Resolution Pressure

Hello Everyone!

Today US Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting with an Arab League delegation discussing their push at the UN Security Council for a timeline on an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines.

A Palestinian draft resolution being circulated by Jordan at the UN calls for the Israelis to leave the occupied territories - the territory of the proposed future Palestinian state - by November 2016.

Much of the world sees a sense of urgency for moving the peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians forward.

Israel's Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu met with Kerry yesterday, asking him not to allow the resolution to to advance at the UN.

In response to Israeli pressure, France, the UK and Germany have drafted their own version for a UN resolution. It essentially says more of the same from the past, deflecting the issue rather than asserting concrete steps, calling for a return to negotiations with a view to achieving a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians to live side by side in peace.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov altered his schedule and flew into Rome to hold an unscheduled meeting with Kerry on the topic as well saying, "I am convinced that the Middle East settlement issues need to be solved urgently and we must not allow the situation to deteriorate".

Israeli relations with the Palestinians worsened after the conflict with Hamas in Gaza this past summer and amid growing unrest in Jerusalem, due in part to extremist Jewish circles seeking to gain access to Islam's third holiest site, the Haram El-Sharif to pray and worship.

Further settlement expansion, particularly around Jerusalem and in densely populated Arab Muslim neighborhoods, have further exasperated the tension.

Arab League ministers want the US to abstain from vetoing the proposed resolution at the Security Council, as the US usually exercises it's veto power on behalf of it's ally Israel.

There are other Western diplomats who feel the Arab draft, particularly with its deadline for withdrawal, is unbalanced.

But with the West dependent upon Arab countries in the fight against the Islamic State and other instabilities across the Muslim world, it seems the resolution is certainly getting a closer scrutiny this time around and is placing pressure upon America and Israel to alter their course of tactics concerning the Palestinians.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Netanyahu's Response

Hello Everyone,

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took to the podium at the UN's General Assembly. He's been privileged to speak from there several times now in his political career.

His direct message was that a nuclear Iran is more of a threat to the world than Islamic State (IS).

Mr. Netanyahu also took the opportunity to respond to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's speech given earlier in the Assembly to make his point that world leaders should not be condemning Israel in it's recent conflict against Hamas militants in Gaza, saying Hamas and IS were "branches of the same poisonous tree".

Netanyahu again (third time in four UN speeches) used his now famous props – pointing out Hamas fighters had used children as human shields in areas where it was firing rockets into Israel.

He also compared Hamas to the Nazis, and characterized the UN Human Rights Council as a "terrorist rights council"

The Israeli press said that the Prime Minister was not at his worst, but believes his speech didn't work in many ways, sounding stale – with one commentator labeling it as 'retro'.

The hot topics today have been Mr. Netanyahu using the New York Yankees veteran shortstop Derek Jeter in an analogy of Iran, and for "throwing a dry bone" to Israel's Arab neighbors essentially saying come back to me with a new peace proposal.

The Palestinian response was direct, with PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi calling Mr. Netanyahu's speech was "a blatant manipulation of facts" and a delivering of "hate language, slander and argument of obfuscation".

She went on to say that Netanyahu refuses "to acknowledge the fact of the occupation itself or the actions of the Israeli army of occupation in committing massacres and war crimes".

She made the case that Mr. Netanyahu had turned to the Arab world instead of accepting at two-state solution at the pre-1967 lines to buy "more time to create facts that will destroy the chances of peace for the foreseeable future."

In a press conference US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki disagreed with Mr. Netanyahu's assessment on several points, including the handling of the Iranian Nuclear negotiations, the comparison of Hamas and Islamic State, and Netanyahu's description of the UN Human Rights Council.

Perhaps the Prime Minister was doing what he knows best; speaking confidently, ideally, capturing the headlines... and being as one Israeli media source said:

"Vintage Bibi".

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Prsedident Abbas's speech

Israel didn't like it.

America didn't like it.

Speaking at the UN General Assembly Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of carrying out a "war of genocide" in the Gaza Strip.

He was referring to the 50-day conflict over the summer that left approximately 2,100 Palestinians, 72 Israelis and one Thai national dead.

President Abbas has, since 2012 has said that the Palestinians would take the issues of occupation, collective punishments, and (in their view) war crimes to the International Criminal Court, but made no mention of this specifically in his speech – this being seen as a concession itself.

