Report Claiming Russia Paid Taliban To Kill U.S. Troops Sparks Anger In Washington

A classified intelligence report says that Russia paid the Taliban to conduct lethal attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The report regarding Russia’s actions in Afghanistan was delivered to the White House earlier this spring and until the New York Times broke the story on Friday was known only to a handful of people. It is unknown whether bounties paid to the Taliban resulted in the deaths of any U.S. troops. Reported by Fox News.Read more… Although the New York Times reported that U.S. President Donald Trump had been briefed about the alleged bounties, Trump has denied any knowledge of allegations. Trump also tweeted that he had information the reported intelligence may be “phony” while White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said that Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence were not briefed “on alleged Russian bounty intelligence.” Reported by CNN. Read more… Trump sent out a Tweet early Sunday denying any knowledge of the report after former National Security Advisor John Bolton blasted the president’s earlier denial and saying that Trump’s decision-making was “not connected to reality.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

The disclosure of the report has caused a bit of a political firestorm as conservative lawmakers have been calling upon the Trump administration to explain what it knew about the report. House Republican Conference chair Liz Cheney Tweeted a demand to know why, if the reports are true, the president and vice-president were not briefed, who did know and when, and what had been done to protect U.S. troops and hold Russian president Vladimir Putin accountable.  Reported by Fox News.Read more… And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday that she’s unclear as to what “the Russians have on” President Trump, but claimed it must have swayed his administration from not taking action after learning of the alleged bounties. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Israel May Annex Only Few Settlements As White House Remains Mum on Annexation Support; U.S. Senators and Representatives Weigh In On Annexation In Letters To Netanyahu; Hamas Calls Annexation A Declaration Of War

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly has four different plans for annexation. At one end of the spectrum is a plan that annexes all 132 Jewish settlements in the West Bank along with part of the Jordan Valley—about 30% of the total land allocated to Israel under U.S. President Donald Trump’s peace plan. At the other end of the spectrums is a plan that calls for full annexation under the Trump plan. All four plans have been presented to Defense Minister Benny Gantz. Netanyahu has promised to begin annexation on July 1, 2020. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Benny Gantz reportedly told Israeli defense officials that he will not support annexation of West Bank areas with “many Palestinian residents.” Israel’s Channel 12 reported that Gantz will not back such a plan because he wants to “avoid friction.” Gantz also reportedly said that he would bring any planned annexation move before the “professional ranks” to get their opinion. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Not all in his Blue and White party are on board with Gantz though. Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel said he would vote to annex portions of the West Bank even if party leader Gantz does not support it. Hendel reportedly said that he will “vote in favor of applying the law” to areas of the West Bank. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… And three former senior military officers have reportedly turned down Gantz’s offers for them to lead the administrative headquarters overseeing the annexation. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Three of Israel’s strongest supporters in the Democratic party—Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, Ben Cardin of Maryland, and Robert Menendez of New Jersey—have warned Israel against annexing parts of the West Bank. In a statement released over a week ago, the trio stated they felt “compelled to express opposition to the proposed unilateral annexation of territory in the West Bank.” Their statement also said that “[a] sustainable peace deal that ensures the long-term security of Israel and self-determination for Palestinians must be negotiated directly between the two parties.” The letter also said that “[u]nilateral annexation runs counter to those long standing policies and could undermine regional stability and broader US national security interests in the region.” All three senators have been strong Israel supporters. A similar letter circulating among House Democrats has garnered more than 120 signatures. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Meanwhile, top House Republicans have authored their own letter supporting Israel’s right to determine its borders. “We write to reaffirm the unshakeable alliance between the United States and Israel, to emphasize that Israel has the right to make sovereign decisions independent of outside pressure, and to express our support for you as you make such decisions in your capacity as Israel’s democratically-elected prime minister,” the letter said. The top three Republicans in the House, Kevin McCarthy, Calif., Steve Scalise, La., and Liz Cheney, Wyo., respectively, led the effort, which gathered 116 signatures. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer says, “The extension of Israeli sovereignty to certain territories in Judea and Samaria will not, as many critics suggest, destroy the two-state solution. But it will shatter the two-state illusion. And in doing so, it will open the door to a realistic two-state solution and get the peace process out of the cul-de-sac it has been stuck in for two decades.” Dermer went on to say that “Palestinian leaders have rejected every Israeli peace overture while systematically promoting a culture that rejects peace and glorifies terrorism, including by providing a lifetime of financial support for terrorists who murder Jews” and that the conflict “has never been about establishing a Palestinian state. It has always been about rejecting the Jewish state.” Dermer made the statements in an opinion piece in The Washington Post. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Meanwhile, President Trump’s senior aides began talks last week on whether to give Netanyahu a green light for annexation. Discussions included Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and advisor, Robert O’Brien, Trump’s national security advisor, Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz, and David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel. Reported by Reuters. Read more… Though Trump participated, and despite three days of consultations, no consensus was reached. One unnamed official said that more “fact-finding” was needed. Reported by Reuters. Read more…Nonetheless, Kellyanne Conway, an advisor to Trump, says that he will have a “big announcement” soon about Israel’s annexation plans. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

