News Roundup for March 29, 2019

March 29, 2019

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J Street in the News

J Street slams Netanyahu for sharing clip of him ‘humiliating’ Obama, Times of Israel
“‘Netanyahu apparently decided to destroy the remaining support his government has in the Democratic Party. Instead of thanking President Obama for signing the largest ever [military] aid package for Israel, Netanyahu takes prides in the lack of respect he showed Obama,’ Yael Patir, the head of J Street Israel, says in a statement.”

Netanyahu campaign ad: A dis of Obama or show of strength on Israel’s security?, JTA
“‘Netanyahu has built his re-election campaign on racism, fear-mongering and outrageous smears,’ J Street tweeted. ‘Now his new ad highlights his disrespect for Barack Obama and contempt for the peace process. Is this the bipartisanship AIPAC was touting this week?’”

How the Gulf States Got in Bed With Israel and Forgot About the Palestinian Cause, Foreign Policy
“Retired military experts and officials who support a separation from the Palestinians believe that making peace with other Arabs at the Palestinians’ expense is delusional. Speaking at J Street’s conference last spring, Israela Oron, a retired brigadier general in the Israeli military and an authority on security issues, said, ‘It will never happen. … [There is] no way for [the Arabs] to promote the relationship between them and Israel, unless Israel will give them something in return in terms of our relationship with the Palestinians.’”

J Street’s Israel-Palestine Trip Invites Critique and Hope, New Voices
“According to J Street U President and Stanford senior Eva Borgwardt, the idea for the trip came after Birthright refused to respond to a J Street U petition in the fall asking to hear from Palestinian speakers on Birthright trips. ‘We began thinking about the kind of Israel programming we would actually want — a holistic look at contemporary Israel, including traveling to Palestinian communities over the Green Line, engaging with social issues in Israel, meeting Israeli and Palestinian peace activists who are working toward a just future for their country, and thinking critically about our role as Americans in those conversations,’ Borgwardt said.”

Top News and Analysis

Netanyahu Flaunts ‘Lecturing’ Obama on Palestinians in New Campaign Ad, Haaretz
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu highlighted a moment in which he visibly angered former U.S. President Barack Obama in a campaign video ad designed to point to the Israeli leader’s steadfastness in the face of high-level “pressure.” While Netanyahu has repeatedly used his friendship with U.S. President Donald Trump as a campaign asset, this is the first time he has pointed to his troubled relationship with Obama as a selling point.

King Bibi – Binyamin Netanyahu: a parable of modern populism, The Economist
The Economist editorializes, “Mr Netanyahu is also worryingly dogmatic. He has paid lip service to peace with Palestinians but has taken no meaningful steps towards it. He has denounced any Western co-operation with Iran, even if it served to limit Iran’s nuclear programme. In Bibi’s pessimistic view, Israel is surrounded by wolves in sheep’s clothing and wolves in wolves’ clothing. Israel can only manage conflicts, not solve them, he believes, so it must rely on an iron wall and the passage of time. Such ‘anti-solutionism’ risks storing trouble for the future. It increases the danger of war with Iran, or of its hardliners making a dash for nukes. The more Israel entrenches itself in the West Bank, the more its ‘temporary’ military occupation looks like the permanent subjugation of Palestinians under a separate law, even apartheid. This is made worse by the absence of America’s restraining influence.  […} On April 9th Israeli voters face a fateful choice. Re-elect Mr Netanyahu and reward him for subverting the independence of Israel’s institutions. Or turf him out in the hope of rebuilding trust in democracy—and aspiring to be ‘a light unto the nations.’”

Seven Issues That Will Decide the Israeli Election (Or it could just be weed), Haaretz
Anshel Pfeffer writes, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s angry side has rarely been so visible. As he walked across the tarmac toward his plane at Andrews Air Force Base on Monday, he was besieged by Israeli journalists demanding to know what he intended to do about the situation in Gaza — the reason he had just cut his visit to Washington short. He was enraged that they weren’t asking about his meeting with President Donald Trump and the U.S.’ recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. ‘The fact you aren’t covering it for more than a minute is something you will be held accountable for,’ he rebuked them. This is what Netanyahu looks like when he’s lost control of the news agenda.


