News Roundup for July 20, 2017

July 20, 2017

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Top News and Analysis

Temple Mount Tensions: Police, Army Prepare for Massive Friday Clashes; Netanyahu Weighs Removing New Security Measures, Haaretz

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will most likely “consider changing the decision” on placing metal detectors at the entrances to the Temple Mount, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Army Radio on Thursday morning….On Wednesday, Netanyahu said Israel has not backed down from its position on using metal detectors to check those entering the holy site. Netanyahu is expected to make a decision on the matter when he returns to Israel from his visit to France and Hungary on Thursday, after consulting with senior security officials, said Erdan….On Wednesday night the mufti of Jerusalem and the heads of the Waqf called on all imams in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas to not hold Friday prayers in their mosques but to come to Al-Aqsa for prayer instead. This unprecedented appeal could bring tens of thousands of worshippers to the Temple Mount compound. The army and police are preparing for confrontations in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza over the escalating tensions. The police said they are working under the assumption that the metal detectors will not be removed before Friday and are expecting broad disturbances at the site. The Jerusalem police will be reinforced by thousands of special police forces.”

Palestinian Activism Reawakens in Jerusalem after Holy Esplanade Attack, International Crisis Group

In this Q&A Ofer Zalzberg, Senior Analyst for Israel/Palestine, says the mobilisation of Palestinians to reverse Israeli security measures around the site could signal a revival of activism in East Jerusalem after years of decline.

Avi Gabbay, Israel’s Rising New Threat to Benjamin Netanyahu, New Yorker

Bernie Avishai writes, “Last Monday, Labor members narrowly elected Avi Gabbay, who was not even a member of the Party eight months ago, as their new leader. Seasoned pundits did not expect the win by Gabbay, who rose from a working-class Moroccan family to run Israel’s largest telecommunications company. His election could help Labor close its gap with working-class Israelis. ….[H]e has become the story and symbol of a new path to power for Labor. For decades, the Party has suffered from the same time type of disconnect from working-class voters that now seems to plague the Democratic Party in the U.S. Gabbay is trying to bring that dynamic to an end. His crack about Dimona superseding Amona summarizes the heart of his appeal. Before Gabbay, Mizrahim who disapproved of Likud’s support for settlers and the ultra-religious struggled to find common ground with Labor’s Ashkenazi élites, intellectual socialists, and union hacks. Gabbay, the former kid from a transit camp who rose to run an iconic corporation, might bridge the gap. As in all democracies, voters who feel the greatest economic stress are the least likely to read patiently through the policy arguments that more highly educated voters respect; they need to identify with a candidate—and, on rare occasions, even to trust and like him.”

Why Netanyahu loves playing foreign minister, Al-Monitor

Mazal Mualem observes, “From a regional standpoint, it seems Netanyahu isn’t using his time and the alliances forming in the Arab world against Islamist terror to advance a solution with the Palestinians. While the big wave of terror has subsided and Israeli citizens are enjoying relative quiet, the Palestinian problem has not disappeared; it’s alive and kicking. The quiet is temporary. This is precisely where leadership is measured — in the ability to see a future vision for Israel in another generation, certainly when it comes to a senior leader with the experience and global connections of the prime minister of Israel. Netanyahu could deal with Israeli society’s most acute problem: the occupation. Not only does Netanyahu ignore it, but he’s adding more and more fetters that would make it harder for his successors to solve the problem, from legislation that tries to prevent ‘the division of Jerusalem’ (a bill requiring a special Knesset majority for any diplomatic solution dividing Israel was approved at a preliminary vote today) to continuing construction outside West Bank settlement blocs. He creates roadblocks even in the way he presents the conflict with the Palestinians to the Israeli public. Netanyahu doesn’t speak of hope or a desire to solve ‘the problem’ that won’t go away on its own; rather, he focuses on terror threats and Palestinian incitement, and he blinds his people with the international prestige he garners.”


Israel military says Palestinian attacker killed, Washington Post

The Israeli military says it has shot and killed a Palestinian attacker who tried to stab soldiers at a West Bank checkpoint. The military says the attacker, a 26-year-old, attempted the stabbing near the West Bank city of Hebron on Thursday.

