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Book Claims Kushner's Peace Plan `Includes Land Swaps with Saudi Arabia'

By the Jerusalem Post

White House senior adviser, Jared Kushner's Middle East peace plan at one point, included Jordan giving land to the Palestinian territories and in return getting land from Saudi Arabia, according to a new book on the Kushner family. The book, Kushner, Inc.: Greed. Ambition. Corruption. The Extraordinary Story of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, was written by Vicky Ward and released by St. Martin's Press on Tuesday. The book's 300 pages detail Jared and Ivanka's path to involvement in every aspect of White House affairs and their alleged designs to use their influence for personal gain. Ward cites "multiple people who saw drafts of the plan" created by Kushner that would involve not just Israel and the Palestinians but also Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates. "What Kushner wanted... was for the Saudis and Emiratis to provide economic assistance to the Palestinians," Ward wrote. "There were plans for an oil pipeline from Saudi Arabia to Gaza, where refineries and a shipping terminal could be built. The profits would create desalination plants, where Palestinians could find work, addressing the high unemployment rate." Ward said that the plan also included land swaps, where Jordan would give land to the Palestinian territories, and "in return, Jordan would get land from Saudi Arabia, and that country would get back two Red Sea islands it gave Egypt to administer in 1950." Jason Greenblatt, the White House's Mideast envoy, tweeted that the book's claims about Kushner's peace plan are false. "No one who has seen the plan would spread misinformation like that," he tweeted. "Whoever made these claims has bad info." Speaking to Sky News Arabia, while in Warsaw last month, Kushner said the White House plan – expected to be presented sometime after the April 9 election in Israel – would focus on border issues. He said the plan was both political and economic and is "really about establishing borders and resolving final-status issues... The plan will have a broad economic impact, not only on Israel and the Palestinians but on the entire region as well." The senior adviser to the president, who is also his son-in-law, added that the plan would have a large impact on the entire region, including Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon. In November 2018, Mike Evans – a Christian Evangelical Zionist and founder of the Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem – wrote an op-ed in The Jerusalem Post touting a plan to create a Saudi and European-funded desalination plant to provide clean water to Gaza. "Over the past 30 days, I have presented a new plan to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sisi, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Trump administration officials and European Union leaders, all of whom have received it with great enthusiasm," Evans wrote last year. "The plan is based around a simple idea: Establish an Israeli desalination plant, built on Israeli land, funded by Saudi Arabia, the Europeans, and others, that provides clean water to Gaza." Evans said he hoped "the administration would not make this a part of the peace plan," and said the plant should be on Israeli or Egyptian land. "When I presented the project to the crown prince, I told him that Jared Kushner was studying it," Evans wrote in November. "He said if Kushner was interested he should contact him." The Ward book, published by St. Martin's Press, emphasizes multiple times that Israel was one of the only issues on the Trump campaign trail that deeply interested Kushner. In September 2016, Netanyahu met with then-candidate Trump, Steve Bannon, and Kushner in Trump Tower on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. "In that conversation," Ward wrote, "Trump let Kushner jump in because US-Israel relations was the one political issue anyone in the campaign ever saw Kushner get worked up about. `On the Israel stuff, Jared at least comes across like he knows what he's talking about,' said someone who was at the meeting." Ward also claimed that a source in J Street said there was a rumor Kushner had sought to delay the move of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem until he could begin negotiating his peace deal. The book also details Kushner's clashes with then-secretary of state Rex Tillerson over Israel and negotiations with the Palestinians. "Kushner took the Middle East from Tillerson's portfolio," Ward wrote. "`I want Israel,' is how he put it, according to a former Tillerson aide... Tillerson, a former Boy Scout, tried to work with Kushner because he thought it was the right thing to do."

