News Roundup for May 17, 2017

May 17, 2017

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Top News and Analysis

Israel Was Source of Secret Intelligence That Trump Gave to Russians, Officials Say, The New York Times

“The classified intelligence that President Trump disclosed in a meeting last week with Russian officials at the White House was provided by Israel, according to a current and a former American official familiar with how the United States obtained the information. The revelation adds a potential diplomatic complication to the episode. Israel is one of the United States’ most important allies and a major intelligence collector in the Middle East. The revelation that Mr. Trump boasted about some of Israel’s most sensitive information to the Russians could damage the relationship between the two countries. It also raises the possibility that the information could be passed to Iran, Russia’s close ally and Israel’s main threat in the Middle East. Israeli officials would not confirm that they were the source of the information that Mr. Trump shared. In a statement emailed to The New York Times, Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, reaffirmed that the two countries would maintain a close counterterrorism relationship….In the meeting with the Russian ambassador and foreign minister, Mr. Trump disclosed intelligence about an Islamic State terrorist plot. At least some of the details that the United States has about the plot came from the Israelis, the officials said. The officials, who were not authorized to discuss the matter and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that Israel previously had urged the United States to be careful about the handling of the intelligence that Mr. Trump discussed.”

Israeli Official: Trump Sharing Intelligence With Russia Is “Worst Fears Confirmed”, Buzzfeed

Sheera Frenkel reports, “Two Israeli intelligence officials confirmed to BuzzFeed News Tuesday that Israel had shared specific intelligence with the US regarding ISIS plots to smuggle explosive laptops onto planes, under the unique intelligence-sharing agreement the two countries maintain. The revelation that Trump had shared that intelligence with Russian officials was Israel’s ‘worst fears confirmed,’ said one of the intelligence officers. ‘We have an arrangement with America which is unique to the world of intelligence sharing. We do not have this relationship with any other country,’ said the officer, who spoke to BuzzFeed News on condition of anonymity as he was not granted permission to speak to the press. ‘There is a special understanding of security cooperation between our countries,’ they said. ‘To know that this intelligence is shared with others, without our prior knowledge? That is, for us, our worst fears confirmed.’”

Trump’s National Security Adviser Refuses Twice to Say Western Wall Is Part of Israel, Haaretz

“President Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, twice refused to say whether the Western Wall, which the president is set to visit next week, is part of Israel. McMaster made the remarks while he was outlining the itinerary of Trump’s upcoming trip to Israel at a Tuesday press briefing….McMaster’s refusal to answer questions about the sovereignty over the Western Wall comes a day after the White House disavowed the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem’s decision not to hold talks with Israeli officials on Trump’s Western Wall visit because it is in the West Bank. ‘That’s a policy decision,’ he noted. McMaster also said that Trump will travel from Saudi Arabia to Jerusalem, possibly keeping in line with long-standing American policy to not recognize East Jerusalem, occupied in 1967, as part of Israel.”


Trump Called Netanyahu, but White House and Israel Kept Mum, Haaretz

U.S. President Donald Trump called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday and discussed his upcoming visit to Israel, senior officials told Haaretz on Wednesday morning. The call, which took place shortly after Trump called Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Tuesday, was not publicized by either the White House or by the Prime Minister’s Office. Netanyahu’s office confirmed the phone call took place.

Nikki Haley Breaks Ranks With Trump Administration: U.S. Embassy in Israel Should Be in Jerusalem, Haaretz

The US ambassador to the United Nations has broken ranks with the Trump administration by supporting the relocation of the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem on Tuesday night.

Ambassador Nikki Haley said in an interview with the right-wing Christian Broadcasting Network that she supports moving the embassy, and that she wasn’t even sure if Jerusalem should at all be part of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, a position that is likely to generate angry backlash from the Arab world.

David Friedman Vows Trump Won’t Push Israel To Freeze Settlements, Forward

“David Friedman, the new US ambassador to Israel, gave his first interview since he landed in Israel on Monday to — where else? — Israel Hayom, the newspaper funded by Republican casino magnate and on-again-off-again Trump supporter Sheldon Adelson….Friedman said that Trump had no ‘specific political plan or roadmap’ on Israeli-Palestinian peace and promised that Trump would not demand Israel to freeze construction in the settlements. In February, Trump told Israel that building new settlements was ‘unhelpful’ to peace. He said that Trump wants to see Israelis and Palestinians ‘sitting together without preconditions and talking, with the hope that this will lead to peace.’”

