News Roundup for March 22, 2019

March 22, 2019

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J Street in the News

In major shift, Trump says time for U.S. to recognize Israeli sovereignty over Golan, Reuters

“‘It’s clear that this cynical move by Trump is not about the long-term interests of the U.S. or Israel, but rather about handing yet another political gift to Prime Minister Netanyahu in the hopes of boosting his chances for re-election next month,’ said J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami.”

Trump Courts American Jews With Bid to Secure Netanyahu’s Re-Election, Bloomberg

“Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, a liberal-leaning advocacy group that promotes a two-state solution to the the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, called Trump’s announcement a ‘cynical’ effort to boost Netanyahu’s re-election prospects. ‘Premature U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan is a needlessly provocative move that violates international law and does not enhance Israeli security,’ Ben-Ami said in a statement.”

Andrea recaps Pompeo’s Israel trip and previews critical stops, MSNBC [Video]

Andrea Mitchell discusses how the Trump-Netanyahu partnership is alienating many Democrats — and how liberal Jewish groups like J Street are pushing back on Netanyahu’s right-wing agenda.

2020 Dems avoid this year’s AIPAC conference, The Hill

“‘Certainly, I think this is a notable change from previous years,’ Logan Bayroff, communications director for J Street, said, noting Obama and Clinton’s appearances. While this year’s event has several congressional Democrats scheduled to attend, ‘few if any’ are considered to be the party’s rising stars, Bayroff said, adding that it ‘does send a pretty obvious message’ about AIPAC’s place among the Democratic base.
 J Street, a liberal advocacy group whose stated mission is to help end the Arab–Israeli and Israeli–Palestinian conflicts, has not called on 2020 Democrats to avoid the conference, with Bayroff saying it’s ‘their choice to make.’ Instead, the group has urged those who do attend to denounce Netanyahu’s policies.


U.S. Media Finally Discovers Netanyahu-Trump Similarities – and pro-Israel Groups Are Worried, Haaretz

“Leading media outlets in the United States have been reporting in recent weeks on the growing similarities between the political and legal situations of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump, as well as the notion that Trump is intervening in the Israeli election to help Netanyahu win another term….The recent coverage of the Trump-Netanyahu alliance is significant, because up until recently it was common to find this kind of coverage mostly in Jewish media outlets, not in national ones that reach tens of millions of Americans….[G]roups on the left are using the Trump-Netanyahu comparison to highlight their criticism of the Israeli prime minister. J Street began an online campaign this week comparing statements by Trump and Netanyahu, calling on Jewish American groups that often criticize Trump to treat Netanyahu the same way. And a campaign by MoveOn, calling on Democratic presidential nominees not to appear at the AIPAC Policy Conference next week, also uses the Netanyahu-Trump alliance as an argument.”

J Street launches Birthright-style trip that will visit West Bank, The Jewish News of Northern California

“‘Birthright educates 40,000 young Jews a year who do not hear from Palestinians living under occupation while on the trip,; J Street U president and Stanford University student Eva Borgwardt told J. in an email. ‘This has a silencing effect on discussion of the occupation within our community.’ Moreover, she said, young Jews don’t see the occupation as an optional aspect of their learning about Israel. ‘They see it as vital for Palestinian perspectives to be included in any responsible engagement with the country’s current reality,’ she said.”

Palestinian activist, artist shares experience with Jewish students, Michigan Daily

“The University of Michigan’s chapter of J Street U hosted Palestinian activist and artist Eid Suleman Thursday night. A group of nearly 20 students and other community members gathered to hear about his experience living in the West Bank….Suleman began with a history of the conflict intertwined with the story of his life. He was a resident of Umm al Khair, a village in the West Bank. Suleman came in contact with J Street two years ago when they visited his village, and this is his second speaking tour….One of Suleman’s major points was stressing the difference between the rights he and his community championed as they compared to his Israeli settler neighbors’. Suleman resides in a village in Area C, which is the portion of the West Bank completely controlled by Israeli authorities.”

Top News and Analysis

Trump Wants U.S. to Recognize Israeli Sovereignty Over the Golan Heights, New York Times

The president’s announcement, in a midday Twitter post, serves to recognize Israeli sovereignty over land that its troops seized in war. It came after repeated pressure from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, which claimed the Golan Heights from Syria in 1967 and effectively annexed it in 1981. The United Nations Security Council has declared that Israel must withdraw from territory acquired by force.

Trump’s Golan Heights Diplomatic Bombshell Was Bound to Drop. But Why Now?, Haaretz

Anshel Pfeffer looks for answers, “Since no one is any longer even trying to pretend that Donald Trump isn’t intervening in Israel’s election on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s behalf, the only question left to ask following the U.S. president’s announcement on Twitter that “it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” is on the timing. […] Netanyahu is petrified that the new revelations on his trading in shares in his cousin’s company, which netted him $4.3 million and may have a connection with the company’s dealings with the German shipyard from which Israel purchases it submarines, could dominate the last stage of the election campaign. That’s why he so blatantly abused his position as the minister in charge of Israel’s intelligence services, to claim he knew what Iran had on Gantz. He desperately needs to grab back the news agenda.”

Multiple 2020 Democrats say they won’t attend AIPAC summit, Washington Post

“Multiple Democratic presidential candidates said Thursday that they won’t attend the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference in Washington next week. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke and Sen. Kamala Harris of California are among the 2020 contenders who have decided not to attend. Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who is considering an independent bid for president, will also avoid the AIPAC conference.”

