“The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to begin hearings Thursday on the appointment of David Friedman – who supports Israeli settlement expansion and opposes the creation of an independent Palestinians state – to the position of ambassador to Israel. Ahead of these hearings, J Street, a pro-Israel anti-occupation organization, is urging all those who oppose Friedman’s appointment to write their senators and encourage them to reject his nomination. For their convenience, J Street has published on its website a sample letter, which summarizes the ambassador-designates controversial views and statements….Other liberal Jewish organizations and movements opposed to Friedman’s appointment include Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, Association of Reform Zionists of America, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Israel Policy Forum, National Council of Jewish Women, New Israel Fund and the Union for Reform Judaism.”
“J Street is stepping up its campaign to block David Friedman, President Donald Trump’s pick to serve as U.S. ambassador to Israel, as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee announced it will hold a confirmation hearing this week. The committee announced on Saturday that the hearing is set for Feb. 16, a day after Trump meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House….J Street has called on its supporters to contact their senators and encourage them to oppose Friedman’s nomination, as well as to tweet and post in other social media against him.”
Senators Diane Feinstein and Martin Heinrich write, “An integral component of the U.S.-Israel relationship is our shared commitment to negotiating a two-state solution, which would see the creation of an independent Palestine beside a democratic, Jewish Israel. This remains the only way to build a lasting peace and ensure Israel remains the democratic homeland of the Jewish people….Since President Trump’s inauguration, Israel has announced that it would dramatically expand settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Israeli politicians have proclaimed an end to the goal of a Palestinian state, and are agitating for the outright annexation of major Israeli settlement blocks in the West Bank. Furthermore, President Trump’s nominee to be the ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, has been a benefactor of Israeli settlement expansion and has demonstrated an openly hostile attitude to a two-state solution. These Israeli actions and Friedman’s views are not helpful to Israel, to the peace process, or to the national security of the United States….[W]e we urge the Trump administration to prioritize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to help create the conditions necessary for resuming direct talks between the two parties. That must include a halt to Israeli settlement construction and an end to Palestinian incitement of terror. We recognize only the parties themselves can ultimately negotiate an end to their conflict. Yet, the United States must continue to play a constructive role, rather than turning a blind eye to actions by either party that undermine the prospects for peace.”
Netanyahu’s Meeting With Trump to Set Tone for U.S.-Israel Relations, The New York Times
“As President Trump appeared to shift closer to the political center on several contentious policies on Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested on Sunday that it was unrealistic to expect their two countries to agree completely on all issues. But amid growing challenges from the right, Mr. Netanyahu said he was the strongest leader to navigate the relationship — the nation’s most important, yet often its trickiest….The meeting with Mr. Trump on Wednesday is expected to set the tone for the American-Israeli relationship, which was notably frosty under President Barack Obama because of Israeli settlements in occupied territory, Israel’s vehement opposition to the nuclear deal with Iran and personality clashes with Mr. Netanyahu. Although Mr. Trump’s comments on the settlements have tamped down expectations on the right of a new era unfettered by American constraints, some analysts here portray the president’s position as politically beneficial to Mr. Netanyahu. He is portraying himself as an experienced hand in dealing with Washington — unlike, he suggested, more aggressive forces on the right who are suggesting an annexation of some settlements.”
Israel Bulldozes Democracy, The New York Times
MK Ayman Odeh writes, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is expected to visit Washington this week to meet with President Trump, presumably to discuss the political philosophy they share: power through hate and fear. A government that bars refugees and Muslims from entering the United States has much in common with one that permits Israeli settlers to steal land from Palestinians, as a new law that Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition pushed through Parliament last week did. Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Netanyahu used blatant race-baiting tactics to win his last election, in 2015. Since then, he has made discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel central to his agenda. This takes many forms; a particularly painful one is his government’s racist, unjust land use and housing policies…,The very existence of unrecognized villages is perhaps the most blatant example of the government’s cruelty toward its Arab citizens. There is room enough for all of us, in the Naqab and throughout the state. In this moment, it is our moral responsibility to build a principled opposition strong enough to overpower the politics of hate and fear. I will continue to work toward a just and democratic shared future.”
