UN Human Rights Council votes for investigation into Israel’s killing of Palestinians

The UN Human Rights Council has voted strongly in favour of an investigation into Israel’s killing of Palestinians during protests on the Gaza border this week.

  • For – 29 votes
  • Against – 2 votes (USA and Australia)
  • Abstained – 14

A television screen at the UN Human Rights Council shows how countries voted on a resolution approving an investigation into Israel's handling of deadly clashes on the Gaza border, on May 18, 2018. (Foreign Ministry)

New Zealand must not be on the Human Rights Council.

The Times of Israel: UN Human Rights Council votes to investigate Israel for Gaza protest deaths

The UN Human Rights Council on Friday voted to establish an investigation into Israel’s killing of Palestinians during protests along the Gaza border, in a move Israel rejected as being an attempt to undermine Israel’s right to self-defense.

The council voted 29 in favor and two against with 14 countries abstaining. Australia and the US were the two countries to oppose the decision. The council also condemned “the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians.”

The “independent, international commission of inquiry” mandated by the council will be asked to produce a final report next March.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the vote and the council as “irrelevant.”

It’s not irrelevant if there is good cause to investigate indiscriminate violence and killing – this applies to both the Palestinians and the Israelis. The investigation should look at whether either or both sides acted illegally. If Human Rights may have been breached then it is appropriate to investigate.

Next March is a long to wait for a result. A lot is likely to have happened in Gaza and Israel by then.

 

Violence in Gaza continues

The violence that flared with protests over the moving of the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem continues in Gaza.

Reuters: Israeli forces kill Palestinian near Gaza border as Gaza buries dead

Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian near the Gaza-Israel border on Tuesday after thousands of Palestinians turned out for the funerals of dozens of protesters killed by Israeli troops a day earlier, local health officials said.

Sixty Palestinians were killed on Monday, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, including an eight-month-old baby that died from tear gas that her family said she inhaled at a protest camp near the border. More than 2,200 Palestinians were also injured by gunfire or tear gas, local medics said.

Monday’s bloodshed took place as the United States opened its new embassy in contested Jerusalem. For the past six weeks, Palestinians have been holding Gaza border demonstrations for the return of Palestinian refugees to areas that are now part of Israel.

Israel rejects any right of return, fearing that it would deprive the state of its Jewish majority.

Too bad about democracy.

Palestinian medical officials say 106 Gazans have now been killed since the start of the protests and nearly 11,000 people wounded, about 3,500 of them hit by live fire. Israeli officials dispute those numbers. No Israeli casualties have been reported.

Palestinian leaders have called Monday’s events a massacre, and the Israeli tactic of using live fire against the protesters has drawn worldwide concern and condemnation.

BBC – Gaza violence: Israelis and Palestinians in fierce exchanges at UN

There have been angry exchanges between Israeli and Palestinian envoys at the UN, as the diplomatic fallout over deadly violence in Gaza gathered pace.

Some 58 Palestinians were killed when Israeli troops fired on protesters on Monday, with funerals held on Tuesday.

The Palestinian envoy spoke of a “crime against humanity”, while Israel accused the rulers of Gaza, Hamas, of taking their own people hostage.

BBC: May urges ‘greater restraint’ by Israel after Gaza violence

Theresa May has urged an independent inquiry into violence on the border between Israel and Gaza which left a reported 58 Palestinians dead.

The prime minister said the use of live rounds by Israeli forces was “deeply troubling” and urged greater restraint.

While Palestinians had a legitimate right to protest, she said, she was concerned about extremist infiltration and the role Hamas had played.

Both Hamas and Israel have been responsible for the flare up in violence – as has Donald Trump in his provocative moving of the US embassy.

Earlier, Labour’s Emily Thornberry condemned a “horrific massacre”.

Here in New Zealand: NZ condemns Israel’s actions along Gaza border

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, on behalf of the government, raised concerns directly to the ambassador in New Zealand.

The violence showed that the decision by the US to open the new embassy was counter to efforts to find a peaceful resolution in the region, she said.

“At the time when the United States announced they’d be moving their representation to Jerusalem we stated strongly that we did not think that would take us closer to peace, and it hasn’t,” Ms Ardern said.

New Zealand also voted on a United Nations resolution emphasising the view that there should be a two-state solution, she said.

