The Remarkable Tel Jerusalem

Archaeologists spend their time excavating and examining sites where humans lived in an effort to better understand the nature of societies from long ago. They let the physical evidence provide clues as to how people lived, what they ate and how they existed as a community.

Some of the best places to explore ancient history are found in tels, hills where one society was built upon the ruins of an earlier society. Such ruins are common in the Middle East, where there has been continuous human presence in many of the same locations for 4-5,000 years.

The issue confronting archaeologists excavating any tel is that one layer of history must be removed to be able to explore the next layer of the human past. Removing the ruins of a floor of a 13th century mosque may reveal a 5th century church, while clearing the 5th century level may reveal a municipal building from the first century BCE. History must be destroyed to find yet more ancient history. Peeling back time yields discovery via destruction.

In the holy city of Jerusalem, the challenges for archaeologists and historians becomes further ensnared in religious and political battles. Why should the ruins of a 16th century mosque be cleared to reveal an ancient Byzantine church? Why should the church be dismantled to uncover an ancient Jewish ritual bath house? Is one truth more significant than another? Does the exposure of ancient Jewish edifices impact today’s realities and political considerations? Is the destruction of an ancient house of worship in favor of another religion’s house of worship an act of historical exploration or a crusade?

The city of Jerusalem became central to the Jewish people 3,000 years ago, when King David sacked the then-Jebusite city and made it the official capital of the Jewish people in roughly 1000 BCE. His son, King Solomon, built the First Jewish Temple in the city in 950 BCE, making the city both the religious center and the political center of the people. Jews made pilgrimages to sacrifice at the temples during both the First Temple period (950 BCE – 587 BCE) and during the Second Temple period (515 BCE – 70 CE). Since the destruction of the Second Temple, Jews continued to live in and make pilgrimages to the city to pray, but without the ritual sacrifices, as Arab Muslims and Christian Crusaders took turns dominating the landscape.


City of Jerusalem during First Temple Period covered a portion of the current
Temple Mount and an area south of today’s Old City walls

Over the last several years, a team of archaeologists has been excavating an old road used by the Jewish pilgrims of two thousand-plus years ago. The “Pilgrimage Road” was one of a series of pathways that facilitated the flow of hundreds of thousands of Jews into the Jewish Temples. It’s route must have changed during the centuries as the walls of Jerusalem changed, and as archaeologists continue their excavations, undoubtedly, more facts will emerge.


The Pilgrimage Road from the Shiloach Pool to the Temple Mount, used by Jewish worshipers in the late Second Temple period, was excavated over the course of six years and unveiled by the City of David organization on June 30, 2019.
(Source: City of David.)

The road now exists as a tunnel lying beneath a predominantly Arab section of Jerusalem, called Silwan. The area was originally settled in modern times by Yemenite Jews in the 1880’s, who were then expelled when Jordan attacked Israel in 1948 and annexed the area in a measure not recognized by almost every country in the world. Just as in ancient history, the sacking and rebuilding of the city continues to play out.

But today’s Israeli archaeologists managed a new feat: they did not destroy the layers of recent history above the Pilgrim Road; they burrowed a tunnel which left the current residents of Silwan still living in their homes. As opposed to the living history of tels which builds one reality on top of another, and excavations which destroy one history to unveil another, both the ancient Jewish history and modern Arab homes coexist.

Historians celebrated the event as did the State of Israel which plans to develop the road as a tourist attraction as an important part of understanding the history of Judaism’s holiest location. Even foreign dignitaries came to the June 30 opening dedication including U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, White House Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt and United States Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

But Palestinian Arabs cried foul. Palestinians like PLO veteran Hanan Ashrawi said that the United States “will go to any length to show collusion, identification with and support for all these illegal acts, for the transformation of the character of Jerusalem.” A ridiculous charge which prompted Greenblatt to reply on Twitter that “we can’t ‘Judaize’ what history/archaeology show. We can acknowledge it; you can stop pretending it isn’t true! Peace can only be built on truth.

