“A number of liberal Jewish groups, including the American Jewish World Service, the National Council of Jewish Women and J Street, had joined calls on the Senate to reject Pompeo…. ‘This is a sad and dangerous day for US security and standing in the world,’ J Street said in a statement.”
“J Street is alarmed that another step in the assembly of a “war cabinet” around President Trump was accomplished today with the Senate confirmation of Mike Pompeo to become our nation’s Secretary of State. We are deeply worried that Pompeo, who has staked out extreme positions calling for the use of military force to solve tough international issues, will join with recently-appointed National Security Adviser John Bolton in encouraging President Trump to take decisions with grave consequences for our nation….If that were not enough, Pompeo also has a long and shameful record of expressing hateful, bigoted views….This is a sad and dangerous day for US security and standing in the world.”
“J Street welcomes a statement by 26 former top-ranking Israeli military and security officials urging the United States to maintain the nuclear agreement with Iran. Their important letter deserves to be widely studied as one of the most significant contributions to the current debate, as President Trump weighs pulling out of an agreement that has been successful in blocking all Iranian pathways to a nuclear weapon. Particularly noteworthy is the letter’s unequivocal statement that the deal is working and that a US decision to pull out would undermine Israel’s security.”
Pompeo confirmed as secretary of state, Politico
“The Senate confirmed Mike Pompeo to be President Donald Trump’s secretary of state on Thursday, after a handful of Democrats facing difficult reelection challenges joined every Republican in backing the CIA director….Pompeo, who was confirmed on a 57-42 vote, was sworn in early Thursday afternoon by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, according to State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert.”
“Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Thursday emphasized the value of certain aspects of the Iran nuclear agreement, even as President Donald Trump considers pulling out of the 2015 deal, which he has attacked repeatedly and this week called “insane.” Without explicitly giving his opinion about whether the United States should stick with the agreement, Mattis said that after reading the full text of the deal three times, he was struck by provisions that allow for international verification of Iran’s compliance. He said that since becoming defense secretary in January 2017, he also has read what he called a classified protocol in the agreement.”
Peter Beinart writes, “The organized American Jewish community doesn’t only conceal the truth about Gaza from itself. It lobbies American politicians to do the same. The American Jewish establishment exports its ‘euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness’ to Washington. It excoriates politicians who dare to suggest that Israel bears some of the responsibility for Gaza’s suffering. In doing so, it helps to sustain Israel’s current policies and to foreclose alternatives. The struggle for human decency, Orwell argued, is also a struggle for honest language. Our community’s complicity in the human nightmare in Gaza should fill every American Jew with shame. The first step toward ending that complicity is to stop lying to ourselves.”
Netanyahu aims at dictatorship, Washington Post
Gershom Gorenberg writes, “Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies want to break the power of Israel’s Supreme Court. The prime minister and his most dependable political partners are sick of the court getting in their way, especially when they want to legislate away human rights. Their solution is legislation that will hamstring the court. Israeli opposition parties of the center and left can’t stop this. They’re the minority in parliament. The court’s fate, therefore, depends on members of the ruling right-wing coalition and on the answer to this question: Are there still right-wing politicians committed to the idea that the government itself is subject to the law, as interpreted by the judiciary? Put differently, is there anyone on the Israeli right still committed to liberal democracy?”
Israel at UN: Iran has more than 80,000 fighters in Syria, Times of Israel
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations on Thursday presented an aerial photograph of an alleged Iranian base outside Damascus that he said Tehran was using to bring in and train tens of thousands of fighters for the militias it backs in Syria. “There are over 80,000 extremists from all over the Middle East who are members of Shia militias in Syria under Iranian control,” Danny Danon told the UN Security Council.
Nine hikers from a pre-army preparatory program were killed in a flash flood in the vicinity of the Tzafit stream in the south of the country on Thursday. The nine hikers, eight female and one male, were part of a group of about 25 who were hiking in the vicinity of the stream near the Dead Sea. One member of the group is still missing. Police volunteers and Israeli army rescue helicopters from the search and rescue group 669 are involved in the search.
The Czech Republic will appoint an honorary consul in Jerusalem, the first in a three-step process to move the country’s embassy to Jerusalem. Czech President Milos Zeman made the announcement on Wednesday at an event in honor of Israel’s 70th birthday.
The head of the human rights group B’Tselem has asked the United Nations to try to stop Israel from shooting unarmed protesters on the Gaza border. The request by Hagai El-Ad comes in a letter to UN Secretary-General António Guterres ahead of a Security Council session Thursday on the Middle East. El-Ad says the number of deaths stems from the Israeli army’s “manifestly illegal” rules of engagement against unarmed demonstrators, and points the finger largely at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Gadi Eisenkot.
Egypt enraged at Netanyahu over Gaza, Al-Monitor
Ben Caspit writes, “According to senior sources involved in contacts between Israel, Egypt, the United States and the Palestinian Authority over the last two years, Israel should take part of the blame for Hamas having reached another dead end, which it is trying to break through with force. According to this view, an alternative existed, but Israel preferred to undermine it….’President Sisi is very disappointed with Netanyahu,’ an Israeli security source close to these contacts told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity.”
Anshel Pfeffer writes, “The forces of Jewish nationalism that created Netanyahu existed in the Zionist movement from its inception. The components of the right-wing-religious coalition which has served as Bibi’s base were there from 1948. It may have been Begin who first brought them together in his government in 1977, but Netanyahu has made this coalition-maintenance and appealing to the base an art of survival, far surpassing anything that Begin ever imagined. It’s the secret of his success. Israel today is the sum of those tensions, passions and divides in Israeli and Jewish society which created the Netanyahu coalition.”
Israel’s options for resolving tension with Iran, Al-Monitor
Yossi Beilin writes, “While the Benjamin Netanyahu government has no interest in a direct conflict with Iran — whether on Syrian territory or elsewhere — it still seems to be willing to take significant risks in its operations against the Iranian forces, particularly in preventing Iranian drones from penetrating Israeli airspace or the transfer of precision weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon. As of now, Israel is walking on a very narrow tightrope. It is hard to assess what Iran really wants when it comes to a potential conflict with Israel. There are, however, common cited analyses of the differences between the approach taken by the IRGC under Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, who is responsible for IRGC activity outside of Iran, and the more circumspect approach of Hassan Rouhani’s government.”
Aluf Benn and Amos Harel report, “During the past few weeks we journeyed the length and breadth of the land of bitahon shotef – Hebrew for ongoing or routine security. We met the army’s ‘work contractors’: the territorial division commanders in the north, the West Bank and Gaza, and the commander of the Israel Air Force’s Palmahim base, from which most of the operational sorties depart. They are three kibbutzniks, one moshav member and one product of a Zionist, ultra-Orthodox home in Jerusalem who became a kibbutz member as an adult.”