“While many in America celebrated the Fourth of July with barbecues and fireworks, U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans (D-District 2) spent the day touring Hebron. ‘The U.S. is 241 years old. Israel is 69 years old,’ he said. ‘When you look at the connection … there’s some similarities in terms of the struggle that we face and the things we try to do.’ Evans visited Israel for 10 days — stopping in neighboring Jordan as well — focusing on those connections. The J Street-sponsored trip consisted of about 25 other representatives — mainly Democrats — including seven members of Congress, who met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, public officials, rabbis and locals to get a better sense of the where the country stands today.”
Israel to American Jews: You Just Don’t Matter, The New York Times
Thomas Friedman writes, “Under the leadership of Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, Israel is overstretching itself by simultaneously erasing the line between itself and the Palestinians — essentially absorbing 2.5 million Palestinians, which could turn Israel into a de facto Jewish-Arab binational state — and drawing a line between itself and the Jewish diaspora, particularly the U.S. Jewish community that has been so vital for Israel’s security, diplomatic standing and remarkable economic growth. Netanyahu is setting himself up to be a pivotal figure in Jewish history — the leader who burned the bridges to a two-state solution and to the Jewish diaspora at the same time….Today, Israel’s very identity is at a crossroad: Runaway Jewish nationalism threatens to meld Israel with the Palestinians in the West Bank, while runaway Orthodox politics threatens to disconnect Israel from its most committed supporters.
A double blow to Israel’s future, undermining the national security of the Jewish state, is unfolding before our eyes.”
Ami Ayalon writes, “The economic aid that the U.S. currently provides brings with it a security benefit to Israelis, and taking steps that will further dampen the spirits of West Bank Palestinians – and even risk the PA’s continued viability – will ultimately reverberate back on Israel in negative ways. Another important principle that should be embraced by Israelis, Palestinians and the United States is that constructive, independent steps that advance toward a two-state reality is to be encouraged, while measures that pose obstacles toward achieving a two-state solution and are thereby destructive must be opposed. The Taylor Force Act falls in the ‘obstacles’ category. The PA must be taken to task for its flirtation with terrorism. In doing so, both Israel and the U.S. should take a smart and holistic view of Israeli security, understanding that security is not only about deterring, catching, and imprisoning terrorists, but also about making sure that the conditions that create more terrorism are stamped out.”
“United States President Donald Trump’s Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt announced Wednesday that Israel and the Palestinians have reached a water agreement linked to a massive planned Red Sea-Dead Sea pipeline project. Greenblatt said at a press conference in Jerusalem that the U.S.-mediated deal gives the parched Palestinian territories 32 million cubic meters (42 million cubic yards) of water per year. Israel will start to provide the West Bank and Gaza Strip with the water in the immediate future at a reduced rate. That water will eventually be supplied by a desalination plant linked to the Red Sea-Dead Sea pipeline project, agreed on between Jordan and Israel in 2015. Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians first signed a memorandum of understanding for setting up the conduit in December 2013. Designed to bolster the levels of the shrinking Dead Sea and harness the benefits of desalination, the project will provide drinkable water to Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. The pipeline is expected to be completed in four or five years.”
“A few new pieces of the puzzle concerning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s connections to the owner of the Bezeq telecom monopoly, Shaul Elovitch, fell into place on Wednesday when State Comptroller Joseph Shapira released a special report on the matter. The report, along with previous media reports, paints a picture in which Netanyahu and Elovitch were old friends; and Netanyahu, who was also Communications Minister, still involved himself, directly and indirectly, in a long list of matters concerning Bezeq. At the same time, Netanyahu benefitted from positive media coverage from the Walla website, which was also owned by Elovitch, as was first exposed in Haaretz.”
