News Roundup for June 15, 2017

June 15, 2017

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J Street in the News

J Street Condemns Alexandria Attack; Wishes Victims a Speedy Recovery, J Street

“J Street is deeply disturbed by the attack this morning in Alexandria, Virginia where a gunman opened fire on members of the Republican Congressional baseball team, wounding five people including Rep. Steve Scalise, the House Majority Whip. This hateful act of violence cannot be condemned strongly enough. We are thankful for the extraordinary efforts of those on the scene – including Capitol Police officers who were themselves wounded in the attack – who helped to save lives, protect Members of Congress and stop the assailant. Our thoughts and best wishes go out to all the victims and their families as we hope for their speedy recoveries.”

Top News and Analysis

Trump Envoy Jason Greenblatt to Visit Israel Soon to Discuss Renewed Peace Talks, Israeli Official Says, Haaretz

The United States is stepping up its negotiations with Israel and the Palestinians ahead of a possible drafting of an American statement of principles, which would serve as a basis for a renewed negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians. A senior Israeli official stated that Trump envoy Jason Greenblatt will come to the region soon to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. A senior American official stated that a final date for this visit has yet to be finalized, while a second senior Israeli official said that Greenblatt will come after Ramadan ends June 24.

Israeli and Palestinian sources said that the Americans would like Netanyahu and Abbas to present their stances on the core issues up for negotiations – borders, security, refugees, Jerusalem and the settlements – so they can map the differences and decide whether, and if so how, to draft a document that would delineate the principles along which the negotiations would be renewed.”

Trump Has ‘Narrow Window’ to Pursue Mideast Peace, Livni Says, Bloomberg

“U.S. President Donald Trump’s early diplomatic moves have pried open a ‘narrow window’ to broker the Middle East peace deal that eluded his predecessors, a veteran Israeli peace negotiator said. Trump’s knack for keeping people off balance has given him unique leverage with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, according to Tzipi Livni, Israel’s former foreign minister and chief peace negotiator. Other promising developments are the newfound interest of Sunni Muslim states such as Saudi Arabia in encouraging an agreement, and Europe’s focus on its own problems with refugees and terrorism, she said…..Livni, who came close to being prime minister herself, led negotiating teams in 2009 and 2014 that ultimately returned empty handed. With Abbas now apparently willing to enter peace talks without the settlement freeze he’s demanded in the past, Livni sees an opportunity Netanyahu must seize.”

How Many Settlers Really Live in the West Bank? Haaretz Investigation Reveals, Haaretz

“The Jewish population in the West Bank has increased by more than 330,000 people and eight settlements have been built in the West Bank over the past three decades. More than 380,000 settlers currently live in the West Bank, over 40 percent of them outside the settlement blocs, Haaretz has found….Unlike the impression that the settlers and hilltop youth are all cut from the same “national-religious” cloth, the population in the West Bank is diverse. Only 100,000 settlers lived in predominantly national-religious communities in 2015, while 164,000 lived in secular or mixed communities. But the settlers owe their main spurt of growth to the ultra-Orthodox population, which doesn’t usually cross the Green Line for ideological reasons.”

News

Trump administration expresses concern about humanitarian situation in Gaza, JTA

The Trump administration said it was “concerned about the humanitarian situation in Gaza,” but said its Hamas rulers were responsible. The administration held a news briefing Tuesday at the State Department in which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was discussed. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert acknowledged the Israeli security cabinet’s approval of the Palestinian Authority’s request to reduce electricity going to Gaza by 40 percent. “We continue to underscore the need for international support for Gaza’s recovery and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people,” she said.

Palestinians say Netanyahu, not Abbas, to blame for Gaza crisis, Times of Israel

“The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday blamed Israel for an energy crisis in Gaza, after Israel acceded to a request by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to slash the amount of power it transfers to the beleaguered Strip and defended the move by saying the matter was an internal Palestinian rift….Mahmoud said the rift between Abbas’s Fatah faction and Gaza’s Hamas rulers, which was caused by Israel, was not the cause of the crisis. ‘The reason behind [the crisis]…is the existence of the Israeli occupation and the siege [of Gaza] that has stricken the Gaza Strip for 10 years. Furthermore, the disastrous [Hamas] coup would not have happened were it not for the existence of the occupation, the siege, and the dismemberment of Palestinian lands,’ he said.”

