News Roundup for March 7, 2017

March 7, 2017
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J Street in the News

Revised Executive Order on Immigration Remains Dangerous and Wrong, J Street

J Street strongly opposes the revised Executive Order restricting refugee resettlement and immigration to the United States signed today by President Trump. While the massive public criticism and effective legal opposition to the initial Order prompted the administration to remove and clarify a handful of the most controversial provisions, this remains an ill-conceived, discriminatory and dangerous measure that runs counter to American and Jewish values….Like previous generations of refugees, including the millions of Jews who fled the Holocaust and persecution in Europe, refugees and immigrants from Muslim-majority countries and from around the world deserve assistance and a place of safety from violence and war. Turning our backs on them is a shameful betrayal of our principles and of our history as a nation of immigrants. It is an abdication of American leadership that sends a dangerous message to both our allies and our enemies around the world.”

Knesset Bill Banning BDS Supporters from Israel Damages Israel’s Democracy – And Helps BDS Movement, J Street

“J Street is alarmed by the Knesset’s passage of a bill that bans entry to Israel of foreign nationals who call for economic, cultural or academic boycotts of either Israel or the territory it controls beyond the Green Line. The bill is the latest piece of Israeli legislation to undermine Israel’s own democratic principles and its international standing. As a liberal democracy, Israel should be able to tolerate non-violent political protest and dissent, no matter how much it disagrees with the ideology or goals of BDS supporters…..We note that there are strong supporters and friends of Israel who participate in or advocate for targeted boycotts of the settlement enterprise beyond the Green Line, motivated by a desire to oppose the occupation and support the two-state solution. While J Street does not share their views, we respect their motivations and we are outraged by the idea that they would be denied entry to Israel on the basis of political discrimination. We hope that all those who care about Israel’s future and about its democracy will oppose this bill, and we urge the the Knesset and the Israeli government to take steps to overturn or revoke this dangerous and counterproductive legislation.”

Setting the Record Straight on MK Odeh’s Appearance at J Street Conference, J Street Blog

J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami writes, “I am deeply disappointed that Haaretz chose to run a story regarding Chairman of the Joint List Ayman Odeh’s appearance at J Street’s 2017 National Conference that contains significant errors and mischaracterizations. J Street is proud to have hosted MK Ayman Odeh as a featured speaker at our conference. We are also pleased to have had a strong working relationship with the Joint List over the past couple of years….It is J Street’s view that our national conference is not the right venue for attacks by one Israeli party on another over domestic issues, even more when the other party has no opportunity to respond. J Street asks all major political speakers to use their appearance on our stage to lay out views about the future of the state of Israel and of US-Israel relations. I had a very friendly breakfast with MK Odeh to lay out our perspective on this ahead of the conference. There were and are no other disagreements between MK Odeh and J Street….To set the record straight, therefore, it should be clear that we hold MK Odeh in high regard, are grateful for his appearance and look forward to continuing to have a strong working relationship with him and the Joint List going forward. In fact, we hope to have strong relationships with all Israeli political parties, though we will undoubtedly have both agreements and disagreements with all of them over the years.”

Israeli Arab Leader Angers J Street by Criticizing Labor Party, Haaretz

“While addressing J Street’s national conference in Washington last week, Joint List leader MK Ayman Odeh lashed out at the Zionist Union, saying the center-left party “failed” in its role as the opposition, and ignoring a request by J Street not to criticize the party….Ben-Ami issued the following statement: ‘J Street (and I personally) were very happy to host Ayman Odeh at the conference and strongly value a close working relationship with the Joint List. I have enormous respect for him and J Street shares his belief that Israel must be a country that protects and promotes equal civil rights for all its citizens regardless of race and religion. J Street does not get involved in internal Israeli politics, so our request of all Israeli speakers – including those we’ve had from the Likud, Yesh Atid, Labor, Meretz, Kulanu and the Joint List – is to leave domestic disputes at home and to bring to the conference issues that relate to Israeli policy and U.S.-Israel relations. I was very pleased to see MK Odeh after his speech, shook his hand and wished him safe travels as he headed to the airport. Certainly on my end personally and on J Street’s side organizationally, there is nothing but gratitude for his participation in the conference, and we hope that he will join us next year and that the Joint List will be represented annually at our gatherings.”

A Palestinian woman finds hope in American Jewish resistance, +972

Samah Salaime writes, “I came out of the J Street conference feeling encouraged by the vibrant and energetic resistance to Netanyahu and Trump. Perhaps the organizers are not aware how meaningful this bit of hope is for a Palestinian woman who wakes up every day to news of home demolitions, annexation of the West Bank, and land-theft laws.”

