News Roundup for April 17, 2019

April 17, 2019

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J Street in the News

Like AOC, J Street Might Support Attaching Strings To Israel Aid, The Forward
“In an exclusive interview, Ben-Ami told the Forward that J Street will deliberate over the next few weeks about whether to advocate for bills that would attach conditions to the aid. Such bills have been introduced to Congress in the past, but J Street has never endorsed them before. ‘If the United States Congress wants to put into place in legislation that authorizes the aid — none of the funds in this section shall be used for XYZ — that seems to be a very fair thing to say,’ Ben-Ami said. ‘The United States should not want to see its taxpayer dollars used in any way for the support of activities that implement a decision to annex’ the West Bank.”

Freshman Democrat Ocasio-Cortez says cutting aid to Israel ‘on the table’, Times of Israel
“Jeremy Ben-Ami, who heads J Street, credited her with expressing a ‘nuanced’ opinion on American policy toward Israel. ‘Nuanced position from @AOC in wake of Netanyahu annexation pledge: open up discussion of US-Israel relations,’ he tweeted. ‘J Street’s view: US can assure Israeli security w/o funding activities that run counter to US values, interests such as annexation, demolitions.’”

Top News and Analysis

Chilling message’: Israel court orders expulsion of HRW official, Al Jazeera
In a statement after the court’s decision on Tuesday, HRW said neither it nor Shakir promote Israel boycotts, but call for companies to cease operations in illegal West Bank settlements because they “inherently benefit from and contribute to serious violations of international humanitarian law”. The ruling was “new and dangerous interpretation” of the 2017 law, and it “threatens the ability of all Human Rights Watch staff members to access both Israel and the West Bank”, the US-based rights group said, adding that it would seek an injunction allowing Shakir to remain in the country until the appeal was heard.

EU Rejects Israeli Annexation Talk, Warns of Middle East Chaos, The Jerusalem Post
The European Union has rejected the idea of Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank, which would create chaos and violence in the Middle East, its foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday. “If it is not going to be a two-state solution than it is not going to be a solution,” Mogherini said.  

More than a dozen right-wing groups want Trump to recognize an Israeli annexation of the West Bank, JTA
A coalition of more than a dozen conservative groups, most of them Jewish, sent a letter to President Donald Trump tacitly asking him to respect a potential Israeli annexation of West Bank settlements […] The letter comes in response to a coalition of centrist and liberal groups who last week urged Trump not to recognize a potential Israeli West Bank annexation. Sent Tuesday, the conservatives’ letter never explicitly advocates annexation or asks Trump to support it. But a press statement accompanying the letter said it aimed to urge “President Trump to permit Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a free hand to extend Israeli sovereignty over Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria,” the biblical Jewish term for the West Bank.


Bernie Sanders: Ilhan Omar is not anti-Semitic, but must do a ‘better job’ speaking to Jewish community, JTA
Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders said that he does not consider Rep. Ilhan Omar to be an anti-Semite, but that the Minnesota Democrat must do a “better job in speaking to the Jewish community.” Sanders, an independent running as a Democrat, participated Monday evening in a televised town hall meeting in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, hosted by Fox News Channel.

Nancy Pelosi: Ilhan Omar Is Not anti-Semitic, No ‘Taint Of’ anti-Semitism in Democratic Party, Haaretz
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi slammed U.S. President Donald Trump for politicizing the 9/11 terror attacks in an attack on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who she defended against accusations of anti-Semitism. “I don’t think the congresswoman is anti-Semitic. I wouldn’t even put those in the same category,” Pelosi, America’s top Democrat, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. Pelosi also rejected any allegations of anti-Semitism in the Democratic Party.

Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer lauds Trump at White House reception for Jewish leaders, JTA
Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to Washington, the keynote speaker at a White House reception for Jewish leaders, lavished praised on the Trump administration. The event Tuesday was notable because kept off the invitation list were leaders of three of the four major streams of American Judaism. Only leaders of Orthodox Jewish groups were present, although there was one Washington D.C. area Conservative rabbi.

Netanyahu Celebrates Election Victory: I Am Not Afraid of the Media, Haaretz
In a speech celebrating his election victory, Netanyahu said: “I want all parts of Israeli society, Jews and non-Jews as one, to be an integral part of the tremendous success story known as the State of Israel.” Speaking in Jerusalem, Netanyahu referred to commentators in the media who warned against appointing Likud lawmaker Yariv Levin, who promises to overhaul the justice system, to the position of justice minister. “I am not afraid of the media,” he said.

