News Roundup for October 30, 2019

October 30, 2019

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J Street in the News

2020 Democrats at J Street Conference Reflect New Tone on U.S.-Israel Relations, New York Times
“Democratic attitudes toward Israel are shifting in the highest echelons of the party. Several Democratic presidential hopefuls spoke at a national conference hosted by J Street, a liberal lobbying group that describes itself as ‘pro-Israel and pro-peace.’ Thousands of progressive Jewish activists gathered at the two-day conference, as candidates answered questions about what they would do to end the Israeli occupation in the West Bank as well as restart negotiations between Palestinians and the Israeli government […] Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, said that the group’s polling showed that the vast majority of Democratic voters supported both Palestinians and Israelis but did not approve of Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has backed settlement expansion and annexation of more of the West Bank.’”

Trump-Netanyahu embrace boosts progressive Jewish Americans, AP
“As Israel and the United States grapple with uncertain politics that could have a massive effect on the future of Israel-Palestinian relations, politically progressive Jewish Americans are showcasing their influence. Five Democratic presidential candidates addressed thousands of attendees on Sunday and Monday at the national conference of J Street, founded in 2007 as a liberal counterweight to Washington advocacy that its leaders saw as aligning U.S. policymakers with the Israeli government exclusively enough to limit the prospects for meaningful peace with Palestinians […] The Trump-Netanyahu alliance has also strengthened J Street’s case for Democrats to stand against the Israeli leader’s pursuit of settlement expansion and annexation in the West Bank.”

Sanders gets personal in a conversation about Israel policy, Washington Post
“The comments, at a conference in Washington hosted by the liberal Jewish organization J Street, were Sanders’s most direct attempt yet to fuse his heritage to his political approach and policy agenda […] Jewish voters and political donors, who overwhelmingly support Democrats, have generally welcomed criticism of Netanyahu and his policies. And a younger generation of Democrats has shown an increasing willingness to break from past orthodoxy, which called for showing more unquestioning support for Israel.”

The Trailer: The Democrats’ fast shift to the left on Israel, Washington Post
“By Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.); South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg; and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) had all endorsed a position that was nowhere in Democratic politics just six months ago — making military aid to Israel conditional on the country no longer annexing territory in Gaza and the West Bank. They did so at a conference sponsored by J Street, a 12-year-old organization that was created to shift the conversation on Israel to the left […]  The organization’s polling has found Democrats supportive of Israel, but not of Netanyahu, with one J Street study finding a 52-point gap in their approval. According to the 2018 exit poll, Jewish voters backed Democratic candidates in the midterms by 62 points. Netanyahu’s close alliance with President Trump, which has won unilateral American support for recognition of the Golan Heights and the U.S. Embassy’s move to Jerusalem, has made it easier for Democrats to criticize Israeli policy without alienating their base.”

Bernie Sanders Just Proved It’s A New Era For How Democratic Candidates Talk About Israel, Huffington Post
“The fact that even Sanders rivals, such as centrist fellow speaker Pete Buttigieg, have urged big changes to Obama’s aid policy shows how much of the Democratic Party now believes a major reboot to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is essential. It suggests they don’t see the issue as a political loser. And it indicates that many politically savvy Democrats aren’t ready to be cowed by Trump’s bid to paint them as anti-Semitic for questioning Israel’s actions.”

2020 candidates address Trump’s relationship with Israel [Video], NBC
2020 Democratic contenders are addressing President Trump’s relationship with Israel at the J Street National Conference. J Street is a liberal Jewish lobby that supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Castro open to tying further U.S. aid to Israel to halted West Bank expansion [VIDEO], MSNBC
A progressive Jewish conference J Street, Julián Castro spoke with NBC News’ Vaughn Hillyard about his Middle Eastern foreign policy.

2020 Daily Trail Markers: Democrats make their way to Iowa this week, CBS
“Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, and Amy Klobuchar, Michael Bennet and Bernie Sanders all attended the J Street conference in DC to talk about Israel-U.S. relations and foreign policy says CBS News 2020 broadcast associate Aaron Navarro. J Street is a progressive pro-Israel group that has been advocating for a two-state solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict.”

