News Roundup for August 27, 2019

August 27, 2019

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Top News and Analysis

Trump, Iran’s president talk of possible meeting to solve nuclear impasse, Reuters
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday he would meet Iran’s president under the right circumstances to end a confrontation over a 2015 nuclear deal and that talks were underway to see how countries could open credit lines to keep Iran’s economy afloat. “I have a good feeling. I think he (Rouhani) is going to want to meet and get their situation straightened out. They are hurting badly,” Trump said.

Israel Fears Trump Might Sit Down With the Iranians – and Be Outmaneuvered, Haaretz
Anshel Pfeffer writes, “Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s surprise arrival on Sunday to the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, played into the fears of some analysts in the Israeli intelligence community of a sudden move by U.S. President Donald Trump to resurrect the Iran deal. Zarif did not end up meeting with Trump – only with the G-7 host, French President Emmanuel Macron. But Trump’s subsequent remarks that he had been in on the secret invitation to Zarif, that he ‘respects’ his arrival, and that he was not interested in regime change but rather a ‘strong Iran’ hardly helped to allay concerns in Israel.”

Lebanon Accuses Israel of 2nd Attack in 2 Days, New York Times
An Israeli drone struck a Palestinian militia base in eastern Lebanon on Monday, Lebanon’s National News Agency said, the fourth time in three days that Israel has been accused of attacking Iranian-backed forces across the Middle East. The string of attacks — only one of which Israel has claimed responsibility for — has heightened tensions and raised fears that what has so far remained a shadow war between Iran and Israel and their respective allies could escalate into a more direct conflict.


War fears intensify as Israel strikes Lebanon, Washington Post
The attack on a Palestinian facility in eastern Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley was the fourth in the space of just a little over a day to hit locations tied to Iranian-backed groups in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. The strike came just hours after a threat by Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah movement to down any Israeli drone that overflew the country and appeared designed to send the message that Israel won’t be deterred.

Lebanon president: Israel drone attack a declaration of war, Al Jazeera
Lebanon’s president has said an Israeli drone attack on Beirut at the weekend was a “declaration of war” that justified a military response.

State Department removes ‘Palestinian Territories’ from website, JTA
The State Department has removed the term “Palestinian Territories” from a web page listing countries and areas covered by one of its bureaus. A spokeswoman said it does not reflect a change in U.S. policy. “The website is being updated,” the spokeswoman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in an email. “There has been no change to our policy.”

Israel’s Two Biggest Parties Going Strong but Neither Secure Majority, Election Poll Shows, Haaretz
Israel’s two biggest parties – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and Kahol Lavan – are gaining more support from voters ahead of the September 17 election, a public opinion poll published Monday by Kan public broadcaster shows.

In blow to Likud, elections czar bans parties from filming at polling stations, Times of Israel
The country’s top election official barred parties from arming poll station representatives with cameras during the upcoming election Monday, handing a stinging defeat to the Likud party, which had been planning on sending more than a thousand activists into Arab community ballot booths with recording devices in hand.

Netanyahu briefs rival Gantz on security issues, signaling Israel could take military action on Syrian border, JTA
Benny Gantz, who leads the Blue and White party, received the briefing from security officials on orders from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Kan public broadcaster reported. Although he is not officially the opposition leader, Gantz and his party remain the chief rival to Netanyahu and his Likud party in the Sept. 17 elections.

Netanyahu Asked Kahanists to Drop Out of Election, Party Source Says, Haaretz
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pressuring the far-right, Kahanist Otzma Yehudit party not to run in next month’s election, a source in the party told Haaretz on Monday.

Israeli Labor Party leader Amir Peretz shaves trademark mustache to make a political point, JTA
“I decided to remove my mustache so that all of Israel will understand exactly what I’m saying and will be able to read my lips: I won’t sit with Bibi,” Peretz said in an interview Sunday night on Israel’s Channel 12, rejecting the possibility that his Labor-Gesher union would join a government led by Benjamin Netanyahu.

UN calls for ‘maximum restraint’ after alleged Israeli strike in Lebanon, The Guardian
The UN called for maximum restraint on Monday night after a reported drone attack in a Hezbollah stronghold south of Beirut that was blamed on Israel.

Opinion and Analysis

Netanyahu Is Going for Broke, Haaretz
Yossi Verter writes, “After long weeks of uncertainty and an unclear strategy, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made a decision: to promote the party, not the bloc. To grind down the coalition partners with the aim of having Likud emerge from the election not only as the Knesset’s largest party, but with more than 35 seats. “

Arabs in Israel want to join the government. You’ll never guess who’s stopping them, +972 Mag
Samah Salaime writes, “Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh said he would be willing to consider joining a center-left coalition, prompting a response from Israel’s centrist party that reveals the true face of those who hope to replace Netanyahu.”

The Most Urgent Thing Is Removing Netanyahu. But What Happens the Day After?, Haaretz
Guy Rolnik writes, “The trouble is that on most issues related to the economy or security, there is no real difference between the ‘Anyone-but-Bibi’ camp, led by Kahol Lavan, and Netanyahu’s camp.”

Each morning brings the fear of losing everything, +972 Mag
A. Daniel Roth writes, “It can be hard to imagine how an early morning walk can end in arrest, or worse. In the Jordan Valley, that’s the reality for Palestinian shepherds fighting to keep control of their land.”

Iran Wanted Revenge Over Iraq Strike. Israel Foiled It – for Now, Haaretz
Amos Harel writes, “Israel and Iran find themselves once again, for the third time in a year and a half, in a round of exchanged blows and revenge-fueled assaults that in extreme circumstances could deteriorate into a broader conflict.”