US publishes first map showing Golan as Israeli territory, Times of Israel
The US has for the first time published a map showing the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, three weeks after President Donald Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the strategic plateau. US Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt tweeted a picture of the map on Tuesday, saying: “Welcome to the newest addition of our international maps system.”

Interview: Palestinian PM accuses US of ‘financial war’, AP
The new Palestinian prime minister on Tuesday accused the United States of declaring “financial war” on his people and said an American peace plan purported to be in the works will be “born dead.” In his first interview with the international media since taking office over the weekend, Mohammad Shtayyeh laid out plans to get through the financial crisis he has inherited and predicted that the international community, including US allies in the Arab world, would join the Palestinians in rejecting President Donald Trump’s expected peace plan.

Palestinian Prisoners’ Hunger Strike Ends After Reaching Deal With Israel, Haaretz
The hunger strike organized by Palestinian prisoners in Israel has ended after the Prison Service agreed to install public phones in prisoners’ cellblocks and allow them to make supervised calls to relatives, sources among the prisoners said on Monday. They added that while Israel agreed to remove its cellphone jammers only if all the prisoners’ cellphones are taken, the prisoners won’t need cellphones if public phones are installed and properly maintained.

Palestinians nearly absent from Israel’s Election Day news broadcasts, +972 Mag
Israel’s top-rated news channel did not include a single Arab speaker on Election Day last week, according to the ‘Representation Index,’ a joint initiative of the Israeli NGO Sikkuy and Ifat Media Information, which provides quantitative and qualitative analysis of Arab citizens of Israel who are interviewed on leading news and current affairs programs.

Qatari Money, Eased Blockade: Hamas Chief Reveals Egypt-brokered Accord With Israel, Haaretz
Hamas’ political leader, Yahya Sinwar, said Saturday the understandings reached with Israel through Egyptian mediation include expanding the list of items allowed into the Strip and easing restrictions on import and export and passage of traders. Sinwar also issued a threat toward Israel, saying that it will have to evacuate Tel Aviv and other parts of the country if it forces Hamas into a war.

World Bank Calls on Israel to Ease Up on Palestinian Economy, Bloomberg
The World Bank called on Israel to relax restrictions on imports to the Palestinian territories that can have both civilian and military applications, saying such limits are harming the Palestinian economy. The current system “limits economic diversification and sustainable growth in the Palestinian territories,” said Anna Bjerde, the World Bank’s acting country director for West Bank and Gaza and director of strategy and operations for the Middle East and North Africa. 

Opinion and Analysis

Trump Now Expects Payback From Netanyahu. It Could Blow Up the Middle East, Haaretz
David Rothkopf writes, “Despite the fact that this plan has always been more fantasy than reality, due to the pressures of the upcoming U.S. election and the desire to distract from the 17 ongoing investigations into Trump’s wrong-doing, something will have to be cobbled together and announced. And based on early signs, it is certain to be terrible.”

A new generation is ready to stand with Palestinians, Washington Post
Noura Erakat writes, “Young Palestinians have been the driving force of new political efforts such as the Palestinian Youth Movement, which connects Palestinians ages 18 to 35 across a global diaspora with the aim of reconstituting a national politics of resistance. Young Palestinians are also the primary advocates of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that sidesteps political negotiations and makes rights-based claims for equality, the return of refugees and the end of occupation of Arab lands. Far from destitution, the grim status quo is fueling a politics of hope among Palestinian youths in particular.”

Separation and a Two-State Solution Aren’t the Same, Foreign Policy
Ben White writes, “Netanyahu is not the only one who opposes basic Palestinian rights. Almost all Israeli leaders reject the fundamental tenets of sovereignty that would make a Palestinian state genuine and viable.”

Netanyahu is Israel’s Master Incrementalist, The National Interest
Seth J. Frantzman writes, “Netanyahu tends to have a high regard for his own abilities and belief that he is doing what is right for the country, which results in constant spats with Israeli media, divisions with Diaspora Jews, and even attacks on the Israeli judiciary.”

Gaza Leader Says ‘Finger on the Trigger,’ but Hamas and Israel Are Nearing Agreement, Haaretz
Amos Harel  writes, “The meeting between the Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, and the leaders of other Palestinian factions a few days before Israel’s April 9 election has provided a large number of details about the understandings that are taking shape between Hamas and Israel with the mediation of Egyptian intelligence. A review of Sinwar’s full remarks shows that he is preparing the ground in Gaza for a long-term cease-fire with Israel in exchange for a considerable improvement in the economic situation in Gaza. The senior Hamas official’s justifications for such an accord in his talks with the other factions actually show how far the talks have gone.”