tell Israel that it is enough and they have to stop immediately all settlement activities, or they will accept this Israeli provocation?”

Mr Netanyahu had vowed to compensate the residents of Amona with a new settlement, after their previous illegally built outpost was dismantled in February under orders from the Supreme Court.

As for the Palestinians, they are under pressure to halt what Israel sees as incitement to violence in their official media, speeches and social media.

Israel has also demanded that the Palestinians stop making welfare payments to families of militants who are either imprisoned or were killed while committing attacks on Israelis. Israel says the so-called “Martyrs’ Fund” provides an incentive for Palestinian violence.

After arriving early on Wednesday Mr Kushner paid a condolence visit to the grieving family of a young female Israeli police officer who was killed by Palestinian attackers last weekend in Jerusalem. Mr Kushner said Mr Trump asked him to personally convey the condolences of the American people.

Reuters contributed to this report 

Israel Says No Link to Any Armed Group and Jerusalem Attack

June 17, 2017


Thomas Coex, AFP | Israeli security forces and an ambulance at the scene of an attack outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on June 16, 2017.

JUNE 17, 2017 11:37


“The Palestinian youth will continue to characterize the occupation as its single enemy.”


Damascus gate, Jerusalem

Damascus gate, Jerusalem. (photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)No connection has been found between three Palestinians who carried out a fatal attack in Jerusalem on Friday and any organization, Israeli police said on Saturday, after Islamic State had claimed the assault.

Palestinian militants factions have also denied that Islamic State carried out the attack, in which one Israeli police office was killed.

“It was a local cell. At this stage no indication has been found it was directed by a terrorist organization nor has any connection to any organization been found,” police spokeswoman Luba Simri said.

Staff Sergeant Major Hadas Malka, 23, was taken to the emergency care unit at nearby Hadassah University Medical Center in critical condition after sustaining multiple stab wounds during the attack. Hospital officials later pronounced her dead after failing to save her life.

Two Palestinians were shot dead after opening fire at and trying to stab a group of Israeli police officers at one scene, police said. At the other, a Palestinian fatally stabbed a border policewoman before being shot dead by police.

No automatic alt text available.Israeli police said on Friday all the assailants were from Palestinian cities in the West Bank. Two of the attackers, both from Ramallah, were between the ages of 18 and 19 and the third was a 30-year-old from Hebron, police spokeswoman Luba Simri said.

The assaults took place simultaneously in two areas near the Damascus gate of Jerusalem’s walled old city.

Gaza-based terrorist organization Hamas praised the bloodshed but disputed the Islamic State’s claim, stating that the perpetrators were affiliated to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

“The sacrificial operation in Jerusalem that was carried out by three martyrs in Jerusalem confirms that the PA’s attempt to make the relationship with the occupier ‘a normal relationship’ is a failure. The Palestinian youth will continue to characterize the occupation as its single enemy,” said Hamas spokesperson Hazim Qassim in a Facebook post.

Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party called the death of the three perpetrators a “war crime by the Israeli occupation forces” in a statement published by Fatah spokesperson Osama Al-Qawasmi.


China open to “active role” in advancing Middle East peace

May 30, 2017

MAY 30, 2017 11:48
Chinese special envoy to the Middle East, Gong Xiaosheng, made the remarks during a meeting Monday night with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

abbas china Gong Xiaosheng

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas with China’s Special Envoy on the Middle East Issue Gong Xiaosheng [File 2016]. (photo credit:CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY)

China is willing to play an active role in pushing forward the frozen peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported Tuesday.

The report cited remarks made by Chinese special envoy to the Middle East, Gong Xiaosheng, during a meeting on Monday night with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

During the convening, Abbas reportedly briefed Gong on recent developments, notedly regarding the PA leader’s visit to Washington in April, his trip to Russia in early May and his meeting with US President Donald Trump last week in Bethlehem.

