News Roundup for January 17, 2017

January 17, 2017

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J Street in the News

Paris Peace Conference Makes Clear The Two-State Solution is the Only Way Forward, J Street Blog

“This conference further drives home a basic truth that must be understood by all responsible parties: The two-state solution is the only viable way to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and secure the security and rights of both peoples. Steps taken by either side to undermine the possibility of a two-state solution and to pursue an alternative outcome by altering “facts on the ground” only perpetuate the conflict at the cost of countless lives and the mounting impatience of the international community. Israeli leaders should realize that the world gathers not to condemn Israel, but to affirm support for Israel’s right to live in peace and security inside internationally recognized borders. Global leaders challenge actions like settlement expansion and Palestinian violence and incitement that endanger the future of both peoples. For American Jews and others invested in the future of either or both the Israeli and Palestinian people, it is critical that we not turn away from the facts on the ground. We should listen to what the world is saying about the urgency of resolving this conflict and commit to working to achieve a two-state solution.”

Two-thirds of Israelis Still Back Two-state Solution, J Street Poll Finds, Haaretz

“The survey, conducted earlier this month and just after outgoing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry outlined his vision for a solution to the longstanding conflict, was commissioned by J Street, the U.S.-based pro-Israel, anti-occupation organization. It was carried out by Smith Consulting, a respected Israeli pollster.  The survey found that more than two-thirds of Israelis – 68 percent – support a two-state solution. The survey was carried out among a representative sample of 500 Israelis, both Jews and Arabs. In a survey commissioned by J Street two years ago, 62 percent of Israelis said they favored a two-state solution, indicating that if anything, the idea is gaining support. Among Jewish Israelis, 66 percent said they favored a two-state solution. Jewish-Israeli respondents were asked to indicate what party they had voted for in the 2015 national elections. The results show that an overwhelming majority of those who voted for parties associated with the political center and even the center-right favor the creation of a Palestinian state.”

68% of Israelis Support Two-State Solution: J Street Poll, Forward

“Apparently, the the two state solution isn’t dead just yet. That’s according to a poll conducted by the dovish pro Israel lobby J Street, which found that 68% of Israelis favor an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, reported by Haaretz….Surprisingly, the J Street poll found that support for two states has actually grown since a 2014 poll that said that 62% of Israelis prefer two states….The recent J Street poll was conducted after United States Secretary of State John Kerry gave a speech detailing his vision for a solution to the conflict. Five hundred Israeli Jews and Arabs were polled. Predictably, religious, nationalist and right wing party voters were less likely to support a two state solution than center and left party voters. But a surprisingly high percentage of right wing voters supported the two state solution, too. As Haaretz noted, two out of five Israelis who vote for the pro-settler Jewish Home party said they supported the creation of a Palestinian state.”

In Bid to Block David Friedman’s Ambassadorship, Liberal Jews Lean on Chuck Schumer, Haaretz

“J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said his organization was encouraging supporters with director personal connections to Schumer to reach out to the New York senator and convey their concerns. ‘If there is any hope of preventing this appointment, then you need all the Democrats on board, and Schumer is critical in that sense,’ he told Haaretz. J Street is advising its supporters to send their senators, whoever they may be, letters urging them to reject Friedman’s nomination.  It has a draft of a recommended letter posted on its website. ‘Mr. Friedman poses a threat to longstanding U.S. policies in the Middle East that have been supported by Democratic and Republican presidents alike,’ that letter says. ‘He is hostile to the two-state solution – the only way to ensure Israel’s future as the democratic homeland of the Jewish people. He is a friend of the settlement movement and an avid supporter of further settlement expansion. He’s shown disdain for Israel’s Arab population, questioning their value to Israeli society. He has even made the case for Israel’s annexation of the West Bank.’ The J Street letter, notes, in addition that “the contempt Mr. Friedman has shown toward liberal American Jews – labeling them worse than Nazi collaborators – makes him a horrible choice to be our representative in Israel.”

J Street Welcomes Gen. Mattis’ Support for Two-State Solution, Upholding Iran Nuclear Agreement

“Gen. Mattis made clear that he agrees with and desires to uphold decades of bipartisan US policy with regard to supporting the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He described Israeli-Palestinian peace as a ‘vital interest’ of the United States and stated that he supports the two-state solution. He indicated that he would prefer to respect current US policy with regard to locating the US embassy to Israel in Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem. While expressing reservations about the JCPOA nuclear agreement with Iran, Gen. Mattis made clear that the United States must continue to uphold and enforce it, stating that ‘When America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies.’….Supporters of Israel and of securing its future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people should hope and insist that the Trump administration act in accordance with the pragmatic views Gen. Mattis expressed yesterday, and that it reject the dangerous ideas and rhetoric peddled by the likes of Friedman, Bannon and Flynn.”

