News Roundup for March 21, 2018

March 21, 2018

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J Street in the News

Iran hawk beats J Street’s candidate in Illinois Democratic primary, Times of Israel

“Rep. Dan Lipinski of Illinois, one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress, narrowly won a primary Tuesday over a progressive newcomer who argued that the congressman’s views no longer reflect the Chicago-area district he has represented for seven terms…..Marie Newman, who was little-known when she decided to challenge Lipinski for the seat he inherited from his father, had backing from progressive groups….With 97 percent of precincts reporting votes, Lipinski’s margin over Newman was less than 2 percentage points. She told supporters in an email earlier Tuesday night that ‘there’s a good chance we wake up in recount mode.’….Although the Blue Dog caucus of moderate and conservative Democrats of which Lipinski is a part already has dwindled in recent years, his close nomination fight could embolden liberals in other races across the country…..Lipinski is one of the few Democrats to vote against the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. He is lauded by the pro-Israel advocacy group AIPAC for his longstanding support for many of its positions, and saw the progressive advocacy group J Street join with the Newman campaign in a bid to unseat him.”

Israel becomes a divisive issue for Democrats even in a surefire district without Jews, JTA

“Democrats in Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District are going to the polls Tuesday to choose their candidate in what is likely a surefire Democratic win in November….The incumbent, Dan Lipinski, did not endorse Barack Obama in the 2012 election and voted against Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement, the Affordable Care Act. Lipinski’s opponent,  marketing executive and political neophyte Marie Newman, is seen as the more progressive candidate….Lipinski….voted against Obama’s signature foreign policy get: the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group that supported the deal, raised $50,000 for Newman through its affiliated PAC and has contributed another $25,000 to a progressive initiative spearheaded by NARAL, the reproductive rights advocacy group.”

Top News and Analysis

‘Fixing’ the Iran Nuke Deal Ahead of North Korea Talks Is a Terrible Idea, Foreign Policy

Philip Gordon writes, “[T]he idea that we can get a deal with North Korea by calling for fundamental changes in the Iran deal — or worse, by tearing it up — is a dangerous fantasy. Its most likely result would be the death of the effective deal already in place while making it less likely that the United States gets the additional one it wants.”

Merkel warned Netanyahu collapse of Iran deal could lead to war, Axios

Barak Ravid reports, “German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that a decision by President Trump to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal might lead to the collapse of the agreement and, as a result, could lead to a regional war. German officials told me Merkel made this position clear when she met Netanyahu at the world economic forum in Davos Switzerland on January 24th…..The German chancellor also told Netanyahu that the European powers do not want do violate their international commitments and that U.S. withdrawal would harm the credibility of the West. That would make it harder to reach diplomatic solutions with problematic countries in the future because, ‘No one would take our word anymore,’ she added.”


Netanyahu Defends Egypt Border Fence: Influx of African Migrants More Dangerous Than Terrorism, Haaretz

The danger of African illegal immigrants entering Israel through the Sinai Peninsula is worse than the risk of terrorism, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday. He said that if it weren’t for the fence along the border with Egypt, Israel would lose its national character and face a hopeless situation. “Attacks by terrorist groups in the Sinai, and the worst thing: A flood of illegal infiltrators from Africa,” he said in a speech to the Negev Conference in Dimona. If the fence along the border with Egypt did not prevent the entry of illegal immigrants, Israel’s national character would be in danger.

Ending a decade of silence, Israel confirms it blew up Assad’s nuclear reactor, Times of Israel

The State of Israel on Wednesday formally acknowledged that its air force blew up a Syrian nuclear reactor in the area of Deir Ezzor in the pre-dawn hours of September 6, 2007, in a mission known to much of the world as Operation Orchard. The official confirmation ends a 10-and-a-half-year policy of referring to the event with a smirk and a wry “according to foreign reports.”

