Amona and Israel’s Hobbled Sovereignty Moshe Dann

The destruction of fifty-one Jewish homes in Ofra and Amona in February by order of the High Court raises questions about Israel’s claim to be “the nation-state of the Jewish people.” The evictions made no sense, and, although Prime Minister Netanyahu signed an agreement on behalf of the government with the residents of Amona to provide alternative housing in a new community, he has failed to honor his commitment. The families remain in distress, helpless and homeless.

Absurdly, this destruction and others served no one. Jews were traumatized; Arabs can’t use the land for security reasons and because they cannot prove ownership; most Israelis perceived it as a national disgrace; it alienated many and undermined trust in the High Court and the government; and it wasted money and resources. No one benefited!

Although Jews were accused of building on “private Palestinian land,” the question of who owned the land was never heard by an Israeli civilian court. No valid proof of ownership was presented. The destruction, moreover, violated the law in Israel and all other democratic countries: someone who has built in good faith on land which he/she later discovers belongs to someone else is entitled to pay compensation to the legal owner when the value of the building is worth more than the land.

Touted as “the rule of law,” the destruction was intended to demonstrate the power of the High Court regardless of any government decision, or legal issue. The High Court’s decision was meant as a clear political message to the government: it, not the government, would decide the fate of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, “the settlements.” The High Court’s assertion, therefore, challenges the basis of Israeli democracy, the role of its judiciary, and its definition as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

The struggle over that definition arose in 2011, when MK Avi Dichter proposed a Basic Law: “Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.” The purpose of his bill was to codify the nature and values of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and to prevent Israel from becoming a binational state. Although supported by the government coalition, including PM Netanyahu and opposition MKs, it did not pass a preliminary reading.

Nation-states, however, are more than national cultures; they are primarily responsible for expressing sovereignty, protecting their citizens, and establishing and defending its borders. In Israel’s case, the status of Judea and Samaria, and especially Area C in which Jewish communities exist, is still in question. Since Israel gave up Areas A and B to the Palestinian Authority and the Gaza Strip to Hamas, only Area C remains under IDF military occupation. Because Israel has refused to extend its laws to this area, the question persists: are settlements part of Israel, or not?

Although Jews living in settlements are citizens—they pay taxes, serve in the army, and are required to follow Israeli laws—in disputes over land ownership they are subject to the IDF’s judicial administration and have no access to civilian courts. When Arabs or NGOs petition the High Court claiming that Jews have built on privately-owned land, there is no way to examine or challenge the evidence or High Court decisions, since those decisions are final. The system is rigged.

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Geert Wilders and the Suicide of Europe Guy Millière

Even if the Dutch politician Geert Wilders had won and if the Party for Freedom (PVV) he established eleven years ago had become the first party in the country, he would not have been able to become the head of the government. The heads of all the other political parties said they would reject any alliance with him; they maintain this position to this day.

For years, the Dutch mainstream media have spread hatred and defamation against Wilders for trying to warn the Dutch people–and Europe–about what their future will be if they continue their current immigration policies; in exchange, last December, a panel of three judges found him guilty of “inciting discrimination.” Newspapers and politicians all over Europe unceasingly describe him as a dangerous man and a rightist firebrand. Sometimes they call him a “fascist.”

What did Geert Wilders ever do to deserve that? None of his remarks ever incriminated any person or group because of their race or ethnicity. To charge him, the Dutch justice system had excessively and abusively to interpret words he used during a rally in which he asked if the Dutch wanted “fewer Moroccans.” None of Wilders’ speeches incites violence against anyone; the violence that surrounds him is directed only at him. He defends human rights and democratic principles and he is a resolute enemy of all forms of anti-Semitism.

