News Roundup for October 19, 2018

October 19, 2018

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J Street in the News

U.S. to merge diplomatic mission serving Palestinians with embassy in Israel, Washington Post

“In a move likely to further strain relations between the United States and the Palestinian Authority, the State Department announced Thursday that it will merge the diplomatic mission serving Palestinians with the U.S. Embassy in Israel….Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the Jewish liberal advocacy group J Street, called the decision a ‘blow to diplomacy.’”

Lara Alqasem, US student detained in Israeli airport, can stay in country, Supreme Court rules, Jewish Telegraphic Agency

“Lara Alqasem, the American student detained in Israel’s airport, has been let into the country after Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that she be allowed to stay and study there….Three major American Jewish groups declared their support for Alqasem last week: The Reform movement, the Anti-Defamation League and J Street, the liberal Israel lobby. All three groups said Israel would be best served by letting Alqasem see and experience the country for herself.”

US student Lara Alqasem claims victory in Israel boycott case, Al Jazeera

“J Street, a US advocacy group working to promote a peaceful resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, published an open letter to Gilad Erdan saying the action taken against Alqasem showed the ‘deeply counterproductive and anti-democratic nature’ of the Israeli government’s approach to BDS and to criticism of its policies.”

Jewish peace group slams US ambassador’s visit to Israel settlement, Middle East Monitor

“A Jewish-American peace group has slammed US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman for visiting the Israeli settlement of Ariel built north of the occupied West Bank. In response to Friedman’s visit, J Street Vice President of Government Affairs Dylan Williams issued a statement in which he said that “by making an official public appearance at an event in an Israeli West Bank settlement, Ambassador Friedman once again crossed a major, longstanding red line of bipartisan US policy.’ ‘The Trump administration continues to send a clear message of support for the settlement movement and the agenda of the Israeli right. Indeed, the ambassador, himself a longtime benefactor of the settlement movement, has actively worked to erode the distinction between Israel and the occupied territory it controls beyond the Green Line,’ he added. Williams warned that with such unprecedented actions like these, ‘the Trump administration is driving home the point that they have no real interest in promoting a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — now or in the future.’”

US Closure of Jerusalem Consulate is Another Blow to Diplomacy, Gift for Settlement Movement, J Street

“Step by step, the Trump administration has worked to destroy the US relationship with the Palestinians and to close off every point of contact with the Palestinian leadership. Following the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem, the closure of the PLO mission in Washington and the cut-off of humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, the closure of the East Jerusalem consulate hands another victory to the settlement movement and enemies of the two-state solution. It gives further control of US policy in the region to Ambassador David Friedman — the settlement movement benefactor who, just this week, broke a longstanding US red line by making an official appearance at an Israeli settlement event in the occupied West Bank.”

J Street Welcomes Israeli Supreme Court’s Alqasem Decision, Continues to Oppose Israel’s Travel Ban Law, J Street

“We welcome the vital decision by Israel’s Supreme Court to accept Lara Alqasem’s appeal and allow her to enter Israel to take up her studies at Hebrew University. This decision should be celebrated as a major victory for common sense and a testament to the importance and impact of a fully independent judiciary. It is a strong sign of the continued vitality of pro-democratic forces in Israel — and a rebuke to the dangerous and repressive policies of the Netanyahu government.”

Top News and Analysis

Israel’s Supreme Court Grants Lara Alqasem’s Appeal; She Will Be Allowed to Enter the Country, Haaretz

Noa Landau and Jonathan Lis report, “US student Lara Alqasem will be allowed to enter Israel after the Supreme Court accepted on Thursday her appeal against the decision to prevent her entry….Alqasem’s attorney, Yotam Ben-Hillel, told Haaretz that the ‘The Supreme Court’s decision is a victory for free speech, academic freedom, and the rule of law. Israel has the right to control its borders, but that right does not give the [sic] Ministry of Interior unchecked power to turn away anyone it deems unwanted.” Ben-Hillel said that by taking a stand, “Lara has ensured that no one else should be denied the right to enter Israel based on sloppy Google searches and dossiers by shadowy smear groups. We argued that the state’s decision is a gross misapplication of the law, and the Court agreed. Lara’s case proves that thought-policing has no place in a democracy.”

Israel torn between Saudi Arabia, Turkey on Khashoggi affair, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit writes, “It is hard to find Israeli leaders commenting on Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who disappeared (and was apparently murdered) in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul Oct 2. Cabinet ministers, members of Knesset and officials in the Foreign Ministry — they all avoid the subject like the plague. That’s because Israel is caught between two polar extremes that suddenly turned upside down. On the one hand, it is an ally of Saudi Arabia, and on the other, its bitter rivalry with Turkey is legendary. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is seen in Israel as an almost liberal reformer, who is leading his country toward a new era, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is regarded as a benighted dictator, who jails journalists and suppresses democracy. And now that’s all turned upside down. In the Khashoggi incident, the Saudis are the villains, while Erdogan is having his turn as a mature and enlightened leader who shows responsibility and defends democracy.”

