News Roundup for July 6, 2017

July 6, 2017

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Top News and Analysis

In Test for Trump, Israel Plans 800 East Jerusalem Homes, The New York Times

“The Jerusalem municipality said Wednesday it plans to approve 800 new homes in Jewish-populated areas of east Jerusalem in the coming month, a move that could complicate President Donald Trump’s attempt to restart peace talks. The housing would be the first approved in east Jerusalem since Trump called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to curb settlement construction in February.”

A Misguided War On The United Nations, Huffington Post

Rep. Gerry Connolly writes, “Supporting the United Nations is both a moral imperative and aligned with our own national security interests. But you wouldn’t know that from listening to some of the reckless rhetoric from the White House and on Capitol Hill. During her confirmation hearing, Ambassador Nikki Haley insisted that she does not believe in “slash and burn” attempts to decrease U.S. funding for the United Nations. Yet, the Trump budget does just that. Then, following her testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs this week, Haley even boasted about cutting more than half a billion dollars from the U.N. peacekeeping budget….A unilateral retreat, which is what the president’s budget represents, would neither improve the U.N., nor make our nation more secure. To say that this budget sends the message that U.S. leadership is essential in the world, as Ambassador Haley vowed to do in her confirmation hearing, would embarrass even George Orwell.”

Israeli Labor Party Taps Former Turncoats in Bid to Save a Sinking Ship, Haaretz

Yossi Verter writes, “On Tuesday the members of the Labor Party, about 30,000 of them to be precise, chose to rock their listing boat and throw their support behind the two candidates who symbolize disloyalty to one’s party, or at least a lack of commitment. Loyalty wasn’t a factor. The first candidate was Amir Peretz, who left the party twice and came back twice. The second was Avi Gabbay, a new face in Labor. Just two years ago he helped set up the center-right Kulanu party with Moshe Kahlon and served as environmental protection minister under Benjamin Netanyahu until quitting a year ago. Peretz and Gabbay trounced the incumbent Labor chairman, Isaac Herzog, the son of a former president who failed to elude the bitter fate of his predecessors and was tossed out in a primary. Peretz and Gabbay also beat Omer Bar-Lev, the son of a legendary general, and Erel Margalit, who had climbed up the party’s ranks. On Monday there will be a runoff between Peretz and Gabbay. One of the two will become the next chairman of the Labor Party and its candidate for prime minister. The rise of the two Mizrahi candidates – both have Moroccan roots – and the “defeat of the Ashkenazim” seems to be a reaction to the party’s sorry state in the country’s outskirts. Labor barely registers outside greater Tel Aviv and the kibbutzim. It has become a niche party. The choice of Peretz and Gabbay, by a wide margin above the other three, signals a desire by the Labor faithful to regain constituencies that have turned away from the party.”

‘Three-state’ reality emerges as Hamas-Dahlan leadership takes shape in Gaza, Times of Israel

Avi Issacharoff writes, “The reconciliation deal between Dahlan and Hamas, currently being negotiated between senior Hamas members, Dahlan’s people and Egyptian intelligence, is supposed to pave the way for the opening of the Rafah crossing between the enclave and Egypt, Yusuf said, and the establishment of a new “management committee” — in other words, a de facto new government for Gaza. This committee will include Hamas of course, representatives of the other Palestinian factions in the enclave, and Dahlan’s associates. The intended impact: an improvement in humanitarian conditions in the Strip, which will reduce the likelihood of war. Which brings us to the second area of significance for Israel. The new arrangement will more completely separate Gaza from the West Bank.”


Palestinian Authority Forces 6,000 Gazan Employees Into Early Retirement, Haaretz

The Palestinian government in Ramallah decided on Tuesday to dismiss 6,145 Palestinian Authority employees in the Gaza Strip by putting them on early retirement. The PA government spokesman, Yusuf al-Mahmoud, said this was another step taken by the Palestinian government regarding the Gaza Strip, adding that they are temporary and depend on Hamas giving up its rule in Gaza and allowing the PA to take over.

