Tag Archives: Jerusalem

Will the bombs and bullets start flying in Israel?

Donald J. Trump well just might have doomed any immediate prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

The president of the United States apparently is about to make good on his pledge to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

This is an extremely big deal, dear reader. Here’s why.

Palestinians contend that Jerusalem belongs to them. So does Israel. Trump has aligned with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

I want to stipulate that I happen to sympathize with Netanyahu’s hard line against the Palestinian terrorists who keep lobbing bombs at Israeli neighborhoods. The so-called “two-state solution,” which involves the creation of an independent Palestinian state, remains a distant dream for peacemakers in the region.

The U.S. president’s decision to place the embassy in Jerusalem is likely to make that dream more distant than ever.

And for what reason? Because his pal Bibi Netanyahu wants him to do it.

It’s unclear to me why the president would choose to provoke the Palestinians with this ostensibly simple gesture. Trump is likely to find out — maybe in short order — how seemingly simple actions can provoke intensely complicated responses.

Jerusalem or Tel Aviv? Peace might hang in the balance

Donald John Trump reportedly is about to announce a policy that will move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

What are the stakes? Oh, let’s see. Perhaps it’s the prospect of obtaining a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which also happens to claim Jerusalem as its own.

How I wish the president would rethink what I understand is about to occur.

I spent more than a month in Israel just a few years ago. I got an up-close look at the proximity — the tight quarters — in which Israel must exist with its Palestinian neighbors; indeed, Israel is home to many people of Palestinian descent.

Jerusalem is walled off from the Palestinian Authority because of intense security concerns caused by terrorists who have rained havoc onto Israelis for centuries.

Meanwhile, U.S. diplomats and their staffs have been ensconced in Tel Aviv, which isn’t all that far from Jerusalem, but far enough to avoid many of the direct threats posed to those who live in the holy city.

And in the midst of all this we have the still-remote prospect of a peace agreement that could be struck between Israel and the PA. What in the world might this blatantly aggressive move by the United States to do muck up that effort?

I have little faith that any talks — spearheaded on the U.S. side by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner — is going to advance even under the best of circumstances. Kushner has zero diplomatic experience and for the life of me I cannot grasp why the president would entrust this hyper-sensitive negotiation to someone only because he is married to a member of the First Family.

Indeed, I am trying to think of any worse move the United States could make that could throw a serious dirt clod into the quest for peace in the region. I keep coming back to a potential decision to place our nation’s embassy in a city that Israel’s sworn enemy claims for itself.

Good grief, Mr. President. Keep our embassy in Tel Aviv. It’s doesn’t take long to drive there from Jerusalem.

Sanity presents itself in Trump White House

Donald Trump pledged to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Then the president thought better of it. He has signed a six-month extension to keep the embassy where it’s been since the founding of Israel in 1948, in Tel Aviv, a relatively safe distance from where terrorists and other sworn enemies of the United States and Israel commit their acts of violence.

http://thehill.com/policy/international/335850-trump-keeps-us-embassy-in-tel-aviv?rnd=1496325457

The Palestinians want East Jerusalem to become capital of an independent state, when or if that occurs. The Israelis claim all of Jerusalem as their own holy place.

“We know that peace is possible if we put aside the pain and disagreements of the past and commit together to finally resolving this crisis,” Trump said in a speech in Jerusalem. “I am personally committed to helping Israelis and Palestinians achieve a peace agreement.”

The idea is to broker a peace deal that determines the fate of the holy city, which has been the goal of U.S. presidents of both political parties all along.

Donald Trump has seen the reality of the situation and has backed off his overheated campaign pledge and has decided the status quo isn’t such a bad idea.

Good call, Mr. President.

Obama, Netanyahu part company with bitterness

President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu occasionally used to say kind things about each other, despite their differences over how to find peace with the Palestinians.

I am guessing the niceties are finished.

The United States has broken with decades of diplomatic tradition by declining to veto a United Nations resolution condemning Israel over the settlements it is building in occupied territory that once belonged to Palestinians.

Netanyahu is furious and has said so openly and has condemned the U.N. and the United States over what he perceives is a slap at Israel.

This is tough for me to say, given my longstanding support of our president, but Netanyahu has reason to be angry.

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/netanyahu-blasts-un-obama-over-west-bank-settlements-resolution/ar-BBxvBpL?li=BBmkt5R&ocid=spartandhp

The settlements are part of Israel’s effort to strengthen the buffer between its territory and that which it took during the Six-Day War of 1967, a brief conflict that was started by its Arab neighbors. Israel managed to finish it quickly by dispatching forces from Jordan, Egypt and Syria. In the process, it took over land known as the West Bank, which cuts through Jerusalem.

I have had the high honor to see that part of the world up close and I totally understand the Israelis’ concern about future violent outbreaks.

Netanyahu took particular umbrage at the language within the resolution. As the Washington Post reported: “’The resolution is distorted. It states that the Jewish quarter and the Western Wall are occupied, which is absurd,’ said Netanyahu, referring to holy Jewish sites that sit within the Old City in East Jerusalem.”