Why Netanyahu Called Off a War in Gaza, Bloomberg

Zev Chafets writes, “Israelis within missile range of the Gaza Strip went to bed with trepidation Wednesday night, unsure whether a full-scale war in Gaza was imminent. Israel’s Security Cabinet had convened for a midnight emergency session Wednesday, following Tuesday’s attack on Beersheba, Israel’s largest southern city. By Thursday, though, it was business as usual. The government’s decision not to respond with a major military campaign shows both the limited options available on Gaza and the nature of Israel’s defense priorities.”


UN envoy warns Gaza is imploding, warns of ‘new conflict’ approaching, i24NEWS

With its economy in a freefall and tensions rising with Israel, the Hamas-ruled enclave of Gaza is imploding, the UN envoy for the Middle East cautioned Thursday. Nickolay Mladenov issued the remarks at the Security Council Thursday a day after Israeli warplanes struck the Gaza Strip in retaliation at rocket firings from the Palestinian territory.

Gaza protests to test Egypt cease-fire negotiation efforts, Associated Press

Thousands of Palestinian protesters are expected to mass along Israel’s border with Gaza for another weekly protest, testing Egypt’s efforts to mediate a lasting cease-fire between Israel and the militant Hamas group.

Palestinians slam ‘ideological’ US Jerusalem consulate closure, i24NEWS

Responding to [the Trump administration’s decision to close the US consulate in East Jerusalem], PLO Secretary General Dr. Saeb Erekat said the US was sending a clear message that the Trump administration was working with the Israeli government “to impose Greater Israel with no Palestinian sovereignty.”

At UN, B’Tselem chief blasts Israeli policies; envoy calls him a ‘collaborator’, Times of Israel

B’Tselem Executive Director Hagai El-Ad delivered a speech [to the UN Security Council] critical of various Israeli policies vis-a-vis the Palestinians, comparing them to apartheid-era South Africa and urging the international community to act on their behalf. Ambassador Danny Danon called him a “collaborator” who should be ashamed of himself.

Israel steps up armored deployment on Gaza border, Reuters

Israel ramped up its armored forces along the Gaza border on Thursday in a daylight show of force, a day after a Palestinian rocket destroyed a home in southern Israel.

Indonesia warns it will ‘adjust’ policies if Australia moves Israel embassy, Guardian

Indonesian officials have threatened to “adjust” policies towards Australia if the Morrison government decides to move Australia’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Opinion and Analysis

Israel, don’t sacrifice deterrence for revenge, Times of Israel

Jonathan Ariel writes, “Ever since Israel first embarked on its policy of destroying the homes of families of terrorists even if they had nothing to do with the attacks, successive governments and the IDF have justified it before the Supreme Court, claiming it significantly enhances security by being an effective deterrent against terror. Under international law, an occupying military force is expressly forbidden from conducting any collective punitive measures against the civilian population under its control. Demolishing the home of a family, most of whose members had no role in the attack their son or daughter committed, can be regarded as a form of illegal collective punishment and therefore a possible war crime, unless the relevant military force can prove it was done for valid security considerations….For any government to knowingly mortgage its ability to maintain future deterrence, and expose its citizens to the risk of ending up at the Hague, in order to score short-term political points is gross folly. If Israel is to maintain effective deterrence, demolitions must be limited to cases where it is clear the family either encouraged an attack or, at the very least, made no effort to prevent it.”

The Trump administration’s latest blow to the chances for Mideast peace, New York Daily News

Daniel Kurtzer writes, “There is a saying in the Middle East that an idea is not dead until it is dead and buried. Apparently taking this to heart, the Trump administration has decided on yet another step that accelerates the burial of an already moribund peace process: closing the American Consulate General in Jerusalem and transforming it into a ‘Palestinian Affairs Unit’ with the U.S. Embassy. The strangest part of all this is that the administration believes it can still achieve what President Trump has called the ‘ultimate deal.’ The American Consulate General in Jerusalem has been an independent diplomatic mission since its establishment in 1844. Since 1948, and in particular since 1967, the Consulate has served a critical purpose of engaging with Palestinians in an effort to advance the prospects of peace with Israel. The Consulate reported directly to Washington, commenting on what its officers saw and heard, and offered recommendations on how to resolve problems both small and large.”

Israel’s Cyber-spy Industry Aids World Dictators Hunt Dissidents and Gays, Haaretz

Hagar Shezaf and Jonathan Jacobson report, “A comprehensive investigation carried out by Haaretz, based on about 100 sources in 15 countries, had as its aim lifting the veil of secrecy from commerce based on means of espionage. The findings show that Israeli industry have not hesitated to sell offensive capabilities to many countries that lack a strong democratic tradition, even when they have no way to ascertain whether the items sold were being used to violate the rights of civilians. The testimonies show that the Israeli equipment has been used to locate and detain human rights activists, persecute members of the LGBT community, silence citizens who were critical of their government and even to fabricate cases of heresy against Islam in Muslim countries that don’t maintain formal relations with Israel. The Haaretz investigation also found that Israeli firms continued to sell espionage products even when it was revealed publicly that the equipment was used for malicious purposes.”