News Roundup for January 19, 2017

January 19, 2017

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J Street in the News

Statement on Bomb Threats Against Jewish Community Centers Across US, J Street Blog

“J Street is alarmed by reports that more than 28 Jewish Community Centers around the United States have received bomb threats today, just nine days after a similar spate of threats targeting 16 JCCs. We are relieved that these specific threats have, as of now, not been followed by actual acts of violence. While the origin of these threats remain unknown, they take place at a time of rising incidents of anti-Semitic and xenophobic hatred across the United States. Their aim is to create an atmosphere of fear and hate and to intimidate American Jews and to make us feel vulnerable in the institutions that form the heart of our local communities. We must respond with vigilance and resolve, and fight back against hate with a renewed commitment to acting on our values of tolerance, diversity and equality. We must stand united with other vulnerable communities in order to make clear together that we will not allow hate and bigotry to become the new normal in our country. We must urge our elected leaders to do the same.”

Top News and Analysis

Twenty-seven Jewish Centers Across U.S. Evacuated Amid New Wave of Bomb Threats, Haaretz

“Dozens of Jewish Community Centers in the U.S. were evacuated Wednesday, including in Manhattan and California’s Bay Area, after receiving near-simultaneous bomb threats, according to various local reports. Wednesday’s incidents came just over a week after 16 Jewish institutions across several eastern states received similar threats. The calls were said to be prerecorded in some cases and live in others, with the caller using voice disguising technology, and likely came from a single source.”

Reform movement raises objections to nominee for ambassador to Israel, JTA

“The Reform movement’s Religious Action Center has joined the list of liberal Jewish groups objecting to President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of David Friedman as U.S. ambassador to Israel. In a Tuesday statement commenting on Trump appointments, the center’s director, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, questioned whether Friedman has ‘the temperament or judgment to represent the United States in a sensitive diplomatic position.’”

Ahead of Trump inauguration, a grassroots movement of rabbinic ‘resistance’ sprouts, Times of Israel

“A growing grassroots movement of concerned rabbis reflects their flocks’ dissatisfaction. In their calls for ‘Jewish resistance,’ online and in the streets, the rabbis’ protest movement goes beyond hashtags and Facebook event pages. These religious leaders are staking their reputations and careers to speak out against Trump. They see themselves as ‘fulfilling a sacred duty.’….The motivation behind their protest movement is stated simply by Rabbi Michael Adam Latz of Minnesota: ‘What are we resisting? The attack on democracy in favor of tyranny.’ From decrying the participation of an Orthodox rabbi in the inauguration ceremony to declaring an interfaith fast day coinciding with Friday’s inauguration, these rabbis are navigating political and spiritual waters to lead their flocks in the new Trump era.”

In Last Press Conference, Obama Warns Against Giving Up on Two-state Solution, Haaretz

U.S. President Barack Obama said Wednesday that the status-quo in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is unsustainable, and reiterated his support for the two-state solution. “We’ll see how Trump’s approach on Israel will play out,” he said. “I don’t see how this issue gets resolved in a way that maintains Israel as both Jewish and a democracy if there are not two states,” Obama told a press conference in the White House, in what is expected to be his last public remarks before he leaves office. Obama also defended a UN Security Council resolution condemning the Israeli settlements, which was severely criticized by Israeli leaders. “The goal of the UN resolution was to say the growth of the settlements will increasingly make a two-state solution impossible,” the president said. “It was important for us to send a signal, a wakeup call that this moment may be passing.”

Trump’s UN Pick Nikki Haley Tells Senate: Israeli Settlements ‘Can Hinder Peace’, Haaretz

Governor Nikki Haley, Donald Trump’s pick for UN ambassador, said on Wednesday she is committed to the bipartisan consensus in the U.S. against Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for her first confirmation hearing, Haley, the Republican governor of South Carolina, was asked during the hearing about Israel. Though she supports relocating the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as Trump suggested he will do, Haley noted she is also a proponent of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying she understands how settlements “can hinder peace.”


Israeli Bill to Annex Ma’aleh Adumim Settlement Will Include Controversial E1 Area, Haaretz

An Israeli bill to annex the West Bank settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim to the state will also include the E1 area, as a result of the area’s inclusion in the settlement’s municipal boundaries. But the bill’s sponsor, MK Yoav Kish (Likud) said he would be willing to exclude the controversial bloc from the draft law in the event its inclusion created a crisis within the governing coalition.

Obama told Trump that embassy move to Jerusalem could be ‘explosive’, JTA

President Barack Obama said he conveyed to his successor Donald Trump that moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem could be “explosive.” “Obviously it’s a volatile environment when sudden unilateral moves are made that speak to the core issues or sensitivities of either side. That can be explosive,” Obama said Wednesday at his final news conference when asked whether he had consulted with Trump about moving the embassy from Tel Aviv. He said his administration’s message to the Trump transition team was “pay attention to this, this is volatile stuff, people feel deeply and passionately about this.”

