News Roundup for August 22, 2017

August 22, 2017

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Top News and Analysis

Israel’s Rash Embrace of Trump Accelerates the Jewish Schism, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev observes that Trump’s “tenure could be a quantum leap, from strife to schism. Jewish liberals and doves may have detested George Bush and conservatives and right-wingers may have despised Barack Obama, but no U.S. president in the modern era has sparked such widespread fear and loathing in the American Jewish community as Trump. For many Jews, Trump is the worst thing that has happened to America in their lifetimes. Their fear, hostility and revulsion are so strong that they encompass not only Trump but anyone who seems to comfort and support him, to give him aid and succor, to be blind to his awfulness, which seems so obvious to his detractors. That includes Trump’s Jewish friends and supporters in the U.S. as well as the State of Israel, which has embraced him. Israel’s tepid reaction to the neo-Nazi show of force and violence in Charlottesville is a case in point. It casts Israel as a country that continues to curry favor with Trump despite his flirtation with anti-Semitic scum. It portrays Netanyahu as a leader willing to sacrifice American Jews in exchange for continued support for his policies and for the occupation. It sullies Israel’s image, perhaps irrevocably, among the 70 percent of American Jews who preferred Hillary Clinton even before it turned out that Trump would be a worse president than anyone could have imagined.”

U.S. pushing to quash U.N. ‘blacklist’ of firms doing business in Israeli settlements, Washington Post

“The Trump administration is urging the United Nations not to publish what it calls a ‘blacklist’ of international firms that do business in Israeli settlements on land claimed by the Palestinians for a future state, diplomats and others said. The UN Human Rights Council voted to approve the database of companies last year, over objections from the United States and Israel, which describe the list as a prelude to anti-Israel boycotts. American companies on the list drawn up by the Geneva-based council include Caterpillar, TripAdvisor, Priceline.com, Airbnb and others, according to people familiar with it. It is not clear whether the list has been finalized. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights, has told US officials he plans to publish the list by the end of the year and has asked for comments by Sept. 1 from countries where affected firms are headquartered, diplomats said.”

PA to give Trump team ultimatum on peace plan, Al-Monitor

Shlomi Eldar reports, “Al-Monitor has learned that Abbas’ remarks to the Meretz delegation were only the prelude to far harsher talking points he has prepared for his Aug. 24 meeting with the Trump envoys. A senior Palestinian source who spoke on condition of anonymity said a decision had been reached after lengthy negotiations at top PA levels, including consultations with its team of Trump experts, to present Kushner and Greenblatt with a clear ultimatum: Unless progress is made within 45 days on launching talks with the Israelis, the Palestinians will consider themselves no longer committed to the US channel and will turn to an alternative plan on which they have been working for the past two years.”

News

Mossad Chief to Join Netanyahu for Putin Meeting on Syria, Haaretz

Mossad chief Yossi Cohen will join Prime Minister Netanyahu on his upcoming Russia visit Wednesday. Netanyahu will meet President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi to discuss Israel’s concerns over the cease-fire in southern Syria, brokered by Russia and the U.S. Netanyahu also intends to raise Israeli concerns the agreement will allow for a greater Iranian foothold in the country. New National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat will also partake in the Russia visit.

Turkey, Jordan call for ‘serious’ Israel-Palestinian peace talks, Times of Israel

Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday called for new “serious and effective” peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the royal palace said. Meeting in Amman, they urged “the resumption of serious and effective negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel to end the conflict on the basis of a two-state solution to assure an independent Palestinian state with June 1967 borders and East Jerusalem as capital.”

Israel Advances Plans to Establish New Jewish Communities in Galillee, Haaretz

Israel’s executive arm for settlement construction has begun advancing plans for new Jewish communities in the Galilee that clearly contradict national planning policy, which favors expanding existing communities. These plans began to take shape three years ago, in a declared effort to create a demographic balance between Jews and Arabs in the northern region. The Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization’s work plan was posted 10 days ago on the Agriculture Ministry’s website. It includes feasibility studies for proposed new communities in two areas of the Galilee, northwest of Carmiel near the kibbutzim of Pelekh and Tuval; and south of Carmiel, near the community settlements of Eshhar and Yuvalim.

Settlers illegally expand West Bank race track in IDF firing zone, +972

Israeli authorities have continued illegally building a state-of-the-art race track in the West Bank, despite IDF stop-work orders issued earlier this year. In February, +972 Magazine reported that the track was being constructed just north of the Petza’el settlement in the Jordan Valley area of the West Bank, on a large tract of land near Wadi al-Ahmar and Route 505. The only catch: the track is partially inside an IDF live firing zone in the occupied West Bank — a designation Israeli military authorities often use to displace local Palestinian populations.

