News Roundup for May 4, 2018

May 4, 2018

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Top News and Analysis

Five Days of Fear for the Middle East – and for the World, Haaretz

Ilan Goldenberg writes, “Amongst the cacophony, not enough attention is being paid to a critical five days that are upcoming in mid-May that could shape the Middle East’s trajectory for the next few years – and impact the future of nuclear competition in the region, the return of ISIS, and an inflamed Israeli-Palestinian conflict….Such a flood of huge events would be challenging for any American administration to manage, but, unfortunately the Trump administration – with its massive vacancies in key positions across the Middle East, and undisciplined and erratic policy process -seems particularly ill-equipped to deal with these problems, many of whom are of its own doing.”

Netanyahu’s revelations aren’t enough to justify ripping up the Iran nuclear agreement, Washington Post

The editorial board writes, “Mr. Netanyahu’s own top national security officials support the agreement; the Israeli army’s chief of staff recently said , ‘Right now, the agreement, with all its flaws, is working and putting off realization of the Iranian nuclear vision by 10 to 15 years.’…. [I]f the president scraps the nuclear deal, the United States could be drawn into a conflict with Tehran….Mr. Trump has frequently said he does not want the United States to fight more Middle East wars. If so, it would be in his interest to look beyond Mr. Netanyahu’s video appeals before making a final decision.”

Let Abbas’s Vile Words Be His Last as Palestinian Leader, The New York Times

The editorial board writes, “Even in this gloomy climate….Mr. Abbas’s vile speech was a new low. No doubt he feels embittered and besieged on all sides. But by succumbing to such dark, corrosive instincts he showed that it is time for him to leave office. Palestinians need a leader with energy, integrity and vision, one who might have a better chance of achieving Palestinian independence and enabling both peoples to live in peace.”


Jewish Home to bring High Court bill to ministerial vote despite PM’s request, Times of Israel

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s office says the ministerial vote on legislation designed to limit the High Court’s power will go ahead on Sunday as planned, despite a request from the prime minister to delay it another week, Hadashot news reports. The so-called “supercession clause” bill, proposed by the Jewish Home, would allow the Knesset to re-vote on a law disqualified by the High Court, and thereby to pass the law despite the court’s ruling against its constitutionality.

Abbas Apologizes to ‘Jewish People’ for Offensive Comments, Condemning Holocaust and anti-Semitism, Haaretz

Palestinian President Abbas apologized Friday for comments he made last week which were widely decried as anti-Semitic. “If people were offended by my statement, especially people of the Jewish faith, I apologize to them. I would like to assure everyone that it was not my intention to do so, and to reiterate my full respect for the Jewish faith, as well as other monotheistic faiths. “I would also like to reiterate our long held condemnation of the Holocaust, as the most heinous crime in history, and express our sympathy with its victims,” he said. “Likewise, we condemn anti- Semitism in all its forms, and confirm our commitment to the two- state solution, and to live side by side in peace and security,” a statement released in English, Hebrew and Arabic said.

In Shadow of anti-Semitism Crisis, Abbas Reelected to Top Spot on Palestinian Liberation Organization, Haaretz

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas was re-elected as chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Executive Committee on Friday, as the veteran leader sought to renew his legitimacy while installing loyalists who he hopes will eventually continue his legacy.  The expected reappointment came at the end of a four-day meeting by the Palestinian National Council (PNC) in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. The PNC chose a new Executive Committee, the most senior body of the PLO.

U.N. chief warns against scrapping Iran nuclear deal, Reuters

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Thursday against scrapping an international deal on Iran’s nuclear programme unless there was a good alternative in place.

Netanyahu Takes 5 Days to Delete Fake News Facebook Post Attacking Arab-Israeli Soccer Club, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took down a Facebook post erroneously accusing fans of the Arab-Israeli soccer club Bnei Sakhnin of whistling and booing during a minute of silence in memory of the 10 teenagers who drowned in southern Israel last week. The prime minister deleted the post on Thursday, five days after posting it.

Iran will not ‘renegotiate or add onto’ nuclear deal, its foreign minister says, JTA

In a message aimed at President Donald Trump and the United States, Iran’s foreign minister released a video statement saying that Iran will not “renegotiate or add onto” the nuclear deal it signed with the world powers in 2015. On Thursday, Mohammad Javad Zarif published the five-minute video, in which he speaks in perfect English, on YouTube and Twitter. Zarif accused the United States of violating the deal, particularly by “bullying” others to prevent them from doing business with Iran.

MK Livni demands Knesset discussion on approach to Iran nuclear deal, Ynet

MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) has demanded an urgent strategic discussion with the participation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman in the Subcommittee for Intelligence and Secret Services on the Iran nuclear agreement, formally known as the JCPOA.  “In this volatile atmosphere, there is significance to every step,” Livni said. “The Knesset’s oversight duty is critical in order to ascertain whether there is a clear strategy.”

Palestinian poet convicted of inciting terror in Facebook poem, +972

An Israeli court convicted poet Dareen Tatour, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, of incitement and support for a terrorist organization on Thursday, nearly three years after she was first arrested for publishing her poetry on social media.  A few days after Tatour posted “Resist my people, resist them” on Facebook, police stormed her house and arrested her in the middle of the night.

Lapid opposes US pullout of Iran nuclear deal, Times of Israel

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid on Thursday came out against a United States withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal without European support, arguing that US President Donald Trump should stay in the accord for six more months to negotiate changes to the agreement. “Netanyahu is trying to unilaterally cancel the agreement, I say let’s take six more months,” Lapid told Army Radio. “I am opposed to the nuclear deal, but I am not in favor of canceling it unilaterally.”

Opinions and Analysis

Democtator’ Netanyahu and His Lonely War on the Iran Nuclear Deal, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev writes, “Even if one appreciates or even agrees with Netanyahu’s original objections to the deal, his unabashed campaign for the U.S. to scuttle it is a dangerous gamble. Instead of utilizing the ten years – now less than eight – before Iran is allowed to partially renew its nuclear enrichment program in order to lobby for greater supervision and restrictions, Netanyahu prefers to break the deal and release Teheran from its commitments. Rather than collaborate with Washington in recruiting an international coalition that would pressure Iran to rein in its many other objectionable activities, Netanyahu is driving a wedge between the United States and its allies, casting himself and Israel as extremist warmongers in the process. Rather than build on the foundations of the JCPOA’s ‘robust’ inspection regime, lauded by Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot as well as U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Netanyahu prefers to throw out the baby with the bathwater.”

Israel Banishes a Columbia Law Professor for Thinking Differently, The New York Times

Roger Cohen writes, “This is a column about Israel’s appalling treatment of a Columbia University professor, Katherine Franke, detained for 14 hours at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv and then deported…she’s the kind of tough critic a free and democratic society should welcome. Any healthy society is defined by its ability to accommodate civilized debate, not by cries of ‘traitor’ directed at dissenters. Sending her and Vincent Warren, the executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, back to America was a measure of how far Israeli political culture has closed.”

Israel Presents: How to Legalize West Bank Settlements Built on Private Palestinian Land, Haaretz

Yotam Berger reports, “The committee on legalizing the issues of land ownership for the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria has finished its work and presented its final report. The 200-page report includes detailed – and unprecedented –recommendations intended to legalize thousands of homes built without proper permits throughout the West Bank, sometimes on what is privately-owned Palestinian land. The report examined all forms of unauthorized construction in the settlements and proposed a number of solutions to allow the legalization of thousands of housing units.”