Traditionally, archaeologists need to destroy one layer of history to reveal the more ancient, but in Jerusalem today, the Israelis managed to uncover a 2,000-year old road used by pilgrims to ascend to the Jewish Temple Mount, while leaving the homes of modern day Arabs and Jews intact. It is a feat which sustains all truths, and underscores both the deep historic and religious ties of the Jewish people to their holiest city, while also respecting the modern sensitivities and political realities of the diverse modern capital city.


Related First.One.Through articles:

The Jews of Jerusalem In Situ

Gimme that Old-Time Religion

The Cave of the Jewish Matriarch and Arab Cultural Appropriation

Squeezing Zionism

Tolerance at the Temple Mount

The New York Times will Keep on Telling You: Jews are not Native to Israel

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Taking it Straight to the People: Obama and Kushner

Political leaders normally engage with other political leaders. A president of one country would normally have meetings and calls with a person of the same rank from another country. On rare occasions, a politician would bypass elected officials and talk and negotiate with another county’s citizens, or maybe even third parties on behalf of those citizens.

Here is a review of two American politicians going to the Middle East on the same issue: U.S. President Barack Obama talking directly to Israelis, and U.S. Middle East Envoy Jared Kushner engaging with Arab countries on behalf of Palestinian Arabs.

Obama Bypasses the Knesset in Favor of Israelis

In March 2013, Israel invited U.S. President Barack Obama to visit Israel and speak to the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. Both of the two previous US presidents, Bill Clinton (1994) and George W Bush (2008) addressed the Knesset while they were in office, yet Obama declined the invitation. The administration explained that Obama had a speech for “the Israeli public and that really was our priority.” The White House arranged to have an audience of students from Israeli universities, except he barred students from schools located on the West Bank of the Jordan, to hear his remarks.


Obama speaking to Israelis, March 2013

Obama spoke to this group of young Israelis as if the Knesset wasn’t a democratically-elected represented government of the people. He sought an audience which he hoped would be more receptive to his feeble efforts to denuclearize Iran and remove a sadist killer from the head of Syria. He appealed to the Israelis to give peace a chance with the Palestinians – directly. “Peace will have to be made among peoples, not just governments.

His remarks about the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority spoke volumes. He gave the Israeli leader a single mention, “I’ve reaffirmed the bonds between our countries with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Peres,” while saying nothing about Netanyahu’s efforts to establish peace and prosperity – or really anything about the two Israeli leaders at all, just as formal points of contact.

Conversely, Obama’s comment about the Palestinian leadership made them out to be heroic figures seeking peace: “while I know you have had differences with the Palestinian Authority, I genuinely believe that you do have a true partner in President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad.  (Applause.)  I believe that.  And they have a track record to prove it.  Over the last few years, they have built institutions and maintained security on the West Bank in ways that few could have imagined just a few years ago.  So many Palestinians — including young people — have rejected violence as a means of achieving their aspirations.” Wars from Gaza in 2008 and 2012? Obama skipped those. The slaughter of the Fogel family in their beds in 2011? Abbas’ meeting in January 2013 to bring the terrorist group Hamas into the ruling government seemed to not be significant to mention. Or, more likely, a track record which Obama knew to be highly problematic.

Obama called for the Israeli youth to change their leadership to one more willing to make sacrifices for peace rather than for security: “Now, only you can determine what kind of democracy you will have.  But remember that as you make these decisions, you will define not simply the future of your relationship with the Palestinians — you will define the future of Israel as well.

Obama bypassed the Israeli leadership he loathed and whom he felt would not fulfill his vision for a peaceful settlement, and talked to the Israeli public – which had democratically elected that Israeli leadership – in the belief that his speech could influence the Israeli public and elections.

Obama’s efforts were all for naught. Netanyahu won elections in 2013 and 2015. Syria’s Bashar al-Assad still rules in Syria after slaughtering over half a million of his own people. Iran’s nuclear weapons infrastructure remains completely intact. The Palestinians continued to intensify their wars against Israel in 2014 and 2015, while Mahmoud Abbas gave speeches about Jews and Zionists which would have make Adolf Hitler blush.

Obama tried something new – and insulting to the Israeli government – and nothing changed, even now, many years later.

Trump Administration Bypasses Palestinian Authority
for the Arab Street

In June 2019, U.S. President Donald Trump would also try a new approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

With the political portion of his self-declared “deal of the century” still under wraps due to the pending Israeli elections, Trump’s point people for Middle East Peace assembled a conference in Bahrain to unveil the economic portion of his plan.