Amir Tibon reports, “Former American officials who served under both Obama and Bush criticized President Donald Trump’s administration for blocking the appointment of former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as the head of the UN’s mission in Libya, calling the move ignorant, counter-productive and even anti-Israeli..Martin Indyk, a former envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and a two-time ambassador to Israel who served under the Obama and the Clinton administrations said that Fayyad was a Palestinian partner for Israel and added that heading the mission to Libya ‘has nothing to do with Israel’….Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser and UN ambassador didn’t mince words either. ‘Are all Palestinians precluded from serving the UN?,” she wrote in a tweet. “This statement is ignorant, offensive, counterproductive,’ she added and posted a link to Haley’s official statement on the vote. Rice called Fayyad ‘first rate’ and added that the UN ‘would be lucky to have him in Libya or anywhere else.’”
Israeli lawmaker Tzipi Livni may soon be appointed to a senior role in the United Nations. Over the weekend, Livni (Hatnua-Zionist Union) received a phone call from UN Chief Antonio Guterres, who offered her the position of under-secretary-general. The UN chief has many under-secretary-generals, and if Livni accepts the offer, she’ll become the first Israeli to serve in that position. The appointment ultimately depends on the UN Security Council’s approval.
Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin reportedly said that a new law that retroactively legalizes settler homes built on private Palestinian land could make Israel look like an ;apartheid state.’ Rivlin made the comments during a closed door meeting last week, two days after the regularization law was passed by the Knesset, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Sunday. ‘Israel has adopted international law. It does not allow a country acting according to it to apply and enforce its laws on territories that are not under its sovereignty. If it does so, it is a legal cacophony. It will cause Israel to be seen as an apartheid state, which it is not,’ Rivlin said, according to Haaretz. ‘There is no question here. The government of Israel is simply not allowed to apply the laws of the Knesset on territories that are not under the state’s sovereignty,’ he also reportedly said.
President Trump told Prime Minister Netanyahu in a phone call two days after his inauguration that he is determined to pursue a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, the Israeli premier told his security cabinet on Sunday…. Netanyahu said that he told Trump that he supports the two-state solution and a final status agreement, but stressed that he told the president that the Palestinians are unwilling and detailed the reasons why a peace deal cannot be reached at this time.
Thousands attended rallies on Sunday as part of the HIAS initiative, including in Boston, Washington D.C, and other major cities, a representative for the group told JTA. Mark Hetfield, CEO of HIAS, said the rallies, which were co-sponsored by over 20 groups — including the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, American Jewish World Service, the Union for Reform Judaism and the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly — were a rare moment of joining together in support of refugees.”
Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit has agreed to offer the pro-settler Elad organization a foothold at the archaeological park (the Davidson Center) next to the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, according to sources familiar with a meeting he held last week with government officials.
PA calls mosque-muffling bill an attack on religious freedom, Times of Israel
The Palestinian Authority on Sunday slammed proposed Israeli legislation prohibiting the overnight use of loudspeakers in houses of prayer, calling it an attack on religious freedom. A new version of the so-called muezzin bill prohibits the use of loudspeakers for religious purposes from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. It was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday. Violators of the proposed legislation will be fined NIS 10,000 ($2,600).
Two Palestinian street sweepers were stabbed in the city of Beersheba in southern Israel on Sunday morning, according to an Israeli police spokeswoman who said an Israeli in his twenties was detained for committing the attack.
Yahya Sanwar has been elected to lead Hamas in the Gaza Strip after internal elections were held for the organization’s institutional and leadership positions, according to reports from Al Jazeera. Sanwar was one of the most senior officials released by Israel in the Shalit deal in which hundreds of terrorists and political prisoners were released in exchange for the return of captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
A settlement-building organization obtained millions of shekels in government loans to carry out construction in illegal outposts by allegedly falsely declaring that it had rights to privately owned Palestinian lands, Haaretz has learned. Amana, which was founded in 1979 by the Gush Emunim settlement movement, used the funds to build in Amona and Migron, illegal outposts that have since been evacuated on the order of the High Court of Justice.