Congress rebukes Trump over pro-Saudi stance, Al-Monitor

“Senators voted 53-47 against a motion from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., that would have prohibited the Donald Trump administration from selling $500 million worth of precision-guided munitions for the kingdom’s campaign against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Last year, while Barack Obama was still president, a similar proposal to stop the sale of battle tanks to the Saudis only garnered 27 votes. ‘I think this big vote against the arms sale is a reaction to a changed policy on Saudi Arabia,’ Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., told Al-Monitor. ‘Trump has embraced the Saudis in a way that is not helpful to the US national security interest and a lot of members reject that.’ ‘The Obama administration’s support for Saudi Arabia came with conditions. It appears that there are zero conditions on Trump’s support for Saudi Arabia,’ Murphy said. ‘I think it’s deeply harmful to the US national security for us to be so definitively taking the Sunni side of the broadening set of proxy wars between the Saudis and the Iranians.’”

Tillerson Suggests Cutting Anti-Semitism Envoy, Forward

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson retreated from his department’s commitment to fill the post of envoy to combat anti-Semitism, saying the effort may be more effective without one.

Knesset gives initial okay to bill slashing PA funding over terrorist payments, Times of Israel

The Knesset plenum on Wednesday approved in its preliminary reading a bill that would slash funds to the Palestinian Authority over salaries paid out by Ramallah to convicted terrorists and their families. The proposal would see Israel cut around NIS 1 billion ($285 million) from the annual tax revenues it collects for the Palestinians and hands over to them — equivalent to the amount that Ramallah pays to terrorists and their families, a practice Israel and the international community have attempted to end.

Gaza facing ‘worst medication crisis in years,’ rights group says, Ma’an

In the wake of a decision by Israel to approve a request by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to drastically reduce electricity supplies to the Gaza Strip, an Israeli human rights organization has raised the alarm over what it described as the worst medication crisis facing the besieged coastal enclave in years, with the main victims of the crisis being cystic fibrosis patients, cancer patients, and infants with developmental deficits. According to Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI), the medication crisis came as the result of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA) gradually cutting its budget for Gaza healthcare and medical supplies over recent months, which reached “an unprecedented low” in May.

Opinions and Analysis

New Israeli pro-diplomacy lobby hopes to avoid another Gaza war, Al-Monitor

Mazal Mualem reports, “Coincidently, the launch of the “Diplomatic Vision for Gaza” lobby by Knesset member Haim Jelin of Yesh Atid on June 12 coincided with the intensification of the electricity crisis in Gaza. Based on an assessment presented by Israel’s military chiefs to the Cabinet just a day earlier, the crisis could lead to more than just a humanitarian disaster. It could also result in a military escalation between Israel and Hamas, making the new lobby all the more relevant….Will the country’s political leadership come to its senses before the next round of fighting and make an effort to prevent it? Sadly, it looks like the public is not providing the decision-makers with the impetus to act in order to achieve that, at least at this stage. It seems as if the ‘deceptive’ calm on the security front is hiding the risk of another round of fighting in Gaza. As if guided by destiny, Israel seems to be headed in that direction.”

What Palestinians Can Teach Jews About Saving Israel, Haaretz

Bradley Burston observes, “”New Voices from Palestine” was the subject of a panel during the 2017 Israel Conference on Peace sponsored by this newspaper on Monday. There was something quietly but fundamentally revolutionary about the views expressed. The speakers confounded all expectations, stressing again and again that liberation was bound up with leaving behind the mentality and the comfort zone which says ‘I am a victim.’ It’s a lesson which Israel as a whole needs to take to heart, in order to do what is needed to save itself.”

Trump’s Conflicts of Interest in Israel, ThinkProgress

Carolyn Kenney and John Norris write, “U.S.-Israeli relations are often at the center of understanding complex issues in the Middle East, where war and peace are at times in the balance. Yet now the president’s son-in-law—a diplomatic novice—is charged with leading sensitive negotiations at the same time that his family’s real estate company has benefitted, and continues to benefit, from relations with multiple Israeli individuals and banks, including some who are under ongoing Justice Department investigations for money laundering, tax evasion, and bribery. It is hard to believe that the Trump White House has America’s best interests uppermost in mind when there is this toxic mix of nepotism, ineptitude, and corruption at play.”

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