News Roundup for October 11, 2017

October 11, 2017

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J Street in the News

Democrats brace for Iran deal upheaval, Politico

“Pro-deal activists are doing their part to bolster moderate voices that might keep the deal alive. Groups such as MoveOn.org and the Arms Control Association are alerting their grass-roots membership to phone lawmakers on the Hill and ask them not to reimpose sanctions on Iran. MoveOn and several other organizations are sponsoring a White House rally on Thursday. J Street, the left-leaning Jewish advocacy group, is running digital ads on the issue and has brought in members of the Israeli security establishment to talk to lawmakers about the importance of keeping the agreement intact.”

Trump is ready to decertify the Iran deal. What does that mean? JTA

“AIPAC’s National Council rolls into Washington over the weekend, a couple of days after the Trump speech. On the agenda for its activists are meetings in congressional offices, and Iran is one of several topics of discussion. Should Trump’s speech provide guidance amenable to AIPAC, the lobby may endorse his strategy. However, a key element of AIPAC lobbying has always been bipartisanship. Whether or not it decides to back fresh sanctions, AIPAC would need the backing of prominent Democrats. J Street, meantime, the liberal pro-Israel lobby that played a key role in backing the deal, is pushing its activists to remind lawmakers that they are opposed to decertification.”

Top News and Analysis

Netanyahu Pledged 3,800 New Settlement Homes, but Only 600 Will Be Actually Built, Haaretz

“Under pressure from the settler lobby, the Prime Minister’s Office has over the past few days invested a great deal in creating the impression that a new wave of settlement construction is in the offing. But a close examination of the list of construction plans expected to be approved next week shows that despite declarations that plans for some 3,800 new homes are being advanced, the government is expected to approve only around 600 new units. The Yesha Council of settlements waited months for the next meeting of the Civil Administration’s High Planning Council, which was meant to convene in early September, but that meeting was postponed due to requests and reservations from the White House. According to the understandings Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reached with the Trump administration, the planning council will meet every three months to concentrate settlement construction approvals and allow better coordination with the United States on the issue. The council is expected to meet next week.”

Palestinian Rivals Talk Unity but Show Divisions, New York Times

“As the rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas began unity talks on Tuesday in Cairo, one detail stood out as emblematic of the challenges they face: The delegation representing Hamas is led by a man who has been accused of plotting to overthrow the president of the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. If that awkward hurdle can be overcome, the talks would have at least the potential to end the decade-long, sometimes bloody schism between the two groups and reshape the region’s political map. The effort is being propelled to a great extent by the increasingly desperate humanitarian situation among the two million residents of Gaza.”

Trump and Israel vs. the World: Which Countries Support Preserving Iran Nuclear Deal? Haaretz

Haaretz rounds up where members of the P5+1 and broader international community stand on the JCPOA.

Iran: Trump’s Gift to the Hard-liners, The New York Review of Books

Trita Parsi writes, “If Donald Trump decertifies the nuclear deal this week, the political fallout within Iran will be no different from earlier instances of Washington’s punishing of Iran’s moderates. Voices against the deal in Iran will strengthen, and those who favor a more confrontational policy toward Washington will once again have the wind in their sails. This help to Iran’s hard-liners could not come at a more opportune time. While many in Washington believed that conflict with America constituted a pillar of the Iranian Revolution and that Tehran would therefore never agree to direct talks with the United States on the nuclear issue, Iranian hard-liners were driven by a different concern: that the nuclear negotiations would become a stepping stone toward a broader US-Iran rapprochement that could enable the US to regain a foothold in the Iranian economy. Eventually, they feared, the US presence inside Iran would shift the domestic balance of power against the conservatives and in favor of the more moderate factions.”

News

Israel approves plans for thousands of new settlement units in the West Bank, Washington Post

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved building plans for 3,736 new units in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday, in what activists say is part of a new wave of construction spurred by the Trump admin­istration’s more accommodating stance. The units will be built in numerous settlements, including in Hebron and other contentious areas, said an Israeli official who discussed the announcement on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

May Warns Netnayahu on Danger of Axing Iran Deal, Jerusalem Post

The Iran deal is vital for the security of the Middle East, British Prime Minister Theresa May told Israel on Monday, as the United States continues to weigh weakening the agreement which was designed to constrain Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been one of the most vocal opponents of the 2015 agreement between Iran and the six world powers, including the US.

Israel Cancels Ban on Racist Answers in Civics Exam, Haaretz

The Education Ministry has canceled a prohibition against giving racist answers on the civics matriculation exam. The original rule, published shortly before the school year began, stated that “racist or inflammatory statements” would result in the response receiving no credit. But a few days ago, the head of the ministry’s pedagogical secretariat, Moshe Weinstock, rescinded this rule, on the grounds, according to the ministry, that “we need to inculcate the change gradually.”

