News Roundup for December 21, 2016

December 21, 2016

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J Street in the News

Top Palestinian official warns of harsh consequences of moving US embassy, i24 News

“The leftist pro-Israel, US-based organization J Street sharply criticized Trump’s nomination of Friedman, calling the choice ‘reckless.’ ‘This nomination is reckless, putting America’s reputation in the region and credibility around the world at risk,’ the group’s president Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a statement. ‘Friedman should be beyond the pale for Senators considering who should represent the United States in Israel.’”

Foxman: Friedman’s Comments on ADL, J Street Are ‘Unacceptable’, Jewish Insider

“While the Anti-Defamation League has decided not to pass judgment on David Friedman’s nomination to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Israel, its National Director Emeritus on Tuesday called Friedman’s past comments on its organization and J Street “unacceptable.”

Top News and Analysis

Trump’s reckless choice of ambassador is a gift to Israel’s radical right, Washington Post

Gershom Gorenberg writes, “The appointment of Friedman, the public statements he is likely to make once he arrives in Israel, the triumphant visits he would likely pay to settlements — all would shift the balance within the ruling coalition and possibly within Israeli politics as a whole. It would accelerate the trend toward annexation, which would mean the death of Israeli democracy — or the creation of a binational state binding two unreconciled peoples. Meanwhile, Friedman’s arrival is likely to extinguish hope among Palestinians that they could achieve independence by diplomatic means — or perhaps by any peaceful means. I don’t care to lay out where this could lead. It scares me. Trump’s choice of Friedman is reckless and irresponsible, which is not particularly surprising in view of everything else he’s done. But Israelis and Palestinians will pay the price for his recklessness. The announcement itself has already done harm. The Senate still has a chance to block the appointment, and to show that the United States has not positioned itself on Israel’s radical right.”

Why Israeli settlers consider Trump’s ambassador choice a ‘miracle’, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit observes, “The appointment of attorney David Friedman as US ambassador to Israel was the first actual indication on the part of the Donald Trump administration that it does intend to support the Israeli right and the settlements. If until now there were only assessments and background noise, a smattering of statements and a certain vague ambiguity, Friedman’s appointment sends a very clear, public signal that is quite remarkable. For the first time, the United States is sending an ambassador to Israel who openly supports the settlements, personally contributes to their development, calls on Israel to increase settlement construction and suggests that Israel annex at least some of the land with settlements on it.”

Israel Asks Court to Extend Deadline for Evacuating Illegal West Bank Outpost, Haaretz

The state submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice last night to postpone the evacuation of the illegal outpost of Amona, telling the court the evacuation agreement with Amona’s settlers could not be implemented. The outpost, which was built on privately-owned Palestinian land, must be evacuated by December 25, by order of the High Court of Justice.


Israel’s Envoy to U.S. Calls on Trump to Move Embassy to Jerusalem as ‘Great Step Forward Toward Peace’, Haaretz

Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer on Tuesday called on the incoming Trump Administration to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Addressing the Embassy of Israel’s annual Hanukkah reception, Dermer said that such a move would be “a great step forward toward peace.”

Fed Pols Mostly Mum On Trump Israeli Ambassador Appointment, Kings County Politics

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand issued the following statement: “Senator Gillibrand has serious concerns about David Friedman’s nomination and will be looking to hear those concerns addressed during his confirmation hearings.”

Rep. Steve Cohen Rejects David Friedman — Says He’s No ‘Fiddler’, Forward

Memphis Congressman Steve Cohen has a uniquely Jewish put-down for Donald Trump’s pick to be Israel ambassador: “You’re no Tevye the milkman.”

David Friedman Blasts Jews Who Call Trump Anti-Semitic as ‘Morons’, Forward

Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to Israel is already being slammed for calling liberal Jews “worse than kapos” in a column on a far-right website. Now, a November interview in which Friedman said that Senator Al Franken and others who accused the Trump campaign of anti-Semitism “sound like morons” is circulating on social media. Asked by the website Jewish Insider about accusations that a Trump campaign ad trafficked in anti-Semitic tropes, Friedman lashed out at the Anti-Defamation League.

Palestinian landowners file claim for Amona relocation site, Ma’an

A Palestinian has filed an appeal claiming ownership of land that the Israeli government allocated for the evacuees of the illegal Amona outpost, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported Tuesday. The appeal follows a deal struck on Sunday after weeks of discussions trying to assuage settler anger over the mandated evacuation, when the government said the settlers could be moved to a nearby hilltop to lease was is ostensibly absentee property that has been abandoned by its owners.

Knesset Committee Bans Unregulated Visits to Security Prisoners by Israeli Lawmakers, Haaretz

Knesset members will no longer be allowed to visit security prisoners, the Knesset House Committee decided on Tuesday. The move follows a police investigation into suspicions that MK Basel Ghattas (Joint List) attempted to smuggle mobile telephones  and coded messages to prisoners with whom he met at Ketziot Prison on Sunday.

Netanyahu says Israel will treat more wounded Syrians, Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he has instructed the foreign ministry to find a way to help more of the wounded from Syria, including from Aleppo.

Opinion and Analysis

NCJW Responds to Choice of David Friedman as Future US Ambassador to Israel, National Council of Jewish Women

“NCJW believes the choice of David Friedman as US Ambassador to Israel flies in the face of the principles we hold dear: in order to ensure a secure and strong Israel we must seek a fair and just peace with all Israel’s neighbors; and to strengthen Israel from within we must create a state where minorities, women, children, and all people must be treated with dignity and afforded all the protections of a great democracy….Friedman’s extremist views would lead us down a dangerous path to greater violence and self-destruction. Simply put, David Friedman is an irresponsible choice as US Ambassador to Israel. If confirmed, he could undermine Israel’s traditional bi-partisan support in the United States and alienate much of the American Jewish community. NCJW calls on the Senate to reject the nomination of David Friedman.”

Wary Saudis silent as Trump’s Israel position takes shape, Al-Monitor

Bruce Riedel writes, “The Saudi reaction to Friedman’s appointment has thus far been quiet. The news was reported there with little comment, suggesting Salman is waiting to see what comes next and will give the incoming team time to carefully consider its decision on Jerusalem. After all, it would not be the first time an incoming president has reversed a promise to move the embassy after taking office. The Saudis probably expect that the president-elect’s nominees for secretary of state and secretary of defense may have a different view. Rex Tillerson and James Mattis, respectively, are likely to understand the regional implications of changing American policy toward Jerusalem and what the move could cost American interests in this most volatile part of the world.”