News Roundup for November 13, 2017

November 13, 2017

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J Street in the News

Anti-occupation U.S. Jewish Students Fight Israeli Plans to Demolish Palestinian Villages, Haaretz

“An organization of American Jewish students opposed to the Israeli occupation kicked off a campaign Sunday aimed at pressuring the Israeli government into ending the demolition of Palestinian homes in the West Bank. The campaign was launched by J Street U, the student arm of J Street, which describes itself as a “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization. Hoping to mobilize support for their effort, J Street U activists plan in the coming weeks to meet with American elected officials and leaders of the American Jewish community, as well as with students on campuses across the United States….In its new campaign, Goldblum said, J Street U drew inspiration from the success of the international campaign, in which her organization participated, to prevent demolitions and evictions in the Palestinian West Bank village of Sussia, located in the South Hebron Hills. Last month, a delegation of U.S. Congressional leaders met with residents of Sussia during a visit organized by J Street. The Israeli Supreme Court is slated to rule later this week on whether demolitions will go ahead in the village….Ben Elkind, the director of J Street U, said the new campaign reflected the organization’s desire ‘to play a more pro-active role than we have in the past in pushing back and being a counterweight to policies that undermine the two-state solution.’”

Stop Demolitions, Build Peace, J Street

J Street U President Zoe Goldblum writes, “At J Street U, we’re leading the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement in launching a new campaign to help defend the two-state solution and oppose creeping annexation by the settlement movement by standing with vulnerable Palestinian communities in the West Bank….This year, each of J Street U’s six regions across the country will partner directly with a West Bank Palestinian community facing the threat of demolition. On campuses across the country, we’ll take actions to support these communities by raising awareness about the threats they face and showing our Jewish community leaders and elected officials that stopping demolitions is key to supporting a better future for Israelis and Palestinians and building peace. We’ll convene calls and conversations with members of these communities and with activists working to oppose occupation and creeping annexation on the ground. And we’ll be joined in this effort by Israeli partners who share our goals and values.”

Top News and Analysis

Trump Team Begins Drafting Middle East Peace Plan, The New York Times

“President Trump and his advisers have begun developing their own concrete blueprint to end the decades-old conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, a plan intended to go beyond previous frameworks offered by the American government in pursuit of what the president calls ‘the ultimate deal.’….Although Mr. Trump has not committed to a Palestinian state, analysts said they anticipated that the plan will have to be built around the so-called two-state solution that has been the core of peacemaking efforts for years…..The core four-member team drafting the plan includes Mr. Kushner, Mr. Greenblatt, Dina H. Powell, a deputy national security adviser, and David M. Friedman, the ambassador to Israel. They are consulting with Donald Blome, the consul general in Jerusalem, and others from the State Department and National Security Council. Officials said the effort may take until early next year.”

The Middle East Is Nearing an Explosion, The Atlantic

Rob Malley observes, ‘[D]evelopments point in a similar direction: that of an increasingly emboldened and single-minded Saudi leadership eager to work with the U.S. to counter an Iranian threat whose scale it believes was made all the starker by the day’s Yemen-related events….Missing from this picture is any hint of diplomacy—between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Iran and the U.S., or Saudi Arabia and the Houthi; rather, the region faces a free for all in which the only operative restraint on one’s actions is nervousness over what it might provoke. That’s hardly reassuring. Here in Lebanon, people are uncertain about who might take the first strike; who (of Iran or Hezbollah) might be its target; when or where (in Lebanon, Syria, or Iran) it might occur; and what it might look like. But they sense something will happen. And they fear that this time again, the Lebanese mirror inevitably will shatter.”

Israel Is in No Hurry to Do the Saudis’ Bidding in Lebanon, Haaretz

Amos Harel reports, “Israel, other than a public verbal assault on Iran a week ago, isn’t commenting on Hariri’s resignation. No official has responded to accusations that this was a Saudi-Israeli move against Iran and Hezbollah. And no steps have been taken to increase vigilance along the northern border, which would have suggested that the Israel Defense Forces was preparing something. For now, it seems it’s the Saudis who may seek such a scenario, while Israel has no interest in a military confrontation.”