The Palestinians would not show.

Angered by various Trump moves over the first two years of his term as president including recognizing the fact that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and moving the U.S. embassy to the city, as well as cutting aid to the broken United Nations agency which employees 30,000 Palestinians to hand out aid to the descendants of people who lived in Israel, the Palestinian Authority stayed away and urged others to boycott the event.

No matter. The team of Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt had a different audience in mind, just as Obama did six years earlier: the Palestinian people themselves.


Jared Kushner at Bahrain Conference, June 2019

The leadership of the Palestinians had long robbed the Palestinian people of a working economy, aid dollars and dignity. As detailed in the fascinating book Harpoon by Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, Palestinian leadership is rife with corruption. Yasser Arafat stole billions of dollars in aid meant for Palestinian Arabs and handed it to loyalists who kept him in power and funded terrorism at his command. The talent was passed to his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, who placates his henchmen with riches and supplies his terrorist families with money for life in a pay-to-slay program.

As described in The Parameters of Palestinian Dignity, the Obama administration and the United Nations believed that Palestinian dignity was predicated on undermining Israeli dignity in a zero sum game. Other people, like Palestinian human rights activist Bassem Eid believe that Palestinian dignity comes from economic self sufficiency. The Trump administration seems to agree.

The newly unveiled U.S. economic program would pump $50 billion into the Palestinian economy over 10 years and generate 1 million jobs. The monies would come mostly from the region, including $15 billion in grants, $25 billion in low interest loans and $11 billion of private capital. It would be administered by new multi-country agencies, including parties from neighboring Lebanon, Syria and Egypt which house many stateless Arabs from Palestine (SAPs). The power of the purse would no longer rest in the corrupt biased U.N. agency nor in the Palestinian Authority.

Not surprisingly, the Palestinian Authority rejected it completely. No money, no power.


Both the Obama and Trump administrations took new approaches towards peace in the Middle East, with each bypassing elected leadership to engage with the people who would ultimately realize peace. Obama talked directly to the Israeli people and urged them to ignore Palestinian terror, Muslim pathological killers in their neighborhood and their elected leadership to imagine peace. Trump’s approach was both more obtuse and direct: he sent his envoys to meet with the leaders of other nations and revealed a plan to direct billions of dollars in investment into the lives of the Palestinian Arabs. Obama’s prose was celebrated even though it contained no details and ultimately delivered exactly that – nothing. Trump’s plan has been derided by the liberal media and politicians who await the core political portion of the “deal of the century.”

Obama used his oratory skills to woo the Israeli public to replace their leadership and to imagine a peaceful coexistence. Trump put forward an economic plan to the Arab region to effectuate an enduring peace by bypassing Palestinian leaders.

Obama’s efforts brought nothing to the region but more wars and millions of refugees. Time will tell what Trump’s plan will yield.


Related First.One.Through articles:

The Israeli Peace Process versus the Palestinian Divorce Proceedings

The Only Precondition for MidEast Peace Talks

“Peace” According to Palestinian “Moderates”

The Debate About Two States is Between Arabs Themselves and Jews Themselves

What’s Wrong with UNRWA

The Time Factor in the Israeli-Arab Conflict

Removing the Next Issue – The Return of 20,000 Palestinian Arabs

Abbas’ European Audience for His Rantings

Mutual Disagreement of Mediators and Judges in the Arab-Israeli Conflict

How the US and UN can Restart Relations with Israel

The Undemocratic Nature of Fire and Water in the Middle East

The Left-Wing’s Two State Solution: 1.5 States for Arabs, 0.5 for Jews

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What’s Wrong with UNRWA

The United States has seemingly made the decision to stop its voluntary contributions to UNRWA, the United Nations organization which handles the descendants of Palestinian Arab “refugees” who left what is now Israel in 1948. The US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley held a talk at the Defense of Democracies where she made several comments as to why she felt that it was the correct thing to do:

  • The countries that we give money to, do they believe what we believe? Are they still actually wanting to be our partner and work with us? If they’re not and shouting ‘Death to America’ why would we give them a single penny? And so you are seeing the efforts to defunding those things that are not helpful to us and not in the United States’ interest.” (16:50)
  • UNRWA can stay there, and we will be a donor if it reforms what it does. If it goes and makes sure that they are not doing this teachings in textbooks , if they actually change the number of refugees to an accurate account, we will look back at partnering with them.” (27:45)

The leadership of the Palestinian Authority has repeatedly shut down discussions with the Trump Administration. Senior leaders have refused to entertain the still unreleased peace plan; they have refused to stop paying stipends to the families of terrorists; they have even told Nikki Haley to “shut up.”

