News Roundup for May 4, 2017

May 4, 2017

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J Street in the News

Trump, Bullish on Mideast Peace, Will Need More Than Confidence, The New York Times

“Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, a pro-peace lobbying group in Washington, said ‘there’s a scenario where this falls into his lap later in his term, not necessarily because of the brilliance of his diplomacy.’ With Sunni Arab states aligned with Israel in the regional struggle with Iran, he said, pressure may build for a resolution to the Palestinian question. If nothing else, Mr. Ben-Ami said, not being steeped in the details has advantages. ‘People who’ve been hardened by 20 or 30 years of doing this may think they know it all and they come in with their preconceived approach and it doesn’t work,’ he said. ‘So maybe this is better.’”

Confident Trump says he wants to ‘prove them wrong’ and get a Mideast peace deal, Washington Post

“Jeremy Ben Ami, president of J Street, which describes itself as pro-Israel and pro-peace, said American leadership can help, but is not enough. ‘The biggest roadblock is the lack of political will,’ said Ben Ami. ‘It’s not just the Palestinians. It’s the Israelis as well. There’s a real question of whether or not the government of Israeli is ready and willing to move to two states, and whether the Palestinian government has the capacity and the will to do it.’”

Trump’s approach to an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal: Get to yes, and figure out the details later, Los Angeles Times

“J Street, a liberal, pro-Israel lobbying organization in Washington that is often critical of Trump policy, said in a statement that it welcomed the president’s ‘determination’ but added that he would have to unequivocally commit to a two-state solution ‘without further delay if he is serious about pursuing peace.’”

J Street cautiously applauds Trump’s ‘determination’ to reach Mideast peace, Times of Israel

“The left-wing American Jewish Mideast policy group J Street says it’s “encouraged by US President Donald Trump’s determination… to launch a serious attempt to negotiate an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” The statement comes on the heels of a joint press conference between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Trump, who said he would ‘do whatever is necessary’ to facilitate a peace agreement. In a statement, J Street says it still awaiting ‘critical details about how he sees such a peace being achieved.’ The group reiterates its support for a two-state solution, and calls on Trump to ‘commit himself to this principle without further delay if he is serious about pursuing peace.’”

Top News and Analysis

Trump expresses confidence in chances of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal but says U.S. can’t force it, Washington Post

“President Trump on Wednesday expressed confidence he can help the Israelis and Palestinians negotiate a peace agreement, declaring as he stood next to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House that ‘we will get this done.’ But despite expressing optimism in the face of the long odds and an increasingly fraught relationship between the two Middle East players, Trump also warned “there can be no lasting peace unless the Palestinian leaders speak in a unified voice” and renounce violence and hate — a reference to the split between the Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank, and the militant Hamas group, which controls the Gaza Strip….Abbas, for his part, nodded to the president’s background as a businessman, saying he respected Trump’s ‘great negotiating ability,’ and called for a two-state solution. When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the White House earlier this year, Trump expressed support for either a one or two state solution, saying he ‘could live with’ either and that he wanted the outcome ‘that both parties want.’….The Trump administration has yet to articulate a clear strategy for how it will engage in any negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians with analysts warning the prospects of peace remain dim.”

What Abbas and Trump can do for each other, Los Angeles Times

The editorial board writes, “The Trump administration’s outreach to Abbas is the latest sign of a small recalibration in its policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Trump ran for the presidency promising unequivocally to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but, like previous presidents, he now seems more likely to postpone such a provocative move. That would be a wise decision….Trump was widely mocked for saying recently that ‘there is no reason there’s not peace between Israel and the Palestinians.’ Obviously there are huge political obstacles to a settlement. But Trump was right in the sense that “reason” dictates a settlement. The invitation to Abbas is a small but welcome sign that the Trump administration is willing to pursue one.”

In First Reaction to Trump Meet, Netanyahu Says Abbas Lied, but Hopes Peace Is Possible, Haaretz

Prime Minister Netanyahu gave his first reaction to the meeting between President Trump and Palestinian President Abbas during his meeting with the Romanian prime minister on Thursday in Jerusalem, saying “I look forward to discussing with President Trump the best ways to advance peace. This is something we fervently share with the president. “I heard President Abbas yesterday say that the Palestinians teach their children peace. Unfortunately, that’s not true. They name their schools after mass murderers of Israelis and they pay terrorists. But I hope that it’s possible to achieve a change and to pursue a genuine peace. This is something Israel is always ready for. I’m always ready for genuine peace.”