While the Trump administration is weighing a drive to resume Israeli-Palestinian talks through a regional process, China is looking to increase its role in the Middle East, particularly with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Syrian crisis. It is one of the six world powers and one of five members of the UN Security Council with veto power.

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In the meeting with Abbas on Monday, Gong additionally underlined China’s support of the Palestinians and their geopolitical aspirations.

Along with bilateral diplomatic relations, the Chinese envoy expressed his country’s readiness to bolster economic ties with the Palestinians. Abbas hailed the comments and the Palestinian Authority’s “special” relations with the East Asian nation.

China is one of Israel’s top trading partners, but the two governments are often at odds on regional issues.

Beijing has strong ties with Tehran and recognizes Palestine as a state.

In mid-March, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited China for three days to mark 25 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Ahead of the visit, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, “The issue of Palestine is an open wound in the Middle East. Peace may be delayed, but justice cannot be denied. China firmly supports the two-state solution and will continue to do what we can to help restart the peace talks.”



Trump vows to push for Mideast peace in meeting with Abbas — America can help Israel and the Palestinians forge peace

May 23, 2017


© US President Donald Trump (L) meets with Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-05-23

US President Donald Trump vowed Tuesday to do “everything I can” to achieve a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians as he met Mahmoud Abbas in the occupied West Bank.

“I am committed to trying to achieve a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and I intend to do everything I can to help them achieve that goal,” Trump said in comments after holding talks with the Palestinian president in Bethlehem.


The US president said he is “truly hopeful that America can help Israel and the Palestinians forge peace and bringing new hope the region and its people”. He said he firmly believes that “if Israeli and the Palestinians can make peace, it will begin a process of peace all throughout the Middle East”.

“That would be an amazing accomplishment,” Trump said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)

Ruling Fatah Party faces harsh reality check in West Bank municipal elections

May 15, 2017

Running virtually unopposed, Mahmoud Abbas’ ruling Fatah Party has strolled to victory in West Bank municipal elections. Seeking to renew its legitimacy, the win was marred by a low turnout and lackluster support.

Mahmoud Abbas (picture alliance/AP Photo/R.Adayleh)

After the Islamic Hamas movement confirmed it would boycott the vote, Saturday’smunicipal elections across the West Bank were always going to serve as a litmus test for President Mahmoud Abbas (pictured) and his Fatah Party’s popularity.

Although it won easily, the Fatah Party’s poor showing as results were released on Sunday reflected public discontent towards Abbas. The West Bank has for years been marred by a weak economy, while Abbas has allegedly allowed nepotism to flourish within his party’s ranks and failed to move the Palestinian Territories any closer to independence after more than 10 years at the helm.

Although Saturday’s vote was the first legislative election in the West Bank in over a decade, turnout was low, with just 53 percent of eligible voters casting their ballots.

Fatah only managed clear victories in two major cities: Jenin and Jericho. In Hebron, the West Bank’s largest city and a Hamas stronghold, Abbas’ party managed to claim seven of 15 seats.

“The result wasn’t great for us,” Tayseer Abu Sneineh, the head of Fatah’s list in the city, told the Associated Press.

The ruling party managed to win 11 of 15 seats in Nablus, another major city, but only after forming alliances with Islamist candidates. Turnout there was just 21 percent.

Divided governments

Palestine’s two territories have remained politically divided since Hamas defeated Fatah in the 2006 legislative elections in the Gaza Strip. Fatah was subsequently driven out of the area, leaving Abbas in control of just the Palestinian Authority autonomy government in parts of the West Bank.

Several attempts to reconcile have fallen short, and each party has been allowed to effectively rule its territory autonomously since.

Last year, the two parties were poised to compete in elections in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip, before each side disqualified the other’s candidate. Elections in Gaza were postponed and Fatah went ahead and ran unopposed in a bid to renew its legitimacy.

Following Saturday’s vote, Palestinian Central Elections Commission chairman Hanna Nasser said he would try to persuade Hamas to allow elections in all of Gaza’s 25 localities later this year.

