News Roundup for July 18, 2017

July 18, 2017

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Top News and Analysis

Trump Recertifies Iran Nuclear Deal, but Only Reluctantly, The New York Times

“President Trump agreed on Monday to certify again that Iran is complying with an international nuclear agreement that he has strongly criticized, but only after hours of arguing with his top national security advisers, briefly upending a planned announcement as a legal deadline loomed. Mr. Trump has repeatedly condemned the deal brokered by President Barack Obama as a dangerous capitulation to Iran, but six months into his presidency he has not abandoned it. The decision on Monday was the second time his administration certified Iran’s compliance, and aides said a frustrated Mr. Trump had told his security team that he would not keep doing so indefinitely. Administration officials announced the certification on Monday evening while emphasizing that they intended to toughen enforcement of the deal, apply new sanctions on Iran for its support of terrorism and other destabilizing activities, and negotiate with European partners to craft a broader strategy to increase pressure on Tehran. Aides said Mr. Trump had insisted on such actions before agreeing to the consensus recommendation of his national security team.”

White House: U.S. Shares Israel’s Goal to Stop Iran From Gaining Foothold in Syria, Haaretz

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said on Monday that the United States and Israel have a “shared goal” in Syria, which is to stop Iran from getting a permanent foothold in the country.  Spicer’s words came in response to harsh criticism from Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, of the cease-fire agreement in southern Syria, which was signed last week between Russia and the United States. Spicer downplayed any tensions between Israel and the United States on the Syrian issue.


Israel Police, Muslim Worshippers Clash Near Jerusalem’s Temple Mount; 3 Wounded, Haaretz

Clashes broke out Monday between police and Muslim worshippers near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City. Palestinian reports said three were lightly wounded. The Palestinian Red Crescent reported a number of injuries resulting from clashes at Lions Gate. The report said the chairman of the Palestinian National Initiative, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, was hit in the head by a rubber-tipped bullet and taken to Al-Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem. A few dozen Palestinian worshippers gathered before the start of the evening prayers near Lions Gate, at the entrance to the Temple Mount, when clashes erupted. The worshippers were throwing stones and other objects at the police force posted at the site.

Russia Responds to Netanyahu’s Criticism of Syrian Cease-fire: We’ll Address Israel’s Security Concerns, Haaretz

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday, that Russia and the United States would do all they could to address Israeli concerns about the creation of de-escalation zones in Syria. He was responding to comments by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who told reporters in Paris late on Sunday that the arrangement perpetuated Iran’s presence in Syria and that Israel was therefore “utterly opposed” to it.

Waqf urges Muslims to boycott Temple Mount over metal detectors, Times of Israel

The Muslim religious authority charged with managing the Temple Mount joined with other Islamic groups on Monday to call on Muslims “to reject and boycott all the Israeli aggression measures, including changing the historical status quo including imposing the metal detectors.”

Saudi King Reportedly Conveys Message to Israel via Washington on Temple Mount Crisis, Haaretz

Saudi King Salman has personally intervened in the Temple Mount crisis and passed on a message to Israel via Washington that the compound should be reopened to worshipers, Saudi news site Elaph reported on Tuesday. The Saudi demand comes against the backdrop of Israel’s placement of metal detectors at the entrance to the compound on Sunday. However, the Waqf – the Muslim religious body that has authority over the site – announced that the metal detectors are an attempt to change the status quo and called on worshipers not to enter the site. According to the report, Prime Minister Netanyahu sent a message in response, in which he vowed that the status quo at the site won’t be harmed, and even invited senior Saudi officials to Al-Aqsa Mosque to examine it for themselves. He did not receive a response from the Saudis.

Pence restates Trump pledge to move embassy to Jerusalem, JTA

Vice President Mike Pence once again pledged that the Trump administration would move the US embassy to Jerusalem, this time to Christian supporters of Israel who have become increasingly restive at President Donald Trump’s failure to make good on his campaign promise.

High School Civics Glossary Says Israel Is Jewish, Arabs Are Hostile, Haaretz

The updated lexicon for civics lessons, which was reexamined in the Education Ministry after criticism by the High Court of Justice, continues to present Israeli Arabs as hostile to the state, the High Court as controversial and democracy as procedural in essence. It turns out that while most of the changes in the pamphlet are cosmetic, there are several substantial changes that are likely to increase criticism against it: In the definition of the National Education Law, the importance of the study of Jewish culture in the schools was emphasized; statements such as “most Israeli citizens agree on its description as a Jewish state” are now presented as facts, without reservations; and the statement that many Israeli Arabs will prefer to remain citizens of the state even if a Palestinian state is established – was erased.

Christian pro-Israel group lobbies to cut funding to Palestinians, JTA

Christians United for Israel activists will lobby for a congressional bill that cuts nearly all U.S. funding to the Palestinian Authority until it stops payments to the families of Palestinians jailed for or killed in attacks on Israelis.

