News Roundup for May 7, 2018

May 7, 2018

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J Street in the News

Obama’s not on the Jersey ballot in this big test year for Trump. Or is he?,

“Former President Barack Obama is not on the New Jersey election ballot in President Donald Trump’s big midterm test year. But two of his former aides are running in hot Jersey House races where Democrats threaten to topple incumbent Republicans. It’s part of a national trend of Obama alumni running for office to counter Trump’s efforts to undo the former president’s legacy. Across America, 28 former Obama administration or campaign officials are candidates for the U.S. House…. ‘You’re seeing more candidates than ever before who feel this is a moment that they cannot let pass,’ said Aaron Davis, national political director for J Street, an advocacy group that calls itself ‘pro-Israel, pro-peace,’ supports a two-state solution in the Middle East, and has endorsed both New Jersey Democrats.”

Top News and Analysis

Boris Johnson: Don’t Scuttle the Iran Nuclear Deal, The New York Times

Boris Johnson writes, “At this delicate juncture, it would be a mistake to walk away from the nuclear agreement and remove the restraints that it places on Iran. Mr. Netanyahu has called on Mr. Trump to scuttle the deal, recently describing how Iran conducted a secret project between 1999 and 2003 to research the technology for a nuclear weapon. But that project actually underscores the importance of maintaining the restrictions on Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, including the I.A.E.A.’s ability to inspect key facilities. I believe that keeping the deal’s constraints on Iran’s nuclear program will also help counter Tehran’s aggressive regional behavior. I am sure of one thing: every available alternative is worse. The wisest course would be to improve the handcuffs rather than break them.”

Revealed: Trump team hired spy firm for ‘dirty ops’ on Iran arms deal, The Guardian

Mark Townsend and Julian Borger report, “Aides to Donald Trump, the US president, hired an Israeli private intelligence agency to orchestrate a ‘dirty ops’ campaign against key individuals from the Obama administration who helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal, the Observer can reveal. People in the Trump camp contacted private investigators in May last year to ‘get dirt’ on Ben Rhodes, who had been one of Barack Obama’s top national security advisers, and Colin Kahl, deputy assistant to Obama, as part of an elaborate attempt to discredit the deal.”

U.S. Exit From Nuclear Deal Would Help Iran, Former Israeli General Says, Haaretz

“Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, the former research chief at Military Intelligence, told Haaretz that a U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear agreement with the big powers would mainly help Iran. Gilad, also the former director of the political-security division at the Defense Ministry, said over the weekend that although he had reservations about the nuclear agreement when it was signed, he now believed that an American commitment to the deal remained the least bad option. Referring to last Monday’s presentation by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Iran’s nuclear program, Gilad said the material obtained by the Mossad did not prove that the Iranians were violating the nuclear agreement.”

Israeli troops fire shots, tear gas at Gaza protesters, 1,100 Palestinians hurt, Reuters

Israeli troops fired live rounds and tear gas at Palestinians who thronged the Gaza-Israel frontier and rampaged at a border terminal on Friday as part of a long-running protest, injuring about 1,100 people. Medics said around 82 people were shot and wounded with live fire, another 800 treated for gas inhalation and the rest for other injuries along the Gaza side of the 25-mile border fence, where Palestinians set up tent encampments on March 30 for what they call “The Great March of Return”.

Destroying Democracy, Haaretz

The editorial board writes, “Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of Habayit Hayehudi led this move to neutralize the power of the judicial system and to castrate the judiciary’s ability to provide balance and block the nationalist-annexationist right from fulfilling its dangerous desires, which contradict the basic principles of Israeli democracy. But Bennett and Shaked cannot carry out their scheme without the backing of the prime minister, who has not yet declared his position on one of the most important issues his governments have dealt with during all his years in power.Benjamin Netanyahu’s silence, absence from a vote, or any other trick will not absolve him of the primary responsibility for destroying the rule of law in this country.”


Republican House Armed Service chair warns Trump against leaving Iran deal, Reuters

The Republican leader of the US House Armed Services Committee said President Trump should not walk away from the Iran nuclear deal. President Donald Trump is facing a May 12 deadline on whether to re-impose sanctions against Iran. Texas Congressman Mac Thornberry said on Fox News Sunday it would be a mistake for Trump to scuttle the nuclear accord reached with Tehran. “I would counsel against it,” he said.

Opposition skewers bill to rein in High Court; Kahlon vows to block it, Times of Israel

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said on Sunday that his Kulanu party would oppose legislation curtailing the High Court, hours after the bill was green-lit by cabinet ministers, including a lawmaker of his own party. Opposition lawmakers, meanwhile, cried foul over the ministers’ endorsement of the bill, arguing that the law, if passed, would turn Israel into “Erdogan’s Turkey.”

