News Roundup for June 6, 2017

June 6, 2017

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J Street in the News

Congress Should Disapprove Sale of Certain Weapons in Saudi Arms Deal, J Street

“J Street supports the bipartisan joint resolutions of disapproval introduced in both the Senate (S.J.Res.42) and House of Representatives (H.J.Res.102), that would prevent the sale of certain weapons and components comprising part of the recently agreed arms sale to Saudi Arabia. We share the concerns expressed by Israeli military and security officials that, despite the lack of an official Israeli government objection to the sale as announced, it could reduce Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME) vis-a-vis other countries in the region….Further, we have concerns about the sale’s transfer of certain weapons systems that could cause significant harm to civilians in the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen. As an organization which believes that the use of force should be a last resort exercised in accordance with international law and all due caution, we cannot support the United States supplying Saudi Arabia with the specific offensive arms identified in these resolutions, which experts believe will further intensify the war’s devastating impact on non-combatants.”

Senate unanimously passes bill marking 50 years since Jerusalem reunification, Times of Israel

“The US Senate unanimously passed a resolution on Monday that commemorates the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem….J Street’s Vice President of Government Affairs Dylan Williams tweeted that the resolution affirmed ‘long-held US policy that Jerusalem’s status is to be decided by the parties in 2-state negotiations.’”

Top News and Analysis

I Fought For a Better Israel Than This, Politico

Hirsh Goodman writes, “There is no such thing as protracted occupation over another people without a moral or democratic price to be paid. The settlers, who believe God is on their side, claim otherwise as do those hard-liners on the right who want the land and pretend not to see the people who live there. In 1967, we fought armies on distant battlefields, as we did again in 1973. My children, however, have been forced into the role of occupiers contrary to the values we hold at home….In Israel, the right wing has grown stronger, testing democracy and the rule of law almost daily as the liberal opposition looks on, impotent and unable to stop the rot. With more than half a million Israelis now living on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, I feel the problem has become almost intractable; Israel seems doomed to live by the bayonet in perpetuity, damaging itself as much as those it occupies. It erodes the professionalism of the army and takes its eye off the real threats: a nuclear Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and international and local terror. To survive, Israel needs to live with bayonet in hand, but not pointed at itself.”

How the Six-Day War Changed Israel’s Mind, New Yorker

Bernie Avishai observes, “In a way, the most enduring legacy of the 1967 war was Labor’s ambivalence. Did a land liberate the people or a people liberate the land? If “return” applied to Jerusalem—and “Shechem,” the Biblical name for the Arab city of Nablus—then why not to the whole of “Judea and Samaria”? Before 1967, political borders, however provisional, subtended cultural ones: sovereignty derived from international recognition and the consent of the governed. After 1967—beginning with the annexation of East Jerusalem—the claim over land, even for Labor’s most distinguished leaders, was irrespective of that consent. Rights were somehow established by “the cradle” of national history.”

Israel’s Parliament to Mark Six-Day War by Praising the Settlements, Haaretz

Opposition lawmakers have harshly criticized the Knesset’s plans to mark the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War under the slogan “the renewal of settlement in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley,” saying the legislature was ignoring Israel’s military rule and the plight of the Palestinians in the West Bank. The Yesha Council of settlers, meanwhile, is helping arrange Knesset committee meetings for the day and has received the authority to approve the guest list at the main ceremony. The ceremony is expected to include speeches by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Speaker Yuli Edelstein and Yesha chief Avi Roeh. Four Knesset committees will meet to discuss the settlements’ achievements. Knesset employees were surprised to learn that to take part in the main ceremony they had to register at Yesha’s offices instead of at the Knesset. The Knesset spokesman’s office said this merely made registering easier since so many people would be coming from the settlements.”

Shifting Mideast an ‘opportunity’ for Israel, top US official says, Times of Israel

“A changing dynamic in the Middle East is fostering an environment for Israel to have better ties with its Arab neighbors and revive the peace process with the Palestinians, a top White House official told Jewish officials Sunday, affirming a theme that marked much of US President Donald Trump’s trip to the region last month. US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster did not address how the administration planned to move forward with its attempts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, but told a crowd gathered at the American Jewish Committee’s 2017 Global Forum that joint interests in the region created an “opportunity,” of which Israel had shown itself adept at taking advantage….’None of us, least of all the president, will be impressed by mere words,’ McMaster said. ‘We expect to see action and we will hold one another accountable as we strengthen our existing partnerships and forge new ones.’ ‘We will encourage and reward success, and we will deal with inaction and lack of progress accordingly, as well,’ he added.”


Palestinians Confirm: Top Hamas Officials Have Left Qatar at Country’s Request, Haaretz

Palestinian sources have confirmed Monday that a number of top Hamas officials have left Qatar at the country’s request, splitting up and moving to a number of countries, including Lebanon, Malaysia and Turkey. Saleh al-Arouri, military commander overseeing West Bank terror cells, and Musa Dudin, who was released as part of the a prisoner exchange deal and established in Gaza a cell in charge of planning terror attacks in the West Bank, were among the officials who left Qatar.

Liberman hails Qatar schism as opportunity for Israel, Times of Israel

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Monday said the diplomatic fallout between several Arab states and Qatar had created opportunities for Israel to collaborate with others in the region to combat terrorism. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Egypt, Yemen and the Maldives all announced they were cutting ties to Qatar and booting the country from an Arab coalition fighting in Yemen early Monday on allegations of supporting terrorism and destabilizing the region, amid a deepening fissure. ‘There is no doubt this opens many possibilities for collaboration in the fight against terror,’ the defense minister added, in the first official Israeli government response to the regional shake-up.

