News Roundup for August 30, 2017

August 30, 2017

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J Street in the News

Netanyahu Promises Permanent Occupation As Trump Administration Walks Back Support for Two States, J Street

“As the Trump administration has walked back longstanding bipartisan US policy by refusing to back the two-state solution, Prime Minister Netanyahu made clear once again yesterday that his government has no intention of ever allowing the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank. In a speech clearly designed to pander to his base in the far-right settlement movement, the prime minister showed that he is committed solely to his own short-term political survival – at the expense of the national interests of his country. It is no accident that the prime minister’s open rejection of the two-state solution has grown bolder since President Trump took office. By refusing to support two states or to seriously oppose settlement expansion, the Trump administration has given the Israeli government the green light to entrench the occupation and avoid meaningful negotiations. It is empowering the most extreme voices and positions on both sides.”

Top News and Analysis

Trump Is Wasting His Envoys’ Time, Haaretz

The editorial board writes, “Anyone who follows Netanyahu’s declarations can discern that even he has stopped believing in Trump’s commitment to a political agreement. Otherwise he wouldn’t have allowed himself to express his hawkish views on the Palestinian issue as he did at a rally two weeks ago, at which he declared his opposition to a Palestinian state and to any withdrawal from the West Bank. If Trump is indeed interested in advancing ‘the ultimate deal’ or a ‘peace deal’ in the Middle East, as he claimed immediately upon being elected, he must back this declaration of intent with real demands from both sides and with a public presentation of an outline agreement, including a map. Meanwhile, the U.S. administration hasn’t even expressed public support for a settlement freeze. Trump has been president for less than a year, but the conflict is old, as is the peace ‘process.’ The time for processes is over. It’s time to act. If Trump isn’t capable of doing so, he shouldn’t waste his envoys’ time.”

White House unfazed by Netanyahu pledge not to evacuate settlements, Times of Israel

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s vow to not evacuate any further Israeli settlements in the West Bank ruffled few feathers in Washington on Tuesday, with the White House saying it would not derail efforts to restart the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process. “It is no secret what each side’s position is on this issue,” a senior White House official told The Times of Israel on Tuesday. “Our focus is on continuing our conversations with both parties and regional leaders to work towards facilitating a deal that factors in all substantive issues.”

“We are here to stay, forever.” Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu vows to keep settlements, Vox

Sarah Wildman writes, “Netanyahu’s comments run counter to decades of stated US policy calling for some settlements to be evacuated as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians. Under previous US administrations, Netanyahu would have been rebuked. By contrast, a Trump administration spokesperson, speaking on condition of anonymity, said only, ‘It is no secret what each side’s position is on this issue.’ And that makes sense, because it is Trump’s own comments on the Middle East, and his skepticism about the need for a two-state solution, that may have led Netanyahu to believe he could speak and act with impunity….For many critics of the administration, a US refusal to ‘bias’ an outcome of peace talks was read as, in fact, biasing the talks — by seeming to endorse Israel’s continued presence in the West Bank. The problem for critics of both the American and Israeli administrations is that there’s no reason to believe that Trump would pressure a close ally like Netanyahu to do something the Israeli leader clearly doesn’t want to do.”


In Ramallah, UN Chief Condemns Israeli Settlements as Obstacle to Peace, Haaretz

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres lashed out at Israel’s settlement activity in the Palestinian Territories on Tuesday, calling it a “major obstacle” to achieving a two-state solution and peace with the Palestinians. “There is no plan B to the two-state solution,” Guterres said after meeting Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in the West Bank city of Ramallah. “A two-state solution, end to occupation, creating conditions to end the suffering of the Palestinian people are the only way to guarantee that peace is established,” he added.

France’s Macron to Visit Israel, Palestinian Territories to Push Two-state Solution, Haaretz

French President Emmanuel Macron will travel to the Middle East next spring, in a trip including Israel and the Palestinian territories, to help the peace process in the region and promote a two-state solution. “We will continue our efforts with the United Nations to find a two-state solution, Israel and Palestine, living safely side-by-side within borders recognised by the international community, with Jerusalem at the capital of both states,” he told a gathering of French ambassadors. Besides Israel and the Palestinian territories, Macron said the trip will include Lebanon and Jordan.

