News Roundup for June 16, 2017

June 16, 2017

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Top News and Analysis

Israel-Palestine From Both Sides of the Mirror, The New York Times

Roger Cohen writes, “This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Israeli victory in the 1967 war and of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. The jubilation of military victory, quicker and more comprehensive than seemed possible, has long since subsided into a grinding status quo: the oppression of 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank, the confrontation with 1.8 million in encircled Hamas-run Gaza and the corrosion of Israeli democracy that accompanies this extended exercise in dominion. Often called unsustainable, the occupation has proved altogether sustainable. Jews need no instruction in the agony of exile. Yet their modern statehood, achieved after the millennia of diaspora existence and persecution, has come to involve the statelessness of another people. I asked four friends — two Israelis and two Palestinians — to write briefly of their feelings on this anniversary.”

Israel and Hamas court catastrophe in high-stakes game of chicken, Times of Israel

“The Israeli government, the Palestinian Authority and, to a lesser extent, the Egyptian government are locked in a game of chicken with Hamas, which has brought along the two million unfortunate residents of the Gaza Strip for the ride. This death race is being fueled by a combination of internal Palestinian spats, various Israeli policies, military changes on the ground, and a diplomatic siege in the Gulf. A catastrophic collision seems increasingly likely….The millions that it would cost for Israel to supply Gaza with power would pale in comparison to the billions that a large-scale military operation would end up costing the country in materiel, reservists’ pay, insurance payouts for buildings and infrastructure damaged by Hamas, lost work days, a drop in tourism and — it should go without saying — human lives….While Hamas has found itself pushed to the edge financially and militarily before, the difference this time is that its foreign support is in peril….So what will that decision be? Will the game of chicken end in a horrific wreck, a fourth round of fighting in the beleaguered and battered coastal enclave? Israel, it seems, is prepared to take a gamble and stay the course, relying on Hamas to blink and swerve out of the way.”

Why Netanyahu Suddenly Renewed His Assault on Human-rights Groups, Haaretz

Yossi Verter observes, “In addition to his unceasing competition with Bennett over the support of right-wing voters, Netanyahu wants to appease the settlers who are angry over what they see as the continuing construction freeze in the West Bank. He will throw them some bones that will mainly have the effect of eliciting the objections of the left, aggravating a few European governments, and drawing the protest of some human-rights organizations – and they will calm down. So at the meeting with coalition party leaders, Netanyahu announced out of the blue that the legislation relating to foreign funding of Israeli NGOs in its current format is too soft, and that he intends to toughen it. In the same breath he stated that it was time to promote the bill, submitted by MK Miki Zohar (Likud), that places limits on who can petition the High Court of Justice. The premier got his headlines that day and calmed down.”


Israel’s UN Envoy Urges Likud Officials: Press Netanyahu to Extend My Term, Haaretz

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, has recently asked senior aides of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to extend his term from three to four years, but received a cool, evasive response, Likud officials said. Danon asked several senior party members, some of them close to Netanyahu, to help him persuade the prime minister to extend his term, according to party officials who spoke to the disappointed ambassador. Danon was appointed to the post in August 2015 and will soon complete two years in office. The cabinet’s decision on his appointment stipulates that he will serve three years, until August 2018, with an option of extending the term for a fourth year.

Liberman: Hamas using power crisis to distract from its failures, Times of Israel

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Thursday that the unfolding Gaza electricity crisis could be resolved and that the Palestinian enclave’s Hamas rulers were using the situation to distract Gazans from the failures of its leadership. He also said that if terror groups in the Strip would disarm, Israel would help rehabilitate Gaza following a decade of Hamas rule and three wars since 2008.

Bennett wants to make it much harder to divide Jerusalem, Times of Israel

Education Minister Naftali Bennett is reportedly set to propose legislation that would require a special two-thirds Knesset majority on any decision to divide Jerusalem under a future peace deal with the Palestinians. Bennett, who leads the pro-settlement Jewish Home party, wants to amend the Basic Law on Jerusalem so that votes to divide the city will require the approval of 80 MKs to pass, as opposed to a regular majority, Israel Hayom reported on Friday.

