J Street decries ‘smears’ of Airbnb for delisting settlement rentals, Times of Israel
“The left-wing lobbying organization J Street has denounced the ‘irresponsible smears’ and calls for punitive action against booking website Airbnb for delisting rental properties in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. ‘These attacks, falsely charging Airbnb with ‘anti-semitism,’ ‘discrimination,’ and ‘boycotting Israel,’ do not promote the best interests of Israel and the Jewish people, but rather serve to aid the interests of the settlement movement,’ J street said in a statement Thursday….J Street accused Israeli officials, who have said Airbnb’s decision is an example of anti-Semitism, of ‘grossly abusing that term,’ adding that they were ‘diminishing the very real threat of rising, deadly anti-Semitism in this country and around the world’….J Street also condemned statements by US governors that they would consider punitive measures against Airbnb for delisting rentals in settlements and said it opposes a pair of Congressional bills opposing the boycotts, divestment and sanctions movement. ‘J Street opposes the Global BDS Movement. And we oppose these bills on the grounds that they treat Israel and the territories as one and the same, infringe on First Amendment rights and hurt, rather than help, efforts to counter the BDS movement,’ it said.”
Israeli police said on Sunday that there is enough evidence to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a third corruption investigation. According to a police statement, authorities found evidence of fraud, bribery, and breach of trust. Police also said there is enough evidence to charge the Israeli leader’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, with fraud, receiving bribes, and interfering with an investigation. The case, known as Case 4000, is one of the largest facing the Israeli leader and his inner circle. It deals with the relationship between the Ministry of Communications — then under Netanyahu — and Israeli telecommunications firm Bezeq.
Anshel Pfeffer writes, “If Netanyahu wins the coming election, which all the polls currently indicate he will, he will use that as vindication for his legal position as well. The nation will have found him not guilty: That will be the narrative. And that will be crucial for him to brazen out the long legal process, as he intends to do – becoming the first Israeli prime minister serving under an indictment, continuing to run the country while defending himself in court….An elected prime minister who insists on remaining in office despite multiple indictments will be challenged in the High Court. However the judges are inclined to rule, it will have all the makings of a constitutional crisis, with the judicial branch of government having to decide whether the elected branch can remain. This would be a dire situation for Israeli democracy, and Netanyahu is already doing everything he can to exacerbate it.”
President Trump’s Misguided Approach on UNRWA, Jerusalem Post
Eric Schwartz writes, “Like all humanitarian aid organizations, UNRWA is imperfect. But it has also proven effective in meeting humanitarian needs over decades. Moreover, it is clear that the US funding cut-off had little to do with UNRWA’s effectiveness as an aid organization. In fact, the president has been unambiguous about his rationale: as long as the Palestinian political leadership is not prepared to toe the line on administration policy, Palestinian civilians will suffer the consequences….The corresponding White House attack on UNRWA is directly related to this unilateral effort to redefine who is a Palestinian refugee. It reflects an administration determined to dictate the terms of a political settlement, including the disposition of issues relating to the right of return for Palestinians. By terminating its support for UNRWA, the administration is pursuing its political objectives at the expense of the wellbeing and the lives of Palestinian civilians.”
“Khan al-Ahmar has become an international symbol of the Israeli-Palestinian battle for control over Area C, the part of the West Bank assigned to full Israeli control by the Oslo Accords. And ostensibly, the freeze on the eviction proceedings is meant to allow the state to resume negotiations with the residents, due to heavy diplomatic pressure and fear of proceedings at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. But in practice, there’s no evidence of any such talks. The assessment in political and diplomatic circles is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is mainly trying to buy time until one of the two main sources of pressure — the ICC and the settlers — eases off….Civil Administration officials said that efforts to open negotiations are continuing. Israeli activists helping the Bedouin, including some residents of Kfar Adumim, confirmed that the Civil Administration had tried to contact the residents through them, in order to bypass the PA, but to no avail….The state promised the High Court that the villagers won’t be evicted until an alternative site is ready. But the alternative site in Azzariyeh, near Jerusalem, has been dismantled, and the site near Mitzpeh Yeriho has never been built.”
