News Roundup for April 24, 2018

April 24, 2018

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J Street in the News

Young Jewish Resistance in America Hails Portman’s Stance as Turning Point on Israel, Haaretz

“‘Most American Jews find the actions of the Trump administration to be horrifying. We would be wrong if we failed to notice the same patterns and practices in Netanyahu’s government,’ says Zoe Goldblum, a senior at Stanford and president of J Street U’s national board. She cites ‘rampant’ deportation efforts, as well as ‘antidemocratic stances toward dissent and the free press. Just as our community has played an important role in speaking out against the violence and racism of the Trump administration, Natalie Portman’s statement challenges us to recognize those same dynamics in Israel and to speak out about them,’ Goldblum says.”

J Street Deplores State Department Dropping ‘Occupied Territories’ from Human Rights Report, J Street

“J Street deplores the fact that the State Department, in its annual report on human rights around the world, is no longer describing the West Bank, Gaza or the Golan Heights as ‘occupied territories.’ This change will clearly be interpreted as encouragement by right-wing political forces in Israel advocating for the annexation of part or all of the West Bank, particularly in light of President Trump’s refusal to endorse a two-state solution….This change in nomenclature is clearly a case of political meddling by the Trump Administration designed to change the long-standing US policy of supporting a two-state solution to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. State Department officials have been quoted as saying that the change is catching up with what is now standard practice in the Trump Administration. But it is a change which flies in the face of international law and has potentially dire consequences for Israel, the Palestinians and the wider region.”

Senate Committee Vote on Pompeo An Abdication of Congressional Responsibility and American Values, J Street

“Today’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote to confirm CIA Director Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State is a distressing sign of the current Congress’ abdication of its constitutional duty to serve as a check on the president….To those senators so inclined to overlook and ignore Pompeo’s disgracefully prejudiced views: Would you support him if he said about Jews what he said about Muslims?”

Top News and Analysis

Senate panel narrowly endorses Mike Pompeo for secretary of state after Trump intervenes with key Republican, Washington Post

“President Trump personally intervened Monday to convince a committed Republican naysayer to back Mike Pompeo for secretary of state, possibly securing the backing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for a favored adviser whose committee vote, if not his ultimate confirmation, seemed in grave jeopardy. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who pledged to oppose Pompeo the day after he was nominated, tweeted about Trump’s outreach and his newfound support for Pompeo on Monday just moments before the committee vote started, seemingly saving face for the nominee, who was expected to fail the panel vote but secure the support of the full Senate later this week.”

Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner Expected to Attend Jerusalem Embassy Opening, Officials Say, Haaretz

“Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, both advisers to U.S. President Donald Trump, are expected to represent the US administration at the opening ceremony of the American Embassy in Jerusalem in May, Israeli officials confirmed Sunday. The official said American senators and members of the House of Representatives will attend, too. According to Channel 10, US Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin will also be in attendance.”

John Bolton presided over anti-Muslim think tank, NBC News

“John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser, chaired a nonprofit that has promoted misleading and false anti-Muslim news, some of which was amplified by a Russian troll factory, an NBC News review found….From 2013 until last month, Bolton was chairman of the Gatestone Institute, a New York-based advocacy group that warns of a looming ‘jihadist takeover’ of Europe leading to a ‘Great White Death.’…Alina Polyakova, a Brookings Institution fellow who studies far-right populism and disinformation campaigns in the European Union, said Gatestone is ‘putting out content that was clearly anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and was echoing some of the Russian disinformation propaganda’ being spread by internet trolls and on social media.”


Netanyahu agrees to delay vote on court override bill, Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition partners agreed Monday to delay by a week a vote on a controversial Knesset bill to rein in Israel’s top court, after the head of the Supreme Court refused to meet him otherwise. Supreme Court President Esther Hayut said in a statement on Monday that the Prime Minister’s Office had contacted her to set up the meeting and she was willing to accept the invitation. However, she conditioned the confab on delaying a vote by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, scheduled for the same day, for at least a week.

Syrian Mortar Shell Hits Near Israeli Border in Golan Heights; IDF Fires in Response, Haaretz

A mortar shell fired in the Syria’s civil war landed near the Israeli border fence in the northern Golan Heights on Monday, according to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit. The Israeli army targeted an artillery piece from where the mortar shell was fired in response, the IDF added.

US envoy says Jerusalem under Israel is ‘model for coexistence in the world’, Times of Israel

Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty is a “model for coexistence” among the three major monotheistic religions, the US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said Monday. At a panel discussion in the capital, the envoy also said intelligence cooperation between the two countries has saved American lives. At the same time, he expressed concern over young Americans’ weakening connection to Israel.

