“J Street is deeply concerned by reports that Israeli settlers have occupied a contested house in the heart of the city of Hebron. In the midst of the ongoing crisis around the Temple Mount, the last thing the region needs is a deliberately provocative action by the settlement movement in a religiously sensitive area that could further inflame national and religious tensions. We call on the US government and others in the international community to make absolutely clear to Israeli leaders that this type of provocation undermines the chances for peace and security in the region and needs to be reversed… Like the Temple Mount, the city has been and continues to be a flashpoint for confrontation and violence. The Hebron settlers and their allies clearly believe that they can take advantage of the present crisis and push their long-term expansionist agenda by creating new “facts on the ground.” It is vital that the prime minister and defense minister act in the best interests of Israeli security and uphold the rule of law by swiftly removing these families from the property.”
Marilyn Katz writes: “Now that the ACLU, J Street and Americans for Peace Now have exposed the bills for what they are – brash attempts at delegitimizing free speech and legitimizing occupation, members of congress like Congressman Kennedy are beginning to back off. But more needs to be done. The mesmerizing antics of Trump can be all consuming – but if this legislation is not stopped in its tracks the deadly long term consequences of the bill should not be underestimated.”
“U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he would be surprised if Iran is in compliance with a nuclear deal when recertification comes up again in three months, according to an interview with the Wall Street Journal.”We’ll talk about the subject in 90 days but I would be surprised if they were in compliance,” he told the Journal. The president must certify to Congress every three months that Iran is complying with the 2015 nuclear deal.”
“Muslim leaders announced on Thursday that the faithful could resume praying at the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem after Israel, seeking to reduce tensions in an explosive atmosphere, had the last traces of security infrastructure near the entrances to the holy site removed before dawn. The moves came after a two-week standoff and outbursts of deadly violence that spread to the West Bank, as the Palestinians in East Jerusalem boycotted the sacred compound, praying en masse in the streets to protest the installation of metal detectors and other security measures.”
Israeli lawmakers vote to set high bar for ceding parts of Jerusalem, Reuters
“Israel’s parliament on Wednesday passed the first of three votes needed to enact legislation that would set an extra-high threshold for any future vote on ceding parts of Jerusalem to the Palestinians.The proposed amendment to the Jerusalem Basic Law – defining the city’s legal status – could pass into law later this year.”
Despite army order, Hebron squatters confident they’re staying put, Times of Israel
“The closed military zone order placed on the Machpela House in Hebron Wednesday morning did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the 15 settler families squatting in the contested building as night fell. Just outside the perimeter of blue gates set up around the entrance of the five-story complex, a play was being put on for young Machpela House residents as well as children from the surrounding area. Even for Hebron, where several hundred heavily guarded Jewish settlers are surrounded by 200,000 Palestinians, the presence of uniformed soldiers was particularly high. Half a dozen Border Police officers were guarding the home’s entrance and periphery alone, though few of the 50 children and supervising adults watching the play about the destruction of the second Jewish temple seemed fazed.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicated on Wednesday that he would give his backing for a proposal to absorb four West Bank settlements and a settlement bloc into the Jerusalem municipality, while also removing around 100,000 Palestinians from the city’s census.
As crisis over al-Aqsa Mosque simmers, Trump dispatches his team to make peace.
Trump reportedly is coming around to embracing an argument that Iran is in violation of the “spirit” of the deal even if it is complying with its narrow particulars, mandating limited uranium enrichment. Iran has continued its ballistic missile testing and maintains an interventionist role in conflicts in the Middle East, including in Iraq and Syria. Congress also is increasing pressure on Iran to roll back non-nuclear activities that the United States considers disruptive.
As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson moves to restructure the State Department, he wants to slash dozens of positions known collectively as special envoys — ambassadors-at-large, coordinators and others who deal with specific issues such as food security, labor and LGBT rights.
The acting chief of diplomatic security is leaving the State Department Thursday, vacating two important roles that ensure the protection of American diplomats serving around the world. Six months in, the Trump administration still has not named its pick for Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security — and dozens of other top roles at the State Department — despite then-candidate Donald Trump’s constant criticism of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s handling of the Benghazi attack.
The tensions over Temple Mount are coming to Washington, D.C., where a Muslim American group plans to hold a demonstration this Friday in front of the Israeli embassy.
Alexis Soloski reviews Israeli plays “To the End of the Land” and “Yitzchak Rabin: Chronicle of an Assassination.”
Alissa Wise writes: “Our delegation planned to spend twelve days in Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories, meeting with Palestinian and Israeli grassroots activists and faith leaders and visiting our respective holy sites. Instead, five of us were barred from even getting on the flight. When I arrived at the check-in counter at the airport, to my shock, a Lufthansa airline employee informed five of us — 3 Jews, 1 Christian, and 1 Muslim — that the Israeli government had told the airline not to let us on board.”
Rabbi Michael Rothbaum argues: “[A]t a time when the Netanyahu government is showing less and less willingness to move toward anything that looks like justice – when Gazans have electricity for just two hours a day, and non-Orthodox Judaism has equality in Israeli culture for no hours a day – is creating a progressive purity squad really the best way forward? Rather, doesn’t singling out Jews for special scrutiny play right into Netanyahu’s hands? Doesn’t it reinforce the cynical claim that everyone hates the Jews anyway, so “nothing we do for the Palestinians will ever be enough?”
“Last week, the ACLU came out against a bill that would criminalize constitutionally protected boycotts and certain speech targeting Israel. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which was introduced in both the House and Senate earlier this year, would expand a 1970s-era export law and expose a range of activity to sweeping penalties, including criminal prosecution. Since we sent our letter to Congress setting out our opposition to the bill, we’ve received dozens of questions about what it actually does. We attempt to answer the most common ones below.”
Ahmed Melhem writes: “The Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel have reached a tentative water-sharing deal with the help of the United States. Though officials expect a final agreement within weeks, some Palestinians worry the pact will give Israel more leverage over them and say they are already entitled to the water.”
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