News Roundup for April 18, 2019

April 18, 2019

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J Street in the News

Pod Save The World: Assange Arrested, Bernie’s Foreign Policy, Bowe Bergdahl and Afghanistan, Pod Save The World
J Street’s Israel Director Yael Patir was a guest on Pod Save the World with former Obama administration staffers Ben Rhodes and Tommy Vietor. Yael spoke about the Israeli election results, the state of the Israeli center-left, and how progressive American leaders can help their Israeli counterparts to challenge and defeat the right-wing Trump/Netanyahu agenda (segment begins 22:05).

Two Way Street; Nachshon Ben Aminadav, A Hero for Our Times, J Street
“Our hopes may be subdued in these times in which there is an absence of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians leading toward a two-state solution, and Prime Minister Netanyahu has just been re-elected with an even more right-wing government likely. But our hopes need not be dead. A resolution of this conflict can be achieved even now with visionary, courageous and bold moral leadership that is unafraid to do what should have been done years ago.”

Top News and Analysis

Israeli envoy: no action on West Bank until after peace plan, AP
Israel’s UN ambassador said Wednesday he believes his government will take no action on annexing Jewish settlements in the West Bank until after the Trump administration releases its long-awaited Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

Kushner: Mideast Peace Plan Won’t Be Unveiled Before June, Haaretz
The Trump administration’s peace plan won’t come out before June, said Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser. Kushner told a group of Ambassadors on Wednesday that the plan will only be revealed after the Muslim month of Ramadan, which will begin in early May and end in early June.

Benjamin Netanyahu and the Death of the Zionist Dream, New York Times
Avi Shlaim writes, “Mr. Netanyahu is incapable of holding the moral high ground at either the personal or the political level. At home he faces a pending criminal indictment for corruption. Abroad, he projects the image of a militaristic and increasingly authoritarian state. His recent success at the polls is not a victory for the Revisionist vision of the state. It is a victory for darker and more sinister forces that could end up by jeopardizing the entire Zionist project. David Ben-Gurion is turning in his grave. And so is Zeev Jabotinsky.”


US Aid Agency Is Preparing To Lay Off Most Local Staff For Palestinian Projects, NPR
USAID is aiming to reduce its local staff of about 100 employees to only 14, according to official communications reviewed by NPR. Most of the employees to be laid off are Palestinians or Arab citizens of Israel, and the others are Jewish Israelis […] “It’s a huge mistake,” said former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro, who served during the Obama administration and said he was aware of USAID’s plans to lay off staffers. “Even if you get big checks from the Gulf States, you will want development experts to help steer where that money goes. We won’t have our own team of experts available. None of this makes any sense.”

Israel Begins Demolishing Palestinian Homes in East Jerusalem Neighborhood, Haaretz
Large forces of police and Jerusalem city officials began demolishing Wednesday morning Palestinians homes in the Wadi Yetzol section of East Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood on the outskirts of the Old City of Jerusalem […]According to a district court decision from three weeks ago and a Supreme Court decision earlier this week, the municipality was granted the right to demolish all the houses in the neighborhood – amounting to some 60 buildings, home to 500 families.

Labor leader to move up party primaries, bow out, after stunning loss, Times of Israel
Embattled Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay will move up the party primaries and likely won’t seek reelection after the dovish movement saw its worst-ever election result last week. According to Channel 12, the party will choose a new leader within six months. MKs Itzhik Shmuli and Stav Shaffir, two rising stars within the party, are expected to pursue the post.

Israeli ultra-Orthodox Party Says Ready for New Election if Lieberman Insists on Draft Law, Haaretz
As coalition talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayhu’s Likud party begin in earnest following last week’s Knesset election, officials with the United Torah Judaism party have said they would not join a Netanyahu-led coalition if ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students don’t continue to be exempt from military conscription. If the dispute over legislation mandating the drafting of ultra-Orthodox men is not resolved in the coalition talks, United Torah Judaism would have no problem heading for new elections, the party said Tuesday.

Israeli envoy: Netanyahu hasn’t drawn up West Bank annexation plans, The Jerusalem Post
Israel has not formulated any specific plans to annex West Bank settlements, the country’s ambassador to the UN Danny Danon told reporters in New York on Wednesday.

At White House reception for Jewish leaders, not much talk of peace plan, Times of Israel
Despite high expectations from a White House gathering for select Jewish leaders on Tuesday night, the event turned out to be a pre-Passover reception and did not address the forthcoming peace pan that administration officials have been preparing to unveil, according to sources who were there.

