News Roundup for March 6, 2017

March 6, 2017

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J Street in the News

Trump’s Pick for Israel Envoy: Where Do Jewish Groups Stand?, Haaretz

“J Street: Leading the pack of opponents against Friedman’s appointment has been this pro-Israel anti-occupation group, which has been the target of some of the candidate’s most vile comments. Friedman had referred to J Street members as ‘worse than kapos’ – a reference to Jews who collaborated with the Nazis. On the website of its “Stop Friedman” campaign, J Street writes: ‘David Friedman, President Trump’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to Israel, is a leading supporter of the settlement movement who lacks any diplomatic or policy credentials. He has attacked fellow Jews and public figures with hateful accusations that should disqualify him from representing our country in any capacity, never mind in one of the region’s most sensitive and important diplomatic posts. Friedman is an unacceptable choice and should be beyond the pale for senators considering who should represent the United States in Israel.’”

Top News and Analysis

Netanyahu offered opposition leader to push together for regional peace initiative – and then backtracked, Haaretz

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent opposition leader Isaac Herzog a document six months ago containing a joint declaration for spurring a regional peace initiative and anchoring an Israeli unity government − before backtracking weeks later. Netanyahu sent the document to Herzog seven months after a secret peace summit in Aqaba, Jordan, reported by Haaretz two weeks ago. The document reflected a willingness by Netanyahu for territorial compromise in a two-state solution with the Palestinians and a reining in of construction in the settlements. Three weeks after sending the proposal and after sealing an agreement in principle, Netanyahu began to backtrack during the political crisis over the unauthorized West Bank outpost of Amona. Contacts between the two sides reached a dead end and finally collapsed in October.”

How Our Strategy Against Terrorism Gave Us Trump, The New York Times

Jon Finer and Rob Malley write, “While it is far from the only explanation, organizing foreign policy around international terrorism has resuscitated strains of American political thought — isolationism, xenophobia and even bigotry, particularly against Muslims — that had long been dormant, or at least disreputable, giving national security cover and lifting them from the shadows to the mainstream. In a climate of unfounded fear, extreme policies like barring travel to the United States from certain Muslim-majority countries, which seem more about engineering a particular American identity than about stopping attacks, become the logical extension of an illogical threat assessment that Mr. Trump may champion, but that is not of his making….Having recruited advisers obsessed with the specter of ‘radical Islam’ and asked the Pentagon for a more aggressive strategy, Mr. Trump seems poised to expand where Mr. Obama leaned in, while dispensing with the restraints the last president imposed.”

Labor Leader Herzog Slams Party Rivals for ‘Deal’ to Unseat Him, Haaretz

Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog said on Friday that a deal reportedly struck between two of his rivals to unseat him as Labor leader is “invalid and unacceptable.” On Thursday, Channels 2 and 10 aired a leaked taped recorded about a month ago in which MK Eitan Cabel describes an agreement he said he had reached with MK Shelly Yacimovich. As per the so-called deal, Yacimovich would support Cabel’s bid to lead Labor in exchange for his help in her bid for the leadership of Israel’s main union – the Histadrut labor federation.

News

Defense Chief Lieberman: U.S. Warned of ‘Immediate Crisis’ With Trump if Israel Annexed West Bank, Haaretz

The U.S. administration told Israel that annexing the West Bank would lead to an immediate crisis between the two countries, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told lawmakers on Monday. “We received a direct message… imposing Israeli sovereignty [on the West Bank] would mean an immediate crisis with the new administration,” Lieberman told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. “The coalition should clearly state that there is no intention to impose [Israeli] sovereignty.”

Deputy FM denies Trump put kibosh on annexation, Times of Israel

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely denied Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s assertion that the Trump administration warned against annexing the West Bank. “The American administration has yet to formulate its new policy for the Middle East, which means Liberman’s words limit Israel’s freedom of action,” she tweeted.

Netanyahu’s Secret Regional Peace Bid Sparked Tensions Between Egypt’s Sissi and Abbas, Palestinian Sources Say, Haaretz

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas objected to efforts last year to launch a regional peace initiative with the participation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi and additional Arab leaders. According to information obtained by Haaretz, Sissi’s agreement to host the regional summit has caused great friction between Abbas and the Egyptian president, even leading Egypt recently to bar Fatah Central Committee Jibril Rajoub from entering the country.

Netanyahu To Meet Putin Amid Worries Over Iran Foothold In Syria, Forward

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday to voice opposition to what the Israeli leader charged were Iran’s attempts to establish a permanent military foothold in Syria.

Palestinian Gunman Killed in West Bank Shootout With Israeli Soldiers, Haaretz

A Palestinian gunman was killed early Monday in an exchange of fire with Israeli security forces during a raid to arrest him in Al-Bireh, near Ramallah.

The man, identified as Basil al-Araj, was the leader of a cell planning attacks and was responsible for acquiring weapons, a statement from the Border Police said.

Ex-Israeli Defense Chief Ya’alon Announces Plan to Establish New Political Party, Haaretz

Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon announced Saturday he is forming a new political party to fight corruption, threats to the rule of law, left-right polarization and the “dialogue of hatred against Arabs.”

Labor party announces leadership primary for July 3, Times of Israel

The Labor Party announced that the party’s leadership primaries will be held on July 3 in what is shaping up to be an acrimonious contest with candidates already maneuvering and jostling for an advantage. The move pushes the troubled main opposition party, which hasn’t won an election in 18 years, into a fierce contest, with at least seven candidates expected to run.

