News Roundup for March 13, 2017

March 13, 2017

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J Street in the News

J Street Disturbed by Anti-Semitic Defacement of Temple De Hirsch Sinai, J Street

“We were deeply distressed to learn that Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Seattle, Washington was defaced with Holocaust-denying graffiti yesterday.  The congregation’s Senior Rabbi, Danny Weiner, serves as the co-Chair of the local J Street Rabbinic and Cantorial Cabinet. Our thoughts are with Rabbi Weiner, his congregants and the members of the Jewish community of Greater Seattle area who have now been victims of three anti-Semitic incidents in the past two weeks. Since January, there have been over 100 threats made against Jewish community centers and schools across the country, including one in Mercer Island, Washington. These attacks are part and parcel of a troubling and precipitous nationwide rise in hate crimes since the November 2016 elections.  Blacks and other people of color, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, immigrants and the LGBTQ community have all been targets.”

Muslim-Jewish Ties in U.S. Flourish, but Skeptics Make Their Mark, Haaretz

“BDS is a particularly thorny issue in the new relationship. Those involved say people and organizations have to agree to disagree and set aside their difference of opinion on this. The Muslim Public Affairs Council, for instance, is on the record as being pro-BDS. The president of the council, Salam al-Marayati, recently spoke at the J Street National Conference. ‘For American Muslims, and students in particular, BDS is a nonviolent resistance movement. For Jews it is a disaster,’ Al-Marayati told Haaretz. ‘MPAC is for BDS, and J Street is against BDS, but we agree to disagree on that issue and still sit around the same table. Mutual acceptance is needed on both sides.’”

Top News and Analysis

Trump Ends Silence With Palestinians, Opening a Path, The New York Times

“President Trump spoke with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority on Friday for the first time since taking office and invited him to visit the White House, opening a new avenue of diplomacy as he develops his own peace initiative for the Middle East. Mr. Trump, who presented himself last year as Israel’s greatest champion, had refused to deal directly with Palestinian officials until now. But after a White House meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, and multiple conversations with Arab leaders from the region, Mr. Trump has embarked on what he promises to be a sustained effort to break a generations-old impasse and resolve the conflict. The president has assigned Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, and Jason Greenblatt, his top negotiator, to explore ways of bringing the two sides together in tandem with other players in the region. Mr. Greenblatt plans to follow up Friday’s telephone call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Abbas with a visit next week to the region. He will meet with Israeli officials in Jerusalem and Mr. Abbas in Ramallah, the headquarters for the Palestinian Authority that operates in the occupied West Bank.”

Netanyahu Tells U.S. Jewish Reform Leaders: I’m Committed to Western Wall Deal, Haaretz

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told American Reform Jewish leaders at a meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday that he is committed to a government-approved plan for an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall. Netanyahu told the delegation, headed by Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, that he would make every effort to resolve the matter with the ultra-Orthodox parties, which are blocking the decision made by the government in January 2016….During the meeting, Jacobs criticized the wave of construction in the settlements, the law restricting loudspeakers from mosques and the law allowing for the expropriation of private Palestinian land. Netanyahu listened to the criticism and responded. On the matter of the settlements, Netanyahu pulled out a document and read from it that the entire area where settlements are built constitutes 1.75 percent of the West Bank and, therefore, even if the settlements are a challenge in negotiations with the Palestinians, a solution can be found. As for the expropriation law, Netanyahu said that in the United States, illegal construction on private land is not demolished if 20 years have passed, but rather the landowners are compensated.”

News

PM said to seek OK for new settlement from Trump envoy, Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will reportedly try to seek approval to build a new West Bank settlement as compensation for the residents of the evacuated Amona outpost during meetings with a top adviser to US President Donald Trump. According to a Channel 2 TV report, the prime minister will present Jason Greenblatt with plans for a new West Bank settlement, one that he promised the residents of Amona ahead of their court-ordered evacuation in exchange for a peaceful evacuation of the hilltop community. Netanyahu intends to propose that the new West Bank community — to be named “Geulat Tzion” — be built between the settlements of Shiloh and Shvut Rachel in the central West Bank. However, recognizing the sensitivity of establishing the first new settlement in over two decades, the prime minister will try and tell Greenblatt that Geulat Tzion will be a “replacement” settlement for Amona and not a “new” one, Channel 2 said.

Trump-Abbas Talk Refutes Israeli Claim It Has No Partner for Peace, Palestinian Officials Say, Haaretz

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump refutes Israel’s claim that the Palestinian leader isn’t a partner for peace, Palestinian officials said Saturday. “What’s important is that this conversation was the White House’s initiative, and for us that’s a pretty clear message that President Abbas is a partner and that the Palestinian issue is at the top of the Palestinian president’s agenda.”

Two Israeli Police Officers Wounded in Jerusalem Stabbing Attack, Haaretz

Two Border Police officers were moderately wounded in a stabbing attack near Lions Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City overnight on Sunday. Police said that the alleged assailant exited his car, went into a post were the officers were stationed and stabbed them. According to police, a struggle ensured and one of the two managed to overtake the attacker and shoot him.

