News Roundup for October 3, 2017

October 3, 2017

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J Street in the News

Ex-Netanyahu national security adviser urges US to keep Iran deal, Al-Monitor

“Former Israeli National Security Adviser Uzi Arad is urging Washington to build on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal rather than abandon or undermine it. ‘My position is in support of preserving the agreement and strengthening the agreement,’ Arad said on a call Monday hosted by the liberal Jewish-American group J Street, ahead of a week of events in Washington urging members of Congress and the Donald Trump administration to work with allies to address what comes after certain provisions in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) expire in a decade. ‘Doing away with the agreement is no real option,’ said Arad, who served as national security adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during 2009-2011. ‘It simply removes from existence something that had been established, that presented certain assets and certain things that are tangible — and replacing that [with] nothing.’….the former Netanyahu national security adviser, a two-decade veteran of Mossad, said that the 2015 nuclear accord had clear tangible benefits for Israeli and international security and that Iran, to date, had honored its strict terms.”

Top News and Analysis

Palestinian leader launches reconciliation push in Gaza, Washington Post

“The Palestinian prime minister traveled Monday to the Gaza Strip to launch an ambitious reconciliation effort with the rival Hamas militant group, receiving a hero’s welcome from thousands of people as the sides moved to end a bitter 10-year rift. Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, representing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party, was joined by dozens of top officials, aides and security men on the trip from the West Bank through Israel and into Gaza to meet with the Hamas officials. It is by far the most ambitious attempt at reconciliation since Hamas seized power of the coastal strip in 2007. The sides exchanged smiles, handshakes and pleasantries — a reflection of the changed climate that has ripened conditions for reconciliation after other failed attempts. But difficult negotiations lie ahead, and key sticking points, particularly who will control Hamas’ vast weapons arsenal, could easily derail the effort. On Monday, at least, the two sides put aside their differences. Well-wishers surrounded Hamdallah’s car as it entered Gaza through the Israeli-controlled Erez border crossing, and dozens of Palestinian youths gathered alongside a barbed-wire fence to glimpse the welcoming ceremony. Some waved Palestinian or yellow Fatah flags, and many chanted Hamdallah’s name.”

Republicans might block Trump from killing Iran nuke deal, Politico

“President Donald Trump might soon toss the Iran nuclear deal back to Congress to decide its fate — but it’s no sure thing that lawmakers would kill it for good….while congressional Republicans unanimously opposed the nuclear deal two years ago, there’s far less unity on how quickly the GOP-led Congress should move to “snap back” sanctions that were lifted as part of the Iran agreement. Doing so would effectively dismantle the 2015 deal. Even a few defections would make a difference in the Senate, where Republicans hold a narrow 52-seat majority. Democratic senators, even those who opposed the nuclear agreement two years ago, want the deal to remain in place. As it stands now, enough Republicans are undecided that GOP leaders would struggle to corral the votes needed to reimpose sanctions.”

Is Netanyahu’s party ready to divide Jerusalem?, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit aruges, “Senior Likud ministers recognize that most of the Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem were not part of the city’s municipal jurisdiction until June 1967. They also know that there is no reason to keep an inflated municipal Jerusalem of monstrous proportions by insisting on retaining those neighborhoods within it. To them, places such as Kafr Akeb, Azaria, the Shuafat refugee camp, Jabel Mukaber and many additional quarters in which only Palestinians live and which are technically part of the Jerusalem municipal jurisdiction do nothing to add to Jerusalem’s financial stability or to its Jewish character. The opposite is true: They are a millstone on the neck of Jerusalem. Many high-placed Likud officials state as much in private but would never dare express such an opinion in public. ‘Now and Forever, a United Jerusalem’ is the most sacred slogan of the Likud, Israel’s ruling party. Woe to anyone who dares to challenge this mythic statement.”


Netanyahu vows to build thousands of new settlement homes, Times of Israel

Prime Minister Netanyahu vowed to build thousands of new apartments in the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, just east of Jerusalem. “I support the Greater Jerusalem Bill, which will allow Jerusalem to develop,” he says during a Likud faction meeting held in Ma’ale Adumim, vowing that the city would become “a part of Israel.” The bill, championed by several right-wing lawmakers, would redraw the lines of the Jerusalem municipality to include a number of West Bank settlements, including Ma’ale Adumim, Givat Ze’ev, the Etzion Bloc, and Beitar Illit, containing in total a population of over 150,000 Israelis.

Hamas and Fatah Officials Scheduled to Discuss Palestinian Reconciliation in Cairo, Haaretz

Delegations from Hamas and Fatah are scheduled to travel to Cairo next week for talks on implementing a reconciliation agreement between the two Palestinian factions. In conversations with Haaretz, senior figures of both factions said that the talks in Egypt’s capital will address issues at the heart of disagreements between Fatah and Hamas, including control of border crossings, future leadership and Hamas’ military wing.

UN ‘carefully optimistic’ on Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, Times of Israel

The top UN envoy for Israeli-Palestinian peace hailed improving relations between Fatah and the Hamas terror group after Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah visited the Gaza Strip for the first time in two years. Multiple previous reconciliation efforts have failed, but the UN envoy for the Middle East peace process, Nikolay Mladenov, told AFP there were real reasons to believe they could buck the trend. He pointed to the “real political will” from both Hamas, considered a terror group by Israel and the US, and Fatah, which dominates the PA, as well as active Egyptian mediation and the focus on smaller confidence-building measures as reasons to be positive.

