News Roundup for October 6, 2016

October 6, 2016

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J Street in the News

Iran emerges as a top issue in tight congressional races, Al-Monitor

“On Oct. 5, the liberal pro-Israel group J Street began airing the first television ads attacking Republicans who voted against the nuclear deal with Iran. The $500,000 ad buy targets two incumbent senators in the crucial swing states of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Pat Toomey and Ron Johnson. Their Democratic opponents, Katie McGinty and Russ Feingold, respectively, have both come out in support of the agreement even though they were not in Congress to vote for it. ‘We aim to exact a cost from the deal’s most strident opponents, who tried at every turn to undercut the very negotiations that led to the historic defanging of Iran’s nuclear weapons program,’ J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a statement. ‘And in the same breath, or 30-second ad, such as it is, we’ll bolster those candidates who represent a new approach to conflict resolution and American diplomatic leadership in the Middle East and beyond.’”

Morning Score, Politico

On Wednesday, the left-leaning Jewish advocacy group J Street is releasing television ads that praise the nuclear deal, looking to shore up Democrats in the Pennsylvania and Wisconsin Senate races. The group hopes to expand the effort – using online ads at least – to Senate races in Illinois and New Hampshire, while also engaging in direct mail outreach.”

J Street backs congressional candidates who supported nuclear deal with Tehran, Jerusalem Post

“The fight over the Iran deal is a long-term policy and political battle here in the United States between those who believe in diplomacy as a method of achieving security and those who pursue other means as their first choice,” J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami said during a briefing for journalists on Wednesday. ‘Last year, we saw Chapter 1 of this fight, which was the policy fight over the deal that took place in the US Congress and that turned out to be a strong victory for diplomacy,” he continued. “This year, we are seeing what we are referring to as Chapter 2 of the fight over the Iran deal and that is the fight in the context of the 2016 elections.’….Retired US ambassador Thomas R. Pickering, who served in multiple countries including Israel, Jordan, Russia and India and served as under secretary of state for political affairs from 1997 to 2000, said he supports J Street’s efforts with the new campaign. ‘Those who are trying to turn support for the Iran deal into political liability are very much following narrow political interests as opposed to what I believe are the true national interests here,’ he told journalists.”

Iran nuclear deal dustup continues in Wisconsin, Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

“The left and right have been critical of one another over the Iran deal that puts the brakes on the recalcitrant nation’s nuclear program. Now, the battle is heating up in Wisconsin thanks to J Street, the left-leaning Jewish advocacy group. J Street has launched a half million-dollar campaign against Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and another vulnerable U.S. senator, for their opposition to the Iran nuclear deal. Wisconsin challenger Russ Feingold is for the Iran deal and Johnson is against it, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.”

J Street Launches Swing Deal Campaign Against Iran Opponents, JP Updates

“J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami on Wednesday will release TV spots to screen in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where incumbents Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., are in tight races. A release said the campaign also will include ‘internet advertising, direct mail and polling.’”

J Street Hits Johnson, Toomey, The Hotline (full text)

“’J Street is launching a half million-dollar campaign’ against Sens. Rob Johnson (R-WI) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) ‘for their opposition to the Iran nuclear deal.’ The group has endorsed Democrats in both races, Katie McGinty (D-PA) and Russ Feingold (D-WI). ‘The campaign also will include internet advertising, direct mail and polling.’ The ad links the GOP senators to Donald Trump in opposing the deal, which it says ‘includes tough inspections’ and helps ‘prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons.’”

Top News and Analysis

United States Criticizes Israel Over West Bank Settlement Plan, The New York Times

“The Obama administration on Wednesday castigated the Israeli government for approving plans to create a new Jewish settlement on the West Bank, three weeks after it signed a lucrative military aid package with the United States and just as President Obama was traveling to Jerusalem for the funeral of Shimon Peres. In an uncommonly harsh statement, the State Department “strongly condemned” the move, asserting that it violated Israel’s pledge not to construct new settlements and ran counter to the long-term security interests Israel was seeking to protect with the military deal, which provides $38 billion in assistance over the next decade. The new settlement, one of a string of housing complexes that threaten to bisect the West Bank, is designed to house settlers from a nearby illegal outpost, Amona, which an Israeli court has ordered demolished. The timing of the approval especially infuriated the White House, American officials said, because it came after Mr. Obama met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations. Mr. Netanyahu, they said, gave the president no advance warning, even though Mr. Obama expressed deep concerns about Israel’s continuing settlement construction.”

