News Roundup for January 9, 2018

January 9, 2018

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J Street in the News

New Israeli Travel Ban is a Major Blow to Democracy, Empowers BDS Movement, J Street

“With the announcement that members of twenty organizations will be banned from entering Israel because of their support for the BDS Movement, the Netanyahu government has struck another significant blow to the foundations of Israeli democracy. Implementing legislation passed by the Knesset in March, this new ban is the work of a government that is increasingly obsessed with silencing criticism, dissent and non-violent political activism…. Banning BDS supporters from entering Israel will not counter their arguments or stem the global tide of concern over occupation and the treatment of Palestinians. On the contrary, the decision helps to empower the BDS Movement and validate some of its criticisms by making Israel less open, tolerant and democratic.”

Q&A: The State of the Iran Deal, J Street

“By this time next week, we’ll likely know if President Trump has decided to violate the Iran nuclear agreement and withdraw the US from the pact….In October, when Trump baselessly chose not to certify that the agreement remained in the United States’ interest, he punted responsibility for the deal over to Congress. Thanks in part to your effective advocacy efforts, Congress heeded the warnings of experts and declined to pass any legislation that would kill the agreement by reimposing nuclear sanctions. But with several looming deal-related deadlines in the next ten days, the ball is once again in the president’s court.”

Israel bans 20 groups, including campus BDS clubs, from entering Jewish State, Washington Examiner

“J Street, a pro-Israel advocacy group that opposes the Global BDS Movement and has an active, nationwide campus program, has called Israel’s ban a ‘significant blow to the foundations of Israeli democracy.’”

North American Jewish Leaders: Please Don’t Deport Africans, Jerusalem Post

Prominent leaders of the North American Jewish community sent a public letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday urging Israel not to imprison or deport tens of thousands of Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers….Signatories include Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of HIAS, the global Jewish nonprofit that protects refugees; Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights; Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street; and Nancy Kaufman, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women.”

US Jewish groups urge Netanyahu to reverse asylum seeker deportation plan, i24News

“Leaders of more than two dozen North American Jewish organizations sent a joint letter to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on Monday, urging him not to follow through with his plan to deport the thousands of African asylum seekers from the country….Organizations represented on the petition sent to the Government on Monday included the heads of J Street, the New Israel Fund, JSpaceCanada, HIAS, T’ruah, the National Council of Jewish Women, ARZA alongside a number of other groups advocating for asylum seekers as well as rabbis from across the board.”

Alan Sagner, Who Revitalized the Port Authority, Dies at 97, The New York Times

“Alan Sagner, a prodigious fund-raiser for liberal candidates and causes who served as chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, died on Wednesday at his home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. He was 97….Mr. Sagner was a board member of Business Executives for National Security, a nonpartisan group that seeks to moderate government spending without jeopardizing economic or military security, and an early supporter of J Street, the liberal Washington-based lobbying group formed in 2007 that supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Top News and Analysis

Syria Confirms Israel Strikes Near Damascus With Jets, ‘Ground-to-ground Missiles Intercepted’, Haaretz

Israel attacked an arms depot of a Syrian army military base near Damascus on Tuesday with jets and ground-to-ground missiles, the Syrian army confirmed. The Syrian army added that their air defense systems prevented three separate strikes, saying that the incident proves Israel’s support for anti-regime organizations. The Israeli military declined to comment on the matter.

Is Liberal Zionism Dead?, The New York Times

Michelle Goldberg writes, “Trump’s [Jerusalem] decision wasn’t disastrous because it risked causing riots but because, long-term, it endangers whatever thin chance remains of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And the alternative to a two-state solution is one state, a greater Israel that includes the occupied territories. That state can be Jewish or it can be democratic, but it cannot be both…. if the possibility of Palestinian statehood is foreclosed, Israel will be responsible for all the territory under its control. There will be one state; the question is what sort of state it will be. Some on the Israeli right foresee a system in which most Palestinians will remain stateless indefinitely, living under a set of laws different from those governing Israeli citizens.”

Trump’s peace deal: A Gaza-centered Palestine, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit reports, “[T]here isn’t a single member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Cabinet who has any expectations about President Donald Trump’s peace initiative. Instead, they share a rare consensus: It’s all about nothing, and it will never amount to anything. The same sentiment prevails in Ramallah: Trump’s ‘ultimate deal’ is dead and buried….Meanwhile, some of the ideas that the American team looked into are starting to leak out, explaining why Abbas beat such a hasty exit from the scene….According to this plan, the center of power in the future Palestinian state would be in the Gaza Strip, expanded toward the north of Sinai, rather than the West Bank. In exchange for the expanded territories that they would receive in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians would give up territories in the West Bank, allowing Israel to annex the settlement blocs along with a generous amount of land around them, thereby maintaining some degree of territorial integrity between the various blocs.”


