News Roundup for June 21, 2019

June 21, 2019

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J Street in the News

An Invitation You Can’t Refuse: How Rep. Steny Hoyer Makes Sure AIPAC’s Israel Junket Is Well Attended, The Intercept
“Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., told The Intercept that incoming freshmen all receive general pressure to attend the AIPAC trip. ‘There is always sort of pressure for every member to go on the AIPAC trip, and I did not go on the AIPAC trip. I went on the J Street trip, and I’m really glad I did. I think that there should be more choice for people to go to Israel,’ she said […] [A] senior Democrat said that he has spoken to many of the freshmen and advised them against going on the AIPAC trip. ‘I haven’t talked to every freshman member, but it’s an issue that everybody feels they have to deal with,’ he said. ‘I tell them the J Street trip is far more useful.’”

Jewish Groups to U.S. House: Pass Resolution in Support of Two-State Solution, The Jerusalem Post
“Ten progressive Jewish groups sent a letter calling on House leadership to vote on House Resolution 326, which supports the two-state solution. The resolution, which was introduced in April, is cosponsored by 132 House Democrats […] The organizations that are standing behind the letter are Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, Hashomer Hatzair, Jewish Labor Committee, J Street, National Council of Jewish Women, New Israel Fund, Partners for Progressive Israel, Reconstructing Judaism and T’ruah. They sent the letter on Wednesday to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, as well as to the chairman and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.”

Ben Rhodes and Tommy Vietor team up with J Street, Jewish Insider
“On Thursday, J Street announced that former Obama administration national security officials, Ben Rhodes and Tommy Vietor, will do a live podcast taping of their foreign policy-focused podcast ‘Pod Save the World’ at the conference. ‘We’re thrilled to partner with Crooked Media to make this year’s J Street Conference a platform for candidates and policymakers to discuss the future of American leadership in the Middle East,’ J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a statement.”

Top News and Analysis

Trump Approves Strikes on Iran, but Then Abruptly Pulls Back, New York Times
President Trump approved military strikes against Iran in retaliation for downing an American surveillance drone, but pulled back from launching them on Thursday night after a day of escalating tensions. Officials said the president had initially approved attacks on a handful of Iranian targets, like radar and missile batteries. The operation was underway in its early stages when it was called off, a senior administration official said. Planes were in the air and ships were in position, but no missiles had been fired when word came to stand down, the official said.

Exclusive: Trump warned Iran via Oman that U.S. attack was imminent, called for talks – Iranian officials, Reuters
“In his message, Trump said he was against any war with Iran and wanted to talk to Tehran about various issues … he gave a short period of time to get our response but Iran’s immediate response was that it is up to Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali) Khamenei to decide about this issue,” one of the officials told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

For Trump, ‘Judgment Time Is Coming’ on How to Respond to Iran, New York Times
Peter Baker writes, “In a volatile day of internal debates and an on-again, off-again strike against Iran, Mr. Trump confronted the essential conflict of his approach to national security. For two and a half years, he has veered between bellicose threats against America’s enemies and promises to get the United States out of the intractable wars of the Middle East. Now he had to choose.”


Trump ordered attack on Iran for downing drone, then called it off, Washington Post
The aborted operation to strike Iran capped a day in which news of the drone’s downing heaped fuel on already heightened fears that the United States and Iran were on a course toward a military conflict as each side blamed the other for the incident.

Global airlines reroute flights after Iran downs US drone, AP
Major airlines from around the world on Friday began rerouting their flights to avoid areas around the Strait of Hormuz following Iran’s shooting down of a U.S. military surveillance drone there, as America warned commercial airliners could be mistakenly attacked.

Biden warns Trump strategy makes Iran conflict ‘more likely’, Times of Israel
While Trump promised that exiting the deal and slapping sanctions on Iran would brake its belligerence in the region, “they’ve only gotten more aggressive,” Biden said. “It’s sadly ironic that the State Department is now calling on Iran to abide by the very deal the Trump Administration abandoned.”

Senate votes to constrain Trump on Gulf arms sales as Iran tensions heat up, Al-Monitor
After securing a deal with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Democrats mustered enough Republican support to block $8.1 billion worth of 22 separate arms transfers involving Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had cited an emergency threat posed by Iran last month in a bid to forestall such a vote.

Netanyahu Urges Support for U.S. Against Iran’s ‘Aggression’, The Jerusalem Post
“In the last 24 hours Iran has intensified its aggression against the United States and against all of us. And I repeat my call for all peace-loving countries to stand by the United States in its effort to stop Iranian aggression,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “Israel stands by the United States on this.”

Hamas Leader Says Israel Isn’t Upholding Cease-Fire Terms, New York Times
The head of Hamas, the militant Islamic group that rules the Gaza Strip, accused Israel on Thursday of “blackmail” and slow-walking the easing of border restrictions under a tenuous cease-fire agreement reached last month after repeated rounds of violence.

Israel Unprepared to Treat Large Number of Wartime Casualties, Officials Warn, Haaretz
A senior defense official said the Israeli army has yet to come up with a solution that would address anticipated complications of a scope greater than in the past, in evacuating wounded soldiers from the battlefield in war, as a result of more advanced weapons used by Israel’s enemies.

From spying to lobbying, Israel’s fight against BDS intensifies, Al Jazeera
Recent revelations confirming the involvement of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad in efforts to actively disrupt the growing movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel did not come as a surprise to pro-Palestine activists.

Fluctuating fishing regulations a net frustration for Gaza’s industry, Times of Israel
Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip expressed great frustration this week with the constant changes Israel has made to the permitted fishing zone off the coast of the small territory, which they contended amount to a policy of collective punishment.

Opinion and Analysis

If Trump Wants a War With Iran, He May Have to Win a Different Battle First, Haaretz
Amir Tibon writes, “The current debate over the legality of military action against Iran revolves around the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), a law passed by Congress in 2001 that gave then-President George W. Bush the authority to ‘use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons’ he deemed responsible for the 9/11 terror attacks (i.e. Al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan). The concern on Capitol Hill is that the Trump administration will try to use this legislation as the legal basis for taking military action against Iran.”

What’s the best way to deal with Iran? The nuclear agreement Trump ditched., Washington Post
Evelyn N. Farkas writes, “The easiest way to clean it up is to rush our diplomats to the scene with copies of the JCPOA and then have Trump, in a familiar hail of tweets, tout the promise of a ‘beautiful’ (if not comprehensive) ‘new’ (all of his own making, of course) Iran deal.”

Iran, U.S. Are on the Warpath Again. This Time, Israel Has Little Say, Haaretz
Amos Harel writes, “For many Israeli ministers and generals, recent events echo the tense summers a decade ago. But there is one major difference.”

Permission denied: Gaza children struggle to get medical care, +972 Mag
Jen Marlowe writes, “With severe medicine shortages and an overstretched health care system in Gaza, children in need of medical treatments can only find them outside the strip. Yet Israel’s convoluted, arbitrary permit process leaves them waiting in pain, often missing life-saving care.”

The Right Is Politicizing the Rape of a 7-year-old Girl, Haaretz
Zehava Galon writes, “Just like the last time Benjamin Netanyahu denounced Arabs who supposedly raped a Jew, it’s possible that this time, too, he’ll be forced to apologize. Already, significant cracks have emerged in the police’s account – changing stories, doubts about the suspect’s identity, questions about the girl’s kidnapping. I don’t know if the police caught the right man, if his motive was nationalist or if there are appropriate answers for all the questions. Very few people know.”