News Roundup for August 21, 2017

August 21, 2017

Receive the roundup in your inbox every morning!

J Street in the News

Bannon Out at White House, Jerusalem Post

“The Anti-Defamation League, J Street and several Reform and Conservative organizations long questioned Bannon’s place in the West Wing, and called on Trump to distance himself from hate groups associated with the alt-right – especially after a white power rally in Charlottesville last weekend shook the nation….J Street is now calling on Trump to fire like-minded aides to Bannon, including Sebastian Gorka, a national security adviser who has reported ties to fascist groups, and Stephen Miller, architect of the president’s harshly nativist anti-immigrant policies.”

Bannon Dismissal is Positive; Miller and Gorka Must Follow, J Street

“From the moment Bannon was appointed to this role, J Street and many other organizations have made clear that a prominent promoter of white nationalist bigotry and extremism should have no place in any presidential administration – let alone in such a senior position. Since that time, tens of thousands of J Street activists have joined with millions of Americans in demanding his removal. After last weekend’s horrifying events in Charlottesville and the repugnant response by President Trump, there can be no doubt that far-right extremism poses a tremendous and growing threat to our country. Bannon is not the only White House official with ties to white nationalist hate. His removal must be followed by the immediate dismissal of Stephen Miller, Sebastian Gorka and any others who support or tolerate this dangerous bigotry. Ultimately, no official or adviser can shoulder the blame for the president’s disgraceful conduct in the wake of Charlottesville. President Trump himself demonstrated with his own words and actions that he does not understand the core values of our country, the basic requirements of his office and the fundamental evil of white supremacism. There can be no more excuses for hatred – or for a president who defends it.”

Top News and Analysis

Trump may be planning to make a very bad decision on the Iran deal, Washington Post

The editorial board writes, “The real experts puzzle over what Mr. Trump could hope to accomplish by announcing that Iran is noncompliant — other than satisfying what appears to be his compulsive urge to spoil President Barack Obama’s legacies. Without proof of Iranian noncompliance, U.S. partners in the nuclear deal, including the European Union, Russia and China, would surely refuse to support the nullification of the accord or the reimposition of sanctions. Iran might respond to decertification by resuming uranium enrichment, even if Mr. Trump did not reimpose U.S. sanctions. That would present the White House with the ugly old problem of how to stop Iranian progress toward a bomb. Could Mr. Trump credibly threaten Iran with military action even while using the threat of force against North Korea?”

Stephen Bannon Out at the White House After Turbulent Run, The New York Times

“Stephen K. Bannon, the embattled chief strategist who helped President Trump win the 2016 election by embracing their shared nationalist impulses, departed the White House on Friday after a turbulent tenure shaping the fiery populism of the president’s first seven months in office. Mr. Bannon’s exit, the latest in a string of high-profile West Wing shake-ups, came as Mr. Trump is under fire for saying that ‘both sides’ were to blame for last week’s deadly violence in Charlottesville, Va. Critics accused the president of channeling Mr. Bannon when he equated white supremacists and neo-Nazis with the left-wing protesters who opposed them.”

Abbas: I Met Trump’s Envoys 20 Times and Still Don’t Understand Their Peace Plan, Haaretz

“President Abbas told a delegation from the left-wing Meretz party that he does not understand the conduct of the Trump administration when it comes to the Israel-Palestinian issue. Abbas noted that in meetings with envoys representing U.S. President Donald Trump in recent weeks, he heard that they support a two-state solution to the conflict and a settlement construction freeze. However, the Palestinian president said they are refusing to say so publicly and to present Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with such a position as an American demand. ‘I have met with Trump envoys about 20 times since the beginning of his term as president of the United States,’ Abbas said according to notes taken by some of the meeting’s participants. ‘Every time they repeatedly stressed to me how much they believe and are committed to a two-state solution and a halt to construction in the settlements. I have pleaded with them to say the same thing to Netanyahu, but they refrained. They said they would consider it but then they didn’t get back to me.’”

