News Roundup for May 10, 2018

May 10, 2018

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J Street in the News

Jewish, pro-Israel groups react to Trump’s withdrawal from Iran deal, Sun-Sentinel

“Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of left-wing ‘pro-Israel, pro-peace’ group J Street, came out squarely opposed to Trump’s announcement. ‘It’s a very sad day when the United States abdicates leadership, reneges on its word and walks away from a deal that has successfully blocked all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear bomb.’”

Top News and Analysis

Israel Launches Most Extensive Strike in Syria in Decades After Iranian Rocket Barrage, Haaretz

“Israel attacked dozens of Iranian targets in Syria in what the military said was the most extensive strike in the neighboring country in decades. The strike was carried out in response to a barrage of 20 rockets that were fired from Syria at Israeli military outposts. The Israeli military accused the Revolutionary Guards’ Al Quds force and its commander, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, of launching the attack at the Israeli Golan Heights. This is the first time Israel has directly accused Iran of firing toward Israeli territory. Four of the rockets were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system and the rest of the rockets exploded on Syrian territory, the military said. Israel said there were no casualties in the attack. Israel said its targets included weapons storage, logistics sites and intelligence centers used by elite Iranian forces in Syria. It also said it destroyed five Syrian air-defense batteries after coming under heavy fire. It said none of its warplanes were hit.”

Iran’s Entrenchment in Syria Set Back Months After Most Extensive Israeli Strike in Decades, Haaretz

Amos Harel writes, “This time, the intelligence assessment was spot on. The Iranian reaction to previous airstrikes attributed to Israel arrived from the direction, at the time and in the manner Israel expected….the Iranian reaction was a total flop. Four of its missiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system and the rest fell in Syrian territory….Ostensibly, Israel’s harsh response could cause the Iranians to stop and rethink their moves. Israel has already demonstrated its military and intelligence power with the series of strikes attributed to it in recent months. But the scale of Israel’s reaction early Thursday morning was something else entirely.”

Trump’s Most Foolish Decision Yet, The New York Times

Susan Rice writes, “The president has just made the most foolish and consequential national security decision of his tenure. Exactly what comes next is unclear, but we certainly will face a far worse situation than today. When the mess materializes, Mr. Trump, per standard procedure, will blame everyone else: his political opponents, his predecessor, the Europeans and the Iranians. But there will be only one person responsible: President Trump, our wrecking ball in chief.”

Who’s Most Endangered By Trump’s Iran Deal Exit? Israel, Say Its Army Chiefs, Forward
JJ Goldberg observes, “[P]aradoxically, the biggest loser in Trump’s announcement is probably the security of Israel itself in the face of its Iranian foe. That’s the near-unanimous view of Israel’s top military leadership. Just weeks ago, on March 25, four of the six living former chiefs of Israel’s military command shared a stage in Tel Aviv and stated unanimously that canceling the Iran deal would hurt Israel, not help it.”

Trump Vandalizes the Iran Deal, The New York Times

Nicholas Kristof writes, “President Trump’s attempt to blow up the Iranian nuclear deal isn’t foreign policy. It’s vandalism….This petty retreat from diplomacy is the most significant national security move Trump has made. It means that Trump is isolating the United States, not Iran, and it increases the risk of military conflict down the road. If there’s anything we should have learned, it’s to avoid unnecessary wars in the Middle East — but Trump may be laying the groundwork for yet another.”


IDF: Overnight raids set back Iranian military in Syria by ‘many months’, Times of Israel

The Israeli army said Thursday morning that it set back Iranian military capabilities in Syria by “many months” with overnight strikes on “dozens” of targets affiliated with the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps’ al-Quds Force following an attempted large-scale rocket attack on Israeli territory.

‘Very Severe Consequences’ if Iran Starts Nuclear Program, Trump Warns, Haaretz

“U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday there would be ‘very severe consequences’ if Iran starts a nuclear program, adding that Iran ‘will negotiate’ or ‘something will happen.’ Meanwhile, a State Department official said on that the Trump administration and the Israeli government were closely coordinating their moves in the weeks leading up to Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.”

Netanyahu Says He Told Putin: Israel Has a Need and Right to Defend Itself in the Face of Iranian Aggression, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday morning highlighted the importance of “continued coordination” between the Israeli and Russian military against the backdrop of current events in Syria. After the meeting, Netanyahu said that he presented to Putin “Israel’s obligation and right to defend itself against Iranian aggression, from Syrian territory.”