The Jewish quarter sits within the walled city inside Jerusalem. To suggest that it, along with the Western Wall, are “occupied” is ridiculous on its face.

As an aside, I sought for weeks to obtain an interview with Netanyahu before embarking on a month-long tour of Israel in May-June 2009. I wasn’t able to get one with the prime minister. Had I been able to sit down with him, I would have asked him about the settlements and sought to get a deeper look at the Israeli perspective into why they feel the need to build them in the first place.

Netanyahu now looks forward to working with Donald J. Trump, who will succeed Obama as president in January. My hope is that Trump can find a way to persuade Netanyahu that there must be a pathway toward a permanent peace with the Palestinians, even with the settlements.

I continue to support the so-called “two-state solution,” which would allow a sovereign Palestinian state to exist alongside Israel. The Palestinians, though, need to do a lot more to put down the militant objections within their own ranks to Israel’s own existence.

Perhaps the most ironic aspect of this serious breach between the United States and Israel is that it is happening as Christians prepare to celebrate Christmas. Think of it: Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, is walled off from the rest of Jerusalem and the prospects for that wall ever coming down appear dimmer than ever.

It is my belief that President Obama has made the bigger mistake in declining to object to this U.N. resolution. In doing so, he has alienated our nation’s most trusted ally in a region where we need all the alliances we can muster.

SCOTUS hands White House an unexpected victory

The Supreme Court has decided that the United States needs to remain neutral in an ancient debate over who controls one of the world’s holiest cities.

The issue is a passport and whether the parents of a child born in Jerusalem could put the word “Israel” on the document’s listing of one’s place of birth.

It’s kind of convoluted. The court — in a 6-3 decision — sided with the executive branch of government, which contended that “Jerusalem” should stand alone on passports, given the contentious nature of the debate over who actually controls the city.

http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/scotus-strikes-down-jerusalem-passport-law?cid=sm_fb_lastword

Longstanding policy had stated that passports marking the place of birth of those who hold them shouldn’t put Jerusalem in Israel, as it remains a key sticking point in the on-going dispute between the Israelis and Palestinian Authority.

The American citizens of a boy born in Jerusalem in 2002 wanted his passport to contain the word “Israel.” Congress enacted a bill declaring that birth certificates could identify the birthplace as Jerusalem, Israel if parents requested. President Bush signed the bill into law, but complained that it interfered with the president’s ability to conduct foreign policy.

The court sided with the executive branch.

I’ve been to Jerusalem. Much of it clearly is in Israel. The Israeli government has its capital there. However, the city also is divided by a large, forbidding wall, on the other side of which is the West Bank, governed by the Palestinian Authority.

The Supreme Court has decided correctly in not interfering in this most sensitive dispute.

As NBC News’s Pete Williams reported: “The administration, under presidents of both parities, has insisted that because sovereignty over Jerusalem is one of the major sticking points in any Middle East peace agreement, the U.S. would remain neutral. Being forced to say that Jerusalem was under the control of Israel, the idea went, would be taking sides.”

 

Forget the 'water's edge' stuff about foreign policy

It’s safe to suggest that the time-honored belief that partisanship ended at “the water’s edge” has now been inundated.

House Speaker John Boehner went to Israel this week and declared that the “world is on fire” and that the United States is doing too little to put it out. He offered a blistering critique of U.S. foreign policy while standing in the capital city of one our nation’s staunchest allies.

http://www.politico.com/story/2015/04/boehner-israel-jerusalem-isil-netanyahu-iran-116600.html?hfp=t1_r

It’s a new day. Or perhaps it’s a continuation of an old way of thinking.

I don’t know which it is.

I do know that wherever he is, the late U.S. Sen. Arthur Vandenberg is spinning in his grave.

It was Vandenberg, R-Mich., who criticized politicians for venturing overseas to criticize U.S. policymakers, coining the “water’s edge” definition of bipartisanship.

I’ve always thought it was wise to speak with a single voice, especially when politicians venture abroad to discuss foreign policy matters. Yes, I know that this affinity to blast presidents of the “other party” goes both ways and that Democratic pols have dissed Republican presidents as well as the other way around.

The speaker of the House, though, speaks with forked tongue when he warns of the world going up in flames and then promises to keep speaking out against the president of the United States — even as the world burns.

“I wouldn’t have believed that I would be involved in as much foreign policy as I am today,” Boehner said in Jerusalem. “And it certainly isn’t by choice. It’s just that the world is on fire. And I don’t think enough Americans or enough people in the administration understand how serious the problems that we’re facing in the world are.”

Is the speaker unaware that he well might be fanning those flames when he says such things?

 

Barack and Bibi: Let's make peace

President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are speaking to each other.

That’s good.

Now it’s time for the next step. Let’s stop squabbling and get back to a public understanding that Israel remains this nation’s most critical Middle East ally and the two heads of government need to return to having each other’s back.

http://www.politico.com/story/2015/03/white-house-to-bibi-israel-your-move-116491.html?hp=t2_r

Netanyahu fanned the flames of anger between Washington and Jerusalem when, during the final days of his parliamentary election, he backed off on his previous support for a Palestinian state. Then his Likud Party won control of the Knesset and Bibi said, in effect, “I didn’t really mean what I said about the Palestinian state.”

