News Roundup for December 12, 2017

December 12, 2017

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J Street in the News

Congress to miss sanctions deadline on Iran deal, what happens next?, Times of Israel

“Two months ago, President Donald Trump triggered a deadline about to come due on the Iran nuclear deal by decertifying Iran’s compliance. That meant Congress had 60 days to reimpose sanctions. Sixty days later — on Dec. 12 — Congress is not about to reimpose sanctions….’The fact that the 60-day window has closed without even introduction of legislation to reimpose sanctions shows there’s little to no appetite in Congress to blow up the deal legislatively,’ said Dylan Williams, the vice president of government affairs for J Street, the liberal Middle East policy group.”

Noisy hecklers and personal barbs at on-stage Israel debate, J Weekly

“The good news about the debate between conservative radio pundit Dennis Prager and liberal J Street executive Alan Elsner: The meticulous ground rules allowed for an extensive, evenhanded discussion of thorny Middle East issues….Held Dec. 10 at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco, the debate was part of a series staged by the synagogue’s Israel Action Committee, which aims to present civil discussions about Israel that consider views from both the left and the right. Organizers seemed to hit the mark with the Prager-Elsner debate, which drew an afternoon crowd of 370 to the synagogue….The tense encounter between the two speakers pointed up the divide between American Jewry’s liberal and conservative camps. But the debate rules proved there is a way to have a dialogue rather than a shouting match, even between the most heated of ideological foes.”

Yael Patir on Traversing Bridges between Israelis and Americans in Peacemaking, Jewschool

“This past June in Tel Aviv, the American Jewish Peace Archive interviewed J Street Israel Director Yael Patir. Patir recounted the influence of American Jews on the Israeli peace movement and offered counsel for American activists….Patir’s observations are a helpful reminder that our socialization as American Jews has an impact on the lens through which we understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its resolution. Hopefully Patir’s efforts to begin to unpack this influence will initiate a dialogue that can help us Americans be more effective allies to both Israelis and Palestinians in bringing peace and justice to this part of the world.”

Top News and Analysis

Will someone save Trump from this disastrous decision?, Washington Post

Jackson Diehl observes, “The similarities between Trump’s refusal to recertify the Iranian nuclear deal in October and his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last week are striking — and revealing. In each case, he was presented with a congressionally mandated requirement to renew a policy of previous presidents. His secretaries of defense and state urged him to preserve it, lest he disrupt U.S. policies and endanger U.S. interests across the Middle East and beyond….Iran stands to be the biggest beneficiary of Trump’s recklessness. The Jerusalem recognition will make it harder for the United States to counter Iranian aggression across the region through an alliance including the Persian Gulf states, Jordan and, tacitly, Israel, because that alliance is now split by the Jerusalem question.”

Enduring belief in the two-state solution as a path to peace, Boston Globe

George Mitchell and Alon Sachar write, “Although it has not yet been achieved, there is no feasible alternative to two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace….We believe there is no such thing as a conflict that cannot be ended. Conflicts are created and conducted by human beings; they can be ended by human beings. We recognize the daunting difficulties that lie ahead. We acknowledge the long litany of failed past efforts. We are especially mindful of the many other conflicts and complexities in the region that work against an early resolution. Yet we firmly and realistically believe there is a path to peace through a two-state solution and that all of us who care about the region and its people, in particular the Israelis and Palestinians, must do whatever we can to advocate and work for an end to the conflict.”

Don’t Be Fooled By the Muted Reaction to Trump’s Jerusalem Gambit, Politico

Aaron David Miller writes, “[N]uance notwithstanding, Trump’s announcement was clearly a determinative statement on how he sees the Jerusalem problem being resolved. Unless the administration clarifies its position, the damage is going to wreak havoc with any effort to create a credible negotiation. We now have an Israeli government that does assert sovereignty over the entire city and is creating additional facts on the ground to ensure there can be no Palestinian capital; a U.S. administration that has acquiesced in that effort and has now given Netanyahu cover to continue to pursue his designs; and a U.S. president who shows no signs of supporting Palestinian claims in the east.”


Israel Strikes Hamas Positions in Response to Gaza Rocket Fire, Haaretz

A rocket was launched from the Gaza Strip and exploded in southern Israel on Monday night, the Israeli military said. Israel reportedly retaliated, striking two Hamas outposts in southern Gaza. No injuries were immediately reported and the siren that warns of incoming rockets did not sound. A local regional council said that the sirens did not go off since there was no threat to community residents.

Putin says US Jerusalem move may ‘finish prospects’ for peace deal, Times of Israel

Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, warning that it could destabilize the region and derail the Middle East peace process. Putin said the US move ‘doesn’t help the Mideast settlement and, just the other way round, destabilizes the already difficult situation in the region.’ The Russian leader added that it may ‘finish prospects for the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.’”

Israeli minister calls Arab MPs ‘war criminals’, Al-Monitor

Israel’s defence minister on Monday called Arab MPs “war criminals” a day after he urged a boycott of Israeli Arabs living near the scene of clashes over the US president’s Jerusalem declaration. Avigdor Lieberman was speaking in a televised parliamentary debate on a motion of no confidence in the right-wing government filed by the mainly Arab Joint List alliance. Presenting the motion, Joint List lawmaker Hanin Zoabi said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ‘should be tried at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, because he is a war criminal.’”

