“The long-delayed evacuation of the illegal Israeli West Bank outpost of Amona by the Israel Defense Forces is a necessary development – but cannot detract from the fact that the settlement drive in the occupied territory continues apace and is daily weakening prospects of a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians based on a two-state solution. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to build a new settlementfor the evacuated settlers of Amona is a craven surrender to political pressure from the settlement movement.”
Trump Embraces Pillars of Obama’s Foreign Policy, The New York Times
“President Trump, after promising a radical break with the foreign policy of Barack Obama, is embracing some key pillars of the former administration’s strategy, including warning Israel to curb settlement construction, demanding that Russia withdraw from Crimea and threatening Iran with sanctions for ballistic missile tests. In the most startling shift, the White House issued an unexpected statement appealing to the Israeli government not to expand the construction of Jewish settlements beyond their current borders in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Such expansion, it said, ‘may not be helpful in achieving’ the goal of peace….“While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace,” his press secretary, Sean Spicer, said in a statement, “the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal.” The White House noted that the president “has not taken an official position on settlement activity.” It said he would discuss the issue with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel when they meet Feb. 15, in effect telling Mr. Netanyahu to wait until then. Emboldened by Mr. Trump’s support, Israel has announced more than 5,000 new homes in the West Bank since his inauguration. Mr. Trump shifted his policy after he met briefly with King Abdullah II of Jordan on the sidelines of the National Prayer Breakfast — an encounter that put the king, one of the most respected leaders of the Arab world, ahead of Mr. Netanyahu in seeing the new president. Jordan, with its large Palestinian population, has been steadfastly critical of settlements.”
Chemi Shalev observes, “Israelis had assumed that Trump would swallow just about anything their government would do, if only to be different from President Barack Obama. The White House statement was a shot across the bow to Netanyahu that there’s a limit to everything. Israeli announcements in recent days that 6,000 new apartment units will be built in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and that the government will consider constructing a new settlement from scratch, as compensation for the evacuated illegal outpost of Amona, came perilously close to that red line. So the White House put Israel on notice that it shouldn’t go too far, especially as the first meeting between Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu is only a few days away. The statement does not break new ground. In fact, were it not for the fact that the White House caught the world by surprise simply by issuing it, the statement could be construed as a tremendous victory for the Israeli right. Existing settlements, the statement says, are not an impediment to peace, which is light years away from previous American administrations that dubbed them either ‘illegitimate’ or ‘illegal.’ The statement doesn’t even differentiate been settlements inside the “blocs” and those outside it. It also says that expanding new settlements, which was always problematic, or setting up new ones, which has been verboten for two decades, ‘may not be helpful’ in achieving that goal. Which is like saying that stepping on the gas pedal as you approach a yellow light may not be not the safest way to get home.”
“The State Department drafted its own statement last month marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day that explicitly included a mention of Jewish victims, according to people familiar with the matter, but President Donald Trump’s White House blocked its release.
The existence of the draft statement adds another dimension to the controversy around the White House’s own statement that was released on Friday and set off a furor because it excluded any mention of Jews. The White House has stood by the statement, defending it as an ‘inclusive’ message that was not intended to marginalize Jewish victims of the Holocaust….A White House official said there was no ill intent, adding that the White House didn’t see State’s draft until after issuing its own statement and told State not to release its version because it came after 7 p.m. And the official said the White House didn’t ask the State Department to craft their own statement.”
“The US plans to impose new sanctions on Iranian entities as early as Friday, sources familiar with the matter said. The sanctions will be imposed in a manner that would not violate the Iranian nuclear deal, the souces said, and have been under consideration for some time. Further, the sanctions are expected to be imposed partly because of the recent Iranian ballistic missile test. The sanctions are expected to include about eight Iranian entities under an existing terrorism-related executive order and about 17 under existing weapons of mass destruction-related order, another source said.”
