News Roundup for April 3, 2018

April 3, 2018

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J Street in the News

Terrible Violence on Gaza Border Shows Need for Restraint and Immediate Steps to Alleviate Crisis, J Street

“We are deeply saddened and disturbed by Friday’s violence at the Gaza-Israel border in which, according to reports, seventeen Palestinians were killed and hundreds wounded by Israeli forces….This crisis points to the desperate need to alleviate the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza and to incorporate the fate of the coastal enclave into comprehensive negotiations towards a political resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and an end to the occupation. The territory’s near total lack of power, clean water, adequate medical care and other necessities makes life in the Gaza Strip a nightmare for nearly two million residents who have nowhere else to go….The people of Gaza need compassion, solutions and immediate assistance. We call on Palestinian leaders to resume efforts to negotiate a path to political reconciliation.  We call on Hamas to stop inciting violence within peaceful protests. And, echoing numerous Israeli peace organizations and political parties, we call on the Israeli government to ease the siege of Gaza, help alleviate the suffering of its people and actively pursue a two-state resolution to the underlying conflict.”

How a leaflet led to a media fight over J Street, Washington Jewish Week

“It’s about a leaflet, but it’s not really about a leaflet. The leaflet in question contains information about the annual conference of J Street, the liberal pro-Israel group. Last year, Alan Elsner asked if he could add the leaflet to the table of community events and fliers at Congregation B’nai Tzedek, where he has been a member for nearly three decades. The synagogue told him no. In February he tried again. The 2018 conference is coming up in April and Elsner, a top member of the J Street staff, wanted the community to know in the same way they find out about AIPAC events, issues of interest to the Conservative movement, and the congregation Sisterhood. Once again the synagogue said no.”

Top News and Analysis

Netanyahu Nixes Deal With UN on African Asylum Seekers Following Right-wing Pushback, Haaretz

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Tuesday that Israel is cancelling a deal with the United Nations on the resettling of African asylum seekers. The deal was announced by Netanyahu himself on Monday afternoon. The deal was set to stop the forced deportation to Africa from Israel of asylum seekers, resettle 16,000 of them in Israel and the same number in Western countries. Netanyahu hours later decided to suspend the deal, even though he has already signed it, following pressure from within his party and from coalition members. Netanyahu announced the cancellation of the deal at the start of a meeting he held with residents of south Tel Aviv. ‘I listened closely to many comments about the agreement,’ Netanyahu said. ‘After reevaluating the advantages and disadvantages [of the deal], I decided to cancel the deal.’”

Gaza toll reaches 18, Israel rejects excessive force claims, Washington Post

“The Palestinian death toll in last week’s mass protest on the Gaza-Israel border rose to 18 on Monday, officials said, as Israel rejected allegations of unlawful use of lethal force against unarmed demonstrators….Gaza’s continued border closure has made it increasingly difficult for Hamas to govern. Life in the coastal strip has deteriorated further in recent months, with rising unemployment, grinding poverty and daily blackouts that last for hours. In a risky strategy, Hamas appears to be trying to use the protests to draw attention to the difficult conditions in Gaza, without plunging into another devastating war with Israel.”

Despite 15 Killed on Gaza Border, Israeli Military Says Won’t Change Firing Policy, Haaretz

The Israel Defense Forces has no intention of changing its open-fire policy in confrontations with Gazans approaching the border fence, or to reexamine the effectiveness of soldiers opening fire at demonstrators near the border. The policy will remain in place despite the killing of 15 Palestinians involved in riots there on Friday, army sources said on Sunday. However, the army will investigate claims that those killed included Gazan civilians who had not posed a threat, but at this point it stands by its position that 10 of those killed were terrorists, the sources said.


Opposition leaders lambaste ‘cowardly’ Netanyahu after U-turn on migrant deal, Times of Israel

Politicians from the opposition on Monday evening blasted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his abrupt suspension of a resettlement deal for African migrants that had been inked with the UN refugee agency earlier in the day, branding him a “coward” who caved to right-wing pressure. “This is a sad, embarrassing, but mostly troubling evening,” said Labor party leader Avi Gabbay. “We have no reason to assume that on security matters the prime minister’s decision-making ability is any better.”

