News Roundup for April 4, 2017

April 4, 2017

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J Street in the News

Prime Minister’s “New” Settlement Policy Continues Disastrous Status Quo, J Street

“The “new” Israeli settlement policy unveiled last week by Prime Minister Netanyahu is clearly not new, and is totally incompatible with the serious pursuit of peace and a two-state solution. It is primarily a declaration that the Israeli government intends to continue its current mode of entrenchment and expansion of settlements throughout the West Bank – while hoping that the Trump administration will turn a blind eye….In lieu of a decision to rein in settlements, the Prime Minister is promising to the US administration that his government will act with moderation, without actually taking any moderating steps. He has given no indication that any areas where settlements exist will be out of bounds for new construction or expansion. He has presented no map of which settlements Israel would expect to retain as part of a two-state agreement….President Trump needs to realize that while Prime Minister Netanyahu seeks to placate him publicly, the Israeli leader is continuing on a course that flouts longstanding US policy and is disastrous for both Israelis and Palestinians.”

J Street Outraged by JDL Attack on Peaceful Protesters Outside AIPAC, J Street

“J Street is outraged by the violence perpetrated last week by members of the Jewish Defense League (JDL) against peaceful protesters outside the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC. We are glad that the assailants, who seriously wounded a Palestinian-American professor and a member of the anti-occupation group IfNotNow, have been arrested and charged with assault and hate crimes. We stand firmly behind the rights of non-violent protestors to protest without intimidation, harassment and assault. The JDL is an ultra-nationalist Jewish hate group with a long history of violent attacks on both Muslims and Jews in Israel, the United States, and around the world. There can be zero tolerance for their radical brand of hate and xenophobia. Pro-Israel and American Jewish organizations must be vigilant to ensure that this violent extremism is not allowed to take root anywhere in our communities, and to uproot it if it does.”

A BDS Defeat at Columbia, Commentary

“Here in New York, the Columbia College Student Council has handed a resounding defeat to student activists calling on Columbia to divest from the State of Israel….It bears noting that the Columbia J Street chapter proved an important ally in last night’s events….The vote reaffirmed that the best way to advocate for Israel on a college campus is not just to attend rallies or public demonstrations with large signs and raised voices, but to build relationships, network, and articulate your position from multiple vantage points.”

Top News and Analysis

As Israeli settlement growth slows, some drift away, Reuters

Maayan Lubell reports, “To the world, the narrative on settlements often reads one way: more of them being built, with more settlers moving in. But there are cracks in the picture….settlers are getting fed up. Statistics show the population continues to rise, having now reached around 400,000 in the West Bank and 200,000 in East Jerusalem. But behind the figures lies a different story. Although the population may have risen by nearly two-thirds in the past decade, the rate of increase has slowed sharply, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics. A decade ago, for every 1,000 settlers already living in occupied territory, 20 more arrived each year. Now the expansion rate is just six per 1,000….Settlement population growth is now largely driven by a handful of settlements built for the ultra-Orthodox community, whose families on average have six children.”


Visiting Sissi says Trump can solve Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Times of Israel

President Trump welcomed his Egyptian counterpart, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, to the White House Monday, with the Egyptian leader saying he believes Trump could broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. “You, Mr. President, can find a solution,” Sissi told Trump during the meeting, pledging his country’s full support in any effort that will bring about a resolution.

Netanyahu’s Likud Rival Gideon Sa’ar to Announce Return to Politics, Haaretz

Gideon Sa’ar, a former interior minister and rising star in Likud, is expected to announce his return to politics Monday night, heightening expectations that the younger rival of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might launch his own center-right party, Likud sources said. Likud sources say Sa’ar’s timing is probably based on expectations that Israel will hold an early election in the next few months, not in two years when the current Knesset’s term expires.

Former Chiefs of Staff Gantz and Ashenazi: Israel’s Leadership Not Addressing Divisions in Society, Haaretz

Speaking at the launch of the new Pnima movement (inward in Hebrew), former Israel Defense Force Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said the division within Israeli society must be addressed and “the political leadership in Israel is not managing to raise the gauntlet.” The comments came at a news conference in Lod, southeast of Tel Aviv, presenting the new movement, which in addition to Gantz is led by another former chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, as well as former Education Minister Rabbi Shay Piron. For his part, former IDF Chief of Staff Ashenazi said the main challenge facing Israel is the strength of its social fabric. The values of solidarity, justice and equality are at risk, he claimed, adding: “[I] believe in action on the part of people.”

