News Roundup for June 21, 2017

June 21, 2017

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J Street in the News

‘They are there for us’ — Jews and Muslims break bread, trade smiles at Marin iftar, Jewish News of Northern California

“An iftar is the evening meal eaten by Muslims to break their daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan. The June 14 “Interfaith Iftar,” as it was billed, was coordinated by two Islamic centers, in Mill Valley and San Anselmo, and the Osher Marin JCC and Congregation Rodef Shalom, both in San Rafael….Carol Friedman and Eva Seligman-Kennard, from the Bay Area chapter of J Street, were there to build solidarity.”

Top News and Analysis

Trump Administration Pressuring Israel to Move Ahead With Peace Deal, Senior Israeli Minister Says, Haaretz

“A day ahead of the arrival of U.S. President Donald Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner in Israel for talks in Jerusalem and Ramallah, Israel’s finance minister said that the American administration is pressuring Israel to move forward on reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians. ‘There’s mounting American pressure to advance a deal,’ Moshe Kahlon told a conference in central Israel on Tuesday. ‘Something has happened. The American government feels it can reach an agreement, maybe because the good ties with the Israeli government allow Trump more influence than was possible during Obama’s term,’ he said. Kahlon made the statements as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with U.S. special envoy Jason Greenblatt.”

Israel begins work on first settlement in 25 years as Jared Kushner flies in, The Guardian

“Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has announced the beginning of building work on the first new Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank in 25 years, a day before a visit by Donald Trump’s son-in-law and envoy, Jared Kushner, aimed at reinvigorating the stalled peace process. The new settlement, known as Amichai, is being built to house about 300 hardline residents of the illegal West Bank Jewish outpost of Amona who were evicted by police in February after a court ruled their houses were on privately owned Palestinian land. The timing of the announcement was condemned by a Palestinian official who suggested it was designed to undermine peace efforts. Announcing the beginning of ground-breaking work at the new settlement, Netanyahu wrote on his Twitter feed: “Work began today on-site, as I promised, to establish the new settlement,” with a photograph of a mechanical digger working at the site north of Ramallah. The construction work comes despite a request by Trump at a meeting between the two men in Washington this year to “hold back on settlements for a little bit” – a comment seen as part of an effort to build trust with the Palestinians, but greeted by many with deep scepticism.”

Turning Gaza’s lights back on, Abbas’s rival Dahlan makes dramatic return to center stage, Times of Israel

Avi Issacharoff reports, “Gaza’s electricity crisis may be drawing to an end, and as the lights come back on, Palestinians are looking at an unlikely hero who managed to broker a deal between Egypt and Hamas: Mohammad Dahlan. Egypt on Tuesday was expected to begin sending dozens of fuel trucks to the Hamas-run Strip to bring the Gaza power station back online and supply electricity to residents. Dahlan — a former Fatah leader once considered persona non grata by Hamas and ousted in the coup that put the Islamist terror group in power in the Strip 10 years ago — is understood to have been a key player in the electricity deal, and appears to have made his peace with the Islamists en route. Dahlan, who maintains excellent links with Egypt and the United Arab Emirates and apparently managed the talks under Egypt’s auspices, is thus being depicted as the person who saved Gaza by having Cairo ship in hundreds of tons of industrial diesel — compensating for the cuts in supply that Israel introduced this week at Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s request.”

Jon Ossoff loses in crucial Georgia congressional race, JTA

Karen Handel, a Republican, won a congressional race in Atlanta’s suburbs, defeating Jon Ossoff in a contest that Democrats had hoped would wound Donald Trump’s presidency. Handel defeated Ossoff, 52.1 to 47.9 percent, with all of the vote reported. Ossoff, a 30-year-old documentary filmmaker who is Jewish, had come just over a percent short of the 50 percent of the vote he needed in an April 18 open primary to take the seat without a runoff. Handel, 55, is a former Georgia secretary of state.