“The commission will meet with Hamas in Gaza to see if we can hold supplementary elections there so that we would have elections in all parts of the country,” he said.

President Trump Likely To Back Palestinian ‘Self Determination’ During Mideast Trip

May 13, 2017
MAY 13, 2017 11:28
Speaking about Trump’s upcoming visit to the region, White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster did not rule out the option of Trump bringing Netanyahu and Abbas together for renewed talks.
Trump Abbas

US President Donald Trump (R) welcomes Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington on May 3, 2017. (photo credit:REUTERS)

President Donald Trump will express support for Palestinian “self-determination” during a Middle East trip this month, a senior aide said on Friday, suggesting Trump is open to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict despite not having publicly embraced the idea so far.

The comment by US national security adviser H.R. McMaster came just nine days after a White House visit by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in which Trump vowed to seek a historic peace deal but stopped short of explicitly recommitting to the eventual goal of Palestinian statehood, a longtime bedrock of US policy.

Previewing Trump’s first foreign trip, McMaster also said he would use a visit to Saudi Arabia, his first stop, to encourage Arab and Muslim partners to take “bold new steps” to confront those from Iran, Islamic State, al Qaeda and Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government “who perpetuate chaos and violence.”

Trump’s travels, which begin late next week and will also include stops in Israel and Rome, are intended to “broadcast a message of unity” by visiting holy sites of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, McMaster told reporters.

Trump’s meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, currently due to be held separately, will be closely watched for whether he begins to articulate a cohesive strategy to revive long-stalled negotiations. Most experts are skeptical of Trump’s chances of brokering a peace accord that eluded his predecessors.

Trump plans, in talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to “reaffirm America’s unshakeable bond to the Jewish state” and in a meeting with Abbas to “express his desire for dignity and self-determination for the Palestinians,” said McMaster, a decorated Army general with extensive Middle East experience.

Trump is expected to meet Abbas, the Western-backed head of the Palestinian Authority, in Bethlehem in the West Bank, Palestinian sources say.

Palestinians were disappointed when Trump failed to mention a two-state solution in a joint appearance with Abbas on May 3.

Trump sparked international criticism in February when, during a news conference with Netanyahu, he appeared to back away from a longstanding US commitment to Palestinian statehood, saying he would leave it up to the parties to decide.

An independent state is not only the aspiration of the vast majority of Palestinians but has been the objective of successive US administrations and the international community.

Asked whether Trump would bring Netanyahu and Abbas together in the same room during the visit scheduled for May 22-23, McMaster said that would be up to the president and the other leaders. “The final plans aren’t set yet,” he said.



Can a Corrupt, Dysfunctional, Anti-Semitic Palestinaian Authority Leadership Be a Partner?

May 7, 2017
MAY 7, 2017 17:28


Speaking at the JPost annual summit, Energy and Water Resources Minister Yuval Steinitz laid out two conditions that should be met before Israeli-Palestinian peace talks resume.

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Yuval Steinitz at the JPost Annual Conference 2017 . (photo credit:SIVAN FARAG)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political ally, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz called Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas “anti-Semitic” in an address at Sunday’s Jerusalem Post Conference in New York.

Steinitz said Trump’s upcoming visit to Jerusalem was a golden opportunity to strengthen the alliance of Israel and the US. But he warned Trump against relying on Abbas.

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Donald Trump welcomes Mahmoud Abbas to White House in Washington , May 3, 2017. (photo credit:REUTERS)

“An anti-Semitic leader is no partner for peace,” Steinitz said. “We always hope to achieve peace and security with our neighbors. But I question whether Abbas can be trusted as a partner to achieve peace and security. Can a corrupt, dysfunctional, anti-Semitic Palestinian Authority become a partner to achieve peace?”

Abbas must terminate anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiment in the Palestinian Authority’s education system, Steinitz stressed.

