1. Many words, little said: Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner didn’t reveal much about the US administration’s nascent peace plan in a 45-minute interview on the subject with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Robert Satloff Thursday night.
- “Jared Kushner remained tight-lipped about the guts of the plan,” reports the Associated Press.
- ToI’s Eric Cortellessa notes that while he didn’t reveal the contents of the plan, he insisted that it addresses issues “probably in a more detailed way than has ever been done before.”
- Still, the Guardian comes away with a lede saying that Kushner “revealed new details” about the plan, that it will accept Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and won’t use the two-state solution as its core formulation.
- “Let’s just not say it,” the paper uses as its headline on the story, quoting Kushner’s objection to the two-state term.
2. Annexation station: One thing Kushner did reveal is that he had not discussed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s settlement annexation plan. While he said he would discuss it after a government is formed, he also expressed hope that “both sides will take a real look — the Israeli side, the Palestinian side — before any unilateral steps are made.”
- Kushner also said that “if” the plan pushes Israelis to make concessions, they won’t involve anything that puts them at a security risk. That would likely mean the US supports Israel holding on to parts of the West Bank that Israel considers essential for security. That could range from just the Jordan valley to the whole territory.
- Michael J. Koplow of the Israel Policy Forum predicts that so-called partial annexationists will “begin coming out of the woodwork,” warning that the policy is dangerous because Palestinians have proven they are not afraid to call Israel’s bluff and force Israel’s hand, as seen this week with the tax transfer crisis.
- “If Israel annexes blocs and the PA makes the calculation that it is better off handing Israel responsibility for everything rather than to continue administering the territory it has left while Israel officially rejects the Oslo framework of negotiations, then partial annexation will end up being a fuller annexation than most of its proponents ever want. Taking Beitar Illit will also mean taking Balata, and rather than annexing a little bit of land with the fewest Palestinians, Israel will end up taking all of the land with all of the Palestinians,” he writes in a policy paper.
- On Twitter, activist/writer Meirav Zonszein notes that partial annexationists are nothing new, anyone who believes in land swaps has already gone down that path.
It’s been out for a long time. All the Israelis who talk about “consensus terroritories” are partial annexationists. Since the Clinton parameters. That’s most of the political spectrum except the “far left” https://t.co/EsgxfeCsSr
— Mairav Zonszein מרב זונשיין (@MairavZ) May 3, 2019
3. Not buying it: The interview was the second by Kushner in as many weeks, after rarely making public appearances for the administration’s first two years in office.
- Reuters notes that Kushner “has begun to take a more public role in the Trump administration since he emerged unscathed from U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into whether the Trump presidential campaign in 2016 colluded with Russia. Trump has relied heavily on the 38-year-old Kushner, who helped develop prison reform legislation and a new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal, and is also working on a U.S. immigration proposal.”
- What has become clear from these appearances by Kushner is that a financial incentive for the Palestinians will be a main component of the plan.
- Journalist Shimrit Meir notes on Twitter that Kushner appears to have replaced the idea of a quest for Palestinian “rights” with aiming for Palestinians to have “dignity.”
- WINEP’s Michael Herzog says after the Kushner interview that “Palestinians are likely to see an economic component of any US plan as an attempt to ‘buy us off.’”
- “[Given] that it outlines practical ways to improve the Palestinians’ lives, but does not call for establishing a Palestinian state, there’s a high likelihood that at the end of Ramadan the Palestinians will break their fast not with a gourmet meal but with onion, as the saying goes,” Haaretz’s Salman Masalha opines, an onion being a bad thing in this case. (“Honey days, onion days” is the Arabic equivalent of “You win some, you lose some.”)
- Kushner is also criticized — as is the case with his compatriot Jason Greenblatt — for making it seem like he knows what the Palestinians want better than they do.
