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JfJfP comments


2016:

06 May: Tair Kaminer starts her fifth spell in gaol. Send messages of support via Reuven Kaminer

04 May: Against the resort to denigration of Israel’s critics

2015:

23 Dec: JfJfP policy statement on BDS

14 Nov: Letter to the Guardian about the Board of Deputies

11 Nov: UK ban on visiting Palestinian mental health workers

20 Oct: letter in the Guardian

13 Sep: Rosh Hashanah greetings

21 Aug: JfJfP on Jeremy Corbyn

29 July: Letter to Evening Standard about its shoddy reporting

24 April: Letter to FIFA about Israeli football

15 April: Letter re Ed Miliband and Israel

11 Jan: Letter to the Guardian in response to Jonathan Freedland on Charlie Hebdo

2014:

15 Dec: Chanukah: Celebrating the miracle of holy oil not military power

1 Dec: Executive statement on bill to make Israel the nation state of the Jewish people

25 Nov: Submission to All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism

7 Sept: JfJfP Executive statement on Antisemitism

3 Aug: Urgent disclaimer

19 June Statement on the three kidnapped teenagers

25 April: Exec statement on Yarmouk

28 Mar: EJJP letter in support of Dutch pension fund PGGM's decision to divest from Israeli banks

24 Jan: Support for Riba resolution

16 Jan: EJJP lobbies EU in support of the EU Commission Guidelines, Aug 2013–Jan 2014

2013:

29 November: JfJfP, with many others, signs a "UK must protest at Bedouin expulsion" letter

November: Press release, letter to the Times and advert in the Independent on the Prawer Plan

September: Briefing note and leaflet on the Prawer Plan

September: JfJfP/EJJP on the EU guidelines with regard to Israel

14th June: JfJfP joins other organisations in protest to BBC

2nd June: A light unto nations? - a leaflet for distribution at the "Closer to Israel" rally in London

24 Jan: Letter re the 1923 San Remo convention

18 Jan: In Support of Bab al-Shams

17 Jan: Letter to Camden New Journal about Veolia

11 Jan: JfJfP supports public letter to President Obama

Comments in 2012 and 2011

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Posts

The Great Jerusalem Gerrymander

This posting has these items:
1) Al Monitor: US pressure kills ‘Greater Jerusalem bill, the aim, says Shlomi Eldar (and others) is to ensure a Jewish majority in Jerusalem;
2) Jewish Press: Who Is Trying to Stall the Greater Jerusalem Bill?, this piece comes from the right-wing Israel Rising in line with our need-to-know policy. It says the PM is being left behind by right-wing forces on the issue of Jerusalem;;
3) Ynet: Saudi pressure led to US thwarting Greater Jerusalem Bill, enter the Saudis working with US to keep the status quo;
4) JPost: PM delays vote on bill annexing Greater Jerusalem after US frowns on it;
5) The Week: Israeli ‘Greater Jerusalem’ bill paused after US pressure, does what it says on the wrapper – the basic facts to be a well-informed person;
6) Times of Israel: Challenging Netanyahu, senior minister floats annexation of Jerusalem-area settlements;
7) JPost: Bennett tries to prevent peace process on Jerusalem;


Two of the settlements, Ramot (foreground) and Ramat Shlomo (background) which may be brought into Greater Jerusalem. Photo by Reuters

US pressure kills ‘Greater Jerusalem bill’

By Shlomi Eldar, Al Monitor
October 30, 2017

On Oct. 29, the Knesset’s ministerial committee on legislation was scheduled to approve the proposed bill known as the Greater Jerusalem law, which would annex the West Bank settlements of Maale Adumim, Givat Zeev, Beitar Illit and the Etzion bloc settlements (including Efrat) to Jerusalem. Some 150,000 Israelis live in these towns and local councils.

The idea of annexing Israeli settlements adjacent to Jerusalem’s municipal borders in order to increase the city’s population and ensure its Jewish majority has been around for a decade. Back in 2007, Likud Party Knesset member Yisrael Katz put forth a similar proposal, which never took off due to concerns about harsh international and Palestinian reaction.

