News Roundup for August 24, 2017

August 24, 2017

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J Street in the News

Trump Administration Envoys Must Finally Back Two-State Solution, J Street

“A team of White House officials, including Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, traveled to the Middle East this week for a trip that will include stops in Israel and the Palestinian territory. This trip must be used to finally make absolutely clear to all parties that the Trump administration supports a two-state solution as the end goal of any Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The administration’s ongoing failure to provide even this basic commitment has led to growing frustration throughout the region. It has called into question whether this president and his team are serious about playing a constructive role in helping to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A president who has failed in so many ways to live up to the basic responsibilities of his office, and whose tenure has been marked by constant turmoil, will not receive the benefit of the doubt….Meetings and aspirational statements about peace cannot be an end in themselves. The United States has a vital role to play in helping to secure Israel’s future, create a Palestinian state and forge a more stable and peaceful Middle East. But to do so our government must make clear its substantive goals – and must strongly object to destructive steps, like settlement expansion, that make a peaceful solution significantly more difficult to achieve.”

Top News and Analysis

As Israel and Palestinians Toughen Stance, Kushner to Meet Netanyahu and Abbas, Haaretz

Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, arrived Wednesday night on a visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. His presence here a month after the end of the Temple Mount crisis signals a renewed American bid to restart the peace process. Kushner recently met leaders of several Arab states to explore if they could help jumpstart talks between the two sides. However, both Israeli and Palestinian officials remain skeptical that there is any chance of a breakthrough. This is Kushner’s third visit to Israel since Trump entered office. He will be accompanied by the U.S. envoy for the peace process Jason Greenblatt, and Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell. The three have been in the region since Monday, holding talks with leaders in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt.

Revealed: Nearly 3,500 Settlement Homes Built on Private Palestinian Land, Haaretz

“There are 3,455 residential and public buildings built on private Palestinian lands in the West Bank, according to Civil Administration data. These illegal structures could be legalized under the expropriation law, whose validity is now being determined by the High Court of Justice in response to Palestinian petitions against the law. Extensive details on the scope of illegal structures on private Palestinian land were revealed in an appendix to the state’s response to the petitions.”

Jewish Umbrella Group Kept Quiet On Bannon To Avoid Offending Donors, Forward

Josh Nathan-Kazis reports, “Establishment Jewish advocacy groups did not call on President Donald Trump to fire far-right firebrand Steve Bannon because leaders worried that it would hurt fundraising efforts, according to an internal email discussion obtained by the Forward. In emails sent a few days after a white nationalist rally turned violent in Charlottesville, Virginia, the head of an umbrella group for local Jewish community relations groups explained that his organization could not call for the firing of Bannon — or controversial Trump advisers Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka — because it could anger wealthy donors. ‘I suspect that few of us could call for the dismissal of these presidential appointees without generating an unacceptable backlash that would make it harder for us to do other important work,’ wrote David Bernstein, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, an umbrella group for local Jewish community relations organizations. Bernstein and a colleague warned local constituent groups not to sign on to calls on Trump to dump Bannon, Gorka or Miller.”


Netanyahu to Putin: Israel will act if needed against Iran in Syria, Times of Israel

Prime Minister Netanyahu on Wednesday said he told Russian President Vladimir Putin that Israel was willing to act to prevent a continued Iranian military presence in Syria, during a three-hour meeting between the two leaders in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. “Most of the discussion dealt with Iran’s attempt to establish a foothold in Syria in the places where ISIS was defeated and is leaving,” Netanyahu said following the meeting.

Three Jewish movements opt out of High Holidays call with Trump, citing ‘xenophobia’, JTA Three streams of American Judaism will not participate in the traditional annual pre-High Holidays call with the president, saying Donald Trump has “given succor to those who advocate anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia.” “We have concluded that President Trump’s statements during and after the tragic events in Charlottesville are so lacking in moral leadership and empathy for the victims of racial and religious hatred that we cannot organize such a call this year,” said a statement Wednesday by leaders of the Reconstructionist, Reform and Conservative movements, which went on to the “succor” comment.

Israel Seizes Mobile Classrooms in Palestinian Village on Eve of New School Year, Haaretz

The start of the school year in a West Bank village was pushed back to Sunday after the Israeli Civil Administration on Tuesday confiscated and destroyed trailers that were supposed to serve as classrooms, along with other educational equipment. Authorities have confiscated and destroyed trailers used as classrooms in three other Palestinian communities in the last two weeks. Classes for some 80 first- through fourth-graders from the villages Jubbet Adh-Dhib and Zatra were ultimately held in improvised tents on Wednesday morning.

