Plans for first new settlement in 25 years approved, Times of Israel
“Plans to begin work on the first Israeli West Bank settlement in 25 years cleared the final planning hurdle Wednesday, along with a program to build 2,000 housing units throughout the West Bank….The plans, approved by the Civil Administration’s High Planning Committee, include 102 housing units for Amichai, which will be located near the settlements of Shiloh and Eli, north of Ramallah. Amichai is a new settlement to be built for residents of the illegal Amona outpost, which was evacuated in February in line with court orders because it was built on private Palestinian land. It will be the first settlement to be constructed since the Israeli-Palestinian Oslo peace accords signed in the 1990’s.”
“[R]ecent failures to achieve Palestinian self-determination have profoundly shaped the perspectives of young Palestinians. Two Arab Barometer polls of the Palestinian public, conducted in 2006 and 2016, show how young Palestinians have lost faith in political institutions….These comparisons indicate that opposition to the two-state solution may decline with age among Palestinian men. However, even if there is eventually progress toward a solution based on territorial compromise, the intense and widespread skepticism toward Palestinian institutions will require any future, independent Palestinian state to confront these legacies of distrust.”
“Senators Chris Murphy, Rand Paul, and Al Franken are moving to block a small portion of the reported $110 billion arms deal recently agreed upon with Saudi Arabia. Their disapproval measure, which focuses on the sale of $500 million worth of offensive weapons, is expected to fail, as did a similar move, in September….’I have not been able to get satisfactory explanations from our administration in how they are monitoring the human rights issues in regards to the Saudis as well as their long term plans in arming the Middle East,’ said Senator Ben Cardin, speaking with Jewish Insider.”
Likud politicians celebrated the launch of a book by an Islam expert Wednesday night, but it wasn’t your typical book party. The author, historian Raphael Israeli, says the Israeli Arabs are a fifth column who “suck from the state’s teats” and cannot be integrated into Israeli society….The book’s publisher is a Likud member, Eliyahu Gabbay, a former Knesset member for the National Religious Party. The project was funded by Miami businessman Haim Yehezkel. The launch, with some 400 Likud members on hand, took place at Ramat Gan’s Kfar Maccabiah Hotel. Senior Likud members spoke including Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, Coalition Chairman David Bitan and MK Miki Zohar. All participants received free copies of the book.”
Liberman: We are ‘closer than ever’ to deal with Palestinians, Times of Israel
“Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Thursday that Israel was ‘closer than ever’ to an agreement with the Palestinians and that the opportunity for full relations with Arab states would sway the Netanyahu government to accept a deal. ‘We are far closer to an agreement than ever before,’ Liberman told Channel 2 on Thursday. ‘I hope we will be able to realize this option.’ When asked how the deal would come together, Liberman responded: ‘Because Trump has arrived on the scene and because, as I keep saying, the Arab countries have internalized that their problem is not Israel. Israel can be a solution to the problem.’ ‘If someone comes and puts a deal on the table that includes an agreement with all the moderate Arab states, including the opening of embassies, trade relations and direct flights, I believe that it will get an overwhelming majority in the Knesset and among the people,’ he told Channel 2.”
Hamas planned to kill an Israeli army officer to avenge the March killing in the Gaza Strip of a senior Hamas militant. Mazen Fuqaha was gunned down in Gaza City on March 24 in what Hamas says was an Israeli hit job. That, according to a statement issued by Israel’s Shin Ben security service on Thursday. The Shin Bet said nine people have been arrested in connection to the alleged retaliatory assassination, including seven who are suspected of selling arms illegally.
Red Cross calls on Hamas to clarify fate of Israelis held in Gaza, Times of Israel
The International Committee of the Red Cross on Thursday urged the Hamas terrorist organization to clarify the fate of the five missing Israeli nationals it allegedly holds in the Gaza Strip. Hamas is thought to hold three Israelis who entered the Strip illegally as well as the remains of two soldiers killed in fighting in 2014. The group has refused to confirm who it is holding or what their condition is.
