October 10, 2016: Weekly 5 minute update

You may view the 5 minute update this week via audio:

1) Listen to the audio

In this week’s 5 minute update, we focused on:

1) The current status of the Israeli / Palestinian peace process and the prospects that US President Barack Obama will support  a UN Security Council Resolution outlining the parameters of a Palestinian state between November and January

Recently, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Several Palestinian officials joined in the meeting, including PLO Executive Committee Secretary General Saeb Erakat, Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki and Palestinian ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour, among others. After the meeting, the US State Department spokesman John Kirby said the two men discussed “constructive ideas” to advance a two-state solution with Israel. Kirby said Kerry and Abbas would “work with key partners to advance the prospects for peace while opposing all efforts that would undermine that goal.”

Meanwhile, the international Quartet of Middle East peacemakers consisting of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia, again warned Israel that its Israel’s settlement policy was harming the chances of a peace agreement and urged both sides to show restraint in the face of a renewal of violent Palestinian attacks against Israelis. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, US Secretary of State John Kerry and EU High Representative Federica Mogherini issued the following statement after meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York: “The Quartet emphasizes its strong opposition to ongoing settlement activity, which is an obstacle to peace, and expressed its grave concern that the acceleration of settlement construction and expansion in Area C [parts of the West Bank under Israeli civilian and security control] and East Jerusalem.”

The Quartet were joined for the latter part of their discussion by the foreign ministers of Egypt and France, whose countries have each proposed ideas to restart talks. According to the Quartet, “All agreed on the importance of close and continuing coordination of all efforts to achieve the common goal of the two-state solution.” French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, whose country plans to hold a peace conference by the end of the year, warned that the path to peace was narrowing, but did still exist. He said:  “Our goal is still the same: It’s to organize an international conference before the end of the year with both parties present.”

While in New York, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had harsh words to say about Israeli settlement building in a private meeting of countries representing those who have provided financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority. At the meeting, Kerry took Israel to task and was agitated over its policy in the West Bank. Kerry did criticize the Palestinians for their increased number of Palestinian terror attacks and incitement against Israel. However, the thrust of his remarks constituted criticism of the unprecedented rate of construction in the settlements in particular and Israel’s policies in the West Bank in general. Kerry presented figures indicating that since Obama took office in 2009, the number of Israelis in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has increased by 95,000, and that 15,000 of that increase has come in the past year alone. “How does increasing the number of settlers indicate an attempt to create a Palestinian state?” Kerry asked, raising his voice. “The status quo is not sustainable. So either we mean it and we act on it, or we should shut up.”

In response, a senior member of the Netanyahu government said: “to come and say that settlement activity is the root of this conflict is simply nonsense. We are ready to meet the Palestinian Authority but it must give up the right of return and recognize Israel as a Jewish state.”

While still in New York, Kerry also met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Kerry said, “There are things we believe we could achieve in the next months and there are serious concerns that we all have about the security of the region, the need for stability, the need to protect the two-state solution. And our hope is obviously that we can find a way to utilize the friendship of our countries to advance, what we believe is not only in the highest priority for Israel to provide for its long-term security, but also to create a new relationship within the region that can be powerful in reinforcing that long-term security interest.”

Kerry also spoke with anger, cynicism and frustration about the steps Israel was purportedly taking on the ground to ease the lives of the Palestinians. However, many of the measures have not been implemented at all and remain in the nature of declarations or remain simply on paper. He said: “If we really want to get serious about a two-state solution, we need much more than just one-time agreements and improvements. We need to fundamentally change the dynamic by resuming the transition to greater Palestinian civil authority in Area C, which was called for in prior agreements.” Area C is the designation for the areas of the West Bank under full Israeli control.

Kerry concluded by saying that Israelis and Palestinians are at a crossroads. “Either we reverse course and take serious steps on the path to a two-state solution, or the momentum of existing actions will carry us further toward an intractable one-state reality that nobody wants and nobody really thinks can work. The consequences of the current trends reverberate far beyond the immediate damage the destruction and displacement may cause. What’s happening today destroys hope. It empowers extremists,” he added.

