December 12, 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 December and January

In early November, Pierre Vimont, the French government’s special envoy to the Middle East peace process, visited Israel and spoke with representatives from the Palestinian Authority regarding a French plan to host an international peace conference by the end of December. In doing so, Israel informed France that it will not participate in such a conference. Israeli officials told France, in “a unambiguous and unequivocal fashion” that real progress and a lasting peace agreement could only emerge through direct bilateral negotiations between Israel and the PA, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement. “Any other initiatives only distance the region from such a process,” the statement continued. “It was explained to the French envoy that Israel will not participate in any international conference convened in opposition to its position.” The French initiative “greatly harms the possibilities for advancing the peace process,” the statement said, arguing that it would allow PA President Mahmoud Abbas to avoid returning to direct bilateral negotiations without preconditions.

The goal of a conference would be to push the peace process forward. Should it be approved, the conference’s conclusion could be put forward in the form of a UN Security Council resolution. The conference and the conclusions it would reach would operate in conjunction with other initiatives that are on the table and could even fold them into its large umbrella of options, Vimont said. This includes efforts by Russia, which has called for a meeting between Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Vimont, said that past proposals such as the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative could also be part of the French initiative and would most certainly compliment it. The process is open to all the interested parties, he said. “We are working with the European Union, the Quartet, the Arab League and whomever wants to be involved,” said Vimont.

Vimont did not rule out the possibility that other parties could work on a UN resolution separate from the peace conference. “We have no problem if anyone comes forward with a draft resolution, be it on parameters and settlements,” Vimont said. “We [would] look at the value of the draft itself. The idea has never been ‘well, the French initiative is going on, everyone should shut up and stay put and wait to see what happens. This is why, precisely as I speak, we are in very close contact with our colleagues in the outgoing Obama Administration to assure them that if ever they decide, after the 8th of November, to go forward with some initiative, it is working with good coordination with what we are trying to do,” he said.

Since the initial peace summit held in June in Paris which officially kicked off the French initiative, three working groups have been given the task with examining avenues to propel the peace process forward. One group has looked at building the institutions needed for the establishment of a Palestinian state; another has studied the economic incentives peace would bring for those involved, in particular for the European Union; while a third group worked on enhancing the participation of civil society in the process.

A French newspaper reported that French President Francois Hollande has invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to meet in Paris on the sidelines of a conference of foreign ministers on the peace process scheduled for December 21. The conference is expected to be attended by 70 states. Netanyahu said that he would be willing to meet with Abbas in Paris as long as there is no international conference. PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat confirmed the report saying that France will host an international conference on the peace process on December 21.  The Palestinians have accepted the invitation,with PLO Executive Committee member Ahmad Majdalani saying: “President Abbas agreed to the French invitation and informed the French president of this.” Israel will not attend the conference. According to the report, France remains determined to go ahead with the conference, unfazed by the “icy reception” from Israel. The US has not yet confirmed their attendance. The recommendations of the three working groups to resolve various issues regarding the desire to establish a Palestinian state from the initial June conference will be examined during the December 21st meeting.

Former US president Jimmy Carter called on Obama to recognize a Palestinian state before he leaves office on January 20. “I am convinced that the United States can still shape the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before a change in presidents but time is very short,” he said. “The simple but vital step this administration must take before its term expires on January 20 is to grant American diplomatic recognition to the state of Palestine, as 137 countries have already done, and help it achieve full United Nations membership,” he wrote. Carter argued that a US recognition of “Palestine” would make it easier for other countries to do the same, and would “clear the way for a Security Council resolution on the future of the Israeli Palestinian conflict.” He said the Security Council should pass a resolution laying out the parameters for resolving the conflict, “reaffirming the illegality of all Israeli settlements beyond the 1967 borders while leaving open the possibility that the parties could negotiate modifications.” Such a resolution should include security guarantees for both Israel and a Palestinian state, the demilitarization of the Palestinian state, and a “”possible peacekeeping force under the auspices of the United Nations.” “The combined weight of United States recognition, United Nations membership and a Security Council resolution solidly grounded in international law would lay the foundation for future diplomacy,” he said.

Meanwhile, some US officials are saying that President Barack Obama has nearly ruled out any major last-ditch effort to put pressure on Israel over stalled peace negotiations with the Palestinians. Discussions about the US taking potential action at the UN Security Council, underway before the US election, have fallen off since Donald Trump’s surprise victory, officials said. Obama is now highly unlikely to approve either of those options presented to him by US diplomats, said the officials, who weren’t authorized to discuss internal deliberations.

For years, the US has officially opposed any attempts by Palestinians to seek recognition for statehood or allow multi-country groups like the UN to impose solutions. US State Department spokesman John Kirby said: “Our view hasn’t changed, that we believe that the preferred path for the Palestinians to achieve statehood is through direct negotiations that will lead to a just, lasting and comprehensive peace based on a two-state solution.”

