News Roundup for May 3, 2017

May 3, 2017

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J Street in the News

Looking to the Future in a Year of Milestones, J Street

“Today is Yom Haatzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, marking an incredible 69 years since the founding of the state. The day just past was Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, which commemorates and honors the Israelis who have given their lives over the course of those seven decades so that their country would survive and flourish against all odds….In just over a month, we’ll mark exactly 50 years since Israel’s stunning triumph in the Six-Day War. That victory, which felt like a miracle to Jewish people watching anxiously around the world, also had the unforeseen consequence of starting the country down the long road of occupation. That road has led to the moral, political and military challenges that Israel is faced with today, and to the continued injustices facing millions of Palestinians. We know what all these important anniversaries tend to bring with them. Over the next few months and throughout the year, we can expect a great deal of commemoration — and of the recrimination that often accompanies it…..Fifty years of occupation is unacceptable. But so was 49 years, and 25. So will 51 years be, if leaders continue to make the wrong choices, allowing the dangerous, deteriorating situation to persist. Our work is to help stop the continued cycle of violence and the grievances that accompany it, piling up year after year….[A]t this important moment in the history of Israel and the Jewish people, we need to challenge ourselves, our communities and our leaders to focus on the future — to not only think about the wrong turns and missed opportunities of the past, but about the urgent choices of today.”

The Israel Prize’s Problematic New Recipient, Tablet

J Street U leaders Raina Weinstein and Talya Wintman write, “In March, Education Minister Naftali Bennett announced that David Be’eri would receive the Israel Prize for ‘his contribution to the state by establishing the City of David.’ Be’eri is the founder of El’ad, also known as the Ir David Foundation, and has made it his life’s mission to revive Jewish ties to the biblical City of David….But El’ad is not simply an archaeological NGO—it’s an organization whose very mission is to expel Palestinians from their homes in order to move Jews into East Jerusalem…. If El’ad continues to occupy Palestinian homes and buildings in a densely settled and well-established Palestinian community of East Jerusalem, it will create a tremendous obstacle to Palestinian self-determination and a secure, Jewish and democratic future for Israel….There are so many things about Israel to celebrate; El’ad is not one of them. If the Israel Prize is supposed to represent Israel’s best and brightest who work to move Israeli society forward, how can we honor a man whose organization poses a threat to its democratic future?”

Top News and Analysis

Trump to Ask Abbas: Commit to U.S. Initiative on Rebooting Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process, Haaretz

“President Trump will ask Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday to cooperate with the initiative he plans to launch in the coming months to revive the Middle East peace process that has been frozen since April 2014. ‘The president will seek President Abbas’ commitment to work with us as we try to move peace efforts forward,’ a senior White House official told Haaretz. Abbas arrived Tuesday in Washington and will remain for three days. During their meeting Wednesday, Trump and Abbas are expected to make statements to the media, though it is not yet clear whether Trump will use the event to express − for the first time since entering the White House − support for establishing a Palestinian state.”

Why Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas is upbeat about meeting Trump, Los Angeles Times

Joshua Mitnick reports, “as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gears up for his first meeting with Trump at the White House on Wednesday, Palestinian officials in Ramallah insist on seeing the diplomatic glass as half full….Although Palestinian officials note that the new U.S. president and his administration have barely uttered the words ‘two-state solution,’ Trump has spoken repeatedly about brokering the ‘ultimate’ deal between Israelis and Palestinians….Regardless of whether the meeting between Abbas and Trump produces an announcement on peace negotiations, the appearance of the two leaders together will be viewed as an achievement for the 82-year-old Abbas, who is struggling to remain relevant on the domestic and international stage.”

After 69 years of independence, Israel more prosperous and divided than ever, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit observes, “[T]he internal debate that has plagued Israel since the Six-Day War — and has long since become a deep-rooted, unresolvable structural rift — continues. Israel is the only country in the world that has yet to decide what it wants from itself. It is the only country without permanent borders. It has controlled the West Bank for some 50 years, but it has yet to decide what it wants to do with that territory, and particularly with the approximately 2 million Palestinians living there. It is being torn apart by conflicting trends. There is a growing group of religious Israelis who demand the annexation of the West Bank, even if this means ignoring the international community or the fact that annexation will threaten the very continuation of Israel as a democratic state. Confronting them is another group of Israelis, which still believes in a two-state solution and wants to part ways with the Palestinians.”

The Palestinian president is visiting Washington. A new survey shows Americans divided on the peace process, Washington Post

Shibley Telhami finds, “Americans remain deeply divided on Israeli-Palestinian issues, but the opinion of the group that Trump cares about most is increasingly in the orbit of Netanyahu. More than 40 percent of the American public, and a majority of Democrats, support imposing sanctions or more serious measures on Israel over settlement expansion….Trump, however, has been principally responsive to his core constituency, whose worldview is dramatically different from the rest of America’s. In that group, 66 percent of Republicans, 70 percent of Trump voters and 81 percent of Republicans who watch Fox News want Trump to take Israel’s side.”


Fatah demands ‘softened’ Hamas apologize for treason accusations, Times of Israel

A Palestinian official demanded Hamas apologize for accusing rival Fatah of treason, after the terror group released a platform Monday that put it more in line with positions taken by the Palestine Liberation Organization decades ago. “Hamas’s new document is identical to that taken by Fatah in 1988. Hamas is required to make an apology to Fatah after 30 years of accusing us of treason for that policy,” Fatah spokesman Osama al-Qawasme said Monday, according to Reuters.