The Western diplomats noted that Kerry’s comments presented the despair on both sides, but also the understanding emerging not only on Kerry’s part but also among an increasing number of senior White House officials that they need to seriously consider the possibility of promoting a resolution at the United Nations Security Council or at another international forum. This would be immediately after the U.S. presidential election in November, and would deal with the Israeli-Palestinian issue and preserving the option of a two-state solution in the future.

In an interview with Israel Channel 10, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, hinted at this, noting that the U.S. administration is considering a series of options, including a UN Security Council resolution. Meanwhile, speaking to reporters, U.S. President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, said Obama does not rule out such a process but no specific proposal has been presented to him yet.

Meanwhile, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israeli media that he hopes U.S. President Barack Obama would not force a one-sided political solution on Israel before he leaves office, and that the next American president will maintain the longstanding policy of vetoing UN Security Council resolutions on Israel. His remarks came amid Israeli concerns that Obama will try and push a Security Council resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after the elections in November and before he leaves office on January 20. Netanyahu admitted that the issue was not raised during his meeting with the president, but he said that he hoped Obama’s conduct over the years would continue until the end of his term. “I even quoted him (Obama) at the UN when I said that peace isn’t reached through UN resolutions,” Netanyahu said, referring to Obama’s speech at the General Assembly in 2011. “That’s true. It’s done by hard but vital negotiations between the parties,” he added.

US Presidential hopeful, Donald Trump, met with Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. At the meeting, Netanyahu thanked Trump for his continued support for Israel, his commitment to continued pressuring of Iran and for his opposition to efforts at the United Nations to impose terms of a peace agreement with the Palestinians. Under a Trump presidency, the United States will “finally accept the longstanding congressional mandate to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the State of Israel,” according to his campaign’s description of the meeting, which was closed to the press. Israeli officials said that Netanyahu thanked Trump for his friendship and support of the Jewish state.

Due to the concern that the international community will support a UN Security Council Resolution outlining the parameters of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to get the opposition party, Zionist Union, to join his government coalition. According to Israel Channel 10, substantial progress has reportedly been made in talks to form a unity government. According to the report, the center-left Zionist Union party will join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud-led government in exchange for eight portfolios including the highly coveted Foreign Ministry.

However, chairman of the opposition and head of the Zionist Union, Isaac Herzog, denied it. In a message sent out to party members, Herzog called the report “baseless,” stating there have been no contacts with Netanyahu’s political party, Likud. as the report claimed. Likud also officially denied the report.

According to a source privy to the talks, Herzog has met with lawmakers and officials from his party recently to try to convince them to join Netanyahu’s government. Herzog told the lawmakers that there is currently an unprecedented opportunity to lead a diplomatic process in the Middle East and it cannot be missed. According to a senior official in the Zionist Union, opposition to the move within the party has weakened, and the new government could form within a month when the Knesset returns from its summer recess.

Sources in the Likud noted that Netanyahu needs the Zionist Union and a diplomatic process to stave off attempts by Palestinians to push through a resolution in the UN Security Council after the elections in the U.S. in November, but before U.S. President Obama leaves office in January 2017. Netanyahu does not want Israel to go into any international summit on peace without Herzog in the government as he fears his right-wing partners will quit, sending Israel to a snap election.

Meanwhile, Palestinian elections originally scheduled for October 8 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has been postponed until the beginning of 2017. In a dispute over the elections between Fatah and Hamas, the Palestinian Authority’s Supreme Court ruled that local elections will take place but only in the West Bank and not the Gaza Strip. In an earlier decision, the court froze the local elections in the West Bank and Gaza slated for October due to what it described as serious irregularities – chiefly a court ruling in Gaza to remove candidate slates identified with Fatah in Gaza and the exclusion of East Jerusalem from the election process. Hamas, who rules in the Gaza Strip, blasted the decision labeling it an attempt to renege democratic responsibilities and avoid a negative outcome for Fatah.  The Palestinian Authority court said it could not accept the Gaza court’s ruling or a situation in which there were two separate legal systems.

