Posts Tagged ‘Netanyahu’

Criticism grows over Netanyahu’s response to US neo-Nazism

August 17, 2017


© AFP/File / by Mike Smith | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly praised US President Donald Trump but had a testy relationship with his predecessor Barack Obama

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Criticism grew Thursday over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s limited response to a US white supremacist rally and President Donald Trump’s controversial remarks about it, with calls for him to speak out against anti-Semitism.The issue highlighted Netanyahu’s reluctance to be seen as criticising Trump, who has expressed strong support for Israel and whose rise to the presidency was welcomed by the Israeli premier, some analysts said.

Netanyahu regularly speaks out against anti-Semitism in other countries, but the United States is Israel’s most important ally, providing it with more than $3 billion per year in defence aid and important diplomatic backing.

Netanyahu had a testy relationship with Barack Obama, a Democrat who often pressured him over Israeli settlement building, but he has repeatedly praised Republican Trump.

So far, Netanyahu’s only response to the weekend white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that ended in bloodshed was a tweet on Tuesday that many saw as vague.

“Outraged by expressions of anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism and racism. Everyone should oppose this hatred,” Netanyahu posted in English.

A Facebook post by Netanyahu’s son Yair further raised eyebrows.

He denounced “neo-Nazi scum,” but added that they were “dying out” and seemed to suggest left-wing counter-protesters “who hate my country” were a growing threat.

Criticism of Netanyahu among opposition politicians and others has grown louder over the last couple of days, particularly after Trump’s comments on Tuesday in which he said there was “blame on both sides.”

Perhaps the harshest criticism came from Shelly Yachimovich, a parliament member and former leader of the opposition Labour party.

“?And you, the prime minister of the Jewish people in their land, the man who constantly warns us about a Holocaust, with excessive portions of fear and bombast and promises of ‘never again,’ what about you?” she wrote on Facebook.

“Was it too trivial, an anti-Semitic march in Charlottesville with Third Reich memorabilia?”

Former prime minister Ehud Barak, also from Labour, said “an Israeli leader should have said within six hours our position as Jews, as Israelis, as brothers of a large community, the American Jewish community, including in Charlottesville, who live under threat.”

– ‘Aren’t two sides’ –

Others issued more forceful denunciations of the rally than Netanyahu, including Education Minister Naftali Bennett.

Opposition member Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid party, pointedly said in reference to Trump’s comments that “there aren’t two sides.”

Israeli papers devoted front-page coverage to Trump’s comments on Thursday, with top-selling paper Yedioth Ahronoth running a photo of him and the headline “shame.”

Some commentators however pointed out that freesheet Israel Hayom, owned by Netanyahu and Trump backer Sheldon Adelson, buried the story deep inside the paper.

A spokesman for Netanyahu declined to comment on Thursday.

After Netanyahu’s post on Tuesday, an Israeli official said on condition of anonymity that “the tweet is unequivocal and states his revulsion at the scenes of bigotry that the world has witnessed.”

But for some, it has not been nearly enough.

Gideon Rahat of the Israel Democracy Institute think tank said the Israeli government should be expected to respond to such events as a state founded as a “safe haven” for Jews.

“You know we always have the Holocaust on our minds, so you take this and you see that Jews are attacked somewhere,” Rahat said.

But he said of Netanyahu that “I think that his concerns are his relationship with Trump.”

For Abraham Diskin, an emeritus political science professor at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, Netanyahu has no choice but to be “cautious.”

“You have to choose your fights,” he said.

“You cannot fight on every issue. You cannot clash with someone who is that important to Israel on issues like that.”

Whether Netanyahu could see a wider political backlash at home over the issue is an open question.

For Rahat, denunciation of such anti-Semitism is part of the “consensus” in Israel and opposition figures “can clearly use it against” Netanyahu.

Diskin said however that he believed most Israelis would not focus on the issue for long.

“Altogether, I think the vast majority of people will not remember the issue a week from now,” he said.

by Mike Smith

Netanyahu: Time for Kurds to have their own state

August 14, 2017

Israeli PM endorses Kurdish independence, telling Republican lawmakers Kurds ‘share our values’.

By Tzvi Lev, 14/08/17 11:02


Alex Kolomoisky/POOL

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu offered rare support for Kurdish independence, telling a visiting delegation of 33 Republican Congressmen last week that he was in favor of an independent state for the “brave, pro-Western people who share our values,” The Jerusalem Post reported.