At UN, Haley Says Rights Council Must ‘Address Chronic anti-Israel Bias’ to Remain Credible, Haaretz

U.S. envoy to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the UN’s Human Rights Council on Tuesday that it must “address its chronic anti-Israel bias if it is to have any credibility” after the council’s chief decried Israel’s occupation. “The United States is looking carefully at this Council and our participation in it. We see some areas for significant strengthening,” Haley told the Geneva forum in her first address.

Abbas halts monthly stipends for Hamas ex-inmates, Boston Globe

Dozens of Hamas activists once imprisoned by Israel did not receive their support payments this month from the group’s political rival, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a Gaza-based official said Sunday. Abbas is under pressure from the United States. and Israel to halt monthly payments to thousands of current and former prisoners who were held for actions linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel claims the stipends encourage terrorism, while Palestinians say they are welfare payments. It was not clear whether the missing money transfers meant Abbas decided to stop the payments to some of the former prisoners. A spokesman for his West Bank-based autonomy government was not immediately available for comment Sunday.

Democratic lawmakers want US to pressure Israel over its treatment of Palestinian activist, JTA

Four Democratic lawmakers are circulating a letter calling for the United States to urge Israel to reconsider charges against a prominent Palestinian activist. The letter —which is being circulated this week by Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, who serves as deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, as well as Reps. Marc Pocan, D-Wis., Betty McCollum, D-Minn., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore. — urges Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to pressure Israel to drop charges against Issa Amro. Amro, who advocates non-violent resistance against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and co-founded the group Youth Against Settlements, was indicted last year by an Israeli military court on a number of charges, including entering closed military zones and obstructing soldiers, according to Haaretz.

In Act of Defiance, Arab Educator Quits Israeli Education Ministry’s Civics Board, Haaretz

One of the two Arab members of the Education Ministry’s advisory committee on civics has tendered his resignation, saying the country’s Arab community was being shortchanged in the panel’s deliberations. In a letter to the ministry’s civics supervisor, Yousef Shehadeh asked that he be dropped from the committee. He said some of his colleagues on the panel “distort the facts, something I am unwilling to be a partner to in presenting to students.”

Banned Play on Palestinian Prisoners, Occupation Throws Israeli Theater Festival Into Turmoil, Haaretz

The artistic director of the Acre Fringe Theater Festival resigned Sunday because a play about Palestinian prisoners was disallowed by the event’s steering committee. Avi Gibson Bar El informed the Acre municipality that he was resigning because the play “Prisoners of the Occupation” by Einat Weitzman was blocked by the committee.

World losing patience but won’t retreat from 2-state deal, ex-US envoy says, Times of Israel

“The international community of governments is unlikely to ever drop its near-universal support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but opinion on the street may shift toward backing a single Jewish-Palestinian state as the world grows tired of the moribund peace process, Washington’s former ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said this week. Speaking at panel discussion on the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War Sunday, Shapiro also warned that the Jewish state could miss a historic opportunity to normalize relations with the Arab world if it failed to make progress toward the creation of a Palestinian state. In case of a regime change in Iran, moderate Arab states might no longer feel the need to strategically align with Israel and will be less likely to offer normalized relations, he cautioned.”

Israeli Minister Rails at IDF for Failing to Cite ‘Liberation’ of Jerusalem in Events, Haaretz

Israel’s Culture Minister Miri Regev lashed out at the army on Monday for marking the “unification” of Jerusalem, rather that the city’s “liberation,” in official events this week to commemorate 50 years since the Israeli military captured East Jerusalem. But the action that roused Regev’s ire was in line with a government decision.

Opinions and Analysis

50 years after Six-Day War, here are touchstones of a never-ending conflict, USA Today

Noga Tarnopolsky writes, “A visit to three sites along the Green Line reveals how blurred the Green Line has become 50 years after the war.”

How the Six-Day War Transformed Religion, The Atlantic

Sigal Samuel observes, “the Six-Day War didn’t only transform Middle East politics: It also transformed religion—in ways that would reverberate far beyond the region. The war’s outcome impacted the way Islam is expressed in the West Bank and Gaza, and it created new openings for political Islamism in the Arab world. It strengthened a messianic strain in Israeli Judaism, and it changed the focal point of American Judaism. It forced an internal reckoning among evangelical Christians, and even among Mormons, in the United States. I asked writers with expertise and experience in each of these contexts to discuss how 1967 changed religion, broadly interpreted. Religion is often thought of as a force that drives conflict; I invited them to think instead about how conflict impacts religion. The six writers’ responses, which I’ve edited and included below, touch on everything from fashion to theology, demonstrating the many ways religion inflects people’s lives. “

Unsettled, Tablet

Yehuda Kurtzer asks, “ [H]ow did a people that envisions itself in prayer as a community of tents, itinerant in the wilderness, become so fixated on construction projects? What happens to Judaism as an organizing set of ideas when its core operating mythology—a story of journey and restlessness—is wrenched away in a blaze of military glory, and replaced with an older, loftier, yet dustier version of prophetic arrival, a story that has not been road-tested in thousands of years?”

Six Days in June . . . Fifty Years Later, JTS

Arnie Eisen writes, “The most potent antagonist to constructive thought about the next 50 years of Israel’s history may well be fatalism about the chance for peace and therefore about Israel’s future. One hears more and more of it these days both in North America and in Israel. Those of us committed to the Zionist project and the well-being of the Jewish people must do all we can at this moment to keep hope alive.”

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