News Roundup for May 22, 2018

May 22, 2018

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J Street in the News

Pompeo threatens US will ‘crush’ Iran through sanctions and pressure campaign, CNN

“The liberal leaning pro-Israel advocacy group J Street called on Congress to ensure that Trump ‘and his regime change-obsessed advisors cannot bring about another costly and bloody war of choice.’ Lawmakers ‘must make clear that the President does not now have its authorization for the use of military force against Iran,’ J Street’s Vice President of Government Affairs Dylan Williams said in a statement.”

J Street condemns Pompeo speech, while AIPAC welcomes it, Times of the Israel

“The left-wing J Street advocacy group slams US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech laying out the White House’s new strategy towards Iran, saying it shows America is ‘almost totally isolated and is acting as a destabilizing force in the Middle East,’  under President Donald Trump. ‘Let’s be clear: Today, it’s the US alone that is in violation of the historic JCPOA arms control agreement.. Under the guidance of his new war cabinet, the president has demanded Iran’s complete and unconditional capitulation on a maximalist list of demands – an approach that is a recipe for confrontation and war,’ Dylan Williams, the group’s vice president of government affairs, says in a statement.”

Will Rising Criticism of Israel help Jewish Democrats – or Hurt Them?, Forward

“J Street director of communications Logan Bayroff agreed that the responses to the embassy move and violence in Gaza would not dampen liberal Jewish voter enthusiasm ahead of the midterms. ‘Republicans or anyone stained with Trump’s foreign policy are not going to be popular with American Jews,’ he said. Indeed, an overwhelming number of American Jews still identify as center-left, with 76% of the community saying they were moderate to liberal, according to a September 2017 American Jewish Committee poll.”

Pompeo Speech Shows US under Trump is a Destabilizing Force in the Middle East, J Street

“The president, advised by longtime proponents of regime change, has demanded Iran’s complete and unconditional capitulation on almost every issue of dispute. This totally unrealistic approach must be seen for what it is: A recipe for confrontation and war. Faced with this crisis, it is insufficient to merely call for restraint by the administration, or hope that cooler heads within it will prevail. The only way to ensure that a profoundly unfit president and his regime change-obsessed advisers cannot bring about another costly and bloody war of choice is for Congress to exercise its constitutional duty to act as a check on the president. Congress must make clear that the president does not have its authorization for the use of military force against Iran.”

Top News and Analysis

Pompeo threatens Iran with ‘strongest sanctions in history’, Politico

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday threatened to impose “the strongest sanctions in history” on Iran unless it takes dramatic steps, including permanently abandoning its nuclear program, halting missile tests and withdrawing military forces from Syria. Critics quickly called the maximalist demands unrealistic and warned that they put the U.S. on dangerous new collision course with Tehran — as well as European allies who oppose President Donald Trump’s crackdown on Iran and face potential U.S. sanctions from continuing to do business with the country.

Trump Kept His Promises to Netanyahu, and Showed They Were Worse than Worthless, American Prospect

Gershom Gorenberg writes, “The embassy opening was the pinnacle of Netanyahu’s diplomatic campaign. The split screen showed how little it can accomplish as long as Gaza festers and the occupation of the West Bank continues.  Trump’s promises, it turns out, are most dangerous when he keeps them. And like his Republican friends, Netanyahu is stained by his embrace of Trump. The split screen tells the story: On one side, Ivanka and a Trump sign. On the other, reality.”

As Health Worsens, Israeli Intelligence Sees the Beginning of the End of Abbas’ Rule, Haaretz

Amos Harel reports, “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ hospitalization this past week has led to conflicting reports about his health. Senior Palestinian Authority officials have downplayed the seriousness of his condition. But according to rumors in Ramallah over the weekend, the true information is being kept under wraps.”


Palestinians Cross Into Israel From Gaza; Army Hits Hamas Target With Tank Fire, Haaretz

An Israeli army tank fired Tuesday on an outpost belonging to Hamas in Gaza Strip. The Israeli defense forces said that the tank fire was a response to number of fires set by “terrorists who crossed from Gaza in the early morning hours,” a statement said.

Palestinians Ask International Criminal Court to Investigate Israel’s ‘Grave Crimes’, Haaretz

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki has asked the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel’s “grave crimes” and called on prosecutors there to open an immediate investigation into Israel’s settlements in the Palestinian territories.

Majority of Americans Don’t Believe Trump Can Get Mideast Peace Deal, Poll Says, Haaretz

A majority of Americans don’t believe U.S. President Donald Trump can successfully broker a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, according to a CBS News poll published Sunday.

