News Roundup for January 17, 2018

January 17, 2018

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J Street in the News

U.S. Withholds $65 Million From U.N. Relief Agency for Palestinians, The New York Times

Gardiner Harris and Rick Gladstone report, “Many Israelis worry that any rapid reduction in such aid could destabilize the region and force Israel to pick up a larger share of the costs. Jordan, where many Palestinians have settled, is also coping with a huge influx of Syrian refugees. ‘That the Trump administration is using humanitarian aid for schools and hospitals as a cudgel to punish those who disagree with their policy decisions is deeply troubling,’ said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, a Washington-based liberal advocacy group for peace in the region.”

Will Abbas’ explosive comments kill the peace process? JTA

Ron Kampeas reports, “J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group that in recent months has focused its criticism on the Israeli and U.S. governments, called the speech ‘unacceptable.’ Abbas’ frustration, the group said, was ‘no excuse for calling into question either the Jewish connection to, or Palestinian recognition of, the state of Israel – or for language and proposals that are justifiably earning widespread condemnation.’”

Abbas’ Vile Speech. Trump’s Disastrous Policies, J Street

Jeremy Ben Ami writes, “No amount of frustration with either Israeli government actions or Trump administration diplomatic malpractice can explain or excuse some of the appalling remarks that have been reported. Nor was this the first time we’ve heard and condemned this type of rhetoric from Abbas and Palestinian leaders….It wasn’t inevitable that we would reach this low a point….[A]t every turn, the president and those around him have sabotaged their own vision — making a series of disastrous decisions that have inflamed the conflict, backed the Palestinians into a corner and shattered American credibility as a mediator.”

Trump Is to Blame for Palestinian President’s Dramatic Attack on Israel and the U.S., Says J Street, Haaretz

Allison Kaplan Sommer reports, “J Street, which describes itself as a ‘pro-Israel, pro-peace’ organization, asserted that Abbas’ ‘unacceptable speech’ and ‘the undercutting of America’s role as a mediator in this conflict, would not have come about if it were not for President Trump’s inept and disastrous missteps regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.’ The group’s statement noted that the Trump administration was more interested in ‘pandering to its right-wing political base than seriously mediating the conflict.’”

Top News and Analysis

Abbas Exits With One Final, Outrageous Performance. Now, America Must Contain the Damage, Haaretz

Ambassador Dan Shapiro argues, “The day after the conflict is declared over, with Israel the victor, the same dilemmas will apply. The Palestinians will not have gone anywhere. And indeed, they are far more likely, in those circumstances, to coalesce around the demand for one democratic state, with one person, one vote. In that reality, what will Israel have won? It will have won the ‘honor’ of being a binational state. And the United State will then see its ally forced to decide if it will prioritize being a Jewish or a democratic state. Either choice could have profound implications for the U.S.- Israel relationship.”

Tillerson prevails over Haley in Palestinian funding debate, Washington Post

Josh Rogin writes, “The Trump administration has decided not to cut all U.S. funding for Palestinian refugees, a clear victory for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson over U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. Haley wanted to eliminate all of the funding as punishment for Palestinian opposition to Trump’s policies. The decision shows that Tillerson still has Trump’s ear, despite their past troubles. Earlier today, the State Department sent a letter to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) notifying it that the United States will deliver $60 million of assistance for its programs supporting Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Gaza and the West Bank. “

How Mattis softened on Iran — for now, Politico

Wesley Morgan writes, “In the past year, Mattis has openly contradicted Trump by testifying that Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran ‘is something that the president should consider staying with.’ (Trump declined once again to scrap the agreement Friday despite repeated pledges to do so.) And with U.S. troops and their Iranian counterparts often in close quarters in Iraq and Syria, Mattis has so far declined to take a confrontational approach to limiting or rolling back the influence of Tehran and its proxies.”


U.S. Freezes More Than Half of Aid Funds to UN Palestinian Refugee Agency, Haaretz

The United States will withhold $65 million from a payment it was scheduled to transfer this month to the UN agency responsible for assisting Palestinian refugees and their descendants in the Middle East, a U.S. official said Tuesday. The U.S. will provide $60 million in aid, amounting to roughly half the planned sum of $125 million.

Abbas: ‘Jerusalem is the gate of peace and war — Trump must choose,’ Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday continued to rail against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, cautioning that actions taken in the city could spark a future war, while also advocating a “peaceful” path.

Bid to legitimize terror victim’s West Bank outpost faces legal hurdle, Times of Israel

The Havat Gilad outpost near Nablus in the northern West Bank may be difficult to retroactively legalize, as Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has promised to do following the deadly shooting of one of its residents, Raziel Shevach, last week by Palestinian terrorists.

Lebanon bans new film ‘The Post,’ citing Spielberg’s ties to Israel, Washington Post

Lebanon’s authorities have ordered a ban on the movie “The Post” because of director Steven Spielberg’s associations with Israel, amid an intensifying climate of censorship in what has historically been one of the Arab world’s freest countries.

Trump blasts immigration, citing high ratio of immigrants among terrorists, Times of Israel

US President Donald Trump said Tuesday that America’s current immigration system weakens national security, as his administration sought Supreme Court backing to lift protections shielding 700,000 “Dreamer” immigrants from deportation.

Ex-chief of staff Benny Gantz eyes political career, Times of Israel

Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz on Tuesday did not rule out entering politics, but said he would not be doing so soon. During a speech at a conference of municipal corporations in the southern resort city of Eilat, he said, “It’s not relevant at this moment, but Israeli society is one to which I willingly committed my life, and to which I would certainly commit my activity.

Netanyahu: U.S. Will Move Its Embassy to Jerusalem Within the Year, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the United States embassy is going to move to Jerusalem within the year. This, he said, was based on what he described as a “solid assessment.”

Opinions and Analysis

Israel Can Blame Hamas All It Wants – It Won’t Keep Gaza From Descending Into Collapse, Haaretz

Amos Harel argues, “But Israel’s arguments against Hamas, and the continued investment in building the anti-tunnel barrier and in locating additional tunnels, cannot offset the discussion of the humanitarian disaster looming in Gaza. The answers by Netanyahu and Lieberman will not be accepted by the international community if sewage floods the refugee camps and neighborhoods this winter and if epidemics rage there, as the professionals in the defense establishment fear. Even less dramatic infrastructure problems, like additional disruptions to the electricity supply, could have bad consequences.”

Trump Has Handed The Israel Lobby To Evangelicals. That’s Terrifying, The Forward

Jane Eisner argues, “Policy that is shaped by religious belief has a place in the American public square. But when fervent religious belief is entwined with political power, when the resultant policy is perceived to be divinely ordained, it can become dangerous. It becomes impervious to compromise. It can flare into a holy war. Politics can make some very strange bedfellows. But before American Jews — Israelis, too — embrace this new alliance for what it may deliver temporarily, we should consider the long-term consequences. Evangelical support for Israel may be heartfelt, but in the end it is transactional. And Jews may ultimately pay the price.”

The Demise of the Two-state Solution Deprives Netanyahu’s Israel of Its Political Iron Dome, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev argues, “It’s not only the left that will be faced with an unpalatable choice between plague and cholera, between de facto apartheid and a binational state in the offing. With no prospects for a deal on the horizon, the widespread belief that only the right can reach a secure peace will no longer be tenable. In the international arena, their presumed impermanence served as a shield for continued occupation, the settlements it spawned and the ongoing denial of basic rights to Palestinian…A formal death certificate for the two-state solution will undoubtedly create an existential crisis for the left but in the long run, it is the right that may wind up missing it more.”