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Rein in the Footprint, Mediterranean Friends, Lantern Library


Israel Says It Will Rein In ‘Footprint’ of West Bank Settlements

Isabel Kershner, New York Times, March 31st 2017

Recap:

Israel unveiled a new settlement policy “out of consideration for the positions of President Trump.” Trump has called for curbs in settlement construction as part of a push to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Context:

  • Jewish presence in the West Bank dates back thousands of years. Jews maintained vibrant communities in areas like Hebron and Gush Etzion – areas today considered occupied - well before the establishment of the state and only left following massacres that occurred in 1929 and 1948, respectively.

  • Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem from the Jordanians in 1967. Today, most of the world considers Israel’s presence in the territories a violation of international law however, many informal peace plans consist of border adjustments that would allow Israel to retain its major settlement blocs in return for land swaps.

  • Israel’s newfound settlement policy will “significantly rein in the footprint” of new settlements but allow construction within all its existing settlements. The Trump administration — which believes settlements are not “an impediment to peace” but do not “help to advance peace” — expressed its approval [1].

  • News of the policy shift came hours after the Knesset approved plans to establish a new settlement in the West Bank, Israel’s first in over 20 years, for the 42 families [2] evicted from Amona last December. Amona was razed after Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled it had been built illegally on private Palestinian land [3].

  • The Yesha Council, an organization representing roughly 400,000 Jews in the West Bank, expressed cautious optimism and said it would monitor the situation to ensure the new construction plans were realized. Saeb Erekat, the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), refused to “accept any formula that aims at legitimizing the presence of Israeli colonies on occupied Palestinian land [4].”

  • Since 1967, successive Israeli governments helped establish more than 120 settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem which currently house close to 600,000 people. A decade ago, for every 1,000 settlers already living in the West Bank, 20 more arrived annually. Currently the expansion rate is just 6 per 1,000 [5].

Conversation Points:

  • If Jews maintained a pre-state presence in the West Bank, shouldn’t they also have a right to inhabit the area?

  • Is Israel committed to halting settlement expansion or does its new policy allow enough flexibility to expand with minimal limitations?

  • Did Palestinians forfeit their claim to the West Bank and East Jerusalem when they rejected multiple offers of statehood since 1947?

  • Is the declining Jewish migration to the West Bank a result of waning popularity amongst Jews or a dearth of available housing?

  • Will Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reach his full leadership potential if he consistently tries to appease all sides?

EU nations, Israel eye world's longest undersea gas pipeline

Israel National News, April 3rd 2017

Recap:

Israel, Italy, Greece and Cyprus pledged to move ahead with the world's longest undersea gas pipeline, stretching from the eastern Mediterranean to southern Europe. "The north stream [via Russia] is a pipeline [which] adds nothing to the security of supply [while] Cyprus and Israel are very reliable suppliers," said European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete.

The Context:

  • The privately funded $7 billion project consists of a 1,300 mile deep-sea pipeline linking Israeli and Cypriot gas to the shores of Greece & Italy [6], in turn, reducing Europe’s dependence on Russian energy at a time of ongoing tensions. The expected launch date is 2025.

  • The project is likely to face hurdles amid concerns of Russian intervention especially since the pipeline might one day be extended to service other countries in Western Europe and the Balkans [7]. The pipeline’s depth, currently pegged at 2 miles, also presents an obstacle since volcanic activity on the seabed between Cyprus and Greece will make damaged pipelines likely and difficult to repair [8].

  • Israel, historically a nation with a scarcity of natural resources, is set to become a major natural gas supplier in the region due to the discovery of massive offshore gas fields. The Mediterranean pipeline will carry an annual capacity of 12-16 BCM, which equates to $5.7 billion [9], and the Jewish state could potentially export 3,000 BCM of gas within a few years.

Conversation Points:

  • How can Israel use its newly discovered resources to improve its stature on the world stage?

  • Might Israel finally enjoy political tranquility if it becomes a powerful energy resource?

  • What tools could Russia wield to prevent encroachment on its gas revenue?

Program brings 2 millionth free book to Arab-Israeli preschoolers

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, April 4th 2017

Recap:

A program that distributes free books to Arab-Israeli preschoolers will distribute its two millionth book this month. “This program is creating important change in Arab society,” said Fatma Kassem, head of Arab preschools in Israel’s Ministry of Education.

The Context:

  • Maktabat al-Fanoos, Arabic for “Lantern Library,” is operated by Israel’s Ministry of Education. The books distributed by Maktabat al-Fanoos include Arabic originals as well as translations from foreign works.

  • Founded in January 2014, Maktabat al-Fanoos distributes eight books a year to 97,000 Arab-Israeli children ages 3-5. All children in government preschools get the books for free and children in semi-private schools get the books at cost.

  • Teachers read the book several times, initiate conversations with the children and carry out book-related activities such as art projects or plays. Each child is then given a personal copy to take home.

  • By the time a child reaches first grade, he or she has a personal library of 24 Maktabat al-Fanoos books. For many children, these are the only books in their home.

Conversation Points:

  • How can Israel employ a program similar to Maktabat al-Fanoos in the West Bank and Gaza to influence Palestinian education and engender good will?

  • Is a program like Maktabat al-Fanoos symptomatic of an Apartheid State?

Notes:

  1. White House says no ‘formal negotiations’ with Israel on settlements, Eric Cortellessa, Times of Israel, April 2nd 2017

  2. A new Israeli settlement on the West Bank, The Economist,

  3. White House says no ‘formal negotiations’ with Israel on settlements, Eric Cortellessa, Times of Israel, April 2nd 2017

  4. UN slams Israel over Emek Shilo settlement, Al Jazeera, April 2nd 2017

  5. As Israeli settlement growth slows, some drift away, Maayan Lubell, Reuters, April 3rd 2017

  6. ISRAEL, EUROPEAN STATES ADVANCE PLANS FOR WORLD'S LONGEST UNDERWATER GAS PIPELINE, Sharon Udasin, Jerusalem Post, April 3rd 2017

  7. Israel signs pipeline deal in push to export gas to Europe, John Reed, Financial Times, April 4th 2017

  8. EU delegation visits Israel for gas pipeline talks, Globes, April 3rd 2017

  9. Ibid.