News Roundup for March 20, 2017

March 20, 2017

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J Street in the News

In America, we’re all ‘somebody else’s babies’, Washington Post

Jonathan Capehart writes, “Let me share with you two powerful stories that speak to the power of America to inspire. My dear friend Alexandra Stanton told the story of her parents coming to the United States in her speech accepting a justice and peace award from J Street, a pro-Israel organization working for a two-state solution in the Middle East. ‘I am so deeply, fiercely proud to be part of this amazing organization. I joined the board in the second month of J Street’s existence, because my parents taught me that America stands for something special, a country with the courage to say ‘YES’ when history says ‘NO.’….My mother taught me that no wall is too high that it cannot be climbed. My father taught me that when it’s important, ‘NO’ is not an option. And they both taught me that turning a ‘NO’ into a ‘YES’ is the most powerful thing you can do.’”

UN Must Continue to Eradicate Anti-Israel Bias, J Street

“J Street applauds UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ removal from the Internet of the new United Nations report accusing Israel of practicing apartheid against the Palestinians. The report was published by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, a small UN affiliated body headquartered in Lebanon. Reports like these undermine the credibility of UN agencies and the body as a whole on issues related to Israel. Unfairly and obsessively singling Israel out in international forums fuels the perception that the UN is too biased against Israel to play any role in advancing a conflict-ending two-state resolution with its neighbors. The UN must continue to take steps, as the Secretary-General did today, to eradicate hostile anti-Israel sentiment in its midst.”

Trump adviser’s reported ties to Hungarian Nazi collaborators divide Jewish groups, Vice

“Centrist and left-leaning Jewish organizations including J Street, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Anne Frank Center have all released critical statements on Gorka’s reported links to Vitezi Rend.”

Top News and Analysis

Cabinet Ministers and Likud Lawmakers Protest After Netanyahu Threatens Early Elections, Haaretz

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s threat to disperse the Knesset and bring forward elections over a dispute regarding Israel’s broadcasting corporation has sparked opposition from within the prime minister’s own party, Likud, and from cabinet ministers in his coalition. Over the weekend, Netanyahu called for elections if plans to replace the Israel Broadcasting Authority with a new public broadcaster are not scrapped. Netanyahu gave Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) an ultimatum in which he said that should Kahlon fail to agree this week to the closure of the new broadcaster, Kan – currently due to go on air at the end of April – he would disperse the Knesset and bring elections forward. People close to Kahlon told Haaretz on Sunday evening that the finance minister will not back down over the public broadcaster. ‘He knows that if he gives up to Netanyahu here, it will harm his integrity and won’t be able to continue serving as finance minister,’ a source said. For Kahlon, it’s a matter of principle, sources said, insisting that the public broadcaster will be launched on time.”

UN group takes down report accusing Israel of apartheid, JTA

A United Nations affiliate removed a report accusing Israel of apartheid from the internet following a request from the secretary-general of the international body. Antonio Guterres asked the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, or EWCWA, to remove the report, which was published Wednesday and says it “establishes, on the basis of scholarly inquiry and overwhelming evidence, that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid,” Reuters reported Friday.

Netanyahu Sends His Chief of Staff to D.C. to Discuss Curbs to Settlement Construction, Haaretz

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a delegation to Washington Saturday night for talks aimed at reaching a breakthrough between Israel and the United States on an agreement over restricting construction in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. A senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, noted that one of the main issues on the agenda was the Netanyahu government’s desire to establish a new settlement for displaced residents of the evacuated unauthorized outpost of Amona. The delegation, headed by the Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister’s Office, Yoav Horowitz, also includes Netanyahu’s foreign policy adviser Jonathan Schachter and a lawyer from the PMO who deals with the settlements.

News

Syrians Report Israeli Drone Strike Kills Commander of pro-Assad Militia, Haaretz

According to Syrian reports on Sunday, a Syrian man was killed when the vehicle he was driving was fired on by an Israeli drone in the Quneitra area in the Syrian Golan Heights. The man has been identified as Yasser Assayed, but there have been conflicting reports as to his role. An official affiliated with the Syrian regime told Haaretz that Assayed was a member of the Golan Battalion, a mostly Druze militia that supports Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Yesh Atid rules out alternative coalition as ministers bid to defuse crisis, Times of Israel

The opposition Yesh Atid party on Sunday appeared to rule out joining the Zionist Union party for a coalition reshuffle in lieu of early elections, as a coalition members attempted to heal a crisis that has threatened to bring down the government and lead to snap elections. The comment from the centrist Yesh Atid party came amid reports that Kulanu Party leader Moshe Kahlon was in talks with opposition leader Isaac Herzog about forming a new government as ties with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu soured in recent days over the creation of a new public broadcaster. But Yesh Atid, which would likely be key to forming an alternative bloc of at least 61 Knesset members without going to elections, indicated that it would not back such a maneuver.