AIPAC Withholds Criticism of Trump’s Budget Stance on Israel Because ‘No Veto Threat’ vs. Congress, Haaretz

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee denounced the Obama administration for opposing a funding increase for Israel’s missile-defense program last year but hasn’t criticized the administration of President Donald Trump for its similar stance because it did not threaten to veto Congress’ efforts on the matter, an AIPAC official told Haaretz.

Settlers of Netiv Ha’avot outpost fight looming destruction, Times of Israel

Some 60 demonstrators gathered outside the gated entrance to the Knesset on Monday to protest the planned destruction of 15 homes in the illegal Netiv Ha’avot outpost. ‘We’re calling on Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu to intervene and legalize the neighborhood in order to prevent this disaster,’ said Ami Gvirtzman, an outpost resident and member of the campaign to prevent its destruction.

Netanyahu Told Macron He’s Skeptical About Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian Peace Efforts, Haaretz

Prime Minister Netanyahu told French President Emmanuel Macron in their meeting Sunday that he was skeptical about the peace efforts being made by U.S. President Donald Trump, diplomatic sources familiar with the conversation told Haaretz. During the meeting in Paris, Macron told Netanyahu that he supports Trump’s efforts and that the settlement-building plans that Israel has advanced in the past six months have made an already complicated situation that much harder, the sources said.

Israeli ‘counter-terrorism boot camp’ a tourist attraction in occupied West Bank, Reuters

Entrance to the gated compound in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc – built on land the Palestinians want for their own state – costs $115 for adults and $85 for children. Admission includes watching former Israeli commandos take down an “attacker” and other means to thwart assaults, including the use of an attack dog. Adults can shoot live rounds at a firing range.

Israel Drafts New Plan for Western Wall, but Denies non-Orthodox Groups Jurisdiction, Haaretz

The government recently drafted plans for a multimillion-dollar overhaul of the southern section of Jerusalem’s Western Wall to accommodate egalitarian prayer services, documents submitted by the state to the High Court on Monday reveal. The initiative reflects the government’s effort to make amends with the Reform and Conservative movements after voting last month to suspend a previous agreement that would have provided them not only with a new and permanent space for mixed prayer services at the site, but also with jurisdiction over it.

With Netanyahu in town, Hungary’s Jews lament Israel ‘deserting’ them, Times of Israel

As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his way to Budapest for a three-day visit Monday, senior leaders of Hungary’s Jewish community expressed their disappointment over his handling of two recent controversies in which they felt he had “deserted” them.

Opinions and Analysis

Doomsday averted on the Temple Mount, for now, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit writes, “The battle over who controls the Temple Mount has been raging behind the scenes for some time now. After all, the Gates of Hell in the Middle East could open at this very site. Officially, Israel controls the site and is responsible for security, but Israeli sovereignty is not implemented in the mosques themselves. Since the Israel Defense Forces conquered East Jerusalem, it has been Israeli policy not to intervene in affairs on the Haram al-Sharif and to allow the Waqf free rein in managing the site. That is why no Israeli flag flies over the mount….Until just a decade ago, most rabbis prohibited Jews from ascending the mount for religious purposes. More recently, however, quite a few rabbis affiliated with religious Zionism have permitted their followers to visit. This has resulted in a huge wave of Jews trying to get there any way they can, which drives Muslim paranoia….No one in Washington is being kept up to speed on the current state of affairs. Kerry has retired, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is more interested in Iran and the Persian Gulf. Furthermore, there is no way the Americans will so much as dip their finger into the powder keg atop the most important plateau in the world. Meanwhile, Israel, the Palestinians, the Waqf, Jordan, the Turks and the Salafis are all playing this dangerous game on their own, making the situation more perilous than ever.”

Is Netanyahu in Trouble? The Four Corruption Cases Surrounding Israel’s Prime Minister, Haaretz

“The prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, is current embroiled in four cases involving corruption allegations of one sort or another. The affairs have been dubbed Case 1000 (cigars, champagne); Case 2000 (positive coverage in the daily Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper); Case 3000 (purchase of submarines for the Israel Navy from Germany); and Case 4000 (Bezeq and Communications Ministry ties). While the investigations into the cases began as early as about a year ago, there have been quite a few recent developments.”

Israeli-Arab town’s residents fear speaking out after Temple Mount attack, Al-Monitor

Shlomi Eldar reports, “Sheikh Raed Salah, the leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, is directly involved in the incitement. After the attack, residents of Umm al-Fahm who are not supporters of Salah were afraid to speak to Al-Monitor. ‘There is a sense of terror here toward anyone who speaks critically of the Islamic Movement,’ said A., a father of five who lives in the city and spoke on condition of anonymity.”

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