News Roundup for March 23, 2018

March 23, 2018

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J Street in the News

J Street Annual Conference to Host Bernie Sanders, Other Leading Senators, Haaretz

“Bernie Sanders and at least three other prominent Democratic senators will speak this year at left-wing J Street’s annual conference in mid-April. Sanders, a former presidential candidate and Vermont senator, also spoke before the left-wing Jewish group’s conference last year. His second appearance before the conference is a sign of his growing focus on foreign policy issues.  The most senior Democratic Senator to address the conference this year will be Dick Durbin (D-IL), who is the second-highest ranking Democrat in the Senate. Durbin’s appearance is considered an achievement for J Street. Its past conferences have hosted senior speakers from the Obama administration and the House of Representatives but never a senator as senior as Durbin. Another interesting name on the list of speakers this year is Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), considered a relatively hawkish Democrat on issues related to Israel and the Middle East….In addition to these three veteran Senators, J Street will also host Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) first elected to the Senate in 2012. Schatz, like Cardin and Sanders, is Jewish.”

Trump Replaces National Security Adviser McMaster With Hawkish John Bolton, Haaretz

“The pro-peace advocacy group J Street responded with anger at the appointment, calling Bolton a ‘completely inappropriate choice for any role related to America’s security interests and its relations with the rest of the world.’”

If The President Won’t Reverse Course on Bolton, Congress Must Step in to Limit Bolton’s Extremist Impact, J Street

“John Bolton is a completely inappropriate choice for any role related to America’s security interests and its relations with the rest of the world. We are horrified by his selection to be National Security Advisor and believe this move by the president gravely imperils our country’s national standing and the fundamental security of the United States and its allies, including Israel. Bolton’s long track-record shows him to be hostile to the notion of diplomacy itself. He is an unabashed advocate for premature, unnecessary and dangerous use of military force in the Middle East and around the globe….Even as the nuclear agreement with Iran has been implemented and deemed a success by US security officials and many members of the Israeli security establishment, Bolton has opposed it and called on the president to abrogate it.”

Top News and Analysis

McMaster to Resign as National Security Adviser, and Will Be Replaced by John Bolton, The New York Times

“President Trump named John R. Bolton, a hard-line former American ambassador to the United Nations, as his third national security adviser on Thursday, continuing a shake-up that creates one of the most hawkish national security teams of any White House in recent history. Mr. Bolton will replace Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the battle-tested Army officer who was tapped last year to stabilize a turbulent foreign policy operation but who never developed a comfortable relationship with the president. The move, which was sudden but not unexpected, signals a more confrontational approach in American foreign policy at a time when Mr. Trump faces mounting challenges, including from Iran and North Korea….Mr. Bolton, an outspoken advocate of military action who served in the George W. Bush administration, has called for action against Iran and North Korea.”

John Bolton, an Undiplomatic Voice for American Might, The New York Times

Peter Baker writes, “When he takes over as Mr. Trump’s third national security adviser in 14 months, Mr. Bolton will almost surely encourage Mr. Trump’s instincts against diplomatic agreements both consider weak and unwise. He shares the president’s derisive opinion of the Iran nuclear deal and will presumably prod him to scrap it when a May deadline arrives. He likewise takes a dim view of international agreements like the Paris climate change accord, from which Mr. Trump announced last year that he would withdraw the United States. He has called the ‘two-state solution’ for Israel and the Palestinians dead.”

The return of John Bolton, a hawk on North Korea and Iran, sparks concerns, Washington Post

Anna Fifield and Loveday Morris report, “The appointment of Bolton, who has adopted a tough stance toward both Iran and the Palestinians, was widely welcomed by members of Israel’s right-wing government….But even in Israel, his return stirred concern. While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lobbied for the United States to “fix or nix” the Iran nuclear deal, some Israeli security officials have warned against a complete collapse of the deal — a prospect that may be more likely with Bolton as national security adviser….For the Palestinians, meanwhile, there was no split in opinion as the Trump administration prepares to unveil a peace plan they already expect to be inherently biased. The appointment of Bolton, who has argued that the Palestinians do not have a right to self-determination, ‘adds insult to injury,’ said Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee.”

The Results Are In: Israel’s Left-wing Meretz Party Has Chosen a New Leader, Haaretz

“The left-wing Meretz party has voted and elected Lawmaker Tamar Zandberg to be its new leader. Zandberg, 41, won in a landslide, carrying over 70 percent of the vote in primary vote on Thursday….For the first time, all 31,000 party members will be eligible to vote. Previously, the party’s central committee elected the leader…..Originally nine candidates registered for the primary, including then-party leader Zahava Galon and MK Ilan Gilon. But a month ago, both withdrew. ‘From my conversations with members all over the country in recent weeks, I understood that they want a new leadership,’ Galon said at the time.”


Abbas warns Hamas: Hand over Gaza back to the Palestinian Authority, Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday renewed his demand that Hamas hand control over the entire Gaza Strip to the PA government, starting with their security forces. “The Gaza Strip has been hijacked by Hamas,” Abbas said, during a joint press conference in Ramallah with visiting Bulgarian President Rumen Radev. “They must immediately hand over everything, first and foremost security, to the Palestinian national consensus government.”

