News Roundup for February 13, 2018

February 13, 2018

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J Street in the News

Trump Suggests Kushner’s Middle East Peace Negotiations Are Doomed, Warns Israeli Settlements are an Obstacle to Peace, Newsweek

Cristina Maza reports, “‘On the subject of applying sovereignty, I can say that I have been talking to the Americans about it for some time,’ Netanyahu said during a meeting with his party. In response, peace advocates called on the Trump administration to warn Israel against such a move. ‘The fact that Prime Minister Netanyahu is now openly contemplating annexation of Israeli settlements is beyond dangerous,’ Jeremy Ben-Ami, President of the pro-Israel peace group J Street, said in a statement. ‘It would be completely irresponsible for the Trump administration to contemplate endorsing unilateral annexation in any way. US officials should be strongly warning Israel that such a move would be unacceptable.’”

White House Strongly Denies as ‘False’ Netanyahu’s Claims of Talks With U.S. on Annexing West Bank Settlements, Haaretz

Noa Landau, Amir Tibon, Jack Khoury and Chaim Levinson report, “The left-wing advocacy organization J Street released a statement in response to Netanyahu’s claim in which it described the premier’s overt contemplation of annexing the settlements as ‘beyond dangerous.’ According to J Street’s founder and president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, applying Israeli sovereignty to West Bank settlements would ‘create a permanent one-state nightmare of escalating conflict and injustice.’ Ben-Ami called on U.S. officials to warn Israel that such a move would be ‘unacceptable’ and said that ‘it would be completely irresponsible for the Trump administration to contemplate endorsing unilateral annexation in any way.’”

J Street Opposes Confirmation of Kenneth Marcus to Senior Department of Education Role, J Street

“Zoe Goldblum, President of the J Street U National Student Board, released the following statement on J Street’s opposition to the confirmation of Kenneth Marcus as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the US Department of Education: ‘As a movement that includes thousands of dedicated student activists across the country, J Street is alarmed by Kenneth Marcus’ positions on civil rights and particularly his support for the rollback of vital Title IX protections on college campuses. We are deeply concerned that some organizations in the American Jewish community are supporting Marcus’ nomination on the basis of his views on Israel alone, while allowing those views to excuse or distract from his unacceptable stance on sexual violence and discrimination. This is part of a disturbing pattern. Time and again, we have seen some Jewish communal leaders defend and legitimize problematic public figures and elected officials because of their perceived support for Israel, while ignoring other crucial ways in which they are out of step with our core principles.”

With annexation gaffe, Netanyahu blunders into first real crisis with Trump, Times of Israel

Raphael Ahren writes, “Unsurprisingly, hawks applauded Netanyahu’s statement: Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, for instance, celebrated his ‘important move, which could lead to a historic change.’ Doves, naturally, were appalled. ‘Such a radical step would be the end of the Jewish people’s effort to establish Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Instead, it would create a permanent one-state nightmare of escalating conflict and injustice,’ said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the American leftist J-Street organization.”

Library presents dialogue on Jerusalem, Seacoast Online

Karen Dandurant reports, “In a mostly civilized and scholarly conversation two men, representing the viewpoint of the Israeli and the Palestinian people, talked about the current climate, including the politics of of our own current administration, at Portsmouth Library… One speaker was Alan Elsner, an American and international journalist. He is the special adviser to the president for J Street, a U.S. nonprofit liberal advocacy group, working to promote American leadership to end the Arab-Israeli and the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts through peaceful diplomacy.”

Top News and Analysis

White House says Netanyahu claim of US-Israel talks on West Bank annexation ‘false,’ CNN

Oren Liebermann and Amir Tal report, “The White House denied a claim by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday that he had discussed an initiative with the Trump administration to annex Israeli settlements in the West Bank. White House spokesperson Josh Raffel said, ‘Reports that the United States discussed with Israel an annexation plan for the West Bank are false. The United States and Israel have never discussed such a proposal, and the President’s focus remains squarely on his Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative.’”

As Syria and Iran Threaten Israel, America Signals Its Ally Is on Its Own, Haaretz

Dan Shapiro writes, “Players throughout the Middle East watch for symbols. President Trump’s and Vice President Pence’s visits to Israel conveyed strong support and friendship, and the lead White House role in managing this relationship. But the Secretary of State arriving at a moment of crisis demonstrates something else: Detailed coordination and determined vigilance by American and Israeli allies to jointly confront and deter real-time threats. And just as clearly, his absence – as he lands in capitals all around Israel – would tell the region that against Iran in Syria, Israel is on its own.”

