News Roundup for May 30, 2017

May 30, 2017

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J Street in the News

What Are the Chances? Donald Trump and the ‘Ultimate Deal’, J Street Blog

J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami writes, “J Street’s opposition to President Trump and his agenda, his policy, appointees and budget, is clear. So too is our publicly stated view that candidate Donald Trump was not fit for the office he sought — a view that, four months into his term, is looking ever more prescient. Yet, against this backdrop, we face the possibility that on this administration’s watch, there could be a serious effort to advance a diplomatic resolution of the conflict….We are clear-eyed and realistic about the chances of success. There are questions about the will and the capacity of the leaders on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides. There are many competing priorities for presidential attention — here at home, in the region and around the world. However, let there be no doubt: If a serious effort does begin, marked by real actions, clear principles and meaningful determination, J Street will support it. And we’ll do that without, for one minute, abandoning our core values and principles or our fight against the many other aspects of the administration’s policies and positions that we oppose.”

Washington-area appointments and promotions for May 29, Washington Post

“J Street of the District appointed Jessica Smith chief operating officer.”

Top News and Analysis

Netanyahu: Trump Didn’t Give Israel a Diplomatic ‘Blank Check’ on the Palestinian Issue, Haaretz

Prime Minister Netanyahu told Likud lawmakers on Monday that the Israeli government “doesn’t have a diplomatic blank check” from the administration of President Trump on everything related to the Palestinian issue. “Anyone who thinks there’s a blank check is mistaken,” Netanyahu said. He noted that Trump is determined to reach a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, and in light of that, Israel needs to conduct itself “wisely and responsibly.” Speaking at a Knesset faction meeting, Netanyahu said: “We are a sovereign state [and] can decide a lot of things and make a lot of statements, but when it comes to American consent, I would not go in that direction because it’s not correct.” “It’s true that there is a warm relationship and there is a great deal of understanding for our fundamental positions, but it’s not correct that we have an open check and it’s far from reality,” the prime minister said.

Thousands rally in Tel Aviv for two states, against occupation, JTA

“ Thousands of Israelis gathered in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv to demonstrate against what organizers called ‘50 years of Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories.’ The rally on Saturday night under the banner of “Two States – One Hope” was organized by anti-settlement group Peace Now and included left-wing Israeli political parties such as the Zionist Union and Meretz, as well as several other left-wing organizations including the Geneva Initiative, the New Israel Fund, ‘Standing Together,’ ‘Zazim’ and ‘Reinforcing the Left on the Web.’….Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, head of the Zionist Union, called for the establishment of a strong political bloc to defeat the right wing, which has been in power for years.”

The $1.4 billion bet on a new Palestinian future, Washington Post

William Booth reports, “Rawabi is the first planned city in the West Bank built by Palestinians for Palestinians, a $1.4 billion metropolis constructed over the last nine years from bare rock. The city is the most ambitious project in the Palestinian territories and today is the largest private-sector employer here. Masri is billing his city on a hill as a revolutionary act, a raised fist with a wallet….The half-built city of Rawabi has been a media darling for years, a tour-bus destination for visiting Norwegian diplomats, Harvard Business School scholars, Arab venture capitalists, adventuresome American Jews, and most recently Coldplay — because nothing like this has been tried here before.”

Palestinian Prisoners End Hunger Strike in Israel After 40 Days, The New York Times

“Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails ended a hunger strike late on Friday after 40 days, as their health was deteriorating and after, news media reports said, the authorities agreed to at least one of the prisoners’ demands. About 1,000 men had taken part in the strike, and Israeli officials said this past week that nearly every prisoner had needed hospital care, including the leader of the strike, Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian politician convicted of five murders in the Palestinian uprising that began in 2000…..The strikers, among 6,500 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, had demanded more family visits, an end to solitary confinement, better health care and greater access to education. Media reports said the Israeli authorities had agreed to prisoners’ demand for a second monthly family visit.”