Could a pragmatic coalition salvage a two-state solution?, New Jersey Jewish News

Martin Raffel writes, “[I]s a Jewish left-center, two-state coalition possible, and, if so, is it desirable? My answer to both questions is yes. Given expressions heard in recent months from the right, both in Israel and the United States, about alternatives to two states and the possible annexation of a sizable portion of the West Bank, it is more important than ever to send an unambiguous and strong message both to Washington and to Jerusalem that the rest of the American Jewish community, the overwhelming majority, supports the two-state solution. The passion and focus of the left, which I experienced at the J Street conference, coupled with the political influence of the Jewish center would enable the community to more effectively convey such a strong message.”

Top News and Analysis

Call from Trump interrupts Israeli police questioning Netanyahu, Reuters

A phone call from President Trump interrupted a police inquiry into Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was on Monday being questioned for a fourth time over suspicions of corruption. Not long after sitting down with police investigators at his residence in Jerusalem, one aide said, Netanyahu briefly excused himself to speak with Trump. “The two leaders spoke at length about the dangers posed by the nuclear deal with Iran… and about the need to work together to counter those dangers,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement issued just before details of the police probe led prime time news.

Amid Annexation Talk, U.S. Official Tells Haaretz: Trump Expects Israel to Act Reasonably on Palestinian Issue, Haaretz

President Trump expects Israel to act “reasonably” regarding the Palestinian issue and allow the U.S. enough time to hold consultations on the best path toward advancing the peace process, a senior U.S. official told Haaretz on Monday, after the Israeli defense chief said the U.S. warned Israel that annexation of the West Bank would lead to a crisis in its relations with Washington. The American official didn’t deny Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s remarks at the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, and stressed that the Trump administration is aware of the Israeli official’s statements. “We are not going to speak publicly about the details of private communications between governments,” the official said. However, he clarified that the U.S. is indeed not interested at this time in unilateral moves by either Israel or the Palestinians that could damage American efforts to reignite peace talks.

Knesset Bars Entry to Foreigners Who Call for Boycott of Israel or Settlements, Haaretz

The Knesset gave its final approval Monday evening to a bill that forbids granting entry visas or residency rights to foreign nationals who call for economic, cultural or academic boycotts of either Israel or the settlements. However, the interior minister would be able to make exceptions to this rule if he deems it warranted in a particular case. The Knesset Interior and Environment Committee approved the final wording of the boycott bill, whose goal is to fight the international boycott, divestment and sanctions movement….The ban would apply not just to people who call for boycotts against Israel, but also to those who call for boycotts of any Israeli institution or any “area under its control” – i.e., the settlements.

David Friedman unfit to be ambassador to Israel, San Francisco Chronicle

Senator Dianne Feinstein writes, “In David Friedman, President Trump has nominated someone who lacks the necessary temperament to serve in such a crucial position. His divisive rhetoric and dangerous positions are contrary to long-held policy and would undermine our national security by further inflaming tensions in the region. Friedman rejects decades of bipartisan U.S. policy and international consensus toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict….He has directly supported settlement activity…..As dangerous as his policies are, Friedman’s past rhetoric toward those with whom he disagrees casts significant doubt on his diplomatic abilities….Even more frightening, I feel his confirmation would only fan the flames of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Friedman’s comments questioning the legitimacy of the Palestinian leadership alone make it impossible for him to be a neutral arbiter for peace. We need an ambassador who will bridge the divide between Israelis and Palestinians, not make it worse.”

News

Lieberman to Visit D.C. to Meet Trump Administration Officials, Haaretz

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman will board a flight to the United States on Monday night for a meeting with officials in the Trump administration. The defense chief is scheduled to meet with Vice President Pence, his American counterpart Gen. James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other senior figures.

Niece of Israeli killed in terror attack condemns planned International Women’s Day strike for allowing leadership of convicted terrorist, JTA

The niece of an Israeli killed in a terrorist attack nearly 50 years ago criticized the planned International Women’s Strike for allowing one of the convicted terrorists in a leadership position.

Lifting ban, Israel lets Human Rights Watch staffer in, Times of Israel

An American employee of Human Rights Watch was granted entry into Israel Monday evening, after authorities blocked previous attempts to enter the country over his alleged anti-Israel bias.

Sources: Egypt planning to open Rafah crossing with Gaza twice a month, Ma’an

Top Egyptian security officials told Ma’an that the Egyptian government had plans to open the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the besieged Gaza Strip twice a month in both directions. Sources told Ma’an that the decision came directly from Egyptian President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi, who ordered to continue the opening of Rafah crossing in both directions twice a month for all Palestinian humanitarian cases, “as an attempt to lessen the suffering of Palestinian people in Gaza Strip.”

