News Roundup for February 21, 2017

February 21, 2017

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J Street in the News

Opportunities for Regional Peace Exist, Israeli Leaders Should Seize Them, J Street Blog

“A new report detailing a 2016 summit meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu, Secretary of State Kerry and the leaders of Egypt and Jordan demonstrates that Israel has had, and continues to have, historic opportunities to pursue a comprehensive regional peace process which could produce not just a two-state solution but full Arab-Israeli peace….Both Netanyahu and President Trump have stated that they want such an “ultimate deal.” But this report makes clear that an Israeli government dominated by the far-right simply isn’t interested in the creation of a Palestinian state, even if many of the Prime Minister’s key conditions are met. It challenges the narrative that Palestinian rejectionism and intransigence is the reason peace has yet to be achieved, as the Prime Minister argues again and again…. It is time for Israel’s government and this Prime Minister to demonstrate the leadership called for in this historic moment – to stand up for the moderate majority of Israelis that wants an end to conflict and to stand up against the extreme right of the settler movement.”

Top News and Analysis

Kerry Offered Netanyahu Regional Peace Plan in Secret 2016 Summit With al-Sissi, King Abdullah, Haaretz

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took part in a secret summit in Aqaba a year ago where then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presented a plan for a regional peace initiative including recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and a renewal of talks with the Palestinians with the support of the Arab countries. Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi were also present at the meeting in the Jordanian city. Netanyahu did not accept Kerry’s proposal and said he would have difficulty getting it approved by his governing coalition. Still, the Aqaba summit was the basis for the talks that began two weeks later between Netanyahu and opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) on establishing a unity government. Details about the summit and the plan emerged from conversations between Haaretz and former senior officials in the Obama administration who asked to remain anonymous. The Prime Minister’s Bureau refused to comment.”

Israeli Opposition Leader: I Demanded Settlement Freeze as Part of Unity Deal With Netanyahu, Haaretz

Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog had demanded a total freeze on settlement construction as his condition for entering a national unity government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he revealed on Monday. “I demanded a full veto on settlement construction beyond the 1967 border,” Herzog, chairman of the Zionist Union, told participants at the annual Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organization, which is convening this week in Jerusalem. ‘In return, I said I would work proactively to get international consent of sorts for construction within the settlement blocs.’ The agreement between him and Netanyahu started to unravel, Herzog disclosed, when members of the prime minister’s right-wing coalition refused to acknowledge a distinction between the major blocs and other isolated settlements and demanded that the term “blocs” not be used.

Netanyahu doesn’t think Trump has a Jewish problem. And that’s a problem., Washington Post

Gershom Gorenberg observes, “For Netanyahu, the Holocaust is both the prequel and the very possible sequel to the state of Israel. As prequel, it does more than prove the need for a Jewish state. Like others on the Zionist right — particularly in his father’s generation — he sees the Holocaust as evidence of the perfidy of Britain, which didn’t allow the creation of a Jewish state on both sides of the Jordan as refuge for Europe’s Jews. It also testifies to the naivete of Jewish intellectuals who didn’t accept the right-wing Zionist view in the 1930s and of Jews who don’t accept it now. At the same time, Netanyahu looks at threats to Israel as potential new holocausts. Hence his description of Iran….It appears that Netanyahu believes in a corollary: If you support Israel, especially the right’s vision for Israel, you couldn’t possibly be an anti-Semite or Holocaust denier. There’s simply no moonlight between the Holocaust and Israel….[T]he American-educated, American-accented prime minister of Israel is profoundly out of touch with  the majority of American Jews.”

Trump Chooses H.R. McMaster as National Security Adviser, The New York Times

“President Trump picked Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, a widely respected military strategist, as his new national security adviser on Monday, calling him ‘a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience.’ The choice continued Mr. Trump’s reliance on high-ranking military officers to advise him on national security. Mr. Flynn was a retired three-star general and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is a retired four-star general. His first choice to replace Mr. Flynn, who turned the job down, and two other finalists were current or former senior officers as well.”


Reform movement opposes David Friedman as US envoy to Israel, JTA

The Reform movement became the largest Jewish body to oppose the nomination of David Friedman as United States ambassador to Israel.In a statement released Friday, one day after the launch of Senate hearings to confirm Friedman, Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacobs released a statement saying Friedman is “the wrong person for this essential job at this critical time.” The statement says President Donald Trump’s longtime bankruptcy lawyer lacks the qualifications for the position, noting he has never been involved in professional foreign policy issues “other than as a zealous partisan and financial supporter of settlement activity.”

Two Rockets Fired Toward Israel From Sinai Day After Report of Strike on ISIS, Haaretz

Two rockets fired from the direction of Egypt’s Sinai region exploded in southern Israel on Monday morning. The rockets hit an open area in the Eshkol Reginal Council. No injuries or damage were reported. The strike came a day after ISIS claimed through affiliated media that Israel killed four members of its Sinai branch on Saturday.

