News Roundup for July 24, 2017

July 24, 2017

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J Street in the News

J Street Appalled by Jerusalem Stabbing Attack and Jerusalem Violence; Urges Immediate US Engagement to De-Escalate Situation, J Street

“J Street is appalled by a stabbing attack that has killed three members of an Israeli family in their own home in the West Bank settlement of Halamish, leaving a fourth family member wounded. Our thoughts go out to the victims and their loved ones at this terrible time. With violence escalating throughout Jerusalem and the West Bank, we are deeply concerned for Israelis and Palestinians who have been and may yet be harmed. At a time when we need dialogue and negotiation to find a resolution to this crisis, we are ​dismayed to learn that President Abbas ​and ​the Palestinian Authority ​have announced that they are ​break​ing​ ​off ​contact​s​ with Israel….This critical situation is worsening by the hour, and lives are in danger. ​At moments like these, the United States has historically often played a vital role in helping to find a way toward de-escalation and compromise. We urge the Trump administration​ to step up play this role. Working with key partners in the international community, the Secretary of State and others in the administration should​ take immediate and intensive diplomatic ​steps​ to reduce tensions and work toward a peaceful end to this crisis.”

Democrats in Congress Rethink Anti-boycott Bill in Wake of ACLU Warning, Haaretz

“Democrats on Capitol Hill are reexamining their support for a bipartisan bill intended to fight boycotts against Israel and the settlements after the American Civil Liberties Union warned U.S. senators last week that it endangers free speech in the United States and could lead to citizens’ going to prison simply for expressing a political opinion. Two Democratic staffers who are involved in discussions over the legislation told Haaretz that over a dozen Democrats in both houses of Congress have already began to reconsider their positions in light of the letter the ACLU sent to U.S. senators….Another organization that came out against the legislation last week was J Street, which opposes boycotts of Israel and the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement but warned that the bill caused ‘serious concerns’ because of its potential for restricting free speech. J Street also noted that the legislation does not differentiate between boycotts targeting the entire State of Israel and those aimed specifically at settlements in the occupied West Bank.”

Top News and Analysis

Deadly Violence Erupts in Standoff Over Mosque in Jerusalem, The New York Times

“Six people were killed on Friday in an outbreak of violence that erupted over Israel’s placement of metal detectors at entrances to the sacred Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem and spread to the West Bank. Three Israelis were killed in what appeared to be a terrorist attack in a West Bank settlement hours after three Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli security forces.According to the Israeli authorities, a Palestinian entered a home in the Halamish settlement on Friday night, fatally stabbed three civilians — two men and a woman — and wounded another woman, before being shot at the scene. The names of the Israeli victims were not immediately made public. The three Palestinian protesters were fatally shot in separate clashes in and around Jerusalem. The Israeli police said rioters threw rocks and firebombs and set off fireworks in the direction of the security forces, endangering them. President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, who had cut short a trip to China to handle the spiraling crisis over the metal detectors, announced late Friday that he was freezing contacts with Israel at all levels until it canceled the new measures around the Jerusalem holy site. It was not immediately clear if the suspension included the Palestinian Authority’s security coordination with Israel, a crucial vestige of the relationship between the two sides. Peace talks have been at an impasse for years.”

Israel May Change Mosque Security Amid Palestinian Outrage, The New York Times

“The Israeli security cabinet was to convene for urgent discussions late Sunday, amid fears that a standoff over Israel’s placement of metal detectors at entrances to the sacred Aqsa Mosque compound could result in a long wave of violence….Right-wing members of Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition had urged him not to show a lack of resolve regarding Israel’s claim to Temple Mount by caving in to the Palestinians. Some Israeli commentators accused Mr. Netanyahu of having buckled under right-wing pressure. Yoav Galant, the Israeli minister of housing and construction and a general, was one of a minority of ministers who had voted to remove the metal detectors. He said he did so because the Palestinians were using them to whip up emotions against Israel and because the equipment was impractical, as the tens of thousands of Muslims who come to pray at Al Aqsa on Fridays would not have been able to pass through the security check in a reasonable amount of time.”

Trump Envoy Jason Greenblatt to Arrive in Israel on Monday in Bid to De-escalate Temple Mount Crisis, Haaretz

US envoy to the peace process Jason Greenblatt will arrive in Israel on Monday amid the backdrop of the Temple Mount crisis and escalating tensions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. A senior official in the Trump administration said that Greenblatt is heading to the region “to support efforts to reduce tensions in the region.” During his Israel visit, Greenblatt is expected to be in contact with Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner and keep him updated on the contents of his talks.