Abbas: After Reconciliation, Hamas Will Have to Surrender Its Arms, Haaretz

President Abbas said that at the end of the reconciliation between the Fatah party and Hamas, all weapons – including those in Hamas’ hands – must be under the control of the rule of law of the Palestinian Authority. Abbas spoke in an interview on Egyptian television on Tuesday. “We will not agree to the Hezbollah model,” said Abbas, speaking from his office in Ramallah to mark the hope for reconciliation. The PA and Fatah movement will invest all their efforts to help the reconciliation succeeds, he added. But when Hamas joins the institutions of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which is the umbrella group for all the Palestinian factions, Hamas will be required to accept the principles of the organization and its decisions, said Abbas.

11-year-old Palestinian shot in the head with rubber bullet during raid in Shufat, Ma’an

Three Palestinians, including an 11-year-old boy, were injured Monday evening when Israeli forces raided Shufat refugee camp in occupied East Jerusalem, sparking violent clashes. The Palestinian Red Crescent said that the child was evacuated in a moderate condition to Israel’s Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem after Israeli forces shot him in the forehead with a rubber-coated steel bullet.

Unlike Past, Israel Not Slamming Fatah-Hamas Reconciliation Moves, Jerusalem Post

In stark contrast to its reaction to the last serious attempt at a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation in 2014, Israel kept a very low profile on Monday as PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah arrived in Gaza for talks with Hamas. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who in 2014 called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s decision at the time to form a unity government with Hamas a “great reverse for peace,” has not spoken out publicly about the matter this time.

Opinions and Analysis

Palestinian Reconciliation Talks a Sign of Hamas’ Distress, Haaretz

Amos Harel writes, “The progressing talks on reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas reflect, first and foremost, the strategic distress that Hamas has been experiencing over the past year. If Hamas agrees to a new power-sharing agreement with the PA, it will demonstrate that the pressure that’s been exerted by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Gaza has finally borne fruit. It would also be the result of the mediation efforts made by Egypt. As far as Israel is concerned, it’s possible that there is potential to achieve calm on the Gazan border for a relatively long period, although there are still many question marks.”

Toward an Israel Education of Direction, not Connection, eJewishPhilanthropy

Dr. Alex Sinclair writes, “Israel education has been entirely focused on questions of connection. How do we connect young Jews to Israel? What kinds of educational and communal interventions best create connection? Are American Jews more or less connected to Israel than in the past? But connection is no longer enough; we need to be talking about direction as well. By which I mean, Israel’s direction and how American Jews are responding to it – or should respond to it. And now comes the part where I have to say some things that people won’t like. Israel is moving in a worrying, disturbing, depressing direction. Religiously, a fundamentalist Judaism that is utterly alien to mainstream American Jewry is taking increasing hold of the country’s institutions, communities, and ways of thinking. Politically, the parties on the right and center-right are more and more tribal, jingoistic, and dismissive of minority rights (whether these be Jewish or non-Jewish minorities). Culturally, while there is an extraordinary and breathtaking creativity in Israeli arts, cinema, TV, song, and literature, there is also a closed-mindedness, an inability to see opposing points of view, a peculiarly Israeli blend of arrogance and ignorance when it comes to anything outside the accepted narratives. We should no longer be asking how to connect American Jews to this story. We need to ask how American Jews should respond to this story.”

Keep the Iran Deal, Attack the Regime, Foreign Policy

Max Boot argues, “It is hard to see how the United States could force Iran to the negotiating table absent a credible threat of military action. But the United states doesn’t have an easy option to destroy Iran’s hardened nuclear facilities or else it may have already done so, and that’s a dangerous game to play with unforeseeable consequences. Given Trump’s impetuosity and ignorance, his saber-rattling could easily spiral out of control, in both Iran and North Korea, leading America into one or more wars that nobody wants — least of all a president who promised to limit America’s involvement in foreign conflicts. It would be particularly foolhardy to spark a crisis with Iran while we are already in the midst of a war scare with North Korea. The good news is that there is much that the United States can do to curb Iran’s dangerous designs without scrapping the agreement, negotiating a new treaty with the mullahs, or going to war against them. The Trump administration is already doing some of that — for example, by imposing sanctions on companies linked to Iran’s ballistic missile program, its cyberattacks, and its terrorist-sponsoring Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).”

Netanyahu Gets an Extra Year in Office on a Silver Platter, Haaretz

Yossi Verter observes, “If the 2019 budget is approved during the coming winter session that starts in less than three weeks and continues for six months, the coalition will have an insurance policy that will take it to the end of its legal term at the end of 2019, four years and eight months from the previous elections. Kahlon needs that time, as do the other coalition partners. Netanyahu, who is expected to support the initiative, will get a gift on a silver platter that will assure him rare coalition quiet. Of course the prime minister can always shatter the calm if he wants to and if he finds a good enough reason. But as long as he has no interest in sudden elections his life will be paradise. He will be essentially immune to removal unless one of his partners bolts and hooks up with the opposition, which seems hard to imagine. None of them have a government better suited to their interests on the horizon.”

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