News Roundup for March 6, 2018

March 6, 2018

Receive the roundup in your inbox every morning!

J Street in the News

Trump and Netanyahu Bromance Blossoms as Scandal-Ridden Leaders Reaffirm their Friendship, Newsweek

“‘Yet again, President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu talked vaguely about their desire for peace — and failed to put forward any viable vision for how to get there. Their refusal to endorse the two-state solution is endangering Israel’s future and standing in the way of real diplomatic progress,’” Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the non-profit J Street, said in a statement. ‘Instead of pursuing a two-state solution, these leaders would rather celebrate the US ‘taking Jerusalem off the table’ – a destructive, unnecessary action that undercuts the credibility of American leadership and the prospects for peace,’” he added.”

Mike Pence at AIPAC: We’ll Support Israel if It’s Attacked by Iran – ‘Dangerous Provocations Won’t Go Unchecked,’ Haaretz

In response to Pence’s speech, left-wing U.S. Jewish group J Street said in a statement that, rather than being committed to securing a peace deal, the vice president is committed to pandering to his far-right base. J street accused Pence of ‘undermining the credibility of American leadership and any chance of progress towards a two-state solution.’ The organization called Pence’s remarks about withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal ‘alarming’ and said such a move could send the U.S. into another war in the Middle East. ‘It’s vital that Members of Congress make clear that they will refuse to go along with such a disastrous mistake,’ J street said.”

Teaneck doctor seeks bipartisan unity as president of pro-Israel group AIPAC, North Jersey News

“But unifying people behind the Jewish state means Fridman has to deal not only divisions over American politics but Israel’s as well. Jessica Rosenblum, spokeswoman for J Street, the pro-Israel group that seeks a peaceful solution to conflict in the Mideast, said AIPAC faces an ‘impossible task’ because of its ‘unquestioning support for a right-wing government of Israel that occupies another people, undercuts democratic norms, impinges on religious freedom, embraces president Trump and still hopes to appeal to progressives.’”

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

“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.”

What’s It Like Being a Left-winger at AIPAC? Not as Rare as It Used to Be, Haaretz

“‘AIPAC sees what’s happening,’ said Dr. Dahlia Scheindlin, a public opinion expert and international political and strategic consultant specializing in progressive causes, and herself a left-wing Israeli invited to the confab. ‘They see the polls and they see where young American Jews are right now. They see many of them are completely disgusted by Trump, and they see the growth of J Street,’ she said, referring to the pro-Israel, pro-peace U.S. lobby group. ‘I think it’s a very genuine response. It’s an effort to include what they have to acknowledge is a very big, if not the bigger, piece of the American-Jewish community.’”

In outreach to progressives, AIPAC airs a hearty endorsement of the two-state solution, JTA

“Kohr also sounded a note that could have come from J Street, the liberal Mideast lobby that presents itself as an alternative to AIPAC: Security, he said, is illusory without peace deals. ‘Israel’s security cannot be fully ensured and a promise cannot be fully realized until she is at peace with all her neighbors,’ he said. The settler movement immediately expressed shock.”

Top News and Analysis

Netanyahu, Visiting U.S., Is Stalked by Legal Troubles at Home, The New York Times

Isabel Kershner reports, “A former top aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel turned state’s witness on Monday, the third close associate to agree to testify against him in a corruption scandal that threatens to end his career. The deal came after days of feverish speculation in Israel that Mr. Netanyahu, beleaguered by police investigations and facing possible bribery charges, might call a snap election in hopes of a quick validation of public support. News of the plea deal broke as Mr. Netanyahu was in Washington to meet with President Trump, diminishing any hope the Israeli leader may have held that his role on the international stage would overshadow the scandals back home.”

Israel’s beleaguered Netanyahu finds respite with Trump and talks about Iran, not Palestinian peace, LA Times

Tracy Wilkinson and Christi Parsons report, “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, under siege from corruption investigations and other scandals back home, found a warm respite Monday at the White House at the start of a three-day U.S. visit expected to center on Iran, not the stalled Mideast peace process. Even as a criminal investigation into Netanyahu deepened in Israel, the prime minister and President Trump shook hands twice, smiled broadly for the cameras and lavished each other with praise in the Oval Office before they sat down to lunch with their wives and Cabinet members.”

The Two-State Solution Is Far From Dead, The Forward

Ed Robin and Stu Katz argue, “No policy proposal, however sturdy, will gain currency among Israelis without a real political horizon. The Commanders aim to build regional support for Israel by responding to the Arab Peace Initiative. Here, the United States and moderate Arab countries can play constructive roles in supporting future Israeli efforts to keep the two-state solution alive. At the same time, one of the goals – and likely a natural side effect – of the Security First plan is to take the steam out of BDS and other anti-normalization movements by demonstrating sincere Israeli steps toward a negotiated accord. Thus, the work of two-state supporters is cut out: to assess pragmatically the current Israeli-Palestinian reality, offer productive, confidence-building measures to curb the slide toward a single state, and to preserve the ideal of an Israel that is Jewish, democratic, and secure.”


