News Roundup for March 15, 2017

March 15, 2017

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J Street in the News

Response to Greenblatt Meetings with Netanyahu, Abbas, J Street

“J Street is following with close interest President Trump’s dispatch of Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt to meetings this week with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas. It is the latest indication that the new administration has made the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a major focus of its early foreign policy and diplomatic efforts. J Street also takes note of President Trump’s recent phone call with President Abbas. In the call, the president reportedly extended an invitation to the Palestinian leader to visit the White House and ‘confirmed his full commitment to the peace process.’ It is vital that the US administration recognizes the role that the Palestinian Authority can and must play in any efforts to achieve a comprehensive peace agreement. Moving forward, the Trump administration must make clear, as it so far has not at least publicly, that the US firmly supports a two-state solution and that the two-state framework is the only viable route to peace between Israelis and Palestinians. As the presidential envoy meets with both parties, he should refrain from legitimizing any actions that could undermine the two-state solution, including settlement construction and expansion. No private understandings or agreements between the US and either party can stand in for serious negotiations that respect the rights and needs of both sides.”

J Street calls on Trump administration to openly back two states, Times of Israel

“The left-wing American Jewish Mideast policy group J Street is urging the Trump administration to ‘make clear, as it so far has not at least publicly, that the US firmly supports a two-state solution and that the two-state framework is the only viable route to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.’ In a response to US President Donald Trump’s peace envoy Jason Greenblatt’s meetings this week with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, J Street puts out a Tuesday statement calling the meetings ‘the latest indication that the new administration has made the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a major focus of its early foreign policy and diplomatic efforts.’ But it warns that Greenblatt ‘should refrain from legitimizing any actions that could undermine the two-state solution, including settlement construction and expansion. No private understandings or agreements between the US and either party can stand in for serious negotiations that respect the rights and needs of both sides.’”

Top News and Analysis

Trump Mideast Envoy Meets With Mahmoud Abbas, Forward

“President Trump’s Middle East envoy held his first talks on Tuesday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, amid Palestinian concerns that the new administration in Washington is more favorably disposed towards Israel. Jason Greenblatt’s talks with Abbas took place in Ramallah, the Palestinian seat of government, a day after he held a lengthy meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. “President Abbas & I discussed how to make progress toward peace, building capacity of Palestinian security forces & stopping incitement,” Greenblatt tweeted after the meeting. In a separate statement issued by the U.S. Consulate General, the two men “reaffirmed the commitment of both the Palestinian Authority and the United States to advance a genuine and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians.” Abbas stressed that the Palestinian strategic choice was to achieve a two-state solution, the statement added.”

The Symbiotic Relationship Between Israel and BDS, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev argues, “Israel and the international boycott movement that opposes it have a symbiotic relationship. Among the various types of symbioses, Israel’s relationship with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is categorized as mutualism: both sides depend on each other and both benefit from each other. Israel is interested in exaggerating the danger posed by BDS, and the movement draws strength from the over-hyped influence that Israel ascribes to it….A series of measures such as the law against mosque loudspeakers (currently under Knesset consideration) or the law forbidding supporters of the boycott – either of Israel or of the territories – entry to Israel  (which has already been approved) together with statements such as those made by Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi), who suggested that Israel annex certain parts of the West Bank and establish South-Africa like Bantustans for the Palestinians, or by lawmaker Yoav Kish (Likud), who proposed that West Bank Palestinians be permanently deprived of their voting rights – all of these portray Israel as a country with something to hide and strengthen comparisons between the Jewish State and apartheid-era South Africa….Don’t give up, Israel is telling its so-called adversaries. If people start to put you down, we will reiterate just how dangerous you really are, and if you’re having problems convincing new recruits, we will make sure to give you the winning arguments.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy Comes Out Against David Friedman for U.S. Envoy to Israel, Haaretz

The U.S. Senate’s longest-serving member announced that he will vote against the appointment of David Friedman as the next U.S. ambassador to Israel. Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, a leading voice within the Democratic Party on foreign affairs, joins a growing number of Democrats who oppose President Donald Trump’s nominee….Addressing the Senate on Monday, the Vermont senator said he cannot ‘see how anyone could conclude that Mr. Friedman possesses the requisite temperament’ for the job, adding that he was not convinced Friedman ‘appreciates the critical distinction between the interests of the United States, and the parochial interests of an extreme constituency in Israel that he has fiercely advocated for over the course of his long career.’ Leahy’s speech was later uploaded to his website.”

