News Roundup for April 5, 2017

April 5, 2017

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J Street in the News

Trump’s surprisingly functional Israel policy, Politico

“Trump’s lead adviser on Israel, Jason Greenblatt, a former lawyer for the Trump Organization with no foreign policy experience, impressed Israelis and Palestinians alike with the seriousness of his listening tour across the region, where he visited Palestinian residents of the Jalazun refugee camp, near Ramallah, as well as Palestinian students and business leaders. The visit, which he documented extensively on Twitter, was welcomed by the left. ‘He took all of the meetings we would have wanted him to take,’ said Jessica Rosenblum, a spokeswoman for the liberal American Jewish lobbying group J Street.”

Top News and Analysis

Jordan king to discuss Mideast peace process with Trump, USA Today

“Jordan’s King Abdullah II will be able to deliver an Arab consensus on Mideast peace when he meets with President Donald Trump at the White House on Wednesday, after a recent summit hosted by the monarch renewed an Arab offer of recognition of Israel in exchange for Palestinian statehood….[T]he king will couple the enticing prospect of regional peace with a warning. Jordan argues that the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains at the root of regional turmoil and that, if allowed to fester, it will undercut the Trump administration’s Mideast goals of containing Iran and defeating Islamic State extremists.

Can Netanyahu outmaneuver Trump?, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit observes, “The bottom line is that Netanyahu clearly knows how challenging the coming year will be. It might be even more difficult than the bad old days he spent dueling with President Barack Obama. He knows that Trump is determined to deliver the “ultimate deal.” While Netanyahu officially expressed his support for a two-state solution in his famous 2009 Bar Ilan speech, he has no real faith in the process or any desire to carry out significant concessions to achieve that goal. Netanyahu would be willing to gamble all his pension money on zero chances for achieving an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Therefore, Netanyahu’s game is to orchestrate the events of the coming year in such a way that the blowing up of diplomatic contacts between Israel and the Palestinians, and the sooner-or-later diplomatic dead end, will be the obvious fault of the Palestinians, not Israel. That is the whole story in a nutshell. Netanyahu knows he has no other option, assuming he will still be in power when it happens.”

News

In rare criticism, deputy AG says Israel living in ‘post-law era’, Times of Israel

In a public and highly unusual statement, a deputy attorney general this week came out strongly against recent Knesset legislation and the compromise on the new public broadcaster, describing them as emblematic of a “post-law era” in which government lawyers are strong-armed by politicians into approving legally problematic maneuvers. Warning that the legal system was imperiled, the deputy attorney general specifically singled out for criticism the NGO law, which increases transparency requirements for organizations that receive the majority of their funding from foreign governments; and the outpost law that legalizes some 4,000 housing units in the West Bank built on privately owned Palestinian land.

Sharp Downturn in Jewish Immigration From U.S. to Israel, Haaretz

Fears of rising anti-Semitism have not sparked an uptick in immigration from the United States to Israel, as some Israeli leaders had secretly hoped. In fact, quite the opposite.

Figures obtained by Haaretz show that in the first three months of 2017, aliyah from the United States dropped by 25 percent compared with the same period in the previous year. All told, according to these Ministry of Immigrant Absorption figures, only 309 immigrants from the United States arrived in Israel in January-March.

Most Israelis Expect ‘Painful Reaction’ From Trump if Israel Crosses U.S. on Settlements, Poll Says, Haaretz

A majority of Israeli said they believed that if Israel continued to expand its West Bank settlements without the consent of the Trump  administration, it would likely prompt a “painful reaction” from the United States, a new survey published on Tuesday said, citing the response of 52 percent of Jewish and Arab Israeli respondents.

Holocaust horrors compel Israel to aid gassed Syrians, says Rivlin, Times of Israel

Recalling the Holocaust, President Reuven Rivlin said on Tuesday evening that Israel cannot remain indifferent to the gassing of Syrian civilians, and offered to help survivors of the civil war there.

