News Roundup for August 3, 2017

August 3, 2017

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Top News and Analysis

Palestinians Claim Israel Pressuring Them to Renew Security Ties, Haaretz

“Palestinian officials say Israel has begun pressuring the Palestinian Authority over its decision to downgrade security ties with Israel. The officials fear the pressure will only grow in coming weeks as Israel moves to force the Palestinian Authority to renew coordination. On Wednesday, Palestinian inspectors were surprised after their offices were raided in southern Hebron, near the town’s old city. According to eyewitnesses who spoke to Haaretz, the office is new and includes only 30 people, some of which were in plain clothes. Their work focuses mostly on internal Palestinian issues, including cracking down on domestic violence and crime in actions which require coordination with Israel as it is in charge of the area. According to witnesses, the Israeli forces detained some of the inspectors for a few hours, confiscated documents and shut down the office. In Ramallah, news of the raid were seen as a message from Israel that as long is security coordination is not taking place, such steps will be taken.”

His Health Crisis Made Public, Palestinian Envoy Pushes On, The New York Times

“Saeb Erekat, a leading voice of the Palestinian cause for decades, now finds himself battling for his own health along with that of the long-ailing peace process. Both came into sharp focus this week as headlines in the Israeli news media blared that Mr. Erekat, the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization and its veteran chief negotiator, is suffering from pulmonary fibrosis. He is waiting for a lung transplant, most likely to be carried out in the United States or Israel….In an unusual statement on Tuesday, Mr. Erekat criticized the Trump administration for not articulating support for the two-state solution — the internationally accepted principle for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the 1990s — and for failing to compel Israel to cease settlement activity. He described the administration’s silence on these issues as an obstacle to a resumption of negotiations.”


Trump Signs New Iran Sanctions Into Law Over His Own Objections, Forward

President Trump signed into law a new sanctions package that targets Iran, along with Russia and North Korea, despite complaints that it includes “a number of clearly unconstitutional provisions.” The measure passed easily in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, effectively nullifying the president’s ability to veto. The Iran component ramps up sanctions for that country’s missile testing, human rights abuses and backing of terrorism, and further restricts the president’s ability to waive the sanctions.

Netanyahu Will Not Need to Step Down if He’s Indicted, Israeli Justice Minister Says, Haaretz

Prime Minister Netanyahu will not be forced to quit if an indictment is filed against him, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said Wednesday. Talking with a local news site, Shaked said that if an indictment is filed, its details will have to be examined, and that only extremely serious acts would warrant breaking up his government. ‘Firstly, according to the law, the prime minister does not need to step down [if an indictment is filed against him], so let’s wait and see what happens,’ Shaked told Ynet. ‘It needs to be something extremely far reaching to topple to government over, going to elections is not some small thing,’ she added.”

Over 70% of Jewish Israelis support death penalty for terrorists — poll, Times of Israel

A vast majority of Jewish Israelis supports recent calls made by high profile politicians for implementing the death penalty for terrorists, according to a new poll released Wednesday. In Israel, the death penalty is applicable only in limited circumstances, and has only been carried out once in a civilian court, against Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of the Final Solution, in 1962.

White House Purging Michael Flynn Allies From National Security Council, The New York Times

“The White House has engaged in a slow-motion purge of hard-line officials at the National Security Council in recent weeks, angering conservatives who complain that the foreign policy establishment is reasserting itself over a president who had promised a new course. The latest to go was Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who ran the N.S.C.’s intelligence division and, like others who have left, was originally appointed by Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s first national security adviser….His departure follows several others last month. Tera Dahl, the deputy chief of staff at the N.S.C. and a former writer for Breitbart News, which was run by Mr. Bannon before he joined the White House staff, left for a post at the United States Agency for International Development. Later in the month, in separate developments, Derek Harvey, the top Middle East adviser, and Rich Higgins, the director of strategic planning, were each pushed out.”

Palestinian man confesses to killing his pregnant Israeli girlfriend, police say, JTA

A Palestinian man confessed to killing his pregnant Israeli girlfriend, Israel Police said. Michal Halimi, 29, from the West Bank settlement of Adam, has been missing for more than two months. Her body was found in Holon, on the coast of central Israel, on May 24. Halimi reportedly was eight months pregnant, as well as reportedly married to an Israeli man. She had left her home voluntarily to move in with her boyfriend, Muhammad Harouf of Nablus, the police said in a statement Wednesday. Police said that based on both of their Facebook pages, the couple had intended to get engaged and be married.

Jordanian king donates $1.4 million to Waqf after Temple Mount fight, Times of Israel

Jordan’s king on Wednesday announced that would donate 1 million Jordanian dinars ($1.4 million) to the Waqf Islamic Trust, which administers the Temple Mount compound in the Old City of Jerusalem. The money is seen as a major show of support for the Waqf, which led protests against Israeli security measures at the holy site last month, ramping up tensions between Israel and the Arab world.