Security coordination under fire after suspect once held by PA killed, Times of Israel

Palestinian groups went on the offensive against the unpopular security coordination between Jerusalem and Ramallah Monday, after Israeli forces killed a suspected terrorist in Ramallah who was once a high-profile prisoner of the Palestinian Authority, during a shootout.

Top minister denies Netanyahu would have signed letter on territorial compromise, Times of Israel

A senior Likud minister on Monday dismissed a report that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu co-signed a document with opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) to kick-start a new regional peace initiative that would involve swapping land for peace, as part of an ultimately unsuccessful bid to bring the left-of-center into a national unity government last fall.

Opinion and Analysis

Trump’s Israel Envoy Pick Gave Funds to Settle Jews in Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, Haaretz

Judy Maltz reports, “David Friedman’s leadership role in an organization that raises funds for the West Bank settlement of Beit El is frequently cited as grounds for disqualifying him from becoming U.S. ambassador to Israel. It now emerges that Friedman’s financial ties to the settlement movement run deeper than Beit El. Friedman has also made contributions over the years to Ateret Cohanim, a right-wing organization that buys land in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City and Arab East Jerusalem for creating a “Jewish presence” there. Bernie Hoenig, the founder of American Friends of Ateret Cohanim, the group’s U.S. fundraising arm, said Friedman was one of the organization’s donors.”

Seize the Moment – Build a New Regional Paradigm, Fathom Journal

Koby Huberman argues, “The two-state solution is the only viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet we need a new paradigm to reach it because the old ‘Bilateral Negotiations’ paradigm doesn’t work. On the other hand, for the first time in history there is an opportunity for a new regional deal that will generate cooperation between Israel and its new regional allies in order to create stability, limit Iran’s influence, fight radical Islam, rehabilitate the region’s economy and assure Israel’s security. The convergence of interests offers an opportunity to advance the two-state solution, but in a new way. The old bilateral paradigm assumed that Israelis and Palestinians could negotiate and reach a permanent status agreement for the two-state solution, as if all they needed was to return to the negotiating table and show more seriousness. The recurring failures of the old ways require some fresh thinking – ‘one more heave’ won’t do.”

Why Jews Should Oppose David Friedman, Forward

Rabbi Charles Kroloff writes, “Israel’s future is profoundly challenged. Stark divisions in Israeli society, ongoing violence and threats to a two-state solution all endanger Israel’s standing as the democratic homeland of the Jewish people. Rather than engage with these issues, Friedman has offered dangerous and deeply immoral suggestions for Israeli policy, even writing that Palestinian citizens of Israel in general should be stripped of their citizenship for “disloyalty.” He is not just a defender of the settlement movement undermining Israel’s future – he is the president of an organization that funnels money into a West Bank settlement….In a country already teeming with radical views, where horrific violence can be unleashed in response to intemperate speech, we must exercise extreme caution and sensitivity when choosing an ambassador. For the sake of Israel, the Jewish people, and the United States, I am calling on my senators in New Jersey to oppose David Friedman’s nomination. I urge people around the country to call your senators and do the same.”

How Netanyahu got cold feet over historic peace initiative, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit writes, “Netanyahu, Herzog and all the others invested scores of days and nights, flights, drafts and proposals in this large-scale venture….By now it’s already clear that Netanyahu didn’t waste such an intensive year in order to widen the coalition, to reach a diplomatic breakthrough or to make history. He did it simply to keep the American administration occupied, to create the illusion of hope for a diplomatic process to be renewed ‘any day now.’ He hoped to pacify Kerry, who would then calm down Obama, who would then give up his intention to wreak vengeance on Israel for eight years of deadlock — and opting in its stead for a ‘grand finale’ diplomatic achievement. Those who really understand what makes Netanyahu tick — those who are closely acquainted with the complicated history of his leadership — knew all along that at the moment of truth, the prime minister would abandon ship. And that is exactly what happened. Netanyahu is always the first to blink.”

Trump Under Pressure to Get Answers From Iran on Missing Ex-F.B.I. Agent, The New York Times

“Last year, when the United States and Iran exchanged prisoners, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the Tehran government had also pledged to help in the search for a long-missing American who had disappeared in Iran in March 2007….Today, a decade after Mr. Levinson vanished, the Trump administration faces a decision about what steps to take, if any, to bring a resolution of his case. As a candidate, President Trump vowed in 2015 to bring Mr. Levinson home, and the Levinson family has asked to meet with him in hopes he will take a more aggressive stance toward getting answers than President Barack Obama did….While some American officials fear that Mr. Levinson died in captivity, his family remains convinced that he is alive and that officials in Iran know where he is…..A spokeswoman for the National Security Council, Jennifer Arangio, said in a statement that administration officials had contacted Mr. Levinson’s relatives to assure them that his case was a priority.”

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