News Roundup for March 29, 2017

March 29, 2017

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J Street in the News

Pelosi reads out J Street-backed two-state letter at AIPAC confab, Times of Israel

“House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi made an interesting move during her speech at this year’s annual AIPAC Policy Conference: She read the full text of a J Street-backed letter — signed by 191 members of Congress, mostly Democrats — that urges President Donald Trump to support a two-state solution. Addressing the confab’s plenary session Tuesday morning, its last of the three-day event, Pelosi noted the letter — which was released last week, just before the conference was to begin — was signed by 189 Democrats and two Republicans….Organized by Virginia Rep. Gerry Connolly and North Carolina Rep. David Price, both Democrats, the letter’s release last week was followed by a J Street statement welcoming the gesture, and saying the group had pushed for it. ‘J Street has advocated for the Price-Connolly letter over the past few weeks,’ its press release said. ‘Hundreds of J Street activists urged Members of Congress to sign the letter during J Street’s National Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill in late February, the culmination of the organization’s Sixth National Conference in Washington, DC.’”

When politics gets in the way of Jewish giving, JTA

“Federations have also faced pressure on donor-advised donations to right-wing groups….Last year, students in J Street U, the student arm of the dovish Israel lobby, wrote an op-ed in the Forward detailing donor-advised gifts totaling more than $60,000 via the Chicago and Milwaukee federations to groups that fund West Bank settlement construction.”

My Saba Helped Build the State of Israel. Am I Still Allowed In?, J Street Blog

J Street U leader Ella Israeli writes, “Even though I am not an Israeli citizen, I’ve inherited Saba Yehuda’s deep love for Israel, and I feel great pride to be the great-granddaughter of someone who helped build the state. I share his belief that the only way for Israel to secure its future to live in peaceful coexistence with its neighbors. I feel a similar responsibility to do my part in securing that future. Saba Yehuda’s stories have inspired me to fight for a two-state solution with J Street U, to spend this upcoming summer as a counselor at an integrated Israeli-Palestinian camp at Jerusalem’s Hand in Hand school and to engage financially with Israel and the Palestinian territory in a responsible manner. It is because of my pro-Israel, anti-occupation values that I do not buy settlement products. I cannot financially support institutions that I believe present a major threat to the two-state solution and peaceful coexistence. According to the recent law passed by the Israeli government, it’s conceivable that I may not be allowed into the country, a country that my family helped build, on these grounds.”

Top News and Analysis

Abbas Says Arab Peace Initiative Is the Only Diplomatic Plan on the Table, Haaretz

“The Palestinian leadership will not be presenting any new peace plan or diplomatic initiative at the Arab League summit, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in an interview published Wednesday. The only initiative on the agenda, the Palestinian president said, is the Arab Peace Initiative – unchanged, not even tweaked….Abbas said that during the summit, the Arab League will stress its commitment to the peace initiative adopted in 2002, unchanged. The preconditions for its implementation include ending the Israeli occupation and realizing the Palestinian dream of establishing an independent state within the 1967 borders, with its capital in East Jerusalem; canceling the Israeli law annexing Jerusalem; and calling on the international community not to establish embassies or international representations in Jerusalem under the present conditions.

In the interview, Abbas said he will visit Washington in April, when he is expected to meet U.S. President Donald Trump for the first time since the latter took office, though he did not mention a specific date.”

2 months in, and Trump’s Israel policy looks a lot like Obama’s, Vox

Zack Beauchamp writes, “[I]f you scratch beneath the surface and look at the young Trump team’s actual policies toward Israel, there’s a lot less difference between Obama and Trump than meets the eye. Trump has betrayed his campaign promise to move America’s embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He publicly criticized Israeli settlement construction; in private, his administration is reportedly pressing Israel to put a freeze on some construction. This is creating a number of flashpoints with the Netanyahu government, one of the most right-wing in Israeli history. It’s hardly inevitable that Trump will go down Obama’s path — but it’s easy to see how the optimism among America’s pro-Israel advocates might soon give way to frustration.”

