News Roundup for June 2, 2017

June 2, 2017

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J Street in the News

Trump decides to keep U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, at least for now, Washington Post

“‘Since the disposition of Jerusalem is a final status issue that must be decided by the parties themselves, moving the embassy could cause significant harm to U.S. credibility as a mediator,’ a statement from the organization said. ‘Moving the embassy could also have a more immediate security impact. Even seemingly minor changes to Jerusalem’s status quo in fact or law have historically carried the risk of sparking potential violence.’”

Trump delays moving U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, Politico

‘This decision is in keeping with 20 years of bipartisan policy since the passage of the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act,’ the liberal American Jewish lobbying group J Street said in a statement. ‘We agree with the policy of all Democratic and Republican presidents since 1967 who, while recognizing the deep and unbreakable Jewish connection to Jerusalem, have maintained the official position that the status of Jerusalem is to be decided by negotiations between the parties.’”

Trump Signs Waiver to Keep Embassy in Tel Aviv, NBC News

“J Street, a left-leaning pro-Israel group said it welcomed Trump’s decision. ‘Since the disposition of Jerusalem is a final status issue that must be decided by the parties themselves, moving the embassy could cause significant harm to US credibility as a mediator in efforts to move toward a two-state peace agreement,’ the organization wrote in a statement on Thursday.”

President Trump Signs Waiver Barring Move Of U.S. Embassy In Israel To Jerusalem, Huffington Post

“‘Since the disposition of Jerusalem is a final status issue that must be decided by the parties themselves, moving the embassy could cause significant harm to US credibility as a mediator in efforts to move toward a two-state peace agreement,’ J Street, a progressive, pro-Israel organization, said in a statement praising the president’s decision.”

Trump’s Staunchest Israeli Supporter ‘Disappointed’ by Order Delaying U.S. Embassy Move, Haaretz

“J Street welcomed Trump’s decision to delay the relocation….‘We are glad that the administration has heeded the advice of veteran officials in the diplomatic and security communities, and decided to maintain the prudent policy of its predecessors on this issue,’ J Street said in the statement. ‘Since the disposition of Jerusalem is a final status issue that must be decided by the parties themselves, moving the embassy could cause significant harm to US credibility as a mediator in efforts to move toward a two-state peace agreement,’ J Street said. The organization added that moving the embassy might ‘have a more immediate security impact’ as making changes to Jerusalem’s status quo ‘have historically carried the risk of sparking potential violence.’”

J Street welcomes Trump’s ‘prudent’ delay in moving US embassy, Times of Israel

“The American Jewish group J Street welcomes Trump’s decision not to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem for now, and says it is in keeping with longstanding bipartisan tradition. ‘We are glad that the administration has heeded the advice of veteran officials in the diplomatic and security communities, and decided to maintain the prudent policy of its predecessors on this issue,’ the organization says in a statement. J Street warns that relocating the American embassy in the absence of a final peace agreement ‘carries the risk of sparking potential violence.’”

Trump signs waiver, won’t move embassy to Jerusalem now, JTA

“J Street in a statement, welcomed Trump’s decision to sign the waiver, calling it ‘in keeping with 20 years of bipartisan policy’ since the passage of the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act. ‘J Street believes that Jerusalem is absolutely central to the history, culture and identity of the Jewish people. We look forward to it, one day, being recognized by the entire world as Israel’s capital, as part of a negotiated two-state solution,’ the statement also said.”

Why Trump’s promise to move US embassy to Jerusalem is so controversial, Fox News

“Should the US move the embassy, it could cause ‘significant harm to the US credibility as a mediator’ for peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, said Dylan Williams, vice president of government affairs for J Street, a left-leaning pro-Israel advocacy organization.”

100 Prominent Jewish Leaders Condemn Attacks On Linda Sarsour, Forward

“More than 100 Jewish leaders condemned attacks on Linda Sarsour, the Palestinian-American activist whose Thursday speech at a City University of New York graduation ceremony has become a flashpoint. Signatories to the letter include many of the most prominent left-leaning Jewish communal leaders, including J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami, Bend the Arc’s Stosh Cotler, HIAS’s Mark Hetfield, the National Council of Jewish Women’s Nancy Kaufman, and T’ruah’s Rabbi Jill Jacobs. Rabbis from Congregation B’nai Jeshurun on the Upper West Side and Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope also signed, as did the playwright Tony Kushner and New York City Council member Brad Lander.”