His only “crime” is to denounce the danger represented by the Islamization of the Netherlands and the rest of Europe and to claim that Islam represents a mortal threat to freedom. Unfortunately, he has good empirical reasons to say that. Also unfortunately, the Netherlands is a country where criticism of Islam is particularly dangerous: Theo van Gogh made an “Islamically incorrect” film in 2004 and was savagely murdered by an Islamist who said he would kill again if he could. Two years earlier, Pim Fortuyn, who had hoped to stand for election, defined Islam as a “hostile religion;” he was killed by a leftist Islamophile animal-rights activist. Geert Wilders is alive only because he is under around-the-clock police protection graciously provided by the Dutch government.

More broadly, the Netherlands is a country where the Muslim community shows few signs of integration. There are now forty no-go zones in the country; riots easily erupt, recently in Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Nijmegen. People recently from other countries repeatedly attack Dutch-born citizens. Some are so sure of their impunity that they publish online videos of their crimes. Throughout the country, an ethnic cleansing that Europeans are too scared to name is taking place in the suburbs, and non-Muslim residents often say they feel harassed.

Non-Muslim women are encouraged by local authorities to dress “modestly.” As in Islam dogs are haram (impure), dog owners are asked to keep their pets indoors. In 2014, 2015 and 2016, Islamists demonstrated and shouted slogans in support of Hamas and the Islamic State.

Daily life has become particularly difficult for the 40,000 Jews still living in the country; districts long inhabited by members of the Jewish community have become almost entirely Muslim. Authorities recommend that Jews avoid any “visible sign” of Jewishness to avoid creating “unrest.” Muslim delinquency is high; the percentage of Muslims sent to jail for various crimes is notably higher than the percentage of Muslims in the population. Six percent of the country’s population is Muslim; about 20% of all inmates are Muslim. None of this is secret.

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Latrun Bill Slott

Topography is history. As long as there has been a Jerusalem, there has been an ascent to Jerusalem, and that ascent begins at Latrun. Whoever holds that hill holds the road to Jerusalem. Today Latrun is a battlefield museum and memorial. The site contains an out-door display of tanks dating from World War I through to the present. It is also home to the Wall of Memory, listing the names of soldiers of the tank corps (but not their rank) who died in Israel’s wars. Looming above it all is the bullet-pocked British fortress that itself sits atop the ruins of fortresses of every empire that has sought to hold this strategic spot. As a tour guide, I often bring visitors to Latrun to take in the beautiful views from the top of the fortress, let the kids climb on the tanks for photo ops, and pay respects to the fallen soldiers.

But last week I was there as a father, watching the ceremony in which my daughter marked the completion of her training as a non-commissioned officer. My slight, sweet, cheerful youngest, who has never raised her voice in anger to anyone, is going to be drilling new recruits in the Israeli Army.

It was a raucous affair, with thousands in attendance, a bizarre combination of sporting event, award ceremony and mass picnic. Many of the families brought specially made t-shirts, banners, and hats celebrating their son or daughter. I was not so well prepared, and while I shared in the general sense of merriment, and brought a basket of goodies and a van full of friends and family, I could not escape the gravity of the moment. The large outdoor stage on which the 350 newly-trained officers were awarded their stripes has as its backdrop the massive fortress. The British had handed over the fortress to the Arab Legion in May of 1948 and the Israeli Army tried and failed five times to conquer it. Among the soldiers who were sent

Ceremony at Latrun

into those battles were survivors of the holocaust, newly minted Israelis straight off the boat from the D.P. camps of Europe. They spoke a Babel of languages, and could not always communicate with each other. They knew very little Hebrew and often could not understand their officers during the fighting. In this catastrophe, men who had miraculously survived Auschwitz died on the field of battle in the newly independent Jewish state. This too is part of the story of the birth of Israel.