In wake of the ruling, the Palestinian Authority’s Central Election Committee recommended to postpone the elections by six months so a compromise could be found to permit the local elections to go ahead in Gaza. The committee noted that they respect the top court’s ruling, but said that “de facto, in the current environment, it is impossible to hold a vote and to remove Gaza from the equation.” The Palestinian Authority accepted their recommendation and decided to move the vote by four months to February.

In September 2014 after a protracted legal battle, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the Israeli government to dismantle the unauthorized outpost of Amona by December 2016 because the court said it was built illegally on private Palestinian land and must be returned to its original owners. Established in 1997, Amona is the largest of about 100 unauthorized outposts — built without permission but generally tolerated by the government — that exist in the West Bank. In order to resolve the problem, Israel has approved the construction of 98 new housing units in the West Bank settlement of Shiloh to compensate homeowners of the nearby outpost of Amona ahead of the December court-ordered evacuation and demolition of Jewish homes. The 40 families that live in the Amona outpost have rejected the Shiloh plan and have called for the Israeli government to authorize their small hilltop community in spite of the High Court of Justice ruling that their homes must be razed by December.

The US State Department issued a stern rebuke of Israel’s decision to relocate the citizens of Amona to Shiloh saying: “We strongly condemn the Israeli government’s recent decision to advance a plan that would create a significant new settlement deep in the West Bank,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. “The retroactive authorization of nearby illegal outposts, or redrawing of local settlement boundaries, does not change the fact that this approval contradicts previous public statements by the Government of Israel that it had no intention of creating new settlements,” Toner said. “And this settlement’s location deep in the West Bank, far closer to Jordan than Israel, would link a string of outposts that effectively divide the West Bank and make the possibility of a viable Palestinian state more remote.” Toner added: “Proceeding with this new settlement, which could include up to 300 units, would further damage the prospects for a two state solution.”

The US State Department called Israel’s decision “deeply troubling…that Israel would take a decision so contrary to its long-term security interest in a peaceful resolution of its conflict with the Palestinians,” particularly as it came “in the wake of Israel and the US concluding an unprecedented agreement on military assistance designed to further strengthen Israel’s security.”

Furthermore, the US State Department openly warned the move would “distance Israel from many of its partners. Israelis must ultimately decide between expanding settlements and preserving the possibility of a peaceful two state solution. Since the recent Quartet report this summer called on both sides to take affirmative steps to reverse current trends and advance the two-state solution on the ground, we have unfortunately seen just the opposite,” the statement said. “Proceeding with this new settlement is another step towards cementing a one-state reality of perpetual occupation that is fundamentally inconsistent with Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state. Such moves will only draw condemnation from the international community, distance Israel from many of its partners, and further call into question Israel’s commitment to achieving a negotiated peace.”

The White House joined in the State Department’s criticism of Israel saying: “We did receive public assurances from the Israeli government that contradict this announcement,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. “I guess when we’re talking about how good friends treat one another that’s a source of serious concern as well.”

The European Union also condemned the Shiloh project saying that “continued settlement expansion also calls into question Israel’s commitment towards reaching a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians. This decision continues the accelerating trend of new settlement announcements since the start of 2016, and risks further separating Ramallah from Nablus and thus further undermining the contiguity of a future Palestinian state,” the EU said. “The decision to continue settlement building and expansion goes directly against the recommendations of the Quartet Report, weakens rather than strengthens the prospects for a two-state solution to the Middle East peace process, and makes the possibility of a viable Palestinian state more remote,” it added.

