News Roundup for October 18, 2018

October 18, 2018

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J Street in the News

Left-wing American Jewish Groups Launch Campaign on Behalf of Lara Alqasem, Haaretz

“Under the hashtag #LetHerStay, left-wing American Jewish organizations have launched a campaign in the United States to pressure the Israeli government to change its position on allowing Lara Alqasem to enter the country to pursue graduate studies in human rights at Hebrew University. The campaign, spearheaded by J Street, has also been joined by other partner organizations: Americans For Peace Now, T’ruah, Reconstructing Judaism, the National Council for Jewish Women, the New Israel Fund, and Ameinu. ‘Lara poses no threat to Israel,’ said Jessica Rosenblum, J Street’s Vice President of Public Engagement. ‘But that’s not to say no damage is being done. The government’s treatment of Lara and other critics of the occupation is doing serious harm to Israel’s reputation… alienating Israel’s friends and providing ammunition to its enemies. Those of us who care about Israel’s democracy need to push back, starting by urging the government to let Lara stay.’ The campaign directs activists to the telephone numbers, email and social media accounts of Israeli ambassadors and consuls across the U.S., encouraging them to deliver a message to them, as well as to the U.S. and United Nations ambassadors, that ‘strong democracies don’t punish their critics.’…On the eve of  Alqasem’s Wednesday appeal before the Israeli Supreme Court in her final attempt to remain in the country, members of the groups participated in a J Street-sponsored Facebook Live discussion with Leora Bechor, a member of Alqasam’s legal team and MK Tamar Zandberg, leader of the Meretz Party, who visited Alqasem in detention, where she has been held for 15 days.”

Abbas meets J Street leadership, thanks group for lobbying work, J Street

“Amid a nadir in US-Palestinian relations, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met Wednesday with the leadership of the liberal Mideast policy group J Street at his headquarters in Ramallah and thanked the group for its lobbying efforts in support of the peace process. Abbas welcomed the delegation, led by J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben Ami, expressing his ‘appreciation for their efforts to support the peace process within American society,’ according to a readout of the meeting published by the official PA news site Wafa. Abbas noted the group’s involvement in signing 112 Democratic representatives of the House of Representatives and 34 senators to a letter sent to the White House calling to reverse the decision to ‘end vital United States contributions to the United National Relief [and] Works Agency (UNRWA).’…Ben Ami, according to Wafa, affirmed that his organization is committed to ‘supporting peace and continuing to work in American Jewish circles and with American society to achieve peace.’ The members of the J Street delegation also ‘affirmed their readiness to continue efforts to resume the peace process on the basis of a two-state solution.’”

Indicted Rep. Duncan Hunter is running an anti-Muslim campaign against his opponent, CNN

“Republican Rep. Duncan D. Hunter is running a brazenly anti-Muslim campaign against his Democratic opponent, a Christian who is the son of a Mexican-American mother and Palestinian father….One of the groups that have come to Campa-Najjar’s defense is J Street, which endorsed him because he supports a two-state solution as part of achieving peace in the Middle East. The group has also noted Campa-Najjar’s unique perspective on the issue because he lived in Gaza as a child for four years before fleeing the violence there and returning to San Diego County, where he was born. JStreetPAC, which has endorsed about 180 House and Senate candidates this cycle, helped the Democratic candidate raise nearly $50,000 — with many of those donations coming after the PAC sent an email to donors about Hunter’s attacks. ‘We find these attacks on Ammar to be disgraceful and very obviously rooted in bigotry and fear mongering,’ said Logan Bayroff, director of communications at J Street. ‘They quite clearly have no foundation in fact. They are not about policy. They are not about security. They are about trying to fear-monger on the basis of Ammar’s Arab and Hispanic heritage.’”

Ted Cruz slams ‘rabidly anti-Israel’ J Street in debate with Beto O’Rourke, Jewish Telegraphic Agency

“U.S. senator Ted Cruz called J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group, ‘rabidly anti-Israel’ in the Texas Republican’s debate with his Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke….J Street immediately seized upon Cruz’s jibe in a fundraising email.‘You know what? We honestly don’t care if Ted Cruz wants to insult us. If anything, being attacked by Ted Cruz is a badge of honor,’ the group said in an appeal Wednesday with the subject line ‘Ted Cruz Attacks J Street.’ ‘What we care about is that extremists like him — elected officials who undermined the Iran deal, demonize Palestinians to score political points and believe the only way to be ‘pro-Israel’ is to support every policy of the Netanyahu government — hold power in Washington right now,’ the appeal said.”

The Daily Kickoff: October 17, 2018, Times of Israel

“Aaron Davis, J Street’s National Political Director, responded [to Senator Cruz’s attack on J Street] in a statement: ‘As the political home for the pro-Israel, pro-peace majority of American Jews, we take attacks from Ted Cruz as a badge of honor.’”

