News Roundup for March 9, 2017

March 9, 2017

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J Street in the News

J Street Invites Trump’s Israel Envoy to Meet Ahead of Senate Confirmation Vote, Haaretz

“J Street leaders invited David Friedman to meet with them despite the U.S. nominee for Israel envoy having denounced the organization as ‘worse than kappos.’ Politico has published a letter from J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben Ami, urging Friedman to meet with them, a day before the nominee was expected to be confirmed by U.S. Congress for the post of ambassador. Ben Ami says the meeting would give Friedman an opportunity to prove the sincerity of his expressions of regret for his past remarks uttered during a Senate hearing last month….By meeting with J Street, Friedman could enhance the chances of more Democrats voting in his favor. However, J Street has been leading the public fight against his nomination, which would make any meeting between him and the group’s leadership a surprising development.”

Is David Friedman Blowing Off Pledge To Meet With J Street?, Forward

““Senators and other pro-Israel Americans should know before the final vote on your confirmation whether you stated willingness to meet with those you disagree is merely a ‘hearing room conversation,’ or whether you intend to make good on your representations to lawmakers,” J Street chief Jeremy Ben-Ami told Friedman in a letter. Politico reported that J Street never heard back from Friedman after he told lawmakers he was open to a meeting.”

Democratic Senator Cardin to Oppose David Friedman for Israel Ambassador, Haaretz

“J Street, the left wing Jewish group that is leading the fight against Friedman, said ‘Senator Cardin’s opposition to David Friedman’s nomination is a significant step. As a strong supporter of Israel and the Ranking Member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Cardin’s statement signals the growing recognition that Friedman is an inappropriate choice to serve as ambassador. We urge Senators on both sides of the aisle join Senator Cardin in opposing Friedman based on his record of inflammatory and undiplomatic statements and equivocation on a two-state solution.’”

Top Democrat on Senate Foreign Relations Committee won’t support Friedman, Times of Israel

“J Street, which has forged a campaign to block Friedman’s confirmation, released a statement lauding Cardin’s decision. ‘Senator Cardin’s opposition to David Friedman’s nomination is a significant step,’ the group’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, said. ‘As a strong supporter of Israel and the Ranking Member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Cardin’s statement signals the growing recognition that Friedman is an inappropriate choice to serve as ambassador.’”

Top News and Analysis

Cardin to oppose Friedman for ambassador to Israel, Baltimore Sun

“Sen. Ben Cardin, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Wednesday he will not support President Donald Trump’s nominee to serve as U.S. ambassador to Israel, saying this his past statements would ‘compromise his effectiveness.’….”Following extensive consideration of Mr. Friedman’s record and taking into account his statements during his nomination hearing, I have concluded that his past record would make it very difficult for him to serve as that unifying force,’ Cardin said in a statement. ‘For that reason, I am unable to support his nomination as America’s top diplomat in Israel.’”

Overstepping Authority, State Body Advances Illegal Israeli Settlement Construction in West Bank, Haaretz

“The Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization illegally advanced the construction of settlements on land that it had no authority over, including private Palestinian land, without the knowledge of the Defense and Justice Ministries, according to documents obtained by Haaretz. Despite recurring criticism of the division’s modus operandi, it continued to seize and distribute land illegally in recent years.”


For First Time, Hamas Prepared to Accept Pre-1967 Borders for Palestinian State, Haaretz

Hamas political and military leaders have spent the past several months formulating a document that reportedly outlines their acceptance of the principle of establishing a Palestinian state demarcated by the pre-1967 Six-Day War borders without declaring recognition of Israel, and that Hamas would also declare its independence as a Palestinian resistance movement not dependent on any outside party such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

Lieberman asks US to pull out of UN Human Rights Council, JTA

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman asked the Trump administration to pull the United States out of the U.N. Human Rights Council and to conduct a review of UNRWA, the Palestinian refugee relief agency.

Israeli Lawmakers Give Initial Approval to Bill Targeting Mosque Loudspeakers, Haaretz

The Knesset gave initial approval on Wednesday to a bill that would limit public calls to prayers from mosques, which has been dubbed the Muezzin Law. After a stormy debate, lawmakers voted 55 to 48 to pass the measure on a preliminary reading. After it goes to committee, the legislation must be passed another three times in the plenum before it becomes law. The measure, which also proposes limits on public address announcements from synagogues, is an amended version of legislation approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet in November. Lawmaker Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List, a mostly Arab party, was thrown out of the plenum during a stormy debate ahead of the vote, in which he tore up a copy of the legislation.