Israel sues heirs of Palestinian ‘lone wolf’ attacker, seeking compensation, Washington Post

An Israeli prosecutor has filed a precedent-setting civil lawsuit against the estate of a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem seven months after the man carried out a car ramming attack that left four Israelis dead. The lawsuit is likely to be just the first in a series of cases brought by the state against the families of Palestinian attackers.

Labor Party Leader Hopeful Vows to Unseat Netanyahu: You Can Already Smell Bibi Sweat, Haaretz

Amir Peretz, one of the two contenders to lead the Labor Party, vowed Wednesday to unseat Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister in a general election held next year. Peretz, who headed Labor around a decade ago and was defense minister during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, even predicted exactly when the election would happen: May. Formally, an election is not required in Israel until 2019. This week Peretz won the first round of the Labor leadership primary, making it to the final round against Avi Gabbay, a former environmental protection minister. The two will vie in a runoff on Monday.

Lawmakers urge Rex Tillerson to appoint special envoy on anti-Semitism, JTA

Dozens of Congress members have called on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to say whether the State Department will hire a special envoy for the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. In a bipartisan letter sent last Friday, Reps. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., and Chris Smith, R-N.J., were among 116 House lawmakers who also urged President Donald Trump to keep the office staffed following reports that it would be left empty after July 1. The special envoy post, which was mandated in the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004, has been unfilled since Trump’s inauguration in late January. The special envoy monitors acts of anti-Semitism abroad, document the cases in State Department reports, and consults with domestic and international nongovernmental organizations.

For First Time, Israeli Border Guards Explicitly Instructed to Block Entry of Visitors Over ‘BDS Activity’, Haaretz

The Population, Immigration and Border Authority last month issued a directive implementing the recently-passed law that blocks entry to Israel of visitors because of “BDS activity.”

The regulation, entitled “Handling entries at Israel’s international border crossings,” lists 28 reasons for refusing someone entry to Israel, and constitutes the first time such a policy has been set down in writing. “BDS activity” is specifically listed. The regulation follows the passing of a law this past March that forbids the issuance of a visa or other entry permit to foreign citizens who have called for a boycott of Israel or the settlements.

Netanyahu accepts Modi invite to India as leaders ink cooperation deals, Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday accepted an invitation from his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to visit Delhi, as the two leaders signed a raft of agreements aimed at bolstering anti-terror and economic cooperation. Modi is currently making the first-ever trip by an Indian prime minister to Israel, where he is being feted by Netanyahu for three days as Jerusalem touts its growing ties with the second-most populous country in the world.

Israeli Polls Suggest New Labor Leaders Won’t Overtake Netanyahu’s Likud, Haaretz

Polling results reported Wednesday evening suggest that either one of the Israeli Labor Party’s potential leaders would not make substantial gains at the expense of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, or even cause more than a small dent to Israel’s centrist parties. A poll by Channel 2 show that if elections for the Knesset were held now with Amir Peretz as head of the Labor Party, the party would garner 15 seats in the 120-seat Knesset. If Avi Gabbay were at the party’s helm, the poll shows the Labor Party with just one seat less at 14 seats. A poll by the Walla News website showed the party getting 18 seats with either of the two as party leader.

Opinions and Analysis

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 reports on “a group of about a dozen American rabbis visiting Hebron Sunday on a tour jointly sponsored by T’ruah, a U.S.-based organization of rabbis active in promoting human rights, and Breaking the Silence, a group of former IDF soldiers dedicated to fighting the Israeli occupation, who collect and publish personal testimonies about their military service in locations like Hebron. Several of these testimonies were read out during the tour. Among the participants on the tour are Conservative rabbis, Reform rabbis, a representative of the Jewish Renewal movement, and even one Orthodox rabbi who describes the political orientation of his community as ‘somewhere between AIPAC and the Zionist Organization of America’ – referring to the pro-Israel lobby in Washington, at one end, and one of the most right-wing Jewish organizations in the United States, at the other. Most of them are participating this summer in a special leadership program run by the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.”

