News Roundup for August 19, 2019

August 19, 2019

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J Street in the News

Israel’s Snub of Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib Is a Gift for the BDS Movement, The Daily Beast
“‘The only people to gain through this campaign against the BDS movement are the BDS activists themselves,’ said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the advocacy group J Street, which shares the goal of changing the U.S.-Israel status quo but opposes BDS. ‘The more you fight them and elevate their status into an existential threat to the state, the more they become a compelling outlet for people’s unhappiness over what’s going on in the West Bank,’ he told The Daily Beast on Friday. Israel, he said, ‘played right into the hands of their critics.’”

The day Netanyahu helped anti-Israel Democrats gain resonance and credibility, Times of Israel
“‘The political debate over Israel in this country is going to get more robust and more wide open,’ said Jeremy Ben-Ami, who heads the influential left-wing advocacy group J Street. ‘People who have serious criticism of what the [Israeli] government is doing are going to have the freedom to say what they want. There will be less fear of saying these things.’—’The unintended consequences of Netanyahu’s decision,’ he went on, ‘is that he has opened it up for critics to push for ideas in the policy space that they couldn’t before.’ […] ‘This is part of why J Street was started — to get this discussion going,’ said Ben-Ami. ‘Surprisingly, it’s actually the actions of the right wing that have created the space for that.’”

Ilhan Omar Is Already Changing Washington, The New Republic
“‘In terms of actual legislation and what’s been happening for the first sixth months, I wouldn’t ascribe a significant personal impact to [Omar],’ Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, a progressive group that describes itself as pro-Israel, pro-peace, and committed to a two-state solution, told The New Republic. (J Street supports Omar’s resolution, which Ben-Ami described as ‘well-crafted.’) Even so, Omar has found ways to move the conversation. She has ‘been able to question witnesses at hearings, [and] bring questions that other folks haven’t been asking,’ he added.”

Netanyahu risks all by placing fate in Trump’s hands, Al-Monitor
“Almost everyone who understands anything about the delicate fabric of Israel’s relationship with the United States and American Jewry knows that banning the entry of elected American representatives, whatever their opinion of Israel, is tantamount to a declaration of war. This is how the pro-Israel liberal lobby in the United States, J-Street, described the decision.”

In targeting Tlaib, Benjamin Netanyahu enlists in Donald Trump’s war on Muslims, Detroit Free Press
“But Americans who cherish the U.S.-Israeli alliance — a politically diverse group that includes House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), and pro-Israel groups ranging from the conservative American Israel Public Affairs Committee to the liberal J Street — recognize the Trump-Bibi travel ban as an ominous setback. “

American Jews unite to reject Netanyahu’s decision barring US congresswomen, Middle East Eye
“From the anti-Zionist Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) to the more mainstream liberal Zionist J-Street, to pro-Zionist organisations like Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the American Jewish Committee (AJC), organisations all appeared to agree that Israel had crossed a line.”

Netanyahu bans Tlaib and Omar from Israel, Fox 5
J Street Communications Director Logan Bayroff tells Fox 5, “That is not the action of a liberal democracy, that is not the action of a close ally […] That is the action of a desperate political leader who is trying to do a political favor to his close friend President Trump.”

Top News and Analysis

In Barring Omar And Tlaib, Netanyahu Showed His Contempt For Liberal Jews, The Forward
Alon Pinkas writes, “Trump showed how irrelevant he considers Israeli sovereignty, Israel’s relations with Congress, and bipartisan support. In his mind, he gave Netanyahu, the junior partner in this asymmetrical bromance, enough gifts over the last two years. It’s time Netanyahu reciprocate. And he did, willingly and enthusiastically.”

Meet Donald Trump’s Most Desperate Sycophant: Benjamin Netanyahu, Haaretz
Eric H. Yoffie writes, “Israel’s prime minister has now become the U.S. president’s pet poodle. The Tlaib-Omar debacle is another terrible blow for relations between Israel and the Democratic Party – and between Israel and U.S. Jews.”