Trump Committed to Moving Embassy to Jerusalem by Term’s End, U.S. Officials Tell Israel, Haaretz

President Trump remains committed to moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, even if he extends at the end of the month the presidential order freezing the implementation of the law calling for it, senior US officials told their Israeli counterparts in recent days. Senior Israeli officials with knowledge of the American message who asked to remain anonymous said that the US officials emphasized that Trump is determined to relocate the embassy by the end of his term and asked Israel to show patience.

Hunger-striking Palestinian leader begins to refuse water on 30th day, JTA

Convicted Palestinian terrorist Marwan Barghouti has stopped drinking water as part of his hunger strike against the Israel Prisons Services. Barghouti announced the ramping up of his hunger strike on Tuesday, its 30th day. According to the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs, 1,300 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails are fasting for more favorable conditions, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported. The Israel Prisons Services puts the figure at closer to 850. The hunger-striking prisoners are only taking a mixture of water and salt for sustenance.

Israelis set up new illegal outpost in northern Jordan Valley, Ma’an

A group of Israeli settlers have reportedly begun setting up an illegal outpost in the northeastern West Bank district of Tubas, official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported on Tuesday. Quoting Aref Daraghma, a Palestinian official who monitors settlement activity in the northern West Bank, Wafa said that settlers set up mobile homes and solar panels in the area where the village of Khirbet al-Sweida once stood in the northern Jordan Valley.

U.S. Reform Jewish Leader Slams Israel Over Move to Reject non-Orthodox Conversions, Haaretz

The Reform Jewish Movement, the largest Jewish movement in North America, criticized on Tuesday new legislation proposed by Israeli Interior Minister Arye Dery that would reject all non-Orthodox conversions in Israel.  Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said in a statement that Dery’s proposed legislation is another step toward creating an Orthodox monopoly on Judaism in Israel that treats non-Orthodox Jews as second-class citizens.

Opinions and Analysis

We Israeli Women Call on Trump: Help End Our Endless Wars, Haaretz

Anat Saragusti writes, “Mr. President, when you land here you will meet our leaders. The vast majority of them will be men. They are the men who run our lives. They are the men who decide if and when we are to embark on another bloody round of violence. They are the men whose voices are heard. But we, the tens of thousands of women in Women Wage Peace, ask that our voices be heard as well. The voices of those who pay the price of bloodshed, the voices of women who send their sons to war, the voices of women who lose hope, the voices of women who have lost their sense of security.”

Will Netanyahu govern forever?, Al-Monitor

Mazal Mualem writes, “The only thing that currently threatens Netanyahu’s survival comes from outside the political system: the criminal investigation into the gifts he allegedly received from businessmen. A dramatic development in this investigation such as an indictment could force Netanyahu to resign. If, however, there is no progress in the investigation, his government could continue to serve until 2019. At this stage, Netanyahu’s preparations for the next election can be summed up as follows. He is sending out feelers to Yisrael Beitenu chair and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman over the possibility of running together in a single list, like the Likud Beitenu list in the 2013 election. As unviable as it seems, Netanyahu also holds onto the hope that he can convince Kahlon to run together with him.”

Trump’s Visit to Israel – the Messiah Isn’t Coming, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev argues, “The thought that the man responsible for this mayhem is going to lead us all to peace borders on the ridiculous. In any case, the liberation of biblical patrimony, on one hand, or a historic peace deal with the Palestinians, on the other, won’t be worth two bits if Trump continues to weaken America abroad and to shatter it from within. A safe and strong and stable America is, in the final analysis, the ultimate guarantor of a safe and strong and stable Israel.”

Trump’s overseas trip must be canceled. The risks are too great, Washington Post

Sarah Posner argues, “Trump will be winging it during his trip to Israel, too — and in the polarized Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even seemingly small missteps relating to issues like the status of Jerusalem can set off violence. It’s not an exaggeration to say that lives are at stake….It’s hard to imagine Trump exercising sufficient self-control to emerge from an eight-day trip overseas without incident.”

What’s behind Abbas’ recent threats to Hamas?, Al-Monitor

Rasha Abou Jalal, “Palestinian Authority (PA) head Mahmoud Abbas met with US President Donald Trump in the White House for the first time on May 3. Shortly after, Abbas announced during his meeting with Arab ambassadors in Washington on May 4 his decision to take unprecedented and painful steps against Hamas, which Washington considers a terrorist organization. Abbas said during his meeting with the Arab ambassadors, ‘I will take unprecedented steps against Hamas since it halted the [Fatah-Hamas] reconciliation. The measures will be painful if the movement does not take back its actions,’ in reference to Hamas’ refusal to hand over the Gaza Strip to the consensus government.”

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