Sanders Sees U.S. Aid as ‘Leverage’ Over Israel, Bloomberg
“Bernie Sanders said Monday he’d use U.S. aid to Israel as ‘leverage’ to push the country to negotiate a peace agreement with the Palestinians. He said ‘$3.8 billion is a lot of money, and we cannot give it carte blanche to the Israeli government.’ Sanders spoke at a forum hosted by the progressive pro-Israel group J Street, where he was well-received.”

Trump Official Briefs AIPAC, as Democrats Rally Around J Street, The American Prospect
“At Monday night’s gala for J Street—the anti-Bibi, pro-Israel, pro-peace, two-state-solution organization—House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, ‘It’s in the DNA of many of us to support the U.S.-Israel relationship.’ Above all, hers was a call for ‘bipartisan’ support and not politicizing policy toward the Jewish state. And yet, though dozens of members of Congress were in attendance, there was not a single Republican member there. The Trump administration did not send a representative to J Street, as the previous administration had.”

Pete Buttigieg Calls for Tough Love With Israel, US News
“The United States, Buttigieg said, should view international relationships with allies as a ‘vfriendship where your friend is acting in a way that might hurt your relationship, hurt them and hurt you. You put you arm around your friend and try to guide them to a better place,’ the mayor said.”

Julian Castro Pledges Pressure Campaign on Israel, US News
“‘What I believe, what I hope, is that as Israel forms a new government, we’re going to have a new opportunity to work with our ally to ensure there is no unilateral annexation, (and) that we pursue a two-state solution,’ the former Housing and Urban Development secretary and Democratic presidential candidate told a conference of J Street, a liberal pro-Israel group, which cheered his remarks.”

Bernie Sanders Gets a Hometown Welcome at J Street, US News
“Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont had barely walked onto the stage at the national conference of J Street, a group dedicated to a Middle East peace that includes justice for both Jews and Palestinians, when thousands of people in the packed ballroom leapt to their feet and cheered.”

J Street launches bid to push anti-occupation stance in DNC platform, Times of Israel
“J Street leaders and student activists put out a ‘call to action’ to change the platform to more expressly condemn settlement expansion and support Palestinian aspirations. ‘Past party platforms have rightly stated a commitment to Israel’s security and included condemnations of threats and actions against our ally,’ the petition states. ‘Those platforms have, however, also been totally silent on the rights of Palestinians, on Israeli actions that undermine those rights and the prospects for a two-state solution, and on the need for security for both peoples.’”

Sanders says Israel will have to “fundamentally change” Gaza relationship for continued U.S. aid, Jewish Insider
“In a presidential forum hosted by former Obama administration officials Ben Rhodes and Tommy Vietor, candidates were pressed to express their willingness to take a tougher stance on the U.S.-Israel relationship. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) took the hardest line of any of the attending candidates…”

Not anti-Semitism to Say Netanyahu Government Has Been Racist, Sanders Says, Haaretz
“[Mayor Buttigieg] repeated his view that if Israel will annex parts of the West Bank, that should lead to a reconsideration of aid to Israel. ‘We have a responsibility… to ensure that U.S. taxpayer support for Israel does not get turned into taxpayer support for a move like annexation,’ Buttigieg said.”

Democratic hopeful Sanders urges giving chunk of US military aid to Gaza instead, Times of Israel
“The Vermont senator, speaking at the annual J Street national conference, vowed to use American military aid as leverage to get Israel to roll back its settlement enterprise and enter peace negotiations with the Palestinians, an idea that has gained ground among some Democrats.”

Klobuchar at J Street: Trump Chose Russia over Israel, The Jerusalem Post
“Minnesota Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Amy Klobuchar said on Sunday that the US withdrawal from Syria is bad for Israel. ‘When you think of it from an Israeli perspective, and you think of it from the perspective of our allies, once again, this president has chosen to let Russia have a lead and then has again backed away from our allies,’ she said Sunday at J Street’s National Conference.”