Hamas Fired Gaza Rocket at Central Israel Accidentally, Defense Officials Believe, Haaretz
As incredible as it may sound, it turns out that Monday’s rocket that hit a house and wounded seven people in central Israel – just like the rockets fired at Tel Aviv a week and a half earlier – is explained in Israel as a confined mistake on the part of Hamas. The Israel Defense Forces apparently took caution this time and refrained from saying this in a public statement, so as not to appear to be defending Palestinians and probably also due to concerns that the Israeli public will find it difficult to believe this account.

Netanyahu uses icy relationship with Obama to try to win votes, Reuters
Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu is using a second American president in his re-election campaign ads, but with a twist, featuring a famously frosty encounter with Barack Obama. […] A video Netanyahu posted on Thursday on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram portrayed his cold relationship with Trump’s predecessor to try to attract votes. It shows a 2011 Oval Office meeting in which Netanyahu lectured a grim-looking Obama on how the Democrat’s vision of ways to achieve Middle East peace was unrealistic.

Hamas and Israel risk another Gaza war in deadly game of chicken, Times of Israel
In the lead-up to this Saturday, when tens of thousands of Palestinians are expected to take part in protests along the Gaza border to commemorate both Land Day and the first anniversary of the “Great March of Return,” Hamas and Israel appear to be playing a high-stakes game of chicken, with each side — in both word and deed — threatening all-out war against the other.

The Egyptian Generals Trying to Douse the Flames Between Israel and Hamas, Haaretz
For years, but especially over the past year, Israelis have been hearing about the Egyptian intelligence officers who shuttle between Jerusalem, Ramallah and the Gaza Strip to promote a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza and reconciliation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Over the past year, they have played a major role in preventing war between Israel and Hamas and have won the trust of both sides. But on the intra-Palestinian front, they have been unable to secure the implementation of existing agreements between Hamas and the Fatah-led PA.

Gazans have paid in blood for a year of protests. Now many wonder what it was for, Washington Post
Mohammed Mikdad used to spend his Friday afternoons at the fence that runs along Gaza’s border, taking part in weekly demonstrations against Israel. They were fun, he said, and he didn’t have much else to do. But after being shot in the leg by an Israeli sniper in May, Mikdad, 35, has spent recent Fridays begging outside the local mosque, unable to continue his work as a doorman and struggling to support six children and service his debts.  “We hoped it might make a little change. Later, I discovered it was worthless,” he said, his leg secured in a metal apparatus that he adjusts every six hours to help mend his shattered bone.

Palestinians Are Getting Fed Up With Hamas for Wretched Conditions, Bloomberg
It was a rare sight in Gaza: a woman daring to publicly denounce Hamas — not Israel — for the wretched conditions in the isolated Palestinian enclave. “Our sons and daughters have lost 12 years of their lives, and for what?” Mervat al-Buheisi, 52, railed during a protest on March 15, referring to the time that’s elapsed since the militant group took over the coastal territory. “Each son of a Hamas official owns an apartment, a car, a jeep, a building” while “our sons have nothing,” she said in a widely shared video, earning the family a late night raid from Hamas forces who arrested her husband and son. “These officials don’t care about the needs of the poor.”

UN urges Israel, Hamas to avoid violence on Gaza anniversary, AP
A U.N. official is urging Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers to avoid a violent escalation on the eve of the first anniversary of the start of weekly border protests. Jamie McGoldrick, the U.N. humanitarian official for the Palestinian territories, issued a statement on Friday outlining the “staggering” human costs a year of demonstrations has inflicted, especially on Gaza’s children. The statement says 195 Palestinians, including some 40 children, have been killed by Israeli forces. Nearly 29,000 Palestinians have been injured, including 7,000 by live fire. A large number of casualties among unarmed Palestinians and clearly-marked medics have “raised concerns” about Israel’s use of excessive force.

IDF strikes Gazans launching airborne arson devices into Israel, injuring 3, Times of Israel
An Israeli drone fired at a group of Palestinians launching balloon-borne incendiary devices into Israel from the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday, lightly injuring three of them, according to local media reports. The Israel Defense Forces later confirmed the strike.

