News Roundup for November 19, 2019

November 19, 2019

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J Street in the News

Progressive Jewish Groups Condemn Trump Administration’s Softened Stance on Israeli Settlements, Newsweek
“Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of the liberal pro-Israel advocacy group J Street, described Pompeo’s announcement as ‘inconsistent with international law’ and another gift for Netanyahu. ‘This announcement is just the latest in a long series of actions by the Trump administration designed to aid the Israeli settlement movement, prevent a two-state solution and provide political gifts to Prime Minister Netanyahu,’ he said in a statement.”

Leading Democratic presidential candidates denounce US settlement decision, Times of Israel
“The liberal Mideast policy organization J Street described the move as a ‘destructive gift’ to the Israeli right, and accused Washington of ‘shattering America’s limited remaining credibility in the region and around the world.’ {…] ‘The timing of this announcement can only be read as last-ditch attempt to boost the prime minister’s personal prospects,’ Ben-Ami added, referring to Netanyahu’s struggle to remain in office following inconclusive elections, as well as the three corruption cases facing the prime minister.”

Public Discussion on US Aid to Israel, Times of Israel
National Co-Chair of the J Street Rabbinic and Cantorial Cabinet John L. Rosove writes, “To restore American credibility in the Middle East, our next President will need to help bring Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiation table to work towards a two-state resolution of their conflict. The next President will also need a strong US-Israeli partnership to advance our shared security interests and democratic values. To meet this monumental challenge, we American Jews need to be able to have a responsible, honest, and civil conversation about what the vital relationship between the US and Israel should be – including a discussion of how our US security aid is used.”

Trump Administration’s Announcement on Legality of Settlements Discards Decades of Us Policy, Hands Destructive Gift to Israeli Right, J Street
“With their actions and rhetoric, the president and his advisers have given the Israeli government carte blanche to expand settlements, entrench occupation and move toward formal annexation of the West Bank. By discarding decades of bipartisan US policy and flagrantly disregarding international law, they are trampling on the rights of Palestinians and helping the Israeli right-wing to destroy Israel’s future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people.”

Top News and Analysis

US says Israeli settlements no longer considered illegal in dramatic shift, The Guardian
The US has declared that Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land are not necessarily illegal, in a dramatic break with decades of international law, US policy and the established position of most US allies. “Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law has not advanced the cause of peace,” said Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state. “The hard truth is that there will never be a judicial resolution to the conflict, and arguments about who is right and who is wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace.” He said the legality of individual settlements should be decided by the Israeli courts, and claimed that the US declaration would not prejudice an ultimate comprehensive settlement between Israelis and Palestinians.

US angers Palestinians with reversal on Israeli settlements, AP
“The U.S. administration has lost its credibility to play any future role in the peace process,” said Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The European Union warned of the potential repercussions in a statement following the announcement that did not mention the U.S. “All settlement activity is illegal under international law and it erodes the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace,” said the statement from the 28-nation bloc. “The EU calls on Israel to end all settlement activity, in line with its obligations as an occupying power.”

The Latest Trump Statement Isn’t Going to Make Settlements Legal, Haaretz
Noa Landau writes, “After slashing the budgets of the Palestinian Authority and the UNRWA – the United Nations’ agency to aid Palestinian refugees, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the Golan Heights as Israeli sovereign territory, there was only one card left up the American sleeve – and the Trump administration decided to generously draw it now: An announcement that the settlements in the West Bank are not necessarily ‘illegal’ in the eyes of the United States, contradicting international law.”


Israeli right-wing leaders applaud US change of stance on West Bank settlements, i24
Israeli right-wing leaders and politicians lauded Monday night the United States for its historically changed stance on the settlements in the West Bank, following Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement to not consider them as violating international law.

UN Security Council to discuss US settlement announcement Wednesday, Times of Israel
Israel’s mission to the United Nations says the Security Council will convene on Wednesday, to discuss recent developments in the Middle East, including the US secretary of state’s statement announcing a dramatic policy shift on West Bank settlements.

