News Roundup for May 28, 2019

May 28, 2019

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J Street in the News

Rabbi Lawrence Troster, Jewish environmental activist, dies at 65, JTA
“Rabbi Lawrence Troster, a leading Jewish environmental activist, has died. Troster was the spiritual leader at Kesher Israel Congregation in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and was involved in a number of Jewish and interfaith environmental initiatives. He also served as rabbinic director for J Street, the liberal Middle East policy group.”

Can Beto Bounce Back?, The New Yorker
“[He] was one of only four Democrats in Congress to vote against sending military aid to Israel during the 2014 Gaza war—‘a war that has cost more than a thousand civilian lives already, too many of them children,’ he explained. He was hammered, publicly and privately, by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobby […] O’Rourke boycotted a speech by the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in Washington the following year. He later went on a tour of Israel (with J Street, AIPAC’s liberal competitor)”

Why Young Jews are Detouring from Israel to Palestine, Yes Magazine
“In March, J Street, a progressive group that supports statehood for Palestinians, announced its own free, 10-day trip to Israel and the West Bank for American college students this summer. Participants will visit major heritage sites and meet with Israeli social justice activists and Palestinian community leaders.”

Top News and Analysis

Israel moves towards new vote as Netanyahu struggles to form government, Reuters
Israel moved closer towards a new election on Monday as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to form a government after last month’s national ballot remained deadlocked. In a preliminary vote, parliament decided to dissolve itself. In order to disperse and set an election date, legislators would still have to hold a final vote, likely to take place on Wednesday. Netanyahu, who heads the right-wing Likud party, has until 2100 GMT on Wednesday to put a government together, after being delegated the task by President Reuven Rivlin following the April 9 poll.

Trump says he is not seeking ‘regime change’ in Iran, Washington Post
President Trump on Monday denied that the United States is seeking regime change in Iran, dialing back hawkish rhetoric days after ordering 1,500 additional US troops to the region. Actions by the Trump administration had heightened questions about whether the president was seeking a military confrontation with Iran, starting with his decision to back out of a nuclear deal brokered by the Obama administration and continuing with his recent orders for a military buildup, also including the deployment of a carrier strike group and B-52 bombers.

Israelis protest proposed Netanyahu immunity bills, AP
Tens of thousands of Israelis gathered in the central city of Tel Aviv Saturday, protesting proposed legislation granting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immunity from prosecution on a series of corruption charges.cThe protesters outside the city’s Museum of Art also called for protecting Israel’s democratic identity against government overreach.


With 2 Days Left, Israel’s Netanyahu Struggles to Form a Government, New York Times
With just two days left before the deadline for forming a government, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel was struggling Monday to sign up coalition partners, thrusting the country into a political crisis and raising the possibility that it could be forced to hold a new election.

Knesset Takes First Step Toward Snap Election, Netanyahu Urges Lieberman to ‘Be Responsible’, Haaretz
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on MK Avigdor Lieberman to “be responsible” and avoid another snap election in Israel, amid deadlocked negotiations to form a coalition government and a fast-approaching Wednesday deadline.

Trump tweet about Israeli coalition negotiations is derided as meddling, JTA
President Donald Trump appeared to meddle in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government coalition negotiations. “Hoping things will work out with Israel’s coalition formation and Bibi and I can continue to make the alliance between America and Israel stronger than ever. A lot more to do!” Trump tweeted on Monday.

Lieberman Blasts Netanyahu, Says He Won’t Join His ‘Jewish Law’ Government, Haaretz
Former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Monday afternoon that his Yisrael Beiteinu party will not join a government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with the ultra-Orthodox parties, which he called a “halakah [Jewish law] government.”

Opposition: If Netanyahu can’t form coalition, another MK should have a shot, Times of Israel
Amid a deadlock in coalition negotiations that has threatened fresh elections, opposition lawmakers on Monday night said that if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fails to form a government by the Wednesday deadline, another lawmaker should get the chance to muster the support of 61 Knesset members before Israel goes to a snap vote.

Netanyahu: We Have 48 Hours to Avoid Elections, The Jerusalem Post
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised on Monday night to do everything possible to build a new governing coalition in the next 48 hours and avoid going to a September 17 election.

Rivlin concerned over new elections’ potential to increase Jewish-Arab acrimony, Times of Israel
Hosting Arab leaders for the traditional Iftar event — the meal at the end of the daily Ramadan fast — at the President’s Residence, Rivlin said: “This [past] election campaign will be remembered, unfortunately, for two negative records concerning the relationship between Jews and Arabs in the State of Israel, our shared home.”

‘Degrading and Unrestrained’: Chief Justice Slams Netanyahu Government’s Assault on Legal System, Haaretz
Speaking at a Bar Association meeting in Eilat, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut said: “A year and a half ago the prime minister said a strong and independent court is necessary and that he supports dialogue between authorities. What has changed? Has anything happened since then that justifies a move away from these principles? I think not.”

Opinion and Analysis

Explainer: Why might Israel be heading to another snap election?, Reuters
Maayan Lubell writes, “Divisions that have emerged between former Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party and Netanyahu’s Likud together with United Torah Judaism over a military conscription bill governing exemptions for ultra-Orthodox Jewish seminary students have plunged the coalition talks into stalemate.”

Netanyahu Made a Chain of Critical Mistakes During Coalition Negotiations, Haaretz
Yossi Verter writes, “His hasty press conference was just the latest in the series of critical mistakes that has characterized his conduct of the coalition negotiations with his toughest partner. The barb he aimed at Lieberman – “In 48 hours, a lot of things can get done” (a reference to Lieberman’s unfulfilled threat to kill Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh within 48 hours of becoming defense minister if the latter didn’t return the bodies of missing Israeli soldiers) – certainly won’t soften the Yisrael Beiteinu party chairman.”

Benjamin Netanyahu was Trump before Trump, Washington Post
Richard Cohen writes, “Netanyahu, too, traffics with the extreme religious right in a Trumpian manner. He is a confessed adulterer, twice divorced and thrice married, who has made a deal with the ultra-Orthodox: Support me and I’ll support you. This is Politics 101, except that, in Netanyahu’s case, it means alienating not only Israeli liberals but the bulk of American Jewry as well. Still, American Jews don’t vote in Israel.”

Lieberman Just Snatched Away Netanyahu’s Election Victory, Haaretz
Anshel Pfeffer writes, “Avigdor Lieberman has had it at last. Thirty-one years since he, then a new Likud member, volunteered to work for Deputy Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as his unofficial political aide, the once fanatically loyal ‘Evet’ is trying to call time on his old boss’s career.”

Trump’s ‘Peace’ Team Shows Its Hand In Off-The-Record Meeting, The Forward
Abe Silberstein writes, “The event revealed how out of touch Trump’s team is, not just with the Palestinians but with the American Jewish community; neither sponsoring organization existed prior to the Trump presidency, and Jexodus is only three months old”