“Tragically, the population of Gaza, trapped in their narrow strip of densely-populated land, are the ultimate victims of this conflict. They pay the highest price when tensions between Israel and Hamas erupt into open warfare — as they have several times in recent years, most recently in a 49-day mini-war in 2014 that took the lives of 73 Israelis and 2,251 Palestinians. It would also appear that Hamas is more interested in rebuilding its military capability than investing in desperately-needed civilian reconstruction. Hamas has agreed to cede a degree of civilian authority in Gaza to the PA — but has resisted pressure to give up control of its military assets. That would ensure that it remains the real power in the Strip. Responding to the Israeli action, the Palestinian Authority issued contradictory signals on Monday. Fatah condemned Israel’s attack on the Gaza tunnel, saying “perpetrators of these crimes won’t escape trial.” At the same time, President Abbas met with some Israeli lawmakers and told them he would appoint Hamas ministers to a unity government only if they recognized the state of Israel, which Hamas clearly at this point does not. Those are encouraging words and demonstrate yet again that the Israeli security forces can succeed in discovering and destroying tunnels — and we hope they continue to do so — but the only real solution to this problem lies in a peace agreement with the Palestinians based on a two-state solution.”
Is the End of Israeli Democracy Nigh? Israelis Debate Its Future, New York Times
“Arabs, peace activists and Israel’s left wing have long challenged as undemocratic the right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But now that criticism is being leveled by former security officials and members of the right-wing establishment itself, including veterans of Mr. Netanyahu’s own political party and his Justice Department. They say that the government’s efforts to control the news media, curtail the authority of the Supreme Court and undermine once-hallowed institutions like the military threaten the future of Israeli democracy. Their warnings have thrown Israel into an impassioned debate over what kind of country it is becoming, and if its democracy — now in its 70th year — can survive.”
“A recent article in The Hill claimed that ‘a strong majority of voters—including most Democrats’ want the United States to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran. The results it cites are at odds with many other polls. For example, a CNN survey done the same week found that 67 percent of Americans did not think that the United States should withdraw from the nuclear deal, while only 27 percent thought that it should. The Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland did an in-depth survey in December 2016 that asked explicitly about renegotiation. After reading arguments used by the incoming Trump administration against the deal, as well as arguments in favor of continued U.S. participation, two-thirds of respondents opposed withdrawing from the deal and seeking to renegotiate. Seven in 10 doubted that it would be possible to extract any more concessions from the Iranians. The Hill article is based on data from the most recent Harvard-Harris poll. The pollsters did not, however, follow the standard practice for academic public opinion research of disclosing what percentage of respondents picked ‘don’t know’ or refused to answer a question. Instead, they calculated percentages based only on those who picked one of the offered response options. This is normally only done in advocacy polls to drive up a number one is trying to project.”
Manhattan Terror Attack Kills 8 and Injures 11, New York Times
A driver plowed a pickup truck down a crowded bike path along the Hudson River in Manhattan on Tuesday, killing eight people and injuring 11 before being shot by a police officer in what officials are calling the deadliest terrorist attack on New York City since Sept. 11, 2001.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly asked US President Donald Trump to allow convicted spy Jonathan Pollard to immigrate to Israel. The request, reported by Channel 2 news Tuesday, came in light of economic goodwill gestures that Israel agreed to provide the Palestinians at the White House’s behest last May. That package included, among other things, increasing the number of building permits given to Palestinians living in the Israeli-controlled Area C of the West Bank.
Amid uproar, Israel halts arms sales to Myanmar — report, Times of Israel
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has reportedly frozen military export licenses to Myanmar, which has been accused of extensive war crimes, amid an international outcry against the arms sales. “The Israeli defense minister has discreetly but significantly decided to block military export licenses for Myanmar,” the French Intelligence Online magazine, which focuses on international intelligence issues, reported Wednesday, citing anonymous sources.
The former leader of a nationalist political party in Britain with close ties to President Donald Trump said that American Jews have a disproportionate influence over politics. Nigel Farage, the ex-head of the Independence Party and now a talk show host on the LBC radio station, made the remarks Monday on while discussing whether Russian influence had aided Trump’s election in the wake of the first charges being brought against Trump administration officials.
