News Roundup for May 3, 2018

May 3, 2018

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J Street in the News

Two Leading U.S. Human Rights Activists Deported From Israel, One for Alleged BDS Ties, Haaretz

“Israel detained two prominent U.S. human rights lawyers for 14 hours at Ben-Gurion Airport on Sunday, accusing them of being involved in the BDS movement, before deporting them back to the United States. Israeli security officials allegedly accused Katharine Franke of lying about her affiliation with a Jewish group that advocates for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. Vincent Warren was also barred from entering the country….Franke, a Columbia University law professor, was barred from entering because of her ‘prominent role’ with Jewish Voice for Peace, said a spokesman for the Strategic Affairs Ministry, which handles BDS issues….J Street, the liberal pro-Israel lobby issued a comment in response to Franke and Warren’s deportation. ‘This action is the latest alarming example of the Israeli government’s efforts to silence political dissent and criticism of its policies and to suppress the activities of human rights advocates. These efforts are rapidly eroding Israeli democracy. Whatever the views of these activists, they should be allowed to travel freely within Israel and the Palestinian territory to see and judge for themselves the reality on the ground, and to learn from the work being done by their Israeli and Palestinian counterparts.’”

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas accused of anti-Semitic speech, CNN

“On its website, J Street posted, ‘With diatribes like this, President Abbas only undermines the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Palestinian people, and distracts from the need for international action to help alleviate the crisis in Gaza and advance the two-state solution.’”

Top News and Analysis

Trump and Netanyahu, the Con Artists Cooking Up Cataclysmic Conflict With Iran, Haaretz

David Rothkopf writes, “The problem with all the anti-JCPOA efforts, like most frauds, is that they depend on the victims not really thinking through the consequences of the con. It is called a confidence game because the gullible buy into a premise that is plausible, which has some truth to it. In this case, it is that the JCPOA is actually a flawed deal. But then it takes it a step further, in this case to achieve the political goals of Netanyahu, Trump and their allies. And as we shall see in the next few days, that will be a step too far….The fate of millions hangs in the balance. Their prospects aren’t good so long as countries like Israel and the U.S. have at their helms men who feel they must lie to lead.”

Israel braces for Iranian military reaction, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit reports, “Now that the IDF is bracing for an Iranian response to recent alleged Israeli attacks in Syria (which, it is thought, left dozens of Iranian troops dead), Israel will be forced to decide how exactly it will respond. The intelligence assessment is that Iran will attempt a response that exacts a similar cost and mode of operation to those taken by Israel. In other words, it would attack an Israeli military target and try to take a toll on uniformed troops. If that is the case, will Israel ‘contain’ the Iranian response and react in a measured and tempered way so that the situation doesn’t deteriorate any further? It all depends on the circumstances of the attack. Should Israel respond against Iranian targets in Syria, or should it attack Iran itself? This lies at the base of a significant debate, which has yet to be decided.”

Palestinian Leader Incites Uproar With Speech Condemned as Anti-Semitic, The New York Times

Isabel Kershner reports, “The furor following his speech underscored what many critics view as the increasing irrelevance of Mr. Abbas, now in his 80s, the bankruptcy of the organization he leads, and the chasm between his stated goal and any imminent prospect of the Palestinians achieving it.”


UN Follows EU, U.S. in Blasting Abbas for ‘Contemptuous anti-Semitic Slurs’, Haaretz

The European Union and the United Nations’ Mideast envoy on Wednesday condemned remarks by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as “unacceptable” after he suggested in a speech that Jews were historically persecuted because of their involvement in money-lending and banking. Former U.S. secretary of state John Kerry also criticized the remarks, writing on Twitter: “These comments are wrong, ugly, and unacceptable – anywhere from anyone – but particularly from anyone who says he wants to be a peacemaker. No excuses for antisemitism: words to be condemned, not explained away.”