Twitter Temporarily Suspended Israeli Lawmaker Who Said Palestinian Teen Should’ve Been Shot, Haaretz

Twitter temporarily suspended the account of Deputy Knesset Speaker Bezalel Smotrich after he posted on the weekend that a Palestinian teenager who slapped an Israeli soldier should have been shot in the kneecap. Smotrich’s account was suspended for 12 hours and he was instructed to delete the tweet, but the lawmaker said he would refuse and would appeal Twitter’s demand that he do so. Twitter determined that the post was abusive and could incite people to harass, terrorize or silence an individual.

18 Jewish House Democrats express ‘dismay’ to Netanyahu over African migrants policy, JTA

Eighteen Jewish Democrats out of 21 in the U.S. House of Representatives wrote to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to say they were “dismayed” and “disappointed” over his retreat from a plan that replaced his earlier proposal to deport tens of thousands of African migrants from Israel.

Poll shows Orly Levy, a solo opposition MK, could hold Israel’s balance of power, Times of Israel

“An unnamed new party led by the daughter of a former Israeli foreign minister, who bolted from the right-wing Yisrael Beytenu and today sits as an independent, opposition Knesset member, would win eight seats were elections held today, a TV poll showed. If the Hadashot TV news survey’s predictions proved accurate, the right-wing bloc headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party would muster 60 seats in the 120-member Knesset; the center-left-wing bloc would win 52 seats; and MK Orly Levy-Abekasis would win the other eight. In such a scenario, she could thus play a key role in shaping a future coalition, and a further shift in her direction could leave her holding the balance of power between the two blocs.”

Iran’s Rohani Warns Trump of ‘Severe Consequences’ if He Nixes Nuclear Deal, Haaretz

Iranian President Hassan Rohani on Tuesday warned U.S. President Donald Trump to remain in the nuclear deal Tehran signed with world powers in 2015, or else he would “face severe consequences.” “I am telling those in the White House that if they do not live up to their commitments, the Iranian government will react firmly,” Rouhani said in a speech broadcast live on state television.

Opinions and Analysis

Is Israel-Iran clash imminent?, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit writes, “An examination of Israel’s strategic situation shows the current period to be ripe in terms of a possible confrontation with Iran. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is busy trying to survive and therefore would have no intention of taking an active part in such a conflict. Hezbollah, meanwhile, wants to retain its arsenal of rockets and missiles for ‘Judgement Day,’ and therefore is distancing itself from possible conflict. Thus, assuming Iran has to face Israel alone, this scenario would be a golden, one-off opportunity for Israel to create new rules of the game and secure its redlines in Syria — that is, it will not tolerate an Iranian presence in Syria, period. Such is the current thinking of Israel’s leadership. The problem is that in the case of a serious flare-up, basic working assumptions can vanish into thin air with the launching of hundreds or thousands of missiles from both sides.”

Stop Shooting Gazan Protesters, Haaretz

The editorial board writes, “The new patients and the newly disabled, who will join thousands of previous casualties of Israeli fire, will continue to be a physical and emotional burden on Gazan society. But this won’t destroy their longing for independence; it will simply intensify their grievances against Israel….Under the nationalist steamroller of this extreme right-wing government, which doesn’t see the Palestinians as equal human beings, the Israel Defense Forces are liable to lose their humanity, with unnecessary killings and wholesale casualties becoming a matter of routine. Thus it’s past time to stop this destructive trend and strive to minimize the use of live fire as well as the loss of both life and quality of life.”

Yitzhar settlement viewed as epicenter of surge in ‘price tag’ attacks, Times of Israel

Jacob Magid reports, “The Israeli security establishment views the northern West Bank settlement of Yitzhar as responsible for the recent uptick in hate crimes against Palestinian villages, a defense official told The Times of Israel Monday. The town of roughly 1,500 residents has become a “refuge for hilltop youth” who have been involved in most of the so-called price tag attacks in the past year, the official said. Seven instances of extensive Palestinian property destruction have been documented in the past week alone.”

From Malaysia to Tunisia: Troubles in Gaza Are Pushing Hamas to Overseas Operations, Haaretz

Yaniv Kubovich writes, “Hamas has found itself in a difficult position because of Israeli defenses along the border with Gaza, leading the organization to search for solutions on the outside. Among other things, the organization is using Palestinian engineers and academics around the world to promote development advanced rockets and militarized drones.”