Netanyahu has traditionally shied away from expressing sentiments in favor of the Kurds as to avoid offending Turkey, who has a large, restive Kurdish minority.

The previous time Netanyahu publically supported the Kurds was in 2014, when he said that “It is upon us to support the Kurds’ aspiration for independence,” and calling them a “fighting people that have proven political commitment and political moderation, and they’re also worthy of their own political independence.”

The Kurds are one of the world’s largest stateless ethnic minorities, and live in Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Turkey.

An independence referendum for Iraqi Kurdistan will take place in September 2017. Former Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar, who many see as Netanyahu’s potential heir, has urged Israel to support Kurdish independence, saying in June that “they have proven themselves over decades to be a reliable strategic partner for us.”

Israel’s Al-Jazeera move sends ‘chilling message’: Amnesty

August 7, 2017


© AFP/File | Al-Jazeera’s Jerusalem office
LONDON (AFP) – Israel’s decision to close the offices of broadcaster Al-Jazeera in the Jewish state is “a brazen attack on media freedom”, Amnesty International said Monday.”The move sends a chilling message that the Israeli authorities will not tolerate critical coverage,” Magdalena Mughrabi, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at the London-based group, said in a statement.

“This is a brazen attack on media freedom in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” she added.

She urged Israel to “halt any attempt to silence critical media”, saying that “all journalists should be free to carry out their work without facing harassment or intimidation”.

Israel said Sunday it would demand the revocation of the credentials of journalists working for the channel and also cut its cable and satellite connections.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had said on July 27 that he wanted Al-Jazeera expelled amid tensions over a sensitive Jerusalem holy site.

Israel has regularly accused the Doha-based broadcaster of bias in its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


From Newsweek

Qatar’s flagship Al Jazeera news channel has hit back at Israel over its decision to close the TV station’s Jerusalem bureau and revoke the accreditation of its journalists saying the move undermines the nation’s claim to be a democracy.

Al Jazeera has found itself at the centre of one of the most inflammatory diplomatic crises to grip the gulf states in decades. Saudi Arabia and its allies—accusing Qatar of supporting terrorism and backing regional rival Iran—have cut all ties with their tiny gas producing neighbor. The closure of Doha-based Al Jazeera is one of 13 demands issued by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain before normal relations can resume.

Israel gave its most explicit backing of the Saudi boycott  to date on Sunday when Communications Minister Ayoub Kara said Israel would shut down the network’s cable and satellite transmissions in the country as well as the other measures against its journalists.

“We have based our decision on the move by Sunni Arab states to close the Al Jazeera offices and prohibiting their work,” Kara said. His comments followed statements by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu  criticising the channel’s coverage of recent Arab boycotts over Israeli security measures at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque. Al Jazeera was denied access to the press conference about its own future.

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An employee walks inside an office of Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network in Jerusalem June 13, 2017. REUTERS/RONEN ZVULUN/

Fewer than 24 hours later the news channel offered its response. In a statement on the planned closure and other measures Al Jazeera said it “ denounces this decision made by a state that claims to be ‘the only democratic state in the Middle East.’”

Al Jazeera said that it would “watch closely the developments that may result from the Israeli decision, and will take the necessary legal measures towards it.”

The news channel challenged Kara, saying the Israeli minister had failed to substantiate his claims over Al Jazeera’s coverage, saying the network would “continue covering news and events in the occupied Palestinian territories in a professional and objective manner in accordance with the common journalistic standards set by the relevant international organizations, such as the British Broadcasting Code of Ofcom.”

The move by Israel follows the closure of Al Jazeera bureaus in Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The UAE has also blocked Al Jazeera’s signal, while Egypt banned Al Jazeera following the ouster of the country’s Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi. Al Jazeera and its Arabic language channel in particular have been accused of support for the Islamist movement.

Jordan king makes rare West Bank visit to meet Palestinian president

August 7, 2017

King Abdullah II has flown to the West Bank to meet with Palestinian President Abbas for the first time in five years. The trip is being viewed as a message to Israel, particularly over a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site.

Jordan's King Abdullah II and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

Jordan’s King Abdullah II flew by helicopter to the West Bank on Monday to hold talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas amid shared tensions with Israel.

Abdullah received a red carpet welcome in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority. He was greeted by Abbas before the two national anthems were played.

The two leaders meet fairly frequently in the Jordanian capital of Amman and other regional capitals, but it was Abdullah’s first visit to Ramallah since December 2012.

