News Roundup for March 27, 2019

March 27, 2019

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J Street in the News

AIPAC Is Losing Control of the Narrative on Israel, Atlantic

“But even as American political leaders forcefully maintained that U.S. support for Israel hasn’t changed, they avoided addressing the incredible discomfort that many American Jews, almost all Democrats, and a wide range of self-described Israel supporters feel about Trump and Netanyahu. […] ‘The American Jewish establishment has conducted itself for decades under the assumption that the right approach to strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship is by unquestioning support for whatever is going on over in Israel,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the head of J Street, an organization that often frames itself as the progressive alternative to AIPAC. ‘Where we are, in 2019, is a world in which the overwhelming majority of the people they’re supposed to represent—which is American Jews and others who care about Israel—are deeply upset about what’s going on here and what’s going on there.’”

Why Netanyahu Doesn’t Need AIPAC Anymore, Haaretz

“‘We don’t need AIPAC anymore,’ Benjamin Netanyahu mused to one of his advisers a few months ago. ‘We have enough support in the United States from the evangelicals. I’d happily give up on AIPAC if we didn’t need to counteract J Street.’

Two-state Solution: U.S. Jews Won’t Budge. Will It Cost Them Their Relationship With Israel?, Haaretz

“The alphabet soup of organizations comprising the so-called American Jewish establishment – from the muscular pro-Israel AIPAC to the ‘pro-Israel, pro-peace’ J Street, through the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, the policy arms of the Reform and Conservative movements, the Jewish Federations of North America and the rest – are all in lockstep agreement that a two-state solution is a declared goal to securing a Jewish and democratic state.”

Top News and Analysis

Tense calm on Gaza-Israel border after flareup, Reuters

Schools reopened in southern Israel and traffic clogged Gaza’s streets on Wednesday in signs of a pullback from the most serious escalation of cross-border fighting in months. But while violence eased amid Egyptian mediation, Israeli forces and Palestinian militants were on hair-trigger footing, with rocket attacks from Gaza and Israeli air strikes in the enclave briefly resuming late on Tuesday after a day-long lull. Despite dozens of rocket launchings and Israeli attacks, no deaths have been reported. Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile interceptors have destroyed some of the rockets and Palestinian militants vacated facilities targeted in the air strikes.

Golan Heights Recognition by U.S. Sets Precedent for Annexation, Netanyahu Says, New York Times

“There is a very important principle in international life,” Mr. Netanyahu said late Monday before taking off from Andrews Air Force Base. “When you start wars of aggression, you lose territory, do not come and claim it afterwards. It belongs to us.” Moments before landing at Ben-Gurion Airport on Tuesday, Mr. Netanyahu re-emphasized the point, telling reporters, “Everyone says you can’t hold an occupied territory, but this proves you can. If occupied in a defensive war, then it’s ours.”

Israel-Hamas relations: a predictable but fatal dance, The Guardian

Oliver Holmes gives context, “The most recent battle erupted at the same time as a series of potentially explosive developments converged. Hamas has faced some of the most public displays of internal dissent since it came to power in 2007. Last week, its security forces violently suppressed rallies by Palestinian residents of Gaza against tax hikes, arresting and beating dozens of people. The group’s critics say its leaders have provoked Israel in the past to distract from its own failings. Meanwhile, Israel is due to hold elections in two weeks. Several of Benjamin Netanyahu’s more bellicose opponents have used the ongoing Gaza violence to paint the prime minister as being indecisive and weak on security issues.”

If You’re Still Voting Netanyahu After This Rocket, You’re Thinking Like Hamas, Haaretz

Bradley Burston writes, “Look closely at what’s been happening in recent years. By voting for Netanyahu you are turning this country’s government into a version of Hamas – anti-democratic, brutal, theocratic, callous. An entity which speaks in threats and curses and live fire, a leadership with no vision for peace, governance which is maximalist, mendacious, militarist, racist, manipulatively scapegoating in deflecting blame, fascistic.”


Israeli Army Kills Palestinian Medical Volunteer Wearing Reflective Vest, Report Says, Haaretz

A 17-year-old Palestinian search-and-rescue service volunteer died from a live gunshot wound Wednesday after being shot by the Israeli military when forces entered a refugee camp near the West Bank city of Bethlehem, the Palestinian Health Ministry reported. Clashes erupted in the Deheisha refugee camp in the early morning hours when an Israeli force entered to conduct arrests, according to witnesses. The local Palestinian search rescue services was called in to take care of the wounded, with the teen, Sajed Mizher, among them. Reports say he was shot with a live bullet in the stomach.