Abbas Says Freeze in Ties With Israel Includes Security Coordination, Haaretz

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday that the decision to halt all contact with Israel over Israel’s installation of metal detectors at the entrances to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount includes security coordination. It was a difficult decision but was necessary in light of the decisions taken by Israel, he said. Israeli defense officials said, however, that the halt was symbolic and that security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is continuing by telephone. The Palestinian president’s remarks are seen as highly exceptional considering his past position that such coordination was sacrosanct. Security officials from the Palestinian Authority have told Haaretz that the test in practice will be on the ground, and how the officers from the two sides conduct themselves and what transpires with regard to Israeli security and intelligence matters.

With Jerusalem Burning, President Trump Needs to Engage, Haaretz

Dan Shapiro writes, “Visible and vocal interest at the highest levels is the best leverage the United States has to help achieve such an agreement. So President Trump’s silence on these events, even as he continues to speak and tweet daily on the Russia investigation, Obamacare repeal legislation, and White House staff changes, undercut his Administration’s diplomatic efforts. Likewise Secretary Tillerson’s complete and mysterious absence from the Israeli-Palestinian arena. Low-key calls and visits by more junior officials can prepare the field, but they cannot replace high-level engagement. Only such interventions can persuade regional leaders of the U.S. interest in a de-escalation and enable them to peg their own difficult decisions to that factor.”


Israeli embassy in Amman: Shooting leaves one dead, BBC

The two Jordanians were working for a furniture firm and entered the embassy before the shooting, police say. Few details have been revealed and what sparked the shooting is unclear. Security forces have sealed off the embassy with the Israeli authorities evacuating staff. The shooting happened in a residential building used by the Israeli embassy, Jordanian police say. The three people were hospitalised, with one of the Jordanians dying from bullet wounds, according to a statement.

Senior Israeli Defense Official Heading to Jordan to Solve Embassy Crisis, Haaretz

A senior Israeli defense official will travel to Amman on Monday to negotiate a solution to the diplomatic crisis that developed after an Israeli Embassy guard shot dead a Jordanian teen who tried to stab him. Another Jordanian was also killed in the incident. “Talks are being held with the Jordanians via the defense establishment,” a senior Israeli official, who asked to remain unnamed, told Haaretz. “We are trying to move toward ending this crisis.”

Israel Police Violently Throw Journalists Out of Jerusalem’s Old City, Temple Mount, Haaretz

Israeli police prevented over a dozen journalists covering the developments around Temple Mount from approaching parts of Jerusalem’s Old City during the weekend and on Sunday. Those without journalist credentials were free to approach the area off limits to members of the press, which extended from the beginning of Derech Sha’ar Haarayot to the Lions Gate and included the square surrounding it as well as access to the adjacent Temple Mount compound. Dozens of Muslim worshippers were spreading prayer rugs on the ground outside of Temple Mount on Sunday morning and tourists also moved around freely.During the temporary ban, police officers used violence to eject Haaretz journalists from the site. The police said they are looking into the matter.

Thousands Attend Funeral Of Family Members Killed In Palestinian Terror Attack, Forward

Thousands attended the funeral of three members of a family killed in a Palestinian stabbing attack. Yosef Salomon, 70, and his children Chaya Salomon, 46, and Elad Salomon, 36, were buried on Sunday afternoon at the cemetery in the central Israel city of Modiin. Yosef Salomon’s wife, Tovah, 68, who was seriously injured in the attack, was allowed to leave the hospital for the funeral. Several of the mourners carried large Israeli flags throughout the funeral, according to reports. Some 10,000 mourners were expected to attend the funeral.

Israeli Police Officers: Decision to Place Metal Detectors at Temple Mount Was Careless, Haaretz

The decision to install metal detectors at the entrance to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount was careless and taken without a thorough discussion of the matter at the top levels of the force, as had been prior practice on such sensitive matters, senior Israel Police officials said. According to the sources, who were speaking on condition of anonymity, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan also failed to follow a 2014 policy on the use of metal detectors….One senior police official said the procedure Erdan followed in this case was at variance with an early plan from about three years ago on their possible installation. That plan called for the equipment to be placed at a location near the entrance to the Temple Mount that would permit the selective examination of visitors, rather than requiring every worshipper to pass through a metal detector.

Police install hi-tech security cameras outside Temple Mount, Times of Israel

The Israel Police overnight SaturdaySunday installed new surveillance measures near the Lions Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem, the main access point for Muslim worshipers to the adjacent Temple Mount compound. According to Hebrew media reports, the camera can identify suspects carrying weapons without the use of metal detectors. Those spotted behaving suspiciously may then be checked by police with a hand-held metal detector.

West Bank Settlers Build New Outpost To Honor Neighbors Killed In Terror Attack, Forward

Residents of the Halamish settlement set up a new outpost in memory of the three members of the Salomon family killed in a terror attack in their home. Hundreds of Halamish residents and their supporters early Sunday morning set up a caravan, as well as tents, tables and chairs and erected the new outpost on a road outside of the settlement, also blocking it off to Palestinian traffic, Ynet reported.