The Trump administration is planning to remove the scrutiny of white supremacist groups from a government program designed to counter all violent ideologies, focusing instead only on Islamist extremism. First reported Wednesday by Reuters, which attributed the story to “five people briefed on the matter,” the idea has alarmed some anti-hate groups, as they consider the solo focus on extreme Muslim-inspired ideologies limiting and misguided.
Three people were lightly wounded in a suspected car-ramming attack outside the settlement of Adam in the West Bank on Thursday evening. According to the IDF, the driver, a Palestinian woman, rammed a police cruiser before hitting the settlement’s entry gate and coming to a stop.
The woman, who was lightly wounded and was put under arrest, said that she intended to carry out an attack, the IDF said.
Israel’s ultra-Orthodox political leaders have withdrawn their threat to force a vote in the cabinet this Sunday revoking the plan to create an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall. In a letter sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this week, they had written that it was their “unequivocal demand” that “as soon as this Sunday” the cabinet annul the decision taken exactly a year ago to allocate part of the Western Wall to the non-Orthodox movements and the Women of the Wall, the multi-denominational prayer group. The decision to create a new space for mixed-prayer services, they wrote, violated the rulings of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate.
Israeli forces Thursday afternoon injured three Palestinian teenagers with live ammunition after clashes broke out in eastern Nablus in the northern occupied West Bank.
Herzog compares Amona synagogue protesters to Duma killers, Times of Israel
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog on Thursday slammed the violent protesters who were forcibly removed from the Amona outpost synagogue earlier in the day, comparing them to the radical Jews responsible for the Duma firebombing in July 2015, in which a Palestinian infant and his parents were killed.
Chemi Shalev writes, “‘Judeo-Christian values’ include support for immigrants, defense of minorities, care and compassion for the downtrodden and underprivileged. For Bannon, Netanyahu and far too many Americans and Israelis, compassion is reserved only for people who look and think like you, as everyone could see in the pampered evacuation of the Amona outpost this week, which was buffered by promises to build thousands of new apartments in the territories. When Bannon says ‘Judeo-Christian,’ he is preparing for war; perhaps the term should be changed to ‘Israelo-Christian’ so it can be more exact. But the main problem is that the man charged with being commander in chief and leading the West to its Götterdämmerung battle with Islam, which – judging by this week – will begin with Iran, is a president who is turning out to be even more impulsive, capricious and outrageous than even his worst critics could imagine. In two weeks he has managed to fight with Mexico, anger China, terrify Europe and even insult Australia – for no good reason. The combination of inexperience, extreme beliefs and reckless management is a recipe for disaster. Perhaps Bannon should realize that even if Islam is really out to destroy the West, the clear and present danger is that his boss will get the job done much faster.
Mairav Zonszein observes, “One year ago, former president Barack Obama delivered a speech on International Holocaust Remembrance Day in which he declared, “We are all Jews.” This is a far cry from the statement issued by the Trump Administration last week, which made no mention of Jews or anti-Semitism at all….The Israeli leader who never misses an opportunity to invoke the Holocaust, anti-Semitism, or the threat of the elimination of the Jewish state has remained utterly silent on this matter….And where has he been for the last year, with the upsurge in anti-Semitic hate crimes, the rise of the alt-right, unchecked neo-Nazi support for Trump, and his appointment of white supremacist Steve Bannon?….It could be that Trump’s racist and exclusionary policies tacitly jive well with Netanyahu and Zionism’s fundamental vision that Israel is the only safe place for Jews in the world — the place they should and will eventually end up once the rest of the world spits them out. This demonstrates the dangerously smooth convergence between rising anti-Semitic white nationalism and the right-wing Zionism that Netanyahu is peddling. It exposes the fact that the Israeli leader isn’t interested in defending the rights of Jews as human beings, and that he is totally out of touch with the values of the majority of American Jews.”
Akiva Eldar reports, “Despite the abundance of vitriol injected into the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians by those at the apex of Palestinian and Israeli power, however, there are those who refuse to abandon their humanity.”