As police investigations of his alleged criminal corruption mounted this week, Prime Minister Netanyahu told a Tel Aviv rally of some 3,000 supporters Wednesday night that the left and media were waging an “obsessive witch hunt” against him and his family aimed at ousting him in a political “coup.” Netanyahu opened his remarks by slamming the left and “fake news,” saying the Likud has brought Israel to its best standing in history. Long lines of Netanyahu supporters flooded the event, holding signs such as “Bibi, King of Israel” and “We are fighting for democracy, we love Netanyahu.” Buses brought in supporters from Haifa, Netanya, Be’er Sheva and Ashdod. Some 20 counter-demonstrators stood outside the rally calling for Netanyahu’s resignation.
Yossi Verter writes, “At Tel Aviv’s fairgrounds Israel got a preview of the next general election campaign, which may well be closer than ever. The basic ingredients are in the pot – a wild, inciting, inflammatory attack on ‘the media’ and ‘the left.’ All that remains is to light the fire. That’s what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is under police investigation for suspected bribery and fraud, did Wednesday before thousands of ardent supporters in a Donald Trump-style event unprecedented in these parts, certainly for a ruling party….Netanyahu was careful not to utter a single word against law enforcement. He’s not stupid. But his appearance at this disgraceful spectacle was not just an insult to the intelligence of any normal person, but also a defiant spitting in the face of the police investigators, the state prosecutor and the attorney general….Right vs. left is where Netanyahu has and always will have the advantage. In the short term this has no doubt succeeded. In the coming days the public discourse will be conducted solely on the political level, between left and right, between coalition and opposition. The more the attacks against him intensify, the more tightly his supporters will circle the wagons.”
Ben Caspit writes, “Should Netanyahu resign, this may not necessarily mean that new elections must be held. The most likely scenario is that elections will be announced, but President Reuven Rivlin could charge one Likud Knesset member with the task of assembling a new government. If the candidate receives the backing of the Knesset, such a government could serve until the conclusion of the term of office of the current one in 2019. The problem is, no one in the Likud at the moment stands out as a possible consensus candidate. The most prominent candidate is Likud’s Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz. Meanwhile, there are two former ministers who are probably gnashing their teeth over their fatal mistake in resigning from the Knesset, each one in turn. The first is former Minister Gideon Saar, who resigned before the last elections, after he was subjected to Netanyahu’s ire. If Saar were an active Knesset member now, he would automatically become a leading candidate to inherit Netanyahu’s position….Even though most of the coalition factions don’t want new elections and prefer to finish out the present government’s term of office, the chances are low for finding a suitable candidate to replace Netanyahu. One way or another, the writing on the wall seems to indicate that we are moving toward the conclusion of the Netanyahu era. Now it’s only a matter of time.”
Four US Senators, including Bernie Sanders, urged US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to monitor the case of Issa Amro, a prominent Palestinian activist from Hebron who was indicted by Israeli army prosecutors for a range of offenses, most of which occurred three years ago. Amro claims the charges against him are motivated by his political activism and that the Israeli police closed the cases being brought against him by the military court system in the West Bank years ago. His case was mentioned in the State Department’s 2016 human rights report, in the section covering Israel and the Palestinian Territories. The four Senators – Bernie Sanders, an Independent from Vermont, Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, Patrick Lehay, a Democrat from Vermont and Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois – urged Tillerson in a letter in May to follow the case. Their letter was first reported by Jewish Insider on Wednesday. A different letter advocating for Amro and raising concern about his trial was released earlier this year by a group of more than thirty Democratic members of Congress. Haaretz has learned that the State Department responded to the letter by saying that Amro’s case is indeed being monitored and that both the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and the U.S. General Consulate in Jerusalem have been in touch with Amro and with relevant authorities. The level of involvement by members of Congress in Amro’s case is unusual and signals a growing concern within the Democratic party over some Israeli policies in the West Bank.
A bipartisan array of former top national security officials urged President Trump to stick to the Iran nuclear deal, saying that war with Iran is “more imaginable” today than it has been in five years. The statement published Tuesday by The National Interest, a conservative think tank, was responding to reports that Trump is considering refusing to certify Iran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which trades sanctions relief for a rollback of Iran’s nuclear program, when the next assessment period comes around in October. They warn that a U.S. rejection of the JCPOA could push Iran to return to its pre-agreement nuclear enrichment program at full strength and under far weaker international monitoring.
More than 200 rabbis from the liberal movements of American Judaism signed a letter opposing Israel’s travel ban on leaders of the boycott movement against Israel. The rabbis signing Wednesday’s letter were responding to an incident last month in which Rabbi Alissa Wise of Jewish Voice for Peace, which supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, was prevented from boarding an Israel-bound airplane leaving Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C. Four other people traveling to Israel as part of an interfaith delegation, including two other Jews, a Christian and a Muslim, were also prevented from boarding the flight at the request of the Israeli government.
