News Roundup for May 14, 2018

May 14, 2018

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J Street in the News

Trump’s decision to open Jerusalem embassy complicates promise to seek Middle East peace, Washington Post

“Jeremy Ben-Ami, the head of J Street, a U.S. group that favors a two-state peace settlement, called the embassy move a ‘suicidal act’ that blocks the United States from playing any role in helping forge a deal of the magnitude and complexity that Trump seeks. ‘The credibility of this administration as a potential broker is lost and irreparable,’ he said. ‘If it does put forth any sort of a proposal, the most one can expect is it will be a recitation of the right-wing Israeli talking points — proposals that have been aired out in Israel for some time but do not bear any resemblance to anything a Palestinian representative can accept.’”

Israel kicks off US Embassy celebration, boosts border force, AP

“Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, a liberal pro-Israel group in the U.S., expressed concern that the embassy move would backfire. He accused the White House of putting the interests of a small group of hard-liners ahead of the larger interest of promoting peace with the Palestinians. ‘Making a move like this removes the U.S. as a credible mediator,’ he said.”

Top News and Analysis

16 Palestinians killed in Gaza protests ahead of embassy opening, CNN

Sixteen Palestinians were killed during protests in Gaza on Monday, hours before the new US embassy was due to officially open in Jerusalem, the Palestinian Ministry of Health announced. The Ministry said more than 500 had suffered injuries.

Israel Braces for Incendiary Week in Gaza, West Bank as Tensions With Iran Expected to Ease, Haaretz

Amos Harel reports, “The army is preparing for about 100,000 protestors and anticipate mass attempts, more violent than in the past, to breach the fence. This time, the events are less identified with Hamas. The opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem Monday and Nakba Day on Tuesday will provide an all-Palestinian context to the protest and could sweep in supporters of other Palestinian groups. On Saturday night, the Israel Air Force struck a tunnel Hamas dug under the Erez Crossing on the northern border of the Strip. This is the ninth tunnel the IDF has destroyed in the Strip during the last six months. Demonstrations are also anticipated in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, although meanwhile widespread enthusiasm has not been seen and there has been complete quiet in the West Bank for these weeks in the Gaza Strip in which many were killed and injured. But the need to show dominance in the street could also bring Fatah supporters out in the next two days. And the opening of the U.S. Embassy could spark new motivation for lone-wolf attacks.”

US set to break with tradition and open embassy in Jerusalem, CNN

“The Trump Administration is set to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem Monday, formally breaking from decades of established American policy and international practice in a move that US officials say will create greater regional stability. Critics say the decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital could make a region already struggling with four ongoing conflicts all the more combustible. And they argue it marks the end of the US role as an ‘honest broker’ in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.”

Charity headed by David Friedman, US envoy to Israel, gave money to extremist group, JTA

Ron Kampeas reports, “David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, was president of a non-profit that donated money to a far-right Jewish group. American Friends of Bet El Yeshiva Center donated 48,000 shekels — about $12,000 — to Qomemiyut in 2013, when Friedman was president of the non-profit, according to a report by the Democratic Bloc, an Israeli NGO that tracks funding for right-wing groups….Qomemiyut translates as ‘sovereignty,’ but also shares a root in Hebrew with the word ‘uprising.’ Its officers are a who’s who of Israel’s hard right, including Knesset member Betzalel Smotrich, a member of the extreme faction of the Jewish Home Party, and Dov Lior, the former rabbi of Kiryat Arba who has repeatedly been accused of incitement. In 2014, Lior said Jewish law allows for the destruction of the Gaza Strip.”

With Demise of Nuclear Deal, Iran’s Foes See an Opportunity. Others See Risk of War, The New York Times

“An alliance against Iran has tightened, with the United States, Israel and the Gulf countries united in opposition. But if they are now more committed than ever to challenging Iran’s reach, their abilities are limited….Analysts said neither side wanted to escalate into a full-fledged war, which could quickly spiral into a regionwide conflagration, and by dawn, quiet had returned. But the risk of a broader war could not be ruled out.”


U.S. Ready to Impose Sanctions on European Companies in Iran, Bolton Says, Wall Street Journal

National security adviser John Bolton warned Sunday that the US is prepared to impose sanctions on European companies if their governments don’t heed President Donald Trump’s demand to stop dealing with Iran.

26 Cars Vandalized in East Jerusalem, Firebomb Thrown Into Jewish Home, Haaretz

Two separate violent incidents took place in East Jerusalem overnight Monday amid tensions rising in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in preparation for protests marking Nakba Day, and the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, both on Monday. A firebomb was thrown at a Jewish home in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem on Sunday night. A policeman at the scene was injured lightly in the eye and evacuated to the hospital. Twenty six parked cars in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shoafat had their tires slashed on early Monday morning and graffiti saying: “Jews wake up” was spray painted on nearby walls. The police opened an investigation into the incident.

