News Roundup for December 4, 2017

December 4, 2017

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J Street in the News

Trump wants to move the U.S. embassy in Israel. Doing so would have disastrous results, Think Progress

“Declaring Jerusalem Israel’s capital would come with its own set of pitfalls. ‘Such a reckless move would call into question the administration’s stated commitment to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and advancing regional peace,’ said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president and founder of J Street, a pro-Israel, pro-peace advocacy group. ‘It could lead to violence not only in Jerusalem but across the Arab and Muslim worlds, including against U.S. diplomats and servicepeople.’”

Why Anti-BDS Legislation Is So Problematic, The Forward

Jeremy Ben-Ami writes, “Passing ambiguous laws that can and have been used to crack down on individual freedoms only harms Israel advocacy efforts and turns BDS supporters into the victims of government overreach. It’s time for Jewish leaders to reject this deeply flawed approach.”

Jewish Democrats raise money using Trump’s Charlottesville remarks. Jewish Republicans call foul, JTA

“A pitch by the liberal Mideast policy group’s director, Jeremy Ben-Ami, was sent after the Zionist Organization of America held a gala last month featuring Trump’s former top adviser, Steve Bannon, who has returned as the head of the “alt-right” favorite Breitbart News, and the U.S. envoy to Israel, David Friedman. Ben-Ami wrote: ‘[Eighty percent of our community] didn’t vote for Donald Trump, it fears and opposes most of his policy agenda, and it abhors the white nationalist hatred spread by the likes of Steve Bannon and Breitbart…This minority is small, but it’s dangerous — and its influence is clearly growing. That’s because, incredibly, it has the full support of the Prime Minister of Israel and the President of the United States — and the full financial backing of their shared favorite donor, Sheldon Adelson.’”

Top News and Analysis

We Must Save Israel From Its Government, New York Times

Ehud Barak writes, “In its more than three years in power, this government has been irrational, bordering on messianic. It is now increasingly clear where it is headed: creeping annexation of the West Bank aimed at precluding any permanent separation from the Palestinians. This ‘one-state solution’ that the government is leading Israel toward is no solution at all. It will inevitably turn Israel into a state that is either not Jewish or not democratic (and possibly not either one), mired in permanent violence. This prospect is an existential danger for the entire Zionist project.”

A Wary Response, So Far, on Trump’s Expected Recognition of Jerusalem, New York Times

David M. Halbfinger reports, “There were warnings of a new Palestinian uprising and calls for protests at United States embassies, dire predictions that hopes for peace would be dashed irretrievably — and expressions of relief from Israelis who have waited a half-century for the world to remove the asterisk next to this city’s name. Yet on the whole, the responses in the region to reports that President Trump will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel — something no president has done in the nearly 70 years since Israel’s founding — remained hedged, if not entirely restrained, on Saturday. Arabs and Israelis alike were impatient to see whether Mr. Trump would really do it, precisely how he would define Jerusalem, and what else he might say or do to qualify the change.”

Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a dangerous gambit, CNN

Aaron David Miller argues, “Having worked at the State Department on Arab-Israeli negotiations for the better part of a quarter century, I came up with more than my fair share of half-baked ideas. But the one issue I was smart enough to avoid — and I advised every Secretary of State to do the same — was Jerusalem. My advice was simple: don’t play with the most sensitive and volatile issue in the negotiations… [Trump] may also make a statement recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Perhaps the administration believes that a statement is less damaging than actually starting the process of opening an embassy. But unless it’s part of a prenegotiated deal, which involves significant Israeli concessions to Palestinians, it is likely to complicate the very peace process Trump wants to promote.”

Talk of a Peace Plan That Snubs Palestinians Roils Middle East,  New York Times

Anne Barnard, David Halbfinger and Peter Baker report, “The Palestinians would get a state of their own but only noncontiguous parts of the West Bank and only limited sovereignty over their own territory. The vast majority of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which most of the world considers illegal, would remain. The Palestinians would not be given East Jerusalem as their capital and there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants”

Kushner says Mideast peace is essential to thwarting Iran and Islamist extremism, Washington Post

Karen DeYoung and Loveday Morris report, “President Trump’s push for a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians stems from a belief that his broader goals of stopping Iranian aggression and Islamist extremism will not be possible without it, presidential adviser Jared Kushner said in a rare public appearance Sunday.”


Two Bedouin Arrested for Killing Israeli Soldier in Suspected Terror Attack Last Week, Haaretz

Two Israeli Bedouins were arrested Monday for their role in the lethal stabbing of an Israeli soldier in what Israeli officials say was terror attack in southern Israel last week.

US national security adviser ‘not sure’ if Trump will move embassy, Times of Israel

US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Sunday that he did not know whether President Donald Trump would decide to relocate his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Jared Kushner Failed to Disclose he led a Foundation Funding Illegal Israeli Settlements Before UN Vote, Newsweek

Jared Kushner failed to disclose his role as a co-director of the Charles and Seryl Kushner Foundation from 2006 to 2015, a time when the group funded an Israeli settlement considered to be illegal under international law, on financial records he filed with the Office of Government Ethics earlier this year.

Abbas envoys warn Kushner peace talks end if US backs Israeli claim to Jerusalem, i24

Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas sent a delegation to Washington on Friday with a warning that the United States’ efforts to revive peace talks between it and Israel would hit a dead end if president Donald Trump announces the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem or if he recognizes the holy city as the undivided capital of the Jewish State.

Tens of Thousands of Israelis Join ‘March of Shame’ Against Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Haaretz

Tens of thousands of people rallied in protest on Saturday night in Tel Aviv against government corruption and new legislation that critics say is intended to shield Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from police investigations.