“This is a hotly contested issue within that peace process and as we’ve seen the results of the protest along the border of Gaza have been devastating.”

Ms Ardern was asked for her view on comments made by Palestinian ambassador to the UN Riyadh Mansour, who said the Israeli action violated international law.

“It is the right of any nation to defend their border but this is a devastating, one-sided loss of life; we would condemn the violence that has occurred,” Ms Ardern said.

“And I think it’s plain to see the effects of this decision and the ramifications are wide reaching.”

That’s a fairly diplomatic response that acknowledges the complexities and the spread of blame for violence.

However the Greens have a more one-sided view:

And:

It’s a bloody mess with both Israel and Hamas in part responsible for the escalation.

Jerusalem Post – NO HOLDS BARRED: JERUSALEM ON FIRE WITH GRATITUDE TO PRESIDENT TRUMP

President Donald Trump has electrified the State of Israel with the embassy move. You have to see the excitement on the streets, especially Jerusalem, to understand the depth of gratitude. Flags are flying from every street light. Massive signs around the capital show the American and Israeli flags intertwined with giant thank yous to President Trump.

In a single week President Trump has not only established America’s embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, but also rid America of the shame of the Iran nuclear deal, which completely overlooked all of Iran’s sins. In doing so, he has created the potential for reining in the rogue regime in Tehran, curbing the ascendance of radical Islamists and advancing a foreign policy that recognizes evil and holds belligerent government accountable. Simultaneously, Trump has emerged as a great champion of the Jewish people and a protector of Israel.

A cynic could wonder whether the escalations against Iran and the Palestinians has been a deliberate plan by Israel, with Trump a willing partner.

It’s hard to see this turning out well. The violence in Gaza suggests it is more likely to get worse.

It’s worth looking back at a speech by Trump at Fort Dodge, Iowa: ““I would bomb the shit out of ’em. I would just bomb those suckers.”

It looks like Trump has been sucked into the Middle East mire.

 

 

 

‘Game changer’ opening of US embassy in Jerusalem

As promised by Donald trump the US has moved their Israeli embassy to Jerusalem. This is being celebrated by Israelis and by some in the US, and Guatemala, Paraguay and Honduras are expected to follow suit, but Palestinians see it as provocative and an attack on their sovereignty  and violent protests have erupted. This is a predictable immediate outcome, something the US should have known would happen – perhaps it is what Trump and his administration, and the Israelis, wanted.

Reuters: Israeli forces kill dozens in Gaza as U.S. Embassy opens in Jerusalem

Israeli troops shot dead dozens of Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border on Monday as the United States opened its embassy to Israel in Jerusalem, a move that has fueled Palestinian anger and drawn foreign criticism for undermining peace efforts.

It was the bloodiest single day for Palestinians since the Gaza conflict in 2014. Palestinian Health Ministry officials said 52 protesters were killed and more than 2,200 injured either by live gunfire, tear gas or other means.

The bloodshed drew calls for restraint from some countries including France and Britain, and stronger criticism from others, with Turkey calling it “a massacre”.

The Israeli military said it was responding to violence from the protesters to defend Israel’s border.

In contrast to the scenes in Gaza, Israeli dignitaries and guests attended a ceremony in Jerusalem to open the U.S. Embassy following its relocation from Tel Aviv.

The move fulfilled a pledge by U.S. President Donald Trump, who in December recognized the holy city as the Israeli capital.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Trump for “having the courage to keep your promises”.

“What a glorious day for Israel,” Netanyahu said in a speech. “We are in Jerusalem and we are here to stay.”

It doesn’t look very glorious in Gaza.

Also from Reuters:

Significantly Trump’s daughter and son-in-law are

Kushner and the Trumps will have known that their actions would provoke violence.

LA Times looks at Israeli celebrations: On the eve of the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, Israel celebrates

“The truth is that not only has Jerusalem been the capital of the Jewish people for millennia and of our state for decades, but the truth is that under any peace deal Jerusalem will remain Israel’s capital,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced from a stage bedecked with American and Israeli flags at a gala held in the courtyard of the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

He expressed gratitude to President Trump for the decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv. For decades, Netanyahu has exhorted the world to recognize and accept Israel as it is — with its capital, its parliament, its Supreme Court and its ministries in Jerusalem.