A memo to Likud party members from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office warns that the evacuation of West Bank settlements would pose an “immediate existential threat” to Israel’s security. The reason is simple: too many Israelis live in these communities. According to the memo, “There can be no realistic Israeli-Palestinian peace accord in which the Judea and Samaria Jewish communities are evacuated. These are established communities in which hundreds of thousands of Israelis live.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Thousands rallied in the Jordan Valley against Israel’s annexation plans. It was the largest rally of its kind since January when Trump announced his peace plan for the region. U.N. Special Envoy to the Middle East, Nikolay Mladenov, told Palestinians not to give up their dream of an independent state. He told them, “You’re not renting a house here, this is your home. You do not throw away the keys to something that you have been building for 25 years. You protect it and you invest in the future, a future that is built on shared values of democracy, accountability and prosperity for everyone.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

David Schenker, a senior advisor to U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, told an Israeli radio station that he was “confident” Israeli leaders would take into consideration Arab Gulf states’ concerns regarding annexation. Arab Gulf states, particularly the United Arab Emirates, have strenuously objected to Israel’s unilateral annexation plans. Schenker said, “however Israel proceeds, that it will do so while taking steps that will preserve the administration’s vision for peace. Israel has in the past been savvy with how it handles relations with its Arab partners, and so I’m sure they will take all these factors into consideration.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Israel has reportedly told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that annexation plans have been greatly reduced and apply only to two or three settlement blocs. The message was reportedly delivered via Jordan. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Abbas refused a phone call from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and has reportedly threatened to collect weapons for the PA’s security forces and hand the weapons over to Israel if the Jewish state moves forward with annexation plans. Reported by The Times of Israel.Read more…

Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the West Bank is considered a ‘declaration of war’ says the Hamas terror group, which rules the Gaza Strip with an iron hand. A senior Hamas Official, Dr. Basem Naim, told Fox News that annexation will destroy any prospects of a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying “Palestinians would not accept these plans at all. They are going to resist these plans by all means available. Gaza is not excluded from this.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz has said if the Palestinians are willing to have “serious negotiations” he was ready “to be in Ramallah tomorrow morning to discuss this.” Gantz also repeated his promise that Israel will not annex areas with large numbers of Palestinians and will grant equal rights to those who do live in the annexed areas. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Israel’s security chiefs are divided over whether annexation will lead to violence. Israel’s Channel 12 news reported that the heads of the IDF, Mossad, and Shin Bet met with Israel’s high level security cabinet to discuss the ramifications of Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the West Bank, but could not come to a consensus on whether annexation would spark violent unrest among the Palestinian population. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Furthermore, it appears that Israel is prepared to deploy additional troops to the West Bank and Gaza Strip areas ahead of annexation. According to Israel’s Channel 13, the IDF has placed several battalions on standby in case violence breaks out. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

On the international scene, where Israel’s proposed annexation has been met with condemnation, U.K. MP Lisa Nandy, a senior member of Britain’s Labor party, has called for a boycott of Israeli products if the Jewish state proceeds with its plans. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Israeli Knesset Votes Down Bill Requiring PM To Step Down While Under Indictment; Israeli Anti-Corruption Protestors Arrested Outside Netanyahu’s Home; Netanyahu Reaps Tax Break

