News Roundup for September 6, 2016

September 6, 2016

Top News and Analysis


Will Obama roll the dice on the Middle East one more time?, Washington Post

Jackson Diehl writes, “Obama squashed Netanyahu’s fervent campaign against the Iran accord. But Netanyahu has not only successfully resisted Obama’s pressure to allow a Palestinian state on terms he opposed, he has also continued Israeli settlement building, ignoring harsh criticism from the State Department and the White House….Obama, however, still has his potential hole card: an Obama plan for Palestinian statehood. Though he lacks the means to make it happen, the outgoing president could publicly lay out U.S. terms for a settlement, much as Bill Clinton did before leaving office. If he sought ratification by the U.N. Security Council, Obama could set them in diplomatic stone. A conflict that for half a century has been defined by U.N. Resolution 242 would henceforth be governed by Obama’s. The terms were largely hashed out by Kerry during his doomed diplomatic offensive. A Palestinian state would be based on Israel’s 1967 borders, with land swaps that would attach the largest West Bank settlements to Israel. Jerusalem would be the capital of both states. The return of Palestinian refugees to Israel would depend on a bilateral agreement. And Israel would be recognized as the homeland of the Jewish people.”


Ex-security men urge referendum on fate of West Bank territories, Times of Israel

“A group of former Israeli politicians, security officials, artists and social activists on Monday urged the government to hold a national referendum on the future of the Palestinian territories….The Israeli group, calling itself “Decision at 50,” is led by prominent figures in Israel’s so-called peace camp, which believes an Israeli withdrawal from occupied lands is essential for the country’s survival. They believe that establishment of a Palestinian state will ensure Israel’s future as a democracy with a solid Jewish majority. The alternative, they say, is a ‘bi-national’ state in which Israel either risks losing its Jewish majority or ruling over millions of disenfranchised Palestinians in an apartheid-style situation.”


Palestinians Clash With Own Security Forces as Elections Stir Deep Unease,The New York Times

Peter Baker reports, “A Palestinian police officer accused of plotting the murder of two other officers, Mr. Halawa was beaten to death while in the custody of Palestinian security forces….Mr. Halawa’s death underscored the internal divisions tearing at Palestinian society with the approach of municipal elections next month. It came after weeks of violence between the Palestinian authorities and what they call outlaw groups, touching off a wave of unrest marked by stone throwing, tear gas and a raucous funeral procession for Mr. Halawa of thousands of people marching through the streets this week. The riots and protests reflect the challenge for Palestinian security forces to maintain order in West Bank cities under the full control of the Palestinian Authority amid disenchantment with the authority and its leader, President Mahmoud Abbas. While Israel — and the United States — have long been assured that Mr. Abbas intends to maintain the security cooperation that many Palestinians resent and despise because it is in his own interest, the internal discord could upset that equilibrium and have implications beyond the West Bank.”




Abbas decries pressure from the US, Russia and the Arab world, Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas pushed back against attempts by foreign capitals, including Moscow, Washington and other unnamed Arab capitals, to intervene in internal Palestinians affairs. Our relations with everyone must be good, but no one will dictate to us any position or idea… Therefore, let us think as Palestinians. I will think about Palestine, not Washington or Moscow,” said Abbas Saturday night during a meeting in Ramallah, according to footage aired by the official PA news channel Palestine TV the following day.


Women of the Wall Pray Under Police Presence, Forward

Women of the Wall prayed under police presence at the Western Wall on Sunday after the group complained to Israel’s attorney general about the lack of protection at their monthly prayer service.


Palestinian Killed in East Jerusalem Refugee Camp After Suspected Attempt to Run Over Police, Haaretz

A Palestinian man was shot and killed and another was wounded early on Monday after a suspected attempt to run over policemen in East Jerusalem’s Shoafat refugee camp, police said.


In Israel, Swedish opposition head slams settlements as ‘unacceptable’, Times of Israel

Israel’s policy of building settlements in the West Bank is “completely unacceptable,” Sweden’s opposition leader said Sunday in Jerusalem.


Israeli forces shoot, injure 2 Palestinians during clashes in Sabastiya, Ma’an

Two young Palestinian men were injured with live fire on Monday during clashes between Palestinian youth and Israeli forces in the village of Sabastiya in the northwest of the Nablus district in the occupied West Bank.