The king’s trip had to be coordinated with Israeli authorities who control all entrance and exit points to the West Bank, including the 150 kilometer (93 mile) border with Jordan and the airspace above it.

Jordan's King Abdullah II is hugged by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas King Abdullah II received a red carpet welcome and a hug from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

Signal to Israel

Abdullah’s visit comes amid rising Jordanian-Israeli tensions and is seen as a message to Tel Aviv that the Jordanian monarch is aligning with Palestinians on key issues – particularly concerning a contested Jerusalem holy site.

A crisis erupted last month at the Al Aqsa mosque compound when Israel installed metal detectors at Muslim entrances following the killing of two Israeli policemen.

The compound, which sits on a plateau in the Old City, is the third holiest site in Islam and is also revered by the Jews who call it Temple Mount.

Read more: Opinion – Tension escalates on the Temple Mount

The security changes led to several days of protests and clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian worshippers.

Tensions peaked on July 23 when an Israeli security guard shot and killed two Jordanians at the Israeli embassy in Amman. Israeli officials say one of the men attacked the security guard with a screwdriver while the other was accidentally shot.

The crisis finally eased on July 27 when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered that the metal detectors be taken down after consultations with Jordan.

Read more: Why Israel censored reporting on the Jordan embassy shooting

Jordan has been the custodian of Jerusalem’s Muslim holy sites since the 1920s. The role is also a key component of Abdullah’s legitimacy.

Abbas and Abdullah are also likely to discuss a US-led effort to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks which have been on hold for the past three years.

US President Donald Trump’s envoy to the region, Jason Greenblatt, has made several trips to Jerusalem, Amman and Ramallah, but there are few signs of interest in restarting negotiations.

rs/se (AP, AFP, Reuters)

Israel plans to close broadcaster Jazeera’s offices

August 6, 2017


© AFP | An employee of Qatar-based Al-Jazeera at the broadcaster’s Jerusalem office on July 31, 2017

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israel said on Sunday it planned to close the offices in the Jewish state of Al-Jazeera, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the Arab satellite news broadcaster of incitement.

A statement from the communications ministry said it would demand the revocation of the credentials of journalists working for the channel and also cut its cable and satellite connections.

Netanyahu had said on July 27 that he wanted Al-Jazeera expelled amid tensions over a sensitive Jerusalem holy site.

“The Al-Jazeera channel continues to incite violence around the Temple Mount,” he wrote in a Facebook post, referring to the Haram al-Sharif compound in Jerusalem, known to Jews as the Temple Mount.

Protests erupted at the contentious site after Israel last month installed new security measures including metal detectors, following the shooting dead of two Israeli policemen by attackers who emerged from the compound.

“I have appealed to law enforcement agencies several times to close the Al-Jazeera office in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said in calling for the channel’s expulsion.

“If this is not possible because of legal interpretation, I am going to seek to have the necessary legislation adopted to expel Al-Jazeera from Israel.”

Israel has regularly accused the Doha-based broadcaster of bias in its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Netanyahu heads what is seen as the most right-wing government in Israeli history.

He has frequently criticised the news media, accusing outlets of seeking to undermine his government.

Netanyahu Aide Says Israeli Leader Calm in Face of Charges — PM’s camp calls accusations a “witch hunt” — Opposition smells blood and wants to force Netanyahu out

August 6, 2017

JERUSALEM — A close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he is relaxed and confident amid reports of the slew of corruptions charges against him.

Sports and Culture Minister Miri Regev says Sunday she has full confidence in the prime minister and denounced what she called a media campaign to topple him.

Netanyahu himself did not address the latest developments at his weekly Cabinet meeting.

Israeli police recently announced that they suspect Netanyahu of being involved in bribery, fraud and breach of trust in a pair of cases. Netanyahu’s former chief of staff and longtime confidante has agreed to turn state witness and testify against his former mentor. This has raised speculation that Netanyahu could be indicted shortly.

Netanyahu has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and calls the accusations a witch hunt.



With Indictment in Question, Likud Comes Swinging for Netanyahu

–Barak compares Netanyahu to Mafia boss
–Is this the end for Netanyahu?

The prime minister’s corruption probes may be coming to a breaking point.
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem May 21, 2017.. (photo credit:EMIL SALMAN/POOL)

Likud ministers and members of Knesset took to the media Sunday morning in support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following a weekend of dramatic developments in the police case that has him suspected of corruption and other criminal activities. Their main message to the press and the public is that the prime minister has done nothing wrong and that calls for his ousting are politically motivated and an unlawful attempt to depose the government by non-democratic means.

