News Roundup for December 18, 2018

December 18, 2018

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J Street in the News

Trump Turns the Ties Between Israel and U.S. Jews Totally Toxic, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev writes, “Many American Jews are naturally perplexed by Israel’s seeming indifference to their plight, and worse, by its disdainful dismissal of their concerns. Netanyahu’s government is seen as standing shoulder to shoulder with Trump, even if that means sacrificing the interests of the Jewish community itself. This was nowhere more evident than in the Israeli government’s shameful defense of Trump in the wake of the October massacre in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue. According to a poll conducted by J Street and GBA Strategies on Election Day, 72% of American Jews view Trump’s divisive rhetoric as ‘very’ or ‘partially’ responsible for the attack. The Israeli government told them this was poppycock.”

Top News and Analysis

AG: Bill to expel terrorists’ families infringes human rights, defames Israel, Times of Israel

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced Monday his official opposition to a bill that would allow the forcible relocation of the families of Palestinian terrorists from their homes, warning that the proposal could infringe on human rights and spark international condemnation of Israel. In a statement released following press queries on whether Mandelblit had advised ministers not to vote to advance the bill, the attorney general’s office said the measures in the proposal “severely infringe upon the liberty and property of the family members who are slated for deportation, due to the act of another family member and without proof that [the family] also poses a danger.”

Israel’s Netanyahu Embraces European Leaders With Controversial Views On Holocaust, NPR

“In recent years, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cultivated friendships with rising nationalist and far-right leaders in Europe. His supporters say it’s a smart diplomatic move to chip away at the European Union’s longtime critique of Israeli policies — the nationalist leaders tend to be pro-Israel. But some Israelis argue Netanyahu is too accommodating of these leaders’ controversial views on Holocaust history.”

Israel Takes Tunnel Op to World Stage Before Potential Use of Unprecedented Force in Lebanon, Haaretz

Amos Harel reports, “Israel’s efforts against Hezbollah after the discovery of the attack tunnels under the Lebanese border enter the diplomatic sphere Wednesday. Israel’s claims, which have received U.S. support, will come up in the UN Security Council’s periodic briefing on the situation in the Middle East. Israel is trying to leverage military developments – the discovery of the tunnels – to increase the pressure on Hezbollah and the Lebanese government in the international arena.”


UN Confirms Hezbollah Tunnels Crossed Lebanon-Israel Border, Violating Security Council Resolution, Haaretz

The UN peacekeeping forces on the Israel-Lebanon border, known as UNIFIL, announced Monday that two of the four previously discovered Hezbollah tunnels cross the Blue Line – the border of Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 – in violation of UN Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

Israeli, Palestinian officials meet to prevent escalation in West Bank, i24

Hussein al-Sheikh, the Palestinian Authority’s minister for civil affairs, travelled to Jerusalem on Monday to hold a meeting with Israeli officials. The meeting was first reported by Palestinian sources and did not yet attract comments from the Israeli government. According to Israel’s public broadcaster Kan, al-Sheikh met with officials including Nadav Argaman, the head of Israel’s interior security service, the Shin Bet. Talking to Palestinian nerws agency Maan, the official said that “the agreements signed between the Palestinian Authority and Israel are at stake,” adding that the PA will be hosting emergency talks to decide of next steps.

No BDS Activists Barred From Israel Since Lara Alqasem, Minister Says, Haaretz

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said on Monday that Israel has not barred any activists of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement trying to enter the country since the Supreme Court permitted the entry of American student Lara Alqasem into the country in October. During a session of the Knesset Transparency Committee, headed by Zionist Union MK Stav Shaffir, Erdan, who also serves as Strategic Affairs Minister, said that no activists meeting the criteria set by the Supreme Court for deportation two months ago have tried to enter Israel.

Israeli forces partially demolish home of suspected terrorist, JTA

Israeli security forces partially demolished the home of the Palestinian man suspected of killing two Jewish-Israelis at a factory in the Barkan industrial zone of the West Bank. The demolition on Monday came four days after Ashraf Naalwa, 23, was killed by Israeli troops who came to arrest him following a two-month manhunt.

PA believes Hamas terrorist released in Shalit deal behind West Bank shootings, Times of Israel

Sources in the Palestinian Authority told the Ynet news site on Monday that they believe a Gazan Hamas terror leader who previously served time in an Israeli prison was behind a cell thought to be responsible for a recent series of attacks on Israelis in the Ramallah area.

Texas speech pathologist fired by school district for refusing to sign pro-Israel oath, Houston Chronicle

A Texas school district recently cut ties with a child language specialist because she refused to sign an oath in her contract barring her from boycotting anything “intended to inflict economic harm” to Israel, according to a report from The Intercept. Amawi was named in a lawsuit filed on her behalf Sunday in federal court in the Western District of Texas. The document claims that the law violates her freedom of speech, and the lead attorney said it could set a dangerous precedent if left unchallenged.

Airbnb denies reports it has cancelled ban on Israeli settlement listings, Middle East Eye

Home rental company Airbnb has confirmed it is moving ahead with a plan to suspend its listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, disputing earlier reports the US-based company had reversed that decision. “The reports issued earlier today are inaccurate,” the company said in a statement sent to Middle East Eye on Monday afternoon, referring to Israeli media reports that claimed Airbnb has reversed course on the ban on settlement rentals. While expressing its “unequivocal rejection” of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, Airbnb said it was still working with various stakeholders to suspend those Israeli settlement listings.

Opinion and Analysis

Trump sparks a debate over the future of American power, Washington Post

Ishaan Tharoor writes, “[T]he White House’s efforts overseas — including its rejection of the Paris climate accord, the waging of trade wars, the unraveling of the Iran nuclear deal, the persistent belittling of allies and the perplexing coddling of autocrats — have unsettled Washington as much as they have disturbed American partners abroad. To be sure, discussions about the waning of the United States as the world’s sole superpower predate Trump. But two years of his tumultuous presidency have intensified Washingtonian angst about the future of American power and how America should seek to lead a more fractured planet — or whether it should try at all.”

In Israel, a Grassroots Effort to Find Peace, US News and World Report

“Praying Together in Jerusalem is one of many mostly small, grassroots projects focused on encouraging peaceful co-existence among Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs that have attracted growing numbers in recent years despite ongoing violence and terrorism and a stall in bilateral peace talks. Some of the groups are proving to be more than isolated expressions for peace. Even on official levels, there are signs that religious groups are playing a growing role in resolving disputes. Last year, Israeli officials asked leaders of The Religious Peace Initiative, a joint Israeli-Palestinian interreligious dialogue group, to participate in talks between Israeli police and the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, a religious trust that administers the Dome of the Rock shrine and the al-Aqsa mosque on the contested Temple Mount, or Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary), in Jerusalem’s Old City.”

‘Hezbollah’s Operation Barbarossa’: How Army Chief Pushed Netanyahu to Go After the Tunnels, Haaretz

Yaniv Kubovitch reports, “A source privy to some of the discussions about launching the operation in the north asserted that Eisenkot exerted more pressure on this issue than on any other issue since taking over as chief of general staff. According to people who were at the discussions, Eisenkot pushed to start destroying the tunnels as soon as possible and wrangled with several security cabinet ministers, especially with Lieberman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett. Eisenkot insisted it would be mistaken to launch an operation in the south before tackling the threat of Hezbollah tunnels, they said.”