News Roundup for March 19, 2018

March 19, 2018

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J Street in the News

J Street Mourns Victims of West Bank Attack, J Street

“J Street is outraged by [Friday’s] car-ramming attack in the West Bank, which left two Israeli soldiers dead and two others wounded. The victims were struck by a car while walking between the settlements of Mevo Dotan and Hermesh. There is no justification for violent attacks such as these. Our thoughts today are with the victims and their families. We wish the wounded a speedy and complete recovery.”

Top News and Analysis

Mike Pompeo has a crisis to handle — even before the North Korea summit, Washington Post

Fareed Zakaria writes, “The Iran accord is not perfect, but it has stabilized a dangerous and spiraling situation in the Middle East. Were the deal to unravel, an already simmering region would get much hotter. (The crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, recently affirmed that his kingdom would go nuclear if Iran did.) And, again, this would all be happening just as the Trump administration would be trying to convince the North Koreans to agree to limits, freezes, rollbacks and inspections of its own nuclear program. Why would Kim sign a deal while he watches the United States renege on the last one it signed? The tragedy here is that this is an entirely self-inflicted crisis.”

Destroyed Tunnels and Border Bombs: Hamas and Israel Dangerously Close to Another Gaza War, Haaretz

Amos Harel observes, “The bottom line is that things are escalating in Gaza. It would take only one mass-casualty incident – either a Palestinian terror attack or an Israeli operation – for the situation to deteriorate into a broader military clash. So far, Israel seems to be navigating fairly carefully. Now the need will be greater for more restraint and wisdom to prevent a real military conflict.”

Israel’s Self-Inflicted Wounds, The New York Times

Ronald Lauder writes, “If current trends continue, Israel will face a stark choice: Grant Palestinians full rights and cease being a Jewish state or rescind their rights and cease being a democracy. To avoid these unacceptable outcomes, the only path forward is the two-state solution…..Over the last few years, settlements in the West Bank on land that in any deal is likely to become part of a Palestinian state, have continued to grow and expand. Such blinkered Israeli policies are creating an irreversible one-state reality…..sometimes loyalty requires a friend to speak out and express an inconvenient truth. And the truth is that the specter of a one-state solution and the growing rift between Israel and the diaspora are endangering the future of the country I love so dearly….We must change course. We must push for a two-state solution and find common ground among ourselves so that we can ensure the success of our beloved nation.”

Two Israeli Soldiers Killed in West Bank Car-ramming Attack; Third Soldier in Critical Condition, Haaretz

Two Israeli soldiers were killed and two others were injured Friday in a car-ramming attack near the northern West Bank settlement of Reihan. The victims were taken to Petah Tikva’s Beilinson Hospital by helicopter. According to the hospital, one of the soldiers suffered a head injury and is in critical condition, while the fourth was moderately injured. One of the dead was an officer. According to the Israeli military, the incident was a terror attack deliberately targeting soldiers.


Israeli Seriously Wounded in Stabbing Attack in Jerusalem’s Old City, Haaretz

An Israeli was seriously wounded Sunday in what police are calling a stabbing attack in the Old City of Jerusalem. The assailant was killed at the scene. Magen David Adom emergency responders arrived at the scene, on Haggay St. near the entrance to the Temple Mount, and treated a man in his 30s with wounds to his upper body. He was taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in serious condition. According to MDA, his condition has since deteriorated.

Trump will pull out of Iran nuclear deal, leading senator predicts, Guardian

The chair of the Senate foreign relations committee has predicted Donald Trump will pull the US out of the nuclear deal with Iran. “The Iran deal will be another issue that’s coming up in May, and right now it doesn’t feel like it’s going to be extended,” Bob Corker told CBS’s Face the Nation in an interview broadcast on Sunday. “I think the president likely will move away from it, unless our European counterparts really come together on a framework. And it doesn’t feel to me that they are. Now, as we get within two weeks of the 12 May date, that could change.”

Rand Paul Issues Filibuster Threat on Mike Pompeo, Gina Haspel, Bloomberg

“Republican Senator Rand Paul said Sunday he would ‘do everything to stop’ President Donald Trump’s nominations of Mike Pompeo for secretary of State and Gina Haspel for CIA director, but conceded he may not be able to stop them. Paul, a Kentucky Republican, said on CBS News’ ‘Face the Nation’ that he wants someone who’s not ‘advocating for war,’ particularly against Iran and North Korea, rather than Pompeo, the current CIA director.”

Palestinians believe US delaying peace plan for a post-Abbas era — report, Times of Israel

The US administration is delaying the announcement of its Middle East peace plan because it believes the proposal would have a greater chance of success after a new leader replaces long-time Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a senior Palestinian official was quoted as saying Saturday.

Israeli Army: Two Gaza Tunnels Destroyed Overnight, Haaretz

The Israeli military said it destroyed overnight Sunday two tunnels in Gaza. One of the tunnels, in the southern Gaza Strip, belonged to Hamas and was destroyed before the militant group could make it operational again, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. The second tunnel was sealed from Israeli territory, near Rafiah. This comes in response to the recent explosive devices placed by militants on the border.

