News Roundup for October 16, 2018

October 16, 2018

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J Street in the News

The Ban on Lara Alqasem Is a Gift for BDS, and a Disaster for Israel, Haaretz

J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami writes, “Dear Minister Erdan: I am aware that, as Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs and Public Security, your portfolio includes managing Israel’s response to BDS. Over the years, you and other officials of the Israeli government have met with J Street and with other liberal Jewish leaders to ask for advice on countering the global boycott divestment and sanctions movement. Allow me to say to you today, in no uncertain terms: What you are doing in the case of Lara Alqasem is not only morally wrong, it is the most un-strategic and damaging move that the state could make if it hopes to minimize support for BDS and promote Israel’s interests and standing around the world….Let me give you my clearest and simplest advice on how to counter BDS and advance the long-term interests of your country: Drop the case against Lara Alqasem. Let her study at Hebrew University. Invite her to share her views with you. Encourage her to see the many things in Israel of which we are so rightly proud. Respect her right to tell you and your colleagues what she believes that you are doing wrong. Recognize that the right way to deal with speech you don’t like is to counter it, not silence it.”

The Daily Kickoff: October 15, 2018, Times of Israel

“J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami in a letter to the NYT editor: ‘While focusing on a handful of Democratic candidates who have faced heavy right-wing criticism for their positions on Israel, [The New York Times] article misses the larger evolution in American politics on the issue. Instead of relying on the outdated idea that support for Israelis and Palestinians must be mutually exclusive, a growing majority of Democratic candidates increasingly recognize that it is possible and necessary to promote policies, like the two-state solution…’”

New Israel Fund’s new president opposes ‘most forms of’ Israel boycotts, Times of Israel

“David Myers has been named board president of the New Israel Fund several months after stepping down as CEO of the Center for Jewish History following a controversy-marred one-year tenure. Myers, a Jewish history professor, left the Center for Jewish History in August after right-wing activists said his involvement with liberal organizations such as the New Israel Fund and J Street, as well as his views on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel, made him unfit to lead the Jewish organization. Myers has said he opposes ‘most forms of’ boycotts of Israel.”

Association for Israel Studies backs American student detained at Israeli airport, Jewish Telegraphic Agency

“The international association of Israel studies scholars is calling on Israel to allow Lara Alqasem, the American student detained at Ben Gurion Airport, to enter the country….Last week, three major American Jewish groups — the Anti-Defamation League, the Reform movement and the liberal Israel lobby J Street — backed Alqasem publicly while noting their opposition to BDS.”

Top News and Analysis

This Is America’s Middle East Strategy on Steroids, Foreign Policy

Stephen M. Walt writes, “Far from disengaging from the region, President Donald Trump has if anything doubled down on U.S. support for America’s traditional Middle East client states. He has welcomed Egyptian strongman Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to the White House and continued to lavish U.S. economic and military aid on Sisi’s military dictatorship. He has moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem to keep big-time Republican Party donor Sheldon Adelson happy, appointed a zealous defender of Israel’s settler movement as U.S. ambassador, and has a nice bromance going with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Trump has also embraced Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a supposedly reformist leader, along with the Saudis’ close allies in the United Arab Emirates. Most importantly, Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and National Security Advisor John Bolton all subscribe to the Saudi-Israeli-Egyptian-Gulf states line on Iran. Trump endeared himself to each of these governments by withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, and the administration has ramped up its denunciations of Iran’s support for terrorism and its supposedly destabilizing regional activities….The Obama administration had repeatedly insisted that ‘all options were on the table,’ but its larger goal was to create a situation where war with Iran would be unnecessary. Trump has reversed that approach, and some observers now fear that war is where he (or his chief advisors) wants to go.”