As the situation stands today, Steinitz continued, Palestinian children are taught that Jews are “horrible creatures” and “should be gotten rid of.”

Steinitz laid out two conditions that should be met before Israeli-Palestinian peace talks resume.  Firstly, that the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiment in the PA education system be terminated, and secondly that Gaza must be demilitarized.

“We got a commitment in Oslo that Gaza would be totally demilitarized,” Steinitz said. “If he is incapable of demilitarizing Gaza, how can we trust him as a partner? It’s a necessary condition to moving the diplomatic process forward. We are always ready to promote peace and negotiate it and give it a try, but I am not optimistic if those conditions are not met.”

During his speech, the minister also turned to Israeli achievements in natural resources, saying for the first time in history, Israel will export natural gas to Western Europe.

Western Europe was dependent on Arab natural gas supply in the past, he said, noting that the move was important for Israel economically and strategically.


Trump Makes A Tragic Mistake — What Does Trump Stand For?

May 5, 2017
MAY 4, 2017 22:31


Israel is the most immediate casualty of Trump’s decision to embrace Abbas and the PLO, because the PLO is Israel’s enemy.

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Donald Trump welcomes Mahmoud Abbas to White House in Washington , May 3, 2017. (photo credit:REUTERS)

By all accounts, US President Donald Trump is a friend of the Jewish state.

It is due to Trump’s heartfelt support for Israel and the US-Israel alliance that his meeting Wednesday with PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas at the White House is most discouraging.

By meeting with Abbas, and committing himself to working toward achieving a peace deal between Abbas and his PLO and Israel, Trump undermines Israel.

He also undermines himself and his nation.

Israel is the most immediate casualty of Trump’s decision to embrace Abbas and the PLO, because the PLO is Israel’s enemy.

Abbas is an antisemite. His doctoral dissertation, which he later published as a book, is a Holocaust denying screed.

Abbas engages in antisemitic incitement on a daily basis, both directly and indirectly. It was Abbas who called for his people to kill Jews claiming that we pollute Judaism’s most sacred site, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, with our “filthy feet.” The Palestinian media and school system which he controls with an iron fist both regularly portray Jews as evil monsters, deserving of physical annihilation.

Abbas’s PLO and his Palestinian Authority engage as a general practice in glorifying terrorist murderers. As has been widely reported in recent weeks, his PA and PLO also incentivize and underwrite terrorism to the tune of $300 million a year, which is paid, in accordance with PA law, to convicted terrorists sitting in Israeli prisons and their families.

And that’s just the money we know about.

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In welcoming Abbas to the White House, Trump chose to ignore all of this in the interest of fostering a peace deal between Israel and the PLO.

There are three problems with this goal. First, the peace process between Israel and the PLO is predicated on the notion that the US must pressure Israel to make massive concessions to the PLO. So simply by engaging in a negotiating process with the PLO, Trump has adopted an antagonistic position toward Israel.

The second problem is that Abbas himself has proven, repeatedly, that he will never support a peace deal with Israel. Abbas opposed Israel’s peace offer at Camp David in 2000. He rejected then-prime minister Ehud Olmert’s peace offer in 2008. He rejected then-president Barack Obama’s peace offer in 2013. Since then, Abbas made no sign of moderating his position.

The third problem with Trump’s decision to engage in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians is that any hypothetical deal a hypothetical Palestinian leader would accept, would endanger Israel’s very existence. So in the unlikely event that he reaches “the deal,” his achievement will imperil Israel, rather than protect it.

Again, Israel isn’t the only party harmed by Trump’s decision to embrace the Palestinian dictator whose legal term of office ended eight years ago.

Trump himself is harmed by his move.

Trump moves is self-destructive for two reasons. First, he is setting himself up for failure. By positioning himself in the middle of a diplomatic initiative that will fail, he is guaranteeing that he will fail.

