News Roundup for March 10, 2017

March 10, 2017

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J Street in the News

GOP-run committee backs Trump’s pick for US envoy to Israel, AP

Dylan Williams, J Street’s vice president for government affairs, said in a statement after the committee’s vote that it was “by far the most contested vote on a nominee for U.S. ambassador to Israel ever.” The small margin of approval, Williams added, “is a clear signal that he is a completely inappropriate and disastrous choice for such an important position.”

Senate Panel backs Trump nominee to be ambassador to Israel, Reuters

Friedman has called Obama an anti-Semite, and dismissed the liberal pro-Israel group J Street as “kapos,” a reference to Jews who worked for the Nazis in World War Two concentration camps, sometimes acting with great cruelty toward other Jews.” J Street and the Reform Jewish Movement are among groups opposing Friedman’s nomination.

Trump’s pick for Israeli ambassador clears key Senate panel, Washington Post

“President Trump’s controversial pick to serve as U.S. ambassador to Israel earned the support of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday with all but one Democrat opposed to his nomination. David M. Friedman’s bid to serve as the next ambassador to Israel will now go to the full Senate. But the 12 to 9 split over his nomination in committee is a sign that partisan divisions will hang over Friedman’s confirmation process going forward, and possibly his expected tenure as ambassador as well….Dylan Williams, a vice president with the Jewish lobbying group J Street — which Friedman once compared to ‘kapos,’ Nazi concentration camp prisoners who worked with guards — called the no votes ‘a clear signal that [Friedman] is a completely inappropriate and disastrous choice for such an important position.’ He urged other senators to oppose Friedman’s nomination on the floor to send another ‘clear message’ — though Friedman’s nomination is expected to secure enough votes for his confirmation.”

David Friedman, Staunch Settlement Backer, Approved by Senate Panel as Envoy to Israel, Haaretz

“Following the vote, J Street, a vocal opponent of Friedman’s nomination, said that the thin margin by which Friedman was approved was a ‘clear signal that he is a completely inappropriate and disastrous choice for such an important position.’ In a statement, J Street urged senators to vote against the nomination on the floor.”

J Street Opposes Senate Approval of David Friedman, Jerusalem Post

“J Street released a statement on Thursday in response to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s approval of David Friedman, US President Donald Trump’s pick for ambassador to Israel. Dylan Williams, J Street’s vice president of government affairs, stated, ‘This is by far the most contested vote on a nominee for US ambassador to Israel ever. The fact that nine Senators voted against Friedman is a clear signal that he is a completely inappropriate and disastrous choice for such an important position.’ Williams urged the Senate to ‘consider  Friedman’s record’ and ‘his dangerous views and undiplomatic temperament.’ Williams concluded, ‘We are confident that in the full Senate vote, too, a clear message will be sent: the ideology and rhetoric of David Friedman are a threat to the US-Israel relationship, to American interests, and to Israel’s future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people.’”

Did J Street Just Win By Losing David Friedman Confirmation Vote? Forward

Nathan Guttman writes, “[W]hy does the liberal J Street lobby see the Friedman nomination fight as a big victory? The nasty fight over Friedman’s hardline views (which he tried to soften a bit) have driven Democrats more and more into the camp of the dovish group. It’s a trend that was clear during Thursday’s brief debate and vote over Friedman’s approval at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee….Maryland’s Ben Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the committee, signified the sea change that has taken hold in the Trump era. Cardin, as mainstream as they come on Israel, was among the few Democrats who opposed President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, despite tireless efforts by J Street and other pro-deal lobbying groups to win his support for the agreement. But now, with Friedman’s nomination on the table, J Street has found an opening to moderate Democrats like Cardin, taking the dovish lobby one step closer to serving as the pro-Israel home of all Democrats, not only members of the party’s progressive wing. ‘The level of opposition faced by David Friedman today in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote was unprecedented,’ said J Street’s vice president of government affairs Dylan Williams in a statement, noting that the 12:9 vote was the most contested ever on the nomination of an ambassador to Israel. ‘It shows that the committee heard loud and clear the objections and concerns of diplomatic experts, pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans and the American Jewish community.’ For J Street, this could mean finding its footing as a leading opposition voice during the Trump presidency. It could also perhaps chip away at the almost automatic support many elected Democratic officials have for the positions held by the Israeli government and by the main pro-Israel lobby AIPAC.”

