News Roundup for March 27, 2017

March 27, 2017

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J Street in the News

House Dems Urge Trump To Preserve ‘Two States’, Forward

“The overwhelming majority of Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives urged President Donald Trump to reaffirm the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as U.S. policy. With 187 of 193 voting Democrats signing, the letter to Trump released Friday is a pointed reminder of how divided the parties remain on how to define pro-Israel. It comes on the eve of an American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference that the lobby had hoped would be a signal of bipartisan support for Israel. J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group, lobbied for the letter, initiated by Reps. David Price, D-N.C. and Gerry Connolly, D-Va.”

With Bipartisan Letter, 191 Representatives Stand up for Two-State Solution, J Street

“J Street welcomes a bipartisan letter to President Trump, signed by 191 Members of Congress, which urges the President to reaffirm the United States’ longstanding support for a just and lasting two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Authored by Reps. David Price (NC-4) and Gerry Connolly (VA-11), the letter garnered the support of almost the entirety of the House Democratic caucus. It is a powerful statement of Congressional support for American leadership toward a two-state solution, at a time when President Trump is equivocating on whether he prefers a one-state or two-state approach to resolving the conflict.”

This Year at AIPAC, Unquestioning Support for Trump and Netanyahu Can’t Be an Option, Haaretz

Jeremy Ben-Ami writes, “Shared liberal and democratic values that form the basis of the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel are under increasing threat in both countries. Are the traditional pro-Israel voices ready to speak out in their defense? Is it appropriate to stand silently by and express unquestioning support for Israeli policy? Is it good for the Jewish community and the U.S.-Israel relationship when our leaders remain silent about threats to our own democracy, simply because the source of the threats claims to be pro-Israel? The short answer is no….We have entered a different and dangerous political era. At this moment of real challenge to our future, we need leaders who are looking out for our interests and goals, upholding our basic values, and willing to oppose and confront those leading us down dark paths. Israel’s future and the long-term health of the U.S.-Israel relationship hang in the balance. No segment of the pro-Israel community can afford to remain silent.”

Top News and Analysis

Trump Envoy Meets Bennett, Livni in D.C. as Israel and U.S. Discuss Settlement Policy, Haaretz

Far-right leader Naftali Bennett and opposition lawmaker Tzipi Livni met with U.S. President Donald Trump’s envoy Jason Greenblatt in Washington over the weekend, as Israel and the United States discussed reining in settlement construction. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet Sunday that no agreement was reached and that talks on the matter will continue.

Pence to pro-Israel group: US ‘giving serious consideration’ to embassy move, CNN

Speaking to thousands of pro-Israel activists, Vice President Mike Pence said the United States is still considering moving the US Embassy in Israel — an action expected to be met with strong opposition in the Arab world. “After decades of simply talking about it, the President of the United States is giving serious consideration to moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” Pence told the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Sunday. The pro-Israel lobby, popularly known as AIPAC, is holding the event in Washington.

Trump son-in-law’s ties to Israel raise questions of bias, AP

“Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, has deep business and personal ties to Israel that could raise questions about his ability to serve as an honest broker as he oversees the White House’s Mideast peace efforts….Kushner’s family real estate company has longstanding and ongoing deals with major Israeli financial institutions. These relationships, along with a personal friendship with Netanyahu and past links to the West Bank settler movement, could emerge as potential stumbling blocks by creating an appearance of bias….Palestinian officials appear very mindful about alienating the new U.S. administration with going public with grievances about a feared bias. And they seem genuinely relieved in recent weeks to be in contact with various U.S. envoys and at signs the administration is moving away from early positions that pleased Israeli nationalists, such as the notion of moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”

Early Elections in the Air as Netanyahu-Kahlon Crisis Reaches Impasse, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon have yet to come to understandings that would end their dispute over the premier’s demand to do away with the new public broadcasting corporation, Kan, which is due to replace the Israel Broadcasting Authority on April 30. The two met twice on Sunday in an effort to come to a compromise, but according to a senior Likud official, “The possibility of going to elections still exists.”

In Topsy-turvy Trump Era, AIPAC Is Twisting in the Wind, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev argues, “The pro-Israel lobby is trying to grope its way out of a relatively dark era in its annals, but it has to contend with the wild uncertainty created by the presidency of Donald Trump, as well as the raw emotions that he generates in the Jewish community. As AIPAC’s annual conference convenes in Washington on Sunday, its leaders will try to project a strong, united and confident front – but under the veneer, apprehension abounds….[T]he growing disaffection with AIPAC on both ends of an increasingly polarized political arena has forced the group to try and strengthen its hold in the dwindling center.”