In short, the Palestinian Authority is a problem, the terrorist group Hamas that runs Gaza is a problem, and the UN agency that enables and encourages these two factions is also a problem.

But the New York Times could not bring itself to cover the underlying facts about the decision to cut funding to UNRWA in an unbiased fashion.


New York Times page A8 on September 1, 2018
with two stories on the US funding cuts to UNRWA

On September 1, 2018, the “news”paper ran two stories on the subject, conceivably showing two sides of the UNRWA defunding issue. One article was called “Trump Administration’s Move to Cut Aid to Palestinians Is Denounced.” The article included a picture of Arabs on line for aid with a caption “Palestinian refugees receive assistance at a distribution center managed by the United Nations in Gaza last month.” The second article was titled “Why U.S. Plans to Slash Aid to Palestinians Make Israel Uneasy.” It included a very large picture of five cute girls sitting at school desks with a caption “Students at a U.N. school in Gaza City on Wednesday. A U.N. agency faces a $217 million shortfall that could force schools to close.”

Two articles were printed together on the same topic. One article said that the U.S. move to cut its funding to UNRWA was “denounced” broadly. The second article said that the cut made Israelis “uneasy.” The clear message from the Times was that everyone thinks the move is a terrible idea, even the Israelis.

How is that two sides of an issue? Why not clearly articulate why the administration is taking the steps against the agency which the State Department called an “irredeemably flawed operation,” with an “endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries is simply unsustainable“?

Since the alt-left media cannot be balanced and educate readers, let’s do so here.

Refugee Definition and Headcount

A “refugee” is someone who leaves a country, not a town or a village. Such definition does not get handed down through the generations like an inheritance. There are roughly 50,000 refugees from the Arab War against Israel in 1948, not 5.3 million, as detailed below. The balance are descendants of refugees. The UN allows even more people to register for services (RPs, Registered Persons), so UNRWA actually provided services to 5.87 million people as of December 31, 2017.

UNRWA’s own definition of Palestinian refugees are “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.” The area of Palestine in that window of time included Gaza and the region later to be known as the “West Bank.” Gaza holds 1.436 million “Registered Persons” and the West Bank 997,000 RPs. That’s 2.4 million people who are living in the same place, just a few miles from where their grandparents had a house. There’s no basis of calling any of these people refugees.

Basically all of the 2.287 million Palestinian Arab “RPs” living in Jordan have Jordanian citizenship. They – and their parents and grandparents – were granted citizenship after Jordan attacked Israel in 1948, illegally annexed eastern Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria (which they renamed the West Bank) in 1950 and then granted all of the non-Jewish residents citizenship in 1954 as part of their ethnic cleansing of Jews and illegal seizure. These Palestinian-Jordanian citizens have no fear of persecution. Indeed, the Queen of Jordan is herself a descendant of Palestinians. As such, all of these 2.3 million people have no basis of being called refugees.

The balance of the RPs in Syria (618,000) and Lebanon (532,000) who are over 70 years old who left Palestine because of the 1948 War could be called Palestinian refugees. What percentage of the 1.15 million people were born before May 1948? The estimate is that 6.78% of Lebanon is over the age of 65. Using a very conservative 5% figure for people 70+ who fled Palestine because of war would yield a actual refugee count of approximately 57,000 people; the actual number is likely 1/10th of that.

The United Nations is perpetuating UNRWA and its budget through a grossly exaggerated count of refugees, by well over 100 times!

