News Roundup for March 14, 2018

March 14, 2018

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J Street in the News

Senators Must Reject Nomination of Extreme Hawk Pompeo to Lead State Department, J Street

“J Street is deeply troubled by the President’s abrupt move to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo. We oppose Pompeo’s nomination and urge Senators to vote against his confirmation. Pompeo is deeply ill-suited to manage US foreign policy and, in particular, the future of the JCPOA nuclear agreement with Iran. Even in an administration known for its fundamental hostility to diplomacy, Pompeo stands out as a hawkish ideologue and an extreme advocate for the use of military force.”

Israel is becoming a partisan issue in the U.S, and that’s not necessarily bad, +972

Daniela Tolchinsky argues, “Just as I have witnessed countless American progressives dismayed at Israel’s occupation policies, I have seen just as many support the prospect of a staunchly progressive, pragmatic anti-occupation leadership in Israel, which responsibly pursues a two-state solution, defends democracy, and rejects the ideology of the settler movement. That kind of leadership is possible. If it were to come about, it could transform Israel’s future and its relationship with American progressives for the better.”

Top News and Analysis

Trump Fires Rex Tillerson and Will Replace Him With C.I.A. Chief Pompeo, The New York Times

Peter Baker, Mark Landler and Gardner Harris report, “President Trump on Tuesday ousted his secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson, extending a shake-up of his administration, 14 months into his tumultuous presidency, and potentially transforming the nation’s economic and foreign policy. Mr. Trump announced he would replace Mr. Tillerson with Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director and former Tea Party congressman, who forged a close relationship with the president and is viewed as being more in sync with Mr. Trump’s America First credo.”

Israeli Snap Elections Averted: Netanyahu Says ‘I Kept My Promise,’ Haaretz

Chaim Levinson reports, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party announced Tuesday that the coalition parties reached an agreement to prevent snap elections. Netanyahu addressed the Knesset shortly after the announcement, saying that he fulfilled his promise to avoid dissolving the current government. He also thanked his coalition partners for ‘showing responsibility’ in reaching the agreement. A preliminary version of the conscription law exempting draft exemptions for ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students from the draft was passed in the Knesset by a vote of 59 to 38.”

PA race tighter-than-tight; Dem claims win, GOP hangs in, AP

Bill Barrow, Marc Levy and Steve Peoples report, “A razor’s edge separated Democrat Conor Lamb and Republican Rick Saccone early Wednesday in their closely watched special election in Pennsylvania, where a surprisingly strong bid by first-time candidate Lamb severely tested Donald Trump’s sway in a GOP stronghold. Lamb claimed victory before exuberant supporters early Wednesday as the number of votes still to be counted dwindled in a contest that has drawn national attention as a bellwether for the midterm elections in November when the Republican Party’s House and Senate majorities are at risk.”

U.S. general signals support for Iran nuclear deal, Reuters

Idrees Ali reports, “ A top U.S. general on Tuesday signaled support for the Iran nuclear deal, saying the agreement, which President Donald Trump has threatened to withdraw from, has played an important role in addressing Iran’s nuclear program. ‘The JCPOA addresses one of the principle threats that we deal with from Iran, so if the JCPOA goes away, then we will have to have another way to deal with their nuclear weapons program,’ said U.S. Army General Joseph Votel. JCPOA, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is the formal name of the accord reached with Iran in July 2015 in Vienna.”


White House Kicks Off Conference on Gaza, Palestinian Authority Refuses to Participate, Haaretz

Representatives from 19 countries, including Israel, gathered on Tuesday in the White House for a conference on the situation in Gaza. The event began just hours after a failed assassination attempt on Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, who arrived to Gaza to open a water treatment facility.

Solving Gaza ‘essential’ for peace, US envoy says at White House confab, Times of Israel

Alleviating the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza is a key requisite for reaching an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s special envoy to the peace process, said Tuesday, hours after Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah survived an apparent assassination attempt during a rare visit to the coastal enclave.

Seemingly Unscathed, Netanyahu’s Party Emerges as Front-runner in Early Israeli Election Polls, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party would emerge as the largest party in Israel in the next Knesset if elections were held now, two polls published on Monday said.

Abbas condemns ‘murderous terror attack’ on PA convoy, Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday strongly condemned the explosion that targeted the convoy of Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in the northern Gaza Strip, calling it a “murderous terror attack.”

Poll: American Support for Israel at Highest Rates Since Early 1990s as Partisan Gap Widens, Haaretz

A Gallup poll released on Tuesday found support for Israel among the American public remains high, but gaps between Republicans and Democrats on the subject have widened. The results correlate with trends recently indicated in other polls measuring public attitudes in the United States towards Israel.

PM only agreed to end coalition crisis under threat of party mutiny — sources, Times of Israel

Coalition sources said Tuesday evening that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been ready to collapse his government and call early elections, but backed down when his own party told him they wouldn’t support the move.

Opinions and Analysis

With Mike Pompeo at the State Department, Are the Über-Hawks Winning? The New Yorker

Robin Wright writes, “The President initially surrounded himself with establishment figures—at the State Department, the Pentagon, and the National Security Council—who often tried to talk Trump back from his most dramatic decisions, a senior official from the Bush Administration told me. Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis urged Trump against the decision to formally recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and move the U.S. Embassy there, for example. ‘The President went with his gut, and he was right,’ the former official said. ‘And then there wasn’t rioting from Casablanca to Baghdad, so the President may have decided he was right—and wasn’t getting good advice.’”

Tillerson’s Sacking Will Shock America and the World – but Delight Israel, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev writes, “Israel and its right wing American supporters will rejoice in the unceremonious sacking of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his replacement with CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Tillerson was seen as reserved and distant about Israel, while Pompeo is viewed as a warm supporter. Tillerson sought to preserve the Iran nuclear deal, while Pompeo is aligned with the demand of Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu to fix it, or, in greater likelihood, abandon it altogether.”

How to Save the Iran Nuclear Deal, Foreign Affairs

Ilan Goldenberg and Elizabeth Rosenberg argue, “[T]the biggest impediment to reaching a new agreement will be Trump himself. He has a tendency to renege on deals and gloss over the details necessary for complex international arrangements to succeed. Thus, deal supporters in Congress and in Europe should remain clear-eyed when negotiating with the Trump administration. They must seek to extract concessions that bring stability to the JCPOA, but if they cannot, they should stand back, leaving Trump with the burden of having to shoulder the blame if he throws away the accord. Given the importance of the Iran nuclear agreement, however, whether it’s strengthening the global nonproliferation regime and bringing stability in the Middle East, Europe and JCPOA supporters in Washington must at least explore whether a deal with Trump is possible.”

Netanyahu’s Hesitation at the Brink Shows He’s Vulnerable, Haaretz

Anshel Pfeffer argues, “Netanyahu believed a fifth election victory and renewed mandate would make it easier for him to claim he would not have to resign, even if indicted, as he is the people’s choice and can remain in office even while being charged on multiple counts of corruption. But on a deeper level, Netanyahu desires to fundamentally shift the balance of power in Israel and establish the ultimate supremacy of the elected leader – above the police, the state prosecutor’s office and the courts of law. That is what these elections were supposed to be about. A final showdown: Netanyahu and the people against the left-wing elites.”