In the aftermath of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris last week, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon remarked on the tension between security and liberty. “In the United States until the events of September 11, the balance between security and human rights favored human rights on the issue, for example of eavesdropping on potential terrorists,” he said. “In France aBtselemnd other countries in Europe, [a shift toward security] hasn’t yet happened. Countries fighting terrorism have no alternative in this other than shifting in the direction of security. I assume that we will see a large number of steps [to carry out] inspections: passport inspections, inspections at the entrance to public places.”

As in the U.S. this dichotomy between security and human rights is at the very heart of the debate in Israel. ”We believe not only are these not contradictory, but that human rights provides security,” said Hagai El-Ad, the Executive Director of B’Tselem, Israel’s leading human rights groups monitoring its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, on a recent press call. “Indeed, we think that human rights are the reasons for which we have security, they are why people have a society that must be protected. So one has to wonder what kind of society do we end up with (in Ya’alon’s framework) and would that society be worth defending if you take Ya’alon’s idea to extremes. I hope that idea will work differently in France. Time will tell.”

During his meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry two weeks ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered “a package of meaningful measures in the West Bank.” Although Bibi KerryNetanyahu was apparently vague about what those measures would be, an anonymous Israeli official told a reporter for  Israel’s Ha’aretz, “The prime minister made it clear that we want American recognition of the settlement blocs and of the fact that we can build there.”

Most observers have long recognized that any workable two-state agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is likely to include Israel keeping the large settlement blocs of Gush Etzion, Ariel and Ma’ale Adumim. A key question had been if, and when, U.S. policy should shift to acknowledge this, either tacitly or explicitly. Read more at “Facts on the Ground,” FMEP’s blog.

Recently, the European Union implemented a procedure for enforcing existing regulations requiring the labeling of some goods produced in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Israel has vociferously objected to any labeling of products from its settlements, and this has prompted concern in Congress, including a bi-partisan letter written by Senators Cruz and Gillibrand protesting the requirement.

The Obama administration has made it clear that it does not object to the EU’s decision. “We do not believe that labeling the origin of products is equivalent to a boycott,” State DepartmentIsraeli settlement winespokesman Mark Toner said in response to a question. “And as you know, we do not consider settlements to be part of Israel. We do not view labeling the origin of products as being from the settlements as a boycott of Israel.” Read more at Facts on the Ground, FMEP’s blog. 

In late October, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a joint meeting of the Knesset foreign Affairs and Defense Committees that “at this time we need to control all of the territory (of Occupation in Jerusalemthe West Bank) for the foreseeable future.” He echoed this during his talk at the Center for American Progress on November 10, when he insisted that, despite his stated support for a two-state solution, he saw no alternative to a permanent Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley.

These remarks fall within a particular set of parameters of discourse around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In this view, Israel is being asked to make a concession by even considering an end to its now 48-year old occupation. In this view, Palestinian liberty is not a self-evident, inalienable right, but an Israeli gift. Read more at “Facts on the Ground,” FMEP’s blog. 

From October 17-23, staffers from the Foundation for Middle East Peace led a research delegation in Israel-Palestine series of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian government officials, analysts,Occupation in Jerusalem activists, and journalists. We also toured areas in and around Jerusalem, Hebron, and Ramallah. Below are a number of findings: Read more at the FMEP site

Gershon Baskin is the founder of IPCRI – Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, and served as its co-director until January 2012. He is a long-time veteran of both Israeli peace NGOs and second track diplomacy between Israel and the Palestinians, and has many key contacts on both sides. This gives him a particularly Baskinwell-informed grasp of current events.

In July 2006, after Gilad Schalit’s abduction in Gaza he began unofficially, without governmental authorization or support, to open a back channel with Hamas. Baskin was involved in the ultimately successful efforts leading up to Shalit’s release for more than five years

Baskin is a member of the steering committee of the Israeli Palestinian Peace NGO Forum, a member of the Board of Directors of ALLMEP – the Alliance for Middle East Peace, a member of the Israeli Board of One Voice Movement, and a member of the editorial committee of the Palestine Israel Journal.

Baskin holds a Ph.D. in International relations from the University of Greenwich.

All of this makes his insight into how to resolve issues particularly valuable. As this week of escalated violence in Israel and the West Bank came to a close, Baskin posted some of his thoughts to his Facebook page. The Foundation for Middle East Peace reprints them here with his permission.

Eifo George?

This video was produced by T’Ruah: The Rabbinic Call For Human Rights, and it is one that should be shared far and wide.

It is thoroughly unacceptable that the Jewish National Fund (JNF) is funding projects outside the Green Line. As with any other organization that uses charitable donations, it should not be allowed to maintain its tax exempt status and fund settlement projects.

But that’s a bigger fight. No doubt, many donors to the JNF are very comfortable with, or even enthusiastic supporters of funding settlements. But many others are simply responding to very familiar, innocuous-looking and, one would even say, traditional JNF call to “plant tress in Israel.” If nothing else, the JNF is morally obliged to let people know that their donations might not be funding projects in Israel, but could also be funding projects in the settlements.

If the JNF won’t do the right thing and make this clear (and they won’t–in fact, they go to considerable effort to keep it quiet, as the video points out), then it is up to Jews of conscience to do it for them. Please share this video, let people know it’s worth a minute or two to watch it. And after you do, please take action here.



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