News Roundup for December 18, 2019

December 18, 2019

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Top News and Analysis

Congress nixes Trump’s $175m. peace plan fund, gives $150m. aid to Palestinians, Times of Israel
A White House request to include $175 million in funding that would help pay for Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts was left off a final 2020 Appropriations Bill set to pass Tuesday. The Trump administration’s request to Congress earlier this year had included a so-called Diplomatic Progress Fund to respond to diplomatic breakthroughs, while slashing aid to the Palestinians to zero. Instead, the $1.4 trillion government spending package includes $150 million for Palestinian security and humanitarian aid, while leaving off the diplomatic fund. It also includes $3.3 billion in aid to Israel as part of the Memorandum of Understanding.

Israeli military law stifles Palestinian rights, watchdog says, The Guardian
Palestinians in the West Bank are still being prosecuted under military orders that were designed to keep the peace in the early days of an occupation and that have stifled civil rights in the territory for more than 50 years, a watchdog group says. The restrictions, some of which are based on laws passed during the British colonial era, are regularly used to break up protests, close radio stations and arrest activists under charges such as “attempt[ing] to influence public opinion … in a manner that may harm public order,” according to a report by Human Rights Watch. The report was the last to be researched by the group’s Israel director, Omar Shakir, before he was deported from the country in November for his alleged support of a boycott campaign.

Rep. Levin to Pompeo: Settlement policy shift ‘simply distorts history’, The Jerusalem Post
Rep. Andy Levin of Michigan responded on Monday to a letter from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, saying that the Secretary’s letter rejecting criticism of his announcement calling Israeli settlements legal under international law “simply distorts history.”


Trump’s anti-Semitism Czar: ‘Americans need philo-Semitic education’, +972 Mag
Speaking at an event in Tel Aviv, Elan Carr calls the U.S. the ‘most philo-Semitic country in the world,’ likens BDS to Nazi-era boycotts of Jewish businesses, and attributes right-wing anti-Semitic violence to video game culture.

Horse-trading Iran hawks seize on Pompeo’s Senate interest, AP
In recent days, Iran hawks in Congress leveraged Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s interest in a Senate run to win a key concession from the Trump administration that could help their bid to kill the nuclear deal with Tehran.

Exclusive: Hamas plots attacks on Israel from Turkey as Erdogan turns blind eye, The Telegraph
Turkey is allowing senior Hamas operatives to plot attacks against Israel from Istanbul, The Telegraph can disclose, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan plays host to the terrorist group’s leaders.

Palestinians eye long-delayed election, ask Israel to allow Jerusalem voting, Reuters
The Palestinian Authority (PA) said on Tuesday its heralded national election must also be held in East Jerusalem, an area annexed by Israel, raising a demand on which a still-unscheduled vote could hinge.

Digging in heels, justice minister dismisses AG rejection of state attorney pick, Times of Israel
Justice Minister Amir Ohana dismissed criticism from Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit over his pick Tuesday for interim state prosecutor, setting up a possible courtroom clash over the appointment.

Israel allows shipment of rescue vehicles into Gaza, AP
The equipment, which was donated by Qatar, includes several SUVs fitted with water pumps. Gaza’s Civil Defense previously had just 33 vehicles to serve the territory’s 2 million people, including a single fire truck with a hydraulic platform.

‘Deeply damaging’: Anger as Boris Johnson plans ‘anti-BDS’ law, Al Jazeera
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to ban public bodies from boycotting foreign products from countries including Israel, a move seen as targeting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Biopic about Israeli attorney for accused Palestinian terrorists shortlisted for Oscar, JTA
“Advocate,” which has proven popular abroad and sparked controversy at home, was tapped in the best documentary feature category, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Monday evening.

Opinion and Analysis

Israel’s William Barr Trashes the Justice System to Please Master Netanyahu, Haaretz
Chemi Shalev write, “In normal times, the debate and drama surrounding Ohana’s decision to ignore the senior-level candidate proposed by Mendelblit and appoint a lower-level government attorney instead may have been viewed as in-house bickering that’s gotten out of hand. In these abnormal times, with an indicted prime minister bent on escaping prosecution and seeking reelection, the Ohana-Mendelblit showdown should be seen as a decisive skirmish in Netanyahu’s all-out war against the rule of law.”

Round 3: Democratic death knell or turnaround?, Times of Israel
Namoi Chazan writes, “The forthcoming elections are all about what’s left of Israel’s democracy after 10 years of systematic erosion, manipulation and distortion. Are these elections slated to be the death knell of Israel’s (admittedly flawed) democratic form of government? Or are they the much anticipated sign of a democratic turnaround in the country?”

Eighty-eight Israeli Arabs Murdered This Year. Why Were Only 27 Cases Solved?, Haaretz
Josh Breiner writes, “Shooting deaths of Israeli Arabs are surging, but investigators are hamstrung by a lack of evidence and eyewitnesses who won’t talk. The result? Lenient plea deals.”