1,500 Rabbis Sign Letter Calling on Trump To Support Refugees, Forward

More than 1,500 U.S. rabbis signed a letter calling on the incoming Trump administration to maintain the federal refugee resettlement program. HIAS, a global Jewish nonprofit that protects refugees, released the letter on Wednesday.

Progressive Jewish Students to Protest Hillel Partnership With Israeli Minister Naftali Bennett, Haaretz

Open Hillel, a movement of Jewish students out to promote open discourse about Israel on college campuses, will hold a rally Thursday urging Hillel International to end its financial partnership  with Israel’s Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett. The rally will be held outside Hillel International headquarters in Washington D.C.

Likud MK Ayoub Kara to become Israel’s first Druze minister, Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will reportedly promote Deputy Minister of Regional Cooperation Ayoub Kara to minister without portfolio, as part of a cabinet reshuffle ahead of a High Court of Justice decision on the legality of the prime minister’s holding of multiple ministerial posts.

Female Worshipers Searched at Western Wall Despite Supreme Court Ban, Haaretz

Participants in a service held by Women of the Wall were subjected to body searches upon arrival to the Jewish holy site on Thursday morning, despite a recent Supreme Court decision.

In protest, the multi-denominational feminist prayer group decided, in an unprecedented move, to hold its monthly service at the security checkpoint at the entrance to the site rather than at the women’s section of the Western Wall, as it has been doing for the past 28 years.

Opinion and Analysis

With Popularity Surging, Former Netanyahu Minister Avi Gabbay Hopes to Lead Opposition, Haaretz

“Former Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabbay, who recently quit Kulanu to join the Labor Party, said it is highly likely he will run for the leadership of Labor this summer. Gabbay said he will make the final decision only in another month or a month and a half….Gabbay, who left the Netanyahu government in May in protest over the firing of defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, was one of the founders of Kulanu. Party leader and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon appointed Gabbay to the cabinet, even though he wasn’t a Knesset member. On Tuesday, Gabbay criticized the heads of the parties in the government coalition, in particular Kahlon and Shas leader, Interior Minister Arye Dery, who have remained silent in the face of the police investigations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Gabbay said they must demand Netanyahu’s immediate resignation or leave the coalition to bring about new elections.”

Will snowballing scandals bury Netanyahu?, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit observes, “The emerging assessment among law enforcement and the political system alike is that the Netanyahu era is coming to an end. There is no clear timetable yet, but the overall impression is that this time, the “Harry Houdini of Israeli politics” will not be able to escape. The question is now whether the prime minister will try to use some unconventional weapons in his defense. In his efforts to sideline the investigations, Netanyahu could instigate an outbreak of violence or another security crisis. There are those in the political system who hope that State Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit will offer a deal. He could, for instance, offer to end all investigations into Netanyahu and his family in exchange for his resignation and retirement from political life once and for all. Nevertheless, while it is uncertain whether such a deal would pass the test of a Supreme Court challenge, it is unlikely that Netanyahu would accept it. He is and always has been a tenacious fighter who refuses to concede. This time, however, many people in Israel are praying that he simply gives up. After all, it is in no way certain that Israel can allow itself the luxury of that kind of fight.”

Digging Into the Latest I/P Pew Poll, J Street Blog

Benjy Cannon writes, “That some Democrats and Republicans have different opinions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is part and parcel of living in a politically diverse country. But it is wrong to conclude that numbers like these signal the end of bipartisan support for Israel. Expressing sympathy for Palestinians, opposition to settlements and support for a two-state solution is a fundamentally pro-Israel position. We must continue to make the case that both sides deserve sympathy, and that to support one must not mean opposing the other. Ultimately, we should welcome, not fear, the opening up of the American debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Normalizing the idea that you can both support Israel and express sympathy for the Palestinians has the potential to expand the pro-Israel tent. That’s something that supporters of Israel should view as an opportunity.”

Israel’s Outreach to Europe’s Far Right Parties is Alarming Europe’s Jews, Forward

Don Snyder reports, “Jews in Europe are voicing increasing consternation about Israel’s budding engagement with surging far-right European parties that have anti-Semitic histories. In Poland, Austria and the halls of the World Jewish Congress, among other places, Diaspora activists are raising sharp questions about the morality of Jerusalem’s foreign policy.”

Mr. Trump – Withdraw your nomination of David Friedman as US Ambassador to Israel, Jewish Journal

Rabbi John Rosove shares a letter by rabbis and cantors across the United States, co-sponsored by J Street and T’ruah – Rabbis for Human Rights, which he has co-signed. “Mr. Friedman’s apparent inability to speak respectfully about and to people with whom he disagrees and his advocacy of extreme policies which threaten the future of Israel and run contrary to American interests are both sufficient reasons to disqualify Mr. Friedman’s nomination. He is the wrong choice to serve as our nation’s Ambassador to Israel.”

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