At the Israel Saban Forum conference, US Secretary of State, John Kerry, said the following about the peace process and Jewish settlement building: “There is no status quo. It is getting worse. It is moving in the wrong direction. So there is a fundamental choice that comes to this question of two states. And that is: Are there going to be continued settlements? Is there going to be a continued implementation of settlement policy, or is there going to be separation and the creation of two states? There are 129 settlements. There are about 100 outposts, and outposts, as you all know, are illegal. They believe it’s the greater Israel. They are pursuing a policy of greater Judea-Samaria building out into the West Bank because they believe it belongs to them. And they want it to block the peace because they want those places to belong to Israel.”

Kerry was asked by reporter Jeffrey Goldberg: “Have we not passed the tipping point already?” Kerry replied: “No.” Goldberg said: “Why have we not passed the tipping point?” Kerry answered: “Because this is a function of leadership. It’s a function of belief. Where is the United States in that? Our position has been 1967 lines plus swaps. So the question is: How do you resolve with the Palestinians their aspirations? I think you have to do that by negotiating.”

MR GOLDBERG: There’s a lot of talk about laying down of new parameters possibly action in the Security Council. Can you give us any insight about where your thinking is on that, or has the election of Donald Trump changed this so radically that we’re not going to see any further action on this file from the Obama Administration?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me make it clear at the outset that, as I said earlier, we have always stood against any imposition of a, quote, “final status solution,” and against any resolution that is unfair and biased against Israel, and we will continue. We don’t support that. And there’s been no decision made about any kind of step that may or may not be taken in that regard.

There are, however, other people out there who, because of this building frustration, you need to know they are any number of countries talking about bringing resolutions to the United Nations.

MR GOLDBERG: Will you try to stop the French if they do it?

SECRETARY KERRY: If it’s a biased and unfair and a resolution calculated to delegitimize Israel, we’ll oppose it.

Meanwhile, a high-level Palestinian delegation is scheduled to arrive in the United States, led by senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and the head of the Palestinian general intelligence service. The delegation also includes the future Palestinian ambassador in the United States as well as a number of high-level officials from Abbas’ Fatah party and from the Palestine Liberation Organization. The delegation will be coming to the United States to participate in a strategic American-Palestinian dialogue session, the first of its kind ever to be held. The more important meeting, however, will be with members of the Palestinian delegation with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The main item on the agenda is expected to be a UN Security Council Resolution which the Palestinians are currently discussing with members of the UN Security Council.

The Palestinian Authority is interested in coming to an understanding with the outgoing administration of U.S. President Barack Obama that would avoid an American veto of a United Nations Security Council resolution that the Palestinians intend to introduce in January. The resolution would be critical of Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. Senior Palestinian officials have said that the Palestinian Authority intends to introduce its Security Council resolution in early January, before Trump takes office on January 20. For the month of January, the rotating presidency of the Security Council will be filled by Sweden, which is the most recent major country to recognize the State of Palestine, and which is also interested in advancing a Security Council resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the course of the month.

The Palestinians have already shared a non-final draft of their resolution on settlements with several UN Security Council members in New York. Western diplomats who have read it said its major provisions are as follows:

A. The draft states that the settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace. A separate clause says the settlements endanger the prospects of a two-state solution to the conflict based on the 1967 borders.

B. The draft demands that Israel put a total halt to settlement construction and any other activity related to the settlements.

C. Section 5 of the draft states that members of the United Nations must avoid providing Israel any assistance that can be used directly for activity related to the settlements.

D. The new draft resolution calls for a halt to any acts of violence against civilians, including terrorism, as well as provocative acts and incitement, and calls for those responsible for such acts to be put on trial.

E. Section 8 calls upon all countries to act to revive direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians based on clear terms of reference to last for a year.

A senior official in President Abbas’ office said that the Palestinian Authority senses that the Obama administration will not accept the existing draft resolution, portions of which will have to be amended in an effort to avoid an American veto in the Security Council. “The key question will be the position of the outgoing [U.S.] administration. We are hoping that Obama will take one real decision on behalf of the Palestinians before he leaves the White House,” he said.

A senior Western diplomat who is involved in contacts on the Security Council resolution noted that talks between the Palestinians and Kerry in the coming week could have a significant impact on the capacity to get the resolution passed in the time remaining before Obama leaves office. The most problematic clause, the Western diplomat said, is section 5, which calls on sanctions against Israel by implication. It provides a timetable for negotiations and mentions the 1967 borders without mentioning any readiness for land swaps between Israel and a future Palestinian state. If the Palestinians are prepared, in contrast to the past, to be pragmatic and to soften some sections of the draft, there is a more than a small prospect that Obama will refrain from casting a veto of the resolution, the diplomat said. “If the Palestinians act wisely and rationally they have a chance,” he said.

