“Left-wing Jewish group J Street attacked the Trump administration on Thursday for refusing to endorse a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict….the group’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, said that by taking up such a stance, the administration was hurting its own efforts to reach peace….The State Department’s spokeswoman ‘displayed dangerous ignorance about the nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and what it will take to end it,’ Ben-Ami said. He added that, ‘The Trump administration has spoken often of its desire to broker a comprehensive and transformative peace agreement in the Middle East. Early steps taken by the special envoy and others suggested a real interest in constructing a viable approach to achieving that objective. But there is no way to accomplish that goal without a two-state solution.’”
“A brief hopeful moment in which President Trump was seen as the Middle East’s unlikely peace broker has ended for dovish Israel-focused organizations now that the administration has made clear it does not intend to embrace the two-state solution….In a harsh statement following the American negotiating team’s talks in Jerusalem and Ramallah, the left-leaning lobby group J Street accused the Trump administration of ‘dangerous ignorance about the nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and what it will take to end it.’”
“The statement by a State Department spokesperson that the US cannot expressly support a two-state solution because it might ‘bias one side over the other’ displayed dangerous ignorance about the nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and what it will take to end it. For more than two decades, responsible Israeli and Palestinian leaders, US presidents of both parties and virtually the entire international community have understood that a two-state solution is the only viable way to end the conflict. By refusing to support it, the Trump administration is showing bias toward the extreme positions of both Israeli and Palestinian rejectionists who are determined to undermine any serious peace efforts. The Trump administration has spoken often of its desire to broker a comprehensive and transformative peace agreement in the Middle East. Early steps taken by the special envoy and others suggested a real interest in constructing a viable approach to achieving that objective. But there is no way to accomplish that goal without a two-state solution.”
Kushner’s Mideast Peace Push Met With Palestinian Skepticism, US News and World Report
“Presidential adviser Jared Kushner met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Thursday to try to jumpstart moribund peace talks, but after months without progress the Mideast envoy faces growing skepticism on the Palestinian side. With no clear vision for peace outlined by the administration and domestic issues distracting President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, expectations for the new peace push are low….Before his meeting with Kushner, Netanyahu spoke optimistically of the road ahead. ‘We have a lot of things to talk about, how to advance peace, stability and security in our region, prosperity too,’ Netanyahu said, standing alongside Kushner. ‘I think that all of them are within our reach.’”
President Abbas set aside weeks of widespread and vocal pessimism over US peace efforts, saying that a deal with Israel is not impossible during a meeting with senior White House adviser Jared Kushner Thursday. Meeting with Kushner and other US officials in Ramallah, Abbas expressed optimism that a deal could be reached, despite complaints from the PA in recent days over a lack of seriousness from the White House in its efforts to broker an elusive agreement.
“Less than 24 hours after Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist rabbis announced they would not organize the annual High Holiday presidential conference call, the White House made clear such a call was never in the cards anyway. A Trump spokesman suggested that the call was a creation of former President Obama that had no future under Trump — even before the announced boycott.”
Controversial Islamist cleric indicted for incitement to terror, Times of Israel
Prosecutors on Thursday charged a controversial Islamic cleric with incitement to terror for praising the three Arab Israelis who shot dead two police officers last month just outside the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem. Sheikh Raed Salah, a leading member of Israel’s now-outlawed Northern Branch of the Islamist Movement, has been held in custody since his arrest last week.
Some 300 people, including an Israeli cabinet minister, a lawmaker and city councilmen, attended a ceremony in East Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood in honor of a new Torah book placed in a synagogue built in the predominantly Palestinian neighborhood. The event, attended by Agricultural Minister Uri Ariel, was organized by Ateret Cohanim, a right-wing organization that works to settle Jews in East Jerusalem and in Jerusalem’s Old City. Palestinian residents of the neighborhood described heavy police presence during the event, saying that snipers were placed on the roofs of buildings and police officers entered houses along the procession’s route, which ended in the Batan al-Hawa neighborhood.