21 Jewish Democrats Demand Trump Observe Religious Freedom, Forward

More than 20 Democratic Jewish members of the House of Representatives called on President Donald Trump to not sign an Executive Order that would exempt religious organizations from adhering to nondiscrimination protection. The letter sent on Thursday was in reaction to news reports that Trump would sign the order allowing federally funded, faith-based organizations to discriminate against people they believe act in a manner inconsistent with their religious beliefs and values.

Netanyahu Isn’t Walking Back on New Settlement Promise, His Bureau Insists, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has no intention of breaking his promise to erect a new settlement for the evacuees of Amona, senior officials in his office said Monday, after the prime minister told his security cabinet that differences with the Trump administration make such an outcome unlikely.

Bomb threats called in to at least 10 JCCs in fourth round of harassment, JTA

At least 10 Jewish community centers across the United States were targeted with bomb threats on Monday, for the fourth time in five weeks.

Israeli authorities move to demolish entire Bedouin community, Ma’an

Israeli forces raided the Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar in the occupied West Bank northeast of Jerusalem on Sunday morning to deliver demolition orders to classrooms for the village’s primary school, while 40 homes in the community were also reportedly delivered demolition orders.

Trump Team Tried To Defeat UN Anti-Settlements Resolution Before Taking Office, Forward

President Donald Trump’s then-nominee for national security advisor, Michael Flynn, and members of the transition team, worked to defeat a United Nations vote condemning Israeli settlements, according to a new report.

Israeli Arab Charged With Plotting to Plant a Bomb on a Tel Aviv Bus, Haaretz

An Israeli Arab resident of Taibeh was indicted on Monday for allegedly planning to bomb a bus on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street, the Central District prosecutor’s office has announced.

Anas Haj Yahiya of the town of Taibeh is accused of agreeing to plant explosives on a bus in which Israeli soldiers would be riding and to have received instructions on how to construct an explosives device and to detonate it. He was also allegedly instructed by a contact who represented himself as being in Gaza to purchase the components necessary for the device.

Israeli Soldier Sentenced to 18 Months for Deadly Shooting of Wounded Palestinian Attacker, Haaretz

Israel Defense Forces soldier Elor Azaria, convicted of manslaughter, was sentenced by a military court on Tuesday to 18 months in jail, a year’s probation and a demotion in rank. His defense has vowed to appeal and politicians from the right called for him to be pardoned.

Opinion and Analysis

Is Donald Trump Too Ignorant To Understand Israel And The Middle East?, Forward

Peter Beinart writes, “For almost two decades, American presidents have supported a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Last week, Donald Trump questioned that commitment, thus potentially changing the course of Middle Eastern and Jewish history. Why did he take this momentous action? The most plausible answer is that he’s too ignorant to understand the consequences of what he’s done…..The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has a vocabulary. But Trump does not understand it. He’s like a man regurgitating phrases in a foreign language: Israel is wonderful, the Palestinians teach their children to hate, settlements should go forward, settlements should be restrained, Israeli-Palestinian peace would be the ultimate deal. And these mindless regurgitations — uttered by a man too coddled and narcissistic to realize the consequences of his own ignorance — are shaping the futures of both Palestinians and Jews.”

Reform Jewish Movement Opposes David Friedman’s Nomination for U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Rabbi John Rosove’s Blog

Rabbi Rosove notes, “This is the first time that all the organizations of the American Reform Jewish movement have ever weighed in on a nomination by a President of the United States. However, we have done so because David Friedman’s qualifications, lack of diplomatic experience, erratic temperament, outrageous rhetoric and attacks on large sections of the American Jewish community, and his policy positions vis a vis Israel are not in the best interests of the American-Israel relationship and do not represent our Reform Jewish values in relationship to the democratic and Jewish State of Israel.”

Trump & Netanyahu: Send in the Clowns, Medium

Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer writes, “The Feb. 15 Trump-Netanyahu press conference had some of the trappings of a normal event marking a meeting between two leaders. Except it wasn’t. The two leaders staged a clever, carefully-crafted charade designed solely to deal with the political crises both are facing at home. Diplomacy was nowhere in sight….[A] serious change in policy was tossed out casually, seemingly with no analysis or thought — sort of like a tweet….Rather than a serious diplomatic venture, the joint press conference was a piece of political theater. We should not have been surprised. Both leaders face turmoil at home, both wanted to outmaneuver political opponents, and both wanted to shift the conversation away from their utter failure to articulate and implement reasonable policies.”

Oppose the nomination of David Friedman as United States Ambassador to Israel, Delaware News Journal

Rabbis Doug Krantz and Yair Robinson write, “No one denies that President Trump has the right to nominate whomever he chooses to head all of our embassies around the world, but David Friedman’s demeanor should be beyond the pale for any representative of the United States abroad. Confirming Mr. Friedman would inflict hurt and injury not just on the American Jews he has offended, but on the Israelis and Palestinians who will suffer the consequences of his reckless words. Fortunately, the U.S. Constitution gives the Senate the right to advise and consent on the appointment of ambassadors. Faced with Mr. Friedman’s intolerance and divisiveness, the Senate should vote to reject him.”

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