Trump threatens to cut US aid to Palestinians, The Guardian
“Jeremy Ben-Ami, of the liberal US Jewish pressure group J Street, was also baffled, tweeting: ‘The only thing the president has accomplished by saying he’s taking Jerusalem ‘off the table’ is to ensure he’ll have no place at the table where the conflict will be resolved diplomatically and a peaceful, secure future for the Jewish or Palestinian peoples ensured.’”
“This week’s vote by the Likud Party Central Committee calling for imposition of Israeli sovereignty over all West Bank settlements demonstrates once again the commitment of Israel’s ruling party to the annexation of large portions of the West Bank. While this vote may be largely symbolic, it is just the latest in a never-ending series of actions taken by Israel’s government and ruling parties to destroy the prospects for a two-state solution.”
President Trump Threatens to Withhold Aid to Palestinians, New York Times
Michael Tackett and Peter Baker report, “President Trump weighed in Tuesday on the stalled Middle East peace process, saying that the Palestinian Authority was taking ‘hundreds of millions of dollars’ in assistance from the United States while showing no ‘appreciation or respect,’ a blunt, harsh criticism likely to escalate tensions. Mr. Trump’s comments represented a tougher tone toward the Palestinians than he has generally taken, suggesting that he is moving toward pressuring them to come to the table by threatening punishment rather than enticing them with promises of a deal that would benefit them.”
“Palestinians condemned as blackmail on Wednesday U.S. President Donald Trump’s threat to withhold future aid payments over what he called the Palestinians’ unwillingness to talk peace with Israel. Trump drew praise from a cabinet minister in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government but a warning from a former Israeli peace negotiator of the dangers in cutting off financial assistance to the Palestinians.”
Thomas Erdbrink reports, “Antigovernment protests roiled Iran on Tuesday, as the death toll rose to 21 and the nation’s supreme leader blamed foreign enemies for the unrest. But the protests that have spread to dozens of Iranian cities in the past six days were set off by miscalculations in a long-simmering power struggle between hard-liners and reformers. By Tuesday, Iran’s leaders could no longer ignore the demonstrations and felt compelled to respond publicly…But the anger behind the protests was directed against the entire political establishment.”
Susan Glasser writes, “Ever since Trump took the oath of office on January 20, the world has been taking his measure, trying to make sense of his ‘America First’ foreign policy and what it means for them. Over the course of the year, Trump has traveled to 13 countries and met with “more than 100 world leaders,” as he bragged in a recent tweet. Many, like the Latin Americans who dined with him in September in New York or the Australian prime minister whom Trump snapped at in a phone call a little more than a week into his presidency, came away reeling from the encounter. Several others whom I’ve debriefed in recent months found Trump perfectly hospitable in private—while leaving with similarly scathing assessments of his volatility and lack of command of the facts.”
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Tuesday that Trump administration wants to stop funding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the agency tasked with assisting Palestinian refugees, until they “return to the negotiating table” with Israel.
Anti-government protests in Iran offer President Donald Trump a new reason to scrap the Iran nuclear deal later this month — a risky move that Trump’s supporters are cheering but that critics warn could play into Tehran’s hands.
The National Security Agency is losing its top talent at a worrisome rate as highly skilled personnel, some disillusioned with the spy service’s leadership and an unpopular reorganization, take higher-paying, more flexible jobs in the private sector.
Gaza rocket hits empty field in southern Israel, Times of Israel
A rocket fired by terrorists in the Gaza Strip apparently struck an empty field in Israel’s southern Eshkol region on Wednesday, in the second such attack in three days.
Israel’s Shin Bet security service said Wednesday that it had uncovered Iranian intelligence operating in the West Bank. Three Palestinians were arrested, among them the main suspect, a 29-year-old computer engineering student named Mohammed Maharmeh from the Hebron area.
Islamic Jihad was behind Friday’s mortar barrage, IDF assesses, Times of Israel
Mortar shells fired at Israel from Gaza on Friday appear to be the same Iran-made variety used in a November 30 barrage fired by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, indicating the terrorist group was responsible for both attacks, The Times of Israel has learned.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday instructed National Security Adviser Meir Ben Shabbat to examine a plan for the forcible expulsion of African asylum seekers.
A Palestinian family’s 27-year battle against attempts to evict them from their East Jerusalem home went forward on Monday in a Jerusalem court, where they are pitted against a right-wing organization that seeks to take possession of the property.
On Iran, US Should Do No Harm, J Street
Alan Elsner argues, “The stakes in the coming weeks are high and the best course for the United States would be to say little and avoid doing harm. It would be wonderful if the Iranian protesters succeeded in winning for themselves new freedoms. But empty words from Trump and Pence won’t help them, while irresponsible actions could ultimately damage an agreement that has made Israel, the Middle East, the United States and the entire world safer.”
Chemi Shalev argues, “Even if he remains prime minister, Netanyahu is now gingerly marching in what the late Ariel Sharon liked to describe as the corales, the steer’s last trail before the slaughter from which there is no escape. He is on his way to a Nixonian end. Every time he attacks his investigators, diminishes the severity of his known misdeeds and refuses to accept any responsibility for his actions, Netanyahu’s image in Israeli public opinion, including many on the right, is entrenched as a compulsive crook who is clinging to his prime ministerial bedposts. If he continues on his present path, this is how Netanyahu will go down in history as well, with his achievements consigned to oblivion.”
Aaron David Miller argues, “The direction of the current protests now sweeping Iran — a seemingly unorganized, leaderless wave of demonstrations against high prices, corruption and repressive government — is uncertain and impossible to predict… But one thing is clear — the US needs to take a deep breath and accept the reality that it has limited leverage to affect either the regime or the demonstrators in the streets. That doesn’t mean Washington needs to behave like a potted plant. Instead the key is to identify some practical steps that can strike the right balance between doing too much and not enough in the face of what’s happening on the ground.”
Amos Harel writes, “For now, Trump has expressed his support for the protesters in an almost incidental manner in his tweets, between his fights with the media and his efforts to take credit – for instance, for commercial aviation safety since he took office. But a reconsideration of the sanctions because of Iran’s support for terrorism, its ballistic missile program and human rights violations could provide a real tailwind for the protesters. There is even a bonus as far as Trump is concerned: This is exactly what the Obama administration did not do in 2009, when it watched somewhat apathetically from a distance as the Green Revolution collapsed. And for now, Israel is still not in the picture.”
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