News Roundup for March 31, 2017

March 31, 2017

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Top News and Analysis

Netanyahu Announces Policy of Restrained Settlement Construction in ‘Show of Good Will’ to Trump, Haaretz

Barak Ravid reports, “Israel will adopt a policy of limiting new construction in West Bank settlements to within the boundaries of areas that have already been built upon or in some specific cases precisely adjacent to them, Prime Minister Netanyahu said at a security cabinet meeting late Thursday night. A minister who was present at the meeting and requested to remain anonymous said Netanyahu informed the cabinet that despite several weeks of discussions on the issue, no understandings have yet been reached between Israel and the United States regarding settlement construction and that the differences between the sides remained unchanged….At the meeting, Netanyahu presented four main points outlining Israel’s new policy in the settlements: 1. Israel will continue construction, when permissible, within previously developed areas. 2. Where this is not permissible, Israel will allow construction in areas adjacent to those already developed. 3. Where neither of these criteria are met, due to legal, security or topographical constraints, Israel will allow construction on the closest land possible to developed areas. 4. Israel will not allow the creation of any new illegal outposts.”

Israel Approves First New West Bank Settlement in Over 20 Years for Amona Evacuees, Haaretz

“The security cabinet unanimously approved establishing a new settlement Thursday night to house settlers evacuated from the illegal outpost of Amona. This is the first time in over 20 years that Israel has established a new West Bank settlement. The Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement that following the vote in the security cabinet, a telephone poll of all ministers who aren’t part of that body will be conducted to give the decision final approval. The decision to establish the new settlement, which will be located near the existing settlement of Shiloh, stems from a promise Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made to Amona residents several months ago. Though the Trump administration objects to establishing any new settlements, Netanyahu told the White House in advance that he intended to keep his promise, saying that politically speaking, it was impossible for him to renege on it.”

No Early Elections: Netanyahu Strong-arms Finance Minister, Kills New News Broadcaster, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached a deal with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon Thursday that puts an end to a political crisis that threatened to see the government dissolved over a new public broadcaster, senior sources says. According to the deal, the broadcaster’s news division will be dismantled. Earlier this month the prime minister announced he was rethinking a compromise to allow Kan, the new public broadcaster to launch, but only following by new legislation giving the government more influence over the new authority. Netanyahu had threatened to dissolve the Knesset if Kahlon doesn’t agree to pass the legislation, which would also ensure political control over all broadcast media outlets in the country.

Arab leaders send a message to Trump: Palestine first, Times of israel

Avi Issacharoff reports, “The Palestinian issue, to the dismay of certain Israeli leaders, is returning to center stage. After long months in which the grab-bag of right-wing coalition leaders and self-styled experts on “Arab affairs” explained to the Israeli public that the Arab states don’t care about the Palestinians, suddenly those very states, who had indeed been showing little interest of late in dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, are changing their attitude following the change in government in the US. More than that, they are presenting a united front on the matter. And the bottom line that came out of Amman is: Palestine first. First resolve this irritating matter of the Palestinians, and afterwards we can talk about the wider regional order: that was the public message from the Arab League summit, and it is also the behind-the-scenes message that those states intend to give to the US government — starting next week, when Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi will be hosted by President Donald Trump at the White House.”

All Signals Point Once Again to War in Gaza, Bloomberg

Dan Shapiro writes, “During the Obama years, we faced a Gaza crisis roughly every two years. It doesn’t take a genius to predict another round — one can feel it coming, like the change of seasons. Each conflict saw Israeli civilians under fire and left Gaza civilians in agony, and the next one will as well.”


Video shows far-right Jews beating protesters outside AIPAC, Times of Israel

New footage has emerged showing Jewish Defense League activists attacking anti-settlement protesters outside this week’s AIPAC conference in Washington DC, including an apparently unprovoked vicious beating of a Palestinian-American man. The video, released Wednesday night by the left-wing +972 Magazine, shows dozens of people holding JDL, American and Kahane flags setting upon protesters from IfNotNow, a Jewish left-wing group that was demonstrating outside of the pro-Israel lobby’s annual conference.

