News Roundup for May 12, 2017

May 12, 2017

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J Street in the News

Trump’s Policy on Israel Turns U.S. Jewish Groups Topsy-turvy, Haaretz

“Haaretz spoke this week to seven heads or leading members of U.S. Jewish organizations active on Israel, on both the right and the left of the political spectrum….Nearly everyone agreed that while it was too early to draw final conclusions about Trump’s policy on Israel and the Palestinians, things were indeed moving in an unexpected direction. On the left, one interesting example is J Street, which has become the largest dovish organization in the U.S. Jewish community. At its annual conference in Washington in early March, just over a month after the inauguration, succeeding speakers slammed Trump and his domestic agenda on issues such as immigration. J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami, a domestic policy adviser in the Clinton White House, found parallels between Trump’s domestic policies and what Ben-Ami called the president’s ‘dangerous’ rejection of the two-state solution. He declared that J Street would fight Trump on both fronts. This week, Ben-Ami told Haaretz that while his organization’s general view of Trump ‘hasn’t changed,’ J Street will support any serious peace effort pursued by the administration. ‘Every administration in the last 50 years has taken steps to move in that direction,’ Ben-Ami said, referring to a peaceful conclusion to the conflict. ‘If Trump begins to take steps that are in line with that policy, we’ll support it.’ Asked what he thought about Trump’s moves on Israel so far, Ben-Ami said ‘you have to give [Trump] a passing grade,’ adding that ‘it’s more about things he hasn’t done then things he has.” Ben-Ami said one good step taken by the administration was Trump’s decision to visit Israel early in his presidency — and his insistence on including a visit to the Palestinian Authority and a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during the short trip. ‘That’s the right thing to do,’ Ben-Ami said.”

Top News and Analysis

What the Israeli Right Gets Wrong About Security and the Occupation, According to Ehud Barak, Haaretz

Ehud Barak writes, “The catastrophe the left describes – “one state, which will lead to an Arab majority and a prolonged civil war, or, alternatively, an apartheid state steeped in violence and facing an ongoing threat of collapse” – is, lamentably, an accurate portrayal. Whereas the catastrophe the right describes is not of the same scale. Separation from the Palestinians does not constitute an existential threat, and the argument that in its wake it would be impossible to defend Israel, is incorrect. Most of those who have been engaged with Israel’s security throughout the country’s history, and who believe in security before and above every other consideration, view separation from the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria – combined with Israeli security control over the whole area for any foreseeable future – as part of every interim agreement. And they view “territorial compromise” and “two states for two nations” as part of any final-status agreement, when it comes. If we are not wise enough to consider a territorial compromise, we face a danger, not only to the state’s character and its status internationally, but above all to security. Including the battle against terrorism….Anxiety is not a healthy national strategy. If a regional power like Israel lapses into a pessimistic, passive, self-victimizing frame of mind, the result will be paralysis, missed opportunities to transform the situation from the ground up, and bleak prophecies that will (because of the paralysis) prove self-fulfilling….Those who are in charge of our security on a daily basis and who make life-and-death decisions, must plan and operate according to reality as it is, not according to wishful thinking or political “belief.” And the fact that almost all of them find themselves on the left side of this dispute should have signaled us clearly that this is indeed the reality.”

The death of the TV channel that once unified Israel, JTA

Ron Kampeas writes about the closing of Israel’s long-running Channel 1. “It’s no understatement to say that a broadcaster that went virtually unchallenged for decades — until the rise in the 1970s of Army Radio and then the launch of commercial broadcasts in the 1990s — shaped the country in profound ways….Channel 2, and eventually the flurry of cable channels that came in its wake, reflected Israel as it evolved: loud, raucous, international and at perpetual odds with itself. Channel 1 was Israel as it once aspired to be: tough, serious, analytical and infused with the spare sensibilities of modern Hebrew poetry.”