While I take pride in my daughter’s accomplishments as a soldier, I wish more than anything that she did not have to do this at all. It would give me great joy if she had the luxury of studying literature at some liberal arts college instead of running around with an M16. But she has grown up in a time and a place where that is not an option. Not yet and not here. There is much work to be done in this country. Peace, social justice, education, dialogue with our neighbors, dialogue with each other, becoming a “light unto the nations.” Someday my daughter will be a soldier in these battles as well. But last week she stood in the shadow of the fortress where others lost their lives so that she could have a home, and swore allegiance to the Israeli Army. I am not a big fan of military pageantry or nationalistic symbols, but at that moment, I choked back tears. Many of the soldiers memorialized at Latrun were as small and as sweet as my daughter, and some were even younger. She is, in her own way, carrying on their mission, and I am certain that she will continue to do so long after she has ceased to wear a uniform. As the event drew to a close, I stood and sang the national anthem, “Hatikva” (the hope) as loud as anyone there. I was not embarrassed. My hopes for my daughter and my hopes for this country were one and the same.

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The Weapon Wizards: How Israel Became a High-Tech Military Superpower by Yaakov Katz & Amir Bohbot Reviewed by David Isaac

In 1948, as Israel was heading into its first war, an IDF general sent a letter to David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s new prime minister, politely declining his offer to become chief of staff because he had learned the Jewish State only had six million bullets. “We will need 1 million bullets a day in a war and I am not willing to be chief of staff for just six days,” he wrote.

The Weapon Wizards, an engaging look at Israel’s weapons industry, is replete with such anecdotes. (Another that’s hard to resist is how Jewish forces in Jerusalem held off Arab rioters with one gun and 11 bullets. Afterward, the commander criticized the “gratuitous use of ammo.”) Such stories drive home how little Israel had militarily in its early years. Israel’s humble beginnings make it even more remarkable that it has become a military power. The goal of the authors, Israeli journalists Yaakov Katz and Amir Bohbot, is to explain how that transformation came about. As they write, 60 years ago Israel’s biggest exports were oranges and false teeth. Today, weapons make up 10 percent of Israel’s exports.

Like Start-Up Nation by Dan Senor and Saul Singer, Katz and Bohbot identify national characteristics that have led to a “culture of innovation.” Leading the list is a creativity born of necessity. “With barely any resources beyond the human capital that had immigrated to the new state, Israelis had to make the most of the little they had,” the authors write. Israel has even created a subunit of autistic soldiers to analyze satellite pictures.

The Weapon Wizards is at its best showing these characteristics in action, from amusing episodes to in-depth stories focusing on the development of certain weapons systems. For instance, when illustrating the advantages of the IDF’s flexible hierarchy, the authors describe a visit by the U.S. Air Force’s F-16 program director. During a tour of IDF squadrons, one of the participants started lecturing his commander on everything that was wrong with the plane. The U.S. representative, a lieutenant general, asked the person to identify himself. He was shocked to learn the critic was a lowly mechanic. In America, the authors write, it’s unheard of to talk out of turn and argue with your commander, especially in front of a foreign officer. “In Israel, though, no one thinks in those terms. What the mechanic was doing was exactly what he had been trained to do and what he thought was expected of him—to speak his mind,” the authors write.

In a similar vein, Israel nurtures its best and brightest. A fascinating example of this characteristic is a program called Talpiot. Created in 1979, it pulls together some of Israel’s most promising young people, who sign on for nine years of service in return for degrees in fields like physics, math, and computer science. Thousands apply each year; only 30 are accepted. Talpiot graduates, called Talpions, are seeded throughout the army where they have an impact far beyond their numbers. In 40 years, the program has produced roughly 1,000 graduates, but a single one can revolutionize a unit, the authors say. Although the program met resistance early on, within a few years generals were demanding to know: “Where is my Talpion?” The prime minister was forced to hold a special meeting to resolve the issue.

Although Katz and Bohbot don’t come right out and say it, it’s evident that for all the encouragement of innovation, there remains resistance within the military one would expect from any large establishment. Talpiot had to overcome naysayers before it was embraced, and so did many of the programs the authors discuss, from satellites to the Iron Dome. This suggests the IDF fosters innovation only after a fight. What appears to distinguish the IDF from other militaries is that innovative individuals don’t quit. They also have an admirably dismissive attitude toward army regulations. The premier example is Brigadier General Danny Gold, who developed the Iron Dome.