Concern that Jews will no longer constitute a majority in the Israeli capital within less than a decade — both due to the natural growth of the Palestinians living in East Jerusalem and the negative immigration of secular Israeli Jews from the city — led former Minister Haim Ramon to launch a public movement in February 2016 to “save Jewish Jerusalem.” The group was comprised of a great number of defence experts, academics and activists on the political left and centre. Ahead of the annual Jerusalem Day celebrations in 2016, the movement launched an extensive public campaign to warn complacent Israelis that unless preventive steps were taken soon, they would “wake up with a Palestinian mayor in Jerusalem.”

The campaign resorted to various scare tactics, even enlisting a Hamas video clip showing incitement against Jews posted on social networks. However, its seemingly racist overtones led central supporters of the initiative, such as former Shin Bet security agency chief Ami Ayalon, to pull out.

In July, HaBayit HaYehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett tabled a proposed bill of his own — the United Jerusalem law — which he presented for Knesset vote. This proposal was approved already on June 18 by the ministerial committee on legislation. The bill stipulated that a special majority of 80 (out of 120) Knesset members was required to divide the capital into a Jewish western part and a predominantly Palestinian east. The Knesset voted 51 to 42 to approve the bill in its first reading.

However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not to be outdone by his political nemesis Bennett for the title of Jerusalem’s greatest defender, especially after the July fiasco over the metal detectors Israel placed on the Temple Mount compound entrances and was then forced to remove under international pressure. The prime minister decided to back the proposed Greater Jerusalem law authored by a legislator of his own party, Yoav Kish, which had been lying around for months, along with a similar bill proposed by Yehuda Glick, another Likud Knesset member.

Kish’s proposal enjoys the support of transport minister Yisrael Katz, who is considered one of the more dovish and pragmatic Likud lawmakers and a rival of Netanyahu’s, and of Knesset members from HaBayit HaYehudi and the centre-right Kulanu Party.

In the introduction to his bill, Kish wrote, “The concept of Jerusalem as Israel’s ‘eternal capital’ has become blurred, lost its symbolic value.” Kish added that instead, the issue of Jerusalem’s standing focuses on demographic elements and Palestinian determination to control Jerusalem and its holy sites.

“It is therefore proposed that the communities surrounding Jerusalem be annexed to the capital. This will increase the population and enable the preservation of the demographic balance, and add lands for housing, commerce and tourism while conserving green lungs.”

As mentioned, the ministerial legislation committee was scheduled to approve the bill on Oct. 29 and send it on to the Knesset, where it would likely have garnered a large majority in its first reading. There are few issues more consensual in public Israeli discourse, not to mention the Knesset, than preserving a Jewish majority in Jerusalem. However, 12 hours before the ministers were to convene, the prime minister’s office announced that the vote on the proposed bill was postponed indefinitely. The prime minister had blocked its passage.

“There was American pressure, that’s clear,” a Palestinian source in the West Bank city of Ramallah told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. When the Palestinians heard that Netanyahu was about to push forward the “annexation bill,” said the source, they conveyed a message to Jason Greenblatt, President Donald Trump’s Mideast envoy. They told him that the move spells the end of any possible diplomatic initiative with Israel.

The public Palestinian reaction was suspiciously muted. The only senior Palestinian official who publicly expressed anger and condemnation was Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO’s Executive Committee. She said in her statement,

“It is an irrefutable fact that all settlements are a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and a direct violation of international law and conventions, including UNSC Resolution 2334.”

However, not even Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokespeople spoke out against the legislation except to give laconic answers when asked about it by Palestinian media outlets.

The Palestinian source told Al-Monitor that the Americans asked the Palestinians to keep a low profile in order to allow Netanyahu to pull back from the legislation, saying that quiet diplomacy was the only way to achieve this desired result. The Americans were right.

The speed with which Greenblatt and his team acted vis-a-vis Netanyahu made clear to the Palestinians the extent to which the US administration is serious about advancing an Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative, and more so the extent to which Netanyahu is anxious to avoid riling the Trump administration.

As one so fearful for his image as the guardian of Jerusalem, Netanyahu would have been expected to ignore the American warnings and to tell them the issue was a domestic Israeli matter pertaining to municipal boundaries and in no way constituted a declaration of sovereignty over parts of the West Bank.