Top News and Analysis

Trump Opts Not to Move Embassy to Jerusalem, at Least for Now, The New York Times

“President Trump signed an order keeping the American Embassy in Tel Aviv rather than move it to Jerusalem as he promised during last year’s campaign, aides said Thursday, disappointing many Israel supporters in hopes of preserving his chances of negotiating a peace settlement. Mr. Trump made no mention of his pending decision during a visit to Jerusalem just last week and waited to announce it until almost the last minute he could under law, underscoring the deep political sensitivity of the matter. The order he will sign waives for six months a congressional edict requiring the embassy be located in Jerusalem, after which he will have to consider the matter again…..Mr. Trump may invite the wrath of powerful supporters like Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino magnate and Republican donor who is close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and owns a newspaper in Israel. Some hard-line Israel backers have privately expressed concern that Mr. Trump has not lived up to his campaign pledges because he has been seduced into thinking he may reach the ‘ultimate deal’ that has eluded every other president.”

Netanyahu: We must retain full military control of West Bank, Times of Israel

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said that Israel must maintain its military control over the West Bank in the event of a peace agreement with the Palestinians. “The idea that we can give up territory and achieve peace is not right,” Netanyahu told Army Radio in a pre-Shavuot holiday interview. ‘In order to assure our existence we need to have military and security control over all of the territory west of the Jordan [River],’ he said….In the radio interview, Netanyahu asserted the root of the conflict lies not with Israeli settlements in the West Bank, but rather in Palestinian intransigence regarding recognition of Jewish rights to any part of the land.”

Trump Was ‘Angry’ in Bethlehem Meeting, Mahmoud Abbas Reportedly Confirms, Haaretz

Conflicting versions are emerging from officials close to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas regarding his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump last month, which Israeli media reported was unusually tense.  According to the London-based Al-Araby Al-Jadid newspaper, which cited officials close to the Palestinian leader, Abbas told a recent meeting of PLO officials that the meeting was “uncomfortable,” and that Trump was “angry,” in stark contrast with their previous interaction in Washington, described as having a “comfortable environment” which was “far from stressful.” During the meeting, Trump accused Abbas of inciting against Israel, Al-Araby said. Trump reportedly showed Abbas a number of videos including one of Abbas saying “We [the Palestinians] incite, and the Israelis incite.” This issue came up during their Washington meeting as well.

Exclusive: Trump Officials Studying Obama’s Security Plan in Case Israeli-Palestinian Peace Push Works, Haaretz

“The Allen plan, which was written by dozens of U.S. officers and experts over a period of many months, was never presented to the public, and most of its contents have remained secret, even after the Obama administration’s 2013-2014 peace talks fell apart. Former officials advised the new administration to dive into the plan’s details, since if Trump’s wish to hold Israeli-Palestinian negotiations became serious, he would sooner or later need a robust plan to provide security for Israel in the aftermath of an agreement….In recent weeks, there are some signs that the current administration is indeed looking into the security plan prepared by the previous administration. Trump’s National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster, decided to appoint Kris Bauman, a United States Air Force colonel who was deeply involved in the work over the 2014 security plan, as the National Security Council’s new expert on Israel-Palestine. In addition, the administration has been briefed about two security plans that were created over the last year by former Israeli and American security officials, which both drew on ideas and concepts from the Allen plan. The first is a plan that was written by the Washington-based Center for New American Security, together with former IDF General Gadi Shamni, who was the commander of Israel’s Central Command. The second is a plan written by ‘Commanders for Israel’s Security,’ an organization consisting of hundreds of former senior IDF officers, whose representatives also met with two officials in the Trump administration.”


Netanyahu Says Trump’s Decision Not to Move U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem Delays Peace With Palestinians, Haaretz

President Trump’s decision to postpone moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem delays reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians, the office of Prime Minister Netanyahu said on Thursday. ‘Israel’s consistent policy is that the American embassy like other embassies should be in Jerusalem, our eternal capital,’ The Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement. ‘Keeping embassies out of Jerusalem postpones peace because it contributes to the Palestinian illusion that the Jewish people and their country have no connection to Jerusalem.’”

Israel Finance Minister Makes Rare Confidence-Boosting Visit To Palestinians, Forward

Israel’s finance minister has met the Palestinian prime minister, Israeli officials said on Thursday, in a rare visit by an Israeli cabinet member to the occupied West Bank as part of a US peace push….Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who heads a center-right party in Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition, went to Ramallah late on Wednesday to present the proposals to Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, the officials said.

Israel Set to Approve Plans for 2,100 New Housing Units in West Bank, Haaretz

Some 2,100 new housing units all over the West Bank will be on the agenda of the planning and building committee of the Israel Defense Forces’ Civil Administration next week. Most of the units – around 1,500 – are to be constructed inside the settlement blocs, and the rest will be outside of them. The top planning council for the West Bank announced the agenda for its meeting next week on Friday morning.

