News Roundup for August 1, 2018

August 1, 2018

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J Street in the News

70 House Democrats urge Trump administration to restore Gaza aid funding, Times of Israel

“Seventy House Democrats on Monday urged the Trump administration to reinstate its humanitarian aid funding in Gaza, saying that it was necessary toward alleviating the crisis there….’We urge you to immediately restore funding for humanitarian aid in Gaza because it plays a critical role in the larger US strategy to secure peace and stability in the region,’ the lawmakers said….J Street praised Monday’s letter, which was authored by Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan, California Rep. Barbara Lee, Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Kentucky Rep. John Yarmuth. ‘The crisis in Gaza calls for steps to break the disastrous status quo and cycle of violence,’ the group said in a statement. ‘Instead of standing idly by while violence and suffering escalate, the US government should be taking bold action to provide humanitarian relief to those in need — and strongly encouraging Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority to do the same.’”

Top News and Analysis

Druze Nation-state Crisis: Israeli Army Chief Forced to Put Out Fire Netanyahu Started, Haaretz

Amos Harel observes, “In his remarks on Tuesday, the chief of staff urged soldiers and commanders to leave political controversies outside the realm of the military. He also reiterated the IDF’s commitment to the Druze and other minorities in its service….In advance of a possible election, against the backdrop of the ongoing security crisis in the Gaza Strip (where the government is finding it hard to present a tough front), the nation-state law and the responses it is getting from the right are a strong political asset. At the moment, Likud won’t give up such an asset just because of some angry Druze army officers. Instead, they are embracing them a little, making a few promises and moving on according to plan. It looks like the policy will change only if the opposition succeeds – against all current predictions – to turn the protest into an effective and continuous struggle.”

Why Would Iran Want to Talk to Trump Anyway?, Atlantic

Ali Vaez observes, “The notoriously transactional Trump should have no problem understanding the Iranian leadership’s bazaar mentality. But the one thing he has never hinted at is what he is willing to put on the table in return for concessions from Iran, giving Tehran the impression that he is only interested in a less-for-more arrangement—a nonstarter for any half-decent negotiator. As such, it is no surprise that shortly after Trump’s remarks about meeting with his counterpart in Tehran, one of Rouhani’s advisers tweeted that ‘those who believe in dialogue as a way of resolving conflicts should subscribe to its imperatives: respect to the great nation of Iran, reduce tensions, and return to the nuclear deal.’”


No Change in Trump’s Policy on Iran, U.S. Officials Tell Israel, Haaretz

Senior United States government officials told Israel Tuesday that there is no change in US policy on Iran, despite recent statements from American President Donald Trump on his willingness to meet with Iran. An Israeli government official said Tuesday that Israel is in constant communication with the US.

Hamas Delegation Makes Unplanned Visit to Cairo as Egypt Seeks to Clinch Palestinian Reconciliation, Haaretz

A delegation of senior Hamas officials arrived in Cairo on Monday at the request of Egyptian intelligence officials, as part of the efforts to promote reconciliation between the organization and the Palestinian Authority. A Hamas official in Gaza said the visit by the delegation hadn’t been planned but that the Egyptians had demanded that a delegation come to Cairo, following the response that Fatah officials had given to the Egyptian initiative to advance reconciliation.

Arson balloon from Gaza reaches Beersheba, JTA

An arson balloon believed to have been launched from Gaza landed in the major southern Israeli city of Beersheba. It would be the farthest distance that an arson balloon has traveled since they came into regular use by Palestinians in Gaza in recent months.

Rouhani adviser says any talks with US must include return to nuclear deal, Times of Israel

An adviser to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday that any talks with the United States had to start with reducing hostility and a return to the nuclear deal. “Respect for the great nation of Iran, reduction in hostilities, US returning to the nuclear deal… That will open the rocky path of the moment,” Hamid Aboutalebi said on Twitter.

Iranian Forces Pulling Back From Israel Border, Says Russia, Haaretz

Iranian forces have withdrawn their heavy weapons to a distance of 85 km (53 miles) from the Golan Heights frontier between Israel and Syria, TASS news agency quoted Russia’s envoy to Syria as saying on Wednesday.  Backed by Russia, Iran, and the Hezbollah’s Shi’ite militia, Syrian President Bashar Assad has retaken territory in southern-western Syria from rebels, bringing the pro-Assad forces in proximity to the Israeli border.

Dozens of Israeli and U.S. Orthodox Rabbis Come Out in Support of LGBTQ Community, Haaretz

In a rare show of solidarity, over 75 liberal Orthodox rabbis and educators from Israel and abroad have signed an open letter declaring their support for the LGBTQ community – following a vicious attack on it last week by the Orthodox establishment in Israel. The move comes in response to the letter published last Thursday by more than 200 Orthodox rabbis – including local chief rabbis and yeshiva heads – that described members of the LGBTQ community as “perverts” and their behavior as “aggressive terrorism.”

Opinion and Analysis

Trump Keeps White Supremacist Donations To 2020 Campaign, Forward

Ben Fractenberg reports, “[C]ampaign filings reviewed by the Forward show that a participant in [Charlottesville ‘Unite the Right’ rally] has donated to President Trump’s reelection campaign, as have two neo-Nazis. The filings show that the campaign is aware of the contributions, as they have redirected them — but not returned them. Experts say fundraising committees have a responsibility to vet donors.”

Why is Europe underplaying its hand on Iran?, Al-Monitor

Axel Hellman argues, “Given the punitive tools at Washington’s disposal and the Trump administration’s unambiguous signal that it is ready to use them against its own allies, a firm response from Europe is imperative. By reviving the Blocking Statute, the EU is sending the unambiguous signal that it does not accept the legitimacy of US secondary sanctions in principle. But to overcome its lack of teeth and make practical progress toward protecting Europe’s economic sovereignty, the Blocking Regulation must be paired with a willingness to highlight the costs to the United States of a reckless sanctions policy toward Iran. A stronger posture would strengthen European leverage in its dealings with Washington, send credible signals of commitment to the private sector and form the backbone of a more robust structure for sustained economic exchange with Iran.”