News Roundup for August 31, 2017

August 31, 2017

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Top News and Analysis

Trump’s Next Self-Inflicted Crisis Is a Nuclear Iran, Foreign Policy

Jeffrey Lewis writes, “The notion that there is a better deal to be had if only Mike Pence shows his ‘resolve face’ is a partisan fable. That’s the logic of walking away from the Agreed Framework with North Korea, shutting down inspections and invading Iraq, and repealing and replacing Obamacare. Every time the people selling this snake oil get it wrong, they act like no one could see it coming. Everyone thought North Korea would collapse. Everyone thought there were weapons in Iraq. Nobody knew health care could be so complicated. Well, don’t say you couldn’t see this coming. If we abandon the JCPOA, the choice belongs to Tehran. Iran can do everything that North Korea is already doing if it wants. And I worry that, sooner or later, Tehran will. So I am telling you now: If you like North Korea’s nuclear-armed ICBM, you are going to love walking away from the Iran deal.”

Trump’s Mideast Peace Envoy: PA Must Rule Gaza, Hamas Has Failed to Meet People’s Basic Needs, Haaretz

Jason Greenblatt, President Donald Trump’s special envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, said on Wednesday that the Palestinian Authority needs “to resume its role in the administration of Gaza,” in light of the damage that Hamas has caused to the Gaza Strip. Greenblatt made this statement during a tour of the Israel-Gaza border area together with IDF Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. Greenblatt said at the conclusion of the tour that “it is clear that the Palestinian Authority needs to resume its role in the administration of Gaza, as Hamas has substantially harmed the people of Gaza and has failed to meet their most basic needs.” This is the first time a senior official of the Trump administration has publicly stated such a policy towards Gaza.


Netanyahu Assails Israel’s ‘Fake News Industry’ to Thousands of Supporters, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assailed Israel’s “fake news industry” at a support rally attended by thousands of Likud party activists on Wednesday evening. The event in Lod was scheduled in honor of the Jewish new year in three weeks’ time, planned earlier than usual so it could double as a rally in support of Netanyahu, the second such event in a month. Party organizers handed out pro-Netanyahu signs to those in attendance. In his speech, Netanyahu attacked the press: “The media prefer to present Israel as isolated and backwards. They simply don’t want Israelis to see the success.”

US envoy calls on Hamas to return soldiers’ bodies, prisoners, Times of Israel

President Donald Trump’s peace envoy toured the area around the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, and called on Hamas to release the bodies of two IDF soldiers and a number of Israeli citizens the terror group is holding.

Israel’s High Court Sends Clear Message to Government: Reconsider ‘Frozen’ Western Wall Deal, Haaretz

Israel’s Supreme Court sent a clear message to the government on Thursday that it wants it to reconsider its decision to suspend a plan to create a new egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall.  “What happened here? What happened here?” Supreme Court President Miriam Naor asked the attorney representing the state at a hearing in a landmark case involving the status of non-Orthodox Jews at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites.

Revealed: Israel and Donors to Spend $32m Sending Goods to Syrian Civilians This Year, Haaretz

Israel and donors to the country are set to spend at least 115 million shekels ($32 million) sending goods to Syrian civilians this year – about 95 million shekels from donations and 20 million shekels from the army budget for the cause. The 95 million shekels has already been spent on medical equipment, food and medicine. Donations have come from organizations such as the Peres Center for Peace and private citizens including a Syrian living in Chicago. Haaretz obtained the figures through the Freedom of Information Law. The numbers do not include the cost of providing medical treatment for Syrian civilians inside Israel, which is estimated in the tens of millions of shekels or higher. That sum is funded by the finance, health and defense ministries.

Israel Backs Down On Revoking Al Jazeera Reporter’s Press Credentials — For Now, Forward

Israel’s Government Press Office said it will defer the revocation of the press card of a senior reporter for the Al Jazeera network based in Jerusalem. The move to revoke the press card of reporter Elias Karram, accused of aiding the Palestinian “resistance” to the State of Israel, was seen as the first step towards shuttering Al Jazeera’s offices in Israel, which has been threatened by both Communications Minister Ayoub Kara of the Likud Party and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel Seeks to Indefinitely Detain Asylum Seekers Who Refuse Deportation, Haaretz

The Population and Immigration Authority is crafting an amendment to the Entry into Israel Law to bypass the Supreme Court’s ruling against unlimited detention of asylum seekers who refuse to leave Israel for a third country. Since the court’s ruling was announced on Monday, Interior Minister Arye Dery has been consulting with the population authority’s legal department to move ahead with the amendment to permit such detention. He reportedly has the backing of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.

Opinions and Analysis

Trump keeps world guessing on Iran deal’s future, Al-Monitor

Laura Rozen reports, “Critics and defenders of the nuclear deal with Iran are equally in the dark about President Donald Trump’s intentions ahead of the next congressionally mandated deadline to certify Tehran’s compliance Oct. 15….even as Iran deal critics and regime-change proponents find themselves stymied in their efforts to access Trump, more pragmatic foreign-policy hands and Iran deal proponents are far from confident that their views will prevail. Washington’s European allies are similarly uncertain about how Trump will proceed, even as they insist that their commitment to the 2015 deal remains firm. ‘Things are getting worse,’ Richard Nephew, a former member of the US nuclear deal negotiating team, told Al-Monitor. According to his discussions with US government contacts, Trump ‘has become stuck in his view that the deal needs to go, that Iran is cheating on it, and that we need to have the appropriate response.’….In a clear warning to Washington, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said this week that the 28-member bloc would defend the Iran deal from possible US efforts to gin up phony and politicized claims Iran that is not complying with the accord.”

Obama’s Israel Ambassador: The Two-State Solution Remains the Best Option, But We Need to Plan in Case It Fails, Tablet

Dan Shapiro writes, “I’m quite serious that we have hard work ahead of us—as a Jewish community, as advocates for Israel, and as U.S. foreign policy thinkers—to consider how we will make the best of a non-two-state future. We shouldn’t try to avoid it. But I’ll be honest: I also hope discussion of the unpalatable alternatives will reinforce the importance of steering back to serious attempts to salvage the two-state solution. A lot will depend on the leadership that emerges—Israeli, Palestinian, and American. If we have learned anything from other long-running conflicts that have been resolved, including in the Israeli-Arab arena, we know that when the right leaders appear, what once seemed impossible can suddenly become possible.”

For Israeli right, there is no occupation, Al-Monitor

Akiva Eldar writes, “The government of Israel is waging a no-holds-barred war against the occupation. It is not, however, against Israel’s control over lands it annexed in 1967 or its 50-year rule over millions of Palestinians. Rather, the enemy is the very term “occupation.” There is no occupation, government spokespersons claim, because there never was an occupation. There is therefore no need to end it….The battle against the occupation is not limited to the media. Culture Minister Miri Regev, who formerly served as chief military censor, has been appointed commanding officer on the theater and cinema front….Draconian legislation impeding fundraising abroad, along with vitriolic incitement, are also undermining the courageous struggle being waged by human rights groups against the occupation. Not against the term “occupation,” but against the occupation that ruins the lives of Palestinians and eats away at everything that is good and honorable in the Israeli media and on the culture scene.”

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