For Kushner, Israel Policy May Be Shaped by the Personal, The New York Times
Jodi Kantor writes, “Thanks in part to the younger Mr. Kushner, Mr. Netanyahu will arrive at a White House that has already adopted many of the prime minister’s perspectives on the region. Now Mr. Kushner is helping Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu craft a strategy to recruit Sunni Muslim countries that oppose Iran to help foster an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. The approach is a long shot: Negotiations are dead. The Israeli right is pushing for more settlement in the West Bank as talk among Palestinians turns to a single state in which they have equal rights. Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian leader who was involved in peace talks both with Israelis and internally, said Palestinians were skeptical of Mr. Kushner, and Mr. Trump’s team generally, seeing them as close only to the Israeli side. As part of its philanthropy, Mr. Kushner’s family has made donations to the Beit El settlement, which Mr. Barghouti finds particularly worrisome….It is unclear what shape Mr. Kushner’s role will take, especially as figures like Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson and others in the foreign policy apparatus become engaged in Middle Eastern diplomacy. Some observers see Mr. Kushner as a welcome counter to an unpredictable president and to firebrands like Stephen K. Bannon, the White House strategist, and David M. Friedman, the ambassador designate to Israel.”
Amos Harel observes, “Despite all the talk, Netanyahu’s expectations for decisive steps against Iran by the Trump administration should also be kept within realistic bounds. Despite the militant tone and the promises to make America great again, Trump has already managed in his just three weeks as president to retreat from his aggressive statements on China and postpone indefinitely the plans for moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. For now, North Korea too provided a challenge for him last weekend when it announced a ballistic missile test. Given these circumstances, the question is whether Trump will decide to continue to confront the Iranians at all, or even take any operative steps against them.”
Jane Eisner writes, “A shroud of uncertainty hangs over Wednesday’s meeting when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets Donald Trump as president for the first time….The only thing that can pierce this kabuki dance is if one of these two leaders actually has an ambitious but feasible plan of action and the means to implement it. That’s something Netanyahu has managed to evade for years. It’s something the Trump administration right now seems incapable of executing. And so, uncertainty reigns.”
Uri Savir writes, “Against the backdrop of US President Donald Trump’s conservative nationalistic policies, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is being described by the media as the new leader of the free world. Her open-minded and humanitarian views and policies on the immigration of Middle East refugees to Germany despite numerous terror attacks by Islamist terrorists in her country have gained respect in many liberal capitals in the world….The senior official close to the chancellor listed Merkel’s strategic priorities….Merkel believes that the Iran deal should be upheld, and she also believes in a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine, which will, in her view, help to stabilize the Middle Eastern region. The German source explained that Merkel wishes to promote these policies within the context of the P5+1 framework (the United States, Russia, Great Britain, France and China, together with Germany) that was established for the Iran deal negotiations. Such a framework, Merkel believes, could be especially useful in the Israeli-Palestinian issue.”
Yael Patir writes, “A resolution to the Arab-Israeli and Palestinian-Israeli conflicts is a vital national interest of Israel and must be a central goal of its foreign policy. The status quo is unstable and time is not on Israel’s side. Thus, Israel must take the initiative to change it, by promoting the two-state vision, honoring previous obligations towards it, refraining from unilateral measures, and working to determine borders that are defensible and recognized by the international community. Such a resolution will foster cooperation with moderate Arab states, improve Israel’s global standing and its ties with the West, and reduce anti-Semitism worldwide. As long as the conflict lasts, Israel must minimize the damage created by its continued control over the Palestinians, primarily by strengthening the Palestinian Authority and promoting Israeli-Palestinian cooperation. Israel’s foreign policy should emphasize that peace is both a strategic and moral issue.”
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