News Roundup for March 30, 2017

March 30, 2017

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J Street in the News

J Street U: ‘Demonizing’ Israel’s Critics Only Strengthens BDS, Forward

The university arm of the dovish Jewish American group J Street called on Wednesday for the Jewish community to take “a new approach” and stop “demonizing” the movement to boycott, divest and sanction Israel….’The only true way to overcome the Global BDS Movement is to end the occupation and live up to Israel’s founding values of democracy, equality, and social justice,’ the group wrote, and added that it continues to support the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. J Street U announced its approach while its members attended an ‘Ambassadors Against BDS’ summit at the United Nations.”

Liberal student advocacy group proposes proactive investment in Israel and West Bank, Times of Israel

“The best defense is a good offense. At least that’s the new strategy left-wing Jewish student organization J Street U proposed on Wednesday at the United Nation’s second annual “Ambassadors Against BDS” conference….The campus arm of the dovish pro-Israel lobby, J Street U believes the current approach on campuses to fighting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS, is failing and offers no constructive path to peace. So the left-wing Jewish student organization plans to introduce a bill for ratification which calls for a two-state solution — and for investment and philanthropy in both Israel and the West Bank. The resolution, which can be adapted for individual campuses, is the student organization’s way of trying to proactively build bridges, tone down inflammatory rhetoric and strengthen Israel. ‘There is so much to celebrate about Israel — but simply celebrating Israel while demonizing and dismissing its critics does not work. Students today don’t want new sets of talking points and marching orders — they want serious engagement that is responsive to their hopes and fears about Israel’s future,’ said J Street U in a statement.”

Thousands gather at United Nations to oppose BDS, JTA

“During a question-and answer segment at the day’s final session, a Jewish student representing J Street U, the campus arm of the dovish pro-Israel lobby, asked how students can best oppose BDS on campus while also opposing Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. South Carolina State Rep. Alan Clemmons, a Republican who has spearheaded legislative efforts to oppose BDS, responded by calling J Street anti-Semitic and rejecting the idea that the West Bank is occupied. He called Israel’s control of the territory an ‘eternal inheritance and legal right.’….J Street U called Clemmons’ accusation ‘completely unacceptable.’ Liat Deener-Chodirker, the group’s vice president for the southeast, said Clemmons’ statement and the crowd’s reaction reflect the mainstreaming of fringe views in the pro-Israel movement. ‘We oppose BDS on all of our campuses, and we saw this as an opportunity to talk about how to best do that,’ she said. ‘It empowers the fringe of the community, and that becomes the face of what we’re doing. We saw fringe voices being made the norm.’”

Counter-productive “Anti-BDS Summit” Empowered Fringe Voices, J Street Blog

J Street U President Brooke Davies writes “I was part of a delegation of J Street U student leaders who attended today’s anti-BDS Summit at the United Nations to engage with fellow pro-Israel advocates and to talk about effective strategies for countering the Global BDS Movement. The core of the message that we sought to deliver is that the current institutional approach to BDS is alienating young people, empowering the Global BDS movement and undermining Israel’s future. Sadly, we were met at the Summit with a stark reminder of just how off-track and counterproductive the current approach is. While we appreciated many of the perspectives that were shared at the summit, we were alarmed to see a platform given to a Republican state legislator who leveled a hateful attack on J Street, accusing J Street U’s pro-Israel, pro-peace students like us of supporting an ‘anti-Semitic’ organization. At the same time, we were alarmed to see other speakers with long records of hateful rhetoric directed at Palestinians, Muslims and liberal American Jews given prominent roles at the summit. These voices from the political fringes are the worst possible ‘Ambassadors Against BDS,’ virtually guaranteed to alienate anyone with progressive values or real concerns about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is a failing strategy to refuse to countenance any criticism of Israeli government policy and equate defense of the settlement movement with support for Israel.”

Top News and Analysis

Trump Asked Alan Dershowitz to Tell Netanyahu Peace With Palestinians Possible Today, Haaretz

President Donald Trump has conveyed to Benjamin Netanyahu  his determination to reach an Israeli-Palestinian deal through the prominent Jewish-American jurist Alan Dershowitz. An Israeli source who asked not to be named said that in a phone call to the prime minister last week, Dershowitz delivered Trump’s message that he is eager for a peace agreement and believes such a deal is possible today. Dershowitz met the president by chance on March 18 while dining at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in southern Florida.