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Netanyahu is currently being investigated in three separate cases, nicknamed cases 1000, 2000, and 3000 by the press. He faces possible charges for accepting gifts from a wealthy friend in exchange for political favors, colluding with Yediot Aharonot’s publisher for favorable coverage, and for involvement in a corruption case surrounding the purchase of German submarines.

Netanyahu’s situation was complicated last week by the fact that his former chief of staff, Ari Harow, signed a state’s witness deal. By doing so, Harow is protecting himself – evading possible jail time to instead complete 6 months of community service and pay a 700,000 NIS fine – but also suggesting Netanyahu’s guilt.

Tzachi Hanegbi, a Likud MK and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office in charge of national security and foreign affairs, shared his doubts about the indictment process. In an interview on army radio, he said that the court’s reaching of a decision that would theoretically remove Netanyahu from office could take three or four years, meaning that it could come after the next elections take place in 2019.

Gil Hoffman @Gil_Hoffman
There wont be an indictment of @netanyahu b4 the next elex bc legal system in #Israel works very slowly, @Tzachi_Hanegbi tells @GLZRadio

Yisrael Katz, Minister of Transportation and Intelligence, as well as a member of the security cabinet, put out a statement in support of the prime minister.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should be allowed to fulfill his duties in accordance with the mandate he received from the public, in a state of law and democratic rule, not to dismiss a prime minister based on media headlines, opposition demonstrations or partial investigative procedures. I trust the law enforcement system will carry out its work with the professionalism and responsibility required to enable the State of Israel to continue to deal adequately with the complex challenges it faces.”

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) on Saturday also stated that Netanyahu could stay in office even if he’s indicted.

“From the legal perspective, if there’s an indictment, the prime minister doesn’t have to resign,” Shaked explained on Channel 2’s Meet the Press. “There is the side of values, and that is a question that coalition parties will have to ask themselves if we reach that day, but we aren’t there. There’s still a long process.”

Shaked called for “letting the government and the prime minister do their jobs.”

Politicians from the opposition, meanwhile, take it as a given that Netanyahu should leave his post, some saying such a move has been long overdue. Zionist Union chairman Avi Gabbay told Army Radio Sunday that he believes the public has tired of leaders tainted by corruption and wrongdoing, but that he had few expectations from Netanyahu’s allies to stand up for the rule of law since it doesn’t serve them politically at the moment.

The Israeli public also had their say with two protests taking place near Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit’s home in Petah Tikva for the 37th consecutive Saturday night. One of the protests, attended by some 2,000 people, called for Mandelblit to indict the prime minister, while the other was a pro-Netanyahu counter-demonstration organized by coalition chairman David Bitan and fellow Likud lawmakers, which was attended by some 150 people.

Lahav Harkov and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.


Benjamin Netanyahu — and his son — under fire in Israel

August 4, 2017


JERUSALEM (AP) — Since becoming an adult, the eldest son of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly drawn media criticism for what has been portrayed as a life of privilege at taxpayers’ expense.

Yair Netanyahu, 26, has been described as someone who hobnobs with world leaders and enjoys a state-funded bodyguard, while living at the prime minister’s official residence.

But his recent behavior, including a crude social media post, has now drawn public rebuke from the children of a former Israeli leader, along with threats of a libel suit. It has also revived criticism of the Netanyahu family’s perceived hedonism and sense of entitlement, at a time when the prime minister faces multiple corruption allegations.

Israeli police on Thursday disclosed that Netanyahu is suspected of fraud, breach of trust and bribes in a pair of cases, just as his son was being pilloried in the press.

The younger Netanyahu hit the tabloids last weekend when a neighbor posted an account of how he refused to pick up after the Netanyahu family dog at a public park and then, when confronted, gave the neighbor the finger.

Yair Netanyahu then lashed out on Facebook at a website run by a liberal think tank that detailed what it said was his lavish lifestyle at taxpayers’ expense.

In the post, Netanyahu alleged the site is funded by what he claimed are foreign interests, referring indirectly to the dovish New Israel Fund, which he renamed the “Israel Destruction Fund.” He signed the post with emojis of a middle finger and a pile of excrement.

The Times of Israel said Thursday that the Molad organization which runs the site served the younger Netanyahu with a notice of intent to sue. The notice reportedly said that his posts “had no iota of truth to them” and that Molad stopped receiving money from the NIF last year.

