News Roundup for December 11, 2017

December 11, 2017

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Top News and Analysis

White House on Abbas’ Refusal to Meet Pence: Palestinians Are Walking Away Again From Dialogue, Haaretz

The White House has criticized the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to meet with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence during his upcoming trip to the region. In a statement released Sunday, Pence’s spokeswoman said that by refusing to meet with the US leader, the PA is turning its back on dialogue about the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “It’s unfortunate that the Palestinian Authority is walking away again from an opportunity to discuss the future of the region, but the administration remains undeterred in its efforts to help achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians and our peace team remains hard at work putting together a plan,” the statement said.

Trump’s rhetoric on Jerusalem tells us a lot about what kind of Israeli-Palestinian proposal he’ll deliver, Washington Post

Jeremy Pressman argues, “What Trump’s Jerusalem proclamation tells us is that the Trump administration does not view the Palestinian national movement as a near-equal negotiating partner, and therefore the administration is unlikely to produce a proposal for negotiations that might bridge gaps between the two sides. The complete lack of symmetry, even for a country that has long favored its relations with Israel over those with the Palestinian national movement, was clear in his remarks….If Trump administration officials do not view the Palestinian Authority as a legitimate actor with rights, that does not bode well for any comprehensive proposal. Reports of the as-yet-unreleased Trump administration Israeli-Palestinian proposal suggest something close to Israel’s perspective and distant from the positions of Abbas and the Palestinian Authority.”

In a Blow to Hamas, Israel Destroys Tunnel From Gaza, The New York Times

Israel said on Sunday that it had destroyed a tunnel dug by Hamas from Gaza into Israeli territory, dealing a substantial blow to one of the main strategic assets in the Islamic militant group’s arsenal. It was the second cross-border tunnel in six weeks that the Israeli military said it had detected and put out of use with new technologies, leading officials to predict the end of the cross-border threat from such tunnels.

Tens of Thousands of Israelis Protest Against Netanyahu in Second March of Shame, Haaretz

Tens of thousands of Israelis took to the streets of Tel Aviv on Saturday night to protest against corruption in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. Those that partook in the protest were angered by a new bill that would have prevented police from publicizing recommendations on indictments. The controversial bill was widely believed to have been drafted to protect Netanyahu, who is currently under investigation in two high-profile corruption scandals, by keeping the public in the dark.”


Security Guard Seriously Wounded in Jerusalem Terror Attack, Haaretz

A security guard was stabbed in central Jerusalem on Sunday in what police called a terror attack. The man was stabbed on Jaffa Street, at the entrance to the city’s central bus station. The attacker has been apprehended. According to emergency responders, the guard, 46-year-old man Asher Elmaliach, had been stabbed in the chest. His condition has been reported as critical and he is currently undergoing treatment in hospital.

Over 130 Jewish Studies Scholars Criticize Trump’s Jerusalem Decision, Forward

More than 130 Jewish Studies scholars have signed a statement expressing “dismay” over U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The statement criticizes the Trump administration’s “decision to reverse decades of bipartisan U.S. policy by declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel, and authorizing the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv, outside of a negotiated political framework that ends the legal state of occupation and ensures respect for the rights of all Israelis and Palestinians to Jerusalem.”

In Brussels, Netanyahu Talks Up U.S. Peace Bid as EU Pushes for Bigger Role, Haaretz

Meeting with European Union officials in Brussels, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke positively of the American peace initiative as the organization’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, told the Israeli premier that Europe wanted to be more involved in talks.

Abbas to Egypt for talks with Sissi on Trump move, Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is to meet Egyptian leader Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo Monday over US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Egypt’s presidency said.

Macron Tells Netanyahu: Give Peace a Chance, Make Gestures Toward the Palestinians, Haaretz

French President Emmanuel Macron told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday that he ought to “give peace a chance” and “make gestures toward the Palestinians.” Macron suggested that one such gesture would be the freezing of Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank. Macron also said he told Netanyahu that U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last Wednesday is a threat to peace, and that the French government is opposed to it.

3 people arrested in firebomb attack on Swedish synagogue, Washington Post

Three people have been arrested for allegedly throwing firebombs at a synagogue in the Swedish city of Goteborg, the second anti-Jewish attack in the Nordic nation in two days. Jewish groups condemned the attacks as “unconscionable” and demanded that authorities take action. No one was injured in the attack late Saturday during a youth event at the synagogue and the adjacent Jewish center in Sweden’s second-largest city.

