“[We are] alarmed, concerned, and profoundly saddened by the growing number of Gazan dead and wounded. It does not have to be this way.”
— Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Union for Reform Judaism president
The opening ceremony for the new US Embassy in Jerusalem was, essentially, an invitation-only Trump campaign rally.
Those in attendance had all sworn loyalty to the president and belonged to one of the groups that has hailed him as a modern-day Cyrus the Great: Orthodox Jews, right-wing Israelis (including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) and the pro-Trump Republican base — particularly those in the evangelical community.
This was all on display from the ceremony’s opening blessing, by Texan Baptist megachurch pastor Dr. Robert Jeffress. His eyes squeezed closed in prayer, he thanked God for “our great president, Donald Trump,” lauded how Israel “has blessed this world by pointing us to you, the one true God, through the message of her prophets, her scriptures, and the Messiah,” and praying for Jerusalem “in the name of the spirit of the Prince of Peace, Jesus our lord.”
Whether you agree or not, under President Trump, the United States is not pretending anything. We have declared unambiguously that we care only about Israel’s interests — or, to be more accurate, Israel’s interests as understood by the conservative Likud party — and that we no longer have any concern for Palestinian rights, Palestinian lives or the eventual creation of a Palestinian state.
Monday marked the moment when the policy of the United States government toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lost all complexity, all ambiguity and all nuance.
On Monday, we were confronted with two sets of pictures. On one side, thousands of Palestinians gathering at the Gaza border to protest are being shot down by Israeli snipers. As I write, at least 43 people have been killed and more than 2,000 wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry; those numbers will undoubtedly rise.
On the other side, representatives of the Trump administration, including Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, some Republican donors and a couple of evangelical megachurch pastors who have said vile, bigoted things about Islam and Muslims, are celebrating the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.
“Naming this square in honor of the president is our way of showing our love and respect for the president and the American people, who always stand by the side of Israel.”
— Jerusalem Mayor Nir Bakat
So thrilled was the mayor of Jerusalem that Donald Trump had recognized the city as the capital of Israel that he decided a fitting tribute of thanks –—naming a roundabout in honor of the US president.
“Jerusalem returns the love to Trump,” Nir Barkat wrote on Facebook on Tuesday, showing a picture of the traffic circle at the site where the new American embassy is due to be opened next week.
“We have decided that the square adjacent to the embassy in the capital will be called ‘United States Square — in honor of President Trump’,” he said in the Hebrew-language post.
The largest and most imminent threat to Israel’s security right now is not a nuclear Iran, but Iranian activity in Syria.
The entire world watched as President Donald Trump announced America’s exit from the Iran nuclear deal, and his re-imposition of the full range of sanctions on Iran.
While the British, French, and German governments made clear their strong preference that the US maintain the JCPOA, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not shy in his efforts to convince the White House of the wisdom of his opposite position.
Netanyahu’s unusual English-language prime time presentation on Israeli television last week of the intelligence collected by Israel about Iran’s previous efforts to build a nuclear weapon was almost certainly aimed at Trump, either in an effort to convince him to exit the deal, or to provide cover for him to do so.
In 1947 the UN recognized that Jerusalem had special status and proposed international rule for the city, along with nearby Bethlehem, as a “corpus separatum” to be administered by the United Nations. That never happened.
On Monday, road signs directing traffic there went up around the neighborhood where the US Embassy will be situated, and next week’s opening ceremony is timed to coincide with Israel’s 70th anniversary. The initiative was driven by President Donald Trump, after he broke last year with decades of US policy by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Trump said his administration has a peace proposal in the works, and recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of America’s closest ally had “taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table.”
Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, celebrated Trump’s decision, but the move upset the Arab world and Western allies. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called it a “slap in the face” and said Washington could no longer be regarded as an honest broker in any peace talks with Israel.
“It is clear that those who do not consider that the lives of Palestinians and Israelis are of equal value cannot possibly promote any plan that will be remotely close to a just and lasting peace.”
— Palestinian chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat
In an unprecedented move, a senior Palestinian official sent a letter on Thursday to all foreign diplomats stationed in Ramallah assailing the American envoy to the peace process, Jason Greenblatt.
Saeb Erekat, who is the Palestinians’ chief negotiator as well as secretary general of the PLO’s executive committee, also urged the diplomats to back the Palestinians at the United Nations and other international agencies, including the International Criminal Court, in demanding an investigation into “ongoing Israeli crimes against Palestine and the Palestinian people.”
Erekat, who has met with Greenblatt many times since the latter took office, charged that since the mass demonstrations near the Israel-Gaza border began a few weeks ago, the U.S. envoy has “assumed the role of spokesperson of the Israeli Authorities” and “consistently repeated Israeli talking points.”
“We will not allow needless bureaucracy to hold up the transfer of the American embassy to Jerusalem, Israel’s eternal capital.”
— Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon
Israel has expedited construction permits to enable temporary quarters for the US Embassy to open in Jerusalem as planned in May, the Finance Ministry said on Tuesday.
US President Donald Trump in December broke with other world powers by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announcing the US Embassy would be moved there from Tel Aviv.
Trump’s reversal of decades of US and broad international policy was welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “historic decision.” But it drew criticism from around the world and outraged Palestinians, who want a capital for their own future state in eastern parts of the city.
Israel has said the Embassy will be opened on May 14, the 70th anniversary of its founding. A US official said it would be located at a provisional site in Jerusalem that now houses a US consular section.
Building a permanent embassy could take several years.
The peace plan contemplated by the Trump Administration will offer Palestinians limited sovereignty over limited territory.
By Uri Saver | Al-Monitor | Mar 25, 2018
The plan is much closer to the Israeli position than the Palestinian:
Palestine would comprise about half the West Bank
Gaza would be included if Hamas disarms
Israel would control West Bank security and border crossings
East Jerusalem would be part of Palestine, but not the Old City
No right of return
Despite growing tensions with the Palestinians, US President Donald Trump still intends to reveal a US peace plan for the Middle East. The plan will apparently be divulged right after the US Embassy moves to Jerusalem and after Trump’s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
According to a senior US diplomat in Tel Aviv, the fact that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas refuses any contact on the matter with US officials and that he had bad mouthed David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, has not altered Trump’s determination. Actually, messages on the evolving plans are conveyed nowadays to Ramallah by Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. More so, the March 20 meeting in Washington between Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was largely dedicated to two major topics: the common front against Iran in the region (including the Iran nuclear deal issue) and Israeli-Palestinian peace.
The Israelis, through US President Trump, are sticking a Jewish finger consisting of Friedman, Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kusher into the Palestinians’ faces, in front of the whole world.
“Is that anti-Semitism or political discourse?” asked U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman with feigned innocence, in response to what Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had said about him, as if he were a helpless pogrom victim at the beginning of the last century in Eastern Europe rather than an ambassador of the world’s strongest superpower, which encourages Israel to ride roughshod over the Palestinians.
“There are only two years left to create a practical and fair solution, and today we hear again from the Ministry of Immigration that they still have no solutions. . . . We have lost too much time, but we will not wait any longer. The issue of Diplomat Hotel and its tenants must be solved immediately.”
— Ksenia Svetlova, Zionist Union member of Knesset
The Diplomat Hotel, which is owned by the US and is located next door to the Jerusalem consulate that will become the embassy in 2020, is being leased as housing for elderly immigrants. But the building is slated to become part of the embassy, forcing the residents to find other housing.
At a heated discussion at the Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee on Monday, Ksenia Svetlova of the left-wing Zionist Union blasted the committee for not moving quickly enough to find a solution for the residents.