Ultra-Orthodox Voters Split Between Following Their Rabbi and Their Gut, Haaretz
Bnei Brak has one of the largest Haredi populations in Israel, with an increasing number of them voting for nonreligious parties. They may disagree on who they’ll be backing on April 9, but one thing unites them — boycotting Yair Lapid.

Opinion and Analysis

The Future of US Israel Relations, Council on Foreign Relations (Audio + Transcript)
Martin S. Indyk, Daniel Kurtz-Phelan and Philip H. Gordon analyze the outcomes of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent visit to the United States, including U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s formal recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over Golan Heights, tensions surrounding the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Conference, and the recent airstrikes between Israel and Gaza.

300 millennial Jewish leaders to Netanyahu: You’re making it hard for us to defend Israel, St. Louis Jewish Light
Brianna Goodlin & Daniel Jeydel write, “Any assessment of Israel’s relationship with the next generation of American Jewry is incomplete if it does not primarily consider the growing challenges regarding Israel’s democracy and Jewish character […] As proud Zionist millennial Jewish leaders, we believe firmly in Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Yet, the prime minister and his government have pursued a course of action that is both deeply disquieting and counterintuitive to our efforts to advocate for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.”

Israel should see Abbas as a partner for peace, Al-Monitor
Ephraim Sneh writes, “The idea that the Gaza Strip will eventually erupt is entirely predictable. It should be obvious to everyone that 2 million people living in such dire humanitarian circumstances and controlled by a terrorist organization is the kind of explosive material that will inevitably blow up sooner or later. On the other hand, the explosion that is unpredictable is the one in the West Bank. There are two main reasons for the sense of relative stability that permeates that region. The first is the constant, stubborn effort by the Shin Bet, with military backing from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), to thwart terrorism. The second is security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its security forces. They are under orders from President Mahmoud Abbas, first and foremost, to prevent terrorist attacks, even though he is subjected to profound and widespread public criticism because of this.”

Talk of Golan annexation leaves out those expelled from it, 972 Mag
Tom Pessah writes, “The vast majority of Israelis are still unaware that over 130,000 residents of the Golan Heights were expelled from their villages, towns, and cities during the 1967 war. In fact, over the past decades, the territory has become a ‘consensus’ issue among most Israelis, with many seeing no reason to return it. So while President Trump stunned the world last week by recognizing Israel’s annexation of the Golan, in Israel almost everyone celebrated the move.”

Washington seems determined to pick a fight with Tehran, The Strategist
Connor Dilleen writes, “The fact that Iran has continued to cooperate with the IAEA under the terms of the JCPOA while also being subjected to renewed US sanctions also sits at odds with Washington’s overarching and increasingly strident narrative that Iran is a destructive and destabilising force in the Middle East and is undermining global security. Key US decisionmakers, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton, have made clear their support for regime change in Tehran and their disinterest in rapprochement with Iran. Given that the JCPOA continues to provide a constructive and peaceful way of addressing latent concerns about Iran’s past or potential nuclear-weapons ambitions, it is increasingly likely that the agreement—along with the broader international nuclear non-proliferation regime—will end up as collateral damage in Washington’s grand plan to remake the Middle East.”

Opinion: Trump’s Recognition Of Israel’s Claim To Golan Only Creates New Problems, NPR
Aaron David Miller writes, “Perhaps the administration didn’t think through the implications of the Golan move, or didn’t care. But U.S. recognition of sovereignty set a damaging precedent both in the Middle East and outside. It hardly matters if the administration believed that it was simply recognizing reality and that there were no prospects for any negotiation over the Golan or peace treaty with Syria. The administration’s action created a new reality.”

Can AIPAC Save America From Itself?, The Forward
Batya Ungar-Sargon writes, “As the strongest of the groups that lobby for Israel, AIPAC’s moral failure is a grave one. With its waffling on the two state solution and its unwillingness to criticize the occupation of the Palestinians, AIPAC certainly doesn’t represent where American Jews stand on Israel, the vast majority of who oppose the occupation and feel urgently the need for a Palestinian state.”