News Roundup for December 5, 2018

December 5, 2018

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J Street in the News

J Street Supports IDF Operations to Destroy Hezbollah Tunnels Along Northern Border, J Street

“J Street is deeply concerned by the discovery of Hezbollah-built attack tunnels entering Israeli territory along the border with Lebanon. We support ongoing IDF operations to destroy these tunnels and to defend Israel’s northern border from aggression. This operation is an important reminder of the very serious threats posed to Israel’s security by the forces of Hezbollah, Syria and their ally Iran. We call on the Trump administration and the international community to step up diplomatic efforts to reduce tensions in Syria and Lebanon, address Israel’s security concerns and prevent the outbreak of full-scale armed conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, which could escalate dangerously into a wider regional war.”

George H.W. Bush Was The Last President To Really Get Tough With Israel, Huffington Post

“Bush’s showdown with Shamir served as a model for the success an American president is capable of achieving in the region if she or he is determined enough to withstand short-term political blowback. It also revealed dissension within Jewish American ranks that AIPAC’s strength had long masked….Americans for Peace Now, a pro-peace group, backed Bush’s stance. Its divergence with AIPAC presaged the creation of more sophisticated liberal Jewish advocacy organizations like J Street, which rose to prominence more than a decade later. Those groups provided politically valuable Jewish support for the Obama administration’s nuclear nonproliferation deal with Iran in 2015.”

Top News and Analysis

Has the IDF Become the Latest Prop in Netanyahu’s Battle for Survival?, Haaretz

Anshel Pfeffer asks, “Was it necessary to make such a media festival out of what is just another stage in an ongoing operation? Hezbollah could have been notified by any number of other channels that Israel was only operating on its side of the border. The mysterious flight on Monday to meet U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo in Brussels, didn’t have to be so public – and anyway, Israel has so many other ways of informing the Trump administration. As a journalist, one has to appreciate all this information being offered. But as a citizen, one can’t help asking himself whether this uncharacteristic military transparency is serving other interests….The IDF is about to become the main prop in Netanyahu’s survival plan.”

Congress weighs rushing Israel anti-boycott bill by year’s end, Al-Monitor

“Congress is debating whether to rush through a controversial bill that fines US companies and their employees for participating in internationally organized boycotts of Israel or its West Bank settlements by the end of the year. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., is seeking to attach the Israel Anti-Boycott Act to must-pass spending legislation, The Intercept reported today. The bill takes aim at the pro-Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. But adding it to an unrelated spending bill may be a hard sell, even among supportive Republicans. And many Senate Democrats remain wary of backing the bill due to constitutional concerns raised by civil liberties groups. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent a letter to the Senate today asking lawmakers not to include the bill in spending legislation.”

What the Yemen Vote Reveals About the Democratic Party, The Atlantic

Peter Beinart writes, “These anti-war insurrections represent the rebirth of a spirit—suspicious of military entanglements and the unchecked presidential power that enables them—that marked Democratic foreign policy from the last years of Vietnam through the struggle over the Reagan administration’s proxy wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador in the 1980s. Turning that spirit into a coherent post-Obama foreign-policy vision will be the task of those Democrats who seek the presidency over the next two years.”


20,000 Rally in Tel Aviv Protesting Violence Against Women, Haaretz

The organizers of Tuesday’s protests against domestic violence declared that “we made history today” and said tens of thousands of people took part in an effort that made clear that Israeli women have power. Twenty-thousand demonstrators gathered in central Tel Aviv to protest violence against women. A nationwide strike was held independently, with many government offices and companies permitting their employee’s absence.

Israeli envoy confident UN condemnation of Hamas will pass, Times of Israel

Israel’s UN ambassador on Tuesday predicted that  a US-sponsored resolution condemning the Islamic terror group Hamas, which controls Gaza, for launching rockets into Israel will be approved by the General Assembly. Danny Danon told reporters that he believes “we will get a majority no matter what.” The 193-member General Assembly is scheduled to vote on the US draft resolution on Thursday afternoon.

Mueller Filing: Flynn Got in Trouble Over Israeli UN Vote and Became Asset for Russia Probe, Haaretz

US Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, released new documents on Tuesday night outlining his office’s cooperation with Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former National Security Adviser. In the documents, Mueller details how an interaction with Russia over Israeli settlements in the West Bank led to Flynn’s legal troubles and turned him, eventually, into a cooperating witness with the Russia investigation.

Netanyahu Bid to Let Tycoon Friends Fund Legal Defense Rejected, Haaretz

The Permits Committee in Israel’s State Comptroller Office declined on Wednesday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request to accept funding from two tycoons associated with Case 1000 – the cigars-and-champagne case – to help fund his legal defense. Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit approved in July the request for funding from Spencer Partrich and Nathan Milkowsky, who is Netanyahu’s cousin. The committee concluded it “inappropriate” for tycoons to fund legal fees resulting from an investigation into alleged crimes concerning relations with other tycoons. Such funding, according to the committee, might harm the public’s trust in government.

Opinion and Analysis

Oppression in the Middle East is worse than ever — and Trump is encouraging more, Washington Post

The editorial board writes, “As Congress considers its reaction to the state-sponsored murder of Jamal Khashoggi, it’s important to take into account that it was not an isolated act. The strangling and dismemberment of the journalist by a 15-member Saudi team form part of a pattern of brutal repression by the regime of King Salman and his highest-ranking son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, that far exceeds that of previous rulers. Saudi Arabia, in turn, forms part of a quartet of Sunni Arab dictatorships, all allied with the United States, that have sought to eliminate all forms of dissent, including free media, independent civil society groups and anyone advocating liberal reforms…he administration’s policy supposes that the dictators can indefinitely maintain control over their restless populations by denying basic freedoms and assaulting anyone who advocates them. It’s a strategy that ignores history, as well as fundamental U.S. values; unless checked by Congress, it’s likely to produce more trouble in the Middle East.”

Likud party hostage in Netanyahu’s hands, Al-Monitor

Mazal Mualem observes, “[I]n today’s Likud, no one is talking about the day after in fear that he’d be accused of undermining the leader and considered a collaborator of the left. Moreover, senior Likud officials estimate that after the next election Netanyahu would be the one to form the government, and so they make a cold calculation and back him. Add to this the influence of the general atmosphere among Likud voters: Netanyahu rules them, and they are his Iron Dome-like defense system….However you look at it, the Likud movement has been taken hostage by its leader. Netanyahu can be compared to a captain who is guiding his ship in stormy and dangerous waters. He’s steering it alone, and none of the people with him on the deck have any way of knowing whether he’ll take them to a safe harbor or whether in retrospect this period will be considered their Titanic.”

How Anti-femicide Protest Is Uniting Women in Israel’s Arab and Jewish Communities, Haaretz

Eeta Prince-Gibson reports, “The strike crosses ethnic and national divides, with ads published in Hebrew, Russian, Arabic, English and Amharic. Institutional support is growing as well. Over 40 municipalities and some of the country’s largest organizations have said they won’t dock the pay of striking women. These include the Knesset, the Histadrut labor federation, the Social Workers Union and WIZO, as well as numerous business enterprises. At least nine regional authorities in the Arab community have also announced their support for the strike. This reflects growing awareness within the community and recognition by local politicians that women are a constituency, says Samah Salaime, a feminist activist and founding director of an Arab women’s center in Ramle-Lod.”