News Roundup for March 14, 2017

March 14, 2017

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J Street in the News

Israel’s Ban Of BDS Supporters Stirs Rather Than Stifles Debate, Forward

J Street U national board member Liat Deener-Chodirker writes, “In the eyes of the Israeli government, my pro-Israel politics – insofar as they involve not supporting settlements – are now apparently held by Israel’s own Knesset to be illegitimate and anti-Israel. I have to consider the real, frightening, and deeply sad possibility that my personal choice of strong opposition to the settlement movement may mean that I am no longer welcome in my beloved Israel….The Knesset may assume it has shut down the conversation about the settlement movement and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In fact, they’ve triggered a new wave of concern and frustration among Israel’s friends and supporters around the world. No matter the law the Knesset enacts, I will not allow a government to tell me that my personal form of love and advocacy for Israel is illegitimate or illegal. I will not abandon the country and the people I love, or stop my advocacy for Israeli democracy and the two-state solution.”

This edition: J Street’s 2017 National Conference, WNYC

Brian Lehrer reviews key highlights from the J Street National Conference.

Top News and Analysis

Netanyahu Meets Trump’s Envoy for Hours-long Talk on Peace and Settlement Construction, Haaretz

Prime Minister Netanyahu met Monday with US envoy Jason Greenblatt and discussed efforts to promote the peace process and settlement construction in the West Bank. Netanyahu and Greenblatt, who is President Trump’s envoy to the Middle East peace process, “continued discussions relating to settlement construction in the hope of working out an approach that is consistent with the goal of advancing peace and security,” the Prime Minister’s Bureau said. The statement did not specify whether any progress was made to resolve the dispute between Israel and the US over settlements. The meeting lasted over five hours, and was also attended by Israel’s ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer.

Trump Adviser on Mideast Visits Region for Meetings With Netanyahu and Abbas, The New York Times

“Jason D. Greenblatt, President Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, flew to Israel on Monday and met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as part of an early diplomatic foray aimed at breaking the impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Mr. Greenblatt’s visit, during which he will also meet with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank, was in many respects a decidedly unconventional mission, since he has no diplomatic experience….Israeli officials have confirmed that since Mr. Netanyahu’s visit to Washington last month, Mr. Greenblatt has been trying to formulate understandings on the contours of future Israeli settlement construction in the occupied West Bank. The issue of continued settlement building enrages the Palestinians and became a constant source of tension between the Israeli government and the Obama administration. Israeli analysts said that Mr. Greenblatt’s talks with Mr. Netanyahu were likely to focus on this more modest issue than on any concrete grand plan to restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.”

Defense Chief Lieberman Suggests Stripping Arab Lawmakers of Citizenship Under Deal With Palestinians, Haaretz

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Monday that a solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict should include stripping Arab citizens of Israel  – including lawmakers – of their citizenship. In a Facebook post, Lieberman said that ‘any attempt to resolve the Palestinian issue on the basis of land for peace is destined to fail,’ suggesting that the only ‘way to achieve a lasting settlement is by territorial and population swaps as part of an overall regional settlement.’ ‘There is no reason for the establishment of a Palestinian state without a single Jew – 100 percent Palestinians, while Israel should be a bi-national state with 22 percent Palestinians. There is no reason why Sheikh Ra’ed Salah, Ayman Odeh, Basel Ghattas or Haneen Zoabi should continue being Israeli citizens.’”


Ma’ale Adumim annexation vote delayed to avoid clash with Trump envoy, Times of Israel

A vote on a contentious bill annexing a large West Bank settlement was delayed at the last minute Tuesday, as the Jewish Home party agreed to push off the move to avoid friction with the Trump administration. The vote on annexing the Ma’ale Adumim settlement east of Jerusalem will now take place Sunday, possibly avoiding clashing with a visit by US official Jason Greenblatt, dispatched to the region this week to help formulate Washington’s policy on settlements and possibly look to jump-start Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Police Detain Prominent Israeli American Activist for Alleged Possession of BDS Material, Haaretz

Police detained Israeli American left-wing activist Jeff Halper on Monday at the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement, for suspected incitement, saying they acted on a complaint he had “materials related to BDS” in his possession. Halper, picked up after leading a tour of foreigners to the E1 site across the road from the settlement, was transported by police van to a nearby station then released without being placed under arrest. Police officers photographed the posters and maps he was holding before freeing him. Halper denies handing out any material related to BDS during the tour, or even discussing the boycott movement.

Over 100 Holocaust memorial groups and scholars urge Trump to keep office monitoring anti-Semitism, JTA

Over 100 Holocaust remembrance institutions, scholars and educators called on President Donald Trump to maintain a government office dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism following a report that he was considering nixing it. The 120 signatories — among them Holocaust museums, anti-genocide groups, Holocaust studies programs, and Holocaust scholars and educators in the United States and Europe —  released a statement Monday calling on Trump to strengthen the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, which fights anti-Jewish sentiments abroad. The signatories also urged Trump to create a new office to combat anti-Semitism in the United States.

Fatah spokesperson: Situation in East Jerusalem ‘has become unbearable’, Ma’an

In the wake of the shooting of a Palestinian by Israeli forces in East Jerusalem in the dawn hours of Monday morning, international spokesperson of the Fatah movement Ziyad Khalil Abu Ziyad said in a statement that “the situation in the holy city,” referring to Jerusalem, “has became unbearable.”

Jordan Frees Soldier Who Killed 7 Israeli Schoolgirls in ’97 Rampage, The New York Times

“The fragile treaty between the two former enemies was not even three years old when a Jordanian soldier went on a shooting rampage and killed seven Israeli schoolgirls visiting a park in a border area known as the Island of Peace. On Sunday, almost 20 years after that March 13, 1997, attack, the Jordanian authorities released the soldier, Ahmed Daqamseh, a former corporal, after he effectively completed his term.”

