News Roundup for August 29, 2017

August 29, 2017

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J Street in the News

The Administration Takes Another Huge Step Backward, J Street

Jeremy Ben-Ami writes, “The two-state solution isn’t about bias, it’s about finding a compromise to a nearly century-old, bloody conflict that meets the needs of both parties. Calling the two-state solution ‘biased’ and reneging on decades of established policy is irresponsible and sadly demonstrates that this administration has no serious policy on yet another critical policy issue….By abandoning long-standing American support for the two-state solution, this administration IS actually showing bias — bias toward the extreme positions of both Israeli and Palestinian rejectionists who are determined to undermine any serious peace efforts….Meetings and photo ops are no substitute for an actual policy — and for now the administration’s effort has been exposed as little more than empty rhetoric….The Trump administration has taken a huge step backward — on this issue as on so many others. But their missteps don’t change the work ahead for us: fighting for the only solution that can create a better future for both peoples and for the kind of US leadership that we need to help make it a reality.”

Gorka’s Exit Welcome – But Arpaio Pardon Shows Problem Starts With the President, J Street

“Sebastian Gorka’s exit from the White House is a welcome development. It’s a disgrace that Gorka, an extreme-right ideologue with documented ties to European neo-Nazi organizations and a long history of Islamophobic writings, ever served the US government in any capacity….Ultimately, however, the White House’s tolerance of and support for bigotry starts at the top. With Friday’s unprecedented pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the president demonstrated once again that he stands on the side of those who attack and discriminate against our nation’s most vulnerable minorities. No official or adviser can shoulder the blame for the president’s shameful conduct in this matter, in the wake of Charlottesville, and on so many other important questions of democracy, equality and basic decency.”

Top News and Analysis

Netanyahu Vows to Never Remove Israeli Settlements From West Bank: ‘We’re Here to Stay, Forever’, Haaretz

Prime Minister Netanyahu declared Monday that he will not evacuate Israeli settlements in the West Bank. “We are here to stay, forever,” the prime minister said at an event in the settlement of Barkan, commemorating the 50th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. “There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the land of Israel. It has been proven that it does not help peace,” he said. “We’ve uprooted settlements. What did we get? We received missiles. It will not happen anymore. “So we will not fold. We are guarding Samaria against those who want to uproot us. We will deepen our roots, build, strengthen and settle,” he said, using the Jewish name for part of the West Bank.

Jared Kushner Just Made A Huge Blunder On Peace In The Middle East, Forward

Peter Beinart writes, “The fiction underlying Kushner’s contention is that Israel and the Palestinian Authority are independent actors of roughly equal power. They’re like two people bargaining over the sale of a house. It’s up to them to agree on a price. Or they’re like two countries negotiating a trade deal. Why should a third country dictate the terms? The problem with this analogy is that Israel and the Palestinian Authority are not remotely independent actors of roughly equal power. Israel is a modern state, which wields ultimate control over every square inch of the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority is Israel’s subcontractor….When American officials say they don’t support any particular solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, what they’re really saying is that they don’t particularly care whether Palestinians live as subjects or citizens so long as Donald Trump and Jared Kushner can claim credit for having brokered the ‘ultimate deal.’”


UN Chief in Israel to Push Netanyahu, Abbas to Ease Restrictions on Gaza, Haaretz

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who was due to arrive Sunday, is expected to ask both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas to ease restrictions on the Gaza Strip. On Monday Guterres is scheduled to meet Netanyahu. An Israeli official said one of Guterres’ main objectives on this tour is the visit to Gaza, where he will look into the worsening humanitarian situation. He is expected to demand that Israel allow a greater number of Palestinians requiring medical assistance in Israeli hospitals to enter from Gaza. Guterres is also likely to ask for an increase in the amount of goods Israel allows into the Strip. On Tuesday, Guterres is set to meet Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas. In that meeting, Guterres is expected to discuss Abbas’ decision to restrict the supply of electricity to Gaza, which has greatly exacerbated power outages there. The next day Guterres is due to visit Gaza and examine the operation of UN facilities.

Israel’s High Court to Hold Critical Hearing Thursday on Western Wall Crisis, Haaretz

All eyes in the Jewish religious world will be on the High Court of Justice Thursday when it holds its first hearing in a landmark case involving the status of non-Orthodox Jews at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites. The outcome could determine the future of Israel’s relationship with Diaspora Jewry. The High Court will hear three separate cases that concern prayer rights and prohibitions at the Wall. The most significant is a petition by the Reform and Conservative movements, along with the feminist prayer group Women of the Wall, against the government for reneging on its commitment to allot these groups a proper space at the Wall for holding egalitarian prayer services. That petition was filed in October, before the government announced two months ago that it had decided to suspend this agreement.