What occupation looks like for Rashida Tlaib’s village in the West Bank, +972 Mag
Dror Etkes writes, “Forty years of land grabs, settlement expansion, and the building of a highway that is off limits to Palestinians. This is what is happening to Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib’s village.”


Tlaib Mourns Cancelled West Bank Trip With Jewish Supporters in Detroit, Haaretz
Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib spent Friday evening in a Detroit park surrounded by members of the anti-occupation group Jewish Voice for Peace, which had organized a Shabbat service and dinner to support her in the aftermath of her thwarted trip to the West Bank. “I cannot tell you how much love I feel here,” the Michigan congresswoman said, her voice choked with emotion.

Feminist icon Steinem blasts Israel PM over travel ban, AP
Feminist icon Gloria Steinem has called Israel’s prime minister a “bully” and says she won’t visit as long as he remains the country’s leader. In a statement posted online Saturday, she said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to bar a visit by two Democratic congresswomen was “a welcome sign that I never have to enter any country or place under your authority.”

Trump said he ‘probably’ will wait until after Israeli elections to roll out peace plan, JTA
“I probably will wait, but we may put out pieces of it,” Trump told reporters on Sunday while aboard Air Force One, Reuters reported.

Netanyahu touches down in Ukraine, kicking off two-day trip, Times of Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu landed Sunday in Ukraine, kicking off a two-day trip seen as a bid to drum up support among Russian-speaking voters, ahead of general elections in Israel next month.

Three Palestinians Said Killed by Israel After Two Nights of Gaza Rocket Fire, Haaretz
Three Palestinians were killed by Israeli army fire on the border fence in the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday night, the coastal enclave’s health ministry reported.

Hamas says armed men killed by IDF on Gaza border were ‘rebellious youth’, Times of Israel
The Hamas terror group said on Sunday that “rebellious youth” were killed by Israeli forces near the border fence between the Jewish state and the Gaza Strip on Saturday night. Terror group officials have in the past used the term to distance the organization from perpetrators of certain attacks.

On Israel, Omar and Tlaib Do Not Speak for Party, Says Jewish Democrat Max Rose, Haaretz
Freshman New York Congressman Max Rose argues Israel missed a chance to ‘advance its interests’ by quashing visit by pro-BDS lawmakers Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. In any case, he says, there are more pressing issues on the U.S. agenda.

Gantz says no split in Blue and White despite internal mole probe, Times of Israel
Blue and White chief Benny Gantz said Sunday his party’s hiring of a private intelligence agency to track down leaks to the media amounted to “normal steps” to deal with attempts at political espionage and vowed there would be no splits among the parties that make up the centrist alliance.

Opinion and Analysis

Trump and Netanyahu are playing a bigoted game of chicken, The Guardian
Emma Goldberg writes, “The US president feigns concern for Jews to justify bullying Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. Israel is happy to play along.”

Trump and Netanyahu Put Bipartisan Support for Israel at Risk, New York Times
Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes, “By pushing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel into barring an official visit by the first two Muslim women in Congress, President Trump is doubling down on a strategy aimed at dividing the Democratic Party and pushing some Jewish voters into the arms of Republicans. But people in both parties warn that over the long term, the president could further erode bipartisan support for Israel, which has long relied on the United States as its most important ally.”

What Is Birthright and Why Is It So Controversial?, Vice
Leila Ettachfini writes, “Everything you should know before deciding whether or not to join the free 10 day trip to Israel […] Birthright’s planned hangouts with the IDF, among the most condemned militaries in the eyes of international human rights organizations, have raised eyebrows. The organization calls these meetings ‘the most effective and transformative element in the Birthright Israel experience.’”

Escalating Incidents on Gaza-Israel Border Indicate Hamas Is Losing Its Grip, Haaretz
Amos Harel writes, “Hamas has a lot to lose from a major round of violence, but with election looming, Netanyahu’s restraint may not last long.”