News Roundup for November 21, 2017

November 21, 2017

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J Street in the News

Closing the Palestinian Diplomatic Offices in Washington Hurts Peace Efforts, J Street

“A reported decision by the Trump administration to shutter the Palestinian diplomatic office in Washington, DC is a self-defeating step that can only harm the administration’s efforts to promote viable negotiations toward a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict…  This foolish move undermines Palestinian Chief Representative Husam Zomlot, who has been a tireless advocate for a two-state solution and vocal public backer of the administration’s efforts to date toward viable negotiations. It arms those in Palestinian society who oppose a two-state solution with more fodder to question US motivations and credibility as a mediator.”

Top News and Analysis

Trump’s Foreign Policy, One Year In, Huffington Post

Sahar Khan argues, “Trump has yet to implement major changes to U.S. foreign policy… What has changed is the United States’ reputation and image, both of which have steadily declined under Trump. One consequence seems to be the erosion of the United States’ credibility as a reliable partner. For example, Trump’s decertification of the Obama-era Iran Deal, which effectively halted Iran’s nuclear weapons program, not only highlights his carelessness and ignorance regarding the complexity of the region, but also leaves European allies wondering if the United States can be trusted as a partner.”

Mission impossible: How an old US law could scotch peace talks before they start, Times of Israel

Dov Lieber writes, “Three decades after US president Ronald Reagan criticized an anti-Palestinian law as an overreach by Congress into the executive branch’s ability to conduct diplomacy, the same legislation now imperils yet-unborn peace talks under the Trump administration. On Friday the State Department informed the Palestinian Authority it may close the Palestine Liberation Organization’s mission in Washington, DC, because Ramallah is pursuing the prosecution of Israelis at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. In response, the Palestinians threatened to suspend relations with the US should their office in the capital be closed. Their DC office has acted as the unofficial Palestinian embassy in the US, and has been an important symbol of evolving US-Palestinian relations.”

How Trump Is Driving Democrats and Republicans Together, Politico

Susan Glasser reports, “[Senator Cardin] ticked off a list of issues on which he said the committee now agrees across party lines—and over which it appears to be more or less in open conflict with the Trump administration. Among them are imposing mandatory new sanctions on Russia, which ultimately passed the Senate 98-2 over the White House’s objections, keeping the Iran nuclear deal in place and pursuing a peaceful solution to the nuclear standoff with North Korea. It’s a striking list. In more than two decades of observing Capitol Hill, I can’t remember a comparable moment when the generally staid Foreign Relations panel has been so assertive toward the president, especially given that Congress and the White House are controlled by the same party.”


Palestinian Foreign Minister: Trump Admin Reconsidering Move to Close PLO Mission in D.C., Haaretz

The Trump administration is reconsidering its position on closing the Palestinian mission in Washington, said Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki on Tuesday morning. The Trump administration began to reconsider the move following threats by the Palestinian Authority’s leadership that Ramallah would cut its ties with Washington, Maliki told the official Voice of Palestine radio station.

Israel has held secret talks with Saudi Arabia over Iran threat, says minister, The Independent

An Israeli cabinet minister said on Sunday that Israel has had covert contacts with Saudi Arabia amid common concerns over Iran, a first disclosure by a senior official from either country of long-rumoured secret dealings. The Saudi government had no immediate response to Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz’s remarks. A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also did not respond immediately to a request to comment.

Jerusalem Fast-tracks Planned Cable Car to Western Wall Despite Criticism, Haaretz

Plans for a cable car to the Old City are being fast-tracked by the Jerusalem Development Authority, the Tourism Ministry and the Jerusalem municipality, over objections of its environmental and political implications. The cable car is expected to approach sensitive sites such as the Western Wall and the Temple Mount, provoking strong criticism from the Palestinians and the international community.

Indictments dropped against 5 minors over far-right ‘hate wedding,’ Times of Israel

The Jerusalem Youth Magistrate’s Court announced Monday it was throwing out charges against five minors accused of celebrating the murder of Palestinians while attending a wedding in December 2015. Judge Shimon Leibo ruled in favor of tossing the indictments against the teens because they were filed, in October 2016, without the prior approval of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.

