News Roundup for March 27, 2018

March 27, 2018

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Top News and Analysis

Trump and Bolton’s Plan to Isolate Allies and Encourage Enemies, The New York Times

Wendy Sherman writes, “John R. Bolton, President Trump’s new national security adviser, has never met a war he didn’t want….Mr. Trump will not isolate Iran by nixing the deal; he will isolate America and lead its partners and allies to consider China and Russia as more dependable, predictable partners, even absent Western values. Nothing about this decision will increase American security. It will be a leap into the unknown, with devastating consequences. Once lost, the hard-won trust and faith in America will not be easily regained. Mr. Bolton and Mr. Trump should not make this huge mistake.”

Former Israeli Defense Chief Says Trump Adviser Bolton Pressured Him to Strike Iran, Haaretz

“US President Donald Trump’s newly appointed national security adviser, John Bolton, tried to convince Israel to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, former Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said on Sunday. ‘I have known John Bolton ever since he was the U.S. ambassador to the UN,’ Mofaz said at a Yedioth Ahronoth conference. ‘He tried to convince me that Israel should strike Iran’…..Mofaz, along with former IDF chiefs Benny Gantz, Dan Halutz and Moshe Ya’alon, said they are against nixing the nuclear deal with Iran.”

U.S. Experts Say Why Trump Should Support Iran Deal, The New York Times

“The Iran nuclear accord, assailed by President Trump and his revamped retinue of advisers, received a strong endorsement Monday from a bipartisan group of more than 100 national security veterans, who said the United States gains nothing by scrapping it. The group, including 50 retired military officers and at least four former American ambassadors to Israel, added its voice to a fractious debate over the accord, which Mr. Trump has called “the worst deal” ever. In a statement, the group, which calls itself the National Coalition to Prevent an Iranian Nuclear Weapon, enumerated 10 reasons that, in its view, preserving the accord is in the best interests of the United States.”

Will Trump Be the President Who Gives Iran the Bomb?, New Republic

Eric Cortelessa writes, “[T]he terrifying paradox, to some observers, is that in his eagerness to avoid a nuclear-armed Iran, President Trump may not only involve the U.S. in a military conflict, but produce a bomb-ready adversary far earlier than he feared under the deal Obama struck….When debate over the deal was at its near apex, Obama declared that his legacy would depend on whether his strategy for curtailing Iran’s nuclear ambitions was successful….But if Trump pulls out of the accord, accelerating Iran’s nuclear development, that bomb will have Trump’s name on it instead.”


West Bank construction starts rose about 17 percent for 2017, Peace Now reports, JTA

Construction starts in West Bank settlements rose by 17 percent during 2017, with most of the new housing in isolated spots, according to Peace Now. In its annual settlement construction report released Sunday, Peace Now said that 2,783 new housing units began construction in the West Bank in 2017, approximately 17 percent higher than the yearly average rate since 2009. The report does not include housing construction in eastern Jerusalem. Peace Now also found that 78 percent of the new construction, or 2,168 housing units, was in settlements east of the proposed Geneva Initiative border — settlements that are likely to be evicted in a two-state agreement.

Israeli Settlers Occupy Homes in Hebron Claimed to Be Palestinian, Haaretz

Several dozen Israeli settlers invaded overnight Monday two homes in the city of Hebron in the West Bank. The homes, located near the Tomb of the Patriarchs and some distance from the Jewish settlement in Hebron, were abandoned up to this point. Ownership of the houses has been in dispute for several years, and it is yet unclear whether they have been purchased by the settlers from the Palestinians, or if they are still Palestinian owned. The settlers have yet to provide proof of purchase.

MKs argue over claim that Palestinians have reached demographic parity with Jews, Times of Israel

An emergency Knesset committee debate about industrial action being taken by Israeli civil servants in the West Bank and Gaza Strip exploded Monday into a full-blown quarrel after it was claimed that the number of Palestinians living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea now equaled that of Jews. To the left of center, MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) used the figures to argue on Twitter that it was time Israelis understood the implications of demographic parity. “If we do not wake up from the delusions of annexation [of the West Bank, as advocated by the Israeli right wing], we will lose the Jewish majority. It’s simple.”

Police Suspect Yair Netanyahu Received Benefits, Obstructed Justice in Telecom Bribery Case, Haaretz

Israeli police suspect that Yair Netanyahu, the son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, received benefits and obstructed justice in the so-called Bezeq telecom bribery affair. All three members of the Netanyahu family were questioned by the police in connection to the case on Monday. The investigation, dubbed Case 4000, revolves around suspicions that Netanyahu conferred regulatory benefits on the telecom giant Bezeq in exchange for favorable coverage of the Netanyahu family on the popular Walla news website, owned by Bezeq’s owner. The police suspect that Yair Netanyahu took part in relaying demands to the website to skew coverage in his parents’ favor.

IDF nabs 3 armed Gazans near army base 20 kilometers from border, Times of Israel

The Israel Defense Forces captured three armed Palestinians on Tuesday morning after they crossed the Gaza security fence and traveled approximately  20 kilometers (12 miles) into Israeli territory, the army said.

Pro-Abbas Palestinians launch support campaign, Times of Israel

Supporters of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas launched an online campaign to voice support for him in his standoff with the US administration and Hamas. The campaign, which carries the Arabic name “Fawadnak” (We Authorized You), was launched Thursday by a group called The Big National Campaign to Support President Mahmoud Abbas.

Opinions and Analysis

With extra troops, snipers, drones, Israel braces for Land Day border protest, Times of Israel

Judah Ari Gross reports, “Israel’s security forces are gearing up for huge ‘Land Day’ protests, expected to take place along the Gaza Strip’s security fence on Friday, putting additional units on alert out of concerns that large numbers of Palestinians might try to break through the barrier and rush into Israel….Earlier this month, Palestinian groups announced plans for a six-week-long ‘March of Return,’ including the construction of a tent city across from the Gaza security fence, and called on tens of thousands of Gaza residents to participate in what they described as a ‘peaceful protest.’”

Iron Dome Malfunction Embarrasses Israel as Hamas Seeks Missile Defense System’s Vulnerability, Haaretz

Amos Harel reports, “The mistaken firing of the Iron Dome interceptor system on Sunday night apparently attests to the high level of irascibility on the Gaza border surrounding Hamas’ preparations for the upcoming rallies near the fence this weekend. It is not the first episode of its kind. In November there was a false alarm in the metropolitan Tel Aviv area, in the midst of a tense period on the northern border, when aerial attacks against Syria were attributed to Israel.”

Why I changed my mind about John Bolton, Washington Post

Max Boot writes, “Like Bolton, I was a proponent of the Iraq War, but unlike him, I have concluded it was a bad idea….The failure of the Iraq intervention has soured me on preventative wars in general. Not so Bolton: He remains an advocate of bombing Iran and North Korea. Anyone who favors a “war of choice” against a nuclear-armed state belongs in a psychiatric ward, not the White House —  although, admittedly, the difference between the two may no longer be consequential….With his ideological zeal and bullying style, Bolton has alienated even many conservatives once inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.”

Decision to declassify Syria strike sparks ‘war of the generals’ in Israel, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit writes, “The March 21 decision by Israel’s military to publicly acknowledge its destruction of a plutonium reactor in Syria in 2007 should have sparked a celebration of national pride. Instead, it set off turmoil, which included competing versions of events and accusations surrounding Operation Out of the Box (the code name for the bombing of the reactor).”