PA may consider declaring Gaza ‘rebel district,’ cutting enclave off, Times of Israel

The Palestinian Authority may study the possibility of declaring the Gaza Strip a rogue area, solidifying the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In his speech before Palestinian leaders on Monday evening, Abbas threatened to take “national, legal, and financial measures” against Hamas. However, Abbas did not provide further details about his planned sanctions. The Fatah official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, said during an interview in his office in Ramallah that declaring the Gaza Strip a “rebel district” would exempt the PA government from all its responsibilities toward the coastal enclave.

Arab Citizens Tried to Buy Land in This Israeli Town. The Mayor Halted the Sale to Uphold Its ‘Jewish-Zionist Nature’, Haaretz

The mayor of a town in northern Israel announced that he was suspending future sales of building lots in the community after around half of the winning bids in the most recent phase were from Israeli Arabs. In a message to residents issued Friday, Kfar Vradim Mayor Sivan Yechieli said he was “responsible for preserving the secular-Jewish-Zionist nature of Kfar Vradim,” adding that he planned to “ask the relevant government bodies to create solutions allowing for the maintenance of demographic balances.”

Israeli red tape may hold up US embassy move to Jerusalem – report, Times of Israel

The planned move of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel declaring independence, may be delayed due to Israeli bureaucracy, according to a Tuesday report. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly vowed to cut through the red tape Tuesday.

Bennett Takes on Lauder: Don’t Blame Israel for US Jews Assimilating, Jerusalem Post

Education and Diaspora Minister Naftali Bennett politely but firmly disagreed with a New York Times Op-Ed written by World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder, implying Israel bears responsibility for the assimilation of Jewish millennials in the US. Bennett said he disagreed with Lauder’s placing Palestinian incitement and Israeli settlement construction in the same basket in his article, saying that there is no “moral equivalence between settlement building, what I call ‘building in our communities in our homeland,’ and Palestinian incitement. It is not the same thing.”

Opinions and Analysis

Israel prepares for ‘May Madness’, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit observes, “The month of May is shaping up to be ‘May Madness,’ a take on the ‘March Madness’ of collegiate basketball. According to Israel’s intelligence and political echelons, President Donald Trump’s policies will be tested in May on numerous fronts that have implications for Israel’s national security. To these assessments one must add the mounting rumors, mainly in the Arab world, about a possible aerial assault — by the United States or Israel or both of them together — against Iranian forces in Syria. There is no evidence, however, to support the rumor. No official source has mentioned an anticipated attack, but the issue has been discussed intently in almost all the nerve centers of the Middle East.”

Forget ‘Son of a Dog’ – Abbas’ Speech Was Disconcerting for an Entirely Different Reason, Haaretz

Amos Harel writes, “Palestinian President Abbas is caught in a catch-22. On one hand, there is the U.S. peace initiative which he has good reason to think will come to nothing of value; on the other hand, there is the failed reconciliation process between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. The elderly leader’s way of escaping his troubles is by hurling insults at Americans and imposing further sanctions on the Gaza Strip. His declarations and actions could bring closer a military conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Strip, and continue to destabilize already-tense relations with Israel in the West Bank.”

Mike Pompeo’s evangelical zeal could complicate his new diplomatic life, Economist

“Even among broadly conservative watchers of American foreign policy, there is worry that Mr Pompeo’s apparent sectarian sentiment might be a problem. In the words of Robert D. Kaplan, a veteran global-affairs writer, Mr Pompeo “emblemises an increasingly theological bent in American politics, and in particular in a strand of American conservatism.”

The Real Fallout From Israel’s 2007 Attack on the Syrian Reactor, Haaretz

Aluf Benn writes, “The nighttime air strike near the Euphrates River on September 6, 2007 was a turning point in Israel’s military, diplomatic and political history. It reshaped the country’s defense policies and its relations with the United States and other countries in the region. It also caused a rift among Israel’s leaders, driving a wedge between then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, which led to the fall of the government and accelerated the return to power of Benjamin Netanyahu.”