UNESCO Passes Resolution Critical of Israeli Conduct in Jerusalem and Gaza, Haaretz

UNESCO’s executive committee passed on Tuesday a resolution critical of Israeli conduct in Jerusalem and Gaza. The motion was approved by a smaller majority than in the past, after many countries voted against if due to Israeli and American diplomatic pressure that led to the dismantling of a deal forged between the Arab countries that initiated the resolution, Germany and European Union countries.

Republican Senators Urge Trump to Stop Palestinians From Paying Terrorists’ Families, Haaretz

Three prominent Republican senators wrote to President Donald Trump on Tuesday asking him to pressure Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to stop paying salaries to families of convicted Palestinian terrorists in Israeli jails. Senators Marco Rubio of Florida, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Tom Cotton of Arkansas urged Trump to “raise this matter with President Abbas during his visit” and to “make clear to him that this practice must end.”

Israeli forces level lands in Salfit-area village for alleged settlement expansion, Ma’an

Israeli forces on Tuesday leveled privately-owned Palestinian lands in the village of Bruqin, west of Salfit in the central occupied West Bank. Resident of the village Hajj Abd al-Khaliq Sabrah, 85, told Ma’an that Israeli forces leveled approximately 50 dunums (12.5 acres) of land in the Khallat al-Zaafaran and al-Harayiq areas of the village, which is owned by several villagers.

Jewish Israeli Believed Trying to Stab Soldier Shot Dead Near Jerusalem, Haaretz

A Jewish Israeli resident of Jerusalem was shot and killed on Tuesday at a checkpoint outside Jerusalem. Police said that the man, 19, was running toward a soldier at the checkpoint with a knife in his hand. Police suspect that the motive may have involved “suicide by soldier” after a suicide note he wrote was found.

President urges world to recognize Jerusalem, move embassies, Times of Israel

President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday called on the world’s nations to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move their embassies to the city. Minutes after the United Nations’ cultural agency voted on a resolution denying Israel’s ties to the city, the president told foreign ambassadors stationed in Israel that it was “absurd” that the world refuses to recognize that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

Thousands of Israeli Arabs March to Commemorate ‘Catastrophe’ of Israel’s Independence, Haaretz

Thousands of Israeli Arabs marched in northern Israel on Tuesday, commemorating the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” when more than 700,000 Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes during the 1947-49 Israeli War of Independence. This year’s march took place near Kibbutz Kabri in the Western Galilee. In each of the 20 years it has taken place, the march, led by an association for protecting the rights of displaced Palestinians, starts in a different Arab village that no longer exists.

Opinions and Analysis

Is Trump Visiting Israel To Praise Bibi — Or To Bury Him?, Forward

JJ Goldberg observes that for Prime Minister Netanyahu, “The looming danger is that President Trump appears to be serious about brokering what some call the deal of the century in the Middle East. Any compromise deal would require Israeli concessions that Netanyahu would find hard to swallow and his allies on his right flat-out reject….This is making Netanyahu’s entourage nervous. Israelis with ties to the Trump administration are reporting, according to political correspondent Tal Shalev of the widely-read Walla news site, that the president wants to convene a “regional summit” of Middle East leaders this summer in Washington.”

A First Step to Peace: Calm Angers, Then Talk, The New York Times

Susie Gelman and Charles Bronfman argue, “ the goal of securing a comprehensive peace agreement needs to be set aside for now, and preserving hope for a two-state solution be made the objective. The immediate goal should be a realistic interim arrangement that could calm antagonisms and improve prospects for a political and psychological climate on both sides that would allow a two-state peace deal sometime in the future. The Commanders for Israel’s Security, a network of 270 retired Israeli generals who have served at the highest echelons of the Israeli military, police and intelligence forces, has developed a program for such an arrangement….While the commanders’ proposal — which is endorsed by our organization — would not bring a final settlement now, it would increase public confidence among Israelis and Palestinians that a lasting peace is, indeed, possible by tangibly improving their daily lives. For Israelis, it would reduce border infiltration that enables terrorism. For Palestinians, it would improve their economy and daily life, not just by making their land more contiguous, but also by expanding the role of their own police in guarding their security.”

Trump Has a Shot at Arab-Israeli Peace, The National Interest

Shai Feldman writes, “Most experts regard Trump’s talk about achieving a breakthrough in Arab-Israeli peacemaking as reflecting his inexperience and arrogance. But is this necessarily so? Is it not simply possible that Trump’s unconventional approach to policymaking and policy implementation might work, especially since all efforts to apply conventional remedies to the conflict have failed? And is it not possible that some of what most students of the presidency regard as Donald Trump’s weaknesses and shortcomings may prove to be assets when attempting to resolve this seemingly intractable conflict?”

What Hamas’s New Document Does and Doesn’t Say, The Atlantic

Yasmeen Serhan observes, “Though the two-state policy has been the bedrock of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process for more than two decades, Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip and which the U.S. and Israel regard as a terrorist organization, has never formally accepted the agreement, calling instead for Israel’s destruction. While the new document reaffirms the group’s belief that ‘no part of the land of Palestine shall be compromised or conceded,’ it goes on to characterize a Palestinian state based on the 1967 armistice lines as ‘a formula of national consensus.’”

It’s Complicated: The Path of an Israeli-Palestinian Love Story, The New York Times

Ian Fisher writes about Dorit Rabinyan, whose popular book “All the Rivers” was pulled from Israeli schools last year for being seen to encourage intermarriage.