Netanyahu and UK’s Boris Johnson spar over settlements, Times of Israel

Visiting British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu butted heads publicly on Wednesday over whether Israeli settlements hinder the peace process. Jerusalem and London cooperate in various areas to “ensure the stability of the entire region,” Johnson said, only to return to the thorny issue of settlements. “And of course we must also try to remove obstacles to peace and progress, such as the settlements, which you and I have discussed before.”

New Palestinian Ambassador to U.S. Sworn in, Haaretz

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ strategic adviser, Dr. Husam Zomlot, was sworn in as the Palestinian Authority’s ambassador to Washington on Tuesday afternoon. The appointment comes at a critical time for U.S.-Palestinian relations, amid speculations about the intentions and policies of the Trump administration toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Abbas’ decision to appoint a close associate and adviser indicates to the strategic significance he attaches to Zomlot’s role. Zomlot was part of a senior Palestinian delegation that conducted a strategic dialogue with the U.S. administration in December.

Sea Of Galilee Hits Lowest Level In Century As Drought Bites, Forward

The Sea of Galilee is at its lowest level in a century after northern Israel experienced the driest February ever recorded. The Israel Water Authority said Tuesday that the large freshwater lake, also known as Lake Kinneret, is 20 centimeters below the line experts consider acceptable for water quality. The sea received only 10 percent of its average rainfall in February. The low level affects agriculture, wildlife and the environment, according to the authority, which has nearly completely halted pumping water from the Kinneret. The water shortage in Israel’s north is expected to get worse in the summer, according to reports.

ADL Slams Israel’s Travel Ban: ‘New Law Harms’ Fight Against BDS, Haaretz

“The Anti-Defamation League slammed Israel’s new travel ban on Wednesday and said the legislation will cause more harm than good in the battle against boycotts targeting Israel….’We are deeply invested in fighting scourge of BDS and delegitimization. This law doesn’t help,’ the organization tweeted, referring to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement. ‘Israel’s democracy, pluralism, open society serve as best defense against BDS. New law harms rather than helps.’”

US envoy at UN makes bid for reviving Israeli-Palestinian talks, Times of Israel

US Ambassador Nikki Haley on Tuesday discussed reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations during her first meeting with the Palestinian envoy to the United Nations. Haley tweeted after her talks with Ambassador Riyad Mansour that the Palestinians should “meet with Israel in direct negotiations rather than looking to the UN to deliver results that can only be achieved through the two parties.”

US ‘Women’s Strike’ platform calls for ‘decolonization of Palestine’, JTA

The platform for a strike to support feminism and women’s rights drew criticism from some over its call “for the decolonization of Palestine.” The statement on Palestine is included in a section on “Antiracist and Anti-imperialist Feminism” in the platform for the U.S. affiliate of the International Women’s Strike. The grassroots feminist movement organized events around the world on Wednesday.

Opinion and Analysis

The Putin-Trump era of Middle East negotiations, Al-Monitor

Shlomi Eldar writes, “It is now clear to all involved that the circle of interests has expanded, and any talks will be conducted within the framework of an international conference involving several of the Arab states and led jointly by the United States and Russia. The Palestinian thinking relies on two main reasons: The first is a clear understanding that the bitter residues of the past and deep mistrust between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would preclude any serious dialogue between them, and the second is the changes underway in the international arena. On the one hand, the new US administration is dictating game-changing rules, while on the other hand, Russian President Vladimir Putin is no longer sitting on the sidelines and is displaying a keen interest in becoming a central player in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One of the first indications of this frame of mind was a Russian initiative last December to organize a peace conference in Moscow, which never got off the ground due to Netanyahu’s objections and is now being revived by the warming ties between Washington and Moscow.”

Warming relations between Egypt and Hamas, Ynet

“While the warming relations between Hamas and Egypt is leading to a sense of relief which Gaza residents have not experienced for many years, it is also causing concern both in Jerusalem and Ramallah.”

It’s Time to Establish An International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, Matzav Blog

Jonah Nagi, “ALLMEP has proposed for the establishment of the International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace to finance peace organizations’ work, which has now been introduced to Congress. US Congress, Europe, the Arab world and the private sector would each contribute to 25% of the fund respectively. People’s trust and fear are a key component to any intractable issue. Neither party will be able to sign a peace agreement without the backing of their people. From France-Germany to Northern Ireland, contact between people on both sides has proven to help ripen the prospects for a peace agreement. Israel-Palestine is no different, but they will need their grassroots campaigns to have the financial viability to sufficiently create a culture of peace.”

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