The ceremony Monday officially opening the embassy is expected to draw about 800 dignitaries, including U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner.

But they also points out that the US move is not widely supported.

The European Union, however, has criticized the new American position as an impediment to peace, and four European ambassadors attended the festivities.

The Palestinian Authority government, which has boycotted all contact with American officials since Trump announced the embassy move in December, issued a a statement saying the relocation signified a U.S. endorsement of “Israel’s policies and measures that undermine Palestinians’ fundamental rights.”

The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

The Israeli celebrations coincided with Jerusalem Day, in which residents enjoyed a day off to honor the anniversary of the 1967 reunification of the city by Israeli forces that captured East Jerusalem from the Jordanian army.

Choosing that as the day to celebrate the US move could also be seen as a pointed snub to the Palestinians.

Lindsey Graham, Republican senator from South Carolina, is leading a congressional delegation to the embassy dedication.

“Everybody has a claim to Jerusalem, from a religious point of view,” he said. “But I think the premier claim comes from the Jewish people, that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and it could one day be the capital of the independent Palestinian state.”

That sounds confusing. He seems to be implying a split city, but saying that “the premier claim comes from the Jewish people” is unlikely to satisfy non-Jews and is unlikely to pacify the anger.

The Jerusalem Post unsurprisingly applauds the move: GAME CHANGER

Instead of staying away from the embassy opening, all those who truly seek peace should see this as the start of a new era in the ancient city.

The opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem justifiably is being called a “game changer” and “historic.” Seventy years after the State of Israel was born and 51 years after the reunification of the capital, the US, the only world superpower, is not only recognizing Jerusalem’s integral importance to Israel, the Jewish state, but acting on that recognition.

This sends out several important messages, not least of which is the importance of not giving in to terror.

Some people have voiced opposition to the move on the grounds that it might give rise to a wave of Palestinian or Islamist terrorism in Israel or against Jewish or American targets abroad. Had US President Donald Trump accepted this line of thought, it would have only encouraged and rewarded terrorism instead of diplomacy.

There doesn’t seem to have been a lot of diplomacy involved in the US embassy move, apart from between the US and Israel.

The US Embassy move rights an historic wrong and makes clear the terms of any future peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. It removes from the agenda the question of Israel’s status regarding Jerusalem, which houses its parliament, Supreme Court, President’s Residence, almost all government ministries and, of course, the Jewish holy sites.

It makes it clear that Israel remains uncompromising and peace will only happen on their terms – which suppressses the rights of the Palestinians.

The move is a game-changer not least because Trump’s opening of the embassy in Jerusalem unequivocally tells the Palestinians that Israel is here to stay and that Jerusalem, at least west Jerusalem, is and will remain its capital. As The Jerusalem Post‘s Michael Wilner reported yesterday, senior Trump administration officials said Palestinian resistance to America’s opening of an embassy in Jerusalem is based on a “fantasy” unhelpful to their cause: the fantasy of having veto power over the fate of the storied capital.

But the Palestinians have no real power. As long as Israel maintains military control the Palestinians are likely to feel oppressed. Terrorism is terrible, but for a substantially weaker side it can be seen as the only option when the powerful ride roughshod over their rights.

The embassy move may well be a game changer, but it is a protracted and often violent game, and there is a real risk that the change will be no less ugly than it has been.

Plan A: threats, sanctions, military attacks – no Plan B

After pulling out of a nuclear accord President Donald Trump has threatened “the strongest sanctions” against Iran, and if they don’t negotiate a new deal then “something will happen”.

The USA has no support in their withdrawal from the international legal agreement, except from Israel who has followed up on the US move they had strongly Trump to take with attacks on Iranian targets in Syria.

Given the volatile history of the Middle East, Iran’s involvement in a number of countries and Russia’s military support of Iran this is a high risk situation.

Reuters: Israel strikes Iranian targets in Syria after rocket fire

Israel said it attacked nearly all of Iran’s military infrastructure in Syria on Thursday after Iranian forces fired rockets at Israeli-held territory for the first time in the most extensive military exchange ever between the two adversaries.

