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Trump may want a deal, but Israeli Jews are not interested
Israeli Jews have two big concerns about Donald Trump’s visit here today and tomorrow. First that he will shut down traffic in the city. Second, that he will push for a peace deal and the creation of a Palestinian state. They’re not interested.
“We are afraid more than we hope,” said Elhanan, 71, a retired teacher. “If Trump pushes, after the blah blah blah and the hot air, everyone will find that the Israeli maximum is much lower than the Palestinian minimum. Nothing good will come of it. This is a 100 years war.”
These ideas were echoed again and again in interviews I had with 20 Jewish Israelis in Jerusalem. Israeli Jews fear the Palestinians far more than they trust them, and though they want little to do with them, the answer is not a Palestinian state.
“I don’t know if their own state is the solution,” Oded, a 32-year-old lawyer, told me on King George Street in Jewish West Jerusalem. “I don’t know what they [the Palestinians] are fighting for. They have a good life with us. They don’t want to vote…. I know there are problems with water, and facilities. But I think if they try to open themselves…. they can manage to live with us.”
Donald Trump will surely envy Benjamin Netanyahu. He has achieved what Trump has not: he has unified Israeli Jews of right and left in a fearful nationalism on an ethnic basis. He has helped create a broad Jewish center to which there is no real opposition.
Several of the Jews I talked to were leftists, but they are so demoralized by a long conflict that they go along with the Netanyahu agenda, of security first, for the Jewish state.
“I am on the left. I think we are wrong. I don’t think we are right,” said Dahlia, 71. “But I don’t want Arabs in my state. They are too different from us. I am afraid of them. I think they’re violent. I don’t think it’s their nature, but their culture. I don’t think they’re a nation. They came from I don’t know where.”
She said she hates religious Jews. “Hate. Really hate. I think they are stupid.” But Dahlia still desires a Jewish state. “I don’t want a two people state. I want one state for the Jews. Because of the culture. I love Israel. I love the language. They are people like myself. The Arabs, I don’t like their culture.”
I asked her how many Arabs she knew and she said one. Then she conceded that that one was not violent.
These Jewish Israelis both echo and reinforce Netanyahu’s achievement: between a Jewish state and a democratic state, they have already chosen. They want a Jewish state. Liberal Zionists in the United States like to say that the situation is still in play, that Israel is a Jewish democracy. But talk with these Jewish Israelis and they are clear about the purpose of Zionism: a Jewish state is more important than rights for Palestinians.
“The west doesn’t understand the east. We understand them,” says an Egyptian-born art gallery owner of 70 near the King David Hotel. “I don’t think Trump can do anything. There is no partner. We live with Arabs, that’s how we know what they are thinking. They work with Israel, but their heart is dirty: they hate, they want all the land.”
This man was a militant rightwing voter. But how different are the ideas of a young leftleaning couple on King George Street? When I suggest that Palestinians should all have the right to vote, Lala, who has a nose ring, shakes her head and says that would undermine the Jewish character of the state. While her companion, Guy, who has long hair and wears shorts, says that there are many people under American sovereignty who cannot vote, from illegal immigrants to people living in territories.
And Elhanan, the retired schoolteacher, says that while he used to vote left, he has an “internal schism” now because the left is unrealistic. The only way there will be a Palestinian state is if the Israeli army is on all the hilltops there. “Rather than a Palestinian state, it is much easier for most of us to believe there will be coexistence, commercial peace,” he says.
As so many Jewish Israelis do, Elhanan mentions the Palestinians who are proud to have participated in attacks on Israelis.
“We are afraid…. We have a long memory. Maybe some of it is somehow exaggerated. The Holocaust is quite fresh with everyone. It’s always present in our mentality. It’s really present,” he says.
While Nehama, 59, a former bookstore owner, says it more bluntly: “I don’t think they can have any state because they… say Jewish people have no right to Israel. They are like the Nazis.”
These Jews speak almost with one mind, about Jewish fears that underline the necessity for a Jewish state. It would be easy to say that they are indoctrinated, except that the springs of these ideas are so deep. Netanyahu echoes these feelings brilliantly, and never dares to try to lead his people anywhere.
At a music-and-light-show celebration of the 50th anniversary of the unification of Jerusalem last night, Netanyahu spoke, as nearly 100,000 Israeli Jews were jammed into the streets near the Old City. Outwardly they were extremely diverse. Most men did not wear yarmulkes, there were many young seculars.
They sang along to anthems about a Jewish Jerusalem. They cheered the giant “50” in fireworks that appeared in the sky, and the Jewish star too. They regarded the Six Day War as a wonderful achievement. There was no expression of doubt or misgiving: no awareness that half the population that surrounds them is so left out by Zionism.
Warmth and scale of Trump-Saudi embrace could spell trouble for Netanyahu
Full of flattery, the Saudis say they believe the visionary, strong, decisive US president can cut a peace deal, and they’re ready to help. But their formula is anathema to the Israeli government
ed note–there are many more dimensions attached to this arms deal with the Saudis than simply Trump wanting to help Sunnis kill Shia. The Jews don’t like it for obvious reasons–Saudi is getting high tech weaponry that can be used against Israel that far supercedes the effectiveness of the bottle rockets launched from Gaza periodically.