Netanyahu Rival Avi Gabbay Makes an $18 Billion Case for Peace, Bloomberg

“Israel’s Labor leader Avi Gabbay wants to use his business acumen to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The former chief executive officer of Israel’s largest telecom company even has a number for how much a peace deal would benefit Israel’s economy: 63 billion shekels ($18 billion) per year to the state’s coffers….He says he favors peace with the Palestinians but, after growing up in a home that voted for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative Likud Party, his stances on the conflict are closer to Israel’s traditional right wing. The key difference between him and Netanyahu, Gabbay says, is that he actually wants to reach a two-state solution.”

News

Israeli Army Prepares to Demolish Hundreds of Palestinian Homes in Northern Jordan Valley, Haaretz

The army has ordered some 300 Palestinians who have lived for decades in the northern Jordan Valley to remove all their property from the area — which they’re interpreting as an evacuation and house-demolition order. This is the first time the army is using an eviction order against Palestinians based on a military order meant to enable the evacuation of unauthorized settlement outposts. The order in question is known as the “order regarding unauthorized buildings.”

Israel says US-Russia ceasefire deal in Syria does not meet demands, Times of Israel

Israel signaled Sunday it will not be bound by a reported ceasefire deal in southern Syria reached by the United States, Russia and Jordan, with ministers indicating Israel will continue to operate across the border when it deems it necessary. Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz told The Associated Press the agreement is a positive development. But he stressed that Israel is not a party to the agreement and will defend its interests.

Jewish Federations Set to Pass Resolution Criticizing Israel for Backtracking on Kotel Deal, Haaretz

The Jewish Federations of North America is expected to pass a resolution at its General Assembly on Monday harshly criticizing the Israeli government over decisions to suspend a Western Wall agreement and promote a controversial conversion bill. The leaders will meet Monday morning in Los Angeles to discuss the resolution ahead of a vote during the annual GA, which is expected to attract some 3,000 North American Jews.

Nuclear watchdog chief gains U.S. envoy Nikki Haley’s support, CBS

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano met Thursday in New York with United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley for a second time on Iran’s nuclear program with the Trump administration’s next move on Iran at stake. Haley’s statement after the meeting was upbeat; she expressed U.S. support for the IAEA’s efforts in carrying out robust verification of nuclear-related activities in Iran, emphasizing the “importance of Iran ensuring full and transparent access for the IAEA to carry out their mandated monitoring activities.”

Birthright Operator Promotes Free Extended Israel Stay for Volunteering With Extremist Rabbi in the Settlements, Haaretz

A key trip provider for Birthright – the organization that offers young Jewish adults free visits to Israel – is promoting extension stays at a hostel in Jerusalem’s Old City run by an extremist rabbi aligned with radical factions of the settler movement. Birthright participants, who receive free accommodations at the facility if they extend their stay in Israel beyond the standard 10-day trip, are encouraged by Ben Packer, the American-born rabbi who took over operations at the Heritage House a few years ago, to volunteer at illegal Israeli outposts in the West Bank.

Abbas: PA could move to back one-state solution if two states fail, Times of Israel

If the two-state solution fails, Palestinians will back a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with full rights for all citizens, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday. In a pre-recorded speech broadcast on large screens in Gaza City as tens of thousands gathered to mark the death of PLO leader Yasser Arafat, Abbas, who has not visited Gaza since his allies were thrown out by Hamas in 2007, hailed his predecessor’s legacy.

Israel Issues Rare Warning to Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza: You’re Playing With Fire, Haaretz

The Israeli army warned the commanders of Islamic Jihad in a video over the weekend that any attempt to attack Israel in retaliation to Israel’s destruction last month of a tunnel the militant organization dug from the Gaza Strip to Israel would be met with great force. Fourteen people were killed in the tunnel’s collapse, most of them Islamic Jihad operatives.