UNRWA Budget

UNRWA claimed a needed budget in 2016/7 of $760 million. That equates to $129 spent per person on the overstated 5.87 million RPs. The other United Nations agency tasked with helping refugees – real ones by the way – is the UNHCR, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. That group handles 68.5 million people, from war-town areas including South Sudan, Afghanistan and Syria (63.1 million stripping out 5.4m Palestinians registered with UNRWA). These refugees typically have nothing as they flee their regions, needing basic items including food, clothing and shelter, let alone medicine and schools. UNHCR had $4 billion of expenditures to care for these people in 2017, roughly $63 per person. That means that UNHCR spent 51% less per person for people with dire needs all over the world, compared to UNRWA which has been around for decades, with established facilities.

The main cause is staffing. UNHCR had a staff of 11,517 around the world as of May 2018. Meanwhile, UNRWA had a staff of 30,799. The staff-to-RPs ratios for Palestinians was 1 UN staff member for every 190 people needing assistance, but only 1 UN staffer for every 5,479 people at UNHCR for refugees with real emergency needs. That’s an over-staffing problem at UNRWA of 29 times – even using the grossly exaggerated UNRWA definition of refugee.

UNRWA’s Abused and Outdated Mission Statement

UNRWA has a flawed mission statement at its core, quite unique relative to the UNHCR.

The UNHR’s mission statement states clearly:

“UNHCR’s primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. In its efforts to achieve this objective,the Office strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State,and to return home voluntarily. By assisting refugees to return to their own country or to settle permanently in another country, UNHCR also seeks lasting solutions to their plight.”

As noted above, the 2.4 million Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank are already in “their own country.” The 2.3 million Palestinians living in safety and security and enjoying citizenship in Jordan are settled “in another country.” Under UNHCR’s definition, there would be no facilities in those locations.

However, UNRWA was created as different kind of agency. General Assembly Resolution 302 in December 1949 sought to create UNRWA at a time when Egypt controlled Gaza, Jordan had the “West Bank,” and Israel assumed even more land than had been considered under the 1947 Partition Plan. The resolution referred to UNGA Resolution 194 – and paragraph 11 in particular – which stated:

“Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible;

“Instructs the Conciliation Commission to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation, and to maintain close relations with the Director of the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees and, through him, with the appropriate organs and agencies of the United Nations;”

Unlike the UNHCR, which seeks to make sure that refugees are safe and settled SOMEWHERE, UNRWA only seeks to have Palestinians going to their HOMES. Not to their country or another country, but to the actual house where people once lived. While that may have been a somewhat logical approach right after the war 70 years ago, the idea of moving into a house that no longer exists in towns that have been completely rebuilt is nonsensical.

Yet, UNRWA is unswayed. It insists that the Palestinian refugees will return to the exact town and home. It even features skeleton keys above the entrance to its camps, as a symbol of such “Right of Return.”

UNRWA Facilitating Terrorism

Beyond the flawed core mission of UNRWA – and perhaps because of it – the organization is a horribly biased actor in the peace process between the Arabs and Israelis.

The school textbooks have long denied the history of Jews throughout the holy land and promote antisemitism. The schools refuse to teach about the Holocaust and UNRWA teachers use Facebook to promote terrorism against Israelis.

In Gaza, the situation is particularly untenable, as the area is governed by the terrorist group Hamas which has launched three wars against Israel in 2008, 2012 and 2014. UNRWA does not sit idly as a neutral party in these battles. UNRWA teachers have been active fighters, building bombs for terrorist groups, and allowing schools to be used to store weapons and as missile launching sites.

The UNRWA-terrorism problem has been going on for a long time. James Lindsay, a former general counsel for UNRWA from 2000 to 2007, penned a report in January 2009 where he wrote “UNRWA has taken very few steps to detect and eliminate terrorists from the ranks of its staff or its beneficiaries, and no steps at all to prevent members of terrorist organizations, such as Hamas, from joining its staff.

In October 2015, during the Obama Administration, Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen introduced H.R. 3829, The UNRWA Anti-Incitement and Anti-Terrorism Act, which sought to defund UNRWA unless and until it made significant changes. The bill had three Republican co-sponsors but did not get much traction. And the US kept sending UNRWA its voluntary contributions.

Finally in 2018, the United States appears ready to follow through with actions after a decade-plus of discussions.