Dem senator on Bolton hire: Trump is ‘lining up his war cabinet’, The Hill

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) on Thursday slammed President Trump’s picks for national security adviser and secretary of State, saying the president is creating a “war cabinet” with John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, respectively.

Israel to demolish a Bedouin village next month, build a Jewish town in its place, +972

Israeli authorities handed out demolition orders to the entire Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran on Wednesday, as part of a plan to demolish and expel its residents before replacing it with the Jewish town Hiran. According to the authorities, the evacuation of the village will begin at the end of April. The village, located in Israel’s Negev Desert, has been under threat of demolition for over two decades.

Palestinian rejection said to delay US peace plan announcement indefinitely, Times of Israel

The US administration has reportedly decided to delay indefinitely the announcement of its long-awaited peace proposal after concluding that it cannot impose such a deal on the Palestinians. The Americans reached the conclusion after realizing as well that no Arab country would be willing to cooperate with the plan as long as the Palestinians were strongly opposed to it, a senior Palestinian official told the London-based Al Hayat newspaper in a report published Thursday.

U.K. Rips Into Israel Over Palestinian Teen Tamimi: ‘Conviction Is Emblematic of the Conflict’, Haaretz

The British Foreign office has weighed in on the plea deal reached between the Israeli army and Palestinian teen Ahed Tamimi, saying the conviction and sentence were “emblematic of how the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict is blighting lives of a new generation.” They also called on Israel to improve its treatment of Palestinian minors in Israeli military prisons, urging local authorities to do more to “safeguard vulnerable people in its care.”

Jewish Republican donor reportedly took $2.7 million from UAE lobbyist to influence Trump administration, JTA

A major Jewish Republican donor accepted $2.7 million from an adviser to the United Arab Emirates to influence Trump administration policy at a time of tension between the UAE and its neighbor, Qatar, The New York Times reported. Elliott Broidy, the deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee and a member of the board of directors of the Republican Jewish Coalition, was paid the money by George Nader, an adviser to the Emirates, in a bid to influence President Donald Trump. Broidy was an early Jewish backer of Trump in the primaries.

Opinions and Analysis

Bolton pick underscores Trump’s foreign policy confusion, Politico

“Foreign policy veterans of both parties familiar with the hawkish former diplomat, whom Trump picked Thursday to replace National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, say that Bolton’s worldview is as much “military first” as it is “America First.” The result is growing confusion about what Trump’s foreign policy views really are — and whether the president himself even knows what he thinks about the use of American military power.

This Is the Scariest News of the Trump Presidency, Mother Jones

Dan Friedman writes, “Bolton is a uniquely controversial and dangerous pick as Trump’s top national security aide. CNN reported Thursday that Bolton promised Trump “he wouldn’t start any wars” in the new job. But now the worry is that it is Trump who will start the wars—and that John Bolton will help him.

How the Strike on the Syrian Nuclear Reactor Plays Into Netanyahu’s Hands, Haaretz

Yossi Verter argues, “[A]t least in the short term, with the police investigations against Netanyahu sidelined in the media, the story of the reactor’s destruction plays into the prime minister’s hands. In the collective consciousness, it strengthens the feeling that as long as the threats against Israel haven’t ceased, the person leading the country must be someone with defense and diplomatic experience.”

Europe should strike a tough pose with Trump on the Iran nuclear deal, European Council on Foreign Relations

“[I]n their attempt to save the nuclear agreement through reaching a broader understanding with the Trump administration on Iran policy, the E3 must ensure that Europe does not become complicit in hollowing out the nuclear agreement. So far, the International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly verified that Iran is fulfilling its nuclear-related obligations. However, Iran has firmly indicated it will take reciprocal action to match any US backtracking from the deal. A potential side agreement between the E3 and the US with respect to the nuclear deal therefore risks a tit-for-tat exchange between Tehran and Washington that could alter and muddy their respective commitments under the agreement and cumulatively cause it to unravel.”

Naftali Bennett, Drop the Ignorant, Arrogant Lie That American Jewish Life Is a Scene of Carnage, Haaretz

Rabbi Eric Yoffie writes, “Naftali Bennett is an honest man. For that he deserves credit. He is also remarkably arrogant and astoundingly ignorant of Diaspora realities, a fact that he has demonstrated not once but twice in recent weeks….Bennett suggests that in 50 years the American Jewish community will be gone. It won’t be. It will be reconfigured and somewhat smaller, and probably both more traditional in its ritual and more radical in its theology.  But reorientation and renewal are far more likely than collapse. And by predicting imminent doom, Bennett is feeding into the Netanyahu tendency to dismiss American Jewry rather than to engage with it.”

Disrespect for judicial rulings erodes Israeli democracy, Al-Monitor

Akiva Eldar writes, “An ordinary citizen who decides to ignore a court ruling knows he stands to pay for it with his freedom or bank account, as well as his reputation. Politicians, on the other hand, view verdicts that are incompatible with their populist messages as opportunities to make headlines. Israeli prime ministers and Cabinet members who make a mockery of court rulings have never had to pay the price, neither at the ballot box nor at the bank.”