News Roundup for November 28, 2017

November 28, 2017

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J Street in the News

Demolitions in Susya Would Endanger Prospects for Two States, J Street

“J Street is deeply concerned by news that the Israeli government plans to proceed with the partial demolition of Susya, a Palestinian village in the West Bank… The Israeli authorities announced plans last week to demolish roughly 20 of 100 structures in the community, including its medical clinic… These demolitions, which would leave dozens of residents homeless, are just the latest move advancing a dangerous agenda of “creeping annexation” in the West Bank — a process by which the Israeli government displaces and demolishes Palestinian communities to make way for further settlement expansion and entrench the occupation. Creeping annexation severely undermines the prospects for a two-state solution, jeopardizing Israel’s future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people.”

Administration Acted Wisely on PLO Mission Decision, J Street

“J Street welcomes the reversal by the Trump administration of its apparent decision to close the “PLO diplomatic mission in Washington. As we stated last week when the original decision became public, the move would have been self-defeating and could only have harmed the administration’s efforts to promote viable negotiations toward a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict…. We are concerned by what this episode reveals about decision-making at the State Department on important foreign policy issues. But we are relieved that this time commonsense appears to have prevailed.”

Top News and Analysis

Sabbath Railway Work in Israel Shakes Netanyahu’s Coalition, New York Times

Isabel Kershner reports, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, already embroiled in corruption scandals, scrambled on Sunday to stabilize his governing coalition after an ultra-Orthodox minister in his cabinet, citing Jewish values, resigned on his rabbi’s orders. Yaakov Litzman, the health minister, quit in protest over railroad repair work that was carried out on Saturday, the Jewish day of rest. Though the government did not appear to be in imminent danger of collapse, the resurgence of the Sabbath wars, a perennial issue in Israeli politics, was just the kind of trouble that some analysts said could eventually unravel the coalition and lead to early elections.”

Why Netanyahu actually supports Palestinian reconciliation, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit writes, “Not everyone in the defense establishment believes that Palestinian reconciliation is necessarily bad for Israel. On the contrary, over the past few weeks, more and more officers believe that the return of the Palestinian Authority to the Gaza Strip and the transfer of control of the border crossings to it constitute a strategic asset… All of this is taking place at the same time as ongoing American efforts to complete the diplomatic process and revive negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. As far as anyone knows, there is still no formula that would allow Israel to engage in contacts with the Palestinians despite Fatah’s involvement in governing Gaza. Even the “ultimate deal,” which Trump has been talking about since the days he was elected, is not supposed to be some historic peace treaty and permanent arrangement between Israel and the Palestinians. It is more of a highly publicized reinvigoration of the process by establishing principles to relaunch and conduct renewed negotiations between the parties.”

Long Divided, Iran Unites Against Trump and Saudis in a Nationalist Fervor, New York Times

Thomas Erdbrink observes, “After years of cynicism, sneering or simply tuning out all things political, Iran’s urban middle classes have been swept up in a wave of nationalist fervor. The changing attitude, while some years in the making, can be attributed to two related factors: the election of President Trump and the growing competition with Saudi Arabia, Iran’s sectarian rival, for regional dominance. Iranians listened during the 2016 campaign as Mr. Trump denounced the Iran nuclear treaty as ‘the worst deal ever negotiated’ and promised to tear it up. They watched in horror when, as president, he sold more than $100 billion worth of weapons to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and participated in a traditional war dance in Riyadh.”


Michael Flynn’s role in Mideast nuclear project could compound legal issues, Washington Post

In June 2015, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn took a little-noticed trip to Egypt and Israel, paid for by a U.S. company he was advising. The company hoped to build more than two dozen nuclear plants in the region, in partnership with Russian interests. Flynn’s quiet involvement in that project — and his failure to disclose his ties to the effort — could complicate the legal issues facing President Trump’s former national security adviser, who has signaled that he may be willing to cooperate with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Rep. Lee Zeldin defends Bannon headlining his fundraiser, JTA

Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., one of two Jewish Republicans in Congress, defended his decision to have Steve Bannon headline a fundraiser.

Deadly Jaffa explosion and fire said caused by illegal gas cylinder, Times of Israel

An explosion in Jaffa that claimed the lives of at least three people and injured four on Monday night was likely caused by an illegal gas cylinder attached to the building without proper safety measures and inspections, the Tel Aviv Fire and Rescue Service said Tuesday.

