News Roundup for September 12, 2017

September 12, 2017

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Top News and Analysis

Trump to weigh more aggressive U.S. strategy on Iran – sources, Reuters

“President Donald Trump is weighing a strategy that could allow more aggressive U.S. responses to Iran’s forces, its Shi‘ite Muslim proxies in Iraq and Syria, and its support for militant groups, according to six current and former U.S. officials. The proposal was prepared by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and other top officials, and presented to Trump at a National Security Council meeting on Friday, the sources said. Trump’s opposition to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), poses a dilemma for policymakers. Most of his national security aides favor remaining in the pact, as do U.S. allies Israel and Saudi Arabia despite their reservations about Iran’s adherence to the agreement, said U.S. officials involved in the discussions. ‘The main issue for us was to get the president not to discard the JCPOA. But he had very strong feelings, backed by (U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations) Nikki Haley, that they should be more aggressive with Iran,’ one of the two U.S. officials said. ‘Almost all the strategies presented to him were ones that tried to preserve the JCPOA but lean forward on these other (issues.)’”

Netanyahu Claims Israel-Arab Relations Are At An All-time High. Is He Right?, Forward

Yossi Alpher writes, “Netanyahu….has leveraged Middle East chaos astutely to Israel’s strategic advantage. This is an important contribution to Israel’s overall security. But it is a temporary advantage, bereft of deep roots in any shared vision of Israel’s future. Israel’s Arab friends are all dictators whose lease on power could ultimately go the way of the Shah of Iran, an earlier semi-clandestine ally who was swept away by extremist Islam in 1979. Nor are these Arab neighbors blind to the fact that the same Netanyahu is presiding over the dissolution of the two-state solution. He is engineering Israel’s slow slide down a slippery slope toward a complicated and conflicted one-state reality that will critically weaken its legitimacy. As matters stand, history will probably find far more fault with Netanyahu’s Palestinian policies than benefits to his regional strategy.”


Netanyahu Must Demand Trump ‘Suspend, Amend or Annul’ Iran Nuclear Deal, Israeli Intel Minister Says, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should focus on trying to get U.S. President Donald Trump to suspend, amend or annul the nuclear agreement with Iran when the pair meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in ten days, Israel’s intelligence affairs minister said on Monday. Speaking at a counterterrorism event in Herzliya, Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) made the comments amid debate within the Trump administration about the future of the agreement with Iran.

Africa-Israel Summit, Billed as Culmination of Warming Ties With Continent, Is Canceled, Haaretz

Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbé, who has been facing mass demonstrations against his regime recently, has informed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he has canceled the Africa-Israel Summit slated for next month. The gathering was due to take place from October 23-27 in the capital of Lomé. Gnassingbé’s decision comes in the midst of a political crisis in Togo. However, South Africa and some Arab countries had also applied pressure to call off the summit, to which dozens of countries had been invited.

IfNotNow Launches #YouNeverToldMe Anti-Occupation Campaign, Forward

IfNotNow is sharing stories on social media from members who say Jewish institutions never taught them the reality of Isrel’s conflict with the Palestinians. The campaign, being promoted on platforms like Twitter with the tagline #YouNeverToldMe, relates the outrage and disappointment of millennial Jews upset that the synagogues, camps and other institutions they grew up in did not better inform them about Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

World Bank calls for steps to bolster Palestinian economy, Reuters

Even in the absence of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, steps can be taken now that could significantly brighten a gloomy Palestinian economic situation, the World Bank said on Tuesday. In a new report it said addressing external constraints on the Palestinian economy “is the most important factor” in any turnaround, but the Palestinian Authority, which administers limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank, also had to do its part to cut red tape stifling business activity. Removing Israeli restrictions on Palestinian movement in so-called Area C in the occupied West Bank — where Israel maintains civil and security control — could boost the size of the West Bank economy by one-third in eight years, the World Bank said.

