“Seven members of Congress and 13 American Jewish leaders traveled to Israel and the West Bank on J Street’s eighth and largest congressional mission last week, led by the J Street Education Fund (JSEF). Representatives Ami Bera (CA-7), Earl Blumenauer (OR-3), Cheri Bustos (IL-17), Dwight Evans (PA-2), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Brenda Lawrence (MI-14) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) joined the J Street delegation. During their time in the region, J Street’s eighth Congressional delegation engaged with a diverse array of Israeli and Palestinian voices. Members of Congress sat down with leading Israeli, Palestinian and American political leaders and government officials.”
Avi Gabbay won Monday’s Labor Party primary to become the new head of the party, taking 52 percent of the vote, and beating Amir Peretz, a former party leader and defense minister. On Monday, over 30,000 of the Labor Party’s 52,000 members voted to decide which of them will be the party’s new leader after the two finished at the top last week’s vote. Avi Gabbay received 16,080 votes, and Amir Peretz received 14,734, with 59 percent of party members voting. In a speech to supporters after his victory, Gabbay called for party unity, urging his defeated rival Peretz to stand by his side. “Tomorrow the election campaign to replace the government in Israel begins,” Gabbay said. The new Labor leader, who is not a Knesset member, also reiterated his call to ousted party leader Isaac Herzog to continue serving as the chairman of the opposition in the Knesset.
MK Manuel Trajtenberg writes, “This time the Israeli government went too far, and it is high time for us, concerned Israelis, and for you, members of the Jewish community in the U.S., to say in unison, loudly and clearly, that American Jews must have a seat at the table. The majority of Israelis do not support the disgraceful decisions of the Israeli government, and many among us are utterly disgusted by them. However, for most Israelis, the Western Wall and conversion are remote issues that do not affect their daily lives. Thus, it is very hard to galvanize public opinion to take decisive political action. As Israelis, we need your help to act effectively in the political arena, and to leverage the underlying feelings of the silent majority here in order to bring about a change of attitudes, perceptions and official decisions….We have unwittingly been thrown into a new and uncharted era in the relations between the diaspora and the state of Israel. But despite its challenges, it’s also an opportunity. Let’s take advantage of it to build a healthier and more meaningful connection, for the benefit of both sides and of future generations. One million signatures and the launching of the reciprocal Birthright project would be a good start.”
“U.S. President Donald Trump’s special envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Jason Greenblatt, will meet Palestinian negotiators in Jerusalem on Tuesday as part of talks to renew the peace process. Haaretz has learned that in a rare move, the meeting will also be attended by U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who, by virtue of his position, is in charge of ties with Israel. The fact that Friedman will join the meeting marks a shift in U.S. policy in place from the time of both the Bush and Obama administrations…..The meeting, slated to take place in Jerusalem, is expected to be attended by the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, the head of the Palestinian intelligence, Majid Faraj, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ economic adviser, Mohammad Mustafa.”
“A lawmaker from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party says he will put forward a bill he is calling the “Soros Law” to block donations to left wing organizations enjoying foreign funding….In a press release from Monday, MK Miki Zohar said that within a few days, the so-called “Soros Law” will be brought before the Knesset. Under the legislative proposal, “any person donating to organizations acting against Israel will not be allowed to donate to any organization or nonprofit association in Israel,” his statement said. Soros has been associated with extremist left organizations, MK Zohar said his statement.”
High-ranking Palestinian and Israeli officials gathered in a field outside the West Bank city of Jenin on Monday to turn on the first-ever piece of Palestinian-owned electricity infrastructure and ink a new electricity agreement between the two sides. The deal, hailed as “historic” by signatories, will for the first time set parameters for the supply of power between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which for years has seen the PA default on billions of shekels of debt and Israel subsequently withhold electricity.
Gaza’s power authority announced on Monday that fuel deliveries from Egypt had resumed to the besieged coastal enclave’s sole power plant, after being suspended since Thursday as a result of the Palestinian Authority (PA) blocking payments for fuel purchased by Hamas authorities. However, the Egyptian power lines that feed Gaza’s southern district remained out of commission, after they were damaged during clashes between militants and Egyptian forces on the Egypt side of the Rafah border three days ago. As a result of the resumption in fuel deliveries from Egypt, a second turbine in Gaza’s power plant was back in operation, out of its three total turbines. Only one of the turbines had been function for the past few days.
