Jeremy Ben-Ami writes, “In a landmark speech to the Security Council this week, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued an important challenge to his American and Israeli counterparts. Laying out explicit support for the two-state solution and a serious proposal for getting there, Abbas raised the obvious question: Why are President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu unwilling to do the same?….It is time to demand that when the Israeli and American leaders meet in March, they clarify that they themselves are partners for peace and a two-state solution. One way the president and prime minister could do that would be to respond constructively to the Palestinian proposal outlined this week. If they doubt Palestinian sincerity, then, by all means, they should put it to the test.”
Josh Lederman reports, “The Trump administration is considering an offer from Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson to pay for at least part of a new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, four U.S. officials told The Associated Press. Lawyers at the State Department are looking into the legality of accepting private donations to cover some or all of the embassy costs, the administration officials said. The discussions are occurring as the new embassy clears its final bureaucratic hurdles….In one possible scenario, the administration would solicit contributions not only from Adelson but potentially from other donors in the evangelical and American Jewish communities, too. One official said Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate and staunch supporter of Israel, had offered to pay the difference between the total cost — expected to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars — and what the administration is able to raise.”
Alison Kaplan Sommer writes, “Netanyahu has been declared, depending on the preferred metaphor of any given TV talking head, a “dead man walking” or a “lame duck” – officially running the country, but drained of any real authority. The atmosphere is reminiscent of the United States during the Watergate era, with every day bringing new revelations. So what are the possibilities facing the prime minister moving forward?”
The electric company in the Gaza Strip will shut down the only power plant in Gaza because of a lack of diesel fuel to run the plant, the company announced on Thursday evening. Until the electricity generating plant is put back to work, the only source of electricity in the Gaza Strip will be that supplied by Israel. The amount of electricity Israel can provide to Gaza is enough for four hours of power – followed by 16 hours of blackout a day.
Iran will withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal if there is no economic benefit and major banks continue to shun the Islamic Republic, its deputy foreign minister said on Thursday.Under the deal with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States, Iran agreed to restrict its nuclear program in return for the removal of sanctions that have crippled its economy. Despite that, big banks have continued to stay away for fear of falling foul of remaining U.S. sanctions – something that has hampered Iran’s efforts to rebuild foreign trade and lure investment.
“A television news poll found that 50 percent of Israelis believe that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, beset by corruption accusations, should resign. Some 33 percent of respondents said he should remain in office, according to results of the Hadashot survey released Wednesday evening following the latest developments in the scandal known as Case 4000. The snap poll by the privately owned station also found that 42 percent of respondents favored early elections due to the allegations, with 36 percent opposed and preferring to wait until the scheduled vote in November 2019.”
Dozens of Palestinian activists attacked an American delegation visiting a Palestinian research and polling center near Ramallah in the West Bank Thursday. The delegation had to be evacuated from the city by Palestinian police forces. The Palestinian protestors threw eggs and vegetables at the Americans outside the research center. They also waved Palestinian flags and held signs reading: “The U.S. is part of the problem, not the solution,” referring to U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December, reported the Palestine News Network.
Vice President Mike Pence earned one of his biggest applause lines at an influential conservative conference when he cited President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Qatari envoy calls for emergency aid to Gaza, Times of Israel
Qatar’s point man for Gaza on Thursday urged the world to send critically needed humanitarian aid to the territory, warning that the war-ravaged coastal strip is “on the verge of collapsing,” and could plunge into a new round of fighting with Israel if conditions do not improve.
Hundreds of asylum seekers march to desert prison to protest deportations, +972
Hundreds of asylum seekers detained in Holot, Israel’s desert detention facility for African asylum seekers, marched to nearby Saharonim Prison on Thursday after seven asylum seekers were imprisoned there for refusing to be sent an unnamed country in Africa, widely presumed to be Rwanda, as part of a “voluntary” deportation program. The demonstrators chanted “We are refugees not criminals,” “We are human beings,” “Bring back our brothers,” “Stop the deportations,” and “We are not for sale.”
Iran Among the Ruins, Foreign Affairs
Vali Nasr argues, “Washington seems to believe that rolling back Iranian influence would restore order to the Middle East. But that expectation rests on a faulty understanding of what caused it to break down in the first place. Iran did not cause the collapse, and containing Iran will not bring back stability.”
Amos Harel observes, “Cabinet ministers, including Netanyahu’s political rivals, praise the high level of concentration the prime minister has demonstrated in recent discussions of security and diplomatic issues. But one may ask what the incessant deluge of bad news in the criminal arena will do to his attention and to the time he has left to devote to important issues. At the same time, it seems that Netanyahu will find it difficult to take steps he deems essential since these will be overshadowed by doubts, even if his considerations are germane to the issues at hand.”
Sarah Wildman moderates a discussion with Daniel Levy on the troubling state of the peace process under Trump.
Joshua Keating writes, “Given the not-so-subtle anti-Semitic undertones in much of the anti-Soros activism, it’s also alarming to see it so enthusiastically embraced by the current government of Israel. The Israeli right has criticized Soros for some time now over his support for the liberal pro-peace group J Street and organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that regularly criticize Israeli policies. More recently, Netanyahu has accused Soros of being behind the campaign against his government’s controversial plan to deport African migrants. The prime minister’s son Yair spread an anti-Semitic meme that suggested Soros was behind the ongoing corruption allegations against the Netanyahu family. Former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke and the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer both endorsed Yair’s attack on the 87-year-old Holocaust survivor.”