News Roundup for March 1, 2017

March 1, 2017

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J Street in the News

Pro-Israel Activists Deliver 40,000+ Signatures Opposing Friedman Nomination to Senators, J Street

“Hundreds of pro-Israel, pro-peace leaders fanned out over Capitol Hill today to deliver a petition signed by more than 40,000 people opposing President Trump’s nomination of David Friedman as the next US Ambassador to Israel….The petitions were delivered to Senate offices today by more than 600 members of J Street, who held more than 150 meetings on Capitol Hill today as part of the organization’s National Advocacy Day. In their meetings, J Street advocates expressed strong concerns over Friedman’s extreme ideological agenda and long history of offensive and fundamentally undiplomatic rhetoric….The petition cautions Senators that Friedman ‘poses a threat to longstanding US policies in the Middle East that have been supported by Democratic and Republican presidents alike.’ The signatures from around the country were gathered over recent weeks by J Street, the pro-Israel, pro-peace advocacy organization, and other American Jewish groups including the New Israel Fund, Ameinu and Partners for Progressive Israel.”

In the age of Trump, a quandary for Jewish leaders: Access or resistance, JTA

“‘J Street is raising a flag saying we can be a political home at a time when the vast majority of Americans do not agree’ with the administration on an array of policies, Jeremy Ben-Ami, the group’s president, said in an availability with reporters. To that end, Ben-Ami laid out areas where J Street would stand in opposition to Trump: On its traditional issues, including advancing the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and defending the Iran nuclear deal reached by the Obama administration, and also in areas the group has only taken up since Trump’s election, including his ban on the entry into the United States of refugees and travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations. The J Street conference, titled ‘Defending our values, Fighting for our future,’ included speaker after speaker challenging the American Jewish establishment, not just in Middle East policy — the area J Street staked out when the lobby was established in 2008 – but more broadly….Groups present at the J Street conference represented an array of issues that while on the liberal side of the spectrum were more diverse than in the past: immigration (HIAS), student life (Hillel International), religious freedom (the Reform movement) and women’s rights (NCJW)….In training sessions, J Street activists said that Trump’s America was attracting liberals who might otherwise be wary of the group’s emphasis on intensely engaging the Palestinians and others in the Middle East. J Streeters who marched in the women’s marches described forging alliances with women who had once shunned the group….Ben-Ami, who in the past has avoided directly challenging the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, was in a bring-it-on mood, noting that its conference would take place in a month in the same venue. ‘If Trump goes into AIPAC in a few weeks as he did last time and gets standing ovations,’ he said, referring to Trump’s appearance last year as a candidate, ‘yet 75 percent of American Jews are horrified, it’s going to be hard for that 75 percent to feel comfortable with AIPAC.’”

Trump Is Elephant In Every Room As Shellshocked Jews Seek Path Forward, Forward

JJ Goldberg observes, “Monday afternoon, February 27, Sen. Bernie Sanders delivered what appeared to be his first-ever keynote address to a national Jewish organization. His host, unsurprisingly, was J Street, the self-described pro-Israel, pro-peace advocacy organization. The liberal Jewish group was holding its once-a-year national conference in Washington, D.C. The liberal Jewish senator couldn’t have asked for a friendlier crowd to flesh out his thinking on Israel. And yet, somehow, there were long stretches in the half-hour speech during which a casual listener might not have realized Israel was on the agenda. Fully half of Sanders’s talk to the Israel policy group had to do not with Israel but with America, with bigotry, violence, the Iran nuclear deal and ‘the significant outbreak of anti-Semitism’ that has erupted ‘since Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential race.’ The other half, focused on Israel, had few policy specifics and a lot of talk about values like peace, democracy, tolerance and shared humanity — values, incidentally, ‘upon which the State of Israel was founded,’ Sanders said, as he ‘saw and experienced for myself’ during his months on ‘a kibbutz near Haifa’ in 1963. Values. Humanity. Trump was the topic even when his name wasn’t spoken.”

