News Roundup for March 13, 2018

March 13, 2018

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Top News and Analysis

Roadside bomb targets Palestinian prime minister’s convoy entering Gaza, Washington Post

Hazem Balousha and Ruth Eglash report, “A road side bomb exploded near the convoy of the Palestinian prime minister as he was visiting the Gaza Strip, damaging three escort vehicles and causing minor injuries to seven bodyguards. The blast, which did not harm Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah, was declared by the Palestinian Authority an assassination attempt and it held Hamas, the Islamist party controlling the Gaza Strip responsible — the latest blow to reconciliation efforts between the divided Palestinians. For its part, Hamas condemned the incident and opened an investigation, already arresting several suspects.”

Netanyahu may be facing his last stand, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit observes, “The fate of the current coalition will be decided in the next 24 hours. It is Netanyahu’s decision, and it may have been already decided together with Liberman. These two men began their political lives together after Netanyahu took control of the Likud in 1993. Since then, they have quarreled, parted ways and also reconciled many times. Now they are renewing their historic alliance….Their plot will come at the expense of all the other senior members of the political system. The struggle between the hawks, which will develop in the upcoming election campaign (assuming that elections are imminent), will be one of the most interesting battles in the fascinating history of Israeli politics. And as far as Netanyahu is concerned, it may be his very last stand.”

White House to Hold Talks on Gaza Crises With Officials From Israel, Arab World, Europe, Haaretz

“The White House will convene officials from the U.S., Israel and European and Arab countries Tuesday to discuss the humanitarian, economic and security crises in the Gaza Strip.  A statement released Monday by the Trump administration described the discussion as a ‘brainstorming session’ and said that the United States will be represented by Jared Kushner, U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, and by officials from the National Security Council. As of Monday evening, it seemed unlikely that the Palestinian Authority will be represented at the event.”

Jared Kushner’s ‘Ultimate Deal’ is Falling Apart, Vanity Fair

Tina Nguyen writes, “The administration’s recent stumbles on the Middle East front have made it even more likely that Kushner’s plan will fall flat. Palestine’s leaders were more or less unequivocal in their condemnations when the White House announced the embassy move, which officials claimed would not undercut Kushner’s work but would instead paint the president as ‘someone who stands by his word, isn’t intimidated by threats, and doesn’t cave to international pressure.’”



Netanyahu Tells Lawmakers at Knesset: If There Are Elections, We’ll Win – but We’re Not There Yet, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israeli lawmakers at the Knesset Monday that “if there are elections, we will win – but we are not there yet.” Netanyahu is facing the prospect of early elections as he remains embroiled in scandal surrounding several criminal investigations. “The hour is late but not too late, we must make one last effort to keep the government in its current composition,” he said.

New polls show Likud rising, Zionist Union diving, Liberman and Shas in trouble, Times of Israel

With the coalition facing the real possibility of collapse over a polarizing ultra-Orthodox draft bill and new elections seemingly on the horizon, new polls Monday showed Likud maintaining its current electoral power, centrist Yesh Atid climbing to second spot, and the current main opposition party, the Zionist Union, losing around half of its seats.

Honduras and Paraguay ‘ready in principle’ to move embassies to Jerusalem, JTA

Honduras and Paraguay reportedly may join Guatemala in relocating their embassies soon to Jerusalem. The two Latin American nations said they are both ready “in principle” to proceed with the move on the condition that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes an official visit to each of their countries, Israel’s Army Radio reported, citing a “senior Israeli diplomatic source.”

In First, Israeli Drone Drops Tear Gas to Disperse Palestinian Protesters, Haaretz

The Israeli army made its first use of drones over the weekend to disperse a crowd of Palestinian protesters. Last Friday, as some 200 Gaza residents gathered for a protest near the border with Israel, a drone was used to drop tear gas and disperse the crowd.

High Court rules squatting settlers must evacuate Hebron building, Times of Israel

The High Court of Justice ruled Monday that a group of settlers who have illegally been squatting in a disputed Hebron building for the past seven months must be evacuated, due to their failure to prove that they had purchased the structure.

Justice minister warns Netanyahu early elections would be ‘historic mistake,’ Times of Israel

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked on Tuesday warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against calling early elections, saying to do so would be repeating a “historic mistake” in bringing down a right-wing government.


Opinions and Analysis

To Bibi or Not to Bibi: Does Netanyahu Want Early Elections?, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev writes, “Netanyahu is caught between his wish to capitalize on his current popularity among right wingers – who, like Trump supporters, view his troubles as a liberal plot – and the fear that police investigators or state attorneys might choose an opportune time right to leak damaging details from the investigations that would persuade many Netanyahu supporters that the prime minister is, after all, a crook. Perhaps Netanyahu should have thought of that before he decided to wage war against the police and to turn them into his enemy.”

Preparing for the day after Abbas, +972

Menachem Klein observes, “Abbas also promoted Majd Faraj, the head of Palestinian intelligence, who has won the trust of both Israel and the United States. Should Abbas step down, al-Aloul will have to transform himself from Fatah’s number two to president of the PA in three separate arenas. First, he will need to show that his path toward Palestinian independence is different from Abbas’; he will have to ingratiate himself, not without difficulty, among his younger and better known competitors; and he will need to gain the public’s legitimacy. This can take place either through the formal route of general elections, or through organized and committed resistance to the Israeli occupation.”

Why Israel’s government coalition could be headed for collapse, JTA

Marcy Oster writes, “A Knesset bill that would exempt haredi Orthodox yeshiva students from the mandatory draft has brought the possibility of snap elections closer in Israel.”

Replace Netanyahu or Hold Elections, Haaretz

The editorial board writes, “The coalition cannot continue to exist under the cloud of suspicion that hangs over Netanyahu. Every decision will be tainted by questions of how it is linked to the investigations and will not win public confidence. The coalition has only two choices: Replace Netanyahu or go to early elections.”

It’s Time To Put To Rest The Myth That Palestinian Mothers Don’t Love Their Children, Forward

Maha Nassar writes, “For Palestinian mothers living under occupation, harm is unavoidable. Harm comes when they’re detained at checkpoints, when their homes are raided in the middle of the night, and when soldiers shoot tear gas canisters, and sometimes live bullets, into crowded areas. It’s easier to resort to well-worn stereotypes about Palestinian mothers’ supposed callousness than try to understand the conditions under which they live….It should go without saying that all mothers — including Palestinians — love their children dearly. They want nothing more than for their children to live safe, healthy, productive lives. Rather than doubt this truism, we need to understand the conditions that Palestinian mothers face and work together to end them. Only then will we see a resolution to the conflict.”

Elections: Good for Netanyahu, bad for Israel, +972

Dahlia Scheindlin argues, “The prime minister has abused his position in numerous ways, undermined democracy and rule of law, and entrenched dangerous nationalist populism in Israel. For these reasons, I would prefer to see an increasingly likely indictment march ahead than watch his devotees give him a new mandate. If Likud wins, even a post-election indictment will not stop the slide into a darker future for Israel.”