Israel and the Middle East News Update Tuesday, November 4

Israel and the Middle East
News Update
Tuesday, November 4
Headlines:
• Netanyahu: World Is Silent As Abbas Feeds Flames at Temple Mount
• Erekat Asks Kerry to Support Palestinian Bid at UN
• U.S. Slams Israel's 'Unfortunate' Building Plan in East Jerusalem
• Israel Demolishes Two Palestinian Homes in East Jerusalem
• Israel Reopens Two Border Crossings into Gaza
• Nasrallah: Our Missiles Will Reach Every Inch of Israel
• New EU FP Chief: I’d Like to See a Palestinian State By the Time I Leave Office
• Diskin: I Deliberated, But I Won’t Go into Politics
Commentary:
• Ma’ariv: “No Time for Rejoicing”
− By Ben Caspit
• Times of Israel: “US Veto at Security Council May No Longer Be a Given”
− By Raphael Ahren
S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace
633 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 5th Floor, Washington, DC 20004
www.centerpeace.org ● Yoni Komorov, Editor ● Nathaniel Sobel, Associate Editor
News Excerpts
Jerusalem Post
Netanyahu: World Is Silent As Abbas Feeds Flames at Temple Mount
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas incited violence at the Temple Mount with his
condolence letter to the Israeli-Arab family of the man whom police allege shot right-wing activist
Yehudah Glick last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday. “I am acting in every way
to calm the atmosphere around the Temple Mount, but Abbas is adding fuel to the fire,” Netanyahu
said. Abbas wrote “a letter of encouragement and support” to the family of Moataz Hejazi, the man
from Abu Tor, Jerusalem suspected of attempting to assassinate Glick on Wednesday night, as he
stood outside the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem.
Times of Israel
Erekat Asks Kerry to Support Palestinian Bid at UN
Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat appealed to US Secretary of State John Kerry to support
Palestinian statehood efforts at the United Nations Security Council in a meeting Monday night.
Erekat, in Washington, also asked Kerry to recognize a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders,
with a capital in East Jerusalem, as a response to the recent Israeli announcement that it would build
hundreds of housing units in East Jerusalem, the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency reported. “Urgent
steps from the international community to protect the two-state solution are needed,” Erekat said,
according to a written statement cited by Ma’an. “We urge the US administration to support our bid to
the UN Security Council in order to establish the borders of a Palestinian state.”
Ha’aretz
U.S. Slams Israel's 'Unfortunate' Building Plan in East Jerusalem
The United States on Monday condemned the Jerusalem District Planning and Construction
Committee's decision to promote a construction plan for hundreds of new housing units in the
Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, beyond the Green Line. "It is unfortunate that after the unequivocal
and unanimous position last week of the international community, opposing construction in East
Jerusalem, at this sensitive time the Israeli authorities chose to move forward," said Jen Psaki, State
Department Spokesman. "We continue to engage at the highest level with the Israeli government to
make our position absolutely clear – that we view settlement activity as illegitimate and that we
unequivocally oppose unilateral steps that prejudge the future of Jerusalem."
Reuters
Israel Demolishes Two Palestinian Homes in East Jerusalem
Israeli forces demolished two Palestinian homes on Tuesday in an East Jerusalem neighborhood that
has been at the heart of clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters, a move likely to
exacerbate weeks of tension in the holy city. Authorities knocked down the buildings near the district
of Abu Tor, southeast of the Old City, in the early hours, saying they had been built without
construction permits. "At 5 o'clock this morning, around 90 policemen and two bulldozers kicked us
out of the house and started destroying it without letting us take any of our belongings," Hamza Abu
Rajab, owner of one of the buildings, told Reuters.
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DPA
Israel Reopens Two Border Crossings into Gaza
Israel has reopened two border crossings into the Gaza Strip, a Ministry of Defense spokeswoman
said Tuesday. The decision is expected to bring some relief to the 1.8 million people living in Gaza,
who had been sealed off from the outside world as a result of the closure of the Erez and Kerem
Shalom crossings at the weekend. Israel closed the two crossings after a rocket fired from Gaza
landed in Israeli territory on Friday. No casualties or damage were reported.