Funding Sources

Almost the entirety of UNRWA’s funding comes from voluntary donations. There is no assessment nor formula for which country is required to give how much.

Every year, decade-after-decade, it has been the United States that has been the single largest contributor to UNRWA. In 2017, the USA gave $364 million. The European Union gave $142 million. The individual counties’ contributions were relatively light: Germany $76 million; United Kingdom $67 million; Sweden $61 million.

The Muslim and Arab states gave paltry sums, especially considering their constant attacks against Israel at the United Nations. Saudi Arabia $53 million; UAE $12.8 million; Kuwait $9 million; Turkey $6.7 million; Kuwaiti Fund $4.9 million; Dubai Cares $3.8 million; Qatar $1 million; Kuwait Patients Fund $100,000.

Zero from Iran. Nothing from Bahrain. No Oman. No Morocco. No Pakistan. The entire Arab and Muslim world gave less than 25% of the American donation.

But as Nikki Haley pointed out, the generosity of the United States is treated with scorn and demands for more.


UNRWA is a deeply flawed organization and has been so for decades. It has been an embarrassment that the United States has done so little to reform the organization over the past decade and that liberal media still cannot accurately report on the agency’s corruption and failings. More kudos to Nikki Haley for underscoring plain facts, and to the Trump team of Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt for their efforts to reform the UN to help advance an enduring peace in the Arab-Israel conflict.


Related First.One.Through articles:

UNRWA Is Not Just Making “Refugees,” It’s Creating Palestinians

The Arab Middle East Makes Refugees, They Don’t Help Them

The UN Must Pay to Repair the Gaza Fence

UNRWA’s Munchausen Disease

UNRWA’s Ongoing War against Israel and Jews

Help Refugees: Shut the UNRWA, Fund the UNHCR

Delivery of the Fictional Palestinian Keys

Removing the Next Issue – The Return of 20,000 Palestinian Arabs

The UN Wants “Real Stories on REAL Refugees”

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Jordan’s Hypocrisy about UNRWA

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Enduring Peace versus Peace Now

There have been many failed attempts at forging a peace deal in the Israel-Arab Conflict. In 2017, the Trump Administration stepped into the situation with a very different approach than the Obama Administration. While there are many facets to the new methods, a clear distinction is Trump’s goal of an “Enduring Peace” versus Obama’s goal of “Peace Now.”

Team Trump’s “Enduring Peace”

Trump placed two people with seemingly little diplomatic experience – but significant deal experience – to try their hands at crafting a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians: Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt. While unfamiliar with diplomatic protocol, both Kushner and Greenblatt visited the region many times over their lives. They were joined in their effort by Dina Powell, an Egyptian-American who is the US deputy national security adviser for strategy.

A White House spokesperson made its goal clear for the talks on August 11, 2017 when it stated:

“Trump has previously noted that achieving an enduring Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement will be difficult but he remains optimistic that peace is possible.”

Jason Greenblatt echoed those words in November after visiting the region several times stating:

“We have spent a lot of time listening to and engaging with the Israelis, Palestinians and key regional leaders over the past few months to help reach an enduring peace deal. We are not going to put an artificial timeline on the development or presentation of any specific ideas and will also never impose a deal. Our goal is to facilitate, not dictate a lasting peace agreement.”


Jason Greenblatt and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
(photo: Kobi Gideon, GPO)

Team Trump’s stated mission is to forge a lasting peace that would endure for the future. The negotiators will take the time to work with the parties to structure an agreement that would provide lasting peace and security. This is a break from the Obama Administration.

Obama’s Progressive “Peace Now”

Obama had less international experience than Donald Trump when he assumed the office of the presidency in January 2009, and relied on his “progressive” liberal colleagues to educate him on the Israel-Arab conflict. Those left-wing parties included J Street and Americans for Peace Now. These groups advocated that the administration put “daylight” between America and Israel, as negotiations under President George W. Bush (which was viewed as very close to Israel), came up short of a deal. Obama made clear – to the delight of the far-left wing groups – that he was going to push the Israelis hard to stop building homes for Jews east of the Green Line (EGL).

