News Roundup for November 27, 2017

November 27, 2017

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Top News and Analysis

U.S. backtracks on decision to close Palestinian office in Washington, Washington Post

The Trump administration has backtracked on its decision to order the Palestinians’ office in Washington to close, instead saying it would merely impose limitations on the office that it expected would be lifted after 90 days….State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez said the U.S. had ‘advised the PLO Office to limit its activities to those related to achieving a lasting, comprehensive peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.’  Vasquez said even those restrictions will be lifted after 90 days if the U.S. determines the Israelis and Palestinians are engaged in serious peace talks. The White House, in an effort led by Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, has been preparing a comprehensive peace plan to present to both sides in the coming months.”

Israel races to head off UN settlement ‘blacklist’, AP

“Weeks ahead of the expected completion of a U.N. database of companies that operate in Israel’s West Bank settlements, Israel and the Trump Administration are working feverishly to prevent its publication. While Israel is usually quick to brush off U.N. criticism, officials say they are taking the so-called ‘blacklist’ seriously, fearing its publication could have devastating consequences by driving companies away, deterring others from coming and prompting investors to dump shares of Israeli firms. Dozens of major Israeli companies, as well as multinationals that do business in Israel, are expected to appear on the list….The U.N.’s top human rights body, the Human Rights Council, ordered the compilation of the database in March 2016, calling on U.N. rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein to ‘investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on Palestinians.’”

Attacks on Israeli soldier turned whistleblower get personal, AP

“A former Israeli combat officer turned whistleblower has found himself in the fight of his lifetime, leading a campaign against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and drawing relentless criticism from the country’s leaders who have labeled him a traitor….Amid a larger campaign to crack down on dovish advocacy groups that rely on donations from foreign governments, Breaking the Silence has drawn the most scorn for touching on a sensitive nerve. The government has responded by shunning foreign dignitaries who meet with its members and pushing for legislation to curb its funding.”

Diplomats Sound the Alarm as They Are Pushed Out in Droves, The New York Times

Gardiner Harris reports, “The departures mark a new stage in the broken and increasingly contentious relationship between Mr. Tillerson and much of his department’s work force. By last spring, interviews at the time suggested, the guarded optimism that greeted his arrival had given way to concern among diplomats about his aloofness and lack of communication. By the summer, the secretary’s focus on efficiency and reorganization over policy provoked off-the-record anger. Now the estrangement is in the open, as diplomats going out the door make their feelings known and members of Congress raise questions about the impact of their leaving…..And the department’s future effectiveness may also be threatened. As more senior officials depart, interest in joining the Foreign Service is dwindling.”


‘Shocking Ignorance’: U.S. Jewish Leaders Lambaste Israeli Deputy Minister Who Said American Jews Have It Easy, Haaretz

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely faced calls for her ouster by leaders of American Jewry in response to her remarks on Israeli television Wednesday, when she said U.S. Jews lead “convenient” lives and don’t serve their country. Responding to the backlash, Hotovely posted a video to her Facebook page – in Hebrew – in which she tried to clarify her position, but stopped short of apologizing.

Netanyahu hopes health minister won’t quit, but says coalition not affected, Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday afternoon he hoped Health Minister Yaakov Litzman would rescind his resignation, hours after ultra-Orthodox leader Litzman, head of the coalition’s United Torah Judaism party, announced he was quitting his post in protest over infrastructure work on rail lines which is being carried on the Sabbath.

Susiya under renewed threat of demolition by Israel, Ma’an

The Palestinian village of Susiya, located in the South Hebron Hills area of the southern occupied West Bank, is under renewed threat of expulsion by the Israeli state, according to a statement from international activists working in the area. The activists released a statement on Saturday saying that on Wednesday, November 22, the Israeli State Attorney’s Office announced that within 15 days, it would demolish some 20 buildings in the village, representing approximately one-fifth of the total number of buildings in Susiya.

As crisis with US Jews sharpens, Rivlin calls for resetting ties, Times of Israel

President Reuven Rivlin called Thursday for a “renewed alliance” between Israel and Diaspora Jewry. Against the backdrop of an ongoing crisis between the government of Israel and much of world Jewry, Rivlin said the relations should no longer be limited to “philanthropy on the one hand and blind admiration on the other” but should instead reflect a shared commitment to justice and an openness to listen to the other.

Netanyahu Announces End to Coalition Crisis Over Shabbat Work Dispute, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday evening that the crisis in his coalition due to disputes with his two ultra-Orthodox coalition partners over work on Shabbat has ended. Earlier on Sunday, Health Minister Yaakov Litzman handed in his resignation due to his disagreement with railroad maintenance scheduled to take place on Shabbat. Meanwhile, the chairman of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party and Interior Minister Arye Dery was absent from Sunday’s cabinet meeting in protest over a bill that would allow some supermarkets to open on Shabbat.

