News Roundup for May 10, 2017

May 10, 2017

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J Street in the News

J Street, ADL Slam Controversial ‘Nation-state’ Bill for Undermining ‘Israel’s Diversity’, Haaretz

“Two leading Jewish groups in the United States criticized the Israeli government’s recently approved ‘nation-state’ bill, which has created political controversy in Israel, and seems to now be doing the same in the American Jewish community….The left-wing organization J Street released later on Tuesday a harsher statement, calling the bill ‘a bad idea’ and explaining that it ‘does nothing to enshrine Israel’s status as a homeland for the Jewish people, while sending a dangerous message to its Arab minority that they are second-class citizens.’ The statement also said that ‘it is sad and deeply troubling that – yet again – the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is lending its hand to measures that erode the country’s democratic fabric, while going against the basic principles set out in the Israeli Declaration of Independence.’”

Israel’s “Nationality Bill” Is A Bad Idea, J Street

“The so-called Israel Nationality Law approved on Sunday by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation does nothing to enshrine Israel’s status as a homeland for the Jewish people, while sending a dangerous message to its Arab minority that they are second-class citizens….It is sad and deeply troubling that – yet again – the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is lending its hand to measures that erode the country’s democratic fabric, while going against the basic principles set out in the Israeli Declaration of Independence….Indeed, as President Reuven Rivlin said of an earlier draft of the bill in 2014: ‘Does this bill not in fact play into the hands of those who seek to slander us? Into the very hands of those who wish to show, that even within us, there are those who see contradiction between our being a free people in our land, and the freedoms of the non-Jewish communities amongst us?’”

Top News and Analysis

Ron Lauder Tells Israeli Officials: Trump ‘Very Determined’ to Reach Peace Deal, Haaretz

Ronald Lauder, who has reportedly been advising U.S. President Donald Trump on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, told a number of Israeli politicians this weekend that Trump was “very determined” to reach a comprehensive peace deal. Speaking at the Jerusalem Post conference in New York, the Jewish American businessman also said Trump believes he can convince Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to accept a deal with the support of other Arab leaders in the region. Lauder held separate meetings with a number of the Israeli officials and told them about his conversations with Trump on the peace process. Israeli officials in attendance included Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and opposition leader Isaac Herzog.


Israeli Envoy Dani Dayan Insists ‘Conscience Is Clear’ On 50 Years Of Occupation, Forward

In an interview a week before President Trump is set to visit Israel on his first overseas trip, Israel’s consul general in New York, Dani Dayan, presented an image of a government supremely confident in its own moral position, and committed to maintenance of the status quo in the West Bank. “If I take a look at the big picture, my conscience – as an Israeli, as a Jew, as a Zionist, as a resident of Judea and Samaria – is completely clear,” said Dayan, a former settler leader.

Foreign Ministry rebukes Turkey envoy over Erdogan comments, Times of Israel

Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday rebuked Turkey’s ambassador in Tel Aviv over statements made the previous day in which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan harshly criticized Israel and called on Muslims to visit Jerusalem’s flashpoint Temple Mount to support Palestinians.

German president: Israeli-Palestinian peace ‘truly urgent’, Washington Post

Germany’s president said Tuesday that it is “truly urgent” to start moving toward a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Much time has already been spent on efforts to set up a state of Palestine alongside Israel, Frank-Walter Steinmeier said after meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank. ‘In the international community, there were many attempts and much time has passed, and those who know the region know that it has become truly urgent to implement proposals for a two-state solution,’ Steinmeier said, standing next to Abbas. Steinmeier said he believes there is no alternative to a two-state deal and that ‘it’s high time to work on the requirements for it.’”

Israel Tries to Avoid FIFA Settlement Teams Crisis, Proposes Own Solution, Haaretz

Israel has proposed its own solution to a dispute over six soccer teams from West Bank settlements that is supposed to be discussed by the FIFA Congress, which opens Wednesday in Bahrain. Israel sent the proposal to Gianni Infantino, president of FIFA, the governing body of international soccer. The Palestinians have been pressuring FIFA and its member states since 2015 to take action against Israel over the settlement teams. Article 72.2 of the FIFA Statutes says, “Member associations and their clubs may not play on the territory of another member association without the latter’s approval,” and Palestinians say the settlement teams violate this provision. They therefore demand that Israel shut them down, and if not, they say, it should be suspended from FIFA.

Rivlin reinvites British royal family to Israel after reported cancellation, Times of Israel

President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday extended an invitation to the British royal family to visit Israel, after recent reports in the UK media said an upcoming trip to the Holy Land had been canceled.

After 49 Years, This Is How Israel’s Government Shut Down Its Public Broadcaster With Hours’ Notice, Haaretz

With an emotional signoff, Israel’s longest-running TV news program has run its last episode after a sudden cancellation following a political battle with the prime minister. The state-run Israel Broadcasting Authority was notified hours before Tuesday’s broadcast that “Mabat LaHadashot” (A glance at the news), which has been on air for 49 years, was to be shut down. Choking back tears, Channel 1 News anchor Geula Even announced on air that Mabat’s broadcast would be its last. The program’s staff turned out for a tearful send-off and sang the national anthem. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the broadcaster’s shutdown is part of reforms to create a new replacement organization. But staffers say Netanyahu was unhappy with what he considered critical coverage and is trying to control the media.