The Israeli parliament has voted down a bill requiring Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign. The Blue and White party was among the parties opposing the bill, despite supporting such legislation before joining Netanyahu’s unity government. Yair Lapid, Gantz’s former ally and leader of the opposition, mocked Gantz’s support for the bill, saying, “This is the original document of this bill that was signed and submitted in March. The first signature is Benny Gantz, and the second is Avi Nissenkorn, who is now the justice minister of Israel.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Meanwhile, hundreds of Israelis protested outside Netanyahu’s home, as part of continuing protests against government corruption. Seven protesters were arrested. Among them was a former Israeli air force brigadier general, Amir Haskel. Protesters were critical of the arrests, with one saying the police “pounced” on Haskel immediately after he gave a “patriotic” speech. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… The arrests swelled protests the following day, as thousands turned up in front of Netanyahu’s home. Among them were Yesh-Atid MKs Moshe Ya’alon and Mickey Levy. Many of the protesters demanded Haskel’s immediate release. Haksel had refused release under restrictive conditions and remained in custody. Reported by The Times of Israel. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Benny Gantz also criticized the arrests, telling the press before the weekly cabinet meeting that “Freedom to demonstrate, is in my opinion, a sacred right. Everyone who sits at this table believes in it. We must of course on the one hand allow people to continue to demonstrate, and on the other give backing to the Israel Police and the rule of law.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Despite Israel’s worst economic crisis in years, the Knesset Finance Committee approved retroactive tax breaks for Netanyahu amounting to about $1 million shekels. Reported Haaretz. Read more… The move has enraged Israelis struggling to make ends meet. In a Times of Israel report, one Tel Aviv resident called the decision “disgusting” in “light of the fact that there are so many people without a job now.” Some 800,000 Israeli’s are currently unemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…Netanyahu, meanwhile, says that while the tax break was justified, the “timing was not the right time.” Reported by The Jerusalem Post. Read more…

COVID-19 May Have Lasting Effect Post-Recovery; Saudi Arabia To Limit Pilgrimages; Confirmed Cases of Coronavirus in Israel Continue To Climb, Government May Reimpose Partial Lockdown

Covid-19 may have long-lasting effects on those who recover, even in those who report mild symptoms. An investigation by Israel’s Channel 12 reports that recovered patients are nonetheless experiencing phantom pains, memory loss, personality changes, psychological issues and extreme fatigue, and lungs that will not heal, even months after recovery. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

As of Monday, June 22, one-hundred sixty-eight new Covid-19 infections were confirmed in the West Bank. Hebron and Nablus were placed on lockdown, and social gatherings were banned across the West Bank. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, will not allow international travelers to make the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca next month. The move is an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The Hajj pilgrimage is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for Muslims, and 70% who make it are from outside Saudi Arabia. Reported by UPI. Read more…

As of Monday, June 22, Israel’s total confirmed coronavirus cases stood at 4,940 double the count on June 7. Amer Elemy, head of coronavirus care at Nazareth Hospital, told the Times of Israel he believes Israel is in a second wave of infections. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… The following day, a report by a military task force stated Israel’s rate of active coronavirus cases could double within a week. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… By Saturday, June 27, the total number of active coronavirus cases in Israel grew to 6,102 with 621 new confirmed infections overnight. Israel has seen a total of $23,421 confirmed cases since the pandemic began. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… According to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the cabinet would vote on whether to reimpose some coronavirus restrictions. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Iran Most Dangerous Country In The Middle East Says IDF Chief of Staff; Iranian Rabbi Says There Is A Difference Between Judaism and Zionism; Blast Near Tehran Was Gas Storage Tank, Says Iran Defense Ministry; Iran Builds Fake Carrier; New Quds Force Leader May Have Had Narrow Escape; Iran To Execute Man Accused of Passing CIA, Mossad Intelligence

It is the opinion of Aviv Kohavi, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff, that Iran is now the most dangerous country in the Middle East. He bases his opinion not just on Iran’s nuclear program, but on its conventional weapons and support for terrorism in the region. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…Meanwhile, the chief rabbi of Iran’s Jewish community, Yehuda Garami, says that there is no connection between Judaism and Zionism. “People tend to get confused, but there is a big difference between Zionism and Judaism. Judaism is a religion that is 3,300 years old, while Zionism is a national and political movement that is just 100 years old. As a country, the State of Israel has nothing to do with religion in general and Judaism in particular,” he told the Al-Monitor, a Washington-based media site. According to Garami, the conflict between Iran and Israel is not a religious conflict. “The Israeli government doesn’t care about Judaism at all. Everything that they supposedly give to the Orthodox is because of some political deal or other, and not because of their religious approach,” he said. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