UN rights chief backs calls for inquiry over Gaza deaths, Washington Post

The U.N.’s top human rights official said Friday there’s “little evidence” that Israel made an effort to minimalize casualties during protests by Palestinians earlier this week and backed calls for an international inquiry.

UN Human Rights Body Calls for International Inquiry in Gaza – U.S. and Australia Object, Haaretz

The UN human rights body on Friday called for an international inquiry into the state of human rights in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, calling out Israel for its killings of protesters in the Strip. Jerusalem blasted the decision and the council as being biased against Israel.

Egypt Will Keep the Rafah Crossing With Gaza Open for All of the Month of Ramadan, Haaretz

Egypt will keep the Rafah crossing with Gaza open for the entire month of Ramadan. Egyptian President Gen. Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi made the announcement in a post on his official Facebook page on Thursday, saying he has ordered the relevant authorities to keep the crossing open to make life easier for the residents of the Gaza Strip.

EU considers Iran central bank transfers to beat U.S. sanctions, Reuters

The European Union, once Iran’s biggest oil importer, is determined to save the nuclear accord, that U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned on May 8, by keeping money flowing to Tehran as long as the Islamic Republic complies with the 2015 deal to prevent it from developing an atomic weapon.

Ties with Israel Sour as Erdogan Seizes Gaza Issue Before Election, The New York Times    The deaths of at least 60 people in Gaza this week have not only inflamed relations between Turkey and Israel. They have added a powerful new element to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s re-election campaign, as he seizes the issue to further a longstanding ambition to position himself as a leader among Muslim states.

Egypt and Qatar Working on Long-term Ceasefire, Hamas Disarmament Plans for Gaza, Haaretz

According to diplomatic sources in Israel, Egypt seeks to promote reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, expand the Palestinian Authority’s role in the Gaza Strip, initiate economic relief and arrange for the gradual dismantling of the Hamas military wing. Qatar is proposing that an unaffiliated council of experts manage the Gaza Strip, a halt to Hamas arming itself with offensive weapons and getting international organizations involved to monitor the process.

Paraguay opens embassy in Jerusalem, after U.S. and Guatemala, Politico

Paraguay opened its new embassy in Jerusalem on Monday, following in the footsteps of the United States and Guatemala. President Horacio Cartes dedicated the embassy, making Paraguay the third country to transfer its diplomatic mission in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Palestinians Urge Arab World to Cut Ties With Guatemala, Paraguay for Relocating Embassies to Jerusalem, Haaretz

The Palestinian Authority is urging the Arab world and Islamic nations to cut ties with Guatemala and Paraguay after the two countries followed the U.S. in relocating their embassies to Jerusalem.

From Netanyahu to Leftists, Praise and Scorn for Late Middle East Scholar Bernard Lewis, Haaretz

The death of Bernard Lewis, renowned historian of Islam and the Middle East, has been met with the highest accolades from conservative figures like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and stinging critiques of his legacy from those who blame him for fanning conflict in the Middle East.

Opinions and Analysis

Despair haunts Gaza as blockade remains after bloody protests, Guardian

Oliver Holmes reports on the dire living conditions and lack of prospects affecting ordinary Gaza residents.

Israel’s policies threaten to spark religious war, Al Monitor

“There is great rage and anger in Ramallah over the May 14 relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The Palestinian leadership feels that this move infringes on their right to East Jerusalem. There are also sentiments of frustration, as Ramallah estimates that the Arab and Muslim world did little to block it. On the other hand, the violence on the Gaza border infuriates West Bank Palestinians….As it appears, since 1967, the views of both sides have never clashed as much as they clash today, and a violent conflict with strong religious undertones cannot be ruled out.”

Two Years on the Job, Israel’s Defense Minister Lacks Knowledge, Training and Influence, Haaretz

Yaniv Kubovich profiles Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, focusing on widespread perceptions of his leadership as insular and lacking in-depth grasp of policy.

The Fight to Define the Very Essence of Israel, Guardian

Bernard Avishai describes the crossroads at which Israel finds itself, with its aspirations for a Jewish and democratic future constrained by the limits of its current politics.

In Europe, Standing Up to America Is Now Patriotic, The Atlantic

Krishnadev Calamur writes, “[T]he fate of the Iran deal is bigger than Iran—it stands to fundamentally shift how EU foreign policymakers view the trans-Atlantic alliance. If the Paris climate accord, the steel and aluminum tariffs, and the digs about NATO spending weren’t enough, the Iran deal has reinforced the European perception that on certain issues they are on their own.”

Pompeo speech reveals no realistic plan to get a better Iran deal, Washington Post

Jennifer Rubin writes, “We’ve gone from a unified front against Iran to a unified front against President Trump’s harebrained scheme. One wonders how a future president is going to repair the wreckage of American foreign policy this president will leave behind.”