News Roundup for August 7, 2017

August 7, 2017

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Top News and Analysis

Netanyahu Failed to Learn From History and Now Faces a Slow, Painful Political Death, Haaretz

Yossi Verter writes of Prime Minister Netanyahu, “He learned nothing from the fall of his predecessor. He behaved foolishly and carelessly while losing all restraints, morality and his grip on things. The wisdom is still there, but his flawed personality and long years in power, his sense of entitlement, his confidence that he would remain prime minister as long as he wanted to, led him on a twisted path that could lead to his political demise….It will take time for the police to submit their recommendations, which will presumably be accompanied by leaks from the investigation. Since the investigation began, and particularly since it was officially announced last week that the prime minister is suspected of bribery and that the person who knows his secrets will testify against him, Netanyahu has been a lame duck. As the process continues his limp will get worse. His authority over cabinet and Knesset members will erode. His every move, diplomatic, political or in defense matters, will be judged in the light of his legal situation. An assumption of innocence is his legal right but in the media he’ll have to prove that any move he makes is not dictated by non-pertinent considerations.”

The End of This Road: The Decline of the Palestinian National Movement, The New Yorker

Hussein Agha and Ahmad Samih Khalidi write, “The Palestinian loss of faith in a negotiated settlement reflects a loss of faith in the agencies that have sought to pursue it. To the extent that Fatah, the P.A., and the P.L.O. have been dedicated to a two-state solution, their failures—from liberation to governance to peacemaking—have lessened public support for the desirability or viability of the goal itself. Besides the bloated P.A. bureaucracy, almost all sectors of the Palestinian people have been alienated from the methods and practices of their representative bodies, and have largely lost any real sense of investment in their diplomacy. What was once seen as a national unifying program is now viewed with deep skepticism and indifference….The idea of one overarching, comprehensive, negotiated resolution that incorporates all the fundamental elements of the conflict may have slipped out of reach. What used to be called “the Palestine problem” might now be better redefined and restructured as a series of challenges, each requiring its own form of redress: the disappearing prospects for the original national project of self-determination, statehood, and return; the peoples’ alienation from their formal representatives; the realities of the Gaza–West Bank split; the continuing trials and tribulations of the diaspora; and the daily struggle for freedom from occupation and equal rights in Israel.”

Abbas’ last stand, Al-Monitor

Shlomi Eldar reports, “Seemingly punitive Israeli actions taken over the past week appear to signal that Israeli security professionals disagree with Liberman’s attempts to minimize the importance of security ties with the PA. Actually, in recent days, US officials have told the head of Palestinian intelligence, Majid Faraj, that security cooperation must be resumed immediately, warning that the PA was playing with fire. It is unclear whether the American demand followed an Israeli request, but the fact is that joint efforts are underway to renew coordination — the Americans through diplomacy, the Israelis with threats….The Temple Mount crisis, which caused Abbas to cut short a visit to China and rush back to Ramallah, changed Abbas’ priorities. To restore some measure of public support, he was ‘forced’ to set aside the sanctity of coordination with Israel for the sanctity of Al-Aqsa. Turning back the clock now seems almost impossible….The PA’s first demand, to appease refugee camp residents, will be an express promise from Israel to avoid surprise raids into Area A. The second demand will be to ease the passage of all Palestinians through Israeli roadblocks and to allow the presence of Palestinian police at the Allenby Bridge crossing into Jordan, where Palestinian are required to go through Israeli metal detectors. The issue of metal detectors has become very sensitive following the Temple Mount crisis. Can Israel accede to these demands? The Israeli source told Al-Monitor that the Palestinians are going out on a limb, and there is no chance of them getting such concessions from Israel. The conclusion, therefore, must be that the resumption of security coordination is nowhere on the horizon.”


Jordan’s King Abdallah Discusses Holy Site Tensions in Ramallah, US News and World Report

Jordan’s King Abdullah will meet President Abbas in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Monday for the first time in five years to discuss tensions at a Jerusalem holy site and wider political developments. While the two leaders meet fairly frequently in Amman and other regional capitals, Abdallah has not visited Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority, since December 2012. The king will fly in by helicopter, with the visit coordinated with Israeli authorities which control all entrance and exit points to the West Bank, including its 150 km (93 mile) border with Jordan and the air space above.

Ministers Express Support for Netanyahu: Headlines Alone Can’t Bring Down a Prime Minister, Haaretz

Israeli government ministers expressed support for Prime Minister Netanyahu on Sunday, in light of the recent developments in the investigations against him. ‘Israel needs stability,’ said Education Minister Naftali Bennett, adding that his Habayit Hayehudi party will continue to be committed to the government. ‘The prime minister is innocent until proven otherwise and I hope that the investigation will conclude without charges. I have full confidence in law enforcement agencies and the attorney general.’”

Palestinian Officials: Israel Peace Talks Are a Nonstarter While Netanyahu Under Criminal Investigation, Haaretz

“Officials in the Palestinian Authority who are closely following reports about the suspicions against Prime Minister Netanyahu are coming to the conclusion that the possibility he might be prosecuted in the coming months makes any effort to resume peace talks irrelevant….What the Palestinian leadership is afraid of is that Netanyahu may make moves to appease the Israeli right wing that will have serious ramifications in the field and bury the two-state solution.”

