“J Street supports the brave Iranian people who have taken to the streets over the past week to seek a better and more equitable future for themselves and their country. As we watch their protests with hope for their success and fear for their safety, we are deeply concerned that President Trump may use their struggle as a disingenuous pretext to reimpose nuclear sanctions that would violate the Iran nuclear agreement. Such a move could have disastrous consequences for the US and our allies — and for the Iranian people themselves. By baselessly violating an agreement that has succeeded in blocking Iranian pathways to a nuclear weapon, the president would only empower the terror-supporting hardliners who oppose the pact and help them redirect public ire toward the United States.”
Donald Trump unlikely to certify nuclear deal with Iran, Financial Times
“US president Donald Trump will not certify a landmark nuclear deal with Iran for the second time, according to officials, putting the future of the enfeebled accord in doubt. ‘It’s highly unlikely,’ said a senior administration official of prospects that Mr Trump will endorse the deal to Congress ahead of a looming January 13 deadline, adding that the president had yet to decide whether to continue to waive nuclear sanctions on which the precarious deal rests and which also fall due next week…..’We haven’t decided what we’re going to do on the Iran deal,’ said the official, adding that the administration was preparing options for the president ahead of sanctions waiver deadlines which run from January 12 to 17, and is considering further separate sanctions against individuals and organisations in Iran.”
Israel Air Forces struck “central terrorist infrastructure” targets in the Gaza Strip overnight Wednesday, said the Israeli army spokesperson in a statement. “The IDF will continue to employ all measures available to it below and above ground to thwart attempted attacks on Israeli citizens,” the military said in an unusual statement. “We are prepared and ready for a variety of scenarios, and we will work to face every attempt to breach Israeli sovereignty.”
Wendy Sherman writes, “[T]he Iran deal is wildly popular among the Iranian people. They saw the deal as an important step in improving the economy, a key underlying grievance of the protests. If the president kills the deal, he will be giving a gift to the hardliners….The Iranian people are speaking for themselves. We should not attempt to speak for them or give the government a convenient rallying cry that obfuscates the regime’s responsibility for what is occurring. None of us knows what will happen in the coming days. What is important is that President Trump not take actions that get in the way of the voices of the people of Iran. Killing the Iran deal will do just that.”
Iran’s protests are fading, but Iranians are still angry, Washington Post
Amanda Erickson observes, “[E]ven as Trump voices support for the Iranian people, their actions might lead him down a counterproductive path. In two weeks, he could kill the nuclear deal by deciding to reimpose sanctions on Tehran. Doing so would almost certainly make things in Iran worse, not better. Destabilizing the deal would make it harder to convince foreign companies to invest in Iran. Fresh sanctions would restrict the economy further and certainly do nothing to materially improve the lives of ordinary Iranians. And it would give Iranian leaders an easy scapegoat for their people’s poverty.”
Following President Donald Trump’s tweets earlier this week in which he expressed doubt over the usefulness of American aid to the Palestinians, the White House is now actively looking at cutting that aid, and is expected to hold a discussion on the matter on Friday.
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, hosted a reception for the 64 countries that voted against or abstained from voting on a resolution condemning President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Nine countries voted against the resolution, including Israel, the United States, Guatemala, Honduras and Togo, and 35 abstained, including the six EU member states Poland, Romania, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Croatia and Latvia. The rest of the European Union was among the 128 nations that voted in favor.
Netanyahu urging Americans not to cut funding for UNRWA — TV report, Times of Israel
Concerned that a threatened cut in US funding for the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA could lead to a humanitarian disaster in Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is privately urging the Trump Administration not to implement the threat, a TV report claimed Thursday.
Iran Lashes Out at Its Enemies, at Home and Abroad, Amid Protests, The New York Times
Members of Iran’s ruling establishment took turns on Thursday assigning blame for what they regard as an embarrassing outbreak of protests this week in more than 80 cities across the country. Iran’s chief prosecutor elaborated on the government’s claims that the United States and its allies were responsible for stirring up the violent protests. The United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia planned the “riots,” the prosecutor, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, said on state television, in an effort to “subvert the Iranian government.”
