News Roundup for November 16, 2018

November 16, 2018

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J Street in the News

Election: Jews Favor Israel, Oppose Trump, Jewish Journal

Rabbi Robin Podolsky, who serves as a Jewish Community Engagement Fellow for J Street, writes, “Jewish voters chose Democratic candidates by a 76 percent to 19 percent margin, according to a new poll conducted by GBA Strategies and commissioned by J Street, the pro-Israel, pro-peace organization (full disclosure: I work with J Street as a Jewish Community Engagement Fellow). Voters connected the rise of racial and religious bias in the United States and the general deterioration of public discourse with the policies and actions of the Trump administration. A large majority made clear that they have been more concerned with anti-Semitism (81 percent), racism (79 percent) and right-wing extremism (79 percent) since the president took office. Strikingly, 72 percent of those surveyed — and 66 percent of Orthodox Jews surveyed — state that Trump’s comments and policies are ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ responsible for the shooting at Tree of Life synagogue….Whether it comes from Netanyahu or Trump, they dislike aggressive rhetoric and policies that promote social division and hatred. In Israel and in the U.S., they want to see security maintained and peace pursued, not through fear, but through diplomatic conflict resolution. In the context of today’s political configuration, this means that American Jews solidly support Democratic Party candidates, and that is unlikely to change. American Jews are a small percentage of the population, but, increasingly, elections are decided by tiny portions of the electorate, and Jews are motivated voters. Smart candidates continue to recognize that Trump, Netanyahu and the voices that support them are deeply out of step with the American-Jewish electorate.”

A Better Birthright, Daily Princetonian

J Street U Princeton’s Avner Goldstein writes, “Not only are Palestinian narratives erased on Birthright, but Palestinian homes are physically erased as demolitions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem continue. With this in mind, how can we make Birthright a program that properly connects Jewish youth with Israel, including its politics? We can start by calling for the University’s Birthright trip to have a Palestinian speaker, specifically someone from Area C of the West Bank, which is the region under complete Israeli control, and can speak to the realities of military occupation. The organization J Street U Princeton, of which I am a leader of on campus, has begun a campaign that calls for this addition to trip itineraries, including a petition that calls on the Center for Jewish Life to add such a speaker.”

Top News and Analysis

Netanyahu’s Dilemma: Surrender to His Arch-nemesis or Be Forcefully Dragged Into Elections, Haaretz
Yossi Verter writes, “According to all political assessments, Netanyahu will have a hard time keeping his coalition together longer than the next two or three weeks, a month tops — meaning elections in March 2019. The ultimatum by Bennett and his Habayit Hayehudi party – the defense portfolio for Bennett or immediate elections – is only one reason. The last thing Netanyahu wants is to yield to the ultimatum of someone he detests. Given the political situation of recent defense ministers – from Shaul Mofaz through Amir Peretz and up to Ya’alon – appointing Bennett may prove to be the most effective form of revenge.”

Trump’s Middle East Plan Dealt Another Blow With Israel Turmoil, Bloomberg

David Wainer and Nick Wadhams write, “Israel’s political turmoil isn’t just a problem for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: It’s the latest blow to President Donald Trump’s hopes to unveil a grand Middle East peace plan his son-in-law has spent almost two years on. Netanyahu’s coalition now holds a bare majority of 61 of 120 parliamentary seats after his political rival, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, pulled his faction out of the government Wednesday. If other parties leave the coalition — and some are already threatening to do just that — Israel could head into elections this winter even as Netanyahu is facing corruption probes in three different cases….After decades of the U.S. publicly saying it wanted to be an honest broker in the Israel-Palestinian crisis, part of the problem for Netanyahu is that Trump’s policies have been perceived to be so pro-Israel that any plan viewed as conciliatory toward the Palestinians could disappoint the prime minister’s political base. Israelis have grown accustomed to Trump backing them at every turn.”

How Jewish Settlers Are Cementing Their Rule Over Palestinians in Jerusalem, Haaretz

Betty Herschman writes, “Jerusalem is known for being many things to many people, a holy city to all three monotheistic religions and the pulsing heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But while its sun-bleached stone buildings and ancient olive trees imbue it with a timeless kind of beauty, Jerusalem is not recognized as a world-class green city, with centrally located parks and tree-canopied boulevards. Why, then, would a national park bill here in Israel be so controversial? National parks are no less than the natural manifestation of democracy, enshrining the idea that beautiful outdoor spaces should be preserved for the enjoyment and access of all the people. They create green lungs to hedge against climate change. They provide a meditative pause from the pressures of urban life. But in Israel, they can also be exploited to entrench the occupation.”