Representatives of Molad could not be reached for comment.

The New Israel Fund noted that Yair Netanyahu made the comments on Tisha B’Av, the day Jews mourn the destruction of their biblical Temples, brought upon by internal divisions and hatred.

“On this day … it would be appropriate for the prime minister to educate his son to spread the love of Israel,” the fund said in a statement.

But perhaps the harshest reactions came from some of the other targets of his post, in which he claimed the children of former Israeli leaders Shimon Peres, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert did not come under such scrutiny.

It included an insinuation that one of Olmert’s sons had an “interesting relationship with a Palestinian man” that affected national security.

Olmert’s son Ariel fired back on Facebook, denying he was gay, dismissing the claims as a fabrication and accusing the younger Netanyahu of “racism and homophobia.”

“I’ve ignored that until now, maybe because in my opinion there’s nothing negative about being either gay or Palestinian,” he wrote. “Your attempts to drag me into your twisted reality are doomed to fail.”

Ariel Olmert added that he works for a living, never slept in the prime minister’s residence and “on principle, try to pick up my dog’s doody.”

His older brother Shaul then chimed in, calling Yair Netanyahu a fascist thug.

Their sister Dana Olmert declined comment when contacted by The Associated Press.

The online exchanges highlighted Yair Netanyahu’s pronounced presence of late around his father.

In May, he was on hand to welcome President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump at the official Netanyahu residence and was heard telling Mrs. Trump how he related to their youngest son Barron’s struggle with the spotlight.

He has also reportedly taken a leading role in his father’s social media platform.

Yair Netanyahu has also been questioned — though not as a suspect — about a corruption scandal in which his father was asked by police “under caution” about ties to executives in media, international business and Hollywood.

Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, are said to have received more than $100,000 worth of cigars and liquor from Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, who reportedly asked Netanyahu to press the U.S. secretary of state in a visa matter.

Australian billionaire James Packer has reportedly lavished Yair with gifts that included extended stays at luxury hotels in Tel Aviv, New York and Aspen, Colorado, as well as the use of his private jet and dozens of tickets for concerts by Packer’s former fiancee, Mariah Carey.

Police are trying to determine whether these constitute bribes, since Packer is reportedly seeking Israeli residency status for tax purposes.

The prime minister has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, portraying the accusations as a witch hunt against him and his family by a hostile media.

His office declined comment Thursday on the latest affair.

David Bitan, the coalition whip from Netanyahu’s Likud party, said Netanyahu’s son was not involved in policy and dismissed the chatter as kid’s stuff on Facebook.

“He’s a private person and that is how it should be treated,” he told Israel’s Army Radio.

Others disagreed.

Columnist Sima Kadmon wrote in a front-page piece in the Yediot Ahronot daily Thursday that the prime minister’s plea to the media to leave his family alone had no merit once his son had written “one of the nastiest and most vile posts ever.”


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Israeli Police: PM Suspected of Breach of Trust, Bribes

August 3, 2017

JERUSALEM — An Israeli police document says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is suspected of crimes involving breach of trust and bribes in two corruption cases.

The document released to media outlets Thursday night says the cases involving Netanyahu deal with suspicion of “bribes” and “breach of trust.” Police put a gag order on reporting any additional details.

Police have been questioning Netanyahu for months over corruption allegations for allegedly receiving gifts from high-powered Hollywood and business figures and separately over secret talks with the publisher of Yediot Ahronot, a major Israeli newspaper, for positive coverage in exchange for diminishing the impact of a free pro-Netanyahu daily in 2014.

Netanyahu denies wrongdoing, portraying the accusations as a witch hunt against him and his family by a hostile media opposed to his political views.

Jared Kushner: There May Be No Solution to Peace Between Israel, Palestinians

August 2, 2017


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Jared Kushner meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, June 21 2017.. (photo credit:AMOS BEN GERSHOM, GPO)

WASHINGTON – In an off the- record conversation with US Congressional interns on Monday, Jared Kushner said he was proud that details of his diplomatic efforts with Israelis and Palestinians have not yet leaked to the press.

No longer.

Kushner’s private thoughts on the state of the conflict were recorded and shared with WIRED magazine, which released a partial transcript on Tuesday, infuriating the White House.

The transcript reveals Kushner – President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser tasked with leading the peace effort – being humbled by his predecessors and confounded by the long history of the conflict.

“Not a whole lot has been accomplished over the last 40 or 50 years,” he told the group.