Touring a West Bank settlement, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman defended his proposal to allow Palestinians to expand the city of Qalqilya Wednesday, ahead of a cabinet meeting on the plan scheduled for that night. Qalqilya, which is surrounded on three sides by Israel’s security fence, is the West Bank’s most densely populated Palestinian city. Under Liberman’s plan, the Palestinian Authority would be allowed to double the size of the city by expanding into land that is currently under Israeli control, in a part of the West Bank known as Area C.
The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called Wednesday the new head of Israel’s Labor Party, Avi Gabbay, and congratulated him on winning the party chairmanship. A statement from the Labor party stated that Gabbay told Abbas that he and Netanyahu need to meet face-to-face, hold talks on ongoing ties between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and start building mutual trust. Gabbay told Abbas that one of the central issues that can be discussed are removing textbooks inciting against Israel from the Palestinian education system, as well as other issues, eventually move towards the core issues.
Cabinet puts temporary freeze on Qalqilya expansion plan, Times of Israel
The security cabinet decided late Wednesday night to temporarily freeze a proposal allowing the building of up to 14,000 housing units in the West Bank Palestinian city of Qalqilya. The ministerial body will convene again in ten days to make a final decision on the plan and to discuss a comprehensive policy regarding Palestinian construction in Israeli-controlled Area C of the West Bank, a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said.
Top UN official warns Gaza electricity crisis will haunt Israel, Times of Israel
A United Nations official stationed in Jerusalem warned Israel that the current energy crisis afflicting the Hamas-run Gaza Strip is having a devastating effect on the local population, and will eventually negatively impact Israelis too. Nickolay Mladenov, the UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said Israel has no immediate, direct role to play in solving the crisis, but that once it has been resolved by the conflicting Palestinian factions, Israel should do its utmost to improve conditions for the citizens of the coastal strip.
Trump’s Mideast Peace Plan is Crashing Against Political Reality, Foreign Policy
Neri Zilber writes, “Trump will almost certainly not give up on his efforts to broker what he has termed the “ultimate deal” between the Israelis and Palestinians — an agreement that he thinks is “frankly, maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years.” In his short time in office, Trump has already hosted both sides’ leaders at the White House, visited Israel and the Palestinian territories himself, and now sent his son-in-law to the region. Yet this most recent iteration of the U.S.-led peace process is already showing signs of strain.”
Mazal Mualem writes, “For the past two years, Lapid has run an exacting campaign that has winked to the right in order to break through the bloc’s boundaries and win new votes. He understood, correctly, that the road to the prime minister’s office passes through the Likud’s seats, but according to the polls, he has had little success so far. Now, to his dismay, he will have to return to battle within the center-left bloc. This is precisely Gabbay’s huge challenge: On one side he’ll fight a very strong and popular prime minister from the Likud, and on the other side a stubborn opponent from his own camp….Since he is not a member of Knesset, Gabbay can’t serve as the chairman of the opposition — an important position for someone shaping himself as an alternative to the prime minister. He will have to invent a new model as the head of the opposition among the public and the media, and overcome his lack of diplomatic, security and political experience. Gabbay’s achievement in the Labor Party shows an ambitious and sophisticated man, hungry for success. Now his big test begins. He will have to fulfill his promise and win his party 30 seats, among other things, by taking in a significant number of votes from the Likud. Anything less would be a failure for him.”
An interview with the founder of the anti-hate group Tag Meir.
Iran-PA relations continue to nosedive, Al-Monitor
Ahmad Melhem reports, “The stance the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah have taken against the Iranian regime stems from two main points. First, they accuse Iran of supporting Hamas financially and militarily and encouraging its military takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007. Second, Fatah and the PA coordinate with Arab countries that have expressed hostility toward Iran, namely Saudi Arabia….In light of the PA’s adherence to Saudi positions on most of the region’s issues and the political and financial support it receives from Riyadh on the one hand and the support Iran provides to resistance factions, especially Hamas and Islamic Jihad on the other, the relations between Iran and the PA continue to deteriorate, with no sign of the slightest improvement.”
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