News Roundup for December 12, 2016

December 12, 2016

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Top News and Analysis

Rex Tillerson, Exxon Chief, Is Expected to Be Pick for Secretary of State, The New York Times

“Rex W. Tillerson, the chief executive of Exxon Mobil, whose extensive deal-making for the energy giant has plunged him into global politics from Yemen to Russia, is expected to be offered the secretary of state post this weekend by President-elect Donald J. Trump, according to two people close to Mr. Trump’s transition team. Mr. Tillerson has close ties with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, whom he has known for more than two decades. Russia awarded Mr. Tillerson its Order of Friendship in 2013, the year before Washington’s relationship with Moscow sank into a deep freeze over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its shadow war in eastern Ukraine. Relations with Russia have grown only more troubled since American intelligence agencies formally determined shortly after the November election that Russia had taken steps intended to help Mr. Trump win. Mr. Tillerson, with no background in diplomacy outside the energy arena, would inherit those problems. He would also face the question of whether to maintain sanctions on Russia — penalties he has criticized for slowing Exxon’s investments in that country.”

Netanyahu Says Will Suggest to Trump How He Could ‘Undo’ Iran Deal, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview on CBS’ 60 Minutes that he intends to ask Donald Trump to scuttle the nuclear deal with Iran once the president-elect takes office, and even suggest several ways in which to do so. “There are ways, various ways of undoing it,” Netanyahu told Lesley Stahl in the interview, which is set to be aired Sunday night.  “I think what options we have are much more than you think. Many more. .. I have about five things in my mind. I’d like to talk to the president (about it),” Netanyahu said.

Top Israeli Politician: ‘I Prefer If Arabs Did Not Show Up To Vote’, Forward

The chairman of Israel’s ruling government coalition raised the ire of fellow lawmakers by saying he would prefer that Arab-Israelis did not vote in national elections. David Bitan, of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, on Saturday said during an event in the Jerusalem suburb of Mevasseret Zion:  “Arabs flock to the polls? I’d prefer if they didn’t show up to vote at all.”


Bill Banning non-Orthodox Services at Western Wall Submitted to Knesset, Haaretz

A group of 16 members of the ruling coalition submitted a bill to the Knesset on Sunday that would prohibit any practices at the Western Wall that are not deemed strictly Orthodox. The bill would prevent women from wearing prayer shawls and tefillin, from reading from a Torah and from blowing a shofar at the Jewish holy site. It would also prevent men and women from holding mixed services at the area known as the upper plaza, right above the gender-separated prayer plazas adjacent to the actual wall.

Citing Trump, Netanyahu seeks more loyalists in civil service, Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly envious of the freedom US President-elect Donald Trump has in making civil service appointments and wants to emulate that in Israel. “Trump can make 4,000 appointments. We should be able to make a few hundred appointments that don’t need a tender,” Netanyahu said during the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, according to a report in the Haaretz daily, which quoted a minister in the meeting.

Palestinian delegation headed by Erekat to arrive in US next week, Ma’an

A senior-level Palestinian delegation headed by Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary General Saeb Erekat is set to arrive in the United States capitol in the coming days to discuss bilateral relations between the two states, an official Palestinian source told Ma’an. Israeli daily Haaretz cited anonymous Palestinian officials and “Western diplomats” as saying that a main goal of the meetings is to discuss a future United Nations Security Council resolution against illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Resistance to Amona evacuation will be non-violent, leader says, Times of Israel

The spokesman for the West Bank outpost of Amona vowed that protests against the court-ordered evacuation and demolition of the illegal community will be nonviolent. Avichai Boaron on Friday called for thousands of supporters to join Amona residents in their struggle to remain in the outpost, but said the evacuation would not descend into the kind of violence between settlers and security forces seen when part of the outpost was razed in 2006.

Government Deals Blow to Human-rights Groups With National Service Bill, Haaretz

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted Sunday to lend its support to a bill that would no longer allow national service volunteers to serve at non-profits that get the majority of their funding from foreign governments. This bill is expected to affect mostly left-wing groups and human rights organizations, though only a small number of national service positions are expected to be eliminated if it passes.