As Iran and U.S. Leaders Trade Barbs, Big Deals Proceed, The New York Times

“President Trump, who has never made a secret of his hostility toward Iran, called recently for a grand regional strategy among Sunni nations to isolate the country. But Tehran received that threat with surprising equanimity because, in practice, the Trump administration has shown a willingness to do business with the country….Tough talk from both sides, but back in Iran, they are awaiting the delivery of a fleet of American-made Boeing airliners, the result of two deals worth $22 billion for the United States company. The most recent contract between the plane maker and the Iranian airline Iran Aseman was signed two months after President Trump was sworn into office. Mr. Trump, whose America First campaign was based in part on the promise of reviving industrial employment, was apparently not eager to kill an order estimated to create 18,000 jobs. During the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump heaped scorn on the nuclear agreement with Iran, calling it “the worst deal ever.” But in April and May he quietly signed crucial waivers of certain sanctions that allow the deal to remain in place and let Iran conduct international business and gain access to funds long frozen by the United States.”


Palestinians Dismiss Reports of Yelling During Trump-Abbas Meeting as pro-Israel Propaganda, Haaretz

“Associates close to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas say that reports of yelling and tension during his meeting with President Trump are an attempt by pro-Israel advisers in the US administration to prevent the government from getting close to the Palestinian leadership. A senior Palestinian figure privy to the content of the meeting told Haaretz that the conversation was practical and there was a feeling that Trump arrived with great drive to push peace forward. ‘It’s no secret that Trump has a group of advisers around him whose main goal is to serve Israel. Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and Ambassador David Friedman are also Netanyahu’s advisers, not just Trump’s, so our feeling is that they will try to prevent any move that harms Israel’s position, and we’re certain that the goal of these kind of reports is to serve this interest.’”

Netanyahu Says He Won’t Meet Foreign Leaders Who Met NGOs Critical of Israeli Army, Haaretz

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not meet with foreign leaders who meet with organizations ‘working against Israeli soldiers,’ he told Likud lawmakers on Monday. ‘I say to the leaders of the world, you can meet with organizations working against Israeli soldiers, but not with me,’ said Netanyahu. ‘We take this stance with our best of friends.’”

PA calls on UN to intervene against latest Israeli plans to ‘Judaize’ East Jerusalem, Ma’an

The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on the United Nation Security Council on Monday to uphold its responsibilities vis-a-vis international law and protect occupied East Jerusalem from the latest Israeli attempts to “Judaize” the city.

Settler leader to White House: Pressuring Netanyahu could topple him, Times of Israel

An Israeli settlement leader has reportedly warned the Trump administration not to pressure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu too strongly on peace — or risk his downfall, Channel 2 television reported Monday. An Israeli settlement leader has reportedly warned the Trump administration not to pressure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu too strongly on peace — or risk his downfall, Channel 2 television reported Monday.

Israel’s East Jerusalem Cleanup Won’t Include Areas Beyond Separation Barrier, Haaretz

Israel’s plan to improve conditions in East Jerusalem will not include neighborhoods beyond the separation barrier, Jerusalem Affairs and Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin said on Monday – even though sanitation levels in those areas are extremely poor. It is estimated that more than a third of East Jerusalem residents, some 140,000 people, live in these neighborhoods.

Lapid: Entire Israeli security establishment is worried by Trump’s Saudi arms deal, Times of Israel

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid said Monday that the entire Israeli security establishment is deeply concerned by US President Donald Trump’s massive arms deal with Saudi Arabia, and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed Israel’s national security because he neither prevented nor tried to minimize the damage of the accord.

Netanyahu drops item from ‘Jewish State’ bill downgrading Arabic language status, i24 News

The section of the “Jewish nation-state” bill that would declare Hebrew as the official language of the state, downgrading Arabic, will be removed from the legislation, reported Israeli media on Monday. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin compromised on the bill, agreeing to remove the clause that would give Arabic “special status,” but a step down from being one of Israel’s official languages.

Naor Presses Justice Minister to Approve Her Choice for Next Israeli Supreme Court President, Haaretz

Supreme Court President Miriam Naor sent a letter to Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked on Monday demanding that Justice Esther Hayut be named as her replacement. Although Hayut is the only candidate for the position, Shaked is conditioning her appointment on the Judicial Appointments Committee agreeing upon the identity of two Supreme Court justices to replace justices Yoram Danziger and Uri Shoham, who will retire in 2018. For that reason, Shaked did not include the Hayut appointment on the next agenda for the committee, which is scheduled to convene on July 18.