Ynet News
Nasrallah: Our Missiles Will Reach Every Inch of Israel
Israel will indeed be forced to shut its international airport in the event of another Lebanon war,
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said Tuesday. In a television interview marking the Muslim holiday
of Ashura, Nasrallah responded to comments by a top IDF officer who warned recently that should a
Third Lebanon War break out, Ben-Gurion Airport and Haifa Port would be closed from the very first
day. “You will be forced to close your ports and airports. You will not find a single piece of land in all
of Palestine that will not be hit by missiles from Lebanon,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech
marking the Muslim holiday of Ashura.
Jerusalem Post
New EU FP Chief: I’d Like to See a Palestinian State By the Time I Leave Office
The EU’s new foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told the European media on Monday that she
would like to see a Palestinian state by the time her five-year term is up. “The important thing for
me,” Mogherini said, “is not whether other states, European or not, recognize Palestine. What would
make me happy, is if a Palestinian state existed at the end of my term.” She issued her statement to
the French daily newspaper Le Monde in advance of her visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories
on Friday and Saturday.
Walla
Diskin: I Deliberated, But I Won’t Go into Politics
Former GSS director Yuval Diskin, whose name has been mentioned on a number of occasions as
someone who might throw his hat in the political ring, said yesterday that he had no intention of
getting into politics. In a conversation with members of Kibbutz Beeri, which is in the Gaza periphery,
Diskin said: “I won’t be getting into politics and I won’t run in the upcoming elections.” Diskin, who
served as the GSS director for six years up until 2011, has been courted by a number of parties from
the center and left. Diskin said yesterday: “I deliberated a lot about whether to get into politics.
Meretz, for example, has an ideology, but when you go to the right of them, the problem is that
they’re all ideologically hollow. The ideological right wing and religious Zionism might be small, but
they’ve got a very powerful growth engine.”
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Ma’ariv – November 4, 2014
No Time for Rejoicing
By Ben Caspit
• Don’t hold me to my word, but the impression is that Ehud Olmert was finally buried
yesterday—in the public-political sense, of course.
• It was one of the longest and enervating pursuits in history. To Ehud Olmert’s credit, we have
to say that he put up a good fight. There were a few times in the past in which he was
prematurely buried, but every time, he managed to escape somehow, by the skin of his teeth
and against all odds, and to pick himself back up onto his feet once again. Yesterday he was
dealt a blow that should knock him completely and unremittingly to the floorboards. Shula
Zaken, his long-standing secret-bearer, his faithful office manager who was also by his side
and oversaw his affairs for years upon years, attacked him in court and told everything, with
recordings to back her up.
• There are very few people who are intimately familiar with the ins and outs of the various
Olmert affairs. Regrettably, I am not one of them. It is the equivalent of a Ph.D. in law. It seems
to me that what Zaken did yesterday, after all the background noise is cleared away, is to
provide that “extra something” to help the State Attorney’s Office turn the funds that Olmert
received from Talansky (no one disputes that he received funds from him) from “political
funds” that were permissible by law at the time, into “personal funds,” which were forbidden.
Ultimately, that is the small difference that allowed Olmert to be acquitted last time and might,
possibly, facilitate his conviction this time. Last time the court ruled that the state needed to
prove that the funds weren’t political funds, and the prosecution failed to do so because Shula
Zaken was silent. Now Shula Zaken is talking. Olmert knew everything, she says, everything
was done at his instructions and with his knowledge. Everything I did—I learned from him.
• Well, first of all, everyone can just relax. Everyone who believes that Olmert was the mother of
all sins of the state of the Jews, the worst disaster ever to befall the Jewish people since the
destruction of the Second Temple, can put a checkmark down in their little notebook. There’s
no more Olmert. He’s finished. The stables have been cleaned, at long last. Redemption has
arrived. Even though Olmert’s lawyers, headed by Eyal Rosovsky, who will be responsible for
the cross-examination on Thursday, believe that the last word has yet to be said on this case.
We’ll wait, of course, until Thursday. This is still the best show in town.
• The assessment that Zaken is going to be torn apart on the stand is shared by everyone who
knows anything about the legal profession. The question is whether the shredding of the
state’s witness and her exposure as an arch-crook manipulator who did everything to avoid
punishment for herself is going to help her ex-boss. It seems to me that the chances of that
happening aren’t high.
