News Roundup for October 9, 2017

October 9, 2017

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J Street in the News

As Fate of Iran Deal Heads to Congress, Both Parties Are Gearing Up for Battle, Haaretz

“[T]he left-wing Jewish lobby group J Street organized a string of briefings last week for legislators from both parties with Uzi Arad, a former National Security Adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Alon Pinkas, a former senior Israeli diplomat who served as Consul General in New York and as an adviser to four foreign ministers. Arad and Pinkas explained why they believe it is in Israel’s security interest to retain the nuclear deal, and that it was a view was shared by many prominent officials within Israel’s security and intelligence communities.  Arad, who served as Netanyahu’s National Security Adviser from 2009 to 2011, and worked with him during his time as leader of the opposition, re-iterated the point in an interview with The New Yorker that was published on Friday….Arad and Pinkas had more briefings with Republicans than with Democrats during their two days of meetings on Capitol Hill, reflecting the importance of every Republican vote in determining the future of the deal. It also reflects the openness on behalf of some Republicans who voted against the nuclear accord in 2015 to hear arguments in favor of keeping it.”

Trump’s Decertification Would Be Baseless and Dangerous; Congress Must Maintain the Agreement, J Street

“By arguing that the agreement is not in the security interests of the United States, the president will directly contradict his own secretary of defense – who explicitly told the Senate last week that it was. The president is acting based on his own personal political agenda, distaste for diplomacy and contempt for his predecessor. Congress should see this decision for what it is: a reckless mistake that makes it harder, not easier, to confront Iran and prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons. Lawmakers must not violate the nuclear agreement by reimposing nuclear sanctions – or take any other legislative action that would undermine the deal. Doing so would isolate the US, empower Iran and potentially put us on the path to another unnecessary and destructive war in the Middle East. Withdrawing from the JCPOA would also increase the threat to Israel – which is why the majority of the Israeli security establishment believes the agreement should be maintained. Working alongside our many partners and allies, J Street will do everything that we can to urge Congress to uphold this vital agreement, and to defeat any efforts to undermine it.”

Top News and Analysis

Mr. Trump, Don’t Scrap the Iran Deal, The New York Times

The editorial board writes, “If President Trump refuses to certify that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal this month, he will be making his most feckless foreign policy decision yet. Don’t do it, Mr. President. Be a statesman, listen to your own military and intelligence officials and put the security of America and its allies ahead of your ego….Mr. Trump has twice agreed to certify the Iran deal, and his national security advisers are urging him to do it again. But he reportedly is annoyed by the process, and is determined to deliver on his campaign promise by the next certification deadline, Oct. 15. That the International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors Iran’s nuclear activities; the American intelligence community; and the Pentagon confirm that Iran is honoring its commitments seems to have no effect on Mr. Trump’s thinking. While most of Congress opposed the Iran deal when it was negotiated, many members now see its value and oppose provoking another nuclear crisis as the United States grapples with North Korea. But there is no guarantee of what Congress will do if a bill is introduced reimposing sanctions or seeking to renegotiate the deal. The smart thing, the right thing, for Mr. Trump to do is to recertify. There’s no doubt that Iran is a bad actor on many fronts, not least in its roles in Syria and Yemen. But the United States will have a greater chance of addressing those concerns if it rigorously abides by the nuclear deal and maintains unity with its partners in that endeavor.”

Everything you need to know about Trump’s expected decision to decertify the Iran deal, Washington Post

“Here’s what Trump may do this week and how it might play out domestically and internationally.”

Bob Corker Says Trump’s Recklessness Threatens ‘World War III’, The New York Times

Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, charged in an interview on Sunday that President Trump was treating his office like “a reality show,” with reckless threats toward other countries that could set the nation “on the path to World War III.” In an extraordinary rebuke of a president of his own party, Mr. Corker said he was alarmed about a president who acts “like he’s doing ‘The Apprentice’ or something.” “He concerns me,” Mr. Corker added. “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.” Mr. Corker’s comments capped a remarkable day of sulfurous insults between the president and the Tennessee senator — a powerful, if lame-duck, lawmaker, whose support will be critical to the president on tax reform and the fate of the Iran nuclear deal.

