News Roundup for May 15, 2017

May 15, 2017

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Top News and Analysis

Tillerson: Trump Considering Impact of U.S. Embassy Move on Peace Process, Haaretz

“Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Sunday that while President Donald Trump still hasn’t made a decision on whether or not he will move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, an important part of his deliberations is how such a move would impact the Trump administration’s efforts to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. Speaking on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press,’ Tillerson explained that ‘the president, I think rightly, has taken a very deliberative approach to understanding the issue itself, listening to input from all interested parties in the region, and understanding, in the context of a peace initiative, what impact would such a move have.’….This is the first time that a senior figure in the Trump administration has admitted publicly that the embassy move, a promise Trump made during the election campaign, is being weighed as part of the larger effort to reach a peace agreement. Tillerson added further that Trump was ‘being very careful to understand how such a decision would impact a peace process.’ In recent weeks, press reports in Israel indicated that the Trump administration was not planning to move the embassy. Tillerson also said that the president wants to understand ‘whether Israel views it as being helpful to a peace initiative or perhaps as a distraction,’ hinting at possible disagreements on the issue within the Israeli government.”

These Are the Voices Whispering in Trump’s Ear About Israel and How to Make the ‘Ultimate Deal’, Haaretz

Amir Tibon writes, “Lacking a clear and consistent policy to go on, many observers are looking for clues by examining what the president’s advisers on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process are calling for. And while most U.S. administrations in recent decades have housed different schools of thought, the diverse range of opinions in the Trump administration seems truly extraordinary. So who are the people advising the 45th president on Israel, and what are they telling him?”

News

Netanyahu Responds to Tillerson: U.S. Embassy Move Would Advance Peace ‘By Shattering Palestinian Fantasy’, Haaretz

The possibility of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is becoming the first public disagreement between Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government and US President Donald Trump’s administration, only four months after Trump entered the White House, and a week before his visit to Israel. After Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hinted that Israel might have objections to the embassy move, Netanyahu’s bureau quickly responded that Netanyahu had made clear to the new US administration that he wanted the embassy to move to Jerusalem. Moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would not harm the peace process with the Palestinians but would help peace efforts, the Prime Minister’s Bureau said on Sunday.

Jordanian Shot Dead After Stabbing Israeli Police Officer in Jerusalem, Haaretz

An Israeli police officer in his late 30s was moderately wounded Saturday afternoon in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem’s Old City near Lions’ Gate. The assailant, a Jordanian who had entered Israel as a tourist, was shot and killed. The victim was taken by paramedics to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem, fully conscious and in stable condition with stab wounds to the upper body.

Top Likud minister: No point talking about peace at this time, Times of Israel

A top Likud minister on Sunday downplayed the prospects of resuming peace talks with the Palestinians, ahead of an anticipated peace push during US President Donald Trump’s visit to Israel later this month. ‘In the current era, there is no point in talking about peace,’ Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Army Radio, adding that ‘our neighbors have not yet abandoned the idea that the State of Israel as a Jewish state will disappear from the map.’”

Hours Before Airtime, Deal to Split Israel’s New Public News Unit Frozen by Court, Haaretz

Kan, the new public broadcasting corporation, will be going on the air Monday airing both news and general programming after the High Court of Justice issued a temporary injunction Sunday against legislation that requires it to split off its news division. The ruling is the latest twist in the convoluted history of the new public broadcasting corporation, which is due to launch Monday after its predecessor organization, the Israel Broadcast Authority, was shut down last week.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had fought hard to keep Kan off the air but, failing that, last week engineered an amendment to the law creating the corporation, forcing it to spin off its news and public affairs division into a separate corporation. Netanyahu reportedly fears Kan’s news coverage would be hostile to him and his policies.

Polls put Rouhani in lead with one week to go, Al-Monitor

Incumbent Hassan Rouhani maintains his lead in the run-up to Iran’s May 19 presidential election. Two new election surveys show him ahead, going into the third and final nationally televised debate and with less than a week to go before the vote.

Palestinians, Shin Bet meet in failed attempt to end hunger strike, Times of Israel

The heads of the Palestinian intelligence services met recently with senior Shin Bet officials in a failed attempt to negotiate an end to a hunger strike by hundreds of Palestinian inmates, Palestinian sources told The Times of Israel on Monday. The Palestinian side made it clear to senior Shin Bet officials that it was up to them to reach an understanding with the prisoners themselves in order to bring an end to the strike, the sources said, as the mass fast entered its 29th day.

Plan to Build New Homes in Israeli Settlement in West Bank Put Into Motion, Haaretz

A regional council in the West Bank has begun soliciting bids to build over 200 apartments in a Jewish settlement under its authority. The news comes a week ahead of US President Donald Trump’s visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The Mateh Binyamin Regional Council is looking to build 209 apartments in Tel Zion, the ultra-Orthodox section of the settlement of Kochav Yaakov in the center of the West Bank. The settlement is east of the separation barrier and not part of the generally accepted settlement blocs.

Adelsons to testify in PM probe during upcoming Israel visit — report, Times of Israel

The Israel Police will reportedly question US billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his wife next week as part of an ongoing corruption investigation into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Adelson and his wife Miriam, who are considered close friends of Netanyahu, agreed to speak to police after being told they were not suspects in the corruption investigation, the TV report said.

Opinions and Analysis

Anxiety high among Israeli right as Trump visit nears, Al-Monitor

Mazal Mualem writes, “Trump’s impending visit to the region is naturally sending the Israeli political system into a tailspin. Unlike the vague and contradictory hints at the start of his term, there’s no mistaking the messages being conveyed by Trump and those around him regarding his intentions. Trump is interested in achieving a ‘deal’ between Israelis and Palestinians, but the nature of what he has in mind is still unclear, and no one knows whether the American president will present any details during his upcoming visit. What is clear is that less than six months after taking office, Trump is not the messiah of Israeli settlers, and the Israeli right is following his moves with grave concern and suspicion. Contrary to Trump’s campaign promises and declarations at the start of his presidency, the ambassador he appointed, David Friedman, will be working out of the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, which will not be moving to Jerusalem. Since entering the White House, Trump has also spoken out several times against construction in the Israeli settlements.”

Will Trump and Netanyahu Continue to Misread Iran?, Haaretz

Trita Parsi writes, “The Iranians had no problem handling Netanyahu’s opposition to the nuclear talks—on the contrary, they welcomed it. But it would have been very challenging for them politically if Netanyahu had gone on a victory lap and declared the deal a defeat for Iran. ‘That would have been enough to kill the deal,’ Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, admitted to me last year. Luckily for Obama, Netanyahu’s arrogance made him blind to his own ineptitude.”

A Bright Light In Israel and the West Bank – Rami Nafez Nazzal, Rabbi John Rosove’s Blog

Rabbi Rosove describes his conversations with Rami Nafez Nazzal, founder of the the Palestinian company “Beyond Borders Tours.” “His deep knowledge of the reality of Palestinian society enables his readers and those he guides to peer through a raw and authentic lens into the often difficult political and emotional terrain in both Palestine and Israel.”

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