Trump’s move also endangers the support of one of his key constituencies. Evangelical Christians in the US voted overwhelmingly for Trump in both the Republican primaries and in the general election. They rallied to his side due to Trump’s pledge to appoint anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court, and to support Israel. By initiating a diplomatic process that pits his administration against Israel, Trump places that support in jeopardy.

Then there is the US itself.

Trump’s engagement with the PLO harms US core interests in two ways. First there is the issue of coalition building.

Consider for a moment the other anti-American autocrat Trump reached out to this week.

Trump’s recent invitation for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to visit him in Washington has been roundly criticized by Washington’s foreign policy elite. Last year Duterte stunned Washington when he launched an expletive-filled denunciation of Obama and announced he is ditching the Philippines’ longstanding alliance with the US in favor of an alliance with China.

Obama did nothing to convince Duterte to change course. While understandable from Obama’s perspective, the fact is that the US needs to restore its alliance with Manila to secure its interests in the Far East.

The most acute threat the US now faces is North Korea’s threat to launch a nuclear attack against America. Due to the passivity and hapless diplomacy of Trump’s predecessors, Pyongyang may well have the means to carry out its threats.

To protect itself and its interests against North Korea, the US must build up and strengthen a coalition on allies in the Far East. The Philippines, with its strategic location and naval bases, is a key component of any US coalition against North Korea.

In the longer term, the US has a vital interest in restoring its alliance with the Philippines to contend with the rapidly rising strategic threat China poses to its interests.

Hence, despite the fact that Duterte is a potty-mouthed strongman and bigoted authoritarian, US interests require Trump to embrace him.

This then returns us to Abbas.

In contrast to Duterte, no US interest is served by embracing Abbas.

The US’s chief challenge in the Middle East today is to form a coalition of states and actors that can help it stem Iran’s rise as a nuclear-armed, terrorism- sponsoring regional power. The members of such a coalition are clear.

Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE stand united today in their opposition to Iran, its nuclear program, its support for Sunni and Shi’ite jihadists and terrorist groups, and its moves to establish an empire of vassals that spans westward through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, southward to Yemen and eastward through Afghanistan.

The members of Iran’s coalition include its Lebanese foreign legion Hezbollah, the Assad regime, the Shi’ite militias in Iraq, Hamas, other Sunni terrorist groups aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood and Yemen’s Houthis.

By embracing the PLO, rather than build and strengthen the anti-Iranian alliance of Israel and the anti-Iranian, anti-Muslim-Brotherhood Arab states, Trump is tearing that alliance apart. In its place he is cobbling together an anti-Israel alliance comprised of Iran’s allies in Qatar and to a degree in Turkey, the PLO, and at least passively, Hamas. This anti-Israel alliance is supported, grudgingly, by the Saudis, Egyptians and others who cannot afford to be seen abandoning the Palestinians.

In other words, by embracing the PLO, Trump is strengthening Iran and its supporters at the expense of Israel, the US-aligned Sunni states and the US itself.

Moreover, by embracing the PLO Trump is directly undermining the US’s goal of defeating terrorism in two key ways.

First, Trump’s move undermines congressional efforts to block further US funding of Palestinian terrorism. Today, the Taylor Force Act, which enjoys massive support in both houses of Congress, is making its way through Congress. The act will block US funding of the PA due to its payments to terrorists and their families.

On Wednesday Trump pledged to keep those funds flowing. This pits him against the Republican-controlled Congress. Congressional sources relate that the Taylor Force Act is just the first move toward holding the PLO accountable for “its monstrous behavior.”

To embrace Abbas, Trump will either have to veto the Taylor Force Act and other congressional initiatives or insist on receiving a presidential waiver for implementing them. Such waivers, like the presidential waiver to block the transfer of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, will ensure that US taxpayers will continue to incentivize Palestinian terrorism against Israel.

The second way Trump’s decision to embrace the PLO harms the US’s efforts to fight terrorism became clear this week with Hamas’s new PR document. Hamas’s new policy document departs not one iota from the Muslim Brotherhood group’s devotion to the goal of destroying Israel.

