News Roundup for September 12, 2018

September 12, 2018

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J Street in the News

Trump plans to shutter the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington, Vox

“The Trump administration is closing the Washington offices of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to try to pressure the Palestinians to come to the negotiating table ahead of a US-sponsored Middle East peace plan….Israeli leadership has yet to publicly comment on the move, which took place during the Jewish New Year. But the leftist Jewish American group J Street issued a statement condemning the decision, saying that the Trump administration was ‘kicking the legs out from under any possible negotiating table,’ according to Haaretz.”

Palestinian Officials: U.S. Closing PLO Mission Is ‘Vicious Blackmail’, Haaretz

“The left-wing lobby group J Street condemned the decision in a statement, commenting on the fact the declaration came as ‘American Jews, who overwhelmingly support a two-state solution, are observing Rosh Hashanah in their homes and communities.’ The statement said the move would choke off ‘bilateral and multilateral assistance benefiting Palestinians in dire need of clean water, medicine and education,’ and slammed the Trump administration for ‘kicking the legs out from under any possible negotiating table.’”

Trump broadens pressure on PA, closing its DC offices, Jerusalem Post

“J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami responded to the Trump Administration’s move. ‘The record makes clear that any ‘peace’ proposal coming from this administration is nothing more than a sham,’ said Ben-Ami. ‘This is the latest in a series of moves explicitly intended to pressure and undermine the only government among the U.S., Israel and the Palestinians that currently endorses a two-state solution,’ he added. ‘It follows the previously unimaginable spectacle of an American government expressly attempting to take final status issues like Jerusalem and refugees ‘off the table,’ maliciously choking off bilateral and multilateral assistance benefiting Palestinians in dire need of clean water, medicine and education, and making clear the U.S. will no longer speak out against unrelenting illegal settlement activity.’”


Top News and Analysis

Trump Shutters the Palestinian Diplomatic Mission—and Middle East Peace, New Yorker

Robin Wright writes, “In the third blow this year to the peace process—and the one that may well doom it—the Trump Administration on Monday ordered the P.L.O. to shutter its diplomatic mission in Washington, a dark red-brick building on the edge of the trendy Georgetown neighborhood. The move will eliminate a communication channel—diplomatically and physically—that has been at the heart of the peace process under four Administrations. It’s basically a punishment. The State Department cited the Palestinian failure to ‘advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel’ as the reason for the closure. It also accused P.L.O. leaders of condemning ‘a U.S. peace plan they have not yet seen’ and said that they ‘refused to engage with the U.S. government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise.’”

Palestinians to Consider Severing Israel Ties, Erekat Says, Bloomberg

Abbas Al Lawati reports, “The Palestinian Authority vowed to reconsider its cooperation with Israel as it again accused the U.S. of taking sides in the stalled Middle East peace process. Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat told reporters in Ramallah that the full range of political, economic and security ties would be reassessed in the wake of the Trump administration’s decision on Monday to shut the Palestinian mission in Washington. President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton said the move was triggered by the Palestinian leadership’s refusal to participate in talks with Israel. But Erekat denounced it as an act of blackmail, saying the U.S. could no longer be a mediator in the conflict.”

Trump’s bear hug risks crushing Israel, Washington Post

Max Boot writes, “National security adviser John Bolton made headlines on Monday with his blistering attack against the International Criminal Court. But ‘Bolton attacks ICC’ is a dog-bites-man story if there ever was one….Of greater immediate consequence is the fact that Bolton announced the closing of the Palestine Liberation Office mission in Washington, ostensibly in retaliation for ‘Palestinian attempts to prompt an ICC investigation of Israel.’ The Trump administration thereby takes a giant step back from the Oslo Accords, which resulted in formal diplomatic relations between the United States and the Palestinian Authority.”

On Oslo anniversary, Trump’s US struggles with role as Mideast peace mediator, Times of Israel

Francesco Fontemaggi writes, “Twenty-five years ago, then US president Bill Clinton looked on as Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin shook hands on the White House lawn, sealing the Oslo accords. And in 1979, Jimmy Carter hosted the leaders of Israel and Egypt at Camp David — another indelible moment in diplomatic history. US President Donald Trump can only dream of such a scene unfolding on his watch. Under the president, the United States is further away than ever from playing its traditional role as mediator in the long-simmering Middle East peace process.”



Netanyahu hails US closure of Palestinian mission, i24NEWS

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Tuesday the Trump administration’s decision to bring down the shutters on the Palestine Liberation Organization delegation in Washington.