‘I’m part of a dying breed that believes in two states’, +972

Dahlia Scheindlin interviews J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami.

Growing anti-Semitism in the USA, Deutsche Welle

‘The question is not whether Donald Trump is an anti-Semite; the question is to what extent his behavior encourages anti-Semitism in the USA,’ Alan Elsner told Deutsche Welle at the annual “J Street” meeting in Washington. Elsner works for “J Street”, an organization that represents pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans.”

‘J Street’ lobbyists demand two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, CGTN

Hundreds of Jewish-American activists were on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, members of the pro-peace lobbying group, J Street. These lobbyists were urging U.S. lawmakers to push for a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine…J Street is a liberal, American lobbying group that is both pro-Israel  and pro-peace. The group urged lawmakers to reject President Trump’s nominee for U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman. Friedman is a bankruptcy lawyer with close ties to the Israeli right-wing settlers movement. J Street has said he is an obstacle to a two-state solution. ‘We are worried that the confirmation of David Friedman would send a signal that the Trump administration intends to pursue an extreme course when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in that abandons traditional bipartisan support for a two-state solution, that in many ways enables the settlement movement, and that only exacerbates conflict in the region rather than solving it,’ Logan Bayroff of J Street said.”

Rising Xenophobia Hurts All Americans, VOA

“Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, speaking Monday before the annual conference of the progressive Jewish group, J Street, noted that she had been raised a Catholic, became an Episcopalian, found out in later life that she was Jewish and would register as a Muslim if the Trump administration ever tried to single out members of that faith. ‘I find what is going on now deeply, deeply troubling,”’said Albright, who was born in what was then Czechoslovakia and emigrated twice — to England as a wartime refugee and to the United States in 1948. ‘There is a lack of recognition of the strength of diversity of this country and the real way people want to contribute and want to become Americans,’ Albright said.”

U.S.-Israel Relations and Middle East, Morning Session, CSPAN

“J Street, a non-profit Jewish advocacy group, held its national conference in Washington, DC to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Middle East peace process. Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Palestinian Liberation Organization chief representative Maen Rashid Areikat delivered keynote remarks. The morning session included a panel discussion with former diplomats and government officials from the Obama administration including former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk. They discussed the prospects of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Trump administration’s Middle East policy.”

U.S.-Israel Relations and Middle East, Senator Sanders, CSPAN

“Senator Sanders delivered the closing keynote address of the third day at J Street’s 2017 National Conference.”

Top News and Analysis

Trump is flirting with the idea that anti-Semitic incidents are false flags — again, Washington Post

“President Trump seemed to suggest Tuesday that the recent bomb threats and vandalism at Jewish community centers and cemeteries across the country might be false flags, according to a Democratic attorney general who met with him. And Trump’s comments came the same day that one of his top advisers suggested the culprits could be Democrats. It wouldn’t be the first time Trump went down this road….Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) told reporters Tuesday that Trump expressed horror at the situation but also appeared to suggest it might not be anti-Semitism and that it could be ‘the reverse,’ according to reports from the BillyPenn and BuzzFeed.”

Trump Israel ambassador pick said State Department has been anti-Semitic for ‘past 70 years’, CNN

“Donald Trump’s nominee to be his ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, accused the State Department during a speech last October of having been anti-Semitic since Israel’s founding….’In 1995, Congress enacted a law that required the embassy of the United States to move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,’ Friedman told a crowd at a Jerusalem rally for the Trump campaign. ‘That’s 21 years ago. Hasn’t happened. Why? Because the law provides that the obligation to move the embassy to Jerusalem can be waived at the desire of the State Department, the same State Department that has been anti-Israel and anti-Semitic for the past 70 years.’”

