News Roundup for October 31, 2017

October 31, 2017

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J Street in the News

Creeping Annexation, J Street

“Strong US leadership is desperately needed to help preserve the two-state solution. We must keep the pressure up on our leaders to preserve the vision of a two-state solution and not allow Netanyahu and his allies to kill it. That’s why the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement must do everything we can to sound the alarm about the threat posed by creeping annexation. We need to rally our Jewish communities to make clear that destroying the path to the two-state solution puts the very future of Israel at risk. Those Israel advocates who have have denounced “unilateral” actions by Palestinians, including relatively minor and symbolic steps, like application to membership at international agencies, must not remain silent now, as Israel takes massive unilateral steps to change the facts on the ground. When Israeli government actions undermine Jewish pluralism in Israel — whether limiting access to the Western Wall or rejecting non-Orthodox conversions — our Jewish community rightly stands together and speaks out. We need to do the same when Israel’s very survival as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people is at risk.”

Top News and Analysis

Nuclear Scientists Urge Congress to Protect Iran Deal, New York Times

“More than 90 top American experts in atomic sciences, including a designer of the hydrogen bomb, publicly threw their weight behind the Iran nuclear agreement on Monday, exhorting Congress to preserve the accord in the face of President Trump’s disavowal of it. In a letter to Senate and House leaders of both parties that emphasized the “momentous responsibilities” Congress bears regarding the agreement, the scientists asserted that the accord was effective in blocking Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon. ‘Congress should act to ensure that the United States remains a party to the agreement,’ read the letter, signed by what amounted to a who’s who of prominent physicists and other luminaries in American science. The letter said the signers were offering their perspective ‘as scientists who understand the physics and technology of nuclear power, of nuclear explosives, and of long-range missiles; and who collectively bring their experience with nuclear nonproliferation.’”

Jewish Federations Donated Millions to Israeli Settlements Over Four Years, Haaretz

“The Jewish Federations of North America support Jewish enterprise and life in the diaspora, in Israel – and, sometimes, beyond the Green Line. The federations’ leadership prefers to avoid the topic. “We want to talk about the good things we do, we don’t want to talk about this,” said a senior JFNA executive. Yet from 2012 to 2015, Jewish federations gave almost $6 million to Israeli settlement over the Green Line (which refers to the 1967 borders). That does not include support for settlers from community foundations operating alongside the federations, oftimes under the same executives or from JFNA itself. That can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars more each year.”

Seven Palestinian militants killed as Israel blows up tunnel from Gaza, Washington Post

“Israel’s military said Monday that it destroyed an attack tunnel that led into its territory from the Gaza Strip, killing at least seven Palestinian militants, including a senior commander of the Islamic Jihad group and two members of Hamas.  The tunnel crossed from the area of Khan Younis in Gaza and was still under construction, according to Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a spokesman for the Israeli military.  Islamic Jihad, the second-largest armed faction in Gaza after Hamas, said five of its members were killed, including the commander of its military wing in central Gaza. The group described the destruction of the tunnel as a ‘dangerous escalation’ and said it reserved the right to respond to the ‘terrorist aggression.’ Hamas said two of its militants were killed during a rescue mission after the tunnel was targeted. Israel has been working on new technology to detect and destroy tunnels since its 2014 war with Hamas, when the group used underground warrens to launch attacks and defend themselves from airstrikes. A total of 67 Israeli soldiers and six Israeli civilians were killed in the conflict, while 2,251 Palestinians died, according to the United Nations. Israel also is constructing an underground barrier to prevent tunnels from crossing into Israel. The Palestinian enclave is already fenced off above ground.”

Netanyahu designing new Jerusalem borders, Al-Monitor

“If Trump is truly determined to renew the negotiations and leave a proposal for ‘the ultimate deal’ on the table — which would include a huge transaction between Israel and the entire Arab world — he will have to roll up his sleeves and use force to push Israel into the negotiation room. As of now, the honeymoon relations between Washington and Jerusalem continue. Israel’s right-wing ministers are still convinced that Trump’s administration is much more accommodating to Israel than Obama’s administration. They never had any expectations of President Barack Obama. The question is, what will happen if and when Trump experiences disappointment and failure with everything connected to the negotiations and places the responsibility on Israel? It was not a big problem for Jerusalem to say ‘no’ to Obama in the eight years that preceded Trump. The question also is, what will be the fate of those who dare say, or even intimate, ‘no’ to Trump? Netanyahu is not really interested in finding the answer to that question.”


