News Roundup for February 5, 2018

February 5, 2018

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Top News and Analysis

Israeli Military Chief Warns: Gaza on Verge of Collapse, Brings Both Sides Closer to War in 2018, Haaretz

“Army Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot warned the cabinet on Sunday that the Gaza Strip is on the verge of collapse due to the worsening humanitarian crisis in the Hamas-ruled enclave. Additional deterioration could bring the prospect of a confrontation between the two sides closer this year, although neither side wants that, the chief of staff said. Eisenkot called on Israel to take substantial steps to head off a collapse of the situation in the Strip….. It has been made clear to the country’s political leadership….that an announced suspension of funding by the Trump administration for UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees, would be expected to worsen the situation in Gaza.”

Trump’s diplomacy is all about the ultimatum. That could spell disaster, Washington Post

Jackson Diehl writes, “The withdrawal of U.S. aid is the last thing Israel wants — it would cause the collapse of the West Bank Palestinian security forces that in recent years have worked closely with Israel to prevent terrorist attacks. Israeli military forces might have to redeploy in Palestinian areas they now avoid. In short, if Trump follows through, he’ll do less damage to the Palestinians than to Israel, the ally he thinks he’s appeasing….Does he know how the West Bank will be secured if the Palestinian Authority collapses? Does he have a new way to stop Iran from building a nuclear weapon? He doesn’t. The worst thing about Trump’s ultimatums is that there is nothing behind them. In foreign policy, that’s an invitation to disaster.”

Secret Alliance: Israel Carries Out Airstrikes in Egypt, With Cairo’s O.K., The New York Times

David Kirkpatrick reports, “For more than two years, unmarked Israeli drones, helicopters and jets have carried out a covert air campaign, conducting more than 100 airstrikes inside Egypt, frequently more than once a week — and all with the approval of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The remarkable cooperation marks a new stage in the evolution of their singularly fraught relationship. Once enemies in three wars, then antagonists in an uneasy peace, Egypt and Israel are now secret allies in a covert war against a common foe. For Cairo, the Israeli intervention has helped the Egyptian military regain its footing in its nearly five-year battle against the militants. For Israel, the strikes have bolstered the security of its borders and the stability of its neighbor.”


Israel Starts Issuing Deportation Notices to African Asylum Seekers, Haaretz

The Population, Immigration and Border Authority will begin issuing deportation notices on Sunday to asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan who are not held in the Holot detention facility.

Netanyahu Says George Soros Funding Campaign Against Israeli Plan to Deport Asylum Seekers, Haaretz

“Prime Minister Netanyahu told Likud ministers on Sunday that Jewish billionaire George Soros is funding a campaign of protest against Israel’s plan to deport thousands of African asylum seekers….Netanyahu was responding to a comment by Likud minister Ofir Akunis, who said that recent protests were that of extreme leftists, and funded by European countries.”

Israel Begins Legalizing West Bank Outpost After Settler Killed There, Forward

Israel’s Cabinet approved a proposal that begins the process of legalizing the Gilad Farm outpost in the northern West Bank. The approval comes less than a month after Rabbi Raziel Shevach, the 35-year-old father of six children, was killed in a drive-by shooting at the outpost junction. The proposal says the government plans to establish a legal settlement on privately owned Israeli land or state lands, the Times of Israel reported.

Flouting Court Order, Israel’s Civil Administration Razes Classrooms in West Bank Village, Haaretz

Due to a bureaucratic mix-up, the the Civil Administration in the West Bank demolished two classrooms on Sunday that were used by children living in the Bedouin village of Abu Nuwar near the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim. The Civil Administration had ruled that the classrooms were built illegally without permits. However, the High Court of Justice last year ordered the Civil Administration to postpone the demolition until the legal status of the classrooms could be examined more thoroughly and all other administrative appeals had been exhausted.

Israeli Labor Leader: If Peace Talks Fail, Israel Should Withdraw From West Bank Without a Deal, Haaretz

Israeli Labor Party Chairman Avi Gabbay said Saturday that if negotiations with the Palestinians fail, Israel will have to withdraw from the territories unilaterally. “We must do all we can in order to hold genuine negotiations,” he said at an interview and current-events programs in Nes Tziona, south of Tel Aviv. “If there aren’t two states for two peoples, there will be one state with an Arab majority, and we don’t want to reach that situation. We are the ones who have to make the decisions and the Palestinians have to reach a situation where it is worth their while to reach an agreement.

