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Egypt and Jordan: ‘No concessions’ on Palestinian state

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and King Abdullah II of Jordan on Tuesday stressed there could be no concessions on establishing a Palestinian state.

The announcement, which was made in a statement after the two leaders met in Cairo, came after President Donald Trump’s administration suggested last week it would not insist on a Palestinian state for a Middle East peace agreement.

“The two sides discussed ways to push the stagnant Middle East peace process, especially in light of U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration coming to power,” said the statement, according to AFP.

A two-state solution “with a Palestinian state… with east Jerusalem as its capital is a nationalist principle that cannot be conceded,” added the two leaders.

After meeting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Washington last week, Trump said he would not necessarily push for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict.

“I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one,” Trump said.

But his ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, later tempered this stance, saying Washington “absolutely” supports a two-state solution but wants new ideas on how to move forward.

“Anybody that wants to say the United States does not support the two-state solution, that would be an error. We absolutely support a two-state solution, but we are thinking out-of-the-box as well,” she said.

Tuesday’s statement marks the second time this week that Egypt has reiterated its commitment to a two-state solution.

On Sunday, Sisi’s spokesman clarified that Egypt is doing all it can to see a “just and permanent resolution” to the Palestinian issue based on the two-state solution.

Al-Sisi several months ago urged Israelis and Palestinian Arabs to seize what he said was a “real opportunity” for peace and hailed his own country’s peace deal with Israel.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, made a rare visit to Israel this past July, during which he met with Netanyahu and stressed that his country is committed “to supporting a just, comprehensive and sustainable resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict”.

Australian PM criticizes UN as Israeli PM arrives for state visit

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull offered a staunch defense of Israel on Wednesday, criticizing the United Nations and vowing never to support “one-sided resolutions” calling for an end to Israeli settlement building on occupied land.

Turnbull welcomed Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday as the first Israeli prime minister to visit Australia and reiterated Australia’s support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

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However, he also made clear Australia would not support any resolutions such as the one approved by the United Nations Security Council in December calling for an end to Israeli settlement building on land occupied by Palestinians.

“My government will not support one-sided resolutions criticizing Israel of the kind recently adopted by the UN Security Council and we deplore the boycott campaigns designed to delegitimise the Jewish state,” Turnbull wrote in an editorial in The Australian newspaper.

The UN resolution was approved in the final weeks of Barack Obama’s administration, which broke with a long tradition of shielding Israel diplomatically and chose not to wield its veto power.

Israel for decades has pursued a policy of constructing Jewish settlements on territory captured by Israel in a 1967 war with its Arab neighbors including the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

Most countries view Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as illegal and an obstacle to peace. Israel disagrees, citing a biblical connection to the land.

Washington’s ambassador to the United Nations has said the United States still supports a two-state solution to the conflict, although new US President Donald Trump has also said he is open to new ways to achieve peace.

The two-state solution has long been the bedrock of Washington and the international community’s policy for a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Trump’s apparent loosening of the main tenet of U.S. Middle Eastern policy, at a joint news conference with Netanyahu last week, stunned the international community.

“We support an outcome which has two states where Israelis, the Israeli people, the Palestinian people live side-by-side as a result of direct negotiations between them,” Turnbull later told reporters in Sydney.

Netanyahu said he did not want to be drawn into “labels” but said any solution would need Palestine to recognize Israel, which would also have security control of the territories.

While in Australia, Netanyahu is scheduled to sign agreements fostering closer economic and defense cooperation.

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Alumni, former staff at Jared Kushner’s yeshiva ask him to oppose travel ban

Some 180 alumni and former staff of a New Jersey yeshiva high school implored graduate Jared Kushner to use his influence with US President Donald Trump, his father-in-law, to ease the path for refugees coming to the United States.

In the open letter from “members of the Frisch School Community,” the signatories expressed “alarm” at Trump’s executive order barring immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority nations. Kushner, who serves as a senior adviser to the president, is a 1999 graduate of Frisch, a co-educational Orthodox school in Paramus.

