News Roundup for September 13, 2017

September 13, 2017

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J Street in the News

Yair Netanyahu’s Outrageous Flirtation with Anti-Semitism, J Street Blog

J Street’s Alan Elsner writes, “It’s a very sad day when the son of the Israeli prime minister spreads well-known anti-Semitic memes and images on his Facebook page. It demands serious reflection about how the politics of Israel have changed in recent years and where they might be heading….Over time, the ideological as well as tactical links between Trump and Netanyahu have become increasingly clear. The close ties between Israel’s government and members of the Trump administration have been well established, but Netanyahu has taken to emulating Trump’s methods for dealing with political enemies as well. Netanyahu has been denouncing any and all criticism of him as “fake news.” He uses racist dog whistles and extreme statements about his political opponents to rile his base amidst mounting political scandals. Now, he too is remaining silent while those around him — including members of his own family — shamelessly spread xenophobia, falsehoods and alt-right memes….The bottom line, is that Netanyahu and his son seem to find neo-Nazis less threatening to them than human rights campaigners. That’s a sad conclusion – and the subject for much reflection among Jews worldwide.”

Top News and Analysis

Ahead of Meeting With Trump, Netanyahu Says Israel Wants U.S. ‘To Fix or Cancel’ Iran Nuclear Deal, Haaretz

Prime Minister Netanyahu said Tuesday that the nuclear deal with Iran was “bad” and that Israel’s position was that the U.S. should “either fix it or cancel it.” Netanyahu made his comments to the press after his meeting with Argentine President Mauricio Macri at his Buenos Aires residence. In ten days, Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump when they both are in New York for the United Nations General Assembly. The Iranian issue, and especially the future of the nuclear agreement, will be one of the main topics that the prime minister is expected to bring up with Trump.

Unfortunately for Trump, the Iran Deal Is Still Working, NY Magazine

Eric Levitz writes, “Opponents of the Iran deal have a problem: Many claimed to oppose the agreement because it wouldn’t deter Tehran’s nuclear ambitions — but they actually opposed it for entirely different reasons. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu argued that a nuclear Iran would represent an “existential threat” to Israel. Neoconservatives in the United States and our allies in Saudi Arabia made similar claims. The Obama administration accepted their shared premise — and built a nuclear agreement around it….And since many of the agreement’s foes never really feared that Tehran would pull the nuclear equivalent of a murder-suicide — but were genuinely afraid of Iran gaining geopolitical influence (or, in Donald Trump’s case, genuinely committed to negotiating better “deals” than Barack Obama had) — the agreement’s success has only exacerbated their worries.”

Israel’s High Court Strikes Down Exemption of ultra-Orthodox From Military Service, Haaretz

The High Court of Justice struck down on Tuesday evening the law that regulates the exemption of ultra-Orthodox Jews from compulsory military service so long as they are enrolled in religious studies at a yeshiva. The court ruled that the judgment would come into effect within a year. An expanded nine-justice panel of the court headed by outgoing Supreme Court President Miriam Naor ruled eight to one, with Justice Noam Sohlberg dissenting. The justices’ majority opinion agreed with the petitioners’ position that the law perpetuates inequality between secular youths who are required to enlist in the army and religious youth who are exempted.


After Meetings in Egypt, Hamas Says Willing to Hold Reconciliation Talks With Fatah, Haaretz

Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the Hamas political bureau in Gaza, said after meetings with senior Egyptian officials that the organization is willing to begin reconciliation talks to advance the establishment of a Palestinian unity government with Fatah in the West Bank. Hamas had previously demanded that Abbas halt a series of measures taken against the Islamic militant group before sitting down to discuss a reconciliation deal.

In video, PM welcomes attendees at confab promoting Palestinian emigration, Times of Israel

As a right-wing nationalist conference convened Tuesday to adopt a diplomatic initiative encouraging Palestinian emigration from the West Bank, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told attendees via video that he was “pleased” they were grappling with Israel’s future. A faction within the nationalist Jewish Home Party, the National Union is represented in the Knesset by the Tekuma sub-faction’s Agricultural Minister Uri Ariel and deputy Knesset speaker Bezalel Smotrich, both of whom were in attendance on Tuesday.

