News Roundup for November 16, 2016

November 16, 2016

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J Street in the News

Keith Ellison would be a bold pick for DNC chair — and a controversial one

Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of the liberal Jewish group J Street, told The Washington Post in an interview Tuesday that Ellison is a “friend of Israel” and a “friend of Jewish people.” “These kinds of attacks that have been leveled against him are symptomatic of a mood and fervor on the political right that needs to be countered,” Ben-Ami said, adding that Ellison is to be commended for recognizing when he said the wrong thing.

Conservative Israel Advocacy Groups Pass On Bannon Criticism As J Street And Other Jewish Groups Condemn “Horrifying” Hiring, Media Matters Blog

Progressive Israel advocacy group J Street also condemned Bannon, saying that he “has an extensive history of championing the views of the extreme right in the United States and around the world.”But the conservative-leaning American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has avoided weighing in, saying in a statement that it “has a long-standing policy of not taking positions on presidential appointments.” And Republican Jewish Coalition board member Bernie Marcus has defended Bannon.

What Will Trump Do With The Iran Deal?, NY Jewish Week

“Democrats will likely filibuster any new legislation. An array of groups that backed the deal, including J Street, the liberal Middle East policy group, has pledged to hold the party’s feet to the fire. ‘There will be fights, and these will be fights J Street and other supporters of the deal will engage in with everything we’ve got,’ said Dylan Williams, J Street’s vice president of government affairs. And perhaps, from Trump’s perspective, that’s not a drawback: He satisfies hard-liners by encouraging them to come up with the toughest anti-deal legislation possible — and then watches it wither on the vine.”

As American Jewish College Students, We Are Deeply Concerned About the Election of Donald Trump, The Forward

The J Street U National Board writes: In the next four years, what will our community do to protect our values? What will we do to protect the rights of minorities? How will we act to protect the possibility of a two-state solution? What will constitute Jewish moral leadership during a Trump presidency? Our community has a long and storied history of standing up for civil and human rights and against intolerance, inequality and injustice. We must renew that tradition now with urgency to defend against acts of hate and exclusion towards those who are “different.”

Students lay out official ‘pro-Israel’ stance among UNC groups, Daily Tar Heel

“Jewish student organizations voted last week to unanimously approve an official document laying out a pro-Israel stance….President of J-Street UNC-CH, Brooke Davies, was also present at the signing of the document. Davies said the document advocated for a two-state solution, something she said was not a break from the norm. She said the resolution was focused on how to quickly establish peace in the region. ‘It lays out a secure economic future for Palestine, it establishes the Green Line as a defensible border, and establishes West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and East Jerusalem as part of the state of Palestine,’ Davies said.”

Steve Bannon, Trump’s Rasputin in the White House, Haaretz

Eric Alterman writes: “Yes J Street (as could be expected) and ADL, thankfully, issued strong statements. And  Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, the director of the liberal Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued a particularly useful statement as it spoke not only to the potential dangers to Jews but to all those who have reason to fear the forces unleashed by Trump’s campaign… But so far, AIPAC has been completely mum (aside from removing its support for a two-state solution from its website). According to one tweeter, the organization was “privately apoplectic” over the choice. In public, however, not so much. So too, the rest of the so-called major Jewish organizations, with shockingly few exceptions, to say nothing of most Christian and ecumenical organizations.”

Top News and Analysis

A Call to Prayer, or Noise Pollution? Israel Targets Mosque Loudspeakers, New York Times

A proposal backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and initially endorsed this week by his ministers would authorize the government to ban the use of loudspeakers by mosques and other houses of worship across Israel. For many on both sides of the nation’s sectarian line, few questions could prove more provocative than whether the muezzin should be muzzled.

Right-wing Israeli leaders push forward assertive new legislation to preserve Jewish settlements, Washington Post

“Right-wing leaders in the Israeli government have seized on the election of Donald Trump to push forward assertive new legislation that would legalize Jewish settlements in the West Bank built on privately owned Palestinian land. Believing that the time to act is now, as the U.S. president-elect begins to shape his foreign policy, top Israeli ministers voted unanimously Sunday in favor of a bill that would allow Israeli settlements and outposts that were built on property owned by Palestinians to avoid court-ordered demolitions…..Trump and his advisers have signaled that the incoming administration will be more supportive of Israel than was President Obama, whose State Department has sharply criticized settlements as “an obstacle to peace,” even as the White House awarded Israel an unprecedented $38 billion in military aid over the coming decade and has staunchly defended Israel in political forums….Bennett and his allies view the full legalization of the settlements built on Palestinian land as only a first step. Bennett wants Israel to formally annex the 60 percent of the West Bank where the Jewish-only settlements are located, thereby ending any prospect for a viable Palestinian state.”

