News Roundup for July 5, 2017

July 5, 2017

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J Street in the News

Statement Regarding Ambassador David Friedman’s Meeting with the J Street Congressional Delegation, J Street

From Jeremy Ben-Ami, president and founder of J Street: “We appreciate the willingness of Ambassador Friedman to meet members of Congress under the auspices of J Street. It is vital to maintain an open channel of communication among American, Israeli and Jewish communal leaders of all political backgrounds. While the content of today’s meeting was off-the-record, the fact of the meeting represents a recognition that there needs to be a broad dialogue in the pro-Israel community, even with those with whom we disagree. J Street is pleased to have the opportunity to convey on this trip to a wide variety of Israeli, Palestinian and American leaders the urgent necessity on the ground of making progress toward a two-state resolution to the conflict.”

J Street meets with US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, JTA

The leadership of J Street, the liberal American Jewish Middle East policy group, met with David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel who before his nomination had derided the group as worse than Nazi collaborators. “We appreciate the willingness of Ambassador Friedman to meet members of Congress under the auspices of J Street,” said a statement from J Street distributed after the meeting on Monday.

American and Israeli Literary All-Stars on Zionism, Judaism, Liberalism, and Trump, Tablet

In an interview with Tablet, Israeli-American author Ayelet Waldman discussed generational differences in how people view Israel: “But the youth of America, the young Jewish community, doesn’t have that same sense of carveout. They cannot tolerate the contradiction of politics, of their expression of American politics, and Zionism. The best-case scenario is organizations like J Street, because J Street is overtly Zionist for the State of Israel, and they believe in the two-state solution. The truth that most American Jews experience is a complete disconnect, even Jews who desperately want to have a relationship with Judaism. I always feel like Israel has made this terrible error in vilifying J Street, because J Street is the best-case scenario.”

US Amb. Friedman Meets With J Street, Which He Once Called ‘Worse Than Kapos,’ The Forward

United States Ambassador to Israel David Friedman met with a delegation organized by the left-wing organization J Street on Monday, despite having previously called the dovish group “worse than kapos” — the Jews who assisted the Nazis during the Holocaust.

The delegation included seven Democratic congressmen and J Street’s senior leadership. Friedman had vowed at his confirmation hearings to meet with actors across the political spectrum.

US envoy Friedman meets with J Street ‘kapos,’ Times of Israel

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Monday met with the leader of the left-wing American Jewish group J Street on Monday, after having once referred to the organization as being worse than Jews who collaborated with the Nazis. Following Jeremy Ben-Ami’s meeting with Friedman, which was closed to the press, the group released a statement that stressed the importance of maintaining “an open line of communication” with people “different political backgrounds.”

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman Meets ‘Worse Than Kapos’ J Street, Jerusalem Post

J Street attempted to block Friedman from being nominated as ambassador to Israel and said he is “beyond the pale” of reasonable appointees. However, the organization seems to have softened its approach toward the US envoy. On Monday J Street issued a statement in which they said that they “believe it is vital to keep an open line of communication between Jewish American and Israeli leaders with different political backgrounds.”

Top News and Analysis

Labor Party Votes to Oust Leader Herzog; Peretz, Gabbay Head to Runoff, Haaretz

“MK Amir Peretz and party newcomer Avi Gabbay are set to face off in a runoff of the Labor Party’s leadership race next week after winning a dramatic leadership vote on Tuesday. The two beat seven candidates, including incumbent party leader, Isaac Herzog.

The final voter turnout was 59 percent, more than 30,000 voters, considerably higher than 2013’s 52 percent. Peretz won the most votes at 32.7 percent, 10,141 votes, with Gabbay behind him at 27 percent, 5,204 votes. Party chairman Isaac Herzog came in third with 16.7 percent of the vote, followed by Erel Margalit with 16.1 percent. Omer Bar-Lev came in last with 6.9 percent. Another two candidates – Hod Kruvi and Avner Ben Zaken – each secured less than one percent of the vote.”

