News Roundup for October 24, 2017

October 24, 2017

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J Street in the News

Anti-BDS Laws Hit Unintended Targets — Sparking Free Speech Debate, Forward

“Laws have unintended consequences and even when misapplied can backfire on their drafters’ intent, said Rachel Lerner, the senior vice president for community relations at J Street. The liberal Jewish Mideast lobby opposes BDS, but sees the anti-BDS laws as infringing on free speech. Pro-Israel groups should stick to advocacy to counter BDS and avoid legislative bids to stop the boycotts, says J Street. ‘You’re pursuing a strategy that’s out of your control how it’s implemented,’ Lerner said. ‘It’s like using a cudgel for an issue; it’s the wrong tool. It’s not good for the Jews or Israel that people think that they can’t have a roof over their head if they boycott Israel.’”

Top News and Analysis

Israeli President Slams Netanyahu Government for Threatening Supreme Court, Haaretz

“President Reuven Rivlin on Monday accused Benjamin Netanyahu’s government of encroaching on the work of the Supreme Court in a bid to achieve a ‘counterrevolution’ after the court became more activist decades ago. Rivlin, speaking at the opening of the Knesset winter session, said he once told former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak of his displeasure with the court’s intervention in the Knesset’s legislative work, and called such judicial activism a ‘revolution.’….“Today, some three decades after the announcement of that ‘constitutional revolution,’ I want to point out what seems to me to be the countermovement of the historical pendulum – about what seems to be the leadership’s decision once again to confound the system. We are witnesses today to the spirit of the revolution or the counterrevolution. This time, majority rule is the sole ruler,’ he added….Last month Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the leaders of the Habayit Hayehudi party, said they sought a new Basic Law that would limit the Supreme Court’s authority to strike down laws. Basic Laws have constitutional status; the new law would let a Knesset majority override a Supreme Court ruling.”

Saudi Prince Denies Israeli Claims Of Warming Ties, Forward

“Hopes that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states will shelve demands for Palestinian statehood and forge open ties with Israel are just a figment of the imagination of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a senior member of the Saudi royal family mockingly told the Forward in an exclusive interview on October 21. ‘In many occasions, Mr. Netanyahu pictures issues in a way that would serve an agenda or an idea that he has, and subsequent to that he begins to believe it. I think this is the case on the issue of engaging with Saudi Arabia against Iran,’ said Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi ambassador to Washington and onetime head of that country’s powerful intelligence agency. ‘The kingdom’s dealings with Israel,’ he said, ‘will be based on Israel’s acceptance of the Arab Peace Initiative and achieving peace with all of the Arab countries according to the terms of the Arab Peace Initiative.’ There is, he added, ‘no contact on any level between the kingdom and Israel on Iran or any other subject.’”

Can Netanyahu say ‘no’ to Trump?, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit writes, “Reports dribbling in to Jerusalem over the past few days indicate that US officials are enthusiastic about the Palestinian reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas. The news came as no surprise to the Israeli leadership….It had been clear to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Security Cabinet that the United States would support the negotiations. That is why they put a ticking time bomb of sorts on the desk of US envoy Jason Greenblatt in the form of a Cabinet decision adopted Oct. 17. During two days of talks, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Immigration and Absorption Minister Ze’ev Elkin in particular succeeded in dragging the Cabinet far to the right. The resulting decision announced by the government, read, ‘[Israel] will not conduct diplomatic negotiations with a Palestinian government that relies on Hamas.’”

Rivlin Blasts Netanyahu’s Dangerous Putsch and Likud’s Profiles in Cowardice, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev writes, “In the senior echelons of Israel’s ruling party, no one has stood up to resist efforts to delegitimize the Supreme Court and clip its wings. No one has said a word to protest Netanyahu’s ongoing incitement against the media and his attempts to scare it into submission. No one has voiced any objections to the dangerous initiatives that aim to destroy the delicate balance between Israel’s Jewish and democratic natures, nor, for that matter, about the dangerous rift Netanyahu has widened with American Jews. No one protests Netanyahu’s machinations to avoid prosecution, including sweeping immunity laws, attacks on the police and questioning the integrity Israel’s law and order. And not one of them got up from his seat on Monday, when Netanyahu once again exploited the formal setting of the opening of the Knesset’s winter session to continue his personal vendetta against his critics, investigators and potential prosecutors.”


Netanyahu’s Congress Speech Helped Iran Deal Gain Support, Democratic Congresswoman Says, Haaretz

“Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, an influential senior Democratic congresswoman, said that what Netanyahu’s speech actually did at the time was to help the White House and Democrats to gain support in Congress for the landmark deal. In an interview with Haaretz, Schakowsky, the Democrats’ chief deputy whip in the House, said Netanyahu’s speech and the political drama it created, actually unified the Democrats in congress behind then U.S. President Barack Obama and the Iran deal. It also encouraged liberal civil society organizations to join forces and lobby lawmakers, influence the press and public opinion to support the deal with Iran, she added. Schakowsky, who was one of a handful of Jewish members of Congress who boycotted Netanyahu’s speech in March 2015, said efforts are now being made in Congress and outside it to ensure Trump does not abandon the Iranian nuclear deal and that Congress does not reinstitute sanctions on Iran, which would lead to the end of the deal.”

