J Street Board member Daniel Kohl writes, “Our community is as strong as it has ever been. We have friends on both sides of the political aisle. We as a community have enormous political capital and an infinite amount of good will. How, in this moment of great uncertainty, will we use those assets? Will we stand against bigotry and stand up for other communities who are less organized and even more vulnerable than our own? The time has come to raise our voices and do what we can to prevent hatred targeted against us and others from becoming the new normal. We must defend our values and those who are under real threat.”
An interview with far-right MK Bezalel Smotrich. “Bezalel Smotrich, a first-time Knesset member from the Bayit Hayehudi party, already has earned himself a reputation as one of the most brilliant and influential members of the house. He is proud to be the Knesset’s right-wing bellwether, and is perceived as radical even within the national-religious milieu from which he emerged – the settlement movement. In the brief year and a half since he was sworn in, Smotrich has succeeded in guiding the direction of his party (through his leadership of the struggle to prevent the dismantling of the Amona outpost in the West Bank, and to pass the so-called formalization bill), and even that of the government.”
Who by Fire, The American Prospect
Gershom Gorenberg argues, “When Netanyahu and others in the Israeli government see the flames on the hillsides and can only talk about Palestinian terror, they’re not just being hawkish, or even racist. They are blatantly ignoring the real threat that those fires represent to the fragile land that Israelis and Palestinians share. They are ignoring one more reason that time is terribly short for an agreement between the two peoples that will allow them to stop fighting, live side by side—and turn all their long-practiced diplomatic skills to common goals of fighting climate change. Until then, we are almost literally fighting over chairs on a burning deck.”
Peter Beaumont writes, “Israel’s best known investigative reporter, Raviv Drucker, has become used to the attacks from the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. They have come in the form of personal and regular Facebook posts denouncing him, as well as telephone calls to Drucker’s colleagues. This week, Drucker – who works for Channel 10 television – was in Netanyahu’s sights again as the prime minister used Facebook to accuse Drucker of waging a personal war against him and his family in attempt at “brainwashing” Israel’s voters. The reason for the animus at least is clear. Amid all the allegations against Netanyahu during his present period in office, Drucker’s reports have landed the most effective and repeated blows. The journalist has been behind a run of high-profile stories in the last few weeks that have embarrassed Netanyahu, his family and friends – and dominated Israel’s headlines.”
President-elect Donald Trump has chosen retired Marine Gen. James N. Mattis to be secretary of defense, according to people familiar with the decision, nominating a former senior military officer who led operations across the Middle East to run the Pentagon less than four years after he hung up his uniform.
Rep. Keith Ellison, a candidate to head the Democratic National Committee, said an audio recording in which he said American foreign policy bows to Israeli interests was “taken out of context.” “The audio released was selectively edited and taken out of context by an individual the Southern Poverty Law Center has called an ‘anti-Muslim extremist,’” Ellison, D-Minn., said Thursday in an open letter to Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. “My memory is that I was responding to a question about how Americans with roots in the Middle East could engage in the political process in a more effective way. My advice was simply to get involved.”
Members and supporters of the Women of the Wall organization were subjected to body searches at the entrance to the Western Wall Plaza. The women also were disturbed Thursday during their monthly prayer service marking the start of the new Jewish month by haredi Orthodox women at the site who loudly blew whistles.
Two Iranian men were charged in a Kenyan court on Thursday with collecting information to plan a terrorist act after allegedly being caught with video footage of the Israeli embassy in Nairobi.
The Israeli Ministry of Transportation ordered that an Israeli bus company stop broadcasting announcements in Arabic in the city of Beersheba, a spokesperson for Dan Bus Company told Ma’an on Thursday. The spokesperson said to Ma’an that the company had been asked by the Israeli Ministry of Transportation to cease broadcasting announcements in Arabic on Tuesday, only four days after opening its new bus line in Beersheba. The Dan spokesman stated that the company was “not comfortable” with the request to stop the Arabic announcements, adding that “40 percent of our drivers are Muslim,” but that it would comply with directives from the Ministry.
Obama again waives moving US Embassy to Jerusalem, Times of Israel
President Obama on Thursday renewed a presidential waiver, again delaying plans to relocate the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem for another six months.
JJ Goldberg writes, “If you stand back, it’s been fascinating to watch the anti-Ellison campaign as it’s snowballed over the last few days. It consists almost entirely of some things he said years ago, defending Farrakhan from the charge of anti-Semitism (which is now somehow described in some accounts as “defending Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism”). Also an association of indeterminate length and depth with Farrakhan’s organization. Also a handful of recorded snippets that could be interpreted — if you’re inclined that way — as hostile to Israel. To make the case work, though, you have to ignore the considerably larger body of evidence showing him to be supportive of Israel and its right to defend itself, and of U.S. support for Israel. To find them, simply go to YouTube and plug in the search words “Keith,” “Ellison” and “Israel.”
Martin Indyk presents “Three possible approaches to negotiations—a provocative, high-risk “top-down” approach that would focus on the contested status of Jerusalem; a more measured “bottom-up” approach that would work with regional players to change the situation on the ground; and a summit-driven “outside-in” approach that would establish internationally supported terms of reference for negotiating a two-state solution. All three options are likely to have critical political consequences for the Trump administration, but if there is a desire to break the stalemate of distrust in the Middle East, their potential merits should be considered.”
Gidi Weitz writes, “We will soon find out whether there was any justification for the months-long ‘examination’ ordered by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit into reporedly explosive information about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his closest associates, nothing of which has yet been revealed to the public. No previous attorney general has ever spent months “examining” information before either closing the case or ordering a criminal investigation.
Unless someone blocks the necessary next step, the public will soon be able to judge whether this delay was necessary for the collection of evidence, or whether it stemmed from deep reluctance to confront the strongest man in the country on the part of the heads of the country’s law enforcement agencies; whether the secrecy surrounding the examination was necessary to avoid alerting potential suspects, or was merely intended to make it possible to stall without paying a public price; whether protecting the man at the top from being labeled a suspect prevented damage to our system of government, or whether Mendeblit was simply serving as Netanyahu’s flak jacket.”
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