News Roundup for March 2, 2018

March 2, 2018

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J Street in the News

What is AIPAC’s role in the age of Trump?, JTA

“Jeremy Ben Ami, who heads J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group that at times has positioned itself as AIPAC’s rival, said catering to the Trump and Netanyahu governments would be a death sentence considering the American Jewish community’s political trends. ‘The alliance between two leaderships that three-quarters of American Jews disagree with makes it hard to back an organization that exists only to support the Israeli government,’ he said. ‘We’re in an era where the majority of American Jews want to be in opposition.’”

Trump’s immigration hardliner, Jewish Chronicle

“Earlier this month, 17 Jewish groups — among them J Street — called for Mr Miller to be sacked, accusing him of ‘extreme viewpoints and advocacy of racist policies’. ‘As Jews, we are in solidarity with immigrants and refugees and believe that our nation must be a refuge and welcoming home for new Americans,’ they wrote.”

Top News and Analysis

Will Jared Kushner’s Loss of Security Clearance Affect His Mideast Peace Plan?, Haaretz

Amir Tibon reports, “Former peace negotiators are divided on whether Jared Kushner’s loss of access to top secret intelligence will hurt his attempts to promote an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, after it was reported Tuesday that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly had “downgraded” his security clearance.”

White House preparing for McMaster exit as early as next month, MSNBC

Nicole Wallace reports, “The White House is preparing to replace H.R. McMaster as national security adviser as early as next month in a move orchestrated by chief of staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis, according to five people familiar with the discussions….A leading candidate to become President Donald Trump’s third national security adviser is the auto industry executive Stephen Biegun, according to the officials. Biegun, who currently serves as vice president of international governmental affairs for the Ford Motor Company, is no stranger to the White House. He served on the National Security Council staff from 2001 to 2003, including as a senior staffer for then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.”

How Netanyahu Will Use Trump to Save His Hide, Politico

Aaron David Miller argues, “This visit, made possible thanks to the AIPAC summit, may last only a Washington minute, but by the time Netanyahu departs the two leaders likely will have made it unmistakably clear that they are attached to one another like barnacles to the side of a boat….[I]n Trump, Netanyahu is likely to find an unusually kindred spirit. Under pressure from assertive police investigators; pressed by an attorney general weighing the possibility of indictments, and hounded by the media, Trump is going to give Netanyahu a port in the storm.”


Americans In Israel Warned To ‘Keep A Low Profile’ After Embassy Move, Forward

The US diplomatic mission in Israel urged Americans there to “keep a low profile” following last week’s announcement that the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem will open in May. American diplomats in Israel were prohibited from official travel in the West Bank starting Wednesday, the US Consulate General in Jerusalem announced. The Consulate General also is prohibiting employees and their family members from personal travel in the West Bank.

Police Question Netanyahu for Over Five Hours; Wife Also Grilled Simultaneously, Haaretz

Police questioned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara Friday on suspicion of taking bribes from the owner of Israel’s biggest telecommunications company. Both were interviewed as possible criminal suspects in the case. Police arrived at shortly before 9 at Netanyahu’s official home in Jerusalem and left after more than five hours. Meanwhile, Sara Netanyahu was questioned at the police station of Israel’s anti-fraud squad near Tel Aviv. The police wanted to question the couple at simultaneously to prevent any possibly attempt to obstruct the investigation.

Likud warns coalition row over draft bill ‘could bring government down’, Times of Israel

Senior officials in the ruling Likud party warned Thursday that coalition infighting over legislation exempting ultra-Orthodox students from military service could lead to the government’s collapse and bring early elections, Hadashot TV news reported.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre reopens after 3-day protest of Israeli policies, Ma’an

The gates of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in occupied East Jerusalem were reopened on Wednesday at dawn after a three-day closure in protest of Israeli policies that church leaders said were aimed at weakening the Christian presence in Jerusalem. Christian leaders had decided to close the doors to the church in protest of several Israeli policies, including a newly-proposed bill that would allow the Israeli state to take over church properties leased to private companies.

Israeli Settlers Leave Illegal Outpost in Northern Jordan Valley, After a Week, Haaretz

The Israelis who squatted in an abandoned military base in the northern Jordan Valley on February 21 left it Thursday afternoon, the mayor of a nearby Palestinian village reported. Sami Sadeq of Aqaba told Haaretz that the settlers took with them their herd of cows, a water tanker truck and personal possessions. In response to a complaint from Sadeq, last week Israel’s Civil Administration promised to evict the squatters, but did not give a date. On Sunday morning Palestinians and Israelis staged a protest at the site and were dispersed by soldiers who used tear gas.

Opinions and Analysis

Should Israeli Politicians Be Meeting With The European Far Right?, Forward

Nimrod Goren writes, “Israel’s foreign policy should indeed be distanced from far right-wing elements in Europe, but this is not enough. It must also emphasize the importance of democracy and show commitment and preference for establishing alliances with countries with a strong democratic regime, even if they disagree with the current policies of the Israeli government. Israel must belong to the family of democratic nations, and should not sacrifice this position for the sake of promoting ad-hoc interests.”

Satellite Images of Iranian Missile Base in Syria May Signal an Israeli Strike, Haaretz

Amos Harel reports, “Despite the price the parties paid (including Syria, after Israeli jets bombed its antiaircraft batteries in response), the latest report seems to show the parties are continuing to follow their own original plans. Iran continues to increase its assets in Syria, which Israel may target again. The foreign press hasn’t reported any more Israeli bombing raids on Syria since February 10, but senior Israeli sources have already spelled out that the policy of deterrence in the north will continue.”

Netanyahu’s Case 4000 takes center stage, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit observes, “Case 4000 seems to be the most important case being brought against Netanyahu for now….involves tangible evidence and an important state witness, Shlomo Filber, a Netanyahu confidant who also served as his director general of the Ministry of Communications. Then there are all the documents, correspondence and recordings that link Netanyahu directly to the benefits that Bezeq received from the state as well as to the enormous benefits and favorable coverage the Netanyahu family received from Walla. Investigators are now looking for additional benefits and maybe even money believed to have been transferred from one party to the other. If such cash payments are found, Netanyahu’s situation will be much worse than it is now. So far, Netanyahu has been able to convince his supporters that while he may be quite the hedonist, he is not corrupt. It would be a resounding blow if it is discovered that huge amounts of money were also involved.”

The price of keeping Netanyahu in office, Times of Israel

Naomi Chazan writes, “Every day that the current prime minister remains in power is yet another field day for his party members and for his coalition partners. Without a restraining hand at the helm, everybody in some position of power is taking advantage of the informal yet extensive free hand they have been given by Netanyahu to promote their own agenda.”