Netanyahu Hints Israel Set to Approve New West Bank Settlement Thursday, Haaretz

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted on Thursday that the security cabinet will approve the establishment of a new settlement in the West Bank for the evacuees of Amona. ‘I have promised in the first place that we would establish a new settlement,’ Netanyahu said at the start of his meeting with Slovakia President Andrej Kiska. ‘I think I made the first commitment in December, and we will hold it today. [In] a few more hours… you will have all the details.’ The security cabinet is convening Thursday to get updates regarding the discussions with the Trump administration about a formula for restricting construction in the settlements, as well as for a broader discussion about the Palestinian issue. A senior Israeli official said that it was the first time the ministers would be getting an update on talks with the White House on settlements since they began three weeks ago.”


Jordan FM says Arab summit ends with ‘message of peace’, Times of Israel

Arab leaders on Wednesday endorsed key Palestinian positions in the conflict with Israel — a signal to US President Donald Trump that a deal on Palestinian statehood must precede any Israeli-Arab normalization. In a one-day summit, they relaunched a peace plan that offers Israel normalization with Arab and Muslim states, provided it cedes lands it captured in 1967 to a future Palestinian state. A closing statement said that “peace is a strategic option” for Arab states.

Israel to Cut $2 Million From UN Funding Due to ‘Obsessive Bias Against Israel’, Haaretz

Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday to cut $2 million from the funds Israel transfers to United Nations’ institutions, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Emanuel Nahshon said. The cut, Nahshon said, is in response to the “hostile proposals concerning Israel adopted by the UN Human Rights Council.” The funds, the spokesman said, would be used instead to expand international assistance projects in countries that vote for Israel in international forums.

Palestinian Woman Killed After Pulling Scissors on Police Officers in Jerusalem’s Old City, Haaretz

A Palestinian from East Jerusalem was shot and killed by police officers on Wednesday after pulling a pair of scissors and trying to stab a group of officers by the Old City’s Damascus Gate. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, she was Siham Ratib Nimr, 49, the mother of Mustafa Nimr that was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers in November. The soldiers fired at the vehicle he was riding in, thinking the driver, Ali Nimr, Mustafa’s cousin, was attempting to carry out a car ramming attack.

Holocaust survivor cheered for berating Trump immigration official at public forum, JTA

A Holocaust survivor known for speaking to schools about his experiences confronted federal and local officials about immigration arrests. Bernard Marks earned loud cheers on Tuesday after he confronted the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Thomas Homan, at a public forum in Sacramento, California.

At Arab Summit, Abbas Demands Britain Apologize for Balfour Declaration, Haaretz

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on the Arab states to endorse the Palestinian position on statehood and demanded the United Kingdom apologize for granting the Balfour declaration. Abbas, who spoke at the Arab League summit in Jordan, said Britain should not celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, which supported the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Mandatory Palestine, but rather apologize to the Palestinians.

David Friedman, Staunch Supporter of the Settlements, Sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Haaretz

David Friedman officially became the United States’ ambassador to Israel on Wednesday after taking the oath of office in front of Vice President Mike Pence.

White House: Trump believes envoy’s ties to Israel are an ‘asset’ toward peace, JTA

David Friedman’s Israel connections, a factor that helped dampen Democratic support for President Donald Trump’s nominee as ambassador to Israel, will be a “tremendous asset” to advancing peace, the White House said on the day of his swearing in. White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters on Wednesday that Trump “is glad that Ambassador Friedman will be officially on board as we strive for a lasting peace in the Middle East.” “Mr. Friedman’s strong relationships in Israel will be a tremendous asset to the president in furthering that mission,” Spicer said.

Opinion and Analysis

Could ‘regional deal’ be behind Israel’s government crisis?, Al-Monitor

Akiva Eldar observes, “The “regional peace” formula — that hollow formula that Netanyahu likes to use to fend off critics of his inactivity on the peacemaking front — is hanging over his head and threatening to lift him out of power….A year ago, Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah II issued an invitation to Netanyahu to join a secret meeting in the Jordanian Red Sea port of Aqaba in an attempt to advance the regional option. Netanyahu took part in the meeting and promised to issue a positive public Israeli government response to the Arab Peace Initiative, adding that to that end he would invite opposition head Isaac Herzog, the head of the Zionist Camp, into his government, thus bypassing objections by pro-settlement parties and creating a broad political supporting platform for a diplomatic initiative. Instead, he opted to keep the right-wing camp while pretending that the regional peace plan was indeed his priority. Last fall, an additional Egyptian attempt to revive the initiative fell through in the wake of internal political considerations that left Herzog on the opposition benches.”

Can A Nice Jewish Boy Like Jon Ossoff Snatch A Red Seat In Georgia?, Forward

Daniel Solomon reports, “Democrats could chalk up a much-needed win after a bruising electoral loss this past November, as voters head to the polls in a few weeks to elect a new representative in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District. Jon Ossoff, a former Capitol Hill aide and documentary producer, has a real chance of winning the usually red district for the blue team — and that has Republicans running scared.”

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