News Roundup for October 27, 2017

October 27, 2017

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J Street in the News

Top minister says settlement boycott equals Israel boycott, New York Times

“Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, an American-Jewish group that describes itself as both pro-Israel and anti-occupation, said Israel is wrong to ‘obliterate the distinction” between Israel proper and the West Bank and to treat critics of the occupation as ‘enemies of the state.’ He said an ‘increasing number’ of pro-Israel Americans fear the failure to pursue a two-state solution with the Palestinians is threatening Israel’s future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people. ‘It is sad and dangerous for Israel if government leaders can’t distinguish between enemies of the state and those who care deeply about Israel, oppose occupation and make a personal choice not to purchase settlement goods,’ he said.”

Top News and Analysis

The U.S. is on a collision course with Iran in the Middle East, Washington Post

“President Trump’s assertive new strategy toward Iran is already colliding with the reality of Tehran’s vastly expanded influence in the Middle East as a result of the Islamic State war. The launch of the strategy signaled an important shift in U.S. Middle East policy away from an ­almost exclusive focus on fighting the Islamic State to an effort that also pushes back against years of Iranian expansion in the region. But the strategy offers no specifics for how to confront Iran’s pervasive presence on the ground in Iraq, Syria and beyond, raising questions about how easy it will be to push back against Iranian influence without triggering new conflicts.”

Hurricane relief program removes ‘no Israel boycott’ pledge, Washington Post

“A Houston suburb has removed a requirement from a hurricane repair grant program that homeowners must agree to not boycott Israel as a condition of receiving money.

The Galveston County Daily News reports that the Dickinson City Council on Tuesday voted to remove the requirement from the application of the city’s Hurricane Harvey repair grant program. Dickinson had initially included the boycott requirement to comply with a new state law that prohibits Texas agencies from contracting with companies that boycott Israel.

City management assistant Bryan Milward says businesses in Dickinson will still have to refrain from boycotting Israel in order to get relief funding, because the city interpreted that as a requirement of the new state law. The American Civil Liberties Union has called the boycott requirement unconstitutional.”

How Netanyahu Has Betrayed the Jews, Haaretz

“Twice the number of Jews voted for Barack Obama in 2012 than voted for Netanyahu’s Likud in 2015. That doesn’t mean for one moment that Netanyahu had to accept Obama’s policies. But he certainly had no right to speak “in the name of the entire Jewish people” when confronting Obama, who received more Jewish votes than any politician, anywhere, in history… The rift that Netanyahu has opened up with the Jews is much deeper than that. In an era when Netanyahu wakes up with every morning with a feeling of relief that he no longer has to deal with the hostile Obama, while the great majority of American Jews are sinking in to ever-deepening despair at the forces of racism and bigotry being unleashed by Donald Trump, the president Netanyahu so eagerly embraces, it is impossible to talk of a joint destiny for Israelis and Diaspora Jews while he’s in power. For the first time in Israel’s history, its prime minister is visibly closer to the president of the United States than he is to American Jews. Over the past year, he has demonstrated time and again that his personal relationships with the Trumps and Orbans and Kurzs of this world are more precious to him than Israel’s ties to the Jews.”

U.S. Unfazed by Israeli Bill That Would Annex Settlements to Jerusalem Because It May Not Pass, Haaretz

“The U.S. State Department signaled on Thursday that it was not worried by an Israeli bill that would annex settlements in the West Bank to Jerusalem, because the legislation is a long way from being approved by the Knesset, and could perhaps never even reach that point. The issue came up at the daily press briefing led by White House Spokeswoman Heather Nauert, who was asked about the Israeli government’s intention to vote this Sunday on the bill. Nauert replied: ‘My understanding is the that piece of legislation is in the early stages of development. Some of these would be internal matters that I wouldn’t want to comment on. I know that it has to go through several steps before it would even become law.’ According to the bill, which was submitted by MK Yoav Kish (Likud) with the support of Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud), the settlements of Ma’aleh Adumim, Gush Etzion, Efrat, Beitar Illit and Givat Ze’ev will be included under Jerusalem’s municipal jurisdiction, but not officially annexed to Israel.


