News Roundup for December 5, 2017

December 5, 2017

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J Street in the News

Statement by J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami in advance of Trump Administration Announcement Regarding Jerusalem, J Street

“It would be a profound mistake for President Trump to take action this week that fundamentally changes long-standing US policy on Jerusalem.  Israel’s capital is without question in Jerusalem, and it should be internationally recognized as such in the context of an agreed two-state solution that also establishes a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. In the absence of such an agreement, any major change in US policy on Jerusalem’s status would dangerously break with America’s long-standing view that the city’s final status can and should be determined only by a peace agreement between the parties.The effect of moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem or of declaring that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital prior to a negotiated agreement will be to anger key Arab allies, foment regional instability and undermine nascent US diplomatic efforts to resolve the larger conflict.”

American Jews vs. Israel, Washington Post

Richard Cohen writes, “In the meantime, Israel is increasingly criticized. On American campuses, it is routinely accused of being a racist and colonial power. Not so. But American Jews on those very campuses find it harder and harder to mount a defense. The continuing occupation of the West Bank and the Trumpian persona of Netanyahu leave them mute. Jeremy Ben-Ami, head of the liberal pro-Israel group J Street and a frequent campus speaker, finds that many college students feel a contradiction between what they believe are Jewish values and the policies of the Netanyahu government.”

Top News and Analysis

State Department warns of violence ahead of Trump Jerusalem decision, Politico

Nahal Toosi reports, “The State Department has warned American embassies worldwide to heighten security ahead of a possible announcement Wednesday by President Donald Trump that the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The warning — delivered in the past week via two classified cables described by State Department officials — reflects concern that such an announcement could provoke fury in the Arab world even as Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner works to advance long-stalled peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.”

Arab warnings mount as U.S. suggests shift to name Jerusalem as Israeli capital, Washington Post

Loveday Morris reports, “Arab nations and Palestinian officials have warned of dire consequences if the United States recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, including potential unrest and an end to the peace process, amid last-minute lobbying to prevent President Trump from making the move…The White House is mulling a proposal to delay moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, but — as a compromise measure — make a formal declaration that the city is the capital of Israel.  Palestinian officials have warned that a such a declaration will mark the end of any U.S.-brokered peace efforts.”

Is Trump About to Blow Up Jared Kushner’s Mideast Peacemaking? Politico

Susan B. Glasser writes, “President Trump has talked of ‘the ultimate deal’ he’s going to strike, to finally make peace once and for all between Israel and the Palestinians. His son-in-law Jared Kushner has spent the last few months shuttling to and from the region, and speculation has been running high that the U.S. might soon unveil its own proposal for peace, or at least the basic outlines. Still, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, a close ally of the Trump team who has been working closely with them on the plan, says in a new interview for The Global Politico that while he’s an ‘optimist,’ chances are only ‘moderate to high’ of even restarting the dormant peace process over the next year. As for an actual deal, he wouldn’t even speculate.”

Ex-Israeli Ambassadors Urge Trump’s Envoy: U.S. Must Not Unilaterally Recognize Jerusalem as Capital, Haaretz

Noa Landau reports, “Twenty-five former Israeli ambassadors, academics and peace activists on Monday expressed their opposition to U.S. President Donald Trump’s potential unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in a letter to Trump’s Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt. The letter was written on behalf of The Policy Working Group, an organization of Israeli activists with diplomatic, academic, political and media backgrounds, including former Israeli diplomats such as Ilan Baruch, Alon Liel and Elie Barnavi. The group wrote Greenblatt that ‘we are deeply concerned by recent reports that President Trump is seriously considering the announcement of his decision to unilaterally recognize Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel.’”

White House Delays Decision On Possible Move Of Embassy In Israel To Jerusalem, NPR

Scott Neuman reports, “President Trump has delayed signing a waiver to a U.S. law that would otherwise set in motion a move of the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a White House spokesman says.”


Israel reported to strike site near Damascus, Times of Israel

Israel’s military struck a Syrian military installation on the outskirts of Damascus late Monday night, according to initial reports. According to the reports out of Syria, the strike targeted a site in Jamarya, a suburb of Damascus.