Mike Pence To Address Knesset During Upcoming Israel Visit, JTA

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will address the Knesset when he visits Israel next month.

Senior officials in Jerusalem told Israel’s Channel 10 news that Pence had suggested speaking to the Knesset, and that his offer was accepted.

Palestinians in Jabal al-Baba protest Israeli expulsion order, +972

Around 100 demonstrators  joined the Palestinian community of Jabal al-Baba on Thursday, November 23, in the E1 area of the West Bank adjacent to the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, to protest a new Israeli-military order that would displace the entire community. On November 16, members of the community received the military order to leave their homes and take with them all of their belongings—the first step in the eventual demolition of their homes. Thursday was the day they were supposed to leave, according to the order.

Government votes to extend Israel National Trail into Jerusalem, West Bank, JTA

Israel’s Cabinet voted to extend the Israel National Trail to Jerusalem and the West Bank. The $2.8 million project approved on Sunday will construct a second trail to include historic sites in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Opinions and Analysis

As unity process goes nowhere fast, Hamas leader’s tactic will be to blame PA, Times of Israel

Avi Issacharoff writes, “Overall, one gets the impression that Hamas is the party more eager for reconciliation — or, to be more specific, eager to give up civilian control of Gaza, while retaining all its military and terrorist capabilities — and the Palestinian Authority is in no hurry to take on this nightmarish task. PA officials in Ramallah are well aware of what running the Gaza Strip means in terms of water, electricity and sewage, and has no particular incentive to take on this responsibility, especially as Hamas’s military wing continues operating independently and doing whatever it wishes. Hamas’s retention of all its weapons is emphatically one of the areas where no change whatsoever has occurred.”

Is Israel shifting stance on Trump’s peace initiative?, Al-Monitor

Uri Savir reports, “According to a senior Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs official who spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to react to a possible US peace plan ‘more positively than expected; perhaps even with a yes.’ Still, the official emphasized that Netanyahu does not want a two-state solution. The most he is ready to accept is a Palestinian state with limited sovereignty, providing that all of the West Bank remains under Israel’s security control.”

Why Is Israel’s Top Diplomat Attacking American Jews?, Forward

JJ Goldberg writes, “The [Hotovely] incident is a reminder of the numbing complexity of divisions among Jewish communities, between Israelis and Americans and within both communities, that all converge on the Israeli prime minister’s office. Emotions are still running at a fever pitch among American Jews — the non-Orthodox ones, at least — over Netanyahu’s backtracking last spring on the Western Wall agreement after three years of negotiation.”

Netanyahu Owns Hotovely’s Arrogant, Hypocritical anti-Semitic Attack on U.S. Jews, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev writes, “Hotovely and her kind are ultra-nationalist conservatives who scoff at liberal, pluralist and cosmopolitan American Jews and their values; they are mostly Orthodox, who thus mock the modernized Reform and Conservative movements and sympathize with the Haredi claim that they’re not really Jewish. In many ways, they represent the antithesis of the most widely held American-Jewish position and beliefs. They support Jewish settlements, oppose a two-state solution, abhor illegal immigrants, endorse a fusion of religion and state, and couldn’t give a fig about the personal freedoms and democratic safeguards that are cherished by American Jews. In this regard, Hotovely was simply representing the true attitude of many right-wing Israelis, including a majority of Netanyahu’s governing coalition.”

Glenn Grothman, Dan Kohl headed for 2018 Wisconsin congressional showdown, Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel

“Dan Kohl is a Democrat on a mission. He has marched into the 6th Congressional District, a Republican stronghold, to take on U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Glenbeulah) next year. From the large Kohl for Congress sign outside a strip mall on a busy street to impressive fundraising totals, Kohl is making big moves to put a bedrock GOP seat in play in 2018. Democrats are trying to make gains in the mid-term elections and if a political wave develops, Kohl wants to be in position to ride it to victory….He worked nearly four years for J Street, a liberal pro-Israel advocacy group, where he was vice president for political affairs.”

Why UK-US divide on Iranian nuclear deal matters, Al-Monitor

Kasra Arabi observes, “Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has frequently referred to the nuclear agreement as a test to see if Iran can trust the West. And while it is true that the Trump administration has broken this trust, Britain, France and Germany have kept to their word. Given the nature of the special relationship between the UK and the United States, however, it is London more so than Paris and Berlin that could prove essential in determining the fate of the JCPOA.”