Arab leaders seek common ground at summit on Palestinian state, Reuters

Divided Arab leaders arriving in Jordan for a summit on Wednesday are seeking common ground to reaffirm their commitment to a Palestinian state, a longstanding goal that U.S. President Donald Trump last month put into doubt. The Dead Sea meeting is expected to have a bigger turnout than recent Arab summits, Jordanian officials say, and security forces cast a high profile in the capital Amman with armored vehicles standing at traffic junctions as leaders flew in. While they are highly unlikely to bridge rifts over the regional role of Iran or intractable wars in Syria and Yemen, Arab leaders remain united in supporting a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Don’t believe the hype: the settlers have not made the two-state solution unachievable, Fathom

Gilead Sher and Orni Petruschka argue, “Once a negotiated Israeli-Palestinian agreement is reached, it will inevitably require finding a solution not only to the roughly 30 per cent of settlers living beyond the security barrier who wish to relocate today, but to the rest of the approximately 90,000 settlers in that group as well.  Although such an agreement may allow some settlers to remain within the borders of a Palestinian state, it should be assumed that most of the remaining settlers will prefer to relocate to Israel, albeit grudgingly. An important aspect to consider sooner rather than later is a housing plan for these settlers within ‘Israel proper’ (including within those settlement blocs which will likely remain under Israel’s sovereignty as part and parcel of its territory). Given the housing crisis in Israel, it is imperative that the government prepare a national plan for absorption of the settlers, so that the failures of housing arrangements after the 2005 Gaza disengagement will not be repeated. Like every other citizen, the settlers are concerned about house prices, employment, and essential social services.”


Hamas Obtains Heavy Rockets to Wreak Havoc on Israeli Gaza Border Towns, Haaretz

Hamas has dozens of short-range heavy rockets it has recently developed, which the group intends to use against communities bordering with the Gaza Strip in a future conflict with Israel. The rockets, which were first reported on Army Radio, weigh dozens and even hundreds of kilograms each, and have a range of up to 10 kilometers. The range and the weight of the rockets suggest they are designed to maximize damage to Israeli towns bordering with the Strip. The Hamas rockets are similar to the short-range Borkan rocket in Hezbollah’s possession, which weighs between 100 and 500 kilograms.

Israeli Settlement Agency’s Activity Still Shrouded in Mystery After Yearlong Probe, Haaretz

The Prime Minister’s Office committee responsible for regulating the work of the World Zionist Organization’s Settlement Division has yet to present its conclusions, even though they were due months ago. Among the things this committee was to determine is which West Bank lands had been allotted to the division and which of those had been transferred to third parties. Sources involved in the committee’s work told Haaretz that even after months of deliberations, no one yet knows which lands have been allocated by the division to third parties. Earlier this month Haaretz revealed a Justice Ministry document indicating that the division had allocated lands to third parties that it was not authorized to transfer, including privately owned Palestinian lands.

Thousands of ultra-Orthodox take to streets in mass anti-draft protest, Times of Israel

Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews protested in Jerusalem on Tuesday in a show of force over the arrest of members of the community for failing to show up to their IDF drafts. Community leaders called for the mass gathering, setting up a stage for rabbis to speak and closing a main street in the ultra-Orthodox Geula neighborhood, near to Jerusalem’s central bus station.

Israeli authorities demolish 2 buildings in East Jerusalem’s Issawiya, Ma’an

Israeli authorities demolished two buildings under construction in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya on Tuesday morning, local sources told Ma’an.

Liberman hints at support for Elor Azaria pardon, Times of Israel

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman dropped his most explicit hint so far that he supports calls to pardon Elor Azaria, convicted in January of manslaughter in the fatal shooting of a disarmed Palestinian stabber in the West Bank city of Hebron.

Israel Increases Oversight of Film Industry, Prompting Cries of McCarthyism, Blacklisting, Haaretz

The Culture Ministry is asking film foundations to provide information on officials who approved or rejected film proposals in recent years − a move one source calls “an attempt to create blacklists.” “The atmosphere is totally ‘1984,’” added a major figure in the Israeli film industry, while also comparing the move to McCarthyism. “It amounts to a public execution of the Israeli film industry, and that’s no understatement.” The New Fund for Cinema and Television, for example, has already complied to an urgent request to supply information about its approval process for the documentary series “Megiddo,” which tells the story of Palestinians in Israeli prisons for security offenses.

