1. US and Israel see eye-to-eye on fate of Israel’s borders?
Oraib Rantawi, the director of the Quds Center for Political Studies in Amman, contends that US Middle East peace envoy Jared Kushner’s recent comments to an Arabic TV station about borders align with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s position on the issue.
- “Kushner’s most dangerous and recent talk was about ‘establishing borders.’ He did not mention the two-state solution; he did not refer to the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and building a livable, sovereign and independent state,” Rantawi writes in a Saturday opinion article in Dunya al-Watan, a Gaza Strip-based news site.
- “The man said the goal of establishing borders is removing them — that cannot be interpreted in any other way than a proposal to create a Palestinian entity that is less than a state and more than an autonomously ruled area; that is the same way that Netanyahu and the Israeli right-wing leaders define a two-state solution,” he argues.
- Netanyahu has long said Israel must maintain control over the Jordan Valley in any peace settlement between the Jewish state and the Palestinians.
- Kushner spoke to Sky News Arabia last week in ambiguous terms about the US administration’s apparently forthcoming peace plan, noting it deals with the final-status issue of borders.
- “The political plan, which is very detailed, is really about establishing borders and resolving final status issues,” Kushner said.
- “The goal of resolving these borders is really to eliminate the borders. If you can eliminate borders and have peace and less fear of terror, you could have freer flow of goods, freer flow of people and that would create a lot more opportunities,” he added.
2. Hamas nabs Iran-backed leader in Gaza
The Hamas-run security forces have arrested Hisham Salem, the head of the Iran-backed Sabireen movement, in a home in the Gaza Strip, the Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat reports Saturday, citing unnamed sources.
- In December 2017, the US State Department designated the Sabireen movement as a terrorist group.
- The security forces also collared four of Salem’s aides in the home and confiscated equipment, computers, phones and documents, the newspaper report states.
- Salem, a Shiite Muslim, was nabbed as a part of Hamas’s efforts to put an end to Sabireen’s activities in Gaza, noting it had recently “besieged” its funding and weapons sources.
- In addition to Sabireen, Iran also supports a number of groups in Gaza, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
3. Netanyahu fighting for his life
Adnan Abu Amer, a Gaza-based analyst, writes that Netanyahu’s opponents have put the possibility of him continuing in his role as Israel’s most powerful politician at risk.
- “Netanyahu, who has seven lives, is fighting to remain in office,” Abu Amer writes Saturday on Twitter. “The parties of his opponents have become a serious threat to his [fifth] term as prime minister because he has fallen prey to the evils of corruption.”
- In a decision that drastically shook up Israeli politics less than six weeks before general elections on April 9, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced on Thursday that Netanyahu will be charged with criminal wrongdoing in three separate cases against him, pending a hearing.
- Polls show that former IDF chief-of staff Benny Gantz has emerged as Netanyahu’s main challenger.
- Gantz showed a very slight lead over Netanyahu as the most suitable candidate for prime minister, a poll published by the Kan public broadcaster on Saturday found.
4. Right-wing will prevail
- Barhoum Jaraysi, an Arab-Israeli journalist and analyst, predicts that even if Likud loses voters in the elections on April 9, the right in Israel will maintain its majority in the Knesset.
- “Netanyahu is benefiting from the increasing support in Israel for the extremist settler camp. All the competition ahead of the upcoming elections is largely taking place on the right,” he writes in a column published in the Jordanian daily Al-Ghad on Friday.
- “Therefore, it can be assessed that if Likud under Netanyahu’s leadership loses seats in the Knesset, other parties on the right will gain them; that means the right will maintain its majority,” he asserts.
5. Abbas’s outspoken defender
Mahmoud al-Habash, a senior Palestinian Authority official, lashes out at Palestinians who are calling for PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s ouster.
- “At exactly this moment, there are some mercenaries coming out and saying, ‘Get out,’” Habash, who serves as Abbas’s adviser for religious affairs, says in a sermon at a mosque in the West Bank on Friday.
- Earlier this week, thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip participated in a protest calling for Abbas’s removal from office.
- A group called “The Popular Movement for National Salvation” said it organized the rally, but Talal Okal, a Gaza-based expert on Palestinian politics, and Fatah spokesman Osama Qawasma contended that the Hamas terror group stood behind it.
- “While this is the first time this group has appeared, we know Hamas runs it and organized today’s demonstration,” Okal says in a phone call.
- In October, Habash said ending Hamas’s rule over Gaza is a “religious duty.”
- Habash is known to employ fiery rhetoric in his Friday sermons, especially when discussing and criticizing Hamas.