News Roundup for June 19, 2017

June 19, 2017

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J Street in the News

J Street Condemns Terror Attack In Jerusalem, J Street

“J Street strongly condemns today’s terror attack carried out by three Palestinian attackers at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate. That attack left one Israeli Border Policewoman dead and multiple others wounded, including another police officer and two Palestinian bystanders. There can be no justification for heinous acts of violence like this. We are grateful for the efforts of the police, who stopped the attackers and saved lives. Our thoughts are with the victims, their families and all of the people of Jerusalem who want and deserve to live their lives free from violence and fear.”

Top News and Analysis

Jared Kushner to Travel to Middle East in Effort to Advance U.S. Peace Efforts, Wall Street Journal

“President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser, Jared Kushner, plans to travel to the Middle East this week to try to advance U.S. efforts to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, a White House official said Sunday. The trip marks the White House’s first major follow up to Mr. Trump’s trip to the region last month and suggests Mr. Kushner’s policy portfolio is far from shrinking despite scrutiny by federal investigators into his meetings with Russian officials. Mr. Kushner plans to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and travel to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to discuss ‘their priorities and potential next steps’ in the peace process, the White House official said. He is scheduled to arrive in Israel on Wednesday. Jason Greenblatt, Mr. Trump’s top representative on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, plans to arrive in the region two days earlier. The White House official stressed that no major breakthroughs are expected during the trip and said there is no expectation for three-party talks at this time.”

Trump Envoy Meets Congressmen, Jewish Groups to Shore Up Support for ‘Ultimate’ Peace Deal, Haaretz

“Ahead of another visit to the region by President Donald Trump’s special envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Jason Greenblatt, the White House is making efforts to recruit support on Capitol Hill and in the American Jewish community for its peace initiative. Greenblatt met last week with members of Congress and delegations of Jewish groups affiliated with the right wing, to explain Trump’s desire to reach “the ultimate deal” between Israel and the Palestinians. On Thursday, Greenblatt met with a group of six members of Congress – three Democrats and three Republicans – to discuss Trump’s policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and see if there are ways to create bi-partisan support for renewing the peace process….The three Democrats who participated in the meeting with Greenblatt were Peter Welch (Vermont), John Yarmuth (Kentucky) and David Price (North Carolina) — all considered strong supporters of a two-state solution. (Price initiated the bi-partisan letter to Trump in March calling on him to express public support for this long-standing U.S. policy.) Welch told Haaretz that he and his colleagues followed Trump’s recent visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and were satisfied by his declarations of support for the peace process and America’s role in reaching an agreement.”

Israeli police officer stabbed to death in Jerusalem attack, The Guardian

“An Israeli police officer was stabbed to death in what initial reports suggest was a coordinated attack by three Palestinians at two locations just outside Jerusalem’s Old City. At one scene, two Palestinians were shot dead after opening fire at and trying to stab a group of Israeli police officers on Friday night, police said. At the other, a Palestinian fatally stabbed a border policewoman before being shot dead by police. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the stabbing but the militant Palestinian organization Hamas and the People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) said the three attackers were their own members. The policewoman was identified as Hadas Malka, 23, a staff sergeant major.”

Israeli Minister Says Settlement Building Coordinated With Trump Team, Newsweek

“Israel is coordinating the largest building of settlement homes in the West Bank since 1992 with the Trump administration, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told an audience Thursday night….Asked if Israel is no longer ‘holding back’ on settlement construction because it is working closely with the Trump administration, Lieberman replied, ‘Of course.’ He went on, ‘It’s obvious that the United States [is] our main strategic partner, and with partners we keep transparency. Everything is open. We keep open lines, we keep dialogue, we keep sincerity, we have understandings.’ He said that Washington and the Israeli government do not ‘discuss about every 10 units, but the visions, the policies, the approach, we explained. It’s clear…they respect our approach and our vision regarding Jewish settlements, regarding Judea and Samaria,’ he added, referring to the biblical names that nationalist Jews use for the West Bank.”