Israel’s opposition leader called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign following the police’s recommendations to charge him with bribery in the co-called Case 4000.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is willing to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu anywhere in the world, according to a senior Palestinian official. “I challenge Mr. Netanyahu [to meet Abbas], officially. He can choose any country, any country on earth. Moscow, Beijing, London, Berlin,” Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, told the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle last week. “He will meet him. This is a challenge, a declared challenge.”
Vice President Mike Pence said the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) targeting Israel has “no place” in the U.S. market, and cited Airbnb’s delisting of West Bank Jewish settlements as an example of the movement. “In the wake of Airbnb’s decision to ban Jewish homes in Jerusalem and the West Bank, we made it clear, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is wrong and it has no place in the free enterprise of the United States of America,” Pence said at the annual conference of the Israeli American Council, taking place this year in southern Florida.
Marc Lamont Hill, a political commentator and professor at Temple University, has apologized for his use of a phrase associated with Palestinian extremists in discussing the current plight of the Palestinians at the United Nations. Hill called for “a free Palestine from the river to the sea” on Wednesday during an event held at the United Nations for the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Hill said in his op-ed that he was calling for justice in the area from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, in the form of a single bi-national democratic state that encompasses Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. ‘Throughout my speech, I spoke explicitly about the need for Israeli political reform, specifically as it pertains to Arab citizens of Israel. I also called for a redrawing of borders to the pre-1967 lines, as well as a greater attention to human rights for those living in the West Bank and Gaza. At the time, I believed that these demands made in the speech sufficiently reflected my belief in radical change within Israel, not a desire for its destruction,’ he wrote. ‘Clearly, they did not.’”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will set out on a brief visit to Brussels, Belgium on Monday where he is slated to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later this evening. They will be accompanied by the head of the Mossad, the head of the National Security Council and the military secretary. According to a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu and Pompeo are expected to discuss regional developments.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren called Thursday for a US foreign policy that “works for all Americans,” not just wealthy capitalists, and helps block the rise of authoritarianism. Warren pointed out that Trump has refused to get tough on Saudi Arabia over the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi because of his interest in moving forward with arms deals. She said the U.S. should pursue more arms control initiatives, and she came out in favor of a “no first use” doctrine, which means the U.S. would pledge not to be the first to use a nuclear weapon in a conflict.
Court orders release of Jerusalem Palestinian Authority official, Times of Israel
The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Sunday ordered the release of the Palestinian Authority’s Jerusalem governor, Adnan Ghaith, who was arrested last week for allegedly collaborating with the Palestinian Authority security forces, Ghaith’s lawyer said.
Amos Harel writes, “Not that Trump needed any arm-twisting, but we can cautiously assume that Netanyahu tried to ensure that Washington wouldn’t abandon Riyadh in its time of trouble. The timing of the visit to the Saudi royal family by a delegation of evangelical Christians, which was actually organized by an Israeli citizen in early November, doesn’t seem entirely coincidental. Not for the first time – and not unrelated to the injustices Israel is responsible for in the West Bank – Israel is willing to ignore many injustices by its new friends in the Middle East….For Netanyahu, the Saudis are providing an important anchor to implement U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s 12-point plan to isolate the regime in Tehran in the hope of toppling it.”
Jordan Tama reports, “The Sanders-Lee-Murphy resolution is unlikely to pass the Senate and House in its current form….That means lawmakers would need to start from scratch in the new Congress — where a Democratic-led House is more likely to bring such a resolution to a vote….In the meantime, the mere fact of this week’s vote sends two powerful signals. First, the Senate is declaring that the United States considers human rights and the rule of law to be extremely important. And second, U.S. lawmakers are becoming more willing to assert their constitutional prerogatives as a coequal branch of government.”
Ravit Hecht observes, “It’s not just that the police recommendations submitted on Sunday to charge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with bribery won’t affect Netanyahu’s supporters in the short term. If anything, they will strengthen his hold on his base by dint of his most effective mechanism of recruitment and control, namely the narrative whereby the media is persecuting him.”