News Roundup for May 2, 2017

May 2, 2017

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J Street in the News

Trump’s Israel-Palestine Negotiator Isn’t Qualified, Foreign Policy

“If an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is reached during the Trump administration, it will be Greenblatt — who earned his new position by virtue of his personal relationship with the president, despite little experience with his new duties — working to bring the parties to the table and keep them there….Peace advocates have seen encouraging signs out of Greenblatt as well. ‘I think we’ve been positively impressed with the foundation that he’s laid,’ said Jessica Rosenblum, the vice president of communications for J Street, which describes itself as a ‘pro-Israel, pro-peace’ advocacy group.”

Top News and Analysis

It’s time for the White House to get rid of Sebastian Gorka, Washington Post

Sarah Posner writes, “Unfortunately, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical about the reports that Gorka may soon be pushed out. Despite the breathless reporting, it seems that Gorka is set to remain in the administration in some capacity. It’s stunning that even with these grave questions about his past, the worst case scenario for Gorka is that he might be moved out of the White House to an agency….All this signals that the White House isn’t actually concerned about Gorka’s past, or, for that matter, his credentials, demeanor, or overall suitability for serving in the administration. It’s reasonable to conclude from some of the leaking, at least, that some people in the White House don’t like him and might even want him out. But until he’s completely gone from any administration position, the president of the United States will be employing someone with reported neo-Nazi ties in some capacity without apparently investigating it.”

The Price of War, Forward

MK Eyal Ben-Reuven writes, “Sometimes war is unavoidable — and in such cases, one must stay strong and prevail. But when it comes to Israel’s central challenges, no war can bring ultimate victory or security. We must vigorously pursue a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a two-state solution that can meet some of the key aspirations and requirements of both sides….This year we mark the the 100th anniversary of the Balfour declaration, the 70th anniversary of the UN decision to establish Israel, and the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War. All of these achievements were predicated on the right of the Jewish people to self-determination, as well as our connection to the land of Israel. We must recognize that Palestinians deserve the same rights and respect that we have fought so hard to win for ourselves. Through a two-state solution, we can grant them those rights – and obtain for ourselves the security and peace that so many generations of our people have fought and worked for. Israelis will always be prepared for the struggles of battle. But we owe it to ourselves, to our ancestors, and to future generations to work just as hard in arena of diplomacy and in the struggle for peace.”

Trump Offers A Rare Chance for a Palestinian Peace Deal, Newsweek

Fatah leader Jibril Rajoub writes, “Speaking for my people, I can state emphatically that, once free and independent, most Palestinians will view Israel as our future prosperous neighbor, living alongside Palestine in peace and security….However, we need partners: Israelis to demonstrate the sincerity of their intentions; the US to exhibit impartiality in navigating the process; our Arab brothers to stand by us to redress the imbalance between the powerful, sovereign Israel and the barely autonomous Palestine…In June our people will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Israeli occupation. The Trump administration is offering an opportunity to bring an end to this decades-long conflict and mark the beginning of a new era of peace, security and historic reconciliation. Let us not miss the Trump opportunity.”


Netanyahu to Abbas: If You Want Peace, Stop Paying Terrorists, Haaretz

Prime Minister Netanyahu on Monday urged President Abbas to “stop funding terrorism.” Speaking on Memorial Day at a service for victims of terrorism, Netanyahu addressed Abbas, mentioning the latter’s upcoming meeting with US President Donald Trump to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. “How can you talk about peace and fund terrorism?” Netanyahu said. “Cancel the payments to murderers, annul the law that requires payments to murderers. Fund peace, not murder.”

On Israel’s 69th Birthday, Both Jews and Arabs Say They’re Proud to Be Israeli, Survey Says, Haaretz

On the eve of Independence Day, most Israelis are optimistic about the future of their country but critical of their leaders, according to a survey published on Sunday. The survey, published jointly by the Jerusalem-based Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University, found that 71 percent of Israelis (73 percent of Jewish respondents and 61 percent of Arab respondents) were either “very” or “quite” optimistic about the country’s future.

Israel dismisses purportedly ‘friendlier’ Hamas charter, Times of Israel

Hours before its official launch, Israel on Monday afternoon preempted Hamas’s new amendment to its charter, which seeks to put a friendlier face on the terrorist organization, saying that it still adheres to genocidal policies. When Hamas stops building tunnels and spends its resources on civilian infrastructure and ceases educating toward killing Israelis — that will be true change. But that hasn’t happened,” a statement issued by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office said.

