News Roundup for April 20, 2018

April 20, 2018

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J Street in the News

At AIPAC, a Trump-Netanyahu marriage made in heaven. At J Street, in hell, Times of Israel

“J Street is looking more important to Democrats, even those — perhaps especially those — who have long been aligned with AIPAC and have had different policy views than J Street in the past….There’s little reason to suspect Cardin will be any less of a pro-Israel stalwart from now on, but there’s good reason to suspect that Democrats will not be able to get away much longer with being completely uncritical of Israel. Not with the Netanyahu government in power, and especially not with the Netanyahu government so inextricably linked to Trump….the two conferences showcased more than just competing ideologies or political goals; they reflected different interpretations of this political moment. While AIPAC is leading you to believe that the Trump-Netanyahu axis is bringing the US closer to Israel, J Street is saying the two allied governments are pushing a whole generation of Americans further away from the Jewish state.”

Trump’s top envoy upholds right of Palestinians to protest ‘dire circumstances’ on Gaza border — peacefully, JTA

“Greenblatt has been working intensely for a year to revive the Middle East peace talks. The Palestinians backed away from the effort to revive the talks in December after President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Husam Zomlot, the Palestine Liberation Organization envoy to Washington, has since then been on a speaking tour explaining why the Jerusalem recognition drove the Palestinians away from the talks, most recently this week at the annual conference of J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East lobby. In his tweets, Greenblatt addressed Zomlot’s J Street speech, saying he agreed with aspects of it. ‘Husam Zomlot put forth 2 important quotes this week: ‘Investing in the cause of peace is not by words but by deeds’ & ‘The future is not shaped by those who merely witness it; the future is shaped by those who author it,’’ Greenblatt said. ‘I agree & we must work together to try to reach a peaceful future for Israelis & Palestinians.’”

Word on the Street: Israel’s 70th Anniversary, J Street

Alan Elsner writes, “The very fact that Israel came into being, just three years after the greatest disaster ever to befall the Jewish people, could be described as a modern miracle — and still fills me with joy….Even as we feel this tremendous pride in and appreciation for Israel, we also feel compelled to speak out about the aspects of its current reality and its government’s current policies that we find worrisome and disturbing….As we mark this birthday, its important to let ourselves celebrate. But tomorrow, we need to get back to work — because there is still so much left to do. We need to fight for our vision of a thriving Israel living side-by-side in peace and security with its Palestinian neighbors. An Israel that lives out the prophetic values outlined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. An Israel truly dedicated to freedom, justice and peace.”

Top News and Analysis

First Reports of Palestinian Killed by Israeli Gunfire as Fourth Week of Gaza Protests Begins, Haaretz

“The Health Ministry in Gaza reported that one Palestinian was killed by Israeli fire east of Jabalya as thousands of Palestinians arrived to the tents set up near the Gaza border in the fourth consecutive week of Gaza’s March of Return mass protests.”

Congress seeks to exert more control over Middle East wars, Al-Monitor

“Congress is seeking to rein in President Donald Trump’s war-making powers following last weekend’s military strikes in Syria. While many lawmakers of both parties agree that the commander in chief has broad authority to engage in such short-term actions, they are under growing pressure to play a more forceful oversight role. One new bill under discussion would supplant a counterterrorism law from 2001 that has been used to justify an ever-expanding number of interventions in the Middle East and beyond, while another could complicate US support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen.”


Over 20,000 March in Northern Israel to Mark ‘Catastrophe’ of Israeli Independence, Haaretz

More than 20,000 people participated in a procession Thursday marking the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” when more than 700,000 Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes during the 1947-49 Israeli War of Independence. The Association for the Protection of the Rights of the Displaced organized the event for its 21 consecutive year alongside Israel’s Independence Day celebrations. Dubbed the “Procession of Return,” the event takes place each year on the lands of a different village that was uprooted in 1948.