Lawmakers Visit Potential Sites For New U.S. Embassy In Jerusalem, Forward

A group of members of the U.S. House of Representatives visited Israel for one day, during which they were to visit possible sites in Jerusalem for the American Embassy. The delegation of lawmakers was from the House Subcommittee for National Security, part of the House Oversight Committee. The lawmakers reportedly met Sunday morning with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials.  They also reportedly had a briefing at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, and visited U.S. government properties in Jerusalem.

Fatah to US Congress: moving embassy to Jerusalem will disrupt entire region, Ma’an

Fatah spokesperson Ziad Khalil Abu Zayyad warned that relocating the US embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would “explode the situation” in the entire Middle East and North Africa region, in response to a US congressional delegation that reportedly arrived to Israel aiming to study the possibility of the move.

Israel’s Cabinet votes to decriminalize recreational marijuana use, JTA

Israel’s Cabinet voted to decriminalize recreational use of marijuana. The cabinet voted on the policy at its regular meeting on Sunday. An inter-ministerial committee will now create legislation in order to implement the new policy, which still must be ratified by the Knesset. The committee will present its recommendations to the government by May 7.

Tony Blair Reportedly Aiming to Be Trump’s Middle East Peace Envoy, Haaretz

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair reportedly met recently with senior members of the Trump administration to discuss with them his potential involvement in Washington’s push for Middle East peace. A spokesman for Blair denied a report, which first appeared in the Daily Mail, that Blair offered to become U.S. President Donald Trump’s special envoy to the peace process. Blair held a similar position from 2007 to 2016 on behalf of the Middle East Quartet, an international body which includes representatives from the U.S., the UN, the EU and Russia. Haaretz could not independently confirm whether Blair in fact made such a proposal, but learned from three different people that Blair had visited Washington in recent days, and that the Middle East was high on his agenda.

Dan Shapiro, Former Ambassador To Israel, Will Join Israeli Think Tank, Forward

Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro will join a Tel Aviv-based think tank as a visiting fellow. The Institute for National Security Studies announced the appointment on its website on Sunday. Shapiro will participate in several of the Institute’s research programs, including those on Israel-U.S. Relations, Israeli-Palestinian Relations, the Arab World, and Israeli Society and Public Opinion, according to the announcement.

Opinion and Analysis

Lapid Is the Only Winner as Israeli Labor Party Hits New Low, Haaretz

Yossi Verter writes, “Over the last two years, this party has gone from failure to failure. The extinguished torch has been passed from generation to generation, and the one celebrating is Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid. The man with the least talent, experience and moral baggage in Israeli politics will have no trouble continuing to pick up the seats dropped like abandoned eggs by the Labor Party/Zionist Union (or at least retaining those that have already fallen into his lap) when the latter is his competition for the hearts of the center-left electorate.”

What EU’s Mogherini, Tillerson agreed on, Al-Monitor

Uri Savir reports, “On the Israeli-Palestinian issue, it is clear that a two-state solution and the curbing of Israeli settlement policies is of greater urgency to the EU than it is to the United States. The senior EU official said that on this issue specifically, the EU will express an independent foreign policy, steered by the common interests and views of its member states. With the last Middle East Quartet report on obstacles to the two-state solution in July 2016 and the anti-settlement United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, freezing settlement expansion is a high priority for the EU. According to the official, Brussels will attempt to convince the United States to go ahead with a diplomatic move on a two-state solution while accepting Trump’s preference for a regional approach….The senior EU official emphasized that, given the danger of a total diplomatic stalemate, which would lead to a possible outbreak of violence, it is essential to agree with the US administration on a peace negotiation platform, while securing a leading role for the United States. A senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official who spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity rejected any such initiative that would create an international framework for negotiations. Israel, according to him, will agree only to bilateral and unconditional negotiations with the Palestinians. Despite Israel’s rejection, Netanyahu’s government could be in for a surprise. The EU’s talks with the United States and with Russia could bear fruits, and such a framework may come about as a result of these talks about the region.”

An Apathetic Millennial at J Street, Times of Israel

Jared Oliff-Lieberman writes, “Young American-Jews will be the ones to shape America’s relationship with Israel in the years to come and no organization is doing a better job at speaking to young American-Jews about Israel than J Street. By featuring a diverse group of speakers and even inviting members of the Palestinian Liberation Organization to speak, J Street proves that it is possible to love Israel and criticize it at the same time. In fact, to love Israel is to criticize it. I came to the J Street conference expecting to leave unchanged. I was wrong. The experience I had at the conference has reshaped the way I view the conflict but more importantly it has made me deeply care about it.”

Friedman’s ‘kapo’ comment should disqualify him as ambassador to Israel” – Dr. Charles Gati, Rabbi John Rosove’s Blog

Rabbi Rosove writes, “Earlier this week, I was asked to participate with two others in a press conference in Washington, D.C. on behalf of J Street which was convening in its 6th Annual National Conference….We were being questioned about President Trump’s nomination of David Friedman to be the next United States Ambassador to Israel. All three of us were strongly opposed to the nomination. We oppose Friedman because of his long-standing support of the settlement enterprise, his public opposition to the two-state solution, and his assaults against large segments of the American Jewish community that support the two states for two people’s resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict….In particular, I was moved by Dr. Charles Gati. He was ten years old when the Nazis invaded Budapest in 1944 and ordered the expulsion and murder of all that city’s Jews. Charles was spared being shot and thrown into the Danube River due to pure luck. His opposition to Friedman was based not only on his policy positions and ill-temperament but because Friedman showed how woefully ignorant he is of Jewish history and the history of the Holocaust when he callously used the word ‘kapo’ to describe J Street supporters.”

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