The letter called it a “rare opportunity” to have a Frisch alumnus play “such a critical role in guiding the future of our country.”

“As fellow graduates, students, parents and educators of the Frisch School and proud members of the American Jewish community, we are alarmed by the President’s Executive Order barring immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim majority nations. Your family and all of ours know too well what can happen when America shuts its doors to those most in need,” read the letter, which was made public over the weekend.

Earlier this month, as the letter circulated, the Frisch School’s Facebook page featured a notice saying that the open letter “is in no way representative of the school’s administration, faculty, or board of trustees.”

“Healthy political discourse and debate is a key component of our democratic society,” the notice continued, adding that the school “will continue to remain as a politically neutral space.”

Since the letter began circulating, federal courts, responding to challenges, placed a temporary stay on the executive order on constitutional grounds.

A revised version of the order could be released this week, The Associated Press reported. According to AP, the new version would focus on the same seven countries, but would only bar entry to those without a visa and who have never entered the United States.

Trump says the refugee ban, meant to be temporary, is necessary to put into place “extreme vetting” procedures to prevent terrorists from entering the country.

In opposing the travel and immigration ban, the Frisch alumni and former staff invoke their families’ experiences, and those of Kushner’s family, as immigrants and refugees. Kushner’s grandparents were Holocaust survivors who came to the United States after spending over three years in a displaced persons camp in Italy.

“Like you, many of us are the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who escaped to this country when the lands of their birth promised almost certain death; like those of your grandparents, many of their parents, siblings and extended families did not make it to our shores and perished in the Holocaust. The memory of the St. Louis rings fresh in our minds as we see refugees from some of the most war-torn countries on this planet barred from entering our country,” the letter continued.

The letter references the Torah calling on Jews “to love and welcome the stranger, for we too were once strangers in Egypt.”

“We implore you, as a Jew and as a graduate of an institution that instilled you with Jewish values, to exercise the influence and access you have to annals of power to ensure others don’t suffer the same fate as millions of our co-religionists. We ask you to ensure they gain the second chance our grandparents received to succeed and thrive in America,” it concluded.

Analysis: Azaria would have remained anonymous if not for viral video

It was the viral video that landed an IDF soldier behind bars for manslaughter.

Last March, IDF medic Sgt. Elor Azaria was caught on film firing a bullet into the head of Abed al-Fattah al-Sharif, a 21-year-old Palestinian terrorist, as he lay wounded on the ground in the West Bank city of Hebron.

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While the shot fired by Azaria and his subsequent trial has reverberated in Israel and the world, he is not the first IDF soldier to be charged with manslaughter. He was the first IDF soldier to be convicted of manslaughter in 12 years, after Taysir Heib, a Beduin soldier, was sentenced to eight years in prison for killing British citizen Tom Hurndall in the southern Gaza Strip in 2005.

In January, three military judges ruled that Azaria “opened fire in violation of orders. The terrorist [Sharif] did not pose any threat.” So what made this trial so different? Azaria’s case exemplifies the growing use of technology, especially of social networking sites, by those seeking to document conflict.

Twelve years ago, when Heib shot Hurndall, social media sites were just getting off the ground. Facebook was one year old, Youtube had just launched and Twitter would not be around for another year.

By the fall of 2015, when a wave of violence erupted in the West Bank and Israel, characterized by stabbings and car-ramming attacks on Israelis by Palestinians, these sites had matured, with millions of users sharing and viewing their content at every moment across the globe.

The shooting – captured on video by Emad abu-Shamsiyah, a Hebron Arab resident wielding a camera provided by the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem – went viral, and the public uproar it sparked made it impossible to ignore.

According to B’Tselem spokesman Amit Gilutz, the camera distribution project began in 2007 and has hundreds of volunteers in the West Bank and Gaza who document their everyday lives and interactions with IDF soldiers.

It “shows the power of this kind of footage, of these kinds of images,” Gilutz told The Jerusalem Post, adding that “it makes it clear for people what the lives of Palestinians are like under a military occupation.”