Sheldon Adelson Expresses Support for Campaign Against McMaster, Haaretz

Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson expressed support recently for the Zionist Organization of American’s campaign against National Security Adviser, General H.R. McMaster. The ZOA, a right-wing group which receives financial support from Adelson, recently announced that it has conducted research showing that McMaster promotes policies harmful to Israel.

Not all criticism is incitement, PM says after Rivlin comes under fire, Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded Monday to a volley of attacks on President Reuven Rivlin, defending the right of lawmakers to criticize the head of state but urging that it be done in a respectful manner and without provocative imagery. Rivlin came under fire Sunday after he refused to grant a pardon to former IDF soldier Elor Azaria, who was imprisoned after being convicted for the manslaughter of a prone and injured Palestinian attack he shot dead in the West Bank city of Hebron during his army service.

Nasrallah Admits: Hezbollah Smuggled Advanced Arms Into Gaza, Haaretz

Lebanese President Michel Aoun and Hezbollah both said on Monday that Lebanon still faces threats from Israel, with Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah claiming his group was the country’s main defense against Jerusalem.

Israel Authorizes Right-wing Settler Group to Run Western Wall Archaeology Site, Haaretz

The right-wing Elad organization will be permitted to run the Davidson Center archaeological park adjacent to the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem, according to a court settlement. The arrangement is provided in an agreement between the state and Elad that was submitted about two weeks ago to the Supreme Court and that is to take effect in eight months.

Opinions and Analysis

Palestinians point finger at Israel for crisis with US, Al-Monitor

Shlomi Eldar writes, “In this whole hullaballoo, Greenblatt’s deafening silence is extremely salient. Usually he sends tweets over every activity or meeting connected to his work. Ever since Trump sent Greenblatt to the Middle East as an emissary, Greenblatt has been trying to create a positive working atmosphere with the Palestinians. His goal is to assuage their suspicions of Trump and show them that the Trump administration is, indeed, an “honest broker.” But just when it seemed that the sides had begun to trust one another, along came the American threat. The Palestinians reckon that Greenblatt was not involved in consultations on the matter nor in the decision to threaten the Palestinians, and that’s why he hasn’t said a word about it as of yet.”

Settlement Attack Divides Friendships, US News and World Report

Yardena Schwartz writes, “International leaders frequently present Israeli settlements as being the primary obstacle to a Palestinian state. The settlements will be a pivotal point of contention as the U.S. begins drafting a new Middle East peace plan. Most Palestinians oppose settlements, seeing them as Israel’s intent to permanently occupy land it captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War. As recently as last December, the U.N. Security Council declared the settlements illegal, and the U.N. and the World Bankhave cited how Israeli occupation of the West Bank annually costs the Palestinian economy billions of dollars. Nevertheless, more than 40,000 Palestinians work in Israeli settlements, which constitute 4 percent of the West Bank.”

No institution is safe from the corrupting power of occupation, +972

Noam Sheizaf argues, “Israelis are not the victims of the occupation — the victims are the Palestinians. But we must also say something about the persecution of Dean Issacharof. The investigations against the Breaking the Silence spokesperson are a win-win for the government: either Issacharof is a liar, or he can be put on trial, thus dissuading others from providing testimony to the organization. Israel sends 18 year olds to rule over another nation. When they describe the reality of the occupation as they experienced it, the government unleashes the media, the far-right groups, and now the police and the state attorney. Beyond that, the apathy with which the Left treats these grotesque events is astounding. The center-right is all praise, and the Left is busy teaching civics classes about who is or isn’t considered a Jew. Meanwhile, the cancer of the occupation continues to metastasize.”

Congressional Update On Palestine/Israel, LobeLog

“As we have over the past two years, LobeLog is posting excerpts from the Legislative Round-up published weekly when Congress is in session by the inimitable Lara Friedman, previously of Americans for Peace Now and now the president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace. These weekly round-ups cover what Congress is up to and what individual members are saying, particularly about Israel-Palestine and Iran. For previous versions (going back many many years), see the Round-Up archive at Americans for Peace Now.”