Trump Promises ‘Unbreakable’ Bond With Israel — Even As He Looks Inward, Forward

“While his speech to a joint session of Congress Tuesday focused primarily on laying out his domestic and economic vision, President Trump also reiterated an isolationist approach that will guide America’s relations with the world….signaling his intention to cut U.S. foreign aid and overseas investments, Trump took issue specifically with American dollars being spent in the Middle East. The Trump administration has indicated it will not cut foreign assistance to Israel, one of America’s largest recipients of aid in the region. In his speech, Trump vowed to “reaffirmed our unbreakable alliance” with Israel and noted his administration’s decision to impose new sanctions on companies and individuals involved in Iran ballistic missile program. Trump did not make any reference in his speech to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process or to any broader Middle East policy.”

Gaza War: 11 Key Headlines From Scathing Report Rattling Israel’s Politicians and Military, Haaretz

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, then-Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and the members of the inner security cabinet did not consider taking diplomatic action regarding Gaza in an effort to halt the escalation in the year before the 2014 war with Hamas and its allies in the Gaza Strip broke out, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira wrote in the report released Tuesday on the war. On three separate occasions in the report, Shapira quotes statements made by Ya’alon two days after the outbreak of the war, saying that it’s possible that it could have been avoided if Israel had addressed the distress in the strip at the in time. The 200-page report is being released about a year and a half after the end of the war in August 2014. The report deals both with the decision making process in the security cabinet relating to Gaza before Operation Protective Edge, as the war is officially known in Israel, and at its outset but also with the issue involving dealing with the attack tunnels in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge, as well as preparation for the intelligence, technological and operational response to the this threat in the years prior to the operation. Shapira’s report does not deal directly with the conduct of the war itself or its results.”

News

Bernie Sanders Meets With Israeli Arab Leader Ayman Odeh, Day After Calling for End to Israeli Occupation, Haaretz

One day after calling for an end to Israeli occupation, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders on Tuesday met with Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Joint Arab List faction in the Knesset, to discuss the situation of the Arab population of Israel as well as diplomatic issues. Odeh presented Sanders with data on Odeh’s claims of institutional discrimination against Arabs in Israel and the situation of residents of unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev, according to a press release. Sanders and Odeh also disccussed the political potential of Israeli Arab voters as a major voting bloc representing 20 percent of the country’s population.

Natan Sharansky Agrees To Stay On For Extra Year As Jewish Agency Chief, Forward

Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Executive for the Jewish Agency for Israel, will head the organization for an extra year. The board of governors announced Tuesday that Sharansky had agreed to its request that he stay a year past his second four-year term ending in June. The announcement came at the closing plenary of the board’s winter meetings in Tel Aviv.

Congressmen introduce bill to create Israeli-Palestinian peace fund, JTA

Two congressmen introduced a measure to establish and provide money for an international fund to promote peace between Israel and Palestinians. Reps. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., and Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., introduced a bill on Monday urging the United States to establish — in cooperation with the Israeli government, the Palestinian Authority, regional governments and the international community — a fund to promote Israeli-Palestinian cooperation, dialogue and joint economic development. The measure, called the International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace Authorization Act of 2017, would require the United States to provide at least $50 million to the fund annually from 2017 to 2021 and provide two bipartisan representatives to serve on its board.

Bulldozers start razing 8 illegal Ofra settlement homes; 8 cops lightly hurt, Times of Israel

Police bulldozers began demolishing eight buildings built on private Palestinian land in the West Bank settlement of Ofra on Tuesday evening, after a nearly day-long operation to remove right-wing protesters from the houses. Eight police officers were lightly hurt in scuffles with demonstrators.

PA to hold local elections in West Bank only, after Hamas refuses to participate in Gaza, Ma’an

The Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA) has decided to hold local elections in the occupied West Bank on May 13 as scheduled, while excluding Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip from taking part. During the PA’s weekly cabinet meeting on Tuesday in Bethlehem, it was decided that elections in Gaza would be postponed “indefinitely.” It remained unclear whether occupied East Jerusalem would be included in the municipal electoral process.