News

Poll: Most Palestinians skeptical of Trump peace efforts, Times of Israel

A poll shows that the vast majority of Palestinians believe US President Donald Trump’s policies will lead to more Israeli-Palestinian tensions or to stagnation. Tuesday’s survey by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research says only 9 percent believe Trump will be able to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The survey among 1,270 respondents has an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Netanyahu Expects to Reach Deal With U.S. on Restrained Settlement Construction, Haaretz

Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to reach understandings with the United States within a few weeks on curbing construction in the settlements, according to an Israeli official. Although the understandings with President Trump’s administration are likely to include Israeli willingness to impose significant restrictions on construction in West Bank settlements, the Prime Minister’s Bureau believes that this will not weaken the coalition.

Ultra-Orthodox Threaten To Disrupt Jerusalem Marathon Over Military Enlistment, Forward

Ultra-Orthodox protesters have threatened to disrupt the Jerusalem marathon on Friday unless the police release a Haredi army defector. According to the Israeli news site Ynet, the defector is a follower of Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, a leader of the Lithuanian Haredi Ashkenazi community in Jerusalem who opposes enlistment in the Israeli Defense Forces.

Police shutter Palestinian office said to track land sales to Jews, Times of Israel

Police on Monday shut down an office in East Jerusalem allegedly used by the Palestinian Authority to monitor land sales to Jews by Palestinians. In a statement, police said that the office in the Beit Hanina neighborhood compiled the names of East Jerusalem residents suspected of selling their properties to Jews. The office operated on behalf of the Palestinian security services in Ramallah, according to police.

Israeli forces assault Palestinians during protest over home demolitions in Israel, Ma’an

Dozens of Palestinians in Jerusalem protested outside Israel’s Ministry of Finance on Tuesday against the “Kaminitz” draft bill being considered for legislation in the Israeli Knesset — expected to intensify Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes in Israel and East Jerusalem — while clashes erupted between Palestinians and Israeli police forces. The protest was called by the Committee of Heads of Arab Local Authorities in coordination with several other committees and organizations.

Trump administration threatens to leave UN Human Rights Council, JTA

The Trump administration is threatening to withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council, citing among other things the intergovernmental body’s “biased agenda against Israel.” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sent a letter this week to nine nonprofit groups opposed to withdrawal — including one affiliated with the American Jewish Committee — in which he explained that the United States may quit the council unless it makes reforms, Foreign Policy reported. In the meantime, Tillerson said the US would “reiterate our strong principled objection to the Human Rights Council’s biased agenda against Israel.”

Opinion and Analysis

Is Trump planning a two-state regional conference?, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit reports, “According to the phone conversation, Trump is very interested in an internationally sponsored regional conference that will re-ignite the peace process. The conference is expected to be held a month or two after the meeting; in other words, in August or September. Until then, the Trump administration will try to learn the ins and outs of the quagmire between the two nations and formulate a plan that will square the circle and achieve what three US presidents (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama) failed to achieve: a permanent settlement between Israel and the Palestinians — or, in the words of the new president, a ‘deal’; in other words, an arrangement that will benefit all parties involved.”

Supporting BDS is enough to get detained by the cops in Israel these days, +972

Lisa Goldman writes, “Police near Jerusalem picked up an Israeli citizen who was just standing on the street Monday. He was not doing anything illegal. Someone who lived in the neighborhood reported him on suspicion of carrying material related to BDS; and while it is not illegal for Israelis to carry material about BDS in territory under Israel’s control, the police answered the call….Instead of simply announcing that its official position is to oppose BDS, which would be a perfectly legitimate stance, the Israeli government has instead chosen to criminalize the movement and its advocates. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of his cabinet have used loaded language to conflate BDS with anti-Semitism, gratuitous hatred of the State of Israel — and even with violence.”

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