Bennet at J Street: My Mother Is Jewish But Didn’t Raise Me That Way, The Forward
“Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, whose Jewishness is less well-known, spoke powerfully about his family’s Holocaust history, saying ‘my mom and her folks were Polish Jews.’”

Top News and Analysis

Gantz: I’ll always prefer diplomacy to thwart Iran, but all options on the table, Times of Israel
“All options are on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran, though I will always, and we should always, favor diplomacy,” he declared, speaking in English. “But if we have to, then all options [are] on the table. It’s not a slogan. This is real in life. I know what I’m talking about.”

Israeli Soldier Gets One-Month Sentence Over Death of Gaza Teenager, New York Times
An Israeli soldier who shot and killed a plainly unarmed Palestinian boy during mass protests along the Gaza border fence last year has been sentenced to a month in military prison and demoted. It was the first conviction of a soldier to result from a handful of criminal investigations that were opened after hundreds of Palestinians were killed during the protests, which began in March 2018 and continue, albeit in reduced form.

Kushner urges PM, Gantz to unite to seize ‘tremendous opportunities’ in region, Times of Israel
“The message that I was bringing was one that right now in the region there really are tremendous opportunities that we’ve accomplished over the past couple years, but even more that we can be seizing together, so it would be great for Israel to figure out how to form a government so we can start working on all the big priorities and opportunities that exist,” said Kushner.


Kushner meets Blue and White heads seeking to unseat Netanyahu, Times of Israel
Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner and other top US officials met with Blue and White Party leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid on Monday for the first time, amid efforts by the politicians to cobble together a ruling coalition.

Settlers clash with Palestinians harvesting olives near Yitzhar, Times of Israel
Israeli youth clashed with a group of Palestinian farmers harvesting olives outside of the hardline Yitzhar settlement on Wednesday, with each side accusing the other of instigating the skirmish.

Palestinian woman shot trying to stab Israeli troops, AP
Israeli police say officers shot a Palestinian woman who attempted to stab troops outside a contested holy site in the West Bank city of Hebron.

Israeli embassies around the world shut as diplomats, military attachés strike, Times of Israel
All Israeli embassies and consulates around the world shut down early Wednesday as diplomats and military attachés went on strike in a long-simmering dispute with the Finance Ministry over expense stipends paid to envoys.

Opinion and Analysis

Left vs. Right? The Battle for U.S. Jews’ Hearts on the Israel Question Is Far More Complex, Haaretz
Allison Kaplan Sommer writes, “As anyone who has attended a Rosh Hashanah or Passover family meal in recent years knows, the Trump era has introduced new tensions within the Jewish Democratic family. The conflicts today extend beyond traditional disagreements over Israel involving one-state versus two-state solutions and land for peace.”

Jewish-Arab partnership as an antidote to Jewish supremacy, +972 Mag
Meron Rapoport and Ameer Fakhoury write, “We need to redefine Israeli politics. No more left and right, liberal or conservative, religious versus secular. Instead: a new partnership of Arabs and Jews, working side-by-side to combat Jewish supremacy.”

The Empty Chair of a Gazan Woman Who Was Meant to Sit Beside Me, Haaretz
Netta Ahituv writes, “The moderator explained that the chair next to mine was empty because the Israeli authorities (in this case, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories) did not allow her to leave the Gaza Strip. She couldn’t attend the conference but the organizers wanted her voice be heard anyway, so one of them read the comments that she had sent in advance.”

By withdrawing from Syria, Trump has abdicated responsibility and abandoned allies, JTA
Seth J. Frantzman writes, “President Donald Trump has been on a foreign policy roller-coaster this month that seems more jarring than usual. It began with him announcing a withdrawal from part of Syria on Oct. 6 and apparently will end with a speech on Oct. 27 about the killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. “