Bucking boycott, Palestinian eyes seat in Jerusalem city hall, Reuters

Dan Williams reports, “A civil engineer from East Jerusalem is bucking a Palestinian boycott of Israeli politics by running for a seat in city hall with a campaign that demands equitable municipal services while side-stepping the long struggle over sovereignty. A third of Jerusalem residents are Palestinians, in areas Israel captured in a 1967 war and annexed as its capital, a move not recognized abroad. They pay taxes and complain of neglect by Israeli authorities more attentive to western, Jewish districts. The estrangement has been reinforced by a policy of non-participation in Jerusalem municipal politics ordered by the Palestinian Authority (PA), which exercises limited self-rule in the adjacent Israeli-occupied West Bank and wants East Jerusalem as capital of a hoped-for future Palestinian state.Ramadan Dabash, 51, is as old as Israel’s rule and, having witnessed diplomatic deadlocks – the last round of statehood negotiations collapsed in 2014 – and spates of violence, is impatient for change. He talks in terms of pragmatic adaptation. ‘East Jerusalemites suffer greatly from lack of services and representation in the municipality of Jerusalem,’ Dabash told Reuters in his district of Sur Baher, where unkempt streets and open piles of refuse are common sights.”


Liberman taking aim: ‘We need to deal Hamas a harsh blow’, i24NEWS

Israeli Minister of Defense Avigdor Liberman said on Tuesday, “we need to deal Hamas a harsh blow,” suggesting that Israel may be preparing to engage in an operational military attack on the Gaza Strip.

Trump’s envoy reveals plan to unite Gaza and West Bank, Ynetnews

The White House’s peace plan entails intentions to unify the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s special envoy to the Middle East, told Ynet on Tuesday.

Opening Knesset, Netanyahu rips opposition for ignoring ‘fantastic progress’, Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday delivered a gushing review of his and Israel’s achievements over the past decade, saying that the country has gone through an “unprecedented revolution of advancements” and slamming the “negative and bitter” opposition for not recognizing the progress.

In Rare Remark, Trump Envoy Greenblatt Condemns ‘Reprehensible’ Killing of Palestinian Woman, Haaretz

Jason Greenblatt, U.S. President Donald Trump’s special envoy to the Middle East peace process, responded on Monday to the death of Aisha Mohammed Rabi, a Palestinian woman who died of a head wound on Friday after settlers allegedly threw stones at her car.

Australian PM criticized for possibly recognizing Jerusalem as Israeli capital, Reuters

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whose government faces a crucial by-election in four days, said on Tuesday Canberra was open to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, prompting concern from Indonesian and Palestinian officials.

Opinion and Analysis

Lara Alqasem and Israel’s Anti-constitutional Revolution, Haaretz

Aeyal Gross writes, “The ruling of Judge Erez Yakuel in the Tel Aviv District Court, in which he rejected the petition of American student Lara Alqasem against the prevention of her entry into Israel, is part of an anti-constitutional revolution…Yakuel’s ruling [shows] that if in the past it was thought that the wave of anti-democratic legislation in recent years would be of a declarative nature only, and not change Israeli reality – in fact these laws have teeth and actual consequences. Even broader consequences than what could have been expected.”

Quneitra hope, Jerusalem Post

The Jerusalem Post editorial board writes, “On Monday, the Quneitra border crossing between Israel and Syria was reopened after four years. The crossing was closed in 2014 during the Syrian civil war and its reopening comes after the Syrian regime under Bashar Assad retook the border areas from Syrian rebels in July. During those four years, tensions were high because of the proximity of Iranian-supported militias and concerns that Iran would exploit the instability in southern Syria to move its forces close to Israel. Israel warned that Iran must withdraw from Syria and the Syrian regime’s media reported Israeli air strikes in Syria….Now, with the border crossing reopened and the Syrian regime expected to keep the area demilitarized based on the 1974 agreement, there is a chance that the paradigm of relative peace may return. In another sign pointing to that, the Jordan border crossing with southern Syria also reopened….The Quneitra crossing is a symbol of the ties that bind Israel to its neighbors. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the Syrian regime and its allies, peace has not prospered, but the reopening represents hope after years of massacre and war.”