News Roundup for February 24, 2017

February 24, 2017

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Top News and Analysis

Trump likes two-state solution, but says he will leave it up to Israelis, Palestinians, Reuters

“U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he likes the concept of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, expressing his preference on the issue for the first time since sparking international criticism for appearing to back away from the longstanding bedrock of Middle East policy. But in an interview with Reuters, Trump stopped short of reasserting a U.S. commitment to eventual Palestinian statehood and instead said again that he would be ‘satisfied with whatever makes both parties happy.’…’No, I like the two-state solution,’ Trump said when asked whether he had backed away from the concept during his joint White House appearance with the right-wing Israeli leader. ‘But I ultimately like what the both parties like.’ ‘People have been talking about it for so many years now. It so far hasn’t worked,’ he added. But he then repeated his revised position, saying: ‘I like this two-state solution, but I am satisfied with whatever both parties agree with.’”

Trump Israel ambassador pick bragged of removing two-state solution from GOP platform at November event, CNN

“Donald Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, delivered a lengthy speech on the eve of the 2016 election in which he outlined his hardline views on Israeli-Palestinian relations — views that have come under scrutiny during his confirmation process. In the speech delivered in his hometown of Woodmere, NY, video of which was reviewed by CNN’s KFile, Friedman boasted of removing references of the two-state solution and occupation of the West Bank from the Republican Party platform, called the Jewish group J-Street ‘a dangerous organization,’ and said the Anti-Defamation League had ‘lost all credibility.’ He said it would be ‘ludicrous’ to pressure Israel to make peace to create ‘another Arab dysfunctional state.’”

David Friedman, Trump’s Pick for Israel Envoy: Liberal Jews Haven’t Been pro-Israel Force in U.S., Haaretz

U.S. President Donald Trump’s nominee for the post of ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, said on the eve of the 2016 election that liberal Jews in the United States have not been “a pro-Israel force in this country,” and questioned whether Jews who “don’t view the Torah as God-given legacy” had much in common with other Jews, who are more observant and supportive of Israel.

‘This Is What Faith Teaches Us’: How Muslim Americans Are Coming to Their Jewish Neighbors’ Aid as Hate Crimes Spike, Haaretz

“St. Louis imams and the local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations issued a statement condemning in strong terms the cemetery desecration, urging local Muslims to donate money toward its restoration. And a different fundraising campaign, started by two Muslim activists from Philadelphia and New York City, raised six times its original goal in its first day alone. ‘The response has been overwhelming’ Maharat Rori Picker Neiss, executive director of the St. Louis Jewish Community Relations Council, told Haaretz. ‘The outpouring of support throughout the world has been tremendous. Everyone feels this cuts close to home.’”

News

Netanyahu avoids endorsing two states in Sydney statement, Times of Israel

Prime Minister Netanyahu omitted a reference to the two-state solution in a joint declaration Thursday with his Australian counterpart, Malcolm Turnbull. It appeared to be the first formal manifestation of a dramatic scaling back of Israeli support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an idea that for years has been promoted by the international community. “Both countries re-stated their support for a directly negotiated peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Australia affirmed its support for a two-state solution,” read the declaration issued by Netanyahu and Turnbull in Sydney, where the prime minister is on a state visit.

Police Recommend Criminal Charges Against Netanyahu’s Former Chief of Staff Ari Harow, Haaretz

Police recommended on Thursday to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former chief of staff, Ari Harow, on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, money laundering and other graft counts. The US-born Harow served as Netanyahu’s chief of staff between 2014 and 2015. Police have been investigating Harow on suspicion that his sale of his consulting company was fictitious.

Netanyahu’s Former Aide Admits to Fraud and Breach of Trust, Haaretz

A former senior aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday confessed to fraud and breach of trust as part of a plea deal. Police had recommended indicting Perach Lerner for acting in cases of conflicting interests and using her position to benefit clients of her husband.

Lerner served as Netanyahu’s parliamentary advisor between 2009 and 2015, when she was suspended from her position due to the investigation against her.

None indicted over Amona rioting despite 60 cops hurt, 13 protesters arrested, Times of Israel

Dozens of police officers were wounded during the evacuation of the Amona outpost three weeks ago, but as of Thursday, no indictments had been filed against their attackers.

Citing ‘bias,’ Israel denies visa to Human Rights Watch regional director, JTA

Israel is refusing to issue a visa to an American employee of Human Rights Watch over his group’s  alleged bias against the Jewish state, the Guardian daily reported. The Israeli decision on one of the world’s most prominent nongovernmental organizations in its field emerged after Israeli authorities turned down a visa for its new Israel and Palestine director, Omar Shakir, who is a U.S. citizen, The Guardian reported Friday. The rejection had been advised by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to the report.

Egypt denies any plans to give Sinai to Palestinians, Times of Israel

The spokesman for Egypt’s president on Thursday categorically denied Israeli reports that Egypt has proposed giving up part of the Sinai Peninsula for the Palestinians to set up an independent state.

Opinion and Analysis

Weighing Trump’s Record on Anti-Semitism, Huffington Post

J Street’s Alan Elsner writes, “Unfortunately, President Trump and his administration have a penchant for demonizing entire groups of people whom they see as a threat. Jews, as canaries in the coalmine, are especially sensitive to such acts of stereotyping and know where can lead. We must all hope the President sees that his words – as well as his silence – have immense power and that he learns to use them carefully and with more sensitivity than he has shown hitherto. A month is a short time in terms of an administration that will serve for 48 months. There is still time to rewrite the record. But as of now, on this issue, we can paraphrase from the Book of Daniel: ‘You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting.’”

To the American Jewish Establishment: Being Neutral on Trump or Netanyahu Is Cowardice, Haaretz

Daniel May writes, “This question – of whether American Jews can shape a politics that can meet the challenges of today – is not new to 2017. But Trump’s election has exposed its urgency. Whatever shape that politics takes, it will require an embrace of the hard truth that there are no predetermined outcome to political battles, that neutrality is a mask for cowardice, that we are only as good as we behave and not what we declaim, and that values are easily celebrated and only with difficulty and courage lived.”

Congress should oppose David Friedman as Israel ambassador, The Hill

“As descendants of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, a leader in the American Zionist movement, we are writing to express our opposition to the nomination of David Friedman as U.S. Ambassador to Israel and the apparent shift in U.S. policy opposing Jewish settlements in the West Bank….Mr. Friedman, by his words and support of the Israeli settler movement, does not reflect what we believe should be American policy toward Israel. Further, he appears intolerant of opposing views and unable to represent American interests in the Middle East. We oppose his nomination. The United States should renew its commitment to the two-state solution and opposition to new Jewish settlements in the West Bank.”

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