News Roundup for December 21, 2017

December 21, 2017

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J Street in the News

The Abdication of Global Leadership, J Street

Jeremy Ben-Ami writes, “Tomorrow, the entire General Assembly is expected to vote on the issue — and we can be sure that vote, too, will be hugely lopsided. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley has written that the US will be closely watching who votes against it — and threatened that ‘the US will be taking names.’ She’d have a far easier time instead keeping track of the tiny number of countries that will vote with her. President Trump likes to talk about how his foreign policy is all about ‘America First’ — and that was a key component of the National Security Strategy he unveiled this week. But on Jerusalem, as on so many other issues, ‘America First’ looks like ‘America Alone.’”

Top News and Analysis

Susan Rice: When America No Longer Is a Global Force for Good, New York Times

Susan Rice argues, “National security strategies do not always leave an enduring legacy, but they are important articulations of an administration’s priorities — signposts to a world that cares deeply about America’s ambitions and interests. The United States’s strength has long rested not only on our unmatched military and economy, but also on the power of our ideals. Relinquishing the nation’s moral authority in these difficult times will only embolden rivals and weaken ourselves. It will make a mockery of the very idea of America first.”

Pence’s Christmas Pilgrimage Is Canceled. His Next Mideast Move Is Complicated, New York Times

Decan Walsh writes, “Mr. Pence had hoped the trip would help end the storm of recrimination unleashed by Mr. Trump’s decision on Jerusalem and allow the administration to push forward with other priorities, like countering Iran and combating the Islamic State… Instead, opprobrium over Mr. Trump’s decision has sliced through political and sectarian lines across the Middle East, cutting into even the president’s most cherished alliances in the region… Instead, opprobrium over Mr. Trump’s decision has sliced through political and sectarian lines across the Middle East, cutting into even the president’s most cherished alliances in the region.”

UN to vote on Jerusalem amid accusations of bullying by Trump, The Guardian

Peter Beamont reports, “Donald Trump’s threat to cut US funding to countries that oppose his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in a UN vote on Thursday has set the scene for confrontation with countries already bridling over the president’s approach. Amid accusations of bullying and blackmail, the US and Israel have continued their furious efforts to persuade countries to back Trump’s position, amid predictions that more than 150 of the 193 countries in the general assembly could vote against the US.”


Trump Threatens to End American Aid: ‘We’re Watching Those Votes’ at the U.N., New York Times

President Trump threatened on Wednesday to cut off American aid to any country that votes in favor of a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly denouncing his recent decision to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Key Netanyahu coalition partner tells police to ‘keep going’ in graft probe, Times of Israel

A key partner in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition has offered explicit backing to the Israel Police as investigators move ahead in two graft probes against Netanyahu.

Despite Israeli Declarations of Widespread Settlement Construction, Only 46 Homes Being Built, Haaretz

Despite the Israeli government’s declarations of widespread Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in reality only 46 of the over 3,000 housing units announced as being put out for bidding in 2017, according to the United Nations.

South Africa’s ruling party resolves to downgrade embassy in Israel, Times of Israel

South Africa’s ruling party resolved on Wednesday to call on the government to immediately downgrade the country’s embassy in Israel.

Israeli forces shower Palestinian village with ‘cloud of tear gas’ during raid, Ma’an

Eleven Palestinians were reportedly injured with rubber-coated steel bullets on Thursday during clashes with Israeli forces that erupted in the al-Mughayyar village in eastern Ramallah, in the central occupied West Bank.

Netanyahu apologizes to veteran reporter for mocking him, Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called up a veteran TV reporter to apologize for mimicking him, including making fun of his bushy eyebrows, during a speech earlier this week in which he criticized media reporting on the criminal investigations into him.

Opinions and Analysis

Abbas trapped by Trump following Jerusalem proclamation, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit writes, “The keys are now in Abbas’ hands. He understands that he’s in a bind, and he is using the Trump declaration to create an evacuation route should the US initiative portray Israel as a lover of peace and him as a rejectionist. In other words, the question is what his ‘final lap’ will look like. Will it be a victory lap or a march of defeat? Will the aging Palestinian leader manage in the waning days of his leadership to achieve a breakthrough to peace or will he end his term in war? Everyone knows the Palestinian president will not live to sign a final status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. The question is whether he is still committed to being the one who will lay the foundations for such peace.”

Will Israel investigate the beatings of Palestinian detainees? +972

Yariv Mohar argues, “Equality before the law can obviously not be achieved within the framework of a regime that denies Palestinian civil rights. But at the least, we must take documentation of violence seriously without compromise. At the least, we must protect legal procedure for the sake of attaining justice and from being harnessed for political manipulation.”

Netanyahu Embraces Trump as His Number One Role Model, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev argues, “Trump may be a nightmare for many if not most Americans, but for Netanyahu, he is a sweet dream come true. Netanyahu has never lacked for self-confidence, but with Trump behind him, his tolerance for criticism and dissent, both foreign and domestic has vanished, his swagger has grown more prominent and his open disdain for anyone who thinks otherwise has become ever more explicit.”

Trump warns over UN, but he likely can’t stop feeding the hand that bites, Times of Israel

Eric Cortellessa writes, “US President Donald Trump’s threat to cut aid to countries that vote for a UN resolution condemning his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is likely just that — a threat. But in merely issuing the warning, the president managed to both assert what he expects from allies in exchange for the money and highlight the importance of this particular issue for the White House — even at the expense of national security commitments normally seen as sacrosanct. And even if he doesn’t actually cut aid money, he still might take other types of revenge in the international arena, former US officials said Wednesday.”