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June 21, 2017 5:23 pm

Kushner and Greenblatt’s Embrace Will Encourage Israel to ‘Take Risks for Peace,’ Says Former ADL Chief

avatar by Ben Cohen

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ADL National Director Emeritus Abe Foxman. Photo: ADL.

The new push launched this week by Trump administration emissaries Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner to revive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations has received a positive welcome from a prominent American Jewish leader with intimate knowledge of both the players and the pitfalls of peacemaking in the Middle East.

“They say that Jason is a good listener. What he and Jared and their team are doing is studying all the possibilities,” Abraham Foxman — who spent three decades at the helm of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and now serves as the Jewish organization’s national director emeritus — told The Algemeiner on Wednesday.

Though the White House has remained tight-lipped on the content of Kushner and Greenblatt’s discussions with leaders on both sides, an advisory issued earlier this week cautioned that “forging a historic peace agreement will take time” and added that “there are likely to be many visits by both Mr. Kushner and Mr. Greenblatt, sometimes together and sometimes separately, to the region.”

But for Foxman, what is significant is not so much the issues that are holding up a resumption of direct negotiations, but the transformation of the atmosphere between the US and Israel.

“Until quite recently, the Americans would hesitate on a terrorist attack in Israel,” Foxman said. “We’d wonder, would the State Department say something? Would it be ‘evenhanded?'”

“Jason Greenblatt goes from the plane to the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem and then to a shiva call for a victim of terrorism — and so does Jared,” Foxman continued, referring to the participation of both men in the official mourning period for Hadas Malka, the 23 year-old Israeli border policewoman murdered by Palestinian terrorists in Jerusalem last Friday.

Such gestures count, Foxman said, because Israel will take risks for peace only if it has the robust support of the US.

“The US is publicly embracing Israel — that goes a long way when it comes to getting Israel to take risks,” he asserted. “[President Donald] Trump isn’t reliable, but he has a greater chance of getting Israel to take risks for peace because of his embrace and support.”

By his own admission, Foxman is an “optimist.”

“If you look at the issues, they are the same — borders, Jerusalem, the refugees, settlements,” he said. “But the constellation in the neighborhood is now different, because of the tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran, between Sunni and Shia Islam.” This shifting balance of forces, he added, would not be enough to effect change without the essential element of close US-Israel ties that was missing from the previous Obama administration.

Foxman said he was encouraged that Trump administration officials “who are engaged” with the Israeli-Palestinian issue “realize that it’s not a slam dunk. The only progress one can make is through interim arrangements.”

By way of illustration, Foxman recalled a visit to the Saudi capital, Riyadh, with a high-level ADL delegation. At the end of the visit, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, then the Saudi ambassador to the US, offered the delegation his plane to take them to their next destination.

“I said to Bandar, ‘Let’s have the first flight between Riyadh and Ben-Gurion Airport in Israel,’ and he replied, ‘Not yet, not yet,’ and we flew to Amman in Jordan instead,” Foxman recalled. “So we’re not going to have a dramatic outcome where suddenly Israelis are flying to Riyadh and embassies are opening everywhere. What you need first is permission for Israeli planes to overfly Saudi Arabia. It’s those little things that count, and some of them are already happening behind the scenes.”

Foxman also praised the current administration for its uncompromising attitude regarding Palestinian incitement. “Incitement is a serious issue that was never handled very seriously,” he said. “Now it’s being handled more seriously than before.”

On the vexed issue of PA payments to the families of Palestinian terrorists imprisoned by Israel, Foxman said that “there’s an understanding you can’t make peace with those who glorify and reward those who are against peace.”

“I think they will make progress on this,” Foxman said of Kushner and Greenblatt’s ongoing diplomatic efforts, to which the “egregious” policy of the payments has posed a consistent challenge.

More broadly, Foxman is pleased by what he regards as a “new consciousness” not just in the US and the Middle East, but in Europe as well. In that regard, he cited recent decisions by the Norwegian and Dutch governments among others to end funding for Palestinian NGOs involved in incitement against Israel.

That problem of hate, Foxman said, is what will make the difference between a “cold peace and a warm peace.” Because of that, “peace is not going to be happen overnight,” he noted.

“That’s not because the region’s leaders don’t see strategic and economic value in peace,” Foxman concluded. “It’s because for years, all they’ve taught is hatred. Not just the Palestinians and Iran, but Egypt and Jordan also.”

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  • Marc

    A Two Citizenships Solution vs. a Jewish-Arab State >>

    The number of Arabs and Jews living west of the Jordan River is approximately the same. A two states solution is meaningless without changing citizenship of Israeli Arabs.
    Israeli Arabs obtained Israeli citizenship illegally and against international law.
    Unfortunately, Israel long ago became a bi-national , it’s an incubator for Arab people. Arabs hate Jewish state. This can lead to events such as those that occur in Syria.
    Jews will not survive in a bi-national state.
    Israel must stop to impose Israeli citizenship to the hostile nation.