IDF launches second wave of Gaza strikes after rocket attack, Times of Israel

Israeli warplanes struck Hamas sites in the northern and southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday afternoon, in the second such attack of the day after a rocket fired from the coastal enclave struck Sderot, according to Palestinian media.

West Bank Settlers Prepare for Clash, With Israeli Government, The New York Times

Isabel Kershner reports, “[T]he residents of Amona are readying for another battle with their own government and security forces, trying to thwart an Israeli Supreme Court order that the entire outpost be dismantled by Dec. 25. Barring an 11th-hour compromise, organizers expect up to 20,000 sympathizers to move into Amona, where 40 families live in prefabricated homes and trailers, to resist a forced evacuation….A flagship of the settler enterprise, Amona is becoming a test of how far Israel’s right-wing government will go to avoid a clash with its constituency and how vested it is in more than 100 outposts built without authorization across the West Bank. It is forcing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to balance the demands of his conservative coalition partners, the state’s judicial authorities and world leaders, who overwhelmingly view the settlements as violations of international law.”


Israeli Navy Intercepts Women’s Flotilla on Way to Break Gaza Blockade, Haaretz

The Israeli navy intercepted a flotilla aiming to break the blockade on the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, about 35 nautical miles from the Israeli coast. According to a high-ranking officer, passengers on board the Zaytouna-Olivia offered no resistance when the troops took over the boat. The boat was redirected to the Israeli port city of Ashdod. The Women’s Boat to Gaza, an initiative of the International Freedom Flotilla Coalition, which had set out from Barcelona, was scheduled to arrive at the port of Gaza on Wednesday night, according to its website.

Senior Labor MK urges leader Herzog to vow he won’t join coalition, Times of Israel

Senior Labor MK Amir Peretz called Wednesday on his party’s leader, Isaac Herzog, to publicly and officially quash media reports that Labor may still join the governing coalition, and accused Herzog of doing “tremendous damage” by allowing such reports to percolate. Herzog has denied as “a complete lie” the most recent round of reports that he is actively negotiating a way into the government, while hinting that he wouldn’t rule out such a move.

Ministry’s Bid to Fine Israeli Artists Who ‘Boycott’ Settlements Taken to Court, Haaretz

New Culture Ministry regulations that give financial incentives to cultural institutions that perform in the settlements while penalizing those that don’t is illegal and violates freedom of conscience and expression, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel claims, in a petition it has filed with the High Court of Justice. ACRI is demanding that the High Court hear the petition before the ministry’s budget allocations to institutions are set for 2017. Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran instructed the ministry to respond by November 28.

Israeli forces level lands, trees in Hebron-area village, Ma’an

Israeli forces reportedly leveled 36 dunams (8.9 acres) of Palestinian lands planted with olive and prunus trees on Wednesday in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, locals said.

State Dragging Heels Over Prosecuting West Bank Rabbi for Incitement to Violence, Haaretz

The state has asked the High Court of Justice for another extension in filing its position on whether or not to indict Rabbi Yosef Elitzur, who teaches at the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, for incitement to violence against Palestinians and certain Israelis.

Non-Orthodox Groups Demand Stake in Western Wall if New Section Can’t Be Delivered, Haaretz

In a petition to be submitted to the High Court of Justice on Thursday, the Reform and Conservative movements in Israel will demand that the government either follow through with its plan to create a special plaza for them at the southern expanse of the Western Wall or re-divide the existing gender-segregated sections in the northern expanse to make room for mixed prayer services.

Opinion and Analysis

Why a Controversial Palestinian History Class at Berkeley was Canceled, then Reinstated, Newsweek

Alexander Nazaryan profiles Paul Hadweh, the Berkeley student whose student-led class on Palestine created major controversy.

Group staging 2-week-long march to call for peace accord between Israel and Palestinians, Women in the World

“‘We’re not stopping until there’s an agreement.’” That is the rallying cry of thousands of Israeli women who are set to begin on Tuesday a two-week-long march advocating for a peace agreement between Israel and Palestinians. Those taking part in the “March of Hope” include luminaries from Israeli politics and culture alongside Palestinian and Jordanian women, as well as Nobel Peace Prize laureate Leymah Gbowee, who appeared onstage last October at the Women in the World London Summit. Several marches will take place all around Israel over the next two weeks and the concerted effort will culminate on October 19 with a large rally outside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem. The marches and rally are being staged by Women Wage Peace, a nonpartisan group founded following the deadly Israel-Gaza conflict that erupted in the summer of 2014.”