News Roundup for July 19, 2017

July 19, 2017

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J Street in the News

J Street Welcomes Trump Administration’s Certification of Iran’s JCPOA Compliance – But Alarmed By Reports President Contemplating US Withdrawal From Agreement, J Street

“This is just the latest clear indicator that the administration’s senior national security officials recognize that Iran has complied with its extensive obligations, and that the agreement has successfully blocked Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon. It is making the US, Israel and the world safer….However, we are deeply concerned by reports that President Trump, despite the urging of his national security team, was extremely reluctant to allow this certification and remains determined to undermine or violate the United States’ commitment to the agreement in the future. Withdrawing from or abrogating the JCPOA would be incredibly dangerous and destructive for the national security of the United States and our allies, including Israel. This act of bad faith would shatter the powerful and effective international coalition that has come together to ensure Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon. It would leave the United States completely isolated from our partners and destroy the credibility of American leadership. It could return Iran once again to a position of being able to develop a nuclear weapon, while emboldening the regime’s most dangerous and intransigent hardliners.”

Top News and Analysis

Trump’s Incoherent Iran Policy Could End the Nuke Deal on the Worst Possible Terms, Foreign Policy

Ilan Goldenberg writes, “At every turn, the administration has made absolutely clear that it does not like the nuclear agreement, believes it was a bad deal, and is signaling a desire to abandon it. This approach, combined with the overall negative perception of Trump across the globe, means that in almost any scenario he will be blamed for the collapse of the agreement. It is hard to imagine a scenario in which the Trump administration would be able to reimplement sanctions. Even if Iran were caught cheating red-handed, the intelligence would likely be disputed. And with the administration facing such a trust deficit globally, specifically on this issue, it is hard to see how the United States could come out of the situation in a strong position….The American public has moved on from both the healthcare debate and the Iran debate. It is ready to focus on new issues. But Trump has no clear agenda or policies of his own, and in their absence he is simply trying to tear down Obama’s key domestic and foreign policy achievements, with little understanding or care for what might replace them. On Tuesday, he failed quite spectacularly on both fronts. But he is going to keep trying — and unfortunately, on Iran, as opposed to healthcare, he does not need Congress’s help to bring down the policy.”

Israel Reopens Temple Mount to Jews After Visitors Broke Holy Site’s Visitation Rules; New Clashes Erupt, Haaretz

The Temple Mount was temporarily closed to Jewish visitors on Wednesday at the order of Jerusalem District Commander Yoram Halevy after Jews broke visitation rules at the holy site, police said.  The Jewish visitors were expelled from the compound for bringing sacred books to the Mount and trying to pray there. After one of the individuals was cautioned, another took out a holy book, and the group was expelled. Meanwhile, renewed clashes erupted between protesters and Israeli security forces near the Lion’s Gate in the Old City, where police used stun grenades against the demonstrators.


Dermer: Israel wants US to cut funding to Palestinians over terrorism, Times of Israel

Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer said Monday night that Israel supports the Taylor Force Act, a bill working its way through the Senate that would cut US funding to the Palestinian Authority over its financial support of terrorism. Rebuffing reports that said Israel feared the legislation passing out of concern it would disrupt Israeli-Palestinian security coordination and West Bank stability, Dermer took a page out of US President Donald Trump’s rhetorical playbook, referring to those stories as “fake news.”

Netanyahu Offers Blistering Attack on EU: ‘Their Behavior Toward Israel Is Crazy’, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched a blistering attack against the European Union during a closed-session meeting Wednesday morning in the Hungarian capital of Budapest, telling the premiers of Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia that the EU’s behavior toward Israel is crazy. Although the meeting had been behind closed doors, Netanyahu’s remarks were accidentally transmitted to the headphones distributed among reporters, though his people discovered the transmission and shut it down within a few minutes.

Israeli government has two months to rethink gay adoption policy, Supreme Court says, JTA

Israel’s Supreme Court has given the government two months to reconsider its opposition to allowing same-sex couples to adopt in the country. The decision Tuesday comes a day after the state told the court in response to a petition that the government remains opposed to allowing same-sex couples to adopt.

Two soldiers lightly injured in car-ramming near Hebron, Times of Israel

Two IDF soldiers were lightly injured Tuesday in a car-ramming attack north of Hebron in the West Bank. Soldiers opened fire at the driver and the Palestinian attacker was “neutralized,” the army said. The attack happened on Route 60 at the entrance to Beit Anun, north of Hebron.

China’s Xi pledges ‘unremitting’ efforts for Middle East peace, Reuters

Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged on Tuesday to make “unremitting” efforts toward promoting peace in the Middle East following a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, as China steps up its diplomatic engagement with the region. Palestinian officials have urged China, which supports an independent Palestinian state, to do more in the Middle East peace process.