Echoing settler leader, Likud MKs blast AIPAC’s two-state support, Times of Israel

Echoing the message of a top settler leader, Likud lawmakers called on the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to drop its support for the two-state solution in a storm of Monday statements.

UN Chief Nuke Inspector: Iran Nuclear Deal Must Not Fail, US News and World Report

The head of the U.N. nuclear agency says a deal between Iran and six other nations aimed at ensuring Tehran doesn’t develop atomic weapons mustn’t fail. President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to withdraw the United States from the landmark 2015 agreement, and last year refused to confirm to Congress that it is in America’s national security interest.

General: Gaza conditions won’t improve until Hamas returns captive Israelis, Times of Israel

Improving the bleak living conditions in the Gaza Strip is contingent upon the return of two Israeli civilians, and the remains of two slain IDF soldiers, being held captive in the coastal enclave, the head of the army’s Southern Command said Monday.

U.S. will withdraw from Iran deal unless it is fixed soon, Pence tells AIPAC, JTA

Vice President Mike Pence said that unless the Iran deal is fixed in the “coming months,” the United States would withdraw from it

Netanyahu allies unfazed by latest confidant to turn on PM, Times of Israel

Leading members of Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet appeared unshaken Monday by news that yet another former associate of the prime minister had turned state’s witness against him in the Bezeq corruption probe, and said they would continue to serve under him.

Netanyahu defends policies that have alienated U.S. Jews, JTA

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended policies that sometimes drew dissent from American Jews, saying Israel’s national security interests were paramount.

Netanyahu denies leveraging draft bill crisis to call elections, Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed speculation he would use a coalition fight over ultra-Orthodox conscription as a pretext to call fresh elections amid his mounting legal woes.

Israeli forces demolish Palestinian-owned structures in East Jerusalem, Ma’an News

Israeli bulldozers demolished a cement wall and a carwash belonging to a Palestinian in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan on Tuesday morning. The structures belonged to Silwan resident Abed Odeh, from the Bir Ayyoub area of the town.

Kahlon again threatens to exit coalition if budget not passed by Passover, Times of Israel

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon threatened to steer his Kulanu party lawmakers out of the coalition and resign from the treasury if the 2019 budget was not approved before the Knesset breaks for the Jewish holiday of Passover later this month.

Opinions and Analysis

Netanyahu and Trump Are About to Lose All Use for Each Other, Haaretz

Anshel Pfeffer argues, “Trump will soon be of little use to Netanyahu. For Trump, meanwhile, the strong ties of members of his close team and family to Israel could swiftly become a liability. As federal investigators continue zeroing in on son-in-law and special adviser Jared Kushner’s business dealings in the Middle East and their connection to Trump foreign policy, being seen as over-friendly with Israeli leaders may not seem so useful to a scandal-ridden administration.”

AIPAC rekindles old debate: Does Israel seek a two-state solution? Times of Israel

Raphael Ahren writes, “What exactly is Israel’s position on a two-state solution? A plea for Palestinian statehood issued earlier this week by Howard Kohr, the CEO of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, has brought the question into the spotlight once again, with settler leaders and top Likud officials arguing that official government policy opposes Palestinian statehood and angrily demanding the influential pro-Israel lobby chief disavow his remarks. But there is no simple answer to this question, as the Israeli government does not have a clearly formulated position on the matter.”

The Downfall of Crown Prince Kushner, Haaretz

Ambassador Dan Shapiro argues, “That kind of coordination, which integrates all departments of government, actually gets more done. It enables serious follow-up and implementation of decisions. It avoids creating confusion and illusions about U.S. policy, by hearing different things from different people, both on issues where we agree and those where we differ. It ultimately makes for a healthier and stronger relationship, one that can weather even serious policy disagreements… When Jared Kushner has the baton pulled from his hand, who is going to carry it for the U.S.-Israel relationship in the coming years?”

Grown-ups Are Not Running America’s Foreign Policy, New York Magazine

Heather Hurlburt writes, “Americans have gotten at least a little bit used to the idea that the Trump White House is in a permanent state of chaos and crisis — or at least that cycles of crisis come regularly, every few Scaramuccis. But Washington and much of the media are still in the grip of a narrative that says shadowy, unelected adults are keeping a steady hand on the tiller overseas, and that because national security Cabinet members are so impressive our foreign policy is showing barely a ripple. That hasn’t been true since the moment newly inaugurated President Trump rolled out his first Muslim ban, a piece of immigration policy with profound implications for U.S. relations with dozens of majority-Muslim countries. But this was the week it became clear to everyone, or should have, that the grownups are not in charge, and U.S. foreign policy is in the same painful state as everything else.”