Israeli Ambassador: For First Time in Many Years, ‘No Daylight’ Between Israel, U.S., Haaretz

Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, said on Sunday that “for the first time in many years, perhaps in decades, there is no daylight” between the governments of the U.S. and Israel. Dermer made the remark as part of his speech before the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference, the powerful pro-Israel lobby in Washington. The quote suggests that in Dermer’s view, Israel’s relationship with Trump is better than with any previous U.S. administration.

Pence touts Trump to AIPAC as defender of Israel and the Jews, JTA

Vice President Mike Pence delivered a fierce defense to AIPAC of President Donald Trump as a defender of Israel and the Jewish people. “He’s a man of action,” Pence said of Trump Sunday, closing out the first day of the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference. “For the first time in a long time America has a president who will stand with our allies and stand up to our enemies.” The line earned warm applause, and Pence suggested that Trump, whose popularity ratings are unusually low for a new president because of recent legislative and legal failures, was popular among the 18,000 AIPAC activists in attendance.

Hundreds March Outside AIPAC in Protest of Israeli Settlements, Haaretz

Hundreds of young Jewish American activists marched outside of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington.  The activists, who oppose AIPAC’s support for the policies of the current Israeli government on the settlements, carried signs and chanted calls to end the occupation. Some chained themselves to the entrance of the conference center, blocking it. IfNotNow, a group of young, left-wing American Jews organized the event, which was billed as a “Reclaim, Resist, and Reimagine” rally. Almost 700 people said they would attend on the event’s Facebook page.

Iran imposes sanctions on 15 U.S. companies over support for Israel, JTA

Iran has imposed sanctions on 15 American companies over their alleged support for Israel. The announcement comes two days after the United States issued new sanctions on several foreign firms and individuals accused of supporting Iran’s weapons program.

Israeli Minister Sends Supreme Court Into Turmoil Over President Appointment Reform, Haaretz

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is considering abolishing the seniority system for appointing Supreme Court presidents. The system is a long-standing tradition that has never been enacted into law: Whenever a sitting president retires, the justice who has been on the Supreme Court longest automatically becomes the next president. A source involved in the Judicial Appointments Committee’s work said that ever since the news that Shaked is considering abolishing the seniority system got out, “the Supreme Court has been in turmoil.”

Abbas to meet Putin in Moscow in May, Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is set to fly to Moscow in May to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a month after his expected meeting with US President Donald Trump in Washington in April.

Senate Introduces New Iran Sanctions Bill Ahead Of AIPAC Conference, Forward

A bipartisan slate of senators has introduced new sanctions targeting Iran for its missile testing and destabilizing actions days before AIPAC’s national conference.

Opinion and Analysis

Point-blank killing of senior Hamas operative deepens tensions between Israel, Gaza, Washington Post

Ruth Eglash and Hazem Balousha report, “Hamas closed its only civilian border crossing with Israel on Sunday, and Israeli troops were on high alert as tensions between the two enemies continued to rise two days after a senior Hamas operative was mysteriously shot at point-blank range in the garage of his home. Hamas has accused Israel of being behind the killing of Mazen Fuqaha, 38, a senior commander in the militant Islamist movement’s military wing. He spent nine years in an Israeli prison for his part in planning suicide bombings that killed dozens of Israeli civilians during the second intifada, or uprising, in the early 2000s. Fuqaha was one of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners released in 2011 in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Upon his release, Fuqaha was barred from returning to his childhood village in the West Bank and expelled to the Gaza Strip. From there, he managed Hamas’s military operations in the West Bank.”

Lapid Drops Demand for Palestinian State, Haaretz

Ofra Edelman observes, “MK Yair Lapid, chairman of the centrist Yesh Atid party, has not been mentioning his plan lately for the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state and is directing his political messages more clearly to the right wing. Whereas in conferences Lapid hosted about six months ago he spoke of “a demilitarized Palestinian state whose capital is Ramallah,” last month he played down a two-state solution, replacing it with a call for a prolonged process of separation from the Palestinians….When Eilon asked Lapid about an alternative to the two-state solution, Lapid responded with a nod to the right: “We have to separate from the Palestinians. We have to build a high wall. It won’t be peace. Peace will apparently be made by your children and mine – peace in the biblical sense of ‘make peace and pursue it.’”

