News Roundup for April 23, 2018

April 23, 2018

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J Street in the News

Natalie Portman’s Boycott of Netanyahu Borders on anti-Semitism, Israeli Minister Says, Haaretz

“Jeremy Ben Ami, the president of J Street, expressed support for Portman, stating that ‘Natalie Portman has every right to listen to her conscience and express her concerns when it comes to the current policies and direction of Israel and its government — concerns that are shared by so many American Jews and supporters of Israel around the world.’”

Top News and Analysis

As Macron arrives to meet Trump, fate of Iran nuclear deal is front and center, The Washington Post

Karen DeYoung writes, “But no issue looms larger than Iran, and the nuclear agreement that the United States and five other countries signed with Tehran in 2015… The U.S. decision deadline is May 12. Failure to work out a compromise between the United States and its closest European allies that will keep the nuclear accord alive could lead to the most significant trans-Atlantic breach in decades.”

Conflict Between Iran and Israel Will Rest on Fate of the Nuclear Deal, Haaretz

Zvi Bar’el observes, “Iran is also tensely awaiting May 12 – the date by which U.S. President Donald Trump must decide whether his country is quitting the 2015 nuclear agreement with Tehran. For Iran, this decision is critical. The waiting period has already had a tangible effect, resulting in a dearth of foreign investment; a freeze on projects already agreed upon with several different countries; and heavy pressure to reduce government expenditure.”

The Insanity at the Gaza Fence, The New York Times

Roger Cohen argues, “Israel has the right to defend its borders, but not to use lethal force against mainly unarmed protesters in the way that has already left 35 Palestinians dead and nearly 1,000 injured. Overreaction is inherent to the existential threat Israel claims, but that is ever less persuasive. Israeli military dominance over the Palestinians is overwhelming and Arab states have lost interest in the Palestinian cause….Gaza Redux: the violence is inevitable. The Israeli-Palestinian status quo, so called, incubates bloodshed. It’s important to look beyond the Gaza fence, symbol, like all fences, of failure. This is what happens when diplomacy dies, when compromise evaporates, when cynicism triumphs….Shabtai Shavit, another Mossad director, from 1989 to 1996, said: ‘Why are we living here? To have our grandchildren continue to fight wars? What is this insanity in which territory, land, is more important than human life?’”

How Jim Mattis Became Trump’s “Last Man Standing”, New Yorker

Susan Glasser writes, “For both Macron and Merkel, their top priority is somehow, against all the evidence of where Trump is leaning to the contrary, convincing the President not to blow up the Iran nuclear deal in May. Mattis and Tillerson pushed hard to save the deal in previous rounds of the debate, and Tillerson’s State Department policy-planning chief, Brian Hook, has been trying to get the Europeans to support a tougher approach to Iran that might convince Trump to keep the nuclear deal in place.”


Senate Panel Poised to Vote Against Backing Pompeo Nomination, The Wall Street Journal

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to vote on Mr. Pompeo’s nomination on Monday evening. All of the panel’s Democrats have said they would oppose the former congressman’s nomination, and they have been joined by one Republican, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

State Department strikes reproductive rights, ‘Occupied Territories’ from human rights report, The Washington Post

The State Department’s annual human rights report released Friday drops references to reproductive rights for women and stops using the phrase “Occupied Territories” to describe Israel’s presence in Gaza and the West Bank.

Palestinians Report Four Killed, 156 Wounded by Israeli Fire in Fourth Friday of Gaza Protests, Haaretz

The Health Ministry in Gaza reported that four Palestinians were killed and 156 wounded by Israeli live fire on Friday as thousands of Gazans protested along the border in the fourth consecutive week of the “March of Return.” The ministry said a total of 729 Palestinians were wounded in the protests by, among other things, live fire, tear gas inhalation and rubber bullets.

Mnuchin to lead U.S. delegation to Jerusalem embassy opening, Axios

The Israeli Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister’s office have started to prepare for the embassy event and for welcoming the delegation. The officials added the Israeli government want to use the event to give diplomatic boost to U.S.-Israeli relations and to the Israeli efforts to convince other countries to move their embassies to Jerusalem.

Palestinian Property Damaged in Suspected anti-Arab Hate Crimes for Fourth Time This Week, Haaretz

Abusive graffiti was found painted in the Palestinian town of Burqa in the West Bank east of Ramallah early Friday morning in a suspected anti-Arab hate crime. Local residents said about 40 vehicles had their tires slashed. Meanwhile, dozens of olive trees – nearly 100, according to locals – were found destroyed in the Palestinian village of Burin southwest of Nablus.

Romania has no plans to move its embassy to Jerusalem, president says, JTA

The president of Romania dismissed claims by a senior lawmaker in Bucharest who said his country would be the first European Union member state to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. On Friday, President Klaus Iohannis denied the veracity of assertions made the previous day by Liviu Dragnea, president of the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the parliament. The president has the final word on foreign policy issues.

‘It’s Not BDS, It’s Netanyahu’: Portman Explains Why She Nixed Prize Ceremony in Israel, Haaretz

In a statement published on her Instagram account, Portman explained that her decision not to appear at the ceremony “has been mischaracterized.” She added that she chose not to attend because “I did not want to appear as endorsing Benjamin Netanyahu, who was to be giving a speech at the ceremony.”

Opinions and Analysis

Netanyahu Struggles to Get European Nations to Follow Trump and Relocate Embassies to Jerusalem, Haaretz

Noa Landau writes, “Under instructions from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel has been pressuring Romania and the Czech Republic over the past few months to buck European Union and UN Security Council policy and move their embassies to Jerusalem — without regard to the peace process with the Palestinians – as the United States has done…But domestic pressures in those countries are preventing this step. Since the U.S. declaration, Netanyahu has marked the creation of a “wave” of embassies moving to the capital as a central aim of Israel’s foreign service.”

Netanyahu’s delusions on Saudi Arabia, Al-Monitor

Akiva Eldar observes, “On Israel’s 70th Independence Day, the Arab world is once again inviting it to become a full-fledged member of the region and enjoy security, recognition and peace with all Arab states. This historic transformation, however, carries a price tag: the launch of serious peace negotiations for ensuring the establishment of an independent Palestinian state within the June 1967 borders, with its capital in the eastern part of Jerusalem….If [Netanyahu] continues to adhere to the vision of Israelis living by the sword, the losses will mount in the country’s 71st year, too. Had he been truly blessed with innovative, strategic thinking and an iota of daring, he could choose the path open to him that would prevent more orphans and more bereavement.”

Natalie Portman Speaks Loudly For Young American Jews With Snub Of Israel, Forward

Michael Koplow writes, “[I]t would be a mistake to view this as just the latest high profile incident in the struggle between Israel and its detractors, or to view Portman as an ordinary celebrity. Portman’s statement is significant because it actually tells a larger story about the relationship between Israel and the American Jewish community, and why the Israeli government is in the midst of making a critical strategic error that will have repercussions for decades.”

Palestinians skeptical about Arab League support for Jerusalem, Al-Monitor

Daoud Kuttab reports, “Many Palestinians hope that this strong Arab support for Jerusalem will close off any chance that the United States will try to take the holy city ‘off the table,’ a reference to what Trump had boasted about. But having seen this charade before, few if any are confident that this Arab position will not erode and compromises on this essential Arab demand will not be made.”