News Roundup for August 8, 2017

August 8, 2017

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J Street in the News

Playbook, Politico

“Aaron Davis has started as national political director at J Street. He most recently was director of FEMA’s congressional affairs division.”

Top News and Analysis

Abbas, Jordan King Seek Trump Commitment to Two-state Solution, Palestinians Say, Haaretz

Washington must establish a clear position regarding the establishment of a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, Palestinians said after President Abbas and King Abdullah II concluded a meeting as part of the Jordanian monarch’s visit to Ramallah on Monday. The statement, made by Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat, came after the two leaders met in an effort to improve joint cooperation following the Temple Mount crisis that has rocked Jerusalem and provoked unrest throughout the West Bank in recent weeks. According to Erekat, alongside full coordination on the two leaders’ positions, they also agreed that Washington must clearly decide the goal for the diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinians is the foundation of a Palestinian state on the basis of the two-state solution. He also said that Washington must agree that negotiations require a complete freeze in settlement construction, including in East Jerusalem.

Trapped between Israel and Hamas, Gaza’s wasted generation is going nowhere, Washington Post

William Booth and Hazem Balousha report, “They are the Hamas generation, raised under the firm hand of an Islamist militant movement. They are the survivors of three wars with Israel and a siege who find themselves as young adults going absolutely nowhere. In many circles in Gaza, it is hard to find anyone in their 20s with real employment, with a monthly salary.

They call themselves a wasted generation. Ten years after Hamas seized control of Gaza, the economy in the seaside strip of 2 million has been strangled by incompetence, war and blockade. Gaza today lives off its wits and the recycled scraps donated by foreign governments. Seven in 10 people rely on humanitarian aid. Young people say they are bored out of their minds….Gaza’s young people describe their lives as a kind of sick experiment. The literacy rate in Gaza is 96.8 percent, higher than in the West Bank. The ‘Palestinian engineer’ was once the gold standard in the Middle East. In the past, immigration was the door to life. That door has slammed shut. Few get out of Gaza these days. Yet the universities of Gaza are still pumping out graduates by the thousands, even though the least likely person to find work in Gaza today is a college graduate, especially a woman.”

Trump is trying to politicize intelligence to support his Iran policy. That’s dangerous, Washington Post

Former CIA deputy director David Cohen writes, “[T]he president’s reported demand for intelligence to support his policy preference to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal risks politicizing intelligence analysis, with potentially grave consequences not only for national security decision-making but also for our ability to address a wide range of international threats…..When a president directs his staff to generate intelligence to support a preferred policy outcome, overriding the dispassionate analytic judgments of intelligence professionals, that is the very definition of the politicization of intelligence. If Trump withdraws from the Iran nuclear deal based on intelligence viewed as politicized, there would be little hope that our European allies, not to mention the Russians and Chinese, would cooperate in reimposing sanctions, much less join us in military action. And the harm would not stop there. Our diplomats and other officials rely on the strength and authority of our intelligence analysis every day in forming policy, in bilateral negotiations and in bringing together coalitions around the world.”

News

Israeli Military Prosecutor Opposes Hebron Shooter’s Request to Delay Prison Sentence, Haaretz

The Israeli army’s prosecutor filed an objection on Monday to the request of a former soldier who shot dead an incapacitated Palestinian assailant in Hebron to delay the beginning his prison sentence until after the army chief rules on his request for clemency. Elor Azaria was convicted of manslaugher and is set to begin his 18-month prison term on Wednesday after his appeal was rejected last week. He has asked Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot to perform community service instead Thursday.

Is Netanyahu the De Facto Editor of Adelson’s Newspaper? Court Rules PM Must Divulge Phone Records With Adelson, Haaretz

Israel’s top court ruled Monday that Prime Minister Netanyahu must divulge information on his meeting with Sheldon Adelson and the editors of the Israel Hayom (Israel Today) daily, published by Adelson and considered supportive of Netanyahu. The Supreme Court accepted the appeal submitted by investigative reporter Raviv Drucker, deciding that Netanyahu must release call logs detailing the times of his discussions with top Israel Hayom representatives, including Adelson and the former editor-in-chief Amos Regev. This decision overturned last year’s district court ruling regarding Druker’s freedom of information request.

Jordanian king tells Abbas Trump committed to peace process, Times of Israel

Jordan’s King Abdullah II told Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas that US President Donald Trump is “committed” to the peace process and called for “intensifying” efforts for new talks, during a rare trip to Ramallah Monday seemingly meant to send a message to Israel. During his two-hour meeting with Abbas, the Jordanian king highlighted “the commitment of Trump to work toward achieving peace between Palestinians and Israelis,” according to a summary of the meeting in the Jordanian government’s official news outlet Petra.

Prime Minister’s Office: Israel’s Security Ties With Egypt More Important Than Cairo Embassy, Haaretz

Prime Minister Netanyahu cares more about maintaining good security ties with Egypt than with restaffing Israel’s embassy in Cairo, which has been empty since the end of 2016, National Security Council officials told a special session of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee last month. The NSC is under the auspices of the Prime Minister’s Office. Ambassador David Govrin and his team left Cairo eight months ago. The embassy staff was recalled in December on security grounds, presumably based on warnings of an attack. The failure to return is partly due to Egyptian foot-dragging on adequate security measures for the Israelis.