News

Amid Warming Ties With Egypt, Hamas Downplays Likelihood of War With Israel, Haaretz

Hamas played down on Sunday the possibility that the energy crisis in the Gaza Strip would lead to renewed hostilities with Israel and said relations between the Islamist group and Egypt were improving. ‘We in Hamas do not initiate wars and we do not expect one, this is our political assessment,’ Khalil al-Hayya, Hamas’s deputy leader in the Gaza Strip, told reporters. The two adversaries have fought three wars, most recently in 2014.  ‘We do not expect war because we are not interested and the occupation also say they are not interested,’ he said, using the group’s term for Israel. Tensions over power supplies in recent weeks have led to speculation there could be a new conflict between the two sides.”

Government said to be freezing 6,000 apartments in Jewish East Jerusalem, Times of Israel

Secret documents in the Jerusalem city council show that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has frozen the construction of more than 6,000 apartments in the capital, Army Radio reported Sunday. Army Radio said that it had seen detailed documents, prepared by experts in the planning committees of the Jerusalem Municipality, showing that many projects in the past few years have been blocked by Netanyahu’s government for political reasons.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Strikes Syria for Tehran Attacks, The New York Times

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard launched missiles into eastern Syria targeting Islamic State militants Sunday in response to an attack on Iran’s parliament and a shrine in Tehran, warning that it would similarly retaliate on anyone else carrying out attacks in Iran. The launch of surface-to-surface, medium-range missiles into Syria’s Deir el-Zour province comes as Islamic State militants fleeing a U.S.-led coalition onslaught increasingly try to fortify their positions there.

Israeli Ultra-Orthodox Parties Aim To Block Egalitarian Section At Western Wall, Forward

The ultra-Orthodox parties in Israel’s governing coalition are pushing a resolution that will repeal the decision to create an egalitarian section at the Western Wall, The Jerusalem Post reported Sunday. The move by Shas and United Torah Judaism would continue to allow egalitarian prayer at the Robinson’s Arch complex, but would not approve the creation of an an access point connecting it to the Kotel or of a management authority that included liberal Jewish leaders — two key demands from critics of the status quo.

Bennett submits bill to make it ‘impossible’ to divide Jerusalem, Times of Israel

Education Minister Naftali Bennett formally proposed legislation Sunday that would require a special two-thirds Knesset majority on any decision to divide Jerusalem under a future peace deal with the Palestinians, saying that the bill would effectively make such a move “impossible.” Bennett, who leads the pro-settlement Jewish Home party, is seeking to amend the Basic Law on Jerusalem so that any future vote to divide the city would require the approval of 80 of the 120 MKs to pass, as opposed to a regular majority.

Residents of West Bank settlement Yitzhar launch pair of attacks on Israeli army vehicles, JTA

Residents of Yitzhar stoned an army ambulance near their West Bank settlement, which has a history of radical activity. They attacked the vehicle on Saturday after it was called to Yitzhar in the northern West Bank to care for another resident who reported being dehydrated. The ambulance’s windshield was cracked in the attack, according to the IDF.

Education minister backpedals on academic ethics code, Times of Israel

Education Minister Naftali Bennett said Monday that a proposed ethics code for academia that generated much opposition among educators is just a basis for dialogue with the goal of reaching a consensual document.

Opinions and Analysis

Israel Gives Secret Aid to Syrian Rebels, Wall Street Journal

Rory Jones reports, “Israel has been regularly supplying Syrian rebels near its border with cash as well as food, fuel and medical supplies for years, a secret engagement in the enemy country’s civil war aimed at carving out a buffer zone populated by friendly forces.”

