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“As the Vice President uses Israel as just another partisan issue on which to pander to his far-right evangelical base, it is the Israeli and Palestinian peoples who will pay the price,” J Street founder and president Jeremy Ben-Ami charged on Monday, following US Vice President Mike Pence’s speech at the Israeli parliament….’An administration that truly cared about Israel would work to secure its future with serious leadership towards a two-state solution. Yet Trump and Pence can’t even bring themselves explicitly endorse the concept of two states for two peoples. They are empowering hardline rejectionists on both sides and dangerously jeopardizing Israel’s future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people,’ warned Ben-Ami.”
Vice President Mike Pence’s speech to Israeli parliament was disrupted Monday after Arab lawmakers held up placards and got in a brawl with security staff in protesting the U.S.’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Lawmakers from the Arab Joint List, Israel’s third-biggest party, were forcibly ejected from the speech that they had earlier promised to boycott. Footage showed Israeli security officers ripping the placards from the lawmakers’ hands before engaging in a tussle to get them out of the hall.
Robin Wright interviews Husam Zomlot, the Head of the PLO General Delegation to the US. “If President Trump wants to be the ultimate dealmaker, as he told us many times, he should pause and think of what he did on the sixth of December. It does not qualify him or his Administration to be in on this process….We will not sit at any table that Jerusalem is not in the middle, in the heart of it. We want a genuine peace process, yes. We want to negotiate with Israel. Yes! But not that way.”
Former Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit writes, “Every intelligent person must understand that the two-state solution is an insurance policy for the State of Israel, the only way the country can save itself from itself. This is a paradigm that even Trump should understand….The recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, either as a punishment or an American attempt to bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table, divorced from the overall context of a solution to the conflict, is an illogical act. The same is true of Trump’s decision to freeze part of the funds that the U.S. gives to UNRWA. Both these decisions could have been correct – and maybe even worthy – if they were part of an overall strategic peace plan, in which progress includes compromises by both sides.”
Griff Witte and Ben Birnbaum report, “[T’he ‘America first’ approach has also left the United States far more isolated. The overall impact of the policy, say diplomats, politicians and analysts interviewed around the world, has been a clear retrenchment of U.S. power — and an opportunity for U.S. adversaries such as China and Russia….Across the globe, U.S. adversaries are rushing to fill the America-size void left as Washington breaks from its closest allies on trade and other international pacts.They also seek to take advantage of the confusion caused by what allies and foes have called an ill-defined and sometimes chaotic U.S. foreign policy broadcast by Trump’s tweets.”
Mike Pence Says U.S. Embassy Will Open in Jerusalem Next Year, The New York Times
Vice President Mike Pence said on Monday that a new United States Embassy to Israel would open in Jerusalem before the end of 2019. Pence’s statement, made to the Israeli Parliament during a trip to the Holy Land, follows President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last month, a move that overturned decades of American policy and international consensus on the status of the holy city.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on Tuesday that the timetable for presenting a U.S. plan on Middle East peace depends on when the Palestinians would return to negotiations. “I think it all just depends now on when the Palestinians are going to come back to the table,” Pence said.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on the European Union to recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders during a joint press conference on Monday with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in Brussels. Abbas added that the EU is among the main partners in building the institutions of a Palestinian state, and that the Palestinians will seek full implementation of UN General Assembly and Security Council resolutions.
Palestinian negotiator slams Pence’s ‘messianic’ Knesset speech, Times of Israel
The Palestinians on Monday harshly criticized US Vice President Mike Pence’s speech to the Knesset on Monday for its emphasis on Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which the PLO’s longtime negotiator said was a “gift to extremists.”
A group of El Al pilots declared on Facebook in recent days they will not fly African asylum seekers to Rwanda if they are being forcibly deported from Israel. However, this statement will not affect planned deportations since El Al doesn’t actually operate flights to Rwanda. To date, Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers have been flown to Rwanda on foreign airlines through Jordan, Turkey and Ethiopia.
Border guards foil stabbing attack in West Bank — police, Times of Israel
Security forces on Tuesday foiled an attempted stabbing at a West Bank junction, when they opened fire on two Palestinians who attacked them, police said.
Noa Landau observes, “The speech by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in the Knesset Monday afternoon was more like an ecstatic sermon by an evangelist preacher traveling through the Holy Land than the address of a leader seeking to present a new diplomatic plan for Middle East peace. The vice president, who as we know is a devout Christian, divided the world in his speech into good and evil, friends and enemies, heaven and hell. On one side is the Jewish people, the chosen people, to whom God promised this land.”
Jane Eisner writes, “In his first, tumultuous year in office, President Trump and his administration have attempted to redefine what it means to be a good American, to disastrous results. They are now applying the same crude measure to support for Israel. What gives them the right to decide?”
Israel’s Hamas dilemma, Al-Monitor
Shlomi Eldar reports, “Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz has been trying for more than two years to advance a grandiose plan to build a port for Gaza on an artificial island across from its coast. The port could be used to bring food and other vital supplies into the Strip, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman have consistently rejected the idea. Absent a fundamental, inherent solution to the problem, the Israel Defense Forces civil administration (for the West Bank and Gaza) keeps offering panaceas that are about as useful as an aspirin to a terminally ill patient….Israel, which repeatedly warns against Iran’s growing influence in the region, has received proof that its Gaza closure policy — the one adopted without serious debate and unchanged for over a decade — brought Iran closer to its southern border.”