“J Street is deeply concerned by reports that President Trump, in a meeting last week with the Russian foreign minister, disclosed classified intelligence provided by Israel without first notifying and securing the consent of Israeli officials. The close intelligence-sharing relationship between the US and Israel is vital to the security of both countries. That relationship is grounded in mutual trust, and any action which undermines that trust should worry the entire pro-Israel community, particularly given that Israeli security officials have already reportedly described this incident as ‘our worst fears confirmed.’ We call on Congress to exercise its full oversight responsibility in ensuring that the administration is held accountable for the manner in which it handles sensitive intelligence and the damage it is doing to the national interests of the United States and of its allies.”
“J Street welcomes news that the Trump administration is re-issuing sanctions waivers necessary to uphold US obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear program. Coming one month after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s certification to Congress that Iran remains in compliance with the agreement, today’s action is further confirmation by the administration that each of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon is blocked thanks to the pact.”
Yes to the Initiative, Haaretz
A Haaretz editorial observes, “Rumors of a dramatic regional initiative with “the Sunni states” have popped up in Israel before. Indeed, rumors of a historic window of opportunity were the basis for the talks between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Isaac Herzog on establishing a national unity government last September….This initiative fits well with the spirit of peace as a business that has emanated from Washington ever since the businessman Trump was elected president. It’s both desirable and possible to make ‘the ultimate deal’ in the Middle East, Trump says, and everyone could profit….The deal the Gulf states are proposing could prove to be a trap for Netanyahu. At first glance, it looks like one that’s hard to refuse. At a truly bargain price – Israel doesn’t even have to evacuate settlements but only freeze construction outside the settlement blocs – Israel would achieve commercial normalization with the Gulf states. Obviously, Netanyahu himself would have to pay a high price because announcing a settlement freeze could break up his governing coalition. But business is business: There’s no profit without risk.”’
“President Donald Trump has decided not to immediately move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a senior White House official said, violating a campaign promise but avoiding a provocation that could drive Palestinians away from peace talks. The official said the administration considers its discussions with both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority to be promising, with the Palestinians in particular agreeing to talk without preconditions. The official asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter….’We don’t think it would be wise to do it at this time,’ the official said. ‘We’ve been very clear what our position is and what we would like to see done, but we’re not looking to provoke anyone when everyone’s playing really nice.’”
“President Donald Trump’s administration announced Wednesday that it will keep suspending nuclear-related sanctions on Iran as part of the contentious 2015 nuclear deal, but that it is imposing new sanctions on the Islamic Republic over its ballistic missile program. The decision to impose the new sanctions, coupled with the release of a report on alleged human rights abusers in Iran, was just the latest attempt by the new Republican administration to make clear its hostility toward Iran even as its tries to avoid jettisoning the nuclear deal negotiated by former President Barack Obama.”
Josh Lederman writes, “Haley initially appeared to be voicing her personal view about the wall, but that’s a distinction ambassadors don’t get to make. As the nation’s envoy to the United Nations, her public comments on foreign policy issues generally are assumed to be statements of U.S. policy. That policy, that “the Western Wall is in Jerusalem,” hasn’t changed, a State Department official said following Haley’s comments. Since Israel’s founding, the U.S. has maintained that ‘no state has sovereignty over the city of Jerusalem’ and that it’s a ‘final status’ issue that must be resolved through Israeli-Palestinian negotiation, the official said. The official wasn’t authorized to comment by name and spoke on condition of anonymity….Israel controls the wall, the nation’s top tourist site, and treats it like Israeli territory. It is widely assumed that Israel would retain control over the site under a potential peace deal. But the U.S. has withheld recognition of that control until there is a deal. Both Israel and the Palestinians consider Jerusalem to be their capital. The Palestinians see it as the capital of a future independent state. Given the competing claims, the U.S. and most countries maintain embassies in Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem.”
Josh Rogin reports, “The Palestinian government is ‘hopeful’ that the Trump administration will make real progress on peace between Israel and the Palestinians even though there’s no actual plan for achieving that peace, said the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s new representative in Washington. In fact, he said, Trump’s lack of a real plan might help. ‘We have had so many plans, and it didn’t work. So perhaps if we start without a plan, it might work,’ said Husam Zomlot, at an event Monday hosted by the Arab Center. Zomlot was previewing President’s Trump’s trip to the region later this week, which will include a visit to Israeli May 22 and a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem on May 23. He said Trump’s blank slate on how to move forward was preferable because all the various plans and frameworks proposed in previous iterations of the peace process were obstacles to progress.”
A Palestinian man was killed and a photographer was wounded after a settler opened fired at stone throwers in the West Bank. According to the army, 200 Palestinians were protesting at the scene, near Hawara, some of them were throwing stones, the IDF says, and an Israeli who may have been hurt opened fire at the Palestinians. The army and local settlers claim the man first shot in the air. An eyewitness told Haaretz that a number of Palestinian youths blocked the road near Huwara. He claimed that an Israeli settler who passed by pulled out a gun and fired at them.