Al Jazeera threatens legal action over Israel’s plans to close its Jerusalem bureau, JTA

Al Jazeera threatened to take legal action to remain in its Jerusalem bureau following Israel’s decision to close it down. The Qatar-based news network, which is based in the same building as Israel’s Government Press Office, criticized the shutdown as “undemocratic” in a statement Monday.

Israel to allow Palestinian Jerusalemites to enter Gaza in effort to ‘encourage investment’, Ma’an

Israeli authorities announced on Monday that they would begin allowing certain Palestinian residents of occupied East Jerusalem to visit the Gaza Strip. A spokesperson of COGAT, the Israeli agency responsible for implementing Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, said in a statement Monday that as of August 7, 2017, residents of East Jerusalem would be able to visit the Gaza Strip with special Israeli permission.

Opinions and Analysis

Diplomats Question Tactics of Tillerson, the Executive Turned Secretary of State, The New York Times

Gardiner Harris writes, “[S]keptics of Mr. Tillerson’s foreign policy credentials thought the State Department, an agency of 75,000 employees, could use some of the management skills he had picked up as the head of a major corporation. Mr. Tillerson was supposed to know that leaders of large organizations should quickly pick a trusted team, focus on big issues, delegate small ones and ask for help from staff members when needed. He has done none of those things, his critics contend. Instead, he has failed to nominate anyone to most of the department’s 38 highest-ranking jobs, leaving many critical departments without direction, while working with a few personal aides reviewing many of the ways the department has operated for decades rather than developing a coherent foreign policy….his reorganization effort has contributed to the paralysis. He has not wanted to appoint under secretaries and assistant secretaries until he understands the new structure. But the career officials sitting in those posts have little authority, and they fear making a career-ending move. His hiring freeze has meant few young people — those with a better sense of how to reach the younger populations around the world — are entering the department. Senior diplomats have left in droves, depleting the building of historical memory.”

Is the Left ready for the day after Netanyahu?, +972

Orly Noy writes, “During Israel’s last elections, two and a half years ago, the only thing the left-wing alternative to the prime minister could offer Israelis was that it the slogan “anyone but Netanyahu.” This wasn’t enough then, and it is not enough now. With a lack of a real, coherent alternative, the public will prefer to support the person it knows — even if he is a terrible choice. The Israeli Left cannot make this mistake again. This time, it must refrain from trying to be more patriotic or holy than its friends on the right….This time, it must say aloud what every Israeli living around Gaza or in Jerusalem knows all too well, but that which no politician has the decency to say in public: as long as our neighbors live a life of suffering, humiliation, and violence, we will never know true security or peace. This time it cannot try to convince the public that there is some kind of trick that will guarantee security. There is no trick.”

As Prime Minister, Netanyahu Cannot Hide Behind a ‘Presumption of Innocence’, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev writes, “Citizen Netanyahu certainly enjoys a presumption of innocence. He is considered innocent until proven guilty and his guilt has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Prime Minister Netanyahu, on the other hand, has no presumption of innocence. His guilt does not have to be established in a court of law, certainly not beyond a reasonable doubt. In order to convict him before the benches of democracy – the Knesset, the coalition, public opinion and history – it is enough to harbor reasonable suspicions or to rely on circumstantial evidence or to simply feel disgust and revulsion in your gut. That is sufficient to decide his fate and to deem him unworthy of holding his office….The presumption of innocence claim is the last gambit of a political leader who has been caught red handed and has no plausible excuse for his behavior. It is a miserable yet successful ploy to use legal clichés to camouflage improper behavior. If Netanyahu wants to keep on asserting his right to remain silent and if his backers wish to claim that he should enjoy a presumption of innocence then by all means, let Netanyahu give up his hold on power and return to being a private citizen, one who enjoys the full protections of the law.”

How Abbas’ spite for Dahlan could reconcile Fatah, Hamas, Al-Monitor

Shlomi Eldar reports, “Hamas and Fatah are closer than ever to a compromise that will lead to reconciliation after more than a decade of fighting, Al-Monitor has learned from senior officials in the Palestinian Authority….On Aug. 1, a group of Hamas officials paid a visit to the office of President Mahmoud Abbas at the PA headquarters in Ramallah….Why would Abbas’ office allow such a meeting to take place as the crisis between Fatah and Hamas reached a climax? One source close to Dahlan who agreed to speak to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity said it was Abbas’ reaction to learning that Dahlan was advancing a similar reconciliation initiative without involving him. As part of Dahlan’s initiative, the two parties even exchanged documents containing an outline for national reconciliation between people torn between their leaders. While it is not at all clear whether Dahlan’s efforts will pay off, Abbas’ fear of his political rival is stronger than all the other pressures on him over the past few years. That is why he was prepared to make such a dramatic move in favor of Hamas.”

7 Lessons from 36 Interviews with Israeli & Palestinian Peace Activists, Jewschool

Grace Gleason describes “seven reflections from the 36 interviews that I found of interest as a young adult American Jewish activist, and which I think are relevant to American Jews currently working on this issue.”

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