Top News and Analysis

World Leaders Push Israel and Trump to Forge a 2-State Deal, The New York Times

“As senior representatives from some 70 countries gathered in Paris on Sunday and endorsed anew a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, what they had to offer was mostly symbolic. Still, that symbol was clear: Though peace efforts seemed doomed, the leaders, representing every European nation, were signaling that they still saw them as critical — and putting President-elect Donald J. Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on notice that the process could be ignored only at their peril….At the end of Sunday’s meeting, the countries issued a joint communiqué that reaffirmed support for a two-state solution — a Palestinian state existing next to Israel — and a return to the 1967 boundaries between the Israelis and Palestinians, including the removal of Israeli settlements from the West Bank. The statement referenced United Nations resolutions to that effect, including the condemnation of Israel in December, which the Obama administration declined to block, over its continuing settlement of the West Bank.”

Trump Was the Elephant in the Room at the Paris Peace Conference, Haaretz

Barak Ravid observes, “Trump was the elephant in the conference room. Fear of what January 20 will bring was evident in many of the foreign ministers’ speeches, especially those of the French hosts. There is uncertainty about Trump’s foreign policy toward most of the world, but especially with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. The question that was never asked directly, but hovered in the air, was whether the Paris gathering would be the last peace conference for the next four years….Both French President François Hollande and his foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, stressed that the conference was meant to send Trump a message about the international consensus on the need to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace and a two-state solution. And they were right. European foreign ministers were there in force; all the Sunni Arab states with whom Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu longs to achieve a breakthrough sent their foreign ministers; and even many of the African states Netanyahu has been courting sent representatives to show their support for the establishment of a Palestinian state. But consensus also reigned on the micro level: across the board opposition to moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, and fear that doing so would inflame the Middle East.”

The UN, Israel, and a path to peace, Boston Globe

George Mitchell and Alon Sachar write, “The misinformation widely disseminated in the United States and Israel about Resolution 2334 is unwarranted and unwise. Israel is already isolated in the Muslim world, now one-fifth of the world’s population and soon to be one-third. The prime minister’s decision to retaliate against some of the countries that voted for the resolution prolongs the international debate about settlements and further emboldens the Palestinian pursuit of statehood through international institutions. That is contrary to Israel’s interests, especially since it is unlikely that Israel can inflict sufficient political or economic pain on any of those countries to cause them to reverse their decision or to act differently in the future. Indeed, the silence in the world is deafening….Kerry was correct in his assertion that the two-state solution remains the only viable way to end this conflict. There is no alternative to partition.”

Here’s what Plan B in the Middle East should look like, Washington Post

Dennis Ross and Stuart Eizenstat argue, “[R]ealities on the ground and political and psychological gaps between Israelis and Palestinians make a comprehensive two-state peace agreement illusory at this time. But doing nothing is a prescription for drifting toward a one-state outcome, a result that, due to demographics, would mean Israel over time would become a binational state and no longer majority-Jewish and democratic. Our Plan B would promote peaceful coexistence through practical steps that restore shattered trust on both sides, protecting Israel’s security while creating a more prosperous and less resentful and violence-prone Palestinian population. Plan B can help resolve the dilemma facing Israel, a high-tech wonder thoroughly integrated into the global economy but more politically isolated than ever. Meanwhile, it could provide Palestinians more living space for development, reduce incentives for Palestinian violence and help preserve effective counterterrorism cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces.”


Trump Reportedly Confirms Kushner to Serve as Mideast Peace Broker, Haaretz

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has reportedly confirmed that he intends to appoint his son-in-law Jared Kushner as a mediator who will try to broker a peace agreement in the Middle East.  Trump made the confirmation, which he had mentioned as an option in the past, in an interview with The Times of London published on Sunday night.

Attorney General Rejects Calls to Release Netanyahu-Mozes Tapes, as Leaks Continue, Haaretz

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit rejected calls to release the recordings of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s talks with media mogul Arnon Mozes on Monday, saying that such a move may obstruct the ongoing police investigation. Mendelblit added that he intends to consider the release of the tapes, due to their public significance, but that at this time their release would impede the investigation.

Jerry Nadler Says Election Was ‘Tainted’ and Trump Is ‘Not Legitimate’, Forward

Congressman Jerrold Nadler, who represents more Jews than any other member of Congress, says that that Donald Trump is not a “legitimate” president. In comments on CNN and to the Forward, Nadler acknowledged that Trump had been legally elected. But he said that the election had been “tainted” by interference from the Russians and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and that Trump is “not legitimate.”

Can Generals Scare Israelis Into Accepting a State for Palestinians?, Forward

A group of former Israeli security chiefs in favor of a two-state solution is trying to scare the Israeli Jewish public into separating from the Palestinians with massive billboards of a Palestinian demonstration with Arabic writing that reads: “We will soon be the majority.” The ad campaign plays on the fears of a so-called “demographic threat,” the idea that Palestinians will one day outnumber Israeli Jews in the Holy Land and turn Israel into Palestine. The billboards includes an English language logo that says “Palestine: One state for two people” and a phone number to call for Hebrew. The number leads to a recording from the group’s founder, retired Israeli general Amnon Reshef.