Uganda has denied that it agreed to a deal to accept what could amount to thousands of African migrants that will be deported from Israel. On Thursday, the African nation’s foreign minister told the French news agency AFP that there is no agreement with Israel, despite reports the previous day that Uganda and Rwanda would take the Sudanese and Eritrean migrants who refuse to return to their countries of origin.
Israel set to green-light newest batch of settlement homes next week, Times of Israel
The Defense Ministry announced Thursday that its committee responsible for authorizing construction in the West Bank will convene next Wednesday to advance new housing plans for Israeli settlements.
Peter Lerner writes, “A review of UNRWA, its mission, its mandate, the refugee definition, the scope of its operations, are all long overdue – but they serve a purpose for the Palestinians and for Israel alike. Severing the organization’s funding raises far more questions than answers. Key questions remain. What is the expected outcome for the United States from the decision, and will this be the best route to get there? Will cutting millions of dollars push the Palestinian Authority to the negotiating table? Or, will it disconnect them further from the ‘mother of all deals’? And what price will the Palestinian people, refugees and their descendants pay? How will this decision improve Israel’s security? Or will it give a hard push of unpredictability into a predictable cycle of violence?”
Y.J Fischer writes, “International powers entered the nuclear deal to curb Iran’s advancing nuclear capability. But an ancillary benefit was that it put the onus on the Iranian regime to translate the easing of sanctions and influx of capital into increased prosperity. Just a few years ago, 56 percent of Iranians blamed the United States and other Western countries for harming their economic circumstances; 47 percent blamed the United States for this; only 10 percent blamed their government. Without the deal, and the removal of sanctions that came with it, many rank-and-file Iranians would have had a harder time now blaming the economic management of their government….Which suggests that responding to the current demonstrations with additional sanctions — as the Trump administration has hinted at to try to squeeze the Iranian government — would be a mistake. It would give the regime a scapegoat and a propaganda lifeline when it needs it most.”
Daniel Kurtzer argues, “The conclusion of the JCPOA promised a significant improvement in economic conditions, raising the expectations of Iranians that a better life lay ahead. But the promised sanctions relief has thus far proved far less meaningful than expected, causing a gap between rising expectations and the ability of people to achieve those expected gains. As a result of this relative deprivation, Iranians have taken to the streets in rebellion against their government.”
Yossi Verter writes, “What’s currently underway in the Knesset looks like an end-of-season sale of fantastical legislation, some of it utterly untenable, some of it dangerous and harmful, the rest just superfluous. In a superhuman effort to preserve his rule, Netanyahu is responding with a series of shameful capitulations – to every caprice, every dictate, every threat, even by the most junior partners, even if the capitulation will ultimately exact a steep political price for his own party. As for the price that the state and its citizens will pay, that’s the last thing he cares about.”
Israel Offers African Migrants a Choice: Ticket Out or Jail, The New York Times
Isabel Kershner reports, “Israel is offering a stark choice to tens of thousands of African migrants in the country: Agree to leave voluntarily by the end of March, with a plane ticket and a grant of $3,500, or face possible incarceration….It is the latest phase of Israel’s long campaign to expel tens of thousands of African migrants and asylum seekers, mostly Eritrean and Sudanese, who entered the country illegally. At least 20,000 have already left Israel. ‘The mission now,’ Mr. Netanyahu said, ‘is to deport the rest.’”
Amos Harel observes, “There is a growing sense that Israel may find itself sliding toward another military confrontation in the Gaza Strip, despite the still-valid assumption that it has no interest in one, and the highly likely belief that Hamas doesn’t, either. Sporadic rocket and mortar fire from Gaza has been going on for a month, ever since U.S. President Donald Trump’s declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in early December. The fact that there have been no casualties from the 45 rockets and shells launched from the Strip, half of which fell inside Israel, is the main reason that the country’s leaders can refrain from taking harsher retaliatory measures.”
Stacie Goddard argues, “[T]here are ways for Israelis and Palestinians to divide sovereignty over the city without ripping Jerusalem apart physically. In the 1990s, Israeli and Palestinian leaders proposed ways to divide and share sovereignty within Jerusalem’s boundaries. One option suggested the core of Jerusalem remain unified under an umbrella municipality, with autonomy given to Palestinian and Israeli boroughs within the city. Another option proposed a division between ‘political’ and ‘religious’ sovereignty.”
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