Opinions and Analysis

Israel Just Got a Rare Offer to Defuse Temple Mount Tensions. It Will Most Likely Reject It, Haaretz

Nir Hasson reports, “Renewed coordination between Israel and the Islamic custodian of the Temple Mount – the Jerusalem Waqf – entails benefits for both sides. However, it is unlikely Israel will respond positively to the offer laid down by the head of the Waqf, Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib al-Tamimi, who called on the Israeli government to hold negotiations to restore the status quo that was in place until 2000….[E]xperts believe Israel will not heed the Waqf’s call. The police and the government feel that attempts to quell violence on the Temple Mount are fruitful and now the situation is under relative control. A testimony to this is the fact that the number of Jewish visitors to the site is on the rise as is the size of the different groups they come in with. ‘Whoever has strength is never too quick to give it up,’ Reiter says.”

 The lonely journey of a Palestinian cancer patient, Washington Post

William Booth and Sufian Taha report, “Permit is a bloodless term. An automobile needs a permit. What is a permit for a Palestinian? A permit is required for a sick Palestinian to go to a Palestinian hospital in East Jerusalem. A permit is required for a son to be by his mother’s side in a cancer ward here….Israel often highlights its generosity toward the Palestinians, especially their access to top-flight Israeli hospitals — care that the Palestinians, or their American and European patrons, pay for.  Left unsaid is the fact that Palestinians come to Israel because health care in the West Bank is substandard. It’s even worse in the impoverished Gaza Strip, which suffers from strict trade and travel restrictions imposed by Israel and Egypt and is ruled by the Islamist militant movement Hamas, a terrorist organization.

Israeli right convinced Netanyahu will soon swerve left, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit writes, “A popular conspiracy theory making the rounds on the right has it that the deal between Netanyahu and Trump has been finalized. All that remains is to place its ingredients in a pot and start cooking. Zero hour is supposed to occur after the Labor Party primaries in July. Netanyahu is supposed to push through his Cabinet controversial measures, such as handing over some West Bank territory that is now wholly under Israeli control (known as Area C) to Area B, administered by the Palestinian Authority under Israeli security control. This move, along with a declaration by Netanyahu of the resumption of talks with the Palestinians on a two-state solution, is expected to result in Bennett pulling out of the coalition. When he does, the Zionist Camp will immediately take his party’s place, based on an arrangement worked out during various negotiations between the sides in the past (as reported extensively by Al-Monitor). Knesset member Tzipi Livni, Herzog’s partner at the helm of the Zionist Camp, will be named justice minister and tasked with responsibility for the negotiations with the Palestinians. Herzog will be appointed foreign minister, and other senior members of his party will be given enticing ministerial positions.”

How Israel Jails Palestinians Because They Fit the ‘Terrorist Profile’, Haaretz

Orr Hirschauge and Hagar Shezaf report, “In the first months of the wave of violence that began in September 2015, many Palestinians were arrested and interrogated in connection with their activity on social networks. Since October 2015, Israel has arrested more than 200 Palestinians on charges of incitement on social media….Intelligence Affairs Minister Yisrael Katz – who also serves as a member of the security cabinet – confirmed to Haaretz at his office in Tel Aviv that there is a possibility some of the Palestinians who were arrested after having been marked out by the predictive system were not actively and fully planning to carry out an attack, and perhaps did not decide to carry out an attack at the time of their arrest. Katz says this may happen in ‘borderline cases.’”

The Dovekeeper and the children’s Intifada, New Yorker

Geraldine Brooks explores what the plight of one thirteen-year-old boy in Jerusalem reveals about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Europe, France plan active Middle East policy, Al-Monitor

Uri Savir reports, “As Cabinet minister, Macron backed the two Paris conferences for a two-state solution and the French policy on the illegality of Israeli settlements. According to the EU official, Mogherini discussed with Macron the revival of these EU policies, especially now that the United States is proceeding on the Israeli-Palestinian issue with very little coordination with Europe. In his first speech as president, Macron emphasized France’s leading role in Europe and the world. He is a fervent supporter of globalization and therefore in favor of collective diplomacy.”

Why BDS Debates on Campus Actually Benefit Jews, Forward

Ella Ben Hagai writes, “For the last years, I, along with a group of researchers, have studied what happened to a campus Jewish community when Palestinian solidarity organizations introduced a bill calling on the university to divest funds from companies supporting Israeli military operations….Our findings suggest that the reaction and debates over the BDS are emotional, passionate, and tumultuous. Nevertheless, they also are associated with a more complex understanding of Israel. These debates bring Jewish students to a deeper study of Israeli politics. Such study is associated with a shift away from a romantic view of Israel to a more complex and sophisticated understanding.”

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