“President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for Defense Secretary, Ret. Gen. James Mattis, faced a series of rapid-fire questions at his confirmation hearing Thursday about the Middle East from Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a big player on military issues. Graham put Mattis on the spot, asking what the capital of Israel is. ‘The capital of Israel that I go to, sir, is Tel Aviv, sir, because that’s where all their government people are,’ Mattis said….”Sir, right now I go with US policy,” Mattis said when asked whether he would support moving the embassy. ‘I would defer to the nominee of Secretary of State on that, sir.’ Mattis also said he supports a two-state solution for the Israel-Palestinian conflict if it promotes peace, but that he would be open to other solutions. Graham also peppered Mattis with questions about the Iran nuclear deal. Mattis has said he intends to let the deal stand unless there is a violation.”
Aaron Blake reviews the findings of a new Pew Poll of Democrats. “Perhaps most notably, for the first time this century — if not ever — Democrats are now about equally split between sympathizing more with Israel (33 percent) and with the Palestinians (31 percent)….While conservative Republicans favored Israel by a 44-point margin in 2001, the margin is now 70 points. And while liberal Democrats favored Israel by 30 points at the turn of the century, they now favor the Palestinians by 12 points.”
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault writes, “Saving the two-state solution and safeguarding a future of peace and prosperity for peoples in the region is why the international community has decided to take action with the impetus of France. That is why on 3 June 2016, 30 countries and international organizations answered our call and met in Paris. That is why the Security Council passed resolution 2334 on 23 December 2016. This action has but one, simple and clear message: Israeli friends, Palestinian friends, we will not make peace on your behalf but we will be by your side. It is our responsibility in the face of History. We will be there to support you. Like us, you are aware that the international community’s support will be indispensable when the time comes. We are ready to provide this support.”
“[W]ith all the challenges facing the world, the international community has accepted the invitation of French President François Hollande to come together again and urge Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hammer out a two-state solution to decades-long conflict. Abbas and his little proto-state of Palestine, with its population split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, have muscled their way back onto the world stage for at least one more encore. The Israelis are howling in protest.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the French government Thursday and the Palestinians in connection with the peace conference set to meet in Paris on Sunday with the participation of foreign ministers and senior diplomats from 70 countries and international organizations. “It’s a rigged conference, rigged by the Palestinians with French auspices to adopt additional anti-Israel stances,” said Netanyahu at the beginning of a meeting with Norwegian Foreign Minister Borg Brende.
The inauguration of the first Palestinian Embassy in the Vatican city will take place on Saturday January 14, and will be attended by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Pope Francis, according to a statement from a spokesperson for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
U.S. intelligence officials warned their Israeli counterparts to “be careful” when transferring intelligence to the White House after Donald Trump becomes president, an Israeli newspaper reported. Top-classified information from Israel could be leaked to Russia and from there shared with Russia’s close ally Iran, the officials warned, Yediot Acharonot reported Thursday. The newspaper said the warning came during a recent meeting between the two sides whose exact date and place were not reported in order to protect the participants.
Republicans on Capitol Hill are stepping up their response to the passage of United Nations Security Council resolution 2334, which criticized Israel’s settlement policy. On Thursday morning, Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) announced they will soon present legislation to defund the UN over the anti-settlements resolution, which was accepted by the Security Council in late December. The UN receives close to a quarter of its funding from the United States.
Palestinian citizens of Israel called a one-day general strike on Wednesday to protest the demolition of 11 homes in the Arab town of Qalansuwa by Israeli authorities the previous day. Businesses, schools, and local government offices were closed in Arab municipalities across the country Israel, with local activists announcing they would organize a march in the town on Friday against the demolitions. The owners of the homes said they received notices two days before the demolitions and were not given enough time to respond through legal channels.
Israeli forces raided the villages of Khirbet al-Ras al-Ahmar and Khirbet Yarza in the northern occupied West Bank’s Jordan Valley on Wednesday, in order to deliver four final demolition and stop-construction notices for constructions and water pipelines in the area.
The Israeli general responsible for civilian issues within the Gaza Strip denied on Friday that Israel was to blame for the current electricity crisis in the isolated enclave. Israel supplies the Strip with 122 megawatts of electricity on an ongoing basis, said Maj. Gen. Yoav (Poli) Mordechai, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). He added that a recent fault with one of the electricity lines had been repaired immediately.
Asa Kasher writes, “[M]any people who agree that his action was wrong have endorsed the idea of immediately pardoning Azaria. They are interested in a pardon because they understand how he felt in the moment and would like the public event to include that compassion. Their mistake is profound. The price to be paid for the introduction of such sentiments into the formal, historical event is to radically downplay the significant roles that ought to be played by professionals such as judges and commanders. The rule of law is undermined when professional ethics and legal justice are overruled by pandering to the street. And democracy itself is undermined when politicians are constantly self-promotional election mode. Any effective defense of Israel as a genuine democratic nation-state of the Jews ought not to be based on a fleeting bid for popularity, but rather based on a defense of the moral principles of justice, sanctity of human life and restraint of force, as expressed in the IDF Code of Ethics.”
“Even if myriad Jewish organizations stood up with Goldstein and the ADL to condemn Trump’s remarks, I don’t expect it would change his behavior, nor the minds of those who willfully ignore or excuse the danger in his words. But it would begin to bolster a counter culture that must steadily and strongly present a different discourse in America, or these next four years will see a coarsening of public rhetoric so severe that we may never recover.”
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