The far-left groups believed that strong pressure on Israel was key to getting to a peace deal. They were ecstatic when Obama won a 10-month settlement freeze a few months after they met with Obama in July 2009 at the beginning of his term. They celebrated at the end of the Obama administration in December 2016, when Obama let United Nations Resolution 2334 pass declaring it was illegal under international law for Jews to live in EGL.

Jeremy Ben Ami, head of J Street said after the July 2009 meeting with Obama: “I left the room feeling we are at a truly historic moment of opportunity.  There may never be another American President who so clearly gets the issues strategically and has the political capital to try to pull off an agreement.”

The differences between Obama and Trump are both stark and clear.

The left-wing radicals believed that they had a moment in time, and that their anointed Messiah had a unique chance to forge peace in the Middle East. They felt both emboldened by Obama’s presidency and felt the urgency of time. They pushed the Obama Administration to get to a deal as quickly as possible by pushing a solution onto Israel.

Conversely, Team Trump has not shown such hubris. Their focus is not to get to a deal in the fastest time possible, but to establish an enduring peace. They recognize the fact that when Israel uprooted all of its settlements in Gaza and gave the land to the Palestinians it did not result in peace, but in three wars. Greenblatt and Kushner are content to take time to get to a lasting resolution, not the gratification of an immediate deal. They have stated that they are not going to let the UN impose a solution, like the Obama Administration advanced in December 2016.

Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry failed to advance peace between Israel and the Palestinians and watched the region descend into chaos. Their creation of “daylight” between Israel and the US; the use of international fora to attack Israel; and their rush to embrace the approach of “Peace Now” neither got to a deal nor set the parties on the path to enduring peace.

Hopefully the new approach of seasoned negotiators Greenblatt and Kushner to take their time to get to an “enduring peace” will yield much better results.


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Jared Kushner’s Parents Donate $20 million to the First Hospital Likely to Win the Nobel Peace Prize

Mutual Disagreement of Mediators and Judges in the Arab-Israeli Conflict

John Kerry: The Declaration and Observations of a Failure

The Evil Architects at J Street Take a Bow

J Street is a Partisan Left-Wing Group, NOT an Alternative to AIPAC

J Street: Going Bigger and Bolder than BDS

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Mutual Disagreement of Mediators and Judges in the Arab-Israeli Conflict

Mediators serve an important role in conflicts. They attempt to bridge the gap between parties to arrive at a mutually-agreed upon compromise to conclude the disagreement. If the mediator cannot resolve the matter, it is most likely that a judge would be tasked at making – and imposing – a final ruling.

Take divorce as an example. A mediator may be brought in by the parties to resolve issues related to child custody. If the mediator cannot get the parties to agree to terms, the case would go to court to rule on the matter.

Obama and Trump as Mediators

In February 2017, US President Donald Trump seemed to take a new stance in trying to mediate the Israeli-Arab conflict. In response to a reporter’s question about how the US will approach its role as a mediator, Trump said:

“So I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.  (Laughter.)  I’m very happy with the one that both parties like.  I can live with either one.  

I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two.  But honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians — if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.”

The media went wild. They printed headlines that Trump abandoned the two-state solution.

In actuality, Trump said that he is happy if the parties themselves are happy. The role of the mediator was not to dictate the outcome but to resolve the conflict so that the parties themselves reach a consensus. The goal was peace between the parties, not necessarily a particular formula to get there.

U.S. President Donald Trump (R) laughs with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a joint news conference at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Consider the contrast in Obama’s approach to the negotiations and the response of the media. In May 2011 Obama said:

“I said that the United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine.  The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps — (applause) — so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.”

The media noted that Obama laid out a conclusion of what the final result of the compromise would look like: two states.

The Obama speech irked the Israeli government that was clear in its intention of not returning to the “Auschwitz” lines of 1967.  Obama countered that he had not laid out a conclusion that was not a matter of consensus, as he specifically included language that there would be “mutually agreed” land swaps.

From Mediator to Biased Mediator to Judge

If a mediator in a divorce announced that she was open to the father having custody or the woman having custody of the children, whichever conclusion could be worked out by the parties, her position would be considered open and balanced. However, if she stated that the mother would have custody and that the only matter to work out was whether the father would see the children on Tuesdays or Fridays, her position as mediator would be seen as clearly biased. The inclusion of a minor clause that the only point being considered was a matter of visitation, while the broad parameters were already concluded, would be seen as a jaundiced farce.