Netanyahu Fears Trump’s Cooking Something Big, Haaretz

Yossi Verter writes, “Benjamin Netanyahu is nervous, ministers say. He’s afraid Trump is laying an ambush for him, whose dimensions and impact will only be apparent when he’s here wandering between Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Masada. Netanyahu has no idea what the president is bringing. Last week he held three discussions on making significant economic gestures to the Palestinians, with which Netanyahu hopes to show Trump that his intentions are serious. It’s doubtful whether Trump, not to mention our partners, will suffice with that….The official, who often speaks to the president’s envoy to the Middle East, attorney Jason Greenblatt, said this week he was surprised to hear the rightist, Orthodox Jew, Har Etzion yeshiva graduate’s repeated references to former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s ideas on the peace process….An Israeli official said Livni was not only briefing Greenblatt about her long talks with the Palestinians, but also refuting Netanyahu’s argument about being unable to reach an agreement because of his government’s makeup. Livni told Greenblatt that the prime minister was assured of the opposition’s votes in the Knesset. As she recently said, if Netanyahu says he can’t, it should be clear to everyone that he won’t.”


Palestinian Who Killed British Student in Jerusalem Attack Charged With Murder, Haaretz

A court charged an East Jerusalem man on Thursday with the premeditated murder of a British student traveling on the city’s light rail last month. According to the indictment, 57-year-old Jamil Tamimi of Ras al-Amud was released from a Jerusalem psychiatric hospital a day before murdering the  21-year-old Hannah Bladon. The indictment notes that Tamimi had purchased a knife in Jerusalem and then called his sons asking to stay with them. Upon their refusal and due to his anger, he decided to stab a person to death.

Abbas, in meeting with Putin, says Moscow must be part of peace process, Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Sochi resort in Western Russia on Thursday, and said that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be “impossible” without the participation of Moscow in the peace process. “It is impossible to solve the Palestinian issue without Russia’s meaningful participation in the peace process. That is what we have been emphasizing at all international meetings,’ Abbas said in his meeting with Putin, according to the official Russian State news agency Tass.

Israeli forces injure 11 Palestinians during hunger strike solidarity march, Ma’an

Israeli forces injured at least 11 Palestinians during a solidarity march in Ramallah in the central occupied West Bank on Thursday, as clashes erupted with Israeli forces near the settlement of Beit El. The march set off from a solidarity tent erected at Yasser Arafat Square in central Ramallah city for the estimated 1,600 Palestinians currently on hunger strike in Israeli prisons. When protesters began to march toward the Beit El settlement Israeli forces began shooting live bullets, rubber-coated steel bullets, and tear gas at demonstrators to prevent them from approaching the military checkpoint located near the settlement.

Fatah Calls on All Affiliated Prisoners in Israel to Join Hunger Strike, Haaretz

The Fatah Central Committee, considered the Palestinian movement’s top decision-making body, called on Thursday for all its members in Israeli prisons to join the hunger strike immediately. The resolution passed by the committee is purportedly binding on all healthy adult male Fatah members who are incarcerated in Israel. According to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, more than 3,000 prisoners are taking part in the strike and 1,000 others are expected to join in the wake of the Central Committee resolution. The resolution was the result of negotiations with young Fatah activists, amid what some participants called the wider Fatah leadership’s lukewarm support for the hunger strike. The Fatah movement, with which Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is affiliated, controls the Palestinian Authority.

Israel UN envoy calls on Security Council to end PA’s payments to terrorists, i24 News

Israel’s United Nations Ambassador Danny Danon addressed the UN Security Council on Thursday, urging action on the issue of the Palestinian Authority, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, paying out large sums to convicted terrorists and their families. “The Security Council must act immediately to put an end to the funding of terrorists by the Palestinian Authority,” said Danon before the council. “Aid provided by the donor countries to the PA every year ends up funding terrorist who murdered innocent Israelis.” Outside the meeting, the ambassador presented data that displayed the payments made, said a press release.

Israeli Cabinet Panel to Consider Bill Barring High Court Petitions on Behalf of Palestinians, Haaretz

A bill that would bar nongovernmental organizations from petitioning the High Court of Justice on behalf of Palestinians will be debated by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday. The bill is being proposed following the wave of court petitions filed seeking the evacuation of settlements built on privately owned Palestinian land in the West Bank, notably Migron, and more recently, in February of this year, the outpost of Amona. The bill would bar Knesset members from petitioning the court to challenge cabinet decisions and laws passed by the Knesset and would provide that no individual, organization or public agency could petition the court to challenge a government action unless that action directly and personally harmed either the individual petitioner, members of the petitioning organization or an interest that a public agency is entrusted to upholding.

