News Roundup for March 5, 2018

March 5, 2018

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J Street in the News

Netanyahu aims to embrace Trump in White House visit amid scandals in Israel, Washington Post

“No world leader has forged a closer or more public camaraderie with President Trump than Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who visits the White House on Monday battling corruption allegations that have echoes in the White House itself….‘The fascinating thing is how strong the parallels are between Trump and Netanyahu’ at this moment, said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, a liberal U.S. pro-Israel advocacy group critical of both Trump and Netanyahu. ‘This swirl of corruption and investigation, the conflict of interest, is at the center of both administrations. You see both men respond in the same way — attacks on fundamental institutions of democracy like the judiciary and the media,’ Ben-Ami said.”

AIPAC Doubles Down On Bipartisan Strategy, Even In Trump Era, Forward

“Voices once considered marginal because of their pro-settler ideology now have the upper hand. They reshaped the Republican Party’s platform to exclude recognition of a two-state solution and later saw the Trump administration refuse to endorse a solution based on sharing the land between Israel and an independent Palestinian state……On the other end of the political spectrum, AIPAC has also been reaching out to African-American and Latino supporters of Israel, as well as to progressive Jews who might feel drawn to cross the lines and join J Street, AIPAC’s liberal competitor.”

J Street’s Ad in the New York Times, J Street

On Sunday morning, J Street placed a full-page ad in The New York Times calling on President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu to end their equivocation and endorse a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict… If Trump and Netanyahu are serious about pursuing peace, they need to respond constructively by putting the Palestinian commitment to a two-state solution to the test. They need to stop making excuses, commit to the basic principle of two states for two peoples, and put forward serious proposals for how to achieve that goal. It’s time for them to come to the two-state table.”

Top News and Analysis

Palestinians: Netanyahu Pressuring Trump to Present Peace Plan We Could Never Accept, Haaretz

“The Palestinian Authority believes the White House will present its peace plan in the coming weeks, after pressure by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A senior Palestinian official who recently met with Western diplomats told Haaretz that information obtained by the Palestinians indicates that Israel is pressuring the Trump administration to publish its plan quickly. Based on what Palestinians have been able to learn about the plan so far, he added, the PA will reject it out of hand, enabling both Netanyahu and the U.S. administration to paint the Palestinians as peace rejectionists….He added that the Palestinian Authority is relying on a counter reaction from Europe, both via a preliminary statement for a plan not based on a two-state solution outlined by the 1967 borders.”

Netanyahu, Under Fire at Home, Seeks a Warm Embrace in U.S., The New York Times

David Halbfinger observes, “The Trump administration has said it is nearing the release of its plan for an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, and all signs point to a proposal that is far more favorable to Israel, and objectionable to the Palestinians, than United States initiatives in the past. The Palestinians, enraged by Mr. Trump’s policy shifts on Jerusalem, have refused to meet with American officials and have rejected any United States role in mediating the conflict. Mr. Netanyahu could be expected to encourage Mr. Trump to move swiftly on the plan, said Dan Shapiro, who was United States ambassador to Israel under President Obama. A plan that benefits Israel at the Palestinians’ expense would only reinforce Mr. Netanyahu politically, underscoring his argument to Israeli voters that he is a peerless master of the Israeli-American relationship.”

Europe starts preparing Mideast peace initiative, Al-Monitor

Uri Savir reports, “A senior EU official close to High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini told Al-Monitor that Brussels was very much taken aback by Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem in May. The European source qualified this decision as a kiss of death for any realistic US peace initiative. According to this European diplomat, the EU will wait for another few weeks to ensure that there is no real US initiative, and then it will launch deliberation about an EU-led peace process initiative, led by France….A senior Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs official reacted to these propositions in a condescending way. He stated that ‘only Trump’ is Netanyahu’s motto. Yet given the one-sided US policy and the political crisis in Israel, an EU policy initiative should not be ruled out in 2018-19. Otherwise a policy vacuum could leave the door open to violence.”


Taking Off for Washington for AIPAC, Trump Meeting, Netanyahu Says: Israel Not Heading to Early Election, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu departed for Washington early Sunday, where he will meet with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House Monday. Before takeoff, Netanyahu, who is mired in corruption investigations, was asked if Israel was heading to an early election due to infighting in his government over the enlistment of ultra-Orthodox into the army: “No reason for [early elections] to take place, and with good will there’s no need for us to go to elections.”

Israel’s US envoy: Trump will bolt Iran nuclear deal if it’s not fixed, Times of Israel

There is “no doubt whatsoever” that President Donald Trump is prepared to walk away from the Iran nuclear deal if it cannot be fixed to ensure Tehran will not attain nuclear weapons, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States said on Sunday. To fix the deal, Dermer said the sunset clauses would have to be removed. Furthermore, “crippling sanctions” should be imposed on Iran’s oil and financial sector’s against its program to develop ballistic missile that can be used to deliver nuclear weapons. The deal’s inspections provisions, he added, must be amended so that Iran’s military sites are subject to inspection.

