News Roundup for December 8, 2017

December 8, 2017

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J Street in the News

Evangelical Christians Lobbied Hard for Trump’s Move on Jerusalem, Wall Street Journal

“Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, a liberal Jewish lobbying organization, said that most Jews fall on the left of the political spectrum; only 23% of Jews voted for Mr. Trump, according to exit polls. Mr. Ben-Ami said the push to immediately recognize Jerusalem as the capital was driven by evangelical Christians and a small group of Jews. ‘This is a reckless decision that unnecessarily derails diplomacy, and threatens the possibility of violence,’” Mr. Ben-Ami said. ‘This is not something that overwhelming majorities of Jewish Americans were calling for.’”

CNN Newsroom, CNN

J Street’s Josh Lockman discusses Trump’s embassy announcement.

Congressional Democrats Left Out of White House Hanukkah Party, New York Times

“Officials from J Street, a progressive pro-Israel group that strongly backed Mr. Obama and the nuclear deal he forged with Iran — which was detested by many conservative Jews — were excluded.”

The billionaires, lobbyists, and Christian extremists behind Trump’s Jerusalem move, Qaurtz

Heather Timmons writes, “’Trump’s decision is a “profound mistake,’ Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J-Street, a ‘pro-peace, pro-Israel’ lobbying group in Washington DC said Wednesday, echoing the words of French president Emmanuel Macron and many others.”

Top News and Analysis

Nearly Every Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Disagrees With Trump’s Jerusalem Decision, New York Times

Sewell Chan reports, “All but two of 11 former United States ambassadors to Israel contacted by The New York Times after President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital thought the plan was wrongheaded, dangerous or deeply flawed. The 11 ex-envoys all closely followed Mr. Trump’s announcement on Wednesday, in which he also set in motion a plan to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Even those who agreed that Mr. Trump was recognizing the reality on the ground disagreed with his approach — making a major diplomatic concession without any evident gain in return.”

Palestinians say they won’t meet with Pence, Politico

Politico reports, “A senior Palestinian official says the Palestinians will not meet with Vice President Mike Pence during his upcoming visit to the region because of the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The official, Jibril Rajoub, said Thursday ‘we will not receive him in the Palestinian territories.’ Rajoub also calls for Arab officials not to meet with Pence. Pence is expected to visit the region later this month. He is set to travel to Israel and to the West Bank city of Bethlehem. It was not clear what Rajoub’s remarks meant for the West Bank portion of Pence’s trip. Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to advance plans to move the U.S. Embassy to the contested city has sparked outrage across the region.”

Jerusalem embassy move has zero upside for America, New York Daily News

Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer asks, “Why is it a problem that the Trump administration is recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital with plans to relocate the American Embassy there? After all, Israeli’s entire government is located in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is where the American government conducts its relations with Israel. It is the stated capital of Israel, one of America’s closest allies. The answer is that the status of Jerusalem is deeply contested. Both Israel and Palestinians claim it as the capital of their respective states. Both sides have agreed to negotiate the city’s status, but thus far have not come up with any solutions, even on the most basic question of whether or where to locate the boundary between the areas each claims for itself: Israel claims the entire city as its capital while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem.”

Trump’s Jerusalem Decision Shows That We Can’t Count on the “Grown-ups in the Room,” Slate

Joshua Keating writes, “Over the past year, there’s been a comforting idea held by those of us who are concerned about a leader this erratic: that the “grown-ups in the room”—who in this case are mostly military men like Mattis, Kelly, and national security adviser H.R. McMaster—could rein in his worst impulses…But the Jerusalem decision suggests there are limits to how much the grown-ups can accomplish when Trump’s ego and political priorities get involved. The Post quotes one Trump confidant saying, ‘The decision wasn’t driven by the peace process … The decision was driven by his campaign promise…’ These factors were evidently enough to outweigh warnings that recognizing Jerusalem would cripple efforts to negotiate an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal—a goal he has expressed interest in—and could put American lives at risk.”

Three things to know about Trump’s Jerusalem gambit, Washington Post

Marc Lynch writes, “For all its tactical and messaging incoherence, the Trump administration has been pursuing a fairly clear Middle East strategy that is well within the bounds of the normal. At the broadest level, Trump seeks to bring key Arab states and Israel together in a strategic alliance against Iran and Islamic extremism. There is nothing new about such an ambition. Every U.S. administration has sought to reconcile the contradictions of simultaneous alliance with Israel and with key Arab states. Each administration has concluded, either initially or after hard experience, that the pursuit of Israeli-Palestinian peace is necessary to sustain that regional architecture… Israel’s tacit cooperation with Gulf states against Iran, long kept in the shadows, has increasingly been brought into the open despite the absence of Israeli-Palestinian peace. The Jerusalem gambit may well force a public reckoning over this semiprivate alignment.”


14,000 housing units planned for Jerusalem, 6,000 of them over Green line, Times of Israel

Bolstered by US President Donald Trump’s declaration recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the government is reportedly planning to build around 14,000 units in the city, some 6,000 of them in East Jerusalem.

Israel braces for mass protests as Palestinians gather for Friday prayer, Washington Post

Israeli security forces were readying themselves Friday for mass demonstrations by Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem in response to a statement by President Trump recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

All 28 EU foreign ministers warned Trump administration not to move US embassy, The Independent

All 28 EU foreign ministers warned Donald Trump’s chief diplomat against moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in a face-to-face meeting the day before the president made the announcement, the European Commission has said.

Israel Strikes Targets in Gaza in Response to Rocket Fire, Haaretz

The Israeli army attacked two positions inside the Gaza Strip on Thursday evening in retaliation to rocket fire from the Strip earlier in the day.

