News Roundup for December 7, 2017

December 7, 2017

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J Street in the News

Trump “playing with fire” on Jerusalem, J Street president says, CBS

On Wednesday, President Trump announced that the United States would consider Jerusalem the capital of Israel, sending shockwaves around the world. President of non-profit J Street, Jeremy Ben-Ami, joins CBSN to discuss the impacts of this decision and how it will affect the peace process between neighboring Palestine and the Jewish State.”

Trump says U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as capital of Israel, upending U.S. policy and sparking protests, LA Times

“‘It’s really all pain and no gain,’ said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, an American group that lobbies on Israel from a liberal Jewish perspective. ‘The situation on the ground for the state of Israel and the Jewish people doesn’t change for the better.’”

Trump’s Jerusalem declaration draws mixed reactions from Jewish Americans, The Guardian

“J Street, a liberal advocacy group that favours a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, described it as ‘an unhelpful step with no tangible benefits, only serious risks.’”

How The World Is Reacting To Trump Recognizing Jerusalem As Israel’s Capital, NPR

“Progressive advocacy group J Street similarly denounced the timing of the move as ‘premature and divisive.’”

Even Jewish Americans Think Trump’s Embassy in Jerusalem Decision is a Bad Idea, Newsweek

“[P]rogressive Jews have spoken out against the move. The liberal Jewish advocacy group J Street, for example, called it ‘an unhelpful step with no tangible benefits, only serious risks.’”


“U.S. allies in Europe and the Middle East however urged the president not to take this step, warning it could be destabilizing. Left-leaning pro-Israel Group j street argued that there is a time to recognize Jerusalem, but the group says that it must be after a peace agreement, not before.”

Trump’s Change of US Policy on Jerusalem Undermines Peace Efforts, Could Lead to Violence, J Street

“President Trump’s announcement today that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is an unhelpful step with no tangible benefits, only serious risks. Contradicting decades of bipartisan presidential policy, it does nothing to advance, and could seriously undermine, the administration’s stated commitment to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while potentially threatening Israel’s security and alienating Arab regional partners. With this announcement, the question of whether and when the embassy is actually moved becomes a moot point. The act of recognizing Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem prior to a negotiated peace agreement will have the same damaging impact as an actual move of the embassy.”

How Jewish groups are reacting to Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, JTA

“J Street said the decision ‘could seriously undermine the administration’s stated commitment to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while potentially threatening Israel’s security and alienating Arab regional partners.’”

Who really wants Trump to recognize Jerusalem? His evangelical supporters at home, LA Times

“[Moving the embassy] is the kind of tangible, action-oriented promise that appeals to Trump. ‘It just sounds really pro-Israel,’ said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, an American political group that lobbies on Israel from a liberal Jewish perspective and opposes Trump’s decision. Ben-Ami credits Adelson and other conservative Jewish donors, banded with evangelicals, for forcing the issue to the center of Republican politics.”

Trump’s Foolhardy Jerusalem Gambit, US News and World Report

Alan Elsner argues, “President Trump’s declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel follows the pattern of his presidency. He makes a bold, provocative speech that wins him immediate applause from some quarters but in the longer term does nothing to further the strategic goals of the United States and may indeed do real damage.”

Did Trump’s Jerusalem Capital Move Just Destroy Jared Kushner’s Israeli-Palestinian Peace Deal? Newsweek

“Trump’s Jerusalem announcement, which is also being slammed by U.S.-based groups such as J Street that support a two-state Middle East solution, comes just before his vice president departs for Israel, where he will address the Knesset, or legislature, becoming the first senior American official to do so since a 2008 appearance by then-President George W. Bush.”

Trump’s Jerusalem Move Welcomed by Most Major American Jewish Groups, Voice of America

“The strongest criticism of Trump from a major American Jewish organization was from J Street, a politically liberal American Jewish group that advocates for what it calls a ‘pro-Israel, pro-peace’ U.S. foreign policy. Its statement issued Wednesday used language calling the Jerusalem recognition ‘unhelpful’ and ‘damaging.’”

Steve Bannon’s Best Jewish Friend: Morton Klein’s Rise to Prominence in the Trump Era, Haaretz

“The lobbying group J Street, which has which calls itself pro-Israel and pro-peace and is among the leading voices pushing for a two-state solution, sees Klein’s new role as reflective of the political climate in both Washington and Jerusalem. ‘I think [Klein] is out there on the margins, but he’s not a fringe phenomenon that can be disregarded when people like Bannon or Gorka and others are in American politics and were in the White House,’ says J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami. ‘You have far-right politicians in charge in this country and the far-right in charge in Israel, and so people are going to pay more attention to the margin from those power centers.’”

Jewish Groups Applaud Historic US Recognition of J’Lem as Israel’s Capital, The Jerusalem Post

“Jeremy Ben-Ami, Founder and President of the dovish J-Street, said “’Trump’s announcement that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is an unhelpful step with no tangible benefits, only serious risks. 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 has said ahead of the announcement.”

