Today’s Top Stories
1. Israel’s Knesset approves legislation retroactively legalizing certain settlements, but the issue isn’t as simple as some headlines imply. Certain West Bank “settlements” (which are typically called “outposts” by Israelis) are actually illegal under Israeli law, if they are not properly approved and permitted by the Israeli government. One example is the recently evacuated Amona outpost. This new law would legalize such outposts provided they were built with a good-faith belief that the land does not already belong to a private Palestinian owner. This requirement is not as simple as it might seem: land records in the area are sometimes chaotic and frequently date back to the Ottoman era, with the use of fictitious names and absentee ownership a common and confusing factor.
Yet even more significantly, the law is widely expected to be struck down by Israel’s Supreme Court, raising the possibility that this is more of a political maneuver than a serious change to Israeli law and policy. Some Palestinian leaders have called for international sanctions against Israel over this issue, calling it “theft of the Palestinian lands” and “against all international laws.”
2. Israel targets Hamas sites in Gaza after attacks on Israel. In response to a rocket launched into southern Israel and gunfire toward Israeli troops patrolling in the area, Israel destroyed three Hamas training sites and a number of other unidentified targets. There were no casualties on either side. It is not clear whether the initial attack was by Hamas or some other armed group within Gaza. In general, Israel holds Hamas (as the ruling organization in Gaza) responsible for all attacks on Israel initiating from the strip.
IDF Spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said:
[the IDF] will not tolerate rocket fire toward civilians and will continue to ensure security and stability in the region.
3. EU to discuss Mideast peace with Trump officials. This is an event worth watching, because it will be the first direct and official engagement between the Trump administration and the international community on the issue of the Israeli/Palestinian peace process, as EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini heads to White House for a week of meetings.
4. UK resident and former HonestReporting Mission participant Stephen Franklin followed up on our complaint to the BBC and kept pushing until he got the appropriate correction: no, the Pope did not call Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas an “angel of peace.” Good work Stephen, and congratulations: you’re our Media Watchdog of the Week!
• Turkey detains more than 800 people in operation against Islamic State. A result of raids carried out in 29 cities, it is thought to be the largest operation by the Turkish authorities against the terror group. Islamic State has been implicated in a number of deadly attacks in Turkey in recent months.
• Prime Minister Netanyahu has welcomed new sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on Iran, saying its continued nuclear weapons program posed to a threat to the world and that Iran seeks to “conquer the Middle East.” The timing of the statement is of particular importance due to Netanyahu’s upcoming visit to Washington, his first meeting with Donald Trump since he became President. During the campaign, Trump had made seemingly contradictory statements indicating he would dismantle the JPCOA (commonly known as the “Iran Nuclear Deal”) and also that he would that he would rigorously enforce the deal. Lately, President Trump’s statements and actions have seemed to lean more toward enforcement. Will Netanyahu’s visit result in further clarity?
• The former head of the global Christian charity World Vision in the Gaza Strip, Mohammad El-Halabi, pleaded not guilty in an Israeli court Thursday on charges that he funneled millions of dollars in charity money to the Palestinian terror group Hamas. When El-Halabi was first accused of wrongdoing by Israeli security forces last August, the matter shined an international spotlight on the sometimes destructive role that charities often play in supplying terror groups in the Gaza Strip. Former Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold estimated that El-Halabi “managed to transfer in the decade of his work at World Vision…tens of millions of dollars,” while Conny Lenneberg, World Vision’s regional leader in the Middle East, says, “we have seen no credible evidence to support those charges.”
Around the World
• Ruthie Blum reports that a newly elected official in a local chapter of the UK Labour Party has accused the “Israel lobby” of controlling the British government. Rebecca Massey, the Interim Chair of Central Hove, Brunswick and Adelaide, had also been using Twitter to call Israel “pathological” and “barbaric.” As of the writing of this IDNS, Massey’s Twitter account has been disabled, and her prior tweets no longer accessible. Britain’s Labor Party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn has lately been the source of an ongoing series of anti-Semitic occurrences, statements and actions.
• Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s National Front party, has announced a presidential bid. The Israeli Foreign Ministry and the French Jewish community have said that many of the party’s activists, including some in senior positions, hold anti-Semitic views. The party’s secretary general Nicolas Bay, on his visit to Israel, said the party was extending its hand to Israel and voiced hope that the Israeli government would end its policy of boycotting the National Front, explaining that his party merely wants to ensure the country’s security and preserve its identity, “just like Israel or the Trump administration.”
• Thanks to HonestReporting reader Roger Radford (and journalist/author at www.rogerradford.com) for raising the question: does Amazon’s Echo/Alexa system think that Hebrew is not an official Israeli language? Radford provided us with this video of the system in action.
• With the present and upcoming meetings between Israel’s Netanyahu, the UK’s May and the US’s Trump, Jonathan Freedland examines some of the fine points of these various relationships. Even while pointing out that all three leaders share certain common interests, especially vis-à-vis the threat posed by Iran (more on this from the opinion section of The Telegraph), Freedland also expresses his opinion that Trump’s volatile and unpredictable nature could cause him to be a less reliable ally than one might hope.
• It is apparently common in the UK that any association with Israel can create significant social tension, up to and including a sort of social vilification. Joshua Zitser, a British citizen who happens to have an Israeli father, explores this phenomenon through his personal experience.
• Here’s what else I’m reading today . . .
– AFP and Times of Israel: Khamenei tells Trump Iranian response to threats coming soon
– Greer Fay Cashman: Women and the Jihad: The motivation of female suicide bombers.
–Emanuele Ottolenghi: How to handle Hezbollah in Latin America
Before you comment on this article, please remind yourself of our Comments Policy. Any comments deemed to be in breach of the policy will be removed at the editor’s discretion.