News Roundup for March 28, 2019

March 28, 2019

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J Street in the News

Democrats Can’t Stop Fighting over Israel – and the GOP is Loving it, Vice News
“Whether Republican efforts bear fruit — an unlikely prospect given that 71 percent of Jews disapprove of Trump — will become clear at the 2020 presidential polls. Along the way, the GOP’s campaign to use anti-Semitism as a political hammer to slam Democrats may end up shutting down serious policy discussions about the future of Israel-American relations, experts warned. ‘What they care about is mobilizing their base and winning plaudits from far-right voters and the evangelical community, and they’re attacking Democrats to turn Israel and anti-Semitism into a partisan political weapon,’ said Logan Bayroff, a spokesman for J Street, the liberal pro-Israel group and rival to AIPAC. ‘It’s designed to undercut our ability to have a genuine, nuanced, conversation about these problems. It undercuts our ability to talk about whether it’s good for the U.S. and Israel, in the long term, to undermine prospects for a two-state solution and for Israel to annex the West Bank.’”

Letter to the editor: Trump’s tweet encourages Mideast authoritarianism , Portland Press Herald
“Imagine a peaceful democratic Jewish homeland living side by side with a peaceful Palestine. J Street, a pro-Israel, pro-peace lobbying group, has long encouraged this ‘two-state solution,’ open discussion and concern for the safety of both Israelis and Palestinians. There is deep concern that Israel can remain either a democracy or a Jewish state, but it cannot remain both.”

Top News and Analysis

Pompeo Declines to Back Two-State Solution in House Testimony, Bloomberg
Secretary of State Michael Pompeo refused to commit to a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians in congressional testimony Wednesday as he defended the Trump administration’s moves to slash aid to Gaza and the West Bank. Pompeo told a House Appropriations panel that the U.S. can still be a fair arbiter in helping to resolve the Middle East conflict despite Palestinian arguments that President Donald Trump has driven them from the negotiating table. Trump has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights while cutting aid to groups such as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

As Egypt Brokers Talks, Israel Braces for Mass Gaza Protests, Haaretz
Amos Harel writes, “The good news is that the current round of violence between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip is petering out. On Tuesday night, three rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel and the Israel Air Force retaliated with limited attacks on several targets linked to Hamas. The bad news is that the next round is just around the corner. If the parties do not reach understandings, mediated by Egypt, on mutual restraint, then at the end of the week Hamas is expected to march tens of thousands of demonstrators to the Gaza border fence.”

Jared Kushner’s missing Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, Financial Times
Sarah Helm writes, “In the consulates of Jerusalem and in the chancelleries of Europe everyone is waiting for Jared. Nearly two years after Mr Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East emissary, promised a new Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, nothing has happened. The UN special co-ordinator for the Middle East, Nikolay Mladenov, told me recently he wondered if Mr Kushner would produce a plan at all. Now it is reported that it will show up after the Israeli elections in April. But Europe’s diplomatic corps are still in the dark with “no plan B”, as a senior British official recently admitted to me, wincing. Their embarrassment at their impotence is hardly surprising. They know the US must lead on the issue but with Mr Trump in power, it is not just America leading, but America taking Israel’s lead.”


Hamas leader appears in public as fighting with Israel tails off, Reuters
The leader of the militant Islamist group Hamas viewed the rubble of his bombed office in Gaza on Wednesday, appearing in public as an uneasy calm took hold after two days of cross-border Palestinian rocket attacks and Israeli air strikes. But while violence eased amid Egyptian mediation, Israeli forces along the Gaza frontier and militants in the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave were on hair-trigger footing. No deaths have been reported in Gaza and Israel since the latest clashes erupted on Monday. Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile interceptors have destroyed some Palestinian rockets and militants in Gaza vacated facilities hit in the air strikes.