Israeli opposition says Abbas tried to resume security ties with Israel, Reuters

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Israeli opposition lawmakers on Sunday that he had proposed rolling back his month-old suspension of security coordination with Israel, but that it did not respond to the overture, the delegation said. “We recently communicated with them (Israeli security officials) in an attempt to resume some kind of cooperation,” Abbas told a visiting delegation from Israel’s left-wing Meretz party, according to a statement issued by the lawmakers. “But they have not returned an answer, something that has prevented progress in thawing ties,” he was quoted as saying.


Sheldon Adelson Expresses Support for Campaign Against McMaster, Haaretz

Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson expressed support recently for the Zionist Organization of American’s campaign against National Security Adviser, General H.R. McMaster. The ZOA, a right-wing group which receives financial support from Adelson, recently announced that it has conducted research showing that McMaster promotes policies harmful to Israel.

Israeli Officer Lightly Wounded in West Bank Stabbing, Palestinian Assailant Shot Dead, Haaretz

An Israeli border police officer sustained light injuries on Saturday after a 17-year-old Palestinian approached a group of officers with a knife at Tapuah Junction in the West Bank. The officers opened fire on the assailant as he drew a knife, killing him and injuring the officer.

Sebastian Gorka’s PhD Adviser Says He’s No ‘Expert’ On Terrorism, Forward

Sebastian Gorka may be an effective “bulldog” for President Trump — but he’s no expert on terrorism. So says the controversial White House anti-terror aide’s own PhD adviser, according to CNN “I would not call him an expert on terrorism,” said Stephen Sloan, a retired professor of political science who taught at the University of Oklahoma. “His level of expertise does not match the level where he stands in the White House.”

Palestinian Authority threatens to sever Gaza electricity — report, Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly threatened Sunday to cut off all financial support to the Gaza Strip, unless the Hamas terror group which controls the coastal enclave works together with Abbas’s Fatah party.

Rabbi Who Prayed at Trump’s Inauguration Blasts Him for Being Too Soft on neo-Nazis, Haaretz

Rabbi Marvin Hier, who offered a prayer at Donald Trump’s inauguration, has strongly criticized the president for blaming both sides for the violence that erupted during a far-right protest in Charlottesville, which left one counterdemonstrator dead and dozens wounded. “The president of the United States has an obligation not to equate the other demonstrators with Nazis and Klansmen who want an America without Jews, without African-Americans and without Latinos,” Hier told Haaretz on Sunday. “It’s quite unbelievable that some 75 years after the defeat of Nazism, Nazis along with the Klan are marching in the main streets of America against citizens. You can’t equate that with other demonstrators,” he said, referring to Trump’s remarks last week in which he said people “on many sides” were responsible for the violence at the Unite the Right rally in the Virginia city.

After record five-month closure, Egypt opens Gaza crossing for five days, +972

Egypt opened the Rafah border crossing this week for the first time in five months. Israel controls the only other way in and out of the Gaza Strip, and has placed more and more restrictions on Palestinians who want to come and go in recent months. Egypt allowed the passage of pilgrims, humanitarian cases, and Gazans stranded in Egypt to pass through the border this week. The border closed again on Friday, after five days, according to Gaza-based Palestinian news site PalToday. There are a reported 30,000 Palestinians on a waiting list to leave the Strip via Egypt. The five-month closure of Rafah marked the longest consecutive closure since 2007, according to Gisha, an Israeli organization that promotes Palestinian freedom of movement.

Netanyahu to Meet Putin in Russia, Discuss Israel’s Concerns Over Southern Syria Cease-fire, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet on Wednesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, on the shore of the Black Sea. The Prime Minister’s Office said the two will discuss recent developments in the region. One of the main issues that is expected to be raised at the meeting is Israel’s concerns over the cease-fire agreement in southern Syria and over an Iranian foothold in the country.

