News Roundup for January 22, 2018

January 22, 2018

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J Street in the News

How David Friedman Is Putting His Right-Wing Stamp On American Policy To Israel, Forward

“‘David Friedman was, is and always will be a settlement movement advocate first and representative of U.S. interests second,’ J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami argued. He singled out Friedman as ‘one of the causes’ for the collapse of the peace process, and said that ‘his fingerprints are all over the disastrous decisions this administration has made.’ Friedman met in Israel with a J Street leadership delegation, but attempts to set up further meetings went unanswered, according to Ben-Ami.”

Top News and Analysis

Trump’s Hard-Line Israel Position Exports U.S. Culture War Abroad, The New York Times

Max Fisher writes, “President Trump’s actions have consistently expressed a particularly American notion of being ‘pro-Israel.’ But it is one rooted less in the conflict itself than in the United States’ own culture wars….[Trump] has indulged hard-core conservative instincts to a degree that, deliberately or not, attracted support from a white nationalist fringe that also tends to be hostile to Jews. He is moving the idea of being “pro-Israel” even further right, separating it even from the Jewish support that is ostensibly critical to Israel’s long-term survival. Revoking aid from refugees to punish Palestinian leaders, for instance, aligns with Mr. Trump’s nationalist tendencies to treat foreign populations as monolithic blocs. This, too, has its roots in American culture wars over immigration.”

Destroying the Iran Deal While Claiming to Save It, The Atlantic

Philip Gordon and Rob Malley write, “By threatening to withdraw from the deal unless Congress and Europe implausibly and unilaterally alter its terms, Trump has put it on a path to collapse without any realistic plan for what to do if that happens….The president’s announcement in essence boiled down to this: Either kill the JCPOA with me, or I’ll kill it on my own. That’s a choice Congress and Europe should have no part of. If Trump wishes to undo the deal, the responsibility for doing so—and to come up with a viable alternative—ought to be his alone.”

Pence arrives in Israel after being upbraided in Egypt and Jordan for White House policies in the Middle East, Los Angeles Times

“Vice President Mike Pence arrived on relatively friendly territory in Israel late Sunday after the leaders of Egypt and Jordan, two of the America’s closest Arab allies, publicly rebuked him for the Trump administration’s upending of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. A day after he heard pointed complaints from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi in Cairo, Pence underwent a firm but polite tongue-lashing from Jordan’s King Abdullah II over President Trump’s abrupt declaration last month that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem the capital of Israel, a decision that has roiled the region….the king told Pence he had warned the White House about the danger of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital outside of a negotiated agreement since Palestinians also claim the divided city as their capital in a future independent state.”

Holy City of Sterile Streets, The New York Times

Roger Cohen writes, “The occupation of the West Bank is a half-century old. That’s a long time. Jews did not go to the Holy Land to deploy for another people the biological metaphors of classic racism that accompanied their persecution over centuries. But the exercise of overwhelming power is corrupting, to the point that ‘sterile’ streets, presumably freed of disease-ridden natives, enter the lexicon….If there’s an endpoint to the terrible logic of an occupation driven in part by a fanatical settler movement abetted by the state of Israel, that place is the historic center of Hebron. Once home to the souk and jewelry market, a bustling maze of commerce, it is now a stretch of apocalyptic real estate. Wires trail down crumbling walls. Garbage accumulates. Mingling is obliterated. Security demands separation.”


Netanyahu, Pence laud recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Times of Israel

US Vice President Mike Pence said the US administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would aid peace talks and expressed hope the sides were at a “new dawn” of negotiations Monday, as he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a trip overshadowed by Ramallah’s refusal to regard the US as a peace broker.

Pence ‘Dangerous and Messianic,’ Dedicated to ‘Destruction,’ Israeli Arab Leader Says, Vowing to Boycott VP, Haaretz

The head of Israel’s Arab coalition party has vowed to boycott the flash visit by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, expected to arrive in Israel on Sunday evening. “We were asked if there’s a change in our position regarding Pence’s visit,” Joint Arab List chairman, lawmaker Ayman Odeh, wrote on Twitter. “He is a dangerous man with a messianic vision that includes the destruction of the entire region.”

Spurned by Trump, Europeans ponder how to meet Iran ultimatum, Reuters

With Trump warning of a last chance for “the worst deal ever negotiated”, Britain, France and Germany have begun talks on a plan to satisfy him by addressing Iran’s ballistic missile tests and its regional influence while preserving the 2015 accord that curbed Iran’s nuclear ambitions for at least a decade. It is hard to say what might mollify the Trump administration, which is split between those who would like to tear up the agreement and those who wish to preserve it and which has said inconsistent things about its demands to keep the accord, U.S. and European officials said.