Pope Francis appeals for ‘moderation and dialogue’ over Temple Mount violence, JTA

Expressing trepidation and urging prayers for peace, Pope Francis appealed for “moderation and dialogue” in the wake of recent violence in Jerusalem centering on the Temple Mount.

Opinions and Analysis

Israeli Decision Makers Once Again Ignored the Warnings of Bloodshed, Haaretz

Nir Hasson observes, “It is now clear to everyone, the metal detectors will not stay. After six dead in the first 12 hours after the Friday prayers – three Palestinians in the riots on Friday in Jerusalem and the three Jews murdered in the terrorist attack in Halamish Friday night – it is clear that all the warnings from the Shin Bet security service and the Israel Defense Forces on the danger of leaving the metal detectors in place have come about….The key to opening the lock that imprisons us on the Temple Mount is a comprehensive diplomatic change, negotiations that include all the issues, from Jerusalem to refugees, from borders to settlements. As long as this does not happen, and it will not happen in the foreseeable future, Israel must preserve the status quo as much as possible, to make it difficult for Jews to enter the Temple Mount for religious reasons and to preserve the status and dignity of the Jordanian Waqf on the Mount. Any other advice is poor counsel. Some will say, justifiably, that such a policy prevents the freedom of worship of Jews on the Temple Mount. This is true, it undeniably violates their rights. But with all due respect to the rights of Jews to pray on the Mount, the Temple Mount is part of a larger problem; millions of people live near it, whose more basic rights are violated – including the right to vote and be elected, the right to freedom of movement, equality, life and dignity.”

Palestinians, Israelis disappointed over US envoy’s talks, Al-Monitor

Uri Savir reports, “[O]ne can detect a new tone in Ramallah in recent days — greater pessimism bordering on despair. The Palestinian leadership is witnessing that much of the Trump administration’s efforts are focused on economic confidence-building measures. One such measure is building permits in the Israeli-controlled West Bank Area C, including the Qalqilya expansion plan, which is contested by some Israeli Cabinet ministers. Another measure is the plans for improving the West Bank water supply by creating a canal from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea in coordination with Jordan and the World Bank. The PLO official said, ‘The notion of economic peace plays right into [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s hands and policies — anything but a two-state solution.’….Ramallah leadership assesses that there are no concrete plans by the administration to launch negotiations, except to emphasize how important it is to the president. The PLO official said bitterly, ‘We begin to sense that the talks are merely supposed to generate a positive impression of the US in Riyadh and in Cairo. We will not continue to play this window dressing role for very long.’”

Trump’s Bibi-Esque Iran Policy Shows The Right’s Allergy To Diplomacy, Forward

JJ Goldberg writes, “Given all we know about the pros and cons of the Iran deal and its alternatives, the question we’re left with is why so many smart people on both sides of the Atlantic have become so entrenched in illogical, borderline nonsensical opposition. The answer probably lies in the perfect storm of political, societal and psychological trends that have combined to drive the surge of populist illiberalism that’s threatening democracy throughout the West, most dramatically in America and Israel. There’s an economic stagnation that leaves the middle class wounded, cynical about the value of careful political discourse and thoroughly tired of nuance. There’s a dramatic rise in religious fundamentalism and end-time millennialism that’s sweeping the globe, from Muslim Iran and Gaza to Christian Alabama and Texas to Hindu Gujarat and Ayodhya to Jewish Yitzhar and Bat Ayin. There’s an explosive surge in popularity of absolutist social thought that views public policy as a conflict between good and evil and thus casts a shadow over compromise and all the various practices that depend on it, from legislating to diplomacy to academic debate.”

The Israeli Labor Party’s mysterious new leader, Al-Monitor

Mazal Mualem, “Gabbay took over the party in the blink of an eye, beating the entire party apparatus, including four Knesset members who ran against him in the primaries. One of these rivals defeated was sitting Chairman Isaac Herzog and another, Amir Peretz, was a former chairman and minister of defense. His contenders were all of Labor’s flesh and blood. None of them is a yes-man, and Gabbay will have a painful lesson to learn that Labor is the complete opposite of Kulanu, which coalesces around Kahlon….Lapid is working to win back the voters that the polls showed would choose Labor after Gabbay’s election. He has no intention of surrendering, with a well-oiled party, active branches and an apparatus he controls. Gabbay, on the other hand, will have to spend his energy on political concerns within his own party including perceived offenses, arm-twisting, score-settling and rivals waiting for him to fall.”

In chockablock Qalqilya, expanding city means painful compromise, Times of Israel

Dov Lieber reports, “While settlement opposition to the Qalqilya plan has made the news in Israel and influenced Jerusalem, it is not wholly backed by Qalqilyans either, who see it as a tough compromise.”

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