Outgoing Israeli Chief Justice Bids Farewell: ‘If We Do Not Defend Democracy, Democracy Will Not Defend Us,’ Haaretz

Miriam Naor retired from Israel’s Supreme Court on Thursday after 37 years on the bench, which culminated in a three-year term as the court’s president. In her farewell speech, Naor spoke about the attacks on the court and cautioned that judicial independence cannot be taken for granted, and must be preserved. “If we do not defend democracy, democracy will not defend us,” she said. “I have been president of the Supreme Court for the last three years. It has not been an easy time,” Naor said. “During that time, things were said against the court, including crass expressions that I will not repeat. Material criticism is legitimate and important, but things said in recent years, not rarely without reading the ruling in whole or in part, deviated from the boundaries of legitimate criticism.”

Israel willing to resort to military action to stop Iran acquiring nuclear weapons: minister, Reuters

Israel is willing to resort to military action to ensure Iran never acquires nuclear weapons, the intelligence minister said on Thursday in Japan where he is seeking backing for U.S. President Donald Trump’s tougher line on Tehran.

Over 300 U.S. Rabbis Urge Israel to Stop Selling Arms to Myanmar Amid Ethnic Cleansing Campaign, Haaretz

More than 300 rabbis from across the United States have signed a petition calling on the Israeli government to stop selling weapons to Myanmar, which is committing what the UN have called an “ethnic cleansing” of the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority group.

Former hunger-striking prisoner on strike again in protest of administrative detention, Ma’an

Former long-term hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner Bilal Diab entered his seventh day of hunger strike in protest against his administrative detention — Israel’s widely condemned policy of internment without charge or trial — on Wednesday, according to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS).

Trump names attorney who fights campus anti-Semitism to civil rights post, JTA

Kenneth L. Marcus, an attorney who has championed the use of the 1964 federal civil rights act  to investigate allegations of anti-Semitism on campus, has been appointed assistant secretary for civil rights in the Department of Education. President Donald J. Trump announced the nomination Wednesday. As president and general counsel of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, Marcus has deployed Title VI of the civil rights act in urging the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights to open investigations over harassment of Jewish students at various universities.

Opinions and Analysis

Can Meretz Party change Israeli left? Al-Monitor

Akiva Eldar argues, “Whether deliberately or not, Gabbay has injected Meretz with renewed vigor. His move toward the right, the religious and the settlers provides the small party with room to maneuver among Zionist secular Israelis. Whether coincidentally or not, this boost coincides with the resignation of long-time Meretz Knesset faction leader Gal-On. In his inaugural speech, her appointed Knesset successor Mossi Raz outlined the differences between the values of Meretz and Labor for disappointed Gabbay supporters and tried to appeal to those disillusioned with Meretz who had wandered over to the ranks of the Joint List. Unlike Gabbay, who expressed doubts about the existence of a Palestinian partner for peace and rejected the long-held belief on the left that the settlers pose an obstacle to peace, Raz claimed that the government of Israel is not a partner for peace, dubbing the settlements a war crime. Instead of ruling out partnership with the Arab parties, Raz said the State of Israel couldn’t survive without a partnership between Arabs and Jews. Given the discordant notes sounded this week in the battle the right is waging against the country’s legal system and media, Meretz provided the public with a symphony of democracy. On Oct. 26, 18,000 Meretz members were invited to decide whether they should assume the task of choosing the party’s representatives to the Knesset or leave it to the 1,000 party convention members. The complex argument got out of hand and poisoned the relationship among party leaders. With this argument behind it, the party can now devote all its energy to the rare opportunity it has been handed by the head of the Zionist Camp to lure back its voters who had veered away to the embrace of the moderate right led by Lapid and Kahlon.”