After Losing First Battle, Liberal Jews Vow to Take Fight Against Trump’s Israel Pick to Senate Floor, Haaretz

“Liberal Jewish groups vowed on Thursday to press on with their fight against David Friedman being confirmed as ambassador to Israel, even after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s approval seemed to assure him of victory….’We’re going to continue to strongly oppose him in our lobbying efforts, and support the growing number of Democrats who have come out publicly in opposition to his nomination,’ said Jessica Rosenblum, vice president of communications for J Street, the liberal Zionist Washington-based organization. ‘They will carry this vigorous debate over his nomination to the Senate floor.’…’The level of opposition faced by David Friedman…was unprecedented,’ said Dylan Williams, J Street’s vice president of government affairs, in a statement. ‘This is by far the most contested vote on a nominee for U.S. ambassador to Israel ever.’ Previous ambassadors were considered consensus picks and easily passed Senate votes, said Washington insiders….’The fact that nine Senators voted against Friedman is a clear signal that he is a completely inappropriate and disastrous choice for such an important position. It shows that the committee heard, loud and clear, the objections and concerns of diplomatic experts, pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans and the American Jewish community,’ said J Street’s Williams.”

Pros and Con(frence)s: Why Attending a Conference as  Student is Totally Worth It, The Student Life

Joelle Leib writes: “I am so glad I attended the conference and had the opportunity to learn more about J Street’s advocacy work. Despite my initial hesitance, I was able to attend the conference while still managing to study for my midterm and turning in my thesis chapter on time. Attending a conference as a student is a special opportunity I hope my Claremont friends take advantage of. Not only is it far less expensive to be a student at a conference, it is also easier to socialize and network when so many other student attendees are eager to connect with students from other schools to share tips and experiences. When accounting for all of the pros and cons, attending a conference is always worth it.”

I’m a Progressive Mexican Jew. Is There a Space For Me In J Street? The Forward

Alan Grabinsky writes: “But even as a minority, they are empowered in ways than other Diaspora Jews are not. I don’t want to diminish the fact that J Street came from the fringes, and that it has grown exponentially during the past nine years to become a powerful opposition force. But I’ve always been impressed by the boldness with which American Jews talk, something I find in other Diaspora Jews who are afraid of anti-Semitic repercussions or who are just to marginalized to be considered as part of the conversation. In many cases, the American boldness also comes with total lack of awareness of the mere existence of a larger Diaspora.”

Committee Vote Shows Unprecedented Level of Opposition to David Friedman, J Street

Statement from Dylan Williams, J Street’s Vice President of Government Affairs:

“The level of opposition faced by David Friedman today in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote was unprecedented. This is by far the most contested vote on a nominee for US Ambassador to Israel ever. The fact that nine Senators voted against Friedman is a clear signal that he is a completely inappropriate and disastrous choice for such an important position. It shows that the committee heard loud and clear the objections and concerns of diplomatic experts, pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans and the American Jewish community.

Top News and Analysis

Israel Says Dissenters Are Unwelcome, The New York Times

“No doubt there are haters of Israel among B.D.S. supporters. But there are also many strong supporters of the Israeli state, including many American Jews, who ardently oppose the occupation of the West Bank and who boycott products of the Israeli settlements in occupied territories. Publicly declaring all of them to be haters of Israel is unjust and counterproductive. Counterproductive because the law projects an image of Israel as hostile to anyone who disagrees with the occupation and settlements, encouraging louder calls for boycotts every time a visitor is turned back at the airport….one of Israel’s most compelling responses has always been to urge them to come see the land for themselves. Visiting the country, witnessing the challenge of ensuring its security, traveling in Israel and the Palestinian territories and participating in open and impassioned debates may not persuade visitors to support the settlements, but it will demonstrate that Israel is not afraid of allowing people to see the problems and conflicts firsthand. The new law, by contrast, proclaims, ‘You’re with us or against us.’”