Instead, he told his ministers at the weekly Cabinet meeting that the Americans

“wanted to understand the essence of the bill. As we have coordinated with them up until now, it’s worthwhile to [continue to] talk and coordinate with them. We are working to advance and develop the settlement enterprise and not to promote other considerations.”



Who Is Trying to Stall the Greater Jerusalem Bill?

By Gavriel Dan, Israel Rising/ Jewish Press
October 30, 2017

As of late last week, the cabinet was scheduled to discuss and push forward the landmark Greater Jerusalem Bill this week. Yet, last night Prime Minister Netanyahu unexpectedly took the bill off the table citing the need to consult with America first.

[The Prime Minister said they were talking and coordinating with the Americans. “We are working to promote and develop settlement rather than to promote other considerations.”]

However, transportat minister Yisrael Katz insisted the bill be brought up today.

“This is a historic law that will guarantee the Jewish majority in Jerusalem and strengthen our hold on the city.”

Despite the Prime Minister’s rhetoric, the Americans do not seem phased by the bill, which begs the question of who really is behind the stalling of the Greater Jerusalem Bill?

Bibi Netanyahu has long derided sudden changes in the status quo.  He likes manageable situations and although he is not particularly against the Greater Jerusalem Bill his inability to carve a new paradigm under the Trump administration is increasingly leaving him behind his own Likud Colleagues and other right-wing parties.

Netanyahu’s insistence [on clearing the move with] the Americans is another sign of his disconnect with the fast pace of actual change on the ground.  Israelis have by and large moved beyond the conflict with the “Palestinians” and by doing so understand the need to create a new bottom up approach that includes safeguarding Jerusalem and the Jewish communities throughout Judea and Samaria.

No-where is this more clear than [in] the new Labour leader Avi Gabbai’s courting of the right-wing by stating “I will not remove communities in Judea and Samaria.”

So Does Bibi Want to Annex or Not? 

The Prime Minister has been very clear for 15 years that he views the solution to the Israel-“Palestinian” dispute within the guise of Lichtenstein or Luxembourg.  This would essentially mean a Palestinian State in area A and B, but with no real need to have an army since its security is given over to Israel. It would seem that for Bibi, one can have overlapping sovereignties within the same land similar to certain areas of Europe since the final agreement would leave “Palestine” confederated to Israel.

This is ultimately why the Prime Minister relishes the status quo. Yet, reactions by the ultra-orthodox over Shabbat desecration and Jewish Home’s response to the lack of movement over the Greater Jerusalem bill as well as a bill cancelling disengagement may force Bibi to break the status quo in order to stave off new elections.

Throwing his coalition issues back at Trump may work in the short-term, but Israel’s need to move forward in annexing municipalities in order to properly administer the Jewish population in and around Jerusalem will not go away. The future is catching up with Netanyahu and his inability to part with the status quo maybe his undoing.



Map drawn up by Ir Amin showing where the boundary – the blue line running just south of Ramallah and including E. Jerusalem – of a Greater Jerusalem would be.


Saudi pressure led to US thwarting Greater Jerusalem Bill

The US’s decision to lean on Israel over the Jerusalem expansion bill, that it said would be tantamount to annexation of settlements in the West Bank, came at the behest of Saudi pressure, according to Al-Watan newspaper; US claimed it stepped in to stop any measures that could frustrate peace efforts.

By Roi Kais, Ynet
October 31, 2017

The US decision to tell Israel to refrain from pushing ahead with the Jerusalem expansion bill was reportedly the result of Saudi pressure, according to Saudi newspaper Al-Watan.The newspaper quoted a senior White House official who said Saudi diplomats demanded in talks with their American counterparts that breaks be slammed on the advancement of legislation seeking to connect a number of settlements in the West Bank to Jerusalem.

The White House official noted the Saudi objections were in line with those of Washington, which subsequently pressured Israel to halt the legislative process.