A massive blast in the Parchin region near Tehran was an industrial gas tank, says Iran’s defense ministry. The blast occurred at about midnight and several social media users posted video after the blast. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…Satellite images, however, show the blast occurred at a suspected Iranian missile site in the mountainous region. Analysts believe the area hides an underground tunnel system and missile production sites. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Esmail Ghaani, leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps elite Quds Force, reportedly paid a visit to Abu Kamal, a Syrian town on the border of Iraq. Ghaani took over as leader of the hardline Quds Force following the assassination of Qassem Soleimani. Ghaani reportedly described ISIS fighters as agents of Israel and the United States, a common accusation by Iran. Reported by Reuters. Read more… Sometime afterwards, Israeli warplanes are believed to have conducted an airstrike against nearby Iranian-backed forces in Syria. Six people were reported killed, four of them Syrian nationals. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… A second raid killed another nine in the Al-Siyal desert. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Iran has also announced that it will execute a man accused of passing the United States key details of Qassem Soleimani’s movements prior to the U.S. drone strike that killed the Iranian general earlier this year. Gholamhossein Esmaili, a spokesperson for Iran’s judiciary, said Mahmoud Mousavi-Majd, an Iranian citizen, was a spy for the CIA and Mossad who “gave the whereabouts of martyr Soleimani to our enemies.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Iran also appears to have gone into the fake aircraft carrier business. The Islamic republic has built a mock-up off its southern coast that resembles a U.S. Navy Nimitz-class carrier. Iran built a similar mock-up in 2015 and then practiced swarming the fake carrier with speedboats firing machine guns and rockets. Iran later sunk the mock-up with surface-to-sea missiles. The current mockup appears to be about 650 feet long and 160 feet wide. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Two Senior Al-Qaeda Commanders Killed By “Ginsu-Bomb”

Two senior al-Qaeda commanders in northwestern Syria were killed by a U.S.-led strike. What is unusual about the strike is that the pair were not killed by explosives, but by a missile packed with knives. The two leaders, Qassam ul-Urdini and Yemeni Bilal al-Sanaani, were killed by a variation of the Hellfire anti-tank missile nicknamed the “Flying Ginsu” or “ninja bomb.” The missile has six blades “that are stowed inside and then deploy through the skin of the missile seconds before impact to ensure that it shreds anything in its tracks” by flying directly into designated targets. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Popular Social Media Site Being Used to Spread Anti-Semitism Says Study

Popular social media site TikTok is being used by anti-Semites and far-right extremists as a platform to reach young people says a study from the University of Haifa and Israel’s Institute for Counter Terrorism. The report, titled “Spreading Hate on TikTok” stated that between February and May of this year there were 196 postings related to far-right extremism. One-fifth of those posts were related to anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. The study also found 14 postings of Adolph Hitler’s speeches and 11 postings of Sieg-Heil victory salutes used by the Nazis. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Despite Mounting Opposition, Netanyahu Vows July 1 Annexation of Jewish West Bank Settlements

Although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to annexat of portions of the West Bank starting July 1, a settler official told the Times of Israel the effort may be delayed because the Trump administration was toughening its stance on the plans. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… In fact, the Times of Israel reports, the Trump administration is not likely to approve Israel’s move to unilaterally annex portions of the West Bank because mapping of the area is not complete. A mapping committee is charged with defining the precise borders of the area Israel will annex, a time-consuming process that may not be complete for months. Reported by The Times of Israel.Read more…

Not all settlers are happy with the plan, however. David Elhayani, head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council, is opposed to the Trump peace plan, comparing it to being force fed cake. Elhayani says that he is concerned for the safety of settlers and Israelis. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Reported by Israel National News. Read more… Meanwhile, Nitzan Horowitz, leader of the Meretz party, warned almost two weeks ago that Trump’s peace plan will turn Israel into an apartheid state. Speaking to reports, Horowitz said, “This is an apartheid map. It reminds me of South Africa.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Sergey Lavrov and Sameh Shoukry, Russia’s and Egypt’s foreign ministers respectively, also warned Israel against annexing parts of the West Bank. In an official statement, Lavrov’s office stated, “The ministers noted annexing sections of Palestinian land on the West Bank of the Jordan River will threaten the prospects for the two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli problem and could provoke a new and dangerous round of violence in the region.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… And on June 4, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned members of the Jewish Democratic Council of America that “Unilateral annexation puts the future at risk and undermines US national security interests and decades of bipartisan policy.” Leading Democrats, including presidential contender Joe Biden, have condemned Netanyahu’s annexation plans. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…Prominent British Jews, including Luciana Berger and writer Howard Jacobson, are likewise advising Israel against annexation. Thirty-seven British Jews signed a letter to Israel’s U.K. Ambassador, Mark Regev, saying, “Israel’s international standing would also suffer and it is incompatible with the notion of Israel as both a Jewish and democratic state.” The letter was titled, “We Cannot Justify Israel’s West Bank Annexation.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Germany, however, “will not go off the deep end,” if Israel proceeds with annexation says one German diplomatic official in Israel. The official also said that Germany did not favor sanctions, but instead exploring ways the Israelis and Palestinians can return to talks. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

