News Roundup for September 18, 2017

September 18, 2017

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J Street in the News

Next Week at the UNGA, J Street Blog

J Street’s Jessica Rosenblum writes, “For President Trump, this will be among his first opportunities to truly address a global audience from the bully pulpit — and it’s a safe bet that his speech will feature plenty in the way of his usual bombast, hyperbole and saber-rattling. While a responsible and effective leader would look to much of the international community as potential partners with whom to build global security and stability, Trump’s standard ‘America First’ doctrine is more likely to alienate and aggravate them. Trump’s attitude toward the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) Iran nuclear agreement is the prime example of this destructive approach….All of this is a stark reminder of why our work is so important. In the weeks and months ahead, we need to continue to push back against those who believe that leadership means making threats, sowing mistrust and scorning diplomacy.”

Top News and Analysis

Hamas Says Ready to Disband Gaza Administration, Hold Palestinian Elections, Haaretz

Hamas announced Sunday morning it was ready to dissolve the administration it had established in recent months to manage the affairs of the Gaza Strip, hold general elections and immediately begin direct reconciliation talks with Fatah. According to a statement from Hamas, this decision was a response to the Egyptian efforts at reconciliation between the principal Palestinian factions. The announcement called on Palestinian government ministers in Ramallah to come to Gaza and fully assume their roles.

Hamas Throws Down the Gauntlet in Gaza – Leaving Mahmoud Abbas’ Legacy More Elusive Than Ever, Newsweek

Eyalon Levy writes, “If Abbas attempts a climb-down, his strategic position will only worsen. As the UN Secretary General and United States move away from calling for immediate final-status talks, Abbas fears a more reconciliatory approach will only cause the Palestinian issue to fall further down the international priority list. He cannot resume full civil and security cooperation with Israel without losing face with a distrustful Palestinian public. And having received an apparent capitulation from Hamas, he now cannot reverse his policy of squeezing the Gaza Strip without securing tangible concessions, reasserting some level of control there. But at the same time, if Abbas escalates this oppositional approach, the damage could also be severe. If he continues squeezing Gaza after being offered to reassert control, public resentment towards him for this policy will only grow. But what would be a reconciliatory step domestically would be a confrontational step internationally—and he risks alienating the US if he uses the General Assembly stage to announce plans for reconciliation with a listed terror group.”

Trump: Fate of Iran nuclear deal hangs on tough UN policing, Washington Post

President Trump is warning that Washington will walk away from a nuclear deal it agreed to with Iran if it deems that the U.N. agency monitoring the agreement is not tough enough in monitoring it. In a message Monday to a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency read by U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Trump says “we will not accept a weakly enforced or inadequately monitored deal.”

Obama-complex Fuels Trump and Netanyahu’s Fight Against Iran Nuclear Deal, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev observes, “What Netanyahu and Trump have in common, among other things, is their inability to accept criticism, their tendency to turn critics into enemies and their fervent wish to wipe the smile off what they see as Obama’s condescending face. This is the backdrop to the meeting in New York on Monday between Trump and Netanyahu, the two senior members of the Obama Victims Club, who are both seeking payback by trying to erase his signature foreign policy achievement. In principle, the two are unlikely to disagree. They will concur that the July 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran was ill-conceived from the outset and is now a disaster waiting to happen. They will disparage all the generals, diplomats and intelligence experts from both countries who believe that keeping the nuclear deal, despite its faults, is preferable to all the alternatives. They will agree that even if the U.S. can’t nullify the agreement outright, there are numerous detours that can lead to the same result.”

‘Netanyahu to present Trump with specific plan to nix or fix Iran nuke deal’, Times of Israel

“Prime Minister Netanyahu is set to present US President Donald Trump in their meeting Monday on the sidelines of the 72nd annual session of the United Nations General Assembly with a proposal for rolling back the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran signed by the Obama administration and other P5+1 powers. According to a Channel 2 report Saturday, Netanyahu is preparing a specific formula for either scrapping the historic deal or amending it. His proposal will detail how ‘to cancel or at the very least introduce significant changes’ to the accord, the report said.”


Trump Admin Doesn’t Expect Israeli-Palestinian Peace Breakthrough During UN General Assembly, Haaretz

The Trump administration does not expect any kind of breakthrough regarding the Israeli-Palestinian peace process during the United Nations General Assembly this week despite their overall optimism, a senior White House official told Haaretz on Sunday. President Trump will meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas on the sidelines of the diplomatic gathering, but the senior official noted that “this week is not about the peace effort.” “Achieving peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians remains one of the president’s highest priorities but the United Nations meetings will primarily focus on other issues and serve as check-in opportunities,” the senior official added.

Jewish Law Should Not Be Above Israel’s Democratic Values, Knesset Counsel Says, Haaretz

“The legal team helping an ad hoc Knesset committee to prepare the nation-state bill has urged it to grant Israel’s democratic values a status equal to its identity as the state of the Jewish people. The current version of the so-called nation-state bill gives the state’s Jewish identity priority, saying that all other laws must be interpreted in light of Israel’s identity as the nation-state of the Jewish people. In a legal opinion disseminated in advance of Monday’s meeting of the panel, the legal advisors recommended ‘including some expression of democratic values, of partnership among all the state’s citizens or of the equality granted all citizens as individuals in the article on fundamental principles, as is accepted in other nation-states around the world.’ The paper also noted that the definition of Israel as a ‘Jewish and democratic state,’ which grants both halves of the equation equal status, already appears in two existing Basic Laws, which have quasi-constitutional status.”