“What do we offer that’s unique? I don’t know,” said Kushner. “I’m sure everyone that’s tried this has been unique in some ways, but again we’re trying to follow very logically. We’re thinking about what the right end-state is. And we’re trying to work with the parties very quietly to see if there’s a solution.”

Kushner has remained largely silent on his efforts to forge a Middle East peace – a critical part of his strategy, he explained to the group. His goal is to foster trust among the parties, which can only be established in private.

“There may be no solution, but it’s one of the problem sets that the president asked us to focus on,” he added. “So we’re going to focus on it and try to come to the right conclusion in the near future.”

Trump has referred to a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement as the “toughest deal of all,” and assigned the portfolio to Kushner, who has no diplomatic or field experience.

Kushner said he is educating himself on the conflict by studying its “historical context,” by speaking with its veterans and by reading up on the work of past envoys.

He has learned thus far that over the course of decades, “the variables haven’t been changed much.”

“This is a very emotionally charged situation,” Kushner told the group. “These things are very, very combustible, and very, very delicate.”

Whatever goodwill Kushner has built over six months of talks was tested last week when a crisis cascaded down the Temple Mount over security arrangements. Palestinian officials thought Kushner and his team took Israel’s side, according to public and private accounts.

Indeed, Kushner said he considered Israel’s additional security measures on the holy plateau to be a logical and apolitical response to the shooting attack there on July 14. But he told the group he ultimately encouraged Israel to scale those measures back.

“In this past week, it really showed us how quickly things can ignite in our history, and you have some people who don’t want to see and achieve an outcome of peace,” Kushner said. “And other people sometimes thrive in the chaos.”

Kushner also offered a defense of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a family friend from his childhood who took a beating in Israel’s press last week over his management of the crisis.

The killings, riots and political threats that followed a single act of violence on the Temple Mount proved a teaching moment for Kushner; he is learning firsthand how volatile the region can be. And yet, the event also proved an opportune moment for Trump’s team, which tested its engagement strategy with the Israelis, Palestinians and regional players in Amman and Riyadh.

Indeed, quiet talks successfully diffused the crisis – a redeeming moment for Kushner, who is hoping to keep what remains of a peace process out of public view.

“Everyone finds an issue that, ‘you have to understand what they did then’ and ‘you have to understand that they did this,’” Kushner said. “But how does that help us get peace? Let’s not focus on that. We don’t want a history lesson. We’ve read enough books. Let’s focus on how do you come up with a conclusion to the situation.”


ON MONDAY, WHITE House senior adviser Jared Kushner spoke to a group of congressional interns as part of an ongoing, off-the-record summer lecture series. During the question-and-answer portion of the event, Kushner may have inadvertently offered some insight into the negotiating tactics he is using in the Middle East.

Prior to Kushner’s talk, Katie Patru, the deputy staff director for member services, outreach, and communications, told the assembled interns, “To record today’s session would be such a breach of trust, from my opinion. This town is full of leakers, and everyone knows who they are, and no one trusts them. In this business your reputation is everything. I’ve been on the Hill for 15 years. I’ve sat in countless meetings with members of congress where important decisions were being made. During all those years in all those meetings, I never once leaked to a reporter … If someone in your office has asked you to break our protocol and give you a recording so they can leak it, as a manager, that bothers me at my core.”

WIRED has obtained a recording of Kushner’s talk, which lasted for just under an hour in total.

The speech—which was peppered with self-deprecating jokes, as reported by Foreign Policy—offered a rare insight into the man President Trump has tasked with criminal justice reform, managing the opioid crisis, updating the government’s technological systems, and creating peace in the Middle East, among other tasks. It’s the latter, though, that’s both the most deeply personal for Kushner (a staunch supporter of Israel) and that prompted him to embark on his longest, most rambling answer during yesterday’s question-and-answer session.

While the recording doesn’t catch the entirety of the question, it appears to have centered on how Kushner plans to negotiate peace between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as why he believes he’ll be successful where every other administration has failed. He doesn’t directly answer either question, but he does reveal that, in his extensive research, he’s learned that “not a whole lot has been accomplished over the last 40 or 50 years.” He also notes that he’s spoken to “a lot of people,” which has taught him that “this is a very emotionally charged situation.”

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Later in the clip, Kushner expresses frustration at others’ attempts to teach him about the delicate situation he’s been inserted into, saying, “Everyone finds an issue, that ‘You have to understand what they did then’ and ‘You have to understand that they did this.’ But how does that help us get peace? Let’s not focus on that. We don’t want a history lesson. We’ve read enough books. Let’s focus on, How do you come up with a conclusion to the situation?” He then goes on to lament the press’s treatment of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a family friend who he’s known since childhood.

