News Roundup for February 10, 2017

February 10, 2017

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J Street in the News

J Street Condemns Terror Against Israelis, Confirms Importance of Iron Dome, J Street

“J Street is outraged by terror attacks against Israel over the last twenty-four hours….These attacks once again remind us of the threats faced by Israel on a regular basis. They also underscore the success of Iron Dome, which time and again has proved instrumental in preventing civilian casualties. Incidents like this are why we continue to urge Congress to support Iron Dome and other security initiatives vital to protecting Israelis.”

J Street Responds to Israeli Authorities’ Detention of NIF Vice President, J Street

“J Street was alarmed by yesterday’s detention of Jennifer Gorovitz at Ben Gurion Airport. Gorovitz, a vice president at the New Israel Fund, was held and questioned for an hour due to “national security concerns” related to her political activism. While pleased that the Israeli government apologized for the trauma they inflicted on Gorovitz, we are troubled that they described the detention as ‘routine.’ There is nothing routine about Israeli authorities viewing an NIF official as a national security threat and detaining her at the airport. This action is emblematic of a troubling trend: Israel views well-intentioned friends who question its policies with suspicion and scorn.”

Top News and Analysis

Trump May Turn to Arab Allies for Help With Israeli-Palestinian Relations, The New York Times

“President Trump and his advisers, venturing for the first time into the fraught world of Middle East peacemaking, are developing a strategy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would enlist Arab nations like Saudi Arabia and Egypt to break years of deadlock. The emerging approach mirrors the thinking of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who will visit the United States next week, and would build on his de facto alignment with Sunni Muslim countries in trying to counter the rise of Shiite-led Iran. But Arab officials have warned Mr. Trump and his advisers that if they want cooperation, the United States cannot make life harder for them with provocative pro-Israel moves.”

Five Wounded in Suspected Shooting Attack in Central Israeli City, Haaretz

Five people were hospitalized following a suspected shooting attack in the central Israeli city of Petah Tikvah. They were evacuated to the city’s Beilinson hospital along with three people who were treated for shock. The police arrested an 18-year-old youth from Nablus, who is suspected of commiting the attack. The police commented that the suspect shot at passersby in Petah Tivka’s open-air market. When his weapon apparently jammed, he grabbed a sharp object and stabbed a civilian.

Trump’s Israel Pick Makes the Rounds on Capitol Hill Ahead of Confirmation Hearing, Haaretz

David Friedman, the nominee to become the next U.S. ambassador to Israel, held a round of meetings with congressmen on Capitol Hill on Thursday, indicating that his confirmation hearing for the job might indeed come as early as next week, as sources with knowledge of the hearing process told Haaretz could happen. Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer who has known President Trump for years and served as his  adviser on Israel during the election campaign, met a number of senators to present his views on the U.S.-Israel relationship and other issues relating to the Jewish state.

Trump says settlements not good for peace, but doesn’t wish to condemn Israel, JTA

“President Donald Trump said the expansion of Israeli settlements does not positively impact efforts to reach peace between Israel and the Palestinians, but added he did not wish to condemn the Jewish state. Trump spoke about the peace process during an interview with Israel Hayom. The daily on Friday published a Hebrew-language translation of an excerpt from the full interview, which the daily promised to publish in full Sunday….Trump said in the interview that the deal was a bad one for Israel, adding this applied both to its application and the negotiations that preceded it. He added he failed to understand how the United States could have consented to the deal. Trump further accused Obama of being biased in Iran’s favor, according to the translation, but added the Iranians failed to reciprocate friendly overtures, defying Obama even before he left office. Trump said the deal should not have been made….Speaking about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump said he was a good person who wants to do the right thing for Israel and wants peace. He added he has always liked Netanyahu and that they have good chemistry.”


Israel Apologizes for Airport Questioning of New Israel Fund Leader, Forward

The agency that manages Israel’s border crossings apologized for any “anguish” caused by the questioning of the leader of the New Israel Fund at Ben-Gurion Airport. The Population and Immigration Authority said Thursday that its interim director general, Amnon Shmueli, had spoken to the New Israel Fund’s president after the group’s vice president, Jennifer Gorovitz, was detained for questioning upon arrival in Israel on Wednesday, Haaretz reported.

Days Before Netanyahu Visit, Trump Expected to Meet Sheldon Adelson, Haaretz

Six days before his first meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Donald Trump is reportedly expected to meet on Thursday evening with Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, the owner of a pro-Netanyahu newspaper and one of the Israeli leader’s strongest supporters. According to a report in the Washington Post, Trump and Adelson will dine together joined by a number of Trump’s senior advisers and Adelson’s wife, Miriam. The news website Axios quoted a “source close to Adelson” as saying that during the dinner, Adelson will lobby Trump against a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and will bring up Trump’s election promise to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Israel permanently downgrades its ties to New Zealand, Senegal, Times of Israel

Israel is permanently downgrading its diplomatic ties with New Zealand and Senegal, punishing these countries for co-sponsoring an anti-settlement resolution in the United Nations Security Council last year, The Times of Israel has learned. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided this week not to return Israel’s ambassadors to Wellington and Dakar, who had been recalled after Resolution 2334 passed on December 23, according to a senior source intimately familiar with the issue.