More than this though is the talk of the peace deal which the Saudis (as corrupt as they are, they still recognize the political advantages that exist for them at home and in the region in general if they can be seen as the biggest Arab player in securing a deal) adopted in 2002 and which the Jews oppose.
For those inclined by habit to rush to judgment and just assume the same old/same old when it comes to events such as these, keep in mind that it is more complicated than what some might assume and that the best indicator as to what might actually be going on is to study and gauge the reaction of Judea, Inc to it before engaging in any kind of noisy campaigns against it.
Times of Israel
Donald Trump will be making history from the moment he takes off from Riyadh to Tel Aviv on Monday — by flying the direct route from the Saudi capital to the Jewish state for the first time.
He’ll make history a second time when he becomes the first serving US president to visit the Western Wall — the holiest place of prayer for the Jewish people.
His Saudi hosts on Saturday asserted their confidence that he can make more abiding and substantive history by brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.
The kingdom, said Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir at a press conference with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, is optimistic that Trump, “with a new approach and determination, can bring a conclusion to this long conflict. He certainly has the vision, and we believe he has the strength and the decisiveness.”
Furthermore, said al-Jubeir, “the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia stands prepared to work with the United States in order to bring about peace between Israelis and Palestinians and Israelis and Arabs.”
The personal praise and deference to Trump — the fact that elderly King Salman came to the airport to greet the president, and reached out to shake the hand of the bare-headed First Lady Melania — underlined that, like Mahmoud Abbas at the White House earlier this month, the Saudis have recognized the importance of keeping on the new US leader’s good side, and maximizing the flattery.
It’s a tactic that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is doubtless observing with dismay, although not surprise.
Whatever Netanyahu had hoped for — or expected of — the new administration, the fact is that the president has not yet moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, has not moved to scrap the US-led nuclear deal with Iran, and has not given Jerusalem carte blanche on settlement building.
The president has, by contrast, hosted Abbas at the White House and made plans to meet him again this week in Bethlehem. He has showered Abbas with compliments, including by hailing the ongoing US-Palestinian partnership on regional security and counterterrorism — remarks that must have had them tearing out their hair at the Prime Minister’s Office.
And now, the president has signed a staggeringly large series of economic deals with Saudi Arabia — worth in excess of $380 billion over the next 10 years, with almost a third of that sum, over $110 billion, comprising arms sales. Just by way of perspective, it’s worth bearing in mind that the endlessly discussed US-Israel memorandum of understanding on US “security assistance” to Israel, finally signed last September with the Obama administration, is worth some $38 billion over the coming decade.
The Trump administration has promised to ensure that Israel maintains its qualitative military advantage in the region. But the arms deals announced Saturday will give the Saudis access to extremely advanced weaponry, in extremely large quantities. And as Tillerson and Jubeir stressed repeatedly, the deals profoundly deepen the relationship between their two countries, and their mutual commitment to each other’s defense.
Israel will be internalizing the sway and leverage in the US that this deepened relationship could give the Saudis
Israel might take some comfort in the pledge expressed by Tillerson to work closely with the Saudis in confronting the pernicious influence of Iran across the region — to curb Tehran’s aggression, its support for terrorism, its intervention in the affairs of other Middle Eastern nations.
But as Trump hailed the “tremendous” deals, providing “hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs,” Israel will also be internalizing the sway and leverage in the US that this deepened relationship could give the Saudis.
It is gratifying to hear a Saudi foreign minister speaking openly and easily about Israel, and promising readiness to help toward peace, just as it has been gratifying in the past year or two to see Saudi leaders and officials occasionally sharing forums with leading Israelis and even, in the case of one Saudi general, visiting Israel, meeting officials and Knesset members, and sending out pictures of his encounters.
But the Saudis have a very clear view on the parameters of Israeli-Palestinian peace and Israeli-Arab peace. It’s known as the Arab Peace Initiative or the Saudi Peace Initiative. Unveiled in 2002, it was reaffirmed just weeks ago at an Arab League summit, where Trump’s envoy Jason Greenblatt was on hand meeting various Arab leaders.
And, to date, the Netanyahu government has rejected it as a framework for negotiations, citing, among other concerns, opposition to the notion of an Israeli return to some version of the pre-1967 lines, and to the Initiative’s wording on the issue of Palestinian refugees.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is acutely aware of the dangers of saying no to President Trump. To a president who has already told him to hold back a little on the settlements. To a president who says he believes he can “honestly, truly” cut an Israeli-Palestinian deal “quicker than anyone ever imagined.”
It is highly unlikely that Netanyahu has lately become an adherent of the Saudi-led Arab Peace Initiative. The prime minister will, therefore, be watching anxiously right now, as the heavily US-invested Saudis give Trump the most royal of welcomes. And he will be wondering how successful they will be in persuading the president to rely on their peace initiative as the basis for the deal with which Trump intends to make Israeli-Palestinian history.