Backing Palestinians, U.S. Supreme Court Rejects $656-million Award to Jerusalem Terror Victims, Haaretz

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal Monday demanding that the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority pay $656 million to American victims of terror attacks. The court chose to leave in place an earlier verdict by a lower court, which said that the PLO and the PA lack a sufficient connection to the United States in order to be sued under American anti-terrorism laws. The Trump administration, through the Justice Department, sided with the opinion of the appeals court. Lead plaintiff Mark Sokolow, his wife and their two daughters were injured in a 2002 suicide bombing in Jerusalem.

Top Arab MK charges Israelis show contempt for Palestinian life, Times of Israel

Israelis see Palestinian life as cheap and any form of Palestinian protest as “illegitimate,” the head of the Joint (Arab) List party charged in an interview Monday. MK Ayman Odeh, speaking on Channel 10’s morning program about Friday’s violence on the Gaza border, said, “Look at how the Israeli public views [those] people killed only three days ago. That is contempt for human life.”

Israeli Radio Host Posted ‘Ashamed to Be Israeli’ After Gaza Deaths. Now He May Lose His Job, Haaretz

Top Israeli radio host Kobi Meidan has been silenced on Army Radio after posting on Facebook that he’s “ashamed to be Israeli” after 15 Gazans were shot dead during mass Gaza protests along the Israel-Gaza border last week. After talking with the media personality, Army Radio commander Shimon Elkabetz ordered the station to no longer broadcast Meidan on the air, but it remains to be seen whether temporarily or permanently.

Bennett: Migrant deal will turn Israel into ‘paradise for infiltrators’, Times of Israel

Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett lambasted an agreement that would see the UN help resettle in other countries some 16,250 African migrants currently in Israel in return for Israel giving temporary status to the remainder, also some 16,250. In a series of tweets, Bennett, the education minister, asserted that the deal “will turn Israel into a paradise for infiltrators.”

Opinions and Analysis

Gaza March Could Be a Turning Point in the Battle for Palestinian Leadership, Haaretz

Zvi Bar’el writes, “Hamas’ leaders will have to show they can control the situation and maintain turnout throughout this long period, perhaps even too long. Because if turnout declines, this episode, albeit impressive, will be one that failed to chalk up a sustainable achievement, especially in terms of gaining  international legitimacy. This is therefore a play for time in which Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority are also Israel’s partners against Hamas. Hamas already achieved a success when it forced Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to take a stand and initiate, through Kuwait, a meeting of the UN Security Council. The council failed Saturday to craft a resolution, particularly because of U.S. opposition, but the diplomatic campaign has not yet ended and has already empowered Hamas as a player in the international arena.”

For Israel, there’s little political cost to killing Palestinians, Washington Post

Ishaan Tharoor writes, “The killings marked the worst day of violence in Gaza since the 2014 war between the Islamist group Hamas and the Israeli military, in which the United Nations said at least 1,462 Palestinian civilians died….The Israeli leadership had reason to feel comfortable in its defiance. The most vocal criticism from abroad came from Iran and Turkey; censure from either country is more likely a source of relish for Netanyahu than unease. And at the United Nations, the Trump administration blocked the Security Council from issuing a statement that called for an “independent and transparent investigation” and affirmed the Palestinians’ right to peaceful protest.”

Carnage In Gaza Is A Disaster For Israel Too, Forward

Yossi Alpher argues, “The Israel Defense Forces are currently confronting masses of Gazans along the Gaza-Israel boundary fence. Sadly, the confrontation brings into focus the abject lack of a viable strategy on the part of all sides to this conflict. Accordingly, when the smoke clears a month or so from now, there will be no winners. And everybody — Israel, Hamas in Gaza, the PLO in the West Bank — will have lost something.”