News Roundup for February 21, 2018

February 21, 2018

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Top News and Analysis

Netanyahu Inquiry Expands, With New Bribery Allegations, The New York Times

David Halbfinger reports, “The mushrooming corruption scandal plaguing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel took a surprising new turn on Tuesday, with an allegation that one of his closest advisers had sought to bribe a judge into dropping a criminal investigation involving the prime minister’s wife. At the same time, the Israeli police said they had arrested several of Mr. Netanyahu’s friends and confidants, as well as top executives of Bezeq, the country’s biggest telecommunications company, in a widening inquiry into whether Mr. Netanyahu had traded official favors for favorable news coverage.”

Abbas, Haley Trade Barbs Over Trump’s Israel Stand at UN, Yahoo News

Kambiz Foroohar reports, “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called President Donald Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem a ‘dangerous’ development in a speech before the United Nations, then walked out before U.S. envoy Nikki Haley retorted that ‘we will not chase after you.’ The encounter Tuesday before the Security Council reflected the tensions in U.S.-Palestinian relations since Trump’s declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and his administration’s cuts in UN refugee funds for the Palestinians. Haley was accompanied at the UN by Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and chief adviser on Israel-Palestinian peace efforts.”

Israeli settler leader says settlements grew rapidly in 2017, Washington Post

Josef Federman reports, “ The number of Jewish settlers in the West Bank grew at nearly twice the rate of Israel’s overall population last year, a settler leader said Monday, predicting that settlement growth would surge even more in the coming years thanks in part to the Trump presidency. Yaakov Katz said that President Donald Trump, backed by a Mideast team dominated by settler supporters, has created a friendly new atmosphere conducive to settlement growth after eight contentious years with the Obama White House.”


U.S. says other nations could be part of future Mideast peace talks, Reuters

The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday the United States would consider supporting the involvement of other countries in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in the future if it believes it would be helpful in reaching an accord.

Netanyahu Confidant Gives Detailed Testimony Against the Prime Minister After Striking Dramatic Deal With Police, Haaretz

A former confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave police on Tuesday a detailed account of the premier’s ties to a telecom magnate after turning state’s evidence.

Bill slashing PA funding over terror payouts passes review, Times of Israel

The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved for a first Knesset reading a bill that would slash funds to the Palestinian Authority by the amount Ramallah pays out to convicted terrorists and their families.

Gazan said to die of wounds after clashes with IDF, Times of Israel

A Palestinian has died of wounds sustained last week during clashes with Israeli forces along the Gaza border, the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said Wednesday.

Vote on ‘Jewish state bill’ put off amid coalition wrangling, Times of Israel

A Knesset committee meeting scheduled for Wednesday to vote on a controversial bill that would enshrine Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people” in a new Basic Law was scrapped after coalition members failed to agree on the bill’s wording.

Sarah Silverman Slammed After Calling for Palestinian Teen Ahed Tamimi’s Release, Haaretz

Jewish-American comedian Sarah Silverman is at the center of a Twitter storm after tweeting in support of detained Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi over the weekend.

Israeli forces detain 17 Palestinians across West Bank, East Jerusalem, Ma’an

Israeli forces carried detained at least 17 Palestinians during overnight raids between Sunday and Monday across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to local sources.

Opinions and Analysis

The Final Days of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Rule, Haaretz

Aluf Benn writes, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership has been dealt a harsh blow, apparently a mortal one. The power of the prime minister doesn’t stem only from the outcome of an election, from a coalition majority or powers granted by law, but from the respect of the apparatus of government, of aides, spokespersons and confidants. The moment this circle is broken, the leader’s authority is lost – even if he remains in his seat for some time until his final ouster.”

New Netanyahu Corruption Allegations: The Details, The New York Times

David Halfbfinger and Isabel Kershner write, “Two more serious allegations have surfaced in the metastasizing corruption investigation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his inner circle: that one of his aides tried to bribe a judge to quash a criminal case involving Mr. Netanyahu’s wife, and that he or his aides traded lucrative regulatory approvals for favorable coverage on a news website owned by Israel’s largest telecommunications company. Mr. Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing. Here is a rundown of the particulars, according to the police and Israeli news reports.”

Pursued by the Law, Netanyahu Sparks Revival of Right-wing Lunacy, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev writes, “Netanyahu’s implication in criminal investigations is the trigger that has caused serious deterioration. Like Trump – his great friend, partner in probes and sometimes role model – Netanyahu has launched an irresponsible assault on the Israeli police. He depicts himself, outrageously, as the innocent victim of a dark conspiracy, whose agents are out to destroy him. Whether his paranoia is as genuinely acute as it seems or just a cynical manipulation, ever-growing parts of the Israeli right, from top to bottom, are getting sucked into the whirlwind of Netanyahu’s lurid fantasies. They are increasingly convinced that the state itself is his enemy, and thus, by extension, their own.”

Putin’s Syrian Dilemma: Back Israel or Iran? Haaretz

Anshel Pfeffer writes, “Netanyahu’s team has been working closely with the Russian president for years, and the two leaders speak regularly on the phone and meet every few months. When they’re on their own, with just fellow Likud lawmaker Zeev Elkin to interpret, does Netanyahu openly threaten to destabilize the Assad regime? Probably not. The implied threat is enough.

Putin will have to make the call on Israel or Iran soon – or risk losing all he has invested in Syria.”

Is Israel a Model When It Comes to Guns, as Mike Huckabee Says? The New York Times

Isabel Kerhsner writes, “In fact, contrary to the advocates’ arguments for more guns, Israel has strict gun control. Those citizens who are licensed to own a personal weapon have generally undergone some military training. Guns are not seen as a hobby, but as a tool for self-defense, and if necessary, to help protect others from terrorism. And while Israel has sophisticated policing and intelligence aimed at stopping terrorism, it has little experience with the kinds of civilian mass shootings that have become the source of anguished debate in the United States.”