Polish Prosecutors Won't Reopen Case into 1941 Jedwabne Pogrom

By JTA

The Polish National Prosecutor's Office has decided that there are no grounds for re-exhuming the victims of the 1941 pogrom in Jedwabne and resuming the proceedings in the case. The decision was first reported on Monday. The director of the Institute of National Remembrance earlier had declared that it was ready to start exhumation work. The prosecutor's office said that exhuming the bodies of the Jewish victims would not provide any new evidence that could lead to the reopening of the case. In February, the director of the Institute of National Remembrance, Jaroslaw Szarek, announced that his institution was ready to conduct an exhumation in Jedwabne. A previous investigation into the 1941 crime was discontinued in June 2003, after it was determined that all guilty parties had been identified. According to previous findings by the Institute of National Remembrance on Jedwabne, some 340 Jews were killed there, of which about 300 were burned alive in a barn. The murder was carried out by a group of 40 Polish residents of Jedwabne and the surrounding area. According to the Institute, the crime was inspired by the Germans. Exhumation helped to determine the approximate number of victims. It previously was believed that around 1,600 Jews were murdered in Jedwabne. The pogrom in Jedwabne was described by professor Jan Tomasz Gross in his book "Neighbors."

How Israel Welcomed Jews from Arab Lands — as Spies

By JTA

At the beginning of his new book, "Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel." (Mary Anderson/Algonquin Books), Matti Friedman writes that "time spent with old spies is never time wasted." When he went to meet Isaac Shoshan in his suburban Tel Aviv home, Friedman had no idea what to expect — but knew it might be good. "He was a really old guy who came up to my shoulders," Friedman told JTA. "He told me a story about 1948 that I had never heard before; it took me a few meetings to figure out what he was telling me. From there I was led to other sources, recently declassified files and some oral testimonies that had been recorded by other participants in the Arab Section." "Spies of No Country," which tells the captivating tale of Israel's first spies, young Jewish men originally from Arab countries who could slip across borders undetected. They were part of the "Arab Section" of the Palmach, Israel's pre-state force that would turn into the Israel Defense Forces. The book follows Isaac's story, alongside those of three other men: Gamliel Cohen, Havakuk Cohen, and Yakuba Cohen. They weren't related — Cohen is a common last name — yet they all shared the experience of being Mizrahi Jews in a country where the majority of Jews had roots in Eastern Europe. As Friedman explains, "In the Zionist movement in those years — we're talking about pre-1948 — almost everyone is European or Eastern European. Nine out of every 10 Jews were of European descent. The community of Jews who came from Islamic communities was marginal; they didn't seem like Jews. These people spoke Arabic — they had a different kind of Judaism. And the Zionist movement didn't know what to make of them. Sometimes they were considered really interesting and exotic, but [most] times they're disregarded and pushed aside." In the nascent world of Israeli intelligence, in a country in which Mizrahim still complain of discrimination, the book's heroes saw their identity as Arab Jews respected for the first time. "The very thing that makes these guys marginal — their Arab identities — becomes their ticket into the holy of holies, the Palmach," Friedman says. Friedman, a journalist and New York Times op-ed contributor, was born in Toronto and now lives in Jerusalem. Between 2006 and 2011, he was a reporter and editor for The Associated Press in Jerusalem. His first book, "The Aleppo Codex," told the tale of an ancient Bible manuscript that ended up in a cave in Aleppo, Syria, and his second, "Pumpkinflowers," narrates his experience as part of a group of Israeli soldiers responsible for holding a remote outpost in Southern Lebanon in the 1990s. "Spies of No Country" chronicles the experiences of undercover agents in various Arab communities in the lead-up to Israel's War of Independence in 1948. After Israel's founding, it shifts to Beirut, Lebanon, where the men pose as Palestinian refugees. As Friedman writes, "In retrospect, we understand that our men had found their way into one of the only corners of the Zionist movement where their identity was valued." Double identity, he argues convincingly, has always been a part of life for Jews. But particularly for Arab Jews. "That was their secret weapon," Friedman said in the interview. "The people who set up the Arab Section were British, and they understand that ethnic impersonation is impossible. A lot of British officers had been undercover in Greece during the war; they could fool the Germans, but never fool the Greeks. That was really hard to pull off! But the Jews in Palestine offered this incredible opportunity. Jews had people who could pass for anything you want: Polish, German, Arab — because Jews had these double identities. That's what makes them such