U.S. envoy hints at peace deal with Israeli security control in West Bank, Reuters

The U.S. ambassador to Israel said on Tuesday the Trump administration understands a need for Israel to have “overriding security control” in the occupied West Bank in any future peace deal with the Palestinians Palestinians, who seek statehood in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital, have called any peace proposal by President Donald Trump a non-starter. They see Trump as biased in Israel’s favor, noting his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017 and transfer of the U.S. embassy to the city from Tel Aviv last May.

How Iranians’ attitudes toward the nuclear deal are changing, Washington Post

A December IranPoll found that Iranian public support for the JCPOA plunged from 76 percent in August 2015 to 51 percent in December 2018. Iranians have soured on the whole negotiation experience. Seven in 10 Iranians say the JCPOA experience demonstrated it was not worthwhile for Iran to make concessions because Iran cannot have confidence other world powers will honor their side of an agreement (72 percent in December, up from 67 percent in January 2018).

EU States Unanimously Announce: We Do Not Recognize Israeli Sovereignty Over Golan Heights, Haaretz

The European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini released a statement Wednesday on behalf of all 28 union states saying the EU “does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights.” The statement follows a previous one from the EU delegation in Israel on Friday, which came after U.S. President Donald Trump’s declaration that it is time to recognize Israel’s sovereignty there.

Trump acceptance of Israeli control of Golan sparks protests, Washington Post

Thousands of Syrians gathered Tuesday in different cities to protest President Donald Trump’s formal recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights, a move that sparked widespread international condemnation, including from a number of U.S. allies. Ambassadors from the five EU members of the U.N. Security Council — France, Germany, Britain, Poland and Belgium — issued a joint statement saying that they don’t recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which Israel occupied in 1967. “Annexation of territory by force is prohibited under international law,” and any unilateral border changes go against “the rules-based international order and the U.N. Charter,” they said.

Amid widening political divide, AIPAC closes annual US conference, Al Jazeera

Omar has remained defiant in the face of criticism at AIPAC. “It’s been fascinating to see such a powerful conference so focussed and so fearful of a freshman member of Congress,” Omar told reporters on Capitol Hill, according to reports. She later tweeted, “I – like so many others – have not criticized AIPAC because of its membership or the country it advocates for. I have criticized it because it has repeatedly opposed efforts to guarantee peace and human rights in the region.”

Hamas reveals weak spot in Netanyahu re-election campaign, Washington Post

Israel has maintained a tight blockade on Gaza, restricting who and what enters the territory, fought three wars against Hamas and engaged in dozens of smaller flare-ups like this week’s fighting. This policy has succeeded in containing Hamas. Yet the weakened group remains firmly in control in the territory. Unable to topple Hamas, Israel has been forced to reach unspoken understandings with its bitter enemy to maintain stability in the impoverished territory of 2 million people, amid repeated outbreaks of fighting […] “This rocket was bad for Netanyahu,” said Gideon Rahat, professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “This conflict right now does not play into his hands.”

Having Been ‘Knifed in the Back,’ These Israeli Druze Won’t Be Backing Bibi This Time Around, Haaretz

They are hurt and angry about the nation-state law, passed last summer, which they believe turned them into second-class citizens. They are hurt and angry because they have fathers, husbands and sons who served and serve in the Israeli military and had always believed in their so-called “blood alliance” with the Jews. They are hurt and angry because until that [nation state] law was passed, they had always felt part of Israeli society […] “I voted for Kulanu in the last election,” says Suha Hasson, referring to the center-right party that is part of the governing coalition. “I thought they would help bring down the cost of living. But I will not give my vote again to a party that supported the nation-state law.”

Dadi Perlmutter: In Response to Hamas Rockets, Invest in Gaza’s Economy, Jerusalem Post

Former World Intel vice president Dadi Perlmutter, currently 2 on the Gesher Party list, is encouraging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the IDF to halt attacks against Hamas in Gaza. “The solution to the situation in Gaza is not military,” Perlmutter charged. “The State of Israel should encourage Israeli entrepreneurs and others from the international community to establish businesses along the Gaza Strip and provide a source of income for its residents.” Perlmutter said that it is in Israel’s best interest for Gaza’s economy to flourish, and that only when that happens will “terror decrease and we will achieve security and quiet in the region.”