Romney denounces pastor slated to speak at US embassy in Jerusalem, The Hill

“Senate candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) on Sunday night denounced the pastor expected to speak at Monday’s ceremony celebrating the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. ‘Robert Jeffress says ‘you can’t be saved by being a Jew,’ and ‘Mormonism is a heresy from the pit of hell.’ He’s said the same about Islam. Such a religious bigot should not be giving the prayer that opens the United States Embassy in Jerusalem,’ Romney tweeted.”

Cabinet Approves Billions to Ramp Up Israeli Sovereignty in East Jerusalem, Haaretz

The cabinet voted Sunday to allot 2 billion shekels ($560 million) over five years to strengthen Israeli sovereignty in East Jerusalem, with much of the funding to encourage Palestinian schools to use the Israeli curriculum. Palestinian officials in East Jerusalem, including parents’ committees, are opposed to the plan and protesting at schools being pressured to move to the Israeli curriculum — and are calling it an effort to change their children’s identity.

Israeli Soccer Club Infamous For Racism Adds ‘Trump’ To Name, Forward

The best soccer team in Jerusalem announced Sunday that it was renaming itself to honor President Trump’s recognition of the city as Israel’s capital. Beitar Jerusalem praised the president on Facebook.

Iran FM hopeful of forging ‘clear future’ for nuclear deal on diplomatic tour, Yahoo News

Iran’s foreign minister said Sunday he was hopeful of forging a “clear future design” for the nuclear deal facing collapse after Washington’s withdrawal, at the start of a diplomatic tour aimed at rescuing the agreement.

Israel’s Netta Wins 2018 Eurovision Song Contest With ‘Toy’, Haaretz

Israel won the 2018 Eurovision contest with Netta Barzilai’s song “Toy,” beating Cyprus and Austria in the popular vote. This is the first time since 1998 that Israel wins the song contest, and fourth time overall.

Opinions and Analysis

Not Just Gaza: Palestinians in West Bank and Jerusalem Urged to Hold Mass Protests, Haaretz

Jack Khoury reports, “Palestinians throughout the West Bank and Jerusalem are being urged to turn out en masse to protest Monday’s transfer of the American Embassy to Jerusalem and Tuesday’s 70th anniversary of the Nakba, or ‘catastrophe,’ as Palestinians term Israel’s creation. In Ramallah and El Bireh, the marches will start at 11 A.M. and proceed to the Qalandiyah Checkpoint near Jerusalem. Marches will also leave from other cities, including Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus and Jericho. The National Committee to Commemorate the Nakba said the Palestinian public must send a message to the international community that it rejects the decision to move the embassy and insists on the Palestinians’ right to statehood and self-determination.”

He Was a Tireless Critic of the Iran Deal. Now He Insists He Wanted to Save It, The New York Times

Gardiner Harris writes, “While many hands gripped the sword that undercut the Iran nuclear deal, no one outside the Trump administration was a more persistent or effective critic than Mark Dubowitz, the chief executive of a hawkish Washington think tank. But rather than publicly celebrate President Trump’s decision Tuesday to jettison the accord, he is mourning its demise, saying he genuinely wanted to fix the agreement and worries that its unraveling could be dangerous. That lament, though, has enraged the pact’s supporters, who never saw a fix as remotely palatable to Mr. Trump and blame Mr. Dubowitz above all others for providing the intellectual foundation for its passing. They now say he is trying to distance himself from the potentially catastrophic results.”

Europe fears Trump, Netanyahu encouraging Iran’s hard-liners, Al-Monitor

Uri Savir reports, “The EU and its main member states agree with the United States and Israel that given its ambitions in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, and its influence in the Gaza Strip, the Iranian regime presents a threat to regional stability. But the European leadership does not believe that a war with Iran by an international coalition could resolve the problem. On the contrary. It would strengthen the hard-liners in Tehran, the radical clerics and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). In such a situation, strong Russia would back Iran. Such a war could be an unprecedented blood bath. Brussels, Paris and Berlin think that an excessively hard-line policy against Iran, placing a military option as a realistic alternative, may drive the whole region into conflict, terror and even war.”

Jerusalem by the numbers: Poverty, demolitions, and exile, +972

Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man writes, “While Jewish Israelis celebrate the ‘reunification’ of Jerusalem, data shows that the city is anything but unified. From concrete walls that separate to budgets that discriminate, East Jerusalem and West Jerusalem — despite being a part of the same municipality — are hardly the same, let alone a unified city.”

The UK must act to counter Trump’s destructive Jerusalem decision, Guardian

Alon Liel argues, “I would even go so far as to say that if Britain (ideally co-ordinating its policy with France) recognised Palestine, it could save the equitable two-state solution and the possibility of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. As an Israeli patriot who loves his country, I also see such a British move as vital to the preservation of Israeli democracy. Only the two-state solution that Trump has just fractured badly can guarantee a democratic Israel. A single bi-national state with a similar number of Jews and Arabs will not remain democratic. A British recognition would be historic and could bring about lasting benefits for both Israelis and Palestinians.”