According to several polls, there was widespread public support for Azaria, who saw him as a victim, as “everyone’s son” and on trial only because of his bad luck of being caught on film doing what IDF soldiers are trained to do, preventing those who wish to harm Israeli citizens, even if it means to kill them. But many others, including then defense minister Moshe Yaalon and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.- Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, condemned Azaria’s deed.

It is IDF policy to investigate every incident that results in the death of Palestinian civilians in the West Bank, but according to Human Rights Group Yesh Din, which issued a report a day before the guilty verdict was handed down to Azaria, of the 186 criminal investigations into suspected offenses against Palestinians by the IDF in 2015, only four yielded indictments.

“The fact that in 55 incidents no criminal investigation was considered necessary raises doubts about the implementation of Israel’s declared policy on investigating civilian fatalities,” the Yesh Din report said, adding that the data signaled an “inability and unwillingness” to address suspected unlawful conduct by IDF soldiers in the West Bank or Gaza Strip.

According to figures released by B’Tselem, 99 Palestinians were shot and killed by IDF troops in the West Bank in 2015, yet only 21 investigations were opened. In a June press release by B’Tselem, the group stated that “since the most recent wave of violence began in October 2015, a good number of instances were caught on video showing executions of Palestinians who stabbed or were suspected of stabbing Israeli security personnel or civilians.”

While many of the alleged executions of Palestinians were captured on security cameras installed by the IDF throughout the West Bank, the human rights group accuses the army of “taking pains not to make them public” as well as accusing the military’s investigating authorities of ignoring them “as a rule.”

“There have been many reports since October of a policy permitting shoot-to-kill in incidents in which Palestinians harmed, or attempted to harm, Israeli security personnel or civilians, even when there is no clear and immediate mortal danger or if the danger can be overcome without resorting to a lethal outcome. Nevertheless, to date, these cases are hardly ever investigated, and no civilian or member of the security forces has faced charged for implementing his policy.”

Al-Sharif was far from the first and is far from the last Palestinian to be killed following a stabbing or attempted stabbing in the West Bank. But it is certain that without the footage captured by abu-Shamsiyah, which went viral both in Israel and around the world, Azaria would have remained unknown.

Less than an hour after Azaria shot Sharif, his superior officers had informed IDF Central Command of the incident and an investigation into it was already under way by midday. It was only later that the video came out, turning a case that would have otherwise remained quiet into a full blown crisis for the army. With an investigation into the shooting under way, Azaria was arrested and initially faced a charge of murder.

He would have likely been tried in a military court and might have been sentenced to prison, but without the public and political rift which became so apparent and which has dramatically widened and transfixed Israeli society. But with a viral video and a growingly polarizing atmosphere, the army could no longer keep the lid on the case and a full-fledged public trial was unavoidable.

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Trump condemns recent wave of antisemitism

WASHINGTON – For the first time since his inauguration as president, Donald Trump has broadly condemned antisemitism and those stoking it across the United States in prepared remarks on Tuesday.

Responding to a series of threats to Jewish communities nationwide, as well as specific acts of vandalism, Trump said he is committed to combating the scourge as well as all other forms of bigotry.

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“The antisemitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible, and are painful, and are a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,” Trump said.

Sixteen Jewish community centers in nine states were terrorized by bomb threats on January 9, forcing the FBI to open an investigation. A second wave followed one week later, when threats were phoned in to an additional 28 centers across 17 states. Jewish leaders have been expressing concern for weeks, but US politicians remained largely silent until Monday, when at least one culprit followed through with an antisemitic attack on an Orthodox cemetery in St. Louis. Up to 200 headstones were toppled, some of which date back to the 1800s.

The Missouri attack appears technically untethered to yet another wave of bomb threats the same day that were phoned in to 12 Jewish community centers, totaling 70 threats since the year began. Even if Monday’s events were not coordinated, they are certainly related in the eyes of those worried about an historic rise in antisemitism across the US.

