News Roundup for December 5, 2016

December 5, 2016

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J Street in the News

J Street Comes to the Defense of Rep. Keith Ellison Over Israel Remarks, Haaretz

“The liberal Middle East policy group J Street has come to the defense of Rep. Keith Ellison Friday, issuing a statement calling for an end to the attacks on his record of support for Israel. “The recent spate of attacks on Rep. Keith Ellison’s record of support for Israel and the Jewish community need to come to an end,” J Street wrote in their press release. ‘It is time to retire the playbook that aims to silence any American official seeking high office who has dared to criticize certain Israeli government policies.’ The group added that while it does not take positions on internal Democratic Party deliberations, they ‘believe he is one of a number of worthy candidates who warrants serious consideration for the position.’ The group went on to say Ellison ‘is and has long been a friend of Israel, a champion of pro-Israel, pro-peace policies and an admirable elected official whose thoughtful and considered leadership has shown deep respect for Jewish values and the Jewish people.’”

Could criticism of Trump cost Jewish organizations access to the White House?, Jerusalem Post

“Last month, the Zionist Organization of America issued a statement defending Bannon in light of criticism by the Anti-Defamation League……On the opposite end of the spectrum, the advocacy group J Street encouraged its followers to ‘Keep Bannon out of the White House’ by sending messages to their representatives in Congress. Bannon’s appointment, J Street said, ‘sends the message that the racist, antisemitic, xenophobic views of the alt-right will be embraced by [Trump’s] administration.’”

Continuing Attacks on Congressman Ellison Seek to Silence Legitimate Positions on Israel, J Street Blog

“Attempts to paint Rep. Ellison as anti-Israel or anti-Semitic aid a concerted and transparent smear campaign driven by those whose true objections may be to the Congressman’s religion, strong support for the two-state solution and/or concern for Palestinian rights. These opponents seek to unearth the slightest inartful statements from decades in public life, take them out of context and use them as a weapon to silence responsible and important voices like Rep. Ellison’s. Their charges often have little to do with meaningful debate over whether particular policies advance Israel’s security and future. Indeed, Rep. Ellison has been criticized for taking positions, on Iran, Gaza and other issues that are perfectly consistent with the views of the majority of American Jews and many in the Israeli security establishment. It is clear that those who have long claimed a monopoly on our national political conversation about Israel and the Middle East are frustrated that there are now respected voices challenging hard-line positions which, we believe, seriously endanger Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state and rarely show regard for the rights of Palestinians.”

Top News and Analysis

In Harsh Criticism, Kerry Says Israel Must Choose Between Settlements and Two States, Haaretz

In unprecedented and harsh criticism of Israeli government policy, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday that Israel must choose between settlement construction in the West Bank and a two-state solution….The Israeli government does not favor a two-state solution, Kerry said, and therefore the US faces an uphill battle. Israel “is ignoring all our warnings regarding settlements.” Contradicting Netanyahu, Kerry said that peace with the Palestinians is a pre-condition to peace between Israel and the Arab world. Netanyahu, who addressed the forum earlier, suggested that only a deal between Israel and the Arab world could bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table….Contrary to recent reports, Kerry said that the US administration has not decided whether to back a UN action concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but noted that the U.S. ‘will not support an unfair resolution.’”

Illegal West Bank Outpost Can Be Moved to ‘Abandoned’ Palestinian Land, Legal Official Says, Haaretz

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit has given his support for moving the illegal outpost of Amona to an adjacent and “abandoned” plot of Palestinian land in the West Bank, thus potentially ending a political crisis that threatened Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right wing government. The decision to allow the outpost to be moved to three plots of land abandoned by Palestinians was already raised by Mendelblit in the past as a temporary solution, but after pressure from the prime minister, he voiced his support for a longer period that would allow settlers to live at the site for at least three years.

Palestinian President Abbas gets boost in Fatah congress vote, Reuters

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas kept a strong grip on his Fatah movement in an election in which his loyalists remained dominant in its top decision-making body, final results showed on Sunday. The outcome of the voting, held on Saturday during the first congress of Abbas’s Fatah party for seven years, signaled no change in a policy of pursuing a two-state solution with Israel, Palestinian political analysts said.

Israeli Lawmaker Defends Keith Ellison: ‘A True Supporter of Israel’, Haaretz

An Israeli lawmaker spoke out on Sunday in defense of Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn), the frontrunner in the race for the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who has been accused of harboring anti-Semitic and anti-Israel views. MK Tamar Zandberg of the left-wing Meretz party wrote in a Facebook post that she “can personally attest to the fact that Ellison’s positions on Israel are similar to his positions on every other issue: progressive stands that strive for peace, justice and equality, that oppose racism, anti-Semitism, chauvinism and homophobia of any kind from any source.”