It was the heaviest Israeli barrage in Syria since the 2011 start of the civil war in which Iranians, allied Shi’ite Muslim militias and Russian troops have deployed in support of President Bashar al-Assad. The confrontation came two days after the United States announced its withdrawal, with Israel’s urging, from a nuclear accord with Iran.

The timing doesn’t seem coincidental.

Israel destroyed dozens of Iranian military sites in Syria, as well as Syrian anti-aircraft units that tried unsuccessfully to shoot down Israeli planes, Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus said.

Syrian state media said Israel launched dozens of missiles and hit a radar station, Syrian air defense positions and an ammunition dump, underscoring the risks of a wider escalation involving Iran and its regional allies.

Wider escalation is always a risk in the region.

In the meantime Trump Bets Sanctions Will Force Iran to Bargain. There’s No Plan B.

President Trump said on Wednesday that he expects Iran to continue to comply with the terms of the 2015 deal that limits Tehran’s nuclear program, even as the United States violates it by reimposing what he called “among the strongest sanctions that we’ve ever put on a country.”

Beyond betting that Iran’s leaders will return to the negotiating table, and seek a better deal, once they feel the sanctions’ bite, the president appeared to acknowledge that he has no Plan B for dealing with Tehran.

“Iran will come back and say, ‘We don’t want to negotiate,’” Mr. Trump told reporters. “And of course, they’re going to say that. And if I were in their position, I’d say that, too, for the first couple of months: ‘We’re not going to negotiate.’”

“But they’ll negotiate, or something will happen,” Mr. Trump said. “And hopefully that won’t be the case.”

But Iran are trying to isolate the US and continue to talk with Europe, Russia and China.

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran said on Tuesday that he had instructed his foreign minister to determine if negotiators from European nations, Russia and China could make up for the economic benefits that Iran would lose after the American withdrawal.

Only then would he decide, Mr. Rouhani said, whether to instruct Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization to resume the enrichment of uranium.

After Mr. Trump announced his decision, the leaders of Britain, France and Germany on Tuesday reaffirmed their support for a United Nations Security Council resolution that formally endorsed the accord. The European leaders asserted that the resolution was the applicable international law governing the Iranian nuclear problem — a way of suggesting that the United States is the first country to violate the accord.

They also noted that Mr. Trump’s own intelligence officials — including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, when he was serving as C.I.A. director — have said he saw no evidence that Iran had violated the deal.

So Trump not only has to deal with a markedly different position taken by other major world powers, he is at odds with US intelligence – and also some republican politicians.

Even Republicans who had their qualms about the shortcomings of the nuclear deal — especially its “sunset clauses” that gave Iran the right to produce nuclear fuel after 2030 — expressed concern that the White House appeared more interested in scrapping the accord than coming up with a comprehensive way to deal with Tehran.

Few in the Pentagon expect the Iranians to back down. Intelligence analysts expect that Iran will grow more active in Syria and Iraq, in part to make the United States and its allies pay a price.

So Trump is being bold or brash, and there is no way of knowing which way this may now go. It is a much higher risk and more complex situation than with North Korea.

Michael Singh, who worked on Iran issues during George W. Bush’s presidency, wrote in Foreign Affairs:

One of the chief criticisms leveled against former U.S. President Barack Obama by critics of the JCPOA was that he focused on the nuclear issue to the exclusion of all others and that the agreement itself institutionalized this focus by trading comprehensive sanctions relief for Tehran’s restraint solely in the nuclear realm.

Ironically, first by emphasizing the need to fix the agreement, and now in insisting that a new deal be negotiated, Trump risks repeating the error.

A different bad agreement to Obama’s may be the best outcome that Trump achieves.

While the United States has debated the JCPOA, Iran has advanced in Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere with little resistance, and prospects for war between Iran and Israel, or Iran and Saudi Arabia, have increased significantly. What Washington really needs is a new Iran policy, not just a nuclear policy – and the will to roll up their sleeves and carry it out.

If Plan A doesn’t work I’m not sure that Trump is a roll his sleeves up type of president.

Middle East escalation – Syria, Russia, USA, Israel, Iran…

Different situations in the Middle East are escalating concurrently. The most prominent is the alleged chemical attack in Syria, and related allegations that the US were responsible for a missile attack (Israel has now been blamed).