New York Bomber Tells Police He Carried Out Attack Due to Israeli Actions in Gaza, Report Says, Haaretz

The perpetrator behind the attempted suicide bombing in New York City on Monday told investigators that he was motivated by Israeli actions in the Gaza Strip, CNN reported. The Bangladeshi immigrant, Akayed Ullah, detonated a pipe bomb strapped to himself in the New York City subway near Times Square on Monday, injuring the suspect and four others at the height of the morning rush hour, law enforcement officials said.

After second incident, Swedish anti-Semitism watchdog warns of wave of attacks, JTA

In the aftermath of a second anti-Semitic attack this week in southern Sweden, the spokesman for a local watchdog group said the Jewish community must be vigilant but will not go underground. Willy Silberstein, spokesman for the Swedish Committee Against Anti-Semitism, spoke to JTA on Monday hours after an incident in Malmo in which police said they discovered traces of a flammable fluid near a Jewish cemetery that they suspect had been targeted by arsonists. “There is a wave of anti-Semitic attacks right now, and I suspect this won’t be the last incident,” Silberstein said.

Israeli Settlers Say They Will Evacuate Contested Hebron Building if Conditions Are Met, Haaretz

Settlers who had taken over a contested building in Hebron known at Beit Hamachpela informed the High Court of Justice on Sunday that they would voluntarily vacate the building if the state agrees to demolish an adjacent storage facility that they claim Palestinians built there recently.

They also requested to be able to station their own guards at the building until a final decision is made on the building’s rightful ownership. The final decision on the matter is to expected issued by a committee from Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank.

At least 29 Palestinians injured as clashes continue over Trump decision, Ma’an

As Palestinians continue to protest against US President Donald Trump’s announcement last week recognizing Jerusalem — the Eastern part of which is illegally occupied by Israeli in violation of international law — the number of injuries continue to rise across the occupied West Bank.

Opinions and Analysis

Pence Prepares Mideast Visit, but Neither Palestinians nor Christians on Agenda, Haaretz

Jack Khoury reports, “Palestinian officials have pressured local church leaders not to welcome Pence, encouraging them to take the same stance as the Egyptian Coptic Christian church whose pope announced his refusal to meet with the US vice president due to the Jerusalem decision.. This could hurt White House attempts to frame Pence’s visit as part of an effort to support Christian communities in the Middle East.”

Jerusalem: After 30 Years of Hope and Failure, What’s Next for Israel/Palestine?, Foreign Policy

Hady Amr writes, “What the United States could do — specifically on the question of Jerusalem — is encourage the government of Israel to change its policies there in a manner makes the Palestinians feel that they have a real stake in the Holy City’s future….At this point, there are few words the United States could speak that would make a difference. We will be judged by our own actions, and those of our ally, Israel.”

When Waze Won’t Help Palestinians Make Their Own Maps, Wired

Miriam Berger reports, “In a place and conflict where ‘facts on the ground’ are endlessly contested, having access to good navigation maps and apps is not just a matter of getting there. It’s about recording Palestinian life on the land, and giving people on this side of the dotted line the same access to information and movement as people have on the Israeli side.”

Discussion: Assessing the Potential Impact of Trump Administration Moves on Jerusalem, J Street Blog

Aaron David Miller — a former senior State Department official, veteran Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiator and widely respected academic — joined J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami for an in-depth conversation about what Trump’s reckless change in longstanding US policy toward Jerusalem could mean for Israelis, Palestinians and US policy in the Middle East.

How Should Israeli-Palestinian Civil Society Respond To Trump’s Jerusalem Move?, Forward

Jon Greenwald writes, “It is important for civil society to double down on initiatives and programs to reverse that trend so as to bring more Israelis and Palestinians — particularly young people — together in ways that allow them to experience “the other” as human beings, not cut-out enemy caricatures…..Larger numbers of young people who understand “the other” could become important when political circumstances on the ground, such as stronger, more assured Israeli and Palestinian leaders, eventually make a new attempt at a comprehensive settlement more promising.”

In Netanyahu’s Eurotrip, fantasies clash with reality, Times of Israel

Raphael Ahren observes, “[B]ased on statements Mogherini made after Netanyahu had left the premises, the wish that his half-day in Brussels succeeded in convincing the EU to change its position or drop its focus on Israeli-Palestinian conflict is about as likely to come true as his prediction of Europeans moving their embassies to Jerusalem.”

Trump’s Jerusalem Push Makes Perfect Sense To Evangelicals — And Boosts Roy Moore, Forward

Jane Eisner writes, “While some Christians have long adhered to “end-times” ideology, the difference today is that they have a friend in the White House willing to shape public policy to reflect these beliefs. It’s impossible to imagine that President Trump actually shares this faith. He doesn’t have to. He can exploit it for political gain, as he has and likely will continue to do so. That’s why we can’t dismiss these ideas as beyond the mainstream. They’re in the Oval Office now.”

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