News Roundup for October 25, 2017

October 25, 2017

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Top News and Analysis

Why Israeli Nuclear Experts Disagree with Netanyahu About the Iran Deal, The New Yorker

“Arad remains convinced that the agreement served Israel’s interest, because it convincingly stalled the Iranians’ drive to acquire a bomb while providing a diplomatic process within which to address new issues or to refine approaches to old ones. ‘The J.C.P.O.A.’—the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the Iran agreement is officially known—’is our only written framework stipulating exactly what constitutes violations, an anchor, a regulatory mechanism for pursuing negotiations or sanctions to manage these threats,’ Arad said. And he remains skeptical of Netanyahu’s campaign against it, recalling the conversation he had had with one very senior official, a veteran of the science and defense-policy community, who was in despair about Netanyahu’s call to abrogate the J.C.P.O.A.  I asked him what he thought of the Prime Minister’s policy. ‘Shigaon!’ he told me.’ (‘Shigaon’ is normally translated as ‘lunacy.’)….ndeed, the pragmatism embodied in the J.C.P.O.A. explains why, Arad believes, so many Israeli security professionals favor preserving it. The roster is long—it includes not just Arad but Uzi Eilam, the former director of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission; Isaac Ben-Israel, the chairman of the Israeli Space Agency and the National Council for Research and Development; Ariel Levite, the former deputy director-general of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission; Efraim Halevy, the former head of the Mossad; Amos Yadlin, the former head of the Israel Defense Forces’ Military Intelligence Directorate; Ehud Barak, the former Chief of General Staff (and Prime Minister); Gadi Eizenkot, the Chief of General Staff of the I.D.F.; and many others.”

Israeli Ministers Set to Vote on Annexing West Bank Settlements to Jerusalem, Haaretz

Ministers will vote Sunday on annexing Israeli local authorities beyond the Green Line to Jerusalem following several long delays. The bill is expected to win the support of the panel and be sent to the Knesset floor for approval. Cabinet ministers were told Wednesday that the so-called “Greater Jerusalem Bill” will be brought to a vote at Sunday’s meeting of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who previously delayed the vote on the bill, initially agreed to promote it in July following an attack on the Temple Mount that killed two police officers. But the bill never made it to the panel for a vote.

According to the bill, the settlements of Ma’aleh Adumim, Gush Etzion, Efrat, Beitar Illit and Givat Ze’ev will be included under Jerusalem’s municipal jurisdiction, but not officially annexed to Israel.

‘Strategic Mistake’: Obama Envoy Warns Israel Against Writing Off Majority of U.S. Jews, Haaretz

“The growing tendency among Israeli political leaders to disregard the overwhelming majority of American Jews – those who are not Orthodox and hold progressive views – is both a ‘moral and strategic mistake,’ Dan Shapiro, the former American ambassador to Israel, warned on Tuesday….By Shapiro’s estimate, roughly two-thirds are American Jews are written off by the Israeli government because of their views and religious affiliation. ‘It’s a moral mistake because Israel does have this role as the state of the Jewish people worldwide, and that means all the Jewish people, even those who may differ politically,’ he said.”

Draft Senate Iran legislation sets tough new U.S. terms for deal, Reuters

“Critics of the legislation drafted by Republican Senators Bob Corker and Tom Cotton, with support from the Trump administration, said it could put the United States in violation of the international agreement if it were enacted. The draft, seen by Reuters on Tuesday, was in the works on Oct. 13 when Trump announced he would not formally certify that Tehran was complying with the international nuclear pact, and called on Congress to write legislation to toughen it. Since then, Corker has met with Senate Democratic colleagues, at least some of whom would have to back the legislation for it to pass. They have insisted that Washington work with European allies who co-signed the deal before making any changes.”


In major expansion, Israel approves 176 new homes in East Jerusalem, Times of Israel

Israeli authorities approved a major expansion of an East Jerusalem neighborhood, signing off on plans to add 176 homes, the city’s deputy mayor says. The expansion would create the largest Jewish neighborhood inside a Palestinian neighborhood of the city, NGOs say. It will allow the Nof Zion neighborhood, located inside the Palestinian neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, to add 176 housing units to its 91 existing homes.

Israel’s Top Court Cannot Be Threatened or Intimidated, Outgoing Chief Justice Says, Haaretz

Outgoing Supreme Court President Miriam Naor was defiant in the face of the most recent round of attacks by politicians on the Supreme Court: “The [Supreme] Court was strong, it is still strong and will remain strong. The court cannot be threatened and cannot be intimidated.”

In escalating feud, top Republican Corker says Trump ‘debases our country’, Times of Israel

Top Republican Senator Bob Corker on Tuesday escalated his all-out war of words with Donald Trump, slamming the US president as an “utterly untruthful” leader who “debases” his country. Corker, who chairs the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has emerged as an outspoken critic of the president, made the hard-hitting remarks after Trump attacked him in a series of morning tweets.