Israel to approve almost 4,000 new West Bank homes — report, Times of Israel

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government is reportedly set to approve almost 4,000 new homes in Israeli settlements in the West Bank next week. According to a Channel 2 news report Sunday, the 3,829 units are slated to be built in various areas across the West Bank, including in isolated settlements. The approval will include 30 units in the West Bank city of Hebron, 296 in the settlement of Beit El, 453 in Givat Ze’ev, 102 in Naguhot, 97 in Rechalim, 54 in Har Bracha, 86 in Kochav Yaakov, 48 in Ma’aleh Michmash, 158 in Kfar Ezion, 129 in Avnei Hefetz, 120 in Nofim, and 206 in Tekoa, according to the TV report.

News

30,000 Israelis, Palestinians Take Part in Women Wage Peace Rally in Jerusalem, Haaretz

Some 30,000 people took part in the Women Wage Peace rally in Jerusalem on Sunday night in Independence Park. The rally was the high point of a “peace walk” that began two weeks ago in Sderot in the Negev and passed through the territories and Israel, with the participation of thousands of Israeli and Palestinian women, calling for a peace agreement. Adina Bar-Shalom, founder of an ultra-Orthodox women’s college and the daughter of former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef also participated. Among the speakers was former MK Shakib Shanan, whose son Kamil was killed in a terror attack at the Temple Mount three months ago.

Israeli Army Destroys Hamas Outpost in Gaza in Retaliation for Rocket Fire, Military Reports, Haaretz

The Israeli army destroyed a Hamas observation post on Sunday night in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for a rocket that was fired from the Strip at Israeli territory earlier in the evening, the military announced. According to the army, an Israel Defense Forces tank fired a mortar at the target, destroying it. Reports from Gaza said that the strike took place next to a refugee camp in the center of the Strip. When the rocket was fired from the Strip at southern Israel on Sunday evening, arning sirens sounded in the Eshkol Regional Council communities next to the Gaza border. According to the IDF, no injuries or damage were reported. After sending troops to locate the rocket, the army reported that it exploded in Gazan territory.

Senate Dems sense McMaster not sold on decertifying Iran deal, CNN

H.R. McMaster, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, invited a small group of Democratic senators to the White House Wednesday todiscuss the President’s plans on the Iran deal, and lawmakers left with the impression that he was not sold on the idea that decertifying is the right way to go, according to two sources familiar with the meeting. The sources said the meeting was clearly intended for McMaster to get ideas from key Senate Democrats on how to avoid decertifying the Iran deal, which many in both parties think would destabilize relations with allies and make it harder to confront foes well beyond Iran. These sources say McMaster never explicitly said he disagrees with the President, nor that he wants Trump to certify that the Iran deal is in America’s national interest. But the sources say McMaster repeatedly responded to Democratic senators’ entreaties not to decertify Iran and instead look for bipartisan alternatives by saying that he is not the one they have to convince, suggesting they were preaching to the choir.

Trump: I Won’t Move U.S. Embassy To Jerusalem Until I Give Peace Talks ‘A Shot’, Forward

President Trump said in an interview broadcast on Saturday that he wanted to give a shot at achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians before moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In June Trump signed a temporary order to keep the US embassy in Tel Aviv, despite a campaign promise he made to move it to Jerusalem.

Egypt’s Sissi: Fatah-Hamas unity a prelude to Israeli-Palestinian peace, Times of Israel

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on Sunday said the current Egypt-backed reconciliation talks between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are “preparation” for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. “Ongoing Egyptian moves to help our Palestinian brothers start a new stage of unity in the Palestinian ranks is preparation for a just peace between Palestinian and Israeli sides, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state to meet legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for a secure, stable and prosperous life,” Sissi said during a cabinet meeting, according to a statement published by his official spokesperson.

Protests Against Greek Orthodox Patriarch Intensify Over Church Land Sales, Haaretz

In an unusual step, the police prohibited a member of Israel’s Greek Orthodox community from entering a town in Israel’s north last week, ahead of the Sunday’s visit to the town by the church’s patriarch, after the man called for the leader’s ouster. Police issued a restraining order against Ghassan Munair last Thursday, barring him from the town of Kafr Reineh in the Galilee for one week over “suspicions of endangering public safety.” Munair, a political activist from the central city of Lod, had called for the removal of Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem over sales of church land to private developers.

