News Roundup for December 1, 2016

December 2, 2016

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J Street in the News

The Looming Revolution in Jewish American Politics, Forward

J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami writes, “The time has come for Jewish Americans to decide whether those who purport to lead them and speak for them in the political arena adequately represent their community if they remain silent – and particularly if that silence is sold as being in the interests of supporting an Israel that itself has turned so hard to the right. American Jews are among the most politically active and engaged communities in the United States today. Our spokespeople and leaders have meaningful influence in Washington and throughout the country in the halls of power…..The communal voices that embrace Donald Trump, welcome Steve Bannon and coddle the settler movement in Israel will shrink to a size and influence appropriate to the minority of Jewish Americans who agree with them. And those that speak out boldly at this historic moment to oppose the politics and policies associated with the far right in both countries will emerge as the mainstream political voice of the American Jewish community.”

Top News and Analysis

On West Bank hilltop, Israeli settlers hunker down in the face of eviction, Reuters

“As the deadline approaches and the 330 people living on the hill hunker down for battle, their supporters in Israel’s parliament are pushing for a new law that would legalise Amona and dozens of other outposts scattered across land which Palestinians hope will be part of their own independent state….The stakes in this showdown are high. The fate of Amona has divided the Israeli government, putting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition in peril.

Israeli leaders fear that if the new law passes and the outposts are legalised, it could provide grounds for charges to be brought before the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

As well as the formal settlements, which Israel fully supports, settlers have established more than 100 outposts.”

Report: Obama Leans Against Last-ditch Action on Israel at UN, Haaretz

President Obama has nearly ruled out any major last-ditch effort to put pressure on Israel over stalled peace negotiations with the Palestinians, U.S. officials told AP on condition of anonymity, indicating he will likely avoid one last row with Israel’s government as he leaves office. Also on Thursday, US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro told Army Radio that the US would always oppose unilateral proposals on Israel at the UN Security Council.

Trump Era Heralds Final Collapse of American Jewish Center, Haaretz

“The losers in all this will be organizations like AIPAC that can neither support Trump nor actively oppose him and which can neither celebrate permanent Israeli control over the West Bank nor try to stop it. The losers will be those American Jews who feel comfortable on neither side of the barricades outside the Grand Hyatt. Trump, who has done so much to weaken the American political establishment, will weaken the American Jewish establishment too. In both America and Israel, nationalism is eroding liberal democracy in horrifying ways. In the years to come, some American Jews will cheer that erosion; others will resist it. Those who do neither will gradually consign themselves to irrelevance.”


John Kerry Signals White House Mulling Lame-Duck Push for Mideast Peace, JTA

Outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry signaled in a speech that the Obama administration was still considering action on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in its final days, although it might fall short of a direct intervention on the issue. There’s no way to “force-feed” peace between Israel and the Palestinians, Kerry said in a lengthy speech delivered Tuesday at the Women’s Foreign Policy Group conference, but there are “other things we can do” to preserve a two-state solution.

Israeli Minister: No Moral Problem Expropriating West Bank Lands, Haaretz

Education Minister Naftali Bennett said on Wednesday that there was “no moral problem” for Israel to expropriate West Bank lands from Palestinians. Asked if a new bill which would legalize illegal settlement outposts contradicted Jewish values, Bennett responded that “there was no moral problem for the state” to appropriate privately owned lands “for a need it has identified” if it pays out compensation in return.

Over 600 rabbis, cantors sign pledge to hold Trump administration accountable for human rights, JTA

More than 600 rabbis and cantors have signed a pledge to hold the Trump administration accountable for protecting the human rights and civil liberties of all people. T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights is circulating the pledge, which was posted on the organization’s website two weeks ago. It had garnered 635 signatures as of Wednesday morning.

Kerry urges Senate Democrats to back off Iran sanctions renewal, Al-Monitor

Secretary of State John Kerry visited Capitol Hill ًTuesday evening to caution Senate Democrats against renewing Iran sanctions and to urge them to prevent the incoming administration from unraveling his hard-fought nuclear deal.

