J Street’s Logan Bayroff writes, “Now that President Trump and his team have shown just how willing they are to make excuses for violent anti-Semites and bigots, the president’s loudest Jewish cheerleaders and defenders refuse to admit their own colossal errors. The ZOA have said nothing at all – and the RJC’s response was not nearly strong enough. The RJC, the ZOA and their supporters represent only a tiny minority of the American Jewish community. Yet year after year and election after election, they spend thousands of dollars on ad campaigns and smear attacks designed to paint Democratic and liberal leaders as anti-Israel and “bad for the Jews” – attacks that have little impact on voters but muddle our political discourse. But these groups have little or nothing to say about the President who they championed and defended who has now aligned himself with white nationalists and gives cover to neo-Nazis.”
Is Trump’s Middle East Peace Effort Dead in the Water?, Foreign Policy
Dan Shapiro writes, “President Donald Trump is sending his Middle East team, Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, back to the region this month to try to energize peace talks. But they are about to confront some hard truths about their Israeli-Palestinian peace effort. Perhaps earlier than expected, it has become clear in recent days that whatever faint hopes there were of a breakthrough, or even renewed talks, are beyond reach for now. What gives rise to this conclusion is a sober-eyed assessment of the political circumstances of the three critical players: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Trump himself. All three of them face dramatic challenges that make any serious movement impossible….The hopes that the positive early dynamics between Trump and the two leaders gave him leverage to produce some kind of progress have yielded in record time to these harsh realities.”
The Palestinian Authority expects the Trump administration to commit to a peace deal endgame before the close of this month and prefers it would be the two-state solution. “We need them to tell us where the hell they are going,” Husam Zomlot, the Palestine Liberation Organization envoy to Washington, said Thursday at a meeting in his office with reporters. “It’s about time we hear it.” Zomlot said a high-level U.S. delegation comprising Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and his top adviser charged with Middle East peace; Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s top international negotiator; and Dina Powell, a deputy national security adviser, would meet Aug. 24 in Ramallah with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian negotiating team.
Lara Friedman argues, “[T]his campaign validates the view that there is no cause-effect relationship between Israeli actions and Palestinian violence. It bolsters the argument that, rather than pursuing diplomacy or a two-state solution, Israel must adopt ever-more-uncompromising positions toward the Palestinian leadership and its people. By diverting focus away from Israeli policies that defy international law and contradict any serious intent by Israel to end the conflict—like the continuing blockade on Gaza and the expanding settlement enterprise in the West Bank and East Jerusalem—it dovetails with increasingly frequent Israeli denials that there is such a thing as an ‘occupation’ and Israel’s increasingly energetic efforts to erase any distinction between sovereign Israel and settlements.”
Van Hits Pedestrians in Deadly Barcelona Terror Attack, The New York Times
Spain was hit by its worst terrorist attack in more than a decade on Thursday, when a van driver plowed into dozens of people enjoying a sunny afternoon on one of Barcelona’s most famous thoroughfares, killing at least 13 people and leaving 80 bloodied on the pavement. Hours later, the Catalan police said they foiled a second vehicular attack, in the seaside town of Cambrils, 70 miles to the south, fatally shooting four people. A fifth died later of wounds, the police said. The suspects appeared to be wearing explosive belts, though these devices were later found to be fake, police said. Six civilians and one police officer were injured during the episode, the Catalan emergency services said. Three people were arrested, including a Moroccan man whose identification documents had been used to rent the van. The Barcelona police said none were believed to be the driver, who escaped on foot and remained at large. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Barcelona assault, which shattered a peaceful afternoon in one of Europe’s most picturesque cities.
The Prime Minister’s Office is seeking to increase by tens of millions of shekels the budget for evacuating and resettling residents of the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona. It asked the Finance Ministry this week for a further 30-70 million shekels ($8.25-$19.25 million) on top of what is already allocated to develop Amichai, the new settlement for those being moved from Amona. Haaretz has learned that if the requested increase is paid fully, the state will have invested close to a quarter of a billion shekels to evacuate and resettle 40 families who had built homes without permits and against the law in Amona.