The Israeli delegation was not present in the hall during Mr. Abbas's speech, but Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Mr. Abbas's speech was a "speech of incitement filled with lies". He then accused the Palestinian leader of "diplomatic terrorism".

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said President the speech "included offensive characterizations that were deeply disappointing".

Analysts are saying the speech was particularly strongly worded because the worlds attention, which was focused on the Palestinian plight and gaining steam diplomatically – has lost out in the headlines to the barbarism of Islamic State and their campaign of carving out a Caliphate.

But what I hear in part on the ground is that Mr. Abbas is losing some degree of popularity and respect among his people to the more hard line elements in the PA – ultimately Hamas itself.

Palestinians complain that they have done as Israel has asked them to do, and Israel has not reciprocated.

This then gives credence in some peoples minds to the actions, like what was seen in Gaza, which has brought to Gazans incredible amounts of loss and destruction – but has achieved greater fishing rights at sea and a loosening in the siege on the character and amount of goods allowed into the Strip.

Abbas told the Assembly, "There is no meaning or value in negotiations for which the agreed objective is not ending the Israeli occupation and achieving the independence of the State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital on the entire Palestinian Territory occupied in the 1967 war."

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

The Battle Still Rages

Hello Friends,

Thank you again for your good prayers that peace would take hold here in the Middle East.

While other areas in the region appear to be ratcheting up in turmoils – here the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza seems stable for the moment.

The PR momentum seems firmly in the Palestinians hands with various reports of the Palestinian Authority threatening to go to the International Criminal Court.

Palestinian leadership, as well as Hamas seemingly, wants a date set for Israel to withdraw it's troops from the West Bank to the 1967 cease fire lines.

Adding more intrigue, is a reported meeting that took place in Amman, Jordan just before the truce was announced.

Israel's Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmod Abbas supposedly held talks before the Gaza truce was signed.

There has been no comment from Israel, the PA, or Jordan on the reports.

But this all plays well into the hands of Hamas who need to justify the death and destruction that the 50 days of conflict with Israel brought.

In terms of what Mr. Netanyahu has said, he told a press conference last night that Israel had secured a "great military and political" achievement in the Gaza war and that Hamas had been dealt a "heavy blow."

The Israeli public seem not so convinced, as the latest poll reveals that more than half of Israelis said that neither Israel nor Hamas have emerged victorious from the fighting in Gaza.

But the good news for Mr. Netanyahu is that the polling revealed that Israelis feel Netanyahu is still the best choice for the job of Prime Minister.

This gives Mr. Netanyahu a much needed lifeline politically as he fights multiple fronts both from within his party, the Security Cabinet, and his government.

For him – the battle still rages on...

Brian Bush Middle east Corespondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Introducing Israel's New President

Hello Everyone!

Today Israel's Members of the Knesset elected a new President of the State; veteran Likud lawmaker, and former Speaker of the Knesset Reuven Rivlin.

Israel's current President, Shimon Peres will end his seven-year term in July.

The Israeli Presidency is mostly a ceremonial position, but has definitive influence in Israeli elections and the forming of new governments.

Unlike Mr. Peres, Mr. Rivlin opposes the creation of a Palestinian state, putting him at odds with Israel's Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu who does.

However, the Israeli media is reporting that as Israel's 10th president, Mr Rivlin, will more than likely focus the presidency from international affairs to more domestic matters.

Mr. Rivlin does see eye to eye more or less with Mr. Netanyahu on support of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

President Shimon Peres said to Mr. Rivlin in congratulating him:

"...it is an incredible privilege to serve to our people. As President your role is to serve, not to rule and in my eyes there is no greater honor than to faithfully serve your nation and your people. You have all the qualities to do just that. I wish you luck and I am confident that you will succeed in your future, which is also the future of the State of Israel."

Mr. Peres is a hard act to follow, this is for sure, but so far Mr. Rivlin has received favorable reaction from most parts of the Israeli spectrum.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Update on Palestinian Unity

Hello Everyone,

Lets check in on where things are at in terms of the Palestinian Unity Deal that has brought together the two rival parties of the Palestinian people – Fatah and Hamas.

Yesterday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas make the concrete step of asking the current Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah to form the transitional government.

It has been largely circulated that both sides have overcome the issues separating them since the announcement of reconciliation last month.

Yet, we have not had any presentation of a formal Unity Deal.

