News Roundup for December 6, 2017

December 6, 2017

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J Street in the News

Trump’s Jerusalem decision promises upheaval, CNN

“[S]everal crucial foreign policy decisions seem as much motivated by personal animosity or preference as detailed foreign policy arguments….‘As in the case of the Iran nuclear agreement, ideology and political concerns are triumphing over the commonsense recommendations of US and Israeli security experts and the opinion of the majority of Jewish Americans,’ the liberal, pro-Israel advocacy group J Street said in a statement Tuesday.”

President Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, official says, Newsday

“Jeremy Ben-Ami of the left-leaning, pro-Israel J Street, warned against unilateral action, saying: ‘Israel’s capital is without question in Jerusalem, and it should be internationally recognized as such in the context of an agreed two-state solution that also establishes a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem.’”

U.S. Jews Slam Trump Over Jerusalem Move, Warn of ‘Destructive Consequences’, Haaretz

“Jewish groups in the US expressed deep concern and dismay following Tuesday evening’s announcement from US President Donald Trump that he intends to move the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem….J Street, the US-based, liberal advocacy group also opposed the move. President Jeremy Ben-Ami stated that ‘the effect of moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem prior to a negotiated agreement will be to anger key Arab allies, foment regional instability and undermine nascent U.S. diplomatic efforts to resolve the larger conflict.’ ‘The administration should also note that only a small minority of Jewish Americans – just 20 percent – support unilaterally moving the embassy,’ he added. ‘Moving the embassy or recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital could have destructive consequences for American allies in the region- in particular the kingdoms of Jordan and Saudi Arabia,’ he warned.”

Trump Is Bringing Bloodshed, Not Peace, to Jerusalem, Haaretz

Jeremy Ben-Ami writes, “[T]the mythology of Jerusalem can’t change the reality of Jerusalem today – a city already shared by the two peoples who each claim it as their capital….Truly settling the status of Jerusalem demands less posturing and overblown rhetoric and more efforts to reach a two-state solution through negotiation. Today, responsible American Jewish leaders understand that Israel’s long-run future as a democratic home for the Jewish people depends on separating into two states – and further realize that those states will each need a capital in Jerusalem.  Now is the time to create a new political climate around this issue – one that puts resolving the conflict and not political pandering at the center of American policy making.”

Trump to Announce Recognition of Jerusalem, Foreign Policy

“Trump’s decision would fulfill a campaign promise popular with parts of the Republican base, and seems fundamentally driven by domestic politics, rather than as part of the peace process or any broader Middle East strategy. ‘My suspicion is that its not part of a larger strategy on the part of the president or the individuals who have been leading efforts towards viable negotiations,’ said Dylan Williams, a vice president at J Street, a Jewish-American lobbying group.”

On Jerusalem, Trump Will Finally Enact Whims of Congress, Roll Call

“Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the pro-Israel J Street political organization, called the decision ‘a profound mistake,’ warning in a statement that the move ‘fundamentally changes long-standing U.S. policy on Jerusalem.’ ‘Israel’s capital is without question in Jerusalem, and it should be internationally recognized as such in the context of an agreed two-state solution that also establishes a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem,’ Ben-Ami said, warning the change would ‘dangerously break with America’s long-standing view that the city’s final status can and should be determined only by a peace agreement between the parties.’”

Why Trump’s promise to move US Embassy to Jerusalem is so controversial, Fox News

“Should the U.S. move the embassy, it could cause ‘significant harm to the U.S. credibility as a mediator’ for peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, said Dylan Williams, vice president of government affairs for J Street, a left-leaning pro-Israel advocacy organization. Williams added that the move could ‘undermine confidence’ from Palestinians and Arab countries that the U.S. would remain an impartial negotiator in efforts to create peace in the Middle East.  ‘It shouldn’t be moved prior to agreement by the parties to the conflict as part of a comprehensive agreement ending their conflict,’ Williams, J Street’s chief lobbyist, told Fox News.  Williams added that such a move could also turn deadly. ‘Even seemingly minor changes of Jerusalem’s status quo — either in fact or in law — have historically had the impact of sparking violence,’ Williams said.”

Trump to recognize Jerusalem as capital, plan embassy move, White House confirms, Times of Israel

“The dovish Israel lobbying group J Street also blasted Trump’s plans as ‘an unhelpful step with no tangible benefits, only serious risks.’”

Trump’s Poised To Recognize Jerusalem As Israel’s Capital. Here’s 6 Reasons You Should, Forward

“The dovish lobby J Street and other left-wing groups warned against embarking on the move, which they view as dangerous and as one that would pre-judge the final status agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”

US Jews divided on Trump’s expected Jerusalem decision, i24 News

“Liberal Jewish advocacy group J Street, meanwhile, called the expected announcement ‘an unhelpful step with no tangible benefits, only serious risks.’”

