News Roundup for September 17, 2019

September 17, 2019

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Top News and Analysis

Trump Says Iran Appears Responsible for Saudi Attack but That He Wants to Avoid War, New York Times
President Trump said Monday that Iran appeared to have been responsible for the weekend attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities. But he also said he would “like to avoid” a military conflict with Tehran, emphasized his interest in diplomacy and played down the attack’s jolt to the global oil market. Asked at the White House whether Iran was behind the strikes on Saturday that crippled much of Saudi Arabia’s oil output, Mr. Trump said, “It’s looking that way.” But he stopped short of a definitive confirmation, adding, “That’s being checked out right now.”

Bibi, Gantz or Deadlock? 7 Scenarios, 5 Outcomes for the Israeli Election, Haaretz
Anshel Pfeffer writes, “All polls suggest the result is too close to call and no fewer than five possible outcomes — which, whisper it, could even see Israelis facing another election in early 2020.”

Sanders warns Trump against illegal Iran strike, Al-Monitor
“Mr. Trump, the Constitution of the United States is perfectly clear,” Sanders tweeted. “Only Congress — not the President — can declare war. And Congress will not give you the authority to start another disastrous war in the Middle East just because the brutal Saudi dictatorship told you to.”


Israel Election 2019: Voter Turnout Higher Than Last Election; Netanyahu Breaks Law by Giving Interviews, Haaretz
As of 12 P.M., the voting rate in Israel is 26.8 percent, two percent higher than it was in the April election, according to the Central Election Committee. 

Final polls show Israeli election is neck and neck — again, JTA
In the final polls before Tuesday’s vote, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud is again running neck and neck with Blue and White, a party launched this year and led by Benny Gantz, a former military chief of staff. Both parties finished with 35 Knesset seats in national elections held in April.

Netanyahu and Gantz in Tight Race as Nation Votes, The Jerusalem Post
Exit polls will be broadcast when polls close at 10 p.m., which will give an indication of the results. But unofficial results will only be available on Wednesday, and official results only on September 25.

Trump predicts Israeli election ‘going to be close’, Times of Israel
“Big election tomorrow in Israel,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “It’s going to be close… it’s a 50/50 election.”

Omar: An administration ‘that lies about weather maps’ can’t be trusted on Iran, CNN
“Congress has the constitutional right to declare war. The President doesn’t have it. The secretary of state doesn’t it have and Saudi Arabia certainly doesn’t have it,” Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, told CNN’s Erin Burnett on “OutFront.” “I think we need to make sure that the American people understand that this administration — that lies about weather maps or crowd sizes — cannot be trusted to give us the full information we need to be able to make a decision whether we should be going to war or not with Iran.”

Netanyahu advises supporters that voting is more important than sex, Washington Post
Voting day is a national holiday here and Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party posted a last-minute video beseeching supporters not to waste it by going to the beach, lounging on the couch or — as suggested by a shot of four feet intertwining beneath the sheets — engaging in a bit of weekday whoopee. While you’re enjoying yourself, the ad ends, “the left is getting ready to take over the government.”

Trump says it looks like Iran was behind Saudi oil field attack, CNN
President Donald Trump told reporters Monday that “it’s looking like” Iran was behind this weekend’s attack on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia but suggested it was too early to say for sure. He also said he was “not looking to get into new conflict, but sometimes you have to.”

Netanyahu holds cabinet meeting in occupied West Bank ahead of election, The Guardian
Benjamin Netanyahu has held his final pre-election cabinet meeting in the Palestinian territories, in a clear appeal to hardline nationalists two days before a vote in which he is fighting for his political life and possibly his freedom.

Opinion and Analysis

Netanyahu’s Defense Treaty with Trump Is a Bad Idea. Just as Well It’s Only a Gimmick, Time
Gilead Sher and Alon Pinkas write, “Now, ostensibly, comes a new stunt: A U.S.-Israel Defense pact or Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), which conveniently serves two personal-political agendas. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu desperately needs the appearance of a diplomatic coup ahead of the Sept. 17th election. President Donald Trump, seeking re-election next year, will be happy to oblige.”

Iran Might Be America’s Enemy, but Saudi Arabia Is No Friend, New York Times
Andrew J. Bacevich writes, “After last week’s refinery attack, Trump should be careful about throwing America’s weight behind an unreliable ‘ally.’”

Trump’s dual instincts on Iran: Big threats and an eagerness to deal, Washington Post
Anne Gearan writes, “The head-spinning contradictions hold a certain logic in Trump’s view, but also throw the imprecision and disarray of Trumpian foreign policy decision-making into high relief. Trump is caught between a political imperative to confront Iran — pleasing hawkish Republican supporters and allies Israel and Saudi Arabia — and his own political instincts against foreign intervention and toward cutting a deal.”

On Election Day, It’s the Prince of Darkness vs. Israel’s Very Soul, Haaretz
Chemi Shalev writes, “Netanyahu’s unbridled and untethered election campaign outlined the shape of things to come if he wins: The slow and agonizing death of Israeli democracy.”

Israel’s election campaign has been a religious war of words, Times of Israel
Sam Sokol and Ben Sales write, “Secular politicians warn of a theocracy, religious politicians warn of anti-Orthodox persecution, and both sides say the soul of the country is at stake.”

An election between annexationists and pro-occupation generals, +972 Mag
Omar H. Rahman writes, “Palestinians have no say over whether they will be ruled by messianic religious zealots or by generals who previously presided over the occupation.”