As Netanyahu Prepares to Visit Brussels, Tensions With EU’s Mogherini Worsen, Haaretz

As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepares to visit European Union headquarters in Brussels on Monday, tensions between Israel and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini are intensifying. Over the past two days, Mogherini has twice assailed U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision on Wednesday to unilaterally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Hamas calls for Palestinian uprising over Trump’s Jerusalem plan, Reuters

The Islamist group Hamas urged Palestinians on Thursday to abandon peace efforts and launch a new uprising against Israel in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as its capital.

Over 50 injured, 9 with live ammunition, in clashes across Palestinian territory, Ma’an

he number of injured Palestinians continues to climb as clashes with Israeli forces continue to escalate across the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip, in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Opinions and Analysis

The Conflict in Jerusalem Is Distinctly Modern. Here’s the History. New York Times

Mona Boshnaq, Sewell Chan, Irit Pazner Garshowitz and Gaia Tripoli write, “It is perhaps fitting that President Trump appears to have chosen this week to announce that the United States will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, despite concerns from leaders of Arab countries, Turkey and even close allies like France. Conflicts over Jerusalem go back thousands of years — including biblical times, the Roman Empire and the Crusades — but the current one is a distinctly 20th-century story, with roots in colonialism, nationalism and anti-Semitism. The New York Times asked several experts to walk readers through pivotal moments of the past century.”

Trump’s actions could rip Jerusalem apart, Washington Post

Gershom Gorenberg argues, “In his speech, Trump paid lip service to negotiations on the city’s final status. But as was totally predictable, his declaration was read by Israelis, Palestinians and others in the Middle East as an American endorsement of the Israeli government’s position on Jerusalem. In response, Muslim countries will feel obligated to take sharper stands against Israeli control of East Jerusalem and the holy sites. Palestinians in East Jerusalem will feel pressed to oppose Israeli rule more forcefully. Whether or not violence erupts now, Trump has added to Palestinian despair, and despair increases the chance of an eruption. The real symbolism of Trump’s statement is that he couldn’t care less about the real city of Jerusalem.”

Seventy Percent of Americans Know the Iran Nuclear Deal is Working for Them, Diplomacy Works

Kathryn Grant writes, “The American people support diplomacy because the alternative is likely a war. Do we trust that Iran is a good actor thanks to this deal? No. But we know that the negotiation of the JCPOA guaranteed an inspection and verification regime that keeps their nuclear activities under surveillance, and we know that withdrawing from the deal undermines those capabilities. If we lose the JCPOA, we lose the assurance it provides, and a military option becomes more likely. Rational Americans do not want to go to war with Iran.”

On Jerusalem, Trump Just Offered Talk. Does Kushner’s Peace Plan Offer Real Substance? Haaretz

Ambassador Dan Shapiro writes, “In his speech, Trump teased his openness to a two-state solution for the first time, albeit with the caveat that it must be agreed to by both sides. But the U.S. interest lies squarely in an end-of-conflict agreement, which can only be achieved with two states. It may take many years, and it may await the emergence of new leaders who can take decisions the current crop cannot. But if we fail to use this period to keep the two-state solution alive, Trump will go down as the president who did nothing while Israelis and Palestinians drifted into the morass of a binational state.”

The Guardian view on Trump and Jerusalem: undiplomatic diplomacy, The Guardian

The Guardian Editorial Board writes, “The US president’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and to move the US embassy there, is a provocative and reckless step. It will alienate Arab allies, trigger protests across the Middle East, and have serious, perhaps fatal, consequences for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Instead of understanding such risks, Mr Trump talked of accepting a reality. Jerusalem is, he said, already home of the Israeli parliament and the Israeli supreme court. This is a smokescreen. Mr Trump is conducting an exercise in coercive diplomacy, creating new facts on the ground when none existed before. Like the issue of refugees, settlements and borders, the status of Jerusalem – holy to three religions – is unfinished business.”

Jerusalem Recognition Could Spark Widespread Arab Unrest – This Time, With No End in Sight, Haaretz

Amos Harel writes, “This summer, Palestinians were successfully galvanized to protest after metal detectors were installed at the entrance to the Al-Aqsa compound (following a shooting attack that left two Israeli policemen dead). These demonstrations had a clear objective: for Israel to backtrack and remove the detectors. In this case, though, it’s obvious the Palestinians can’t make Trump retract his words. This is a kind of ‘open crisis’ with no objective or clear end point. Its fueling will depend mainly on the level of rage on the streets, which in turn will depend on the number of casualties. The Israeli army has long known that funerals in the occupied territories usually lead to more funerals. If demonstrations and attempted terror attacks end with many Palestinians dead, the area will catch fire and it will be harder to douse the flames.”

Don’t Oppose Trump’s Jerusalem Declaration Because It Will “Spark Violence.” Oppose It Because It’s Wrong,Slate

Marya Hannun argues, “So what’s the problem in highlighting the combustible nature of such a seemingly reckless and shortsighted move? Surely such warnings are warranted given both the history of Palestinian resistance and current regional dynamics… Jerusalem is a contested city, at the heart of the dilemma over the two-state solution, and as some of the commentary has in fairness pointed out, this move is likely to prove an enormous obstacle to peace and good faith between Palestinians, Israelis, and the United States. Furthermore, Jerusalem’s eastern half has been under illegal occupation by the Israeli government since 1967. The construction of illegal settlements and the demolition of Palestinian homes continues unabated and has even seen an uptick in recent years. To recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel legitimizes these illegal actions. These factors should be at the forefront of any opposition to Trump’s policy rather than fear of backlash.”