Palestinian Teen Shot After Stabbing Soldier Outside West Bank Settlement, Haaretz

A Palestinian minor stabbed a soldier at a West Bank settlement and was shot on Thursday, the Israeli army said. The attack took place at the entrance gate to the Mevo Dotan settlement in the northern West Bank. The soldier was lightly wounded in the attack and evacuated to hospital and the assailant was being treated at the scene, the army said. The assailant was in critical condition after being shot in the stomach.

Border Police say they thwarted Hebron stabbing, Times of Israel

A 17-year-old Palestinian was detained in Hebron Tuesday after being caught with a large kitchen knife in her bag. The girl attempted to resist security forces and had to be fought to submission. Border Police said they believed the teen intended to carry out a stabbing attack against officers or against Jewish worshipers in the nearby Tomb of the Patriarchs.

NGO: Israeli army issues order advancing new illegal West Bank settlement, Ma’an

The Israeli army has issued a military order confirming the jurisdiction of the illegal Amichai settlement, the first Israeli settlement to be constructed in occupied Palestinian territory in 25 years, providing a green light for further settlement expansion on Palestinian lands across the occupied West Bank, according to a statement released Tuesday by Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now. The military order was issued on Sunday, Peace Now reported, corroborating earlier reports in Israeli media that the Israeli Civil Administration had approved jurisdiction for the settlement’s location.

Israeli forces raid Palestinian-Jewish protest camp for third time in 10 days, +972

Israeli soldiers and Border Police raided the Sumud Freedom Camp in the south Hebron hills for the third time on Monday morning, destroying and confiscating property and detaining three Palestinian activists. The anti-occupation encampment, built and inhabited by Palestinians, Israelis and diaspora Jews, had already been torn down twice in the past 10 days.

After Pressure From Israel, Denmark Reexamining Donations to Palestinian NGOs, Haaretz

The Danish Foreign Ministry has begun a comprehensive examination of its donations to non-governmental organizations in the Palestinian Authority, according to a statement from the office of Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen. The decision was taken, among other reasons, due to pressure from Israel, and according to the statement, was ordered by the foreign minister last week.

US says ‘no formal mechanisms’ yet for Israeli-Palestinian talks, Times of Israel

No formal framework for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians has been set up following US President Donald Trump’s visit to the Middle East last week, but the president wants to get going with peace efforts, the State Department said Tuesday. It praised a package of Israeli proposals to improve the West Bank economy, and said it looked forward to more. No formal framework for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians has been set up following US President Donald Trump’s visit to the Middle East last week, but the president wants to get going with peace efforts, the State Department said Tuesday. It praised a package of Israeli proposals to improve the West Bank economy, and said it looked forward to more.

Pence to speak at Christian pro-Israel group’s annual summit, JTA

Vice President Mike Pence will address the annual summit of Christians United for Israel, the largest pro-Israel group in the country. Pence will speak at CUFI’s conference in Washington, D.C., which is taking place on July 17-18, the group announced Tuesday.

Opinions and Analysis

Why Israel Should Embrace This ‘Palestinian Gandhi’ — Not Jail Him, Forward

Peter Beinart writes, “[Issa] Amro is the kind of Palestinian for which American Jewish officials say they yearn. Since 2002, when Israel shut down his college campus, Amro has been preaching nonviolent resistance in the tradition of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. His organization in Hebron, Youth Against Settlements, frequently hosts Israeli and Diaspora Jewish activists. He’s won awards from the United Nations and the European Union….Unfortunately, the Israeli government does not yearn for Palestinian Gandhis. It arrests them. Amro is currently facing 18 criminal charges. If convicted, he’ll likely serve a long prison sentence….The Israeli government is persecuting Amro because it fears him….Amro represents hope. Not the fake, saccharine hope of Trump trying to broker the “ultimate deal” to a conflict he doesn’t even understand, but the real hope that comes when brave, decent people fight oppression without hating their oppressors.”

The real story behind Trump’s meetings with Abbas and Netanyahu, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit reports, “According to Al-Monitor’s research, the following details are indeed true: The first part of the Abbas-Trump conversation was tense. It turns out that Netanyahu had shown Trump a section of a video clip in which Abbas says, “I am an inciter.” The Palestinians claim that the president did not raise his voice at Abbas, but do admit that Trump demanded explanations. The Palestinians claimed that the clip shown to the president by the Israelis had been edited and taken out of context. At this point, senior Fatah official Saeb Erekat intervened and told Trump that Netanyahu is the provocateur, that the prime minister never stops inciting against Abbas in order to torpedo any chances for advancing negotiations….Bethlehem was not the only place where tensions rose. It has now emerged that harsh words were also uttered in the conversation between Netanyahu and Trump. Evidently the American president continued to subject the prime minister to steamroller pressure on the concessions that Israel will have to make and the need to quickly renew negotiations with the Palestinians. Netanyahu, when he appeared before the Likud faction in the Knesset on May 29, hinted at this. He told the Likud members, many of whom oppose negotiations, that Israel does not have a “blank check” with Trump in the diplomatic realm.”

