News Roundup for January 2, 2019

January 2, 2019

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J Street in the News

J Street Mourns the Passing of Amos Oz, J Street

Jeremy Ben-Ami writes, “For most Jewish Americans of a certain age and political bent, no one better defined what it means to be Israeli than Amos Oz (z”l). For J Street, he was a spiritual god-parent, providing perhaps the most motivating and memorable moment in our ten-plus-year history when he told our 2012 conference he had been waiting for our movement his entire adult life. For me personally, he was like a second father….With his wisdom as our guide, it is now on those of us who shared his values and his politics to keep at the as-yet incomplete but vital work of peace-building and conflict resolution. It was the dream of our people for two millennia to again be a free people in our own land.  Oz understood the irony that the Jewish people could only achieve that dream if those with whom we have been fighting for a century have freedom and dignity too. The greatest tribute we can pay to this amazing man who served as our guiding light is to forge ahead along the path that he blazed. May his memory be a blessing – and an inspiration.”

Reactions pour in following the passing of Amos Oz, 79, who leaves a literary ‘void’, Cleveland Jewish News

“Oz was also a friend of J Street and addressed its annual conference multiple times. ‘For me, personally, he was like a second father,’ said J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami in a statement.”

In defense of J Street – Why Knowing the facts might change your mind, Times of Israel

Rabbi John Rosove writes, “I have been a supporter of J Street since it was founded ten years ago, and it is frustrating to hear repeated day in and day out highly negative charges against J Street despite polling that shows that J Street’s views represent the overwhelming majority of Jews in the United States. These voices also unwittingly or deliberately distort J Street’s written record….It is necessary to condemn Palestinian terror, which J Street has done time and again. It is necessary to oppose Palestinian incitement, which J Street has done time and again. And it is vital to urge Palestinians to lay out their proposal for a two-state solution, which they have done. Is it also not necessary to ask J Street’s critics why, if the Palestinian leadership is in fact ready to move forward toward a negotiated two-state solution that the Israeli government continues to build settlements outside the blocs and beyond the security fence? Why does the government of Israel issue demolition orders for long-standing Palestinian villages in areas which will one day be part of the State of Palestine?”

Top News and Analysis

Israel to Hold Elections in April, Netanyahu’s Government Announces, Haaretz

Israel’s coalition heads announced that they have decided to hold elections on April 9, adding that the Knesset will be dissolved ahead of the elections. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the coalition heads unanimously agreed to hold elections on April 9, adding that he wants the current coalition to form the nucleus of the next government. The prime minister called on Israeli voters to give the government a clear mandate to continue governing on its current path.

Dramatic Split in Israeli Left as Labor Party Breaks Away From Tzipi Livni, Haaretz

Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay announced on Tuesday the break-up of Zionist Union, with Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah party. Zionist Union, which won 24 seats in the last election, has tanked in recent polls to as low as nine seats ahead of the April 9 election. In a press conference, Gabbay said he “still believes in partnerships and connections,” but said “successful connections require friendship, abiding by agreements and loyalty to the path ahead.” Gabbay wished Livni luck, but Hatnua leader, who seemed surprised by the announcement, said she would rather not comment. Gabbay’s dramatic announcement also took Zionist Union’s lawmakers by surprise.

Labor Head Gives Livni an ISIS-style Divorce. It May Cost Him Dearly, Haaretz

Yossi Verter observes, “This cruel humiliation, unprecedented in contemporary politics, is liable to cost Gabbay dearly among women voters. Livni hastened to capitalize on this mood and at the press conference she held later, stressed how touched she was by the admiring and supportive responses she’d already received from women….The hookup between Hatnuah headed by Livni – a concept with which we will have to reacquaint ourselves for now – and Labor led by Gabbay didn’t work from the get-go. There was no chemistry there….Gabbay interpreted her energetic efforts to forge “connections” in the center-left camp as an attempt at a putsch, aimed at removing him from the Labor leadership to which he had been duly elected. He wasn’t mistaken. He saw her close ties with Ehud Barak as an act of treachery.”

Amos Oz, Israeli Author and Peace Advocate, Dies at 79, The New York Times

“Amos Oz, the renowned Israeli author whose work captured the characters and landscapes of his young nation, and who matured into a leading moral voice and an insistent advocate for peace with the Palestinians, died on Friday. He was 79….Among a generation of native Israeli writers that included A. B. Yehoshua and David Grossman, Mr. Oz wrote richly in modern Hebrew….Soon after the 1967 Middle East war, in which Israel conquered the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, Mr. Oz began advocating for withdrawal and a two-state solution, meaning the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, long before the idea became mainstream. In the late 1970s he helped found Peace Now, a left-wing group that formed during the negotiations for a peace treaty with Egypt….While many Israelis blame the Palestinians for the impasse in the peace process, dismissing the Palestinian leadership’s willingness or ability to reach a deal, Mr. Oz held Israeli leadership accountable. And he rejected any notion of a one-state solution, saying he was not ready to live as a minority in what would inevitably become an Arab country. In addition, Mr. Oz wanted the character of Israel to be defined by humanistic Jewish culture, not only by Jewish religion and nationality.”