Likud minister backs absorbing settlements into Jerusalem, Times of Israel
Israel’s intelligence minister proposed on Monday to absorb four West Bank settlements and a settlement bloc into the Jerusalem municipality, while also removing around 100,000 Palestinians from the city’s census.
Liberman Urges Greenblatt to Ditch Bilateral Peace Route, Jerusalem Post
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman called on the Trump administration’s special representative for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, to nix any plans of moving ahead with a bilateral peace process with the Palestinians. Speaking at the start of Yisrael Beyteinu’s weekly faction meeting on Monday, Liberman said multiple governments since 1993 have attempted to make peace with the Palestinians based on bilateral agreements but to no avail.
“Avi Gabbay, who won Monday’s runoff for the Labor Party leadership, is not the typical candidate to lead Israel’s largest left-wing party. Not only is Gabbay a relatively new name for the voters, but the path he had chosen so far for his political and business career is at odds with the ways of traditional Labor leaders: He served as environmental protection minister under a different, right-wing party, he sat in a right-wing government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, and before entering the political arena served as CEO of the biggest telecommunications firm in Israel. On the eve of the runoff that will determine his political future, Gabbay can be seen as a complex and multifaceted character. The same person that had no problem sitting in a government accustomed to a diplomatic freeze now swears he is continuing the path of the late Yitzhak Rabin, and that he is unafraid to touch on the sensitive issue of East Jerusalem. His printed platform even states he would hand over Arab neighborhoods in the capital to the Palestinian Authority.”
Yossi Verter writes, “Gabbay said during his campaign that he was the only candidate capable of bringing Kulanu voters over to Labor. That has yet to be proven, but Kahlon now finds himself in an uncomfortable position. This political development could actually strengthen his weak ties with Netanyahu. The same goes for Yair Lapid. Before the new Labor chairman can take on Likud, he must first return most of the voters – 10 to 12 Knesset seats’ worth – who abandoned Labor for Lapid’s Yesh Atid party. This is the first critical hurdle that Gabbay must pass before he can start fantasizing about replacing the government.”
Gaza, A Looming Humanitarian Disaster, Jerusalem Post
David Lehrer writes, “Since the current reduction of electricity supply, the quantities of sewage pollution are estimated to have increased by a third. Government foot dragging on supplying an electricity line to a World Bank-funded sewage treatment and recycling plant in northern Gaza directly impacts the health of Israel’s water resources and beaches while increasing the potential for an outbreak of disease in the region. Israel’s complicity in the reduction of the electricity supply and inaction in finding a solution for Gaza’s chronic power shortages will only serve to pollute its own beaches, endanger its own drinking water and threaten its security. Since the 2006 election in Gaza, the Israeli government has tried unsuccessfully to use various forms of pressure to bring down the Hamas government. Making the lives of Gazans more miserable is not producing the desired results. Perhaps it is time to try something different?”
Israel’s dangerous game in Gaza, Al-Monitor
Ben Caspit writes, “Israel is in the throes of a dilemma, torn between Abbas, who is trying to bring down Hamas, and Egypt, which is now trying to outmaneuver the Hamas leadership. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government views Hamas as a precious strategic asset that allows Israel to continue to argue that there is no real diplomatic partner on the Palestinian side. Should Hamas fall and Abbas retake Gaza, it could prove to be a catastrophe for Netanyahu’s strategy. Netanyahu prefers a divided Palestinian antagonist over a clear partner. The Israeli government is thus interested in preserving the Hamas regime in Gaza, but keeping it on a low flame and keeping the intensity low as well. This is a dangerous game. Israel can lose control over its toys, as transpired in 2014.”
Alison Kaplan Sommer reports, “Israel’s “submarine affair” took a new turn on Monday morning, when six suspects were brought in for police questioning as part of the investigation. Three of the suspects are central figures in the scandal, and some are very close associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A multimillion dollar submarine deal with German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp is the focus of a police investigation, which is probing possible wrongdoing involving Netanyahu’s personal lawyer and German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp’s local representative.”
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