The US official also reportedly added that President Trump’s son-in-law and special Middle East Advisor Jared Kushner met, together with Deputy national security Dina Powell and special envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt, with senior Saudi officials to discuss the renewal of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

The American official also added that the Trump administration is opposed to the bill which would impose a de facto annexation over five municipalities in the West Bank and incorporate them into Jerusalem.

L. Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud. Jared Kushner, Deputy national security Dina Powell and special envoy Jason Greenblatt met Saudi officials to discuss the Greater Jerusalem plan. Photo by Reuters

According to the official, Washington has the ability to stifle any move it believes could sabotage the renewal of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

The report in the pro-government newspaper appeared several days after the Saudi Foreign Ministry categorically denied rumours that the Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud had visited Israel in September.

The media report further emphasized Saudi efforts being undertaken for peace talks.

“Efforts for the renewal of peace negotiations, demands from Washington to exert pressure on Israel, putting an emphasis on the legitimacy of the Palestinian state, is a continued commitment of the Arab peace initiative,” the report stated.On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a decision to delay the bill after Washington apparently said that it would be tantamount to annexation.

“The Americans turned to us and inquired what the bill was about. As we have been coordinating with them until now, it is worth it (to continue) talking and coordinating with them. We are working to promote and develop the settlement enterprise,” sources quoted Netanyahu as saying at a government meeting Sunday.

Also earlier in the week, Washington issued a statement making its position clear on the bill.

“The US is discouraging actions that it believes will unduly distract the principals from focusing on the advancement of peace negotiations. The Jerusalem expansion bill was considered by the administration to be one of those actions,” the senior American official said.

Netanyahu reportedly explained to Bennett that he had spoken with advisers to Trump, who asked that Israel not “surprise” the US with any unilateral move before the two leaders have a chance to meet, likely to be in early February.

But Army Radio reported that senior White House officials had been in touch with a senior Israeli minister and told them that the new administration has no intention of stopping Israeli plans to annex Ma’ale Adumim.

“We need to tell the American administration what we want and not wait for orders from it,” said Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home), who co-chairs the Ministerial Committee for Legislation. “The administration is friendly; there is no reason not take unilateral steps that we think are correct. We have to change the rules of the game, including by extending Israeli sovereignty to Ma’ale Adumim, or through significant strategic changes,” she told the radio station.

Ma’ale Adumim, a city of some 40,000 residents, straddles a ridge east of Jerusalem. Palestinians say it effectively divides the West Bank into two non-contiguous sections north and south of the city, and thereby makes a viable future Palestinian state less attainable.


View of the Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, in the West Bank, February 25, 2016. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

The bill to apply Israeli sovereignty and civil law to the city was proposed by Likud’s MK Yoav Kisch and Jewish Home’s MK Betzalel Smotrich.

According to some reports, Bennett has refused to push off the debate in the cabinet committee. A longtime backer of Israeli annexation of large swaths of the West Bank, Bennett has argued that Trump’s term in the White House offers a rare opportunity for Israel to take a decisive stand against any future Palestinian state. Bennett opposes such a state, calling it a threat to Israel’s existence.

The ministerial legislation committee, jointly headed by Shaked and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (Likud), votes on granting government support to legislation. Such support is usually decisive in enabling a bill to pass into law.

“I’m getting a message from Trump not to jump to the front,” Netanyahu told Bennett on Friday, according to quotes from their conversation carried by the Haaretz daily.

But Bennett has reportedly demanded that the larger issue of Israel’s West Bank policy during the Trump term come up in other cabinet forums on Sunday as a precondition to any delay in considering the Ma’ale Adumim legislation.

Israel has controlled the West Bank since capturing it in the 1967 Six Day War but has never moved to annex any of the territory beyond extending sovereignty to East Jerusalem. It later applied Israeli law to the Golan Heights, captured from Syria.

The plan proposed by Katz goes significantly beyond that of Bennett, to include Givat Ze’ev to the north; the huge, predominantly ultra-Orthodox city Beitar Ilit; and the Etzion settlement bloc. Those areas are currently home to some 130,000 Israelis.

It’s not clear how many Palestinians would be annexed into Israel under Katz’s plan, but the number likely reaches into the tens of thousands.