Israel Police Fail to Charge Offenders in 95% of Reported anti-Palestinian Attacks, Haaretz

Information released by police in response to a request by the left-wing non-profit group Yesh Din shows that there are difficulties in indicting Jews for violations committed against Palestinians, in comparison to the indictment of Jews who have committed ideologically motivated crimes against the police or the public. The information released by police shows that in 2015, 280 files were opened in connection with politically or ideologically motivated crimes committed by Israelis in the occupied territories. Eighty-nine of these dealt with violence against Palestinians or their property. Only four of these cases led to indictments, amounting to 4.5 percent of the files opened.

Palestinian marchers demand Abbas resign over Israel ties, Times of Israel

Several hundred Palestinians marched in an anti-government protest Monday, calling for the resignation of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and criticizing the PA’s security coordination with Israel. Separately, Palestinian journalists staged a sit-in nearby to protest the violent dispersal of an anti-government protest by Palestinian riot police on Sunday.

Four Allegedly Throw Grenade Into Israeli Arab Woman’s Home in Order to Make Her Move Out, Haaretz

The Israel Police arrested four people on Sunday on suspicions they threatened an Arab woman and her daughter with racist motives, in order to force them to move out of Petah Tikva. The four residents of Petah Tikva are also suspected of throwing a stun grenade at her home, and they will be brought to Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court on Monday to have their detention extended.

Ministers push for state-funded Temple Mount foundation, Times of Israel

Hitting back at a controversial UNESCO resolution ignoring the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, senior Likud ministers put forward a proposal to establish a new government body what would preserve the holy site and educate about its Jewish history. Proposed by Culture Minister Miri Regev and Environmental Protection and Jerusalem Minister Ze’ev Elkin, the plan includes a NIS 2 million ($550,00) yearly budget to set up the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation that will be responsible for “research, information and advocacy” about the Jewish connection to the site.

Ahead of Concert, Right-wingers Seek to Silence Israeli Singer Over ‘anti-Zionism’, Haaretz

Right wing activists have drawn up a petition to try and cancel a performance scheduled for Wednesday by singer Achinoam Nini, in the remote desert town of Mitzpeh Ramon. The online petition accuses Nini of being a “provocateur who supports anti-Zionist, anti-Israel and anti-government values.”

Opinion and Analysis

Can Trump’s Real Estate Lawyer Really Make Israeli-Palestinian Peace Happen?, Haaretz

Alison Kaplan Sommer writes, “Greenblatt, Trump’s special representative for international negotiations first hit the public eye when named as the then-presidential candidate’s Israel advisor last April….At the time, it seemed as if the decision to name him as the campaign’s point man on Israel was something of a last-minute whim. The announcement was made during a press conference with Jewish reporters last April, when he and now-U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Trump’s attorneys at the time, were summoned to the room to help their boss answer questions about Israel and the West Bank. The choice of the two lawyers, both from right-wing Orthodox Jewish backgrounds who spent time in their youth studying at West Bank yeshivas, has raised eyebrows in foreign policy circles ever since. Could such men, it has been asked – more intensely since they were named to their key roles by Trump – really stand with their boss in the face of the fierce opposition of settlers, Israel’s right wing, and members of their own American Jewish communities should the White House get tough at the negotiating table in order to clinch their deal?”

Ever unpredictable, Trump throws Mahmoud Abbas a lifeline, Times of Israel

Avi Issacharoff observes, “[N]ow, at least in the Palestinian telling, Trump has begun to revive Abbas — drawing the endlessly embattled PA chief back to center-stage. Abbas, whom Israel’s leadership routinely brands “irrelevant,” “not a partner,” and “not genuinely seeking peace,” will soon be on his way to Washington. It’s not only Israel that has been criticizing Abbas. Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has been undermining the PA president, boosting his rival Mahmoud Dahlan, and cozying up to Hamas, at every opportunity for months. Trump’s invitation thus constitutes a political lifeline for Abbas. The PA president can hardly be derided as irrelevant if he’s being hosted by the president in Washington, DC.”

Trump’s Middle East diplomacy is complicated by Palestinian terror incitement, Washington Post

Josh Rogin writes, “The Trump administration’s budding efforts to establish a new Middle East diplomatic process are about to run into some stiff headwinds at home. Many in Congress want to cancel all U.S. aid to the Palestinians because of payments made to militants who attack Israelis. President Trump will soon have to decide if confronting the Palestinians on that terrorist incitement is more urgent than pursuing a pathway to peace….Republicans in both chambers of Congress are pushing legislation that would cut off all U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority, more than $300 million in fiscal year 2016 , unless its chief political counterpart, the Palestinian Liberation Organization, ceases rewarding the families of attackers. The bill is not new, but its sponsors believe that Trump’s victory bolsters their cause.”

Will You Turn Me Away?, Haaretz

In an open letter, Rabbi Rabbi Avraham Yizhak Green writes, “I tell you all this because I fear we might have a problem. Because of my political and religious views, I refuse to recite kiddush over wine that is labeled as made in Kiryat Arba. That has been my practice for many years. I am concerned about violation of Jewish laws regarding theft, oppression and other interpersonal transgressions that are involved in agricultural products created by Jews in the West Bank territories. Although I do not abstain entirely from eating such produce when I visit Israel, I am more strict regarding kiddush. While I am not a rabbi who makes decisions on Jewish law for others, I have informed my students that this is my custom. Until now, I have not made a public statement about this but am now doing so. I need to know whether that means I am included among those who will no longer be permitted into the country, because I support this degree of boycott on a product of Israel’s West Bank settlements.”

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