“Both sides are squaring off ahead of Tuesday’s votes. A coalition of civil liberties and liberal Jewish groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and J Street, is working to defeat the legislation, while the influential pro-Israel AIPAC supports it….J Street’s President Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a statement: ‘While millions of Americans suffer from the effects of the ongoing government shutdown, it’s outrageous that Senate Republican leaders are prioritizing legislation that tramples on the First Amendment and advances the interests of the Israeli settlement movement. Not a single Democrat should vote to enable this farce.’”
“Democrats were coming under fire over the bill because it includes a provision to counter the “boycott, divestment, sanctions” (BDS) movement by opposing boycotts or divestment from Israel. Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, said it was ‘outrageous’ for Republicans to be ‘prioritizing’ the bill, adding that ‘not a single Democrat should vote to enable this farce.’ The American Civil Liberties Union also sent a letter to senators Monday urging them to oppose the foreign policy bill because of the anti-BDS provision.”
Progressive groups rage against Rubio’s anti-BDS bill, Times of Israel
The bill has been fiercely criticized by progressive activists and civil libertarians who say these laws infringe on Americans’ constitutionally protected rights to engage in political boycotts, with liberal Mideast advocacy group J Street excoriating the measure. ‘While millions of Americans suffer from the effects of the ongoing government shutdown, it’s outrageous that Senate Republican leaders are prioritizing legislation that tramples on the First Amendment and advances the interests of the Israeli settlement movement,’ said the organization’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami. ‘Not a single Democrat should vote to enable this farce.’”
Reactions pour in following death of Moshe Arens, 93, Cleveland Jewish News
J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami expressed his condolences over ‘a great man who dedicated his life to the service of Israel and the Israeli people.’ ‘I have long had a personal, familial connection to Arens through my late father, Yitshaq Ben-Ami, who was like a mentor to him in the Betar Youth Movement and the Irgun,’ he said. ‘I remember well that when I first moved to Israel in the 1990s, ‘Misha’—as we knew him—was among the first people I met with, given our long family history.’ ‘When it came to questions of politics, diplomacy and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Arens and I disagreed about most everything,’ he continued. ‘Yet like so many of those who disagreed with him politically, I always found him to be, on a personal level, impeccably courteous and kind.’”
“J Street opposes the Global BDS Movement, and we know that legislation like the ‘Combating BDS Act’ does nothing to help Israel or to effectively counter the movement. Instead, it extends US legal protections to settlements and alienates average Americans by infringing on free speech rights. The attempt to push it into a law during a government shutdown is a brazen partisan stunt that must be stopped.”
“A growing number of Democrats are pledging to block the consideration of all other legislation on the Senate floor until Republicans allow a vote on appropriations bills passed by the House last week….The first test will come Tuesday afternoon, when the Senate is scheduled to vote on a motion to proceed to open debate on a Republican Middle East policy package that includes Syria sanctions and a measure that aims to block boycotts of Israel. The latter has been endorsed by some Democrats, but critics say it violates the First Amendment right to free speech.”
Moshe Arens, Israeli Statesman and Ex-Defense Minister, Dies at 93, The New York Times
“Moshe Arens, the Israeli politician and statesman who was one of the last of his country’s founding generation of right-wing, liberal Zionists, and who held top posts but never achieved his greatest aspirations, died on Monday at his home in Savyon, Israel. He was 93….A former member of the Irgun militia and a young leader of the revisionist Betar Youth Movement, Mr. Arens remained until his last days a beacon of Israel’s ideological right. After helping to found the Herut (Freedom) party, he reached the top echelons of its outgrowth, the Likud, and was seen by many as the natural heir of the conservative prime ministers Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir. Mr. Arens served three times as defense minister and also as foreign minister and as Israel’s ambassador to the United States.”
Will the Candidate Be Indicted? Voters Must Know, American Prospect
Gershom Gorenberg writes, “Israel’s top prosecutor was already facing the most consequential decision of his career: whether to indict the prime minister. Then the suspect, Benjamin Netanyahu, called new elections. So now Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has a doubly consequential choice to make: Should he announce whether he’ll indict Netanyahu—and on what charges—before the nation votes in April?….Announcing the decision will have political impact. Yet to postpone telling the public until after the election that there’s a very solid case against the man running for reelection would be a far more egregious act of interfering in the political process.”
Yossi Verter writes, “In a cynical and thuggish move that in criminal terms would be included in charges of misrepresentation and fraud, the suspect from Balfour Street seized the air time of the major news broadcasts Monday night for his political needs. It was a disaster for truth, statesmanship and proper governance, which the Netanyahu era has trampled on….This is the campaign he will be conducting for the next 92 days. It will be conducted in the media, mainstream and otherwise. The man who whines about the media’s kangaroo court is taking his legal campaign to the media, which submits to him time after time….The time has come to deny him the right to broadcast live.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke out on Monday evening in a televised address, saying that he requested to be confronted with state’s evidence in the corruption probes against him and was denied twice. In an addressed billed ahead of time as a “dramatic statement” Netanyahu said: “What are they afraid of? I’m not afraid, I have nothing to lose.” He added that he’s willing to confront the witnesses on live TV.
Egypt’s president officially acknowledged for the first time that the Egyptian military is cooperating with Israel in the Sinai Peninsula. Asked in an interview aired Sunday night on the CBS newsmagazine “60 Minutes” if this is the “deepest and closest cooperation” ever with Israel, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi responded: “That is correct. The Air Force sometimes needs to cross to the Israeli side. And that’s why we have a wide range of coordination with the Israelis.”
The government has allocated about 1,200 dunams (300 acres) for planning of a new neighborhood that would expand the settlement of Efrat toward Bethlehem, in an area considered particularly sensitive for diplomatic reasons. The neighborhood is expected to expand the built-up area in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc up to the southern outskirts of the Palestinian city, in a manner that would surround Bethlehem with settlements….In 2013 the government tried to advance widespread construction in the territories, including several hundred residential units in Givat Eitam, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu torpedoed a similar plan due to international pressure.
Labor Party Chairman Avi Gabbay announced on Sunday that he would put only three people of his own choosing in the top 20 slots in Labor’s election ticket, rather than the four he is entitled to. Gabbay said he would still place two people in the top 10, in the second and 10th slots, but will only put one in the second 10, in the 16th slot. In addition, he said that the party may guarantee that women receive at least three out of the top 10 slots and three out of the second 10.
Anshel Pfeffer observes, “Gabbay, the newcomer, can hardly be blamed for Labor’s terminal decline. Successive leaders have failed to articulate what the party is about in the 21st century. Is it left wing or centrist? Should it be emphasizing the Israel-Palestinian conflict or economic inequality?….Perhaps a more seasoned campaigner with greater name recognition than Gabbay would do better in the polls. But until Labor has a leader who can seriously contend with Netanyahu as Mr. Security, or Netanyahu is no longer the Likud leader, it will remain in decline…..In the last 40 years, Labor’s ‘tribal’ voters have died out. The only way to recreate that tribe is to rebuild the party’s reputation for serious competence. That reputation may have eroded almost completely, but no other party has built one either.”
Adnan Abu Amer reports, “Regardless of how the Israelis arrived at the decision on early elections, Sufian Abu Zaida, a member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council, related to Maan News what appears to be on the minds of most Palestinians — concern that Israeli politicians will make escalatory moves against Gaza to secure votes, especially those of right-wing Israelis. The newspaper Al-Quds speculated on Dec. 28, that Israel might mobilize troops as if preparing for war with Gaza to secure votes on the right. Hamas meanwhile is preparing for such an event to be more than political theater.”