Kushner’s dismissal of the nuances of the conflict has already been an issue. Last month, when Kushner met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a Palestinian official told Haaretz that Kushner “sounded like Netanyahu’s advisers and not like fair arbiters” and that they were “greatly disappointed” after the meeting. Abbas himself was “reportedly furious.”

Finally, Kushner closed with the following statement of reassurance: “So, what do we offer that’s unique? I don’t know … I’m sure everyone that’s tried this has been unique in some ways, but again we’re trying to follow very logically. We’re thinking about what the right end state is, and we’re trying to work with the parties very quietly to see if there’s a solution. And there may be no solution, but it’s one of the problem sets that the president asked us to focus on. So we’re going to focus on it and try to come to the right conclusion in the near future.”

You can read and listen to Kushner’s answer in its entirety below. WIRED has reached out to the White House for comment and will update if and when we receive a response.

So first of all, this is one of the ones I was asked to take on, and I did with this something that I do with every problem set you get. Which is you try to study the historical context to understand how something got to where it is, who was successful, and who wasn’t successful. And you try to [unintelligible] is research it and look at the conventional sources but also try to get some unconventional sources as well. And what I’ve determined from looking at it is that not a whole lot has been accomplished over the last 40 or 50 years we’ve been doing this.

And the other thing about it I’d say is that the variables haven’t been changed much, so at some point it’s just one of those things where you kind of have to just pick and choose where you draw conclusion. But that was the other observation I had.

The third one is that I have tried to look at why people haven’t been successful in the negotiations, so I looked and studied all the different negotiations. I spoke to a lot of people who have have been part of them, and I think the reason why is that this is a very emotionally charged situation. Look at what happened this past 10 days—a lot of seemingly logical measures taken on the different [unintelligible] part somehow became a little bit incendiary. But we were able to calm it down by having a lot of really great dialog between Jordan and the Palestinian authority and the Israelis.

I’d say what makes me hopeful about it is the fact that (a) we’ve had two achievements so far that I think are actually quite noteworthy, which I’ll talk about in a second. The reason why we haven’t been able to do that is the trust that we have with all sides. So if you’ve noticed about this conflict, and [unintelligible] nothing’s leaked out. So nothing has leaked out which I think gives the parties more trust, and more ability to really express and share their viewpoints. And ultimately, if you do a deal that when somebody had to compromise somewhere—all right so there’s a stated set of positions on one side. There’s a stated set of positions on the other side. And there’s a lot of viewpoints all around that people have, which may or may not be conducive to a solution. So I think you need to be able to probe people in private for them to have the confidence that it’s not going to be used against them, and that it’s not going to leak out in the press, which would be very, very hurtful. That’s been a big advantage, which has allowed us to really have a lot of very interesting conversations.

So the two successes that we’ve had so far is—I don’t know if you’re familiar with the deal we’ve had on the water with the Jordanians and the Israelis and the Palestinians—so I was saying that they’ve talked about in concept for a lot of years where [unintelligible] and we were able to figure out how we were going to negotiate a solution which simply [unintelligible] talking for a very, very long time. But again, that happened just because we’re talking to all sides. We don’t let them get caught in the past.

You know everyone finds an issue, that “You have to understand what they did then” and “You have to understand that they did this.” But how does that help us get peace? Let’s not focus on that. We don’t want a history lesson. We’ve read enough books. Let’s focus on, How do you come up with a conclusion to the situation. That was one thing that we achieved, which we were quite happy about—which is, you know, small thing, but it’s actually a pretty big thing over there. But something that we thought was a pretty big step.

The other thing was working through, in this past week, it really showed us how quickly things can ignite in our history, and you have some people who don’t want to see and achieve an outcome of peace. And other people sometimes thrive in the chaos, and they thrive [unintelligible] and that’s not new to politics and its not new to that conflict. It’s just the way it is, and you always have people on all sides [unintelligible].

And again, all these people make arguments about why they feel the way they do. So as tensions were really mounting, I don’t know if everyone is familiar, but there were two people—two Israeli guards killed at the Temple Mount (and that’s the first time in many, many, many years that that happened, so Israelis [unintelligible] putting up metal detectors on the Temple Mount, which is not an irrational thing to do. You know when you have—police officers were just killed, and weapons that were used to [unintelligible] the weapons to check them—so then what happens is they start inciting it.

