News Roundup for January 16, 2018

January 16, 2018

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J Street in the News

AIPAC cautiously praises Trump for stance on Iran; J Street denounces him, Times of Israel

“J Street, the liberal pro-Israel lobby that backed the deal, strongly denounced Trump for ‘recklessly’ putting the US ‘on a path to a new nuclear crisis and isolation on the world stage.’ A statement from J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami called on members of congress and ‘any responsible officials remaining inside the administration’ to take steps ‘to reverse this decision and prevent this disastrous policy from being carried out.’”

New Trump Threats Put US on Path to Nuclear Crisis With Iran, J Street

“Once again, this reckless and volatile president is refusing to uphold the United States’ international commitments or work seriously with our allies to address important global threats. On a day when the entire world is already outraged over his disgraceful comments about foreign nations and immigrants to the United States, the president is doubling down on chaos. He is abdicating American leadership and starting a ticking clock towards possible military confrontation and disaster in the Middle East. It is unclear whether the president will ultimately follow through on this threat, or if he is simply yet again attempting to defer an important decision to punt responsibility onto some other party. If Trump does carry out this course of action, the US will be left completely isolated on the world stage and Iran will be empowered to pursue the development of a nuclear weapon.”

Abbas Unacceptable Speech Results Directly from Disastrous Trump Policies, J Street

Sunday’s speech by President Abbas no doubt reflected his own and the Palestinian people’s deep despair at the ever-deepening occupation and the lack of diplomatic progress toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That frustration, however, is no excuse for calling into question either the Jewish connection to, or Palestinian recognition of, the state of Israel – or for language and proposals that are justifiably earning widespread condemnation. This speech – and the undercutting of America’s role as a mediator in this conflict – would not have come about if it were not for President Trump’s inept and disastrous missteps regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. By appointing a settlement movement ally as Ambassador to Israel, refusing to endorse the two-state solution and upending longstanding US policy on Jerusalem, the president and his team have taken one step after another to destroy the chances of peaceful resolution of the conflict.”

Top News and Analysis

Trump issues ultimatum to ‘fix’ Iran nuclear deal, Reuters

President Donald Trump gave the Iran nuclear deal a final reprieve on Friday but warned European allies and Congress they had to work with him to fix ”the disastrous flaws” in the pact or face a U.S. exit. Trump said he would waive sanctions against Iran that were lifted as part of the international deal for the last time unless his conditions were met. The ultimatum puts pressure on Europeans – key backers and parties to the 2015 international agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program – to satisfy Trump, who wants the pact strengthened with a separate agreement within 120 days.

Abbas Declares Oslo Accords Dead: ‘Trump’s Peace Plan Is a Slap, We’ll Slap Back’, Haaretz

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday said Israel killed the Oslo Accords and called U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mideast peace plan ‘a slap in the face’ during a dramatic meeting in Ramallah on Sunday, adding that ‘we will slap back.’ He added that ‘any future negotiations will take place only within the context of the international community, by an international committee created in the framework of an international conference. Allow me to be clear: We will not accept American leadership of a political process involving negotiations.’ The Palestinian Central Council convened against the backdrop of U.S. President Donald Trump’s December 6 announcement declaring Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel and the unprecedented rift this caused between the Palestinian Authority and Washington.”

Iran vows ‘serious response’ to new sanctions and rebuffs Trump’s demands on nuclear deal, Washington Post

Carol Morello reports, “Iran’s Foreign Ministry said Saturday that it would not agree to any changes to the nuclear deal, as President Trump has demanded, and it vowed a ‘serious response’ to new U.S. sanctions that it said crossed a red line….A Foreign Ministry statement reported by the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency said Iran ‘will not accept any change in the deal, neither now or in the future.’ It also said Iran will ‘not take any action beyond its commitments.’ It specifically mentioned its refusal to agree to linking its nuclear commitments, which even the Trump administration acknowledges Iran is technically adhering to, with other issues such as ballistic missile tests. Trump proposed that continued sanctions relief be tied to Iran’s ongoing missile tests, which do not currently violate the narrow nuclear accord.”

Abbas Exits With One Final, Outrageous Performance. Now, America Must Contain the Damage, Haaretz

Dan Shapiro writes, “Those in Israel (or Washington) celebrating the demise of Abbas as a partner and any chance for a Trump peace plan should think again. True, some pressure will be off Israel, as no one will call for hard decisions to be made. For those in the Israeli cabinet who actively oppose two states (a clear majority), they will have room to advance their plans that will make it impossible. But that does not advance American interests of ensuring Israel’s future as a secure, Jewish, democratic state.”


Top Palestinian Body Backs Abbas: End Recognition of Israel, Reject Any Peace Deal by Trump, Haaretz

The Palestinian Central Council stated on Monday evening that the Palestinian recognition of the State of Israel should be frozen immediately, with all the consequences implicit in such a diplomatic move: putting an end to the security coordination with Israel and acting versus the international community in order to fully boycott Israeli settlements. It also noted that Palestinian officials should continue to turn to the United Nations and its Security Council in order to achieve the recognition of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders.

Russia slams US demands for Iran; Germany seeks more detail, Washington Post

Russia spoke out strongly Monday against the U.S. push for modifying a nuclear agreement with Iran, while Germany said it would seek more detail on what the U.S. wants and analyze the situation with its European partners. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned that Moscow won’t support the U.S. demand for changes in the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers that saw Iran accept curbs on its nuclear program in exchange for lifting international sanctions.

