News Roundup for June 5, 2017

June 5, 2017

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J Street in the News

Fifty Years, J Street Blog

Jeremy Ben-Ami writes, “Israel didn’t simply survive as a result of its incredible victory in the Six-Day War. It became stronger and more secure than the pioneers, like my great-grandparents who arrived in the 19th century, could ever have dreamt. Nonetheless, Israel today still faces existential threats — to its democracy, to its values and character, to its place in the world — rooted in the failure to decide what to do with the territory and the people that it conquered fifty years ago. That failure threatens to undermine not just the gains since Israel’s stunning victory, but the incredible accomplishments of 130 years of Zionism….As Israel prepares to turn seventy next year, J Street’s thoughts turn to what kind of country it can and will be in its eighth or ninth decade. Will the story of the Jewish people in the 21st century be one of deepening occupation and conflict? Will we be able to live up to our values? Will Israel’s democracy survive and thrive? Will its isolation grow?”

Sara Ehrman, Outspoken Feminist With Deep Ties to Clintons, Dies at 98, The New York Times

“Sara Ehrman, a fixture in liberal politics who advised President Bill Clinton on the Israeli-Arab conflict but was best known as the woman who advised a young Hillary Rodham not to move to Arkansas to marry Mr. Clinton, died on Saturday in Washington. She was 98…..She spent decades pushing for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, serving as a senior adviser to S. Daniel Abraham, the billionaire who helped found the Center for Middle East Peace, and working with Americans for Peace Now and J Street, two groups that favor such a solution.”

Top News and Analysis

 The 50-Years War, Washington Post

Dan Ephron provides an in-depth look at the state of the settlement movement and the Israeli occupation in the West Bank.

Settlements Do Not Serve Israel’s Security Needs, Say Ex-army Brass in New Report, Haaretz

“Senior former Israeli army officers say settlements in the West Bank do not serve Israel’s security interests and are a burden, according to a new study by a left-leaning Israeli research institute. The officers argued that the presence of Israeli civilians in the territories has become a strain because the Israel Defense Forces needs to allocate large numbers of troops for their protection, even during calm periods. Commissioned to mark the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War, the study was conducted by Molad – the Center for the Renewal of Israeli Democracy, and featured retired officers who held key posts at the army’s General Staff headquarters or Central Command.”

Top Palestinian Admits Jews Should Control Western Wall — Stakes Claim To Temple Mount, Forward

Jibril Rajoub, a top Palestinian official, reportedly conceded that the Western Wall should remain under Israeli sovereignty — but insisted the Temple Mount belongs to the Palestinians. “We understand that the wall … is sacred to the Jews and ultimately it has to remain under Jewish sovereignty,” Rajoub said, according to Haaretz. But Rajoub linked Jewish sovereignty over the Western Wall to Muslim control of the Temple Mount. “The Temple Mount is ours, not yours, and I think you should stop talking as if it’s yours,” he said.

Qatar Crisis Explained: What Just Happened and Why It Messes Up Trump’s Iran and ISIS Plans, Haaretz

Zvi Bar’el observes, “The sudden breaking of diplomatic ties between Qatar and its neighbors Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt places a serious dilemma at the U.S. president’s doorstep….The question now is who could mediate between Qatar and Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and what concessions Qatar would agree  to make in order to return to the “bosom of the Gulf.” Kuwait tried to mediate between them this week but to no avail so far. It seems that this time Saudi Arabia will not be satisfied only with the removal of Hamas and Muslim Brothers activists from Qatar.”

The Past 50 Years of Israeli Occupation. And the Next., The New York Times

Nathan Thrall argues, “In the last quarter-century of intermittent American-led negotiations, the powerlessness of the Palestinians has led to still further concessions. The P.L.O. has accepted that Israel would annex settlement blocs, consented to give up large parts of East Jerusalem, acknowledged that any agreement on the return of Palestinian refugees will satisfy Israel’s demographic concerns and agreed to various limitations on the military capabilities and sovereignty of a future state of Palestine….The Palestinians, though, remain too weak, politically and militarily, to secure such an offer, and the United States and the international community won’t apply the pressure necessary to force Israel to make one. Instead, the United States and its allies pay lip service to the need to end the occupation, but do nothing to steer Israel from its preferred option of perpetuating it: enjoying the dowry, denying the bride.”


Bernie Sanders in Video Message to Israelis: 50 Years of Occupation Must End, Haaretz

“Senator Bernie Sanders’ bid for the U.S. presidency may be history, but the progressive politician is still making his voice heard when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, declaring that “the occupation must end” in a video message to Israel’s left-wing Meretz party.   ‘We are now in the 50th year of Israel’s occupation, an occupation which denies basic Palestinian rights while failing to deliver Israel real security,’ said Sanders. ‘I know so many of you agree with me when I say: this occupation must end. Peace – real peace – means security not only for every Israeli, but for every Palestinian. It means supporting self-determination, civil rights and economic well-being for both peoples.’ The video message by Sanders was released by Meretz ahead of its screening at a conference Sunday marking 50 years of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory, following the Six-Day War in 1967.”

American UN ambassador to visit Jerusalem’s Old City, Times of Israel

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley is due to visit the Old City of Jerusalem this week. Haley is scheduled to arrive Wednesday morning at Ben Gurion Airport for her first visit to the Jewish state since taking office in January. During her three-day stay, she is set to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin as well as with senior Palestinian dignitaries.

C.I.A. Names the ‘Dark Prince’ to Run Iran Operations, Signaling a Tougher Stance, The New York Times

He is known as the Dark Prince or Ayatollah Mike, nicknames he earned as the Central Intelligence Agency officer who oversaw the hunt for Osama bin Laden and the American drone strike campaign that killed thousands of Islamist militants and hundreds of civilians. Now the official, Michael D’Andrea, has a new job. He is running the C.I.A.’s Iran operations, according to current and former intelligence officials, an appointment that is the first major sign that the Trump administration is invoking the hard line the president took against Iran during his campaign.

