News Roundup for July 8, 2019

July 8, 2019

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Top News and Analysis

Iran raises uranium enrichment beyond nuclear deal limits, AP
“Iran increased its uranium enrichment Sunday beyond the limit allowed by its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, inching its program closer toward weapons-grade levels while calling for a diplomatic solution to a crisis heightening tensions with the U.S. Iran’s move, coupled with earlier abandoning the deal’s limit on its low-enriched uranium stockpile, intensifies pressure on Europe to find any effective way around U.S. sanctions that block Tehran’s oil sales abroad.”

Barak says considering joining with Labor, Meretz, Livni; not set on being no.1, Times of Israel
“Former prime minister Ehud Barak said Sunday that his newly formed Israel Democratic Party is looking at the possibility of forming a center-left electoral bloc with Labor, Meretz and former Hatnua chair Tzipi Livni, and that he himself would be willing to give up the number one spot if it would help to remove Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from office. ‘What was missing last time was a large bloc that will start more to the left and encompass as many [people] as possible,’ he said of the April election.”

Trump Rolls Out the Big Guns for pro-Israel Evangelicals’ Confab Ahead of 2020, Haaretz
Amir Tibon reports on “[T]he annual Washington D.C. Summit of the group Christians United for Israel, which takes place Monday and Tuesday….It’s no coincidence that Trump plans to send at least five senior administration officials to the two-day summit. Evangelicals, the backbone of Christians United for Israel, are a key voting bloc for Trump and the Republicans. Around 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump in 2016, helping him secure victories in several swing states. The consensus among U.S. political analysts is that the president will need similar or greater support among evangelicals to win a second term next year.”

The provocations of Trump’s ambassador to Israel are upturning decades of U.S. diplomacy, LA Times
“In any other American administration, Friedman would be reined in for going rogue. But Friedman’s unprecedented provocations have not only gone unchallenged by his bosses, they’ve been encouraged. And in so doing, the Trump administration has solidified its support for Israel at the expense of Palestinian ambitions and the U.S.’s previous reputation as a largely neutral party, say current and former diplomats. One by one, Friedman has taken steps and crossed lines, going where no U.S. ambassador has gone and upturning decades of policy, often in contravention of international law.”


Israeli Police Bully East Jerusalem Neighborhood Over Clashes With Youth, Palestinians Say, Haaretz
The Jerusalem police are continuing what residents call unprecedented enforcement against traffic violations in the Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiyah. For the past three weeks the police have set up roadblocks at the entrance to the neighborhood and are stopping almost every car on its way out, examining vehicles closely and writing up drivers for almost every infraction, local people say, adding that this approach continued over the weekend.

Macron warns Rouhani of consequences if nuclear deal weakened, Reuters
French President Emmanuel Macron told his Iranian counterpart on Saturday that he was deeply concerned by any further weakening of the 2015 nuclear deal and warned that consequences would inevitably follow any such move.

Liberman: Netanyahu has turned the Likud party into a personality cult, Times of Israel
Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman on Saturday said that the Likud party has become a personality cult around Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and is no longer a party of the right.

Barak names his new political party The Israel Democratic Party, JTA
The Israel Democratic Party, or Yisrael Demokratit, is the name of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s new political party.

U.S. sent message to Iran after drone downing, warning of limited strike: Iranian official, Reuters
The United States conveyed a message to Iran warning of a limited strike against the country after its unmanned drone was shot down in the Gulf, Iran’s civil defense agency chief was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency on Sunday.

Epstein case oozes into Israeli political mud as Netanyahu, Barak trade barbs, Times of Israel
Disgraced US billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, arrested on fresh sex-trafficking charges Saturday, was injected into Israel’s political scrum Sunday, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu highlighting Epstein’s alleged connection to rival Ehud Barak.

5 Israeli soldiers injured in car-ramming attack, JTA
Five Israelis soldiers were injured in a car-ramming attack in the West Bank. The driver suspected of ramming his car in to the group of soldiers near the Hizme checkpoint northeast of Jerusalem, was arrested later the same night after a manhunt, the IDF said in a statement issued on Sunday morning.

Tzipi Livni Considering Political Comeback, but Only if Barak and Labor Join Forces, Haaretz
Former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is considering returning to politics and running as part of a left-wing bloc, but only if a joint ticket is formed between the Labor Party and Ehud Barak’s new Democratic Israel Party.

Opinion and Analysis

Can Peretz breathe new life into the Labor Party?, Al-Monitor
Mazal Mualem writes, “Peretz’s victory was, first and foremost, a vote by members of Labor for someone who has promised to revive their moribund party and restore its social and diplomatic agenda as a classic social democratic party. They chose an experienced and highly regarded individual — the person who got credit for the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system — instead of being taken in by Shmuli and Shaffir, two young stars who got their start in politics in the social protest movement. Electing either Shaffir or Shmuli would have branded Labor a social-oriented niche party….The election of Peretz guarantees (more or less) that the Labor Party will preserve its independence, rather than trade it away. In other words, the center-left bloc will continue to be divided, which ensures that Likud will emerge after the Sept. 17 elections as the largest party in another race between two leaders, Netanyahu and Gantz.”

Why This Narrow Strait Next to Iran Is So Critical to the World’s Oil Supply, The New York Times
“Twenty percent of the global oil supply flows through the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow stretch of water that separates Persian Gulf countries like Iran, Iraq and Kuwait from the rest of the world. From May 15 to June 15, more than 1,000 tanker ships traveled the strait. Many were destined for places as far away as China and South Korea….If tensions persist, disruptions along the strait, where the shipping channel is barely two miles wide, could be felt in India, China and dozens of other countries that buy Middle Eastern oil in large quantities.”

Israel’s Liberman takes on radicalization of religious Zionism, Al-Monitor
Shlomi Eldar observes, “Addressing the annual policy conference of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya on July 2, former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, chair of Yisrael Beitenu, launched a harsh broadside at religious radicalization and the religious military preparatory academies headed by rabbis who also serve as their educators and ideologues. Such strident criticism against Israel’s religious Zionism and its military academies appears unprecedented in Israeli history.”

Trump wants to talk. Iran isn’t interested.
, Politico
“President Donald Trump wants to sit down with Iranian leaders — but they don’t share his eagerness to talk, revealing the limits of the president’s personal diplomatic overtures…Iran’s moves are a calculated gamble, officials and analysts said — an attempt to both rebuke Trump and pressure European leaders, who are trying to salvage the nuclear deal, to stand up to the United States. The Iranians also may be betting that Trump, who has shown little appetite for war, will fold first, lifting sanctions in exchange for talks.”