News Roundup for September 14, 2017

September 14, 2017

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Top News and Analysis

Iran sanctions are up for review, while fate of nuclear deal is tenuous, Washington Post

“President Trump must decide by Thursday whether to once again waive economic sanctions on Iran, a task imposed on him by a deal he holds in contempt and appears to be preparing to ditch. But despite his concern that Iran is an international threat, Trump is expected to waive sanctions on Iran’s oil and banking sectors for the second time since taking office. If not, the United States will be in breach of the landmark 2015 deal that is a legacy of the Obama administration. Even if Trump waives sanctions, as he must by law reassess every 120 days, it comes as Iran and the agreement it negotiated with six world powers are coming under increasing attack. In a series of public critiques of the deal and Iran’s behavior, administration officials appear to be laying the groundwork to kill the existing agreement, possibly by finding a way to reopen it for modifications. The next and most consequential decision on the horizon is Oct. 15, when Trump must decide whether Iran is fully complying with its commitments under the deal, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The president is required to revisit the issue every 90 days, and in July he reportedly was angry that his advisers offered no options except to certify it.”

American Jews overwhelmingly disapprove of Trump, poll finds, JTA

“American Jews overwhelmingly disapprove of President Donald Trump in just about every area, scoring him lower than his predecessor even on topics like Israel, where Jewish approval of Barack Obama was relatively low, according to an American Jewish Committee poll. The survey also shows a sharp uptick in concerns about anti-Semitism in the United States, which may be a reflection of the increased influence of the “alt-right” since Trump’s election. Of respondents in the poll posted Wednesday by the AJC, 77 percent said they viewed Trump’s job performance unfavorably and 21 percent said they viewed him favorably. Those are considerably worse numbers for the president than in the general population at around the same time, mid- to late August, when Gallup consistently showed Trump scoring favorable ratings in the high 30s and unfavorable marks in the high 50s.”

Arms Control Experts Urge Trump to Honor Iran Nuclear Deal, New York Times

“Alarmed that President Trump may soon take steps that could unravel the international nuclear agreement with Iran, more than 80 disarmament experts urged him on Wednesday to reconsider and said the accord was working. In a joint statement, the experts said the 2015 agreement, negotiated by the Obama administration and the governments of Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia, was a “net plus for international nuclear nonproliferation efforts.” Because of the monitoring powers contained in the agreement, they said, Iran’s capability to produce nuclear weapons has been sharply reduced. They also said the agreement made it “very likely that any possible future effort by Iran to pursue nuclear weapons, even a clandestine program, would be detected promptly.”


Bernie Sanders sponsors event supporting Palestinian village of Susiya, Jewish Insider

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is sponsoring a September 19th briefing on Capitol Hill to highlight the cause of the Palestinian village, Susiya, which is designated for demolition by the Israeli Army, a Senate staffer confirmed to Jewish Insider

Europe urges Trump to keep Iran deal while exploring other pressure points, Al-Monitor

Washington’s European allies are urging the Donald Trump administration to stick with the Iran nuclear deal, while offering to collaborate on other ways to address outstanding issues such as Tehran’s support for militant proxy groups in the region and its ballistic missile program.

Trump will sign bipartisan resolution condemning Charlottesville violence, White House says, Washington Post

President Trump will sign a bipartisan congressional resolution condemning hate groups and racially motivated violence in Charlottesville, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday.

Palestinian Authority Backtracks on Attempt to Gain Membership in UN Tourism Body, Haaretz

The Palestinian Authority decided Wednesday to backtrack from its decision to put to a vote in the UN’s tourism agency a resolution that would accept Palestine as a member state in the organization. The chairman of the UN’s tourism body announced during a meeting on Wednesday in Chengdu that the Palestinian proposal will be postponed until the organization’s next plenary meeting in two years.

U.S. neo-Nazi: ‘I’m Defending Yair Netanyahu Because He Stood Up Against the Jews’, Haaretz

Andrew Anglin, the American blogger who runs the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website, told an Israeli television channel on Tuesday night that he supported Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son Yair for having posted a meme laden with anti-Semitic imagery. “I stand with Yair and his memes,” Anglin told Channel 2 in a video call that the channel said they edited down to remove offensive, hateful comments, “and I’m glad to see that there’s an alt-right in Israel who are standing against the corrosive influence in the West of the Jewish people.” The term “alt-right” is employed by certain white supremacy groups to describe themselves.

Trump to weigh more aggressive U.S. strategy on Iran – sources, Reuters

Trump’s opposition to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), poses a dilemma for policymakers. Most of his national security aides favor remaining in the pact, as do U.S. allies Israel and Saudi Arabia despite their reservations about Iran’s adherence to the agreement, said U.S. officials involved in the discussions.

Police chief confirms Hollywood mogul gave ‘significant’ testimony in PM probes, Times of Israel

Israel’s national police chief has confirmed that investigators recently questioned Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan as part of a corruption investigation into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Roni Alsheich told Israel’s Channel 10 TV station in an interview broadcast Wednesday that Milchan’s testimony, gathered in London, was significant. He declined to elaborate. His full interview is scheduled to be broadcast Friday.