Majority of Israelis Object to Term ‘Occupation,’ Survey Finds, Haaretz

Fifty years after Israel’s conquest of the West Bank, a survey published Sunday shows the majority of Israelis do not believe the country’s continued control of the territories constitutes an “occupation.” A majority of Israelis are also sure the construction of settlements in the West Bank is not an impediment to peace with the Palestinians.

Palestinian leadership still left guessing on Trump’s vision for the peace process, Ma’an

The United States government has remained elusive regarding “the vision” of US President Donald Trump for Israel and Palestine, the re-launching of peace negotiations, and ending the 50-year Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory, leaving Palestinian leadership guessing, according to Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee member Wassil Abu Yousif. Abu Yousif told Ma’an on Satruday that Trump “hasn’t suggested any clarifications or solutions” regarding his vision of a solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, noting that Palestinian leadership is still waiting for details of “the ultimate deal” that Trump has boasted of in the past.

2 Palestinians injured with live fire in Ramallah-area clashes with Israeli forces, Ma’an

Two Palestinians were injured with live ammunition during clashes with Israeli forces that erupted early Sunday afternoon in the village of al-Mughayyir, east of Ramallah in the central occupied West Bank.

Opinions and Analysis

With Meeting in Ramallah, Israel’s Finance Minister Blazes Palestinian Trail, Haaretz

Barak Ravid reports, “Kahlon’s arrival in Ramallah was very unusual, and so was the fact that the visit was officially publicized. There has been no visit by a senior Israeli minister to the PA in more than a decade, and apparently not since the outbreak of the second intifada at the end of 2000. Wednesday’s meeting was also the highest level meeting between the two sides since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met in September, 2010, in Washington. The declared purpose of last week’s meeting in Ramallah was to present directly to Hamdallah the decisions regarding economic measures in the West Bank made by Israel’s security cabinet a week-and-a-half earlier. Those measures include a decision to refrain from demolishing 20,000 Palestinian houses built without permits in Area C, the area of the West Bank under full Israeli civil and military control, as well as permission for more construction for Palestinians in that area.”

Palestinians call Israeli economic offer too little, too late, Al-Monitor

Shlomi Eldar reports, “The Palestinians were told that Israel would approve Palestinian construction plans in Area C and consider granting permits for buildings that had already been built. In other words, Israel would not carry out demolitions in those areas. The Palestinians wondered, is that it? For this, an Israeli delegation headed by the finance minister made such a dramatic late-night visit to Ramallah….Although Kahlon was the envoy, the plan was quickly cobbled together by Netanyahu in a bid to placate the Americans without angering his coalition partner, HaBayit HaYehudi. The Americans were reportedly underwhelmed by the Israeli concessions in the shape of longer hours at the crossing points, and in any case, the HaBayit HaYehudi ministers voted against some of the measures.”

To understand where the Israeli-Palestinian conflict goes from here, look on Airbnb, Quartz

Gideon Lichfield writes, “With no distinctions marked on the map, navigating Airbnb in the West Bank can create traps for the unwary. Want to stay in Ramallah, the de facto Palestinian capital? There are lots of places listed in the center of town. But perhaps you’d rather not be in the midst of the hustle and bustle. There, that place on the eastern outskirts for $58 looks like it might be nice. Shall we take a look? Oops—that isn’t Ramallah, it’s the Israeli settlement of Psagot! They are in fact separated by a valley and barbed wire fencing, but you’d never be able to tell from the map.”

The Officers Who Began the Occupation Fear for Israel’s Future, Haaretz

Anshel Pfeffer interviews veterans of the Jerusalem Brigade, who fought in the Six-Day War. One told him, “From all my research, I find that ultimately the army still sticks to its values of purity of arms, sticking to the mission, and it succeeds in adapting its ethical codes to the changing circumstances. I’m not worried about the IDF. I’m worried about the future of Israeli society – an entire public that can’t recognize we are occupiers and the negative and immoral aspects of ruling over our neighbors for so many years. Our oppression of them has desensitized us. We see human beings as objects and are passing that onto our children.”

Fifty Years Later – A Time to Celebrate and Reflect, Rabbi John Rosove’s Blog

Rabbi Rosove writes, “Though Israel lives in the real world of competing political interests and in a violent and dangerous region of the world necessitating it to attend constantly to its security needs and the safety of its citizens, security cannot become an excuse for the oppression of another people and the denial of their national rights. This fiftieth anniversary is an occasion for the Jewish people to celebrate Israel’s victory in the 1967 war and an occasion to continue to advocate on behalf of the best interests of the Jewish state by striving to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict regardless of the obstacles that are so obviously in the way.”

The reason Trump’s regional visit raised Israeli concerns, Al-Monitor

Uri Savir reports, “Trump left the MFA concerned about several issues. A main reason for concern, for both the political and the security establishments, was the unprecedented $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia. In that context, the ministry noted Trump’s extremely positive impression of the Saudi leadership, as well as his positive impressions of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Jordanian King Abdullah II. Trump is clearly leading the Arab Sunni world in a battle against fundamentalist terror and beyond it in a battle over the sphere of regional influence against Iran. The president emphasized time and again the willingness of Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud to begin normalizing relations with Israel in parallel to progress on an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. In fact, there was only an indirect allusion to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative during the Trump-Netanyahu meetings, but it was clear to the Israeli interlocutors that Trump has heard about it repeatedly in his meetings in Riyadh. The Israelis were also concerned over Trump’s positive impression of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, which does not match Netanyahu’s assessment of the Palestinian leader.”

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