After Settlers’ Outrage, Forgetful Netanyahu Suddenly Can’t Remember Approving Palestinian City’s Expansion, Haaretz

Amos Harel reports, “On Sunday, during a meeting of the heads of the coalition parties, he said he “didn’t remember” the security cabinet’s approval of a Palestinian plan to build 14,000 new homes in the West Bank city of Qalqilyah. This claim came in response to a campaign waged by settlers to cancel the plan. Unsurprisingly, this campaign has been joined by cabinet members in Habayit Hayehudi party, as well as by some ministers Netanyahu’s own Likud party who are not in the inner cabinet. In a manner reminiscent of the conduct of the current U.S. administration, Netanyahu’s statements on Sunday contradicted statements previously put out by his own office. Just last Wednesday, when Channel 2 television first reported the settlers’ outrage over the plan’s approval, the Prime Minister’s Office said, “This is a plan submitted by the defense minister last year and approved by the security cabinet.” But four days later, Netanyahu had changed his tune completely: Instead of a plan approved by the security cabinet (in other words, everything’s fine, go back to business as usual), it’s become a decision that the prime minister has trouble remembering was made on his orders.”

Abbas eyes Merkel as Plan B if Trump fails on Mideast peace, Al-Monitor

Uri Savir reports, “A senior Palestinian minister close to President Mahmoud Abbas told Al-Monitor that the Palestinian leadership is ready to seriously engage with the Trump administration on moving ahead with plans for a regional deal for Palestinian-Israeli peace….The minister believes there are chances for a renewal of the peace process under the auspices of Trump. Yet, given Trump’s domestic troubles and Netanyahu’s positions, he believes Ramallah must have a fallback position in the diplomatic realm. ‘Unlike many others in the international community, the Palestinian president has not given up on Donald Trump,’ he said. ‘But should Trump disappoint, like others in the international community, we have decided to opt for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in conjunction with French President Emmanuel Macron, to take the lead in preventing a deadlock in the peace process.’”

As Qatar Crisis Rages, Egypt Gets Closer to Hamas, Haaretz

Zvi Bar-el writes, “Even now, when the crisis in the Gulf is lapping at Gaza’s shore and making waves in the Palestinian world, Israel believes it can be pleased. But Israel’s cooperation with Egypt in fighting terror can’t replace Egypt’s interest in punishing Qatar, putting Abbas in his place and asserting itself as landlord of the Palestinian issue. Egypt is no less responsible than Israel for the closure on Gaza and contributes its share to the electricity crisis by not increasing the power supply to the Strip. But while Israel’s willingness to solve the electricity crisis isn’t due to humanitarianism but fear of a violent outburst in Gaza, Egypt has other considerations. Egypt seeks to neutralize Qatar and Turkey’s involvement in Gaza while distancing Hamas from Iran. This will force it to give something in return, even if it’s at Israel’s expense, like opening the Rafah crossing, which would thwart the effectiveness of the Israeli closure on Gaza.”

How to Share Jerusalem: A Video Call With Urban Planner Yehuda Greenfield-Gilat, J Street Blog

J Street hosted a discussion with “the award-winning Jerusalem-based architect Yehuda Greenfield-Gilat, whose designs for how to divide Jerusalem as part of a two-state solution were used by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority in 2008. Greenfield-Gilat and his firm SAYA have come up with a number of plans for how Jerusalem could be shared by Israel and a Palestinian state without dividing the contiguity of the city. They have developed solutions to some of the most difficult questions surrounding negotiations over the city’s future, including sovereignty over the Old City, Road 60 and Abu Tor — a mixed Jewish and Arab neighborhood.”

Gaza’s ticking sewage bomb, Al-Monitor

“Al-Monitor has learned that a team of experts recently submitted a paper to the military authorities tasked with civilian affairs in the territories, which was also brought to the attention of Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai with COGAT. The paper warns of the consequences of continued raw sewage flowing into the waters of the Mediterranean, which could result in irreparable damage to the groundwater in the Strip and also affect Israel. There is also concern that channeling waste into the riverbeds in the Strip will lead to an outbreak of infectious disease, especially among babies and children.”

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