Top News and Analysis

Trump had for months been determined to move U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, Washington Post

Josh Dawsey, Missy Ryan and Karen DeYoung report, “Several advisers said he did not seem to have a full understanding of the issue and instead appeared to be focused on ‘seeming pro-Israel,’ in the words of one, and ‘making a deal,’ in the words of another. Once Trump indicated 10 days ago that he would not sign a second waiver, national security adviser H.R. McMaster began putting together options that officials assessed would result in the least damage.”

With Jerusalem Move, Trump Sabotages His Own Mideast Peace Process, The New Yorker

Robin Wright argues, “President Trump threw a diplomatic bomb into the Middle East peace process with his twin decisions to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv. The decision broke with seven decades of U.S. policy by both Republican and Democratic Administrations. It defied every ally, save Israel, and disregarded a last-ditch global campaign that included key figures from the world’s three monotheistic religions—Pope Francis, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and American Jewish groups. Trump’s decision fulfilled a campaign promise, but it threatened to unravel one of his top foreign-policy pledges: to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians, who have already called for ‘three days of rage’ in response.”

‘This will be bad’: Clashes break out in West Bank over Trump Jerusalem speech, Washington Post

Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash report, “ Clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers broke out Thursday in Ramallah and other places in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, one day after President Trump announced that his administration would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The Palestinian Authority called for a general strike in Palestinian cities and, in Gaza, the Islamist Hamas movement urged its followers to ignite a third intifada, or uprising, against Israel. At a checkpoint near Ramallah, Israeli forces fired dozens of rounds of tear gas and stun grenades at hundreds of Palestinian protesters gathering to air their anger over Trump’s statement. They burned tires and pelted the soldiers with rocks. ‘This will be bad,’ said an ambulance driver.”

State, Defense and CIA chiefs all opposed Jerusalem declaration, CNN says, Times of Israel

TOI staff report, “Top officials in the Trump administration opposed the president’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital Wednesday and advised Donald Trump not to upset the status quo in the region, CNN has reported. Senior administration sources told the network that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo all protested the decision in private.”

U.N., European Union and Pope Criticize Trump’s Jerusalem Announcement, New York Times

Jason Horowitz reports, “Pope Francis said, ‘I cannot remain silent.’ The United Nations secretary general spoke of his ‘great anxiety.’ The European Union expressed ‘serious concern.’ American allies like Britain, France, Germany and Italy all declared it a mistake. A chorus of international leaders criticized the Trump administration’s decision on Wednesday to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as a dangerous disruption that contravenes several United Nations resolutions and could inflame one of the world’s thorniest conflicts.”


U.S. Congress Split Over Trump’s Historic Jerusalem Announcement, Haaretz

U.S. President Trump’s speech on Wednesday recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish people was met with mixed reactions in the U.S. Congress. While members of the Republican Party overwhelmingly expressed support for the move, Democrats were split between those who congratulated Trump for it and those who called it a dangerous and irresponsible action.

In Jerusalem, Trump decision draws support — and warnings, Politico

President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s official capital and begin the process of moving the U.S. embassy here from Tel Aviv sent ripples across the local political scene on Wednesday, with many legislators voicing strong support for Trump’s decision and others warning that any hopes for a two-state solution would immediately vanish.

Abbas Rejects Trump’s Jerusalem Speech: U.S. Can No Longer Mediate Between Israel and Palestinians, Haaretz

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected U.S. President Donald Trump’s speech on Jerusalem, saying America’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital encourages the occupation and construction of Israeli settlements.

Israeli army enforces punitive closure of Jenin-area town, Ma’an

Israeli army forces have temporarily closed off the entrance to a Jenin-area town in the northern occupied West Bank, allegedly in response to shots fired at an Israeli settler bus near the village.

Theresa May to challenge Trump over ‘unhelpful’ decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israeli capital, Yahoo News

Theresa May is reportedly planning to challenge Donald Trump over his divisive decision to recognise Jerusalem as the true capital of Israel. MPs from across the political spectrum have claimed that Mr Trump risks igniting further violent conflict after recognising the city as the Israeli capital – despite the international community not recognising Israel’s sovereignty over the city.

Iraq militia threatens US forces after Trump Jerusalem move, Times of Israel

An Iranian-backed militia in Iraq threatened on Thursday to attack US forces in the country in retaliation for US President Donald Trump recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Israel Arrests 20 Palestinians Suspected of Attacking Israeli Hikers in West Bank, Haaretz

Israeli security forces arrested 20 suspects in the northern West Bank village of Qusra early Thursday on suspicion of attacking Israeli hikers near the village on Thursday of last week. Those detained, who include two minors, are also suspect of involvement in recent clashes with Israeli army troops and with extremist right-wing activists.