Palestinian Man Killed In Clashes With Israeli Troops, Forward

A Palestinian man was killed during clashes with Israeli soldiers near Qalqilya in the West Bank.

Dozens of Palestinians were protesting in Jayyus, located near the western border of the West Bank, and began throwing rocks at Israel Defense Forces soldiers deployed near Qalqilya.The soldiers responded with riot dispersal methods and live fire, the IDF confirmed. The man was identified by Palestinian Authority Health Ministry as Muhammad Ahmed Salim, 24. He reportedly was shot in the head at close range.

Netanyahu: Abbas ‘helping’ Israel with anti-Semitic, anti-Trump rant, Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is serving Israel’s interests by lashing out against Washington and against a Jewish connection to Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday, a day after the Palestinian leader angrily rejected US President Donald Trump’s approach to the Middle East peace process.

Netanyahu Hails New Era of Friendship With India; Bilateral Agreements Signed, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Indian premier Narendra Modi met in New Delhi on Monday, in what Netanyahu hailed as the beginning of a new era of friendship between the two nations. Nine bilateral agreements were signed as part of the meetings, including in the fields of oil, gas, renewable energy and cyber cooperation.

Israeli army declares Nabi Saleh, home to Tamimi family, closed military zone, Ma’an

The Israeli army declared the central occupied West Bank village of Nabi Saleh — home to imprisoned teenage activist Ahed al-Tamimi — a closed military zone on Saturday, closing off all entrances and exits.

Israel to reopen Gaza crossing after destroying terror tunnel underneath, Times of Israel

The Israel Defense Forces announced it planned to reopen the Kerem Shalom Crossing into the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, days after it found and destroyed an attack tunnel that was dug underneath.

Opinions and Analysis

Abbas’ Speech: Palestinian President Talks Tough, but Is Thin on Strategy, Haaretz

Jack Khoury observes, “Beyond his personal statement and unusual choice of phrases, which included hoping the houses of Trump and Israel fall down, Abbas didn’t shake the tree much in describing the next stage of Palestinian strategy. He did agree to continue negotiations, under international auspices, and agreed to the Arab peace initiative as originally formulated. He also agreed to a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders and said he was open to talking to Israel’s peace camp….Yet Abbas knows he can’t wait another quarter-century for the international community to supplant the United States and pressure Israel until it fulfills his expectations. And he offered one more message: Even if they dismantle the Palestinian Authority and its institutions, the Palestinians are here to stay, with or without the occupation, in a single state or two.”

Palestinians hit dead end on all fronts, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit writes, “Ever since Trump was elected, he has been the hottest issue under discussion on the Israeli-Palestinian front. Is he really a sworn fan of Israel who would do everything he could to allow Netanyahu to continue to freeze the peace process, or is he an experienced businessman who wanted to make “the ultimate deal” and is capable of doing what none of his predecessors dared to do? At this point in time, Trump seems like a dream come true for Netanyahu and the Israeli right wing, whoever and wherever they are. True, when it comes to Trump, anything and everything can change in any direction at any moment. But as of now, the merriment in Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition is authentic and, evidently, also justified.”

How the U.S. Is Making the War in Yemen Worse, The New Yorker

Nicolas Niarchos reports on US backing for the ongoing war in Yemen. “Senator Murphy told me that the U.S.’s support for the coalition will prove detrimental to the country’s interests. ‘Our first job is to protect our citizenry, and, to me, these arms sales put U.S. lives in jeopardy,’ he said.”

Gazan Economy, Infrastructure on Verge of Collapse, Israeli Security Officials Say, Haaretz

Amos Harel reports, “Senior defense officials one meets these days – not only members of the Government Coordinator of Activities in the Territories unit, but officers in uniform, and to some extent even the Shin Bet security service – are voicing surprisingly similar opinions about the situation in the Gaza Strip. The economy in the Strip is on the verge of total collapse, ‘like from zero to below zero,’ as one official put it, and so is civilian infrastructure….About 95 percent of Gaza’s water is undrinkable. Hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of sewage flow into the Mediterranean daily, reaching Israel’s shores as well. There’s a bit more electricity available now – up to six or seven hours a day, thanks to a decision by the Palestinian Authority to go back to funding some of the power, which is purchased from Israel. Experts warn of the outbreak of infectious diseases.”

Trump’s Catch-22 With Iran and the Palestinians Could Blow Up at Israel, Haaretz

Zvi Bar’el writes, “Israel’s great interest is for Iran to abide by the nuclear deal and not risk it being voided by its most important ally. The real concern regarding Iran’s ballistic missiles must lead to the opening of a parallel negotiations channel with Iran, but not by holding the nuclear agreement hostage. Israel achieved one of the most important strategic achievements in its history when it succeeded in mobilizing a strong international coalition against the Iranian nuclear threat. Trump might now crush that achievement and sabotage any chance of reaching any kind of agreement with Iran on its nuclear program or its ballistic missiles in the future. In the cases of both Iran and the Palestinian Authority, where Trump treads, Israel’s toes get broken.”

We Can Oppose BDS – As Well as the Occupation, Expansionism and Blacklists, Jerusalem Post

James Adler asks, “[I]f BDS is so impossible, why is the [Israeli] government fighting it so hard? The only reason seem to be to advance its political agenda of cultivating the public’s sense of victimhood and defiant belligerence against the entire outside world. So that it can better push forward its aims of occupation, settlement and settlement expansion, land confiscation and annexation of the Palestinian territories.”