White House officials are maintaining ambiguity on everything related to the prospect that Obama would push for a UN Security Council resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. High-ranking administration officials said Kerry had made it clear in his address to the U.S.-Israeli Saban Forum that no decision had been taken on the matter and that all options remain on the table.  “We will carefully consider our future engagement if and when we reach that point, and determine how to most effectively advance the objective we all share in achieving a negotiated two-state solution,” a senior administration official said.

Kerry is interested in advancing a UN Security Council resolution that would include the recommendations that appeared in the July 1 report of the Middle East Quartet, the grouping that includes the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia. The recommendations relate to negative steps on Israel’s part, such as settlement construction, the legalization of illegal West Bank settlement outposts and the demolition of Palestinian homes, but also deal with negative steps on the Palestinians’ part, such as incitement and violence. Kerry has expressed the belief that such a resolution would be balanced and would also constitute a clear work plan for the international community and for the incoming Trump administration.

One of the alternate ideas that is being considered at the White House is refraining from casting a veto on a resolution on West Bank settlements as long as it is not extremely biased against Israel and reflects the administration’s policy on the settlements.

A senior Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs official said on condition of anonymity that Israel fears that Obama will want to leave a practical legacy to his successor in the form of a Security Council resolution rejecting the settlements in the West Bank. He said, “Obama is obsessed by an objection to the settlements and by his criticism of Netanyahu.”

This view was confirmed by a senior US diplomat in Tel Aviv. Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry consider the Israeli settlement policy the main reason for the failure of Kerry’s 2014-15 mission and the main obstacle to a two-state solution. Obama believes that if the Israeli settlement policies are allowed to continue undisturbed until the next administration has a Middle East team and clear Middle East policy in place, the situation on the ground could become irreversible in terms of denying a viable Palestinian state.

This is the reason White House spokesman Josh Earnest has used very strong language lately when criticizing the Netanyahu government on its settlement policy. On Oct. 6, Earnest accused the Israeli government of betraying the administration, saying, “We did receive public assurances from the Israeli government that contradict the announcement [of constructing 300 housing units on land that is] far closer to Jordan than it is to Israel.” Earnest warned that Israel’s decision to relocate — considered by settlers as a necessary compensation for dismantling Amona — jeopardizes the already distant prospect of Middle East peace as well as Israel’s own security.

An Obama administration official said that the Obama administration is concerned with the situation on the ground. “The two-state solution is dying, this trend is not good. There’s a de facto annexation. We, the Americans, can only rebuke the sides. We’ve searched in the dictionary for a thousand different ways to condemn the settlement construction, and it’s not helping. A condemnation has no bite, and the Israelis know this.” As a result, Obama is feeling the need to do something before he leaves office.

Recently, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, spoke at the annual Zionist Organization of America’s conference, warning foreign diplomats looking to force through one-sided resolutions at the United Nations between now and January 20th when Obama leaves office. He said: “Just recently,” said Danon, “senior diplomats from various countries told me that they plan on taking advantage of the transition period to advance a one-sided resolution against Israel. One thing is clear: Such a resolution will be dangerous for Israel. We will not be pressured to make concessions that will endanger our people.”

“We are in a very sensitive period.” Danon said. “There are three international initiatives before us. The first is the French conference on the 21st of the month. There is New Zealand’s initiative calling for negotiations and condemning construction in Judea and Samaria. And there is also a proposal which focuses on Palestinian construction in Judea and Samaria. All of this [is taking place] at the end of Obama’s term in office to take advantage of the transition period. We are working behind the scenes [with US officials] and hope that American policy [of vetoing one-sided anti-Israel resolutions] will not change. Right now American [officials] say that they will not support a resolution that is ‘unbalanced.’ As for what ‘unbalanced’ means – it is open to interpretation. It is clear that the resolution of the Palestinian Authority is not balanced, but we fear that a cosmetic change with [be enough for Obama] to call it balanced.” he added.

So, will Obama take advantage of the transition to the Trump Presidency that began after election day and ends on Jan. 20 to push through a UN Security Council resolution recognizing a Palestinian state? 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)  Israel won’t attend peace confab, officials inform France
2) Abbas ally: French peace summit will go forward, with or without Israel
3) France: Israel should show commitment to peace by attending December parley
4) Hollande invites Abbas, Netanyahu to parley in Paris
5) Netanyahu accepts Paris invite to meet Abbas, if France drops conference
6) Erekat: International peace conference to be held on December 21
7) Jimmy Carter: US must recognize a Palestinian state
8) Jimmy Carter to Obama: Recognize State of Palestine
9) US officials: Obama has nearly ruled out UN action on Israel
10)  Full text of John Kerry’s remarks at Saban Forum 2016
11) Palestinians Try to Sway Obama Not to Veto UN Resolution on Israeli Settlements
12) Will Obama push for UN settlement-freeze resolution?
13) Obama mulling support of UN resolution against Israeli settlements
14) Danon: No one will pressure us into making dangerous concessions
15) Danon: This is a sensitive time for Israeli diplomacy

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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