BBC: Suspected Syria chemical attack kills scores

At least 70 people have died in a suspected chemical attack in Douma, the last rebel-held town in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta, rescuers and medics say.

Volunteer rescue force the White Helmets tweeted graphic images showing several bodies in basements. It said the deaths were likely to rise.

There has been no independent verification of the reports.

Syria has called the allegations of a chemical attack a “fabrication” – as has its main ally, Russia.

The US state department said Russia – with its “unwavering support” for Syria’s government – “ultimately bears responsibility” for the alleged attacks.

BBC: Syria conflict: Russia says no evidence of Douma chemical attack

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said no evidence has been found of a chemical weapons attack in Syria’s formerly rebel-held town of Douma.

Mr Lavrov said Russian specialists and aid workers had visited the area, which rebel fighters have started leaving under a surrender deal.

 

The claim from Russia – which has intervened militarily in Syria in support of the government – came after videos shot by rescue workers on Saturday showed lifeless bodies of men, women and children with foam at their mouths.

The Syrian-American Medical Society said more than 500 people were brought to medical centres in Douma, in the Eastern Ghouta region, near the capital Damascus, with symptoms “indicative of exposure to a chemical agent”, including breathing difficulties, bluish skin, mouth foaming, corneal burns and “the emission of chlorine-like odour”.

Yahoo: ‘I don’t rule anything out’: Mattis on taking action in Syria

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Monday pointed toward Russia’s role in a suspected poison gas attack on the Syrian rebel-held town of Douma, and said he would not rule out a military response.

Russia was supposed to guarantee the disposal of Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons in September 2013, but President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is suspected of conducting repeated gas attacks since then.

“The first thing we have to look at is why are chemical weapons still being used at all when Russia was the framework guarantor of removing all the chemical weapons,” Mattis said at the Pentagon in a meeting with his Qatari counterpart.

“Working with our allies and our partners from NATO to Qatar and elsewhere, we are going to address this issue … I don’t rule out anything right now.”

Syria has been accused multiple times of using toxic weapons including sarin gas in the country’s seven-year war, which has killed more than 350,000 people.

Backed by Moscow, Assad has waged a seven-week assault on Ghouta that has killed more than 1,700 civilians and left Islamist rebels cornered in their last holdout of Douma, Ghouta’s largest town.

NY Times: Trump to Decide Soon Whether to Retaliate for ‘Barbaric Act’ in Syria

President Trump on Monday denounced the suspected chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of people in Syria over the weekend as a “barbaric act,” and said he will make a decision in the next 24 to 48 hours about whether to retaliate militarily as he did to a similar assault last year.

“We’re talking about humanity and it can’t be allowed to happen,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the start of a cabinet meeting at which he suggested that a response would be forthcoming soon. “We’ll be making that decision very quickly, probably by the end of today. We cannot allow atrocities like that.”

Calling the attack “heinous” and “atrocious,” the president suggested that Syria’s patrons in Russia and Iran may also be responsible, and seemed to imply that he would take action of some sort to punish them as well.

“If it’s Russia, if it’s Syria, if it’s Iran, if it’s all of them together, we’ll figure it out and we’ll know the answers quite soon,” he said. “So we’re looking at that very strongly and very seriously.”

Asked if President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, with whom Mr. Trump has sought to forge a friendship, bears responsibility, the president said: “He may and if he does it’s going to be very tough, very tough. Everybody’s going to pay a price. He will, everybody will.”

Big threats again from Trump, that are likely to escalate things further, especially if the US takes retaliatory action.

And Israel may also be involved. RCP:  Israel Blamed for Missile Strike in Syria; 14 Reported Dead

Russia and the Syrian military blamed Israel for a pre-dawn missile attack Monday on a major air base in central Syria, saying Israeli fighter jets launched the missiles from Lebanon’s air space. A war-monitoring group said the airstrikes killed 14 people, including Iranians active in Syria.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said two Israeli aircraft targeted the T4 air base in Homs province, firing eight missiles.

Israel’s foreign ministry had no comment when asked about the accusations.

Since 2012, Israel has struck inside Syria more than 100 times, mostly targeting suspected weapons’ convoys destined for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which has been fighting alongside Syrian government forces.