U.S. Embassy Invites Israeli Settler Leaders to Attend Pence’s Knesset Speech, Haaretz

Leaders of the West Bank settler movement received personal invitations from the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to attend Vice President Mike Pence’s speech Monday in the Knesset, a spokesman for the organization that lobbies on their behalf confirmed. Arutz Sheva, the settler-aligned news website that first reported settler leaders would be attending the speech, said such an invitation was unprecedented.

Iran may try to loosen Revolutionary Guard’s grip on economy, Washington Post

Iran’s supreme leader has ordered the Revolutionary Guard to loosen its hold on the economy, the country’s defense minister says, raising the possibility that the paramilitary organization might privatize some of its vast holdings.

Pence Declines Meeting With Israeli Opposition Leader During Official Visit, Haaretz

Opposition head Isaac Herzog requested to meet with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence during the latter’s two-day visit in Israel but was apparently denied. Herzog’s bureau confirmed on Sunday night a few hours after Pence landed in Tel Aviv that Herzog associates turned to Pence’s office in attempt to organize a meeting between the vice president and the Israeli opposition leader but the attempt did not bear fruit.

Netanyahu Defends Deportation Of Africans — Insists They Aren’t Refugees, Forward

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed that Israeli will deport what he called illegal migrants who came to Israel to find work. “We are not acting against refugees. We are acting against illegal migrants who come here not as refugees but for work needs. Israel will continue to offer asylum for genuine refugees and will remove illegal migrants from its midst,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting.

Israeli Ministers Deliberate on How to Apply 12 Bills to West Bank Settlements, Haaretz

Cabinet ministers began deliberations Sunday on how 12 government-sponsored bills might be applied to West Bank settlements. The discussions in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation came after Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit instituted a new procedure several weeks ago. He ruled that bills proposed by ministries must now include a legal opinion on how the laws might apply beyond the Green Line, to settlements in the occupied territories.

Slovenia to recognize Palestinian state next month — TV report, Times of Israel

Slovenia is planning to recognize Palestine as an independent state next month, and three other European countries — Luxembourg, Ireland and Belgium — are thinking of following suit, Channel 10 news reported Sunday. France, meanwhile, is working behind the scenes to upgrade the Palestinian Authority’s status at the European Union, the report said.

Opinions and Analysis

Pence Jetting In For Hero’s Welcome In Israel — But Is It Bad For The Jews?, Forward

Chemi Shalev observes, “Pence’s visit, more so than Trump’s, offers a distilled view of the triumph of the fundamentalist-nationalist conversation that now dominates both Israel and the United States and its emergence as the essential crux of the relationship between the two countries.”

Jerusalem’s Palestinians Hold the Key to Israel’s Future, Haaretz

Nir Hasson argues, “[O]f all the Palestinian groups, the only ones that hold any keys to their future and ours are the Palestinian Jerusalemites. They hear despair from the diplomatic process in PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ words, and understand that the dream of a Palestinian state whose capital is Jerusalem is fading away. But in contrast to the other groups, they have the power to move from a struggle over sovereignty to a struggle for equality and civil rights. In fact, this struggle is already happening on the ground, and more than Hamas’ Qassam rockets or rocks thrown in West Bank villages, this can be the arena of struggle where the future of Israel and Palestine is decided.”

Abbas heads to Europe in bid to circumvent US in peace process, Times of Israel

Dov Lieber reports, “On Monday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will head to Brussels, where he hopes to set out on a new path to Palestinian statehood, without the United States….Abbas is seeking some kind of international framework through which the Palestinians can win an independent state. The main players in that arena now, from his point of view, are the EU, UN, Russia and China.”

Hamas shifts West Bank strategy, Al-Monitor

Shlomi Eldar reports, “If in the past Hamas tried to blur any involvement in the field, it seems that now, following the crisis with the PA, the movement has nothing to lose. Its leaders are interested in embarrassing the PA, Fatah and mainly the main opponent to reconciliation, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who on the one hand claims to have retreated from the Oslo Accord but at the same time continues security cooperation with Israel, according to Hamas. In light of the uncertainty regarding the future of reconciliation and Hamas’ ability to survive the worst crisis since its founding, movement leaders will fight for public opinion and will present their way — the way of armed struggle — as more effective and promising than Abbas’ diplomatic approach, which has failed.”