Israelis Laud ‘Historic’ U.S. Policy Shift on Settlements; Palestinians Call for International Rebuke, Haaretz
Israeli settlement officials called Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement that settlements don’t violate international law a ‘historic’ decision and thanked the U.S. administration for its shift in policy.

Netanyahu and Gantz both fete US for changing tack on settlements, Times of Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief challenger Benny Gantz both lauded the US decision to repudiate its official legal opinion that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal Monday night.

Netanyahu, Gantz to Meet in Last-ditch Effort to Negotiate Unity Government, Haaretz
With only a day left until his mandate to form a government expires, Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz continues his attempt to secure a coalition, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud claiming that a Gantz-led minority government backed by the country’s Arab parties would be a “national attack on the State of Israel.”

Top Arab MK accuses Netanyahu of trying to ‘spark a civil war’, Times of Israel
Israel’s top Arab lawmaker on Monday accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of trying to “spark a civil war” by inciting violence against the Knesset member’s community, and his deputy had a heated exchange with the leader of the Blue and White party over criticism of the IDF, following last week’s fighting in Gaza.

Israel Intercepts Four Syria Rockets Believed to Be Fired at Iran’s Command, Haaretz
Four rockets fired from Syria were intercepted over the Golan Heights by the Iron Dome missile defense system, the Israeli military said early Tuesday. According to sources in Israel’s defense establishment, the rockets were fired following a command from Iran.

Iran exceeds heavy water limit in latest nuclear deal breach: IAEA, Reuters
Iran has breached another limit in its nuclear deal with major powers by accumulating slightly more than 130 tonnes of heavy water, a substance used in a type of reactor it is developing, a U.N. nuclear watchdog report showed on Monday.

Cop who killed Ethiopian-Israeli to face softened charge Tuesday — report, Times of Israel
A police officer will face downgraded negligent homicide charges in the shooting death of an Ethiopian-Israeli teen in June, Hebrew-language media reports said Monday, in a decision that could reignite protests that gripped the country earlier this year.

Opinion and Analysis

Are West Bank Settlements Illegal? Who Decides? , New York Times
Isabel Kershner writes, “The United States declared that Israeli settlements on the West Bank are ‘not inconsistent with’ international law, despite decisions by world bodies like the International Court of Justice.”

I’m a Neighbor of the Gaza Family Israel Killed Accidentally. I Don’t Know How to Tell My Kids They’ll Never Be Safe [Warning: Graphic Content], Haaretz
Mohammed Azaiza writes, “The kids were looking at me with worried faces that were begging me to protect them from fear and death. But how can we protect them? Where can we take them? There are no bomb shelters in Gaza, no safe place.”

By saying settlements not illegal, Trump seen as throwing Netanyahu a lifeline, Times of Israel
Eric Cortellessa writes, “It seems, at least in part, designed to bolster Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he faces one of the toughest political battles of his life.”

A Third Election Is Almost Inevitable. Even Israel’s Political Kingmaker Knows That, Haaretz
Anshel Pfeffer writes, “Israeli politics is entering an unprecedented 48 hours. For the first time in Israeli electoral history, it looks extremely likely that two candidates tapped by the president have failed to form a government. We will be entering the final three-week period, in which any Knesset member can try to gather 61 MKs’ signatures to try and form a government. And if that doesn’t happen, a third consecutive election campaign.”

The scenarios that could prevent 3rd elections, each as far-fetched as the next, Times of Israel
Raoul Wootliff writes, “Lawmakers face 6 potential options that could stop the countdown toward another national vote and, finally, form the 35th Government of Israel.”

By labeling Arabs an ‘existential threat,’ Bibi invokes a terrifying history of ethnic violence, +972 Mag
Dahlia Scheindlin writes, “The prime minister organized an emergency Likud gathering Sunday night, in which he accused Israel’s Arab citizens of supporting terror and wanting to destroy the State of Israel. We know how this kind of thing can end.”