In adopting its new document, which calls for Israel to withdraw, first and foremost, from Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, Hamas has adopted the PLO’s wildly successful strategy of engaging in a dual campaign against Israel, waging terrorist war against Israel on the one hand while winning the support of the West on the other.

Hamas’s document is a restatement of the PLO’s 1974 phased plan for destroying Israel.

The PLO’s plan – which it continues to implement today – involves accepting limited territorial gains from Israel. The territory that Israel cedes in each phase will not become a Palestinian state. Rather it will serve as a launching ground for a new war against Israel.

Under the phased plan, the PLO adopted the ruse that it is interested in territorial compromise with Israel, in order to advance its actual goal of destroying Israel piece by piece.

Trump’s decision to become the fourth US president to welcome a PLO chief to the White House, and his apparent decision to continue funding the terrorist group are new evidence of the wild success of the PLO’s strategy.

Just as the Hamas document neither contradicts nor abrogates its genocidal pledge to eradicate Israel boldly asserted in its covenant, so the PLO’s phased plan and its subsequent embrace of the “peace process” neither contradicted nor superseded its founding charter that calls for Israel’s destruction.

PLO leaders simply stopped discussing their founding documents in their dealings with gullible Westerners keen to win peace prizes.

In a similar fashion, the Western media received news of Hamas’s PR stunt with respect and interest. Given the reception, Hamas has every reason to expect that in due time, its transparent ruse will open the doors of the chanceries of Europe and beyond to its terror masters.

In other words, by embracing Abbas and the PLO on Wednesday, Trump empowered Hamas. He signaled to Hamas – and to every other terrorist group in the Middle East – that to receive international support, including from his administration, all you need to do is say that you are willing to follow the PLO’s dual strategy of engaging simultaneously in terrorism and political warfare and subterfuge.

There is no upside to Trump’s move. It will not bring peace. It harms prospects for peace by empowering Abbas and his terrorist henchmen.

It will not strengthen Israel. It places Israel on a collision course with the Trump White House and undermines its regional posture.

It will not help the US to build a coalition to defeat Iran and its vassals. It subverts the coalition that already exists by embarrassing the Sunnis into siding with terrorists against Israel.

It does not advance the US war on terror. It empowers terrorists to kill Israelis and others by using US tax revenues to fund the PA, providing a blueprint for other terrorists to wage political war against the West and Israel.

And it harms Trump by alienating a key constituency and undermining his relations with Congress.

It is hard to see how Trump, now committed to this dangerous folly, can walk away from it. But to diminish the damage, a way must be found, quickly.


Want a Real Middle East Breakthrough? Stop funding for terrorists, Israel’s PM Netanyahu Says

May 2, 2017
MAY 2, 2017 00:57
The prime minister called on Mahmoud Abbas to stop the payments, two days before the PA president is scheduled to meet US President Donald Trump in Washington.

Youth holds stone as Palestinians clash with IDF in the West Bank

Youth holds stone as Palestinians clash with IDF in the West Bank. (photo credit:REUTERS)

The prime minister called on Abbas to stop the payments, two days before the PA president is scheduled to meet US President Donald Trump in Washington. The issue of funding is expected to come up in the meeting.

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Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan also brought up the issue of payments to terrorists in an op-ed in Monday’s New York Times: “The Palestinian Authority must also stop the most insidious form of encouragement to violence: payments to convicted terrorists and their families. The authority has enacted official legislation guaranteeing monthly stipends to every incarcerated terrorist and their families. The worse the attack and the longer the sentence, the higher the payout. Because the Palestinian Authority’s budget depends heavily on foreign aid, these payments are, for all intents and purposes, paid by the taxpayers in the countries of foreign funders…Both politicians and ordinary citizens must demand an end to this gross abuse of international funds.”

