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News Roundup for January 29, 2018

January 29, 2018

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Top News and Analysis

It’s Time for Mahmoud Abbas to Go, The New York Times

Roger Cohen writes, “By dismantling Palestinian freedoms, by disempowering his people, Abbas has been undoing the foundations of statehood and sapping the energy that comes with personal agency. It is time to organize elections that might usher in younger leadership — and reveal the balance of forces in the West Bank and Gaza. The alternative is a drift to despotism under a bunch of old men long on outrage but short on everything else….Trump’s instinct to blow up the status quo is dangerous. So is Abbas’ comfort with that status quo. It corrodes.”

Israeli Defense Officials Warn Politicians: Trump’s Cuts to Palestinians Could Harm Israel’s Security, Haaretz

“Israeli military officials warned senior Israeli politicians last week that a humanitarian crisis, triggered by the possible collapse of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees could lead to a civilian uprising against the army along the length of the Israeli-Gaza border. Their concern about a potential collapse of UNRWA was trigged by U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement that he would cut funding of the refugee agency known as UNRWA….The military officials told the politicians that if the Strip was to collapse amid a humanitarian crisis, a popular uprising could follow which might see hundreds and thousands of Gazans trying to attack Israeli forces along the Gaza-Israel border. One official stressed that the army is already coping with a rise in unrest, compared to the past few years, increasing the likelihood of a wider escalation.”

Trump Took Jerusalem Off an Empty and Nonexistent Negotiating Table, Haaretz

The editorial board writes, “Unilaterally determining diplomatic policy, threatening the Palestinian Authority with a withdrawal of aid and a significant funding cut for the UN Relief and Works Agency are the tools Trump is using to bury the diplomatic process. These are deceptive acts, creating the illusion that Trump is working for Israel’s benefit, safeguarding its security and, in the process, laying the groundwork for a peace process. But the opposite is true. Through his incomprehensible, aimless conduct, Trump is letting Israel alone absorb the destructive consequences of his policy. A responsible Israeli government must understand the danger the U.S. president is laying at its doorstep and immediately come up with an appropriate and acceptable diplomatic plan.”

News

USAID chief: ‘No decisions made’ on cutting Palestinian aid, Times of Israel

The administrator of the US Agency for International Development said Friday that the Trump administration had not yet made decisions regarding cuts in humanitarian aid to Palestinians.

Jordan’s Abdullah Affirms Support for Palestinian Capital in East Jerusalem, Haaretz

Jordan’s King Abdullah II affirmed his support Sunday for establishing a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, highlighting his differences with the Trump administration on a central issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. King Abdullah spoke at the start of a meeting with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who also expressed concern about U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition last month of contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Breaking with West, Israel backs Rwanda in renaming genocide, Times of Israel

Israel backed a UN resolution pushed by Rwanda to designate a day of memory for the country’s genocide as specifically against the Tutsi ethnic group, supporting a move widely seen as downplaying the deaths of thousands of Hutus during the 1994 civil war.

Mike Pence’s Holocaust Day Message With ‘Christ Imagery’ Sparks Jewish Outrage, Haaretz

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has been excoriated on Twitter by Jews offended by what they view as his use of “Christ imagery” when memorializing Hitler’s victims on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Coax Abbas back to table with carrots, not sticks, opposition head urges, Times of Israel

Opposition chairman Isaac Herzog called on President Trump to make an overture to the Palestinians Saturday, saying that they should be induced to return to talks rather than threatened. In an interview with The Times of Israel prior to returning home from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Herzog said he didn’t believe in “pushing the Palestinians into a corner,” panning the tactics adopted by Trump and backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that has led Ramallah to boycott US peace efforts.

Netanyahu to Meet Putin in Moscow, Discuss Israel’s Right to Act Against Syria Arms Smuggling, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will fly to Moscow for five hours Monday morning to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The meeting, which was set up earlier this month during a telephone conversation in which the two leaders exchanged New Year’s greetings, is expected to focus mainly on Iran’s military consolidation in Syria and U.S. President Donald Trump’s ultimatum to Europe on amending the nuclear deal with Iran.

Former diplomats join outcry against deportation of African migrants, Times of Israel

Dozens of former senior Israeli diplomats signed a letter over the weekend urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reconsider deporting thousands of African migrants, joining a growing protest against the plan. The former ambassadors and consuls general, including two former heads of the Foreign Ministry, warned that going ahead with the controversial scheme would undermine Israel’s status as a law abiding and ethical country.

Opinions and Analysis

How Not to Measure Americans’ Support for Israel, Atlantic

Dan Shapiro and Tamara Cofman Wittes write, “The poll question is faulty because sympathy for Palestinians should not imply hostility to Israel, nor should sympathy for Israel require disregard for the fate of Palestinians. A solution to their conflict enshrining two states for two peoples is the outcome most preferred by Americans regardless of party, and administrations of both parties have sought to help both Israel and the Palestinians achieve their goals in a two-state solution.”

For an Israeli Lawyer Fighting for Palestinian Rights, Winning Is a Double-edged Sword, Haaretz

Michael Sfard talks to Haaretz about his new book, ‘The Wall and the Gate,’ his optimistic outlook on ending the occupation and the disturbing trends he sees in Israeli society.

As long as occupation exists, soldiers will continue to speak out, +972

Avner Gevaryahu writes, “The past two years have seen constant attempts by the Israeli government to silence anyone who opposes the occupation, sending a clear message: ‘You are not to discuss what goes on there.’ Whoever dares speak up is branded and blacklisted, while the government’s delegitimization campaign is getting more and more outrageous. But I’m not willing to stay silent. Together with the 1,100 soldiers — men and women who have broken their silence — we insist that our voice be heard. We must make our voices heard sharply and clearly, so that every person who served in the occupied territories will know that speaking out is not merely an option — it is a moral duty.”

Palestinians express despair over Israeli leadership, Al-Monitor

Uri Savir observes, “The Palestinian leadership is following the tumultuous Israeli political scene with a combination of delight and despair. A senior PLO official who is well acquainted with Israeli politics said that after losing hope that the US administration would generate any advancement in the coming years, change could only come if the Israeli leadership changes. In other words, only an Israeli leadership that distances itself from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s annexationist settlement policies could offer a diplomatic horizon.”

We Protested Mike Pence’s Speech, And Israel Could Not Tolerate It, Newsweek

MK Ahmad Tibi writes, “Earlier this week, I and several other Arab members of the Joint List were forcibly removed from the Israeli parliament chamber after we attempted to silently protest U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s speech. As Palestinians indigenous to the land and citizens of Israel, whose families have lived here for countless generations, my colleagues and I felt compelled to act because of the Trump administration’s recent recognition of Jerusalem as part of Israel, in contravention of international law and 70 years of U.S. policy, and the complete disregard it has shown for Palestinian rights since taking office.”

The Undiplomatic Ex-diplomat: What in the World Has Happened to Michael Oren?, Haaretz

Allison Kaplan Sommer observes, “So what is the matter with Michael Oren? Those who know him say the proper diagnosis is the standard political cocktail of ambition, narcissism and need for approval – in his case, the approval of Netanyahu, Trump, and the right-wing religious Christian evangelical community. He may have decided that fire-breathing tweets and disturbing racial innuendo that earn him scorn from the media and the left are the path to success.”