And so was the position of Obama.

He did not focus on a bringing peace agreed to by each party, but stated an outcome that he viewed as fair. Obama abandoned his position as a private unbiased mediator. Not surprisingly, the Israeli government not only questioned the content of Obama’s statement, but his role as both a mediator and important ally.

In November 2016, when Obama’s preferred presidential successor Hillary Clinton lost the Democratic election, Obama decided that ANY role for the United States as a mediator had concluded, as he did not believe that Donald Trump’s administration would be fair, competent or effective. It was therefore time to pass the Israeli-Arab Conflict to a judge: the United Nations.

In December 2016, Obama directed his UN ambassador Samantha Power to abstain from an important vote, thereby allowing United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 to pass which declared that Israelis living east of the Green Line was illegal. Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry then went on to berate Israel (still under the guise as a “mediator”):

“Provide for secure and recognized international borders between Israel and a viable and contiguous Palestine, negotiated based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed equivalent land swaps.”

Team Obama again left the “mutually agreed” clause at the edges – literally. And Kerry added a new dimension that the land swaps should be “equivalent,” echoing a phrase (“comparable”) introduced by the Arab League.

President Obama moved his team from an impartial mediator to a biased one, happy to hand the situation to a judge that shared his animus for Israel. As he left office, Obama chose to belittle and undermine both the Trump administration and Israel, by enabling the UN and world to begin boycotting and suing the Jewish State.

Obama was well aware that the UN was anti-Israel at its core as it moved to sideline a negotiated solution between the Israelis and Palestinian Arabs. Samantha Power read a prepared statement right after UNSC 2334 passed:

“But in reality this vote for us was not straightforward, because of where it is taking place – at the United Nations. For the simple truth is that for as long as Israel has been a member of this institution, Israel has been treated differently from other nations at the United Nations. And not only in decades past – such as in the infamous resolution that the General Assembly adopted in 1975, with the support of the majority of Member States, officially determining that, “Zionism is a form of racism” – but also in 2016, this year. One need only look at the 18 resolutions against Israel adopted during the UN General Assembly in September; or the 12 Israel-specific resolutions adopted this year in the Human Rights Council – more than those focused on Syria, North Korea, Iran, and South Sudan put together – to see that in 2016 Israel continues to be treated differently from other Member States.”

In other words, Obama knew that the judge would eviscerate Israel, but if Team Obama could not bring peace, this was the best that could be hoped for.

Trump’s Two Fronts: A New Mediator and Sidelining the Judge

The Trump administration now has a two-pronged effort to resolve the century old conflict: as a new unbiased mediator, and as an active player in managing the judge.

As the UN officially declared (with Obama’s blessing) that Jews are illegally living in their homeland in a reversal of the League of Nations declarations of 1920 and 1922, the Trump administration is actively fighting back.

On March 18, 2017, after a UN agency released a report that Israel is an “apartheid state,” the US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley pressured the UN to withdraw the report. The diplomat that co-authored the report refused and resigned. Haley applauded the move, saying “When someone issues a false and defamatory report in the name of the U.N., it is appropriate that the person resign.

Earlier in the week, Trump’s new envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, met with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and acting President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas in an effort to re-launch the peace process that was crippled by the Obama administration. After the meeting with Abbas, the US Consulate General said that the two men “reaffirmed the commitment of both the Palestinian Authority and the United States to advance a genuine and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”


Obama concluded his tenure regarding the Israeli conflict as a disgrace. He proved to be a terrible and biased mediator. To add an exclamation to his failure, his hubris compelled him to undermine the Trump Administration’s role of mediator, and passed the conflict into the hands of anti-Semitic judges at the United Nations.

Obama made the odds of achieving peace in the Middle East more remote. But perhaps under the watch of Nikki Haley and Jason Greenblatt, the peace process will get another chance.


Related First.One.Through articles:

How the US and UN can Restart Relations with Israel

The Illogic of Land Swaps

Obama’s “Palestinian Land”

A “Viable” Palestinian State

John Kerry: The Declaration and Observations of a Failure

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