Opposition leaders on Wednesday attacked Prime Minister Netanyahu, saying he was acting like a ‘dictator’ and demanded elections as soon as possible, following a rally of support by Likud party activists in Tel Aviv. Labor Party chairman Avi Gabbay called on the prime minister to go to the polls to determine whether or not the voters agree with his message. Opposition head Isaac Herzog called the rally in Tel Aviv a ‘horror show,’ saying it ‘expresses a moment of truth for the rule of law and democracy in Israel.’ Zionist Union MK Yoel Hasson said Netanyahu’s speech was like that of a dictator.
The Israel Defense Forces is tackling the threat posed by tunnels that Hamas builds from Gaza into Israel by constructing a massive barrier. The project, estimated to cost 3 billion shekels ($833 million), will include a concrete wall fitted with sensors and reaching dozens of meters deep into the ground and standing six meters high from ground level. Southern Command chief Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir told reporters on Wednesday that building the barrier could cause an escalation, but said the army will continue building the barrier even if Hamas targets the work there. In recent months Israel has set up concrete factories on the Gaza border, brought foreign laborers and contracted companies to flatten the area around the border and build sand mounds to protect the workers.
The Palestinian Authority has dramatically reduced financial support for Gazans seeking medical care outside the blockaded Gaza Strip, WHO figures showed Wednesday, as PA president Mahmoud Abbas seeks to squeeze the Hamas-run enclave. The number of financial approvals from June, the most recent number available, was 80 percent lower than the monthly average for 2016, the World Health Organization said in a statement. Just 477 Gazans were given financial approval to travel for treatment during the month, down from 1,883 in June the previous year.
Hundreds of Israeli settlers originating from France launched a march on Wednesday afternoon toward the Abu Rajab home in Hebron’s Old City, which was forcibly taken over by settlers some two weeks ago, to reportedly show solidarity with the settlers. The march was set off from an illegal settlement post on al-Shuhada Street and the Tel Rumeida neighborhood in the Old City, and stormed to the Abu Rajab family home, as the settlers waved Israeli flags.
Hebron soldier goes to prison after months of legal wrangling, Times of Israel
A former Israel Defense Forces soldier convicted of shooting dead a wounded Palestinian stabber began his 18-month prison term Wednesday after months of legal wrangling to delay the sentence and calls from lawmakers for him to be pardoned.
The Israeli Civil Administration in the West Bank seized solar panels that powered a Bedouin school and a preschool outside Jerusalem on Wednesday, even though it knew a petition against the seizure was being filed to the High Court of Justice. Indeed, the court issued a restraining order against the confiscation – an hour after the panels were carted off. By taking the panels, the military authorities violated the established procedure of waiting until the High Court makes an interim decision on a petition before acting. The panels stood in the Bedouin village of Abu Nuwar, located in the E1 area between Jerusalem and the large settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim. Local resident Daoud Basimat sent a letter to the prosecution through attorney Alaa Mahagna, stressing that there was going to be a petition filed against the seizure of the solar panels. The prosecution acknowledged the notice and said it was being passed to the relevant officials.
Judy Maltz observes, “When American citizens living in Israel dropped their absentee ballots in conveniently-placed boxes for the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections with the assistance of iVoteIsrael, they couldn’t have imagined the get-out-the vote effort would end up at the red-hot center of criminal investigations that could land Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in court. But, indeed, the mysteriously funded group with the tagline “Voting From Israel Made Easy” that burst onto the scene in 2012, and pushed Americans to vote for Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, plays a role in the latest scandal that is rocking Israeli politics. New revelations, furthermore, confirm long-held suspicions that the group, which has consistently claimed to be non-partisan, was in fact set up to help tip key races in favor of Republican candidates at the congressional and presidential levels. Haaretz revealed Wednesday that in 2010, Ari Harow, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former bureau chief and chief of staff, received $105,000 as a “consulting fee” from One Jerusalem, an American organization headed by Allen Roth, a conservative activist, the right-hand man of American Jewish billionaire and close personal friend of Benjamin Netanyahu, Ronald Lauder.”
Five Reasons Why It’s Time for Ted Cruz To Go, J Street Blog
Benjy Cannon and Melanie Fineman write, “When it comes to Israel and Middle East foreign policy, Senator Ted Cruz’s record is frankly abominable. He is prone to ideological grandstanding and outlandish – and dangerous – policy proposals. He is one of the most extreme, reckless voices in the Senate. Cruz is up for reelection in 2018. As we anticipate that closely-watched race, here are five of the most disturbing things Ted Cruz has said and done about Middle East foreign policy.”
Barak Ravid writes, “In his speech, the prime minister used the mantle of Greater Israel and the West Bank settlements as a shelter from the corruption probes. This should have troubled quite a few people on the right….Netanyahu’s personal attack on Barak and his warnings of the existential danger Israel could be in if, heaven forbid, the left wins the election, shows what he thinks of his rightist colleagues. Naftali Bennett, Avigdor Lieberman, Gideon Saar, Yisrael Katz and Gilad Erdan – all of whom are no less right-wing than he and probably more so. He despises them, sees them as a bunch of dwarves and losers, who are bound to fail in any future election.”
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