Back in Israel: Israel Strikes Hamas Target in Gaza in Response to Border Infiltration Attempt

The IDF attacked a military compound belonging to Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip early Monday morning, the Israeli army reported.

The attack was carried out in response to the attempted infiltration by Hamas with an improvised explosive device on Sunday.

In a statement Monday morning, the IDF said that they view Hamas’ attempts to turn the border fence into a combat zone and destroy Israel’s security and defense infrastructures with “great severity.”

And Iran is also in the fray: Iran Threatens to Restart Nuke Enrichment Program in Matter of Days

Iranian leaders are threatening to restart the country’s contested nuclear enrichment program in just a matter of days as the Trump administration and European allies scramble to address a range of flaws in the landmark nuclear accord ahead of a May deadline that could see the United States walk away from the accord, according to regional reports and administration insiders.

The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization disclosed on Sunday that the Islamic Republic has maintained the ability to restart the full-scale enrichment of uranium—the key component in a nuclear weapon that was supposed to be removed from Iran as part of the nuclear agreement—in just four days.

The disclosure has roiled Trump administration insiders and nuclear experts who have been warning for months that Iran never fully disclosed the nature of its nuclear weapons work and progress as international leaders struggle to fix the deal by May, according to those who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon about the situation.

The UN is due to discuss the Syrian situation, but that is just reactive to am escalating situation and unlikely to do much – as usual. Both the US and Russia have veto rights at the UN which renders the international body fairly useless when both the major powers are at odds.

Trump slaps Middle East peace

In a meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister Donald Trump has given hopes of advances in Middle East peace talks a slap, ruling out dealing with the Palestinians unless they do what he wants.

Does this mean his son-in-law Jarod Kushner will be reassigned from his Middle East peace mission?

Last month:  Donald Trump has a plan to bring peace to the Middle East – he just can’t reveal it, says Jared Kushner

President Donald Trump’s push for a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians stems from a belief that his broader goals of stopping Iranian aggression and Islamic extremism will not be possible without it, presidential adviser Jared Kushner said in a rare public appearance on Sunday.

“If we’re going to try to create more stability in the region as a whole, you have to solve this issue,” Kushner told Middle East experts gathered at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum. Trump, he said, “sees this as something that has to be solved.”

But nearly a year after Trump named Kushner, his son-in-law and senior White House aide, as point person for what he called “the ultimate deal,” there has been no public indication of where the initiative is heading.

“We’ve solicited a lot of ideas from a lot of places,” Kushner said. “There is obviously a lot of speculation… ‘There is a plan, what is it? Are these four points in or out?’

“We all kind of laugh and say, OK, we’re just not going to play the guessing game… We know what’s in the plan. The Palestinians know what discussions we’ve had with them, the Israelis know.”

Jerusalam Post: TRUMP: IF PALESTINIANS DON’T WANT PEACE, U.S. HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THEM

Unless the Palestinian Authority shows that it wants to make peace, the US will “not have anything to do with them any longer,” US President Donald Trump said Thursday in Davos before meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I can tell you, Israel does want to make peace, and they [the Palestinians] are going to have to want to make peace too, or we aren’t going to have anything to do with them any longer,” Trump said, sitting next to Netanyahu. “This was not brought up by other negotiators, but it is brought up by me.“

Is this another case of Trump making things difficult for his Middle East peace team led by Kushner?

Trump did not hide his anger toward the Palestinians for snubbing Vice President Mike Pence during his visit to Israel this week, saying that the US will withhold aid funds to them until they return to negotiations.

The Palestinians, he said, “disrespected us” by not “allowing our great vice president to see them, and we give them hundreds of millions of dollars in aid support.”

That money, Trump said, will not go to the Palestinians “unless they sit down and negotiate peace.”

Time will tell what happens to the peace process, Trump said, “but respect has to be shown to the US, or we just are not going any further.”

Respect generally needs to be earned, not demanded with ultimatums.

Trump said that the US has a peace proposal, which he characterized as “a great proposal for the Palestinians” and a “very good proposal for Israel.”

He said the proposal “covers a lot of the things that were over the years discussed and agreed on.”

The fact is, he said, “ there were never any deals that came close because you could never get past Jerusalem.”

Trump dismissed critics saying that his Jerusalem decision set back peace, saying that he enhanced the chances of peace by taking the toughest issue off the table.