Trump’s envoy surprises Israelis, Palestinians, Al-Monitor

Uri Savir reports, “Alarm bells went off last week in Education Minister Naftali Bennet’s right-wing HaBayit HaYehudi party during Jason Greenblatt’s March 13-16 visit….The most difficult issue for the prime minister, according to the MFA official, was the hours spent on finding an agreed formula on settlement construction and restraint. While apparently Netanyahu showed some flexibility, it did not satisfy the Americans. Initially, the US envoy insisted on settlement construction continuing within the settlement blocs only in the already built areas, which the prime minister could not accept. Bennett — the elephant in the room — would not have been happy….Some in the Palestinian leadership are focusing on preparing policy proposals to be conveyed to the White House, bringing into account what they heard from the US envoy. The impression they were left with from the talks with Greenblatt was that the future of the settlers is the biggest impediment to a fair two-state solution along the 1967 lines.”

AIPAC 2017: No Political Camp Has the Right to Define Who’s pro-Israel, Haaretz

Rabbi Jonah Pesner writes, “The Reform Jewish Movement in North America has an unbreakable bond with Israel. We don’t cede ground to anyone in our support for a nation so central to the identity of the Jewish people. We also are unrelenting in our progressive Zionist vision of a democratic Jewish state, defined by egalitarianism and religious pluralism, with its future secured by the successful negotiation of a two-state solution. To achieve that, we work with Democrats and Republicans alike, Israelis from across the political spectrum, and Palestinian leaders committed to peace. A Reform delegation, led by my colleague Rabbi Rick Jacobs, recently returned from a trip to Israel that included meetings with both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas. We don’t always agree with either leader, but we can have forthright conversations about where we stand with both of them.”

A Jubilee Haggadah Marking the 50th Year Since the 1967 War, Rabbi John Rosove’s Blog

Rabbi Rosove writes, “A new Haggadah has just been published by SISO (“Save Israel – Stop the Occupation”). It is called the Jubilee Haggadah because it marks the 50th year since the 1967 War, a turning point in the history of the modern State of Israel that the writers and editors conjoin with the biblical Jubilee commandment – ‘You shall proclaim liberty throughout the land for all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you…’ (Leviticus 25:10) – and with the celebration of Passover, the festival of liberty.”

What Don’t We Talk About When We Talk About Israel’s Security, Huffington Post

Anat Hoffman writes, “We are more than just an aircraft carrier. We are also partners in the values of equality, tolerance, pluralism that are enshrined in the American Bill of Rights. If Israel turns away from these values it also puts into play the commitment of an American public that believes in them. How can American Jews and non-Jews embrace Israel as ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ if it stops behaving like a democracy? It is incumbent upon Israel’s true friends to safeguard the state’s democratic values alongside its borders.”

AIPAC’s Choice: Be Apolitical or Be Honest About Political Affiliation, Haaretz

Liat Schlesinger argues, “We live in an era of growing political polarization. In both Israel and the United States, two political camps exist that are finding it increasingly difficult to find points of agreement and common denominators between themselves. AIPAC pretends to think it is capable of rising above these disagreements and advancing the national interests of both countries. But in order to do so, the Jewish organization will have to choose. Either it does not play a role in the political arena, and then is forbidden to interfere in controversial issues (and focus on preserving military aid to Israel, for example), or it has positions on issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or Iran, and then must stop claiming it is not identified with either one of the camps. Otherwise, the claims of its accusers will be proven, according to which its bipartisan mantle (in U.S. political terms) or apolitical stance (in Israeli terms) is nothing but a public relations ploy.”

Tamir Pardo says the Occupation is an existential threat to Israel – It’s time to treat it as such, J Street Blog

Richard Goldwasser writes, “Earlier this week, the former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo reiterated what has been well known for many years now: The one existential threat Israel faces is its occupation of the Palestinian people….Yet the old guard American Jewish communal organizations are unmoved. Pardo, speaking of the Israeli attitude about the occupation, may as well have been speaking about American Jews when he said ‘We chose to stick our head in the sand, creating a variety of external threats.’”

Support MK Ayman Odeh, New Jersey Jewish News

Martin Levine writes, “If we only talk to people with whom we agree, there will be no hope of persuasion or of finding common ground. Members of the Knesset do business with Odeh. Why shouldn’t supporters of Israel in the United States? He is an important figure in Israeli and Palestinian politics. Anyone interested in having a positive impact in the region would waste a major opportunity by refusing to deal with him.”

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