News Roundup for January 26, 2018

January 26, 2018

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J Street in the News

A Diplomatic Wrecking Ball, US News and World Report

Alan Elsner argues, “Successive U.S. administrations have recognized a national interest in pursuing peace between Israel and the Palestinians which would inject a much-needed element of stability into the chronically unstable Middle East while allowing our ally Israel to finally live in peace and with security. Yet everything Trump has done in the past two months has made that goal much more difficult, if not impossible.”

Trump’s Jerusalem Comments Actively Inhibiting Israeli-Palestinian Peace, J Street

“Trump has decided that the US can dictate final terms to the Palestinians, playing judge and jury in the Middle East. His actions have made it deeply unlikely that any viable agreement could be reached while he remains in office. Pro-Israel organizations, American Jewish leaders and elected officials of both parties who have consistently affirmed the importance of direct negotiations should be horrified by what the Trump administration has done. They should express outrage at the way in which a strategically inept leader is actively sabotaging the prospects for peace and dooming Israelis and Palestinians to endless cycles of conflict.”

From Celebrated Historian to Shameless Conspiracy Theorist: Michael Oren’s Absurd Tamimi Investigation, J Street

Richard Goldwasser writes, “Oren must also know that it is the ongoing occupation and Israeli-Palestinian conflict that presents the true threat to the future of Israel and the safety of its soldiers, not the actions of people like Ahed Tamimi. But if he were to admit that, he could not continue to defend and champion the policies of occupation and annexation being carried out by the Israeli government coalition that he belongs to. And so instead, he resorts to vile, conspiratorial thinking — there is no occupation, its victims aren’t real and their humanity doesn’t matter.”

Top News and Analysis

Trump threatens to take away more U.S. aid from Palestinians if they don’t negotiate with Israel, Washington Post

Anne Gearan reports, “President Trump threatened Thursday to write off the Palestinian leadership and withdraw further U.S. aid if Palestinians are not serious about negotiating peace with Israel, deepening a diplomatic rift and putting Trump’s hopes for a historic agreement on hold. Trump cast doubt on whether talks could happen now, and blamed Palestinian intransigence rather than his decision to shift decades of U.S. policy on the status of Jerusalem.”

Trump’s Bizarre Belief That Taking Jerusalem “Off the Table” Makes Peace More Likely, Slate

Joshua Keating argues, “The U.S. has already withheld funding to the U.N. agency tasked with providing services to Palestinian refugees; that decision came in response to the General Assembly vote condemning his Jerusalem move. This new threat to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority may just be bluster—for one thing, the Israelis might not be happy about it given that the PA coordinates security operations in the West Bank with Israeli authorities—but it doesn’t seem outside the realm of possibility that Trump will follow through on it… The Trump administration maintains that it’s still interested in continuing the peace process and getting to “the ultimate deal,” but its version of the process seems to be the U.S. dictating Israel’s terms and punishing the Palestinians for objecting to them.”

US-Palestinian rift nothing for Israel to celebrate, Al-Monitor

Akiva Eldar writes, “There’s no reason to uncork the champagne in Jerusalem that the communication channels between Ramallah and Washington are plugged up. Those same channels of communication saved numerous Israeli lives over the years. A state that controls the lives of millions of people by brute force cannot afford to give up the services of a reliable broker. Israelis will be the biggest losers if American orchestration over the peace process is lost. The conductor’s podium will not remain empty for long. There are elements already casting their eyes toward the vacuum left by the Trump-Pence administration. The tunes they come up with will not be music to Israeli ears.”


Palestinians Respond to Trump: If Jerusalem Off Table, Then U.S. No Longer Has Seat at the Table, Haaretz

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas fired back at U.S. President Donald Trump who said Jerusalem was taken off the negotiating table, with a spokesman for the Palestinian leader saying him that if Jerusalem is off the table then the U.S. no longer has a seat at that table.

Netanyahu at Davos: Iran Deal Permits Islamic Republic to Create Nuclear Arsenal, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the current nuclear deal as “inadequate” saying that under the current conditions, Iran would be allowed to “push forward and quickly create an arsenal of nuclear weapons without any international accord preventing them from doing so.”

Israeli forces shoot Palestinian teenager in the neck in Nablus-area village, Ma’an News

A Palestinian teenager was injured in the neck on Wednesday evening when Israeli soldiers opened fire at him at the entrance of Burqa in northwestern Nablus.

