News Roundup for February 28, 2019

February 28, 2019

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J Street in the News

Is West Bank Annexation Imminent?, NY Jewish Week

“Logan Bayroff, a spokesman for J Street, said he found it ‘appalling that the prime minister personally orchestrated the key entry of this party into the next Knesset in order to assure his political survival.’ He said that if they are successful on Election Day, ‘we will see an even more extreme right-wing government that is likely to adopt even more racist and discriminatory measures towards Palestinians, both in the occupied territories and inside Israel’….He said the American Jewish community ‘needs to wake up to the danger that the Israeli government could move in the near future — to annex the West Bank and to formally end all hope of a two-state solution and Israel’s ability to remain both a Jewish and a democratic state…..The Trump administration appears willing to rubber stamp whatever Netanyahu and the right want to do. But I think the American Jewish community is increasingly horrified by the Israeli government’s turn towards the racist extreme right. The leaders of the major American Jewish groups should make absolutely clear to the prime minister that his actions are endangering Israel’s future and severely harming its relationship with the United States.’”

Top News and Analysis

Kushner Met With Saudi Crown Prince to Push Mideast Peace Plan, The New York Times

“Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, met with the Saudi king and crown prince during a tour of the Middle East to try to build momentum for his long-awaited plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the White House said in a statement on Wednesday. The meeting, held on Tuesday, was Mr. Kushner’s first face-to-face encounter with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the day-to-day ruler of Saudi Arabia, since Saudi agents killed the dissident Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in October….Analysts who have followed the plan’s development said they had been told that it involved investing around $25 billion in the West Bank and Gaza over 10 years and another $40 billion in Egypt, Jordan and perhaps Lebanon, depending on their ability to meet certain goals. Others who have spoken with Mr. Kushner have disputed those amounts but agreed that the plan included investments of tens of billions of dollars in the region.”

Netanyahu Downplays Imminent Bribery Charge: ‘A House of Cards About to Collapse’, Haaretz

“Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit is expected to announce Thursday his decision on whether to charge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, subject to a hearing, in the three criminal investigations pending against him….A request by Netanyahu’s attorneys to put off announcing the decision until after the April 9 general election was dismissed by Mendelblit, who cited ‘the principle of equality before the law and the public’s right to know about such important decisions.’ Mendelblit is expected to stress in his announcement that the decision, which is subject to a hearing at which Netanyahu gets to address the allegations, is not final, to avoid claims of undue influence on the election results.”


Survey: Huge Majority of Right-wing, Religious Israeli Voters Say Netanyahu Is Being Framed, Haaretz

Just before Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit decides on filing indictments in the cases against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it seems that almost half the public has little trust, or no trust, in Mendelblit. This group is made up not just of Likud voters, but comes in large part from the religious Zionist and Haredi communities. About 75 percent of the ultra-Orthodox people who participated in the series of surveys believe that the institutions of law enforcement in Israel are participating in an attempt to remove Netanyahu, as do 65 percent of Likud voters. Over 60 percent of those who vote for Likud do not believe the police, nor do over 80 percent of those who vote for Shas and United Torah Judaism.

Palestinian Authority refuses tax revenues from Israel, Times of Israel

The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday said it rejected its regular monthly tax transfer from Israel to protest an Israeli decision to deduct sums of money the Palestinians pay to imprisoned terrorists and terror suspects, as well as the families of those killed in attacks against Israelis. Hussein al-Sheikh, the Palestinian official who coordinates the Palestinian Authority’s communication with Israel, announced the rejection of the tax transfers. Israel announced last week that it would withhold over $138 million in revenue, the amount Israeli officials calculate that the PA spends on the stipends.

Israel Strikes Hamas Targets in Gaza After Airborne Device Explodes, Haaretz

The Israeli air force struck several targets in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday night after an airborne incendiary device damaged a home in the Eshkol region of southern Israel. The military said attack helicopters and fighter jets struck a military compound used by Hamas in the central Gaza Strip.

Democratic presidential prospect says far-right party in Israeli government ‘can’t be good’ for US-Israel ties, JTA

Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat who is a prospective candidate for his party’s presidential nomination, said the inclusion of a far-right political party in Israel’s government would likely adversely affect Israel’s relationship with the United States. ‘The ascendance of the far right is always a concern to a lot of us…When I look at their past, it’s a troubling situation,’ Brown said of Jewish Power, which has its roots in the racist teachings of the assassinated Israeli-American rabbi Meir Kahane. ‘I’ll see how it plays out, but it can’t be good for our relationship. It’s his call what he does,’ Brown said of Netanyahu, ‘but I don’t like that he’s doing it.’”

Israel Releases Palestinian Lawmaker Held for Nearly Two Years Without Trial, Haaretz

Palestinian lawmaker Khalida Jarrar was released Thursday after being held by Israel for 20 months in administrative detention. Jarrar, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, was arrested for her activity in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and jailed without charges.  Jarrar is a well-known figure on the Palestinian political scene and was active for many years as an advocate on behalf of prisoners’ rights and with human rights organizations. Israel has barred her from leaving the West Bank since 1998.

Opinion and Analysis

Behind Netanyahu’s Deal With the Racist Right — And How the Opposition United Against Him, New Yorker

Bernard Avishai writes, “Putting aside the AJC’s even denunciation of the ‘extreme left or the extreme right’—as if there were any parties in the Knesset that advocate expelling Jews from the country or, say, criminalizing sexual relations between Arabs and Jews—the frightening question that the committee and others have refused to answer is whether Otzma Yehudit’s taking a role in a prospective Likud government would mark a major shift. That is, can the Likud under Netanyahu, even without the overt racists, be considered ‘mainstream’ in the American sense of standing for ordinary liberal tolerance?….Likud ads are, in ‘Animal Farm’ fashion: ‘Gantz. Left. Weak.’—but the message is falling flat. No, the appeal must be more naked, the allies more brazen. Arab parties, by virtue of being Arab, are inherently ‘extremist,’ and thus, Netanyahu says, they are to be excluded. His American Jewish advocates need not have waited so long to blush.”

Debunking The Myth That Anti-Zionism Is Anti-Semitic, Forward

Peter Beinart writes, “It’s a bewildering and alarming time to be a Jew, both because anti-Semitism is rising and because so many politicians are responding to it not by protecting Jews but by victimizing Palestinians….The problem is that, in many countries, Jewish leaders serve both as defenders of local Jewish interests and defenders of the Israeli government. And the Israeli government wants to define anti-Zionism as bigotry because doing so helps Israel kill the two state solution with impunity….Defining anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism….means that if Palestinians and their supporters respond to the demise of the two state solution by demanding one equal state, some of the world’s most powerful governments will declare them bigots. Which leaves Israel free to entrench its own version of one state, which denies millions of Palestinians basic rights.”