Gaza to return to normal power schedule following delivery of Qatari aid, Ma’an

The first installment of a $12-million donation from the Qatari government landed in a Gaza account on Monday, after Qatar pledged to help cover the cost of fuel for the besieged coastal enclave, which has been suffering from a debilitating electricity crisis.

Israelis, Palestinians sign deal to jointly improve West Bank water supply, Times of Israel

Israel and the Palestinian Authority signed an agreement Sunday to renew cooperation in water development after a six-year hiatus. Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) office, and the Palestinian Authority’s Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh signed an agreement to restart the Israeli–Palestinian Joint Water Committee.

300 Jewish leaders sign letter rejecting ‘baseless accusations’ against Rep. Keith Ellison, JTA

Some 300 Jewish community leaders have signed a letter in support of Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., who is running to serve as head of the Democratic National Committee. The letter, which appears on his “Keith for DNC” campaign website, states that it is not an endorsement of Ellison for DNC chair, but rather “a call to reject the unfair and baseless accusations some have leveled at him.”

Edging Closer to Trump, Britain Says Paris Peace Communique May ‘Harden’ Positions, Forward

Britain said on Sunday it had reservations about the outcome of a Middle East peace conference in Paris, saying it risked “hardening positions.” Britain had observer status at the conference. It did not back the final communique by 70 countries, which reaffirmed that only a two-state solution could resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and warned they would not recognize any unilateral steps by either side that could prejudge negotiations.

Opinion and Analysis

Inside the religious West Bank settlement that forged President Trump’s Israel policy, Haaretz

Judy Maltz reports on Beit El. “What is it about this one religious West Bank settlement that has so captured the hearts and imagination of key figures in the incoming U.S. administration?”

The last gasp of the two-state solution, Washington Post

Isaan Tharoor writes, “Netanyahu sees a clear ally in President-elect Donald Trump. Trump decried the Security Council resolution and chose a new U.S. ambassador to Israel who is a cheerleader for settlements and keen on the controversial relocation of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The complicated status of the holy city — the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the putative capital of their future state — led both the Obama and Bush administrations to resist calls to move the embassy there. Yet no matter how deep Trump’s support, Netanyahu has led Israel into a dramatic and deepening political isolation. Calls for boycotts and divestment from Israel are growing louder and louder in various parts of the West, particularly Europe. The list of countries that recognize an independent Palestinian state is getting bigger. That includes the Holy See, which recently agreed to the opening of a Palestinian embassy at the Vatican. Even Trump’s own appointed lieutenants, including defense secretary nominee Gen. James Mattis, are pushing back on moves like the embassy relocation that would upset the fragile status quo.”

How Liberman is positioning himself to lead Israeli right, Al-Monitor

Mazal Mualem reports, “Liberman presented himself as the responsible adult in the room and the voice of reason on the right. He adopted the stance of officialdom, a leader who takes all of Israel’s strategic considerations into account. In other words, Avigdor Liberman 2017 is a far cry from the populist Avigdor Liberman of the 2015 elections, when he led a vicious, uninhibited campaign against Israel’s Arab population. The Yisrael Beitenu leader has his sight set on Bennett as his main rival within the non-Likud right. Liberman is doing everything possible to present the HaBayit HaYehudi chair as delusional and messianic, as irresponsible and childish and as tossing about meaningless promises to his supporters on the far right while putting Israel’s foreign relations at risk.”

What Is the ‘Jewish Resistance’? Behind the Movement of Millennial Jews Who Rally Against Trump, Haaretz

Debra Nussbaum Cohen looks at the efforts of If Not Now and the “Jewish Resistance” movement opposing Donald Trump.

How new UN secretary-general plans to advance two-state process, Al-Monitor

Uri Savir reports, “Guterres strongly believes in multilateralism when it comes to peacemaking, with an important role for the UN headquarters and UN specialized agencies. While he respects the leading role of the United States, he believes in greater equality of influence between all the permanent status stakeholders and parties. He intends to consult with the five Security Council permanent members (United States, Russia, France, United Kingdom and China) on a regular basis on all international peace efforts. In this context, the latest Quartet report (from the United States, Russia, EU, UN) on the Israeli-Palestinian issue would serve him as a basis for a future two-state solution process.”

Why I Joined J Street’s Rabbinic and Cantorial Cabinet, J Street Blog

Rabbi Robin Podolsky writes, “J Street has built an effectual organization that is heard by elected officials and grassroots activists alike. It demonstrably respects the narratives and claims of both Israel and Palestine, and it provides a platform for progressives who genuinely care about Israel to articulate political positions that they believe will actually benefit and protect that country. The question of Israel/Palestine is one of the key issues facing Jews of our generation, morally and existentially. It is imperative that we all contribute to just and durable solutions for the sake of healing human suffering and healing the Jewish soul. I believe that we, as rabbis, cantors and chaplains, ought not to settle for speaking out as individuals. We should look for ways to unite our voices and political efforts as efficaciously as possible. It is not enough to place ourselves on record. After our election, the possibilities for peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples are more imperiled than ever. This is a critical moment, and each of us is called to respond.”

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