Alison Kaplan Sommer interviews J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami. “‘Seventy-five percent of Jewish Americans did not vote for Donald Trump,’ he said. ‘Groups like AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents that are now going to support and work closely with Donald Trump and Bibi Netanyahu will be limiting themselves to alignment with only 25 percent of the community. The other 75 percent needs a political home, a political representative and a political voice that speaks for them in Washington….And so, he says, J Street is ready to gear up to play defense. At the top of the list of battles that Ben-Ami anticipates is some form of an attempt to dismantle the Iran nuclear deal….J Street will be prepared to oppose possible action they feel will rattle the region, like cutting off aid to the Palestinians or U.S. approval – active or tacit – of a move by Israel to annex parts of the West Bank….’American Jews need to be unbelievably aware of who the leaders of our community are getting into bed with in the interest of advancing blind support of the government of Israel and its policies. The leadership of our community is giving a free pass to people who are willing to salute the flag of Bibi Netanyahu and the right wing government in Israel and that is wrong morally, it’s wrong strategically, it is out of touch with the overwhelming majority of Jewish Americans who voted obviously against them and we as J Street will be stepping forward very loudly and very strongly to call that out.’”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with all those whose lives have been affected by the fires now raging across Israel and in the West Bank. We are heartened by the assistance in fighting the fires that has come not only from the United States and Europe, but from Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority as well. As has become abundantly clear in the way these fires have spread over the past two days, fire knows no boundaries between cities and villages, North and South, Israel and the West Bank. It is our profound hope that efforts to fight this threat together will prevail over forces that aim to divide.”
“The progressive pro-Israel J Street group said Bannon had ‘an extensive history of championing the views of the extreme right in the United States and around the world’. It accused Trump of ‘fanning the flames of hatred’ by appointing Bannon.”
Israel Arrests 22 Over Wildfires, as Arson Is Suspected, The New York Times
“Twenty-two people have been arrested on suspicion of arson or incitement to arson, security officials said on Friday, as Israel continued to battle its worst wildfires in years. The fires, which began on Tuesday, have erupted throughout the country, blazing through parched forests, incinerating scores of homes and forcing tens of thousands of people to flee. Two prisons were also evacuated. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday that ‘a considerable number’ of the fires were set and described them as ‘terror,’ a term usually given to militant attacks by Palestinians.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas for sending firefighters to assist in putting out massive fires throughout Israel. Netanyahu made the call on Saturday night to Abbas, identified by his nom de guerre Abu Mazen in a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office. The Palestinian Authority sent eight fire trucks and about 40 firefighters.
A number of ISIS fighters were killed after exchanging fire in the first direct clashes between Israel and the Islamic State on Sunday in the southern Golan Heights. In the incident, the Shuhada al-Yarmouk organization, which has pledged allegiance to ISIS, exchanged fire with Israeli forces. No soldiers were wounded.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett blamed “pyro-terrorism” for the latest wave of fires, and said Israel ought to respond by expanding settlement construction in the West Bank. “We will build more and bigger houses for every [damaged] house,” Bennett said while on a visit to the fire-struck settlement Halamish, where weekend blazes damaged a number of homes. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, also while visiting in Halamish, said the best answer to the destruction was to “expand settlements.”
Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan called on Saturday for the demolition of homes of any Palestinian found guilty of arson, according to Israeli media. Several Israeli news sites quoted Erdan as saying that “if you can demolish a home of a terrorist who opens fire or stabs, then you should demolish the home of nationally motivated arsonist as well. There is no difference.”
Israel could face escalation in violence and instability in the West Bank in 2017 due to the diminishing status of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi warned on Sunday.
The security cabinet decided unanimously on Sunday to purchase 17 additional F-35 stealth fighter jets from the United States. The Prime Minister’s Bureau said the new purchase will bring the number of F-35s in the Israel Air Force to 50.
In a bizarre and confusing case, a Bedouin was being released Sunday night after being arrested for writing a Facebook post that mocked anti-Israel arsonists, because police misunderstood his comments. His lawyer and several Arab MKs claimed the cops had belatedly admitted their error, but the police denied this.
Samah Salaime writes, “Cohesion and unity in the face of fire is not so surprising in our community – the first and only Jewish-Arab community in the Middle East. It is what makes us feel that 40 years of living together through wars, intifadas, crises, military “campaigns,” and lots of pain has been worthwhile. They have been years of valuable teaching and learning; investment in people rather than stones; investment in one another, rather than in fences and barriers.”
“When the extent of the fires was just becoming clear Wednesday night, Bennett had tweeted that only ‘someone who this land does not belong to’ could have started the fires. Arab politicians decried ‘incitement’ against their community by Israeli Jewish politicians and pointed out that some of the fires were started near Arab communities. Ayman Odeh, the head of the Arab Joint List political party, on Thursday reacted to Bennett’s tweet, saying, ‘To my regret, someone decided to exploit this dreadful situation to incite and to lash out at an entire community.’ Hours later, he called on any arsonists to stop, saying they were ‘the enemies of us all.’”
“Never one to be outdone by her friends on the right, Minister of Culture and Sport Regev published a Facebook status on Sunday morning comparing the fires, which continue to rage across both Israel and the West Bank, to massacres and pogroms against Jews in the 20th century. Labeling the fires “Praot Tash’az” (the Hebrew equivalent of saying “The 2016 Riots,” the word “tash’az” denotes 5776, the current Hebrew year), Regev admonished the “political correctness” of those who believe waiting for the full results of police investigations is, well, the right thing to do.”
Gal Berger reports, “The atmosphere ahead of the seventh Fatah convention set to be opened in Ramallah on Tuesday can be described as charged. The rivalry between Abbas and Mouhammad Dahlan – a former member of the Fatah executive council, eventually ousted by Abbas – ramps up the tension to fever pitch. This time around, only 1,400 delegates from the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and from abroad were invited to take part in the convention slated to take place at the Mukataa. Dahlan and his supporetrs have been purged from the meeting. Their names do not appear on the list. They were effectively kicked out of the party by Abbas yet refuse to accept the decision as legal. The hall where the meetings will take place cannot host more than 1,500, so there’s no room for any kind of tomfoolery.”
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