News Roundup for April 8, 2019

April 8, 2019

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J Street in the News

Pushing for Tighter Borders, Trump Asks Jews for Support, New York Times
“Logan Bayroff, a spokesman for J Street, the liberal Jewish organization, said the president’s remarks about immigrants and minorities were ‘etremely discordant and extremely disgusting to the majority of Jewish people.’”

For American Jews, Trump is key figure in Israeli election, AP
“‘The world has come to understand that Netanyahu is essentially the political twin of Donald Trump,’ said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the liberal pro-Israel group J Street. ‘Unlike his previous elections, there is a much deeper antagonism toward Netanyahu because of that close affiliation between him and Trump and the Republican Party.’”

Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposal would bury the two-state solution, The Guardian
“Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of the US-based progressive advocacy group, J Street, said Netanyahu’s statement was intended to sabotage the creation of a Palestinian state and potentially endangered Israeli lives. ‘If carried out, even a partial annexation would be a disastrous blow to Israel’s security and democracy – and a severe violation of international law … Israel cannot rule permanently over millions of Palestinians while denying them equal civil and political rights,’ Ben-Ami said.”

With Israeli election looming, liberal US Jews set their ire on Netanyahu, Times of Israel
“‘The greatest damage that Netanyahu and his team have done is they took the Israeli government to a place where they felt the future of the American-Israel relationship rested with Republicans and evangelicals,’ said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the head of J Street, a liberal Mideast advocacy group.After aligning himself with Republicans in Congress to thwart former president Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, and then forging a close relationship with the intensely divisive Donald Trump, Netanyahu made clear through abandoning the Western Wall deal that American Jews are not a constituency he feels compelled to cultivate, Ben-Ami said. ‘The writing off of non-Orthodox, more liberal Jews in the country is a real strategic mistake for Israel,’ Ben-Ami told The Times of Israel.”

J Street Slams Netanyahu over promise to annex West Bank, The Jerusalem Post
“J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami called Netanyahu’s promise ‘outrageous,’ adding that this confirms ‘what was already clear: The Israeli Right is determined to annex the West Bank and permanently prevent the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. If carried out, even a partial annexation would be a disastrous blow to Israel’s security and democracy – and a severe violation of international law,’ he said. ‘Israel cannot rule permanently over millions of Palestinians while denying them equal civil and political rights.”

Netanyahu? Gantz? Who Would American Jews Vote for in Israel’s Elections?, Haaretz
“[I]t’s possible to imagine that American Jews would, if they could, elect the sort of left-wing government that Israelis are clearly rejecting. That might make Jeremy Ben Ami, the head of the left wing lobby J Street, the theoretical American Jewish prime minister, while relegating someone like Mort Klein of the right wing Zionist Organization of America to the marginal position that is occupied in Israel by Meretz’s Tamar Zandberg (whose positions line up with those of J Street), even though his views are probably in accord with the parties that – polls say – will win a majority of the Knesset.”

J-street slams Netanyahu for W. Bank annexation quote, I24 News (Video)
“J Street’s President Jeremy Ben-Ami called the promise ‘outrageous’ and a disastrous blow it Israel’s security and democracy. Ben-Ami, also slamming President Donald Trump for, in his words, ‘enabling’ the Prime Minister. “

US Officials and Jewish Leaders Must Unequivocally Denounce Netanyahu’s Promise to Annex the West Bank, J Street
“Prime Minister Netanyahu’s outrageous promise confirms what was already clear: The Israeli right is determined to annex the West Bank and permanently prevent the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. If carried out, even a partial annexation would be a disastrous blow to Israel’s security and democracy — and a severe violation of international law. Israel cannot rule permanently over millions of Palestinians while denying them equal civil and political rights.”