Netanyahu rips opposition, media as ‘sourpusses’ at new Knesset session, Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday launched a tirade against Israel’s media and political opposition, branding them “sourpusses” who downplay the country’s many successes. Two Zionist Union MKs were removed from the Knesset plenary for heckling Netanyahu during his address and Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni walked out in protest, during the at-times heated opening of the Knesset’s winter session.

Netanyahu Ally Threatens to Break Up Governing Coalition Over PM Immunity Bill, Haaretz

Likud will break up the governing coalition if the center-right Kulanu party does not support a bill that would protect a sitting prime minister from being investigated on corruption allegations, Coalition Chairman David Bitan said Monday. “If we have to break up the coalition, that’s what will happen,” Bitan said. “I’m telling you, Likud will not give up on this bill.”

Israeli Police Investigating Criminal Allegations Against Key Netanyahu Ally David Bitan, Haaretz
Police are investigating criminal allegations against coalition chairman and Likud party Knesset member David Bitan, Haaretz has learned. Bitan was a deputy mayor of the Tel Aviv suburb Rishon Letzion before he was elected to the Knesset in the March 2015 general election. The probe focuses on Bitan’s dealings with a number of businessmen.

Israeli extremist leader arrested for allegedly threatening Jewish women dating Arab men, JTA The leader of an Israeli extremist anti-coexistence group was arrested for allegedly threatening Jewish women in relationships with Arab men. Benzi Gopstein, leader of the Lehava organization, was arrested late Saturday night following a police raid on his home. His computer, cellphone and documents were confiscated, according to a Ynet report. On Sunday, The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court remanded him to house arrest.

Maryland Governor Signs Order Denying Contracts to Firms That Boycott Israel, Haaretz

The governor of Maryland signed an executive order on Monday barring the state from doing business with companies that boycott Israel or the settlements in the West Bank. Republican Larry Hogan had previously attempted to pass such a policy through the state’s legislature, but it had fallen short without even coming up for a vote.

Herzog accuses Netanyahu of creating ‘unprecedented’ divide with world Jewry, Times of Israel

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog on Monday accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of wedging an “unprecedented” divide between Israel and Diaspora Jews and already dismissing Jews who do not live in Israel as ‘already lost.’ Facing the prime minister in the Knesset plenum, Herzog launched a blistering attack on Netanyahu for sending “deep shock and revulsion among millions our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora in canceling the Western Wall deal — that you initiated and then canceled,” and over “the very serious crisis that you brought on the matter of conversion.”

Israeli forces detain 66 Palestinians, majority teenagers, in overnight raids, Ma’an

Israeli detained at least 66 Palestinians during overnight raids Monday in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to Palestinian and Israeli sources.

Israeli Government Stalling on Conversion Deal Despite Looming Deadline, Haaretz

“With the end-of-the-year deadline for resolving the crisis over a controversial conversion bill quickly approaching, Jewish community leaders abroad are wondering what proposals the Israeli government may have up its sleeve. The answer, as an inquiry by Haaretz reveals, is absolutely none – the reason being that the former cabinet minister appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in August to formulate an alternative has not yet gotten to work.”

Opinions and Analysis

Trump’s tougher stance could backfire by boosting Iran’s Guards, Reuters

“Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a military force with political clout and an industrial empire, stands to benefit from heightened tension between Washington and Tehran, officials and analysts said..”

Don’t mess with Israel’s democracy, Times of Israel

David Horovitz writes, “The police must be free to go about its work, with no citizen — and that emphatically includes the serving prime minister — immune from its attentions and above the law. And not just free to do its work, but properly resourced in order to do it effectively. So, too, the courts must be able to function competently and independently, with the proven formula for appointing justices preserved….The system may not be perfect, but it has proved itself viable. It must be protected against the transparently narrow political motivations of those who now seek to ‘reform’ it.”

In America, Self-declared Nazis Can Get State Aid. Israel Boycotters Increasingly Can’t, Haaretz

Simone Zimmerman writes, “Misunderstanding or not, this development in Texas should make up us sit up and pay attention. What is so alarming is its consequences for freedom of speech and protest in America, and no less concerning, because of the broader implications of where the anti-BDS movement is taking us, both in the U.S. and in Israel….By targeting those who are inclined to a partial – settlements-only – boycott, with Israel-as-a-whole boycotters – all differences and borders are erased. While defenders of Israel often decry those who conflate Israel and the occupation, perhaps they should take a look in the mirror; no one is doing that more effectively than they are….For decades, we have averted our gaze from Israel’s denial of rights from millions of people, and from what that indifference has done to Israeli society. Now, we have lost the ability to even tell that the same injustice has poisoned ours. Our community’s obsession with stopping the BDS boogeyman has gone off the rails, and this is a taste of what’s to come, if people of conscience don’t stand up to this madness.”