Poll indicates big surge for Netanyahu’s Likud after Trump’s Iran announcement, Times of Israel

A new poll partially released Wednesday indicated a huge surge for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party following US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. The survey, conducted immediately after Trump’s Tuesday announcement and partially released by Army Radio, found that if elections were held now, Likud would win 42 seats, a huge jump from its current 30 seats in the Knesset.

Western country said brokering Israel-Hamas talks on long-term ceasefire, Times of Israel

A Western country is reportedly brokering talks between Israel and the Hamas terror organization on a deal for a long-term ceasefire in exchange for lifting the blockade over the Gaza Strip. Israel has promised the Western country to study the offer and respond to it, but only after May 15, when Palestinians plan to hold mass demonstrations marking 70 years since the “Nakba,” or catastrophe, of Israel’s founding, the report said, citing “diplomatic sources.”

Russia urges ‘restraint’ after Israel and Iran exchange fire, Times of Israel

Russia and France on Thursday called for a calming of tensions after Israel struck dozens of Iranian-affiliated targets in Syria following a missile attack on the Golan Heights overnight Wednesday.

Opinions and Analysis

Europe, Again Humiliated by Trump, Struggles to Defend Its Interests, The New York Times

Steven Erlanger writes, “[W]ith each breach, it becomes clearer that trans-Atlantic relations are in trouble, and that the options are not good for the United States’ closest European allies. However angry and humiliated, those allies do not yet seem ready to confront Mr. Trump, wishing to believe that he and his aides can be influenced over time….But there are signs that patience is wearing thin, and that many are searching for solutions as Mr. Trump, in the name of ‘America First,’ creates a vacuum of trans-Atlantic leadership that the Europeans have so far seemed incapable or unwilling to fill.”

Trump and Netanyahu Are Triggering a Risky, Unnecessary War of Choice in the Middle East, Haaretz

Daniel Levy writes, “The less costly and far wiser approach for regional stability in general and Israeli national security interests in particular, would be a multilateral diplomatic process whose aim would be to build a wider package of regional understandings, and a new regional balance of deterrence that would be part implicit, and part more detailed and explicit. But we are a long way from that now. Make no mistake: Trump’s announcement means the path of travel is towards a risky and unnecessary war of choice. It is still not too late, but Washington, with a major assist from Jerusalem, has just set off on a dangerous march in the wrong direction.”

Divided Republicans struggle to formulate post-Iran deal policy, Al-Monitor

Bryant Harris reports, “Some high-profile House Republicans made clear today that they think the White House has left the United States isolated by unilaterally withdrawing from the agreement. Others took a more hawkish line advocating for new sanctions — and even a new war authorization to counter Iran and its proxies throughout the Middle East.”

Did Trump’s Israel Envoy Support a Radical-right Kahanist Group?, Haaretz

Hilo Glazer reports, “Komemiut aspires to turn Israel into a state bearing a Jewish-religious character in the spirit of the precepts of the Torah, and advocates weakening “secular institutions” such as the media and the courts. Heading the list of Komemiut rabbis that appears on the organization’s website is Dov Lior. A consistent supporter of the “transfer,” or expulsion, of the Arabs of Judea and Samaria, Rabbi Lior praised Baruch Goldstein – who perpetrated a 1994 massacre of Muslim worshippers in Hebron – as ‘holier than all the martyrs of the Holocaust,’ and customarily takes part in memorial ceremonies for Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose Kach movement was outlawed in Israel almost 25 years ago….Between 2008 and 2013, Friends of Beit El Yeshiva donated 372,000 shekels (approximately $93,000) to Komemiut. Those were years when Friedman was very active in the Friends organization, even before he became president of the Friends organization.”

European Companies Rushed to Invest in Iran. What Now?, The New York Times

“[E]ven before President Trump pulled out of the agreement with Iran, many companies had already tempered their expectations and limited their investment. Now their prospects look murkier as European leaders try to determine whether there is a path forward without the United States.”

Israel’s finance minister stands firm against bill limiting judiciary, Al-Monitor

Mazal Mualem reports, “Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, the chairman of the Kulanu Party, has risen up in support of the Supreme Court on more than one occasion. This time, however, was the most important of those occasions and the most effective….Kahlon cherishes the rule of law and the court’s independence. This is why he took a risk and blocked Bennett’s attempt to inflict a devastating blow to the legal system itself.”