News Roundup for April 6, 2017

April 6, 2017

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J Street in the News

A state legislator called J Street anti-Semitic. Right to left, Jewish groups disagree, JTA

“J Street U called Clemmons’ accusation “completely unacceptable.” Liat Deener-Chodirker, the group’s vice president for the southeast, said Clemmons’ statement and the crowd’s reaction reflect the mainstreaming of fringe views in the pro-Israel movement. ‘We oppose BDS on all of our campuses, and we saw this as an opportunity to talk about how to best do that,’ she said. ‘It empowers the fringe of the community, and that becomes the face of what we’re doing. We saw fringe voices being made the norm.’….J Street has been an outspoken critic of what it calls ‘the occupation’ since its founding in 2008. While leading American Jewish groups tend to stay silent on Israeli West Bank policy, J Street has earned the ire of many Jews on the right for its vociferous opposition to Netanyahu. Unlike virtually all leading American Jewish organizations, J Street supported the 2016 U.N. Security Council resolution. But no matter what they think about J Street, or whether they use the word ‘occupation,’ Jewish leaders across the board agreed that the group and its affiliates are not anti-Semitic.”

U.S. Jewish Groups Hail Steve Bannon’s Ouster From National Security Council, Haaretz

“Removing Steve Bannon from the NSC is a small step in the right direction, but we won’t be satisfied until he’s removed from the White House,” said J Street spokeswoman Jessica Rosenblum.

Top News and Analysis

Trump Alongside Jordan’s Abdullah: I’m ‘Working Very, Very Hard’ to Resolve Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Haaretz

“U.S. President Donald Trump reiterated on Wednesday his desire to bring about a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Speaking at a press conference with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Trump said he was ‘working very, very hard’ on the issue and hopes to ‘be successful in finally finding peace between the Palestinian people and Israel.’ The Jordanian king, who is the first world leader to have met Trump twice since the president took power, complimented Trump on his efforts on that front. He added that Jordan and the rest of the Arab world remain committed to the Arab Peace Initiative from 2002, in which the entire Arab world offered Israel a peace agreement in return for the creation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. Abdullah said that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains ‘essentially the core conflict’ in the Middle East.”

Bannon Loses National Security Council Role in Trump Shakeup, Bloomberg

“President Donald Trump reorganized his National Security Council on Wednesday, removing his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, and downgrading the role of his Homeland Security Adviser, Tom Bossert, according to a person familiar with the decision and a regulatory filing. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster was given responsibility for setting the agenda for meetings of the NSC or the Homeland Security Council, and was authorized to delegate that authority to Bossert, at his discretion, according to the filing. Under the move, the national intelligence director, Dan Coats, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, are again “regular attendees” of the NSC’s principals committee. Bannon, the former executive chairman of Breitbart News, was elevated to the National Security Council’s principals committee at the beginning of Trump’s presidency. The move drew criticism from some members of Congress and Washington’s foreign policy establishment.”

One Israeli Soldier Killed in West Bank Car Attack; Palestinian Assailant Arrested, Haaretz

One Israeli was killed and another was lightly wounded on Thursday in a suspected car-ramming attack at Ofra Junction in the West Bank. According to an initial assessment, the driver of a car with Palestinian license plates ploughed into two Israeli soldiers, killing the first young man, Golani Brigade sergeant Elichai Taharlev, 20, and injuring the second, 19. They were standing behind concrete slabs  by a hitchhiking spot, located at the junction outside of the settlement of Ofra.


Israeli Minister Presented Trump Envoy Greenblatt With Plan to Build Gaza Island Port, Haaretz

Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz has presented U.S. special envoy Jason Greenblatt with his plan to create an artificial island off the coast of the Gaza Strip where a sea port would be built along with infrastructure that would serve the Palestinian residents of Gaza, Katz said at a press briefing Wednesday. According to Katz, Greenblatt expressed willingness to persuade the U.S. government to promote the issue. Katz presented his plan to Greenblatt when he joined a meeting between Netanyahu and the American envoy in March at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem. Katz said that he presented Greenblatt with two regional economic initiatives during the meeting.

