News Roundup for March 23, 2017

March 23, 2017

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J Street in the News

Students committed to standing up for Jewish, democratic values, in United States and Israel, Arizona Jewish News

Noah Pensak writes, ““The future of a two-state solution is at risk, and one thing is clear: We have a responsibility to fight to make our voices heard and to stand up for Jewish and democratic values, here and in Israel. On our state’s college campuses, a diverse group of students have already started fighting for this vision. Since J Street U chapters were founded at Arizona State University and the University of Arizona last year, a large number of students have joined our work and engaged in political conversation and advocacy. We took a stand against the demolition of Susya, a Palestinian village in the West Bank threatened with demolition. We called our senators to urge them to vote against Trump’s extreme, pro-settler movement nominee for ambassador to Israel, David Friedman. An impressive delegation of 85 students from Arizona State University, University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University traveled to J Street’s National Conference in Washington, D.C., with us to learn and meet more than 1,200 other students and over 3,500 delegates from around the country. Our delegation included students learning about the conflict for the first time along with those with deep personal connections to the issue, those with liberal views and those with conservative views. All were united in their dedication to the struggle for human rights and peace for Israelis and Palestinians, and recognized this as a cause that demands our attention.”

Top News and Analysis

U.S. Asked Israel to Freeze Construction Outside Settlement Blocs, Israeli Source Says, Haaretz

Barak Ravid reports, “In his talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week, U.S. envoy Jason Greenblatt asked that Israel cease building in isolated West Bank settlements outside of the settlement blocs, an Israeli source privy to the contents of the talks told Haaretz Wednesday. According to the source, during the talks, which took place in Israel last week, Greenblatt made it clear that the Trump administration wants Israel to place substantial restrictions on construction in the settlements….The source added that Greenblatt said that the U.S. would tacitly accept Israeli construction in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, as well as construction in settlement blocs within limits bilaterally agreed upon. That being said, the formula Greenblatt presented included an American request that Israel not build in settlements outside the settlement blocs at all, without exception.

Netanyahu: ‘Significant Progress’ in Talks With Trump Administration on Curbed Settlement Activity, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday to journalists before he left China for Israel that there has been “significant progress” in recent talks between U.S. and Israeli negotiators in recent days regarding curbed settlement construction. Netanyahu noted that talks have not ended despite the recent progress, which he will be updated on upon his return.

Talks between Israeli and American negotiators began in the White House on Monday in an effort to reach understandings concerning the settlements. Netanyahu told reporters in Beijing on Tuesday that talks will not touch on the Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.


Israeli Army Responds ‘Disproportionately’ to Gaza Rocket Fire, Chief of Staff Says, Haaretz

The Israeli army reacts “disproportionately” to rocket fire toward Israel’s border from Gaza, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot told a parliamentary panel Wednesday morning. “The Israel Defense Force employs a policy of using aggressive, and disproportionate, force in order to prevent situations in which they fire rockets at us and we return shells,” Eisenkot told the State Control Committee. “For us, there is one address in the Strip: Hamas.”

One person lightly injured by Israeli fire at Tulkarem-area checkpoint, Ma’an

One person, whose identity as an Israeli or Palestinian remained unknown, was lightly to moderately injured on Wednesday after being shot by Israeli forces at the Taybeh checkpoint in southwestern Tulkarem in the northwestern occupied West Bank, according to Israeli media.

Israeli Police Refuse to Grant Permit for Annual Nakba March, Haaretz

The police are refusing to approve the annual March of Return that commemorates the Nakba (“catastrophe,” as Palestinians refer to the founding of the State of Israel), which was scheduled for early May. For 18 years the march has been held in parallel with Israel’s Independence Day celebrations, but this year the police said they would not have enough resources to secure the event due to the holiday. The Association for Protecting the Rights of the Uprooted in Israel, which organizes the march, said their permit was denied because politicians were exerting pressure on the police.

Anti-Semitic attacks on the rise, five US states still lack hate-crime laws, Times of Israel

As America grapples with an uptick in anti-Semitic incidents throughout the country, experts say targeted communities are especially vulnerable in several states that don’t have hate crimes laws to address the problem. While 45 states and the District of Columbia have state-level statutes to prosecute attacks directed at a victim based on race, ethnicity, religion or national origin, five states — Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Wyoming — do not.