• Ehud Olmert is a tragedy. Not a personal tragedy, but a public one. He came by his troubles
honestly. It was he who chose Shula Zaken, out of all the people in the world, to share his
closest secrets with. He was the one who chose to become addicted to money—be it political
or personal. While it is true that very few of the politicians of his generation didn’t—he was the
one who got caught. Yes, they caught him because they were particularly motivated to catch
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him, and I’ve written about that quite a bit in the past, but that still doesn’t exempt him from
punishment. The tragedy is ours, because Ehud Olmert was a good prime minister. I’ll
continue to write that even if he is convicted of crimes against humanity and not just breach of
trust (the charge against him in the Talansky case). He was courageous, he knew how to use
force instead of just talking, he knew how to make decisions, he elevated Israel’s standing in
the world, he brought our relations with the United States and Europe to rare heights, and
while he did all that, he also demolished the Syrian nuclear reactor, destroyed half of Lebanon,
built deterrence in the north and almost managed to build deterrence in the south (had a few
cowards not gotten in his way).
• So allow me not to rejoice on this day along with the band of fulminators. From my very close
and intimate knowledge about the way the courts of a number of incumbent politicians or
recently-serving politicians are or were run, I know that Olmert’s acts of corruption were like
generous acts of charity in comparison to what goes on there. But they aren’t investigated. In
general, when you look at the determination, effectiveness, professionalism, thoroughness
and resoluteness shown by the State Attorney’s Office in its long pursuit of Olmert, you can’t
help but ask yourself what has happened since then. How can it be that in the past number of
years the State Attorney’s Office, along with the police, has gone in the completely opposite
direction. But that is a subject for a different column.
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Times of Israel – November 3, 2014
US Veto at Security Council May No Longer Be a Given
By Raphael Ahren
• After Jeffrey Goldberg’s infamous “chickenshit” article, it is hard to deny that ties between the
Israeli government and the current US administration have reached a nadir. Even Yaacov
Amidror, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former national security adviser, admitted this
week that “relations between Israel and the US have deteriorated to an all-time low.”
• Worse than the bad language and backroom bickering, though, is the fear that the frosty
relationship may mean Israel can no longer rely on Washington’s veto in the Security Council,
which has been a rock-solid given in defense of Israel for decades.
• It’s no secret that Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama have little love lost for each
other, between disputes over an Iranian nuclear deal and building in East Jerusalem and the
West Bank.
• Less discussed publicly is the fear that the administration will abandon Israel on the
Palestinian question at the UN. The Palestinians are planning to go the United Nations Security
Council with a draft resolution calling for an Israel withdrawal by November 2016 from all areas
captured in 1967. They originally wanted to submit it by October but will probably wait for
January, when the Security Council membership will be more favorable to their cause.
• A few years ago, there would have been no question that the US would have vetoed any such
resolution. In February 2011, Washington vetoed a UN Security Council resolution
condemning Israeli settlements (despite the US’s longstanding opposition to settlementbuilding), thwarting the council’s other 14 members, who all voted in favor. A year later, the
administration successfully blocked the Palestinians’ attempt to become full UN members.
• But since then, ties between the Jerusalem and Washington have gone drastically downhill,
and the American veto can apparently no longer be taken for granted.
• “Without US support in the international arena, and especially in the UN Security Council,
Israel would be in a very difficult position today, to the point of diplomatic and economic
isolation,” Amidror wrote Monday in a paper for the BESA Center for Strategic Studies.
• Asked by The Times of Israel whether he fears Washington could possibly refrain from using
its veto in January, he indicated that while unlikely, such a scenario is not entirely unthinkable.
“It doesn’t seem logical that they wouldn’t use their veto. But I don’t know.”
• Netanyahu is indeed worried that the US will “abandon” Israel at the UN, Israeli journalist Ariel
Kahane reported Sunday on the NRG website [Hebrew link], quoting senior ministers. “The
prime minister told colleagues in recent days … that his office’s understanding of the issue
and the government’s take on it is that the Americans will not cast a veto against a resolution
that reaches the Security Council,” Kahane later elaborated in a newspaper interview.
• Officially, Jerusalem has faith in the Americans. “The US has had a consistent position of
refusing to support one-sided UN resolutions against Israel, and I have no reason to believe
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that America’s position is about to change,” a senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office told
The Times of Israel this week.
• Even Danny Danon, a hawkish Likud lawmaker who doesn’t mince words in his criticism of the
White House, said Israel could depend on the support of its biggest ally, even while
anonymous senior US administration officials hurl obscenities at the prime minister.