Notre Dame Fire May Be Divine Punishment, Says Prominent Settler Rabbi, Haaretz
The conflagration at Notre Dame de Paris that badly damaged the ancient cathedral on Monday was possibly divine punishment, an influential Israeli rabbi said on Wednesday, invoking a 13th-century burning of Jewish scriptures. Addressing the fire at the 856-year-old church in Paris in a Q&A article published on religious-Zionist Israeli news website Srugim, French-born Shlomo Aviner, now the rabbi of West Bank settlement Beit El, also said it is a mitzvah – a deed done from religious duty- to set fire to churches in Israel, but warned that shouldn’t be done anyway, because they would then have to be rebuilt.

Opinion and Analysis

Trump and Netanyahu Are Breaking the Bond Between American Jews and Israel, Time
Jane Eisner writes, “This situation has grown only more extreme under President Trump, who has openly sought to portray Democrats as anti-Israel and, indeed, anti-Semitic, while aligning himself so closely with Netanyahu that he seemed to try to swing the election in his ally’s favor. Trump’s approach to the Middle East is shaped as much by white evangelical Christians as it is by the few right-wing Jews in his administration, with the ironic consequence that the American president appears to support the Jews of Israel more than the Jews of the United States.”

The True Cost of Israeli Settlers’ Annexation Dream, Haaretz
David Rosenberg writes, “In a testament to how shallow their fealty to democracy is, most of the Israeli right is distressingly unbothered by this. But perhaps they could appreciate the cost annexation would impose in terms of security and ultimately in money. The facts are spelled out in a report published last September Ramifications of West Bank Annexation: Security and Beyond by a group of ex-army officers and the Israel Policy Forum.”

No Solution but a Two-State Solution, Harvard Political Review
Johannes Lang writes, “[T]he two-state solution, for want of feasible and fair alternatives, remains the only viable and sustainable option on the table. The status quo is unconscionable for Palestinians, while an alternative one-state solution is unpalatable to Israelis. The two-state plan has failed not because of the fundamental irreconcilability of both positions, but from a lack of trust and imaginative leadership. Now, more than ever, the United States, Israel’s number one ally and sponsor, must bring both sides to the table and pressure the next Israeli government to end the occupation.”

The Ultra-Orthodox Will Determine Israel’s Political Future, Foreign Policy
Gov Kalev writes, “Ultra-Orthodox Jews, or Haredis, are Israel’s fastest-growing group, but they are also the country’s poorest population, with 45 percent living below the poverty line in insular communities. Yet, unlike in other countries, where the poor tend to vote for left-wing parties that promote social welfare agendas, Israeli Haredis are overwhelmingly right-wing, and the Haredi parties that they elect consistently lend their support to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud party.”

This Hot Potato Threatens Netanyahu’s Government Even Before It’s Formed, Haaretz
Jonathan Lis and Aaron Rabinowitz write, “Netanyahu will have to find a formula that can bridge the gaps on this issue between former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman – who wants to return to this job and enact the conscription bill he submitted last term – and the ultra-Orthodox parties, which oppose the bill.”

Let’s stop talking about a false ‘Jewish-Arab partnership’, +972 Mag
Rami Younis and Orly Noy write, “By creating symmetry between Israelis and Arabs, Jews on the left are not only missing the bigger picture – they are actively taking part in erasing the Palestinian struggle. “

The ADL Opposes West Bank Annexation – Because We Are Zionists, The Forward
Kenneth Jacobson writes, “Last week, the ADL joined a number of other Jewish organizations in signing a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to oppose any steps by Israel to annex territory in the West Bank. Signing the letter was for us the ultimate Zionist statement. Israel needs a two-state solution as much as the Palestinians. And as news reports suggest the Trump Israeli-Palestinian peace plan is being readied for release in the coming weeks, it was important for us to communicate to the Administration our concerns that annexation of the West Bank would ring the death-knell for such a solution.”

Netanyahu needs to cut deal with Hamas now, Al-Monitor
Shlomi Eldar writes, “Liberman wants to return to the Defense Ministry, but only if he is given free rein. He wants to determine defense policy and defeat Hamas, but that freedom runs counter to the promise Netanyahu gave the organization of a long-term truce. Netanyahu thus finds himself between a rock and a hard place, between Hamas’ threats to resume its border protests and perhaps launch another wave of violence and Liberman’s threats to block the formation of his fifth government.”