Despite these comments, Netanyahu and his cabinet has yet to decide whether or not to support an Israeli bill that would curb tax payments to the PA as long as terrorists are being paid. The Prime Minister’s Office said they are unable to provide answers yet, and the office of MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid), who drafted the bill, said the cabinet has not committed to supporting his proposal.

According to PA law, 7% of its budget goes to paying Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons, during and after serving their sentences, or to the families of those killed or injured in the conflict, many of whom are terrorists. These payments amount to about NIS 1.1 billion, or $300 million, annually. The payment made to an individual is increased according to their Israeli prison sentence, such that, effectively, the more people a terrorist harms, the more he or she is paid. For many, this amounts to a salary significantly higher than the average among Palestinians.

Israel collects taxes for the PA without taking these payments to terrorists into consideration.

Stern decided to change the situation, proposing a bill by which the percentage of the Palestinian budget allocated to paying terrorists and their families will be docked from the amount of tax money Israel transfers to the PA. The amount will be determined by the PA’s reports from the previous year.

“A necessary condition for peace is our neighbor’s recognition of the State of Israel and its right to exist with security,” Stern wrote in the bill. “This recognition must be expressed not only in words. IT requires the Palestinian leadership to show through actions and policies that the aim to destroy Israel, promote hatred of Jews and support for terrorism against Israelis are not acceptable.”

Stern said he wrote the bill at the request of US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who drafted the Taylor Force Act.

Graham’s bill seeks to cut off all US foreign aid to the “West Bank and Gaza unless the Department of State certifies certifies that the Palestinian Authority: Is taking steps to end acts of violence against US and Israeli citizens perpetrated by individuals under its jurisdictional control…is publicly condemning such acts of violence and is investigating, or cooperating in investigations of, such acts; and has terminated payments for acts of terrorism against US and Israeli citizens to any individual who has been convicted and imprisoned for such acts, to any individual who died committing such acts, and to family members of such an individual.”

In the House, the bill is sponsored by Rep.s Doub Lamborn (R-CO) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY).

The proposal was named the Taylor Force Act after a 28-year-old West Point graduate and veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian in Jaffa last year.

Herb Keinon contributed to this report.


Hamas Drops Call for Israel’s Destruction

May 2, 2017

Palestinian Islamist movement, which rules Gaza, also formally accepts notion of a Palestinian state in territories Israel captured in 1967.

Fighters belonging to the armed wing of Hamas take part in a funeral for a senior fighter in Gaza City on March 25.

Fighters belonging to the armed wing of Hamas take part in a funeral for a senior fighter in Gaza City on March 25. PHOTO: REUTERS

Updated May 1, 2017 7:28 p.m. ET

The Palestinian militant group Hamas dropped its explicit call for Israel’s destruction on Monday, a bid to overhaul its image as the Trump White House explores reviving Middle East peace efforts.

Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, also formally accepted in its revised charter the notion of a Palestinian state in territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war. But the group didn’t recognize Israel and still expressed an ambition to take over all Israeli territory in the long run.

“This charter demonstrates our political vision and will be taught to our supporters,” Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said Monday. “The 1988 charter represented our vision at that time and this one represents our vision now.”

U.S. and Israeli officials said they didn’t see the move as a real change in the approach of Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and other Western governments.

The change in the charter comes days before Mahmoud Abbas, president of the rival Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, is scheduled to hold talks with President Donald Trump at the White House in which they are expected to discuss how to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. It also comes as Hamas is increasingly isolated from longtime supporters in the region.

“Hamas is attempting to fool the world but it will not succeed,” said David Keyes, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Daily, Hamas leaders call for genocide of all Jews and the destruction of Israel.” A U.S. official said the Trump administration hasn’t changed its outlook on Hamas.

The timing of the document’s release stems from the rivalry between Hamas and the Fatah faction of the Palestinian Authority, said Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the Treasury Department and now senior vice president at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“It’s an attempt to grab market share,” he said. “It’s a very calculated shift, but I think the Trump administration is not going to see Hamas any differently…it’s a softening of rhetoric, not a change of behavior.”

