News Roundup for April 12, 2018

April 12, 2018

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J Street in the News

Mike Pompeo, Trump’s pick for top diplomat, to face Senate confirmation hearing as international crises mount, Los Angeles Times

“Mike Pompeo faces his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday to become secretary of State as the Trump administration grapples with a mounting series of international crises and challenges, including probable U.S. air raids in Syria, a likely withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, and a possible summit with North Korea….The Council on American-Islamic Relations and several liberal groups, including the pro-Israel J Street lobbyists, called for senators to oppose Pompeo. They’ve staged petitions drives and other demonstrations to push the point.”

Mike Pompeo Could Go Down if Senate Democrats Decide to Fight, The Intercept

“Democratic activists across the country have become energized by the nomination of Mike Pompeo as the new secretary of state, kicking off a bout of organizing around foreign policy that has little precedent outside the lead-up to an imminent invasion….at least 178 national groups — representing everything from reproductive rights to the environment and beyond — have signed four separate letters of opposition. Petitions are everywhere, launched by J Street, CREDO, Indivisible, Win Without War, and the National Iranian American Council.”

Top News and Analysis

Trump’s Secretary of State pick Mike Pompeo faces hearing amid Syria crisis, other threats, USA Today

“CIA Director Mike Pompeo, President Trump’s choice to lead the State Department, faces senators at his confirmation hearing Thursday with dangerous crises looming with Russia, China, and Iran. Pompeo, a former Republican Congressman from Kansas with a reputation for a hawkish approach to American security, has been a lightning rod for criticism from rights advocates and some Democrats who worry he’ll lead the president into war.”

In Call to Netanyahu, Putin Urges Israel Not to Take Action in Syria, Haaretz

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on Wednesday, and the Russian leader urged Israel not to take action in Syria and to threaten its security. Israeli officials confirmed the call took place and said that Netanyahu told Putin that Israel will not permit Iran to set up a military presence in Syria.

After airstrike in Syria, an Israeli proxy war with Iran looms, Times of Israel

Raphael Ahren writes, “Following Israel’s alleged strike on Iranian targets in Syria, a military conflict between the Jewish state and the Islamic Republic appears increasingly likely, several analysts and officials estimated. ‘The Iranians will probably respond to the strike attributed to Israel, even if not immediately,’ reasoned Amos Yadlin, the head of the Institute for National Security Studies. ‘Iran will consider launching an official retaliation for the attacks on its soldiers this time in order to deter Israel from continuing to strike Iranian forces in Syria.’”


Israeli Army Hits Hamas Targets in Gaza; Rounds Fired From Strip Hit Israeli Home, Haaretz

The Israeli air force hit a Hamas target in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday night, the IDF spokesman reported. One member of Hamas’ military wing was killed in the attack, according to the Palestinian Healthy Ministry. Following the IDF strike, Hamas militant shot machine guns towards the aircraft, triggering rocket alert sirens throughout southern Israel in the regional councils of Shaar Hanegev and Sdot Negev. Hamas’ machine gun fire hit a house in Shaar Hanegev. There were no casualties or wounded.

Palestinian Shot in Viral Israeli Sniper Video: ‘They Shot Me and Later Laughed at Me’, Haaretz

A 28-year-old Palestinian said on Wednesday that he was the man whose shooting by an Israeli sniper was captured on video and later leaked, and he denied the army’s allegations that he had been organizing a violent demonstration at the Gaza border. Tamer Abu Daqqa, an unemployed resident of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, said he was shot while trying to help other Palestinians escape Israeli army fire.

Guatemala To Move Embassy To Jerusalem Two Days After U.S, Forward

Guatemala will move its embassy to Jerusalem on May 16, two days after the United States moves its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The announcement of the date for the planned move came on Wednesday morning, in a post on Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat’s Facebook page.

Left-wing Party’s Lawmakers Barred From Knesset Talks on Gaza Border Operations, Haaretz

Meretz MKs will not be able to attend Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee discussions on the recent military operations on the Gaza border, even though it was Meretz MK Michal Rozin who requested an urgent discussion of ways to calm the situation. Committee chairman MK Avi Dichter (Likud) decided to hold the discussions on the violent clashes in classified subcommittees that don’t have any Meretz MKs as members.

At Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony in Israel, Netanyahu warns Iran not to test his country’s determination, JTA

As Israel ushered in Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, with a ceremony at the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Iran “do not test the determination of the State of Israel.”

Netanyahu backs bill to remove High Court’s ability to strike down laws, Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday told fellow coalition leaders he would back a major constitutional reform that would remove the High Court of Justice’s power to strike down Knesset legislation it deemed unconstitutional. Netanyahu is reportedly seeking to institute the “British model” of judicial oversight, which would make the High Court’s rulings on the constitutionality of laws merely advisory. The reference to Britain comes from the UK Supreme Court’s limited powers when it comes to ruling on a law’s constitutionality under the British doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty.

Opinions and Analysis

This Is Not a Drill: Syria Showdown Could Spark Israeli-Iranian and U.S.-Russian Clashes, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev writes, “The myriad forces and actors, which include groups such as Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, ISIS and even Hamas, are gearing up for action. Tensions are rising, and the brink is clearly just ahead. With so many conflicting and converging interests coming into play at the same time, it’s not clear that that the main players can still step back, on the assumption that they even want to. Iran, Syria and their terrorist clients certainly need to be taught a lesson and held at bay, but future historians might still portray the events of recent days as a march of folly, the inexorable deterioration of a tense situation into a war that all its participants will come to regret.”

Palestinian journalist’s killing spurs international condemnation, Al-Monitor

Daoud Kuttab reports, “The decision by the Union of Journalists in Israel, chaired by Yair Tarchitsky, to send Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot a letter regarding the death of a Palestinian journalist is not, by most accounts, a big deal. Nevertheless, the April 7 letter, which Tarchitsky delivered to Eisenkot, has been welcomed in Palestinian media….In more than 50 years of occupation, the state of Israel has never recognized Palestinian journalists to be practicing a profession. Although Israel issues press cards to Israeli and international journalists, an IPI report has documented that Israel has no category for Palestinian journalists. A first step toward rectifying the existing situation would be for Israel to recognize the legitimacy of Palestinian journalists and institute clear guidelines to ensure their protection during a military presence.”