News Roundup for December 15, 2016

December 15, 2016

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J Street in the News

The Israeli Ambassador To The US Got An Award From Anti-Muslim Group Amid Protest, Buzzfeed

“Ron Dermer, the Israeli Ambassador to the US, received the ‘Freedom Flame Award’ on Tuesday night from Frank Gaffney, the founder of a noted anti-Muslim group, despite calls from various advocacy groups to reject it….Civil liberties and advocacy groups, including J Street, SPLC and the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, urged Ambassador Dermer to decline the award. The award was given to Dermer by Gaffney, the president and founder of Center for Security Policy, an anti-Islam conspiracy group. Gaffney has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes.” Most notably, Gaffney believes that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated all levels of US government and that Sharia law threatens US democracy.”

Defending anti-Muslim group, envoy to US slams racism watchdog, Times of Israel

The liberal J Street organization condemned Dermer for his remarks and for accepting the award, calling it “just the latest sign that he is completely out of touch with the values and concerns of the vast majority of American Jews, who oppose rising Islamophobia and discrimination in our country, and worry about the future of the two-state solution.”

J Street U’s Hanukkah Message for Ambassador Dermer, J Street Blog

J Street U president Brooke Davies writes, “Dermer’s acceptance of this award is just the latest sign that he is completely out of touch with the values and concerns of the vast majority of American Jews, who oppose rising Islamophobia and discrimination in our country, and worry about the future of the two-state solution….That’s why J Street U decided we needed to take action to help the Ambassador get a sense of the values and concerns that he has been ignoring. Last year, he had the Israeli embassy send out Hanukkah gift baskets filled with products made over the Green Line, in settlements. This year, we’ve decided to send him our own Hanukkah basket, filled with items that represent our principles of justice, tolerance and equality, and which convey our hopes and concerns for Israel’s future.”

Will Rex Tillerson Turn Out to Be Another George Schultz?, Haaretz

“J Street – the pro-Israel, anti-occupation group – expressed strong opposition to the possible appointment of Bolton as second-in-command at the State Department. ‘J Street believes John Bolton is a completely inappropriate choice for Deputy Secretary of State, or any role related to America’s relations with the rest of the world,’ said Jeremy Ben Ami the organization’s president. ‘We oppose his nomination and believe his confirmation would greatly set back American diplomacy, our country’s national standing and the foreign policy and security interests of the United States and our allies, including Israel. Bolton’s long track record shows to him to be hostile to the notion of diplomacy itself. He is an unabashed advocate for premature, unnecessary and dangerous use of military force in the Middle East and around the globe.’ The J Street statement warned that Bolton did not have Israel’s best interests at heart. ‘Bolton has shown little understanding for the challenges that Israel faces if it is to remain a secure and democratic homeland for the Jewish people,’ it said. ‘He has opposed U.S. leadership toward a two-state solution and savaged the efforts the Obama administration has made to help bring Israelis and Palestinians closer to that bipartisan goal.’ The statement urged the senate ‘to refuse to confirm such a reckless choice for one of our nation’s most important offices.’”

Top News and Analysis

Israeli Settlers Reject Deal to Peacefully Evacuate Illegal West Bank Outpost of Amona, Haaretz

“Some residents in the unauthorized West Bank outpost of Amona began preparing for imminent evacuation late Wednesday night after voting to reject a deal offered by the state that would prevent a violent clash with Israeli forces. The state offered the residents of the illegal outpost, which is facing a December 25 deadline from the High Court to vacate the site, to relocate the site to nearby land if they agree to sign a commitment that they allow a peaceful evacuation. The deal that had been offered to the residents was presented by Education Minister Naftali Bennett, laying the groundwork for the construction of a number of buildings to house residents in the nearby area deemed abandoned by its Palestinian owners.”

The Last Thing Netanyahu Wants to Say Is ‘Annexation’, The American Prospect

Gershom Gorenberg writes, “Netanyahu’s policy is to protect and expand settlements. He thereby shows that he regards Israeli rule as permanent. All the while, he aims to maintain the facade of a temporary, reversible military occupation. Outright annexation would enrage allies and erase any justification for not giving the full rights of citizens to Palestinians in the West Bank….In parliament, Jewish Home is pushing legislation known as the Regularization Law. It would allow the state to grant settlers the right to continue using other people’s land. The state would pay compensation to the owners. In all but name, this is expropriation….Let me put this differently: Pass a law like that, you’re saying “annexation” in a loud stage whisper. That’s fine with hard-liners in Netanyahu’s coalition, who at a minimum would like to annex the settlements.”