They say look, you know, this is a change to the status quo. The Temple Mount is a [unintelligible] occupation of Israel, and Israel was saying we don’t want anything to do with that, we just want to make sure people are safe. And that really incited a lot of tension in the streets.

So we’re going to work with them [unintelligible] to take down the metal detectors there, and then I think one of the Palestinians’ religious leaders was saying, “If you go through the metal detectors, then your prayers don’t count.” And that is not a very helpful thing to have said. And then there was a lot of rage. And there was an Israeli family that three people killed in their home, which was absolutely terrible. You know, so, “I’m going to do this to free the Temple Mount.” So ultimately we were able to work with them, and we were able to get the Israelis to take down to the different forms of surveillance that the Jordanians were OK with, and we talked with the Palestinians the whole time to try to get their viewpoint on it.

And then ultimately they said, “OK, we took down the metal detectors but there’s still a bridge up somewhere.” And they said, “OK, we’ll take that down, too.” And so Bibi was getting beaten up by the press in Israel, because that was very politically unpopular for him to do. At the same time we got a situation in Jordan where an Israeli security diplomat in Jordan was attacked by two Jordanian men, and in self-defense he killed the attackers. So then it worked out where the Jordanians got the Israelis to accept their people from the embassy back to Israel.


My point is that these things are very, very combustible and very, very delicate in terms of how you can do, but I think the fact that all these conversations were all done in quiet and nothing leaked out [unintelligible]. But I think we were able to keep things quiet. But I mean, any day something could happen.

So, what do we offer that’s unique? I don’t know … I’m sure everyone that’s tried this has been unique in some ways, but again we’re trying to follow very logically. We’re thinking about what the right end state is, and we’re trying to work with the parties very quietly to see if there’s a solution. And there may be no solution, but it’s one of the problem sets that the president asked us to focus on. So we’re going to focus on it and try to come to the right conclusion in the near future.

Jerusalem: Record Number of Jews Visit The Temple Mount

August 1, 2017
 AUGUST 1, 2017 12:20
The influx in Jewish visitors to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount could be because of anger over the Israeli government’s behavior in the recent crisis surrounding the site.
Record numbers of Jews visit the Temple Mount Tisha B’Av morning

A Tisha B’Av morning prayer service is conducted at the entrance gate to the Temple Mount before worshipers go up to the site. (photo credit:ELISHAMA SANDMAN)With the Jewish people commemorating the destruction of the ancient Temples in Jerusalem on the fast of Tisha B’Av on Tuesday, more than 1,000 Jewish visitors went to the Temple Mount on Tuesday morning, activist groups said.

According to the Yeraeh organization, which promotes Jewish visitation and prayer rights at the Temple Mount and which desires to rebuild the Jewish Temple at the site, 1,043 Jews visited from 7:30 till 11 this morning, a record for a single day.

Furthermore, the Temple Mount will be reopened at 13:30 for Jewish visitors for another hour, meaning that even larger numbers of visitors are expected.

The previous record was 995 Jewish visitors this past Jerusalem Day. Last year, just 400 Jews visited the site on Tisha B’Av.

According to Yeraeh, the recent tensions over the Temple Mount and the about-face performed by the government over metal detectors at the site has generated massive interest in visiting the site.

A Jewish worshipper prays in front of an entrance to the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, on Tisha B'Av, a day of fasting and lament, in Jerusalem's Old City August 1, 2017. (Reuters/Amir Cohen)A Jewish worshipper prays in front of an entrance to the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, on Tisha B’Av, a day of fasting and lament, in Jerusalem’s Old City August 1, 2017. (Reuters/Amir Cohen)

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post this week, Asaf Fried, a spokesman for an association of organizations dedicated to Jewish rights on the Temple Mount, said that the activist groups had been receiving numerous calls since the crisis was ended, asking how to practically prepare, religiously, for visiting the Temple Mount.

“People are very angry, the government’s behavior last week was humiliating and degrading,” said Fried.

“If Moshe Dayan gave the Wakf the keys to the Temple Mount in 1967, then last week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave over sovereignty over the Temple Mount to the Wakf.”

Along with the new record for Jewish visitation in a single day, records have also been broken for Jewish visitation during this Hebrew calendar year, with 18,000 Jews having visited the Temple Mount in the framework of organized tour groups this year, easily beating last year’s figure of 14,908, and with six weeks of the year still remaining.