In Rosh Hashanah Call With Jewish Groups, Trump Does Not Take Questions, Forward

On Friday, Trump delivered his holiday greetings in a conference call with Jewish leaders that barely lasted eight minutes. He took no questions. By contrast, calls and meetings with past presidents have included exchanges — sometimes tough — and generally lasted at least 45 minutes. Not invited to join Friday’s call were the Reform and Reconstructionist movements. The Conservative movement did receive an invitation but Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, the CEO of its Rabbinical Assembly, declined to participate.

Violent clashes as hundreds of ultra-Orthodox rally against IDF draft, Times of Israel

Several hundred ultra-Orthodox Jews clashed with police as they demonstrated in Jerusalem on Sunday to protest against a court ruling last week that rejected Knesset legislation deferring the mandatory conscription of Haredim into the Israel Defense Forces. Police reacted violently as they tried to disperse them, with several videos showing officers, beating, punching, kicking and dragging the demonstrators along the ground.

Defense Minister hails the settlements, but cautions the settlers, Times of Israel

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Sunday touted settlements as Israel’s ‘defensive shield’ at a Jewish new year’s toast with settler leadership, but the no-nonsense lawmaker also chided the settlers who have been very critical of his ministry’s work in the West Bank. Liberman boasted of increased West Bank building approvals since the beginning of the calendar year — some 3,500 building plans that received final approvals and some 8,000 that were advanced in various planning stages — and rejected criticism that he should have authorized much more.

Israel warns entire Bedouin community of imminent forcible transfer, Ma’an

Israeli forces have notified residents of the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar that they are at risk of imminent forcible transfer from their lands, weeks after Israeli Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman reportedly announced that plans were underway to expel Khan al-Ahmar’s residents within a few months. Lieberman also said that plans for the full expulsion of the community of Susiya, located in the South Hebron Hills, were also underway. Following the remarks, Israeli rights group B’Tselem slammed the Israeli government and sent an urgent letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that said the evacuation of the Susiya and Khan al-Ahmar, located east of Jerusalem, would “constitute a war crime carried out at your instruction and under your personal responsibility.”

In New York, Netanyahu Meets U.S. Jewish Leaders for First Time Since Western Wall Crisis, Haaretz

Prime Minister Netanyahu met on Sunday night with the leaders of a number of Jewish American organizations in New York, the first such meeting to take place since the Israeli government’s decision earlier this summer to scrap a plan for establishing a permanent egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Opinions and Analysis

Ahead of UN meeting, Abbas prepares united Arab position, Al-Monitor

Uri Savir reports, “A senior PLO member told Al-Monitor that with these circumstances in place, the Palestinian leadership has made it clear to the Washington envoys that it will engage in such a process, provided the administration accepts four important principles: The Palestinians demand that Washington publicly agrees to and embraces the two-state solution, accepts the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative as basis for negotiations, adopts the principle of security for both sides and insists on Israel freezing settlement activity. According to the PLO official, Abbas will come in a positive spirit to meet with Trump, as he sees no alternative to the US initiative on the international scene. The PLO official also said that Ramallah will coordinate its next steps with Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The idea is for Abbas to arrive to his meeting with Trump with a united Arab position, hoping to link progress on the Palestinian issue with progress on the anti-radical Islam and Iran issues. According to the official, Abbas will propose to Trump that senior Palestinian negotiators be dispatched to Washington to meet periodically with US officials and possibly with Israeli officials, so as to set a process in motion.”

Netanyahu gears up for meetings with Trump, world leaders, Times of Israel

Raphael Ahren reports, “On Monday at 1 p.m. local time, the prime minister will meet with Trump in the New York Palace Hotel. Both leaders will make brief statements to the press to open the meeting, before continuing their discussion behind closed doors….Speaking to reporters at his hotel in New York on Friday, after wrapping up a trip to Latin America, Netanyahu said that the main message of his UN speech will be that ‘Israel will not tolerate an Iranian military presence on our northern borders. An [Iranian] military presence endangers not just us, but also our Arab neighbors.’”

Every year, the UN General Assembly handles a crisis. This year, it’s Trump, Vox

Zeeshan Aleem asks, “Will Trump behave like past American presidents have and speak in measured tones about the need for global cooperation on various fronts? Or will he try to break things — degrade the UN, issue threats to other countries, and propose actions that suggest the US wants to go it alone on issues like reining in North Korea?….Trump could also cause uproar among key partners by attacking the Iran nuclear deal….That would anger the US’s partners in the Iran deal — the UK, France, Germany, China, and Russia — who believe Iran is complying with the terms of the contract and have no interest in walking away from it. And as the global community struggles to find a way to rein in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, they’re likely to worry that the US reneging on the Iran deal will make Pyongyang even less open to negotiations over suspending its nuclear program.”

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