Israelis Wary Of West Bank Withdrawal In New Poll, Forward

A new survey shows that over the past decade support for Israel leaving the West Bank as part of a potential peace deal with the Palestinians has fallen precipitously over the past decade. According to the poll, conducted by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, only 36% of Israelis would now back withdrawal from the entire West Bank and Jewish settlements there as part of a negotiated accord. That compares to the 60% support that such a proposition had in 2005.

Mashaal says Israel ‘changed the rules’ of the game in Gaza killing, Times of Israel

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal on Monday accused Israel of changing “the rules of the game” following the killing of a top Hamas terrorist, and vowed revenge. Israel has not acknowledged any involvement in the killing. Faqha, a Hamas member freed under the 2011 prisoner swap deal for IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, was shot dead by gunmen in Gaza City on Friday.

Opinion and Analysis

There’s a Word for Jewish Resistance to Trump and Netanyahu: Daylight, Haaretz

Bradley Burston observes, “Without intending to, Dermer put his finger on the single most important resource common to the right-wing, pro-billionaire agendas of both Trump and Netanyahu: Operating in darkness. It is the lack of daylight that has allowed both Trump, with executive orders and memoranda covering the environment, civil protections and immigration, and Netanyahu, with the cover provided by military occupation behind a built-in wall of secrecy, to skirt and seek to undermine the workings of democracy and the potential of diplomacy to avert conflict. It was just a year ago that Netanyahu told AIPAC “The best formula for achieving peace remains two states for two peoples.” This year, not a word about it. Nor about diplomacy of any sort.”

Will the Arab Summit make Abbas great again?, Times of Israel

Dov Lieber observes, “The Arab League Summit set to begin Wednesday in Amman comes at an opportune moment for Mahmoud Abbas. The Palestinian Authority president has been gaining momentum since US President Donald Trump invited him to visit the White House earlier this month. Like a powerful gust, Trump’s brief phone call to Abbas lifted him out of political isolation and set him up for success at the annual gathering of Arab leaders.”

Questioned About Backing BDS? It’s Illegal, and Israel Police Know It, Haaretz

Talia Sasson writes, “The Israel Police is authorized to investigate only acts defined as a criminal offense. It has no authority to investigate any behavior it doesn’t like. Thus, questioning someone on suspicion of incitement and calling for a boycott against Israel by an Israeli citizen in Israel, as in the case of Halper, is forbidden for the police, for there is no such criminal offense in the law books. Indeed, the ban against calling for a boycott against Israel or Judea and Samaria exists in the 2011 Law for Prevention of Damage to State of Israel Through Boycott, commonly known as the Boycott Law. However, it is strictly a civil offense, subject to suing for financial damages. It is not a criminal offense and therefore has no criminal sanctions.”

The Israeli Settler Movement Isn’t Much Of A Movement, Forward

Gershon Shafir writes, “Notwithstanding the massive outlay of capital, institutional support, and military protection in the past half century, Israeli colonization has been unable to alter the demographic balance of the West Bank. When the Likud government put forth the Drobless Plan in 1981, it projected that by 2010, 1.3 million Jews would live alongside 1.8 million Arabs in the West Bank. In fact, among the close to three million West Bank Palestinians, just 405,158 Jewish settlers resided in 126 settlements in mid-2016, comprising 13.8 percent of the region’s population, according to the according to the Civilian Administration. This means that Palestinians maintain a crushing demographic dominance. Not even the serious housing crisis within Israel serves to push more Jews into the heavily subsidized settlements….In short, the settlement project has not created the conditions for the annexation of the West Bank to Israel nor made it inevitable. The turn to blunt tools of politics is an indirect admission that the 50 years of colonization have stalled. The settler lobby’s bravado gives off the odor of desperation. If things were going well, and colonization was humming, then why invest all this energy on shutting the eyes that see and padlocking the mouths that speak?”

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