UK withholding diplomatic visa from incoming Palestinian envoy — Abbas, Times of Israel

Britain has so far refused to grant a diplomatic visa to the newly appointed Palestinian Authority representative to the United Kingdom, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said on Monday. In an interview with the Pan-Arab daily al-Quds al-Arabi, Abbas admitted the UK had thus far held off on granting Maen Areikat, the former Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) representative in Washington, the same status as his predecessor in London Manuel Hassassian, in what appears to be a sign of ambivalence over Areikat’s diplomatic status.

New law would deduct ‘martyr’ payments from Palestinian tax revenues, Times of Israel

A new bill submitted to the Knesset last month would see Israel deduct NIS 1 billion from the tax revenues it collects for the Palestinians and hands over to them, the equivalent amount that Ramallah pays to terrorists and their families.

Israeli authorities uproot 150 olive trees in Salfit for ‘damaging view of nature reserve’, Ma’an

Israeli forces uprooted 150 olive trees in the Wadi Qana valley in the central occupied West Bank district of Salfit on Monday morning without prior notice, locals told Ma’an.

EU Sharply Protests Israeli Demolition of Palestinian Homes in Area C, Warns It Will Lead to ‘Forced Transfer’, Haaretz

The European Union is demanding that Israel stop demolishing Palestinian homes in Area C of the West Bank, and particularly in the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar near Ma’aleh Adumim, since this would entail forced transfer of the residents and be a violation of the Geneva Convention. According to Israeli and European diplomats, the sharp message in the name of all EU members was delivered last week by EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen to new Foreign Ministry director-general Yuval Rotem. The Israeli and European diplomats said that last week Rotem held his first meeting with the ambassadors of all the EU member states in Israel. The meeting, held in the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv, was meant to be a routine briefing for the envoys, but it turned, at least at first, into a confrontation regarding government policies in Area C, where Israel has full civilian and security control.

Opinion and Analysis

Haley eclipses Tillerson on Trump’s foreign policy ladder, Politico

Eliana Johnson reports, “Haley has improbably eclipsed the secretary of state as the country’s leading voice on foreign affairs. Indeed, Haley has essentially had free reign in the job, cutting an unusually conspicuous media profile and avoiding the tense dealings that U.N. ambassadors often have with State….Haley’s tenure is otherwise noteworthy for how utterly quotidian her pronouncements would be in the course of any other Republican administration. She has made a point of reassuring traditional American allies like Britain and France, sitting down with their representatives in her first day on the job, and of putting the nation’s adversaries on warning.”

Planned Amona 2.0 might not house West Bank settlers for 3 years, Times of Israel

Raphael Ahren writes, “While the government gave its official approval last week to the establishment of a new settlement in the West Bank to replace the razed illegal outpost of Amona, it appears that no settlers are going to be moving in any time soon. A host of bureaucratic and logistic hurdles have to cleared first, and settler leaders fear that deliberate foot-dragging on the government’s part could delay the settlement’s creation for an indeterminate period. Even leftists who oppose settlement expansion estimate that it may take up to three years before anyone can move into the new community — even if the government goes full speed ahead.”

Donald Trump’s Arab fantasy, CNN

Aaron David Miller and Richard Sikorsky argue, “The Sunni Arabs are almost certain to disappoint Trump on Israeli-Palestinian peace, too. There’s little doubt that Israel and the Arab states have grown closer over their common stance regarding threats posed by Iran and jihadists. But it is doubtful this new alignment will extend to peacemaking unless Israel is prepared to make significant concessions to the Palestinians and the Arabs are ready to lower their horizons. The 2002 Arab summit outlined an Arab peace plan whose trade-offs go well beyond what the Netanyahu government has been prepared to offer. If President Trump wants to get the Arab states to make peace with Israel, he’ll need to bring serious pressure on both sides, particularly on issues such as borders and Jerusalem. Right now there’s zero evidence that anyone, including Trump, is ready for that.”

Fund Started by an Israeli and a Palestinian Looks for the Next Ramallah Startup, Haaretz

“The backstreets of Ramallah are a long way from Silicon Valley, but a niche venture capital fund is trying to narrow the gap with a focus on early-stage Palestinian tech startups. With backing from Cisco, the Google Foundation, the European Investment Fund and others, Sadara Ventures is making gradual inroads in the West Bank, the Palestinian territory long occupied by Israel, financing six companies so far.”

One State, Two States, Whatever, Times of Israel

Stan Fleischman writes, “With the Trump administration’s policy still clearly in flux, Congressional pro-Israel, pro-peace advocacy in Congress is more important than ever. It’s good to know that our elected officials have both the political space and active desire to make bold statements in support of peace and – are not afraid to challenge one-staters who disparage American Jews.”

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