The Palestinian Authority has weighed in, in response to an inquiry from the International Criminal Court (ICC). Annexation will annul the Oslo Accords, the PA told the ICC. PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki issued the statement in response to an inquiry from ICC after PA President Mahmoud Abbas declared in a speech last month that all agreements with Israel were null and void and that the PA was no longer bound by them. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Thousands protested in Tel Aviv on June 6 against Netanyahu’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank. The protest was organized primarily by the left-wing Meretz party and Hadash—the communist faction of the Arab Joint List. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… A recent survey shows that more Israelis oppose annexation than support it. The poll showed that 41.7 percent of Israelis do not support annexation, while only 32.2 percent support it. About 48 percent believe annexation will hurt chances of achieving peace with the Palestinians, compared to just 13.8 percent who believe it will help peace prospects. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

As of June 8, Netanyahu was telling settler leaders that he still intended to annex all West Bank settlements on July 1, but also conceded that other land allocated to Israel under the Trump peace plan would take longer. If Netanyahu holds true to the promise, Israel will annex some 132 settlements, which about 450,000 Israelis call home, and amounting to about 3 percent of the West Bank. The remaining 30% of the West Bank land allocated to Israel, mostly in the Jordan Valley, would be annexed later. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… The Trump administration is unlikely to support annexation, however, unless the full Israeli unity government gives its support to the move. According to a report by Israel’s Channel 12, that was the outcome of a recent meeting between Gantz, Netanyahu, Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, and Knesset speaker Yariv Levin and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Freidman. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Deputy Prime Minister Benny Gantz has reportedly told settlers. “What’s being offered to you, take. As for the rest, you can deal with it later.” He reportedly told settlers to accept whatever the U.S. was willing to accept Israel annexing and not to overdo it. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… By June 10, the narrative had changed, with reports Netanyahu would announce annexation of three West Bank blocs but not the Jordan Valley or other settlement areas. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

A group of right-wing activists have their eye on the whole of the West Bank, not just those portions allocated to Israel under Trump’s peace plan. Organizers of the “It’s all ours” campaign plan on three stages leading up to July 1, the date Netanyahu promised to begin annexing parts of the West Bank. The first stage began with members posting 5,500 fliers along roads in the West Bank warning that, “the danger of the division of the land that is on the horizon.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

The World Council of Churches wants Europe to sanction Israel is if annexes West Bank lands. The council was established in 1948 and has 350 member churches with about 500,000 followers among them. In a letter to EU foreign ministers, the Council said that if Israel annexes the land the E.U. should adopt sanctions “at least commensurate with those adopted by the EU in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea.” Reported by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA). Read more…