A jolt for Labor, Herzog’s ouster may be bad news for Netanyahu, Times of Israel

Raoul Wootliff writes, “If there was a genuine possibility of Labor joining the government at the drop of a hat, the immense power that each of the smaller party ostensibly held would dissipate altogether. Tuesday’s primary election, however, put an end to Netanyahu’s use of Labor as a buffer. While Peretz and Gabbay have both sat as ministers around Netanyahu’s cabinet table, they also have both resigned in opposition to his policies. And viewing Herzog’s demise, in no small part due to his perceived willingness to get in bed with the prime minister, both have positioned themselves as alternatives to Netanyahu and are hostile to any talk of joining him in the coalition.”

Israeli Labor’s new leaders must rebrand party, Al-Monitor

Mazal Mualem writes, “In the next election, with the public asked to decide between alternatives to lead the country, the decisive factor will be security. The Mizrahi issue does not have what it takes to stand alone. Gabai will have to prove that despite his very limited experience in politics and his lack of experience in dealing with national issues, he could still head a country such as Israel. But how, in fact, is he really better than Lapid or Netanyahu? Being Mizrahi is not a viable claim. Peretz, on the other hand, will have to convince the public that he deserves a second chance. His advantage is that he has proven experience at the national level. The fact that he is Mizrahi is not the main point for him either. Regardless of which of these two men is elected, the winner will first have to compete against Lapid in a kind of undeclared primary, which will inevitably be expressed in their respective poll numbers. If he is elected, Gabai will be unable to serve as leader of the opposition because he is not a member of Knesset. This presents a new political situation, which could hurt him.”

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

Amos Harel reports, “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….As far as is known, Israel is maintaining close coordination with Egypt but is not necessarily pleased with all the details of the understandings that are taking shape. The main concern is that Hamas will exploit the eased conditions in Rafah in order to smuggle in military equipment or dual-purpose items such as cement, which can be used in tunnels and fortifications, as well as other materials that bolster its offensive capabilities. It seems that Israel is willing to take a calculated risk: to accept some risk of an upgraded Hamas military wing in exchange for an increased Egyptian influence on events in Gaza and the removal of another risk: the imminent outbreak of hostilities.”

How Israel’s education minister inserts ideology into schools, Al-Monitor

Akiva Eldar writes, “A report by Molad – Center for Renewal of Israeli Democracy shows that in 2015, 94% of the Jewish culture budget was allocated to right-wing settler organizations and only 6% to those devoted to pluralistic Judaism. The sum allocated that year to after-school Jewish studies was 17 times the amount allocated to science and 119 times the sum allotted to activity related to democracy and coexistence. The report reveals that the Education Ministry does not conduct any supervision over the activities of various nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the contents they disseminate at state schools. The report contains data reflecting the right-wing’s efforts to ‘settle’ with its religious ideas in the hearts and minds of secular Israelis.”

Fed-up Reform leaders are thinking twice about their donations to Israel, JTA

“Daryl Messinger knows she’s going to visit Israel again. But the next time she flies there, it won’t be on El Al. Messinger, the chair of the Union for Reform Judaism, will be boycotting Israel’s national airline as part of her protest of the Israeli government’s two votes last week that empowered its Orthodox sector at the expense of more liberal groups. She’s also going to make a point of buying non-kosher wines produced in Israel — a show of support for Jews who don’t observe traditional kosher laws. ‘I want to make sure my dollars are working for my needs and for a pluralistic Israel,’ Messinger, of Palo Alto, California, told JTA on Wednesday. ‘The Israeli economy is the place where our American dollars are really impactful, so we need to be really clear about what goods and services we want to support and see thrive in Israel.’ ‘This is about redirecting funds strategically,’ Messinger said. ‘It’s not about spending less. It’s about investing in areas where it’s clearly promoting democratic, pluralistic Israel — an Israel we’d like to all be part of.’”

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