Israel Slams EU: 32 Humanitarian Crises in the World and Europe’s Obsessed With Palestinians, Haaretz

The Foreign Ministry lambasted the European Union on Tuesday for protesting a planned demolition of Palestinian buildings in the West Bank, saying Europe spends more time and energy on such demolitions than on genuine humanitarian crises worldwide. The ministry summoned the EU’s deputy ambassador to Israel, Mark Gallagher, to demand an official explanation for its letter of protest. As first reported by Haaretz on Tuesday, EU Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen delivered the letter to Foreign Ministry Director General Yuval Rotem last week.

Official of US Orthodox groups to advise Trump’s Israel envoy, JTA

Aryeh Lightstone, a longtime official in U.S. Orthodox Jewish organizations, will advise David Friedman, the just installed U.S. ambassador to Israel. The Jerusalem Post reported Tuesday that the State Department confirmed that Lightstone, currently the regional director of the National Council of Synagogue Youth, an Orthodox Union affiliate, would have an advisory role at the embassy. It did not say in what capacity. Lightstone also is a co-founder of Mekorot, an online Jewish education portal, and has served in rabbinic roles on Long Island. According to his biography on the Orthodox Union website, he has ties to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to Ivanka Trump, President Donald Trump’s Jewish daughter who is advising her father in an unpaid position.

Opinions and Analysis

Controversial Trump Aide Sebastian Gorka Backed Violent Anti-Semitic Militia, Forward

“As a Hungarian political leader in 2007, Sebastian Gorka, President Trump’s chief counter-terrorism adviser, publicly supported a violent racist and anti-Semitic paramilitary militia that was later banned as a threat to minorities by multiple court rulings. In a video obtained by the Forward of an August 2007 television appearance by Gorka, the future White House senior aide explicitly affirms his party’s and his support for the black-vested Hungarian Guard (Magyar Gárda) — a group later condemned by the European Court of Human Rights for attempting to promote an “essentially racist” legal order. Asked directly on the TV interview program if he supports the move by Jobbik, a far-right anti-Semitic party, to establish the militia, Gorka, appearing as a leader of his own newly formed party, replies immediately, ‘That is so.’ The Guard, Gorka explains, is a response to ‘a big societal need.’

I’ve Been Reading About the Occupation for Years. Seeing It for Myself Was a Punch in the Gut, Haaretz

Debra Nussbaum Cohen writes, “I had read about Israeli Jews moving into Palestinian neighborhoods like Silwan, just outside the walls of the Old City. Reading the material is intellectually unsettling, but my short visit left me feeling like I’d been punched in the gut….Why does Israel heap humiliation on ordinary Palestinians? Is there an official policy encouraging dehumanizing psychological punishment, or is it neglect so profound that it amounts to the same thing?”

With prison strike, Barghouti hopes to prove Palestinian street is still his, Times of Israel

Avi Issacharoff writes, “Jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti wants all of the 2,890 Fatah party security prisoners in Israeli jails, as well as those from other movements, to go on an indefinite hunger strike on April 17, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day. On the surface the move by Barghouti — who is serving five life sentences for masterminding a series of deadly attacks at the start of the Second Intifada — is aimed at Israel. But the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah would do well to notice as well, as the Barghouti is likely attempting to flex his political muscles, despite an attempt by Ramallah to isolate him….it is difficult to predict how the PA will react to this hunger strike. This is not another provocation by Hamas, which is intent on thwarting Abbas and his colleagues. Nor is this one man trying to secure a get out of jail free card. This is a hunger strike of thousands of prisoners who are members of Fatah, some even former officers in Abbas’s security forces.”

Trump Mends Split With Egypt’s Sissi, With Eye to Israeli-Palestinian Peace, Haaretz

Zvi Bar’el argues, “Sissi’s visit, which completes Trump’s recent round of consultations, could produce a better American plan that will not make do with just goodwill and confidence-building gestures toward the Palestinians or curbing construction in the settlements. After Trump abandoned Syria, left the war in Yemen in the hands of the Saudis and has gone missing from the volatile Libyan arena, the Israel-Palestinian conflict could end up be Trump’s main target.”

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