Mike Pence to Arrive in Israel on January 22 for Flash Visit, White House Says, Haaretz

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will depart for the Middle East on January 19 and will arrive in Israel on January 22 for a 48-hour visit, the Vice President’s Office said on Monday. The Israeli Foreign Ministry said the dates have not yet been determined. Pence will arrive in Israel on January 22 for a flash visit. During his visit, he will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, visit the Western Wall and address the Knesset.

Erekat: US Talk of Peace Deal ‘Unacceptable’ As Long as Trump Jerusalem Decision Stands, Jerusalem Post

Continued American “talk” of deals to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or invitations to resume negotiations are “unacceptable” as long as US President Donald Trump’s changes to American policy on Jerusalem are not reversed, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told official Palestinian Authority radio on Tuesday.

British FM affirms commitment to two states in meeting with PA counterpart, Times of Israel

British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson told Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki on Monday that the United Kingdom still supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and hopes that Jerusalem will be a shared capital between Israel and a future Palestinian state.

Judge Poised to Become the First Muslim Arab on Israel’s Supreme Court, Haaretz

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked has published the list of candidates for the two Supreme Court seats being vacated. A committee will be selecting from the list at its next meeting, on February 22, to replace Justices Yoram Danziger and Uri Shoham, who are retiring this year. One of the candidates is Khaled Kabub of the Tel Aviv Economic Affairs District Court. (Traditionally the Supreme Court has had an Arab on the bench.)

Hague Criminal Court set to open Israel war crimes probe, MKs reportedly told, Times of Israel

Israel’s National Security Council reportedly warned members of the Knesset’s powerful Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee last week that the International Criminal Court will likely open an investigation at some point this year into the 2014 Gaza war and West Bank settlement construction.

Israeli Bill Denying Citizenship to non-Orthodox Jewish Converts Stalls, Haaretz

A controversial conversion bill, which threatened to exacerbate growing tensions between Israel and world Jewry, has been put on hold for another three months. The passage of this bill into law would grant the Chief Rabbinate a complete monopoly on all conversions performed in the country.

Yair Netanyahu’s night of debauchery revealed in bombshell recordings, Times of Israel

A leading Israeli outlet aired explosive recordings Monday evening of Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister’s son, during a night of excess in a series of Tel Aviv strip clubs.

Opinions and Analysis

Israel Is Becoming an Illiberal Thugocracy, and I’m Running Out of Ways to Defend It, Haaretz

David Rothkopf writes, “In short, the Netanyahu administration has done more than ban critics with this latest move and all those that preceded it. It is has turned supporters into adversaries. It has taken one large step in the direction of the illiberal thugocracies favored by the likes of Trump. It has made clearer still the case that Palestinians have been making for decades about the sham of Israeli democracy. And it has done something else. It has broken the heart of those who wish deep within their DNA that Israel would have lived up to be even a shadow of the dreams our fathers and mothers had for it.”

As a 2-State Solution Loses Steam, a 1-State Plan Gains Traction, The New York Times

David Halbfinger observes, “As momentum ebbs for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, both sides are taking another look at the one-state idea. But that solution has long been problematic for both sides. For the Israelis, absorbing three million West Bank Palestinians means either giving up on democracy or accepting the end of the Jewish state. The Palestinians, unwilling to live under apartheid-like conditions or military occupation, have also seen two states as their best hope….Absorbing the nearly three million Palestinians on the West Bank would either spell the end of a Jewish state or destroy Israeli democracy if Palestinians were denied equal rights. Even a slim Jewish majority would be politically unable to deny Palestinians full citizenship and rights in a single sovereign state.”

Why has Israel banned Jewish leftists but not members of Nazi-linked groups?, +972

Natasha Roth writes, “[W]hile Jews who support the boycott movement are now barred from visiting the country, members of Nazi-allied organizations and anti-Semitic political parties continue to be allowed into Israel — including at the invitation of government officials….In its choices over who and who not to ban from the country, the Israeli government has demonstrated that its concern is not what Nazis and the rest of the far-right think about Jews, but rather what they think about Muslims, leftists, and the proper way — i.e., the authoritarian way — to run a country.”

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