After Public Outcry, Netanyahu Backtracks on Police Silencing Bill, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked lawmakers to redraft the police silencing bill so that it will not apply to the investigations against him. The bill would limit the police’s ability to issue recommendations on the indictment of public officials after an investigation.

IDF declares the area around Gaza a closed military zone, Times of Israel

The army has declared the area surrounding the Gaza Strip a “closed military zone” in light of unspecified activities in the area, the military censor cleared for publication on Sunday.

Projectile Fired From Syria Hits Israel’s Northern Golan Heights, Haaretz

A projectile fired from Syria struck an open area in the Golan Heights on Sunday. None were wounded and no damage was caused in the incident.

Opinions and Analysis

Think Trump’s Policies On Israel-Palestine Have Nothing To Do With You? Think Again, Huffington Post

Lara Friedman argues, “Many Americans doubtless believe that the policies of the next president regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have nothing to do with them. They’re mistaken. Rash action by Trump in this arena is preordained to trigger a dangerous political dynamic, the results of which will have nothing to do with Israel and the Palestinians. Those results will, however, have far-reaching and potentially devastating implications for the security, health, and economic well-being of all Americans.”

Palestinians want Trump to back away from Jerusalem plan, Axios

Barak Ravid writes, “Palestinian officials say the members of the delegation told Trump’s aides that any move by the President regarding Jerusalem — either moving the U.S. embassy there or recognizing the city as Israel’s capital — would kill any possibility for a future peace initiative by Trump. Palestinian officials say they got no clear answers from the White House regarding the concerns they raised. Trump is expected to give a speech on the matter next Wednesday.”

All Jews are Responsible for One Another, Jerusalem Post

Rabbi Jill Jacobs argues, “Jews in both the United States and Israel face the danger of administrations that have adopted anti-democratic tactics, including discrediting protesters, assaulting the free press, and spreading lies. We might be tempted to focus all our resources on our own respective crises, but the obligation toward other Jews should inspire a cross-border effort to support one another in standing up to these dangerous maneuvers. Jews working to protect democracy on both sides of the Atlantic have an opportunity right now to support one another in our respective struggles, to learn from one another’s experience, and to present a united front in standing up to threats on our safety. The existing relationships among Jewish and Israeli human rights and social justice organizations can serve as the foundation for such partnerships.”

What Flynn’s plea could mean for Kushner and Israel, JTA

Ron Kampeas asks, “Michael Flynn, US President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI twice — both times about policy maneuvering with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, during the transition. That last word is key: Flynn twice talked to Kislyak in December of 2016 when Trump was president-elect — not president. That was still Barack Obama’s job. One of the things Flynn and Kislyak talked about was Israel — and Flynn says that was at the behest of Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, who has longstanding ties with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. What does that mean for special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation of ties between the Trump campaign and transition team and Russia? What are the implications for Kushner and for Israel?”

As the U.S. mulls recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, here’s what some Palestinians and Israelis think, Washington Post

Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash write, “Given the controversy surrounding the city, no foreign embassies are located in Jerusalem. However, President Trump promised to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem during his campaign. A U.S. official said the administration is “seriously considering options” but that no final decision has been made yet. Unconfirmed press reports have said that instead of moving the embassy, the United States may recognise Jerusalem – or go as far as calling it the “undivided” capital of Israel. Coming at a time when the administration is attempting to craft a peace plan, it could be particularly contentious. Here is what some Israelis and Palestinians think of the rumblings.”

Power is built from below, Times of Israel

Maya Haber and Bar Gissin write, “We believe that left victories at the local level in Israel will remind Israelis that the future is not lost and that many are still receptive to a progressive agenda. It is time for American Jewish and Israeli progressives to form a united front and build power in Israel from the ground up, to win hearts and minds for the vision of tikkun olam we all hold dear. This is the only politically viable way to end the Occupation. It is time to finally declare that supplicating to a right-wing deaf to our appeals is a political dead end. Another political path is before us. All we have to do is take it.”

Tom Cotton, Said to Be Trump’s C.I.A. Pick, Would Bring Ambition but Little Experience, New York Times

Julie Hirschfeld Davis writes, “The first time Donald J. Trump met Senator Tom Cotton, in summer 2015, the two commiserated over their shared hatred of the nuclear deal that President Barack Obama had just struck with Iran. Mr. Trump, at the time a presidential candidate who knew little about national security, thanked Mr. Cotton, an Ivy League-educated Iraq war veteran and then a first-year senator, for his staunch opposition to the agreement. Mr. Cotton, who described the encounter in a recent interview, had written an unusual letter to Iran’s mullahs, signed by 46 Republican colleagues, warning that Congress might reverse the nuclear accord or a new president might rip it up; Mr. Trump was campaigning on doing just that.”

Trump May Move U.S. Embassy In Israel To Jerusalem. Here’s Why That Matters, Huffington Post

Antonia Blumberg argues, “current and former foreign policy officials warn that the region could face disastrous security repercussions should the Trump administration move the embassy to Jerusalem. Former Secretary of State John Kerry, Jordanian King Abdullah II and senior Palestinian official and chief negotiator Saeb Erekat have all warned against the move. During his last weeks on the job, Kerry said placing the embassy in Jerusalem would cause an ‘absolute explosion’ in the region and provoke widespread diplomatic backlash.  King Abdullah II warned that the move could spark violence from Palestinians who have sought to secure the eastern part of the city as the future capital of a Palestinian state. Erekat said last year that the move would mean ‘the destruction of the peace process as a whole.’”

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