News Roundup for August 9, 2017

August 9, 2017

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J Street in the News

J Street hires former Obama administration official as political director, JTA

“J Street has hired a former senior Obama administration official to serve as its national political director. Aaron Davis worked for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, in its Congressional Affairs Division for five years. The liberal Jewish Middle East lobby announced the hiring on Tuesday. Davis will oversee JStreetPAC’s efforts to elect J Street-endorsed candidates to Congress in the 2018 midterm elections. Prior to joining FEMA, he held several positions on Capitol Hill, including as legislative director for former U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-Pa. Davis succeeds Ben Shnider, who is running for a seat on the Montgomery County Council in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. In 2016, JStreetPAC raised an organizational record of over $3.5 million and endorsed 126 candidates.”

J Street Welcomes the Passage of the Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017, J Street

“J Street welcomes the bipartisan passage of the Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017. Introduced in the House by Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) and in the Senate by Sen.Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), the bill passed the House in May and the Senate this past Friday. If signed into law, it would ensure that the United States will promote meaningful participation of women in conflict resolution and mediation decisions. For far too long, international conflict negotiations, including Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, failed to consistently include women at the table. The Women, Peace, and Security Act takes significant strides to change that. The bill requires the president to provide reports to Congress evaluating women’s participation in US foreign affairs, instructs the Department of Defense to train personnel in strategies for ensuring participation of women and mandates that the US Agency for International Development coordinate with relevant organizations to increase women’s participation in peace negotiations.”

Top News and Analysis

Abbas issues new demands of Israel, but is quietly still arresting terror suspects, Times of Israel

Avi Issacharoff reports, “Despite the Palestinian Authority’s formal insistence that security coordination with Israel remains frozen, PA forces earlier this week arrested two relatives of an assailant who attempted to stab IDF soldiers and was shot dead….PA security forces have also recently arrested several Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists, according to reports on Palestinian social media. This activity is taking place despite the formal position set out by PA officials that its security coordination with Israel remains on hold in the wake of the Temple Mount tensions last month….Abbas’s adviser Mahmoud al-Habash said in a Thursday morning interview with the Palestinian Ma’an news agency that the PA had a number of conditions Israel needed to meet in order for the security coordination to resume. Among these demands, al-Habash said, are that Israel cease all activity in the PA-controlled Area A of the West Bank, that free movement of Palestinian civilians be ensured without restrictions, and that PA sovereignty at border crossings be respected. In the context of that last demand, the PA is demanding that its forces be present at the Allenby Bridge border crossing between the West Bank and Jordan, as it says was agreed in accords with Israel.”

It’s Up to Europe to Save the Iran Deal, Foreign Policy

Tyler Cullis and Reza Marashi argue, “Trump’s abandonment of the JCPOA would be a major blow, but it need not be a fatal one. The agreement, after all, is not a bilateral deal between the United States and Iran — European countries (as well as Russia and China) also struck the deal and now have the opportunity to deter Trump from sabotaging it. If it has the political courage to chart a course independent of Trump, Europe can protect both American and European interests by preserving the deal….To start, Europe should preemptively and publicly communicate that it will not follow Trump’s lead if the United States leaves the deal, absent serious indication of Iran’s noncompliance with its nuclear-related obligations. Following the breakdown of nuclear talks in 2005, Brussels agreed to cooperate in imposing sanctions on Tehran under the belief that the United States and the European Union had a shared interest in halting the Islamic Republic’s nuclear progress. If the Trump administration indicates that it intends to abandon the JCPOA, European leaders would have reason to question Washington’s commitment to their shared interests. As a result, Europe should make clear that cooperation on any future sanctions regime will be at serious risk, including in areas where the United States and Europe ostensibly face shared threats like Russia.”

Nuclear Diplomacy: From Iran to North Korea?, New York Review of Books

Jessica T. Matthews writes, “As reluctant as President Trump and his team are to acknowledge it, the nuclear deal has removed a major danger, allowing him to focus on other Iranian policies, especially in Syria where US and Iranian interests are likely to clash as ISIS is progressively weakened there. The range of threats to US national security—and indeed to global security—looks entirely different than it did in 2012, when there was a real prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran that could in turn provoke nuclear proliferation across the unstable Middle East—in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey in particular. While the deal is not perfect, Iran has thrown away tens of billions of dollars and decades of work on weapons-related materials and facilities, has taken, in the most pessimistic outlook, a ten- to fifteen-year hiatus in pursuit of nuclear weapons, and remains a permanent member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Are there lessons from this success that might be applied to the growing nuclear threat in Asia?”


U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren Comes Out Against anti-BDS Bill, Haaretz

US Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, one of the leading progressive voices within the Democratic Party, said on Monday that she opposes the controversial Israel Anti-Boycott Act. Civil rights groups have warned that the bill could hurt free speech by imposing penalties on U.S. citizens for supporting boycotts of Israel and the settlements.

Illegal homes going up in settlement across street from Liberman aide, Times of Israel

A dozen homes are being built illegally next to the home of the defense minister’s adviser on settlement affairs in the West Bank settlement of Eli, The Times of Israel has learned. Construction on homes that will more than double the size of the illegal outpost of Hayovel, technically part of Eli in the central West Bank, has been going on for several months, but the homes have never been authorized by the Defense Ministry. Hayovel, an illegal outpost that was established in 1998 without government approval on a hilltop over a kilometer from the main part of the Eli settlement, is currently made up of nine homes, eight of which are on state land. Among the residents are Kobi Eliraz, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s adviser on settlement affairs, whose house is across the street from the construction site, which is also on state land.