AIPAC launches conference with appeal to progressives, JTA

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee launched its annual conference with an appeal to bipartisanship, including a plea to progressives not to leave the pro-Israel cause.

IDF Soldiers Hanged In Effigy In Jerusalem Ultra-Orthodox Neighborhoods, Forward

Two effigies of Israeli soldiers with a rope around their necks were hung in predominantly Haredi areas of Jerusalem, in what Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said was a “shocking” criminal act. Police officers on Friday removed the effigies, one of which was soaked in flammable fluid, from a rooftop in Jerusalem’s Me’a She’arim neighborhood and from a rope dangling from a column on Chaim Ozer Street, the Israel Broadcasting Corporation reported.

Top Netanyahu ex-adviser said poised to turn new state’s witness in Bezeq probe, Times of Israel

A dramatic development was reported on Monday in the Bezeq corruption probe involving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his former media adviser said to be the latest of his close associates in talks to turn state’s witness.

Netanyahu Confidants Released Under Strict Conditions After Two-week Detention, Haaretz

The Tel Aviv District Court released for house arrest on Sunday morning two confidants of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who have been detained by police for the past two weeks as part of the telecom affair dubbed Case 4000 by police. The two confidants are Shaul Elovitch, the owner of Israel’s telecom titan Bezeq, and Nir Hefetz, a former media adviser for the premier.

Rivlin defends free press amid Netanyahu onslaught, Times of Israel

President Reuven Rivlin launched Sunday a vehement defense of journalism amid ongoing attacks​ on the Israeli media by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies. Speaking at the first-ever gathering of the Israel Press Council, Rivlin said that “it’s possible and ​appropriate to criticize the media,” but that “we must not silence it and the dialogue that it creates, even when is critical of us, whether on the left or right.”

Bill Would Codify $38B In Defense Aid For Israel, Forward

A bipartisan bill timed for AIPAC’s annual conference would codify into law the memorandum of understanding signed in 2016 by Israel and the United States guaranteeing Israel $38 billion in defense assistance over 10 years.

Opinions and Analysis

In West Bank reality, annexation is a pipedream, Times of Israel

Shaul Arieli and Nimrod Novik write, “Our government and the Trump Administration should embrace the CIS Security First plan for enhancing security, reducing friction between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank, improving the daily lives of residents of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, restricting settlement construction to the already built-up areas in the blocs and Israel’s renouncing claims to territories beyond those blocs. The US administration is well versed in that plan. If it wishes to preserve conditions for its “ultimate deal” and to forge a regional security structure harnessing Israel’s and pragmatic Arab states’ resources to check Iran’s regional ambitions, it should encourage Israel to implement it – starting at the March 5th Trump-Netanyahu meeting. Maintaining the viability of the two-state solution is vital for Israel’s security and important for US interests. Exposing the false claim that it is no longer feasible serves both.”

Statement by National Security Leaders on Israeli-Palestinian Two-State Solution and US Policy, J Street

“Our friends at the US Middle East Project ran a full-page ad in the Washington, DC edition of The New York Times urging the Trump administration to “end its equivocation” regarding the two-state solution. The ad, signed by seventeen prominent diplomatic and national security leaders called on President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu to respond positively to the parameters outlined recently by President Abbas for a peace deal and for all parties to return to the negotiating table.”

When Nakba Day meets US embassy move day, expect fireworks in Gaza, Times of Israel

Avi Issacharoff observes, “May 14, 2018, will likely go down in history as one of the most festive days that Israel has ever known. At long last, the United States, the world’s greatest superpower, will move its embassy to Jerusalem. The prime minister will give a speech, joined by his ministers and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, with — just possibly — a guest appearance by US President Donald Trump himself; a real celebration….But an ‘alternative party’ is already in the works: enormous Palestinian protest events, with the largest of them planned for the Gaza Strip. Preparations are under way for marches that will set out toward the border fence with Israel. Such a massive event, on the scale of the refugees’ march to the Israeli-Syrian border on the Golan Heights on Nakba Day in 2011, could become problematic for the State of Israel and for the Israeli army — to put it mildly.”

Ignore the Smiles: Trump-Netanyahu Get-together Is a Collision of Bad Karmas, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev writes, “The leaderships of both countries are possibly closer than ever in their basic political views and in their perceptions of the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Security coordination is great, both sides assert. And Trump is moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, isn’t he? But then again, in a truly unfathomable unraveling of synchronized history, the most critical ‘shared value’ of Netanyahu and Trump, even when they meet in the Oval Office, is how to extricate themselves from the legal nooses that are concurrently tightening around their necks.”