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What’s Trump Cooking Up With the Palestinians? David Hornik

From Israel, the Trump administration’s moves in the Middle East look encouraging so far.

There’s been the tough response to Bashar Assad’s sarin-gas atrocity; the highlighting of Iran as regional mischief-maker; the strengthening of tacit Israeli strategic allies like Saudi Arabia and Egypt; and of course, a reset with Israel itself after eight years of the Obama administration’s hectoring and accusations.

Now, however, President Trump is preparing for another Middle East move that is raising questions and doubts in Israel. On May 3, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas will be hosted by Trump at the White House.

Questioned about the meeting, White House press secretary Sean Spicer defined the Trump administration’s ultimate goal:

[A] conflict-ending settlement between the Palestinians and Israel.

Israel, for its part, began seeking an end to the conflict in 1993 with the launching of the Oslo peace process. A quarter-century of terror, rockets, and relentless Palestinian delegitimization of Israel later, a survey published late last month found fewer Israelis than ever—36%, down from 60% in 2005–felt Israel could risk withdrawing from the West Bank.

Shortly thereafter, a review of Palestinian attitudes found even less reason for optimism about a “conflict-ending settlement.” Dan Polisar of Jerusalem’s Shalem College examined no less than 400 surveys of Palestinian opinion, and found that a majority of Palestinians reject the much-vaunted “two-state solution.”

The majority instead favors a “one-state solution”: Israel’s obliteration.

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The April of My Discontent Ruth King

The New York Times has a new op-ed contributor named Marwan Barghouti. In a column entitled “Why We Are on Hunger Strike in Israel’s Prisons”–-a screed to make Thomas Friedman proud– he explained:

“Palestinian prisoners and detainees have suffered from torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, and medical negligence. Some have been killed while in detention. According to the latest count from the Palestinian Prisoners Club, about 200 Palestinian prisoners have died since 1967 because of such actions. Palestinian prisoners and their families also remain a primary target of Israel’s policy of imposing collective punishments.”

The Times described Barghouti as a “Palestinian leader and parliamentarian.”

Oops! The Times somehow forgot to mention that Marwan Barghouti is a terrorist serial killer whose savagery earned him five life sentences. It’s like describing Jeffrey Dahmer, the cannibal serial killer, as a “culinary innovator.”

Confronting a storm of outrage from readers, on April 17, the Times clarified: “This article explained the writer’s prison sentence but neglected to provide sufficient context by stating the offenses of which he was convicted. They were five counts of murder and membership in a terrorist organization. Mr. Barghouti declined to offer a defense at his trial and refused to recognize the Israeli court’s jurisdiction and legitimacy.”

Some good came from all this. On April 20, the Mayfair Hotel in London canceled a screening of Marwan: A film about the life and struggle of Marwan Barghouti, which the Palestinian Mission in the UK has been promoting and when the Mission transferred the showing to the Copthorne Tara Hotel, it canceled as well.

The New York Times must like the name Barghouti. Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of the BDS movement and author of Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights is also a favored contributor. In a January 2014 op-ed he explained “Why Israel Fears the Boycott” listing the usual litany of lies and accusations. In May 2015 he wrote an op-ed “Israeli Extremism Will Encourage Global Boycott” quoting a poll by J Street to bolster his bias. On March 16th, 2017 in a letter to the editor, he compares BDS to the civil rights movement, quotes a questionable Brookings Institute poll on American support for sanctions against Israel, and spells out the agenda of BDS:

“Since its inception in 2005 by the Palestinian grass-roots civil society coalition, B.D.S. has consistently called for ending Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem; granting full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel, who are discriminated against by dozens of laws; and recognizing the United Nations-stipulated right of Palestinian refugees to return to lands from which they were forcibly displaced during Israel’s establishment in 1948.” He could have said it in one sentence: BDS calls for the end of Israel….period! And has anyone told him that Gaza is not “occupied” since 2005?

In other news from The Times Bret Stephens, an articulate, cultured journalist and strong supporter of Israel (despite periodic lapses into the two-state delusion), has left The Wall Street Journal for The New York Times, where he will be the token pro-Israel writer in that swamp of Israel-bashing “calumnists.” Too bad.

