News Roundup for March 28, 2017

March 28, 2017

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J Street in the News

Will AIPAC Speak Out Against Islamophobia?, Forward

J Street U Tufts leader Andrew Goldblatt writes, “Last week it was reported that AIPAC, the largest pro-Israel organization in the country, gave $60,000 to Frank Gaffney, the head of the Center for Security Policy (CSP). The Center for Security Policy is an Islamophobic hate group that peddles lies and falsehoods about American Muslims and senior US government officials….With the annual AIPAC Policy Conference taking place this week, we have a responsibility to make clear to our communal leaders that they must stand up against Islamophobia. In some ways, it feels like an uphill battle. Just last year, Ron Dermer, the Israeli Ambassador to the US, accepted an award from the CSP amidst protests from J Street, the ADL and the Reform Movement. Other groups, like AIPAC and the JFNA, remained silent….The entire Jewish community – including pro-Israel advocacy organizations -– must show up for the Muslim community right now. To my friends at AIPAC this week: make your voices heard. This is not the time to stay silent.”

Top News and Analysis

U.S. Jewish Leaders Warn Israel Against Close Embrace of Trump, Haaretz

Barak Ravid and Amir Tibon report, “Ever since Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election on November 8, and even more intensely since he entered the White House on January 20, senior figures in leading Jewish organizations in the United States have been sending clear messages to Israeli officials about not alienating the Democratic Party….No fewer than five senior officials in centrist American Jewish organizations that are known for their unequivocal support of Israel told Haaretz that they personally had conveyed messages of this nature to officials in the Israeli Embassy in Washington, to the Prime Minister’s Office and to the Foreign Ministry….Dermer’s public statements have increased concerns that support for Israel would be perceived by Democratic Party supporters, especially young people, minorities, and most American Jews, as being identified with support for Donald Trump. In November, when Trump’s senior adviser Steve Bannon was accused of anti-Semitism, Dermer stood before the cameras in the Trump Tower lobby in New York and defended Bannon.”

Trump’s Israel Ambassador’s Family Still Fundraising for West Bank Settlement, Haaretz

“When David Friedman became a candidate for U.S. ambassador to Israel, he pledged that if confirmed, he would resign as president of an organization that fundraises for Israel’s settlement of Beit El in the West Bank. Friedman, who was confirmed as U.S. envoy by the Senate on Friday, may be distancing himself from the settlement movement, but his family is not: The incoming ambassador’s son-in-law will retain his position as president of another organization that fundraises for the pre-military gap-year program in Beit El. Elchanan Romanoff, who is married to Friedman’s daughter Aliza, serves as president of Israel Empowered, a U.S. non-profit organization devoted primarily to funding the Beit El pre-military academy. Baruch Gordon, an American-born settler from Beit El, who is a close associate of both Romanoff and Friedman, confirmed to Haaretz that the ambassador’s son-in-law would stay on as president of Israel Empowered.”

Arab foreign ministers warn against changes in Jerusalem, Times of Israel

Arab foreign ministers unanimously endorsed more than a dozen policy resolutions at the Arab Summit, including one rejecting unilateral steps that “jeopardize the historic and legal status” of Jerusalem, Jordan’s foreign minister said Monday. The resolution was in apparent reference to US President Donald Trump’s promise to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the city at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


Netanyahu at AIPAC: Israel Committed to Working With Trump to Achieve Peace With Palestinians, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that “Israel is committed to working with President Trump to achieve peace with the Palestinians and all our Arab neighbors.” Addressing the pro-Israel lobby in a prerecorded video, Netanyahu said “We’ll defend ourselves not only on the psychical battlefield, but on the moral battlefield. We’ll defend ourselves against slander and boycotts. “Israel will stand ever vigilant, always ready to defend ourselves [and] will speak clearly against anti-Semitism.”

Trump ‘heavily committed’ to Mideast peace, says Herzog, Times of Israel

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog told the AIPAC conference on Monday that regional conditions had ripened into a “golden moment” to work toward a peace agreement with the Palestinians and that US President Donald Trump is “heavily committed” to the process. Herzog, speaking at the annual policy conference after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, acknowledged his fruitless efforts last year to form a coalition government to advance a regional peace deal, but said, “Now there is another opportunity with this administration for a great change in the region.”

West Bank Attack On Israeli Soldier Is Foiled, Forward

An attack against an Israeli soldier near a West Bank checkpoint was prevented.

The alleged assailant was wielding a screwdriver as he approached a soldier at the Shomron Regional Brigade junction, also known as the Huwwara checkpoint near Nablus in the northern West Bank. Other solders subdued the alleged assailant and detained him, according to the IDF.

