News Roundup for May 1, 2018

May 1, 2018

Receive the roundup in your inbox every morning!

J Street in the News

Netanyahu claims Iran lied about nuclear program, Politico

“Also skeptical was J Street, a Washington-based liberal Israel policy group critical of Netanyahu’s foreign policy. ‘While Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Trump have long been determined to undermine this agreement, their own security establishments continue to confirm that the deal is working and that Iran is compliant with all of its commitments. Nothing we were shown today contradicts or disproves that expert assessment,’ said Dylan Williams, the group’s vice president of government affairs.”

Netanyahu claims Iran lied about ending nuclear weapons program, NBC News

“[T]wo U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the intelligence assessment told NBC News that there was no evidence that Iran was cheating on the agreement. Dylan WIlliams, vice president for government affairs at J Street, a left-leaning pro-Israel group, agreed. ‘While Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Trump have long been determined to undermine this agreement, their own security establishments continue to confirm that the deal is working and that Iran is compliant with all of its commitments,’ Williams said in a statement. ‘Nothing we were shown today contradicts or disproves that expert assessment.’”

Trump: Netanyahu’s Speech on Iran Deal Proves That I Was 100% Right on Iran Deal, Haaretz

“The left-wing Jewish group J Street, which lobbied Congress at the time to support the deal, took a more critical approach, stating during the speech that ‘Prime Minister Netanyahu is doing an amazing job making the case for an international agreement to provide unprecedented monitoring and inspections of Iran’s nuclear program to ensure it cannot produce nuclear weapons’….The organization also wrote on its Twitter account: ‘We sure hope President Trump watched, as Prime Minister Netanyahu just made it sound very irresponsible to do anything that would threaten our ability to keep close tabs on Iran’s nuclear program.’”

Sean Hannity Just Compared ‘Boy Cried Wolf’ Netanyahu To Churchill, Forward

“Analysts pointed out that there was no smoking gun in Netanyahu’s speech and nothing he presented knocked down the consensus that Tehran has abided by the 2015 agreement. J Street said the fact that Iran may have wanted to obtain a nuclear weapon is a prime argument for maintaining the agreement. ‘Netanyahu today unintentionally made an excellent case for why it is so vital to maintain the Iran nuclear agreement,’ said Dylan Williams, an official with the dovish pro-Israel group.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Presentation Showed Importance of Maintaining JCPOA, J Street

“With his presentation today, Prime Minister Netanyahu unintentionally made an excellent case for why it is so vital to maintain the Iran nuclear agreement. The JCPOA was negotiated precisely because the US and its European allies were and are determined to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions and ensure that Iran can never develop a nuclear weapon. By successfully blocking all Iranian pathways to a nuclear weapon, the agreement has made the US, Israel and the world safer. This pact subjects Iran to the most intrusive inspections regime ever agreed — leaving nothing to trust.”

Top News and Analysis

Israel says it holds a trove of documents from Iran’s secret nuclear weapons archive, Washington Post

“Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said Israel is in possession of tens of thousands of documents and discs that prove that Iran lied about the history of its nuclear weapons program when it signed the 2015 nuclear deal. In a televised speech from Tel Aviv, Netanyahu dramatically pulled a curtain away from a shelf of files that he said were copies of some of the 55,000 documents that Israel had obtained from Iran’s secret nuclear archive. Most of the documents, as described, dated from 2003 and before, when Iran had a clandestine weapons development program dubbed ‘Project Amad.’…’What he is revealing with all this detail is not news,’ said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association. ;The fact that Iran has experimented with nuclear warhead designs, and had at one point an active weapons program, makes it all the more essential that the JCPOA remains in place to prevent Iran from quickly amassing enough fissile material for even one bomb.’”

Mike Pompeo Expresses Support for Israeli Response to Gaza Protests, The New York Times

“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking in Jordan at the end of a four-day, four-nation tour through the Middle East, expressed support on Monday for Israel and its response to weekly protests in Gaza that have left dozens of people dead. ‘We do believe the Israelis have the right to defend themselves, and we’re fully supportive of that,’ he said at a news conference with Ayman Safadi, the Jordanian foreign minister, when asked about the protests. Mr. Pompeo, the former C.I.A. director who headed overseas almost immediately after he was sworn in as secretary of state on Thursday, also refused to fully endorse the two-state solution, the longtime policy of the United States before the Trump administration, to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Decent Israelis Must Challenge Netanyahu’s Attempt to Turn Israel Towards Autocracy, Haaretz

MK Tzipi Livni writes, “The legislative override bill facing Israel’s Knesset is not just another bill. We must not give in to the temptation of a debate over how many legislators’ votes are required to deprive citizens of their rights before the High Court of Justice may step in to intervene. On the scales is a sweeping move to dismantle Israeli democracy from its foundations up. These dangerous measures are in the common interest of Habayit Hayehudi – the High Court is what prevents the party from legalizing the illegal settlements, from annexation and from establishing a single state without equal rights – and of a weak prime minister, a criminal suspect who uses discriminatory, ultranationalist legislation to signal to his political base out of personal interest: the destruction of Israel’s judiciary and its law enforcement agencies.”