More than 400 Jewish and Israel studies academics have denounced Israeli plans to annex part of the West Bank. In a statement the group characterized the plan as “apartheid” and called it a “crime against humanity” under international law. “Representing a spectrum of viewpoints, we write in opposition to the continuation of the occupation and the stated intention of the current elected government in Israel to annex parts of the West Bank, thereby formally (de jure) creating apartheid conditions in Israel and Palestine,” a statement from the group said. The group continued, saying “Under these conditions, annexation of Palestinian territories will cement into place an anti-democratic system of separate and unequal law and systemic discrimination against the Palestinian population.” Reported by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA). Read more… Even the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is distancing itself from the plan, telling lawmakers they are free to criticize Israel’s annexation plan so long as they stop there. It is a significant departure from AIPAC policy, which generally discourages all criticism of Israel. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Yousef Al-Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates ambassador to the United States, has warned that Israel’s unilateral annexation plans will damage the budding relationship between Israel and the Arab world. Acknowledging that relations between Israel and the Arab world have grown closer over the years, Al-Otaiba warned that “A unilateral and deliberate act, annexation is the illegal seizure of Palestinian land. It defies the Arab – and indeed the international – consensus on the Palestinian right to self-determination. It will ignite violence and rouse extremists. It will send shockwaves around the region, especially in Jordan, whose stability — often taken for granted — benefits the entire region, particularly Israel.” Al-Otaiba was one of the three Arab ambassadors to attend the White House ceremony during which U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled his peace plan for the Middle East. Al-Otaiba made his statements in an op-ed piece published in the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, itself a first. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert has also criticized the plan, saying “The claim that we need the Jordan Valley now from a security standpoint is nonsense with no truth to it. I’m saying that as a prime minister of Israel. No one will say that I’m not a patriot.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Meanwhile, policy makers and diplomats in Washington, D.C. are amping up their warnings against Israel’s annexation plan. Last week, Jordan’s Ambassador to the U.S. joined the chorus, warning that Jordan would re-evaluate its peace agreement with Israel if annexation proceeded. Reported by The Times of Israel.Read more…

Palestinian Authority Puts Forth Its Own Peace Plan; Trump Plan Meets With Resistance From Some MKs; U.S. Continues Efforts to Bring Palestinians to Negotiating Table

The Palestinian Authority recently put forth its own plan for Palestinian statehood. The PA plan comes in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s peace plan. The PA submitted its plan to the Quartet—consisting of the United Nations, United States, European Union, and Russia. The plan calls for the creation of a “sovereign Palestinian state, independent and demilitarized” and contemplates land swaps between the Palestinians and Israel. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

The Palestinians are not the only area where the Trump peace plan has met resistance. Rafi Peretz, who is Israel’s Jerusalem and Heritage Minister, has said that he opposes parts of the Trump plan. Specifically, he opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state. Thanking Trump for his support of Israel, Peretz wrote on Facebook that “But there are sections of the plan that we will not accept. We will not accept the establishment of a Palestinian state in my homeland. I will oppose any mention of a Palestinian state in legislation to come.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

U.S. diplomats are also continuing efforts to bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table. Kelly Craft, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. recently said that the Trump plan is “not set in stone” and that the U.S. has “been working very closely to make certain that both Israel and the Palestinians… that both sides understand that this [plan] is very detailed, it’s very realistic, it’s very implementable, and it meets the core requirements for both Israel and the Palestinian people.” Kelly also said that “Until we have dialogue, there’s going to be nothing. So I’m really stressing… we have — you have — to get to the table.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Poll Shows Netanyahu and Right-Wing Allies Would Gain Majority if New Elections Held, Blue and White Would be Diminished, Labor Wiped Out; Dissent in the Ranks – Blue and White MK Says “Very Hard” to Serve Under Netanyahu; Bennett Blasts Netanyahu as Traitor to Religious Zionism

If an election were held today, the Likud party would increase to 40 seats, giving Netanyahu and his right-wing allies an easy coalition, says a recent poll. The same poll showed that Israel’s Labor party would be wiped out, while Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu would grow to nine seats. The Arab Joint list would hold steady at 15 seats, while Yesh Atid-Telem (leaders of the opposition under Yair Lapid and Moshe Ya’alon) would get 14 seats. Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party would pick up only 12 seats. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Meirav Cohen of the Blue and White party and Israel’s new Social Equality Minister recently said it was “very hard” for her to serve in a government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 news, Cohen revealed, “It’s very hard for me. Very hard for me.” Continuing, she said, “I didn’t want it to be like this. To go into a unity government with a man who, we don’t believe him or in him, who has three criminal indictments — or the other option of a fourth election straight, during a crazy economic, social and health crisis.” She said that “Both options were terrible. I truly hope we’ve chosen the lesser of two evils.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Yamina leader Naftali Bennett, a onetime ally of Netanyahu, blasted the new government and Netanyahu in particular, telling the website Kipa, “Netanyahu betrayed the religious Zionists. There was an alliance, and he threw out religious Zionism and threw the right out. He didn’t stand by his word and he will bear the consequences.” Bennett also said, “There are a million unemployed and Netanyahu and Gantz are leading an economic tsunami this winter. They do nothing to prevent ‘The Great Winter Shutdown.’” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…