Opinion and Analysis

Unprecedented: Trump Gave Israel the Golan as a Gift and Asked for Nothing in Return, Haaretz

Aluf Benn writes, “Expressions of American support in the past always entailed Israel’s providing something in exchange to the Arabs as part of the peace process, or with reining in military measures. This is how Netanyahu received generous military aide from former president Barack Obama, in exchange for refraining from an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities and sufficing with the caricatures he displayed at the United Nations and in speeches against the nuclear deal. And that’s how Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Ehud Olmert won a generous heap of photo opportunities and presidential praises. Trump has totally severed the tie, the famous linkage between American gifts to Israel and the Arabs.”

How Bibi’s Bestie at the White House Is Helping Him Win the Israeli Election, Foreign Policy

Neri Zilber writes, “For Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu, Donald Trump is the gift that keeps on giving. The U.S. president will host Netanyahu at the White House today, helping him deflect attention from corruption scandals just 15 days ahead of a key election at home. Late last week, Trump recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, upending decades of U.S. foreign policy and reminding Israeli voters that no one on the Israeli political scene has Netanyahu’s standing in Washington.”

The Daily: Israel’s Indispensable Prime Minister?, New York Times (Podcast)

Michael Barbaro asks, “With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu facing federal indictments over an alleged scheme involving brazen acts of bribery and fraud, why are so many Israelis ready to re-elect him?”

Gantz’s Quintessential ‘Israeliness’ Is His Secret Weapon Against Netanyahu, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev explains, “Using studio-engineered loops, remixes and quotes taken wildly out of context, the prime minister’s aides launched a coordinated smear campaign to portray the man that Netanyahu himself appointed as army chief of staff, and who served under him for four years, as insane, bonkers, a meshuggener with certificates. If there were any remaining red lines of vulgarity and depravity in Israeli politics, Netanyahu and his minions crossed them all. The hysteria that often characterizes Netanyahu’s reaction to stressful situations — usually involving his own career — doesn’t provide a full explanation for such a loss of self-control. Gantz has turned out to be a far more dangerous adversary than anyone in Likud expected, but the pure venom of the attacks on him go above and beyond survival instinct or lust to stay in power. Something in Gantz hits a raw nerve: That something is called, for want of a better term, his Israeliness.”

Intel: Why Netanyahu can’t go too far in responding to Hamas rockets, Al-Monitor

Al-Monitor’s staff write, “Netanyahu’s dilemma: A stronger response — such as bombing heavily populated areas, sending in ground forces or targeting Hamas leaders — could lead to full-scale war and mass military and civilian casualties. The goal of such an operation would have to be to topple Hamas in Gaza, with unpredictable costs. And if international uproar once again forces an end to Israeli operations before they’re complete, that would be the death knell of the Netanyahu government’s efforts to reach a long-term agreement with Hamas. Once again, the prime minister’s short-term political interests are clashing with the country’s long-term strategic plans.”

America’s Islamophobia Is Forged in the Pulpit, Foreign Policy

Christopher Stroop writes, “‘A good Muslim,’ our head pastor, Marcus Warner, intoned, ‘should want to kill Christians and Jews.’He insisted that this was the only conclusion possible from a serious reading of the Quran. As a doubting young evangelical who would later become an agnostic, this extreme statement made me uncomfortable even then. Today, in the wake of the shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, it should be considered every bit as offensive as the worst anti-Semitic tropes. The United States recognizes anti-Semitism for the poison it is, and polices — at least on the left — even accidental falling into its tropes. But the religiously inspired Islamophobia I grew up with continues to shape Washington’s foreign policy — and Islamophobic statements too often pass without criticism in the public sphere.”

As Israel-Hamas Cease-fire Barely Holds, Next Test Fast Approaches, Haaretz

Amos Harel writes, “What does Israel want to achieve now, assuming the fighting doesn’t resume? Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Tuesday morning that the goal is to return to the understandings that ended Operation Protective Edge. That is supposed to include an end to both the weekly demonstrations along the border fence, which are accompanied by considerable violence, and the nighttime demonstrations in between them, during which Hamas members throw explosives at soldiers and sabotage the fence. Israel is especially worried about the demonstration planned for this Friday, when Hamas will mark the one-year anniversary of its Marches of Return.”