News Roundup for March 21, 2017

March 21, 2017

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Top News and Analysis

The Liquidator From Washington Comes Calling on Netanyahu, Haaretz

Aluf Benn writes, “Jason Greenblatt, the special envoy of U.S. President Donald Trump, is a soft-spoken man but remains resolute and focused on the goal. It took him two meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to plant a mine in the heart of the right-wing governing coalition and bring Israel to the brink of early elections….Trump wanted more of a construction freeze than Netanyahu is prepared to give with his current coalition. If he accedes to the Americans, his rival Naftali Bennett, head of the Habayit Hayehudi party, will rise up against him, topple the government and convince right-wing voters that they must not give the trickster from Caesarea another chance. You wanted a right-wing government and you got left-wing policies, Habayit Hayehudi’s campaign slogan will say….Consequently, Netanyahu sought a pretext for dismantling the coalition that would not paint him as a leftist in comparison to his rival Bennett but would spare him a confrontation with Trump, supposedly his good friend. The battle against the ‘left-wing’ public broadcasting corporation fit the bill perfectly.”


Israel, U.S. Trying to Persuade Western Countries to Oppose Five anti-Israel UN Resolutions, Haaretz

Israel and the United States are cooperating to persuade as many Western countries as possible to oppose, or to at least abstain from voting on, five anti-Israeli resolutions scheduled for voting at the United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday, a Foreign Ministry official said on Monday.  The US boycotted UNHRC discussions on the five resolutions on Monday, adding that it would be voting against them. The five resolutions coming up for discussion and voting are pursuant to Agenda Item 7 of the UNHRC. The section is unusual in being devoted entirely to human rights abuses by Israel. As no other country has been treated similarly, Israel claims that the item is an example of the council’s bias against it.

Israeli Ministry Trying to Compile Database of Citizens Who Support BDS, Haaretz

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan wants to set up a database of Israeli citizens who are involved in promoting and supporting boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel or the settlements. Senior Israeli officials noted that Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit is vehemently opposed to Erdan’s proposal, arguing that the Strategic Affairs Ministry has no legal authority to collect information on Israeli citizens.

Eyes on boosting trade, PM lands in China as coalition crisis simmers, Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu landed in Beijing Sunday afternoon for a three-day trip meant to boost bilateral tries and celebrate 25 years since Israel and China established diplomatic relations.

Israel: Syrian Missile Was Seen as Ballistic Threat, We Didn’t Hesitate to Shoot It Down, Haaretz

The commander of Israel’s air defenses, Brig. Gen. Zvi Haimovich, said that there was no dilemma in using the Arrow missile system to intercept an incoming Syrian missile early Friday morning. “It was a ballistic threat that threatened the State of Israel,” he said. “The directives, the policy and the orders are very clear: neutralize and intercept any threat that endangers the residents of the State of Israel, and that’s also what we did last week.”

Israeli Opposition Leader Says He’s Building Political Bloc to Replace Netanyahu, Haaretz

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) told his party lawmakers on Monday that he is trying to forge a political bloc that could replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the next election or even in the current legislature. “There are more than 60 Knesset members who are fed up with Netanyahu and would be happy to build a coalition with a different prime minister in this Knesset,” said Herzog. He also called on Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon not to give in to Netanyahu’s demands and to quit the coalition and join the effort to put together a new government.

Israel’s President Rivlin Labels Netanyahu’s Threat to Call Early Election ‘Insane’, Haaretz

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Monday joined a growing list of ministers and lawmakers opposed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s threat to call early elections over a dispute about Israel’s new public broadcasting corporation. In his first public comment on the dispute over Kan – the public broadcasting corporation that is meant to begin operations on April 30 – Rivlin labeled the prime minister’s threat to dismantle the government “insane.”

Palestinian officer killed, 2 gunmen injured during armed clashes in Balata, Ma’an

A Palestinian policeman was killed Sunday night during armed clashes that erupted in Balata refugee camp in the northern occupied West Bank district of Nablus, after Palestinian forces raided the camp to detain “wanted fugitives,” Palestinian security forces said. The clashes left another policeman and at least two gunmen injured — one of whom was detained while the other managed to escape.

Abbas, Sisi meet in bid to revitalize Arab support for two-state solution, i24 News

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Monday discussed, among other topics, how to create renewed Arab support for the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israeli news site Walla reports, citing Palestinian news agency Safa. The meeting also included Saeb Erekat, who is the Palestinian official in charge of peace negotiations, as well as a member of the Fatah party’s executive committee, the director of the Palestinian intelligence apparatuses, and the Palestinian ambassador to Cairo, according to the report.

Egypt’s Sissi to Bring Up Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process in Trump Meeting, Haaretz

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi is to bring up the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in his meeting with President Trump next month, Cairo’s Presidential Palace in Cairo said Monday. The palace made the announcement following Sissi’s meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Cairo. Sissi is to go to Washington on April 3 for a series of meetings, including with Trump.

Palestinians, Not Israelis, Being Kept Off Land of Evacuated West Bank Outpost, Haaretz

The army’s order barring access to the land from which the illegal outpost Amona was evacuated last month is apparently being enforced only against Palestinians, not settlers or other Israelis.

Settler leader blasts lack of new settlement construction, Times of Israel

A settler leader vowed that there would be construction in all the West Bank settlements, and expressed frustration that limitations have not been lifted since the January inauguration of US President Donald Trump. “The decision of the leadership of the Yesha Council is that there will be construction in every settlement, we are longer in the Obama era and it can’t be that the Trump era is even worse than the Obama era,” Army Radio on Monday quoted Avi Roeh, the leader of the settler umbrella group the Yesha Council, as telling a meeting of the group.

Opinion and Analysis

Congress races to craft Iran sanctions bills ahead of AIPAC conference, Al-Monitor

Julian Pecquet reports “Key lawmakers in the House and Senate are racing to craft bipartisan Iran sanctions legislation before the nation’s largest pro-Israel lobby holds its policy conference starting this weekend, March 26….With barely a week to go, the relevant Senate panel remains deadlocked while its House counterpart hopes to shortly strike a deal, according to multiple sources in Congress and pro-Israel groups.”

The Role Russia Played in the Israel-Syria Missile Clash, Haaretz

Anshel Pfeffer writes, “An attack carried out by Israeli warplanes flying over Syria (and not using standoff missiles from afar as happened in other strikes recently) may be an indication that there is an understanding with Russia over Israeli operations within the area that Russia protects with its own air-defense systems….Assad is aware that Putin is discussing his country’s future with other world leaders, including Netanyahu. His belated attempt to shoot down Israeli planes could be a sign of frustration at his impotence to control both his destiny and his airspace.”

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