Steve Bannon to Speak at ZOA Gala, The Atlantic

Steve Bannon is scheduled to speak at the Zionist Organization of America dinner in November, his first public appearance on the books since being forced out of the White House earlier this month. ZOA President Morton Klein confirmed that Bannon is on the lineup to speak at the November 12 event in New York, saying, “All I can tell you is Steve Bannon is going to be at the dinner.” Bannon may introduce ZOA’s top donor Sheldon Adelson at the dinner; Klein said “I don’t know if he’ll be introducing” Adelson but that it’s a “special appearance by Steve Bannon.”

PA official: US delegation tells Abbas they need months to prepare peace plan, Ma’an

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ foreign affairs dvisor Nabil Shaath said Monday that in their visit with Abbas last week in Ramallah, the US delegation to the region “asked the Palestinian leadership to give United States three to four months to prepare a peace plan.”

Court backs Israel’s deportation of migrants to third country, but limits jail time for those who refuse, Times of Israel

The High Court of Justice on Monday allowed Israel to continue with its controversial practice of deporting illegal migrants to an unnamed third country, but said the government cannot jail those who refuse to go for more than 60 days. The judges unanimously rejected a petition by human rights groups against the deportation practice, but stressed that the deportations could only to be carried out with the agreement of the migrants.

Israeli settler ‘questioned by police after running over and killing eight-year-old Palestinian girl’, The Independent

An Israeli settler has reportedly been questioned by police after running over and killing an eight-year-old Palestinian girl. Aseel Abu Oun was killed near her village of Furush Beit Dajan in the occupied West Bank.

After Two-year Ban, Israeli Lawmakers Visit Temple Mount, Haaretz

Two right-wing Israeli lawmakers visited the Temple Mount on Tuesday, the first such visit by Knesset members since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu imposed a ban on such visits in October 2015. The visits by MK Yehudah Glick (Likud) and MK Shuli Moalem–Refaeli (Habayit Hayehudi) occured as part of a one-day trial, intended to gauge how the presence of lawmakers at the compound impacts the situation on the ground.

Palestinians, NGOs file objection that could delay new settlement, Times of Israel

A group of Palestinians landowners, village heads, and Israeli rights NGOs filed an objection Sunday seeking to halt construction of a new settlement being built to house evacuees of the illegal Amona outpost. The objection submitted to the Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration claims that establishing the Amichai settlement — the first new Israeli community in the West Bank in 25 years — will harm the lives of Palestinians living and working land nearby.

Anti-Semitism envoy position to be filled, Tillerson tells Senate, JTA

The State Department will hire a special envoy for the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, but will do away with or combine dozens of other diplomatic positions. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the announcement in a letter sent Monday to Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Opinions and Analysis

Why Palestinian Payments to Convicted Militants Are Likely to Continue, No Matter What Congress Does, Tablet

Alex Kane writes, “[T]he prisoner payment program is one of the most popular PA programs, and it would be political suicide for the PA to halt it. To understand why, you only have to set foot for five minutes in Palestinian cities like Ramallah and Jenin, where posters featuring young men, some of them armed, some of them not, adorn walls and buildings. These are Palestine’s “martyrs,” as Palestinians call them, and to West Bankers and Gazans, they are freedom fighters slain in the just struggle against Israeli occupation and domination. It matters little whether they threw a stone, were shot at a protest, or carried out a shooting or stabbing attack—they are resisters all the same in the eyes of Palestinians, and hold a hallowed place in Palestinian society. There’s another reason why the prisoner payments are so important to Palestinians: they are a crucial economic safety net in a society strangled by Israeli occupation and plagued by an Israeli system of mass incarceration that has locked up thousands of Palestinian men since 1967, when Israel conquered and then occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.”


Netanyahu in tight spot amid Hamas prisoner swap debate, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit writes, “It turned out that Hamas has no qualms about wheeling and dealing over bodies, and the organization demands the release of terrorists in exchange for the bodies of the fighters — just to start the negotiations. Israel refuses. Recently, the families of Goldin and Shaul, who had kept a low profile in the last two years, transitioned into an open struggle. On Aug. 24, retired IDF Col. Lior Lotan quit his role as the prime minister’s coordinator for Israel’s prisoners of war and those missing in action. Lotan gave up on reaching a breakthrough for retrieving Goldin and Shaul. On Aug. 27, the Goldin family convened a press conference in which they called Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman weak and a coward. If we add to the pot the fact that Goldin (may he rest in peace) was the nephew of the previous defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon, then we receive the Gordian knot that Netanyahu now faces.”

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