J Street's News Roundup 5/27/14

May 27th, 2014

J Street works to promote an open, honest and rigorous conversation about Israel. The opinions reflected in articles posted in the News Roundup do not necessarily reflect J Street's positions, and their posting does not constitute an endorsement from J Street.

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Top News and Analysis

Pope Francis balances time with Israelis and Palestinians during visit to Holy Land, Washington Post

Proving himself to be a shrewd diplomat, Pope Francis on Monday reached out to Jewish Israelis by kissing the hands of elderly Holocaust survivors at a memorial, praying at the Western Wall — and later placing a wreath at the grave of the founder of Zionism. During the same trip, the pontiff prayed in Bethlehem at a section of the high cement wall that recently had been spray-painted with graffiti reading “Free Palestine” and comparing Bethlehem, surrounded by barriers on three sides in the West Bank, to the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw during the reign of the Nazis. On Sunday, he secured a promise from President Peres and President Abbas to meet with him at the Vatican next month to pray together and talk peace.

Palestinian unity government expected this week, Associated Press

A Fatah negotiator said that he expects a Palestinian unity government to be announced later this week.

Next round of Iran nuclear talks set for June 16-20 in Vienna, Reuters

The European Union said that the next round of talks between six world powers and Iran over Tehran's nuclear program will be held in Vienna from June 16 to 20. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton held "very long and useful discussions" with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Turkey on Monday and Tuesday on ways of advancing the nuclear talks.

Iran cuts nuclear stockpile, engages with bomb probe, Reuters

The International Atomic Energy Agency said that Iran has cut its most sensitive nuclear stockpile by around 80 percent under an interim pact with world powers and has begun engaging with a long-stalled IAEA investigation into suspected weapons research.


PM warns Livni against further contact with Abbas, Times of Israel

Prime Minister Netanyahu issued a warning to Justice Minister Tzipi Livni that any future measures she takes to advance peace talks independently and without government consent would be subject to penalization, but did not specify what the punishment might be.

PA: Israel announced settlement plans in response to Pope's visit to security barrier, Jerusalem Post

The Palestinian Authority accused Israel of responding to Pope Francis’ stop at the security barrier in Bethlehem by announcing plans to build 50 housing units in Har Homa.

Land of Israel Caucus submits bills to annex West Bank settlement blocs, Jerusalem Post

Likud and HaBayit HaYehudi MKs submitted ten bills calling to annex different settlement blocs, making up most of Area C of the West Bank.

State to hinder removal of settlers from private land, Haaretz

Despite the Netanyahu government’s public reluctance to adopt the controversial 2012 Levy Committee Report, which recommended ways to ease the settlement of Jews in the West Bank, some of these recommendations are reportedly being put into practice.

US: We oppose unilateral steps, want peace talks to resume, Times of Israel

State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said, “We don’t think either side should do anything to complicate efforts right now to build the trust necessary to resume negotiations… No one should take any steps that undermine trust, including unilateral.”

Israel’s presidential frontrunner doesn’t back Palestinian state, but says it’s not his call, Times of Israel

Presidential frontrunner MK Reuven Rivlin said he did not believe in a two-state solution, but if elected president, he would not seek to intervene in the decisions of Israel’s elected politicians on peacemaking or anything else.

Lawmaker revives bill to make Israel a Jewish nation-state, Haaretz

Likud MK Zeev Elkin renewed his proposal for a Basic Law that would define Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, drop Arabic as one of the country’s official languages, and allocate resources to “ingather the exiles of Israel and [further] Jewish settlement within it.”

Israel's top general in West Bank warns: Power blackouts will lead to violence, Haaretz

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Major General Yoav Mordechai, warned that the question of supplying electricity to the Palestinians is not just a commercial issue, but a strategic and diplomatic one for Israel.

Saudi royal turns down ex-IDF intel chief’s invite to the Knesset, Times of Israel

In a moderated panel between Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal and retired Major General Amos Yadlin, the prince said that he would have liked to visit Jerusalem, but he will not address the Knesset without Israeli acceptance of the Arab Peace Initiative.

Bodies of Brussels attack victims returned to Israel, Haaretz

The bodies of Emanuel and Mira Riva, the Israeli couple murdered at the Jewish Museum in Brussels over the weekend, will be laid to rest Tuesday afternoon in Tel Aviv's Kiryat Shaul cemetery.

Opinion and Analysis

Ehud Olmert Exits Stage Right, But His Very Bad Idea Remains, American Prospect

Gershom Gorenberg writes, “Prominent politicians are proposing that Israel redraw its border, keeping some or all settlements and imposing a new map by fiat—an old Olmert idea. Call it hubris.”

Bibi Blames Brussels Terror on Rage at Israel, Forward

JJ Goldberg notes that “for years Israeli leaders and their Diaspora allies have been telling us that attacks on Diaspora Jews have nothing to do with Israel — that they’re just the latest eruption of old-fashioned anti-Semitism, no different from what we’ve known for millennia except for improved technology. We’ve also been told that Jews in the Diaspora shouldn’t try to influence Israel’s defense and foreign policy decisions, since it’s only Israelis who bear the consequences of those decisions. It appears that neither of those is true.”

Tzipi Livni in Ehud Barak’s footsteps, Al-Monitor

“Soon,” says Akiva Eldar, “Livni will be forced to choose between negotiations with a Palestinian unity government for promoting the two-state solution, or diplomatic stagnation that will lead, in her own words, to the catastrophe of a binational state or apartheid.”

Uncovering Iran's Nuclear Past: Where to Start? Where to Stop?, National Interest

According to Jon Wolfsthal, “Preventing a nuclear Iran may not require uncovering every last piece of Iran’s nuclear past, or publicly admitting all its previous actions. In the end, it would be wise to focus on the achievable goal of constraining Iran’s nuclear production and target those few elements of its past nuclear work that really matter.”

White House should seek congressional endorsement for any Iran deal, Washington Post

Eric Edelman, Dennis Ross and Ray Takeyh argue that “as the negotiations between Iran and the United States enter critical stages, Washington needs to develop a bipartisan consensus about parameters of an acceptable agreement.”

A Perfect Storm of Stalemate, Partners for Progressive Israel

Paul Scham examines the current state of the peace process.