Death Toll in Tel Aviv Collapse Rises to 3; Palestinian, Israeli Workers Feared Trapped, Haaretz

The death toll in the collapse of a parking garage in Tel Aviv has risen to three as rescue forces found a lifeless body in the debris Tuesday morning. At least four more were still feared trapped after the multi-level parking lot, still under construction, collapsed Monday morning, injuring over 20 people, police said.


Japan, Israel upgrade relations as Arab oil influence wanes, Reuters

Japanese executives say they are increasingly drawn to investments in Israel as the price of oil falls and, with it, the influence Arab oil suppliers have on Japan’s decision-making. Over the past two years, Japan and Israel have strengthened business ties, signing a series of economic agreements on the back of a visit by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Israel in 2015 and Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to Tokyo in 2014.


Opinion and Analysis


Political Intrigue in Israel Leaves Commuters Without Trains for a Day, The New York Times

Isabel Kershner reports, “In an abrupt resurrection of Israel’s “Sabbath wars,” a key train line was disabled for repairs on Sunday, snarling tens of thousands of Israeli commuters and soldiers returning to base in traffic jams at the start of the workweek — all because of a political spat involving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his transportation minister and their ultra-Orthodox coalition partners. Ostensibly, the disruption and the ensuing national uproar were caused by a government prohibition on the carrying out of nonessential public works during the Sabbath, which falls from sundown on Friday to nightfall on Saturday. In reality, though, and of little consolation to the commuters, the train shutdown appeared to have had more to do with unholy bickering and muscle flexing inside Israel’s fractious government, which is dominated by right-wing and religious parties, and tensions within Mr. Netanyahu’s governing Likud Party.”


Railroad Row Highlights Netanyahu’s Never-ending Purge of Political Rivals, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev observes, “Netanyahu’s success in eliminating rivals and distancing critics may have deprived the country of much-needed talent and, in some cases, moral leadership, but it has consolidated his hold on power, turned him into Israel’s second longest serving prime minister and left him virtually unassailable as the country’s leader. Netanyahu has shown himself to be a master plotter and grand manipulator, constantly on guard for the next potential threat and always on alert to pounce and eradicate it. Though he often seems to wonder why he isn’t loved, Netanyahu has clearly opted for the Machiavellian choice of being feared instead.”


Netanyahu continues to tune out voice of retired Israeli brass, Al-Monitor

“Netanyahu has a powerful attraction to generals, but these are dangerous relationships that almost always end in public quarrels and slamming of doors. The prime minister has always liked surrounding himself with high-placed officers, perhaps to compensate for the fact that he himself did not have a noteworthy military career. He used them to brand himself as “Mr. Security” in the eyes of the Israeli public. Netanyahu invested tremendous effort into bringing numerous retired generals into the Likud. As of today, Netanyahu feels that he no longer needs any generals to retain this status. He easily forfeited Ya’alon for his controversial appointment of Liberman, and he really is not concerned by the accumulation of critical statements about him by security and military men….The fact that almost all the security people who worked with Netanyahu feel that the prime minister places his personal welfare above that of the state does not trouble him in the least. He is the prime minister, and as far as he is concerned, they can talk until they’re blue in the face.”


Trump Campaign Opens West Bank Office, as Republicans in Israel Declare Him Good for Settlers, Haaretz

Judy Maltz reports, “The new makeshift office, set up in the dining room of a local Trump supporter here, was proudly touted as the first U.S. campaign headquarters ever opened over the ‘Green Line’ – a reference to Israel’s internationally recognized borders. Echoing Zell’s message that Trump is good for the settler movement was the guest of honor at the event: Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council.”


Israel Seeking Police Recruits: Eager, and Arab, The New York Times

Diaa Hadid describes, “an Israeli push to recruit into its police force Arab Muslims, who are both vastly underrepresented in its ranks and vastly overrepresented among criminal suspects and victims. Arab Muslims are currently 1.5 percent of the 30,000-member national police force, and the right-wing public security minister seeks to increase that number in three years by adding 1,350 new ones. Many would work in Arab cities and towns, where the ministry has promised to open 12 new police stations. (There are seven in such areas now, out of 70 across Israel.)


From Albany to Kansas City, the Jewish Community Is Stepping Up for Refugees, Forward

Jennie Rosenn writes, “This spring, almost 200 congregations from coast to coast joined the HIAS Welcome Campaign. The members of these synagogues have not only pledged their support for welcoming refugees, but also committed to taking action — whether by supporting families resettling in their local communities, raising awareness and education, or joining advocacy initiatives to encourage our government to take leadership — as befits a nation with a long history of welcoming refugees.”