Israeli security forces arrest Palestinian man who stabbed Israeli father of 4 to death in West Bank, JTA

Israeli security forces arrested the Palestinian man believed to have stabbed to death a rabbi near the West Bank settlement of Ariel. Abed al-Karim Adel Assi, 19, an Arab-Israeli resident of Jaffa, was caught in Nablus in the northern West Bank early on Sunday morning along with several other men who helped him hide. An Israeli citizen, the assailant’s mother lived in Haifa and his father is a Palestinian from Nablus.

Employee at French Consulate in Jerusalem Admits to Smuggling Weapons From Gaza to West Bank, Haaretz

A 24-year-old employee at the French Consulate in Jerusalem admitted that he smuggled dozens of weapons from the Gaza Strip into the West Bank through diplomatic vehicles, the French newspaper Le Figaro reported on Sunday. Israeli security sources have confirmed the existence of the case.

Opinions and Analysis

While Bibi Attacks International Aid to Gaza, Netanyahu Begs to Increase It, Haaretz

Noa Landau examines the contradictions in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments and positions on aid to Gaza.

As anniversaries loom, Palestinian ‘lone wolf’ attacks likely to gain traction, Times of Israel

Avi Issacharoff reports, “At the end of this month, huge protests are being planned for ‘Land Day’ under the theme of ‘processions of the great return,’ which will likely feature Palestinians storming the West Bank security barrier as well as Israel’s border with Gaza. These protests will be followed by similar events to commemorate Nakba (‘Catastrophe’) Day — how Palestinians refer to Israel’s Independence Day — which falls around the same time as the holy month of Ramadan this year. On top of all of these “festive” occasions, there are additional conditions in place that will surely increase motivation for attacks on the Palestinian side, especially among its youth: the lack of a diplomatic horizon, the dearth of hope, the leadership crisis on the Palestinian side, Israeli settlement construction, and the failure of the internal Palestinian reconciliation process. Each of these conditions have been seen to amplify Palestinian despair.”

Will this women be Israel’s next political star?, Al-Monitor

Mazal Mualem observes, “Knesset member Orly Levy-Abekasis announced the establishment of a new party March 6….There are very few women heads of Israeli political parties. Even fewer have founded new ones. What should make Levy-Abekasis a rising political force is her potential to draw a diverse group of supporters, including women, Mizrahim, residents of the periphery and voters with a strong social agenda. Before every election in Israel, there is a large number of undecided voters. As a highly regarded and active politician untainted by scandal, Levy-Abekasis could attract these voters, too. She could also ‘steal’ votes from parties like Yesh Atid, the Zionist Camp and of course, Kahlon’s Kulanu and Shas, whose chairman vowed to fight for the ‘invisible sectors’ of the population but who, according to the most recent polls, may not even pass the electoral threshold.”

Palestinians May Finally Join Jerusalem Elections. The US and Israel Should Help Them, Forward

Robert Wexler and Aaron Zucker argue, “The truth is that regardless of electoral participation, Palestinians are rapidly approaching numerical parity with Israelis in Jerusalem, and more broadly, in Israel and the West Bank. In both cases, Jews will soon become a bare majority, if not a minority, jeopardizing the unique Jewish character of the city and Israel itself. More than terrorism or even Iran, Israeli security experts warn that demographics may pose the greatest threat to the Jewish state. Despite recent setbacks, the two-state solution remains the only way forward, to preserve Israel’s Jewish character, and address both peoples’ demands for a capital in Jerusalem. Thus, whether it is this year or next, when Palestinian parties do win representation in Jerusalem elections, there will be no denying the urgency of this reality. Better to embrace it now, while the U.S. and Israel still have significant leverage to promote a peace process that serves our interests.”

Saudi energy deal push sparks nuclear weapon concerns, The Hill

“Nuclear nonproliferation advocates are sounding the alarm about a potential nuclear energy deal between Saudi Arabia and the United States, saying the exceptions the kingdom is seeking could lead to nuclear proliferation in a volatile region. At issue is a deal that would allow the United States to sell nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia. The Trump administration has already started negotiations, with Energy Secretary Rick Perry reportedly meeting with senior Saudi officials in London last month.”

Rift within ultra-Orthodox politics affects coalition stability, Al-Monitor

Danny Zaken writes, “The crisis over mandatory military service by ultra-Orthodox men that almost tore apart the ruling coalition this month caught Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unprepared. He was not the only one. Ultra-Orthodox Knesset members, chief among them Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman of Yahadut HaTorah, or United Torah Judaism (UTJ), were also surprised….Until a year ago, Litzman had been the sole spokesman on political matters for the largest and most influential Hasidic sect in Israel and a close confidant of its leader, the Ger rabbi. His opponents in the sect, however, found the politician’s soft spot and hit it with the conscription bill ultimatum.”