Top US official: Trump won’t be patient on Israeli-Palestinian issues, Times of Israel

US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser said Tuesday that the president would not be interested in the finer points of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but would instead be pushing for quick results in resolving it. The president “does not have time to debate over doctrine,” US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Tuesday at a celebration in Washington to mark Israel’s 69th Independence Day, Reuters reported.

Israel Expelling Dutch Journalist Critical of the Occupation, Cites Visa Problems, Haaretz

Israel is refusing to renew the visa of a Dutch journalist who has lambasted Israeli policy toward the Palestinians in the West Bank, though the Government Press Office says he knowingly worked without a visa extension or permit. Derk Walters has criticized Israeli policy in the Netherlands’ fourth biggest newspaper, NRC Handelsblad, though the GPO, which operates out of the Prime Minister’s Office, denies that this the reason for his expulsion.

Zionist Union MK says opposition will back Netanyahu for peace moves, Times of Israel

Zionist Union MK and former Labor Party head Amir Peretz released a statement aimed at US President Donald Trump Wednesday, telling him that Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu would have the backing of the opposition if he should choose to pursue a peace initiative with the Palestinians. Peretz, a former defense minister who is running to retake the reins of the leading opposition party, said Netanyahu should not fear coalition pressures, promising him a “safety net.” In a statement, a spokesperson for opposition leader Isaac Herzog, who heads the Zionist Union, said he agreed with the need for a two-state solution but chided Peretz for sending the message.

IDF Rabbi Who Trashed Female Soldiers Goes On Leave, Forward

The rabbinic head of a religious Zionist pre-military yeshiva in the West Bank who said the Israeli army drives female soldiers “crazy” and upsets their Jewishness has gone on an indefinite leave from his position.

50 Palestinian political leaders to join mass prisoner hunger strike in Israeli custody, Ma’an

Fifty leaders of the Palestinian prisoners’ movement from all major political factions pledged to join a mass hunger strike in Israeli prisons that entered its 17th day on Wednesday, the prisoners’ committee of the Palestinian National and Islamic Forces said in a statement. Some 1,500 Palestinian prisoners launched the strike on April 17, with scores of others joining in waves in the days since. The prisoners have only been consuming salt and water during the strike, without additives, vitamins, or other supplements.

Palestinian Shot After Attempting to Stab Israeli Forces in Hebron, Haaretz

A Palestinian man allegedly attempted to carry out an attack on Israeli security forces in the city of Hebron in the West Bank on Thursday, Israeli Border Police said. No Israelis were hurt in the incident. According to a spokesperson for the Border Police, the man arrived at a checkpoint near the Cave of the Patriarchs and drew a knife before being shot by forces at the scene.

Opinions and Analysis

Netanyahu’s old friend becomes Trump’s new ally, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit writes about “American Jewish billionaire Ronald Lauder. Once a close friend of Netanyahu….Lauder and Netanyahu have had no relationship whatsoever since the airing of Channel 10’s “Bibi Tours” investigative report in March 2011….Lauder has spent the past few years in intensive meetings with many Arab leaders trying to hammer out formulas that will allow for the resumption of talks with Israel and a comprehensive peace agreement with the Arab world. The basis of these talks is the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, with certain adjustments. Lauder believes in his plan, which he worked on with several aides, including some Israelis. Ever since Trump’s election, he has also been trying to win the president’s support for the plan….These developments have raised the level of concerns in Jerusalem considerably.”

Abbas Got What He Most Needed From Trump: Primacy and Relevance, Haaretz

Michael Koplow argues, “The domestic political benefits for Abbas cannot be overstated, as he will get to coast on the afterglow of being treated as an honored guest by Trump, rather than as an afterthought. Not only that, Abbas had a White House platform to emphasize all of the core Palestinian positions – a two-state solution based on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital – while getting an unexpected bonus from Trump as he extolled the virtues of Palestinian security cooperation with Israel. Not only does Abbas get to look like a strong leader at home who has the ear of the American president, one of his core political weaknesses – the deep unpopularity of security cooperation with the IDF, which Abbas must maintain as it also keeps him in power – was specifically pointed to as a great virtue in the eyes of the man who is now raising expectations that he will be the midwife of an independent Palestine.”

President Trump Hosts Abbas: What You Need to Know, J Street Blog

J Street’s Logan Bayroff answers the big questions about the context for the Abbas-Trump meeting and its impact.