Democrats Introduce anti-BDS Resolution That Backs Two-state Solution, Haaretz

Amir Tibon reports, “Democratic lawmakers have reportedly proposed a resolution against the BDS movement that also includes support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict….It is seen as the Democratic answer to attempts by Republicans to use a broad consensus against BDS to promote legislation that fails to distinguish between Israel and West Bank settlements.”


Blue and White and Likud enthusiastically welcome Trump’s Golan Recognition, Jerusalem Post

Senior candidates in Blue and White, the main rivals of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, praised US President Donald Trump’s declaration that he intends to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. The enthusiastic statements came despite Trump making the announcement on Twitter less than three weeks before elections. US recognition of the Golan Heights is “a dream come true,” Blue and White leader Yair Lapid said. “The Golan is an inseparable part of Israel, and we call on the rest of the world to follow President Trump and recognize our sovereignty over the Golan Heights.”

Israeli forces kill Palestinian near checkpoint in West Bank, Al Jazeera

A Palestinian man was shot dead by Israeli gunfire in the occupied West Bank, marking the fourth Palestinian killed in 24 hours. According to eyewitnesses, Israeli forces stationed at the checkpoint fired live bullets at a Palestinian man’s car, who was with his wife and children. The man, identified as Alaa Ghayatha from the village of Nahalin, was shot in the abdomen.

Family of Slain Palestinian Says Israeli Military Shot Him ‘In Cold Blood’, Haaretz

The family of Ahmed Jamal Manasra, who was shot to death by Israeli soldiers on Wednesday, claims the shooting took place without a reason. “All the testimonies and circumstances attest that Ahmed was murdered in cold blood,” one of his relatives told Haaretz. The Israeli army said, however, that it is looking into the possibility that the event leading to the gunfire had been “friction between Palestinians, that included rock-throwing.”

Why were rockets fired toward Tel Aviv?, Al-Monitor

The Gaza Strip Interior Ministry said in its March 14 statement that the movement is following up on the Gaza rockets that were fired in defiance of a national consensus against them, and stressed that measures will be taken against the violators. For the first time since 2014, two rockets were fired toward Tel Aviv on March 14, despite the Egypt-brokered truce agreements between Hamas and Israel. Although the military wings of both Hamas and the Islamic Jihad denied responsibility for the rockets fired, Israel shelled dozens of military targets belonging to Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip without causing casualties.

How Netanyahu’s Steel Shares Miraculously Quadrupled to $4 Million, Haaretz

The State Prosecutor’s Office is considering launching a criminal investigation into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the profits he made on his investment in shares in the Texas-based SeaDrift steel factory that was managed by his cousin, Israeli channels 12 and 13 reported Wednesday.

Hamas Targets More Than 70 Journalists in Anti-Protest Measures, Jerusalem Post

More than 70 Palestinian journalists have been targeted by Hamas during the recent protests against economic hardship in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate said on Thursday. Mohammed Al-Lahham, as senior official with the syndicate, said during a press conference in Ramallah that Hamas’s actions were tantamount to “crimes.” He said he believed that the number of journalists who were arrested, beaten or summoned for interrogation by Hamas security forces in the past week was much higher than the figures published thus far.

Israel shells Hamas post after explosion of balloon-borne bomb from Gaza, Times of Israel

An Israeli tank struck a Hamas military post in the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday, hours after an airborne explosive device apparently launched from the Palestinian enclave exploded in Israel. The Israel Defense Forces said the tank strike was in response to “exceptional” violent rioting by Palestinians along the border fence, as well as the launching of incendiary balloons and explosive devices toward Israel throughout the day.

Israeli soldiers break into Palestinian school, arrest 10-year-old, 972+

Fully armed Israeli soldiers forced their way into a Palestinian school in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron and took away a 10-year-old boy this week The age of criminal culpability is 12 years old under both Israeli civilian and military law. While the soldiers likely exceeded their authority in this case, it would hardly be the first time that has happened. […] While the Jewish settlers living in the same city are subject to Israeli civilian law, Palestinians, even those living on the same street, are subject to military law and can be arrested by Israeli troops — a foreign army — at any time.

Opinion and Analysis

For Netanyahu, all is political, even cybersecurity, Al-Monitor

Mazal Mualem argues, “It is hardly fitting for a prime minister in charge of national cybersecurity to be making political hay of a cyberattack against his leading rival during an election campaign. ‘The use of classified intelligence information for political ends is very grave. … I regard it as an attack on the democratic process,; former Mossad spy agency chief Tamir Pardo said March 18. ‘If Iran is really behind the hacking of Gantz’s telephone, it is completely clear why it was kept secret,’ he added.”

Trump’s 2020 Strategy: Politicize Israel, Demonize Ilhan Omar and Keep Key Voters at Home, Haaretz

Alexander Griffing writes, “Just three months into the Democrats controlling the House, President Donald Trump has already declared that ‘Democrats hate Jewish people’ and is now actively pushing the so-called Jexodus movement, which claims to be aimed at converting Jewish Democrats into Jewish Republicans. […] One problem: There is no proof for the claim that ‘Jewish people are leaving the Democratic Party.’”

How Trump’s Golan decision will further frustrate Mideast peace process, Al-Monitor

Laura Rozen writes, “Former US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said the status quo of no one talking about Israeli control of the Golan may be preferable to focusing attention on it. ‘No one is talking about changing the status quo, and that is the advantage: No one is talking about it,’ Shapiro told Al-Monitor by phone from Israel. “So this decision has the potential to place it much more squarely on the international agenda than it has been in many years. ‘And that could invite all kind of responses from Russia in the Syrian arena, or elsewhere, such as Ukraine,’ Shapiro said.”