As Deadline on Nuclear Deal Nears, Israel and Iran Issue Warnings, The New York Times

With time running out before the May 12 deadline by which President Trump is to decide whether to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, the leaders of Israel and Iran weighed in on Sunday, with one calling the agreement “fatally flawed” and the other warning of “historic regret” if the United States rips up the deal.

Netanyahu, Putin to Meet Next Week Amid Syria Tensions and Ahead of Iran Deadline, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on May 9. The leaders are expected to discuss recent developments in Syria and Iran. Putin invited Netanyahu to take part in the annual Victory Day march, which celebrates the defeat of Nazi Germany. The two are to meet following the march at the Kremlin. Netanyahu will head to Moscow directly from a trilateral summit with Greece in Cyprus.

Airplane and oil deals at risk in Trump pullout of Iran deal, USA Today

From airplanes to oilfields, billions of dollars are on the line for international corporations as President Trump weighs whether to pull America out of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers. Regardless of where they are headquartered, virtually all multinational corporations do business or banking in the U.S., meaning any return to pre-deal sanctions could torpedo deals made after the 2015 agreement came into force. That threat alone has been enough to scare risk-averse firms, like Boeing Co., into slow-walking deals agreed to months ago. A complete pullout by the U.S. would wreak further havoc and likely frighten off those considering making the plunge.

Israeli Soldiers Kill 3 Palestinians Attempting To Breach Gaza Border, Forward

Israeli soldiers shot and killed three Palestinians attempting to breach Israel’s border fence with Gaza and infiltrate the country. The men killed on Sunday afternoon were part of a group of four men planning to enter Israel from Gaza and carry out a terror attack, the IDF said. The men were carrying an ax, two bottles of lighter fluid, a lighter, a bolt cutter, an oxygen mask, and a GoPro camera, according to the IDF.

Opinions and Analysis

Hamas in Message to Israel: Willing to Negotiate Long-term Truce, Haaretz

“Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip have recently conveyed messages to Israel indicating their willingness to negotiate a long term cease-fire in the enclave. These messages were passed through different channels on several occasions over the last few months. Hamas wants to tie the cease-fire with an easing of the siege on Gaza, permission to embark on large-scale infrastructure projects and a prisoner and body exchange deal. As far as is known, Israel has not responded clearly to the messages.”

Is regime change in Iran part of Trump’s agenda?, Washington Post

Ishaan Tharoor writes, “[I]f regime change is on the agenda, Trump has been far more circumspect about how it would happen. Dethroning the mullahs would likely involve waging war against Iran, a prospect at odds with his own stated desire to withdraw from Syria and disentangle the United States from a generation of costly conflicts in the Middle East. Trump tweeted his solidarity when Iranians took to the streets in protests earlier this year, but that has been the extent of his tangible support. But the more traditional hawks in Trump’s inner circle have no such ambivalence. Newly installed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has advocated regime change and a bombing campaign of the country, as has the new national security adviser, John Bolton.”

Israel Braces for Iran Missile Attack From Syria Over Last Month’s Deadly Strike, Haaretz

Amos Harel reports, “Israeli defense officials are bracing for the possibility of an Iranian revenge attack from Syria in the near future, in the form of rocket and missile launches at northern Israel. Officials believe Iran is determined to retaliate for the April 9 airstrike on Syria’s T4 airbase, which killed seven Iranian military advisers and members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Iran blames Israel for this attack. Israel has detected unusual involvement by Hezbollah in Iran’s preparations for retaliation, even though the organization has been trying to keep its activity low-profile so as not to affect its position within Lebanon. Aside from Hezbollah commanders, operatives from the Shi’ite militias that Iran funds in Syria have also been active in the preparations.”

Palestinian succession war heats up after Abbas’ controversial speech, Al-Monitor

Shlomi Eldar reports, “Senior Fatah leaders, wishing to prevent succession battles between the camps, have already started to seek a compromise candidate who could fill the role of chairman temporarily until Fatah decides on a mechanism for choosing a new chairman that would be acceptable to everyone. A compromise proposal being considered is Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, a former university president who has served in his position for the five years since his predecessor Salem Fayyad was ousted by Abbas.”

Trump and Netanyahu’s Catch-22: Their Objective Achievements Are a Triumph for Lies and Falsehoods, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev writes, “No rational Israeli wants to see Netanyahu’s obsessive campaign against the Iran nuclear deal blow up in Israel’s face. No one wants the Iranians to succeed in entrenching in Syria. No one wants the occupied territories to erupt in violence, or for Israel to be boycotted internationally or for Israel’s high-tech bubble to burst. Such disasters are deemed too high a price to pay for ridding Israel of Netanyahu’s lies and deceptions. His new role model Trump is not the first world leader or U.S. president to lie, of course, but he has elevated falsity to a new and brazen level, which cannot but contaminate both U.S. and international politics.”