News Roundup for May 16, 2017

May 16, 2017

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Top News and Analysis

PM’s Office Publishes Records of Trump Meeting to Prove Netanyahu Backed Moving U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, Haaretz

In a highly unusual move, the Prime Minister’s Office on Monday published sections of the summary report of the February 15 meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Trump, from which it emerges that Netanyahu called on Trump to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, stressing that this wouldn’t cause a security escalation.

Gulf States Offer Better Relations If Israel Makes New Bid for Peace, Wall Street Journal

“Arab Gulf states have offered to take concrete steps to establish better relations with Israel if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will make a significant overture aimed at restarting the Middle East peace process, according to people briefed on the discussions.”

U.S. Diplomats Snub Israeli Offers to Help With Trump’s Western Wall Visit: It’s in West Bank, You Have No Authority, Haaretz

“Diplomats stationed at the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem refused to hold talks with Israeli officials about arrangements for U.S. President Donald Trump’s planned visit to the Western Wall during his trip to Israel next week, claiming that the site is in the West Bank, and therefore the Israeli government has no authority over it. The embarrassing diplomatic incident was first reported by Channel 2 television. Later on Saturday, the White House disavowed the remarks, saying they do not reflect U.S. position….For the past few days, an American delegation has been in Israel to prepare for Trump’s arrival. It has mainly dealt with security arrangements, logistical preparations and media coverage for the visit….A senior Israeli official who was involved in the incident, but asked to remain anonymous, said that when the PMO employees asked the Americans what help they needed, diplomats from the American consulate in Jerusalem, which is responsible for relations with the Palestinian Authority, told the U.S. delegation that it couldn’t discuss this issue with Israeli government officials.”

News

Ultra-Orthodox Lawmakers Stall Bill Defining Israel as ‘National Home of Jewish People’, Haaretz

Lawmakers for United Torah Judaism have told the heads of the Knesset coalition that they will not vote for the so-called Jewish nation-state bill. Sources in the party told Haaretz that their opposition was twofold: The bill is slated to become a Basic Law, and UTJ opposes the passage of new constitutional laws. In addition, the party’s Knesset members are concerned that the interpretation of the proposed law by the High Court of Justice would negatively affect UTJ’s ultra-Orthodox constituency.

Liberman: No need to pick a fight over moving US embassy, Times of Israel

“Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Monday warned against turning the issue of the US moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem into a spat with Washington, even as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his call for the move. ‘This is not the first time we’ve had differences of opinion with the United States, on this question or any other,’ he said, adding that US President Donald Trump was leading a ‘friendly administration.’ ‘You don’t need to “turn it into a fight or a tragedy,’ he added. ‘Here, too, you need to transcend your instincts and try and handle it in a respectful, organized fashion. Less in the media, more in private conversation.’”

PA forces assault activists at demonstration in support of prisoner hunger strike, Ma’an

After local activists in Anabta in the northern occupied West Bank district of Tulkarem blockaded the main street of the village on Monday, activists clashed with Palestinian forces who arrived several minutes later to reopen the road, leaving a number of the activists bruised and suffering from tear gas inhalation. The activists had blockaded the road with trucks, large rocks, and rubber tires as an act of protest in solidarity with hundreds of Palestinian prisoners who entered their 29th day on hunger strike on Monday, as Palestinians also commemorated the 69th anniversary of the Nakba.

US may waive Iran sanctions in coming days, Al-Monitor

The Trump administration may issue waivers of some Iran nuclear-related sanctions in the coming days as it adheres, for now, to its commitments under the Iran nuclear deal, while carrying out a comprehensive review of its Iran policy. Notification of the waivers might be issued as early as May 17, a day before Donald Trump is due to depart for Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy and Brussels on his first foreign trip as president, sources told Al-Monitor, while cautioning that the anticipated action and timing could change.

Israel Navy Fatally Shoots Palestinian Fisherman Off Gaza Coast, Haaretz

A Palestinian fisherman was shot to death by Israel Navy forces on Monday morning after he sailed past the Palestinian fishing zone off the northern Gaza Strip, the Israel Defense Forces said. According to an IDF spokesman, the fishing boat did not respond to calls from the Israeli naval vessel before it opened fire.

White House: Trump ‘open’ to working with Iran to end Syria war, JTA

The Trump administration is open to working with Iran to end the Syria conflict. “The United States remains open to working together with both Russia and Iran to find a solution that leads to a stable and united Syria,” Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman, said Monday in opening remarks at the daily press briefing. “But in order for us to work together to bring an end to the violence in Syria, Russia and Iran need to acknowledge the atrocities of the Assad regime and use their influence to stop them.”

For Palestinians in East Jerusalem, Israeli Bureaucracy Goes From Bad to Intolerable, Haaretz

“Lawyers and East Jerusalem residents say that the service at the Interior Ministry bureau in East Jerusalem, which was never known for its efficiency, had gotten intolerable.”

David Friedman officially takes up post as Trump’s Israel envoy, Times of Israel

David Friedman on Tuesday presented his letter of credence to President Reuven Rivlin, officially taking up his post as US ambassador to Israel.

Opinions and Analysis

Will Trump launch Mideast shuttle diplomacy?, Al-Monitor

Uri Savir writes, “Based on Abbas’ Washington meetings, Ramallah believes that the aims of Trump’s regional visit are multiple. The US president wants to appear to be a man of peace. Visiting Riyadh, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and the Vatican is designed to reflect an image of global peacemaker in the face of radical fundamentalist Islam. Ramallah also believes that Trump wants to fortify the anti-Islamic State coalition with the pragmatic Arab states, primarily Egypt and Jordan. He wants to signal strong opposition to Iran in relation to its regional ambitions, arms development and sponsorship of terror. Following that line, Trump wants to signal to the American Jewish community his resolute commitment to Israel’s security. The Palestinians assume that Trump will leave the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, but may offer recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In addition, Ramallah estimates that Trump intends to accept the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 as one of the bases for a regional initiative on Israeli-Palestinian peace….On the Palestinian side, the best-case scenario expected by the PLO official is that of US shuttle diplomacy being launched shortly after the visit, headed either by Greenblatt or by a more senior member of the administration.”

A White House at War With Itself Can’t Make Peace in the Middle East, Haaretz

Alison Kaplan Sommer argues, “Donald Trump in his current state simply isn’t capable of bringing peace to Israel. Anyone who has followed the numerous U.S.-led peace efforts by many presidents knows that the process is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes calm determination, patience, consistency and a steady hand and eye for detail – none of which this president or his administration possess. It also requires discretion, which seems impossible with an administration that leaks like a sieve. Most of all, though, it requires credibility. Trump, at least for the moment, appears to be a frustrated and angry president, continually lashing out, making his own staffers look, as The New York Times put it, like ‘liars’ or ‘fools.’”

Netanyahu trapped between Trump, Israeli right wing, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit observes, “A week before the leader of the free world pays a visit, Netanyahu is trying to buttress his leadership in Israel. The question is to what extent Likud members buy into it. In other words, what will scare them more: the rage of a scarred and weakened Netanyahu, or the rage of Likud voters solidly seated on the far right and unwilling to hear about a two-state solution or the establishment of a Palestinian state? The sense is that sometime in the near future, all the players in the Middle East will have to decide.”

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