News Roundup for February 2, 2017

February 2, 2017

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J Street in the News

Trump’s pick for Israel envoy to undergo unprecedented Senate grilling, Al-Monitor

“Senate Democrats are vowing to challenge President Donald Trump’s choice for envoy to Israel over his hard-line, pro-settlement views. The concerns over David Friedman mark a dramatic shift from the near-unanimous support that nominees for the position have enjoyed for decades. They represent the latest example of the fraying bipartisan consensus over Israel policy, as left-leaning supporters of a two-state solution increasingly find themselves at odds with right-leaning pro-Israel advocates such as Friedman, who has compared the former to Nazi collaborators….J Street called on its members to urge senators to vote against Friedman, who has called for putting an end to what he called the ‘two-state narrative.’ Friedman’s opponents know getting a significant number of Democrats — much less a majority of the Republican-controlled Senate — to vote against him is a long shot. But they’re buoyed by Democrats’ willingness to stand up to Trump’s nominees, including unprecedented opposition to Tillerson, who cleared the Senate with an unprecedented 43 votes against him, including every Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee except Coons, who was absent.”

Top News and Analysis

Netanyahu announces new settlement for Amona evacuees as police work to empty outpost, JTA

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that a new West Bank settlement will be established for the evacuated residents of the Amona outpost. Netanyahu made the announcement Wednesday evening as Israel police and security forces were evacuating the last of the homes for the 40 families living in Amona. It will be the first new settlement established in 25 years. A committee assigned to promote the establishment of the new settlement, according to the statement sent out by the Prime Minister’s Office, will determine its location and start the process of establishing it. The committee will be made up of representatives of the settlers,  Netanyahu’s chief of staff, and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s adviser for settlement affairs, according to the announcement.”

Police Break Into Barricaded Synagogue After Evacuating All Homes in Illegal Outpost, Haaretz

“Security forces are evacuating residents from the illegal outpost of Amona in the West Bank for a second day on Thursday, after hundreds of youths streamed into the outpost to fight the evacuation. Aside from the outpost’s synagogue, only one home remains to be evicted…..Eight officers were wounding as the forces were breaching the synagogue, police said. One of the cops was said to have suffered a head wound. Police and protesters are clashing at one of the entrances to the structure. Protesters are throwing rocks, iron bars, liquid at the officers, police said. Police officers are now wearing helmets for the first time since the evacuation began on Tuesday. Thirty-two police officers have been wounded so far during the evacuation.”

Rex Tillerson Is Confirmed as Secretary of State, The New York Times

Rex W. Tillerson, the former chairman and chief executive of Exxon Mobil, was confirmed by the Senate on Wednesday in a 56 to 43 vote to become the nation’s 69th secretary of state just as serious strains have emerged with important international allies.

Trump administration ‘officially putting Iran on notice’, says Michael Flynn, The Guardian

The Trump administration has said it was “officially putting Iran on notice” in reaction to an Iranian missile test and an attack on a Saudi warship by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, but gave no details about how Washington intended to respond. The threat was made on Wednesday by the national security adviser, Michael Flynn, in his first public statement since taking office.

Israeli Officials Are Worried That Trump Will Actually Move The US Embassy To Jerusalem, Buzzfeed

“King Abdullah of Jordan Tuesday told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Israeli intelligence officials are worried President Donald Trump will move forward with relocating the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. According to a lawmaker present at the meeting who asked not to be named, King Abdullah said Israeli officials are concerned that moving the embassy would “enflame tensions among radical groups.’ Jordan’s Information Minister Mohammed Momani has also called the move a ‘red line’ for Jordan that would “inflame the Islamic and Arab streets” and serve as a ‘gift to extremists.’ ‘This has been a hypothetical for a long time and we prefer it stay that way,’ said one Israeli intelligence officer, who spoke with BuzzFeed News earlier this month. ‘Moving the US Embassy is something which gains us little and which could, potentially, inflame tensions.’”


Palestinian Officials Say U.S. Threatens ‘Severe Steps’ if Leaders Sue Israel in World Court, Haaretz

Washington has warned Palestinian leaders that suing Israel in international courts would trigger severe steps by the U.S. administration, including the closure of PLO offices in the American capital and an end to economic aid to the Palestinian Authority, according to Western and Arab diplomatic sources. Haaretz has learned that the message from the Trump administration was transmitted through the American consulate — and not through the White House or State Department — and consisted of a telephone conversation with a leading Palestinian official directly linked to PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Bennett: Amona evacuation will lead to West Bank annexation, Times of Israel

Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett on Wednesday hailed the residents of Amona as “heroes” whose campaign to stay in their homes will lead to the annexation of the West Bank and avert future evacuations in the settlements. “From this legal defeat we will establish a new legal regime in Judea and Samaria that will regulate the entirety of settlements, and from the painful loss of this foothold in this mountain will emerge the State of Israel’s application of sovereignty over all of Judea and Samaria,” said the education minister in the Knesset plenum.

