News Roundup for January 11, 2019

January 11, 2019

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J Street in the News

Will backing anti-BDS bills be a liability for 2020 Democratic hopefuls?, Times of Israel

“The Israel Anti-Boycott Act is being intensely opposed by J Street and the ACLU, both of which argue that the measure, if implemented, would unconstitutionally wield the power of the state to suppress a political movement….The legislation has been ‘alarming and deeply unpopular’ with Democratic activists, liberal pundits and advocacy groups, said Logan Bayroff, J Street’s director of communications…‘It’s one thing to try to quietly pass legislation, smuggling it into a much larger appropriations fight,’ Bayroff recently told The Times of Israel. ‘It’s something else entirely to have to really own and defend that kind of legislation on the national political stage when trying to appeal to Democratic voters. I don’t think you’re going to see many, if any, Democratic candidates standing behind legislation that is so strongly opposed by the ACLU and which has the real possibility of infringing on free-speech rights,’ Bayroff said….’It’s hard to say what will or will not be an issue in the primary,’ said Bayroff of J Street. ‘But I do think that presidential contenders on the Democratic side are going to try to distance themselves from this legislation.’”

Top News and Analysis

Their Pretense Is Over. The Settler Leadership Is a Violent, Lawless, Racist Gang of Vigilantes, Haaretz

Anshel Pfeffer writes, “Fast-forward to today, when a group of minors studying at a West Bank yeshiva, are suspected of having thrown the stones that caused the death of the Palestinian mother of seven Aisha Rabi in October 2018, you can see how the attempt over the last four decades, to differentiate between the vigilantism and racist attacks of lone Jewish terrorists, and the more “respectable” approach of the mainstream settler movement, has failed. The teenage suspects have received blanket support from the ideological, political and religious leaders of the moment. Nary a word of criticism for their alleged actions, just an outpouring of vitriol against the Shin Bet and its attempts to reach the truth. True liberals can never be complacent when minors are being questioned and prevented from meeting their lawyers, but the settlers protests go beyond mere hypocrisy, as they would never have any qualms when Palestinian terror suspects are treated in similar, and often far worse, manner.”

Over boos and whistles, Gabbay tells angry, divided Labor he can beat Netanyahu, Times of Israel

“Labor leader Avi Gabbay was met with boos and whistles at what was meant to be a festive conference on Wednesday night, as he sought to persuade his bitter and divided party that he can defeat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in April’s elections. Facing calls for him to step aside as the once-mighty political force wallows in dismal poll predictions, Gabbay attempted to ignore the pandemonium and present himself as a credible alternative to Netanyahu, whose Likud party appears on course to reelection. Speaking before some 2,000 members of Labor’s Central Committee, Gabbay urged the leaders of two other rival parties to join forces with him in a combined effort to unseat Netanyahu, declaring that Israelis want to live in a ‘normal country.’”


Pompeo’s Cairo Speech Is Met With Skepticism About Trump Policies, NPR

“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech Thursday at the American University in Cairo struck out at the Obama administration’s policies in the Middle East….His harsh comments on the past administration prompted critiques of the Trump administration’s strategy for the region…Pompeo said the previous administration “grossly underestimated the tenacity and the viciousness of radical Islamism,” which he said allowed ISIS to grow in Syria and Iraq. But Pompeo used the speech to try to counter criticism that the U.S. decision to withdraw its 2,200 troops from Syria could lead to an ISIS resurgence.”

Senate again fails to move anti-BDS bill as Murphy offers alternative, Al-Monitor

Senate Republicans again failed to reach the 60 votes needed to proceed to their anti-BDS bill, by a vote of 53-43. Democrats are still holding their ground, refusing to advance any non-spending legislation until the federal government reopens. The same four Democrats who broke ranks on Tuesday — Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Doug Jones, D-Ala., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. — again sided with Republicans, but no one else joined them.

IDF chief: Hezbollah had grandiose attack plan to ’cause earthquake in Israel’, Times of Israel

Israel’s top general said Lebanese terror group Hezbollah planned to use its array of underground attack tunnels to carry out a surprise invasion of Israel that would “throw Israel off balance and cause an earthquake in Israeli society.” Gadi Eisenkot’s comments came a month after the IDF launched an ongoing operation to locate and destroy the cross-border attack tunnels dug from Lebanon.

Ultra-Orthodox Party Must Accept Female Members, Israel’s High Court Rules, Haaretz

The High Court of Justice on Thursday validated a compromise ruling ordering an amendment of ultra-Orthodox party Agudat Yisrael’s rules to remove a clause barring women from becoming members ahead of the April 9 Israeli election.

IDF officer, 4 soldiers arrested for allegedly beating Palestinian suspects, Times of Israel

Military Police on Wednesday arrested an officer and four soldiers who allegedly beat two Palestinian suspects who were in their custody, the army said. The five serve in the Kfir Brigade’s religious Netzah Yehuda Battalion.

Opinion and Analysis

This Week Proved the Fight Over Israel in the New Congress Will Be Long and Ugly, Haaretz

Amir Tibon argues, “In the current political environment, Israeli diplomats and groups like AIPAC face a double challenge. One part of this challenge is the growing “progressive wing” within the Democratic Party which is very critical of Israel, and now includes two members of the House of Representatives who openly endorse BDS. The second part of the challenge is attempts by Republicans to paint the entire Democratic Party with a single brush when it comes to Israel, ignoring the real differences between the few who are truly anti-Israeli and those who have nuanced positions on specific policy questions. When these two factors combine, they become a real threat to the continuation of bi-partisan support for Israel in American politics.”

On indictments, pretrial hearings and what Netanyahu can expect before elections, Times of Israel

Raphael Ahren reports, ‘When first faced with corruption allegations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used to dismissively, even smugly, insist that “there there will be nothing because there is nothing.’ Of late, his tone has dramatically changed. But the arguments he’s been advancing in recent weeks are not necessarily more pertinent than his previous mantra of total innocence, legal experts said this week.”

Netanyahu’s Top Rival Has Found a Way to Psych Out the Prime Minister, Haaretz

Yossi Verter writes, “Gantz has not been harmed by all this noise. A midweek poll on Channel 10 found that he’s running almost neck-and-neck with Netanyahu on the question of suitability for prime minister: 38 percent vs. 41 percent for the incumbent. That figure reflects a groundswell of support for Gantz that virtually spans the entire center-left bloc, in the face of a similar picture vis-a-vis Netanyahu in the rival camp….In our factionalized political arena today, everyone is disqualifying everyone else: Yair Lapid and Avi Gabbay and Tzipi Livni nix Netanyahu; Moshe Kahlon and Avigdor Lieberman veto Gabbay; the far right disqualifies the far left; Yaakov Litzman excludes Lapid and so on. Gantz will try to persuade the public that on his watch, it will be possible to ingather most of these parties to form one coalition.”