The Hamas military wing published on Wednesday new footage of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was held captive in Gaza from June 2006 to October 2011. The footage shows Shalit in the company of four masked Hamas men, in the same clothes he was wearing upon release. Another video shows him being handed a glass of water from one of his captors.
Hamas hands over all Gaza border crossings to the PA, Times of Israel
Hamas handed control of the Gaza Strip’s border crossings with Egypt and Israel to the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday, in a key test of the reconciliation accord it signed with Fatah last month. Nazmi Muhanna, the Palestinian Authority’s top official for border crossings, formally received control of the Rafah crossing with Egypt from his Hamas counterpart.
Chemi Shalev writes, “Incitement, which brought him thus far, is still his routine. Suspicion and paranoia show him the way. His personal benefit and his refusal to confront any coalition partner who could endanger his throne have always trumped his willingness to promote peace, strengthen democracy or bring people together. He is a potential suspect in police investigations of bribery and fraud, and at the same time, is overwhelmed by the self-made controversies and criminal prosecutions that hound his wife and son. He accuses everyone but himself for his predicament and complains about “sourpusses” who refuse to focus on his achievements and eminence. Netanyahu has proven in the past that it is always premature to eulogize him, but the criminal charges that may be brought against him could very well spell his impending political demise. Mounting pressures from all sides are driving Netanyahu to distraction, thus hastening his departure. If this happens, he will be remembered as an effective manager but a failed leader. His weaknesses overcame his strengths and his demons dictated his moves. It’s the kind of fatal flow in the chief protagonist that, according to all the classic definitions, inevitably leads to unavoidable tragedy.
Shlomi Eldar argues, “It would appear that the position taken by the HaBayit HaYehudi ministers did influence the government: Progress was made on the industrial park that would provide jobs for the Palestinians, but no progress was made on allowing Palestinians to build homes. The Israeli West Bank settlers perceive such a move as changing the Jewish-Palestinian balance. And now, the Americans applied pressure once again, and Kahlon and Mordechai drove to Ramallah. The US team seems to have a well-ordered plan. First, Israel must provide significant economic benefits in order to create a conducive atmosphere of trust between the two sides that would also strengthen Abbas’ rule. Only then will the sides start talking about diplomatic negotiations, according to the American scenario. ‘The Americans have time. They’re working without hurrying,’ said the Palestinian source. Every time the Palestinians think the Americans are about to unveil the blueprint for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, it turns out that there’s still a ways to go, the official added.’”
Peter Beinart argues, “Kelly doesn’t talk like a real estate mogul. But his perspective is similar. Compromise is good. Deals are good. Moral issues are secondary. Just as Kelly never mentioned slavery in discussing the conflict between North and South, Trump never mentions human rights in discussing the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. I’ve scoured Trump’s public statements on the subject. There’s no evidence he even knows that West Bank Palestinians live under Israeli control but lack Israeli citizenship, that they can’t vote for the government that dominates their lives, and that they lack the freedom of movement and due process that their Jewish neighbors enjoy. He discusses an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal the way he discusses the sale of a building. It’s this amorality that underlay Trump’s comment in February that ‘I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.’ The problem with this view isn’t merely that the two ‘parties’ don’t ‘like’ the same solution. It’s that even if you could find a Palestinian and Israeli ‘party’ willing to sign a deal, the deal wouldn’t succeed — and wouldn’t deserve to succeed — unless it addressed the basic injustice of denying millions of Palestinians human rights.
Amos Harel writes, “Even Islamic Jihad isn’t indifferent to the Egypt-Hamas agenda and the distress of Gaza’s population. So it seems unlikely that they would want to be accused of foiling a chance for some relief at last for the people of Gaza. The fact that there hasn’t yet been a violent response may also be due to a certain embarrassment on the Palestinian side. If the bodies of the tunnel diggers who are still missing are found underground on the Israeli side of the border, this will prove that the Palestinians violated both Israeli sovereignty and the cease-fire concluded in summer 2014 through Egyptian mediation. But keep in mind Islamic Jihad commanders have acted capriciously and unexpectedly in the past. In March 2014, for example, internal power struggles within the organization resulted in Katyusha rockets being fired at Ashdod. So there’s no guarantee that things will remain quiet this time either.”
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