Trump’s secretary of state pick gains support of his first Democratic senator, CNN

Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota on Thursday announced her support for Mike Pompeo’s nomination for secretary of state, becoming the first Democrat to say she’ll vote for the current CIA director to be the nation’s top diplomat and giving him a much-needed vote for his confirmation.

Key faction says will boycott rare Palestinian parliament session, Reuters

A Palestinian Liberation Organisation faction said on Thursday it would not attend a meeting of the most important Palestinian political congress in years, because it wants more factions to be included. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) said it will boycott the rare Palestinian National Council (PNC) session, after a delay to allow such factions as Hamas and the Islamic Jihad to attend was not been granted, the group said in a statement issued in Cairo on Thursday. The PFLP is the second-largest PLO faction after Fatah, the group headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who also heads the PLO. Its absence would be a blow to his efforts to win a broad consensus on resolutions.

Genesis Prize Cancels Ceremony After 2018 Winner Natalie Portman Says Won’t Visit Israel, Haaretz

The Genesis Prize announced it was canceling its prize ceremony in Israel in June after 2018 recipient Natalie Portman said she would not take part in light of “recent events.” The foundation said that Portman’s representative notified it that “[r]ecent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her and she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel” and that “she cannot in good conscience move forward with the ceremony.”

In first, European Parliament condemns Hamas for terror, use of human shields, Times of Israel

The European Parliament on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a resolution that denounces Hamas as a terrorist group that uses human shields, calls for Israel’s destruction and “seems to aim at escalating tensions” at the Gaza-Israel border. The carefully calibrated text, which was the result of intense negotiations between the parliament’s various factions but was eventually jointly submitted by all major political groups, also backs calls for probes into Israel’s use of live ammunition to fend off protesters at the border and calls on Israel to exercise restraint.

An IDF General in the Crosshairs: Islamic Jihad Releases Menacing Video Ahead of Friday’s Gaza Protest, Haaretz

Islamic Jihad published a video Thursday threatening Israeli soldiers ahead of the weekly demonstration along the Israel-Gaza border this Friday. The clip shows the group’s operatives looking through the scope of a rifle at Israeli military figures, including Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the coordinator of government activities in the territories.

Opinions and Analysis

It’s Time For Israel To Recognize That Diaspora Jews Are Already Home, Forward

Jane Eisner argues, “Some Jews in what we call the Diaspora will continue to make aliyah and fulfill the Zionist dream. But most will not, and we need to adjust our expectations of each other accordingly. A more balanced and realistic relationship can strengthen both anchors of 21st-century Jewish life.”

Without an independent judiciary, Israel’s cherished democracy will be at risk, Times of Israel

Rosalie Silberman Abella writes, “What is most alarming to me about this ongoing attempt to delegitimize the reputation of the judiciary is that it is being done in the name of patriotism. This, to me, seems somewhat perverse. Patriotism means upholding the values on which your country is based. Those values in Israel are Jewish and democratic. They include respect for human rights, tolerance, equality, and dignity. That is what being patriotic means. Yet in championing those values, the Israeli judiciary finds itself demonized by some for being independent from political expedience and immune to political will.”

We Must Deal With the Nakba, Haaretz

The editorial board writes, “As long as a Palestinian state hasn’t been established, the Nakba isn’t over, and the mourning of the Palestinians — and Israel’s Arab citizens among them — isn’t over. As long as Israel’s occupation and dispossession policy isn’t changing, the state must at least contain and respect the sentiments of the national minority living in it.”

Confirming Pompeo could help lead to war, Washington Post

Skip Auld writes, “As a former Peace Corps volunteer who worked in Iran in the early 1970s before the revolution, I am greatly concerned that Mr. Trump will fulfill his threat to kill the agreement, even though Mr. Pompeo admitted during his testimony that Iran is in compliance. Withdrawing from the agreement could undermine our diplomacy with North Korea, weaken relations with our key allies and lead us closer to war in Asia and the Middle East.”