Palestinian Shot, Killed After Reportedly Trying to Run Over Israeli Soldiers, Haaretz

Israeli soldiers on Tuesday shot and killed a Palestinian driver who the military said attempted to run over them near a West Bank settlement. The Palestinian driver, Abdallah Mussa from the West Bank village of Deir Ballut, was seriously wounded and taken to the Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, after receiving initial medical treatment on the scene. He later died of his wounds.

Abbas: Any Minister in Future Unity Gov’t Must Recognize Israel, Jerusalem Post

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he would not appoint Hamas officials to a potential Palestinian unity government, if they did not recognize the State of Israel, according to former members of Knesset who met with the Palestinian leader on Sunday.

Israel’s New ‘Soros Bill’ Would Stymie Funds From ‘Hostile’ Organizations to Left-wing Groups, Haaretz

MK Miki Zohar (Likud) announced on Monday that he planned to submit a bill that would make it harder for leftist organizations to receive funding from organizations considered hostile to Israel. He said the bill, named for mogul George Soros, won the approval of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Associates of Netanyahu couldn’t say on Monday whether the prime minister would support the proposed law in the Knesset. Its exact wording has yet to be disclosed.

Israeli Professor Expels Arab Student For Refusing To Remove Hijab, The Forward

A lecturer at an Israeli university expelled an Arab student from class after she refused to take off her hijab. The lecturer in Bar-Ilan University’s Middle Eastern Studies department last week asked the student to take off her head and face covering, and then asked her to leave the classroom when she refused, Ynet reported.

Jared Kushner visits Saudi Arabia to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace, JTA

Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, traveled to Saudi Arabia last week without announcement in a bid to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace. “The Senior Advisor to the President, the Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy, and the Special Representative for International Negotiations recently returned from Saudi Arabia,” a senior administration official said Sunday in an email to JTA, referring to, respectively, Kushner, Dina Powell and Jason Greenblatt.

George Papadopoulos Was Ally Of Israeli Settlers Long Before He Became Russia Probe Target, The Forward

Papadopoulos was also an honored guest at a pre-inauguration reception held by representatives of the Jewish settler community in the West Bank. At the event, which took place in Washington, where he expressed his support, in a short video to the settlers, stating: “We hope that the people of Judea and Samaria will have a great 2017. We are looking forward to ushering in a new relationship with all of Israel, including the historic Judea and Samaria.” In the report about the meeting, Papadopoulos was described as an adviser to President Trump, although at the time he did not hold any official capacity with the administration.

IDF using Facebook to threaten to destroy Gaza family’s home, +972

The IDF is using Facebook to threaten to destroy the home of a Gaza family, claiming Hamas has built a tunnel directly underneath it. On August 10, Yoav Mordechai, commander of the IDF’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), announced on the unit’s Arabic Facebook page that the IDF had discovered two tunnels built by Hamas, which has ruled the Strip since 2006, under both an apartment building and a nearby mosque in the town of Beit Lahiya, in the northern Gaza Strip.

