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In Our Hands, Forcing a Change, Good in Georgia


Trump Recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's Capital in Historic Move

Jordyn Phelps, Justin Fishel & Adam Kelsey, ABC News, December 6th 2017

Recap:

US President Donald Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announced his intentions to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv. The White House referred to the event as “acknowledging a reality [1].”

The Context:

  • Israel calls Jerusalem its undivided capital, however the international community refrains from recognizing it as such pending final status negotiations with the Palestinians, who claim the eastern half of the city as their own [2]. In recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Trump fulfilled a campaign promise and reversed decades-long US policy.

  • The international community’s response was largely critical. Palestinian leaders blasted Trump for opening "the gates of hell", Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi criticized Trump for “complicating” matters in the Middle East [3] and Turkish President Recep Tayyib Erdogan threatened to cut diplomatic ties with Israel [4]. Pope Francis appealed to “respect the status quo of the city” while French President Emmanuel Macron called the move an "unfortunate decision." The United Nations Security Council will convene an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss next steps [5] and the European Union (EU), Israel’s top trade partner and the Palestinian’s biggest aid donor, pledged to consider Jerusalem a capital for Palestinians as well [6]. Hamas called for “a day of rage against the occupation [7]” and violence in Gaza and the West Bank is already underway.

  • Trump instructed the State Department to develop a plan for moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem with a “minimal burden on American taxpayers [8].” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes America’s decision will open the door for other nations to follow. Currently, no country in the world has its Israel embassy in Jerusalem [9].

Conversation Points:

  • Does Trump’s recognition suggest a departure from America’s neutrality in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

  • Is Trump’s decision, in the absence of a broader plan, harmful to future peace prospects or might it actually help since it removes a source of ambiguity from the American position?

  • Does Trump’s willingness to take such a risk underscore how little progress his negotiators have made to broker peace?

  • Why don’t more nations decry Palestinians’ immediate turn to violence in circumstances such as these?

US House Passes Bill to Slash PA Funds Over Terrorist Stipends

Eric Cortellessa, Times of Israel, December 5th 2017

Recap:

The US House of Representatives passed the Taylor Force Act, which will cut US funding to the Palestinian Authority (PA) unless it discontinues its practice of paying monthly stipends to the families of terrorists who kill Israelis. The bill will keep US funding to Palestinian water and childhood vaccination programs in tact.

The Context:

  • The bill, named after a former US army officer who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian assailant in 2016, garnered bipartisan support through the House. “In Taylor's memory, we must stop sending aid money to an entity that rewards his murderer's family,” said bill sponsor Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) [10].

  • The PA receives $280 million annually from the US and in 2017 alone allocated more than $344 million for payments to Palestinian prisoners and their families [11]. The PA argues that the program is social security for Palestinians unjustly detained or serving as legitimate combatants however Israel and the US characterize the program as an incentive for violence against Israeli civilians [12].

  • The PA pays $400 per month to those who attack Jews and $3,400 per month to those who murder Jews. Families of dead unwed terrorists receive $100 per month and widows receive $250 month. The average Palestinian earns $150 per month [13].

  • The bill must now pass the Senate, which is expected to vote later this month. US President Donald Trump has not yet indicated whether he will sign the bill into law.

Conversation Points:

  • Will the backlash to his Jerusalem recognition sway Trump’s decision on the Taylor Force Act?

  • Is a massive reduction in US aid enough to change a tradition so deeply embedded in Palestinian culture?

  • Why wouldn’t a poor Palestinian murder a Jew with the current policy in place?

Kids in Tbilisi Get Lifesaving Treatment from Haifa MDs

Abigail Klein Leichman, Israel21c, December 3rd 2017

Recap:

A group of medical personnel from Israel’s Rambam pediatric intensive care unit travel pro bono twice a year to perform complex medical procedures on children in Tbilisi. A baby born without an esophagus and a five-year-old boy unable to eliminate bodily waste were among the complex cases awaiting the surgeons.

The Context:

  • Israeli doctors have participated in the program for close to 10 years. Upon their arrival in Georgia, the team evaluates 30 children chosen by Georgian doctors and decides who can be treated immediately and who needs further tests and imaging.

  • Israeli and Georgian physicians are in constant contact about past, present & future cases and the Israelis utilize their time in Tbilisi to monitor the condition of past patients. “I don’t care if I treat a Georgian child or an Israeli child. I like to give good medical solutions to those who don’t have them,” says hospital director Dr. Ran Steinberg.

Conversation Points:

  • Might everyone be better off if, instead of treating patients abroad, Israeli doctors offered training to foreign surgeons in Israel so the amount of skilled physicians increase?

Notes:

  1. Trump to recognize Jerusalem as capital, plan embassy move; White House confirms Eric Cortellessa, Times of Israel, December 6th 2017

  2. Ibid.

  3. 'Trump to declare J'lem as Israel's capital, delay embassy move', Ynet News, December 6th 2017

  4. Trump to call Jerusalem Israel's capital, move embassy, Al Jazeera, December 6th 2017

  5. UNSC to meet over Trump's decision on Jerusalem, Business Standard, December 7th 2017

  6. EU vows push to make Jerusalem capital for Palestinians too, Robin Emmott, Reuters, December 7th 2017

  7. Trump to call Jerusalem Israel's capital, move embassy, Al Jazeera, December 6th 2017

  8. Trump to recognize Jerusalem as capital, plan embassy move, White House confirms Eric Cortellessa, Times of Israel, December 6th 2017

  9. White House Confirms: Trump to Recognize Jerusalem as Israel's Capital, but Embassy Move 'May Take Years', Amir Tibon, Haaretz, December 6th 2017

  10. House approves bill cutting funding to PA, Elad Benari, Israel National News, December 5th 2017

  11. House passes Taylor Force Act targeting Palestinian funding for killers of Israelis, JTA, December 5th 2017

  12. HOUSE PASSES BILL TARGETING PA OVER TERRORISM FUNDING, MICHAEL WILNER, JERUSALEM POST, DECEMBER 6TH 2017

  13. Taylor Force Act Easily Passes House, AARON BANDLER, Jewish Journal, December 5th 2017


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