Ilhan Omar systematically takes apart Netanyahu’s Aipac speech: ‘He wants to silence me, but I am not alone’, Independent
“We are not even 6 months out from the Pittsburgh massacre. We are not even 2 weeks out from the Christchurch massacre,” Ms Omar, who is a Muslim, wrote. “Yet the topic Netanyahu chose to focus on was … me.” — “White supremacist violence is on the rise globally. Right-wing extremists killed more people in the US in 2018 than any year since 1995. Anti-Semitic violence accounted for 58% of religious hate crimes. Yet the topic Netanyahu chose to focus on was … me.”

Israeli soldiers kill teenage Palestinian medic near Bethlehem, The Guardian
Israeli soldiers shot dead a teenage Palestinian medic in the occupied West Bank, his colleagues and the Palestinian health ministry have said. Sajid Muzher, 17, was killed at the Dheisheh refugee camp next to Bethlehem, the ministry said in a statement. Early on Wednesday morning, Israeli troops had entered the area, leading to a confrontation with residents, who threw stones. Medical teams had rushed in to provide first aid. “The killing by the Occupation of the volunteer paramedic with live bullets in the stomach is a war crime,” the Palestinian health minister Jawad Awad said, in reference to Israel.

Ahead of Israel’s Election, Gantz’s Meme-Inspiring Missteps Embolden Netanyahu, New York Times
After delivering a well-received speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference on Monday, Mr. Gantz gave back-to-back satellite interviews from Washington on the most-watched Israeli evening news broadcasts, and handed Mr. Netanyahu’s video- and meme-makers ammunition to use against him. Asked how he would handle Gaza differently from Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Gantz rambled between platitudes about “rebuilding our deterrence” and “using our strength,” but offered no actual solutions. He botched the name of one interviewer, stammered the name of the other and struggled to adjust to the satellite delay.

UN Security Council Condemns US Golan Recognition Decision, Jerusalem Post
For the second time this week, United Nations Security Council members are set to condemn the US decision to recognize Israel’s 1981 annexation of the Golan Heights. Syria asked the UNSC to hold a special meeting on the matter on Wednesday in New York. It followed a UNSC meeting Tuesday, in which 11 of the council’s 15 member states condemned the proclamation US President Donald Trump made on Israeli sovereignty in the Golan this week, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the White House.

Gantz lays into Netanyahu over Gaza violence, says Israel must ramp up response , Times of Israel
Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz on Wednesday tore into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his handling of recent violence from the Gaza Strip and called for Israel to ramp up its response to rocket attacks. In a campaign speech in Tel Aviv, Gantz accused Netanyahu of sacrificing Israel’s “deterrence” vis-à-vis Gaza since the 2014 war against the Strip’s Hamas rulers. Gantz was the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff at the time of the military campaign, while fellow Blue and White member Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon was defense minister.

France warns UN against unilateral path to Mideast peace, AP
France’s UN ambassador is warning the Trump administration ahead of the release of its long-awaited Israeli-Palestinian peace plan that any attempt to sidestep a two-state solution and other internationally agreed criteria “will be doomed to failure.” Francois Delattre said that 25 years after the Oslo Accords signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization started a peace process, “there might be a temptation to turn one’s back on the agreed framework.” But he warned the UN Security Council that the temptation to pursue a unilateral path is fraught with dangers. Declaring that he was offering advice to the United States “in a friendly spirit,” Delattre said, “A unilateral approach cannot lead to peace in the region” and “would stoke tensions to unsustainable levels.”

Likud rapped by rivals, disability official over ads assailing Gantz’s sanity, Times of Israel
Likud campaign ads that seek to portray rival candidate Benny Gantz as mentally ill drew rebuke Wednesday, including from Gantz himself and from the State of Israel’s disabilities commissioner. It was not the first time Likud has raised hackles over campaign ads that appear to mock disabilities. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “has lost all restraint,” Gantz charged in a speech Wednesday evening in Tel Aviv. “He has become a factory of defamation and ugly lies, because he knows he’s going to lose. He can continue to slander me and to spread rumors, it won’t help him.”