Responses began with Ivanka Trump, the president’s Orthodox Jewish daughter, who chose to tweet a message of support. “America is a nation built on the principle of religious tolerance. We must protect our houses of worship and religious centers,” she wrote, with a hashtag for Jewish community centers.

But that was not enough for her father’s former rival, Hillary Clinton, who targeted Trump during their presidential contest over his ability to attract antisemitic, neo-Nazi and white supremacist supporters.

“JCC threats, cemetery desecration and online attacks are so troubling & they need to be stopped,” Clinton said on Twitter, in her first direct appeal to Trump since losing the election. “Everyone must speak out, starting w/ @POTUS,” she added.

Her daughter, Chelsea – who is married to a Jewish man – offered a more pointed response, questioning on Twitter why there has been such an uptick in antisemitic incidents across the country amid Trump’s unlikely political rise.

Two months into 2017, she wrote, have witnessed “JCC bomb threats, a synagogue defamed, subway swastikas, a Jewish cemetery desecrated. NOW will Trump condemn antisemitism?” Indeed he did, hours later, in prepared remarks at the newly minted National Museum of African American History and Culture. After shouting down a Jewish reporter at a press conference last week for asking about the spate of attacks, Trump – or his staff – apparently decided to formally address the rising threat head-on.

Trump’s use of the words “horrible” and “painful” was prepared in advance. When he answered questions on camera without a script, he said he would continue to condemn antisemitism at every given opportunity.

His comments opened the floodgates: Several senior members of Congress, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, issued statements warning of the “abhorrent” and “serious” threats facing America’s Jewish community.

Trump’s comments come after consistent criticism from some in the organized Jewish community that he has thus far failed to adequately address what has, by all measures, been a fast-rising tide of vitriol, tracked over the last year by the Anti-Defamation League and local authorities.

For weeks the Trump administration has been defending its decision not to reference antisemitism or Jews in its statement commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day – a choice considered particularly odd given the president’s attraction of antisemitic groups and individuals throughout the course of his campaign.

As a partial remedy, Vice President Mike Pence visited the Dachau concentration camp during a visit to Germany last week, and Trump now says he plans to visit the US Holocaust Museum in the coming weeks.

“I will be doing it soon,” Trump said on Tuesday. “Very important. Very important for me.”

The president’s measured, prepared remarks stand in contrast to his original response to the Jewish reporter’s question last week, when he called questions over a rise in antisemitism tied to his political career “insulting” and declined to address the phenomenon itself.

“I am the least antisemitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life,” he said then.

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Canada to welcome 1,200 Yazidi refugees from Iraq

OTTAWA, Canada – Canada will resettle 1,200 Yazidi refugees who faced persecution by the Islamic State group, the immigration minister said Tuesday.

Some 400 have already been airlifted to this country.

“Our operation is under way and individual survivors of Daesh have been arriving in Canada for resettlement in the last number of months and this began on October 25, 2016,” said Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, using an Arabic name for the Islamic State.

“Our government will resettle approximately 1,200 highly vulnerable survivors of Daesh and their family members in Canada,” he added.

The initiative follows Parliament’s resolution last fall to take in Yazidis facing “genocide” in Iraq at the hands of the Islamic extremist IS group.

The original aim was to bring over women and girls at risk, but Hussen told a news conference that Ottawa had learned that “Daesh has also deliberately targeted boys and as such we are helping to resettle all child survivors of Daesh.”

Hussen said the migrants are arriving on commercial flights at a “controlled pace” to avoid overwhelming Canada’s refugee system.

The operation is expected to cost Can$28 million (US$21 million).

Since coming to power in late 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has resettled 40,000 Syrian refugees.

The Yazidis taken in have been subjected to comprehensive security checks and medical examinations, Hussen said.

Yazidis are a Kurdish-speaking minority with a pre-Islamic religion thought partly to have its origin in the Zoroastrianism of ancient Persia. They are neither Arab nor Muslim and IS considers them polytheistic heretics.