Ahead of Tel Aviv Pride, 79 percent of Israelis Jews told pollsters they support allowing same-sex marriage or civil unions for gay couples. According to Hiddush, the religious pluralism group that commissioned the poll released Thursday, public support for allowing gay couples to marry in Israel has reached an all-time high. The group found 76 percent support last year, and just 53 percent in 2009.
Mazal Mualem observes, “It is reasonable to assume that whoever is elected chair will be able to improve the state of the party, and maybe even win back a few of the seats now held by Lapid, but that’s all. Even talk that after these primaries attempts will be made to hold a second round of primaries over who will lead the center-left bloc is meaningless, since centrist Lapid will never agree to it. Whoever is elected will have to lead the party after Lapid has already established in the public’s eyes that he will run against Netanyahu for prime minister in the next election. To make any headway, the new Labor leader will have to come up with a more modern and relevant identity for the party. Netanyahu is following these primaries not because he is worried that a rival to his leadership will emerge, but because he wants to put the option of forming a national unity government with the Zionist Camp/Labor back on the table. With the possibility of a renewal of diplomatic negotiations as pushed by US President Donald Trump, Netanyahu would like to have the option of an alternative government to wave before Naftali Bennett’s right-wing HaBayit HaYehudi. Netanyahu believes that if Herzog is re-elected, that option will be revived.”
Unfilled State Dept. posts hamper Israel-US ties, Jerusalem Post
Michael Wilner reports, “Understaffing in the State Department since the inauguration of President Donald Trump is affecting everyday communication between Jerusalem and Washington, with some of the slack being picked up by the US mission to the UN in New York, according to diplomatic officials. There are some 200 key positions at the State Department that require Senate confirmation that have not yet been filled, including a large number of ambassadorial appointments. A number of the positions that have not been filled – deputy secretaries, undersecretaries and office heads – have traditionally been the everyday point of contact for Israeli Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry officials….’There’s basically only one guy – Jason Greenblatt,’ said a source who advises the president’s Middle East team. ‘That’s it. There’s no office, there’s no bureaucracy. Ron might talk to Jared, and Jared might talk to Jason. But there’s no assistant secretary of state. There’s no special envoy. There’s no under-secretary, there’s no deputy secretary.’”
Noam Sheizaf observes, “The Right is now the dominant force in Israel, and the preeminent force on the Right is religious Zionism. The dream of those yeshiva students who would go on to form Gush Emunim has materialized — not in the West Bank and on its hilltops, but in Tel Aviv, the Ministry of Education, the media, and the army. This process has taken place inside the Green Line, with the settlements —isolated, uniform towns with independent education systems and a large public sector — serving as base camps. These communities, owing to their unique character and structure, are able to maintain ideological unity and a sense of a shared mission….The settlers’ new status also brings their leadership’s dilemma into focus: to what extent can they move away from the ideology that propelled them down this path, in the name of preserving the government? This predicament has not yet come to a head, because Israel is not under any real pressure to change the status quo in the territories. It is still possible to settle the land while controlling Israel’s institutions, and that is exactly what the religious Zionists are doing. The question is what will happen once they need to choose one over the other.”
Aisha Saifi and Yifat Susskind write, “This is a scene that occupation tells us should be impossible: Yifat, an Israeli woman, and Aisha, a Palestinian woman, cooking and laughing together while we watch our children play. Through 50 years of occupation, wars have been fought, walls built and separation policies enacted that make our friendship an unlikely one….Fundamentally, we build a different future by demanding an end to the occupation. We align ourselves with grassroots activists who are organising peacefully. When Israeli youth refuse military service, or when Palestinian families and neighbours set up peace encampments in the West Bank, welcoming Israelis to join them as activists, not occupiers, they bring to life today a vision of what peace could look like tomorrow.”