News Roundup for May 11, 2017

May 11, 2017
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J Street in the News

The Extremists Among Us, Forward

J Street U national board member Ezra Oliff-Lieberman writes, “If you look closely, the presence of extreme hatred directed toward Muslims, Arabs, and liberals in general is far too common in the Jewish community….To address the consequences of pro-Israel at any cost politics, the American Jewish community must finally confront the extremism flourishing in its midst and lift up and engage truly progressive, pro-Israel voices. It’s not enough for communal institutions to address isolated incidents….They must wholeheartedly reject the ‘pro-Israel’ voices in our community whose words and deeds run counter to the two-state solution and to the sacred Jewish values of tikkun olam (repairing the world), chesed (kindness) and tzedakah (charity).”

Family Politics, San Diego Jewish Journal

Sharon Rosen Lieb writes, “We’ve been a unified American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) family until now….Middle Daughter, a 21-year-old college senior, dedicated herself to AIPAC the past four years, attending two AIPAC Policy Conferences and a leadership program for college students in Washington, D.C.  However, when AIPAC failed to speak out after Trump appointed Steve Bannon his chief strategist, daughter jumped ship. She felt that Bannon’s xenophobic, white-nationalist ideology made him ‘too morally corrupt to even try and negotiate with.’….Her disappointment led her to join J Street, “the political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans who want Israel to be secure, democratic and the national home of the Jewish people” (per their website). J Street advocates for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict….prompted by Middle Daughter’s new allegiance, I attended a luncheon featuring senior J Street Advisor Alan Elsner to hear him out. I was impressed by his big tent approach to the AIPAC-versus-J-Street divide. ‘I’d rather people belong to either AIPAC or J Street than nothing at all. This means they care enough about Israel to belong to an organization that speaks to their principles,’ Elsner said. I agree. I’m glad Middle Daughter found a home where she’s comfortable expressing her passion for Israel.”


Top News and Analysis

Does Israel really need the Nationality Law?, Al-Monitor

Mazal Mualem observes, “The message that Netanyahu relayed was as clear as can be. Anyone who does not support the law is not a Zionist. This constitutes a distinct electioneering agenda, no matter how you look at it. After his years long public struggle against the Iranian nuclear program, which ended with the signing of an agreement between Tehran and the superpowers, Netanyahu needs a new agenda to spearhead his campaign. His struggle against the media helps, but it is not enough. Diplomatic negotiations with the Palestinians are out of the question. On the other hand, a focus on national honor touches a sensitive point among all Israeli right voters….Netanyahu is preparing for the next election, and the Nationality Law will be a major tool in his campaign. The difference between the very essence of this law and the legacy of former Likud leader and Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who was a staunch defender of equal rights for the Arab minority, is further evidence of changes to the Likud over the past few years. Begin didn’t need controversial legislation in order to increase Israel’s sense of Jewish identity.”

Trump Hasn’t Reached Decision on Moving U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, Spokesperson Says, Haaretz

Less than two weeks before President Trump arrives for a highly-anticipated visit to Israel, his administration has still not reached any decision regarding his election promise to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – and has not indicated a timeline for when a decision will be reached. Over the last weeks, contradictory press reports in Israel have indicated that Trump will either declare the embassy move during his visit, or to the contrary, not move the embassy at all. On Wednesday evening, White House Deputy Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, was asked about the issue in the daily press briefing, and did not provide a concrete answer.

Israeli Left and Right Plan Political Activity for Trump’s Upcoming Visit, Jerusalem Post

“Movements on the Left and Right on Wednesday announced preparations for political activity surrounding US President Donald Trump’s May 22 visit. Peace Now is organizing a rally for May 27, the Saturday night after the visit. Labor and Meretz are cosponsoring the event in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, the site of a peace rally where Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in November 1995….The left-wing Darkenu organization is planning a campaign ahead of the Trump visit in favor of withdrawing from territories. The campaign will feature billboards and flyers with the slogan ‘Israel says yes to separating from the Palestinians.’….Organizations on the Right have not announced their own campaign yet, but they are working on many levels to prevent a diplomatic process from starting and succeeding.”


Netanyahu’s Office Postpones Meeting on Settlement Construction Until After Trump’s Visit, Haaretz

The Prime Minister’s Office had the Civil Administration’s High Planning Committee postponed a meeting that was supposed to convene this week to approve building projects in West Bank settlements.  A senior official told Haaretz that Netanyahu’s office asked that the meeting only take place after President Trump’s visit to the country on May 22 ends. The senior official, who asked to remain anonymous, stated that the postponement was intended to avoid friction between Israel and the U.S. over the issue of settlement construction a short while before the presidential visit.