New Poll Confirms: Large Majority of American Jews Disapprove of Trump’s Policies on Iran, Palestinians, Jerusalem, J Street

“A large majority of American Jewish voters disapprove of President Trump’s handling of key foreign policy issues including the Iran nuclear deal, US relations with the Palestinians and moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, according to a new poll. The survey, released by the Jewish Electoral Institute and conducted by the Mellman Group, shows that American Jews’ strong opposition to President Trump — just 25% approve of his job performance — also extends to his policies in the Middle East.”

Top News and Analysis

Why the Khashoggi Murder Is a Disaster for Israel, Haaretz

Former US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro writes, “The shocking brutality of Jamal Khashoggi’s abduction and murder by Saudi security forces cannot be papered over, no matter how implausibly it is dressed up as an interrogation gone wrong or the work of rogue actors. But its implications go deeper than the tragedy visited upon Khashoggi’s family and fiancee. It raises fundamental questions for the United States and Israel about their whole strategic concept in the Middle East.”

What’s next for Israel: early elections or war in Gaza?, Al-Monitor

Mazal Mualem writes, “The question now is what happens first: new elections or a war in Gaza? Netanyahu has already proved that he has no interest in fighting, certainly not during an election campaign. Two days after the opening of the winter session, Hamas showed that it is not concerned about Netanyahu’s political calculations. A rocket fired from Gaza that hit a home in Beersheba on Oct. 17 reinforced that the prime minister cannot control every factor. This means that Gaza could be added to the mix as Netanyahu calculates what it takes to survive and whether to dismantle the government.”


Netanyahu Rival Says Israel Too Soft as Gaza on Verge of War, Bloomberg
International mediators struggled to prevent unrest on the Gaza border from erupting into war as a key member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet said Israel should shoot to kill any Palestinian who tries to break through the border fence. Naftali Bennett, Israel’s education minister and leader of the religious Jewish Home party, spoke in an interview as seven months of confrontation in Gaza threaten to deteriorate into all-out war.

American student fights deportation in Israeli high court, Associated Press

[US graduate student Lara Alqasem] on Wednesday asked Israel’s Supreme Court to overturn an expulsion order over her alleged involvement in the boycott movement against Israel….Alqasem’s attorney, Leora Bechor, said Wednesday’s hearing went well, with Supreme Court justices pressing state lawyers about whether Alqasem truly met the definition of being a boycott leader.

Australia’s spy agency warned government Israel embassy move could provoke violent unrest, Guardian

Australia’s spy agency warned ministers that Scott Morrison’s proposed shift in Middle East policy to relocate the embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem may “provoke protest, unrest and possibly some violence in Gaza and the West Bank.

Palestinian PM tells residents of Bedouin village to ‘disrupt’ demolition, Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah called on the Bedouin residents of the small West Bank village of Khan al-Ahmar Thursday to “disrupt” their village’s expected demolition by the Israeli army.

Police ‘warn’ Israeli activist over Khan al-Ahmar activism, +972 Magazine

Israeli police appear to have “warned” at least one well-known Israeli human rights activist that law enforcement will “take steps” against him if he says or does anything illegal in relation to the imminent destruction and forced displacement of Khan al-Ahmar.

Hamas Denies Firing Rockets, ‘Regrets’ Cancellation of Egypt Intel Visit, Jerusalem Post

Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzouk on Wednesday expressed “regret” over the cancellation of a planned visit to the Ramallah and the Gaza Strip by Abbas Kamel, head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Force. The top Egyptian official was scheduled to visit Ramallah and the Gaza Strip on Thursday as part of Cairo’s effort to avert a military confrontation between Israel and Hamas.

AG warns of increased effort to delegitimize him as decision on PM probes nears, Times of Israel

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Wednesday warned that attempts to discredit him and top prosecutors would increase as a decision on whether to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a series of corruption probes inches closer.

Opinion and Analysis

Encountering Peace: No Military Option for Gaza, Jerusalem Post
Gershon Baskin writes, “Without any genuine Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in sight; with the view that another round of war in the South must be prevented, knowing that it would not lead to any strategic changes on the ground; and out of sincere concern for the welfare of Israel’s two million Palestinian neighbors in Gaza, the urgency of reaching Israel-Hamas understandings far outweigh the reasons not reach such agreements. That is how to bring back the calm and security to the South. There is no military option that can erase normal people’s desire to live with dignity and with hope of a better future.”

Trump’s Saudi bet has become much riskier, Associated Press

Matthew Lee writes, “President Donald Trump put a big and risky bet on Saudi Arabia and its 33-year-old crown prince. It’s now become much riskier. From the early days of his presidency, Trump and his foreign policy team embraced the kingdom and Mohammed bin Salman as the anchors of their entire Middle East strategy. From Iran and Iraq to Syria, Yemen and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the administration gambled that Saudi Arabia, effectively run by the prince, could credibly lead, and willingly pay for, a ‘Pax Arabica’ in a part of the world from which Trump is keen to disengage….Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has made Saudi Arabia a centerpiece of his yet to be revealed Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, which is expected to call for massive Saudi and Gulf Arab contributions to fund reconstruction and development projects in the West Bank and Gaza.”