Palestinians slam Jerusalem move to end to tax breaks on churches, UN properties, Times of Israel

Palestinians on Sunday strongly denounced an Israeli decision to collect taxes from churches and United Nations agencies in Jerusalem, saying the move was aimed at “emptying” the city of its Arab residents and Christian holy sites.

Israeli forces kill Palestinian during manhunt for alleged killer of settler, Ma’an

Israeli forces on Saturday killed a Palestinian teenager during a raid in the northern occupies West Bank city of Jenin, reportedly as part of the ongoing manhunt for the Palestinian suspected of killing an Israeli settler last month.

Israel Seizes Explosives Headed To Gaza Hidden In Shipment Of Medical Equipment, Forward

Israeli officials at the Kerem Shalom crossing thwarted an attempt to smuggle explosives into the Gaza Strip in a shipment of medical equipment. The seized materials were identified as a central component used in the preparation of explosive charges and in the high-trajectory industry in the Gaza Strip, the Ministry of Defense said in a statement issued on Sunday. The materials were intercepted sometime last week, according to the statement.

Opinions and Analysis

Trump radicalizes US Mideast policies, Al-Monitor

Uri Savir reports, “The Palestinian leadership suspects that after having taken Israel’s position on the issue of Jerusalem, Trump is now planning to fully endorse Israel against the Palestinians’ right of return. A senior PLO official close to the Palestinian president told Al-Monitor that Abbas is reaching out on two levels to his Arab partners, including Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. He hopes to solicit alternative funds for the refugees and also to garner Arab support against a Benjamin Netanyahu-modeled peace plan by the US administration. The official assessed that the outline of Trump’s plan has been orchestrated by his envoys Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt in cooperation with Netanyahu.”

Journalist Details Israel’s ‘Secret History’ Of Targeted Assassinations, NPR

In an interview with Terry Gross, Ronen Bergman says that while Israel’s shootings, poisonings, bombings and drone strikes against its perceived enemies were “tactical successes,” they were also diplomatically harmful.

With Demolitions Imminent in Susya, Congressional Leaders Speak Out, J Street Blog

“The campaign of creeping annexation and demolitions in the West Bank thrives when it is allowed to take place in the shadows, with little public scrutiny. That’s why it’s so important that today, two prominent legislators spoke out and called attention to an ongoing crisis that exacerbates conflict, damages communities and jeopardizes the future of both Israelis and Palestinians. As the threat to the village of Susya is more immediate than ever, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-9) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA) both made clear their strong concern and opposition to imminent demolitions there.”

With all his chips in, Palestinian businessman aims to build ‘Silicon Rawabi’, Times of Israel

Dov Lieber reports, “[A]t the heart of Rawabi, so far eight years in the making, a tech-oriented business center has recently opened. Its designers hope it can serve as the nucleus of a future Palestinian state’s own Silicon Valley. Palestinian businessman Bashar Masri, who founded and developed Rawabi, hopes he can fill the business center — which includes a sleekly designed collaborative workspace and startup incubator — with information and communications technology companies, providing thousands of jobs to locals. But like the city of Rawabi itself — a mammoth $1.4 billion project, partly funded by Qatar — the tech hub is wildly ambitious and well-funded, yet its future is still uncertain.”

Netanyahu’s Policies Threaten Israel — And American Jews, Forward

Stanley Gold writes, “If the prospects for a “two-state solution” continue to fade because of policies advocated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling coalition, which are tacitly if not explicitly supported by the Trump administration, the consequences will be dire. Anti-Semites will be emboldened, our ability to support Israel will be dramatically weakened, and our own capacity to maintain a cohesive Jewish community that plays a critical role in furthering progressive US policy — domestic and foreign — will deteriorate. As America struggles with a crisis of values at home, we must recognize that there are policy changes in Israel that throw its values into question as well. In many ways, Israel’s democracy is under threat. The attacks on the media and the judiciary, legislation restricting civil liberties and religious pluralism, and Israel’s precipitous slide toward annexation of the West Bank pose an existential threat.”