Minister vows to quit coalition if settlement freeze goes ahead, Times of Israel

Jewish Home Minister Uri Ariel said on Thursday he would quit the government if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acceded to reported US demands to freeze West Bank settlement construction outside of the main blocs.

Likud MK to petition top court against PM’s Temple Mount ban, Times of Israel

Likud MK Yehudah Glick will file a petition to the High Court of Justice early next week against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his own party leader, demanding that Knesset members be allowed to visit the Temple Mount.

Jewish groups urge Congress to preserve anti-Semitism monitor, JTA

Jewish defense groups urged Congress to preserve the State Department’s anti-Semitism monitor. Representatives of the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Secure Community Network testified Wednesday before the human rights subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.

Opinion and Analysis

Why Netanyahu won’t attend this year’s AIPAC conference, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit writes, “Netanyahu will not be going to AIPAC, nor will he be meeting with Trump…As of now, it is unclear who really tried to avoid meeting with whom. Was it Trump, who was signaling to Netanyahu not to take him for granted, or was it Netanyahu, who is worried about another meeting with Trump?….Sources close to Netanyahu confirmed that there were all sorts of concerns in Jerusalem last week following envoy Jason Greenblatt’s visit to the region. Anyone who thought that the Israeli right would have it easy during the Trump era was sorely mistaken….Things are different under Trump. There are no rules, no checks and balances, and no restraints. As many people have learned firsthand over the past year, it is not a good idea to upset the president. He can do a 180-degree turnabout at breathtaking speed. According to some of his aides, Netanyahu is terrified of this.”

Minister Erdan’s Thought Police, Haaretz

A Haaretz editorial observes, “Opposition to the Israeli occupation, whether it comes from inside Israel or from abroad, is legitimate, just and moral, and anyone with a conscience can take part in it. Moreover, the types of tactics in question — nonviolent boycotts and sanctions — are legitimate, given the illegal status of the settlements. Therefore, even those who do not agree with everything that is said as part of the fight against the occupation ought to speak out against the government’s efforts, led by Erdan, to muzzle its critics, and the undemocratic measures to which it is resorting. The only way to end opposition to the occupation would be for Israel to end the occupation. The effort to quash this opposition is not a fight that can be won by force, for opinions and viewpoints cannot be imposed by force. When Erdan’s draconian measures were directed against foreigners, the Israeli public kept quiet. Now that he wants to direct them against Israeli citizens too, it is time to speak up.”

Why Egypt’s Sisi is pushing Abbas-Dahlan reconciliation, Al-Monitor

Shlomi Eldar writes, “Tensions between Cairo and Ramallah worsened over recent months when Egypt attempted to reach a compromise that would allow for exiled Dahlan’s return to the West Bank. However, Abbas absolutely refused. Dahlan was expelled from Fatah and the West Bank in 2011. Abbas is afraid that Dahlan and Hamas plan to wrest control of the PA’s power centers. Then Abbas feels they will join forces with Dahlan’s supporters in the West Bank who are gaining strength in order to depose him.”

Is Palestinian frustration playing into Netanyahu’s strategy?, Al-Monitor

Akiva Eldar observes, “Israeli politicians — and Netanyahu at their head — are familiar with the state of affairs in the Palestinian capital of Ramallah. In a worst-case scenario, Netanyahu is troubled by the police probes against him and by his poll ratings and is not available to deal with matters he regards as minor. In the disastrous scenario — and one senior Foreign Ministry official raised this possibility with Al-Monitor this week — the collapse of the PA in a wave of violence will distance the danger of a “peace process.” According to the senior official who spoke on condition of anonymity, most importantly, a violent intifada will defuse the explosive issue of a settlement freeze that is threatening to destroy Netanyahu’s ruling coalition and to boost his rival, HaBayit HaYehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett. And to hell with the security consequences … and human life.”

Dramatic ruling paves way for thousands of East Jerusalemites to regain residency rights, Times of Israel

Dov Lieber reports, “The unanimous and precedent-setting ruling in his case established a new legal protection for the residency rights of East Jerusalemites. The justices ruled, for the first time, that Israel must consider the unique status of East Jerusalemites as native-born when deciding whether to restore their residency status. The sharp rise in recent decades of the number of revoked residency statuses has caused widespread concern among East Jerusalemites, who fear their right to live in what is now Israel is in constant jeopardy, according to human rights groups and lawyers familiar with the subject.”

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