How the White House is courting evangelicals on its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, Religion News
“It’s a very exciting time and a time truly when we need to be praying for the peace of Jerusalem,” said [Rev. Jentezen] Franklin in a video he posted on Twitter after a White House meeting between prominent conservative evangelical Christians and Trump administration officials earlier this month […] That March 7 meeting is just one of a series of meetings, dinners, lunches and coffees the White House has had with evangelical leaders as it prepares to release its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, according to author Joel Rosenberg, who said he has attended several of those events.

UAE official urges Arab openness to Israel: paper, Reuters
Relations between Arab states and Israel need to shift to help progress towards peace with the Palestinians, a senior United Arab Emirates official was quoted on Thursday as saying. The decision by many Arab countries not to talk with Israel has complicated finding a solution over the decades, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said, according to Abu Dhabi-based daily The National. “Many, many years ago, when there was an Arab decision not to have contact with Israel, that was a very, very wrong decision, looking back,” Gargash said, in unusually candid remarks.

Gravestones Are Mockingly Vandalized, And Those Left Behind Mourn A Second Time, The Forward
Above Rose Gitlin’s name, below the stones, an anti-Semitic slur has been scrawled in black magic marker. It reads, in capitals: “Oy Vey Anti-Semites.” It is one of 59 headstones desecrated at the Hebrew Cemetery on McMahon Street in Fall River, Massachusetts. The cemetery’s groundskeeper, who is also president of the synagogue that buries its dead there, discovered and reported the vandalism of 20% of the graveyard’s 300 stones on Sunday, March 17.

Opinion and Analysis

Opinion: My Palestinian Family’s Land Was Stolen. Then It Showed Up On Airbnb, Buzzfeed News
Ziad Alwan writes, “In December, a group of Israeli settlers sued Airbnb in a US Court, claiming discrimination under the Fair Housing Act because the company decided to de-list properties in settlements built on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank. One of these properties is on land that belongs to my father, that remains registered in his name, but which I and my family are prevented from accessing. It is land that my children and I should be able to enjoy and farm like my father did. Instead, strangers run a bed and breakfast on it. For these settlers to claim it is they who face discrimination — when they are living on land that was stolen from my family — is the height of hypocrisy.”

How the Battle Over Israel and Anti-Semitism Is Fracturing American Politics, New York Times
Nathan Thrall writes, “According to Ben Rhodes, a former deputy national-security adviser and one of Obama’s closest confidants, several members of the Obama administration wanted to adopt a more assertive policy toward Israel but felt that their hands were tied. ‘The Washington view of Israel-Palestine is still shaped by the donor class,’ Rhodes, who does not support B.D.S., told me, when I met with him at the Obama Foundation in October. ‘The donor class is profoundly to the right of where the activists are, and frankly, where the majority of the Jewish community is.’”

Trump is absent star of show at AIPAC, The Hill
Rebecca Kheel writes, “‘Just last week, we experienced what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described as the Purim miracle: President Trump’s bold decision to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights,’ [Ambassador] Friedman said, to a standing ovation from the audience. Friedman was just the latest speaker to tout the president’s accomplishments with a crowd that for the most part was happy to hear the celebrations. Audiences at the AIPAC conference repeatedly offered rousing cheers for Trump’s policies, which the White House has touted to argue that he is the most pro-Israel president in history.”

It’s a Grave Mistake to Entrust American Evangelicals With Israel’s Future, Haaretz
Eric H. Yoffie writes, “Many Israelis, including members of her current government, believe that Evangelical support for Israel is now the primary guarantor of American backing for the Jewish state. The Prime Minister of Israel has been reported as affirming this point, off the record, on numerous occasions. But this is a grave error.”

Netanyahu and Erdogan Agree: Their Political Foes Are Traitors and Terrorists, Haaretz
Louis Fishman writes, “For these elections, Netanyahu seems to be taking his political maneuvering straight from Erdogan’s playbook. Like Erdogan, who since last June’s crucial presidential and parliamentary elections built a coalition with the far-right MHP party to survive, with its Kurdish citizens, their dignity and rights paying the price, Netanyahu’s move to bring the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit party into the Knesset — with Israel’s Palestinian citizens paying the price — was also a desperate move born of political necessity.”