Netanyahu’s Government Bars Police From Recommending Charges Against Netanyahu, Haaretz

Israel’s ruling coalition reached a compromise Monday on the so-called “recommendations law,” derided by critics as the “anti-police law,” which prohibits law enforcement officials from saying whether charges should be filed against public officials. If approved as expected, the law would apply retroactively to also include the two investigations currently underway against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israeli forces detain 19 Palestinians, 5 teens, in West Bank, Ma’an News

Israeli forces detained at least 19 Palestinians between Sunday night and Monday morning across the occupied West Bank, according to Palestinian and Israeli sources. Hebrew media reported that 18 Palestinians were detained during predawn raids, without specifying the exact locations from which they were detained.

A Forgotten Clause Automatically Grants Israeli Citizenship to Tens of Thousands of Palestinians, Haaretz

The Interior Ministry chooses to overlook Article 4a of the Citizenship Law, meaning Palestinians from East Jerusalem are doomed to suffer a tortuous and often humiliating procedure in order to try to obtain citizenship

Gazans’ Hopes for Border Opening Fall Victim to Sinai Violence, Jerusalem Post

Friday’s horrifying mosque attack in north Sinai is reverberating in the Gaza Strip, with Egypt’s consequent closure of the Rafah Crossing burying any lingering hopes by residents that it will turn any time soon into a viable lifeline to the outside world.

Netanyahu Calls on President to Reconsider Pardoning Hebron Shooter, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, joined by dozens of lawmakers, signed Monday a petition calling on President Reuven Rivlin to reconsider his rejection of Elor Azaria’s appeal for clemency. The premier took to Facebook to express his opposition to Rivlin’s decision, saying in a post on his official page: “My stance has not changed: Pardon for Elor Azaria.”

Opinions and Analysis

The Strange Case of the Insistent Suspect, The American Prospect

Gershom Gorenberg argues, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political allies would like to discredit criticism of their policy of permanent occupation by casting it as an attack on the army and on the men and women serving their country. When soldiers come forward to say that maintaining the occupation harms them and the military as a whole, the gambit could collapse. One response is to attempt to label the dissenting veterans as lying in the employ of purported foreign enemies.”

Saudi Arabia’s Rivalry With Iran Is Further Destabilizing the Middle East, The Nation

Juan Cole writes, “Saudi Arabia’s increasingly erratic behavior has raised questions around the world. After decades in which Riyadh kept a low profile and mainly intervened in world affairs by using its oil wealth, the Saudi military-and-intelligence machine is now pursuing a brutal war in Yemen, has put little Qatar under boycott, has attempted to destabilize Lebanon, is licking its wounds from defeat in Syria, and is cultivating potential clients in Iraq. At the same time, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is concentrating power in his own hands. The common denominator here is the Saudi elite’s competition with Iran for the position of regional hegemon.”

How Orthodox Groups Are Taking Over Birthright, and Using It to Target Young U.S. Jews, Haaretz

Judy Maltz writes, “With winter break just around the corner, thousands of college students across North America are eagerly awaiting the free, 10-day trips to Israel they are entitled to as members of the Jewish tribe, organized by Birthright Israel. But conspicuously absent from the list of travel agencies and organizations arranging this season’s visits is one of Birthright’s longtime trusted partners: the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest Jewish movement in the United States. Birthright’s split with the Reform movement has not come out of the blue. Rather, it reflects a growing trend of recent years: Though the overwhelming majority of Birthright participants are not Orthodox Jews, Orthodox-affiliated trip providers account for a growing share of Birthright recruitment.”

Tzipi Hotovely’s Thanksgiving Gift to American Jews, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev argues, “On this Thanksgiving weekend, American Jewry should give thanks to and for Tzipi Hotovely. Israel’s talk-before-thinking deputy foreign minister may have insulted and enraged them, but she has singlehandedly done more than almost any other Israeli to draw attention to the tensions and possibly historic breach between Israel and American Jews…Were it not for Hotovely, far fewer Israelis would be aware, never mind troubled, by the tension in ties with American Jewry. Even if they don’t support her dismissal from office, many if not most Israelis realize that Hotovely crossed several red lines in her i24 interview, especially given the fact that her job is to improve ties with American Jews, not make them worse.”

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