This Week Today: Current Events from Israel

Ben Packer,

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לבן ריק
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Ben Packer
Originally from Petersburg, Virginia, Ben Packer moved to Israel in 1999, where he served in the IDF's Givati Brigade in the Gaza Strip. Ben served as a Rabbi on campus at Univ. of North Carolina and at Duke Univ. Ben now serves as Director of the Jerusalem Heritage House (www.heritagehouse.org.il) and Co-Director of Young Jewish Conservatives (www.youngjewishconservatives.org). He lives in the Old City of Jerusalem with his wife and 6 children....

This Week Today

Current Events from Israel

I wasn't going to say anything about President Trump's peace plan, but I got alot of requests, so what can I do? After all, I'm a giver. So here goes. Other news at the bottom. Next week I'll also discuss the currently ongoing World Zionist Congress elections and everyone eligible should vote.

Brief Summary, followed by some details:

There is very little new in this plan as compared to previous peace plans. The idea is more or less the same. There are differences. All of the updated changes are more favorable to Israel and less favorable to the Arabs, significantly. The obvious question is what is the point of all this. I will try to answer. 

The General Idea:

The general idea remains the same: the creation, through agreement with the "Palestinian Authority", of an Arab entity/state in areas that are currently under Israeli control where there are exclusively large numbers of Arabs (including in areas that are currently part of the State of Israel in the Galilee). The reason for doing this is so that Israel can have security but not millions of more Arab citizens/voters. 

The Major Changes:

-No Jewish communities will be destroyed. The ethnic cleansing of Jews from certain areas was always an integral part of all previous plans. The Arab entity that would be created would still prohibit any Jews from living in it. Since none of these communities are now going to be destroyed, there is no longer any reason not to apply Israeli sovereignty to them. According to Prime Minister Netanyahu this could happen as early as next week. Additionally, with these areas not included in a new Arab entity, the percentage of area of the "West Bank" given to the Palestinian Authority would be at least 10% less than previously offered - 80% in place of 90+%. 

Its important to note that 15 Jewish communities have been highlighted as "isolated". These are virtually the same communities that have always been similarly labeled in past proposals. The proposed idea is to "dry out" these communities with a long-term building freeze in the hopes of creating greater contiguity between Palestinian Authority controlled areas, specifically around the large urban centers of Hevron and Shechem.  These communities, not coincidentally, contain some of the most die-hard ideological settlers, so don't expect this to work too well. Jewish access to the biblical tombs located in both places  (the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hevron and Joseph's Tomb in Shechem) would also be guaranteed in the agreement and potentially cause continued friction.

-Refugees

 In previous plans, Arabs claiming to be "palestinian refugees" were to be allowed in small numbers into Israel and in unlimited numbers (to be exclusively determined by the Palestinian Authority) into the new Arab entity. Both of these possibilities would be much more limited in Trump's plan and Israel would decide the numbers in coordination with the Palestinian Authority.

-Jerusalem

The Trump plan calls for a "palestinian capital" in current neighborhoods of Jerusalem that are on the other side of the separation wall. The more well-known and more historically significant neighborhoods would remain part of the now-recognized capital of Israel. These include Silwan (City of David), Sheikh Jarrah (Shimon HaTzadik) and Ras Al-Amud (Mount of Olives), as well as others. This means that the entire "holy basin" around the Old City would remain under exclusive Israeli control, with Jordan continuing to play an administrative role on the Temple Mount, as they currently do. This is very much different than all previous plans that went as far as to include a division within the Old City itself. 

-Money

Mexico is going to pay for all of this. Just kidding, but in the current proposal, the other Sunni Arab states in the region are expected to shoulder a good chunk of the financial incentives being offered to the "Palestinian Authority" if they accept the deal. An agreement is very much in their regional interests and will enable these Sunni Arab countries to cooperate more closely and openly with Israel against the mutual threat of Shiite Iran. 

The Part You've Dreaded - My Thoughts

No one in their right mind would think that Abu Mazen and the Palestinian Authority would agree to any of this. His official response was "one thousand no's". I love that. This is all very similar to a messy divorce. The marriage between Israel and the Palestinian Authority started at the signing of the cursed Olso Accords. Like with many bad marriages, this was easily predictable and there were many who were very vocally opposed from the beginning. Nonetheless it went forward and when it soured, it soured very badly and violently, culminating in the Second Intifada. Since then, divorce has been on the table. Like most divorces, it ain't pretty and it ain't happening as fast as folks would like either. That's just the way it is. Each peace plan is like another courtroom proceeding. Looking from the outside its hard to see why each is necessary, but it is. Soon the whole relationship will be gone. This "bad marriage" was with the Palestinian Authority, but not necessarily with the Arabs living in the area and the entire region, who were also forced into it. There may a place to develop a mutually beneficial and productive relationship with them in the future, and that is what President Trump and his advisers are most likely hoping to enable. 

There is a relatively good chance that this proposal could lead directly to violence, but the reality is that violence virtually always precedes progress in the Middle East. 

Other News

-President Putin of Russian has pardoned American/Israeli Naama Issachar. She had been sentenced to 7.5 years for drug smuggling after 10 grams of marijuana was allegedly found in her check baggage during a short stopover in Russia on her way back from the Far East. Naama is the first foreigner ever pardoned by Putin. I'm sure he'll kill a bunch of people to make sure his reputation doesn't suffer. 

-Prime Minister Netanyahu was formally indicted this week. He had applied for immunity from the Knesset but withdrew his request when it became obvious that it would not be approved. The Attorney General then immediately indicted him while Netanyahu was meeting with President Trump in DC. That's just the kind of guy that he is - a man with a cause or a very thoughtless jerk - you decide. 

-There were demonstrations in Jerusalem by an ultra-orthodox faction to protest the arrest of an Ethiopian-Israeli ultra-orthodox yeshiva student who hadn't reported to receive his army exemption. Although this first of its kind event could have dramatic effects on Israeli society, it was completely ignored by the media. Doesn't really fit their narrative so well. This despite it being right before the start of Black History Month!