News Roundup for December 17, 2018

December 17, 2018

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Top News and Analysis

Israeli Ministers Approve Bill That Would Legalize 66 West Bank Outposts, Haaretz

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved the advancement of a bill that would authorize more than 60 Israeli outposts and settlement neighborhoods built in the West Bank over the last 20 years. According to the proposed legislation, initiated by MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi), the state would have to decide on how to legalize these outposts within two years of the law’s passing. Until then, any demolitions in these outposts would be suspended, except in cases in which a direct order is given by the prime minister or defense minister, with the cabinet’s approval.

Here’s How The Chief Palestinian Negotiator Described His Last Meeting With Jared Kushner, Buzzfeed

Tom Gara reports Saeb Erekat’s account of his disastrous final meeting with Jared Kushner in November, 2017.

As Attacks Rise, Abbas’ Weakness and Israeli Elections Talk May Hurt War on Terror, Haaretz

Amos Harel reports, ‘it’s difficult to identify any link between speeding up construction in the settlements and bolstering deterrence or sense of security. The anger over the recent deaths is being channeled into a demand to hurt Palestinians by means of more houses in the settlements, but it has never been proven that settlement expansion has worn down the willingness of Palestinians residents of the West Bank to fight Israel; just the opposite may be true….Furthermore, demands for collective punishment aren’t supported by senior security officials….The most important part of the equation, perhaps, is the PA’s relative weakness. The Trump administration’s clear backing of Netanyahu, with nothing remaining of the U.S. president’s pretense to serve as a fair mediator in the political process, destabilizes Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ standing in the West Bank. Abbas has long lost trust in the prospect of peace with Israel during his rule. More attacks, followed by harsher reactions from Israel, might also erode security coordination between Israel and the PA.”


Arab Bus Driver Assaulted In West Bank Settlement In Likely Revenge Attack, Forward

Two men beat an Arab bus driver inside a West Bank settlement in what the alleged victim said was a hate crime. According to Israeli media reports, Thursday’s incident was among several involving settlers targeting random Palestinians this week, likely to avenge terrorist attacks.

After Posting He Would Prefer an Israel Without Muslims, Facebook Temporarily Bans Yair Netanyahu, Haaretz

Facebook has blocked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son Yair for 24 hours after he wrote a post criticizing the social media platform as “thought police” and sharing previously banned content.Yair Netanyahu blasted the website on Sunday for removing an earlier post in which he called for “avenging the deaths” of two Israeli soldiers killed last week by Palestinian gunmen and calling for the expulsion of Palestinians. He shared a screenshot of the earlier post in violation of Facebook’s community rules. Facebook deleted a post by Netanyahu last week in which he said he would “prefer” if “All the Muslims leave the land of Israel.”

Australia Recognizes West Jerusalem as Capital of Israel, The New York Times

Australia announced on Saturday that it now recognizes West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and will move its Tel Aviv embassy once a peace settlement is reached.

Israel chides Australia’s recognition of West Jerusalem as capital, The Guardian

Israel signalled its displeasure on Sunday with Australia’s recognition of West Jerusalem as its capital. The country’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu remained silent on Canberra’s move at the weekly Israeli cabinet meeting, which he often uses to hold forth in public on diplomatic developments, but a minister close to him said it was a mistake to contradict the notion of Israeli control over the whole city. The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, said on Saturday that Canberra formally recognised West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but also reaffirmed his country’s support for a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem under a two-state peace deal.

Hamas leader ‘not denying’ that West Bank terror attacks were ordered from Gaza, Times of Israel

Hamas Politburo chairman Ismail Haniyeh said on Sunday he does not deny that orders to carry out recent deadly terror attacks in the West Bank came from the Gaza Strip. Haniyeh made the remark during a speech he delivered to tens of thousands of Hamas supporters in a Gaza City square at a rally marking the 31st anniversary of the terror group’s founding.

Shin Bet Chief Warns Ministers: Expelling Families Won’t Deter Terrorists, Will Inflame West Bank, Haaretz

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a bill Sunday that would facilitate the expulsion of assailants’ families from their homes to other areas of the West Bank. After a heated debate, and despite the objection of the attorney general, the head of the Shin Bet security service and the IDF Chief of Staff, the security cabinet approved the bill before passing it on to the ministerial committee for its approval.

Settlers move into outpost near Hebron, in wake of Palestinian attacks, Times of Israel

Settlers moved into an outpost just north of the southern West Bank’s Kiryat Arba settlement on Sunday, in what they called their response to the recent wave of Palestinian terror attacks. The municipality held a ceremony attended by dozens of residents on Sunday evening, celebrating the three families who chose to move into the caravans that have been sitting vacant since last March.

Opinion and Analysis

Israel Has Weaponized the Settlements, Haaretz

The editorial board writes, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement that he plans to answer the latest round of terror attacks by legalizing thousands of homes in the territories and advancing plans to build 82 new housing units in Ofra and industrial zones next to Avnei Hefetz and Betar Ilit is a renewed admission that the settlements and their expansion are an Israeli attack on the Palestinians….the justification for the settlements can no longer be cloaked in the “security” guise. They have become flag bearers of punishment and revenge, so much so that in an absurd way, terrorism has become critical to their expansion and control of the territories. Settlement has become an act of punishment and revenge, creating a frightening equation in which the murder of Israelis is not terrorism but a building stone for the settlements.”

‘Israelis Don’t Want to Hear What I Have to Say’, +972

“Over the past few months, Israeli authorities, along with radical settlers, have turned Guy Hirschfeld into a public enemy of sorts for his activism in the Jordan Valley. In an interview, Hirschfeld talks about building solidarity with Palestinians, why his brash style has turned him into a target, and whether things are getting worse for left-wing activists.”

IDF races to contain Ramallah violence, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit writes, “Israel wants to stop the cell quickly before it inspires widespread and enthusiastic Palestinian support. Hamas has another idea in mind: It wants to keep sowing death and shake up an indifferent Palestinian public that has fallen in love with the economic upturn in the Palestinian Authority, the reasonable standard of living there and the far better life than their brethren enjoy in Gaza or Syria….In these twilight years of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, unrest is tangible with a succession battle being waged behind the scenes and growing frustration with Israel’s Gaza policy. Nurturing Hamas weakens Abbas, Netanyahu was advised, but he ignored the warnings. Now when he and his ministers look at Abbas accusingly, he cannot answer.”

What an Israeli army closure on Ramallah looks like, +972

Zena Tahhan reports, “Palestinians are used to electricity cuts, night raids, arrests, restrictions on movement and killings, but beneath the veneer of normalcy and jokes reigns an atmosphere of anxiety. Since the closure was announced, events have been canceled, Palestinians in the West Bank are staying put, checking the news, wondering what the Israeli army is going to do, and whether it will turn into a full military invasion like the days of the first and second intifadas. For many, the escalation is a reminder that Palestinians’ fates are mostly in the hands of a foreign occupying army….Those who live and work in different cities across the West Bank or in Jerusalem were held up for long periods, as armed Israeli soldiers painstakingly searched every Palestinian car and checked every identity card.”