News Roundup for November 20, 2018

November 20, 2018

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J Street in the News

A Blue Jewish Wave, Jewish News

“Jewish voters overwhelmingly chose Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterm elections. Among Jewish voters, 82 percent of the two-party U.S. House vote went to Democrats and 18 percent went to Republicans. This 64-point margin of support for House Democrats is the largest among Jewish voters in a decade and one of the largest on record….Although the data can’t say with certainty what caused the Jewish jump in support for Democrats, one possibility is the shock and alarm caused by the Pittsburgh synagogue killings, according to the Mellman Group. An election day survey for J Street by GBA Strategies found 72 percent of Jewish voters said that “Donald Trump’s comments and policies” were at least somewhat “responsible for the recent shooting that took place at the synagogue in Pittsburgh.” Eighty-six percent Jews who identify as Democrats ascribed some responsibility for the massacre to Trump, but so did a 56 percent majority of Jewish independents and 35 percent of Jewish Republicans.”

Nancy Pelosi is a Champion of Diplomacy and a Friend to the Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace Movement, J Street

“Nancy Pelosi has proven herself to be a true friend to the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement. As Speaker of the House and Democratic Leader, she has been a champion of diplomacy and a powerful advocate for proactive and principled American leadership on the world stage….Leader Pelosi has demonstrated time and again that she will fight for the goals and values of our community. As a newly-elected House of Representatives prepares to act as a check on President Trump’s dangerous agenda both overseas and at home, we need her leadership now more than ever. We look forward to working with her as the next Speaker of the House.”

Top News and Analysis

Netanyahu’s Coalition in Israel Survives, for Now, The New York Times

Isabel Kershner reports, “The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel appeared to have averted collapse on Monday — at least for now — after a hawkish coalition partner backed down from a threat to defect, which probably would have forced early elections. Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing and religious coalition, led by his conservative Likud party, was weakened by the resignation last week of the hard-line defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, and the withdrawal of his party, Yisrael Beiteinu, leaving the government with a parliamentary majority of just one. The Jewish Home party and its leader, Naftali Bennett, had threatened to leave the coalition, too, which would have left the government without a majority. But on Monday, in a sharp turnaround, the party retreated. With elections due in November 2019, the remaining coalition partners are already in campaign mode and experts said the brittle government was unlikely to last more than a few months.”

Why Naftali Bennett Couldn’t Bring Down Netanyahu, Haaretz

Anshel Pfeffer writes, “The first half of Naftali Bennett’s statement on Monday morning read exactly like a resignation speech. Because that was what it had been meant to be. He gave all the reasons from his perspective why he and his colleagues from Habayit Hayehudi could no longer sit in Benjamin Netanyahu’s government – ‘Israel is in a security confidence crisis’ he said, and the source of the crisis is not its external enemies, but that ‘during the last decade in Netanyahu’s governments – Israel stopped winning.’ Bennett wanted to resign, as he made clear in the first half of his prepared speech. He then went on, in the second half, to give all the reasons why he was staying in the government after all. You could see it on his face and hear it in the tone of his voice. In Netanyahu’s long political career, there has been no other politician he humiliated more than Bennett. Sometimes it was major – like his unsuccessful attempts to keep Bennett out of his cabinet and to entice Habayit Hayehudi voters to jump ship in the 2015 election. Other times it was petty – such as his insistence on always putting Bennett last in meetings with coalition leaders and refusing to include him on prime ministerial flights abroad (sometimes even forcing him to take a separate flight).”

Despite Evidence on Khashoggi, Trump Sticks With the Crown Prince. Why?, The New York Times

Mark Landler writes, “As evidence piles up pointing to the Saudi crown prince’s responsibility in the brutal killing of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, President Trump has only hardened his refusal to concede any possibility that the prince had a hand in the crime. Mr. Trump, who had once condemned the Saudi leaders for perpetrating “the worst cover-up in history,” praised Saudi Arabia this weekend as a “truly spectacular ally,” even after the C.I.A. concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto leader, ordered the murder. Mr. Trump said he would wait for a report on Mr. Khashoggi’s death produced by his administration, due Tuesday, before deciding how to assign blame. But he seemed to play down the importance of the report even before it was issued, suggesting that it would not establish definitively who was ultimately responsible and risking a clash with his own intelligence agencies….The president’s remarks were a vivid illustration of how deeply Mr. Trump has invested in the 33-year-old heir, who has become the fulcrum of the administration’s strategy in the Middle East — from Iran to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process — as well as a prolific shopper for American military weapons, even if most of those contracts have not paid off yet.”