Israeli Cuts in Gaza Power Deepen: Electricity for Only Two and a Half Hours a Day, Haaretz

The Israel Electric Corporation carried out further cuts on Tuesday morning in the electricity it supplies to the Gaza Strip, reducing power by an additional 6 megawatts, Mohammed Thabet, spokesman for Gaza’s electricity authority has said. The cuts were carried out on two electric lines carrying power to the western part of Gaza City and to the north of the Gaza Strip, and would result in these areas receiving just two and a half to three hours of electricity per day, Thabet said.

Israel flouting U.N. Security Council settlement demand: U.N. envoy, Reuters

Israel is flouting a United Nations Security Council demand to halt settlement building on occupied Palestinian land, while both parties are ignoring a call to stop provocation, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric, a senior U.N. envoy said on Tuesday. U.N. Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov made the assessment in his second quarterly report to the 15-member council on the implementation of a Dec. 23 resolution adopted with 14 votes in favor and a US abstention.

Upon arrival in Israel, Jared Kushner visits home of policewoman killed in terror attack, JTA

Jared Kushner visited the family of an Israel border policewoman stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist following his arrival in Israel. Kusher, a senior advisor to President Donald Trump as well as the president’s Jewish son-in-law, arrived in Israel on Wednesday to lead the Trump administration’s push for restarted peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Armed Palestinian Shot Dead After Attempting to Attack Soldiers, Israeli Army Says, Haaretz

A knife-wielding Palestinian was shot dead Tuesday after attempting to stab Israeli soldiers in the West Bank, the Israel Defense Forces said. According to the Israeli army, the Palestinian approached an IDF outpost near the village of a-Ram, not far from Qalandiyah, south of Jerusalem, managing to cross its outer fence. A soldier spotted him and two others who were at the scene noticed him charging at them from within the outpost’s inner court yard and shot him. The IDF said the assailant was a 23-years-old Palestinian from the West Bank village of Azarya. They said an investigation would be opened into how he managed to cross the fence.

Ehud Barak Warns: Israel Faces ‘Slippery Slope’ Toward Apartheid, Haaretz

While Israel’s current situation is “not yet apartheid,” the country is on a “slippery slope” heading in that direction – thus says former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in an interview airing Wednesday night on German television. “If we keep controlling the whole area from the Mediterranean to the river Jordan where some 13 million people are living — eight million Israelis, five million Palestinians … if only one entity reigned over this whole area, named Israel,” the 74-year-old former premier says, “it would become inevitably — that’s the key word, inevitably – either non-Jewish or non-democratic.”

Lieberman: Trump Administration Still in “Listening and Learning” Mode, Jerusalem Post

The Trump administration is still very much in the listening mode, trying to understand the Israeli and Palestinian positions before putting forward their own ideas, Liberman said Tuesday, a day before meeting Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law. “This is already the advanced learning and listening stage,” Liberman said in a Kan radio interview. Asked if the Americans want to begin talking about the core issues of the conflict with the Palestinians – security, settlements, Jerusalem, refugees and borders – he replied that at this point they want to understand what the basic interests are of Israel and the Palestinians.

Nikki Haley Tells UN: States Supporting Terror Group Hamas Should Face Consequences, Haaretz

The United Nations Security Council gathered on Tuesday for a periodic discussion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with America’s envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley, saying that states that support Hamas should pay a price for it. “We need to pressure Hamas to end its tyranny over the people of Gaza, we should name Hamas as the group responsible when rockets are fired from Gaza, and designate it as a terror organization in a resolution with consequences for anyone who supports it,” she said.

Germany: Israel’s Treatment of NGOs With Foreign Funding Is Like Russia and China, Haaretz

Germany’s Foreign Ministry announced a few days ago that the hostile treatment by Israel’s government of NGOs and civil society organizations that receive funding from foreign states is like that of the governments of Russia and China. The statement is unprecedented in the German government’s criticism of the state of Israeli democracy and an additional escalation in tensions between the two nations. Last Thursday, on June 15, during his weekly briefing with reporters, Martin Schaefer, the spokesperson for Germany’s foreign minister, raised the issue of a new Hungarian law against foreign funding of NGOs of his own accord. Schaefer condemned the new law and, in passing, referenced Israel: “Hungary thus joins the ranks of countries like Russia, China and Israel, which obviously regard the funding of non-government organizations, of civil society efforts, by donors from abroad as a hostile or at least an unfriendly act,” said Schaefer.

