J Street called on the US Senate to investigate US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Thursday after he told The Times of Israel that West Bank settlements do not violate international law and that Republicans support Israel more than Democrats. “J Street urges senators to carry out a thorough investigation of Ambassador Friedman’s conduct in office,” the liberal Mideast advocacy group said in a statement, adding that Friedman “has clearly broken his promises to senators to behave diplomatically and prudently in his new post and to put aside his own personal agenda….” J Street — which describes itself as “pro-peace and pro-Israel” — decried those statements as inappropriate. “With his comments today, [Friedman] has once again disturbingly blurred the lines between his role as ambassador and his long-standing status as a benefactor and promoter of the Israeli settlement movement and the Republican Party,” the organization said.
“David Friedman’s conduct as US Ambassador to Israel should alarm all those who care about US policy in the Middle East and the basic norms of American diplomacy. With his comments today, he has once again disturbingly blurred the lines between his role as ambassador and his long-standing status as a benefactor and promoter of the Israeli settlement movement and the Republican Party….For the sake of US interests and the long-term health of the US-Israel relationship, this situation in which an American ambassador continues to publicly advocate for and advance his own political agenda cannot continue.”
Israel and Hamas: Negotiating With Rockets and Bombs, Daily Beast
Neri Zilber reports, “Since the 50-day war four years ago, the axiom governing Israel-Gaza relations, repeated ad nauseam even in the middle of yesterday’s violence, was that neither side really wants a war. And yet here they both were, engaged in a live-fire exchange that ended, if reports are to be believed, only through behind-the-scenes Egyptian mediation. While the quiet has held since early Wednesday morning, tensions remain high, and both sides are at least rhetorically not backing down.”
“The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday Iranian advisers and Hezbollah fighters will be withdrawing from the southern regions of Daraa and Quneitra near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. A Syria-based official with the ‘Axis of Resistance’ denied the report saying it is ‘untrue.’ The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, gave no further details.”
UN envoy: Gaza escalation a warning that ‘brink of war’ near, Seattle Times
The U.N. Mideast envoy told an emergency Security Council meeting Wednesday that the latest escalation in Gaza between its Hamas rulers and Israel is a warning of “how close to the brink of war we are every day.”
The remaining parties to the Iran nuclear deal have warned the United States that its decision to withdraw from the pact jeopardizes Russian and Chinese efforts to limit Iran’s ability to develop atomic weapons, Western diplomats told Reuters.
The Red Cross warned Thursday that Gaza was facing an “epic” crisis, after weeks of violence has left more than 13,000 Palestinians wounded, overwhelming an already disastrously weak health system. The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was stepping up its assistance in the beleaguered Palestinian enclave, and was sending in two surgical teams, additional medical specialists and supplies to help face the crisis.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas refused to meet with a delegation of Democratic Members of Congress that visited Israel two months ago, in protest of the Trump administration’s policies toward Israel.
After years of deliberations, the Israeli Interior Ministry has resolved not to grant recognition to the Jewish community of Uganda, Haaretz has learned.
Mairav Zonszein writes, “Within Israel’s 1948 borders, for the most part, when Jewish citizens protest, it’s tolerated; when Palestinian citizens protest, it’s “disturbing the peace” or worse. Days after the events in Gaza, for instance, Israeli police violently arrested 21 protesters — most of them Palestinian citizens — as they demonstrated in the northern Israeli city of Haifa against the mass shootings. Video, images and testimonies from the protest show police using barricades to herd people into one spot and then shoving them, punching them and rounding them up.”
The Economist writes, “Whether an agreement between Israel and Russia over the deployment of Iranian troops can be enforced remains to be seen. ‘Russia has limited levers of influence,’ says Nikolai Kozhanov, a former Russian diplomat in Iran and professor at the European University in St Petersburg. ‘Much depends on the desires of Iran itself.’ While Mr Putin has called for foreign forces to leave when the war is over, Iran’s foreign legion, the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which some countries classify as a terrorist group, seems bent on staying.”