Gaza Rocket Attack On Ashkelon Prompts IDF Response, Forward

Israel’s military targeted two Hamas positions in the northern Gaza Strip hours after two rockets were fired from Gaza at southern Israel. One of the rockets fired on Saturday landed near the southern Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon and the second appeared to fall in Gazan territory. The launches triggered the Code Red rocket alarm system. No injuries or damage was reported in the attack on Israel. No casualties were reported in Israel’s strike on the Hamas targets later on Saturday.

U.N. Diplomat Behind Report Accusing Israel of Apartheid Quits, The New York Times

The top official of a United Nations commission that published a report describing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as apartheid quit on Friday, saying the organization’s leader insisted that she withdraw it. The report provoked outrage from Israel and the United States. The official, Rima Khalaf, a Jordanian diplomat who is executive secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, defended the report. Her resignation, barely two days after publication, punctuated the polarized politics of the Israeli-Palestinian impasse.

Poll: Trump Approval Rating Among US Jews Is 31%, Forward

President Donald Trump’s approval rating among Jews in the United States is 31 percent. The figure is more than 10 percent lower than the president’s overall approval rating of 42 percent, according to a Gallup poll taken from Jan. 20, the day Trump was sworn in, to March 15.

Abbas said invited to White House mid-April, Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will travel to Washington mid-April to meet with US President Donald Trump, Palestinian media reported Saturday. There was no immediate confirmation of the report from the White House.

Syrian UN Envoy: Putin Sent Message to Israel That Its Freedom to Act in Syria Is Over, Haaretz

Russia has sent a clear message to Israel that the rules of the game have changed in Syria and its freedom to act in Syrian skies is over, Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations said on Sunday night.

Opinion and Analysis

Coalition Crisis: Netanyahu Drops a Bomb and Flies Away, but Mutiny Will Wait Him, When He Returns, Haaretz

Yossi Verter observes, “Every member of this internal opposition to Netanyahu sent the same message, each in his own way: Dragging the country into elections two and a half years before the government’s term ends because of an ego battle over a media outlet is ridiculous, it’s insane and it stinks….As for Kahlon, he didn’t sound eager for new elections during a public appearance on Sunday. He promised to look out for public broadcasting workers, the disabled, single parents, young couples. He was clearly ready to compromise. But he cannot agree to postpone the corporation’s launch, not by so much as one day. That would be the end of him.”

Why Netanyahu offended his finance minister, Al-Monitor

Mazal Mualem concludes, “As Bennett appeals with all his might to the religious nationalist sector as their representative, making statements on the issue of Levinstein, the Amona crisis and annexation demands of the settlement town Ma’ale Adumim, Liberman continues to build himself as a pragmatic mainstream rightist. For his part, Kahlon is working to arrive at the next election as a stellar minister of finance, and to do so he needs more time and more achievements.  And Netanyahu is constantly checking the limits of tolerance of the heads of coalition parties. He estimates that not one of them — Kahlon, Liberman, Bennett and certainly not the ultra-Orthodox — want to tear everything down and go to an election now. Although polls indicate Bennett’s party would gain three seats if the election were held today, Netanyahu estimates that Bennett will not allow himself to be the one to break up a right-wing government.  Paradoxically, this brief crisis — which lasted less than 24 hours — clarified that Netanyahu’s coalition is more stable than it has seemed in recent weeks, when the criminal investigations of the prime minister began. However, we can now see what the next election cycle would look like.”

Israel’s Travel Ban May Prevent Israel Studies Scholars From Entering the Country, Haaretz

Judy Maltz reports, “A new law that bans entry into Israel of non-residents who publicly support a boycott of the country could jeopardize the future of the relatively new and growing academic discipline of Israel studies, the head of an organization devoted to the field has warned. ‘This is not something like nuclear physics, where academics can choose to take their research elsewhere,’ Dr. Ilan Troen, president of the Association of Israel Studies, told Haaretz on Sunday. ‘It is impossible to conduct research in the field of Israel studies without visiting Israel. Since it is not clear whether all our members will be able to continue traveling to Israel, this new law poses a serious threat to the future of our discipline.’”

A Deafening Silence from the Jewish Federation, LA Jewish Journal

Four veteran Los Angeles Jewish communal leaders write, “The Jewish community’s umbrella organization, the Jewish Federation, remains deafeningly silent on an issue that is high on the list of major concerns of most Jews—the actions and words of the Trump administration….Today, the absence of a unified Jewish community leadership protesting President Trump’s incendiary comments on myriad topics, including his targeting of minority groups and immigrants, is shocking.”

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