Other mainstream papers contribute to anti-Israel bias by ignoring relevant stories.

To paraphrase George Berkeley about a tree falling in the woods, if the media doesn’t report it, did it happen?

In France, on April 3, an Orthodox Jewish woman, Sarah Halimi, a doctor aged 66, was thrown out of a window to her death by an African neighbor who shouted “Allahu akbar!” The mainstream media ignored it.

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Editor: Rael Jean Isaac

Editorial Board: Ruth King, Rita Kramer

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Chaim Weizmann Part 3: Ouster and Return” is now available. You can see it via the following link: Or log in at

“Chaim Weizmann Part 3: Ouster and Return” depicts Weizmann’s increasingly tenuous position as head of the World Zionist Organization. In 1931, he is forced out by rank-and-file Zionists angry at his accommodating policy toward the British. But with the rise of Hitler, the Zionist leadership determines they need Weizmann back at the helm.

If you haven’t already, please watch our completed video courses.

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The Gun on the Table by William Mehlman

The elections to Israel’s Supreme Court of Jerusalem District Court of Judge (and rabbi) David Mintz, resident of Dolev, deep in the heart of Samaria, and Haifa District Court Judge and self-professed “religious Zionist” Yael Willner, offer dramatic evidence of what Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked has wrought in her penetration of the most guarded bastion of post-Zionist theocracy in the Jewish state. Indeed, what might have been considered a “breakthrough” on its own just a short time past, the election of center-right Haifa District Court President Yosef Elron to the third of the four High Court posts being vacated under mandatory retirement, was being regarded as a “thrown-in” favor to Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, his champion on the nine-member judicial nominating committee. No. 4, Christian Arab George Kara, a Tel Aviv district court judge, rounds out the quartet that will be replacing High Court President Miriam Naor, Elyakim Rubinstein, Salam Joubran and Zvi Zilbertal, solid liberals to a robe.

The political charge set off by Shaked’s breach of the unbreachable had a “Bastille Day” quality unseen in Israel since Menachem Begin’s 1977 termination of 30 years of socialist hegemony. Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson’s tabloid Yisrael Hayom, the country’s most widely read Hebrew daily, called it nothing short of a “revolution,” while “Israeli Right Wins Historic Fight over Supreme Court Justices” topped the lead story in the Jerusalem Post. “Shaked Has Her Day in Court,” declared The Times of Israel even as a contrapuntive Yediot Aharonot headlined its story “Now You Don’t Need a D9,” referencing newly anointed Supremo David Mintz’s Dolev neighbor’s call for a bulldozer to level the High Court over its decisions to raze “illegally-built” Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

“The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel” unsurprisingly hailed the Court’s new profile as a “great victory,” echoing Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel’s (Bayit Yehudi) view that the face-lift “will better reflect Israeli society and the public’s trust in the legal system.” What is likely to be the justice minister’s most cherished kudo, however, came from out of deepest left field in Meretz Party chairwoman Zehava Golan’s prediction that “Shaked will be responsible for this shameful situation for years to come.”

More low-keyed than her admirers but ready to tell it like it is to her detractors, the lady in question portrayed her successful challenge of a quarter century of judicial inbreeding as an “historic day,” in an interview with Army radio. “The flagship boat of our judicial system changed direction tonight, and yes, we can put it on the table and say openly that it will strengthen the trust of the Right in the Supreme Court.” Putting it “on the table,” something nobody has successfully dared in the 26 years since Supreme Court Chief Justice Aharon Barak declared the High Court the unchallengeable arbiter of “justiciability” in an Israeli universe in which all things had become “justiciable,” informs the impact of Shaked’s victory. What she “put on the table,” in Miriam Naor’s own words was a “gun” – the threat to legislatively undo the veto power granted the three sitting justices on the nine-member nominating committee over the selection of new justices. The remaining six include a four-member Knesset contingent and two representatives of the Israel Bar Association. The election of new justices requires a 7 to 2 majority, thereby affording the three sitting justices, voting as a bloc, an automatic veto of any nominee of whom they disapprove.

