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Jerusalem Jubilee, Tit for Tat, Red Carpet Blues


At Western Wall, Rivlin Opens Jerusalem Day Jubilee

Alexander Fulbright and Judah Ari Gross, Times of Israel, May 23rd 2017

Recap:

President Reuven Rivlin opened the 50th annual celebration of Jerusalem Day proclaiming, “there will never be any other reality, in these stones, beats the heart of the Jewish People.”

The Context:

  • 50 years since Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967 and reunited the city, much of the international community still does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and instead believes the issue must be solved in peace talks with Palestinians.

  • US President Donald Trump campaigned heavily on a promise to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem - essentially recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the city - but has since postponed a decision to avoid sparking Arab outrage.

  • This week, US Senator Ted Cruz called on Trump to follow through on his promise and recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital since "Israel [is] such a reliable and unshakeable ally [1]." This week also marked the first time that a US ambassador attended Jerusalem Day celebrations [2].

  • Jerusalem Day is widely publicized by Israeli lawmakers although it is not celebrated by a large segment of the Israeli public. The holiday is commonly known for the “Rikudegalim” [3] or “flag dance,” in which primarily religious teenagers march through the city bedecked in white and blue. The march has been marred by violence and racist chants against Arabs in recent years and police warned of “no tolerance for physical or verbal violence [4].”

Conversation Points:

  • Do Israelis seek the embassy relocation as a symbol of America’s friendship or as an American statement to other countries that refuse to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital?

  • In what country is Jerusalem located if not in Israel?

Day Before Trump's Visit: Israel Approves Economic Measures to Benefit Palestinians

Barak Ravid, Haaretz, May 21st 2017

Recap:

In an effort to create a suitable atmosphere for resuming the peace process, Israel’s security cabinet approved a package of economic measures for Palestinians including permits for thousands of homes in Israeli controlled Area C in the West Bank. The government also agreed to create an exploratory committee intended to legalize Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

The Context:

  • The proposed package includes a relaxation at crossing points between the West Bank & Israel for Palestinian laborers, unfettered access to the Allenby Crossing between the West Bank & Jordan and permits for thousands of Palestinian homes in parts of Area C that are adjacent to Palestinian cities.

  • Eight ministers supported Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in passing the measure, while two Bayit Yehudi ministers, Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, objected to territorial concessions without getting “anything in return [5].” Israeli officials insisted, “no steps being taken have to do with defense or with easing security.”

  • The package is intended to aid Trump’s efforts to revive peace talks, which stalled in 2014. Palestinians have repeatedly indicated they seek a freeze on Israeli settlement activity before agreeing to negotiate [6].

  • As part of the measures, Netanyahu's Security Cabinet also voted to establish a committee to explore legalizing Jewish settlements in the West Bank [7]. A proposal will be submitted within 3 weeks to define committee roles, its composition and work plan [8].

Conversation Points:

  • Will Palestinian leadership engage in talks with Israel if their prime pre-condition, the stoppage of settlement activity, isn’t met?

  • Does establishing a committee to legalize Jewish housing in the West Bank negate the gesture of legalizing Palestinian homes in the West Bank?

  • Is there merit in unilateral measures that don’t get “anything in return”?

Israel Minister of Culture Miri Regev’s Gown Sparks Controversy at Cannes

Macaela Mackenzie, Allure, May 19th 2017

Recap:

Miri Regev, Israel's Minister of Culture and Sports, walked the red carpet at the 70th Cannes Film Festival [9] wearing a custom gold and ivory gown featuring the landscape of Jerusalem painted along the hem.

The Context:

  • Regev defended her decision to wear the dress saying “this year we are celebrating 50 years since the liberation and reunification of Jerusalem [10],” and “I am proud to celebrate this historic date through art and fashion.”

  • Haaretz’s Shira Pur May lambasted the move as an “aggressive, cynical and opportunistic act [11].”

  • Regev commissioned Israeli designer Aviad Arik Herman approximately $2,000 to design the dress and another $600 in rental costs [12]. It is unclear whether Israeli taxpayers paid for these expenses.

Conversation Points:

  • Would Haaretz have responded differently if a Palestinian wore the same dress?

Notes:

  1. TED CRUZ URGES RECOGNITION OF CAPITAL ON JERUSALEM DAY, Joy Bernard, Jerusalem Post, May 24th 2017

  2. US Ambassador Breaks Policy Recognizes Jerusalem Day, AL Bawaba, May 22nd 2017

  3. Jerusalem Day Expected to Draw Marchers, Protesters, Nir Hasson, Haaretz, May 24th 2017

  4. Ibid.

  5. ISRAEL'S SECURITY CABINET APPROVES GOOD-WILL PACKAGE FOR PALESTINIANS, Arik Bender, Jerusalem Post, May 21st 2017

  6. Goodwill gestures to Palestinians came at Trump’s request, says PMO, Times of Israel, May 22nd 2017

  7. Israel approves economic 'concessions' for Palestinians, Mazal Mualem, Middle East Eye, May 19th 2017

  8. 'The gestures are not status-changing', Nitsan Keidar, Israel National News, May 22nd 2017

  9. Jerusalem dress fails to impress, AI Monitor, May 21st 2017

  10. Middle East Israeli culture minister’s ‘colonialist’ dress causes outrage at Cannes Film Festival, Bethan McKernan, The Independent, May 20th 2017

  11. Ibid.

  12. Israeli minister dismisses critics who panned Jerusalem dress at Cannes, JTA, May 19th 2017


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