Palestinian forces use live fire against protesters opposing the PA in Duheisha, Ma’an

Clashes erupted between Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces and demonstrators at Duheisha refugee camp in the occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem on Sunday evening, as locals reported that police were shooting live fire towards Palestinian youths. Scores of Palestinians marched from Duheisha on Sunday afternoon to protest a legal case against slain activist Basel al-Araj and five other Palestinians who were imprisoned alongside him last year by the PA, as well as to denounce police repression against a similar protest in Ramallah earlier in the day.

Shin Bet Arrests Hamas Cell Said to Operate Near Jerusalem, Haaretz

Five Palestinians from a Hamas cell in the West Bank were arrested last month on suspicion of committing a number of terrorist acts, the Shin Bet security service said Sunday. The five men, residents of the village of Bidu near Jerusalem, are suspected of placing explosive devices, throwing firebombs at security forces and taking part in shootings at the town of Har Adar near Jerusalem in 2015.

Anti-Semitic Vandals Decry ‘Fake’ Holocaust In Seattle Synagogue Graffiti, Forward

Vandals scrawled graffiti claiming the Holocaust was “fake history” on an exterior wall of a Seattle synagogue, leading the rabbi to urge President Donald Trump to more forcefully denounce a wave of anti-Semitic incidents in recent months. Seattle police said they were investigating the vandalism at Temple De Hirsch Sinai as a hate crime after an off-duty officer spotted it on Friday.

Israel Blocks Head of pro-BDS Organization From Entering Israel, Haaretz

Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority and the Strategic Affair’s Ministry prevented Hugh Lanning, the chairman of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, from entering Israel on Sunday night. In a joint statement by the two offices, the ministries said the decision was due to Lanning’s ongoing efforts to advance a boycott of Israel and was reached following consultation with the Foreign Ministry.

Thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel protest ‘Muezzin bill’, Ma’an

Thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel took to the streets Saturday in protest of a bill moving forward in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, which seeks to impose limits on the broadcast of the Muslim call to prayer in Israel and occupied East Jerusalem.

Trump Keeps Two of Obama’s Top Experts on Israeli-Palestinian Affairs, Haaretz

The Trump administration has tapped two career diplomats who served under Barack Obama for key roles in setting the new president’s policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yael Lempert, who was in charge of Israel and the Palestinians in Obama’s National Security Council, has been asked to remain at the White House for now, despite her plan to return to the State Department. Meanwhile, the State Department has announced that Michael Ratney, the U.S. consul general in Jerusalem from 2012 to 2015, is currently in charge of the Israeli-Palestinian file at the department.

Opinion and Analysis

Once a Messiah, Trump Could Turn Out to Be the Israeli Right’s Worst Nightmare, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev writes, “Israel sought to highlight its discreet dealings with Sunni states in order to show Israelis and everyone else that it can secure its place in the Middle East without giving up the occupation. But it’s a double edged-sword: after investing so much time, energy and resources in collaborating with Sunni countries and cementing an anti-Iranian front, Israel will find it much harder to resist calls for an Israeli-Palestinian peace process – especially if Trump stamps his name and his prestige on it.”

Can Arab Quartet advance two-state solution?, Al-Monitor

It is clear to Cairo that with the change of administration, the Arab countries must crystalize their strategic views and policies for the future of the region. One policy plan designed to achieve this purpose is convening the Arab Quartet (Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, with either the Arab United Emirates or the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council). The Quartet would formulate a joint position on a two-state solution to be presented to the United States and to the international Mideast Quartet (United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia).”

Israel has an incitement problem, +972

Yoni Mendel writes, “‘Palestinian incitement’ has turned into a winning code that lies at the heart of the Israeli discourse on Palestinians. I am not claiming that Palestinians are so innocent, but I do hope to glean two pieces of insight from the way Israel treats the situation in the Palestinian Authority. Firstly, the two nations struggling over this land often treat it as if it is all theirs. Secondly, the next time a researcher, analyst, or member of Knesset wants to talk about ‘Palestinian incitement,’ he or she should begin with a full disclosure. For instance: ‘In addition to growing Israeli incitement that rejects the existence of Palestine — on the internet, in schools, in the parliament, and in the government, we are also bearing witness to a form of incitement that is not so different in Palestine against Israel.’ If we do not dare to look at ourselves in the mirror, we will never be able to see our own incitement against the Palestinians.”

As Fatah hardens, Hamas becomes more receptive, Ynet

Elior Levy observes, “As Fatah’s leadership offers a stronger stance in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Hamas has been working on a new plan, following the primaries within the terrorist group-turned-political party. The plan is to provide Hamas with its fundamental guidelines and is due to be made public somewhere between the end of March and beginning of April. Meanwhile, parts of the plan leaked to Arab media paint a more conciliatory tone toward Israel.”

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