Top News and Analysis

U.S. to Recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital, Trump Says, Alarming Middle East Leaders, The New York Times

Mark Landler reports, “President Trump plans to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the American Embassy there, upending nearly seven decades of American foreign policy and potentially destroying his efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Mr. Trump’s decision, a high-risk foray into the thicket of the Middle East, was driven not by diplomatic calculations but by a campaign promise. He appealed to evangelicals and ardently pro-Israel American Jews in 2016 by vowing to move the embassy, and advisers said on Tuesday he was determined to make good on his word. But the president, faced with a deadline of this past Monday to make that decision, still plans to sign a national security waiver to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv for an additional six months, even as he set in motion a plan to move it to Jerusalem. Officials said the process would take several years. More significantly, Mr. Trump is to announce his formal recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital in a formal speech at the White House on Wednesday, when he will become the first American president to take that step since the founding of Israel in 1948.”

Trump’s Embassy Decision: Palestinians Declare Three ‘Days of Rage’ Across West Bank; Arab World Outraged, Haaretz

Palestinian factions in the West Bank announced on Tuesday that they would carry out three days of protest across the West Bank over U.S. President Donald Trump’s expected decision regarding American policy on Jerusalem. The Palestinian factions said protests will start on Wednesday and last until Friday at the very least. According to Palestinian leaders, marches against the decision are being backed by the Palestinian Authority.

Does President Trump Want to Negotiate Middle East Peace?, The New York Times

The editorial board writes, “Mr. Trump insists he is committed to achieving the ‘ultimate’ Middle East peace agreement that eluded his predecessors. But his decision to tip the scales toward Israel on this critical matter, communicated to Arab and Israeli leaders on Tuesday, almost certainly will make an agreement harder to reach by inflaming doubts about America’s honesty and fairness as a broker in negotiations, raising new tension in the region and perhaps inciting violence….The constituency Mr. Trump is most clearly courting is his own political base of evangelicals and other pro-Israel hard-liners. His predecessors had also made pandering campaign promises in support of moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem. But once in office they chose not to prioritize their domestic politics over delicate peace diplomacy, and they put that promise on hold.”

‘Jerusalem Is Not the Explosive Device—It’s the Detonator’, The Atlantic

Emma Green reports, “In the long run, the diplomatic effects of this could be huge. It’s not clear how Trump’s announcement fits into a broader diplomatic strategy in the region, including the president’s vague promises that he’s going to secure the ultimate deal between Israelis and Palestinians. ‘This is almost like stepping on a landmine,’ said Shalom Lipner, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who previously served in the prime minister’s office in Israel. ‘To the extent that people think there is a realistic chance of some sort of [peace] process, they’re much more concerned that this will set back negotiations.’….For the United States to declare Jerusalem the united capital of Israel doesn’t make it so. Trump’s announcement will ‘lead the Israeli public, including those who are in Jerusalem, deeper into clinical denial, or ‘occupation denial,’ Seidemann said, adding: ‘We’re sipping cappuccino on the edge of a volcano.’”

Ahead of Trump’s Announcement, Israel Girds for Violence in Jerusalem and West Bank, Haaretz

Amos Harel reports, “Israel is preparing for the possibility of escalation in Jerusalem and the West Bank in response to the president’s announcement, as well as the possibility of demonstrations in Arab capitals….The severity of any escalation will depend to a great extent on the degree to which Trump’s announcement is seen as negative for the Palestinians. Thus the more concrete his promise is, and the more it’s anchored by a detailed timetable of steps to move the embassy, the worse the reaction is likely to be….The biggest problem is the religious interpretation liable to be placed on the event in the Arab and Muslim world. If the embassy ultimately moves, it will move to western Jerusalem, but reports in the Arab media refer merely to Al-Quds – and that could be seen as intent by the Crusaders (America) to hand the keys of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Temple Mount over to the Zionists (Israel).”


Netanyahu on Trump’s Jerusalem Declaration: Our National, Historical Identity Being Recognized Today, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that Israel’s “historical and national identity is receiving important expressions every day, but especially today.” The prime minister was speaking in a Facebook video ahead of the expected announcement by U.S. President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Germany Urges Against U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem: ‘We Must Spell Out Limits of Our Solidarity’, Haaretz

Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Tuesday warned against a unilateral American recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. Speaking at a conference in Berlin, Gabriel added a fierce statement to his warning, saying that Germany would have to “spell out where the limits” of its solidarity stood. Germany was the latest country to join the wave of diplomatic warnings emanating mostly from Arab countries and cautioning US President Donald Trump against declaring Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital.