Body searches of female worshipers at the entrance to the Western Wall are “unacceptable,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. Netanyahu asked Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan to look into accusations that at least four female rabbinical students were subject to body searches while attempting to enter the Western Wall Plaza, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement issued Friday morning.
Over 1,000 Israelis have signed a petition calling for the release of Dareen Tatour, a Palestinian poet who has been under house arrest for publishing a poem on Facebook. Tatour, 34, from the village of Reineh near Nazareth, was arrested by Israeli police on October 11th, 2015 for a poem she had published on Facebook, along with a number of other Facebook statuses she posted at the height of the stabbing and vehicle ramming attacks in 2015-2016. She is currently facing trial after being charged with incitement to violence and identifying with a terrorist organization.
The United Nations Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities (OCHA) released a statement on Thursday confirming that $2.5 million of the UN’s Humanitarian Fund was being donated to the besieged Gaza Strip in order to meet urgent needs in the territory, on the same day that a UK-based NGO warned of an escalating “humanitarian emergency” in the small enclave.
“Judging by the increasing number of complaints piling up in recent months, this appears to be a widespread phenomenon among the Negev’s Bedouin residents. Hundreds if not thousands of them are losing their citizenship due to ‘erroneous registration.’ This is the reason they get from the Interior Ministry, with no further details or explanation.”
The David Project, a pro-Israel organization that morphed from a “combative” advocacy group to a more mainstream educational program for campus activists, will join Hillel international, the groups announced. The David Project will be integrated into Hinenu, Hillel’s Israel Education and Engagement Department. Hillel and the David Project have been working in partnership for the past five years.
Zvi Bar’el writes, “Russia wants a diplomatic solution that will let it influence Syria from afar, withdraw its troops and get a chunk of the country’s reconstruction work. Iran wants to escape its Mideast encirclement and consolidate its presence in Syria – and not just through agents, as it did in Lebanon though Hezbollah or Yemen through the Houthis. But this doesn’t mean Iran sees Syria as a base for launching missiles at Israel or that its calculations revolve around its capabilities for attacking Israel. Iran is seeking global legitimacy, and that aspiration can’t be reconciled with a direct attack on another state….So far, Israel has refrained from threatening to hold the Assad regime responsible for Iran’s deployment of troops or sophisticated weaponry in Syria, though it has threatened to hold the Lebanese government responsible for Iranian actions in Lebanon. But even if Israel explicitly threatened Assad, this probably wouldn’t deter Tehran, since Iran seeks to establish a balance of deterrence against Israel in Syria such as it already has in Lebanon. Thus barring unexpected changes, it seems Israel will have to live with Syria being an Iranian forward base, relying on Russian promises that don’t amount to commitments and doing without backing from Washington, which is rapidly disengaging from Syria.”
Keep Iran Nuclear Deal, Hartford Courant
Judith Stein writes, “The Middle East is filled with violence and instability, but the nuclear agreement has been a hopeful bright spot — the result of tough and successful diplomacy. Since its implementation, all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon have been blocked and an unprecedentedly thorough monitoring system has been installed to ensure that they stay blocked. U.S. and Israeli experts agree that the deal has made our two countries safer, without firing a shot. Now Mr. Trump may kill the agreement, apparently just to spite his predecessor, with no plan for what comes next. Doing so would anger and alienate our allies — and potentially put Iran back on the path to a nuclear weapon. It could even lead to another unnecessary and destructive war in the Middle East. As a resident of his district and a member of J Street, a Washington advocacy group that supports a two-state solution in Israel, I’m grateful to U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, for his strong support for the Iran Agreement.”
Daisy Khan and Rabbi Burton Vistotzky write, “Now is the time for the Jewish and Muslim communities to have each other’s backs. To stand shoulder to shoulder in the face of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.”