Israeli Army, Shin Bet Urging Netanyahu to Relent on Temple Mount Metal Detectors, Haaretz

In the talks thus far, officials from the Shin Bet, army and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories expressed reservations about insisting on the continued use of metal detectors at the entrances to the Temple Mount. The officials urged that a solution be found that would allow Israel to extricate itself “with dignity” from this conflict, without having it escalate into broader unrest in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Jerusalem Mayor Makes Historic Deal With ultra-Orthodox Rabbis on Dividing City, Haaretz

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has reached wide-ranging agreement that will further solidify the presence of the ultra-Orthodox community in the capital. The deal, reached with a committee of rabbis representing Jerusalem’s Haredi community, includes understandings as to the character of neighborhoods containing both Haredi and non-Haredi residents, the location of future ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods and where cultural centers for the nonreligious will be allowed to be built in the city. Some nonreligious city council members say Barkat cut the deal to secure Haredi support in the next mayoral elections in 2018.

Religious leaders call on all Palestinians in Jerusalem to pray at Al-Aqsa on Friday, Ma’an

Members of the Waqf, or Islamic trust, in charge with running Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, called on Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem to close all mosques in the neighborhoods on Friday and for prayers to take place in front of the gates of Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in rejection of unprecedented Israeli security measures at the holy site. Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, head of the Islamic Trust and Al-Aqsa Mosque Affairs, said that the department issued a decision to all speakers of the mosques in East Jerusalem not to hold prayers at their local sites, but to head to Al-Aqsa instead.

Food, Gasoline and Medical Supplies: Israeli Army Reveals Extent of Humanitarian Aid to Syria, Haaretz

The Israeli army has revealed the extent of its humanitarian aid to Syria for the first time. The list includes over 360 tons of food, 450,000 liters of gasoline and 50 tons of clothes that have been transferred over the Israel-Syria border. The aid has been code-named “Good Neighborliness”.

Palestinian child seriously injured after being struck by Israeli settler vehicle, Ma’an

A 10-year-old Palestinian child was seriously injured on Wednesday after being hit by an Israeli settler vehicle in the area of Wadi al-Hsien in Hebron city in the southern occupied West Bank. Local sources told Ma’an that the girl, Wijdan Faris Nasser al-Jabari, was transferred to an Israeli hospital in Jerusalem for medical care after an Israeli ambulance arrived on the scene of the incident.

U.S. State Department Faces Cuts, Israeli-Palestinian Peace Programming Untouched, Haaretz

The projected US State Department and Foreign Operations budget for 2018 includes a deep $5.6 billion cut in funding, as presented by the House Appropriations Committee. One policy issue that won’t be affected by cuts, however, is peace efforts between Israelis and Palestinians. Out of the entire “reconciliation programs” budget of $26 million around the world, addressing issues such as water sanitation and combatting child marriage, the bill plans to direct almost 40 percent of the budget “for reconciliation activists between Israelis and Palestinians.” The amount, $10 million, is the same amount appropriated to the cause of peace in the region for 2017. Calls On Progressives To KIll Anti-BDS Bill, Forward, an influential liberal public policy advocacy group and PAC that raises money for progressive political candidates, criticized the Israel Anti-Boycott Act on Twitter. “Regardless how you feel about BDS, Congress must reject action to criminalize free speech and peaceful protest. The Democrats in House and Senate must say no to H.R. 1697/S. 720,” tweeted, referring to the House and Senate versions of the bill. “Free speech and peaceful protest are integral to democracy,” the group added.

New Israeli Construction Plan to Cut Off Ramallah From East Jerusalem, Haaretz

The Construction and Housing Ministry is planning a major housing project that includes 1,100 units with far-reaching consequences for northeast Jerusalem. The plan extends the city’s built-up areas eastward, filling in the gap between the settlement of Adam (also known as Geva Binyamin) and the Neveh Yaakov neighborhood. The homes will remain west of the West Bank security fence but will be built outside Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries. If built, the neighborhood would cut between Palestinian built-up areas and make it more difficult to create territorial contiguity between Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and the southern outskirts of Ramallah.

Opinions and Analysis

Israel Escalates Threats Against Iran, Haaretz

Amos Harel reports, “Israel must prevent Iran from building bases in Syria at any cost, a former national security adviser who retains influence in the Prime Minister’s Office said this week.

Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror was speaking at a briefing for foreign correspondents organized by the nonprofit group the Israel Project. ‘The implications of the Iranians building bases in Syria,’ Amidror said, is that it creates ‘launching-pad bases in Syria to Hezbollah and the Iranians. And Israel should prevent it whatever will be the price.’”

Israeli judiciary’s double standard on Jewish, Arab terrorists, Al-Monitor

Akiva Eldar observes, “A pledge to adhere to arrangements is seemingly reassuring news. In fact, the Israeli reaction to the latest attack, as well as to previous incidents of violence at the site, epitomizes Israel’s control of the Temple Mount and underscores the limited authority there of its Muslim custodian, the Waqf. Israel is the sole arbiter of when and whether to close the gates to the compound, and when and whether to re-open them. A state considered by the world as an illegal occupier of East Jerusalem is the one that decides to install metal detectors at the gates. It alone chooses which Muslims to let through and which will have to make do with viewing the Dome of the Rock on a color poster in their living room…..The latest assault on the Temple Mount, like others carried out by Israeli Arabs who identify themselves as Palestinians, illustrates that as long as West Bank Palestinians are under occupation, their Israeli Arab brothers will also be dealing with the issues of dual identity and dilemmas of loyalty. Instead of embracing these Israelis, the Israeli regime is pushing them into the arms of their brothers across the Green line in the occupied territories.”

Netanyahu’s Bigheaded Euro-bashing in Budapest Is Bannon 101, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev writes, “In making the case for the enormity of Europe’s folly, Netanyahu channeled Steve Bannon through and through. He appealed to the nationalistic and xenophobic side of his four Visegrad Group hosts from Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, with which, unfortunately, Israel increasingly identifies despite its almost visible underside of Holocaust revisionism and anti-Semitism. Netanyahu played to his hosts’ ethnocentric nationalism and their fear of a Muslim “mongrelization” of Europe, an attitude that has put them at odds with Brussels. EU officials certainly won’t take kindly to the evidence that Netanyahu is inciting their renegades on Muslim immigration to oppose them on Israeli policies as well….Netanyahu resents Europe because he views it as the last bastion of Palestinian resistance. With the Arab world in tatters and much of it siding with Israel against Iran anyway, with India and China pursuing their self-interests and abandoning their traditional Third World sympathies, and, most of all, with the White House firmly held by Muslim-bashers and Congress controlled by solid majorities of Israel-lovers, Europe is the last remaining pocket. It clings on almost religiously to the 1967 borders, it makes its considerable contributions to Israel’s economy and technological know-how contingent on the nearly defunct differentiation between Israel and the West Bank and it insists on linking its support for Israel with its opposition to its policies.”

Game Changer?, Times of Israel

Naomi Chazan writes, “Avi Gabbay brings with him a new climate of change and the prospect for a political turnaround in Israel. His election to lead the challenge to the present government is a promising antidote to the politics of despair and defensiveness that has prevailed in opposition circles in recent years. It may yet be given a significant push should some of the investigations against leading figures in the government (including the prime minister himself) ripen into criminal indictments. In these circumstances, Gabbay’s primary victory may yet turn out to be a turning point in the replacement of the current Likud administration. The extent to which it also signals the institution of a viable long-term alternative to the present Israeli trajectory is another matter entirely. Such a possibility depends, first and foremost, on the formulation of a fuller vision for Israel’s tomorrow — drawing on an explicit set of guiding values. It also relies on a comprehensive and detailed strategy for its implementation. Such a strategy requires the careful cultivation of political allies both within the Labor party and in the wider democratic camp (although not necessarily their complete merger). In the ego-driven reality of the Israel’s fragmented political map, this will prove to be no easy feat, requiring unusual personal and political acumen.”

Netanyahu puts Trump on notice over Syria, Al-Monitor

“Speaking on the condition of anonymity, an Israeli source intimately familiar with what is happening behind the scenes told Al-Monitor emphatically, ‘This is not just some disagreement. This is a real clash, pitting Israel against Russia and the United States. It reflects Israel’s conspicuous disappointment with the way that the Americans let [Russian President Vladimir] Putin outmaneuver them, leading to the sellout of Israeli interests in the Golan Heights and Lebanon versus the Shiite axis.’”

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