PA police prevent IDF from entering Jenin, fire rifles in air, Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority police prevented Israeli security forces from entering the West Bank city of Jenin on Sunday afternoon, according to videos posted on social media websites. In the footage posted by the Palestinian Ma’an news agency, the PA security officers, armed with assault rifles, can be seen standing in front of IDF vehicles, blocking their entrance into the city.

Bid to Allow Israelis Living Abroad to Vote Faces Key Opposition, Haaretz

The Central Elections Committee stated its opposition Sunday to a bill that would allow Israeli citizens living overseas to vote in Israeli elections. The panel cited a long list of legal and logistical problems, as well as objections in principle to allowing those who have left Israel to vote here. As a result of these objections, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation postponed its discussion and vote on the bill, which was originally scheduled to take place Sunday.

Israeli forces deliver 13 demolition notices to Palestinian neighborhood in Jerusalem, Ma’an

Israeli Jerusalem municipality crews escorted by armed Israeli forces raided the al-Bustan neighborhood of the village of Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem on Friday and delivered 13 demolition notices for several residential structures.

Opinion and Analysis

Trump and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. What Could Go Wrong?, Slate

Joshua Keating observes, “The advent of Trump, and what’s likely to be a publicly chummy relationship between him and Netanyahu, could also complicate the critical relationship between Israel and American Jews. Jews overwhelmingly voted against Trump, rejecting him in even greater numbers than past Republican candidates. The anti-Semitic rhetoric of many of Trump’s supporters and his appointment of Steve Bannon as chief strategist have been condemned by the Anti-Defamation League. Levy argues that the Israeli right, seeing GOP leaders as better for their long-term interests, have been ‘conspicuously indifferent to right-wing anti-Semitism, which places them on a collision course with the American Jewish community.’ It remains to be seen how the American Jewish community will respond to an American president who is overtly “pro-Israel,” but whose most fervent supporters are anti-Semites. It also remains to be seen how splintered American Jews become during the Trump years. For instance, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee declined to condemn the Bannon hiring.”

Dissing Claims of anti-Semitism, Netanyahu Stamps Trump as Kosher for Jews, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev writes, “From a realpolitik view of Israeli interests, at least as those are seen by Netanyahu, the prime minister’s endorsement is well placed. Trump, who appreciates blind loyalty, will certainly be grateful. The same cannot be said of wary U.S. Jews: not only has Netanyahu steadfastly refrained from condemning the surge of anti-Semitism that has come in Trump’s wake, but now he is in fact asserting that their claims are no more than hysterical poppycock. Just as Sarah Palin could see Russia clearly from her home in Alaska, Netanyahu can see America better from the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.”

Zionist Camp digging itself deeper hole with new campaign, Al-Monitor

Mazal Mualem observes that the Zionist Camp’s new “hidden taxes campaign will most likely be remembered as one of the most detached and disengaged political efforts seen in Israel in the past few years. While the state budget for 2017-18 will soon be up for a vote, there is no real tension or drama surrounding it. It is expected to pass with a clear majority, and there are no new elections on the horizon. Furthermore, it is unclear why the Zionist Camp decided to invest money in a socio-economic campaign when it has been proven that a party that has historically stood on diplomatic issues does not attract votes when it switches to such an agenda. For instance, the 2013 campaign highlighted a social democratic agenda while ignoring the diplomatic agenda. Then-party leader Yachimovich later admitted that she had made a mistake and that the party had lost seats because of it.”

Will Putin invite Netanyahu, Abbas to Moscow?, Al-Monitor

Uri Savir reports, “A Russian diplomat in Tel Aviv told Al-Monitor on the condition of anonymity that Russia is indeed interested in playing an influential and helpful role in favor of a two-state solution. Moscow is planning to invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas to a summit meeting with Putin in Moscow. This is one of the issues that will surely be dealt with in the Putin-Trump contacts once Trump takes office. Russia, according to this diplomat, supports Palestinian statehood on the 1967 lines, but also favors stringent security and anti-terror arrangements for Israel.”