Shevat 20, 5777
February 16, 2017
The talk of the Israeli street today . . .
1. Neverending Palestinian terrorism: attacks took place against Israeli soldiers in Husan, Gush Etzion, Shuafat, Shuqba, and Afars; as well as attacks on Israeli civilians near Yitav (in the Jordan Valley), Mt. Scopus (a motorist was wounded), Makel, A-Ram, Ma’aleh Amos (children wounded and traumatized when their bus came under assault), Gush Etzion (two children wounded), and Mt. Hevron.
2. Change at Cofix: alas, Cofix, the amazing coffee chain which charges only 5 shekels for everything from a cup of coffee to a cheese blintz, announced that it is raising its prices to 6 shekels for every item. The price change will take place on Sunday, February 19th. The incredible revolution that Cofix has inspired in the entire Israeli retail sector is hard to describe. Prices have dropped dramatically in many different areas.
3. A huge jump in the Israel GDP: our Gross Domestic Product soared in the last quarter by 6.2%–the biggest jump since 2013. Overall economic growth for 2016 was revised upward to 4%. Wow!
4. An outbreak of foot and mouth disease: the dairy farm at Kibbutz Nir on the Gaza border reports a large outbreak of the disease. In tracking down the culprit, it has been discovered that an initial outbreak among cows and sheep in Gaza was not reported promptly by the Palestinian Veterinary Board.
5. The weather: it has been snowing in the higher elevations of northern and central Israel–as well in the south near Mitzpe Ramon. Temperatures have dropped everywhere.
Netanyahu and Trump: What Is The Bottom Line?
The bottom line is good–just how good only time will tell.
It was what Trump did not say that has many Israelis smiling today:
1. He did not declare support for the two-state solution.
2. He did not declare that Israel must halt all “settlement” construction.
3. He did not say that the American Embassy will not be moved to Jerusalem.
On the other hand, it is what Netanyahu did say that has the same Israelis smiling this morning:
1. He reiterated and even strengthened what he said in his famous Bar-Ilan speech 8 years ago: that there will never be peace and a Palestinian state until the Palestinians recognize “the Jewish state of Israel” (which we all know will never happen), and that there will never be peace until Israel controls all security west of the Jordan River (in the Bar Ilan speech, Netanyahu referred to “a security presence in a demilitarized Palestinian state”).
2. He pushed for American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
3. He declared that insofar as construction is concerned, he is willing to consider restraint in Judea and Samaria, but not in Jerusalem. Furthermore, he declared that the 6000 apartments approved two weeks ago are going forward.
It is little wonder that all of the above has the Palestinians going ballistic today. From their standpoint, not only has the U.S. apparently abandoned its long-held “two-state” mantra but also they know that a Palestinian state as they see it with Jerusalem as its capital is now dead in the water as far as the Trump Administration is concerned.
But note that I said at the beginning “only time will tell.” Talk is cheap, and whether Trump and Netanyahu will stick to their guns no one knows. As we have often written, Netanyahu is wedded to the status quo and Trump is famously unpredictable. The jocular back and forth that occurred in the press conference when Trump turned to Netanyahu and said that “Israel will have to make compromises” may turn out to be not so jocular in the long run.
In the short run, it would appear that Netanyahu is somewhat free to decide how far he wants to go forward with construction and the embassy move. Once again this morning we had Marc Zell, the Co-Chair of Israel Republicans saying that sources in the White House and in the Netanyahu government are saying that the only reason that the American Embassy is not already in Jerusalem is because Netanyahu asked Trump to delay the move.
So let’s enjoy the warm breeze currently blowing from Washington and hope that Netanyahu steps up to the plate and makes the decisions about Israel that we want to see.