News Roundup for September 19, 2017

September 19, 2017

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J Street in the News

Trump’s and Netanyahu’s Reckless Opposition to Iran Deal Endangers US and Israel, J Street

“J Street is deeply worried by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s stated intention to use his meeting today with President Trump to argue that the US should act to undermine or withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement with Iran. Both leaders have repeatedly made clear that on the subject of the nuclear agreement they value aggressive sound bites over real security. They refuse to accept basic facts about its provisions, goals and successful implementation. Nor can they be trusted to heed the overwhelming consensus of their own leading security advisers and intelligence agencies – that the agreement has increased US and Israeli security and should be kept in place.”

J Street: Trump and Netanyahu Opposition to Iran Deal is ‘Reckless,’ Jerusalem Post

“The left-wing organization J Street said on Monday that it is “deeply worried” about both US President Donald Trump’s and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “reckless” intention to re-evaluate the Iran nuclear deal, as the two leaders met on the sidelines of the United Nation’s General Debate.  “Both leaders have repeatedly made clear that on the subject of the nuclear agreement they value aggressive sound bites over real security,” J Street wrote in a statement. “They refuse to accept basic facts about its provisions, goals and successful implementation. Nor can they be trusted to heed the overwhelming consensus of their own leading security advisers and intelligence agencies — that the agreement has increased US and Israeli security and should be kept in place.”

Top News and Analysis

Trump at U.N. Talks Up, but Does Not Press, Mideast Peace, New York Times

“President Trump will try to play the peacemaker in his first appearance at the United Nations General Assembly this week, but not on the issue that American presidents have historically spent their energy and prestige on at diplomatic gatherings like this. Rather than seek to revive the moribund peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians – as his predecessor, President Barack Obama, did at his first General Assembly – Mr. Trump is likely to wade back into the internecine feud between Qatar and its Persian Gulf neighbors. Mr. Trump’s focus on the Gulf over the Levant attests to the chronically dismal conditions for an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, but also to the diminishing role that the peace process plays in the geopolitics of the Middle East and to this president’s other priorities in the region.”

Netanyahu Sets Israel Up as Fall Guy for U.S.-Iran Clash, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev writes, “If the Israeli prime minister were at his best right now, he wouldn’t insist on putting the nuclear deal with Iran at the top of his public agenda. He would leave it for his most private discussions. He would go along with the tone set by Donald Trump on Monday night, at the start of his meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu, by ignoring Iran and talking exclusively about peace with the Palestinians. If Netanyahu were focused only on efforts to push the U.S. to abandon the nuclear deal – even at the risk of war – he would do whatever he could to convince everyone that this was the furthest thing from his mind. Because the last thing that Trump wants is to be seen as Netanyahu’s stooge. The last thing that’s good for Netanyahu – and for Israel – is for international and American public opinion to suspect that he cajoled the U.S. president, whom many people see as a fool, to abandon an agreement that most of the world supports. The last thing that Israel needs is to be seen as having shifted attention away from North Korea’s ballistic missiles, which pose a far more acute danger to America’s national security, that it forced Washington to deal with two major crises at once, or that it played a key role in sparking a clash that ultimately leads to U.S. soldiers being killed in battle.”

Trump to lay out vision of U.S. role in the world, focusing on ‘outcomes, not ideology,’ Washington Post

“President Trump on Tuesday will present a vision of U.S. engagement with the world in a maiden address to the United Nations that aides said will be consistent with the nation’s “values and traditions” but will not focus on advancing democracy abroad. This dichotomy of a U.S. leader pledging to shape global conditions to ensure America’s prosperity and security without explicitly promoting its way of life is expected to distinguish Trump’s speech from those of his White House forebears. The president’s nationalist agenda has led to widespread anxiety among the U.S. allies and partners who have gathered here this week among the more than 150 foreign delegations at the 72nd U.N. General Assembly. Amid mounting global challenges, foreign leaders are carefully watching Trump’s moment on the world stage for signals about his willingness to maintain the United States’ traditional leadership role.”

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

Uri Savir writes, “A senior Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs official told Al-Monitor that Netanyahu is preparing for his meeting with Trump and that he is in constant personal contact with both Kushner and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. For Netanyahu, said the Israeli official, the Palestinian issue is not of pivotal importance. Iran is, and so is the expansion of Shiite influence from Tehran to Beirut. With the issue of the nuclear Iran agreement back in the headlines, the Israeli prime minister will ask the president to use American clout to restrain Iran’s support of terror activities and the delivery of missiles to Hezbollah.Netanyahu will claim in the meeting that the Palestinian issue is a nonstarter given the weak domestic position of Abbas, and he will also highlight his own domestic political problems. And so, if any progress is to be made on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, it must be propelled by Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Will Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Jordanian King Abdullah II and Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud exert real pressure on progress toward a two-state solution, or just pay the traditional lip service for their public’s opinion? Will they condition greater cooperation on the anti-terror front in exchange for progress on Israeli-Palestinian talks? Israel and the Palestinians diverge on this point. According to the PLO official, Abbas believes that the Arab pragmatic states will feature a united front vis-a-vis the United States during the UN General Assembly meeting. He said that “it is the last chance for diplomacy.”