Israel Faces Uproar Abroad as Netanyahu Yields to Ultra-Orthodox Jews, New York Times

“The furor over the Western Wall agreement boils down to a refusal by Israel’s Orthodox religious authorities to grant any recognition to Reform and Conservative Judaism. The main prayer space at the Western Wall, known in Hebrew as the Kotel, has separate men’s and women’s sections, in the Orthodox tradition, and is run like an Orthodox synagogue. The response to the government’s moves has been disappointment and rage, particularly among Jews in North America. Charles Bronfman, the Canadian-American billionaire and a major Jewish philanthropist, sent a letter to the Israeli prime minister taking him to task and noting that “to my knowledge, no other country in the world denies any Jew based on denomination.” And the board of governors of the Jewish Agency, a quasi-governmental body that works to connect Israel with Jews around the world and that is led by the former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky, flatly canceled a gala dinner with Mr. Netanyahu. Mr. Netanyahu has tried to mitigate the backlash, freezing the conversion bill for six months in return for a withdrawal of a recent court petition from the Reform and Conservative movements to have their conversions performed in Israel recognized. But the anger has not abated.”

Can Anti-occupation Groups Leverage U.S. Jewish Ire at Israel’s Moves Against Liberal Judaism? Haaretz

“Anti-occupation activists in the U.S. are hoping to capitalize on American Jewish leaders’ wave of public anger toward the Netanyahu government after last week’s reversal of an agreement to create a prayer space for non-Orthodox Jews at part of the Western Wall, and its move to strengthen ultra-Orthodox control over all aspects of conversion to Judaism. The activists hope that the same leaders who have expressed outrage in unprecedented ways over the two contentious issues will now also be willing to speak out more forcefully against Israel’s 50-year occupation of the Palestinians.”

If Gaza Doesn’t Explode, Thank Egypt, the Qatari Crisis and Abbas’ Biggest Rival, Haaretz

Amos Harel argues: “A confluence of two power struggles in the Arab world – between Saudi Arabia and a bloc of conservative Sunni States against Qatar and between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas – could soon offer temporary relief to some of Gaza’s distress, thus reducing the risk of a confrontation with Israel. In a surprising turn of events the move, led by Egypt, is being supported by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia with no significant opposition by Israel. The compromise will require Hamas to make concessions but will mainly affect Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestinian Authority, who will become further removed from any hold on Gaza, watching as his Fatah rival Mohammed Dahlan improves his standing in the Strip with the explicit support of Cairo.”


Indian Premier, in Israel Visit, Seeks to Break Barriers in Trade and History, New York Times

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long argued that, far from being diplomatically isolated because of its policies toward the Palestinians, Israel is constantly being courted by countries seeking help in technology, intelligence and counterterrorism. That narrative was reinforced on Tuesday when Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India arrived in Israel for a three-day visit, the first by an Indian premier in the 25 years since the two countries established full diplomatic relations.

UNESCO World Heritage Council votes to condemn Israeli actions in Jerusalem, Jewish Journal

The United Nations’ cultural agency voted to condemn Israeli actions in Jerusalem. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization’s World Heritage Council on Tuesday during its meeting in Poland passed a resolution submitted by the council’s Arab states rejecting Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem.

Hamas to meet with Egypt’s Sisi amid reports of Hamas deal, Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will travel to Cairo over the weekend to meet with Egyptian leader Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi for “urgent” talks, the PA’s envoy to Egypt said Tuesday, amid tensions over Egypt’s involvement in an internal Palestinian rift.

IDF issues demolition orders for homes of 2 Palestinian attackers, Times of Israel

The IDF issued demolition orders late Monday night for the homes of four Palestinians who killed Border Police officer Hadas Malka and soldier Elhai Teharlev in separate attacks in June and April.

Hamas Chief, UN’s Middle East Envoy Discuss Gazans’ Plight, Palestinian Reconciliation, Haaretz

The United Nations envoy to the Middle East, Nikolay Mladenov, met with Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh in the Gaza Strip on Monday, in an attempt to ease tensions between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, and to discuss ways to improve the humanitarian situation in the Strip.

Abu Khdeir family: ‘We never had high hopes for Israel’s legal system,’ Ma’an

After Israel’s Supreme Court rejected a petition to demolish the homes of three Israelis convicted of brutally killing 16-year-old Muhammed Abu Khdeir in 2014, Abu Khdeir’s family told Palestinian lawyer Muhannad Jibara on Wednesday that they “never had high hopes” that Israel’s legal system would actually order the demolitions.

Israeli and Palestinian firefighters carry out joint exercise, i24

The West Bank city of Jenin is often in the headlines for less than positive reasons, but a joint exercise between Israeli and Palestinian firefighters on Tuesday meant that the flashpoint city served as a backdrop to a show of co-existence between the two sides.

