“J Street is deeply concerned about the drastic, irresponsible cuts to the State Department and to important foreign assistance and humanitarian programs in the Trump administration’s proposed budget. This misguided budget would severely weaken American soft power and undermine our diplomatic efforts – harming the security and interests of the United States and our allies. It indicates that this administration fails to understand how diplomacy serves as the most effective frontline tool of American strength.”
Retired Israeli general Uzi Eilam writes, “Fifty years ago, in the Six-Day War, I was, with my battalion command team, among the first Israeli soldiers to reach the Western Wall….50 years later, I don’t feel that it is enough to merely talk about what the war means. Its unresolved consequences have become the greatest threat facing Israel today…,.The fact that we have not yet decided what to do with the land we occupied in the Six-Day War — not armies outside our borders — is, today, our most pressing and existential threat. If we do not make peace with the Palestinians and end the occupation we began 50 years ago, we will cease to live in a country that many of the Zionists, who fought by my side in ’67, would recognize. And so, I mark this day not just with a mix of somber and joyous reflection, but with a determination to secure the legacy of June 7, 1967. The only way to do that is to fight back against the fanaticism that has taken root in Israeli society. To reject the ‘divide and conquer’ mentality that our leadership displays toward the Palestinians. To seize the opportunity before us and actively seek peace with our neighbors.”
Trump Visit: Long On Optics, Short On Vision, NY Jewish Week
“Logan Bayroff, associate director of communications for J Street, said the visit was ‘very light on substance.’ While noting positively Trump’s emphasis on peace efforts, ‘the president did not talk about a two-state solution, how he intends to help the parties reach an agreement, or any of the difficult and complex issues involved.’”
“J Street is disturbed by the actions of Israeli police who violently broke up a peaceful protest by anti-occupation activists in Jerusalem today — reportedly breaking the arm of one protester. The protesters…were engaged in a non-violent sit-in, attempting to block far-right Israelis from their annual Jerusalem Day march through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. In recent years, that march has become increasingly marked by racist chanting and aggressive behavior, designed to mock and intimidate Jerusalem’s Arab residents and spread a message of hate. The image of young American Jews shaped by our communities and values, who care passionately about creating a better future for Israelis and Palestinians, being harmed by Israeli police in the center of Jerusalem is truly upsetting.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday that President Donald Trump applied heavy pressure and was very assertive on his talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and made it clear to them that they would have to compromise in order to move ahead in the peace process. “The president was very forceful in his encouragement to both of them to be serious about approaching these discussions in the future and recognize they have to compromise, everyone has to compromise,” Tillerson told reporters accompanying Trump on his trip in Europe. Trump, Tillerson said, “put a lot of pressure” on Netanyahu and Abbas “that it’s time to get to the [negotiations] table and he has made the point several times.”
Jerusalem Day Celebration Underscores Israeli-Palestinian Divide, The New York Times
“The anniversary has been celebrated as a seminal modern moment for Jews, their return to rule over a united Jerusalem for the first time in about 2,000 years. But in recent years, the day itself has become favored more by the religious right. On Wednesday, as they do each year, young nationalist Jews paraded through the Arab Quarter singing and waving flags in front of stone-faced Palestinians, most of whom closed their shops in protest and fear….Even President Trump split the difference on the issues surrounding the Western Wall: It was among his first stops on his trip here this week, and he became the first sitting United States president to visit it. But he did so without Israeli officials and sidestepped the diplomatic issues around it. The United States and most other nations have not recognized Israel’s annexation of territory captured in 1967, and both Israelis and Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital. The United States, like others, is waiting for a final deal between the two sides, which Mr. Trump says he is determined to broker.”
“Israeli police broke the arm of an American Jewish activist and injured several other anti-occupation demonstrators while forcefully dispersing a Jerusalem Day protest in the Old City on Wednesday. The demonstration, held at Damascus Gate by American and Israeli Jewish activists with IfNotNow, Free Jerusalem and All That’s Left, took place during the March of the Flags, an annual right-wing parade that habitually results in violence against Palestinians from both its participants and the Israeli police units escorting them. The march is heavily funded by the Jerusalem Municipality. The parade passes through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter, and Palestinian traders along the route are ordered by police to close their shops during the march. According to a statement from an IfNotNow organizer, Yonah Lieberman, Wednesday’s protest was aimed at trying to block the police from clearing out the Muslim Quarter, forcing them to reroute the march.”
A Palestinian’s daily commute through an Israeli checkpoint, Washington Post
William Booth and Sufian Taha report on the experiences of Palestinians traveling into Israel, via checkpoints, from the West Bank.
Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the Knesset on Wednesday in honor of Jerusalem Day, which this year marks 50 years to Israel’s control over the city and said President Donald Trump’s visit to the Western Wall proved the Jewish people’s connection to the city and holy site. “I told Trump that his visit to the Western Wall dispels all of UNESCO lies,” Netanyahu continued, one day after U.S. President Donald Trump addressed Israel, referring to motions by the UN agency that sought to disregard Jewish ties to the Temple Mount. “The Temple Mount and the Western Wall will remain forever under Israeli sovereignty,” Netanyahu said, “the historical achievement will stand forever.”
Bennett vows to press Netanyahu for more West Bank construction, Times of Israel
Education Minister Naftali Bennett said Wednesday that he would urge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to approve more construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank so that Israel can consolidate its hold on the land. Bennett, the leader of the pro-settlement Jewish Home party, told Army Radio that Israel should take advantage of the opportunity presented by the Trump administration, which, he claimed, recognized the Jewish claim to the West Bank.
Trump budget slashes Middle East aid, Al-Monitor
The Donald Trump administration is seeking deep cuts in US assistance for Arab states as part of its proposed budget for the State Department and foreign aid.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that the US committed to “preserving Israel’s qualitative edge in the Middle East.” He made the comments a day after President Trump completed a visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, following a visit to Saudi Arabia where a huge arms deal was signed between the US and Saudi Arabia.
In a highly unusual move, Israeli police on Wednesday arrested three guards from the Islamic Waqf, a Jordan-based organization that administers the Temple Mount, saying they tried to attack visitors to the Jerusalem site. Some 15 Jewish activists were also detained by police after they prostrated themselves in the Temple Mount compound, defying restrictions against Jewish acts of worship at the holy site.
Two cars were torched and graffiti was sprayed on a house at the entrance to an Israeli Arab village in Wadi Ara in northern Israel in a suspected hate crime. One of the graffiti messages, which were sprayed onto a private house, read “Administrative price tag” and the other read “The exiles say hello” (sprayed twice). The police are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime. So-called “price tags” are reference to a form of retribution attacks by radical settlers or far right extremists who try to exact a price for any Israeli government curbs on settlements.
The three Israeli paratroopers whose photograph has symbolized the Jewish return to the Western Wall were back there on Jerusalem Day at the exact hour when they liberated the site 50 years ago. Dr. Yitzhak Yifat, Tzion Karasenti and Chaim Oshri joined thousands of Jews from around the world to mark Jerusalem Day.
American Jewish billionaire and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is giving Thursday testimony against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a case in which Netanyahu is suspected of trying to negotiate favorable coverage with an arch-foe, the owner of one of Israel’s largest-selling newspapers.
Danny Seidemann writes, “The timing of Trump’s visit coincides with the commemoration of 50 years of Israeli rule over East Jerusalem, and the dissonance between Israel and the almost all of the rest of the world has been deafening. While official Israel is celebrating 50 years of “reunification”, even Israel’s closest allies see the event as another benchmark in the 50 years of occupation – the longest occupation in modern history….Trump has come and gone, and Jerusalem remains as it was. And for all the sweetness and light he displayed towards Israel, he did not deviate one bit from the longstanding U.S. policy regarding Jerusalem….Israeli Yerushalayim will be recognized as Israel’s capital only when Al Quds will be recognized as the capital of Palestine. Embassies will flock to Israeli Jerusalem the day after Israel opens its embassy in Palestinian Jerusalem, and Palestine does the same in our Jerusalem. Not one day before.”
J.J. Goldberg writes, “Compounding Israeli discomfort during the Trump visit is a frustrating sense that Israel is in no position to complain about all its disappointments with Trump. Israel has always been the junior partner in the relationship, but it’s rarely hesitated to consider itself an equal and make its views known. Right now, though, Israel is constrained by the awareness that it has nowhere else to go. When Democrats hold the White House, Israel can dangle the threat over the president’s head of retribution by congressional Republicans and their conservative allies, including the Christian right and Jewish donors. Now, though, with the devoutly pro-Israel GOP controlling all levers of power in Washington, but apparently unwilling to counter the president’s witless appetites, Israel looks like it’s stuck.”
Yom Yerushalayim – It’s Complex, So Celebrate, Times of Israel
Rabbi David Jaffe writes, “As a Liberal Zionist, I love Yom Yerushalayim and I am deeply disturbed by Yom Yerushalayim….What is needed, particularly in the progressive world, is a full-throated celebration of the miracles and joy of June, 1967 and full-throated moral outrage at the disastrous legacy of the domination of another people.”
Rabbi Eric Yoffie writes, “Those of us who are desperate for Israeli-Palestinian peace may not have the luxury of choosing the architects of peace, or its messengers. It may be that those who bring peace will not have clean hands and pure hearts. It may be that their motivations will be suspect, their character sullied, their backgrounds questionable, and their egos uncontrolled. We may not like their politics, their past, or, for that matter, their parenting. But if they bring peace, it will not matter. Not to me, at least. And this will be so even if the lead player in the peace saga turns out to be President Donald Trump.”
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