66% of Israelis say Netanyahu should quit if indicted – poll, Times of Israel

Two thirds (66 percent) of Israelis believe Prime Minister Netanyahu should resign if indicted for corruption, and just over half (51%) say they don’t believe his protestations of innocence, according to a poll published on Sunday. According to a Channel 10 news survey of 751 respondents, the governing Likud would come out ahead the other political parties in a general election — with or without Netanyahu at the helm. Former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar was best poised to be elected to the premiership if Netanyahu was out of the running, the poll said.

Setting Precedent, Israeli Court Approves Revoking Citizenship of Convicted Terrorist, Haaretz

An Israeli court approved on Sunday the request to revoke the Israeli citizenship of Ala’a Ziwad, who was convicted of carrying out hit-and-run and stabbing attacks in October 2015. This is the first time such a decision has been made since the Citizenship Law was amended in 2008. The change ensured that any request by the interior minister to strip the citizenship of an Israeli involved in terrorist activities is also supported by the court and the attorney general. Prior to the amendment, the interior minister had the authority to revoke citizenship, but used it in very rare cases.

Hamas said to accept Egyptian plan for Palestinian unity, Fatah holding out, Times of Israel

Hamas has agreed to a reconciliation deal with the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah party brokered by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, Arab media reported on Sunday. However, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party has yet to agree to the terms and has sent in a counter-offer. Sissi reportedly presented Abbas with the deal when the two met early in July in Cairo amid spiraling tensions between Hamas and Fatah. The proposed deal includes Hamas dissolving a committee it formed to administer tasks historically carried out by the PA, as well as a commitment by Abbas to end harsh measures he has leveled against Gaza since April, including reductions in support payments for electricity, medical aid, and governmental salaries for residents of the Strip.

Clashes break out during Israeli settler visit to Joseph’s Tomb, Ma’an

Hundreds of right-wing Israelis entered Joseph’s Tomb in the northern occupied West Bank district of Nablus before dawn on Monday, where they performed religious rituals under heavy military protection. Palestinian residents of the adjacent Balata refugee camp told Ma’an that large numbers of Israeli troops stormed the area and deployed in the streets and on rooftops before more than 40 buses carrying Israeli settlers arrived and prayed at Joseph’s Tomb.

Israel Moves Forward With Plans to Ban Al Jazeera From Country, Haaretz

Israel plans to revoke press credentials of Al Jazeera TV journalists, close their Jerusalem bureau and pull the Qatar-based station’s broadcasts from local cable and satellite providers, Communications Minister Ayoub Kara said on Sunday.  Kara accused the station of ‘supporting terrorism’ and said cable broadcasters had agreed to his proposal to take the station’s Arabic and English channels off air. Closure of the station’s office would require further legislation, he added.

Jordan said to launch diplomatic offensive over Israeli Embassy shooting, Times of Israel

Jordan is reportedly taking diplomatic action against Israel in response to a deadly shooting last month at Israel’s embassy compound in Amman. London-based pan-Arabic daily Rai al-Youm reported that Amman has already launched a three-pronged response to what it considered an inappropriate handling of the incident by Netanyahu. The response includes providing detailed information on how Netanyahu tried to manipulate Israeli public opinion following the shooting, a rare visit to Ramallah by Abdullah, and the passing of a message to Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman warning him against “an Israeli plot to spoil the cards.” The latter step is believed to be the most significant given Jerusalem’s recent attempts to thaw relations with Riyadh.

Opinions and Analysis

All the Scandals Involving Netanyahu, and Where They Stand, Haaretz

Judy Maltz writes, “It sometimes seems that for as long as he’s been in office, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been under investigation for something or other. Never before, though, has he been this close to an indictment. On Friday, a former Netanyahu aide signed an agreement to serve as state’s witness in two corruption cases involving the prime minister. In exchange for testifying against Netanyahu, American-born Ari Harow, the prime minister’s former chief of staff, will avoid jail time in a separate case. A day earlier, police confirmed that Netanyahu is suspected of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two cases – one involving allegations that the prime minister and his family received gifts from wealthy benefactors and another involving allegations that he tried to cut a deal that would have provided him with favorable coverage in one of Israel’s largest newspapers.  The prime minister’s bureau has responded that the allegations are all ‘unfounded.’’

Palestinians warn Abbas could dismantle PA in 2018, Al-Monitor

Uri Savir reports, “A senior Palestinian minister, an official with an extensive security background who is close to Abbas, told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that the Fatah leadership is currently extremely concerned over the nature of the Palestinian struggle in the eyes of the Palestinians and the Arab and Muslim world. The leadership fears that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security measures near Al-Aqsa Mosque added a religious layer to the national conflict….A senior Palestinian minister, an official with an extensive security background who is close to Abbas, told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that the Fatah leadership is currently extremely concerned over the nature of the Palestinian struggle in the eyes of the Palestinians and the Arab and Muslim world. The leadership fears that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security measures near Al-Aqsa Mosque added a religious layer to the national conflict….What concerns the Palestinian leadership most is the split between the more religious and fundamentalist forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the more secular ones led by Fatah. Therefore, Abbas has decided to espouse a very nationalistic line, attempting to overshadow the religious one. The official claimed that Abbas still objects to violence, as he always has, and that for him the last resort is the dismantling of the PA, placing the onus of the total diplomatic stalemate on Israel and the Arab League.”

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