News Roundup for April 3, 2017

April 3, 2017

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J Street in the News

New Israeli Settlement is a Major Rebuke to Those Pursuing Peace, J Street

“J Street is deeply disturbed by the Israeli Security Cabinet’s announcement that it has approved the construction of a new settlement in the West Bank – which would be the first completely new settlement to be officially built in over twenty years. This new settlement is far outside the bounds of territory that anyone believes will remain part of Israel under a two-state agreement. It is intended to provide a home for the settlers who in February were finally removed from the illegal outpost of Amona – transparent political “compensation” for the settlement movement. The new announcement makes clear just how much control over Israeli policy and decision-making the settlement movement and its leaders currently have. This new settlement drives home the message that Prime Minister Netanyahu and members of his coalition have been sending for months: The current Israeli government has no interest in achieving a two-state solution or ending the occupation. While just this week the Palestinian Authority and the Arab League reaffirmed their commitment to the two-state solution, this decision is a clear rebuke to those pursuing peace. It would exacerbate Israeli-Palestinian tensions and move Israelis further away from achieving lasting peace and secure, internationally-recognized borders.”

Top News and Analysis

After Trump Request, Netanyahu Formulating Goodwill Gestures Toward Palestinians, Haaretz

“The Trump administration is asking Israel to carry out a series of goodwill gestures toward the Palestinians, both in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the security cabinet last Thursday, when he announced plans to curb construction in the settlements.  These measures should have an immediate effect on the Palestinians’ economic situation, ministers and senior officials who attended the meeting told Haaretz. During Thursday’s meeting, Netanyahu said several times that U.S. President Donald Trump is determined to advance the Israeli-Palestinian issue and for the two parties to reach an agreement, the sources said. Netanyahu said he did not know exactly how Trump wants to make progress, but the prime minister stressed the importance of Israel demonstrating goodwill and not being seen as the one causing the U.S. initiative to fail.”

After new building restrictions, Israeli settlers lower expectations for Trump era, JTA

“Pro-settlement leaders who advocate Jewish control of the entire West Bank went as far as to welcome the announcement Thursday that government would restrict construction to developed areas of existing West Bank Jewish communities. Others hoped the restrictions did not amount to a freeze on settlement building. No one was talking about bringing down the government, which has been shaking in recent weeks over the obscure issue of public broadcasting. “You need to understand that people built up an expectation that there would be a new president, the old era would end, and we’d be able to do whatever we want,” Yesha Council foreign envoy Oded Revivi told JTA on Sunday. ‘All of a sudden, reality doesn’t look like our expectations.’….Shlomo Brom, the head researcher on Israeli-Palestinian relations at the Institute for National Security Studies, said that if the policy were strictly enforced, it would dramatically reduce West Bank construction. But Brom said many settlers seem to be betting the policy would be ‘flexibly’ interpreted, which could allow the settlements to gradually expand indefinitely. Noting that his think tank in January urged Israel to limit settlement construction to the major settlement blocs, he said this policy ‘is not close’ to that.”

Israel vs. America: What Jewish Millennials Think About God and the Occupation, Haaretz

“A soon-to-be-published study comparing Jewish millennials under 30 in the United States and Israel suggests that….[d]espite the growing investments in programs like Birthright, which aim to create bridges between young American and Israeli Jews, it shows that a great rift divides them…..Jewish-Israeli millennials, according to these findings, tend to align themselves with the political right and are less likely to engage in causes that promote justice and equality outside their own community than their American counterparts.”


Netanyahu Missed Opportunity to Convince Trump to Drop Two-states, Minister Bennett Says, Haaretz

A few days after the security cabinet meeting in which support for a policy of settlement restraint was presented by Prime Minister Netanyahu, education minister and head of the Habayit Hayehudi party attacked the prime minster on twitter, claiming that due to a lack of political initiative he had missed an opportunity to persuade President Trump to remove the two-state solution from the agenda. Political sources said that the series of tweets put out by Bennett against Netanyahu was an attempt by the far-right minister to distinguish himself from the prime minister in policy after coming out in support of the curb in settlement construction last week.

White House says no ‘formal negotiations’ with Israel on settlements, Times of Israel

The White House is not holding “formal negotiations” with Israel over West Bank settlements — contrary to widespread reporting in US and Israeli media — an administration official told The Times of Israel on Sunday. The statement, coming days after Israel announced it would curtail some building in the West Bank, would seem to fly in the face of several official statements from both Washington and Jerusalem about ongoing talks that included possible curbs on settlement activity.

Reform movement urges synagogues to protect immigrants facing deportation, JTA

The Reform movement called on its member synagogues to protected undocumented immigrants facing deportation from the United States. The Union for Reform Judaism issued a resolution Friday recommending that its congregations provide shelter and legal assistance, as well as material, financial or educational support to at-risk immigrants.

