News Roundup for February 26, 2018

February 26, 2018

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Top News and Analysis

U.S. Embassy in Israel will move to Jerusalem in mid-May, State Department says, Washington

Post

“The US Embassy in Israel will move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May, coinciding with the 70th anniversary of Israeli independence, the State Department said Friday. The embassy, initially to be located in the current premises of the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood, will expand in and near that site next year but will eventually move to new premises President Trump has said will be constructed, according to a statement issued by State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.The cost of that building is expected to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a major Republican donor, has offered to fund an unspecified part of the construction, according to an administration official who confirmed an Associated Press report.”

Thousands Demonstrate In Tel Aviv Against Deportation Of African Asylum Seekers, Forward

Up to 20,000 demonstrators protested in Tel Aviv against the deportation of African asylum seekers. The protest on Saturday night took place in south Tel Aviv, near neighborhoods highly populated with the African migrants, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea. Many of the Israeli residents of the neighborhood object to their living there. Protesters, including local residents both African and Israeli and many who came on buses from other areas of the country, carried signs reading “No to deportation,” “We’re all humans” and “Refugees and residents refuse to be enemies.”

U.S. Embassy Move to Jerusalem Is No Cause for Celebration, Haaretz

The Haaretz editorial observes, “There’s no doubt that the government will turn the occasion into a giant event, even though in practice it merely means carving out office space for the ambassador and a small staff in the U.S. Consulate building in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood. But in light of the nadir in relations between Israel and the Palestinians, there is absolutely no reason to celebrate. Moving the embassy to Jerusalem could have been a cause for great celebration, had it come at the end of successful negotiations, as a symbol of the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the start of a new era in the Middle East. Moving the embassy to Jerusalem should have been the cherry on top, a successful conclusion of the efforts of international diplomacy, which produced a peace agreement based on territorial partition and the establishment of a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem, alongside Israel whose capital is West Jerusalem.”

News

Jerusalem’s Church of Holy Sepulchre Closes in Protest Amid Row With Israel, Haaretz

In a rare move, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was closed on Sunday until further notice in protest of Israeli government legislation and new city tax policy. The heads of Christian churches in Jerusalem announced the move as the Knesset’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation was set to discuss a bill that would allow the state to expropriate land in Jerusalem sold by the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches since 2010. After the church was closed, the ministerial panel decided to postpone the debate on the bill.

Bill seizing High Court’s power to adjudicate West Bank land disputes advances, Times of Israel

A key legislative committee on Sunday advanced a bill that aims at stripping the High Court of Justice of its jurisdiction to hear cases regarding West Bank land disputes. The proposal, approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, would require Palestinians who claim ownership of land that has been built on by Israeli settlers to first petition the Jerusalem District Court.

Israeli Security Service Says Situation in Gaza Is Serious – ‘But Not a Humanitarian Crisis’, Haaretz

A document written by the Shin Bet security service’s research division that was presented last week to senior politicians states that the civilian and economic distress in the Gaza Strip is serious, “but doesn’t meet the definition of a humanitarian crisis.” The document, which was sent to the ministers in the security cabinet, was written in the context of a dispute between defense and diplomatic officials over the need to take urgent steps to reduce the distress in the Strip.

Cabinet approves proposal to legalize West Bank outpost, JTA

A proposal to begin legalizing the West Bank outpost of Netiv Haavot was approved by Israel’s Cabinet. More than a dozen homes on the outpost, located 11 miles south of Jerusalem in the Etzion bloc, are scheduled to be demolished next week. The Cabinet approval on Sunday includes funds for the outpost, some earmarked for building a temporary neighborhood for the 15 families whose homes are scheduled to be razed. It also includes a building plan for the construction of 350 new housing units at the outpost.

Israel Navy Shoots, Kills Palestinian Off Gaza Coast After Boat Leaves Fishing Zone, Haaretz

A Palestinian man was shot to death by Israel Navy forces Sunday after the vessel he was on sailed past the authorized fishing zone off the northern Gaza Strip, the Israel Defense Forces said. According to an IDF spokesman, the boat, which was carrying three men, did not respond to calls from the Israeli military before the latter opened fire. The two other men on board were detained for interrogation.

Haley slams Human Rights Council for inviting Iran rights abuser to speak at UN, Times of Israel

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley lashed out at the Human Rights Council on Sunday, saying it should be “ashamed” for inviting an Iranian minister notorious for his human rights abuses to address the body’s annual meeting in Geneva this week.

Opinions and Analysis

Church of Holy Sepulchre Crisis: Jerusalem Is Burning Israel’s Bridges With the Christian World, Haaretz

Nir Hasson writes, “The churches’ action on Sunday shows that they are in an impossible situation, with pressure from all sides: Israel, their Palestinian faithful, church institutions, pilgrims and their sponsor countries (Jordan, Greece, Armenia and the Vatican). Decision makers continually ignore the political, religious and diplomatic sensitivities when they try to solve problems that concern the churches.”

US pressure on Hamas risks new era of enmity, Al-Monitor

Adnan Abu Amer writes, “A new era of Hamas-Washington relations is approaching, one that will feature more tensions and mutual accusations that might force Hamas to add the United States to its list of foes next to Israel, even if the group didn’t publicly declare so. While Hamas has always been committed to release aggressive statements and oppose US policies, it has not yet translated into actual moves against Washington. But Hamas believes that the US attitude toward it might top any move former successive US administrations have made against the Palestinian group.”

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