Former PM confidant Uzi Arad: Netanyahu unfit to run the country, Ynet

Professor Uzi Arad, the former head of the National Security Council (NSC) and once one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s closest associates, has heaped criticism on his former boss, telling Yedioth Ahronoth that “Netanyahu is currently unfit to run the country.” Regarding the prime minister’s appointments policy, Prof. Arad accused Netanyahu of making decisions based on personal loyalty shown to him rather than on professional merit, capabilities, skills and experience.

PM immunity bill will provide a ‘refuge’ for criminals, AG warns, Times of Israel

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Tuesday stepped up his public onslaught against a controversial initiative to grant serving prime ministers immunity from criminal prosecution, saying that if passed into legislation it would be a blow to the rule of law and public trust. Speaking at a seminar held by the conservative Kohelet Policy Forum think tank in Jerusalem, Mandelblit said the bill was “unacceptable” and would turn the premiership into a “refuge” for criminals.

Israel delivers demolition notices, cuts off water to homes in Silwan, Ma’an

For the second time this week, Israeli authorities delivered demolition notices to Palestinians in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan on Tuesday. Official Palestinian Authority (PA)-owned Wafa news agency reported that staff from the Israel’s Jerusalem Municipality, escorted by Israeli police, distributed demolition notices to several homes in Silwan under the pretext of being built without difficult-to-obtain Israeli construction permits.

Opinions and Analysis

Israel, US coordinated on settlement construction, Al-Monitor

Danny Zaken reports, “The political source listed the basic agreements reached with Trump’s envoys: In Area C, which is under Israeli civilian and security control, construction was limited to new housing units adjacent to existing units. There will be no new construction at a distance from existing settlements, and there will be no new outposts. Special permission was given to establish Amichai, because of the evacuation of Amona. In addition, there is a limit on the number of housing units in every new West Bank project. There is almost no restriction on construction in Jerusalem, but even there, new construction must be adjacent to existing structures. Construction in the major West Bank settlement blocs is not restricted. The source noted that according to the procedure agreed upon by the parties, once each construction project is approved in Israel, it will be brought before the Americans. Only after discussions with them will a final list of projects be brought to the Cabinet for approval. Once that happens, the projects will be sent for planning.”

In Netanyahu’s Latest Rant, Iran’s Meddling in Syria Overcame the Nuclear Threat, Haaretz

“The opening of the Knesset’s winter session Monday will probably be remembered by the après moi, le déluge warning by President Reuven Rivlin, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s seasonal scolding of the people, some of whom he said were suffering from sour grapes. But the part of Netanyahu’s speech devoted to security hid a statement that could turn out significant. For the first time, Netanyahu classified Iran’s involvement in Syria as a greater and more immediate danger to Israel than the Iranian nuclear threat….Netanyahu’s coming speeches will show whether there has been a permanent change in priorities. His statements might also reflect a division of responsibilities as the prime minister understands it: Trump will take care of changing the nuclear agreement, or will at least increase its enforcement, while Israel will deal with the Iranian danger in Syria, especially the deployment of Hezbollah and more Shi’ite militias near the border in the Golan Heights.”

Hamas sees internal stirrings of dissent over reconciliation deal, Times of Israel

“Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a key Hamas leader in the West Bank and one of the organization’s most influential figures, said Tuesday that the much-lauded reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah ‘is only a media event.’….Yousef’s concerns are clear: the wave of arrests by the PA has continued unabated, and even targeted Hamas members recently released from Israeli prisons, while the next round of reconciliation talks is slated for November 21 in Cairo, leaving plenty of time for unexpected – and unwanted – developments. For all the noise it is generating, the deal remains fragile.”

Our Conversation About Israel/Palestine Is Broken, Forward

Gili Getz writes, “We must cultivate spaces grounded in commitment to Jewish identity and loyalty to Jewish life, where we can all better understand and explore our own perspective and where the other side comes from. We must create spaces where we don’t question each other’s Jewishness, no matter where we stand on Israel; a place that transcends polemic attacks and name calling; a place that values strong disagreements and connection to Israel-Palestine in all forms; a place welcoming to those who are confused and those with strong opinions; a place that recognizes that there is more than one way to love Israel, that there is more than one way to oppose the Occupation, and that there are many ways to be Jewish.”

Why Regime Change Wouldn’t End Iran’s Nuclear Program, Foreign Affairs

Ariane Tabatabai argues, “What Trump and Tillerson imply, and others such as former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton have clearly stated, is that the Iranian people favor different policies than the regime and that, by extension, a different Iranian leadership would pursue different policies and behave differently. This position has long justified calls for regime change in Iran. Yet it is based on flawed analyses of the Islamic Republic’s worldview and capabilities on the one hand, and the costs and benefits of regime change in Iran for Washington on the other. In fact, the country’s nuclear program and its objectives have remained consistent over several decades, despite the rise and fall of new governments and leaders. This suggests that a different regime in Iran will not necessarily lead to a shift in its nuclear policy.”

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