The Six Day War: Israel looks back to 1967, Financial Times

John Reed reviews a series of new books about the occupation and the Six Day War. “With the occupation now in ripe middle age, an engaging crop of new books is re-examining its consequences.”

The Myths About 1967 That Just Won’t Die, The Atlantic

Aaron David Miller writes, “The war created its fair share of crises, to be sure. But it also generated opportunities and a new, more pragmatic dynamic among the Arab states and Palestinians, which at least partially reversed the results of the war itself and transformed much of the Arab-Israeli arena. With this in mind, here are some myths about the war’s centrality and impact that need to be reexamined.”

Does Trump Booster Netanyahu Now Have Buyer’s Remorse?, Forward

JJ Goldberg argues, “Obama gave Netanyahu lectures, and Netanyahu looked over his right shoulder for an American president closer to his own heart — a president who didn’t moralize or whine but understood the need for resolute action in the face of threats. It should have been a happy partnership. Netanyahu and Trump share much in common. They both believe in toughness. They both dislike liberals and loath the media. They’re both impatient with the petty details of democracy and human rights….What Netanyahu forgot is that unsentimental nationalists don’t make friends easily. They put their own country’s interests first, last and in between, and America’s interests aren’t necessarily identical to Israel’s. Now the prime minister has what he wished for and wishes he didn’t. But now there’s nobody over his right shoulder to wink at.”

‘Flagship’ Palestinian city opens $450m plaza, hoping to attract young techies, Times of Israel

“For the Palestinian city of the future to achieve its destiny, it needs to attract the right residents, and now it has a vital component — a $450 million business and shopping center replete with the world’s top brands….Rawabi, located on hills northeast of Ramallah, is a mammoth $1.4 billion project, aimed at building a modern, sleek city that wants to show that the Palestinians have what it takes to build a state — and build it well. The city’s founder, Palestinian businessman Bashar Masri, admits that so far it has been a losing investment. But he, and his deep-pocketed business partner — the Qatari government—are committed to seeing the project through….Phase 2, for a logistics and light industries area on the outskirts of the city, is already underway, but it has hit a familiar speed-bump — Israeli military bureaucracy. Construction on the site was frozen by the Israeli military — which controls access to the West Bank — because the entrance to the project runs through Area C of the West Bank, which is under Israeli control. And even though the current Israeli government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has often touted the idea of an economic peace — whereby Israel helps the Palestinian economy boom, and in return Israel would see Palestinian political stability — Masri said that in reality he encounters obstacles instead of receiving assistance.”

The Zbigniew Brzezinski I Knew: A Personal Tribute, Valdai

Toby Trister Gati writes, “Dr. Brzezinski saw the convulsive changes affecting the Middle East and other regions – the “global political awakening” as he called it – as deeply disruptive to established regimes and entrenched elites, but also as essentially long overdue. He was concerned about the growth of violent extremism and radicalism, seeing it as a problem not just for the Middle East, but also in the future as affecting other areas, such as Central Asia. However, the American response – to declare a ‘war on terrorism’ – made little or no sense to him. He thought that fighting terrorism was a tactic, not a strategy….Later, he supported the nuclear deal President Obama negotiated with Iran, despite much opposition in his own Democratic Party, because of the opportunities it presented to bring Iran back into the international community. His last articles were quite critical of the direction of American foreign policy under this President and, had he lived, he most certainly would have continued to oppose the fixation with military responses to crises.”

Can The Saudis Broker A Lasting Peace In The Middle East?, Forward

Uri Dromi argues, “In 2002, the Saudis initiated a comprehensive peace plan, which was later adopted by the Arab League. Recently, they signaled in many ways their intention to normalize relations with Israel once the conflict with the Palestinians is resolved. What a far cry from Ibn Saud’s suggestion to FDR that Jews had no place in Palestine. For the last 15 years, Israel has ignored this initiative, partly because it contains elements like the right of return of Palestinian refugees, which is unacceptable. However, if Netanyahu, for once, ignores his right-wing nay-sayers and uses the Saudi initiative to resume talks with the Palestinians, then it will be a win-win situation, the perfect setting for the ultimate deal-maker, Donald Trump.”

The Washington Post on 50 Years of Occupation, J Street Blog

Joshua Nacht notes that “To mark the upcoming 50th anniversary of Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War and its subsequent occupation of the Palestinian territory, the Washington Post published three articles on Thursday and Friday of last week covering life in the West Bank. To show the human cost of this 50 year-old occupation, each article focused on three different Palestinian individuals, their families and the separate but related hardships they have experienced.”

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