News Roundup for February 20, 2018

February 20, 2018

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Top News and Analysis

2 Gazans killed in Israeli airstrike after bomb injures 4 Israeli soldiers, CNN

Oren Lieberman reports, “Two Palestinians in Gaza were killed Saturday night in Israeli airstrikes after four Israeli soldiers were wounded by an explosive device along the Gaza border. The hostilities mark some of the most serious clashes since the end of the 2014 Gaza war. Salem Sabah and Abdallah Abu Sheikha, both 17 years old, were killed Saturday night when the Israeli military carried out a series of air and tank strikes across Gaza, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health and the Palestinian news agency WAFA.”

Exclusive: For now, U.S. wants Europeans just to commit to improve Iran deal, Reuters

“The United States has sketched out a path under which three key European allies would simply commit to try to improve the Iran nuclear deal over time in return for U.S. President Donald Trump keeping the pact alive by renewing U.S. sanctions relief in May. The approach, outlined in a State Department cable obtained by Reuters and an interview with a senior department official this week, still faces obstacles. The European allies are uncertain what will satisfy Trump and are reluctant to make such a commitment only to find that he asks them for more, two European officials and two former U.S. officials said.”

Netanyahu to Iran: ‘Do Not Test Israel’s Resolve,’ The New York Times

Katrin Bennhold and Isabel Kerhsner report, “ Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, attending a security conference with international leaders here in Munich, on Sunday brandished what he said was part of an Iranian drone shot down by Israel and warned that he was ready to go to war if Tehran continued to entrench itself in Syria.”

How Israel Can Shrink the Occupation, Without Shrinking Its Security, Haaretz

Micah Goodman writes, “Naturally, there will be disagreement over which steps to take, but that’s the whole point – it’s high time that our disagreements be over this. Our public debate is locked in a dichotomy: We argue for or against plans that promise redemption while neglecting discussion about small, cumulative steps. We tend to believe that confusion produces paralysis, while certainty spurs action. I submit that in our case, the truth is otherwise: It is ideological certainty that has led us to paralysis, while confusion surrounding the great Israeli political dreams can liberate us to take small steps of the sort that will lead us out of our trap – the Catch-67.”


U.S. ambassador to Israel says massive settlement evacuation could spark civil war, Axios

U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman told a closed door meeting yesterday in Jerusalem that a massive evacuation of Jewish settlements from the West Bank could lead to a civil war in Israel…Friedman said that the approximately 400,000 settlers who live in the West Bank “are not going anywhere…and significant evacuation could result in a civil war. This is my opinion”.

Netanyahu Confidants Named as Bribery Suspects in New Case, Haaretz

The two confidants of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the telecommunication corruption investigation are Nir Hefetz, Netanyahu’s former spokesman, and Shlomo Filber, director general of the Communications Ministry. Netanyahu held the communications portfolio for two years, from 2015 to 2017.

Israeli, Palestinian Ministers Hold Rare Meeting Amid Criticism, Jerusalem Post

Economy Minister Eli Cohen met with his Palestinian Authority counterpart, National Economy Minister Abeer Odeh, in Paris last week, discussing economic cooperation while coming under criticism from some activists.

Pence to headline AIPAC conference in March, Times of Israel

US Vice President Mike Pence has been confirmed as the keynote speaker for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee annual policy conference.

Netanyahu Confidant Suspected of Offering Judge Top Post to Nix Case Against Sara Netanyahu, Haaretz

A close confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is suspected of offering the position of attorney general to a retired Israeli judge, in return for her closing the case into alleged improprieties involving household expenses by Sara Netanyahu at the prime minister’s official residence.

PA premier protests Israeli moves in meeting with Kahlon, Times of Israel

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon met in Ramallah on Monday with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and PA Finance Minister Shukri Bishara.

Abbas to urge alternative to US as peace mediator in UN speech, Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will call for an alternative to US-mediated negotiations with Israel during a rare address to the United Nations Security Council, Palestinian officials said Monday.

Opinions and Analysis

Abbas draws two-year timeline, Al-Monitor

Uri Savir writes, “With the general commotion in Israel over the security flare-up in the north on the one hand and the possible indictment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the other, one tends to forget a key player in the Middle Eastern region — the Palestinians. Visiting Ramallah these days, one comes away with a sense of the deep despair the Palestinian leadership is feeling. Faced with the radicalization of the pro-Iranian axis and with a recent surge of violence in the West Bank, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas finds himself between a rock and a hard place. While he does not want to appear reluctant to join a possible regional cycle of uprising, violence is actually the last thing he is interested in.”

Why One of Trump’s Top Faith Advisers Was Urged to Stay Away From the Knesset, Haaretz

Judy Maltz writes, “To avoid a public relations fiasco, a prominent anti-gay crusader and member of U.S. President Donald Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Board has been urged to stay away from a Knesset event scheduled for Tuesday that he helped plan. The Bible study session initiated by megachurch pastor Jim Garlow is set to take place on the same day the Knesset holds its annual tribute to Israel’s LGBTQ community.”

Millions of Dollars, Favorable Coverage: What We Can Tell You About the New Netanyahu Graft Case Roiling Israel, Haaretz

Amitai Ziv writes, “The press and political establishment have obsessed over Case 1000 and Case 2000 – cigars and champagne and the deal with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes – while ignoring Case 4000 as an obscure matter involving securities violations at Bezeq, Israel’s dominant telecommunications company… It means that the allegations are no longer just about securities-law violations, such as those relating to corporate governance, fraud, insider trading and false reporting. They now encompass suspicions of crimes such as bribery, fraud and breach of trust. The suspicions come dangerously close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has not yet been questioned in the case or considered a criminal suspect.”

To Push Iran Back, Israel Ramps Up Support for Syrian Rebels, ‘Arming 7 Different Groups,’ Haaretz

Amos Harel writes, “According to foreign media reports, over the past few months Israel has begun carrying out airstrikes against Syrian army facilities and targets linked to Iran and its Shi’ite militias, in addition to its longstanding targeting of convoys carrying arms to Hezbollah. Tsurkov also reported on other developments taking place. Dozens of rebels who spoke with Tsurkov described a significant change in the amount of aid they receive from Israel. Moreover, she said at least seven Sunni rebel organizations in the Syrian Golan are now getting arms and ammunition from Israel, along with money to buy additional armaments.”