News Roundup for March 22, 2018

March 22, 2018

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J Street in the News

AIPAC-aligned Sen. Ben Cardin to speak at J Street conference, JTA

“Ben Cardin, the Democratic senator from Maryland who is among the closest in his party to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, will speak at the annual conference of its liberal rival, J Street. Cardin, who is Jewish, was one of just four Democrats in the Senate who voted in 2015 against the Iran nuclear deal, a pact that AIPAC vigorously opposed and that J Street championed. J Street this week announced he would speak at its April 14-17 conference….Also speaking at J Street’s conference is Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, who is Jewish.”

J Street founder discusses being ‘pro-Israel and pro-peace’ in the 21st century, St. Louis Public Radio

“There is a divide in the fundamental beliefs among supporters of Israel regarding the future of the Israel-Palestine conflict. For Jeremy Ben-Ami, pursuit of peace is something he considers critical to the security and survival of the State of Israel in the 21st century. On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked with the J Street president about his organization and his appearance this week at Congregation Shaare Emeth. Rabbi Jim Bennett also joined the conversation about being ‘pro-Israel and pro-peace.’……Bennett said J Street’s ideals align with his congregation and the ‘vast majority of American Jews,’ which is what motivated Ben-Ami’s invitation to discuss the matter at 7:30 p.m., March 21 at Congregation Shaare Emeth.”

Top News and Analysis

U.S. Taking Negotiations ‘One Week at a Time’ on Expiring Iran Deal, The New York Times

Gardiner Harris reports, “As they gathered last week, perhaps for the last time, diplomats from countries that brokered the Iran nuclear accord publicly and uniformly declared it was working — despite a death watch over the deal in Washington. But behind the closed doors of the chandeliered room, complaints spilled forth about President Trump’s threats to tear up the agreement….Hoping to avoid that, European diplomats have signaled that they might support an addendum to the 2015 agreement to enforce new limits on Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missile development and testing….Representatives for the United States and Europe have mostly agreed on a set of penalties they would impose if Iran develops an intercontinental ballistic missile — a weapon that the Western negotiators agree is useful only to carry nuclear payloads. But they remain far apart on how to deal with provisions in the accord that currently allow Iran to resume some civil nuclear activities in 2025 and 2030. Washington wants to shut down those activities permanently; the Europeans believe this would renege the terms of the deal.”

Palestinian Teen Ahed Tamimi Reaches Plea Bargain, to Serve 8 Months in Israeli Prison, Haaretz

“Palestinian teen Ahed Tamimi reached a plea bargain with military prosecution on Wednesday, according to which she will spend eight months in prison. As part of the deal, the 17-year-old is expected to plead guilty to four counts of assault, including the videotaped slapping of an Israeli soldier.  The deal still must be approved by the military court, and is not final. Tamimi has spent three months in detention so far.”


EU Raises Half-billion Dollars for Project to Improve Gaza’s Drinking Water, Haaretz

A forum of countries and agencies that provide aid to the Palestinians committed 456 million euro ($559 million) toward a project to improve the Gaza Strip’s drinking water at a pledging conference hosted by the European Union in Brussels on Tuesday.

Act That Would Slash Funding For Palestinians Attached To Omnibus Spending Bill, Forward

The Taylor Force Act, which would slash funding to the Palestinians until the Palestinian Authority stops payments to Palestinians killed or arrested during attacks on Israelis, will likely pass this week. Jewish Insider reported Wednesday that the bill would be added in the Senate to a massive omnibus spending bill that must pass by Friday night. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a key backer of the bill, told the news site that he secured U.S. House of Representatives support for the bill by preserving some humanitarian cutouts, or exceptions, that will allow up to $5 million for wastewater treatment and up to $500,000 for  vaccinations for children.

US negotiator: ‘We will see’ if Trump can be sold on Iran deal fix, Al-Monitor

“The lead US negotiator said today that transatlantic consultations on toughening policy toward Iran were making progress, but he offered no guarantees that US President Donald Trump would accept any agreement that might be reached. ‘First we have to reach an agreement with the Europeans,’ Brian Hook, the State Department policy planning chief, said on a call with journalists today. ‘If we can reach an agreement, then that will be presented to the president by the secretary of state and the national security adviser, and then he will make a decision on whether he wants to remain in the [Iran nuclear] deal or stop waiving sanctions.’”