Palestinian infighting is exacerbating Gaza crisis – UN report, Times of Israel

Internal Palestinian politics are aggravating the crisis in the Gaza Strip, a United Nations report published on Monday warns. In the 26-page document, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov says that “the continuing dispute between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas over electricity, payment of salaries and the other critical issues have significantly aggravated the situation in Gaza.”

Israeli settlers fly Israeli flag over Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque, Ma’an

Israeli settlers installed dozens of Israeli flags on the Ibrahimi mosque in the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron, in celebration of Israeli Independence Day, which coincides with the Palestinian Nakba, or “catastrophe,” which on 1948 saw some 750,000 Palestinians expelled from their lands.

Opinions and Analysis

Democrats Want Sebastian Gorka Axed Now As White House Hedges On Shake-Up, Forward

Nathan Guttman observes, “The Trump administration chose to remain ambiguous regarding counterterrorism adviser Sebastian Gorka’s future on Monday, hoping to strike a balance between a wish to end the controversy surrounding him and a desire to display loyalty to someone who has been close to chief strategist Steve Bannon for years….Behind this ambiguity could be an attempt by the Trump team to ease Gorka’s departure, which is planned for the summer, and to transition him to another position without having the White House acknowledge Gorka’s controversial past ties and current positions….Citing the Forward’s reporting on Gorka’s association with a Nazi-allied organization and other far-right Hungarian groups, New York Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler made clear that he does not believe moving Gorka to another government agency would be an appropriate response.”

Visitors Not Welcome: Israel Taking Border Control to New Extremes With Tourist Bans, Haaretz

Judy Maltz reports, “Last week, the Border Control Department at the Interior Ministry notified tour group operators that, as of mid-May, they would be prohibited from taking travelers for overnight stays in the West Bank. Unless they signed a form pledging to refrain from sleeping in the West Bank, the directive said, they would not be granted permission to bring overseas groups to Israel….By preventing overnight stays in Bethlehem – a major destination for Christian pilgrimage tours to the Holy Land – this directive could deal a deadly blow to the industry. Yossi Fatael, chief executive of the Israel Incoming Tour Operators Association, says an estimated 1 million tourist nights are spent in the West Bank city every year….Add to this the brand new law that would deny entry to foreign nationals who have expressed public support for a boycott of Israel, and it almost looks like an organized government campaign to keep certain tourists out – or at least make them think twice about whether they really want to come.”

The Truth About the Palestinian Hunger Strike, The New York Times

Israeli public security minister Gilad Erdan writes, “The true motivation behind this strike is political jockeying. From prison Mr. Barghouti has become a major player in Palestinian politics, releasing regular statements on Palestinian affairs and backing candidates in elections. He is now involved in the infighting over who will succeed Mahmoud Abbas, the aging president of the Palestinian Authority and leader of the Fatah party….Israel will not give in to extortion. The conditions and regulations in Israel’s prison system are determined according to Israeli law and international standards, not by pressure tactics. Surrendering to such a strike would constitute a surrender to terrorism and would only embolden terrorist groups, weaken our deterrence and lead to further conflict and bloodshed.”

Trump Can Help Israel By Strengthening Abbas, Matzav Blog

Noa Shusterman writes, “ In order to succeed Hamas, the PA will have to show the Palestinian people that it can promote a better vision for the future, but also that it has the power to implement it. By increasing aid to the PA and supporting Abbas, Trump’s administration is attempting to help rebuild the PA’s legitimate role.”

The Miracle of Occupation Nation, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev observes, “If there is no occupation, one doesn’t have to deal with its lingering effects on Israeli psychology or behavior. If there is no occupation, one can’t claim that it is eroding democracy, promoting brutishness, fueling intolerance or nurturing racism. If there is no occupation, then all of the illnesses that are plaguing Israeli society are not the outcome of 50 years of imposing military rule over another people, but forces of nature, which the government – of course – can do nothing to stop. There are many people, groups and organizations that contribute to the erasure of the occupation. We have many willing accomplices in maintaining the no-occupation facade. Besides the politicians, the settlers, the religious establishment, the media and the civil service, even the leaders of the opposition – who are afraid to say “kibush” lest they be castigated as wishy-washy leftists – much of the U.S. and most of the American Jewish establishment are in on the act.”