Fatah controls the West Bank while Hamas is the dominate power in the Gaza Strip.

Mr. Abbas is in no hurry to do this deal, as Israel and the Western powers spurn him for connecting with what many consider to be a terrorist organization.

It was back in 2007 that Hamas violently took over the Gaza Strip and split with Fatah.

This move by Mr. Abbas could be understood as the first concrete step in the composition of a unity government because neither has published any list of ministers.

There are reports circulating that suggest neither Fatah or Hamas can come to an agreement on the choice of the Palestinian Authority's future Foreign Minister.

Dr. Rami Hamdallah is a British-educated, politically independent academic. He became Palestinian prime minister almost one year ago, replacing Salam Fayyad, whom Hamas said they would not enter into any government with him as a Minister.

Known as an academic, he was in charge of the An-Najah National University in Nablus in the West Bank for 15 years.

There are a few why the unity deal is important to the governance of the Palestinians. It was a response by Mr. Abbas to Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu's avoidance of US brokered negotiations to return to peace talks, but it is also because the Palestinians are due to hold elections next year.

Mr. Netanyahu has said Mr Abbas must choose between peace with Israel or peace with Hamas. He has also said that Mr. Abbas will be held accountable for the actions of Hamas.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Olmerts Day of Judgement

Hello All,

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who was forced to resign as Prime Minister in 2009 when confronted by multiple corruption allegations, was in court today to receive his sentence.

The Tel Aviv District Court sentenced Mr. Olmert, 68, to 6 years in prison, and he will be the first Israeli PM to go to jail.

The conviction on two counts of bribery this past March was over a real estate deal that took place while he served as mayor of Jerusalem.

In addition to the jail time which is to begin September 1st, the judge fined Mr. Olmert 1 million shekels (roughly $300,000) while also ordering authorities to seize 500,000 shekels (roughly $150,000) in funds from him.

Mr. Olmert made clear before the sentence was announced that he will be appealing to the Supreme Court.

His lawyer had asked that the court to give him community service as opposed to jail time.

The attempt to over turn the conviction will be difficult.

The judge in Mr. Olmert's case squarely cited facts in his ruling along with his impressions of testimony.

Additionally, the Supreme Court rarely over turn lower court rulings.

When the former Prime Minister was at his pre-sentencing hearing he stood defiant, proclaiming his innocence of the charges against him.

His lawyer reportedly asked Mr. Olmert to make a statement of regret for his actions in order to receive a lesser sentence than what the prosecution sought (a minimum of 6 years in jail).

Today in the court to receive the judge's sentence Mr. Olmert stood with his head bowed looking to the ground on his day of judgement.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Pending Collapse

Hello Everyone,

What a week for all involved in the negotiations to push forward the peace process for Israel and the Palestinians.

We spoke about it on the Harvest Show - a clandestine meeting between the sides – now details have emerged and we see a bit more in what has happened.

The meeting was nine-hours long between Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat held at the request of US envoy Martin Indyk.

Reacting to Israel's settlement expansion announced earlier in the week, and Israel's reluctance to fulfill the agreed to prisoner release, the Palestinians have responded with new conditions to pursue the negotiations past the April deadline until the end of the year.

The new conditions Israel would need to fulfill are:

- Israeli recognition of the pre-1967 lines as the future borders of a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital - The release of 1,200 more Palestinian prisoners, the officials said. - The release of three senior Palestinians; Marwan Barghouti, Ahmed Sa'adat and Fuad Shobaki. - A complete cessation of settlement construction - The imposition of PA sovereignty over Area C in the West Bank - No further Israeli military operations in PA-controlled territories - Issuance of Reunion permits for approximately 15,000 Palestinians. - The reopening the Gaza border crossings - The lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip - Agreement to the return of a group of Palestinians who, after having fire fights with Israeli soldiers back in 2002, took over the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and were subsequently deported to the Gaza Strip and Europe after a deal was struck to leave the Church.

Israel for it's part, has now canceled the fourth phase of the prisoner release and asked the Palestinians to retract their applications to 15 UN international bodies.

According to U.S. officials, President Barak Obama believes John Kerry's monumental efforts to get the sides to agree on how to talk to each other in this peace process have reached their limit. The US Secretary of State has said that both sides have taken unhelpful steps in the process, and that Washington will be evaluating its role in the Middle East peace process.