He's got a really good grasp on this. I mean, Palestinians have been very clear that they want to live under occupation forever. https://t.co/xb1mCjvSjU
— Debra Shushan????דבורה שושן????دبرا شوشان (@ShushanAPN) May 2, 2019
4. Coalition jam: Kushner assumes, as do many others, that Netanyahu will indeed succeed in forming a coalition, but the biggest obstacle — getting Yisrael Beytenu and the ultra-Orthodox parties to agree to both join — seems to be living up to its billing, throwing the future of the government-to-be into some doubt.
- Channel 13’s Seffi Ovadia reports that it seems Netanyahu will be forced to ask for a two-week extension from president Reuven Rivlin, with less than two weeks to go until the first deadline to form a coalition.
- “At this point, there have not been any breakthroughs but only scant progress, with parties still focused on their coalition demands.
- Haaretz’s Yossi Verter writes that the coalition partners are trying to squeeze every last bit out of Netanyahu, knowing that his back is against the wall.
- “In a fit of bulimia, they are pouncing on the booty without even stopping to wipe away the cascades of foaming saliva from their mouths,” he writes.
- But Yedioth’s Sima Kadmon is sure that in the end “there will be a government.”
- “Once they get to the last minutes, they will calm down with their demands and settle into the places they get, not the places they want. All the potential coalition partners understand the consequences of failing to form a government,” she writes.
5. More ministers, less women: United Right-Wing Parties is having its first official coalition negotiation meeting Friday, bringing with it a long list of demands.
- Makor Rishon publishes some of the demands, which includes making the chief rabbinate an independent body, a Knesset body to reconsider the service of women in combat units, and a new ministry — for national projects.
- “Is there a chance the coalition talks could be done with a view toward making order, getting rid of unneeded ministries and appointing ministers in a logical and sensible way, in the name of a “small, smart” right-wing government,” asks columnist (and former Netanyahu media adviser) Ran Baratz in the paper. “There’s about the same chance as the left winning an election.”
6. Big math: Ahead of Independence Day, Israel Hayom reports that Israel for the first time has over 9 million people: 9,009,000 to be exact, at least as of March.
- “Despite the complaints that we enjoy expressing, the numbers don’t lie: The pace of population growth testifies to the thriving economy and better quality of life here,” reads the paper’s front page, making a logical leap that would leave someone in a Mumbai slum scratching their heads.
- Yedioth leads off its paper with a sadder number tied to Memorial Day, which comes just before Independence Day: The number of Israelis killed in the line of duty has risen by 96 people to 23,741.
- That includes 40 people who died as a result of disabilities resulting from injuries sustained in terror attacks, and were recognized as part of the group, the Defense Ministry says.
- Yedioth reports that another nine civilians were killed in terror attacks since the last Memorial Day, bringing that figure up to 3,146. (The number of those killed in wars or battles goes back to 1860, while those killed in terror attacks is only since the state’s founding.)
7. Never mind the Balaks: A study released Thursday claims that an inscription in the 9th century BCE thought to refer to the “House of David,” might actually refer to the Biblical Moabite king Balak instead, or at least someone with a B name.
- The researchers are just “cautiously proposing” the Balak name as one they know of that starts with a “B”, and the real point of the research is to throw shade on the King David claim. Still several media outlets report focus on the researchers thinking Balak from the Book of Numbers is real (another logical conclusion since using the Bible to confirm a suspicion cannot then prove Biblical accuracy).
- “We are dealing with a name that has three characters, starting with a B. We know from the bible that Balak was the king of Moab and that he ruled from a location in southern Moab—as described in the Stele,” researcher Israel Finkelstein tells Newsweek.
- Not so fast, French researcher Michael Langlois tells ToI’s Amanda Borschel-Dan, revealing that he is about to publish a paper based on using actual high-tech laser and imagery things to prove that House of David actually is the more likely reading and not Balak.
- “From a purely historical standpoint, the most obvious solution is that there was a kingdom of David,” he says.
- In any case, Ronald Hendel, a professor of the Hebrew Bible and Jewish studies at the University of California, Berkeley, tells LiveScience, that even if it is a B name, it can just as easily “be Bilbo or Barack, for all we know.”