good spies, and explains the success of Israeli intelligence in the early years of the state." They refused to call themselves agents or spies, Friedman explained. "Instead, they chose a peculiar word, one that exists in Hebrew and Arabic but has no parallel in English. The word, mista'arvimin Hebrew, or musta'aribinin Arabic, translates as `ones who become like Arabs,'" he said. "Mista'arvim comes from something much deeper. It is rooted in the lives of Jews in Arab countries. In Aleppo, for example, there are two Jewish communities. One called itself Sephardic, the Sephardim, they were expelled from Spain in 1492. And the second one has always been in Aleppo; before Islam, before Christianity. They adopted Arabic, and Arabic culture: mista'arvim." The term is still used today in Israel. (Friedman points to "Fauda," the hit Israeli TV show available on Netflix, where the Arabic-speaking undercover commandos are the perfect example of modern-day mista'arvim.) As we follow their story, from training to exploits undercover to their return to Israel, we get to know the four men. Gamliel, from Damascus, was the first agent sent abroad and poses as a store owner in Beirut. Yakuba, the only one of the four born in Jerusalem, was "fiery and resistant to discipline." Havakuk, from Yemen, dies at age 24; Friedman dedicates the book to him. And there's Isaac, whom we get to know the best. We learn about Isaac's complex relationship with Georgette, a local girl in Beirut; and about his training; and his return to Israel in 1950. One passage is particularly striking — about Isaac recalling the Muslim ritual washing or wudu. "All of this was so deeply in Isaac's mind that he could go through the wudu for me in his kitchen seventy years later — hands, mouth, nostrils, face — and then begin the prayers, as if he'd been at the mosque that morning," Friedman wrote. Friedman points out they didn't go to spy school and had very rudimentary training — there was no Mossad, no state and the Arab Section was "very ad hoc." Friedman writes about how the men learned Muslim prayers, the local figures of speech, and how they practiced in Arab markets in mixed cities like Jerusalem and Haifa. "It's hard to remember, from 2019, how improvised and chaotic [it all was]. No one knew the state was going to be founded in 1948. One thing I love about the story," Friedman said, "is the unpreparedness. They were winging it!" And because they were winging it, the story takes a darker turn: half of the Arab Section was caught and executed. Friedman believes "Spies of No Country" is the "anti-Mossad story." Why? "In the world of spy mythology, there is some great operation that shifts the course of events," he says. "In the real world, spies don't understand what is going on. They're very flawed characters moving in the shadows, and their role in the events is ambiguous. [It's] not like they blow something up and the war changes." The Arab Section men were "a lot of young guys who don't know what they're doing," which Friedman believes is a more authentic spy story than what people are led to believe by pop culture. But that doesn't mean Friedman doesn't love classic spy stories: His favorite is John le Carre's "Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy," because it is "an incredible spy novel with a complicated plot that fits together perfectly." Overall, Friedman hopes people take away one fundamental idea from "Spies of No Country": To understand Israel, we must think of it as a Middle Eastern country. "We still come to Israel with these very European stories to understand its formation," like that of Theodor Herzl, the kibbutzim or the Holocaust, "but they don't explain Israel in 2019. You won't get very far with these old stories because half of the Jews come from the Islamic world. If we want to understand Israel, we have to distance ourselves from stories about Europe."

Putin Jokes about Jews and Money During Crimea Visit

By JTA
Russian President Vladimir Putin made a joke invoking the anti-Semitic trope about Jews and money during a visit to Crimea. During a visit with residents and religious leaders on Monday in Crimea, a local Jewish leader commented on financial difficulties. Putin replied "So the Jews have problems with finances! Only such a thing could happen in Crimea." He also said to the bearded ad black-hatted Jewish man in Hebrew "todah rabah," or thank you very much. The exchange was first reported in English in a tweet by Washington Post Moscow correspondent Anie Ferris-Rotman, who included a video of the exchange. Also on Monday in Crimea, Putin proposed inviting Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to the opening of a synagogue in Sevastopol, after offering to invite Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the opening of a Crimean Mosque. He also stated that the Jewish community of Russia was making a large contribution to the country's development. "I hope that Jews in Crimea will play the same positive role. Judaism is also among our traditional denominations, traditional religions, and I am very pleased that religious life is developing here, in Crimea," the president said.


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