Nikki Haley Says Palestine’s Abbas Lacks ‘Courage,’ ‘Insulted’ Trump in Fiery UN Speech, Newsweek

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Thursday issued a scathing attack on Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, charging that he lacks “courage and the will to seek peace” in the Middle East.

Trump apologizes for retweeting far-right British group, Times of Israel

US President Donald Trump has apologized for the first time for retweeting a British far-right group’s videos apparently showing Islamist violence, in an ITV interview aired in Britain on Friday.

Palestinian Ambassador to U.S.: We Had Hopes for Trump but He Backstabbed Us, Haaretz

The Palestinian Ambassador to Washington Husam Zomlot harshly criticized the Trump administration on Thursday for “backstabbing” the Palestinians and “reneging their own promises” on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Barack Obama makes rare public appearance at a New York synagogue and laments ‘truth decay’ in US politics while defending his record on Israel, The Daily Mail

Former President Barack Obama gave an address to a packed synagogue in New York City on Wednesday. The former commander-in-chief gave a rousing speech in which he urged those in attendance at Temple Emanu-El on the Upper East Side to ‘be kind, be useful, be a little fearless.’

Opinions and Analysis

Netanyahu’s Plan to Deport Asylum Seekers, a Seemingly Done Deal, Is Now in Shambles, Haaretz

Anshel Pfeffer writes, “There are valuable lessons here for embattled Israeli human rights groups on how to actually win a campaign despite what seem at first like insurmountable odds and public indifference. It is still way too early to declare victory. But even if Netanyahu succeeds in salvaging his plan, the self-inflicted damage has been done and the deportations, if they take place, will be accompanied by a great deal more lousy publicity for him. What seemed imminent a few weeks ago now looks improbable.”

Irony is dead: Nikki Haley criticizes world leaders for invoking conspiracy theories, ThinkProgress

Aaron Rupar writes, “A Trump administration official criticizing other world leaders for invoking conspiracy theories is a bold move. During the Obama years, Trump rose to national political prominence thanks to his leading role in pushing a conspiracy theory about America’s first black president being a secret Muslim from Africa. Since taking office, Trump has embraced wild, baseless claims about how the ‘deep state’ is trying to undermine him and about how millions of illegal voters cost him the popular vote. He has repeatedly retweeted Twitter accounts that traffic in conspiracy theories.

The Undiplomatic Ex-diplomat: What in the World Has Happened to Michael Oren? Haaretz

Allison Kaplan Sommer asks, “So what is the matter with Michael Oren? Those who know him say the proper diagnosis is the standard political cocktail of ambition, narcissism and need for approval – in his case, the approval of Netanyahu, Trump, and the right-wing religious Christian evangelical community. He may have decided that fire-breathing tweets and disturbing racial innuendo that earn him scorn from the media and the left are the path to success. At least, they keep him in the headlines and distract the public from the fact that his legislative accomplishments are few and far between and he has yet to show a taste or talent for grassroots political activity.“

“Friends” Like These Imperil Israel’s Survival, J Street

Ron Young writes, “If President Trump is serious about wanting to accomplish a great peace deal for Israelis and for Palestinians, and for important US national security interests, it makes no sense at all for his Administration to align with the voices of the evangelical right. These leaders, who don’t speak for all evangelicals, arrogantly ignore the urgent pleas of Palestinian Christians; they support Israel largely based on arguable ‘end-times’ theology, and tend to understand ‘prophecy’ in ways that promise the same eventual fate for Jews who don’t convert to Christianity as Christian anti-Semites have predicted over the centuries.”

The Spectacle During Pence’s Knesset Speech Perfectly Captures Israeli Politics, Haaretz

Yossi Verter writes, “When Pence spoke boldly about the two-state solution, or made other remarks intimating the need for a political agreement, the faces of the cabinet ministers froze as though the vice president had insulted Zionism itself. The opposite behavior was seen among opposition MKs. When Pence promised that Trump would annul the nuclear agreement with Iran, the coalition exulted. Kashrut supervisors Regev, Shaked and Gamliel kept watch on what was going on with hawk eyes; Herzog, Yacimovich and Livni rose to their feet after a while. When he promised that the Iranians will never get the bomb, the standing ovation from both sides of the plenum attested to across-the-board agreement.”