Hezbollah Sends Reassuring Messages to Israel Amid Syria Strike, IDF Drills Near Lebanon, Haaretz

Hezbollah has sent reassuring messages to Israel in wake of the bombing of the Syrian weapons plant attributed to Israel and the IDF’s large military exercise up north. The number two man in the organization, deputy secretary general Sheikh Naim Qassem, said in a television interview broadcast on Sunday that the attack on the Syrian facility was not a reason for war against Israel and there were other ways to respond to the attack.

Defying Netanyahu loyalists, Likud minister encourages rebel party faction, Times of Israel

A group called the New Likudniks, accused by close associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of trying to take over the right-wing Likud Party from within, notched up a success on Monday when a top party minister told its members, “nobody can stop you.” Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi told a New Likudnik gathering in Tel Aviv, “This is how revolutions start. It starts with young people who are driven solely by energy, motivation and a willingness to give.”

In First, Israel Will Penalize Amnesty International for Anti-settlements Campaign, Haaretz

Israel plans to punish Amnesty International for its recent campaign, which encourages people to lobby companies and governments to boycott settlement products, by denying tax benefits to Israelis who donate to the human rights organization. It is the first time the government will apply the so-called anti-boycott law, which penalizes organizations and individuals calling for a boycott of Israel or the settlements. The controversial law was passed in 2011. Free daily newspaper Israel Hayom, which is widely seen as a mouthpiece of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, reported in its main story Tuesday that Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon has resolved to take action against Amnesty International for its summer campaign “Israel’s Occupation: 50 Years of Dispossession,” marking the 50th anniversary of the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Opinions and Analysis

Blood Brothers? Why Sebastian Gorka Feels at Home in Netanyahu’s Israel, Haaretz

Naomi Paiss writes, “Israel is not America; it was founded as a haven for the Jewish people, and liberal Zionists like me stand firmly for the right of self-determination for that Jewish people. But it does not follow that Israel must be organized in a way that subsumes inalienable individual rights to the majority collective identity. To put it simply, Zionism is not racism, unless messianic ultranationalists change its nature to make it so….What we liberals must acknowledge is that the fight is not about particular personalities or who’s invited to the table.  In both Israel and the U.S., we either take an uncompromising stand for individual rights and reject the tyranny of the majority, or stand by as both societies continue down their slippery slope towards populist, illiberal, faux-democracy.”

Meet Israel’s ‘Alt-Right,’ Spreading Hate Online, JTA

Andrew Tobin reports, “For many Jews, Nazis are public enemy No. 1, and using Nazi imagery to make a political point is strictly verboten. But some young, right-wing Israelis aren’t buying it.Inspired by the so-called alt-right abroad, their online community makes liberal use of anti-Semitic and Nazi imagery to mock and malign what it sees as the real threat: Israeli and Jewish leftists.”

Is Saudi Arabia ‘ready to turn the page’ on Iran?, Al-Monitor

“In retrospect, the US-Saudi-Islamic summit in May may have served as the high-water mark of an approach to regional affairs that was over before it started. Since the summit, the GCC has been facing its worse crisis ever. Meanwhile, Iran is building a network of partnerships — Iraq, Syria, Qatar, Turkey and Hamas, both Sunni and Shiite — which makes it increasingly the center of the action. The Saudi crown prince, who has set an ambitious course of economic and social modernization for his country, understands better than most the costs of declining assets. There are deep reasons for Saudi-Iranian hostility, and no turnaround happens quickly, especially in the Middle East. But the dividends of building bridges, rather than burning them, may be the lessons learned that will inform a reset in both Riyadh, Tehran and other regional capitals.”

Why Syria Hasn’t Retaliated to the Alleged Israeli Strike, Haaretz

Amos Harel writes, “It appears….that the timing isn’t convenient for sabre rattling by the Assad regime and its supporters. The regime scored an important victory last week when the Syrian army and Shi’ite militias took over Deir el-Zour in eastern Syria and drove out Islamic State fighters. Iran is explaining its active military involvement in Syria with the need to help the Assad regime, more than opening a front with Israel, while Hezbollah is playing down the assistance it receives from Iran and Syria.”

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