Following Riots, Israeli Defense Minister Calls for Boycott of Arab Citizens: ‘They Don’t Belong Here’, Haaretz

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday said that Israeli Arab residents of the Wadi Ara region “do not belong to the State of Israel” and should be boycotted. Lieberman was commenting on the hundreds who rioted along Route 65 in northern Israel on Saturday in protest over U.S. President Donald Trump’s declaration last week that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The residents of the Wadi Ara region should be boycotted, Lieberman told Army Radio in an interview on Sunday morning. “They should understand that they are not wanted here, they are not part of us.” According to the defense minister, Wadi Ara residents “have no connection to this country.”

Amid Jerusalem anger, Jordan MPs vote to review peace deal with Israel, Times of Israel

Amid mounting anger over the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the Jordanian parliament on Sunday voted unanimously to review the 1994 peace deal with Israel. The parliament authorized a legal committee to examine all agreements signed with Israel, including the peace treaty, in order to take a decision on them, the leading Jordanian daily al-Ghad reported.

Turkey’s president is ‘not the man who is going to lecture us,’ Netanyahu says, JTA

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, following a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, fired back at criticism from Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “Erdogan should not preach to us; he bombs Kurdish villages in Turkey, imprisons journalists, helps Iran evade international sanctions and helps terrorists attack innocents in Gaza and other places,” Netanyahu said during a joint news conference with the French president. “This is not the man who is going to lecture us.”

Israeli bus comes under fire in West Bank; no injuries, Times of Israel

An armored Israeli bus came under fire near the West Bank settlements of Ofra and Beit El on Sunday evening, hours after a Palestinian terrorist seriously injured a security guard in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem. There were no injuries in the suspected terror attack on the bus carrying students.

Opinions and Analysis

Jerusalem: It’s Tense, Crowded and Can Feel Like a Jail, The New York Times

David Halbfinger writes, “The world knows Jerusalem by the Old City and its Golden Dome, its ancient wall from the time of Herod, its Holy Sepulcher, its rough-hewed stones flattered by brilliant sunlight. But Jerusalem is not just its postcard vistas. A pilgrimage is not the same as living here. The day-in, day-out friction can be draining. And when the conflict bubbles up, even natives can question why they persist.”

Europe might step in, if Trump’s Mideast initiative fails, Al-Monitor

Uri Savir observes, “It seems that the prevailing approach both in Brussels and in Paris up until this weekend was ‘give Trump a chance.”’The Jerusalem issue might alter this policy motto. But with or without that, in case of disappointment over the US initiative, the EU may be the one initiating. And if so, France would probably take the lead. A senior PLO official close to Abbas told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that the Palestinian president is in close contact with the heads of the EU and is hoping for a European initiative, as he believes that Washington’s policies are tilted toward Israel.”

Three Reasons We Aren’t Seeing a Third Intifada, Haaretz

Anshel Pfeffer writes, “There is plenty of Palestinian despair and anger at the lack of any prospect of diplomatic progress and an end to the occupation. But there is also political pragmatism and the necessity of making a living. For the overwhelming majority of Palestinians, the price of another intifada is simply too high.”

Palestinians’ Dashed Hopes for Jerusalem, The New York Times

Raja Shehadeh writes, “What I witnessed on Thursday was a mild beginning to what may develop into a sustained violent expression of the pent-up anger felt by most Palestinians — whether they live in Jerusalem or outside. On Friday, thousands of protesters in Jerusalem, Gaza and here in the West Bank took to the streets. At least two Palestinians were killed and 100 wounded. President Trump might have unwittingly lit a fuse that Israel may have great difficulty putting out.”

After Trump Recognized Jerusalem, Palestinian Leaders See a Silver Lining, Haaretz

Jack Khoury writes, “From the standpoint of the Palestinians, it is becoming clear over the last few days that the consequences of Trump’s declaration have not been so bad. The countries of the world are not flocking to follow in Trump’s footsteps. On the contrary, most have rushed to condemn the declaration and state that their own stance has not changed. They are actually adopting the Palestinian narrative that West Jerusalem is Israel’s and East Jerusalem is the Palestinians’….Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership can take advantage of this atmosphere to reiterate to the world that despite all of the other events in the Middle East, the Palestinian issue is at the heart of the Arab and international consensus. This departure point can, with Arab backing, help Abbas deflect any American pressure to agree to a plan that violates Palestinian national understandings.”