Israel Threatens to Demolish Bedouin Homes Despite High Court Order, Haaretz

The High Court of Justice has forbidden the demolition of Bedouin homes in the E1 area near Ma’aleh Adumim until it is determined whether they can be legalized. However, the Israeli army’s Civil Administration in the West Bank is threatening to destroy them. A group of Bedouin from Jabal Baba and Bir Al-Maskub are waging a legal battle after the Oversight Subcommittee in Judea and Samaria – a Civil Administration body – threatened to destroy their homes. The group submitted a request last Thursday to declare the Civil Administration in contempt of court, with their lawyer, Shlomo Lecker, asking the court to make it clear that the homes cannot be demolished at this time.

Opinions and Analysis

Trump’s Mideast envoys moving to next phase, Al-Monitor

Uri Savir reports, “According to the White House, President Donald Trump is dispatching his Middle East peace process team to the region to resume talks with both sides. At the end of August, senior White House adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, envoy Jason Greenblatt and deputy national security adviser Dina Powell will arrive for a new round of talks in Jerusalem and Ramallah. A senior PLO official with good ties to the Trump administration argues that the US president would like to explore ways in which a negotiation process could be launched in 2017. His analysis is that a peace process surrounded by some media drama could serve the political interests of all three leaders: Trump, Netanyahu and Abbas.”

In Blow to Iran, Egypt Becomes Surprise New Player in Syria, Haaretz

Zvi Bar’el writes, “A new and surprising player has recently entered the Syrian arena and has already contributed to establishing local cease-fires: Egypt received Saudi and Russian “permission” to conduct negotiations between the rebel militias and the regime, both in Ghouta al-Sharqiya (east of Damascus) and the northern neighborhoods in the city of Homs. In both cases, it managed to get a cease-fire deal signed – in the former on July 22, in the latter in early August….From Israel’s standpoint, Egypt’s involvement is important. Any country engaged in blocking Iran’s influence in Syria serves Israel’s interests. But that’s especially true when said country is Egypt, which is Israel’s partner in the war on terror in Sinai and an ally (together with Saudi Arabia and Jordan) with whom it sees eye to eye about both the Iranian threat and the danger of Syria disintegrating into cantons.”

Israeli opposition bets on millionaire to take it back to power, Financial Times

John Reed writes, “In a news cycle dominated by police probes into allegations that Mr Netanyahu received gifts from benefactors and sought a deal to garner favourable coverage from a leading newspaper, Mr Gabbay’s story has managed to surprise and disarm Israel’s often cynical urban elite.”

Outsiders target Israeli Likud Party’s agenda, Al-Monitor

Mazal Mualem reports, “The organizers of the New Likud estimate that, because of the initiative, some 12,000 people have joined the Likud, out of 100,000 Likud members. They plan to continue increasing their numbers until the next party primaries. Their goal is to create a bloc powerful enough to influence the party’s direction from the inside and determine who will appear on its Knesset list. Most of these new members have never voted for the Likud, nor do they plan to do so in the future. The group first became active about six years ago, in the wake of the social protests, when they reached the conclusion that the best way to influence the situation in Israel was through the ruling party. They had no significant impact over the next few years. Only a handful of like-minded people actually joined the Likud, and the party considered them little more than a curiosity. After the Zionist Camp’s defeat in the last election in 2015, however, the New Likud phenomenon began to gather momentum. It has picked up over the last few months, especially among young people, some of whom attended the recent demonstrations outside State Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s home, where they called on him to complete the investigations into Netanyahu’s affairs.”

Conscience must trump political expedience, Times of Israel

Adam Bronfman writes, “In the wake of the hatred displayed in Charlottesville, let’s take a moment to look back at the moral dilemma posed last March of 2016 when AIPAC invited Donald Trump to speak at their Policy Conference. At that time, I wrote ‘Donald Trump and our Esther moment’ warning that the moral turpitude implied by the invitation, reflected on all Jews. One can draw a meaningful line between AIPAC’s decision to offer Trump a public platform and the abdication of responsibility by communal leaders that has contributed to the rise of hateful venom in America today. We must, as a Jewish community, speak out against this president’s moral bankruptcy. The faulty logic that led AIPAC’s leadership to invite Trump reminds us that there are consequences when Jewish organizations maintain a myopic focus at the expense of larger moral and ethical obligations.”

Questions, comments, or suggestions? Please email [email protected]