Coca-Cola and NBC open Gaza factory, The National

The Coca-Cola Company and National Beverage Company (NBC) of Palestine on Wednesday officially opened a US$20 million bottling facility in Gaza. The new plant, NBC’s fourth in the Palestinian territories, will immediately create 120 jobs and will eventually employ 270 people, bringing the total number of jobs to more than 750 in the West Bank and Gaza.

Natan Sharansky visits vandalized Reform synagogue in Israel, JTA

Natan Sharansky, the chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, visited a Reform synagogue in Israel that was vandalized and received death threats last week. On Wednesday, Sharansky visited Beit Samueli, Kehillat Raanan in Raanana, meeting with representatives from the synagogue in central Israel and Israel’s Reform movement.

Israeli youths burn tires, block highway to protest Amona evacuation, Times of Israel

Dozens of Israeli youths burned tires and blocked a major West Bank highway on Wednesday in protest of the planned razing of an illegal outpost, the first signs of violence as police prepare for what may be a violent showdown next month. Two people were arrested for disturbing the peace during the demonstration in support of the Amona outpost which took place on Route 60, near the settlement of Ofra. According to police, several dozen Israelis barricaded the highway with stones and burning tires.

Ministry Summons Jerusalem School Principal for Hosting Anti-occupation Group Breaking the Silence, Haaretz

A principal of a Jerusalem high school was summoned by the Education Ministry after he invited members of the anti-occupation group Breaking the Silence to meet with students. Ministry officials said that an initial inquiry into the program found that the complaint over incitement was baseless and also revealed that the school had invited representatives of other groups to speak to the students to provide a range of views.

Turkey’s Erdogan: Israel restricting Muslim worship, JTA

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey accused Israel of restricting Muslim worship while calling on all Muslims to embrace the Palestinian cause and protect Jerusalem. Erdogan made the call to Muslims on Tuesday during public remarks at the Symposium of Jerusalem Platform in Istanbul.

Opinion and Analysis

Jews, Muslims and ‘Immigrants’ Main Targets of Post-election Hate Crimes, Report Shows, Haaretz

“A new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center shows that hate incidents increased sharply after the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, but are now declining. In the report titled, “Ten Days After: Harassment and Intimidation in the Aftermath of the Election,” the SPLC calls the upsurge ‘a national outbreak of hate.’…..12 percent of the reported incidents, have been anti-Semitic in nature. The 100 recorded incidents include 80 of swastika graffiti and vandalism.”

Is Israel being pulled into Syrian war?, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit observes, “The predawn Nov. 30 attack attributed to Israel — on a convoy of trucks delivering arms from the Syrian army to Hezbollah in Lebanon as well as on an arms warehouse on the outskirts of Damascus (so the Syrians claim, at least) — can demonstrate Israel’s capability, if it is responsible for the attacks, to focus on several fronts at the same time. Many such attacks have been attributed to the Israeli air force in recent years, but they have decreased since Russia’s massive entrance into the region. Under this assumption we can guess that the Nov. 30 attack signals to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah that the red lines Israel has drawn in the region are still firm and valid. At the same time, all sides recognize that the Israeli effort to stop the fire on the border and not be dragged into the war in Syria is becoming more and more challenging and complicated.”

Israel Mulls Whitewashing West Bank Outposts Using Order From 1967, Haaretz

Sharon Pulwer reports, “While the cabinet is considering a bill to whitewash illegal outposts in the West Bank, the Justice Ministry is checking alternatives to achieve the same aim….One option under examination is to implement an order dating from 1967, called Order Regarding State Property (Judea & Samaria), which states that ‘any transaction done in good faith between the authority and another person regarding any asset that the authority thought, at the time of the transaction, was state property, shall not be voided and shall remain in force even if the asset is shown not to have been state property at the time.’ The Justice Ministry is checking whether this article of law can apply to land once defined as state land, and today defined as private land.”

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