Israeli army court closes doors on closely watched trial of Ahed Tamimi, Palestinian teen who slapped and punched soldiers, Chicago Tribune

Karibn Laub reports, “The closely watched trial of a Palestinian girl who slapped and punched two Israeli soldiers opened before an Israeli military court in the West Bank on Tuesday, but the judge ordered all proceedings to be held behind closed doors in a case that has drawn wide criticism of Israel for prosecuting the teenager. Ahed Tamimi, 17, appeared fresh and confident as she entered the packed courtroom. She briefly whispered to relatives in the back of the room before the judge ordered everyone except her family out.”


Palestinians blast Netanyahu claims of Israel-US talks on annexation, Times of Israel

Slamming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s assertion that he is in talks with the US over Israeli settlement annexation, the spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Monday that such a step would “eliminate” all international efforts to revive the peace process.

Trump Says Israeli Settlements Complicate Peace Process, Huffington Post

Right now is the “only opportunity” for Israelis and Palestinians to reach a peace agreement, according to President Donald Trump ― but he expressed doubt over whether Israel is up to the task.

Justice Minister: Israel Must Keep Jewish Majority Even at the Expense of Human Rights, Haaretz

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said Monday that if not for the fence erected some years ago on the Egyptian border, “We would be seeing here a kind of creeping conquest from Africa.” The fence effectively stopped asylum-seekers from Sudan and Eritrea from entering the country.

After Syria clash, Liberman says Israel will ‘respond to any provocation,’ Times of Israel

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Tuesday broke his silence on the weekend’s aerial clashes with Syria and Iran, saying Israel will “respond to any provocation” and will “not accept any limitations” from Russia on its goal of protecting Israeli citizens.

Prominent actors, musicians, and authors demand Ahed Tamimi’s release, +972

Dozens of major American actors, athletes, musicians, scholars, and political figures signed a statement published Monday by American human rights group, Dream Defenders, calling for the release of Ahed Tamimi. Tamimi, a 17-year-old Palestinian who was arrested in December following the publication of a video showing her pushing and slapping armed Israeli soldiers on the porch of her family’s home in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh.

Israeli forces demolish Palestinian shop in East Jerusalem neighborhood, Ma’an News

Israeli forces on Tuesday demolished a Palestinian shop in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya, according to official Palestinian Authority (PA)-owned Wafa news agency.

Gabbay launches broadside against religious Zionist rabbis, Times of Israel

Labor party chairman Avi Gabbay on Tuesday forcefully railed against religious Zionist rabbis, accusing of them of sowing discord among Israelis with their “silence” over derogatory comments by their colleagues against women and homosexuals, and their opposition to the Western Wall plaza deal.

Opinions and Analysis

U.S. Slap on Settlements Highlights Risk of Netanyahu’s Beautiful Friendship With Trump, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev writes, “Netanyahu prodded Trump to recognize Jerusalem, goaded him into an unpopular confrontation with Iran and maneuvered him to take on the United Nations and its subsidiaries, so it may only be a matter of time before Trump realizes, or his advisers convince him, that Netanyahu is not only isolating America but is also the main obstacle to Trump achieving the glory of the ‘ultimate deal’ between Israel and the Palestinians, which would silence his critics.”

Israel and Iran are on the brink of war, The Hill

Stephen Blank writes, “President Trump can go on blaming Obama for the current Middle East disaster; he has long since acquired ownership of this disaster. He and the supposedly best and brightest of his administration have saddled the U.S. and its Israeli and other allies in the region with an ongoing legacy of strategic failure, incomprehension, and incoherence. If there is any region that shows why the U.S. must not and cannot act alone but instead forge sensible policies and strategies with its allies — it is the Middle East. From here it seems that neither Trump nor his team have learned that ancient lesson yet.”

Netanyahu’s Israel Is Now an Object of Envy for Ethno-nationalists Worldwide, Haaretz

David Rothkopf writes, “Promoting division, and the illusions of security and blame it seems to provide, is not therefore simply a threat to those targeted. It is a disease that eats away at societies and the institutions within them. In other words, it is ethno-nationalism and the ethno-nationalists rather than the ‘others’ they target who pose the real threat to their societies. If only walls could keep them out.