A map posted by Transport Minister Yisrael Katz showing his proposal for annexing settlements around Jerusalem and including them into a greater Jerusalem in (blue) on January 22, 2017 (Yisrael Katz/Facebook)

A map posted by Transport Minister Yisrael Katz showing his proposal for annexing settlements around Jerusalem and including them into a greater Jerusalem in (blue) on January 22, 2017 (Yisrael Katz/Facebook)

“I expect that [Zionist Union leader Isaac] Herzog and (Yesh Atid leader Yair) Lapid and everyone who sees these communities as an integral part of the State of Israel in the future will support this bill,” Katz wrote. “The support of world Jewry and our friends in the US, who see Jerusalem as the historic capital of the Jewish people for thousands of years, is assured.

“There is nothing more appropriate that this bill to mark 50 years since the liberation and unification of Jerusalem,” he said.

Bennett, whose party counts the settlement movement as a major part of its voter base, ran in the past two elections on a platform of de facto annexation of Area C (the parts of the West Bank under Israeli civilian and military control) and extending some form of autonomy to Palestinians in the rest of the territory.

After the US abstention on an anti-settlements resolution at the UN Security Council last month, Trump assured Israel that things would be different under his watch. He lamented that the Jewish state was “being treated very, very unfairly” by the international community.

Speaking to reporters outside his Mar-a-Lago estate on December 29, Trump lambasted the UN for condemning Israel, saying that “horrible places, that treat people horribly, haven’t even been reprimanded” by the international body.

Though refusing to directly answer specific questions regarding West Bank settlements, Trump called himself “very, very strong on Israel.”

The president-elect also lashed out on Twitter at the Obama administration for treating Israel with “such total disdain and disrespect” following the UN vote, and indicated the US was no longer “a great friend” to the Jewish state.

Netanyahu has said that he looks forward to working with Trump, his administration and the US Congress to reverse the Security Council resolution, although it is unclear how this would be accomplished, as such resolutions cannot be cancelled.

In addition to the annexation initiatives, a controversial bid to authorize some illegal West Bank outposts — previously postponed until after Trump enters the White House — was put “back on the table” following the US’s failure to veto the Security Council resolution, and may also advance in the first weeks of the Trump presidency.

Fearing repercussions from the Obama administration, a final vote on the so-called Regulation Bill, which would legalize some 4,000 Israeli homes in the West Bank built on privately owned Palestinian land, had been shelved until Obama left office.

But after the US abstention in the UN vote, “We are done playing nice,” a coalition source told The Times of Israel in late December. “It’s back on the table.”

Bennett has called the outpost bill the first step toward annexing the rest of the West Bank.


Bennett tries to prevent peace process on Jerusalem

“The only way to real peace is to make clear from the start that Jerusalem is not a matter for negotiations.”

By Gil Hoffman, JPost
June 17, 2017

A special majority of 80 Knesset members would be needed to divide Jerusalem, according to a bill for a Basic Law submitted on Friday by Education Minister and Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett.

The legislation will be brought to a vote within two weeks in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, which is headed by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Bennett’s party ally. Shaked said in radio interviews that she expected Likud ministers to support the measure.

“Jerusalem is the heart of the Jewish people,” Bennett told the Israel Hayom newspaper. “I see the Trump era as an opportunity to bolster Jerusalem so it will not be possible to divide it again.”

The Bayit Yehudi chairman called the bill a strategic measure and vowed that his party would complete the legislation process before the end of the current Knesset. Opposition leader Isaac Herzog of the Zionist Union sparred with Bennett about the proposal on Twitter.

“Bennett is destroying the chance for peace,” Herzog tweeted. “Whoever presents such baseless initiatives doesn’t really care about Jerusalem but only about destroying the diplomatic process and the chance of guaranteeing a Jewish and democratic Israel.”

Tweeting back, Bennett wrote: “The opposite, Herzog. The only way to real peace is to make clear from the start that Jerusalem is not a subject for negotiation.

This is what the United Jerusalem Bill would do.”

Zionist Union MK Yoel Hasson said Bennett’s bill would make Jerusalem “a bloody, binational city that will eventually be led by a Palestinian mayor.”

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