Israeli police recommend indicting interior minister for fraud, breach of trust, i24NEWS

Israel’s police recommend indicting Interior Minister Aryeh Deri for breach of trust and fraud after completing a joint investigation with the Tax Authority, a statement said on Tuesday.

Airbnb says removing listings in West Bank settlements, Reuters

Home-renting company Airbnb Inc said on Monday that it had decided to remove its listings in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, enclaves that most world powers consider illegal for taking up land where Palestinians seek statehood.

UNRWA says budget deficit slashed after Gulf, EU input, i24NEWS
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees said Monday that UNRWA has dramatically reduced its budget shortfall despite US funding cuts after Gulf and EU contributions.

Attorney General to Netanyahu: You Can’t Collect Information on Left-wing Organizations, Haaretz

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday that he does not have the legal authority to collect information on left-wing organizations. Mendelblit added that the prime minister must get rid of any information already collected on civilian organizations, and may not make use of it.

Team linked to Fatah dissident Dahlan helped cover up Khashoggi murder: report, i24NEWS

Four members of Mohammad Dahlan’s security team reportedly took part in hiding evidence related to Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. Dahlan, a former security chief for the Palestinian Authority (PA) who now resides in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is allegedly connected to the four men who sources told the Turkish Yeni Safak newspaper were caught on video carrying materials to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Abbas Rejected Billions of Dollars in Return For Concessions on Jerusalem, Jerusalem Post

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas turned down an offer of billion of dollars in return for making concessions on Jerusalem and accepting the city as the united capital of Israel, Mahmoud Habbash, a senior advisor to the PA president, said on Monday.

Attorney General to Netanyahu: You Can’t Collect Information on Left-wing Organizations, Haaretz

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday that he does not have the legal authority to collect information on left-wing organizations. Mendelblit added that the prime minister must get rid of any information already collected on civilian organizations, and may not make use of it.

Opinion and Analysis

Bringing coalition back from the dead, PM puts rivals in political purgatory, Times of Israel

Raoul Wootliff writes, “Netanyahu’s impressive political survival skills have earned him the nickname ‘the magician,’ and on Sunday, he attempted to once again conjure up the impossible, to save his spiraling coalition. This time, however, the mystery surprise he pulled out of the rabbit’s hat was none other than himself. Rejecting Bennett’s demand and the claims of the Jewish Home chair and others that new elections are a necessity, Netanyahu said it would be wrong and ‘irresponsible’ to bring down the government and force new elections during “one of our most difficult security periods.”…There was no last minute deal with another party, unexpected endorsement from, or shock dismissal of, a rival, all examples of Netanyahu’s past political wizardry. Sunday’s trick was more visceral: telling the public that there were significant threats facing the country, some of which cannot be revealed, and showing them that that at such a time it would be wrong to risk trusting newcomers who claim to know what they are doing. The only person who can lead, he charged, was the experienced and irreplaceable Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On Monday, it became clear that the magic had worked, at least on Bennett.”

Right of return or time to move on?, Washington Post

Loveday Morris and Suzan Haidamous report, “Despite the fact that many were born and raised [in] Lebanon, Palestinian residents remain reliant on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), an entity that provides aid to millions of Palestinians around the region, particularly for basic services like health care and education. Now, however, the Trump administration is trying to dismantle that lifeline, leaving many Palestinians fearing for their futures. In a statement last summer announcing its decision to halt funding, U.S. State Department officials described UNRWA as ‘irredeemably flawed,’ echoing the Israeli sentiment that the agency perpetuates the refu­gee problem, rather than solving it, and allows the countries that host them to shirk their responsibilities in resettling them. The move placed increased scrutiny on UNRWA, which has struggled to raise the $1.2 billion it needs annually to serve a population it estimates has grown from 700,000 to 5.5 million — with some Palestinians even acknowledging that the time has come to hold the agency to account. At the same time, the United States has also tied the matter of UNRWA reform to a much wider aim: taking off the bargaining table Palestinians’ ‘right of return,’ one of three key issues integral to the Middle East peace process. These efforts have sparked debate over what it means to be a Palestinian refu­gee and highlighted questions on resettlement, and whether residency or citizenship in another country would diminish their claim to a future Palestinian state.”