Egypt’s Sissi said set to present Trump with Mideast peace plan, Times of Israel

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Jordan’s King Abdullah II will reportedly present US President Donald Trump with a framework to an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal during their visits to the White House this week. Based on a two-state solution, the framework aims to establish a basis for fresh peace talks between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, according to Israel Radio citing a Gulf media outlet on Monday.

Israel Unveils Answer to Hamas and Hezbollah’s Deadly Rockets: New Missile Defense System, David’s Sling, Haaretz

Israel unveiled on Sunday its latest addition to its multilevel missile defense system with David’s Sling, which is designed to intercept medium-range missiles. The army announced on Sunday that the system is now fully operational. David’s Sling, which was called in the past Magic Wand, is meant to fill a gap in Israel’s rocket defense systems between Iron Dome, meant to intercept rockets from short range, and the Arrow system designed to shoot down complex, long-range ballistic threats.

Israel advancing plans to expand illegal settlement west of Salfit, Ma’an

Israeli authorities are advancing plans to expand an illegal settlement west of Salfit in the central occupied West Bank, to be built on tens of dunams of private Palestinian land, local sources said. According to Palestinian researcher Khalid Maali, the Supreme Council for Planning and Building at the Israeli Civil Administration has put forward a new settlement scheme to expand a college in the illegal Israeli settlement of Elqana, to be constructed on the lands of the Palestinian village of Masha.

Ultra-Orthodox Threaten To Shut Israel Airport With Anti-Draft Protest Over Passover, Forward

An ultra-Orthodox group is threatening to disrupt operations at Israel’s Ben-Gurion International Airport during the busy Passover holiday week with protests against the drafting of yeshiva students into the army. A body calling itself “the committee for the rescue of the world of Torah” took out ads in ultra-Orthodox media outlets, saying that the planned “mass protests” are meant to send an unspecified “message to the nations of the world.” Protesters would be “carrying signs in English and other languages” to draw the attention of “ foreign tourists,” the ad said.

Opinion and Analysis

Will EU take the lead on two-state solution?, Al-Monitor

Uri Savir reports, “With Brexit, a new European coalition is emerging that will be the main contributor to the shaping and defining of EU foreign and Middle East policy. This coalition will include Germany, France and the EU headquarters in Brussels. But the character of this coalition will ultimately depend on the identity of the next French president — be it Emmanuel Macron or Francois Fillon….The senior EU official told Al-Monitor that based on the current European setup, EU Middle East policy planners are exploring a two-state solution initiative that would probably be launched in June. Such an initiative would include several elements. Obviously, it would include freezing Israeli settlement construction according to Security Council Resolution 2334. It would also include halting official Palestinian incitement of violence. In essence, the initiative would propose an international peace conference with the participation of the Quartet (EU, US, UN and Russia), the Arab League and the parties based on the Oslo agreement, and the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002.”

Meet the Obama Holdovers Who Survived Trump’s Sweep, The New York Times

“When President Trump’s new Middle East envoy began haggling over the details of an agreement with Israel to curb construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, they turned to a politically improbable adviser: Yael Lempert, a 43-year-old diplomat who worked on the issue in Barack Obama’s White House….While these diplomats have held on through multiple transfers of power in Washington, navigating this new administration poses special challenges. Ms. Lempert has come under fire from people on the Israeli right, who accuse her of continuing to push Mr. Obama’s tough-on-Israel policies….For Ms. Lempert, who has been posted to Jerusalem and advised Mrs. Clinton’s cabinet successor, John Kerry, on his dealings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, the appeal to Mr. Trump’s advisers was her experience in the complex, trap-filled world of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Her colleagues say she is well connected on both sides and is viewed as an honest broker….Ms. Lempert, who is Jewish and also served in the Bush administration, played a major role in negotiating a $38 billion military aid package for Israel on behalf of the Obama administration.”

Netanyahu gains victory in battle over public broadcasting, Al-Monitor

Mazal Mualem observes, “From the beginning, the crisis over the broadcasting corporation has not generated much interest except among politicians and the media. From a political standpoint, it was a power struggle between a prime minister and a finance minister who simply did not understand how serious the premier was and how adamantly he would refuse to surrender. Kahlon was wrong when he assumed that Netanyahu would be easily coerced and manipulated and would eventually give in for fear of an early election. Over the past two weeks, Kahlon learned the hard way that the Netanyahu of 2017 is reckless and uninhibited, unlike the Netanyahu of 2015, before his major electoral victory. As Netanyahu dug in, the dream of replacing him without holding elections slipped away from Herzog as well as top Likud Minister Israel Katz, and Kahlon understood that he stood to lose everything. The prospect of early elections, with polls predicting only five to seven Knesset sets for his Kulanu was a nightmare.”

The Real Existential Threat to the State of Israel is Not BDS, Rabbi John Rosove’s Blog

Rabbi Rosove writes, “Focusing too much of our attention on BDS obfuscates the real existential challenge facing Israel – the occupation and the continuation of the status quo that will end Israel as a Jewish and/or a democratic state. Those who place the settlement movement as more important than Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic nation are the greatest threat to Israel’s future, not BDS.”

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