Noa Landau reports, “U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is delaying his upcoming visit to Israel amid a current crisis in the Trump administration’s Mideast peace initiative. The delay was first reported Thursday by Walla News. A Knesset spokesperson confirmed that Pence’s speech, slated for Monday, was postponed. A Foreign Ministry official noted that the visit could potentially commence on Wednesday. According to a preliminary itinerary which has not been given final approval, Pence will land in Israel Wednesday evening. Pence is slated to deliver his Knesset speech following a welcoming ceremony at the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday. Friday’s tentative schedule includes visit to the President’s Residence and to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum in Jerusalem. Pence is also expected to visit the Western Wall, in all probability on Wednesday.”
Gilead Sher argues, “The Jewish People have a right to self-determination in its own state of Israel and the Palestinian People have the right to self-determination in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Trump’s Jerusalem announcement, which inflamed tensions but changed nothing, can have a positive effect if he follows his words with constructive action. He has to place his controversial statement into the larger context of a coherent plan leading toward an agreement based on the principle of two states for two peoples and including two capitals in the area of Jerusalem. That would be in the best interests of all parties concerned.”
Noga Tarnpolsky reports, “The Palestinian Authority, responding angrily to President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, said Wednesday that it would reject efforts by the United States to act as a peacemaker in the region. ‘The United States has chosen to lose its qualifications as a mediator…. We will no longer accept that it has a role in the political process,’ Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said. Abbas spoke in Istanbul, Turkey, at a special session of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation, gathered to address the crisis over Jerusalem’s status. He proposed that the United Nations take over as a neutral mediator. The announcement came three days before Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to land here for a visit aimed at advancing Trump’s peace plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
The Israeli military struck three Hamas targets late Wednesday night in response to three rockets fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel earlier in the day, the IDF confirmed.
Israel to close Gaza crossings over rocket attacks, Times of Israel
In a rare move, Israel announced on Wednesday it was closing its crossings with the Gaza Strip following a week of nearly nightly rocket attacks by terrorist groups in the Palestinian enclave. The army said the Kerem Shalom Crossing, from which goods enter and leave the Strip, as well as the pedestrian Erez Crossing would be shuttered beginning on Thursday, in light of “security events and in accordance with security assessments.”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s recent comments on the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is the kind of rhetoric “that has prevented peace for decades,” a senior White House official said Wednesday.
The Trump administration is preparing a public display of what it says is evidence that Iran is providing missiles to Houthi rebels in Yemen, threatening a key U.S. ally in the region, according to four U.S. officials.
More than half of Jewish Israelis believe that the Orthodox community is taking control of society, according to the latest annual report by the Israel Democracy Institute published Tuesday. Only a minority of Israeli Arabs, however, shared this concern about their own religious establishment.
Dramatic footage has emerged of plain clothes Israeli troops – known as “mustarabeen” – infiltrating a Palestinian demonstration in Ramallah and arresting stone throwers. The soldiers, dressed as Palestinian protesters, were caught on camera by AFP journalists during a demonstration near the “DCO” checkpoint to the north of Ramallah, which is a frequent location for stone-throwing protests.
Trump and Jerusalem: a deeply destabilizing move for no real gain, The Globe and Mail
Ferry De Kechkove writes, “Ultimately, this more-than-symbolic decision of the U.S. President will make Israel less secure – which is bad for everyone in the region and beyond. It is tragic that since the sabotaged efforts by former U.S. state secretary John Kerry to deliver a path to peace, the peace process has dropped from the radar screens, powerfully aided by the Islamic State phenomenon, itself a horrifying byproduct of the U.S. intervention in Iraq. What is deeply upsetting in all this is that the Middle East needs Israel as a beacon of democracy and economic prowess. That is something that then Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah fully understood when he proposed in 2002 full recognition of Israel by all Arab countries in exchange for full implementation of land for peace based on a return to pre-1967 war borders.”
Chemi Shalev argues, “Jacobs called on his audience on Saturday to rediscover the positive things that they love about Israel, but he and other Jewish leaders know that selling 2017 Israel, ruled as it is by ultra-Orthodox, settlers and a prime minister who is a consummate cynic, is a mission impossible. This is one of Netanyahu’s greatest sins, made even more grievous because he supposedly knows and appreciates American Jews. He has apparently decided that in the age of Trump he can make do with evangelicals and Sheldon Adelson. He was quoted last week as saying that Reform and Conservative Jews will disappear within a generation or two, implying that it’s not worth the effort to try to keep them engaged. It’s hard to imagine a more anti-Jewish or anti-Zionist position for an Israeli prime minister to take.”
Yehudah Shaul writes, “Over the past few weeks, a storm has raged through Israel. I am a member of Breaking the Silence, an organization of Israeli soldiers who testify about what they did in the occupied territories. Our organization is once again under attack in an attempt to undermine our credibility through smearing our name and paving the way for legislation that will close our doors. This is not paranoia.The country’s most senior politicians state this openly and without hesitation. Their goal is clear: perpetuation of the occupation as a matter of Israeli consensus that cannot be undermined. The means of achieving this goal involves conducting a campaign of persecution and delegitimization against us and other Israeli patriots working to end the occupation.”
Trump, Israel and Facts on the Ground, Huffington Post
Daniel Williams argues, “So what does Trump really want? Preening, of course, is sometimes cheap and often meaningless as far as getting positive results. In this case, it hardly buttresses America’s self-description and mythical status as an honest broker. And it’s hard not to combine Trump’s Jerusalem decision with his administration’s pro-settlement cast. Trump’s ambassador to Israel is openly pro-settlement. According to ProPublica, Charles Kushner, father of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, operates a charity that just provided money for Bet El, a settlement that overlooks Ramallah home of the Palestinian government. Somehow, Jared is Trump’s special envoy to yet-to-be worked out peace talks. There’s a fact on the White House grounds to chew on.”
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