At AIPAC, UN Envoy Nikki Haley Vows No More Resolutions Against Israel, Haaretz

The Trump administration will not allow a repeat of last year’s United Nations Security Council Resolution condemning Israel for its settlements, the ambassador to the body, Nikki Haley, told AIPAC. “Never again do what we saw with resolution 2334 and make anyone question our support” for Israel, Haley said Monday at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference, where she earned the warmest reception of all of this year’s speakers, with an extended standing ovation.

White House: Trump was right not to jump to conclusions about JCC bomb threats, JTA

The White House said President Donald Trump had been right not to jump to conclusions about anti-Semitic threats following the arrest last week of an Israeli-American teen on suspicion of making over 100 bomb threats against U.S. Jewish sites. “We saw these threats coming into Jewish community centers, and there was an immediate jump to criticize folks on the right, and to denounce people on the right and ask them to condemn them, and it turns out that in fact it wasn’t someone on the right,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday at a media briefing. “The president from the get-go had said ‘I bet you it’s not someone [on the right]’ and he was right.”

Netanyahu to Gradually Permit Israeli Politicians to Visit Jerusalem’s Temple Mount After Ramadan, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided on Monday that if the security conditions permit it, Jewish and Muslim Israeli lawmakers will once again be allowed to visit Jerusalem’s Temple Mount by the end of June, when the holiday of Ramadan ends. During the past 18 months, visits to the flashpoint site by Israeli lawmakers were prohibited as part of an attempt to prevent escalations.

Friedman likely won’t become ambassador to Israel until June, Times of Israel

US President Donald Trump’s appointed ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday, will likely take up his post fully only in June. According to Israeli sources, the bankruptcy-attorney-turned-diplomat is not likely to hand his letter of credence to President Reuven Rivlin before June. Until that ceremony, he will not officially be considered Washington’s ambassador to Israel.

Reform Jews to Fight Israel for Excluding Them From Jewish Outreach Efforts, Haaretz

The Reform and Conservative movements filed suit against the Israeli government on Monday for systematically blocking their participation in state-funded Jewish outreach programs that target nonreligious Israelis. In their petition to the High Court of Justice, the non-Orthodox movements charged that a relatively new initiative of the Ministry of Religious Services, designed to give nonreligious Israelis more exposure to Judaism, relies almost exclusively on collaboration with Orthodox organizations and institutions. Since it was established four years ago, the ministry’s Jewish Identity Administration has transferred tens of millions of shekels to the partners in these outreach projects, virtually all of them Orthodox, according to the petition. Numerous requests by the Reform and Conservative movements to become involved in these initiatives have been ignored, the petition said.

Ex-Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Denied Pardon, Forward

Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin rejected a pardon request from former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is currently serving a 27-month prison sentence for corruption. Rivlin officially rejected the request on Monday. The request was filed in late January.  Olmert entered prison, continuing to proclaim his innocence, in February 2016.

Israeli Lawmakers to Push Raft of Rightist Laws: Annexing Settlements and Muzzling Supreme Court, Haaretz

The feeling in the air of new elections coming, along with a firm right-wing majority in the Knesset, is leading government coalition MKs to try to achieve everything they can when the Knesset returns from its Passover recess in six weeks. Coalition MKs will flood the house with controversial bills pushing the right’s agenda. Nationalist MKs have staked out six areas for their main legislative efforts in the present Knesset term: Acting against supporters of boycotting the settlements, restricting organizations identified with the left, legislation against the Israeli Arab community, far-reaching changes in the media sector, laws constraining the Supreme Court and the annexation of the West Bank settlement Ma’aleh Adumim.

Opinion and Analysis

Pence’s Purified Version of Trump Draws Cheers at AIPAC, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev observes, “Vice President Mike Pence brought a distilled and purified version of Donald Trump to the AIPAC Conference in Washington on Sunday and was warmly rewarded by the audience. Pence gave the pro-Israel lobbyists the Trump of their dreams: a determined and resolute Israel-lover, United Nations-hater, Iran-dismantler and ISIS-annihilator, without all the excess baggage of his outrageous behavior, his pathological lies, his hostility towards Muslims and immigrants, his antagonism towards America’s allies and his problematic ties, to put it mildly, with Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin….Trump is the main topic of conversation and the only game in town, after all, and not because of his positions on Israel or the settlements. AIPAC is trying to tiptoe around him as if it’s walking on eggs: the last thing it needs is a flare-up between Trump supporters and critics.”

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