News

Israel Headed to Elections After Failed Netanyahu-Bennett Meeting, Haaretz

At the end of a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett it was decided to hold elections as soon as possible, sources close to Bennett said.

U.S. Plans to Change Vote to ‘No’ on UN’s Golan Heights Measure, Bloomberg

The U.S. plans for the first time to vote against a United Nations resolution that calls on Israel to end its occupation of the Golan Heights, highlighting a shifting American perspective on the strategic plateau.

Ex-minister Lieberman: Israel-Hamas truce a ‘capitulation’, Associated Press

Israel’s outgoing defense minister says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to accept an informal truce with Gaza’s Hamas rulers amounts to “utter capitulation to terrorism.”

Netanyahu presents Gaza border communities with $135 million aid plan, i24NEWS

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday presented the leaders of Israel’s southern communities adjacent to the Gaza border with a financial plan worth 500 million shekels ($135 million) which will fund a variety of programs for the years 2019-2020.

Trump Peace Plan on Course Despite Israeli Election Talk, Official Says, Haaretz

Despite the looming possibility of new elections in Israel, the Trump administration remains committed to releasing its Middle East peace plan within the next two months. A White House official told Haaretz on Thursday, a day after the resignation of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, that there was no change in the administration’s intentions regarding the peace plan.

Opinion and Analysis

With Small Steps, Palestinians and Israelis Try to Tackle Gaza’s Ills, The New York Times

David M. Halbfinger writes, “Last year, when the Trump administration was still trying to entice the Palestinians into peace talks with Israel through cooperation rather than coercion, it encouraged the two sides to team up on small-scale infrastructure projects as a way to rebuild trust while improving conditions in the here-and-now. Deep in the Negev Desert, a group of Israeli and Palestinian civilians did just that. They hammered out creative ways to bring solar power, sewage treatment and clean water to the impoverished Gaza Strip, where the lights are out more than they are on, the aquifers are befouled, and raw sewage has been pouring into the Mediterranean — sometimes overwhelming a nearby Israeli desalination plant with pollution. Their plans were aimed at creating jobs, improving public health and, above all, sustaining hope in a place where that is in short supply. But in the time it took them to see to the nuts and bolts — business plans, site selection, Israeli military approvals, and the hiring of engineers and workers in Gaza — the political context changed radically. The Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Angry Palestinians began regularly denouncing the White House, and the administration’s approach to them became no-carrot, all-stick.”

Liberman’s exit offers Netanyahu chance to build new coalition, Al-Monitor
Akiva Eldar writes, “When late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decided in 2005 to withdraw Israeli settlements and troops from the Gaza Strip, he took leave of the radical political right and established the Kadima party along with senior Labor leaders such as late President Shimon Peres, Haim Ramon and Dalia Itzik. If Netanyahu decides to complete the job Sharon started, he will have to send [Naftali] Bennett and his colleague Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked packing. The opposition – Labor leader Avi Gabbay, his Zionist Camp co-leader Tzipi Livni and chair of centrist Yesh Atid Yair Lapid — will not turn down Netanyahu’s invitation to fill those shoes. The Foreign Ministry has been awaiting a full-time minister ever since Netanyahu assumed the title in 2015. Now the Defense Ministry is also waiting.”

Netanyahu is stuck with Hamas, and he likes it that way, +972 Magazine

Meron Rapoport writes, “In [Prime Minister Netanyahu’s] eyes, maintaining the Hamas regime in Gaza is a strategic priority, and any development that could lead to an independent state in Gaza, cut off from the West Bank, is a positive one. If Gaza turns into an independent “emirate,” as some right-wing politicians imagine, it will be the final blow to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas — or anyone who succeeds him in representing the Palestinian people….Hamas understands Netanyahu’s conundrum better than anyone. It knows that the prime minister has no intention to topple the regime, which is precisely why it allows itself to launch hundreds of rockets into Israel. It knew Netanyahu would eventually agree to the ceasefire. Hamas took advantage of Netanyahu’s position to claim a political victory for itself in the last escalation, while exposing the Israeli leader’s weakness. Netanyahu is likely aware of this trap himself, but, ultimately, he believes preventing the creation of a Palestinian state is a worthy goal, even if it comes at a political price. This time around, the price was especially heavy: it is likely that Liberman’s resignation will lead to early elections and end Netanyahu’s fourth government, which, until recently, appeared especially stable. It would be ironic if Hamas, which Netanyahu has helped preserve and protect from Abbas’ threats, brings an end to his rule.”

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