Opinions and Analysis

Jews of the Diaspora Bring Their Cause to the Israeli Public, New York Times

David Halbfinger writes, “Rabbi Jacobs and other leaders of the Jewish Agency of Israel— a group that supports Jewish diversity and inclusion and that helped negotiate the Western Wall agreement — now say they are starting an ambitious campaign to influence public opinion about the needs of diaspora and less-religious Jews where they are understood least, and where their political clout is feeblest: in Israel itself. On Tuesday, 120 of the group’s international board of governors plan to descend on Parliament, meeting with dozens of Israeli legislators, including some members of the ultra-Orthodox parties, in what Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet dissident who leads the Jewish Agency, called ‘our biggest lobbying effort ever.’ ‘The problem is not just that the prime minister gave in to political pressure,’ he said in an interview. ‘The ministers feel that they don’t have to pay a political price, and that’s because there’s not that much awareness’ of the needs of non-Orthodox Jews. ‘So we’re doing a lot of other work to make Israeli society know this problem better.’ The lobbying day is to be followed by an advertising and media campaign, educational efforts in Israeli schools and trips for Israeli lawmakers and leaders to the United States ‘to give them a real-life glimpse of what and who we are,’ said Rabbi Jacobs of the Reform movement. ‘The assumptions and mistaken understandings of what world Jewry are about are legion.’”

Israeli Strike on Cross-border Gaza Tunnel May Have Been Too Successful, Haaretz

Amos Harel writes, “What happened Monday is pretty similar to the way things started to spiral in 2014. In retrospect, the IDF Military Intelligence branch believes the clash three years ago stemmed from a series of misunderstandings and erroneous calculations by both sides, neither of which was aiming for such a broad confrontation. If the present situation deteriorates further, Israel could find itself facing a repeat of the 2014 scenario. Israel, as it did then, has enough good tactical reasons to do what it is doing. What it’s missing with regard to Gaza is a strategy. The years-long delay in approving projects that would help alleviate the enormous civilian distress in the Strip also contributes to the possibility that another eruption will occur in the end.”

Despite huge tunnel setback, Islamic Jihad likely won’t start war with Israel, Times of Israel

Avi Issacharoff argues, “At this point, it appears that the deaths of the senior officers was no more than a coincidence. And it wouldn’t be the first time Israel and the Palestinians found themselves in this position, amid Palestinian unity negotiations. In June 2006 the Israeli Air Force attacked a training camp of the Popular Resistance Committee, a terror group headed by former Fatah and Tanzim member Jamal Abu Samhadan. Samhadan was by chance in the camp at the time and was unintentionally killed by the Israeli planes. That incident led to discussions of Palestinian unity based on the National Conciliation Document of the Prisoners released by Marwan Barghouti. A few days later, the terror attack was carried out which led to the kidnapping of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. That was the end of the unity talks. Will the reconciliation agreement suffer a similar fate? Or will Islamic Jihad be able to restrain itself? In the next few days, we will likely find out.”

US pressure kills ‘Greater Jerusalem bill,’ Al-Monitor

Shlomi Eldar writes, “The public Palestinian reaction was suspiciously muted. The only senior Palestinian official who publicly expressed anger and condemnation was Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO’s Executive Committee. ‘It is an irrefutable fact that all settlements are a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and a direct violation of international law and conventions, including UNSC Resolution 2334,’ she said in her statement. However, not even Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokespeople spoke out against the legislation except to give laconic answers when asked about it by Palestinian media outlets. The Palestinian source told Al-Monitor that the Americans asked the Palestinians to keep a low profile in order to allow Netanyahu to pull back from the legislation, saying that quiet diplomacy was the only way to achieve this desired result. The Americans were right. The speed with which Greenblatt and his team acted vis-a-vis Netanyahu made clear to the Palestinians the extent to which the US administration is serious about advancing an Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative, and more so the extent to which Netanyahu is anxious to avoid riling the Trump administration.”

The Balfour Declaration: My ancestor’s hand in history, BBC News

Jane Corbin writes, “My journey ended in the home of Chaim Weizmann, the first president of Israel, in Rehovot. I found Leo’s name in the visitors’ book – he had come here aged 76 on his last trip to Israel in 1950. I sat at Weizmann’s desk and read the correspondence between the two friends and found that Leo all those years ago recognised that Jerusalem would be the thorniest issue when it came to making peace: both sides would not compromise in their determination to have it as their capital. And so it remains to this day as I have seen so often. Leo never thought violence was inevitable here. He believed it was the result of wrong political decisions and the bloody and unpredictable events of history – as I discovered myself after the Oslo peace agreement. Now there is a danger that extremism and intransigence on both sides will make peace impossible for decades still to come.”

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