Netanyahu: Either change Iran deal or cancel it, Times of Israel

Israel wants the Iran nuclear deal to be amended or canceled altogether, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday. Delivering statements to the press alongside Argentine President Mauricio Macri, Netanyahu rejected recent reports claiming that Israel and Saudi Arabia are no longer interested in scrapping the landmark deal, which was reached between Iran and six world powers in 2015 and aimed to end Iran’s nuclear weapons development program.

Opinions and Analysis

Trump’s case against the Iran nuclear deal has very little to do with nuclear weapons, Vox

Zac Beauchamp writes: “What’s important is that the Trump administration has not been able to point to a single area in which Iran is in violation of the deal’s specific terms. There’s very little evidence to support Trump’s claims that Iran is violating the deal or its “spirit;” in fact, all publicly available evidence suggests they are not.“Since implementation day in January 2016, Iran’s compliance with its obligations has been effectively verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency,” a statement published by the Arms Control Association and signed by 80 experts explains. “As of August, no international organization or national government has made any allegations of Iranian violations.”The deal is, in other words working. It is successfully constraining Iran in one specific area in which it was misbehaving — its nuclear program — which also happens to be the only area the deal was designed to cover. The nuclear deal was never designed to stop Iran’s support for Assad or end its ballistic missile tests. If the US were to withdraw from the Iran deal without being able to cite any clear evidence then experts believe it would probably have little to no support from the rest of the world — which sees the deal, correctly, as a nonproliferation agreement alone.”

Netanyahu maintains battle against Iran deal ahead of UN meeting, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit writes: “Given this situation, Israel is concerned about being isolated regionally, now that the Saudis may be drawing closer to Iran, even if it is by lack of choice. The current US administration is losing interest in the region and stepping away, while Iran is continuing to expand its influence and will be able to jump-start its nuclear program again in eight years. All this will be at the center of discussions in Netanyahu’s upcoming meeting with Trump in New York. Eight months after Trump entered the White House, Israel still does not fully understand what the president hopes to achieve from his policy. In terms of the Palestinian issue, Israel’s greatest concerns have been replaced by a certain level of satisfaction as the president’s peace initiative and his dream of reaching the “ultimate deal” dissipate rapidly. On the other hand, on the Iranian file, Trump has been a major disappointment to the Israelis. The rushed US exit from the Syrian conflict without blocking Iran’s race to the Mediterranean and the Golan Heights are disconcerting to Jerusalem. The same is true of the helplessness that the United States is showing toward North Korea. Normally, it takes a lot less to get Netanyahu to panic.”

Israel-Diaspora ties are in peril, Times of Israel

Rabbi Julie Schonefeld and Steve Wernick argue: “With each passing day, the Israeli government and the religious authorities continue to drive a wedge between Diaspora Jews and our homeland. The conversions that we officiate, as well as those overseen by thousands of our colleagues, are not deemed legitimate in the eyes of the Israeli government. In July, the Rabbanut released a list of 160 Conservative, Reform and even Orthodox rabbis whose certifications attesting to immigrants’ Jewish identities were rejected the previous year. Immigrants need those certifications to be married in Israel….We ask world Jewry to stand united for religious pluralism. Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and secular Jews alike deserve the same religious rights under Israeli law. If Israel will not offer those protections, where does that leave Diaspora Jewry’s relationship with our homeland?”

Civilian Hardships in Gaza Force Hamas to Become More Pragmatic, Haaretz

Amos Harel writes: “According to Arab media reports, the Hamas delegates in Cairo include the organization’s new leader, Ismail Haniyeh; its leader in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar; senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk; and Marwan Issa, the head of Hamas’ military wing. Both the talks with Egypt and its decision to pay for electricity reflect a shift in Hamas’ policy. Sinwar, who rose to power through Hamas’ military wing and spent more than 20 years in Israeli jails, evidently wants to improve life for Gaza residents, ease security tensions and stabilize the situation a bit. Shin Bet security service head Nadav Argaman told the cabinet on Sunday that Hamas is preparing for a future military conflict with Israel and described the situation in Gaza as “a deceptive calm.” He said the organization is in strategic distress, since it’s finding it difficult either to produce diplomatic achievements or to supply effective solutions to the problems of Gaza’s civilian population. He also said that senior military wing officials have been operating in Lebanon recently.”

Jared Kushner, Israel And The Enduring Power Of ‘Whiteness’, The Forward

Peter Beinart asks: “Yes, the neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, insist that Jews can’t really be white. And yes, Trump sometimes appears to wink in their direction. But in Washington, Jews enjoy an assumption of legitimacy and good faith that Palestinian, Arab and Muslim Americans do not. Influential Washington think tanks — aided by members of Congress — do not regularly launch anti-Semitic campaigns to get Jewish government officials fired. With Muslims, it happens all the time. Huma Abedin is only the most well-known example. (Here are some others.) When was the last time a top White House adviser called Halacha (as opposed to sharia) a threat to the United States? When was the last time a leading presidential candidate said he wouldn’t appoint a Jew to his Cabinet?”

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