2 charged with hate crime for attack on Arab teacher outside AIPAC conference, JTA

Two men were charged with a hate crime for an assault on an Arab teacher allegedly carried out by members of the Jewish Defense League outside this week’s AIPAC conference in Washington, D.C. The report released Thursday by the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia listed Kamal Nayfeh as the victim. The alleged assailants are not named in the police report, but a police spokeswoman identified them as Yosef Steynovitz, 32, of Canada, who was charged with assault with significant bodily injury, and Rami Lubranicki, 59, of Howell, New Jersey, who was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon. In both instances, “suspected hate crime” based on “anti-Arab” bias was added as “other felony involved.” Hate crimes, if added to a conviction, automatically increase penalties.

Leader of Largest Jewish Movement: Support Trump if He Shows Courage on Peace Process, Haaretz

In an interview with Haaretz this week on the sidelines of the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said, “If the president will exercise courageous leadership on the peace process, there will be strong support for his efforts,” Jacobs said. “This is in Israel’s interest. The country’s future security will benefit from a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians, and if Trump tries to achieve that goal, many people will be able to differentiate between that and his domestic agenda.”

Dozens of Palestinians said injured in Land Day clashes with IDF, Times of Israel

Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli troops during a protest in the northern West Bank on Thursday afternoon in commemoration of Land Day, an annual event marking 1976 riots against a government decision to confiscate Arab Israeli land. The Red Crescent ambulance service reported that 45 Palestinians were injured by rubber bullets during the protest between the Palestinian village of Madama and the Jewish settlement of Yitzhar, south of Nablus.

Democratic senators allege Trump deal in Azerbaijan flouted Iran sanctions laws, JTA

Three Democratic U.S. senators are calling for a federal investigation into allegations that President Donald Trump did business with an Azerbaijani family alleged to have busted Iran sanctions. The letter Thursday from Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Dianne Feinstein of California and Ben Cardin of Maryland is based on reporting earlier this month by the New Yorker that detailed efforts to build a Trump International hotel in Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital.

Opinion and Analysis

Palestine’s Man in Washington, Politico

Neri Zilber interviews new Palestinian envoy to the US Husam Zomlot.

AIPAC Loves Israel, but Only the Sanitized Version, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev argues, “AIPAC loves Israel, for sure, but only its own, self-censored, sanitized version. AIPAC loves the Israel that rose from the ashes of the Holocaust and is America’s best ally, besieged by barbaric enemies, the only democracy in the Middle East, conqueror of the desert and start up nation. That’s the Israel that AIPAC knows, and that’s the only Israel that it wants to know….What is infuriating….is AIPAC’s refusal to know, the blind eye and the deaf ear that they purposely turn to drown out the voices that tell them that something is rotting in the State of Israel. Even opposition leaders who are invited to the conference don’t dwell on it, perhaps because they seek to spare the feelings of their hosts and to allow them to live on in their fantasy worlds and to bury their heads in the sand. Such deliberate disregard however is not the stuff of which real love is made.”

Israel keeps tabs on Putin-Assad alliance, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit writes, “From his very first day on the job, Trump has discovered that he is in no way relevant to anything involving Syria. ‘As of now,’ a senior Israeli source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, ‘the Americans are doing Putin and Assad’s work in the north, facing off against the Islamic State, and they are also helping the Kurds. This lifts an enormous headache from Assad, allowing him to focus on what is happening in those specific regions that really are important to him. That is where his fate will be determined, and the person to determine that fate is Putin, with the help of the Iranians and Hezbollah.’”

Israel’s Most Controversial New TV Series Reveals the Lives of Palestinian Inmates, Haaretz

Itay Stern reports, “The new documentary series ‘Megiddo’ is rocking Israel’s culture world now that the Culture Ministry has demanded that Israeli film foundations reveal who has approved or rejected scripts in recent years. The demand, made by a committee set up by Culture Minister Miri Regev, called out the series, which documents the lives of Palestinian security prisoners in Megiddo Prison.”

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