“J Street remains deeply concerned by the escalating humanitarian crisis in Gaza and violence along the fenceline with Israel. We fear that the Israeli government’s new decision to ban fuel and gas from entering Gaza via Kerem Shalom crossing could exacerbate the conflict and suffering. The ongoing use of arson kites and other incendiary devices to cause damage to Israeli agriculture and property is destructive, unacceptable and must cease. The intensive restrictions on the the movement of vital goods and supplies at the Kerem Shalom crossing with Gaza, however, will not alleviate the arson threat — instead, they could ultimately undermine Israel’s security. Years of conflict have made clear that steps which penalize Gazans en masse and devastate their quality of life only empower Hamas and increase instability.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Thursday that he was canceling a planned trip to Colombia, citing “the situation in the south.” Netanyahu’s cancellation comes amid reported progress in talks between Israel and Hamas leadership in the Strip, mediated by the UN and Egypt, in an attempt to reach a deal between the two parties. The security cabinet is expected to convene Sunday to discuss the efforts to reach a deal with Hamas.
Amos Harel reports, “The coming days could be critical for the negotiations over the future of Gaza, with a fine line separating some kind of accord from further escalation. The ongoing contacts in Cairo could still end with a last-minute blowup, as has happened many times in the past. Yet there are growing signs that the parties to the negotiations see a potential breakthrough….Reports from Cairo indicate that Egyptian intelligence officials put heavy pressure on Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to formulate a new reconciliation agreement to replace the one signed last October but never put into effect.”
“U.S. officials say the Trump administration is staffing up a Middle East policy team at the White House in anticipation of unveiling its long awaited but largely mysterious Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. The National Security Council last week began approaching other agencies seeking volunteers to join the team, which will work for President Donald Trump’s Mideast peace pointmen Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, according to the officials. The team, which is being set up to organize the peace plan’s public presentation and any negotiations that may ensue, will comprise three units: one concentrating on its political and security details, one on its significant economic focus and one on strategic communications, the officials said. The creation of a White House team is the first evidence in months that a plan is advancing.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu angrily walked out of a meeting with Druze leaders on Thursday evening when a prominent Druze activist and former IDF brigadier general said the controversial nation-state law passed last month threatened to turn Israel into an ‘apartheid’ state….At the meeting, held in the IDF headquarters compound in Tel Aviv, Brig. Gen. (res.) Amal As’ad told Netanyahu the Druze weren’t interested in a new benefits package, but in feeling like part of the nation. He then said Netanyahu was leading Israel on a trajectory of becoming an ‘apartheid state.’”
A deal being formulated between Hamas and Israel would see the end of protests along the Gaza-Israel fence and of incendiary kites and balloons in exchange for the opening of two crossing points, Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar reported Friday. A second stage would involve Israel increasing the supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip and allowing a broader range of goods to enter the enclave via Israel, according to the report. The final stage of would include improving the infrastructure in the Gaza Strip in order to improve the standard of living.
Israel has permitted over the past several days the movement of a shipping container carrying equipment to help complete the installment of a large desalination plant in the Gaza Strip. The equipment will also enable Palestinians to construct eight large water reservoirs. Over the past several days, senior officials in the Israeli military have been holding meetings to ensure that more reservoirs will be built in Gaza in the near future.
A record crowd estimated at 30,000 or more marched Thursday in support of the LGBTQ community at the Pride Parade in Jerusalem. Some 2,500 uniformed and plainclothes police officers were mobilized to secure the event through the streets of Israel’s capital. The march comes a week after more than 60,000 demonstrators in Tel Aviv protested the Knesset’s passage of a new surrogacy law that excludes gay couples as well as single men. That demonstration capped off a day of strikes and protests in support of gay surrogacy and the LGBTQ community.
The Trump administration has decided to release dozens of millions of dollars in security aid to the Palestinian Authority, that had been frozen since the beginning of the year due to the administration’s internal review of all American aid to the Palestinians. A State Department official told Haaretz that the money was released because the PA’s security forces work in cooperation with Israel against terrorism and violence in the West Bank.
Firefighters tackle over a dozen arson blazes in Gaza border region, Times of Israel
Firefighters worked throughout Thursday to extinguish 13 blazes caused by incendiary balloons landing in Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip, a spokesman for the Israeli Fire and Rescue Authority said.
Seven seriously ill Palestinian women petitioned the High Court of Justice this week, challenging Israel’s refusal to grant them entry permits from the Gaza Strip. All the women need life-saving treatments such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy or surgery that are unavailable in Gaza, but Israel has rejected them because they are related to Hamas members.
Zehava Galon writes, “The battle against delegitimization has become an insatiable monster. It has tentacles in the Foreign Ministry, the army, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Strategic Affairs Ministry, and of course – a department of its own in the Shin Bet. It’s the vague umbrella which provides cover for the most recent inquiries at the airport….In the name of the battle against delegitimization, even opposition to the government’s policy has become illegitimate.”
Daoud Kuttab examines the life and legacy of Mahmoud Abbas.