Top News and Analysis

Netanyahu: If I’m re-elected, I’ll extend sovereignty to West Bank settlements, Times of Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Saturday to extend Israeli sovereignty to the settlements of the West Bank if he is re-elected in Tuesday’s elections. Flatly ruling out Palestinian statehood, which he said would ‘endanger our existence,’ Netanyahu promised to permanently maintain overall Israeli security control in the West Bank and to formalize Israeli rule over the 400,000-plus Israeli Jews in the settlements. This would apply not only to major settlement blocs, but also to isolated settlements, he indicated.

Annexing the West Bank: Why We Must Take Netanyahu’s Pre-election Stunt Seriously, Haaretz
Victor Kattan writes, “Annexation would be disastrous for the Palestinians. It would also be enormously damaging for Israel. Netanyahu knows that — but he also knows his base has moved rightwards, and that Trump will back him anyway.”

Beto O’Rourke on Benjamin Netanyahu: ‘Racist’, Washington Post
“The US-Israel relationship is one of the most important relationships that we have on the planet, and that relationship, if it is to be successful, must transcend partisanship in the United States, and it must be able to transcend a prime minister who is racist as he warns about Arabs coming to the polls, who wants to defy any prospect for peace as he threatens to annex the West Bank and who has sided with a far-right racist party in order to maintain his hold on power,” O’Rourke said.

Trump tells US Jews that Netanyahu is ‘your prime minister’, Times of Israel
US President Donald Trump told a group of American Jews that Benjamin Netanyahu was “your prime minister” Saturday, appearing to conflate Jews and Israelis. “I stood with your prime minister at the White House to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” Trump told a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas Saturday, referring to Netanyahu, who is the prime minister of Israel.


Democratic presidential candidates: you can slam Netanyahu and be pro-Israel, Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders and Beto O’Rourke all took shots at Netanyahu, who is in a tight contest with Benny Gentz, who leads the Blue and White Party, ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

Netanyahu vows to annex West Bank settlements if re-elected, AP
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged Saturday to annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank if re-elected, a dramatic policy shift apparently aimed at rallying his nationalist base in the final stretch of the tight race. Netanyahu has promoted Jewish settlement expansion in his four terms as prime minister, but until now refrained from presenting a detailed vision for the West Bank, seen by the Palestinians as the heartland of a future state.

In Israel Election, the Future of the West Bank Is Now on the Ballot, New York Times
Do voters want to make permanent their country’s control over the West Bank and its 2.6 million Palestinian inhabitants? Or do they want to keep alive the possibility that a Palestinian state could be carved out there one day?

Palestinians denounce Netanyahu’s annexation pledge, AP
“If Netanyahu wants to declare Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank, then you know he has to face a real problem, the presence of 4.5 million Palestinians, what to do with them,” [Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki] said, apparently referring to the combined Palestinian population of the occupied West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. He said Israel cannot expel the Palestinians. “We will stay there,” he said. “The international community has to deal with us.”

Trump says he made Golan Heights decision after a quick history lesson, Reuters
Speaking at the Republican Jewish Coalition gathering in Las Vegas, Trump said he made the snap decision during a discussion with his top Middle East peace advisers, including the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, and son-in-law Jared Kushner. ‘I said, ‘Fellows, do me a favor. Give me a little history, quick. Want to go fast. I got a lot of things I’m working on: China, North Korea. Give me a quickie,’ Trump said to laughter from the Las Vegas crowd.

House To Hold Hearings On White Nationalism, 6 Months After Pittsburgh Shooting, The Forward
The mosque massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand that killed 50 Muslims last month was the work of a white supremacist, as was the murder of Jews, also at prayer, in November. These headline-grabbing incidents are the products of a global movement working largely behind the scenes, experts say. It’s diffuse and hard to track or analyze — by design. Its activities range from putting up banners to murder.

One Day to Israel’s Election, Netanyahu and Gantz’s Campaigns Align, Haaretz
Both campaigns claim that Gantz’s party is headed for victory: Kahol Lavan’s aim is to unify the ranks, the prime minister’s is to scare apathetic Likud voters to the polls

Israel advances largest batch of settlement homes since Trump took office, Times of Israel
The Defense Ministry body responsible for authorizing settlement construction has advanced plans for over 3,600 West Bank homes, a spokeswoman for the agency told The Times of Israel on Sunday.