Israeli Supreme Court temporarily halts pending home demolitions in al-Walaja, Ma’an

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) temporarily halted the demolition of seven homes in the village of al-Walaja in the Bethlehem district of the occupied West Bank, after the Israeli Supreme Court ruled against their immediate demolition. Palestinian news agency Wafa reported on Wednesday that Hassan Burajiya, a Palestinian who monitors illegal Israeli settlement building in Bethlehem, said that an NRC attorney had filed a petition to the Supreme Court to challenge the pending demolitions.

Israeli Army Cordons Off West Bank Village After Supermarket Attack, Haaretz

The Israeli army has placed a West Bank village on lockdown Wednesday, blocking the entrances and exists to Yatta, near Hebron, hours after a Palestinian from the village critically stabbed a man in a in central Israel.

Ex-Cruz Aide Joins Trump Envoy’s Team, Signaling Interest in Beefing Up Mideast Peace Efforts, Haaretz

Victoria Coates, a member of President Trump’s National Security Council, was recently promoted to the position of senior director for international negotiations, in which she will be working under Jason Greenblatt, the President’s special envoy in charge of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Her appointment signals that the Trump administration is working to expand Greenblatt’s office, which is officially called “The Special Envoy for International Negotiations,” half a year after Greenblatt began his efforts to revive the peace process.  Coates joined the Trump administration earlier this year after working for three years as a foreign policy adviser to Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). Prior to that, she was an adviser to former Texas governor Rick Perry during his 2012 presidential campaign. She began her career in foreign policy by serving as an adviser to former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, after he had left office.

Israel’s Top Court Says Same-sex Surrogacy Law Discriminatory, but Defers Ruling, Haaretz

The High Court of Justice was set to issue its ruling Thursday morning on a petition demanding Israel permit single people and same-sex couples to arrange surrogate births in Israel. The ruling, however, was postponed by six months to allow lawmakers to follow through with new legislation that might render the petition obsolete, justices said.  Deputy Court President Justice Salim Joubran chose to make the verdict his penultimate ruling ahead of his retirement, but decided to defer the ruling, pending the new legislation. Joubran however criticized Israeli law, which only allows surrogacy for heterosexual couples, and said the current state of affairs is discriminatory.

Opinions and Analysis

Why Israelis have turned against IDF, Shin Bet, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit writes, “Netanyahu wanted to block generals and other popular military commanders from entering politics in order to ensure that they do not pose a threat to his status as “permanent” prime minister. He succeeded. Israel’s defense establishment, which was the country’s largest leadership incubator and training center during Israel’s first 60 years, has since been defused. No one remembers the daring exploits of some general or other four years after he left the IDF. The heroic aura that once surrounded him has long since faded away, and any threat to the country’s leadership has been reduced considerably, as his entry into politics generates little public attention. Growing criticism of the supposedly hefty wages, benefit packages and pensions of career officers in Israel has played a part in this too, especially when combined with the rightward shift of the Israeli electorate. Meanwhile, the IDF and other security services continue to represent a clear and professional attitude, which sees the geopolitical situation in the Middle East from a more sober perspective. The result is a growing disconnect between the people of Israel and its defenders. In this new reality, Israelis still love their troops dearly. The problem is that they are wary of their troops’ commanders. The defense minister is little more than a political figure subject to intense criticism. He no longer receives the benefit of the doubt. The chief of staff is judged by his actions. The Shin Bet is expected to toe the government’s line instead of preserving professional judgment. And the list goes on and on.”

Examining Jared Kushner’s Chances At Achieving A Mideast Peace Solution, NPR

“Ailsa Chang talks to ex-State Department negotiator Aaron David Miller, who says a leaked tape indicates the president’s son-in-law may have no strategy for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The Palestinians Won the 2017 Battle for Temple Mount. That’s Good for Israel, Haaretz

Paul Scham writes, “The fact is that if Israel’s leaders really want peace, as they proclaim, then they must allow Palestinians dignity instead of dishonor. That should be obvious. It is very hard to believe protestations of peaceful intent when accompanied by continual humiliation. Thus, this Israeli ‘defeat’ is actually a victory that shouldn’t, but probably will, be squandered.”

Netanyahu’s empathy for Hebron shooter reveals a lot about Israel, Al-Monitor

Mazal Mualem writes, “In the Azaria incident, the dynamic between Netanyahu and the Israeli public is very telling. It is the consequence of Netanyahu’s long years in power, which he used to shape society in his own image: victimized, persecuted and polarized. His formula is the exact opposite of the doctrine promulgated by Israel’s founding father David Ben-Gurion, who strove to create a cultural and natural melting pot here. In contrast, Netanyahu identifies the most fragile links in the chains binding society together and makes every effort to weaken them further — all in an attempt to ensure his own survival.”