Netanyahu will revive lobbying U.S. on Iran deal once Trump is president, JTA

Prime Minister Netanyahu said he looked forward to speaking to Donald Trump about what to do about the “bad” Iran deal, once Trump is president. “As far as President-elect Trump, I look forward to speaking to him about what to do about this bad deal,” Netanyahu said Sunday, addressing the annual Saban Forum via a satellite feed. Netanyahu in his remarks reverted to the tough pre-deal rhetoric about the deal reached last year between Iran and six major powers, swapping sanctions relief for a rollback of Iran’s nuclear program.

Waiting for Trump? Netanyahu Again Asks Court to Delay Evacuation of Illegal Outpost, Haaretz

Prime Minister Netanyahu said on Sunday that the state will ask the High Court of Justice to delay the evacuation of the illegal Amona outpost by 30 days. If the court approves Netanyahu’s request, the evacuation of Amona will take place after U.S. President-elect Donald Trump takes office in January 20. The High Court has ordered the outpost evacuated by December 25, ruling that it was built on privately owned Palestinian land.

Labor leader defends Ellison from anti-Semitism accusations, The Hill

The president of the American Federation of Teachers defended Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) on Saturday against those accusing the Democratic National Committee candidate of anti-Semitism. “I can feel and smell anti Semitism. Keith Ellison is no anti-Semite and it is maddening when anyone who doesn’t know him or his record makes that ugly accusation,” Randi Weingarten wrote in a Facebook post.

L.A. Jewish Fund Refuses to Channel Donations to Anti-occupation Group, Haaretz

The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles (JCFLA), which manages over $1 billion in charitable funds and distributed about $100 million of that in 2015, has reportedly refused to disburse donor money to the anti-occupation Jewish group IfNotNow.

Palestinian President Abbas gets boost in Fatah congress vote, Reuters

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas kept a strong grip on his Fatah movement in an election in which his loyalists remained dominant in its top decision-making body, final results showed on Sunday. The outcome of the voting, held on Saturday during the first congress of Abbas’s Fatah party for seven years, signaled no change in a policy of pursuing a two-state solution with Israel, Palestinian political analysts said.

Liberman plays down centrality of Trump’s pledge to move US embassy to Jerusalem, Times of Israel

Israel’s defense minister on Friday played down the centrality of moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, telling a gathering of the Saban Forum here that “It’s very important, but we have other issues.”

Opinion and Analysis

Moving US Embassy to Jerusalem, not Netanyahu’s priority, Al-Monitor

Uri Savir reports, “A senior adviser to Trump’s foreign policy team, who has spent many years in the Middle East, told Al-Monitor that Trump has not decided yet how to deal concretely with the Israeli-Palestinian issue, adding that the president-elect is well-aware of the importance accorded by the media and the public to this. On the embassy issue, he said, most opinions within the transition team do not consider such a move to be politically and diplomatically wise. Yet there are strong pro-Israeli voices in Trump’s entourage who favor a dramatic and historic move of the embassy by the new president, thus clearly recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital. One such voice is former Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee (rumored to be Trump’s pick for ambassador to Israel). According to this adviser, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has already communicated with president-elect Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner on the issue. The adviser said that the somewhat cold opinions within the team on the issue have sparked another idea, of moving just one department of the US Embassy (perhaps the media department) from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Be that as it may, it is clear that such a move would create havoc in the Arab world.”

Does Israel’s President Still Not Get How Vital the Kotel Is to Diaspora Jews?, Forward

Jane Eisner writes, “If we in the diaspora are to make common cause with Israel, feel its pain and defend its right to exist and to sometimes support unpalatable actions to help ensure that survival, then the government of Israel must reciprocate on an issue of utmost importance to the diaspora. ‘The Kotel belongs to the Jewish people,’ Rivlin said. Make that happen, please.”

Nearly half of Americans support sanctions on Israel, poll finds, +972

“The number of Americans who support imposing sanctions on Israel over its defiant settlement policies has shot up to 46 percent, the same percentage of Americans who voted for Donald Trump in the presidential election. That number has shot up nearly 10 percentage points over the past year, according to a national poll published by the Brookings Institute on Friday, on the sidelines of this week’s Saban Forum, “an annual dialogue between American and Israeli leaders.’ Among Democrats, a 60-percent majority ‘supported imposing some economic sanctions or taking more serious action” in response to Israeli settlements, the poll found. A much smaller number of Republican respondents (31 percent) support sanctions.”

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