Opinions and Analysis

Jewish State Should Not Mean An Exclusively Jewish State, Matzvav Blog

Michael Koplow writes, “It is entirely appropriate for Israel to be a Jewish state as defined by it being the nation-state of the Jewish people and the Jewish homeland. Where this crosses a line is when Israel as a Jewish state is defined as one that privileges Jews to the exclusion of non-Jews or tramples upon the rights of non-Jews. A Jewish state does not mean a state that is exclusively for Jews, and if that line of thinking is adopted into law, it puts Israel’s democratic status in jeopardy. One area where Israel has clearly violated this is with the Law of Return, in which Jews are given preference for immigration and citizenship purposes, but that is something that I will unwaveringly defend since it is what allows Israel to be a Jewish state. What is indefensible is treating Israeli citizens differently once they have that citizenship status, and this is why the Hebrew language component of the pending bill is so problematic….Hebrew will always be the language spoken overwhelmingly in Israel, and making it harder for non-Jewish citizens of Israel to go about their daily lives does not privilege the Jewish language so much as it punishes the non-Jewish one. It is a cruel gesture designed to put non-Jewishness down rather than to raise Jewishness up.”

Israeli Right Wingers No Longer See Trump As ‘Messiah’, Forward

Naomi Zeveloff reports, “Though no one knows what a Trump peace plan would look like, the very fact that he is interested in restarting negotiations with the Palestinians has Israel’s ultra-right worried, a startling shift from their buoyant mood just a few months ago….When Trump arrives in Israel, likely on May 22, right wingers won’t see him as the “messiah” that they perceived him to be during the election, in Stern’s phrasing, but that doesn’t mean they’ll turn a cold shoulder to Trump. Possible peace overtures or no, he’s still a welcome change from Obama, a deeply unpopular figure among the Israeli right for his pressure to end settlement building.”

Knesset reels after defense minister compares Arab members to Nazis, Al-Monitor

Shlomi Eldar reports, that Avigdor Lieberman’s  “latest pronouncement on May 8 is by far the most extreme and abusive Liberman has made publicly in his political career….The Arab legislators claim Liberman crossed a red line, and that his comments constitute incitement to murder. ‘We have heard many pronouncements by Liberman over the years,” Knesset member Aida Touma-Sliman told Al-Monitor. But the comparison Liberman drew between Arab Knesset members and the Nazis — the most despicable, murderous and inhuman regime the modern world has known — is a dangerous escalation, she said….Sliman and other Joint List Knesset members expressed satisfaction that many legislators were shocked by Liberman’s remarks. But, she added, Jewish lawmakers feel the need to cast off such comparisons also because they belittle the horrors of the Holocaust. ‘Using us to draw a comparison with the Nazi dictator is both vile and over the top, but it also appears to make light of what happened to the Jews,’ she told Al-Monitor.”

Israel’s Bright Light – Mohammed Darawshe, Rabbi John Rosove’s Blog

Rabbi Rosove writes, “Among all the remarkable people we met this past week, first among equals is Mohammed Darawshe, the Director of Planning, Equality and Shared Society at the Givat Haviva Educational Center located inside the Green Line in the middle of the country….Givat Haviva’s work draws together neighboring Jewish and Arab municipalities to create ties and initiate joint projects in the fields of economy, education, and culture. It promotes joint educational projects and youth encounters, a joint industrial park, a river restoration project, establishment of a regional bike trail, and construction of a shared football stadium.”

Jordan high on agenda for top US military adviser’s Israel visit, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit reports, “Many issues were on Dunford’s agenda during this visit to Israel, though his main task was to prepare for the arrival of the US commander in chief. Numerous sources in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, as well as Western diplomatic representatives in Israel, concur that the “burning issue” for the United States is the stability of the Kingdom of Jordan, considering all the problems accumulating along its northeastern border, especially with Syria and Iraq.”

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