Germany: Trump ‘likely’ to quit Iran deal next week, Times of Israel/AFP

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said Sunday that he feared US President Donald Trump would quit the Iran nuclear deal next week. Gabriel, speaking at a state election campaign event, said his question to Washington was: “What good will come of us treating Iran as though it is developing nuclear weapons after all?… Nothing.” He accused the US administration of “replacing the rule of law with the law of the strongest.” “And that is a great danger for us because if the United States of America takes that course then the world will change,” he said.

Israeli authorities ban Muslims from Ibrahimi mosque over Jewish holiday, Ma’an

Israeli authorities have decided to shut down the Ibrahimi mosque to Muslims and non-Jewish visitors and only allow Jewish worshipers access to the holy site, located in the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron, for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. Hafzi Abu Sneneh, director of the mosque, said he was informed that the site would be shut down to Muslim worshipers from 10 p.m. Sunday until Tuesday night, official Palestinian Wafa news agency reported. Abu Sneneh added that the Muslim call to prayer will also be banned during the shutdown period.

Opinions and Analysis

As Trump Tries to Kill the Iran Deal, A Former Israeli Spy Lobbies to Save It, New Yorker

“For a quarter century, Uzi Arad was one of Mossad’s top spies. He rose to become the director of its intelligence division. He later gained fame as a top aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Likud Party leader who has campaigned longer and harder against the Iran nuclear deal than almost any other leader. Arad, who served as the national-security adviser from 2009 to 2011, broke with his former boss over the agreement. He travelled to Washington this week to lobby—primarily among Republicans in Congress—to save the controversial agreement at a pivotal juncture.”

Trump’s Iran Ploy Could Isolate Washington, Implicate Netanyahu and Divide American Jews, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev writes, “Donald Trump is set to execute a stunning diplomatic reversal. By word of his mouth alone, Trump could cast a fanatic, aggressive and imperialist country like Iran as an innocent victim worthy of international protection. A regime that spreads terror, violence and fear throughout the Middle East will enjoy support and sympathy, while the country that is supposed to be the leader of the free world will find itself isolated and on the defensive. And bragging rights for this brilliant maneuver will rightfully belong to our own Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

Trump’s horrifying Iran deal gambit, NY Daily News

Joe Cirincione writes, “A small group of neoconservative groups in Washington have stroked Trump’s ego and fanned his obsessive hatred of former President Obama to convince him that he could and must tear down Obama’s signature foreign policy achievement. They manufacture “violations” no agency can find, invent a “spirit of the deal” than never existed, and imagine an alternative future where Iran caves to new, unilateral American demands — or we use military force to remove the regime once and for all. This is not a dream, but a nightmare.”

Is Hamas Inching Toward Peace — Or Going Rogue?, Forward

JJ Goldberg observes, “The Islamist terror group has taken several significant steps in recent months that strongly suggest it’s inching toward accommodation. One is the adoption of a new charter that moderates its positions in several critical ways, most notably tacit acceptance of a two-state Israeli-Palestinian agreement. Another is a tentative agreement to let Mahmoud Abbas’s West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (P.A.) resume governing in Gaza, a decade after Hamas gunmen forcibly expelled it. That effort was launched with much fanfare October 3 when the P.A. cabinet convened in Gaza for the first time in three years. There are also good reasons to doubt whether Hamas is really changing at all. Every effort over the last decade to reconcile Hamas with the P.A. and its ruling Fatah party has collapsed in infancy. It’s foolish to put money on this one ending differently. Hamas has already rejected one of Abbas’s key conditions for reconciliation, namely dissolving its military wing or merging it into Abbas’s U.S.-trained security forces.”

Hamas’ weapons risk could kill Palestinian reconciliation, Al-Monitor

Ahmad Melhem reports, “Asked who will be in charge of the security apparatus in Gaza, Abbas said everything should be in the hands of the PA, and added, “I will not accept and will not replicate the Hezbollah experience in Lebanon,” meaning he refuses to have a civilian government (PA) while a political movement (Hamas) keeps an armed force. He said the same rule will apply in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank: Any unauthorized person carrying a weapon will be arrested. No other weapons will be allowed. That prohibition alone could hinder reconciliation, given that Hamas and Fatah both refuse to give up their weapons, Mousa Abu Marzouk, the deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau, had said in a Sept. 22 press statement.”

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