Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was indicted “for alleged systematic fraud involving hundreds of thousands of shekels in connection with meal expenses incurred at the Prime Minister’s Residence,” Haaretz reports.
“Palestinians’ anger erupted as American and Israeli officials prepared to celebrate President Trump’s move of the embassy to Jerusalem, which previous American administrations have been unwilling to do,” the New York Times reports.
“Many Israelis see the relocation of the embassy as simply acknowledging that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. But Palestinians, who hope to see the eastern part of Jerusalem become the capital of a Palestinian state, see the move as an abdication of any vestige of American impartiality in determining the region’s future.”
“Palestinian officials say at least 41 people have died in the latest round of protests… At least 1,700 Palestinian demonstrators were also wounded along the border fence with Gaza.”
“The Trump administration is considering an offer from Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson to pay for at least part of a new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem,” the AP reports.
“Lawyers at the State Department are looking into the legality of accepting private donations to cover some or all of the embassy costs, the administration officials said. The discussions are occurring as the new embassy clears its final bureaucratic hurdles.”
“The Israeli police recommended on Tuesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust, casting a pall over the future of a tenacious leader who has become almost synonymous with his country,” the New York Times reports.
“The announcement instantly raised doubts about his ability to stay in office.”
The BBC has a good backgrounder on the scandal.
Pew Research: “The partisan divide in Middle East sympathies, for Israel or the Palestinians, is now wider than at any point since 1978. Currently, 79% of Republicans say they sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians, compared with just 27% of Democrats.”
The Islamist group Hamas urged Palestinians to abandon peace efforts and launch a new uprising against Israel in response to President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as its capital, Reuters reports.
President Donald Trump “will sign a waiver delaying the move of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv while declaring the contested city the capital of Israel,” Bloomberg reports.
“Reports that Trump would unilaterally declare Jerusalem to be the capital and begin moving the embassy there fueled warnings from Middle East and European leaders saying it would undermine peace efforts and potentially generate protests across the region.”
“It was a case of spies watching spies watching spies: Israeli intelligence officers looked on in real time as Russian government hackers searched computers around the world for the code names of American intelligence programs,” the New York Times reports.
“What gave the Russian hacking, detected more than two years ago, such global reach was its improvised search tool — antivirus software made by a Russian company, Kaspersky Lab, that is used by 400 million people worldwide, including by officials at some two dozen American government agencies.”
“The Israeli officials who had hacked into Kaspersky’s own network alerted the United States to the broad Russian intrusion, which has not been previously reported, leading to a decision just last month to order Kaspersky software removed from government computers.”
President Trump told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he wants to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal and that he still believes doing so is possible, Haaretz reports.
Said Trump: “We are going to discuss peace between Israel and the Palestinians; it will be a fantastic achievement. We are giving it absolute go – there is a good chance it could happen. Most people would say there is no chance whatsoever, but I think that with the ability of Bibi and the other side – I really think we have a chance.”
He added: “Historically people say it can’t happen but I say it can happen.”
“Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is likely to be indicted on fraud-related charges in a case that peers into spending on catered meals and lifestyle in the official residence,” the Washington Post reports.
“The probe — called the ‘meals ordering affair’ — alleges that the prime minister’s wife and the head of the operational resources unit in the official residence falsified documents so that food from outside companies and private chefs could be used, even though there was a full-time chef.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “has rejected criminal suspicions leveled against him in recent days, amid speculation that his tenure will end soon,” the Jerusalem Post reports.
“Netanyahu lashed out – in private conversations with Knesset members – at the press, the opposition and members of his own party, whom he accused of conspiring to unseat him.”
Said Netanyahu: “They are trying to get me and attempting to topple the Right. This is not new. They have been trying for many years. I don’t see us going to elections now.”
He added: “I have nothing to fear. I don’t think I have a problem.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “is suspected of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two cases, Israel Police confirmed on Thursday when it requested a gag order on the ongoing talks to recruit a state witness,” according to Haaretz.
Netanyahu issued a statement saying that the allegations are “a witch hunt intended to topple the government.”
The Intercept: “A group of 43 Senators – 29 Republicans and 14 Democrats – want to implement a law that would make it a felony for Americans to support the international boycott against Israel, which was launched in protest of that country’s decades-old occupation of Palestine. The two primary sponsors of the bill are Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Rob Portman of Ohio.”
“Perhaps the most shocking aspect is the punishment: anyone guilty of violating its prohibitions will face a minimum civil penalty of $250,000, and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison.”
President Trump is reportedly weighing whether to pull out of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations following a “tense” meeting between Jared Kushner and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the Jerusalem Post reports.
“Abbas was supposedly furious with the president’s son-in-law after Kushner relayed Israeli demands to the 81-year-old Palestinian leader which included the immediate halt of payments to terrorists and their families.”
“President Trump signed an order keeping the American Embassy in Tel Aviv rather than move it to Jerusalem as he promised during last year’s campaign… disappointing many Israel supporters in hopes of preserving his chances of negotiating a peace settlement,” the New York Times reports.
“Mr. Trump made no mention of his pending decision during a visit to Jerusalem just last week and waited to announce it until almost the last minute he could under law, underscoring the deep political sensitivity of the matter.”
Axios: “As a source who has been in the process for multiple presidents told Axios, this is Trump defaulting to the status quo. Bureaucrats brief a new president, show them the doomsday forecast of riots, broken peace deals, new security requirements and other issues, and presidents back off. etc.”
President Trump told a meeting with Israeli leaders that “we just got back from the Middle East,” according to Slate.