News Roundup for January 23, 2017

January 23, 2017

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Top News and Analysis

Donald Trump Had a ‘Very Good’ Conversation With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Time

“President Donald Trump held a call Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as his administration signaled that his promise to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem won’t be fulfilled imminently. The call comes after Trump’s promise to strengthen ties between the U.S. and Israel after an icy relationship between Netanyahu and his predecessor. It also followed an Israeli government approval of hundreds of new settlements in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim as the capital of their potential state.”

Trump White House ‘At Very Beginning Stages of Even Discussing’ Embassy Move to Jerusalem, Haaretz

“Two days after U.S. President Donald Trump took office, the White House said that the administration was “at the very beginning stages of even discussing” the subject of moving the U.S embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said on Sunday. Last week, a day before Trump entered office, Spicer said at a press conference that details regarding the embassy move – one of Trump’s election pledges – will be published “soon” and told the reporters covering the issue to ‘stay tuned.’ His statement Sunday, coming shortly before Trump holds a phone conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu, seems to suggest it might take some time before more details on the subject are released. Aides said no announcement of an embassy move was imminent.”

Israel lifts restrictions on building more homes in East Jerusalem, Reuters

Prime Minister Netanyahu has told senior ministers he is lifting restrictions on settlement building in East Jerusalem, a statement said on Sunday, immediately after the city’s municipal government approved permits for the building of hundreds of new homes in the area. ‘There is no longer a need to coordinate construction in the Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. We can build where we want and as much as we want,’ the statement quoted Netanyahu as saying, adding that he also intended to allow the start of building in the West Bank. ‘My vision is to enact sovereignty over all the settlements,’ the statement also said, pointing to Netanyahu’s apparent bid to win greater support from settlers and appeal to a right-wing coalition partner.”

Police Believe They Have Sufficient Base of Evidence Against Netanyahu in Graft Case, Haaretz

“Police believe the corruption investigation into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has yielded a sufficient base of evidence, at least with respect to some suspicions….A senior legal source said that some of the suspicions in the graft probe have been validated. This has reinforced assessments that police will recommend bringing charges against Netanyahu. In internal discussions, members of the national fraud unit tasked with investigating Netanyahu sound certain about the damning nature of the findings in the graft case. Meanwhile, no agreement has been reached concerning the legal meaning of the findings in the second case.”

Trump Presidency Is Already Altering Israeli-Palestinian Politics, The New York Times

Ian Fisher reports, “Just two days old, the presidency of Donald J. Trump is already reshaping the politics between Israelis and Palestinians, on issues from the location of the American Embassy to possible annexation of a major settlement bloc to whether Palestinians are on the edge of a renewed revolt. Sunday was a day of intense maneuvering on all sides, with an elation among many Israelis that the rancorous relations with the Obama administration were over — but with questions about just how far or how quickly Mr. Trump would go on moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a quandary that has bedeviled American presidents for decades.”


Netanyahu says Palestinians can have a ‘state minus’, Time of Israel

Prime Minister Netanyahu told cabinet ministers Sunday that he was prepared to give the Palestinians a “state minus.” “What I’m willing to give the Palestinians,” the prime minister said in the weekly meeting, according to Hebrew reports, “is not exactly a state with full authority, rather a state minus. This is why the Palestinians do not agree.”

Thousands of Jewish protesters join Women’s March targeting Trump’s policies and rhetoric, JTA

Thousands of Jews joined an estimated hundreds of thousands of protesters in the Women’s March on Washington protesting newly installed President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric. The march Saturday, focusing on anticipated rollbacks in abortion rights under the new president and broader issues like discrimination against minorities and preserving former President Barack Obama’s health care reforms, included among its hundreds of official partners a number of Jewish groups.

Palestinians, Jordan Agree to Take Steps if U.S. Moves Embassy to Jerusalem, Haaretz

President Abbas met on Sunday with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Amman about the possibility the new U.S. administration would move Washington’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem….After the meeting with Abdullah, Abbas said that he and the king had agreed to a list of steps they would take if such a decision is implemented. He said the coordination with Jordan was essential ahead of Abdullah’s plans to visit Washington and Moscow in the coming weeks.

Netanyahu Plans February Visit to Meet Trump in Washington, Forward

Prime Minister Netanyahu said in a statement on Sunday that President Donald Trump had invited him to a meeting in Washington in February.

Hundreds Rally in Tel Aviv Against Trump, in Solidarity With Women’s March, Haaretz

Several hundred demonstrators gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv Saturday night to express solidarity with the Women’s March in Washington. Carrying banners with slogans bashing new U.S. President Donald Trump, demonstrators chanted protests in Hebrew and English, interspersed with songs. Most of the protesters were Israeli Americans, but many native Israelis could also be found among the crowd.

Arab protesters drive to Jerusalem to demand freeze on home demolitions, Times of Israel

Two convoys of at least 100 vehicles each cut across southern and northern Israel on Monday morning on their way to the Knesset in Jerusalem, where they assembled to protest the recent demolitions of homes belonging to Arab citizens, and a deadly incident that occurred during one recent demolition.

Israel Investigates Lethal Shooting of Palestinian Teen During Clashes With Army, Haaretz

Investigators are looking into the lethal shooting of 17-year-old Qusai al-Amour in the West Bank village of Tuqu, which occurred during clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli army last week.

Druze leaders warn order to raze homes could spark violence, Times of Israel

Isaeli Druze leaders have warned the government that carrying out demolition orders against illegally built structures in the minority community could be met with violent resistance. Since November, some 20 families in the northern Druze villages of Maghar, Yarka and Isfiya have received demolition orders, the Haaretz daily reported on Monday. Five of those orders were reportedly sent to families of fallen Israel Defense Forces soldiers.

Opinion and Analysis

Believing It’s ‘Game Over’ for Netanyahu, Israel’s Political Arena Gears Up for Elections, Haaretz

Yossi Verter observes, “The feeling among Likud’s top ranks and most of Netanyahu’s coalition partners….is that the game is almost certainly over. There’s no way that a police commissioner he appointed and a cautious attorney general, who in the past was part of his close circle and one of his loyalists, would be putting him through the seven circles of hell if they weren’t convinced that there’s a solid basis for indictment and conviction….The political arena is in the meantime gearing up for elections next September-October. The prevailing view is that a decision about whether to indict the premier will be made in May-June, the Knesset will be dissolved and elections held about 100 days later. That’s the working assumption of three coalition party leaders who regularly exchange views.”

Prime Minister, don’t annex Ma’ale Adumim, Times of Israel

Amnon Reshef writes, “As you prepare to discuss the proposed law on the annexation of Ma’ale Adumim, we, members of Commanders for Israel’s Security, wish to alert you to the risks to Israel’s security posed by the intended reckless abuse of the broad national consensus around Ma’ale Adumim. The proposed legislation would endanger our future sovereignty there and Israel’s future sovereignty over the other settlement blocs, and will undermine other national security interests of the State of Israel.”

After Paris — a Moscow conference on Mideast peace?, Al-Monitor

Uri Savir reports, “Following the two conferences in Paris, and given the French elections in May, the Palestinian leadership is turning to Russian President Vladimir Putin to hold the next conference in Moscow later in 2017; PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat already met senior Russian officials in Moscow on Jan. 13. Such a conference in Moscow should continually deal with international permanent status positions and the role of various countries in contributing to it.”

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