Palestinians: US cuts will have dire effect on health care, Associated Press

The director of an east Jerusalem hospital said Sunday that a U.S. decision to cut funding to hospitals serving the Palestinians will have a “severe effect.”…The Trump administration announced the $25 million funding cut on Saturday, saying it would redirect the money toward ‘high-priority projects elsewhere.’”

Arab MKs meet with Arab League to condemn nation-state law, Times of Israel

A delegation of Arab Israeli lawmakers from the Joint List met Tuesday with the head of the Arab League in Cairo to discuss Israel’s recently passed Jewish nation-state law and its implications for a peace deal with the Palestinians.

European states urge Israel not to demolish Bedouin village, Reuters

Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Britain called on Israel on Monday not to raze the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in the occupied West Bank after Israel’s top court last week cleared the way for its demolition.

Palestinians Take Israel’s Eviction of West Bank Village to The Hague, Haaretz

The Palestinian leadership has petitioned the International Criminal Court in The Hague, calling on the court to start legal procedures against the State of Israel over Israeli actions at the West Bank Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Tuesday.

Poll: Palestinian mistrust of Trump runs deep, Associated Press

An opinion poll shows that over 60 percent of Palestinians oppose resuming dialogue with the Trump administration after the U.S. cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid.

WSJ reporter backs sex assault claim against Netanyahu spokesman, i24NEWS

A reporter for the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday backed a sexual assault allegation levied against David Keyes — the foreign media spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — by New York state senate hopeful Julia Salazar, recounting her own “terrible encounter” with Keyes whom she described as a “predator”.

How Kushner Played Matchmaker Between Israel and Saudi Arabia, According to Woodward, Haaretz

Veteran journalist Bob Woodward’s new book on the Trump presidency claims Jared Kushner has been working to encourage an alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia, sometimes against the advice of other senior officials in the White House.


Opinion and Analysis

Closing PLO Office Is Part of Trump’s Effort to Tame the Palestinians via Humiliation. It’s Bound to Fail, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev writes, “The closing of the PLO office in Washington is but the latest in an accelerating series of blows inflicted on the Palestinians by the Trump White House and the GOP Congress. Trump is storming the Palestinians on multiple fronts, with all the formidable powers at his disposal. He sides with Israel in all situations and censures Palestinians at every turn. He cajoled Arab countries to keep their distance and is trying to dislodge the Palestinians from the United Nations and other international bodies as well. With imperial edicts, he purports to dismiss cardinal Palestinian demands on issues such as Jerusalem and refugees and to take them permanently, as he puts it, off the table.”

Trump’s Effort to Strong-Arm the Palestinians Will Bring More Suffering, Not Peace, New York Magazine

Jonah Shepp writes, “[If] being an intransigent negotiating partner in the peace process is grounds for expulsion from Washington, it stands to reason that Israel should have no presence there, either. But of course, the real motivation for [the Trump administration’s closing of the PLO’s diplomatic mission in Washington] has nothing to do with Palestinian intransigence and everything to do with the Trump administration’s ideological campaign to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by declaring Israel the winner and forcing the Palestinians to settle for whatever scraps Netanyahu deigns to throw them.”

US-PLO row jeopardizes consular services for Palestinians, Al-Monitor

Bryant Harris reports, “Palestinian-Americans are at risk of being collateral damage in the escalating diplomatic row between Washington and Ramallah. The State Department announced Monday that it was ordering the closure of the Palestinians’ mission in the US capital because of their refusal to participate in a US-backed peace process that favors Israel. Unmentioned, however, is the fact that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) office also provides a bevy of consular services for Palestinians, Palestinian-Americans and others seeking to do business in the West Bank and Gaza. A source close to the Palestinian Authority called the office’s consular services ‘essential’ in a recent interview with Al-Monitor.”

Pro-Israel group secretly ran misleading Facebook ads to target Palestinian-American poet, Forward

Josh Nathan-Kazis and Justin Elliott report, “In 2016, as Palestinian-American poet Remi Kanazi performed at college campuses around the United States, his appearances seemed to spark student protests. Before his visit to John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, a page called ‘John Jay Students Against Hate’ appeared on Facebook with Kanazi’s face next to a uniformed cop, painting Kanazi as anti-police. When Kanazi crossed the country a few days later to visit San Jose State, a nearly-identical Facebook page popped up, this one called ‘SJSU Students Against Hate,’ with Kanazi’s face superimposed over an image of military graves. Paid Facebook campaigns promoted both pages. Despite their names, the Facebook campaigns were run by professional Washington D.C. political operatives who work for a group called the Israel on Campus Coalition, according to promotional materials obtained by ProPublica and the Forward.”