Opinions and Analysis

After Fifty Years Of Occupation, What’s Next: An open letter to President Mahmoud Abbas, Huffington Post

Alon Ben-Meir writes, “The fact that much of the international community supports your cause is not enough. Your current policies are playing into the hands of the extremely powerful right-wing Israeli constituency, which effectively uses your actions and public narratives to justify their opposition to ending the occupation. Thus, you are weakening the hands of the Israeli political left and center, who are key to negotiating a peace agreement and ending the occupation, as only they can change the public sentiment in favor of a two-state solution, provided you earn their support and trust. To that end, you need to develop a new strategy that you or your successor must pursue to change the dynamic of the conflict for the better, by developing a non-confrontational policy, engaging in constructive public narratives, ending all forms of incitement, pursuing political reconciliation with Hamas, reining in corruption, focusing on public development projects, and introducing an unbiased curriculum in schools. Finally, do not instinctively reject the Israelis’ complaints and concerns about the Palestinians’ behavior; instead, listen carefully and adopt the strategy that will disabuse a growing number of Israelis of their pre-conceived notions about what the Palestinians’ true intent is. Do not miss yet another opportunity, because the longer the conflict and the occupation continue, the less favorable outcome you will be compelled to accept.”

Settlers pressure Netanyahu to reject Palestinian building plan, Al-Monitor

Mazal Mualem writes, “Nine months have passed since that Cabinet meeting when the plan to expand Qalqilya was approved with the presence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and ministers from both HaBayit HaYehudi and Likud. But only on June 14 did it blow up on the Channel 2 newscast….The man leading the opposition to the move, according to the report, and who is quoted on Channel 2 is the head of the Samaria Regional Council, Yossi Dagan — a leading Likud activist who boasts that he has gathered much power in party institutions. Dagan has succeeded in branding himself in recent years as a rising power in the Likud and among the settlers. He knows that Likud and HaBayit HaYehudi ministers and members and the Knesset need voters he registered in order to be elected. And so he takes advantage of that, putting effective pressure on them to join the struggle to increase settlement construction in Judea and Samaria. After Donald Trump’s election to the American presidency, the confidence of Dagan and his settler public has greatly increased in demanding that the Netanyahu government expand settlement construction under the patronage of the sympathetic administration in Washington.”

Seeking Saudi friends, Israel must still bridge gulf with Palestinians, Times of Israel

Raphael Ahren writes, “[T]he path to full-fledged peace treaties remain long and arduous, experts say. Arab leaders currently have little interest in upgrading their clandestine ties with Israel, which currently focus on intelligence sharing and counter-terrorism measures. Even those who take a more upbeat view, and see the US administration’s push for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks as a genuine opportunity for Riyadh to at least start formalizing its ties with Jerusalem, say it won’t happen without Israel showing it’s serious about peace.”

Ahead of Jared Kushner’s visit, Netanyahu struggles to enact West Bank compromises for peace, JTA

“President Donald Trump’s point man on the conflict will also discover how Netanyahu has struggled to push his own government toward compromise with the Palestinians. In April, Netanyahu announced a new policy to curb settlement building and allow Palestinians to build in Area C, the 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli control — telling ministers the changes were a goodwill gesture to Trump. But Jewish settlement building has continued unabated, and he backtracked this week on plans to expand a Palestinian city….The army, and particularly Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, have become targets of far-right ire for allegedly being inadequately supportive of the settlement movement. Last week, residents of Yitzhar, a settlement known for its radical residents, mounted two separate attacks on army vehicles.”

IDF prepares for future of war in region, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit observes, “A significant shift has occurred in the IDF’s perception in regard to fighting in a coalition of forces. Until recently, the Israeli army did not often conduct combat exercises with foreign forces, with the exception of the Americans. Israel focused on joint maneuvers with the US army, but no other countries. This has changed. The IDF’s operational view today does not negate, and perhaps even encourages, the creation of international coalitions and joint combat. The IDF of 2017 conducts maneuvers with the Greeks, the Cypriots and other armies while upgrading its inter-army cooperation abilities.”

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