IDF shoots, arrests Palestinian damaging Gaza fence, Times of Israel

Israeli troops on Thursday shot a Palestinian man, injuring him, as he attempted to damage the security fence around the northern Gaza Strip, in the latest incident along the tense border, the army said. The soldiers arrested the suspect and provided him with medical treatment, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Israel Reportedly Seeks to Renegotiate Refugee Deal With UN, Haaretz

Israel is looking into renewing negotiations with the UN’s refugee agency over a deal to find a solution for the African asylum seekers living in the country, a report on Israel’s Channel 10 News said Wednesday evening. On Wednesday, Channel 10 reported that the UN agency reached out to Israel and said that as far as it was concerned, the deal was still on the table. In response, Israel’s National Security Council reached out to UN officials with the aim of renegotiating the deal and improving its terms.

Massive Fire After Kite With Molotov Cocktail Attached Sent From Gaza Explodes, Haaretz

Ten firefighters gained control of a fire Wednesday afternoon that destroyed 350 dunams of land near Kibbutz Be’eri near the Gaza border. According to the local regional councils, a kite connected to a Molotov cocktail that was sent from the Gaza sparked the blaze.

Sara Netanyahu’s lawyers said seeking last-ditch deal to avoid indictment, Times of Israel

Lawyers for Sara Netanyahu met Wednesday with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in a last-ditch attempt to strike a deal and stave off possible prosecution for the misuse of funds at the prime minister’s official residence. Netanyahu’s legal representatives reportedly proposed that Sara Netanyahu confess to the charges and reimburse the state. In return, the investigation would be closed without an indictment. However, the attorneys were also quoted by Hebrew reports as saying the sum cited by investigators was too high and should be reassessed.

Japan’s Abe Tells Netanyahu: Israel Must Curb Settlements, Won’t Move Embassy to Jerusalem, Haaretz

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Wednesday and expressed his continued support for a two-state solution, intention not to move Japan’s embassy to Jerusalem and desire that Israel restrain its settlement construction. Abe also said that Japan still supports the nuclear agreement with Iran, which it sees as a contribution to Middle East stability.

Opinions and Analysis

Killing the Iran deal could be a fatal mistake, Chicago Tribune

Steve Chapman writes, “Trump accuses Barack Obama of sticking him with ‘a terrible deal.’ But if the U.S. abandoned the deal, Iran would be free to evict the inspectors and resume the very activities that Netanyahu decried. At that point, we would be presented with the same choice that the agreement served to avert: Allow Iran to proceed with its nuclear program or start a war to try to prevent it. Talk about a terrible deal.”

Forget the Kotel, Amb. Friedman. Go see Jerusalem’s Palestinian ghetto, +972

Yudith Oppenheimer writes to Ambassador Friedman, “Those of us who live here in Jerusalem are concerned that people who reside outside of it do not always appreciate the complications of living life in a conflicted city. You recently declared that Jerusalem, under Israeli rule, serves as an exemplary model of co-existence. As a native resident of Jerusalem, this declaration strikes me as the typical sentiment of a recent arrival. Anyone truly familiar with the city from within cannot help but adopt a much more nuanced view of the situation. On your next visit to Jerusalem, if you diverge from the traditional tourist itinerary, I believe you, too, will appreciate the much more challenging complexities of our city. Were you to visit Issawiya, A-Tur or Sawahra — or your future neighbors in Sur Baher and Jabel Mukaber — you would see more clearly Jerusalem’s fault lines.”

Netanyahu’s expansion of war powers raises concerns in Israel, Al-Monitor

Mazal Mualem writes, “On the evening of April 30, the Knesset approved a proposal authorizing the prime minister and defense minister to declare war in extreme circumstances. That same night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a speech revealing a secret operation to retrieve the Iranian nuclear archive. The proximity between the broadcast of the ‘Iranian lie’ speech and the authorization of the law, combined with the heating up of the security situation near Israel’s northern border, have justly created a sense among the public that we’re on the brink of war.”