News Roundup for April 26, 2018

April 26, 2018

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J Street in the News

Israeli Response to Natalie Portman Reveals Disturbing Truths, Times of Israel

J Street’s Alan Elsner writes, “The semi-hysterical response by some Israeli officials to Natalie Portman’s decision not to travel to Israel to accept a prize has revealed the widening gap between the government of Benjamin Netanyahu and a substantial portion of the American-Jewish community.”

Top News and Analysis

Macron Critiques Trump’s Policies in Speech to Congress, The New York Times

“One day after President Emmanuel Macron of France and President Trump showered each other with praise, the French president spoke more critically of his host’s foreign policy, trade and environmental decisions in a speech to Congress that amounted to an implicit rebuke of Mr. Trump’s “America First” approach. Mr. Macron, who traveled to Washington this week hoping to persuade the American president not to walk away from the Iran nuclear deal, reiterated his argument for preserving the deal even as he said he and Mr. Trump had decided to pursue ‘a more comprehensive deal’ to restrain Tehran…‘We signed it,’ Mr. Macron said of the nuclear deal with Iran, raising a finger for emphasis, ‘at the initiative of the United States. We signed it — both the United States and France. That is why we cannot say we should get rid of it like that.’”

Macron Says Trump Will Likely Kill The Iran Deal, Buzzfeed

“French President Emmanuel Macron believes President Donald Trump will pull out of the Iran nuclear deal as part of ‘a strategy of increasing tension,’ Macron told reporters at the conclusion of his high-profile, whirlwind trip to the United States. ‘My view — I don’t know what your president will decide — is that he will get rid of this deal on his own, for domestic reasons,’ Macron told a group of a dozen reporters and editors in an exchange at George Washington University on Wednesday. The comment marked a recognition that even the theatrical personal chemistry between Trump and Macron couldn’t dramatically shift Trump’s plans, and that his trip was largely focused on containing the aftermath of US withdrawal….Macron said he saw his trip as a success not in changing Trump’s mind, but in advancing a potential framework for both the US and Iran after the current deal collapses.”

Did Macron Just Charm Trump Into Compromising on Iran?, New Yorker

Robin Wright observes, “The French leader is trying to coax Trump into accepting an expanded compromise that would prevent him from pulling the U.S. out of the nuclear accord—a decision is due by May 12th—and address the White House’s concerns about Iran’s broader behavior. It would build on what exists to ‘fix it’—the language Trump uses—rather than revise it or renegotiate it from scratch. Macron said that the ‘four pillars’ of such a compromise would focus on Tehran’s missile program and its meddling in the rest of the Middle East, notably in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.”

US Embassy move in Israel emblematic of broader policy shift, AP

“Over the course of his first 16 months in office, President Donald Trump has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital over Palestinian objections, slashed American aid to the Palestinians and programs that support them and ordered their office in Washington closed, though he ultimately let the office stay open. Just last week, Trump’s administration signaled it may be moving away from describing the West Bank as ‘occupied’ by Israel….Taken together, the moves indicate that Trump intends to make good on his unabashedly pro-Israel campaign promises at the expense of long-standing U.S. humanitarian and political commitments to the Palestinians….For the Palestinians, who all but cut ties with the White House after the embassy move was announced and did not attend the Gaza conference, the totality of the steps has reinforced the concern that they are unlikely to get a fair bargain from Trump if and when his long-awaited Mideast peace plan is announced.”

GOP anxiety grows over Trump’s Iran decision, The Hill

“President Trump’s threat to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal is causing anxiety on Capitol Hill, including among GOP lawmakers who opposed the pact but fear there will be grave consequences from withdrawing….Some fear that pulling out of the deal would result in Iran accelerating its weapons programs. They also worry the move will alienate key U.S. allies and make it tougher for Trump to negotiate a nuclear deal with North Korea…..Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) didn’t support the agreement when the Obama administration negotiated it but worries about the fallout from the U.S. going back on its word….Flake said he didn’t support the deal in the first place but warned that terminating it would only hurt U.S. interests.”


Second Gazan Journalist Shot by Israel During Border Protest Dies of Wounds, Haaretz

Gazan photojournalist Ahmed Abu Hussein‎ Hussein‎, who was gravely injured last Friday while documenting the March of Return, succumbed to his wounds Wednesday afternoon, Gaza’s Health Ministry said. Hussein‎ was shot in the stomach by an Israeli sniper despite the fact that he was stationed at a permissible distance from the border fence. On Sunday, two days after he was shot, Israel gave Abu Hassin permission to pass through the country to get to a hospital in Ramallah where he could receive medical treatment. The 25-year-old Hussein‎ was working as a photojournalist for a local news agency since he graduated high school.

Friedman said seeking to call West Bank ‘Judea and Samaria’ in statements, Times of Israel

United States Ambassador to Israel David Friedman has been seeking to adopt the Israeli name for the West Bank, Judea and Samaria, in his official remarks and statements, but has so far been prevented from doing so by the Trump administration, officials told the Associated Press. The sources added that Friedman, who lobbied heavily for Trump’s December 6 recognition of Jerusalem and the embassy’s relocation to Jerusalem, has also championed the recent removal of the term “occupied territories,” which had been the standard for more than 20 years, from the title of sections covering Israel, the West Bank and Gaza in the State Department’s annual human rights reports released Friday.

We May Hit Russian Systems in Syria, Israel Says After Threats of ‘Catastrophic Consequences’, Haaretz

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday that Israel may strike the Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft defense systems in Syria if they are used against Israel. “One thing should be clear – if someone fires on our planes, we will destroy them,” Lieberman said in an interview with the Israeli website Ynet. “What’s important to us is that the weapons defense systems that the Russians transfer to Syria are not used against us. If they are used against us, we will act against them.”

Pompeo could lead US delegation to Jerusalem embassy opening, Times of Israel

Mike Pompeo could lead the official delegation to Israel next month for the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem, if he is confirmed by the Senate to take up the position of US secretary of state. There has been no official announcement of Pompeo’s trip because the White House is waiting until after a Senate confirmation vote scheduled for later this week, Hadashot TV news reported Wednesday.

Opinions and Analysis

We need a secretary of state critically. I still won’t vote for Mike Pompeo, Washington Post

Senator Ben Cardin writes, “Words matter. Beliefs matter. Policy positions matter. And Pompeo’s rhetoric and actions raise major concerns. The secretary of state should be the loudest, holdout voice for international diplomacy, dialogue and negotiations in the Oval Office. Throughout his career, Pompeo has shown little preference for diplomacy and consistent support for militaristic interventions….America needs to work with and lead our allies in pursuit of our shared national security interests and values. But Pompeo has demonstrated repeatedly that he is willing to back up the president’s go-it-alone approach to international affairs. Nowhere will that be more consequential than the Iran nuclear deal.”

The Iran Regime-Change Crew Is Back, The Atlantic

Vali Nasr writes, “If President Trump listens to regime changers around him, it would doom the deal. The lesson of the failure of the Iran nuclear deal for North Korea could be that a deal signed by one president could be reneged by another. The lesson Iran may take from Trump’s nuclear diplomacy with North Korea could be that it should first get what North Korea has—full nuclear-weapons capability along with long-range missiles that could deliver them far and wide—before it agrees to talk again with the United States. Washington may well look back at this moment as one of folly, when it set Iran on the course to become a nuclear-weapons state.”