Taking ‘Jewish and Democratic’ Seriously, The Forward

Roland Nikles reviews Bernard Avishai’s latest book, The Hebrew Republic: How Secular Democracy and Global Enterprise Will Bring Israel Peace At Last, “The book suggests that language, culture, and a globally integrated economy are ultimately more important than military might for achieving and sustaining peace. In 2005 the Rand Corporation issued a study on Palestine that included a vivid idea of a transportation arc connecting the major towns in Palestine: high speed rail and overpasses making it possible to travel from Nablus, Ramallah, Jerusalem, Hebron, to Gaza City in less than 90 minutes. ‘Each rail station, located several miles from existing historic urban cores,’ quotes Avishai, ‘would create a focal point for new development and would connect to a historic core via a new boulevard and an advanced form of rapid bus transit.’ Along the path of the train new commercial and residential neighborhoods would be developed, to accommodate population growth.’ The transportation arc, Avishai continues, ‘would pump economic activity into the historic centers of Palestinian cities and assure their preservation and revitalization, creating ‘a ladder of linear cities along the defining mountain ridge of the West Bank, and preserving open land for agriculture, forests, parks and nature reserves.’ This Rand plan, notes Avishai, is simply a mirror image of contemporary Israel within the Green Line. The Jewish arc faces an Arab one. ‘With peace, and in time,” says Avishai, “how many will care where the border is?’ If you care about ‘Jewish and democratic’ and what that means in today’s Israel, read this book.”

Netanyahu sidelines far-right ideology of assassinated minister, Al-Monitor

Mazal Maulem writes, “Netanyahu’s politicization of the debate surrounding the commemoration of Zeevi is even more jarring when compared to the commemoration of other historical figures, who contributed no less than Zeevi to the Zionist enterprise. Many of them have simply been forgotten. One of these is Israel’s second prime minister and first foreign minister, Moshe Sharett. His family is fighting serious financial difficulties to ensure his commemoration, since the State of Israel has passed no law to officially commemorate him. In an old apartment in Tel Aviv, Sharett’s son Yaakov, 90, is trying to preserve his father’s legacy, which includes a priceless archive documenting Zionism’s formative years. In a conversation with Al-Monitor, Yaakov Sharett talked about how he went all the way up to Netanyahu last May in an effort to get help from him. When Sharett told the prime minister that all efforts to commemorate his father would soon run out of money, Netanyahu responded with empathy but explained that the limited budgets available amount to only a few hundred thousand shekels a year. ‘Apparently, Moshe Sharett is too far to the left,’ his son whispered sadly to sum up his efforts.”

Congress moves flurry of bills to counter Iran, Al-Monitor

Bryant Harris writes, “Despite a purely partisan Republican push to alter the terms of the Iran nuclear deal, an overwhelming majority of US lawmakers from both parties continues to advance legislation to counter Iranian behavior throughout the Middle East. The House passed four bills today and Wednesday taking aim at Iran’s ballistic missile program and its support for Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite paramilitary group fighting alongside Iranian forces on behalf of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. In addition, Iran hawks in Congress continue to press the Donald Trump administration to ban US aircraft sales to Iran and designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization.”

Israel Outs a Senior Hezbollah Target, but Risks Igniting New Round of Violence, Haaretz

Amos Harel argues, “Every Israeli attack just adds to the long list of insults Assad has accumulated over the years. In the most recent incidents, such as the Syrian antiaircraft fire at Israeli planes over Lebanon last week, his desire to rewrite the rules of the game concerning Israel is clear. Given these circumstances, it’s not clear if the Israeli threats, which are growing stronger against Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, increase Israeli deterrence or actually bring the next escalation closer. According to Military Intelligence, almost all the last rounds of fighting – the Second Lebanon War in 2006 and the three operations in the Gaza Strip – broke out without prior planning as a result of a string of mutual mistakes in understanding the other side’s intentions. It seems the time has come to rein in the rhetoric, and in Jerusalem, too.

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