Israel ‘reprimands’ Belgium over PM meeting with B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence, Ma’an

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday to “reprimand” Belgium’s ambassador to Israel following a meeting between the Belgian head of state and anti-occupation NGOs. In a statement released on Wednesday evening, Netanyahu’s office said that Israel viewed “with utmost gravity Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel’s meeting today with the leaders of Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem during his visit to Israel.”

After long wait, Palestinians make first contact with Trump administration, Times of Israel

The head of Palestinian intelligence has held talks with US security officials in the first such contacts between the Palestinians and the Trump administration, the AP news agency reported Thursday, citing an unnamed official.

Opinion and Analysis

Israel issues talking points on controversial law concerning seizure of some Palestinian-owned land, Washington Post

Ruth Eglash reports “The Israeli government, realizing the law could land them in hot water, with possible lawsuits in the International Criminal Court in The Hague, has created several ‘talking points’ to enable Israeli diplomats worldwide to contend with the global criticism….Israeli journalist and commentator Yossi Melman, who revealed the list Thursday in a column for Israeli newspaper Maariv, noted some peculiarities with the arguments, however. For starters, he wrote, there is no mention of Netanyahu’s support for the law. Initially, the prime minister opposed the legislation, because he understood there would be immediate global criticism. Failing to mention Netanyahu, Melman said, “reinforces the assessment” that the prime minister and some of his ministers voted in favor of the law out of fear of upsetting right-wing voters. The memo also suggests the government is “pinning its hopes on the Supreme Court to save Israel from the international isolation that the law is liable to cause.”

As Trump era begins, what does Israel actually want in the West Bank?, Times of Israel

Haviv Rettig Gur writes, “In the end, Palestinian moderates are weakened most of all by the simple fact that the internal Israeli debate about the future of the West Bank essentially ignores them, and that they, in turn, ignore it. Israel’s shifting, indecisive policies in the West Bank are a function of such powerful competing anxieties that Israelis can hardly muster the emotional bandwidth to pay serious attention to voices from beyond the security fence or across the ocean. When diplomats in Washington, London or elsewhere wonder about Israel’s intentions – when they complain that Netanyahu is either lying about his support for Palestinian statehood or about his support for settlements, because how can he support both? – they are overlooking the most important fact of Israel’s position. Since Israel’s earliest days, the West Bank has meant both secure boundaries and mortal danger, a homecoming to the landscapes of Jewish and biblical history and a potentially disastrous intertwining with a foreign people. This contradiction is the most authentic, heartfelt and consistent element of Israeli policy toward the West Bank since long before its capture in 1967. For better or worse, it is this clash of desires, this confusion, and not any single coherent statement of policy one might extract from a particular Israeli politician, that constitutes what Israel “wants” in the West Bank.”

How Russia Became the Middle East’s New Power Broker, Newsweek

“After Washington set sanctions on Russia following the annexation of Crimea, Putin has been pushing to make all the friends he can get in the region in order to “develop a second front,” says Zvi Magen, former Israeli ambassador to Russia. Putin “needs more leverage with the West.… One [such lever], the new one, is the Israeli-Palestinian process.” After Putin and Netanyahu’s third meeting in Moscow in June—in which the Russian leader called Israel an “unconditional” ally—Russia offered to host peace negotiations in Moscow between Netanyahu and Abbas. In this blossoming relationship, based on pragmatism, both leaders saw an opportunity: for Netanyahu, a pivot from the Obama administration; for Putin, a challenge to Washington’s leadership. There’s a lot of win-win situations developing in the Middle East right now. Unfortunately, none of them apply to the United States.”

What If Jared Kushner Were Muslim And Helped Ban Israelis From America?, Forward

Peter Beinart argues, “Kushner is not an outlier. He’s symptomatic of a larger communal problem. And it’s not anti-Semitic to say so. If a Muslim at the highest levels of government were complicit in banning Israeli Jews from entering the United States, and polling suggested that the members of his particular stream of Islam had supported a blatantly anti-Semitic candidate for president, would Mandel, Soloveichik and Weiss really think it illegitimate for a fellow Muslim to suggest that some soul-searching might be in order? Of course not. Jews are quite willing to ask Muslims to challenge the bigotry in their midst. We should ask no less of ourselves.”

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