Israel’s military advocate general defends trial of Hebron shooter, Times of Israel

Israel’s military advocate general defended the army’s decision to indict Elor Azaria, the so-called Hebron shooter, calling the case a “legal and moral landmark in the history of military law,” in an interview with the Israeli Bar Association, published Wednesday.

Opinions and Analysis

Bennett: We must tell Trump the ‘truth’ about peace process, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit reports, “Israel’s Education Minister Naftali Bennett is not exactly disappointed with President Donald Trump. He is more disappointed with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Reports that Trump is planning a two-state solution and that he wants to revive the diplomatic process so he can reach the ultimate deal to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict have sounded a death knell to the Israeli right’s expectations and messianic visions, which considered the prospect of a Palestinian state dead and buried. Bennett, the chairman of HaBayit HaYehudi, laid out his view in detail during an interview with Al-Monitor….He will attack Netanyahu at every opportunity for giving up in advance on efforts to convince Trump to consider new ideas outside the box. ‘The age of maneuvering is over,’ said Bennett, referring to all the games Netanyahu played with Obama for the past eight years. ‘It was right to do it then, at that specific time, but I don’t think we’re there anymore. Right now, all that maneuvering is causing us more harm than simply telling the truth would. With this president, under these circumstances, all we have to do is simply tell the truth. Anyone with a modicum of common sense would understand that.’”

Businessmen start to replace soldiers as Israel’s political heroes, Economist

Erel Margalit, a member of parliament, last month launched his campaign for leadership of Israel’s Labour Party….He is one of a handful of high-tech entrepreneurs now vying for national leadership. The group includes Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, who entered local politics after a successful career as an investor in technology companies and is now planning his own bid for the leadership of the ruling Likud party. Another tech man with prime-ministerial ambitions is the leader of the Jewish Home Party, Naftali Bennett, who founded one successful software firm and ran another before entering politics….’We succeeded in business by detaching ourselves from the old establishment and learning a new way of doing things. Going into politics means taking on that establishment again,’ says Mr Margalit.”

A Light for Science, and Cooperation, in the Middle East, The New York Times

“In what they hope will be a spark of light in years of darkness, a group of scientists circulated a beam of electrons around a ring in Allan, Jordan, in January. The group, called Sesame, is made up of physicists from several countries that rarely talk to one another — Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Turkey and Pakistan — and also from the Palestinian Authority, but whose scientists are determined to collaborate. Chosen for its resonance in the region’s culture, the name Sesame now works as an acronym for Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East. The Sesame institute is set to open its doors on May 16, in a ceremony to be attended by King Abdullah II of Jordan.”

Israelis simply don’t want to know about Palestinian prisoners, +972

Orly Noy writes, “The Israeli public neither knows nor wants to know about the enormous significance this strike has for the Palestinian people on the outside; about the solidarity protests and tent encampments erected in support in nearly every city across the West Bank; about the people who joined the hunger strike in solidarity with the prisoners; about the hopes among the hunger strikers that this will move forward an internal dialogue between Fatah and Hamas. It does not know about the ‘Saltwater Challenge,’ in which Palestinians around the world film themselves drinking a cup of saltwater in solidarity with the prisoners. It neither knows nor wants to know.”

Could Hamas’ pragmatic new leader finally reconcile with Fatah?, Al-Monitor

Shlomi Eldar reports, “Haniyeh’s election has injected great optimism into the Fatah movement. Fatah leaders are well acquainted with Haniyeh, as opposed to Meshaal. Meshaal has lived his entire life outside the Palestinian territories, so the vast majority of Fatah activists have never even met him. ‘Haniyeh is the ticket to reconciliation,’ said a member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council and former Gaza resident on condition of anonymity. He said that Haniyeh is very interested in reconciliation with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and has in fact been operating behind the scenes toward this end. Haniyeh realizes that the only way to save Gaza and extricate it from its blockade is by resolving the long crisis between the two organizations. This Fatah higher-up argued that Meshaal did not succeed in this task because he is a foreigner in the West Bank and Gaza and never really understood the distress of the Palestinians.”

Picture worth thousands of complicated words, New Jersey Jewish News

Michele Alperin writes, “To my mind, Gvaryahu is sharing with Israelis an alternate view of reality, that of soldiers who have to employ the tools of an occupier. He feels they need that information to form a more nuanced view of what the occupation means. But many who demonize Breaking the Silence claim the group is unpatriotic and undermines the state. Having experienced myself how well-meaning American Jews not only do not want to acknowledge the possibility of diverse perspectives on Israel, but will do whatever they can to keep all speech about Israel within the bounds of ‘accepted discourse,’ I found myself supporting Gvaryahu’s effort to share his reality. Truth is viewed through the perspectives and experiences of individuals, and the only way to flesh out an understanding of complex realities, in my opinion, is to listen critically and analytically to all sides. For me, the lesson is to hear different takes, not to quash views I disagree with regarding Israel, and politics in general. But we also have to be careful not to over-idealize the Jewish state.”

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