Bryant Harris writes, “With the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) embracing Trump’s policies, the liberal group J Street appears on track to possibly surpass the record 124 candidates for Congress it backed in 2016, with 92 Democrats already endorsed for this year’s midterms, including Feinstein, Murphy and Connolly.”
Prospects of peace elusive as Pence wraps up visit to Middle East, Washington Post
Ruth Eglash and Jenna Johnson report, “Prospects of reigniting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, a goal that Pence has said he believes is still achievable, seemed more elusive than ever Tuesday. A senior White House official told reporters that there has been no contact with the Palestinian leadership since President Trump’s announcement on Dec. 6 formally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Pence was warmly welcomed by Israelis, meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and speaking before lawmakers at the Knesset. But Palestinian officials pointedly snubbed the visit, instead calling for a national strike and public protests.”
Josef Federman reports, “The bitter divisions in the United States are being felt across the world in the Middle East, where Israel is emerging as an increasingly partisan issue in the Trump era. A new opinion poll released Tuesday showed U.S. Republicans to be far more supportive of Israel than their Democratic counterparts. It also found Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a close ally of President Donald Trump, to be a divisive figure. The findings by the Pew Research Center could be a cause for concern for Israel, which has traditionally relied on broad bipartisan support in America.”
Pence Visit Was a Balm to Israelis. Now Back to Reality, The New York Times
Isabel Kershner reports, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel positively basked in the glow of Vice President Mike Pence’s visit here, though it may yet turn out to be the halcyon days of a drawn-out, gloomy winter. Sandwiched between Mr. Netanyahu’s trip to India, where he was treated like royalty, and his departure for the World Economic Forum in Davos, the visit burnished the Israeli premier’s credentials at home as an international player…But Israeli analysts and political opponents noted that once the visit of Mr. Pence was over, it would be back to reality for Mr. Netanyahu in a less ethereal Jerusalem.”
Mike Pence’s Love Of Israel Is Dangerous For Jews, The Forward
Jay Michaelson writes, “Meanwhile, of course, Pence and his colleagues are implementing social policies that the overwhelming majority of American Jews disagree with: restrictions on reproductive freedom, ever-expanding religious exemptions that primarily benefit Christians, massive funding subsidies for overwhelmingly Christian religious schools, the re-centering of Christianity in American public life, and, in general, the erosion of the garden wall between church and state… But most actual Jews know that when the wall between church and state is eroded, tiny minorities like ours will suffer.”
Netanyahu and Trump to meet at Davos economic conference, Times of Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the the World Economic Forum in Davos later this week, both administrations said Tuesday.
The Palestinians remain insistently opposed to having the United States as the sole sponsor of peace talks with Israel, but are now open to Washington taking a role within a multilateral framework to pave the way to a Palestinian state, a senior Palestinian official told The Times of Israel on Tuesday.
The Tamimi family, whose imprisoned teenage daughter Ahed has become a Palestinian cause celebre, was the subject two years ago of a classified investigation that included checking whether they were “a real family,” Michael Oren, an Israeli deputy minister and former ambassador to the United States, said Tuesday.
Senior Trump administration officials have not spoken with Palestinian leaders since the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last month, a senior White House official said Tuesday.
Ever since Turkey launched its attack on the Syrian-Kurdish forces in Afrin province this weekend, the Trump administration’s reaction to the new crisis has confused observers in Washington and in the Middle East. The conflict taking place in the northwestern corner of Syria involves an American ally country who is a member of NATO, and a militia group that the United States has partnered with as part of its war against ISIS.
Palestinians observed a general strike on Tuesday, shuttering businesses and institutions en masse in protest of US Vice President Mike Pence’s ongoing visit to Israel. Palestinian national factions called for a general strike “in rejection of the US stances against the rights of the Palestinian people.”
Chemi Shalev argues, “Their hopes are once again dashed, their leaders are aging and feuding, their international situation is worse than its been for many decades and, with Trump and Netanyahu in charge, the prospects for a peace settlement that would not be viewed as a national humiliation are non-existent. While some Israelis and many others around the world are praying for a new kind of Palestinian leader who will be capable of seizing the day and achieving what he (or she) can, the Palestinians themselves are weak, isolated and feel they’ve got nothing to lose. 1948 may have been the Palestinian catastrophe, but it’s still the year that feels most like home, the place they’ve been living throughout their lives. In their moments of frustration and desperation, even bad memories can be a source of comfort.”
Michael Koplow writes, “In other words, Democrats are not looking at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and determining that they have framed the issue incorrectly in their minds, or deciding that the Palestinian cause is more just and worthy of greater support. They are looking at Israel, and deciding that they like it less. Both of these phenomena – the sudden measurable shift in sympathy for Israel, and the isolation of the effect to Israel rather than affecting the Palestinians as well – are the result of President Donald Trump’s election and policies, and can be dubbed the Trump effect. Democrats are not viewing Israel primarily through the lens of its own actions and are not basing their feelings for Israel on what goes on over there. They are increasingly conflating their feelings about Israel with their feelings about Trump, associating Israel with the American president.”
Daniel Gordis writes, “It is true that Israel’s right, which is traditionally less inclined to make concessions to the Palestinians for a peace deal, feels little pushback from once powerful but now anemic peace-seeking political left. Politicians like Naftali Bennett, the leader of the religious Jewish Home party who serves as education minister, continuously advocate that Israel annex significant portions of the West Bank, in large measure because he thinks that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is vulnerable from the right in the next elections. Yet to portray Israel as being in the grip solely of the right is to ignore signs that more moderate voices may be galvanizing.”
How Arafat Eluded Israel’s Assassination Machine, The New York Times
Ronen Bergman writes, “As a reporter in Israel, I have interviewed hundreds of people in its intelligence and defense establishments and studied thousands of classified documents that revealed a hidden history, surprising even in the context of Israel’s already fierce reputation.. But I also discovered a long history of profound — and often rancorous — internal debates over how the state should be preserved. Can a nation use the methods of terrorism? Can it harm innocent civilians in the process? What are the costs? Where is the line?”