Police allow one-day ‘trial’ for MKs to enter Temple Mount, Times of Israel

Israel Police has announced that Knesset members will be allowed to enter the Temple Mount for one day next week as part of a “trial” coordinated with the Prime Minister’s Office. The announcement came hours after MKs Yehudah Glick (Likud) and Shuli Mualem-Refaeli were stopped by police while attempting to enter the Temple Mount compound through the Mughrabi Bridge entrance.

‘Outraged’ Reform Jewish Leaders Urge Netanyahu to Denounce Western Wall Strip-searches, Haaretz

Leaders of the Reform movement in the United States sent an urgent letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, expressing their “outrage and dismay” over the strip-searches their female rabbinical students were subjected to the previous day while visiting the Western Wall. They called on Netanyahu to issue “a swift and clear denunciation” of this practice.

PA says visit of US delegation to Ramallah ‘crucial’, Times of Israel

The Palestinian Authority says the meeting with visiting US officials in Ramallah later today is “important and crucial,” according to the official PA news agency Wafa.

Opinions and Analysis

Egypt May Lift the Gaza Blockade, but Hamas Will Still Pay a Price, Haaretz

Zvi Bar’el writes, “Hamas, whose funding has dwindled since it cut itself off from Syria and Iran, is left without diplomatic or financial options. The Egyptian demands that came with the promise to open the crossing were the last vital source of oxygen left. But such a vital source doesn’t come free. Egypt and Israel need a responsible authority in the Gaza Strip, given the abject failure of the PA’s and Abbas’ efforts to control it. But while Egypt’s main interest is to close Gaza off to the terror organizations operating in Sinai and within Egypt, Israel is served by the establishment of a recognized administration in Gaza as a tool that could hinder any diplomatic agreement. Because as long as there are two Palestinian leaderships, one in the West Bank and one in Gaza, Israel can claim that there is no leadership representing the Palestinian people, thus proving that there is no partner.”

Jared Kushner won’t find his job in Israel easy, CNN

Aaron David Miller writes, “[A]nother trip or two without producing a visible sign of progress — let alone a direction or concept that the Arabs and Israelis can embrace — will erode what remains of Kushner’s credibility on this issue. And the parties will grow accustomed to his visits and weary of his talking points. And while they may humor him because of his closeness to the President, they won’t take him seriously. Had Trump not come out of the gate pushing big breakthroughs and ultimate deals, he might not have put his and US credibility so publicly on the line. No one looking at Abbas and Netanyahu realistically would ever have believed that they — even with US help — could produce a final peace agreement on the big issues….Right now the emperor has no clothes. And where Kushner and his team will find them is anybody’s guess.”

How Your Favorite #NeverTrump Republicans Planted Seeds Of His Rise To Power, Forward

Yousef Munayyer writes, “[T]he white supremacist homebase saw no contradiction between Rubin’s analysis of Obama and Israel and their own Weltanschauung. And this is exactly the point – not only did these pundits not contradict the the ideological undercurrent of the alt-right; they provided a piece of the paradigm with their insistence over and over on an us-vs-them mentality….The thing these pundits missed is that all forms of bigotry stem from the same disease. You can’t flirt with Islamophobia and anti-black racism and expect that the hatred won’t eventually turn on someone else. Indeed, another thing many of these pundits share is degrading and dehumanizing attitudes toward Palestinians and support for policies that deny their rights. Huckabee and Gingrich have both engaged in denialism toward Palestinians, and Ben Shapiro is an unabashed advocate of ethnically cleansing Palestinians. Jennifer Rubin once retweeted a rather genocidal tweet about Palestinians. These and other indicators should have been a dead giveaway that bigotry was the beating heart of this anti-Obama rhetoric. But it was sadly sanctioned by this clash of civilizations discourse and by the mainstream media.”

Israel’s deafening silence over Charlottesville, Al-Monitor

Akiva Eldar writes, “Manifestations of anti-Semitism abroad can always be counted on to prompt calls by some senior Israeli politician for Jews to immigrate to Israel. Take, for example, the performance by Netanyahu on the day after the January 2015 terror attack at the Jewish supermarket in Paris. When terror strikes in Trump’s country and the assailants are not called Mohammed or Ahmed, Netanyahu does not dare draw the Holocaust weapon from his arsenal.”

‘We Prevented Israel From Going to War’: Outgoing Air Force Chief on Iran, Gaza and the Conflicts Ahead, Haaretz

Amos Harel interviews outgoing Israeli Air Force commander Amir Eshel.

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