Netanyahus set to be questioned in Bezeq graft probe on Monday, Times of Israel

Police will question Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara Netanyahu next Monday in the Bezeq graft probe, for the first time since a former adviser turned state’s witness in the high-profile corruption investigation, legal sources familiar with the case told The Times of Israel on Wednesday.

Netanyahu: Israel’s Policy Remains Preventing Enemies From Obtaining Nuclear Weapons, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had praise for Israel’s destruction of a Syrian nuclear reactor 11 years ago, details of which were cleared for publication on Wednesday. Through the bombing of the reactor at the time, “the Israeli government, the Israeli army and the Mossad [spy agency] prevented Syria from developing nuclear capabilities,” Netanyahu said. “Israel’s policy was and has remained consistent – preventing our enemies from obtaining nuclear weapons.”

Hamas holding 4 suspects in attack on Palestinian PM – sources, Times of Israel

Hamas is holding at least four suspects in connection with last week’s apparent attempt to assassinate Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and PA intelligence chief Majid Faraj near the Erez Crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Palestinian sources told The Times of Israel that some of the detainees have confessed their involvement in the bombing attack and that Hamas claims they are members of the extremist global terror group Salafia Jihadia.

Netanyahu initially welcomed Kerry’s peace initiative, ex-US envoy says, Times of Israel

Raphael Ahren reports, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was initially positively disposed toward then-secretary of State John Kerry’s peace initiative, former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said Tuesday. Netanyahu’s government bickered bitterly with the US administration about the Palestinian issue, but when Kerry first broached the idea of another effort to reach a final-status agreement in 2013, the prime minister was keen to give it a go, Shapiro said.”

Opinions and Analysis

Why I Stay in Gaza, The New York Times

Atef Abu Saif writes, “Life in Gaza is hard. Then it gets worse and we think it’s intolerable. Then it gets even worse….When so many basic things are so fundamentally beyond your control, you sometimes do feel like giving up, saying goodbye to both country and past, and letting Palestine go. The problem is, Palestine won’t let you go.”

Jared Kushner’s Dreams of Mideast Peace Are Alive, Bloomberg

Noah Feldman writes, “To change Abbas’s calculus, Kushner needs to sweeten the pot for the Palestinians. An offer you can’t refuse isn’t all about coercion — it also requires inducement. That means not only vast expenditures in Palestine, but also contiguous, livable borders within the West Bank, a capital in East Jerusalem, and land swaps to enable the Palestinians to save face and say they are getting a better deal than the one Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat rejected at Camp David. If this is a nonstarter for Netanyahu in his politically and ethically weakened condition, then all Kushner’s successes with MBS won’t be enough to deliver a deal.”

I Had To Leave A Jewish Organization For My Beliefs. Now Its President Shares Them, Forward

Dany Bahar writes, “[T]here’s an irony to Lauder expressing views that just a few years ago were deemed so controversial that I ultimately had to leave his organization. Israel is a democracy, and its leaders should not be free from criticism, especially when their actions are, as Lauder himself hints, endangering the very existence of the State of Israel. Jewish communities all over the world should be part of that debate. Debating is at the core of Judaism, and undermining such value is contrary to who we are as a people. Our own aversion to engage in legitimate criticism of Israel’s government, I believe, is inconsistent with its vibrant democracy and thus it hurts its international legitimacy.”

How Julie Fisher Went From U.S. Ambassador’s Wife to Ambassador for Israel’s Embattled Asylum Seekers, Haaretz

“The plight of African asylum seekers in Israel has become a hot-button issue for American Jews in recent months, but Julie Fisher has been grappling with the problem for seven years already. Fisher, a former teacher and school principal, first became involved with the refugee community in South Tel Aviv in 2011, shortly after she arrived in the country when her husband, Daniel B. Shapiro, began his stint as U.S. ambassador to Israel for the Obama White House….That involvement was formalized this week when she founded a new initiative, Consortium For Israel and the Asylum Seekers (CIAF), with the goal of tackling what she calls the “humanitarian crisis” among Israel’s 40,000 African asylum seekers. Many of them face the threat of forcible deportation to a third country (reportedly Rwanda or Uganda) or an indefinite term in an Israeli jail.”