Mandelblit defends ‘democratic’ anti-Netanyahu demos outside his home, Times of Israel

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Tuesday defended the right of protesters to demonstrate near his home against Prime Minister Netanyahu, saying the weekly protests calling for the premier to be indicted in a pair of corruption investigations are entirely legitimate and protected by freedom of expression. “Freedom of expression and the right to protest are fundamental rights in a democratic state,” Mandleblit said at a conference in Tel Aviv of the Israel Bar Association.

84 in Two Weeks: Sharp Rise in Palestinians Detained by Israel Without Trial, Haaretz

More Palestinians were detained by Israel without trial at the beginning of August than during any other month this year, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Society. The NGO, which supports Palestinians incarcerated in Israeli jails, and their families, had no explanation for the sudden surge in the number of individuals under what is called administrative detention.

Israel’s ambassador returns to Egypt after 8 months away, Times of Israel

Israel’s ambassador to Egypt has returned to his post, eight months after he and his small staff returned home because of unspecified security threats. Cairo airport officials said the ambassador, David Govrin, flew back to Cairo on Tuesday with eight staff members. The ambassador and his staff are expected to resume work from the envoy’s suburban Cairo home. The Israeli embassy in Cairo has been closed since protesters stormed it in 2011.

In Complete Reversal, Israel Says It No Longer Opposes Same-sex Adoption, Haaretz

The Israeli government reversed its position on adoption by same-sex couples on Tuesday, telling the State Attorney’s Office that it has no objection to the practice. The Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry informed the state attorney that it was backing down from its previous position that it would not lift discriminatory procedures, although the Knesset would have to legislate on the issue, Channel 2 news reported.

Zionism Has ‘Become a Legal Blind Spot’ to Israel’s Top Court, Justice Minister Says, Haaretz

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked criticized the Supreme Court on Tuesday, claiming that the justice system gives insufficient consideration to Zionism and the country’s Jewish majority. Speaking at a conference of the Israel Bar Association in Tel Aviv, Shaked said that Zionism and “national challenges have become a legal blind spot” that carry no decisive weight in comparison to questions of individual rights. She added that the court’s rulings do not consider the matter of demography and the Jewish majority “as values that should be taken into consideration.”

Opinions and Analysis

Inconvenient but Obvious Truths About Netanyahu and the Palestinians, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev writes, “The final inconvenient truth is this: The conflict with the Palestinians has been good for Netanyahu and much of the right. It built Netanyahu up, enabled him to ignite and incite, brought him into the Prime Minister’s Office and is now granting him blanket clemency for his transgressions, because the leftists and Arab enemies are at the gate. The endless clash between left and right over the territories created the breach through which the settlers and the Orthodox conquered and then subdued Israel. In fact, as far as achieving peace with the Palestinians is concerned, Netanyahu and the right have a conflict of interests that is as clear as black and white, in or out of the bag.”

Holy access: The twists and turns of the two-year ban on MKs at the Temple Mount, Times of Israel

Raoul Wootliff writes, “The Temple Mount compound, Judaism’s most holy site as the location of the biblical Temples and the third-holiest site in Islam, has been out of bounds for both Jewish and Muslim MKs for nearly two years. Since the 2015 ban was first put in place, the prime minister, the police and Knesset members have been engaged in an ongoing battle of announcements, flip-flops, counter-proposals and compromise decisions over the future of lawmakers’ visits at the site.”

Will Zarif, Tillerson meet for session on nuclear deal?, Al-Monitor

“The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, told reporters there is a chance that Iran could call for a meeting of the foreign ministers of the P5+1 during the United Nations General Assembly in September. The meeting would be the first between Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, should both attend. Zarif met numerous times with Tillerson’s predecessor, John Kerry, and the two broke a decades long taboo with direct, bilateral negotiations. The Iran-US bilateral meetings were largely responsible for breaking the impasse over Iran’s nuclear program. Salehi also discussed the possible Iranian response to a US withdrawal from the nuclear deal that was signed two years ago between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany. He said that if the United States and the European countries in the P5+1 leave the deal, Iran will do so as well. But he said that if the other members of the P5+1 remain and only the United States leaves the deal, Iran will not walk away.”

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