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Vox Sentences: Trump’s Israel-Palestine policy: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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The Trump administration might have just totally shifted the US's stance on Israel and Palestine (it's kind of unclear?), and that is somehow only the second-biggest story of the day.


The Americans, season 5, episode 1

Paul Manafort (center) is accused of talking with Russian intelligence during the campaign. Brooks Kraft/Getty Images
  • There are roughly three distinct scandals regarding the relationship between the Trump administration and the Russian government (Russia's alleged attempts to intervene in the election to help Trump; calls between ex-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak; and rumored blackmail material Russia might have on Trump). They're rapidly metastasizing into one. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • Most recently, the New York Times reported Tuesday that Trump campaign officials had repeated contact with Russian intelligence officials during the presidential campaign — which is not something that presidential campaigns typically do with foreign countries' intelligence services. [NYT / Michael S. Schmidt, Mark Mazzetti, and Matt Apuzzo]
  • There's no evidence that they discussed Russia's involvement in the campaign. That's plausible because so many members of Trump's inner circle had preexisting relationships with Russian officials. Which itself raises a lot of questions. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • Flynn, for example, could have been freelancing when he hinted to Kislyak that Trump would lift sanctions on Russia. But he also could have been in contact with Trump on the subject, or even acting on Trump's direction. The point is we don't know for sure. [The Atlantic / Uri Friedman]
  • The Trump administration, of course, claims no one but Flynn had any involvement. But since they can't keep their stories straight about what happened to Flynn — press secretary Sean Spicer claims he lost Trump's trust, while Trump himself praised Flynn and blamed government leakers for his ouster — it is not clear that the administration should be believed. [Vox / Tara Golshan]
  • Trump (and Flynn) isn't entirely wrong. The anti-Trump leaks are definitely motivated, at least in part, by people in the intelligence services trying to rein Trump in. It's just that the intelligence community is totally outplaying the White House. [Foreign Policy / Marc Ambinder]
  • The irony is that as all this is happening, the Trump administration's actual policy toward Russia isn't softening much. It's now calling for Russia to return Crimea to Ukraine — something Russia has absolutely no intention of doing. [Reuters / Ayesha Rascoe]
  • Russia, for its part, is sending Atlantic spy ships farther north and closer to the US than ever before. [CNN / Ryan Browne and Barbara Starr]

The US's Israel-Palestine policy is a big ol' shruggie

Trump and Netanyahu Sauel Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
  • What's the Trump administration's current position on peace in Israel and Palestine? Two states ... or one state. Literally, "either." Whichever Israel and Palestine want.
  • This might sound anodyne. But it's freaking out Palestinian advocates — who believe it could be the death blow to the idea of an independent Palestinian state. [Washington Post / William Booth]
  • The problem is that neither Israel nor Palestine particularly wants two states. But a two-state solution is the only way to give both of them the things they really want: a Jewish and democratic state of Israel, and Palestinian independence. [Vox / Jennifer Williams]
  • But what Trump said isn't necessarily reassuring to Israeli hard-liners, either. He emphasized to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday that Israel would need to "be flexible"... [JTA]
  • ...and his administration, on issues ranging from settlements to the location of the US embassy in Israel, has been a lot less anti-Palestine (and a lot more consistent with previous presidents' policies) than his pre-inauguration rhetoric would lead you to expect. [Vox / Sarah Wildman]
  • (Just another example: His administration is renewing the dream of getting Arab countries to beef up their own defense and rely less on the US — which Israel might not appreciate.) [Andrew Exum via Twitter]
  • In other words, it looks like Netanyahu is learning that despite his staunch support of Trump, he's not exempt from the mercurial nature Trump shows pretty much every other world leader. [Vox / Yochi Dreazen]
  • But Bibi is standing by Trump. He praised Trump as a friend to Israel and to American Jews during the press conference — even after Trump responded to a question about rising anti-Semitism in the US by bragging about his victory in the Electoral College. [Politico / Aidan Quigley]
  • To American Jews — for whom political divides are less about Israel, at this point, than about the domestic politics of Trumpism and the risks of anti-Semitism they present — that was more telling, and less reassuring, than anything that was said about Israel today. [Washington Post / Sarah Posner]

Labor's love lost

Andy Puzder Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
  • Donald Trump's labor secretary is out. Andrew Puzder, CEO of fast-food giant CKE Holdings, withdrew his candidacy for the Labor Department the day before his first Senate committee hearing. [The New York Times / Alan Rappeport]
  • Puzder is the first Trump Cabinet nominee to go down in flames. His fate was sealed after more than four Republican senators planned to oppose his nomination, throwing up a roadblock to his confirmation. [CNN / Manu Raju, Dan Merica, and Julia Horowitz]
  • It's amazing he made it this long. For weeks, Puzder has been dogged by two particularly high-profile scandals — a revelation that he'd hired an undocumented immigrant and failed to pay employer taxes, and an ugly divorce in which his ex-wife accused him of repeatedly assaulting her. (She retracted the allegations this fall, blaming a lawyer with a "vendetta" against Puzder.) [Vox / Jeff Stein]
  • On Wednesday, the divorce story took an even uglier turn after a video surfaced showing Puzder's ex-wife appearing on an Oprah program in the 1990s about domestic abuse. In the tape, Puzder's ex-wife claims he "vowed revenge" against her. [Politico / Marianne Levine]
  • What's harder to tell is what exactly doomed Puzder in the end. Unions were quick to claim that their mobilization against Puzder's horrid business record was the decisive factor. (Puzder's company, CKE Holdings, has an extensive history of workplace sexual discrimination, violating labor laws, and failing to pay overtime.) [The Washington Post / David Weigel]
  • Whatever the reason, America will not be getting the marketing mind in the executive branch behind the infamous Carl's Jr. ads showing barely clad supermodels gorging on cheeseburgers. [Bloomberg Businessweek / Susan Berfield and Craig Giammona]

Miscellaneous


Verbatim

  • "Leslie Ray 'Popeye' Charping was born in Galveston on November 20, 1942 and passed away January 30, 2017, which was 29 years longer than expected and much longer than he deserved." [Charping's daughter, via CNN / AJ Willingham]
  • "It's like watching a caterpillar become a butterfly become the bolt gun used by Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men." [GQ / Zach Baron]
  • "Victoria Coates, an art historian specializing in Italian Renaissance studies, is now the National Security Council’s Senior Director for Strategic Assessments." [Hyperallergic / Claire Voon]
  • "It occurs to me that almost all of the best shit about Valentine's Day is stuff you can truly just buy for yourself. Sure, you might say, 'Blah, blah, heartfelt gestures from loved ones,' or whatever, but do you know what's better than love? Stuff! Stuff never dies, and stuff never breaks your heart." [Cosmopolitan / Hannah Smothers]
  • "As luck would have it, we met on a blind date two years later. She said she really had no recollection of seeing me on that train. I was crushed, of course. We’ve been married for 63 years." [Alan Goldfarb to NYT / Alexandra Levine]

Watch this: How one woman used fashion to reclaim her Muslim American identity

From skater girl to Muslim hipster, this is Layla Shaikley’s American story. [YouTube / Joshua Seftel]