“Officials from the Palestinian Authority expressed disappointment that the Trump administration did not take a stand on the reports that Israel has begun work on building a new settlement in the West Bank, and say they are concerned with the issue as the White House moves to restart peace talks….’President Trump spoke about establishing a joint committee of five [representatives from each side] and we want to make progress on it. But first of all we need to understand from the administration what is its position concerning the issue of the settlements, if they see the settlements as the main and most serious obstacle to progress in any negotiations, so there is a serious problem making progress,’ said the senior Palestinian official….’It is impossible to speak about a version that will bring the sides to serious negotiations as long as Israel continues massive construction in the settlements with a green light from the United States, or thunderous silence in the face of this construction,’ he added.”
“The statistics bureau’s figures show that Americans are disproportionately represented among immigrants moving to the West Bank. In recent years the main sources of immigration to Israel have been France, Russia, Ukraine and the United States. But while far more immigrants arrived in Israel last year from those first three countries, the United States took first place when it came to the number of immigrants moving to the settlements. While French Jews accounted for 16 percent of all immigrants last year, their share among the settler immigrants was just over 2 percent. While Russians accounted for 27 percent of all immigrants, their share among the settler immigrants was just under 2.5 percent. For Ukrainians, these two numbers were 22 percent and just under 2 percent respectively. But while Americans accounted for just 10 percent of all immigrants, their share among the settler immigrants topped 9 percent. Similar trends were evident in the 2015 figures from the statistics bureau.”
Gaza power plant back on, with help of alliance of old foes, Times of Israel
“The sole power plant in electricity-starved Gaza Strip sputtered back to life Thursday after receiving fuel from Egypt — a shipment that resulted from a surprising alliance between bitter ex-rivals, including the territory’s ruling Hamas and an exiled former Gaza strongman. Egypt’s shipment of 1 million liters of fuel undercut a high-stakes campaign by Western-backed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who is trying to weaken Hamas by gradually reducing the flow of electricity to the territory he lost to the militants in 2007.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu told the head of the Beit El regional council that he will promote the construction of 300 housing units in the settlement by September. Earlier this week, Netanyahu refused to state a deadline for the housing units during a meeting with the regional council head, Shai Alon. Netanyahu’s announcement comes after a string of senior politicians including Education Minister Naftali Bennett and former minister Gideon Sa’ar, expressed their support for the Beit El residents’ protest.
Commanders for Israel’s Security, an organization consisting of hundreds of former Israeli generals as senior security and intelligence figures, has warned that the “Taylor Force Act,” a bill that would cut all U.S. funding to the Palestinian Authority unless it stops paying salaries to convicted terrorists and their families, could create a security crisis and hurt Israel’s military cooperation with Palestinian security forces in the West Bank.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday defended the payments to Palestinian prisoners and convicted terrorists as a “social responsibility,” and said Israel was using the issue as a pretext to avoid peace talks. The comments were made in a speech that was read by Abbas’s foreign affairs adviser Nabil Shaath at the Herzliya Conference, an annual regional security meeting.
Haredi Orthodox Jews pelted police with stones, eggs and other objects while the officers tried to remove three Israeli soldiers who were being verbally attacked at evening services in Jerusalem.
Sebastian Gorka, President Trump’s controversial counterterrorism adviser, worked for the FBI as an independent contractor lecturing on terrorism while also being paid by the Trump presidential campaign in 2016. But according to a report posted today by The Daily Beast, the FBI terminated its contract with Gorka because Gorka’s lectures were rife with sweeping diatribes against Muslims and Islam — a religion he described as opposed to American democracy.
Some 300,000 Muslim worshipers from the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, Israel, and foreign countries prayed overnight between Wednesday and Thursday at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem to mark Laylat al-Qadr, “Night of Power,” one of Ramadan’s holiest nights, according to Palestinian Authority (PA)-owned Wafa news agency.
Former Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak called for left and centrist parties and organizations on Thursday to unite in order to bring down the government of Prime Minister Netanyahu. “In recent months there have been clear signs of a civil-society awakening. It is really flourishing. In face of developments in the area, corruption in our political system and the takeover of government by extremists, a growing part of the nation understands that silence is not an option,” Barak told an audience at the Herzliya Conference.
Minister calls on Riyadh to invite Netanyahu for peace talks, Times of Israel
Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) called for establishing full economic and security ties with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states while proposing visits between the countries’ leaders Thursday. Katz suggested that Riyadh invite Prime Minister Netanyahu for an official visit to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and Jerusalem reciprocate with an invitation to the kingdom’s newly appointed crown prince.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the President of the Union for Reform Judaism – the largest Jewish movement in North America – warned of a new crisis on Thursday between Israel and large segments of the U.S. Jewish community if the Israeli government backtracks on its commitment to create an egalitarian prayer area at Jerusalem’s Western Wall….In a statement issued on Wednesday, Jacobs said that while such reports were ‘deeply alarming,’ they were ‘sadly, not surprising.’ In an interview with Haaretz on Thursday, he explained that supporters of the agreement, which was crafted in early 2016 but hasn’t yet been implemented, have gotten used to seemingly endless delays.”
Herzog: Netanyahu is ‘incapable’ of peace with Palestinians, Times of Israel
Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog on Thursday declared that Prime Minister Netanyahu doesn’t have what it takes to make peace with the Palestinians and that the Israeli leader is likely to eventually wear out Washington’s patience on the matter. Speaking at an annual security conference at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, Herzog further accused the prime minister of being engaged mostly in his own political survival and following the lead of Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett in order to maintain an image of being right-wing.
Opinions and Analysis
Uri Blau reports, “Haaretz has discovered that behind the two hefty contributions to Im Tirtzu were American organizations connected to close associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Their legal structure allows for transfer of funds whose source is undisclosed….Both of these organizations are registered under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(4) for organizations engaged in promoting social objectives, which enables them to direct some of their money to advancing political goals without revealing their sources of funding.”
Akiva Eldar writes of the Gaza crisis, “While formal legal responsibility lies with Israel, the Palestinian leadership bears the greatest moral and ethical responsibility for the situation. How will Abbas be able to claim that Israel is abusing his people by imposing on them collective punishments in the name of security reasons, when he himself is asking it to use the very same means for political reasons? How does he expect the Israeli public to place its trust in a leader who treats his people so cruelly, and to demand that its elected representatives take the necessary risks entailed in handing him territories for a future Palestinian state?”
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