Thousands of women march for Israeli-Palestinian peace, Washington Post

Thousands of Israeli and Palestinian women are wrapping up a march around the region, demanding that their leaders act to achieve a peace agreement. Women Wage Peace, the group behind the demonstration, says the two-week march sends a message to leaders to work toward a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to make sure women have equal representation in any talks.

Iran deal negotiators to brief House Democrats, Politico

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will hold a briefing with key negotiators of the Iran nuclear deal just days before President Trump is expected to decertify the Obama-era agreement. Former Secretary of State John Kerry and former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who spearheaded the negotiations that led to the agreement, will participate in a panel discussion for Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday, according to a notice obtained by POLITICO.

Schumer renews call for embassy move after Trump puts idea on hold, JTA

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer renewed his call for President Donald Trump to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem after the president said he wanted to wait to give his relaunched peace push a chance.

Clashes erupt as Israeli forces escort hundreds of settlers to pray at Joseph’s Tomb, Ma’an

At least three Palestinians were injured with rubber-coated steel bullets, while several others suffered from severe tear-gas inhalation during clashes that erupted between Palestinians and Israeli forces overnight between Tuesday and Wednesday in the northern occupied West bank city of Nablus.

Caving To Pressure, Jewish Group Cancels Play By Critic Of Israel, The Forward

The American Jewish Historical Society has cancelled a play reading and a historical panel sponsored by left-wing critics of Israel amid a campaign against the new executive director of the Center for Jewish History. The AJHS, which is housed in the CJH’s building in Manhattan, told co-sponsors on Monday that it was cancelling an upcoming reading of a play by Jewish playwright Dan Fishback, and a panel on the history of the Balfour Declaration co-sponsored by the New York City chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace.

Opinions and Analysis

Ending the Iran Deal Is An Invitation to War, The Atlantic

Ilan Goldenberg and Mara Karlin argue, “Without the JCPOA, the United States would have, in the years between 2013 and 2016, likely faced much more profound questions of war and peace. As policymakers who work on the Middle East, we are used to choosing among terrible options, but these felt especially ugly. If President Trump chooses not to certify Iranian compliance with the nuclear agreement and in the weeks ahead takes risky steps that may eventually unravel it, we will not immediately face a crisis. But over time Iran is likely to restart its deliberate march to a nuclear bomb. This will not inevitably lead to war. But it will mean a significant increase in the risk that, whether it be tomorrow or 10 years down the road, a U.S. president will face the same difficult question we wrestled with years ago: risk a major war with Iran, or acquiesce to an Iranian nuclear weapon.”

Congress just might unleash Iran’s nuclear program, The Hill

Joel Rubin writes, “Trump is in a bind. He wants to prove that the deal isn’t good for America, not go so far as to blow it up, and promise to fix its flaws while he needs our allies to do so. Yet by playing politics with our national security, he’s likely to get nothing. Instead, we may very well end up with a terminally wounded deal that both unleashes Iran’s nuclear program and undermines the diplomatic credibility we need to get Iran to agree to the improvements we want. And Trump and Congress will just be having a conversation amongst themselves — not with those who can make the deal stronger: our allies and the Iranians. Americans deserve better on questions of nuclear war and peace. Unfortunately, that’s not what they’re about to get.”

If Trump Won’t Certify the Nuke Deal, He Should Do This Instead, Foreign Policy

Ilan Goldenberg and Elizabeth Rosenberg write, “Together, transatlantic partners crafted a sanctions regime and diplomatic engagement strategy that yielded nuclear concessions by Iran. Now, it will similarly take years to pursue an effective, coordinated strategy to deal with remaining challenges. Here is how this can be done: While not certifying Iran’s compliance with the deal, Trump should announce a tough strategy to use powerful existing (not reimposed) sanctions authorities and limited military and intelligence actions to counter Iran’s regional actions. This does not mean launching a war, but rather taking limited steps to send a firm signal, such as doing more to expose Iran’s support for surrogates and proxies in the Middle East and interdicting weapons shipments across the region. He should also call for an immediate partnership with Europe to address his biggest concerns with the nuclear agreement.

How the Trump Administration is Boosting Iran’s Hardliners, The Atlantic

Ariane Tabatabai writes, “By building on the nuclear deal, as the European Union has done since it was reached in July 2015, the international community can undermine Iran’s hardliners who see self-reliance as the only way forward and the IRGC as central to the pursuit of self-sufficiency. Preserving the JCPOA can also help empower the moderates, who, backed by the Iranian public, wish for more international integration, including economic interdependence and political engagement. Key decision-makers in Iran understand that none of this will materialize without deep-reaching reform. In fact, the moderate President Hassan Rouhani has made curbing the IRGC’s reach a top priority. To do so, he named a traditional military commander, not a Guard, to lead the Ministry of Defense—a first in over two decades. Likewise, he has sought to cut funding for the IRGC and has tried to rein in its sprawling business and financial networks.”

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