The United States has not changed its policy of defining the territories conquered by Israel in 1967 as occupied, despite a recent comment by the Trump administration’s ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, which might have suggested otherwise. The spokeswoman for the State Department clarified that point during her daily press briefing on Thursday, stating that Friedman’s comments do not represent a new policy. Friedman said in an interview to the Jerusalem Post last week that the Israeli left-wing is opposing the “alleged occupation” of the West Bank. The United States, however, like the vast majority of the world, has considered the West Bank to be occupied territory ever since Israel conquered it during the Six-Day War. By referring to an “alleged occupation,” Friedman cast doubt on this traditional American policy.
“The Taylor Force Act was attached to the 2018 Foreign Operations budget in the Senate on Thursday, meaning the legislation is almost certainly assured of being enforced in the United States from next year….Graham decided on Thursday to attach the legislation to the foreign operations budget, which was approved by the Senate Committee on Appropriations. The amendment approved by the committee makes a clear distinction between American funding that benefits the PA directly, which will be suspended, and funding that goes to civilian institutions such as hospitals in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which will continue to receive support. A similar distinction was added to the original legislation after experts who served under both the Bush and Obama administrations recommended such an addition.”
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced Friday that the prime minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, will be indicted for fraud over spending irregularities at the prime minister’s residence. The indictment is subject to a future hearing, the date of which is as yet unannounced. Sara Netanyahu is suspected of excessive spending at the prime minister’s official residence. The charges include using state funds for ordering dining and catering services, and later concealing the fact that she did so. She and her husband have accused former chief caretaker of the official residence Meni Naftali of inflating the residence’s expenses.
Nearly 500 people, most of them Jewish studies scholars, have signed a petition supporting the David Myers, the head of the Center for Jewish History, amid calls for his ouster over ties to liberal groups. The petition comes days after public relations executives Ronn Torossian and Hank Scheinkopf launched a campaign against Myers over his leadership role at the New Israel Fund, a dovish pro-Israel group. The petition calls the campaign “scurrilous,” accusing Myers’ opponents of “the worst kind of McCarthyism.”
A right-wing Israeli party will launch a new campaign promoting a plan to pay Palestinians to leave the West Bank and move to an Arab country. The National Union-Tkuma party, which has run for the Knesset on the Habayit Hayehudi slate, will be funding the internet campaign to promote a diplomatic plan proposed by Bezalel Smotrich, a lawmaker from that faction, that includes compensation paid to Palestinians who agree to move. As part of his plan, Smotrich is proposing that the Palestinian Authority be dismantled, that Israeli sovereignty be applied throughout the West Bank and that the Jewish population of the region be doubled. The goal would ultimately be “to erase the paradigm of an independent Palestinian state from public consciousness and from reality.”
President Trump on Thursday he thinks there is a chance there could be peace between Israel and the Palestinians. “It is something that could happen,” he said at a joint news conference with Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, adding that the U.S. is “working on a resolution.”
The Palestinian District Court in Hebron on Thursday ordered that well-known human rights activist Issa Amro remain in jail for an additional four days. Amro, co-founder of Hebron-based anti-occupation group Youth Against Settlements, was arrested on Monday by the Palestinian Preventative Security Service, allegedly for criticizing the PA’s recent arrests of critical journalists. He is being accused of sedition and incitement against the PA. Hours later, nine United States members of Congress sent a letter to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urging him to “immediately drop the charges and release the internationally renowned human rights defender Mr. Amro from his unjust detention.” Amro began a hunger strike on Tuesday, and has said that he is refusing medical care.
The Senate has advanced a bipartisan resolution post-Charlottesville calling on President Donald Trump to reject white supremacists and, in a rare move, requiring his signature. The resolution was placed Thursday on the calendar, which means it has cleared procedural hurdles and will soon come up for a vote. That’s unusually fast for Senate legislation for a resolution introduced the previous day. The resolution “rejects white nationalism, white supremacy and neo-Nazism as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of the United States.” It also urges the president and his administration “to speak out against hate groups that espouse racism, extremism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and white supremacy, and use all resources available to the president and the president’s Cabinet to address the growing prevalence of those hate groups in the United States.”
Alison Kaplan Sommer profiles far-right Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. “Both as a legislator and as justice minister, Shaked hasn’t missed an opportunity to translate her ideology into policy. Her priorities are clear: strengthening Israel’s hold on the West Bank with the goal of annexation without granting equal rights to Palestinians, furthering the settlement enterprise to that end, and doing what she can to make Israel increasingly Jewish in both numbers and nature. Shaked has been working hard to promote reforms that would change the process by which judges are selected. She hopes to transfer as much of the decision-making process as possible to the Knesset, away from civil servants and sitting judges, in the hope of shaping a judiciary less likely to block or modify laws passed by parliament on the grounds that they violate civil rights.”
Batya Ungar Sargon writes, “Amro’s cause is not only the cause of free speech and the right to self-determination. Amro embodies the belief that Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza can end in a nonviolent way. He represents the hope that Palestinians will achieve full human and civil rights without the spilling of more Jewish blood. He represents hope in a future that values Jew and Arab equally. And as such, Amro is the future of this conflict, if it will ever be resolved.”
Back to Square One, Matzav Blog
Michael Koplow observes, “People have been seriously talking for decades about a two-state solution that has not yet materialized, which makes it easy to declare its death. That it is dead is a fallacy; the parties can choose to negotiate a permanent status agreement any time, and conditions on the ground are not yet at the point where separation is impossible. But it is safe to say that the combination of the Netanyahu government and the Trump administration’s actions have put the two-state agenda as far from being implemented as at any time in the last quarter century.”
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