News Roundup for September 17, 2018

September 17, 2018
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J Street in the News

Trump is in for a rude awakening in Middle East, CNN

J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami writes, “The Trump administration’s extreme approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is making a difficult situation far worse. Since at least the early 1990s, there has been broad agreement among Israelis, Palestinians and the entire international community that the only way to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is through a negotiated two-state agreement. The parties may have been sharply divided on many of the issues that need to be settled in such negotiations — but at least they agreed on that. Now, President Donald Trump is taking a wrecking ball to the very concept of negotiations. He seems to be advancing a delusional narrative that a peace agreement can be imposed on the Palestinians — mimicking the way that Israel’s right-wing settlement movement has acted for years to impose its own policies on the Palestinians and entrench its occupation and control over the West Bank.”

Trump officials reportedly frustrated at US Jews for not cheering embassy move, Times of Israel

“Beyond Trump’s relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem, Democrats were firmly against the US president’s decision to pull the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal, a step Republicans had applauded. Netanyahu has been a fierce critic of the deal and enthusiastically welcomed the move. Both of these decisions were intensely criticized by left-wing Jewish groups, including the Middle East policy advocacy organizations J Street and the New Israel Fund.”

J Street Horrified by Killing of American-Israeli Activist Ari Fuld in West Bank Attack, J Street

“J Street is horrified by today’s stabbing attack in the West Bank’s Etzion bloc, in which Ari Fuld, an American-Israeli activist and father of four, was murdered by a teenage Palestinian assailant. There can never be any excuse for this kind of violence. At this terrible time, our thoughts and condolences are with Fuld’s family and community.”


Top News and Analysis

Israel’s Defense Chief Calls for Probe Into Identity of Top Official Embroiled in Manafort Case, Haaretz

Noa Landau and Amir Tibon report, “Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman called on Sunday for Israel to open a probe into the identity of the top official embroiled in the case of Paul Manafort, U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager….Despite Lieberman’s demand, special counsel Robert Mueller’s office told Haaretz Sunday that it could not expose further information in the affair regarding individuals who are not defined as suspects in the case. The plea deal between Manafort and Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was published Friday. The document alleges that a senior Israeli government official conspired with Manafort in 2012 to defame then-Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko by accusing her of maintaining ties with anti-Semitic groups. Manafort said that, as a result, American Jews would pressure the Obama administration not to support Yulia Tymoshenko, whose opponent was a client of Manafort’s, the indictment says.”

Fraying Ties With Trump Put Jim Mattis’s Fate in Doubt, The New York Times

Helene Cooper reports, “[US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis] has begun questioning the efficacy of Mr. Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal — a move that, again, was made against his advice. Mr. Mattis has told aides that he has yet to see any difference in Iran’s behavior since Mr. Trump withdrew the United States from the agreement between world powers and Tehran.”



Palestinian Envoy in D.C. Says U.S. Revoked His and His Family’s Visas, Ordered Them to Leave, Haaretz

The U.S. has revoked the visas of Palestinian Ambassador Husam Zomlot and his family following the decision to shutter the Palestine Liberation Organization mission in Washington, Zomlot told Palestinian news outlet Ma’an Sunday.

U.S. Is Ending Final Source of Aid for Palestinian Civilians, The New York Times

As part of its policy to end all aid for Palestinian civilians, the United States is blocking millions of dollars to programs that build relationships between Israelis and Palestinians, according to current and former American officials briefed on the change.

In tacit threat, Israel releases satellite photos of Syrian presidential palace, Times of Israel

Israel on Monday released photographs taken by its newest spy satellite of sites located deep inside Syria, including Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s palace, in an apparent threat to the regime.

Palestinian official says U.S. will never present Middle East peace plan, Reuters

The United States will not present its long-awaited plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace any time soon and is instead trying to unilaterally change the terms of reference for any future proposal, a senior Palestinian official said on Saturday.  Echoing deep skepticism among the Palestinians, Arab countries and analysts, Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian chief negotiator, said that the Trump administration was siding with Israel on the core issues of the decades-old conflict, burying all chances for Middle East peace.

UN envoy sends condolences over Israeli killed in terror attack, Times of Israel

The United Nations special envoy for Middle East peace sent his condolences Monday to the family of a US-Israeli man who was stabbed to death the day before in a West Bank terror attack.

French-American professor to be deported from Israel for disrupting soldiers, i24NEWS

A French-American university professor, who was arrested for disrupting soldiers near the West Bank Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, is to be expelled from Israel, his lawyer said on Sunday.

Israeli lawmaker to PM: Dismiss US envoy over aide scandal, Associated Press

An Israeli opposition lawmaker on Sunday called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to dismiss his ambassador to the United States for failing to report sexual assault allegations against a top Netanyahu aide, ballooning an already embarrassing scandal for the Israeli leader.

Israel, Turkey said in talks to repair relations, return envoys, Times of Israel

Israel and Turkey are holding backchannel talks in a bid to restore the all-but-severed diplomatic relations between the two nations.


Opinion and Analysis

Team Trump’s Magical Thinking on Palestine, Nation

Mouin Rabbani writes, “To denounce President Trump and his government for seeking to eliminate the Palestinian quest for self-determination and destroy the prospects of Israeli-Palestinian coexistence is of course entirely appropriate, but the administration’s actions over the past 18 months hardly constitute a reversal of US policy. While previous Republican and Democratic administrations have generally eschewed the shock-jock approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict currently in vogue in the White House, we are not in uncharted waters. Washington’s political class has for decades had UNRWA in its sights. And despite its illegality under international law, the unilateral US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem is rooted in congressional legislation passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. Similarly, the United States has never rescinded the 1987 Anti-Terrorism Act that defines the PLO as a terrorist organization and makes it illegal for the organization to operate in the United States in any way, shape, or form. The difference is that, whereas previous US administrations either, as in the case of UNRWA, ultimately made concessions to reality or, in the case of Jerusalem and the PLO mission, issued various waivers in order to operate more effectively in the Middle East, Team Trump has a predilection for disruptive gestures and magical thinking.”

Trump Cuts Funding for Israeli-Palestinian Reconciliation. Fear and Hatred Will Take Its Place, Haaretz

Robi Damelin—a member of and spokesperson for The Parents Circle Families Forum—writes, “I heard the news that the Trump administration has cut the 10 million dollars allocated to support co-existence groups working in Israel and Palestine with great sadness and frustration. The Parents Circle – Families Forum has benefited from the generosity of USAID funding for many years. There are very few other examples of a group of bereaved families, from both sides of a conflict,  working to create reconciliation while the war is still going on. The achievements of our unique parallel narrative program, with over 1,000 alumni, cannot just be brushed off, nor should its future be considered acceptable collateral damage for an unrelated political fight. The very fact that we — bereaved Palestinians and Israelis — stand on any platform together, and speak in the same voice for reconciliation, breaks taboos and barriers that threaten coexistence here. If this is not an example to others, I ask myself, then what is?”