Palestinian critically injured with live fire during clashes in al-Duheisha refugee camp, Ma’an

A 23-year-old Palestinian was critically injured with live fire during clashes Wednesday before dawn in the al-Duheisha refugee camp in the southern occupied West Bank Bethlehem district, as Israeli forces conducted a detention raid in the camp. Local sources told Ma’an that Israeli forces raided several houses in the camp, causing clashes to erupt between Palestinian youth of the camp and Israeli forces who opened live fire at youth, injuring Akram al-Atrash with three bullets.

Israel Passes Law Meant to Crack Down on Illegal Building in Arab Communities, Haaretz

Israel’s legislature passed a law on Wednesday that increases enforcement against unauthorized building, convening during its spring recess for a vote of 44 to 33. The law, sponsored by the Justice Ministry, does not explicitly state that the crackdown targets the country’s Arab population, but in practice, it is expected to disproportionately affect unlicensed construction in Arab communities. Dubbed the “Kaminitz Law,” the bill increases the maximum custodial sentence for anyone convicted of building without permits to three years, from two years. It also reduces the courts’ authorities in regard to building offenses while enhancing those of the Finance Ministry’s construction enforcement unit.

Netanyahu intervenes to save Temple Mount sifting project, Times of Israel

A project to search for archaeological artifacts in soil removed from Jerusalem’s Temple Mount in the 1990s will continue, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced Wednesday, saying it had secured funding to keep it afloat.

3 IDF soldiers jailed for beating Palestinian man, Times of Israel

The Southern District Military Court sentenced three IDF soldiers to 42 days in jail on Wednesday for abusing their authority and using excessive force while detaining a Palestinian man last year, the army said. The soldiers, from the Nahal infantry brigade, admitted to using violence while arresting a Palestinian man who was resisting arrest in October 2016. The sentence was part of a plea deal reached with military prosecutors.

Israel Failing to Address Most Pressing Issues of Religious Pluralism, Watchdog Claims, Haaretz

Not one meaningful piece of legislation promoting religious pluralism in Israel was passed during the Knesset’s winter session, which ended in late March, according to a report prepared by a watchdog organization that monitors the issue.  Although considerable attention was paid to matters of religion and state during the five-month Knesset session, Jewish Pluralism Watch noted in its latest report that all the related amendments passed and regulations enacted were merely “cosmetic” in nature and “for the most part do not touch the core of Israel’s religion and state challenges.”

Opinions and Analysis

Alongside Ultimate Deal, Trump Administration Eyes Preventing Gaza’s Next Crisis, Haaretz

Barak Ravid reports, “U.S. President Donald Trump’s special envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Jason Greenblatt, asked Israeli officials and Arab foreign ministers in recent weeks to promote substantial steps for improving the severe economic and humanitarian situation in Gaza, as part of his efforts to renew peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Israeli and American sources who have spoken to Greenblatt told Haaretz this issue is a top priority for him, but that he also made it clear to all sides that it is not a substitute for diplomatic negotiations, but a supporting element.”

Netanyahu Rival Lays Groundwork for Prime Ministerial Run With Well-timed Comeback, Haaretz

“Sa’ar wants to be there, in the midst of things, when the time comes to run for the party leadership. Whether it happens because of an indictment against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, or after an electoral loss, or the next time the Likud constitution demands that primaries be held, somewhere in late 2023. In practice, if Sa’ar wants to be prime minister, he has to be there. The law allows only a member of Knesset to serve as prime minister. To achieve this, he will have to run for a place on the Likud slate next time around, try to return to the top spot he won before, and then wait.”

The Failure of Trumpcare Is Good News for the Iran Deal, Foreign Policy

Ilan Goldenberg writes, “The JCPOA and Obamacare are also similar in that both were ultimately about central ideological fights between Obama and a Republican Congress that ultimately are not as high of a priority for Trump. At its core, Obamacare became an argument about differing worldviews, with Republicans arguing for less government involvement in healthcare and Democrats arguing for a greater government role. The nuclear agreement was a proxy for a broader ideological debate about America’s role in the world, and specifically Obama’s view that the United States should diplomatically engage with its adversaries — a view harshly opposed by congressional Republicans….Ultimately, neither the Iran deal nor the Affordable Care Act are guaranteed to succeed. Both will face significant pressures in the years ahead from an administration that has not bought into either. And in the case of the JCPOA, Iranian decision-making and domestic politics also remain major wildcards. But supporters of the Iran deal should be reassured by the early experiences in trying to overturn Obamacare. Turns out it is much easier to rail against a complex deal you oppose then unravel and replace it with something better.”

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