News Roundup for April 19, 2018

April 19, 2018

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J Street in the News

Israel’s Democracy Needs Defending. It’s Worth Fighting For, Forward

Jeremy Ben-Ami writes, “As Israel hits 70, Jews in both Israel and the U.S. who believe their countries will be best served by preserving a strong commitment to liberal democracy should strengthen our ties and partnership. Let’s not be afraid to call out the common dangers posed by the actions of our governments. Let’s forge an alliance that can counter the far-right, laying out and working toward our vision for a different and brighter future, not just for Israel but the United States as well. The majority of Jews around the world want to see a secure, democratic and Jewish Israel thrive and prosper for the next 70 years and long beyond. Let’s recognize the threats we face and the need to fight them both in Israel and in the United States. This is another aspect of the ‘new normal’ emerging in the 21st century: liberal democracy needs defending. It is well worth fighting for.”

J Street Commemorates Yom HaZikaron, J Street

“Today we mark Yom HaZikaron, Israeli Memorial Day, and commemorate all those who have served and fallen in defense of the State of Israel. Seventy years after Israel’s founding and War of Independence, as we reflect on the country’s incredible strength and achievements, we feel awe at the incredible legacy of dedication and sacrifice on the part of so many….As we join with our Israeli friends and family to mark this solemn day, and then rejoice in 70 years of independence as we move to Yom Ha’atzmaut, we remember the responsibilities that come with having a democratic Jewish homeland. We resolve to continue to advocate for the urgent choices that Israel’s leaders and allies must make in order to secure its future for generations to come.”

On polarized campuses, J Street U has a hard time playing both sides, Washington Jewish Week

“Halle Young, a student at Reed College in Portland, said that J Street U students understand that some Jews on campus are cautious about identifying with the organization for fear of being labeled anti-Israel. But in many ways, she said, the conference itself exists to say that one can criticize the Israeli government and Israeli policy, but still love Israel. “Articulating that nuance, to be both pro-Israel and anti-occupation, is pretty much the central tenet of J Street,” Young said. “That’s the foundation of all of our work.” Putting that belief into action, 100 J Street U members took Metro Monday to Israel’s Embassy, where they dropped off letters calling for the end of settlement construction in the West Bank. ‘As long as your government continues to advocate the dangerous annexationist agenda of the far-right settlement movement,’ the letters read, ‘we will continue to speak out and grow our movement.’”

Can J Street Bring Down The Trump-Netanyahu Axis?, Forward

Richard Goldwasser writes, “In the midst of this alarming rise of illiberalism in the US and Israel, J Street convened its annual four-day conference in Washington, marking its tenth anniversary….What marked this year’s conference was the joint awareness by the Americans and Israelis in attendance of the common threat they face. By drawing straight lines from Donald Trump to Benjamin Netanyahu and back again, speaker after speaker also laid the foundation for building a new and meaningful partnership between American and Israeli champions of democracy. Where the Netanyahu government and its enablers in the American Jewish community have perverted the words unbreakable bond to mean an unassailable vice grip of occupation over 4.5 million Palestinians, the speakers and attendees spoke about a bond rooted instead in the notion of the shared values of human rights and dignity for all.”

Top News and Analysis

Top Committee Democrats announce opposition to secretary of state nominee Mike Pompeo, CNN

“The two top ranking Democrats on the Senate foreign relations committee announced their opposition Wednesday to CIA Director Mike Pompeo becoming the next secretary of state. Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the committee, and Sen. Ben Cardin, the No. 2 Democrat, released statements laying out their objections….While not unexpected — both men voted against Pompeo’s nomination last year to head the CIA — their public statements Wednesday further underscore the tough road ahead for Pompeo’s quest to become the country’s chief diplomat.”

Israel Is At A Crossroads, Forward

Ehud Barak writes, “Israel is at a crossroads. We face critical challenges, going far deeper than the specific policy differences I have with Israel’s current government -— the most right-wing in our history. They are about what kind of country Israel will be in its next seven decades, and the degree to which we remain true to the struggle, sacrifice and the underlying Jewish values I still vividly remember from Israel’s first war in 1948. Whether we remain dedicated to a vision of a country that is not only strong, self-confident and successful; but firmly democratic, governed by the rule of law, economically and socially fair, compassionate, united. And one in which, because of our strength, we are prepared to take the difficult decisions to try, at least, to achieve the ultimate goal of peace.”

Yair Lapid: Benjamin Netanyahu Is No Longer a Defender of Israeli Democracy, Times of Israel

In an interview with David Horovitz, “Israelis’ second-favorite choice for prime minister charges that the long-serving incumbent does not put the greater good of Israel ahead of his own political interests anymore.”