Jason Greenblatt, U.S. President Donald Trump’s envoy on the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, will arrive in Israel on Thursday, ahead of Trump’s visit next week. Greenblatt will meet with senior officials in Benjamin Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem and with Secretary General of the PLO Executive Committee, Saeb Erekat and Director of Palestinian General Intelligence Majid Faraj in Ramallah. This will be Greenblatt’s second visit to Israel since being appointed by Trump.
Hundreds of Reform Jews from around the world plan to defy regulations at the Western Wall on Thursday morning by holding an egalitarian Torah reading service in an area of the Jewish holy site deemed off limits to worshippers. Their actions are likely to be viewed as a provocation, forcing a showdown with ultra-Orthodox worshippers and with with security guards acting on behalf of the organization that administers the Western Wall.
Anxious for US President Donald Trump’s visit to Israel and the West Bank to take place in an atmosphere of relative conciliation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly preparing a package of economic incentives for the Palestinians that he will unveil on Sunday, the day before Trump’s arrival. Netanyahu plans to present the measures to his cabinet for approval on Sunday, Israel’s Channel 2 news reported on Wednesday evening. In similar cooperative vein, the report said, Israel’s Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon held talks in Jerusalem earlier Wednesday with his Palestinian Authority counterpart Shukri Bishara.
Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon believes that charges will be filed in the German submarines affair. Writing on his Facebook page Wednesday evening, Ya’alon claimed that he blocked the deal “with my body” when he was defense minister, before his successor in the position, Avigdor Lieberman, renewed the negotiations after his appointment last year.
Detention raids conducted by Israeli forces between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning in several villages across the West Bank and East Jerusalem sparked clashes in at least three cases, according to Israeli and Palestinian sources. Three Palestinians were reported to have been shot in the northern West Bank. At least 48 Palestinians were detained by Israeli forces.
“A former chief of the Mossad spy agency fired off harsh criticism at Donald Trump in an interview with The Times of Israel on Wednesday, saying his actions put international information-sharing efforts at risk, in light of reports that the US president divulged classified intelligence to Russia last week. And a second former head of the agency said in a radio interview that Israel should punish Trump over the affair….Shabtai Shavit, who led the Mossad in the 1990s, said that were he in charge of the intelligence organization today, he would not be inclined to share more information with his American counterparts….Another former head of the Mossad, Danny Yatom, said Israel should penalize the US over Trump’s leak because his acts could endanger Israeli sources.”
Trump to unveil plans for an ‘Arab NATO’ in Saudi Arabia, Washington Post
Josh Rogin reports, “When President Trump arrives in Riyadh this week, he will lay out his vision for a new regional security architecture White House officials call an ‘Arab NATO,’ to guide the fight against terrorism and push back against Iran. As a cornerstone of the plan, Trump will also announce one of the largest arms-sales deals in history….Reports from the region about early discussions of the project said that in addition to Saudi Arabia, initial participants in the coalition would include the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan, with the United States playing an organizing and support role while staying outside the alliance.”
Daniel Levy writes, “For Israel’s leadership, it is a desirable outcome for the President to reach the conclusion that this ultimate deal cannot be done. Netanyahu is adept at attrition tactics and at deploying reasonable sounding distractions and red herrings. The Jerusalem embassy move is one example, Palestinian payments to the families of prisoners another, a priori recognition of the Jewish State a third….Nevertheless, opportunities will exist and that is partly why yet another American administration is gearing up for a new season of the Peace Process Show. This time around, plot variables mostly center on the unorthodox character of the new lead – President Trump. That unpredictability can in itself be an asset, keeping the different actors (and, it seems, their spooks) on their toes.”
Ben Caspit writes, “Even before it was reported that Trump had shared information with Lavrov, some senior Israeli intelligence officials already believed that Israel should think twice before sharing sensitive intelligence with the United States, given concerns that Trump or certain members of his administration had ties of some sort to Russia. Israel is very sensitive about the intelligence it obtains, especially when it has worked hard to gather it, or in other words, when the intelligence involves sensitive sources. The Israeli intelligence establishment has been burned several times already when sources were revealed due to excessive use of their intelligence material or reckless sharing….There can be no doubt that the issue of intelligence sharing will be raised in talks between the two leaders when Trump visits Israel, but these talks will take place behind closed doors. There can be no doubt that the issue will also be raised in ongoing, intimate talks between the heads of the US and Israeli intelligence agencies, who have an especially close relationship and share unprecedented trust.”
Chemi Shalev observes, “In advance of his visit on Monday, Israel has been tasting some of the bitter offerings of Trump’s mayhem and meshugas. First, the two countries quarreled over Trump’s visit to Masada, which has since been cancelled, and then they quibbled over who said what, when and to whom about moving the embassy to Jerusalem. They had a spat about the status of the Western Wall, which only got worse after both National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster and spokesman Sean Spicer steadfastly refused to say ‘Israel’ and ‘Western Wall’ in the same sentence. Finally, the New York Times reported that Trump had sold out Israeli intelligence in order to impress his pals from Moscow.”
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