Former Envoy Calls Trump’s Plan To Nix Anti-Semitism Post A ‘Disaster’, Forward

News that President Trump plans to eliminate the office of the special envoy to counter anti-Semitism as part of his planned budget cuts was met with some serious pushback from Jewish leaders — and from the last person to hold the position. “I can’t believe someone at the White House won’t have better sense… This is a disaster,” Ira Forman, the former special envoy told Jewish Insider. “I just can’t believe that they would even think of this given the relatively small budget needed to run this office.”

GOP Senators Propose Cutting All U.S. Funds to Palestinian Authority Over ‘Institutional Terror Support’, Haaretz

A group of Republican Senators, led by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC,) proposed to cut off all U.S. funding to the Palestinian Authority in new legislation presented on Tuesday. The bill is called the “Taylor Force Act,” after an American citizen who was murdered in a terror attack in Israel in March 2016.

Opinion and Analysis

Friedman’s ‘kapo’ comment should disqualify him as ambassador to Israel, The Hill

Charles Gati writes, “For Friedman to brand other Jews engaged in legitimate debate in our democracy as kapos is not only offensive; it shows a disturbing lack of knowledge. It borders on incredulous to believe Friedman’s sudden reversal during his Senate Foreign Relations Committee testimony of what he had previously professed….Watching his testimony for several hours, I had the impression that under his calculating, lawyerly demeanor was an agitator eager to be confirmed as an ambassador. Worst of all, by freely throwing around words that have a specific meaning in the context of a specific historical event, Friedman dilutes the meaning of the Holocaust and dishonors the memory of those who perished.”

Israel’s Gaza War Failure Was First and Foremost a Diplomatic One, Haaretz

Barak Ravid writes, “Since the end of the war, Netanyahu, Ya’alon and Lieberman have talked a lot but have done almost nothing to change Gaza policy or deal with the severe humanitarian crisis there. The prime minister has sent Deputy Public Diplomacy Minister Michael Oren to European capitals with a presentation on possible projects for Gaza, but there have been no strategic decisions. For the past year and a half, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz has been trying to hold a serious discussion in the cabinet about his plan to build an island off Gaza that would serve as a seaport and an airport and open Gaza to the world….Exactly one year ago, Military Intelligence chief Herzl Halevi stood before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and made statements that stirred bad deja vu feelings like ‘the declining economic situation in the Gaza Strip could lead to an explosion directed against Israel.’ In today’s reality, the next war in Gaza is just a matter of time; senior cabinet ministers have already set a date for it: the coming spring. If Netanyahu, Lieberman and Naftali Bennett don’t want Halevi’s words to become a chapter in the next state comptroller’s report, they should meet urgently and make political decisions that will prevent the next war.”

The Five Top Jewish Leaders More Concerned With Threats to Trump Than to U.S. Jews, Haaretz

Bradley Burston writes, “Since January alone, there have been nearly 200 serious incidents of anti-Semitism. They have targeted Jewish cemeteries, community centers and schools in 30 states. Many Muslim and Christian leaders have stepped forward to lend aid and support to Jewish communities shaken by the wave of hatred. Jews have been outspoken in challenging the Trump administration to take fast and effective action to stop the threats. But some Jewish leaders have stood out for another reason. They have shown themselves much more vocal and much more concerned in defense of Donald Trump than in defense of America’s Jews.”

Netanyahu and the ‘apartheid state’, Al-Monitor

Akiva Eldar argues, “It is no longer necessary to ask whether the Israeli government supports the two-state solution. The answer is clear for all to see in the laws it passes and the edicts it imposes. The answer is to be found in the language it propagates and the funds it disperses. One state for two peoples — first-class citizens and second-class citizens — is gradually being established on the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. On Netanyahu’s watch, the term ‘apartheid state’ has gone from being a label to becoming substance.”

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