The issue of Jerusalem hasn’t been taken off the table by Trump, he has inflamed it.

Not surprisingly responses have not been complimentary.

In response to Trump’s words, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeinah said: “If the issue of Jerusalem remains off the table, America will remain away from the table.”

Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat also responded to Trump’s comments, saying: “Today’s message is clear: President Trump is blackmailing and punishing the Palestinian people for fighting and believing in their freedom and human rights per international law and UN resolutions. President Trump could buy many things with his money, but he won’t be able to buy the dignity of our nation.”

“This is not a game for the people of Palestine. It is about our very existence that continues to be denied by Israel with full US support,” Erekat continued.

“As the US Administration insists to continue promoting international anarchy and rewarding violations of international law, we will continue to use all available political, diplomatic and legal venues in order to achieve the long overdue rights of the Palestinian people, most importantly our right to self-determination.”

Middle East peace was always going to be difficult to achieve. Kushner’s job looks to be a bit harder still now, unless this was his plan all along.

Lorde just the latest musician mired in Israel controversy

Playing concerts in Israel are fraught with risks, as Lorde recently found out after first announcing and soon afterwards cancelling a concert. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

But just avoiding including Israel in tour plans means that opponents of Israel win, because that’s what they are trying to impose.

Washington Post – Lorde is only the latest: How touring in Israel thrusts musicians into controversy

On Dec. 18, New Zealand pop music sensation Lorde announced plans to play concerts in Israel and Russia. On Dec. 24, she announced the cancellation of her Israeli concert, which was scheduled for June 5 at the Tel Aviv Convention Centre. “I’m not too proud to admit I didn’t make the right call on this one,” she said in a statement.

In the six days between Lorde’s concert announcement and her cancellation, an increasingly pitched battle played out, both in public and behind the scenes, to win over the 21 year-old pop star. Activists and fans in favor of the ongoing cultural boycott of Israel because of the country’s policies related to Palestinians urged her to reconsider; pro-Israeli activists and fans lobbied for her to hold fast.

Lorde was caught in a no-win situation, but she is far from being the first.

In recent years, these artistic tug-of-wars over artists including Radiohead, Lauryn Hill and Nick Cave, have become increasingly common, although Lorde’s change of heart has been the highest-profile musical victory yet for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

If there’s one thing on which both sides can agree, it’s that 21 year-old artists from half a world away can’t be expected to understand the full details of a complicated issue tied to one of the defining geopolitical conflicts of our time. Musicians of any age who contemplate playing Israel sometimes lack awareness of the risks and rewards.

Managers and tour arrangers should be aware of the potential problems with booking gigs in Israel. A cynic could suggest it is deliberate publicity seeking (with or without the artist’s understanding).

Tour promoters warn acts in advance of any “delicacies they need to be aware of,” says Oren Arnon, a promoter at leading Israeli company Shuki Weiss, who did not promote the Lorde show. Artist managers warn fellow artist managers.

David Renzer, a music publishing veteran who co-founded the entertainment industry anti-boycott group the Creative Community For Peace, says his organization works within the record industry to outline the merits of playing in Israel, and warn of its complications.

The response to Lorde’s cancellation has been swift, and seismic. A hundred artists, including Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel and author Alice Walker, signed an open letter supporting her. Israel’s Culture Minister said she hoped the singer would reconsider, while its ambassador to New Zealand asked for a meeting.

Critics on Twitter pointed out the human-rights abuses in Russia, where Lorde still plans to play two shows.

In a roundly condemned full-page ad in The Washington Post, an American rabbi suggested that “21 is young to become a bigot,” its text juxtaposed with an image of Lorde appearing to stare skeptically at the Israeli flag.

Both sides have accused the other of extremist rhetoric, acting in bad faith and bullying, allegations that have become commonplace in the ongoing war for celebrity hearts and minds.

Arnon claims Cave, the Australian post-punk icon, endured “months and months of humiliation” before his November shows in Tel Aviv went on as planned.

The most prominent voice in supporting touring boycotts of Israel has become Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters. The man responsible for “Dark Side of the Moon” and “The Wall” has spent the past decade becoming increasingly outspoken on the issue, and uses his fame within the music industry to confront artists who plan to perform in Israel.