For Palestinians, Israeli permits a complex tool of control, Washington Post

Karin Laub and Mohammed Daraghmeh report, “The restrictions on Palestinians’ movements are well known. But the impact of the permit system reverberates in numerous ways, directly or indirectly affecting the lives of nearly all the 4.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Having a permit can determine where Palestinians work or study, whether they can visit relatives or afford to get married, even whom they marry. The system, mainly run by a military administration known by its acronym COGAT, has swelled into a sprawling bureaucracy with intricate categories and arcane rules, often opaque and confusing, according to interviews with those involved in and affected by the system. The result often confounds Palestinians’ attempts to live a semblance of a normal life.”


Mike Pompeo rejects Jordanian assertion that Israeli-Palestinian conflict is main cause of Mideast instability, JTA

The United States is open to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in Jordan, but rejected the Jordanian assertion that the conflict is “the main cause of instability in the region.” Pompeo, making his first foreign trip since his confirmation last week, met Sunday with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi in Amman.

Netanyahu Granted Authority to Declare War ‘In Extreme Situations’ With Only Defense Minister’s Approval, Haaretz

The Knesset voted late Monday in favor of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request to grant him the authority to declare war with only the defense minister’s approval in extreme situations.  Netanyahu made the request in the morning during a debate on a bill aimed at transferring responsibility for declaring war from the full cabinet to the smaller security cabinet. The joint committee of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee rejected his request but it was later voted for by the Knesset plenum.

Abbas says children should be kept away from Gaza border clashes, Al-Monitor

President Mahmud Abbas called on Monday for Palestinians to keep their children from protests along the border between Israel and Gaza, warning of a “handicapped” generation. “Keep the young men from the border, move the children away, we do not want to become handicapped people,” he said in a speech in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Fearing Yet Another Backlash, Netanyahu Requests Redraft of Latest Conversion Bill, Haaretz

Faced with mounting opposition to a new conversion bill initiated at his request, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked that it be redrafted. He made his position clear at a meeting held several days ago with Moshe Nissim, the former justice minister who drafted the bill, and outgoing Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky.

Israel’s use of live fire in Gaza protests faces legal test, Washington Post

Israel’s Supreme Court on Monday heard the first legal challenge of the military’s open-fire rules, after 39 Palestinians were killed and more than 1,700 wounded by Israeli fire during mass protests on the Gaza border over the past month. The court is not expected to rule before next week, in what human rights lawyer Michael Sfard said is the first broad review of the army’s rules of engagement in almost three decades.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Becomes Trump’s Point Man for Middle East, Haaretz

Mike Pompeo’s first visit to the Middle East as Secretary of State ended on Monday in Amman, Jordan, where Pompeo met with Jordan’s King Abdullah and with the country’s Foreign Minister, Ayman Safadi. The four-day visit, which also included stops in Saudi Arabia and Israel, highlighted the Trump administration’s priorities in the region, and also established Pompeo as the person leading Middle East policy within the administration.

Opinions and Analysis

Netanyahu is playing to Trump’s abject ignorance — and it might work, Washington Post

Jennifer Rubin writes, “In short, it’s no news that Iran had a nuclear weapons program, although it’s impressive the Israelis were able to lift the documents evidencing this. What Netanyahu did not display and what we have yet to find evidence of is Iran’s cheating on the terms of the JCPOA….Why would Netanyahu put on this show if ultimately it didn’t deliver the killer proof of Iran cheating? Most likely, he figured (not unreasonably) that he’d bamboozle Trump into believing Iran is currently cheating. Trump hears what he wants to hear, and is already disposed to undo the Obama administration’s signature achievement. It is altogether possible that President Trump will nix the deal — with just a little push from Netanyahu.”

Netanyahu Tries but Fails to Bury Iran Nuclear Deal Before Trump Actually Kills It, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev writes, “If lies were a reason to disqualify leaders, surely Trump and Netanyahu would be candidates for dismissal no less than Ali Khamenei or Hassan Rohani. And if the Iranians are indeed hell bent on concealing their nuclear program and deceiving the world about it, perhaps one might consider an agreement that ignores the rhetoric and imposes strong supervision and ‘robust’ international inspections, as James Mattis put it, that could forestall Iran’s nuclear designs for a decade at the very least. Something like the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, perhaps, that Trump seems determined to kill.”

Netanyahu’s Bizarre PowerPoint Presentation on Iran, The Atlantic

“What Netanyahu was hoping to achieve with his presentation is not clear. His skepticism about Iran’s intentions and its commitment to the nuclear agreement is well known. Those hoping for a smoking gun of Iran’s cheating on the deal, in which it agreed to curb its nuclear program, were likely to be disappointed. The fact that Iran was at one point pursuing nuclear weapons will likely be a surprise to no one—and indeed was a rationale for concluding the nuclear agreement in the first place. Many of the slides Netanyahu showed pertained to the period from 1999 to 2003, during which the U.S. also cited evidence of an Iranian nuclear-weapons program, and after which a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate said the program had been shut down. His main evidence that Iran had cheated on the nuclear deal was that it had not fully disclosed the details of its past nuclear programs to the IAEA, as required by the nuclear deal—though the agreement did not tie that requirement to either implementation of the deal or sanctions relief.”