Herzog, Livni Clash Over Bill to Bar BDS Supporters From Israel, Haaretz

“Israel’s two Zionist Union leaders clashed on Monday over a bill that would bar foreign citizens who support boycotting Israel from entering Israel….Herzog said: ‘We have to take a more centrist line, thus our voters are switching to Yesh Atid. We must support the bill’” Livni replied: ‘The left clearly defends democracy, but branding doesn’t interest me rather ideology. We have to stand up to this McCarthyism and not join this trend. That is what Lapid is doing. This bill is a huge gift to BDS and strengthens, not weakens, it.’”

Condemn or court? Bannon appointment a dilemma for Jewish groups seeking access to Trump, JTA

Ron Kampeas writes, “The appointment of Bannon, formerly the CEO of Breitbart, the right-wing news site that has been the clearinghouse for the alt-right movement, has been the buzz in the hallways and at lunch tables at the Jewish Federations of North America’s annual General Assembly meeting here this week. More than 3,000 Jewish communal professionals and lay figures from 120 communities are attending. Comments on the record, though, were rare, a reflection of the bafflement prevalent in the Jewish community at how to deal with a president-elect who has no experience in public office and won the presidency through a scorched-earth campaign.”


Well-known Islamophobe Frank Gaffney Joining Trump Team, Considers Himself Great Friend of Israel, Haaretz

The probable appointment of a well-known anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist to President-elect Donald Trump’s advisory team is the latest bombshell to shake up liberal America. On Wednesday, it was reported that Frank Gaffney – described by the Southern Policy Law Center as “one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes” – is to join the new administration’s transition team. Gaffney is the founder and director of the Center for Security Policy, a neo-conservative-turned-wildly-anti-Muslim think-tank. “Gripped by paranoid fantasies about Muslims destroying the West from within,” the veteran Alabama-based civil rights organization writes on its website, “Gaffney believes that ‘creeping Shariah,’ or Islamic religious law, is a dire threat to American democracy.”

Israel’s Settlement-legalization Bill Receives Preliminary Approval From Knesset, Haaretz

A bill to retroactively legalize illegal settlements passed its first Knesset reading on Wednesday afternoon with the support of the Kulanu Knesset faction of Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon. Kahlon announced earlier in the day, following a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that his faction would support the bill.

Secretary of State Giuliani? He’s the Leading Choice, Trump Aides Say, The New York Times

Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, is the leading contender to be secretary of state in the Trump administration, campaign officials said on Tuesday, as Vice President-elect Mike Pence plans to join President-elect Donald J. Trump in New York to accelerate the process of filling out his cabinet.

Giuliani was paid advocate for shady Iranian dissident group, Washington Post

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani is reported to be in contention to be Donald Trump’s attorney general or secretary of state. Senators who will be considering his confirmation may want to examine the fact that Giuliani took money to advocate on behalf of an Iranian dissident group while it was listed by the State Department as a foreign terrorist organization, potentially breaking the law.

Netanyahu Tells U.S. Jews He’s Committed to Solving Western Wall Crisis, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday tried to calm nerves among liberal Jews in the United States regarding the Western Wall compromise. In a speech he gave by satellite to the General Assembly of The Jewish Federations of North America, Netanyahu said that government policy to find an agreement that would allow prayer by all streams of Judaism at the Western Wall remained unchanged. Netanyahu explained that despite the fact that a decision on the issue was approved by the government, it has been difficult politically to implement it.

Israeli forces carry out spate of demolitions in Bethlehem, Hebron, Jerusalem, Ma’an

Israeli forces demolished several Palestinian structures, delivered demolition notices and detained a Palestinian man during demolition raids in the occupied West Bank’s Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Hebron districts on Tuesday, locals told Ma’an.

Stephen Bannon backed in statement from Republican Jewish Coalition board member, JTA

A Republican Jewish Coalition board member has issued a statement supporting Stephen Bannon, who was appointed chief strategist for President-elect Donald Trump. Tuesday’s statement from Bernie Marcus, a co-founder of Home Depot, comes in response to condemnations of Bannon aired since his appointment Sunday, in part from several Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League.

Opinion and Analysis

Trump’s administration could upend the Middle East, Washington Post

The Middle East is bracing for an incoming American president who seems intent on radically reordering the regional balance of power, heralding new uncertainty and perhaps new turmoil for a part of the world already engulfed in multiple wars. So vague and contradictory were many of the pronouncements made by President-elect Donald Trump on the campaign trail that governments and analysts are puzzling out which ones he meant and how he would be able to implement them all.

Could Israeli Government Be Toppled by Crisis Over Illegal Outpost? It’s Been Felled by Less, Haaretz

Yossi Verter writes, “If the government was headed by a leader and not a frightened politician who has lost all focus after persistently peering rightward, someone in the Prime Minister’s Office would have invited a representative of the illegal outpost along, and made it unequivocally clear that the settlers should move by December 25 – and if not, they’d be evacuated by force….If he wishes, Netanyahu can appeal at any time the ministerial committee’s decision and delay a Knesset vote on the bill endlessly. But he’s too afraid of the right-wing electorate and of Naftali Bennett. Netanyahu’s fourth term is essentially over. He can continue, if he chooses, to serve as the head of Bennett’s government. To the latter, that’s a pretty attractive prospect.”

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