As Politico reported, Bibi’s backtracking hasn’t exactly been accepted fully by the White House: “The White House has worked to cool down the rhetoric and public tension. But it’s not letting go. When Netanyahu insisted during the congratulatory phone call Obama waited to make that he was already backtracking and they’d get past this, an unimpressed Obama responded by saying, sure, but you said what you said. He and his aides believe it’s now up to Netanyahu to repair a rift that they stress is only about the peace process, not the larger commitment to Israel.”

Everyone on the planet knows that U.S.-Israeli ties are rock-solid, no matter what President Obama is saying these days about the frayed state of bilateral relations. If the shooting were to start, Bibi knows Barack — or whoever succeeds him in January 2017 — will be there.

It’s time to put this nastiness to rest. Make up in public, gentlemen.

Boehner to visit new best friend, Bibi

Pretend for a moment you’re a fly on the wall in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem.

His guest is U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, who has just arrived for a visit with his new best friend.

http://news.yahoo.com/house-speaker-boehner-travel-israel-140420738–politics.html

The two of them are discussing U.S.-Israeli relations. How might that conversation go?

Bibi: Thank you for coming, John. I’m glad to see at least one high-ranking U.S. officials is willing to be seen with me.

Boehner: No sweat, Bibi. Glad to be here. If only the president could come to see you.

Bibi: I know, but that’s his problem, not mine. Tell me, how should this rift between us — Barack and me — play out?

Boehner: Well, I get that our countries are traditional allies. We’re as tight as any two countries ever have been. We’ve said we’d have your back if you’re attacked. I think that still stands.

Bibi: I hope so, but I’m beginning to have my doubts.

Boehner: OK, here’s what you do. Pick up the phone right there next to you, and dial the White House. Ask for the president. Tell him your concerns about our alliance.

Bibi: How’s he doing to react?

Boehner: I know the president pretty well, even though I once said I’d never negotiate with him. I think he understands the friendship our countries have and understands the consequences of changing that relationship.

Bibi: Are you saying this is my move?

Boehner: Yes. After all, I invited you to speak to Congress without consulting with the White House. You accepted it, also without consulting the White House. We ticked off the president together, you and me. So, call him.

Bibi: OK, then. I’ll do it. Let’s hope for the best.

***

That’s how it ought to go, in my view. I’m not holding my breath that it will.

 

This is what I call 'public service'

Nir Barkat should become the face of public servants everywhere.

Who is this man? He is the mayor of Jerusalem who, along with his bodyguard, wrestled a knife-wielding attacker to the ground and held him there until police arrived.

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/jerusalem-mayor-nir-barkat-wrestles-knife-attacker-ground-n310611

The 55-year-old mayor saved several people from possible injury or death from the attacker who apparently pulled the knife out in a crowd.

When U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., was mayor of Newark, N.J., he was known to roll up his sleeves and offer a hand to residents of his city. I recall once when the Beaumont, Texas, fire chief, Pete Shelton, answered a call from a resident who said an alligator was lurking in a culvert in the rear of a home; Shelton answered the call and wrestled the medium-sized gator out of the water, tied it up, and released it in a bayou.

Nir Barkat’s response to the incident, which he witnessed from his car, speaks well of his commitment to serving the people who elected him.

 

Not exactly a 'bucket list' item, but …

I’ve kept this link filed away ever since I got it about a year ago.

It’s of Israel. It’s a promotional video, about 5 minutes in length that shows the best of one of the world’s most fascinating, complex, enduring and loveliest countries.

I spent five weeks there in May-June 2009. Most of that time was as part of a Rotary International professional exchange. Four young professionals came with me and we interacted for with others as part of Rotary’s effort to build bridges among cultures. Five folks from West Texas got an education that they will keep forever. And all of these wonderful young Texans have become four of my very best friends.

What’s more, together we forged friendships with our Israeli hosts — and a Rotary team with whom we traveled from The Netherlands — that will last our entire lives.

The final week was spent as a tourist, with my wife who had come to join me once the Rotary portion of the trip had concluded. We stayed at a bed and breakfast in Jerusalem. We took tours to Masada and the Dead Sea and walked all through Jerusalem, visiting holy sites and then booked a tour to neighboring Bethlehem in the West Bank.

As I look repeatedly at this video it occurs to me how vibrant that country is in a region riven with strife, bloodshed, hatred and suspicion. But watch the video and you notice it’s a land of intense religious diversity, with Christians, Jews and Muslims literally praying next to each other.

We visited a site, for example, in the old section of Tel Aviv where a mosque and an Orthodox church share a common wall, which we were told is a huge sign of unity in a region known for religious violence.

My wife and I intend to return there. We have many more holy sites we want to visit.

Call it a variation of the “bucket list.” We’ve been there once already. But there’s so much more to see and experience. Check out the video. You’ll see what I mean.