ACLU urges senators to oppose bill targeting Israel boycotts, JTA

The American Civil Liberties Union called on U.S. senators to oppose a measure targeting boycotts of Israel and its settlements. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, introduced in March by Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, would expand 1970s-era laws that make illegal compliance with boycotts of Israel sponsored by governments — laws inspired at the time by the Arab League boycott of Israel — to include boycotts backed by international organizations. Those adhering to boycotts would be the subject of fines.

Ultra-Orthodox Now Make Up 30% Of West Bank Settlers, Forward

The growing demand for housing in Israel’s rapidly expanding ultra-Orthodox community has led to a paradox, according to the Times of Israel: the population of the two largest settlements in the West Bank is almost all Hasidic even though they do not have much nationalist zeal.

According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, ultra-Orthodox Jews make up 30% of the 400,000 Israelis living in the West Bank, spread across eight settlement cities. Modiin Ilit, near Modi’in-Maccabim-Re’ut, is the largest settlement city with 65,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews. In Beitar Ilit, near Bethlehem, 50,000 residents are ultra-Orthodox — and nearly two-thirds are under 18 years old.

Arab lawmakers demand removal of Temple Mount metal detectors, Times of Israel

Arab MKs Ahmad Tibi and Osama Sa’adi visit the Lions Gate at the Temple Mount and call to remove the metal detectors placed at the site after Friday’s deadly shooting attack against police officers there. “The metal detectors must be removed immediately to avoid more discontent and deterioration,” the two Joint List lawmakers say in a statement.

New batch of PA employees in Gaza forced to retire, Al-Monitor

The Palestinian government decided July 4 to refer 6,145 civil employees in the Gaza Strip to early retirement. In an official statement, the government described this move as a temporary measure that may be lifted when Hamas waives its control of the Gaza Strip and accepts the conditions set by President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas had set as conditions for reconciliation disbanding the administrative committee in Gaza and enabling the government of national consensus from assuming its full responsibilities and preparing for the general elections.

Settlers up in arms as IDF bans West Bank tours led by civilians, Times of Israel

Settler leaders slammed on Tuesday a command given by the IDF’s outgoing chief education officer banning civilians from guiding informational tours for soldiers in the West Bank.

Israeli Supreme Court mulls over demolition of Bedouin village in West Bank, Ma’an

The Israeli Supreme Court is currently deciding the fate of an unrecognized Bedouin village in the South Hebron Hills in the occupied West Bank, scheduled to be demolished and its population transferred to an adjacent village in March 2018, according to a statement released Tuesday by Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR).

Opinions and Analysis

Israel Scrambles to Make the Best of the Syrian Cease-fire Agreement, Haaretz

Zvi Bar’el observes, “The dispute between Israel and the U.S. administration regarding the agreement establishing a security zone in southern Syria is based on two arguments: that the United States and Russia didn’t take Israel’s security interests into account, and that the agreement firmly establishes Iran in Syria. As a result, according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the agreement is bad and should be ditched. Thus Israel is trying to be accepted as a partner in the war’s diplomatic and military solution. This completely contradicts its previous policy, which was to portray the war as none of its business, while more realistically trying to work behind the scenes by cultivating relationships with militias in southern Syria and the Syrian Golan Heights, and by taking part in talks in Jordan with Russian and U.S. officials on the security zones’ future. Now it’s positioning itself on the diplomatic firing line.”

What you need to know about Mike Pence’s speech to Christians United for Israel, Washington Post

Dan Hummel writes, “Although Christian Zionism has a long history in American politics, it has never captured the bully pulpit of the White House. Past administrations often used general biblical language in reference to Israel, but never has the evangelical theology of Christian Zionism been so close to the policymaking apparatus of the executive branch. By identifying with Christian Zionism while in office, Pence risks the Trump administration’s ongoing search for an ‘ultimate deal’ to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and erodes the U.S. claim that it can be an ‘honest broker’ in the Middle East.”

Why Adelson Is Pouring Millions of Dollars Into an Army-run Israeli University in the West Bank, Haaretz

Judy Maltz reports, “Five years ago this month, Ariel University – the only Israeli institution of higher education located in the West Bank – was upgraded from college status to a full-fledged research institute. The move was fiercely denounced by opponents of the settlement movement, both in Israel and abroad, as an attempt to further entrench the Israeli occupation. As well as being a political statement, this change in status came with some tangible benefits: As an official university, Ariel would be eligible for significantly higher levels of state funding. The university recently broke ground on its most ambitious project to date: a medical school – it will be Israel’s sixth, if and when it is completed – made possible through a generous $20 million donation from American tycoon Sheldon Adelson.”

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