Israel to High Court: Law Seizing Palestinian Land Is Humane Response to ‘Distress’ of Thousands of Settlers, Haaretz

The state on Monday asked the High Court of Justice to reject legal challenges to a controversial law that would allow for the retroactive expropriation of land owned by Palestinians in West Bank settlements. It called the law “a humane, proportional and reasonable response to the genuine distress of Israeli residents.” In seeking to persuade the court to reject the legal challenges – filed by Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations – the state argued that the “practical alternative” to the law is the maintenance of the existing situation, which the state said is disruptive to the lives of “hundreds of families” in settlements, including families who built homes based on representations by government authorities that it was permissible.

Palestinians prevent Israeli demolition of cemetery wall in East Jerusalem, Ma’an

Israeli bulldozers on Monday morning attempted to demolish the wall of a Palestinian cemetery in occupied East Jerusalem, though local sources told Ma’an that a group of Palestinians managed to prevent the demolition from taking place. Mustafa Abu Zahra, head of the committee for the preservation of Islamic cemeteries in Jerusalem, told Ma’an that an Israeli bulldozer attempted to demolish a wall on the western side of the al-Shuhada cemetery, which is an extension of the al-Yusifiya cemetery located at the Lion’s Gate entrance of the Old City.

Egypt Set to Reopen Its Gaza Crossing on Regular Basis in September, Haaretz

The Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt is expected to reopen on a regular basis in September, after the Muslim holiday of Id al-Adha. Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip have reported over the past 10 days that Egypt decided to reopen the crossing at that time, following the completion of extensive renovation work that had been underway since March. The renovations, which reports say will allow the passage of goods and protect the crossing against terror attacks, include the installation of a computer system connected to Cairo, sources in Rafah said.

3 Senators Push For Answers On Sebastian Gorka Citizenship Probe, Forward

Three Democratic U.S. senators wrote to senior administration officials on Monday seeking confirmation on whether White House counterterrorism adviser Sebastian Gorka is under criminal investigation for failing to disclose his membership in a Hungarian neo-Nazi organization. “As a senior counterterrorism advisor, Mr. Gorka is in a position of great importance and public trust. The American people are entitled to know if a senior White House official is under criminal investigation,” Senators Dick Durbin, Richard Blumenthal and Benjamin Cardin said in the letter.

Bannon Boycotted Trump Meeting With ‘Terrorist’ Abbas, Report Says, Haaretz

Steve Bannon, the chief strategist to President Trump who was fired on Friday, refused to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas when the Palestinian leader visited Washington in May, according to a report by Vanity Fair. When Abbas visited the White House, the report said, citing Bannon allies, Trump’s chief strategist simply stayed home. “I’m not going to breathe the same air as that terrorist,” Bannon reportedly texted a friend.

Opinions and Analysis

New Israeli Labor chief plans party takeover, Al-Monitor

Mazal Mualem writes, “One thing Gabbay is well aware of is that he has very limited time to buttress his position. That is why he is charging forward, alienating Knesset members and leaving many casualties along the way. His proposed changes to the party’s constitution are just one example of that. Most Knesset members, including those who supported him, only heard about his changes through the media. Under the title ‘A Toolbox to Victory,’ Gabbay presented his statement of intent, wrapped up in nice words. What the document really said was that he planned to neutralize the party’s center of power and concentrate most of the administrative authority in his own hands. Hidden between the pages are clauses like one that would grant Gabbay exclusive authority to select the party’s Knesset chair and committee heads, and even the committee members. He also wants the right to name the people to fill four seats on the party’s Knesset list, with two among the first 10 people on the list, another in the second group of 10, and a fourth in the third group. As if that was not enough, he also wants the authority to decide where the party’s Secretary-General Eran Hermoni will appear on the list. Right now, he is assured the “safe” seventh-place slot on the list.”

4 Reasons Republican Jews Are Still In Denial About Trump, Forward

Jay Michaelson writes, “In a milquetoast statement released on August 16, the Republican Jewish Coalition at last revealed itself to be living in complete delusion.”

How 1,000 Die-hard Protesters Are Testing Israel’s Democracy, Haaretz

Judy Maltz writes about the Israelis who hold weekly protests urging that the corruption cases against the Prime Minister move forward.

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