For Trump, Moving Embassy to Jerusalem Is Tempting but Risky, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev observes, “A decision to move the embassy that could be announced shortly after Trump takes office even if it can only go into effect on June 1, when Obama’s latest waiver on the law mandating the transfer expires, would send a clear signal that there’s a new sheriff in town who doesn’t play by the old rules…..Much will depend of course, on the scope of the move and on the rhetoric and parallel measures that will accompany it. Will the entire Embassy be moved or will it be split between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv? Will the U.S. make clear that it is only recognizing West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – something it has refrained from doing, along with the rest of the international community, since the 1947 Partition Resolution that designated Jerusalem as a separate entity, or corpus separatum? Or will it recognize all of Jerusalem, including the parts annexed in 1980, as Israel’s ‘undivided and eternal capital,’ as Republicans have been pledging for years? The former would be a bombshell but might also be seen by some Israelis as casting doubt on their sovereignty over East Jerusalem. The latter might send jubilant right-wingers to dance in the streets with posters hailing Trump as God’s chosen emissary, but in terms of the Palestinians and the Middle East, it would be a devastating and potentially convulsive catastrophe.”


Jews protest major Jewish organizations’ Hanukkah party at Trump’s D.C. hotel, Washington Post

“More than 150 people, mostly young adults….chanted slogans and sang protest songs outside the hotel while the party was held inside Wednesday night. Several organizations in the Conference of Presidents — including the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest American denomination — expressed their disapproval of the decision to hold the party at Trump’s hotel, with some saying they would not attend the party. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the head of the URJ, called the decision to patronize a business owned by Trump — whom just 24 percent of Jews voted for — “tone-deaf at best, naked sycophancy at worst.”

Israeli Soldiers Vow on Facebook Not to Evacuate Illegal West Bank Settlement, Forward

Israeli soldiers have taken to Facebook to pledge defy army orders and refuse to evacuate Amona, an outpost settlement in the West Bank slated for demolition this month. A new Facebook group called “I am also refusing to evacuate Amona,” is displaying anonymous messages from soldiers who say they won’t evict Israeli settlers. The group has almost 1,850 “likes.” Soldiers have sent in photographs of army paraphernalia that indicates their units, such as berets and badges, with hand-written messages saying they won’t evict other Jews from the wildcat Amona settlement.

International peace conference in Paris postponed until January, Ma’an

France announced on Tuesday that the international peace conference that was scheduled to be held in Paris on Dec. 21 would be postponed until January in order to allow for further preparations.  The Palestinian Ambassador to Paris, Salman al-Herfi said that he was informed by French authorities that the conference would be postponed, adding that invitations for attending the conference would be sent out to Palestinian and Israeli officials.

IDF concerned Trump administration may cut defense aid, Times of Israel

A senior officer in the Israel Defense Forces expressed concerns on Wednesday over possible cuts to the US defense package provided to the Jewish state each year, in light of the election of Donald Trump.

Anti-corruption court sentences Abbas rival Muhammad Dahlan to 3 years in prison, Ma’an

The Ramallah Anti-Corruption Crimes Court sentenced Muhammad Dahlan, a dismissed member of the Fatah movement living in exile in the United Arab Emirates and longtime rival of Palestinian  President Mahmoud Abbas, to three years in prison on Wednesday after convicting him of embezzling $16 million.

Opinion and Analysis

Living on borrowed time: Palestinian village fights for its existence, +972

Max Schindler writes about Susya. “The embattled, 400-person village has recently attained iconic status in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as both doves and hawks draw lines in the sand over its fate. Supporters of a two-state solution are making a hard-pressed, last-ditch effort to save the village, after years of relentless settlement construction by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. Right-leaning Israelis want the Palestinians evicted so they can expand the nearby Jewish settlement, also called Susiya, while Western diplomats drive by weekly in 4-wheelers to the isolated hamlet in the south Hebron Hills, taking case interviews and reporting back to Washington and Berlin about the need for a two-state solution. Other envoys include leftist Israelis and international tour groups who stop by in a show of solidarity.”

Israeli Arms Sales, Big Oil and the Mossad: Why Is Azerbaijan Hosting a Hanukkah Party at Trump Hotel?, Haaretz

Allison Kaplan Sommer reports, “Some commentators say that the Azeri relationship with the U.S. government is where the motivation to host the Trump Hotel event stemmed from. Azerbaijan spends millions each year lobbying the American government – but every little bit helps and a friendly Hanukkah party in the Trump International Hotel certainly can’t hurt. (Conference of Presidents chair Malcolm Hoenlein told the New York Times that the Azeris chose the venue.) It is an unspoken, but commonly acknowledged reality that many countries nurture their relationship to Israel in hopes of finding favor with influential American Jewish organizations who will in turn speak well of them to the US government.”

How Netanyahu’s government is unifying Israeli Arabs, Al-Monitor

Shlomi Eldar observes, “Even the biggest critics of the Joint List within the Arab community have come to admit that the founding of the party was a no-brainer for Israel’s Arabs. This change was helped along by recurrent verbal attacks against the Joint List Knesset members and incendiary statements targeting large swathes of the Israeli Arab public, depicting them as supporters of terrorists and arsonists. This week, Hadash activists told Al-Monitor that they expect the Joint List Knesset members to do more than take action on discrimination against Arabs in comparison to the Jewish public in Israel. They feel that the Knesset members now must also shoulder the task of preserving the most basic civil rights for their constituents, rights that are being gradually eroded by Netanyahu’s right-wing government.”

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