Israel rejected the harsh criticism from the United States for the new construction in the West Bank city of Shiloh saying that the newly authorized construction is not a new settlement. The Israeli Foreign Ministry said: “The 98 housing units approved in Shiloh do not constitute a ‘new settlement’. This housing will be built on state land in the existing settlement of Shiloh and will not change its municipal boundary or geographic footprint.” A Senior Israeli official said that the building plans breached no commitments, did not constitute a new settlement, and would not bring more settlers into the West Bank, since the construction was for new homes for settlers who are to be evicted from the Amona outpost. The Israeli Foreign Ministry also reiterated Israel’s stance that the settlements are not the main cause of the stalled peace process with the Palestinians. “The real obstacle to peace is not the settlements – a final status issue that can and must be resolved in negotiations between the parties — but the persistent Palestinian rejection of a Jewish state in any boundaries,” the statement said.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu contacted US Secretary of State, John Kerry to ease the concern of the new Shiloh construction plans saying: “… the construction [in Shiloh] was to provide an alternative for the Amona residents if no other solution is found.”

US State Department spokesman Mark Toner hinted that the US could take action on the peace process before Obama leaves office saying: “We’re going to carefully consider our future engagement, if and when we reach that point, and determine how to most effectively pursue and advance the objective that we all at least claim to share, which is that of achieving a negotiated two-state solution.”

Israel’s fear is that Obama could now act at the United Nations, after the US elections in November but before the next president is inaugurated in January. This could mean backing a UN Security Council resolution that could seek to impose parameters for negotiations for a two-state solution on Israel and the Palestinians, or a similar UN resolution. A Senior Israel official called the latest dispute with the Obama administration over settlement-building “disproportionate criticism” from the United States over the latest construction plans is “an alibi” to cover plans by President Barack Obama to take anti-Israel actions in the final two months of his presidency. He said: The “disproportionate” US criticism “is an alibi for one-sided actions being planned by Obama even though Obama pledged to Netanyahu that he won’t take any one-sided actions concerning Israel” in the final two months of his presidency.

A recent NY Times editorial suggested Obama do the following: “The best idea under discussion now would be to have the United Nations Security Council, in an official resolution, lay down guidelines for a peace agreement covering such issues as Israel’s security, the future of Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees and borders for both states. Obama should lead the Security Council to put its authority behind a resolution to support a two-state solution and offer the outlines of what that could be.”

Will Obama support a UN Security Council Resolution after the US elections and prior to when he leaves office on January 20th recognizing a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital? Only time will tell.

An agreement to divide Jerusalem and establish a PLO state is a tribulation event.

The link to these articles are as follows:
1)  Kerry, Abbas meet, agree to push for two-state solution
2) Kerry tells Abbas US is committed to two-state solution
3) Kerry to Netanyahu: We need to protect the two-state solution
4) Kerry: We must ‘act or shut up’ on two-state solution
5) Kerry: Israel and Palestinians Headed for Binational State, World Must Act or Shut Up
6) Netanyahu Urges Obama Not to Impose One-sided Solution on Israel
7) Trump to Netanyahu: I will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s united capital
8) Quartet: Settlements harming chances for two state-solution
9) ‘Settlements are the root of the conflict? Nonsense’
10) Substantial Progress Reported in Talks to Bring Center-left Party Into Netanyahu’s Government
11) Palestinian Government Postpones Elections Until Beginning of 2017
12) Israel okays 98 new West Bank settlement homes for Amona evacuees
13) US invokes Peres legacy in biting condemnation of settlement expansion
14) US hints at linkage between military assistance and settlement building
15) Israel rejects US criticism, says no new settlements planned
16) Israeli official: Obama’s settlement critique ‘an alibi’ for planned anti-Israel moves
17) Netanyahu tries to ease US concerns after harsh settlement condemnation
18) At the Boiling Point With Israel

From a Biblical prophetic perspective, the reason why the God of Israel would allow these events to happen is because it will result in the end of the exile of the house of Jacob and the reunification of the 12 tribes of Israel (Ephraim and Judah).

We will to be “watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem” and we will not rest until the God of Israel makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth (Isaiah 62).

Shalom in Yeshua the Messiah,

Eddie Chumney
Hebraic Heritage Ministries Int’l

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