PA security services seize hundreds of weapons in West Bank, Times of Israel

“Palestinian Authority security forces have confiscated hundreds of illegal weapons in expansive operations carried out in recent weeks in the West Bank. In targeting a different area with each raid, PA forces have succeeded in seizing a significant number of arms, Israeli and Palestinian sources said. Most notable among those were “Carlos” guns — crude, homemade but lethal submachine guns that have been used to carry out numerous terror attacks over the past several years. At the same time, the forces loyal to PA President Mahmoud Abbas have continued their arrests of terror suspects, primarily Hamas activists, but also those aligned with the Islamic State terror group and other extremist organizations. They have succeeded in thwarting attacks both in the West Bank and in Israel proper.”

FIFA Council Removes Draft Resolution on Israeli Settlement Teams From Congress Agenda, Haaretz

The council of FIFA, the international soccer association, decided to remove the draft resolution on soccer teams from Israeli settlements from the agenda of its congress. Tuesday’s decision was reached by the organization’s council, which convened in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, ahead of the FIFA Congress set to begin on Wednesday. In an official statement, FIFA said that following a discussion of the matter, the FIFA council decided that it would be too early for the congress to make a decision on the issue at this stage.

There are no settlements, Israel’s new envoy to Brazil says in interview, JTA

Israel’s new ambassador to Brazil, whose nomination replaced that of a former settler leader rejected by Latin America’s largest country, declared that the Jewish state does not have settlements in the West Bank. ‘Israel has no settlements, but areas under war,’ Shelley said Tuesday during an interview with O Globo newspaper, the first of his term. ‘We do not recognize the occupation, as journalists and politicians say, but rather the international law. Of course we want to solve the problem.’”

Gaza’s Health Ministry Warns: Palestinian Authority to Stop Sending Medicine, Baby Formula to Hospitals, Haaretz

The Palestinian Authority is to stop providing medicines and baby formula to hospitals in the Gaza Strip, which could have disastrous consequences for residents in the Strip, the Health Ministry in Gaza warned Tuesday. The director general of the Gazan Health Ministry’s pharmacy department, Dr. Munir al-Bursh, was quoted on a number of Palestinian websites identified with Hamas as saying this was a political decision. He is in contact with senior officials in the Health Ministry in the West Bank to determine the meaning of the decision – which was announced by Ramallah on Tuesday – and how long it will be in effect, he said.

Netanyahu discusses peace process, Syria with Putin, Times of Israel

Prime Minister Netanyahu discussed the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the ongoing civil war in Syria in a Wednesday phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian officials said.

Hamas assures critics Israel’s destruction still its goal, Times of Israel

Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar clarified Wednesday that his terror group’s new political program, which some interpreted as accepting the idea of a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines, would not preclude Hamas from seeking to liberate all of historic Palestine, including Israel. “If we liberate Palestine though the resistance until the 1967 borders, we will go directly to liberate the rest of Palestine and the territories of 1948, and there will be no negotiations,” Zahar said at a conference in Gaza addressing international reactions to the new policy document, according to the Hamas-linked al-Resalah news site.

Opinions and Analysis

Why UNESCO’s ‘Jerusalem resolution’ is a win for Netanyahu, Al-Monitor

Akiva Eldar writes, “When will the Arab leaders and their supporters at UNESCO and other UN bodies finally learn that their anti-Israel resolutions do not bring an end of the occupation any closer and do not strengthen the country’s peace camp? When will they learn that, in reality, they hinder the end of the occupation and weaken the peace camp? They would do us all a favor if they find themselves something to do in other regions of conflict of which, sadly, there are a great many.”

If You Served in the Army, You Know: Breaking the Silence Is Telling the Truth, Haaretz

“Here is a spoiler, in case you never set foot in the occupied territories: Even if somebody inflated his story, and their colleague was an innocent soldier who took things out of context, Breaking the Silence is telling the truth….I never testified before Breaking the Silence. But for all my discomfort at the path the group is taking, for all my reservations, next time I think I will, without hesitating. Because in the face of a shameless lie, and the attempt to blind the eyes of the willfully sightless even more, what matters is not only knowing the truth, but stating it.

The more the testimony deniers grow, and declaimers of the ‘most moral army in the world’ multiply, the clearer the importance of Breaking the Silence’s primary goal: to tell Israelis what is being done in their name.”

Why Abbas asked Israel to cut power to Gaza, Al-Monitor

“Several Israeli media outlets, including Israel’s Channel 10, reported April 27 that the Palestinian Authority had asked the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories to stop funding electricity for the Gaza Strip.Channel 10 reported that the PA submitted a formal request to the body’s head, Yoav Mordechai, to halt funding in the amount of 40 million shekels ($12 million) a month, which Israel withholds from Palestinian tax revenues. However, Israel did not respond to the Palestinian demand and continued to supply electricity to Gaza. The request appears to be part of the PA’s plan to pressure Hamas to hand over control of the Gaza Strip. Gazans rallied to condemn the Palestinian request.”