• “Our shared values will ensure that the American people and the American leaders will stand
with Israel,” he said. Preventing the Palestinians from getting their way at the UN is “in the
interest of the American people,” he told The Times of Israel. “Our fight against Islam
extremism and terrorism is their fight.”
• Indeed, the recognition of a Palestinian state in the absence of a negotiated agreement with
Israel is against declared US policy, noted Robbie Sabel, a former legal adviser to Israel’s
Foreign Ministry and professor of international law at Hebrew University. Furthermore, current
US law prohibits the administration from granting rights at the UN to bodies that aren’t
recognized as a state, he noted. To circumvent this, “the federal government could declare
that Palestine is already a state. But it is highly unlikely that it would do that.”
• Israel can thus be confident that the administration will not allow the Security Council to pass
a resolution setting a timetable for an Israel withdrawal, or even one that would merely call for
Palestine to be admitted to the UN as a full member state (without deadline for an Israeli
withdrawal), he asserted.
• “At the same time the US will use [the question of] their veto as leverage to pressure Israel to
restart another round of peace negotiations with the Palestinians,” Sabel said.
• There is also speculation in Jerusalem that the administration, unwilling to use its veto (which
would be needed if nine Security Council members vote in favor), will propose to the
Palestinians an alternative version of the draft resolution — one that would condemn Israeli
settlement activity as illegal under international law. In the past, the US blocked such
resolutions, but in the current climate it might well support one. Rumor has it that Washington
and Ramallah are already in close contact regarding the wording of such a draft resolution.
• Israeli and American officials refused to comment on these rumors. Asked about the veto,
State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki last week did not want to predict how the US will
act when the Palestinians turn to the UN, merely saying that the administration doesn’t “have
information yet on what the plan is.”
• Not everyone is sure that the US would put the kibosh on the Palestinians’ maneuver at the
UN. “I wish I could say the veto is in our pocket, but I don’t think that’s the case,” said Oded
Eran, a retired former Israeli top diplomat. “A lot will depend on the language of the draft
resolution and other issues.”
• If the Palestinian draft resolution calls for the creation of a Palestinian state within the 1967
lines with East Jerusalem as its capital, Israel can be sure of an American veto, assessed Eran,
a former deputy director general at the Foreign Ministry and deputy chief of the Israeli
embassy in Washington. “The Americans cannot accept, nor can anyone else, that the
Security Council decides on borders and what the capital of a new member state would be,
especially not in this region.”
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• But if the resolution calls for the creation of a Palestinian state, or even an Israeli withdrawal
from the West Bank, without getting into the specifics, it is indeed plausible that the current
administration would support it, he said.
• True, the US thwarted the Palestinians’ previous attempts at enhanced UN status, but “that
was during a time when there was a peace process. Today, there is nothing,” said Eran, a
senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies. The sorry state of personal
relations between the president and the prime minister — and between individual top ministers
in the two countries — doesn’t help either, he added.
• The outcome of Tuesday’s midterm elections could be crucial. Should Democrats pull off a
surprise win, they could be emboldened to shun Israel at Turtle Bay. But if the Democrats do
poorly, as they are expected to, Secretary of State John Kerry or Defense Secretary Chuck
Hagel might be replaced, which could change Washington’s Middle East policy in Israel’s
favor, according to Shmuel Sandler, an expert on American foreign policy and US-Israel
relations at Bar-Ilan University.
• Plus, if the Democrats are defeated, they will immediately start to plan for the 2016 presidential
elections and therefore refrain from anything that would anger the pro-Israel community, he
predicted.
• “That’s why we’re not going to see another slap in the face of Israel,” he argued. After the
“chickenshit” insults and the expected Iran deal, the Americans will not also abandon Israel at
the UN, Sandler surmised. “They can’t slap Israel three times.”
• On the other hand, Washington will keep all options on the table regarding a veto at the
Security Council in order to threaten Jerusalem as long as possible, he suggested, and he
admitted that a lame duck president could indeed be dangerous to Israel.
• After six years during which Obama had to restrain himself despite all his grievances about
what he considers Israeli recalcitrance, after the midterm elections there is very little that
could hold him back. And yet, Sandler said, “Obama doesn’t want to go down in history as
person who destroyed relations between the US and Israel.”
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