Trump Selling Qatar Billions in Weapons Only Days After Accusing It of Supporting Terrorism, Haaretz

A deal between the United States and Qatar for F-15 fighter jets and a visit to Doha by two American warships on Thursday showed the vital military links Washington maintains with a country now in a dispute with several other Arab nations. Qatar remains the home of some 10,000 American troops at a major U.S. military base in the Mideast. So far, the dispute between Doha and nations led by Saudi Arabia has yet to shake that partnership, though cracks are showing in responses from President Donald Trump and his administration.

Ministers slam Israeli plan to double size of West Bank’s Qalqilya, Times of Israel

An Israeli plan to double the size of the Palestinian city of Qalqilya in the northern West Bank has drawn anger from ministers in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. The plan would see 14,000 new apartments built on 2,500 dunams (617 acres) in Israeli-controlled Area C surrounding the city. It would potentially double the city’s population from 50,000 to 110,000.

Opinions and Analysis

Could Mideast Peace Be a Key Battleground for Macron vs Trump?, Haaretz

Manuel Rapnouil and Hugh Lovatt write, “A French government that is prepared to disagree with Washington and challenge its monopoly on the conflict could go some way towards counter-balancing negative dynamics that Washington might broadcast. France could be the lead state to safeguard the territorial basis for a two-state solution and disincentivise Israel’s prolonged occupation.”

Netanyahu spearheads populist ‘madness’, Al-Monitor

Mazal Mualem lives, “The current situation is disturbing, not only because there is no one to rein in this populist legislation, but also because the prime minister himself is leading the legislative push. The new NGO law that he is promoting comes in addition to the Nationality Law, which he recently declared to be one of the main goals of the Likud. The latter is a problematic and controversial law, which disrupts the delicate balance between Israel’s two main characteristics — its identity as a Jewish and a democratic state — because it grants legal preference to Israel’s Jewish identity, at the expense of democratic values such as equality and minority rights. In the past, the prime minister may have tried to show a modicum of official behavior in response to legislative initiatives of this kind, if only externally. He often advocated compromise and attempted to moderate such proposals before they were passed. Now, however, he serves as the spearhead of the nationalist camp, in what is turning out to be his own agenda for the next election.”

The Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Leftists in Israel Who Aren’t Afraid to Admit It, Haaretz

Judy Maltz reports on a new generation of Haredi anti-occupation activists and explores how a small minority of the Haredi is increasingly sympathetic to the Israeli left.

How Israel Should Navigate the Gulf Crisis, Matzav Blog

Michael Koplow argues, “If Israel does indeed use the Gulf crisis as a vehicle for punishing Hamas, it has to walk a very fine line and take into account both Hamas’s potential sources of support and what would replace it in Gaza if it falls. If pressuring Qatar to cut off Hamas would deprive the group of oxygen entirely it would be one thing, but there are other sources of support that may fill the void, and in many ways it is better for Hamas to rely on Qatar than it is for Hamas to rely on Iran and Turkey. The role of Qatari financing in propping up Hamas allowed for a wedge to be driven between Hamas and Iran – a development with no uncertain benefits to Israel – and depriving Hamas of that financing is likely to push Hamas farther toward Iran. Giving Turkey a larger role in Gaza through Hamas at the same time that Turkey has been making a serious push for influence among Palestinians in East Jerusalem is also dangerous, as Turkey has larger ambitions for influence within Israel and the Palestinian territories than Qatar does. Qatar is by no means an innocuous or innocent actor, and I have seen no evidence that Qatar’s influence on Hamas has been moderating in any real sense. But to the extent that forcing Qatar to cut off Hamas entirely will mean more Iranian and Turkish influence, it will not be a helpful development.”

Guest column: Two-state solution only option for Israeli Palestinian peace, Detroit Free Press

David Kurzmann, “Rather than retreat into recriminations, advocates for Israel or the Palestinians should take action to support a two-state solution.”

Don’t Tell Me Jews Are Safe and Secure in Trump’s America, Haaretz

Rabbi Eric Yoffie writes, “The question now is whether President Trump has recreated the uncertain conditions that might lead to danger for the Jewish community….To be sure, the Jews are not the primary issue. America’s well-being is the primary issue. And the best way for the Jews to look after themselves is not to focus on self-defense. It is to join with concerned Americans to blunt the extremist agenda of our President and his party. It is to build coalitions of decency rooted in a passion for justice. It is to prod Congress into preserving sensible health care for every American. It is to insist that our President put amateur night behind him and become a president worthy of the office that he holds.”

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