IDF Strikes Hamas Targets in Response to Gaza Rocket, Haaretz

The IDF has said it attacked two Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday night in response to rocket fire from the strip into southern Israel earlier in the evening. The IDF stated that it considers Hamas solely responsible for the rocket fire. A rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip on Tuesday evening. Shortly before 9 P.M., warning sirens blared in Ashkelon and the nearby Hof Ashkelon Regional Council. The rocket exploded in a nearby open area in Hof Ashkelon, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit reported, adding that there were no injuries or damage. The Al-Aqsa channel of Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, reported later that evening that Israeli shells were fired at Hamas targets in the north of the strip. No injuries were recorded.

Palestinian Family Petitions Israel’s Top Court to Evacuate Settlers From Hebron Home, Haaretz

Ten members of Hebron’s Abu Rajab family, which claims ownership of the building known as Machpelah House broken into by settlers last month, have petitioned the High Court of Justice demanding the building’s evacuation. The settlers claim that they purchased the three-story building from a member of the Abu Rajab family who was later arrested by the Palestinian Authority. The family denies that this man had the right to sell the family home.

Israeli forces delivers 14 demolition notices to Palestinian structures in Area B, Ma’an

Israeli authorities raided the town of Silwad, east of Ramallah in the central occupied West Bank on Tuesday to issue demolition orders for 14 structures. Silwad Mayor Abd al-Rahman Saleh told Ma’an that the demolition orders were issued over allegations that they were built without the necessary Israeli-issued construction permits.

Palestinian Authority Tops UN List of Fastest-growing Tourist Destinations, Haaretz

“Israel and the Palestinian Authority were two of the places with the most dramatic rise in tourism in the first half of 2017, according to data published by the UN World Tourism Organization. Topping the list was Palestine, as the PA is called in UN publications. The UNWTO says Palestine registered a whopping 57.8 percent increase in the number of foreign tourists during the first six months of the year. If this rate of growth keeps up, the PA could finish the year with 630,000 tourists. The Telegraph, the British daily that published the list, attributes the jump in tourism to the PA to the well-publicized opening of the Walled Off Hotel, a hotel started by the artist Banksy in Bethlehem. Though small and expensive, the hotel apparently raised awareness in Europe about the option of visiting the West Bank.”

Opinions and Analysis

Netanyahu’s money man set to tell all, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit observes, “Harow is intimately familiar with Netanyahu’s ties to his donors, down to the very finest details. He was responsible for the flow of money and managed the fundraising efforts. In other words, he knew everything, saw everything and did everything. At Netanyahu’s request, Harow also recorded the series of secret meetings between the prime minister and Mozes. His testimony about this is especially critical. Only Harow can say whether Netanyahu also took action after plotting with Mozes to weaken the influence of Israel Hayom, the free daily newspaper controlled by billionaire Sheldon Adelson, in exchange for more friendly coverage by Yedioth Ahronoth. If Netanyahu acted as a result of these talks, he will be indicted for bribery. It is worth noting that Adelson himself testified twice about this incident. According to Israeli publications, he confirmed that during this period, Netanyahu sent out feelers to him, asking whether Adelson would agree to cancel distribution of the free daily on Fridays, the most important day for the Israeli print press industry.”

Tablet Magazine can’t fight ACLU on the merits, so it decided on a smear campaign instead, New Republic

Clio Chang writes, “On Monday, Liel Leibovitz wrote a piece at Tablet calling out the ACLU for its stance on the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, a recently proposed measure that would make it a felony for Americans to support the international boycott against Israel….But Leibovitz does not delve into the substance of his claim, nor does he address anything specific in ACLU’s letter or in Cole and Shakir’s op-ed. Instead, the rest of the piece is dedicated to taking down Shakir, a Muslim, for, as Leibovitz claims, ‘taking or defending positions that many considered troublingly anti-Israeli and, at times, anti-Semitic.’….As Shakir told Vox’s Jeff Stein back in December, when Keith Ellison, a Muslim-American, was facing his own smear campaign as he ran for DNC chair, ‘If you’re a Muslim in politics, you’re operating under a constant and inherent initial skepticism—there’s this cloud over your head that’s ready to pour down rain on you if you have the most minor misstep, or none at all. That’s what Keith is dealing with now: the Islamophobia that puts Muslims in public life under suspicion without cause.’ Shakir could very well have been talking about himself today.”

Israeli legislators protest outside attorney general’s home, Al-Monitor

Mazal Mualem reports that MK David Bitan, “alongside Minister of Communications Ayoob Kara, Deputy Minister Yaron Mazuz and Knesset members Amir Ohana and Nava Boker of the Likud, headed several hundred Likud members who gathered as part of a counterprotest to the demonstrations that have been taking place at Mandelblit’s home for 37 weeks in a row. These protests began at the end of 2016, even before the investigations of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Case 1000 (gifts from businessmen) and Case 2000 (conversations with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes over a deal for positive coverage of Netanyahu) became public. These protests were organized by left-wing activists to pressure Mandelblit to quickly advance investigations of the prime minister, since they feared he is delaying them in order to allow Netanyahu to evade them. With the significant developments in these cases, an element of protest against corruption was added to these weekly demonstrations, which grew from a few dozen protesters to several thousands.”

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