Israel’s UN ambassador being investigated for alleged political patronage, JTA

Israel’s state prosecutor has ordered police to launch an investigation into Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, over his alleged use of public money to pay for political favors. The move by Shai Nitzan on Tuesday followed an investigative report by the Israel Television News Company, or Hadashot news, saying that Danon used public funds and donations to pay millions of shekels in fake salaries to Likud activists and their family members so they would support him in the Likud party primaries. Last week, Israel’s Channels 12 and 13 aired the investigation, which  presented recorded conversations and documents, as well as correspondence about finding jobs for family members of Likud members and supporters.

PA official: US Jerusalem recognition would end Trump peace push, Times of Israel

A US move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would mean the end of US President Donald Trump’s peace efforts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a senior Palestinian official warned Tuesday. Nabil Shaath, an adviser to Abbas, told journalists that a decision by Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital ‘totally destroys any chance that he will play a role as an honest broker.’ ‘That takes away… the deal of the century,’ he added, referring to Trump’s pledge to reach an elusive peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians.”

U.S. Consulate In Jerusalem Warns Of Violence Before Trump’s Speech, Forward

As President Trump prepares to address the issue of Jerusalem in a White House speech, the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem instructed US officials not to travel to the Old City or West Bank in the face of reports that there will be protests.

U.S. House of Representatives Passes Bill Slashing Financial Aid to Palestinian Authority, Haaretz

The US House of Representatives passed on Tuesday the “Taylor Force Act,” a bill that will cut large parts of American financial aid to the Palestinian Authority over its payments to convicted terrorists and their families. The bill still needs to be approved by the U.S. Senate before it will take effect.

Israel orders demolition of Palestinian structures in Qalqiliya-area villages, Ma’an

Israeli authorities reportedly ordered on Tuesday that 17 Palestinians in the Qalqiliya district of the northern occupied West Bank destroy structures that they had built on their lands. Official Palestinian Authority (PA)-owned Wafa news agency reported that officials from Israel’s civil administration raided the Qalqiliya-area villages of Sanniriya and Beit Amin, saying that 17 villager should remove any structures that they had built on their own lands.

Deportation of Asylum Seekers to Start Within Weeks, Israeli Gov’t Announces, Haaretz

The Israeli government plans to begin deporting asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan within the next few weeks, attorney Shosh Shmueli of the State Prosecutor’s Office told the High Court of Justice at a hearing on Tuesday morning.

Opinions and Analysis

The One Thing Trump Should Say About Jerusalem, Forward

Michael Koplow writes, “President Trump seems eager to plunge headfirst into an issue that is fraught with traps and potential pitfalls. The only way to do so successfully is to maintain the current balance over East Jerusalem and not do anything that will make the Middle East any more chaotic. Should he decide the move the embassy or even more dangerously support Israel’s claim to the entire Jerusalem municipality, he will have failed this test.”

Reform Jewish Movement: Concerned About White House Jerusalem Announcement, URJ Blog

The leaders of the Reform Movement write, “President Trump’s ill-timed, but expected, announcement affirms what the Reform Jewish Movement has long held: that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Yet while we share the President’s belief that the U.S. Embassy should, at the right time, be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, we cannot support his decision to begin preparing that move now, absent a comprehensive plan for a peace process. Additionally, any relocation of the American Embassy to West Jerusalem should be conceived and executed in the broader context reflecting Jerusalem’s status as a city holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike….We urge the President to do everything in his power to move forward with efforts to bring true peace to the region and take no unilateral steps that will make that dream more distant.”

Two Capitals for Two Peoples, Haaretz

The editorial board writes, “It’s not clear how Trump’s ambition to resolve the long conflict between Israelis and Palestinians meshes with unilateral steps favoring the interests of one side, especially regarding such a central and volatile issue. If Trump deems it urgent to fulfill his promise to transfer the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, or at least recognize the city as Israel’s capital, it would be better to do so alongside an equal recognition of Palestinian aspirations for the city.”

Defying Every Major Ally Besides Israel, Trump Recognizes Jerusalem As Its Capital, Buzzfeed News

John Hudson reports, “[L]eading progressives such as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders spoke out forcefully against the move on Tuesday. ‘There’s a reason why all past US administrations have avoided making this move, and why leaders from all over the world, including a group of former Israeli ambassadors, have warned Trump against doing it: It would dramatically undermine the prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, and severely, perhaps irreparably, damage the United States’ ability to broker that peace,’ Sanders said in a statement.”

Russia investigation casts shadow over Kushner’s Mideast peace push, Al-Monitor

Laura Rozen observes, “Philanthropist and host Haim Saban seemed to be trying to put his high-profile guest Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, at ease by addressing the ‘elephant in the room’ at the top of their keynote conversation at the Saban Forum on Sunday. But the attempt to neutralize a sensitive subject quickly proved awkward, and highlighted how much the multiple Russia investigations underway may end up hobbling Trump’s Middle East peace push, which he has tapped Kushner to lead.”

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