News Roundup for May 22, 2019

May 22, 2019

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J Street in the News

The Trump-Kushner peace plan looks doomed already, Washington Post
“Supporters of the two-state solution fear that it may doom the last fleeting hopes for a meaningful agreement. ‘Kushner’s attempt to find an economic solution to this long-running political conflict is destined for failure,’ Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, a liberal pro-Israel advocacy organization in Washington, said in an emailed statement. ‘It risks paving the way to disastrous steps such as formal annexation, which would undermine any future efforts to reach a lasting peace,’ he added.”

J Street Among 62 Organizations Telling Congress: Halt a March to War with Iran, J Street
“We urge you to pass legislation to bar funding for an unauthorized war with Iran — The Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran Act — together with legislation that makes clear that no existing statutory authorization, including the 2001 authorization for use of military force, provides for war with Iran.”

Top News and Analysis

Trump officials brief a divided Congress on escalating tensions with Iran, Washington Post
Lawmakers were sharply divided Tuesday over whether Iran poses an imminent threat to US interests or the Trump administration is exaggerating intelligence to lay the groundwork for war. Top administration officials briefed the House and Senate in two closed-door sessions for all members, presenting evidence that Iran may be poised to attack U.S. military and diplomatic personnel in the Middle East. But some Democrats said that none of the information showed Iran was appreciably more of a threat now than in the past, and they accused the administration of being ready to attack at the slightest provocation.

Half of American adults expect war with Iran ‘within next few years’: Reuters/Ipsos poll, Reuters
The survey showed that 51% of adults felt that the United States and Iran would go to war within the next few years, up 8 percentage points from a similar poll published last June. In this year’s poll, Iran was characterized by 53% of adults in the United States as either a “serious” or “imminent” threat, up 6 percentage points from a similar poll from last July. Despite their concerns, 60% of Americans said the United States should not conduct a pre-emptive attack on the Iranian military, while 12% advocate for striking first.

Netanyahu doubles down on West Bank annexation after ex-generals speak out, Times of Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and top lawmakers from his Likud party on Tuesday spoke out forcefully in support of extending Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank, after a group of former senior security officials warned the move would endanger the country.


Iran refuses Trump’s offer of talks unless US shows ‘respect’, CNN
Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, has said his country won’t negotiate with President Donald Trump unless the US shows Tehran “respect” by honoring its commitments under the disputed nuclear deal. In an exclusive interview with CNN, Zarif warned the US was “playing a very, very dangerous game” by boosting its military presence in the region.

Bahrain Stresses Commitment to Palestinian State After Backlash Over U.S.-led Peace Conference, Haaretz
Bahrain’s foreign minister reiterated Tuesday his country’s support for “an independent [Palestinian] state with East Jerusalem as its capital” in the wake of criticism over a U.S.-led Middle East peace conference expected to be held in the Gulf state.

It’s a Democratic lovefest at a Reform movement policy conference, JTA
Senior Democrats in Congress embraced the agenda of the Reform movement, including gun control, immigration reform, abortion rights and dealing with climate change. The agenda and the cheers for Democrats underscored the degree to which the Reform movement opposes Trump administration policies, particularly on immigration.

Netanyahu’s pre-indictment hearing postponed till October, AP
Attorney General Avichai Mandeblit’s office said on Wednesday that he’ll hold the much-anticipated hearing at the beginning of October, after Netanyahu’s lawyers asked for an extension to review the prosecution’s material.

Opposition pans PM for using hearing delay to avoid facing justice, Times of Israel
Reacting to the Attorney General’s announcement, opposition lawmakers argue that the premier will use the extra time to stifle the courts in order to avoid being charged at all.

Bernie Sanders willing to move embassy out of Jerusalem if it leads to peace, The Jerusalem Post
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders expressed his willingness to move the US Embassy from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv if it would help bring peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, during an NBC interview this week.

Israel to Demolish Playground in Unrecognized Bedouin Village, Haaretz
The state has no plans to evacuate Rakhma, a community of 850 people in Israel’s south, but it blocks any new construction, such as that of a children’s playground deemed a ‘public safety hazard’ by inspectors.

Israel extends Gaza fishing zone, apparently as part of ceasefire with Hamas, Times of Israel
Israel announced Tuesday that it extended the permitted fishing zone around the Gaza Strip to 15 nautical miles (27.8 kilometers), apparently as a first step in a six-month ceasefire with Hamas, the terror group that rules the coastal enclave.

Opinion and Analysis

The Greatest Threat Facing Israel Isn’t Iran, Hamas or Hezbollah: It’s Netanyahu’s Desperation, Haaretz
Chemi Shalev writes, “For Benjamin Netanyahu, Donald Trump is a gift that keeps on giving. The US president has abandoned the Iran nuclear deal, moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, pitched in during the recent election campaign and is about to present a Bantustan-style peace deal that could allow Israel to annex large chunks of the West Bank. And if that weren’t enough, Trump is also making Netanyahu’s mission of undermining Israel’s rule of law that much easier.”

What we can learn from yet another round of conflict in Gaza, Brookings
Eyal Tsir Cohen writes, “Yehya Sinwar, Hamas’ chief in Gaza, understands the vulnerability of Israeli public opinion. After all, Sinwar spent almost 20 years in Israeli jails, speaks Hebrew fluently, and during his time behind bars was known to be an avid consumer of Israeli political literature.”

The Trump Team Didn’t Invent ‘Economic Peace’ — Blame the International Community, Haaretz
Anshel Pfeffer writes, “The Trump peace plan was once billed as ‘the Deal of the Century.’ It was subsequently downgraded by its author, Jared Kushner, to a ‘detailed document’ and ‘a vision,’ and now all we are left with is a ‘workshop’ […] The economic dimensions of the Trump plan are not there to pave the way to statehood, but to replace any notion of it. Saying that this is a nonstarter is also a no-brainer.”

7 days in May: Moshe Kahlon’s chance to save Israeli democracy from Netanyahu, Times of Israel
David Horovitz writes, “Kahlon presents himself as a political Mr. Clean, leader of ‘the sane right’ as his election campaign message proclaimed, dedicated to the interests of ordinary Israelis. It thus falls to him, in this final week as Netanyahu wraps up his coalition, to publicly declare that he will give no support to legislation, however disingenuously presented, that is designed to spare Netanyahu the democratic obligation to face up to the allegations of criminality against him.”

Trump’s Planning a Wedding in Bahrain. But He Forgot to Invite the Groom, Haaretz
Noa Landau writes, “Anyone who has kept track of the murky relations between the Palestinian Authority and the Trump administration to date are not surprised by the declarations of Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh that the PA will not cooperate with the event that is mean to symbolize the launching of the United States’ plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace.”

Israel doesn’t have to be an apartheid state, +972 Mag
Zehava Galon writes, “It is our duty to take every opportunity to say to the world that the occupation is not Israel, that we are not willing to continue imposing military rule on another people any longer.”