News Roundup for February 9, 2018

February 9, 2018

Receive the roundup in your inbox every morning!

J Street in the News

New Congressional Letter Pushes Back Against Trump’s Dangerous Freeze on UNRWA Funds, J Street

“J Street welcomes an important new letter, signed by 102 Members of Congress, which calls on President Trump to reverse his dangerous freeze of funds for UNRWA — the UN agency that provides essential services to over 1.5 million Palestinian refugees. Led by Reps. Peter Welch (VT-AL) and David Price (NC-4), the letter affirms the importance of maintaining full contribution levels to UNRWA as a vital US and Israeli interest. Leading Israeli defense officials have warned that the freeze could further destabilize the region, threaten Israel’s security and exacerbate humanitarian crisis. J Street was proud to support and advocate for this letter. Signed by over half of the House Democratic Caucus, it is a welcome signal that Members of Congress stand ready to push back against the disastrous foreign policies of the Trump Administration in the Middle East.”

Trump should listen to urgent Gaza warning, Times of Israel

J Street’s Alan Elsner writes, “When Israel’s Chief of Staff issues a grave security warning to the country’s cabinet, all those who profess to be friends of Israel should pay careful attention — and that includes President Trump and his Mideast advisers. Unfortunately, our President seems not to be listening….Israeli security experts like Eisenkot are well aware of the damage that Trump’s UNRWA decision could have and are urging the Trump administration not to follow through. The Chief of Staff in his briefing called on Israel to take substantial steps to head off a collapse of the situation in the Strip….This ought to be a no brainer for the Trump administration. It should realize that its policies risk causing great suffering to Israelis and Palestinians alike. Is that really what it wants?”

House Republican goes after J Street in an effort to lure Jewish donors, Politico

“A new joint fundraising committee started on Tuesday by Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) and the Republican Party of Wisconsin, called Stop J Street….the liberal-leaning Jewish advocacy organization where Grothman’s likely Democratic opponent, Dan Kohl, worked as vice president of political affairs and served on the board….The new committee was started ahead of the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership summit in Las Vegas this weekend and is intended to appeal to conservative Jewish donors who loathe J Street….J Street….is standing by Kohl, who’s one of a number of candidates the group is backing through its PAC. ‘It’s clear that Rep. Grothman is out of step with voters — resorting to desperate attacks funded by those whose opposition to diplomacy and the two-state solution threatens Israel’s long-term future,’ Aaron Davis, J Street’s national political director, said in a statement.”

Top News and Analysis

102 Congress Members Urge Trump: Don’t Cut Funds to UN Palestinian Aid Agency, Haaretz

A coalition of 102 Democratic members of Congress sent a letter to President Trump on Thursday urging him not to cut US funding of the UN agency in charge of assisting Palestinian refugees and their descendants in the Middle East. The letter was initiated by Reps. Peter Welch of Florida and David Price of North Carolina, and all the members who signed it are from the Democratic party.  The members wrote that Trump’s recent decision to freeze a significant portion of American assistance to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) “will harm American interests by exacerbating the threats facing both peoples and reducing the United States’ ability to help the Israelis and Palestinians reach a two-state solution.” The United States is the largest donor to UNRWA, and provides approximately a quarter of the agency’s annual budget. Last month, the Trump administration announced it is withholding half of the first scheduled U.S. payment of 2018.

PM blocks settlement annexation bill from coming to vote, Times of Israel

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday pulled legislation aimed at annexing Israeli settlements in the West Bank that was slated to come before a key Knesset committee for a vote next week. A spokesman for a senior member on the Knesset’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation told The Times of Israel that the prime minister wants to coordinate the measure with the White House first, but that the bill would still be debated by coalition leaders in their own meeting scheduled to take place on Sunday.”

Israeli Army Chief Sounds Alarm on Gaza, but His Boss Isn’t Listening, Haaretz

Amos Harel reports, “Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot’s warning to cabinet members of a looming humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip sparked a brief political storm earlier this week, before being superseded by the criminal investigations into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the war of words between the premier and the police. Still, Eisenkot’s words highlighted a fundamental disagreement and the considerable tension between leading politicians and army officers when it comes to Gaza.”


After Netanyahu Slams Top Cop, Right-hand Man Says Police Trying to Stage Coup, Haaretz

The head of the government coalition, MK David Amsalem (Likud), called Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich “smug” following Alsheikh’s comments that powerful forces had collected material about police investigators working on the Netanyahu files. His remarks come days before Israeli police are expected to issue their recommendation whether the prime minister should be charged in relation to two ongoing corruption investigations into the prime minister.

Breitbart Senior Editor Invited To Speak At AIPAC Conference, Forward

Joel Pollak, senior editor-at-large at Breitbart News, was invited by AIPAC to be a panel speaker at its upcoming national conference.

Trump: Jerusalem declaration was high point of my time in office, JTA

In an interview for an Israeli newspaper, President Donald Trump said that his Dec. 6 declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was the high point of his time in office. In the Hebrew-language translation of an excerpt from Trump’s interview with Israel Hayom editor-in-chief Boaz Bismuth, Trump said that both Israel and the Palestinians would need to compromise significantly to achieve peace. Trump said this in replying to Bismuth’s question on whether Israel would have to give something in return for the declaration.

Shin Bet holding ‘gentle’ talks with far-rightists to head off revenge attacks, Times of Israel

In an effort to calm growing tensions, the Shin Bet security agency is initiating “gentle conversations” with far-right activists who have been demanding a harsher military response to the Palestinian terror attacks that left two West Bank rabbis dead within the span of a month.

Rouhani says US lost ‘golden opportunity’ for bilateral dialogue, Al-Monitor

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has declared that his US counterpart, Donald Trump, has ruined all potential opportunities for a dialogue between Tehran and Washington.

US envoy Friedman tears into left-wing daily for op-ed disparaging him, Times of Israel

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman tore into the Haaretz daily Friday after it ran an op-ed criticizing his financial support for the settlement enterprise.

Opinions and Analysis

With a Knowing Smile, Israel’s Police Chief Promises a Surprise in the Netanyahu Probe, Haaretz

Yossi Verter observes, “A wicked smile crossed the police chief’s face when he said that he’s familiar with every word and every letter in the investigative material. It was a direct message to Netanyahu: I know things about you that you don’t even know about yourself….We’ve seen confrontations in the past between politicians, on the one hand, and police chiefs and investigators. But an orchestrated campaign like this one, rife with vilification, mudslinging and a concentrated effort to delegitimize the Israel Police, is unprecedented.”

For German-Israeli Relations, New Foreign Minister Heralds Four Very Difficult Years, Haaretz

Kirsten Rulf writes about incoming German Foreign Minister Martin Schultz. “One position many expect Schulz to take as part of his new role as a foreign minister being a tough critic of Israel, particularly in regards to its settlement policies and the human rights situation of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.”

We must continue fighting for a two-state solution, Johns Hopkins News-Letter

Bentley Addison writes, “Action from the international community and various organizations, including J Street U, has helped lead to the successful postponement of several recent orders for the demolition of Susya. However, on Feb. 1, 2018, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled to allow the immediate demolitions of seven structures in Susya….We must do everything we can to stop the pattern of creeping annexation. Susya faces demolition at any moment. It’s imperative that students, Jewish communal leaders and legislators act to ensure the survival of a two-state solution.”