White House Urged to Restore Aid to U.N. Palestinian Refugee Agency, The New York Times
Rick Gladstone reports, “The leaders of 21 global aid organizations asked the Trump administration on Wednesday to restore withheld funds to the United Nations agency that helps Palestinians, calling the funding cut a “dangerous and striking departure” from a history of American generosity. In a letter to top administration officials, the groups’ leaders expressed concern that the White House’s decision to withhold more than half of the planned contribution to the agency, if maintained, would disrupt Palestinian access to food, health care, education ‘and other critical support to vulnerable populations.’”
Nidal Al-Mughrabi and Miriam Berger report, “ Confrontations between young Palestinians and Israeli soldiers have taken on a life of their own since Palestinian leaders called for protests against Donald Trump’s decision to treat Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. While Hamas, Fatah and other groups call for a weekly show of strength on Fridays, dozens of stone-throwers turn out along the border between Gaza and Israel every day, even when, as last Friday, a protest is called off due to bad weather.”
US, Europe huddle on Iran after Trump ultimatum, Al-Monitor
Laura Rozen writes, “ In the wake of US President Donald Trump’s warning this month that he would not waive US sanctions on Iran again unless the nuclear deal was fixed, diplomats from the United States and key European powers are holding working group consultations on Iran, possibly in London later this week, to see what they can come up with. Officials and experts say the Europeans are willing to explore cooperation with the United States to try to address shared concerns about Iran, such as its ballistic missile program and alleged arms shipments to Yemen’s Houthi rebels, but continue to resist Trump’s demands to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear accord, which they believe is working.”
Support for armed struggle has almost doubled among Palestinians in the last six months, while Israeli backing for a decisive military offensive to end the conflict increased during the same period by almost 60 percent, according to a poll published Thursday that said the rise was most likely linked to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
U.S. President Donald Trump departed the White House late on Wednesday on his way to Davos, Switzerland, where he will attend the World Economic Forum. Trump’s meetings at the gathering of the world’s business and political elite, which he will be attending for the first time as president, will focus to a large extent on recent developments in the Middle East, and on the pending decisions his administration has to make regarding Iran, Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Washington said reexamining entirety of US aid to Palestinians, Times of Israel
The US leadership is looking beyond its recent cuts to the the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, with the State Department reexamining the entirety of its aid budget to the Palestinian Authority, Hadashot news reported Wednesday.
Report: Saudi intelligence agency brought weapons into Iran, Washington Post
An official news agency reports that Iran’s intelligence agency has confiscated large amounts of weapons and ammunition including bombs and grenades and officials are blaming Saudi Arabia for bringing them into the country.
The Justice Ministry has opened a criminal investigation against a Shin Bet interrogator suspected of committing prohibited acts in the course of duty. This is the first investigation to be opened against a Shin Bet operative since the establishment more than a decade and a half ago of a Justice Ministry unit, known by the Hebrew acronym Mivtan, to investigate complaints against the Shin Bet.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday that he would not recognize Palestine as an independent state as a reaction to US President Donald Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Israel needs to make a well-funded, concerted effort to win back the support of progressives in the United States, Deputy Minister for Diplomacy Michael Oren said Wednesday, responding to a dramatic survey published the day before that showed that Democrats are almost as likely to sympathize with the Palestinians as they are with Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian peace conflict.
Palestinian cellular providers launched high-speed data services in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, narrowing a technological gap with Israel after a lengthy and costly Israeli ban on the operation of local 3G networks.
Bradley Burston argues, “Moreover, hidden behind every debate on refugees in Israel is the fundamental reason the Netanyahu government cannot enact a policy that would accept non-Jewish refugees of any kind: Were Israel to enact such a policy, it might also apply to the millions of descendants of the Palestinians who became refugees when they fled or were forced to flee in 1948 and 1967. This is not a normal time. In America and Israel both, a corrosive, unapologetic racism is not only at full flame, it has taken power. Both countries are led by politicians who are starving for scapegoats and who have crowed their way to campaign success by whipping up hatred and suspicion of the undocumented.”
What’s Hamas up to in Lebanon? Al-Monitor
Shlomi Eldar writes, “Hamas’ military and political leaders, among them Arouri, probably do not believe they can establish an operational threat against Israel significant enough to disrupt life in the Galilee. If they are forced to engage in another armed clash with Israel, however, and feel that their control over Gaza is threatened, Hamas could use its presence in southern Lebanon to mobilize the support of Hezbollah and maybe even drag the Lebanese outfit into all-out confrontations with Israel.”
Amit Gvaryahu writes, “And this too is the level to which Israel’s Knesset has stooped. Its overwhelming right-wing and religious majority obsequiously traded the historical Jewish claim to Abraham, the Torah, and redemption according to the Jewish narrative, for the lentil stew of American ‘recognition’ of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the city where, Pence and others hope, Christian dreams may still come true.”