Political Drama: Senior Israeli Ministers Launch New Right-wing Party, Haaretz

The two leaders of Habayit Hayehudi said Saturday they were quitting their right-wing party to form a new outfit that would attract both secular and religious voters in the April 9 election.  At a press conference in Tel Aviv, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said they would co-chair the new party, Hayamin Hehadash, or the New Right. It would include both religious and secular members. Bennett said that Habayit Hayehudi was no longer able to influence policy and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “realized that the religious-Zionist community is in his pocket, and no matter how much he abused them, at the end they will always go with him.”

Ex-IDF chief Gantz unveils new political party ahead of April elections, The Times of Israel

Marking his official, long-anticipated entry into Israeli politics, former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz registered his new political party on Thursday, in a move that confirms his plans to run in the Knesset elections set for April 2019. In the first media statement put out on behalf of Gantz, his campaign team said the party’s official Hebrew name would be Hosen Leyisrael, which translates as “resilience for Israel.” A spokesperson for the party said it would be known in English as the Israel Resilience Party.

Palestinian American Gets Life For Selling Jerusalem Property To Jewish Settlers, Forward

A Palestinian court sentenced an American-Palestinian on Monday to life imprisonment for violating a ban on selling land to Israelis, judiciary officials said. Akel was accused of attempting to sell a property in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem without the permission of his business partners or Palestinian authorities. Palestinian officials have not publicly identified the intended buyer.

Prominent Israeli-Palestinian Coexistence Group Cuts Ties With Israeli Government, Haaretz

An organization active in promoting dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian teenagers for more than 25 years has cut its longstanding ties with the Israeli Education Ministry. According to a letter received by parents of participants in Seeds of Peace, a U.S.-based non-profit, the break came in response to a ministry demand for greater involvement in its programs.

Saudis give $50 million to cash-strapped UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Times of Israel

Saudi Arabia has completed a $50 million donation to the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees, the organization’s leader said Friday, amid a funding shortfall following the US decision to cut all financial aid.

Senior Diplomatic Source: Trump Weighing Netanyahu Request for Gradual Syria Withdrawal, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked American President Donald Trump to ensure that the withdrawal of US troops from Syria be done gradually, a senior political source said Monday.  The source added that the US president was “positively considering” the request. Talks are set to continue on Tuesday with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and on Sunday with National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Ex-defense chief rules out sitting in Netanyahu-led government, Times of Israel

Former Likud defense minister and IDF chief Moshe Ya’alon on Saturday ruled out serving in a government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as he pursues talks with another former chief of staff to form a political bloc that could challenge the ruling Likud party.

Israeli Court Throws Out Jewish Teen’s Church Arson Confession Obtained Under ‘Undue Pressure’, Haaretz

The Central District Court on Tuesday invalidated the confession of a minor allegedly involved in two arsons because, saying that during his questioning by authorities he was forbidden to meet a lawyer and was subject to undue pressure by interrogators. The minor was suspected of involvement in the torching of the Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem in 2015 and of arson in the village of Aqraba near Nablus. He was arrested during the search for individuals connected to the 2015 arson that killed three members of the Dawabshe family in Duma, although he was not charged for that crime.

Opinion and Analysis

The Political Failures of Tzipi Livni, One of the Best Prime Ministers Israel Never Had, Haaretz

Anshel Pfeffer writes, “Livni was a popular figure back in her Likud days, and once she left that party, built up her own constituency of predominantly female, centrist and left-of-center voters. But to get to the top in Israeli politics, you have to be able to maintain partnerships and build coalitions, and that is where she failed….There’s no question that as leader of the entire party, Zionist Union’s bad showing is his responsibility. But Livni certainly didn’t go out of her way to promote the idea of Gabbay as prime minister….Instead, for the last year Livni has been promoting in nearly every interview the idea of ‘the bloc’ of centrist parties, and of holding an open primary for its leadership.”

The grassroots movements in Israel-Palestine that won 2018, +972

Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man writes, “The global rise of nationalist and right-wing governments has not been particularly good for progressive movements over the past year. But two grassroots movements in Israel and Palestine, respectively, managed to push back against oppressive policies and, at least temporarily, achieve real victories on the ground. These stories are not only impressive, against-the-odds wins — they are also a reminder that the work of organizers and activists on the ground does stand a chance facing down governments, armies, and immensely powerful economic interests.”

Israel’s early elections could trigger new Gaza violence, Al-Monitor

Shlomi Eldar observes, “The Hamas leadership understands that the cease-fire arrangement reached with Israel in November could collapse if a campaigning Netanyahu faces heavy election pressure on the issue. The Israeli political system might not accept Netanyahu conducting business as usual with Hamas. The organization is therefore preparing to challenge Netanyahu so that he does not renege on the deal that has already yielded a series of achievements for them.”

‘They Called Me a Traitor. I’m in Good Company’: The Political Journey of Amos Oz, Haaretz

“When Oz died on Friday at 79, he left behind a right wing that saw him as an arrogant guru of the left, and a left that was angry with him for maintaining a dialogue with the right and didn’t forgive him for saying the Labor Party had ended its historic role….In 1967, immediately after the Six-Day War, Oz was among the first to warn of the evils of occupation and caution against the prolonged control of the Palestinian people….In contrast to the voices of euphoria of that time, Oz laid out an orderly political message of another kind. ‘We have no space to live on the West Bank of the Jordan River because it’s populated by a people who live on their land, even if it’s now an enemy nation defeated at war,’ he wrote.”