Democratic Lawmakers Seek Pentagon Probe of Mike Flynn’s Russia Today Ties, Wall Street Journal

Several top Democratic members of Congress are asking the Defense Department to investigate whether retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, President Trump’s national security adviser, violated the Constitution when he accepted money from a Russian television network that U.S. intelligence officials say is part of a state-funded media apparatus.

PA initiates ‘urgent discussion’ over Israel’s illegal settlement construction, Ma’an

The Palestinian Authority (PA) initiated “urgent discussions” to determine its possible response to illegal Israeli settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territory, according to a statement released on Wednesday. Palestinian presidency spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeineh said in a statement that discussions were being launched to initiate the “necessary procedures” to challenge the spike in Israeli settlement construction since the inauguration of US President Donald Trump.

Netanyahu to Meet With British PM Theresa May in London on Monday, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to fly on Sunday to London for talks the following day with British Prime Minister Theresa May. It will be their first summit since May took office in July after her predecessor David Cameron stepped down over the results of the Brexit vote held the previous month.

EU warns new settlements risk making two-state solution ‘impossible’, Times of Israel

Israel’s latest announcement of new settlements in the West Bank risks making a two-state solution impossible, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Wednesday. The announcement “marks a very worrying trend, posing a direct challenge to the prospects of a viable two-state solution, which is increasingly difficult and risks becoming impossible,” Mogherini warned in a statement.

Opinion and Analysis

A Horrifying Week for America. A Terrible Week for American Jews, Haaretz

Rabbi Eric Yoffie writes, “President Trump began his term as inauspiciously as possible, assaulting the Constitution and embracing immigrant bashing and strident xenophobia. The fact that he disguised his actions as patriotism made them no less obscene, for American Jews and all Americans. But after this terrible week, the question is: What will we Jews do now? Some are saying that the American people are just too dumb or too passive or too immoral to share their outrage; after all, didn’t they elect Trump in the first place? And some of them are abandoning politics altogether. But most Jews, like a majority of Americans, are not accepting the moral blindness of their President that they saw this week. They are marching on Washington, demonstrating at airports, and raising their voices to defend the Constitution and the Republic. This too is what we saw this week, reflecting the decency, fairness, and compassion of Jewish values and American ideals. And this, I believe, is what we are likely to see every week for the next four years.

Netanyahu, master of ‘alternative facts’, Al-Monitor

Akiva Eldar writes, “In Israel, contradictions between media reports and versions of events told by those in power are routine stories: The same person says one thing and within a second says the exact opposite. That person is none other than the honorable Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — the premier himself, not a spokesman or an adviser. Netanyahu not only lets loose alternative facts using mere words, he creates them even before the ink has dried on press releases issued by his office.”

Netanyahu Is Doing Everything to Appease the Settlers, but Even This Won’t Be Enough, Haaretz

Yossi Verter observes, “The Amona evacuation, which was dragged out for years, will be registered on Netanyahu and Bennett’s names. Neither of them will be able to make political capital from the other’s distress. Maybe there’ll be no distress. The prime minister and defense minister have recently approved building thousands of housing units throughout the West Bank, most of them in the settlement blocs. Officials say that without a nod from the White House, Netanyahu wouldn’t have dared to approve this wave of construction, or to commit to building a new settlement for the first time in about 25 years, before meeting U.S. President Donald Trump. If Netanyahu believes this will satisfy the settlers, he’s in for a bitter disappointment. They are far beyond the stage of mere construction. They are demanding annexation and Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank, as Bennett said in the Knesset on Wednesday. After he returns from his visit with Trump, they will serve Netanyahu with a pile of checks to sign and he won’t be able to call for restraint in the name of some international pressure.

Trump White House makes Holocaust ‘Judenrein’, LA Jewish Journal

J Street’s Alan Elsner writes, “After Bannon joined Trump’s campaign, it too started flirting with anti-Semitic tropes, including tweeting an image of a star of David with Hillary Clinton’s face superimposed on a pile of money. His closing ad warned of a shadowy cabal of bankers and international elites. In each case, Trump refused to back down or apologize, and his anti-Semitic fans took heart from the coded signals in their favor. Now that Trump is president, the same dynamic is playing out around his statement on the Holocaust. How can we best describe Trump’s Holocaust Day statement? I call it Holocaust denial. It says in effect, that there was nothing special about the fate of the Jews under the Nazis. They were just unfortunate victims along with all the other unfortunate victims.”

Compare and contrast: Israel’s evacuation of Jews vs. Arabs, +972

“Compare and contrast: When Israel Police came to evacuate the Bedouin village Umm el-Hiran, they arrived at dawn and were armed with M16 assault rifles and black sponge-tipped bullets, the latter they still refuse to admit they used. They also shot several people with sponge-tipped bullets who the police claim were throwing stones. And this is how Israeli police officers arrived on Wednesday to evacuate the illegal outpost Amona, whose residents are on occupied land, in violation of both international and Israeli law. No helmets, no riot gear, no guns. Just blue sweatshirts in the middle of the day. There were reports of a few senior officers on the scene who were armed. Despite reports and images of some settlers throwing stones, no shots were fired as of time of this report.”

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