Opinions and Analysis

Trump Is Making a Huge Mistake on Jerusalem, New York Times

Hanan Ashrawi argues, “President Trump announced on Wednesday that his administration is making a radical break with nearly 70 years of official United States policy and with the international community: He is recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. This decision will be interpreted by Palestinians, Arabs and the rest of the world as a major provocation. It will cause irreparable harm to Mr. Trump’s own plans to make peace in the Middle East, and to any future administration’s efforts, as well. It will also undermine the United States’ own national security. The president should reconsider this decision immediately.”

Prince Hassan of Jordan: Donald Trump’s Jerusalem Move Plays Politics With International Law – and Our Lives, Haaretz

HRH Prince El-Hassan Bin Talal writes, “The American president’s proposed changes to the status of Jerusalem, while they will impact largely on the lives of Jerusalemites and others in the region, could possibly be meant for a domestic American audience. Any fallout will take place in a faraway land where the politics of polarity negate reason.”

Jerusalem Divides Trump’s Team and Complicates Kushner’s Peace Plan, Bloomberg

Margaret Talev  and Jennifer Jacobs write “Trump’s national security advisers met last month to settle on a recommendation on Jerusalem, a person familiar with the meeting said. Trump had promised during his campaign to declare the city Israel’s capital and move the U.S. embassy there. He chafed at signing a waiver six months ago to postpone the decision and wanted the issue resolved before signing another one this week. Pence argued in the meeting it was past time for the U.S. to recognize the 70-year reality that Jerusalem is the country’s center of government. Chief of Staff John Kelly and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley also recommended that Trump overturn U.S. policy and publicly acknowledge Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the person said. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis recommended against the move. Tillerson was concerned about the implications of the policy change for the peace process, and Mattis about a potential backlash and resulting security threats, one person familiar with the matter said. Mattis declined to describe his position to reporters during a flight from Kuwait on Tuesday.”

Evangelicals Led Drive To Name Jerusalem As Capital, AIPAC Stayed On Sidelines, The Forward

Nathan Guttman writes, “The battle over America’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was hardly biblical; no fire was seen or brimstone sniffed. But Christian activists led the charge against the Trump White House, demanding that he fulfill his campaign promises, with Orthodox Jewish groups at their side. Big-tent Jewish Zionists supported the campaign silently, from the sidelines.”

Kushner bets he can have it both ways on Jerusalem move, Politico

Annie Karni writes, “Jared Kushner is betting the house on a risky strategy that Middle East experts worry will derail any future Israeli-Palestinian peace deal — as well as what remains of the powerful son-in-law’s shrinking West Wing portfolio. He privately encouraged President Donald Trump’s announcement Wednesday that ‘Jerusalem is Israel’s capital,’ which was seen by some experts in the region as a setback for peace efforts led by Kushner and his small team. The group has made dozens of trips to the region and spent hours on listening tours, working to gain the trust of the Palestinians and the broader Arab world.”

State Department sets up emergency task force for Jerusalem fallout, Washington Post

Josh Rogin writes, “Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did not want Trump to make his Jerusalem announcement Wednesday, but he still has to deal with the consequences. The State Department has set up a 24-hour task force to collect information and coordinate response to Trump’s speech, which has already caused protests at several U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.”

With Jerusalem Recognition, Trump Gives Netanyahu a Great Tool to Distract the Masses, Haaretz

Yossi Verter writes, “After the U.S. president’s resolute words, the jabs at his predecessors, the hand gestures and the exaggerated tan, we were left with an announcement that’s the first course in a meal the White House will be serving to its two guests. Clearly the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem – West Jerusalem according to the site map drafted by U.S. President Donald Trump – as Israel’s capital isn’t the epilogue but the beginning. It’s a wonderful gift to Israel for its 70th anniversary, and sure enough the right wing rejoiced. But Israel may be required to pay for this Hanukkah gift with the cold hard cash of gestures and concessions to the Palestinians before the negotiations are jump-started again – assuming there are negotiations and what we saw Wednesday wasn’t the burial of the chance to renew negotiations.”

The Selfish Motive Behind Trump’s Jerusalem Decision, Slate

Ilan Goldenberg writes, “President Trump’s announcement Wednesday that he will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital reflects two of the worst aspects of this administration’s policymaking: the president’s selfish focus on his domestic politics and an incompetence that only made things worse. Trump’s decision was all about placating his base. There is no other strategic rationale for taking this step now, which is why the president’s advisers have struggled in background briefings to explain how it is in the United States’ security interest.”

The nationalist Hungarian Government is endangering Jewish people with its smear campaign against philanthropist George Soros, The Independent

Eszter Susan Guerrero and Adam Schonberger argue, “The Orban Government argues that by preventing migration to Europe, they are actually protecting Hungarian Jews from antisemitism coming from Muslim people, which is ridiculous. If the Government would like to do something for the Jewish community in our country, it should confront the actual threat: right-wing extremism. “

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