Palestinian shot during clash at site of attack on hiking children, JTA

A Palestinian man was shot by an Israeli civilian during clashes between Palestinians and right-wing activists near the site of an attack several days earlier on a group of Jewish children hiking in the West Bank.

If Trump Names Jerusalem Israeli Capital, Palestinians Will ‘Stop Contact’ With U.S., Abbas Aide Says, Haaretz

The diplomatic adviser of President Mahmoud Abbas says the Palestinian leadership would “stop contacts” with the United States if U.S. President Donald Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Supreme Court Allows Trump Travel Ban to Take Effect, New York Times

The Supreme Court on Monday allowed the third version of the Trump administration’s travel ban to go into effect while legal challenges against it continue. The decision was a victory for the administration after its mixed success before the court over the summer, when justices considered and eventually dismissed disputes over the second version.

Eyeing Peace Plan of His Own, Israeli Labor Leader Gabbay Meets With Palestinians, Americans, Haaretz

As part of efforts to craft his own policy and peace proposal, the new Labor Party chief, Avi Gabbay, has held dozens of meetings in recent months with foreign figures who have taken part in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Liberman, Bennett caution against early elections as coalition tensions mount, Times of Israel

The leaders of several coalition parties on Monday warned of the prospects of early elections amid heightened tensions roiling the government over the so-called police recommendations bill, criminal investigations into its leaders, and a proposal to close mini-markets on Saturdays.

In Generational Shift, Millennial Evangelicals Not as Supportive of Israel, Haaretz

A survey of 2,000 American Evangelical Christians released Monday found generational differences among participants in positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with older Evangelicals offering more unconditional support of Israel than those under 35.

Steve Bannon’s Best Jewish Friend: Morton Klein’s Rise to Prominence in the Trump Era, Haaretz

When Steve Bannon was President Donald Trump’s chief strategist, his first call to the head of a Jewish organization was reportedly to Morton Klein of the staunchly right-wing Zionist Organization of America. Bannon invited him to the White House and continued to call on him for advice on Israel before leaving his post in August, according to Klein.

Opinions and Analysis

What’s at stake if the US recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moves embassy, ABC News

Molly Hunter writes, “In addition to mulling the embassy move, the White House is considering new steps to formally recognize a unified Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, sources told ABC News. But, there’s a chance those two moves could take place separately. Administration officials would not say what Trump will do, but many expect that he will advance plans to move the embassy even if he signs the waiver today. Among the options reportedly under consideration: issuing a statement this week to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or a directive to American diplomats to conduct all official business there.”

The Middle East and Russia: American attitudes on Trump’s foreign policy, Brookings

“As the first year of President Donald Trump’s administration winds down, his pledged commitments to reach the ‘ultimate deal,’ a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Territories, remain unfulfilled. With increasing instability in the Middle East and a multitude of challenges facing in the White House, President Trump’s plans remain elusive. Nonresident Senior Fellow Shibley Telhami has conducted a public opinion poll which examines American attitudes toward the Middle East, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iran, and Russia’s role in the region.”

Trump, Take Note: How Jerusalem Went From Hosting 16 Embassies to Zero, Haaretz

David B. Green writes, “If the United States does go ahead this week with its reported plan to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, vehement opposition can be anticipated among the Palestinians and the Muslim world in general, but also from the world community, which has maintained a consensus on this issue for nearly 70 years. Nonetheless, the difference between vocal opposition and a more militant response may well depend on the precise phrasing of the U.S. announcement, and the implications it has for the future. When it comes to Jerusalem, the changing of a light bulb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the type of mundane task with the potential to explode into a new religious war.”

Trump Is Waging War On The Peace Process, The Forward

Issa Amro writes, “The news that Trump might declare Jerusalem to be Israel’s undivided capital is not all that surprising. Since Trump’s win a little over a year ago, we Palestinians on the ground have not seen the stage being set for peace. Rather, we have been experiencing a US-supported acceleration of land theft, home eviction and settlement building. A declaration of Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Jerusalem is exactly what we should be expecting.”

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