The West Bank settlement with close ties to Trump’s Israel envoy, CNN

Oren Liebermann explores David Friedman’s deep ties to the Beit El settlement deep inside the West Bank.

Trump adviser to visit Israel, discuss settlements, Times of Israel

Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, is reportedly set to visit Israel in the coming week. The goal of Greenblatt’s visit is reportedly to formulate the Trump administration’s position on settlements, including what the US will accept in terms of where and how much Israel can build. One of the main topics of discussion will be the new settlement that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to the former residents of the Amona outpost, who were evicted from their homes last month, the report said.

News

Netanyahu urges Putin to block Iranian power corridor on Israel’s border, Washington Post

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Moscow on Thursday seeking reassurance from Russian President Vladimir Putin that his country’s presence in Syria would help Israel block arch-nemesis Iran from taking advantage of the chaos to position itself permanently on Israel’s northern border. Until now, the Israeli government has stayed relatively quiet about developments in the six-year-old conflict raging in neighboring Syria, acting militarily only when it feels its security threatened. But now, as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad receives a boost from the strategic alliance between Russia and Iran, Tehran’s expanding influence across the region is causing alarm in Israel.

Trump and Abbas to speak by phone for first time Friday, Times of Israel

According to Trump’s schedule released by the White House, the US president will speak with Abbas by phone at 12:15 p.m. Washington time (7:15 p.m. in Israel). The call will come before Trump has lunch with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Palestinian Journalist Held by Israel to End Hunger Strike After Deal, Haaretz

Palestinian journalist Mohammad Al-Qiq agreed to end his month-long hunger strike starting Friday, following an agreement with Israel over his early release later this month.

Hezbollah Operative Planning Attack Against Israelis Arrested in West Bank, Shin Bet Says, Haaretz

Israel has arrested a Hezbollah operative in the West Bank for allegedly planning terror activity in Israel which included plans to kidnap Israelis, the Shin Bet said Thursday after it was cleared for publication. Yussef Yasser Soylem, 23, was arrested in the West Bank’s Qalqilyah refugee camp and was indicted in an Israeli military court, the security service said.

Israel’s Travel Ban Backlash: Over 100 Jewish Studies Scholars Threaten to Not Visit Israel in Protest. Haaretz

‘In spite of our different views, we stand in strong opposition to the new law,’ petition reads, while other liberal U.S. Jews warn new law will cause drift toward BDS camp.

Israeli settlers uproot olive trees, spray pesticides on Palestinian crops near Hebron, Ma’an

Israeli settlers from the illegal settlement of Maon east of the village of Yatta in the southern occupied West Bank uprooted tens of olive tree saplings and sprayed poisonous pesticides on Palestinian crops on Thursday.

JCCs to Sessions: We’re ‘frustrated’ with progress on bomb threats, JTA

Executives from 141 Jewish community centers signed a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions expressing frustration with efforts combating a rash of bomb threats. The letter, sent Wednesday by the JCC Association of North America, the national organization of Jewish community centers, requested a meeting with Sessions and urged the Justice Department to do more to stop the threats.

Opinion and Analysis

With Obama Gone, Israeli Liberals Have Lost Their Defensive Shield, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev writes: Trump may not herald settlement expansion or end of two-state solution, but could allow Israeli right to dismantle Israel’s democracy.

Will Trump split the Israeli right?, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit writes, “Ridiculous fights are now breaking out between the Israeli right and the left and between the ideologically far right and right-wing pragmatists over the new US administration. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman is currently on a round of introductory talks with senior US officials in Washington. Before departing March 6 for the United States, he said that Israel must not annex territory on the West Bank, noting receipt of a message from Trump’s staff cautioning against such a move. Liberman’s statement, which repositioned him in the sane center of the chaotic Israeli political map, came under harsh attack from fellow members of the right-wing coalition, led by HaBayit HaYehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett, who was joined by senior Likud ministers, including Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotoveli.”

Why Populists and Rightists Have Been in Power for Such a Long Time, Haaretz

Eva Illouitz argues: “That so few Jews of Middle Eastern or North African origin have advanced in Israeli academia is a sad reflection of systematic, if unintended, discrimination.”

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