In February 2016, Israel implemented a new policy allowing any Gazan, for the first time in 20 years, to go via Israel to Jordan in order to travel abroad. However, the new policy came with a stiff requirement: Gazans must commit to not return to Gaza via Israel for at least 12 months. COGAT argued that it went above and beyond its obligation toward Gaza by allowing Gazans to travel via Israel, but that the security risk inherent in the new policy required limitations.
Eighteen Jewish Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives called on President Donald Trump to “consistently and unequivocally fight against racists and anti-Semites” in the aftermath of the deadly far-right rally in Charlottesville. “We are deeply troubled by your statement blaming ‘both sides’ for the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia,” said the letter sent Thursday and spearheaded by Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich. “Your statements show a deep misunderstanding of history and a fundamental lack of moral compass. As the leader of our nation, it is incumbent upon you to stand up to hate, not to provide legitimacy to those who violently perpetrate it.”
MK Stav Shafir writes, “Netanyahu may have jumped ship, but Israel must never lose its compass. We must set a clear boundary against anti-Semitism and protect the Jewish people wherever they may be. There are no gray areas when it comes to these issues, and this doesn’t jeopardize our relationship with the U.S. or with any other partners around the world. But anti-Semitic marches that proceed unimpeded, with no condemnation from Israel, jeopardize us. Our silence enables the situation to worsen. It is our historic duty to react to this, and our duty for the future. So where the Israeli government keeps quiet, we speak out, and will continue to stand unequivocally and without fear against Neo-Nazis and racists wherever they may be.”
“Jamie Raskin was not at all surprised to see such vile sentiments expressed over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a white nationalist rally took a violent and deadly turn….A signal, Raskin believes, has been sent. “The brazen assertion of moral equivalence between the two sides is a direct invitation to more neo-Nazi assembly,” he said. ‘The problem with all of the president’s signals and then ear-piercing dog whistles is that it now invites repeat actions all over the country,’ he went on. ‘David Duke and company are now set to stage fascist rallies in a neighborhood theater near you.’”
Daoud Kuttab reports, “At a time of political indecisiveness and the absence of a vision or agreed-upon strategy, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is seriously considering calling a full session of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), its decision-making body. At an Aug. 9 meeting, Fatah’s Central Committee recommended convening the PNC ‘with the participation of all parties,’ a clear reference to Hamas. Such a session could bring new blood to the organization. A full PNC session convened with a quorum would allow members to approve a new political direction for the PLO and elect members to the PLO’s Central Committee and Executive Committee. Such changes would set the stage for a leadership transition. Palestinian President and PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, 82, who is having health issues, has repeatedly said that he will not run for president in future general elections.”
Amos Harel writes, “As reported here in June, Jerusalem fears the formation of territorial contiguity on the ground, under Iranian influence, from Tehran through central Iraq and eastern Syria, up to Damascus and Beirut. The main “obstacle” blocking this main traffic artery is around the small Syrian city of Al-Tanf, which is near the Jordanian-Syrian-Iraqi border triangle. The Americans and British have built a large military base there, where they trained militias linked to them, led by Kurdish forces. But it’s unclear how long they are planning to stay there. At the same time, the onset of the cease-fire between the Assad regime and rebels on the Golan Heights has enabled the regime to send its own forces to the region, including Shi’ite militias. This is the development that Israel warned the Americans and Russians about, unsuccessfully, on the eve of the signing of the agreement in July. If the present trend continues, it means Iran will have a genuine military presence on Israel’s two northern borders – in Lebanon thanks to Hezbollah; and in Syria due to the Shi’ite militias, with the support of advisers and intelligence personnel from the Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.”
Mazal Mualem reports, “Politicians on the right were quick to leverage the highly publicized arrest of the leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, Raed Salah, at his home in Umm al-Fahm early in the morning of Aug. 15. They are busy using the event to score points with their electorate, a fairly common ritual by now. Salah, a former mayor of Umm al-Fahm, was suspected of inciting terrorism on numerous occasions, including after the July 14 attack on the Temple Mount in which three young men from Umm al-Fahm killed two police officers. He praised the attackers at their funerals, calling them martyrs….What is clear is that the senior political leadership of the right has made Salah the focus of its struggle against incitement to terrorism, while it continues to neglect the real problem: the growing sense of alienation that Israel’s Arab citizens feel from the state and its institutions. The focus on one man, even if he is a public leader, hardly contributes to improving the relationship between the State of Israel and its Arab minority.”
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