Shaked’s threat to push a bill in the Knesset allowing the future election of Supreme Court nominees by a simple majority – the “gun on the table” – triggered a Naor breakoff in negotiations in November. She was back at the table in January “convinced,” as the Jerusalem Post’s Yonah Jeremy Bob put it, “that Shaked was ready to follow through on the threat and that the Court no longer had a real champion in the government coalition that would fight for it.” So Naor cut a deal, at least theoretically preserving the Court’s veto prerogative at the cost of standing aside as conservative justices were added to the mix.

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From the Editor by Rael Jean Isaac

Bensoussan: The Verdict

Last month we reported on the trial of Georges Bensoussan, the Jewish Moroccan born historian brought to trial in a French court on the charge of “incitement of racial hatred” for having paraphrased the words of Smain Laacher, an Algerian Moslem sociologist. The sociologist had said that Moslems were taught by their parents from a very young age to despise Jews; Bensoussan, in a TV debate, quoted Laacher as saying they sucked in anti-Jewish prejudice “with mother’s milk.”

That a Moslem outfit would bring suit on the grounds Benoussan was claiming anti-Israel hatred was genetic in Moslems, while absurd, goes with the territory. What made us draw attention to the case was that all France’s avowed “anti-racist” organizations joined in the lawsuit against Bensoussan, including—and this is worthy of being included in Ripley’s Believe It or Not– the Jewish International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA). (Incidentally, the fact that Bensoussan is a leftist, a member of J Call, a movement promoting “creation of a viable Palestinian state” did not protect him from the “anti-racist” pack.)

On March 7 the court ruled to acquit Bensoussan. Although the wording differed, the judges said, “the idea expressed by Smain Laacher is almost the same, or even identical to that expressed by Georges Bensoussan.” It’s a mark of the ridiculous lengths to which protection of Moslem sensitivities have gone that the ruling is considered a key moment for freedom of speech in France.

The Islamist Collective Against Islamaphobia (CCIF) has vowed to appeal. It remains to be seen if LICRA will sink to yet more shameful depths by joining that appeal.

Et Tu, Canada

The same insanity pervading France is apparent in our northern neighbor.

On the website TruthRevolt M.J. Randolph reports that a group of Canadians took signs and banners to a mosque in downtown Toronto to protest what the imam within was preaching: namely the desire that Jews be killed one by one. The police reaction? To announce they were investigating the protestors. Constable Allyson Douglas-Cook explained to the Canadian Broadcasting Company Toronto that the police wondered if the protesters had perpetrated a hate crime.

This venture into the other side of the looking glass fell flat when it turned out someone inside the mosque had filmed the proceedings including the injunction: “Spare not one of them.” The police decided not to pursue the protesters. No word, Randolph notes, about investigating the people inside the mosque (although advocating genocide is a criminal code offense in Canada).

A Soft Boycott

In this space we often provide examples of Israeli medical achievements from Michael Ordman’s blog Amazing Israel. A revolutionary treatment for prostate cancer called Tookad (activated by light), the result of over fifteen years of research by Avigdor Scherz and Yoram Salomon at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovoth, has now made news around the world. It uses lasers and a drug made from deep sea bacteria to eliminate tumors without causing severe side effects. Trials on 413 men, published in The Lancet Oncology, showed nearly half had no remaining trace of cancer.

Scherz and Salomon

But as Stephen Pollard reports in The Jewish Chronicle, while the BBC made much of the discovery, there was something missing in the story—where the research was done. He calls it “the soft-boycott strategy.” It’s a step below the BDS movement, with its nakedly anti-Semitic singling out the Jewish homeland alone in the world for boycott; instead it ignores anything remotely positive about Israel. Writes Pollard: “So the huge and entirely disproportionate number of Israeli scientific breakthroughs are reported as if they have simply happened by magic, with their Israeli origins ignored.” The Weizmann Institute only managed an understated complaint to The Jewish Chronicle. “We were naturally disappointed that the media coverage of game-changing treatment for prostate cancer managed to avoid any reference to Israeli scientists’ fundamental role in this breakthrough treatment.”