15 Jewish Anti-occupation Activists Arrested While Protesting Outside Birthright Offices in New York, Haaretz
Fifteen activists from IfNotNow, a Jewish group of millennials that protests Israel’s control of the West Bank, were arrested Friday while demonstrating outside Birthright Israel’s offices in New York City. The activists were college students, according to IfNotNow, which has been protesting Birthright in a variety of ways since last year, including walking off of its free 10-day trips to Israel.

Oman FM: Palestinians must reassure Israel it’s not in peril, AP
Oman’s foreign minister urged Palestinians on Saturday to reassure Israel that it is not under threat in the Middle East, drawing a rare public rebuke from his Jordanian counterpart.

Opinion and Analysis

Will the Israeli ‘King’ Be Recrowned?, New York Times
Roger Cohen writes, “Netanyahu, who has the strong backing of President Trump, is at his shrewdest and most ruthless when backed into a corner. He has vowed to start annexing the West Bank, wherever an Israeli settler may be, in a last-minute gambit. The support for him that popularized that regal ‘melekh yisrael’ epithet is fanatical, despite the accusations from the attorney general that the prime minister traded official favors for gifts and for flattering news coverage. ‘A blood libel,’ Netanyahu calls the charges. To the last, he will summon every specter of the ‘Arab-loving left’ in a bid to hang on. That he will stop at nothing is by now well known.”

Netanyahu’s annexation threat delivers another blow to prospects for peace, The LA Times
The Times Editorial Board writes, “There is plenty of blame to go around for the sabotaging of the once-promising Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the subversion of the much-maligned two-state solution, but surely Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu deserves an inordinate share of it. For nearly 25 years — or more, depending when you start counting — he has consistently fought to derail the process, calling it a ‘mortal threat’ to Israel, assuring Israelis and the world that there is no trustworthy Palestinian partner to negotiate with and slow-walking the negotiations where possible.”

Whatever Happened to the Israeli Left?, NY Mag
Abraham Riesman writes, “Barreling down a barely existent road in the South Hebron Hills, as I sit in the passenger seat of Nasser Nawaja’s well-worn Dacia Duster, the conversation turns to the fate of the Holy Land. ‘Do you have more or less hope now than you did ten years ago?’ I ask Nawaja, a veteran Palestinian activist from this rural stretch of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. A pause. A laugh. ‘Little bit less hope,’ he admits. ‘Ten years ago, more hope. Ten years ago, I see a lot of Israeli active. But now?’”

Calling Out Omar and Democrats’ ‘anti-Semitism,’ Trump Pulls Jewish Dual Loyalty Trope, Haaretz
Allison Kaplan Sommer writes, “Calling out Democrats for the ‘terrible scourge of anti-Semitism,’ Trump repeatedly fails to distinguish between the American Jews to whom he was speaking and Jewish Israelis”

Netanyahu’s final campaign focus: An effort to decimate Bennett and Shaked, Times of Israel
Shalom Yerushalmi writes, “This new campaign angle did not come up as spontaneously as it seemed and had a clear objective: to siphon voters from Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked’s New Right, and send the duo’s fledgling party below the electoral threshold.”

Why Netanyahu’s Paranoid Hail Mary Might Turn Out to Be Political Hara-kiri, Haaretz
Chemi Shalev writes, “Netanyahu’s fear of Rivlin is one of the main impetuses for his risky last-minute Hail Mary, aka his ‘gevalt’ strategy, aka ‘hitting the panic button.’ The polls may project a comfortable lead for Netanyahu’s right wing bloc, which would ostensibly leave Rivlin with no room for maneuver, but they also indicate that Gantz’s Kahol Lavan could outperform the Likud by a small margin. In Netanyahu’s mind, that would suffice for Rivlin to give Gantz the nod.”