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WSJ column: Advice to Jared Kushner

Posted by Tip Staff - February 14, 2017
Palestinians, the ball is in your court. A Wall Street Journal column written by Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Bret Stephens (former Editor-in-Chief of The Jerusalem Post) on Monday advised the Trump administration how to tackle Israeli-Palestinian peace. Key takeaway? “The U.S. cannot solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; only Palestinians can.”

The column was directed towards President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner—the president’s pick as point man on Arab-Israeli issues. In it, Stephens counsels Kushner to look at various lessons from history, ranging from a cautionary “do nothing” approach to the wisdom garnered by former president George W. Bush. “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers,” Bush wrote in 2004, “it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.”

Yet Stephens also demurred from the idea that Israeli-Palestinian peace process should be the ultimate focus. “The real prize,” he wrote, “lies in further cultivating Jerusalem’s ties to Cairo, Riyadh, Amman and Abu Dhabi, as part of an Alliance of Moderates and Modernizers that can defeat Sunni and Shiite radicals from Raqqa to Tehran.”

Don't do it. The United Nations warned the president of Lebanon against arming Hezbollah a day after he said that the Iranian-backed terrorist organization was essential for Lebanese security. Sigrid Kaag, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, tweeted Monday, “Recalling SCR 1701 vital 4 Lebanon's stability-security. Resolution calls 4 disarmament all armed groups. No arms outside control of state.” Her reference is to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which was adopted unanimously to end the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, called for the disarming of all militias in Lebanon and the re-establishment of the Lebanese government’s authority over the southern part of the country, and prohibited the transfer of arms to any entity other than the government in Lebanon. Hezbollah’s continued armed presence in southern Lebanon violates these three elements of the resolution. 

On Sunday, Lebanese President Michel Aoun, a political ally of Hezbollah, said that Hezbollah’s weapons "do not contradict the state... and are an essential part of defending Lebanon. As long as the Lebanese army lacks sufficient power to face Israel, we feel the need for (Hezbollah's) arsenal because it complements the army's role.” Lebanon’s Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, a Sunni, countered Aoun’s statements on Tuesday by calling Hezbollah’s arsenal illegitimate.

In The Times of Israel on Monday, journalist Avi Issacharoff explained that the Israeli military is increasingly concerned about deepening cooperation between Hezbollah and the Lebanese army. The IDF will have to take this into consideration in the next war against Hezbollah; it is especially delicate because the Lebanese army receives much of its weaponry from the United States.

“In southern Lebanon, it’s Hezbollah that calls the shots,” Issacharoff wrote. “There is no village in the south (with the possible exception of several Sunni villages) that has not been transformed into a fortified bastion of Hezbollah, which possesses an entire array of command and control, communications systems, and a variety of arms including rockets (of course) and anti-tank weapons.” An Israeli defense official explained that the buildup of Hezbollah’s terror infrastructure in southern Lebanese villages meant that “civilians are living in a military compound” and that their lives were at risk.

Hezbollah reportedly has an arsenal of 130,000 rockets, more than the combined total of all 27 non-U.S. NATO member states.

For the umpteenth time. A member of Hamas’ al-Qassam Brigades was killed on Monday when a tunnel he was digging caved in, The Times of Israel reported. Hamas, an Islamist terror group openly dedicated to Israel’s destruction, said last month that it lost 22 of its members in tunnel collapses in 2016. Earlier this month, a Hamas engineer was killed when a rocket he was testing exploded.

A senior IDF official recently told Israel’s Channel 2 that Hamas had rebuilt its tunnel infrastructure and rocket arsenal to the levels it maintained before its 2014 war against Israel. Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh pointed out last year that Hamas has prioritized building up its terror infrastructure over rebuilding Gazan homes, writing that “the last thing Hamas cares about is the welfare of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.” 

Hamas spends some $40 million of its $100 million military budget on tunnel construction, according to Israeli and Palestinian sources. An Israeli official estimated in July that Hamas digs some six miles of tunnels every month.

This week, Hamas elected Yahya Sinwar — an influential hardliner convicted by Israel of multiple murders — to be its new Gaza-based chief.

Educators and counselors from Jewish Israeli youth movement Hashomer Hatzair and the Arab Israeli youth movement Ajyal soon will embark on a joint voluntary mission to set up a community center and school for Syrian refugee children on the Greek island of Lesbos. The first delegation of two from each movement, plus coordinator Yair Leibel from Hashomer Hatzair, expects to leave Israel February 19 and stay for three weeks. The second delegation will be accompanied by Rnin Kahil, the Ajyal coordinator. Members and leaders of the two youth movements have been meeting periodically for almost a decade, usually for informal dialogues. “The problem is that after we sit and talk, we go our separate ways,” Leibel tells ISRAEL21c. “In one of our last meetings the Syrian situation arose … and there was the thought to do something together to help people who are suffering in a nation in our area, even though Syria is considered an enemy country to Israel.” Kahil tells ISRAEL21c that the goal is to establish a community center that will function as a school in the mornings where the volunteers from Israel will teach math, Arabic, English and general subjects, and as a center for informal activities in the afternoons. Though the numbers change as refugees move off Lesbos in search of more permanent accommodations, the island shelters about 5,000 mostly Syrian refugees at any given time, and as many as half of them are 18 or younger. “The kids have nothing to do,” says Kahil, 21. “They really need someone to lift them up.” (via ISRAEL21c)

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