A Christian Voice from Nazareth

The only Middle Eastern state in which the Christian population is growing is Israel. You’d never guess this from the loudest Christian voices coming from the Middle East, which are venomously anti-Israel. That includes the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, which plays a central theological role for pro-Palestinian campaigns in churches worldwide and the Bethlehem Bible College, whose biennial conferences “Christ at the Checkpoint” are devoted to demonizing Israel.

Which makes it all the more refreshing when someone rejects the miasma of self-destructive hatred to speak up simply and honestly. Father Gabriel Naddaf of Nazareth, speaking at the annual Proclaiming Justice to the Nations International Prayer and Dinner event for Israel at the World Center in Orlando, Florida, declared: “As one of the few surviving Christians in the Middle East, I praise God daily for the blessing of being able to call myself an Israeli.”

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Two Netanyahus Meet Two Trumps by Rael Jean Isaac

One of the most widely accepted misconceptions concerning the Arab-Israel conflict (a subject awash in misconceptions) is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a “hard-core right winger.” There is nothing in his behavior as Prime Minister during his first years in that role (1997-99) or in his more recent period in office, beginning in 2009, to support this belief. On the contrary, like his predecessors, he has made repeated dramatic territorial and other concessions, including acceptance of the so-called “two state solution.”

In Jan. 1997, still in the first year of his first term, he signed the Hebron Protocol with the Palestine Authority, turning over most of Hebron, after Jerusalem the most important city in Jewish history, to the PA. Netanyahu did so little to change Labor’s disastrous post-Oslo policy that erstwhile supporter Benny Begin (Menachem’s son) derided him at a Likud Party meeting in March of that year. “Arafat releases terrorists and so does Israel. Arafat smuggles in weapons and we give him assault rifles to round off his stores….We have government offices in Jerusalem [supposedly the unified capital of Israel] and so do they.” The following year, under President Clinton’s prodding, Netanyahu signed the Wye River Memorandum in which he promised to turn over 40% of Judea and Samaria to Arafat, a safe corridor between these areas and Gaza, even an airport in Gaza. It is true Wye was not implemented, but that’s only because (predictably) Arafat promptly reneged on his commitments under the agreement.

That same year Netanyahu embarked on secret negotiations with Syria in which he offered to return the Golan Heights. Was Netanyahu prepared to go back to the 1967 border (which Clinton and Dennis Ross assert in their respective memoirs) or did Netanyahu, according to other reports, hold out for several kilometers beyond the international border line? Although Assad backed out, according to widespread reports in the Israeli press, in 2010 Netanyahu tried again, this time with Bashar Assad, offering to return to the June 4, 1967 lines. Fortunately the negotiations collapsed with the onset of the rebellion against the Syrian ruler. (One shudders to think what “success” would have meant for Israel, with Hezbollah and/or ISIS embedded on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.)

That near miss with disaster has not prevented Netanyahu from continuing to offer major concessions. In the wake of Obama’s Cairo speech, Netanyahu agreed to adopt the “two state solution” as his government’s policy. Moreover, retired Brigadier General Michael Herzog (brother of Israeli Labor Party head Yitzhak Herzog), who has participated in almost all Israel’s peace negotiations since Oslo in 1993, writes in The American Interest that Netanyahu in the Obama years offered such large withdrawals that he could not admit their scale to the Israeli public or his coalition partners.

And contrary to the widespread perception, fostered by the media, that Netanyahu has peppered the landscape of Judea and Samaria with Jewish settlements, Israel has not built a new settlement in 25 years. The much publicized on and off settlement freezes to which Netanyahu has agreed applied to existing communities, the “freezes” meaning there was no building even to accommodate natural population growth within them.

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Editor: Rael Jean Isaac
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