Mr. Trump has said he wants to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. Mr. Abbas has stepped up pressure on Hamas in recent weeks in an apparent attempt to signal to the White House he is trying to unify the Palestinians, who have been politically divided since Hamas won control of Gaza 10 years ago.

Since then, Israel has frequently noted the difficulty of holding peace talks with Mr. Abbas and the Palestinian Authority on the grounds they don’t represent all Palestinians.

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, left, spoke in Doha on Monday.

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, left, spoke in Doha on Monday. PHOTO: KARIM JAAFAR/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Hamas is also under pressure on other fronts. It has strained ties with previous backers Iran and Syria over its support for Syrian rebels. Gulf states, which have deepened their covert relationship with Israel, haven’t passed along most of the money pledged to rebuild Gaza after Hamas’s 2014 war with Israel. Turkey restored diplomatic ties with Israel last summer.

Mr. Mashaal unveiled the new charter on Monday in the Qatari capital of Doha, where the movement has its headquarters. The new charter states: “Palestine symbolizes the resistance that shall continue until liberation is accomplished, until the return is fulfilled and until a fully sovereign state is established with Jerusalem as its capital.”

In its 1988 charter, drafted a year after it was founded, Hamas called for the destruction of Israel and the Palestinian takeover of all Israeli territory. Since then, it has fought three short wars with Israel and occasionally called for a 10-year truce with its neighbor. But it has never formally recognized the state of Israel.

In revising its charter, Hamas also dropped a reference to its connection with the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Hamas evolved in the 1980s. Egypt’s current leader, President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, came to power in a 2013 coup that ousted Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt and other Gulf states, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have in recent years designated the group a terrorist organization.

In recent months, Hamas has been conducting internal elections. Mr. Mashaal is expected to step down after more than a decade as the group’s leader and to be succeeded by Ismail Haniyeh, who was the group’s local chief in Gaza until earlier this year, when hard-liner Yahya Sinwar succeeded him.

Officials with Hamas have warned that attempts by Mr. Abbas to force them to give up control of Gaza will only deepen the group’s political differences with the Palestinian Authority, which is dominated by Mr. Abbas’s more moderate and secular Fatah party.

Mr. Abbas last month cut salaries to workers in Gaza and told Israel it would no longer pay for the electricity supplied by Israel to the coastal enclave.

In response, Hamas asked Arab nations, including Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza, to deal directly with the group and not go through the Palestinian Authority.

A spokesman for the Palestinian Authority didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Mashaal has wanted Hamas to appear more moderate internationally with the eventual goal of replacing Fatah as the most influential group in the Palestine Liberation Organization, said Kobi Michael, former deputy director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs. The PLO represents Palestinians in negotiations with Israel.

But current and former Israeli officials expressed skepticism that the more moderate charter would be adhered to by Messrs. Haniyeh and Sinwar, who are considered more militant than Mr. Mashaal. Mr. Sinwar was convicted in the 1980s of killing Israeli soldiers and sentenced to four life sentences. He was later released in a 2011 prisoner swap.

The Fatah-dominated PLO recognized the state of Israel as part of the Oslo Accords process of the 1990s. In recent years, Mr. Netanyahu and other Israeli political figures have called on Palestinians to recognize Israel specifically as a Jewish state as a prerequisite for peace. Palestinian officials have rejected that demand, saying one-fifth of the country’s population is Arab Palestinian.

Mr. Netanyahu has said he won’t accept the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders because of the security risks it poses.

He also has called it unrealistic for large numbers of Palestinian refugees to return to Israel, a key demand of both Hamas and Fatah. Such an influx, he and other Israeli officials say, would jeopardize the Jewish majority.

Write to Rory Jones at

Appeared in the May. 02, 2017, print edition as ‘Hamas Recasts Image In Step to Build Sway.’