At ZOA event, Bannon asks Jews to join his war on GOP establishment, Times of Israel

President Trump’s former chief strategist on Sunday called on American Jews to join his war on the Republican establishment. Steve Bannon appealed to the Zionist Organization of America to “work as partners” in his crusade against GOP leaders he blames for blocking Trump’s agenda. Bannon delivered the fiery address at the organization’s annual awards dinner in New York, with several current and former Trump staffers in attendance.

Israeli Orthodox Leaders Demand Knesset Probe Into Israeli Arms Sales to Myanmar, Haaretz

A group of prominent Orthodox Israelis is demanding the Knesset investigate allegations that Myanmar is using weapons sold by Israel to commit atrocities against the country’s Muslim minority. The demand was issued Sunday in a letter submitted to MK Avi Dichter (Likud), chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee maintains oversight of Israel’s arms exports.

Opinions and Analysis

Josh Mandel’s Strange Jewish Journey To Trumpland From Suburban Cleveland, Forward

Nathan Guttman reports, “Mandel is the most extreme of this breed. He has already been a moderate Republican and a tea partier, but now he’s a Bannonite. He’s allied himself with the loose confederation of white supremacists, anti-Semites, chauvinists and provocateurs who helped bring Trump to power — like Mike Cernovich and Jack Posobiec, who propagated the conspiracy theory that the Democratic Party was running a child sex ring out of a Washington, D.C., pizza joint….Mandel’s shift away from Jewish norms culminated in his criticism of an iconic Jewish institution, the Anti-Defamation League, for its efforts to call out “alt-right” and “alt-light” extremists. This is the moment Mandel proclaimed common cause with Cernovich and Posobiec.”

Stop the Evictions, Haaretz

The editorial board writes, “Whatever legal proceeding ensues, the fact is that this declaration is an escalation of the pressure on the local Palestinians and part of the declared Israeli intent to evict as many Palestinians as possible from Area C, which is under total Israeli control, including from the Jordan Valley. It’s no coincidence that near Ein al-Hilweh are two expanding unauthorized Jewish settlement outposts whose residents periodically threaten the shepherds and try to scare them away from grazing lands in the area. This trend can and must be stopped, because it’s illegal, unjustified and dangerous.”

Rabin’s forgotten plan for two-state solution, Al-Monitor

Uri Savir writes, “Above all, Rabin believed in a strong strategic relationship with the United States, which would have made such an agreement with the Palestinians possible. He definitely had the courage to make the necessary decisions for such a deal. His peace and security legacy is today espoused by the most senior veterans of Israel’s security establishment.”

An Israeli Minister’s Call to Boycott Princeton’s Jewish Students Is Totally Wrong – and Nonsensical, Haaretz

Daniel Kurtzer writes, “Israel works hard to prevent boycotts, and thus no Israeli official should be calling for a boycott of an institution designed to promote Jewish life on campus. Oren now must take the next step: To retract his call for a boycott. Indeed, an apology from him for even raising the idea would also be proper.”

Negotiate with North Korea. But the Iran deal is nonnegotiable, Washington Post

Nathan Gardels writes, “Negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear and missile program is the only alternative to war. But attempting to renegotiate the Iran deal, as U.S. President Donald Trump has called for, would open a can of worms that would likely kill the hard-won agreement to stem nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. Furthermore, unraveling the done deal with Iran would doom a potential deal with North Korea because Pyongyang would suspect that whatever is agreed can be changed unilaterally by the U.S. down the road.”

Arab Knesset member ready for challenges of defense committee appointment, Al-Monitor

“Meretz member Issawi Frej is expected to be appointed to the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in the next few days. He will replace Meretz Chair Zehava Gal-On, who resigned from the Knesset Oct. 22. Frej will be the third Arab Knesset member to serve on the prestigious committee….Frej is upset about the criticism surrounding his appointment simply because he is an Arab. ‘The loyalty of every [Israeli] Arab citizen is tested from the day he is born, and that infuriates me,’ he said.”

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