I’m going to a Roger Waters concert in Dunedin later this month. Just for the music of course, it will be an evening break from politics.

Israel attracts a perhaps greater-than-usual share of baby boomers such as Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones and Elton John. Classic rock acts are often indifferent to social media pressure campaigns, and their fans tend to have enough disposable income to withstand the country’s frequently higher ticket prices.

Perhaps rockers from the sixties are used to being controversial – some of them stoked and relished it, so a bit of political banter will be just more publicity.

Promoters live with the constant threat that a musician might bolt, whether it’s an apolitical artist who just wants to avoid a public thrashing, or someone privately sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, observing what Barghouti calls a “silent boycott.”

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Pharrell Williams, Elvis Costello and Lauryn Hill have all canceled dates in Israel, the latter two suggesting issues of conscience were responsible.

A major problem with ‘conscience’ based boycotts is claims of inconsistency and hypocrisy, as Lorde discovered when her plans for Israel and Russia were compared.

Lorde’s cancellation is seen as a needed, high-profile win for pro-boycott activists.

Perhaps it is also a high profile win for Lorde’s tour publicity.

Lorde will almost certainly be one of the last major artists to schedule an Israel concert date without appearing to have fully considered the global implications. From now on, if it weren’t the case already, merely scheduling a concert date in Israel will be considered a political act.

“It’s a very tricky issue,” the concert promoter Arnon says. “And you never come out of it clean.”

So best to avoid including Israel in tour schedules, as the anti-Israel protesters demand? Or try the schedule then cancel trick to increase your tour publicity?

What if a protest movement starts to target artists who plan to perform in the US?

Likud wants to annex entire West Bank

Encouraged by the US move to recognise Jeruslaem as the Israeli capital, the Likud central committee may endorse annexation of the whole West Bank in a move that could bind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and all of the party’s ministers and Knesset members.

Jerusalem Post:  LIKUD CENTRAL BODY TO PUSH FOR ANNEXATION OF ENTIRE WEST BANK

The Likud central committee is expected to vote to endorse annexation of Judea, Samaria, the Jordan Valley and Jerusalem in a meeting at Airport City on Sunday that is being billed as historic.

The decision would bind Likud Chairman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as all of the party’s ministers and Knesset members.

“The goal is not to pressure the prime minister, because we believe he supports the initiative but cannot say so,” (Likud activist Natan) Engelsman said. “Our goal is to strengthen Netanyahu, who could have stopped the vote but made a point of letting it happen.”

“This is a historic event that we have been waiting for.”

“If the president of the United States believes Jerusalem is ours, there is no reason why a right-wing party and coalition cannot. It’s important for us to show Trump what the ruling party in Israel wants, and since he loves the Jewish people, sooner or later, he will come to the same conclusion.”

“After Trump was elected, I said the time had come to set a diplomatic goal of annexing Area C, on the way to exercising our sovereignty over all of Judea and Samaria,” Sa’ar said in the video he sent the Likud activists. “This will give a practical solution to the needs of the half-million Israelis living in Judea and Samaria.”

It is unlikely to be seen as ‘a practical solution’ by the Palestinians and most of the Middle East.

Also from Jerusalem Post: New Western Wall train station to be named after Trump

That’s likely to appeal to Trump’s vanity and may encourage him to support annexation of the West Bank.

Iran protests

The Middle East doesn’t seem to be quite sorted out yet. Iran has experienced the largest internal protests since 2009, and Donald Trump and Israel are taking the opportunity to try and stir things up.

Are Trump’s tweets helping or hurting?

The consensus from experts: US President Donald Trump’s tweets about the situation are not helpful.
Rather, they say, the world should show solidarity with the Iranian people by supporting freedom of expression.
That’s not something Trump has been good at supporting in the US, with his attacks on media and on sports people protesting.

Looks typically very messy and a long way from a lasting solution.

More Lorde criticism

A large advertisement has been run in the Washington Post criticising Lorde’s decision to pull out of a planned concert in Israel.

It’s blatant bullshit to associate Lorde’s decision with New Zealand. She may come from here but she is an international artist acting on her own (with her management).

But her canning the Israel concert could be a slippery slope, for her and for other performers put under similar political pressure.

The power of social media is not always positive – in fact it’s often negative.