Battle erupts over Israeli High Court’s independence, Al-Monitor

Akiva Eldar argues, “Unless pro-democracy forces wake up soon, they will find themselves having to add another sad day to the calendar week between Israel’s two national remembrance days — for the country’s fallen and for victims of the Holocaust. It will be known as Democracy Remembrance Day. On the days leading up to Israel’s 70th Independence Day (April 19), the government tried to take yet another big step toward ending the independence of its judiciary.”


Independence Is Being Able to Defend Ourselves, Netanyahu Says as Israel Marks 70, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at Israel’s official Independence Day ceremony Wednesday evening, marking the end of Memorial Day and the beginning of the celebrations of Israel’s 70th year, and praised the country as a beacon of light. Meanwhile, President Rivlin took the opportunity to thank the U.S. for recognizing Jerusalem.

Palestinian With Truck Carrying Explosives for ‘Independence Day Terror Attack’ Arrested, Haaretz

Security guards said they found explosives during a routine search of a truck trying to cross the West Bank’s Reihan Crossing. The explosives were described as “powerful,” though no additional details were given. Defense officials later said the suspected attack was likely to take place within Israel within the next few days. Police sappers dismantled the bomb and no one was hurt.

EU resolves to nix intolerant content in Palestinian textbooks, Times of Israel

The European Union’s parliament on Wednesday advanced legislation geared to prevent content deemed hateful in Palestinian textbooks.

Opinions and Analysis

‘Israel Is a Fortress, but Not Yet a Home’: David Grossman’s Memorial Day Speech to Bereaved Israelis and Palestinians, Haaretz

Author David Grossman, whose son Uri was killed in the 2006 Lebanon War and who on Thursday will be awarded the 2018 Israel Prize for Literature, addressed bereaved Israelis and Palestinians at an alternative Memorial Day event on April 17, 2018.

White House revealed North Korea trip to boost Pompeo’s image, Politico

“The White House on Wednesday cast CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s meeting with North Korea’s leader as evidence of his qualification to be President Donald Trump’s top diplomat, putting a political spin on his act of high-stakes nuclear diplomacy…The leaked revelation was timed to shore up Pompeo’s image as a diplomat capable of executing sensitive negotiations on the president’s behalf, according to a senior administration official—and to undermine Democratic efforts to portray him as a warmonger unsuited to lead the country’s diplomatic corps.”

Israel Celebrates Its Independence, We Mourn Our Loss, The New York Times

Ayman Odeh writes, “To end the Nakba is to fully accept our humanity as Palestinians and to acknowledge that the only future for Israelis and Palestinians is a shared future. To end the Nakba, we must end the occupation and establish an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, with Eastern Jerusalem as its capital. To end the Nakba, we must implement a just solution for Palestinian refugees. The Nakba will end when Israel recognizes the crimes of the Nakba and works to correct those mistakes. The Nakba will end when Jewish schoolchildren learn the culture of Arab Palestinians, just as Arab children learn Jewish history and culture, when they study the history of all the indigenous peoples of the land, when Palestinian children grow up with the freedom to move and live and determine their own destinies.”

Debunking the myth: White House envoy Jason Greenblatt is no moderate, +972

Aaron Magid observes, “[S]ince beginning his post, Greenblatt has been unwilling to even once publicly criticize Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu….On a symbolic level, Greenblatt has repeatedly met with the families of deceased Israeli soldiers’ whose bodies are being held in Gaza to rightfully bring attention to their cause, yet he has declined to even once highlight the suffering of a single Palestinian out of the 5,000 currently languishing in Israeli prisons. As a U.S. emissary, Greenblatt is supposed to mediate between the parties, but with his relentless condemnation of Palestinians across the political spectrum, it is unclear whether he is the American representative to the Middle East or Israel’s second ambassador in Washington.”

IDF prepares response to Gaza Nakba Day protests, Al-Monitor

Shlomi Eldar reports, “Israel’s security apparatus has decided that if the mass protests along the Gaza border and the Hamas-inspired violence continue to escalate, the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) response will not remain limited to the area close to the border. In other words, the IDF will not only address the threats to breach the border, but will attack Hamas targets as well….The longer the demonstrations continue, the more Hamas invests efforts in them and in the violence against IDF forces, which in turn will result in Israel ratcheting up its military responses to include Hamas targets in Gaza.”

70 Years Represents A Lifetime, Forward

Rabbi Jill Jacobs writes, “At its core, Zionism is about taking Jewish history into our own hands rather than waiting for others to make history for us. Israel’s current government’s defensive and defeatist posture surely stands as an affront to Zionism. But it also threatens to lead toward the fulfillment of that negative prophecy, that a lifetime may only last 70 years. Still, at this turning point, another possibility still stands: that Israel’s 70th birthday will serve as the beginning of a period of wisdom, when Israelis and Jews around the world partner to insist that the country live up to its potential as a democracy guided by Jewish values and by a commitment to human rights.”