Perhaps the most tell tale sign of pending collapse, is the statement that there is a limit to the time the United States can spend on these negotiations and that they are not open-ended.

On a different matter, as I mentioned on the Harvest Show, for the next two weeks I will be focusing our time together with some 'Moments from the Holy Land' as we prepare our hearts during this Lenten period for the celebration of Easter. The blogging will pick up again after then...

So join me on Harvest each day for a little insight and inspiration from here in Jerusalem! Don't forget you can always go to harvest-tv.com to watch the shows whenever you like!

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Night Negotiations

Hello Friends,

Late yesterday it was announced the Us Secretary of State John Kerry was coming to speak separately with Israeli Prime Minster Bibi Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in an effort to either seal or save the framework talks for peace.

Mr. Kerry wants the diplomatic negotiations to be extended, but Israel is unwilling to carry out it's commitments and the Palestinians are unwilling to budge.

The night negotiations have reaped little detail but this is what is being spoken of;

Secretary Kerry has apparently discussed with Prime Minister Netanyahu a long standing request to release Jonathon Pollard, the American Israeli who spied for Israel from within America's defense department.

This is the first time in years, that American sources have admitted that discussion is being held on the spy's release in the attempt to get Israel to extend negotiations with the Palestinians.

Mr. Pollard's crime, committed years ago, has been described as second only to that of Mr. Edward Snowden in scale and harm to the US.

His release would come in exchange for significant concessions from the Israelis to the Palestinians – mainly, the release of hundreds of prisoners, the reunification of 5000 Gaza and West Bank families, and a partial construction freeze according to Palestinian sources.

Of the prisoners release, would be Marwan Barghouti, currently in jail for his alleged involvement in the murder of at least one Israeli, who is seen as a potential successor to Mr. Abbas.

But what is clear is that Mr. Kerry's unscheduled visit in Israel seems to be a last effort to prevent the collapse of his hard work over the past several months.

Many in Israel don't want these negotiations to continue. At this hour there is talk of a coalition crisis that is threatening the government of Mr. Netanyahu.

This morning, monks at a Monastery woke up to words graffitied on their walls reading "America is Nazi Germany" and "Peace agreement Price-Tag". Tires of three vehicles and a truck parked at the site were punctured.

Israel, for it's part, has – after the talks between Mr. Kerry and Mr. Netanyahu concluded, issued 708 permits for new homes to be built in the West Bank

The meeting between Secretary Kerry and Palestinian President Abbas was cancelled. Mr. Kerry has departed the country.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

The Apology Won't Go Away

Hello Everyone,

The controversy over Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon's recent remarks regarding US foreign policy and Israel-US relations is still making the news here in Israel.

The Defense Minister has 'apologized', in his mind, but not to the American Administration's satisfaction this second time. His Boss, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu made him 'do it'.

This is Mr. Ya'alon's first 'apology' to the American Administration was made mid January.

But here is what is coming out; Israelis think that Moshe Ya'alon spoke the 'truth', expressing how many Israeli's feel.

That 'truth', is that the Obama Administration is week in it's foreign policy and that Mr. Kerry is seeking to 'shove the peace process down the parties' throats'.

Mr. Ya'alon's comments have been viewed in some circles here as "childish". But he was speaking what was on his mind – and apparently the minds of the majority of Israelis according to one poll.

Ya'alon's damage was in fact due, because he was very blunt in speaking about a Statesman of an ally – much less the President of the United States.

His view differs from that of the President. President Barak Obama is not using America's power in the Ukrainian crisis with Russia over the Crimean Peninsula.

Mr. Obama has identified the limits of power and prefers using diplomacy and economic strength to 'contain' Russia.

Mr. Ya'alon, in his comments in January put his feelings on the table – that the peace process is not relative because Israelis and Palestinians are not on the verge of peace. And polls show that the majority of Israelis do not believe in the negotiations.

In his second comments about two weeks ago, he was playing on the common belief that most Israelis have, that America do not understand the Middle East and that it's actions in the region over the Arab Spring demonstrate this.

But what's funny here is that people aren't talking much about America's longstanding and huge support – especially militarily, during Mr. Obama's two terms, for Israel.

The President of the United States is the leader of his country, and not a member of Israel's political system, who is not necessarily under obligation of office to act in a way favorable to a foreign country's populace.

Having said that, Administration officials are quick to point out that Mr. Obama has done more to protect the population of Israel than any previous President has.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

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