    Immediately after the establishment of a new Arab state west of the Jordan River ( or return Jordanian rule ), the Arabs of Haifa, Nazareth, Lod, Galilee, Negev, Jerusalem etc. must become citizens of their new (old) state.
    If the Jews do not want to continue to live in a bi-national state, and within a generation become a minority in Israel, they must prepare for a referendum (as in Scotland) based on the UN resolution to divide Palestine for Jews and Arabs.

    Fatah-Hamas government requires land free of Jews.
    Therefore, Israeli demands are legitimate and forced:
    1. To divide National Insurance for Jews and Arabs, by forming the funds from taxes collected separately from Jews and Arabs.
    2. To employ only the Arabs, who will replace Israeli citizenship to the status of Israel’s residents.
    3. Deductions from wages ( income tax and health tax) of Arab residents to transfer to the Palestinian Authority , of course along with responsibility for health, education , jobs and pensions to all Arabs who wish to remain in Israel.

    It’s possible to separate from the Arabs by the law, as the Irish and the British, as the Czechs and the Slovaks or as the Greeks and the Turks in Cyprus . First to separate economically and then geographically.
    Palestinian citizenship to the Arabs, Israeli citizenship to the Jews.
    Two Nations – Two States – Two Citizenships !
    The only sustainable long term solution is:
    The Arabs should be ruled by the Arab administration and the Jews should be governed by the Jewish government.

  • Howard Schaerf

    Foxman is blind to the reality of Arab irredentism.Israel can’t ”take risks ” for an ephemeral agreement with blood thirsty jihadis. I bless the good intentions of the Trump administration but remember that ”the road to hell………………

  • Joy Daniels Brower

    Although many are condemning the participation of Kushner in these vital negotiations, I, for one, am willing to give him – and, of course, his father-in-law! – benefit of the doubt. After all, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained!” God bless their efforts – and who knows, maybe SOMETHING will actually work!

  • Kondor

    They are worse than BHO

  • henrytobias

    As far as I know Abe Foxman and his family, children, grandchildren etc. all live in the US. Why should he be OK with Israel ‘taking risks for peace’? I know he’s a Zionist, but only an armchair-Zionist sitting in America. Israel doesn’t need advice to ‘take risks’ however well intended. The path to hell is paved with good intentions.

  • LtcHoward

    I always warn my Israeli bargaining partners that as an American military officer I represent US interests. It is their responsibility to represent Israeli interests. I further state that I always promise in good faith ….However I cannot guarantee that my superiors will honor any of the commitments that I guarantee. Hence I urge my Israeli counterparts to exercise extreme caution and to remember the many broken promises made by my government (made by people like me any good faith).

    Israel is too small and vulnerable to take any “risks for peace”.

  • Sid Levine

    I’d rather hope they would not interfere in this – they are both Court Jews and as such do NOT act in the best interest of the citizens of Israel. Foxman is wrong – to get off the plane go to the Kotel and Shiva is only for publicity and shows no sincerity. All this could have been done without publicity and the media circus reporting on every move.
    Since these two have been in Israel I have had to put up with constant sirens from their escorting vehicles and helicopters over my home in Jerusalem both during the day and late at night.

    Incidentally, Israeli Jews are forbidden from going into PA areas – one has only to read the red notices on the roads!!

  • Paul Winter

    Israel took chances with the PA and got terror and delegitimization. It took chances in Lebanon and got Hizballah. It took chances in Gaza and got Hamas and bombardment. A nation takes risks for peace when it has lost the war and faces annihilation. When a nation survives because it won defensive wars chancing peace with a still belligerent foe only encourages that party to make more demands and to fight on. Foxman is not an optimist; he is a fool!

  • Citizenstat

    The American emissaries want Israel to “take risks for peace.” Don’t they understand that Israel has been doing exactly that since 1967 and, with the exception of the treaties with Jordan and Egypt, have gotten nothing and less than nothing for their pains? The Palestinians have been consistently obdurate in their refusal to negotiate honestly. They clearly hope (nay, expect) that the world’s governments and the UN will force Israel to accede to their one-sided demands. This mindset has operated consistantly from the reign of Arafat to Abbas. What’s more, rather than prepare their people for peaceful coexistence with Israel, their leadership has deliberately encouraged hatred and violence against the Jews with propaganda glorifying violent acts, naming streets and institutions after their “martyrs,” and paying stipends to their families.

    When, oh when will these blind fools recognize the real source of peace failure, take the Palestinians by the scruff of the neck and demand that THEY take risks for peace?

  • RW

    The Orthodox aside there are no Jewish leaders in America today. I doubt if 90% of American Jews ever heard Foxman’s name. Through low birthrate liberal American Jews are a dying phenomenon

  • Michael

    No matter how much you water the little tree, if the roots are growing in poisoned soil, the tree has no future.

  • RW

    Another Jewish leader enters the Israel/Arab discussion. I doubt that 90% of American Jews are aware that Mr, Foxman is their leader. Liberal American Jews through low birthrate In a few decades will be regarded as a memory only.