Opinions and Analysis

The Trump effect hits Gaza, +972

Mitchell Plitnick argues: “Trump has already accepted the Israeli view on numerous matters. He has stated that settlements are not blocking the peace process. He has clearly prioritized the payments to Palestinian prisoners. He does not seem to understand why Abbas would refuse to meet an ambassador who has enthusiastically funded some of the most radical settlement projects. And, perhaps most of all, he has been slippery at best regarding a two-state solution. Abbas, therefore, must find a way to show Trump that the Palestinians can contribute something significant to his regional efforts. The one thing he can do that no other Arab agent can is to take on Hamas. Despite Hamas’ having distanced itself in recent years from its Muslim Brotherhood roots, both Saudi Arabia and Egypt still see it as part of that broad and diffuse movement. They’re not wrong in that. The chief threat that the Saudi and Egyptian government see in the Muslim Brotherhood is its potential to rally popular support and win politically. The coup engineered by Abdel Fatteh al-Sisi is not an ideal cure to what happened in Egypt. Reversing votes with military coups tends to increase popular dissent. Whether Hamas has any real connection to the Brotherhood or not, it represents the same sort of problem in the eyes of the regional dictators.”

Starved of power, Gaza’s Palestinians buckle under an oppressive heatwave, Times of Israel

“In a series of interviews with The Times of Israel, residents of the Strip described the debilitating effects of the power crisis. It dictates their routine. It turns basic goods, services and actions into luxuries. The normal strategies for cooling off in the summer heat — including showers, swimming, air conditioning and electric fans — have all but disappeared. Even drinking water is an increasingly rare commodity Depending on what neighborhood one lives in, say the interviewees, the average Gazan enjoys either 4 to 6 or 2 to 3 hours of electricity a day. Residents have no idea when the power will come on, so when it does, they have to drop what they are doing and rush to complete tasks that require electricity.”

U.S. Rabbis Just Got a Close-up Look at Occupation in the West Bank – and It’s Not a Pretty Sight, Haaretz

Judy Maltz writes: “Rabbis’ visit comes after 50th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of West Bank. What hadn’t been planned, though, up was that their trip would coincide with one of the worst crises ever in relations between Israel and the U.S. Jewish community.”

Netanyahu must choose between ultra-Orthodox and US Jews, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit argues: “Netanyahu was a little confused by Donald Trump’s victory against all odds in the US election, despite liberal Jews’ support for Hillary Clinton. He is now being forced to learn the hard way that even a Trump Republican government in power in Washington cannot change the fact that the vast majority of American Jews, whether Reform or Conservative, are liberals. Yes, they have a deep commitment to Israel, but it must not be taken for granted. Netanyahu will now be forced to choose between an alliance with them and his alliance with the ultra-Orthodox.”

Iran’s Challenge in Lebanon: Israel’s Options Not Limited to ‘War’ or ‘Doing Nothing,’ Haaretz

Amos Harel writes: “The last rounds of fighting in Gaza also saw Netanyahu being led, in that case by Hamas, as opposed to leading. Something really extraordinary has to happen for the prime minister to initiate a war and even if he does, it will probably be in Gaza, which has less potential to hurt Israel than Hezbollah does. The anticipated dimension of damage is clear to both sides. Whether or not to go to war in Lebanon isn’t a matter to be decided by a referendum of tabloid readers, or voting by text message. The Israeli press would do well to think twice before urging the cabinet to war, by creating the illusion of pressure on the public. The Israeli press isn’t the British tabloids during the Falkland War. If war does break out, it will be right at home, not thousands of miles distant from the home front.”

How a Play About Mideast Peace Became a Trump-Era Sensation, Politico

Susan Glaser interviews JT Rogers about his play, Oslo: Context is everything for how audiences view his plays, Rogers says, and today’s audiences aren’t thinking so much about how to bridge the Israeli-Palestinian divide as they are about the increasingly yawning gulf between red America and their own blue America. When the play debuted in 2016, Rogers says, that wasn’t really on anyone’s mind. But then it went on a few months’ hiatus before moving to Broadway—and Trump’s election changed the context. “The political ground beneath our feet shifted,” Rogers says. “Brexit happened; the American presidential election happened; but by the whiskers of God, the French Republic seemed to be teetering; and all of a sudden, the audience—the same people, so to speak, are watching this play—and now it’s a play about Democrats and Republicans. And it’s amazing, and the tears people are crying. … It is both more shattering but fascinatingly far more hopeful without a word being changed.” In a world of errant tweets and grinding conflict, partisan rancor and incendiary rhetoric, who would expect hope to come in the form of a play about a long-ago moment in the Middle East peace process?

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