News Roundup for December 11, 2018

December 11, 2018

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J Street in the News

Naftali Bennett blames Western assimilation for crisis in Israel-Diaspora relations, JTA

“Naftali Bennett, Israel’s minister for Diaspora affairs, set off the latest round in the long-running saga of sour relations between Israel and the Diaspora by blaming the current ‘crisis’ on the latter….J Street, the liberal Mideast policy group, also dissented, saying: ‘It is precisely our Jewish values and concern for Israel’s future that compel us to oppose the occupation and the far-right forces that support it.’”

J Street Appalled by Terror Attack on Israelis Near West Bank Settlement of Ofra, J Street

“We are appalled by Sunday’s terror attack near the West Bank settlement of Ofra, in which seven Israelis, including a 21-year-old pregnant woman, were wounded in a drive-by shooting. According to reports, the woman’s condition has stabilized, while her prematurely delivered baby is in critical condition. At this time, our thoughts are with this newborn child, with the mother and with all of the victims and their families as we wish them a speedy and complete recovery. We hope that Israeli security forces will soon find the perpetrators and bring them to justice. There can be no excuse for this kind of heinous violence targeting civilians, which should be condemned by all responsible parties. We have seen time and again that acts of terror and brutality only lead to more suffering and violence for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

Top News and Analysis

Israeli Operation Against Hezbollah Tunnels Enters Its Explosive Stage, Haaretz

Amos Harel reports, “The army’s activity on the Lebanese border, which was initially described with some disparagement as a defensive engineering operation of negligible importance, is now reaching a more sensitive stage. After several days of confusion, it is clear that the Lebanese government has begun to formulate a response to the Israeli move….When both sides are viewing each other from relatively close range, each equipped with weapons aimed at the other side of the border, as UNIFIL soldiers try to serve as a buffer between the Israelis and the Lebanese (with Hezbollah members presumably watching closely), it’s a recipe for a possible eruption. The IDF will have to manage the work with extreme precision and caution so as not to spark an unwanted incident. Everyone’s nerves are tense enough; all it would take is one antsy Lebanese soldier to spark a fire that will be hard to extinguish.”

Keeping Democrats united on Israel, The Hill

Robert Wexler writes, “Since Democrats won the House last month, too much drama has been made over its implications for Israel. There is certainly more diversity in the Democratic Caucus now, reflecting the diversity of opinion throughout the U.S. — ranging between those who hold Israeli security as paramount, and those who emphasize Palestinian rights. But, these dynamics are not new, nor are they even in conflict. Democrats should now unite behind what’s best for both peoples, policies that preserve and advance a negotiated two-state solution — the only outcome which can ensure security for a Jewish and democratic Israel, and justice and dignity for Palestinians in a sovereign state of their own.”


Israeli Troops Raid Offices of Palestinian News Agency, Haaretz

Israeli troops raided the offices of the official Palestinian news agency in Ramallah on Monday, witnesses told Haaretz. The reason for the raid was not immediately clear, but it took place as authorities continued to hunt the perpetrator of a West Bank shooting attack. The military also clashed with dozens of Palestinian youth. The Palestinian Red Crescent reported two wounded by live fire, four wounded by rubber bullets and another 20 as a result of gas inhalation.

House Democrats may probe Kushner ties to Saudi crown prince, CNN

Rep. Eliot Engel, who is poised to lead the House Foreign Affairs Committee, plans to conduct a thorough review of US policy towards Saudi Arabia — and that could include Jared Kushner’s ties to the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, according to a Democratic aide. Engel is “committed to conducting a top-to-bottom review of U.S. policy towards Saudi Arabia and that includes what has driven the US response to the Jamal Khashoggi murder,” said spokesman Tim Mulvey, referring to the October killing of The Washington Post journalist in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Coalition official: Early elections if conscription bill doesn’t pass as is, Times of Israel

Israel will go to elections if a contentious bill on the military draft of ultra-Orthodox men is not passed into law without any changes, a senior coalition official told The Times of Israel on Monday. “Those are the only two options: passing the current version or going to elections,” said the source, who has direct knowledge of negotiations over the legislation. The Defense Ministry-drafted bill, the current proposal on the table, would set minimum yearly targets for ultra-Orthodox conscription that, if not met, would result in financial sanctions on the yeshivas where they study. At the same time, it would also formalize exemptions for the vast majority of yeshiva students.

Italy’s Far-right Leader Salvini Visiting Israel to ‘Whitewash’ Record, Critics Say, Haaretz

Italy’s Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini is due to arrive in Israel on Tuesday and critics of his far-right, fiercely anti-immigration views in both Italy and Israel are voicing concern. Salvini, a close political ally of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, is rapidly establishing himself as Italy’s most influential politician and as de facto leader of Europe’s populist anti-immigration camp in the run-up to European Parliament elections in 2019.

Yair Netanyahu calls leftists, journalists ‘traitors’; PM ‘rejects’ use of term, Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son on Monday accused left-wing politicians, the media, and left-wing groups of treason, saying he was giving voice to “what everyone in the nation thinks.” Hours later his father said he rejected the use of the term, but went on to assert that the media was practicing a double standard by failing to condemn those who have called him a traitor.

Qatar wants Israeli permission to build airport in Gaza, envoy says

Qatar has asked Israel for permission to construct an airport in the Gaza Strip, which would be under its security supervision, Mohammed al-Emadi, Doha’s point man for the coastal enclave, told a Palestinian news site.

Opinion and Analysis

Jared Kushner did what?, Washington Post

Jennifer Rubin observes, “ If you want to know how an administration could so naively and completely base its foreign policy on the Saudis and come to believe the kingdom was actually going to sponsor the peace process and get away with denying culpability in the gruesome murder of Khashoggi, one should start with the easily snowed Kushner.”

The Left’s ideas are winning – so why are its politicians losing?, Molad

A new report by the Israeli think tank Molad. “Public opinion polls show that most Israelis support progressive positions. So why are progressive parties failing? How did the liberal-democrat majority come to believe it is a minority? On the ideological success and political failure of the Israeli Left – and where we go from here.”

Netanyahu will do all he can to destroy Jewish-Arab alliances, +972

Eli Bitan argues, “The Israeli right knows exactly how to harm the left: by making its alliance with Palestinian citizens not only impossible but illegitimate, thus drawing away its power. The Jewish left, for its part, has historically done enough to undermine this alliance. But recent events have created new possibilities — and that’s why the right is coming out with guns blazing….Netanyahu, who views himself as an enlightened, right-wing liberal, had for years stopped short of making blatantly racist and discriminatory remarks in public. His preference, like that of every prime minister before him, was to promote discriminatory policies while conveying a message of equality to the outside world. This trick originally belonged to Mapai, particularly vis-a-vis Israel’s Declaration of Independence: near-equality on the page, zero equality in reality. Over the past few years, Netanyahu removed the veneer, and time after time has directed his attacks at Palestinian citizens.”