Israel delivers demolition warrants to Palestinian families in East Jerusalem, Ma’an

Inspectors from Israel’s Jerusalem municipality delivered demolition warrants to Palestinian families in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya on Tuesday, while a homeowner near the Old City has managed to delay an imminent demolition order by a few more days. Muhammad Abu al-Hummus, representing a local follow up committee in Issawiya, told Ma’an that inspectors stormed the neighborhood under Israeli police protection and posted demolition warrants, stop-work orders, and court summonses on the walls of several structures, under the pretext that they were built without the nearly impossible-to-obtain Israeli permits.

Submarine Affair: Circle of Suspects Grows as Former Intel Minister’s Aides Questioned, Haaretz

The two people who were questioned on Sunday as part of Israel’s so-called submarines affair have been identified as associates of Israel’s former intelligence and strategic affairs minister.

Gary Hakim, a businessman, Likud activist and relative of Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz was questioned, as was Steinitz’s former adviser Aviad Shai. Hakim is one of the owners of Shafir Engineering, while Shai served as an adviser to Steinitz during his tenure as finance minister.

New Israel Fund sues Adelson-owned newspaper Israel Hayom for defamation, JTA

The New Israel Fund, a group that funds many Israeli left-wing nonprofits, sued journalists at the free Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom for defamation. The lawsuit filed Tuesday alleges that the journalists knowingly lied in three reports that the New Israel Fund paid for a going-away event for a former Arab-Israeli lawmaker who was imprisoned in July for smuggling cellphones to Palestinian prisoners. It requests a total of 75,000 shekels ($21,000) in damages from the reporter, Yair Altman, and editor-in-chief, Boaz Bismuth.

Jimmy Carter: Trump Israeli-Palestinian Peace Efforts Are ‘Practically Hopeless’, Haaretz

Former President Jimmy Carter offered a damning indictment of U.S. foreign policy and domestic affairs Tuesday, saying money in politics makes the nation more like an “oligarchy than a democracy” and casting President Donald Trump as a disappointment on the world stage.

Carter’s criticisms, offered at his annual presentation to backers of his post-presidency Carter Center in Atlanta, went beyond Trump, but he was particularly critical of the nation’s direction under the Republican president’s leadership.

UN tourism body shelves vote on membership for Palestinians, Times of Israel

The United Nations’ World Tourism Organization on Wednesday postponed a vote on accepting the Palestinians as full members until its next plenary session, which will take place in two years. The PA submitted its request for membership in UNTWO in September 2016.

Opinions and Analysis

Pepe the Jewish Frog: The Israelis Weaponizing ‘Alt-right’ Symbols, Haaretz

Judy Maltz reports, “When he shared a cartoon full of anti-Semitic imagery on his Facebook page over the weekend, the son of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may not have understood he would be playing straight into the hands of notorious Jew haters. After all, he discovered the image on a Hebrew-language social media site whose fans and followers appear to be Israeli….The apparent objective of the Israeli alt-right, based on the messages conveyed on this particular Facebook page, is to preserve and strengthen the power of the Likud and its long-serving leader. For that reason, those who threaten Netanyahu from the even more extreme right are also considered fair game….Interestingly, former Labor Party leader Ehud Barak, who has not announced any plans to run for office, draws a disproportionate amount of attention on the page, indicating that as far as the Israeli alt-right is concerned, he is perhaps considered to be a more dangerous foe than currently serving opposition leaders.  The targets of the Hebrew-language page also include asylum seekers in Israel, transgender people and feminists.”

Will Russia tolerate Israeli actions in Syria?, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit writes, “Over the last decade, Israel has accumulated a good deal of qualitative intelligence and has dramatically improved air force firepower and attack abilities and acquired additional means and methods. The open question is whether Israel, the next time a conflict erupts, will insist on conducting ground maneuvers in Lebanon or forgo them. Will Israel consider the dangers involved to be greater than any possible benefits to be gained? One way or another, the higher-ups in Israel are convinced that if a confrontation breaks out between Israel and Hezbollah, it will be shorter, much more aggressive and far more destructive than anything to date.”

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