Netanyahu says he presented Trump with plan to ‘fix’ Iran nuclear deal, Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented US President Donald Trump with a detailed plan on how to “fix” the nuclear agreement with Iran during a meeting Monday, he said. “There is an American willingness to fix the deal, and I presented possible ways to do it,” he told reporters after his hour-long meeting with the president. “I presented a certain course of action how to do it,” he added, declining to provide more details.

Trump to hail Iranian people as a threat to regime’s status quo, Politico

President Donald Trump will give special attention to the Iranian people during his speech Tuesday to the United Nations General Assembly — signaling that he sees them as not only separate from their Islamist government, but as a threat to its survival, a senior administration official said. Trump’s speech will be his first before the General Assembly and his first face-to-face encounter with a truly global audience. It comes as the president mulls ways to quit the internationally negotiated nuclear deal with Iran.

Israel Shoots Down Iranian-made Hezbollah Drone Infiltrating From Syria, Haaretz

Israel Air Force shot down an Iranian-made Hezbollah drone attempting to infiltrate Israel from Syrian airspace, the military said. The drone was successfully intercepted by a Patriot missile over the Golan Heights. The military said one missile was fired after the drone entered the demilitarized zone. Two fighter jets were also scrambled to the border area.

U.S. Peace Envoy: World Must Join Together to Return Control of Gaza to Palestinian Authority, Haaretz

Jason Greenblatt, the U.S. special envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, said on Monday that the international community must act to return the control of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority. Speaking at a conference of donor nations to the PA, Greenblatt said that, “The time has come to stop monitoring the situation in Gaza and start changing the situation in Gaza.” The conference was chaired by Norway and cosponsored by the U.S. and the European Union, and was held at the headquarters of the UN in New York.

Trump pushes reform in United Nations debut, calls for ‘changing business as usual’, Washington Post

President Trump called on the United Nations to enact reforms to the world body, pledging Monday in his debut here at the annual General Assembly meetings that he and his administration will be “partners in your work.” Speaking at the opening session of the four-day conference, Trump said the organization founded in 1945 has “not reached its full potential” in recent years because of a bloated bureaucracy and “mismanagement.”

Worried about Jewish pluralism in Israel? So are Israelis, JTA

For non-Orthodox Diaspora Jews worried by the Israeli government’s unfriendly policies toward them this year, a new poll has some good news. The 2017 annual survey by Hiddush given to JTA ahead of its release Monday offers indications that the Israeli Jewish public is as supportive as ever of religious pluralism, if not more so. Few are happy with how the state handles religion, and a record number would like to disentangle Judaism and politics.

Jewish Agency Pulls Funding From Israel Experience Program Over West Bank Activism, Haaretz

The Jewish Agency will cut funding to an educational program for Jewish young adults from North America after its participants were discovered spending time this summer at an anti-occupation protest camp in the West Bank, where activists would occasionally clash with Israeli troops.

Netanyahu to meet with Egypt’s Sissi in first public meeting, Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in New York on Monday in the first ever public meeting between the two leaders. The scheduled meeting, reported by Egyptian media, was not denied by Netanyahu when asked about it by Israeli reporters.

France defends ‘essential’ Iran nuke deal amid Israeli, US criticism, Times of Israel

France warned on Monday that sticking to the Iran nuclear deal was “essential” to prevent other countries from seeking nuclear weapons, as the US and Israel pushed for it to be changed or scrapped. Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters ahead of the opening of the UN General Assembly in New York that applying pressure on North Korea with sanctions was the only path to address the crisis over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile tests.

St. Louis Rabbi Vows Synagogue Will Remain Sanctuary for Protesters, Despite #GasTheSynagogue, Haaretz

When protests turned violent in St. Louis on Friday night, following the acquittal of a white, former police officer for the fatal 2011 shooting of a black man, the Central Reform Congregation unwittingly found itself in the news. Following Shabbat services, the synagogue opened its doors to some 250 protesters, offering them sanctuary from riot police until late in the night, when the police finally gave them the green light to leave without fear of arrest.

Trump to Netanyahu: ‘Good Chance’ for Peace Between Israel and the Palestinians, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Speaking to the press before the meeting, Trump addressed Israeli-Palestinian peace and said, “There is a good chance we can make peace between Israel and the Palestinians happen. I would like to see it.”

Iran’s Holding of 2 Americans Is Illegal, U.N. Experts Find, New York Times

Iran’s imprisonment of a prominent Iranian-American father and son on vaguely defined charges of collaboration with the United States is illegal, and they should be freed, a United Nations panel of international legal experts has concluded.

Opinions and Analysis

Where Tensions Will Arise in Trump and Netanyahu’s New York Speed-date, Haaretz

Ambassador Dan Shapiro writes, “So the agenda is clear: Trump will continue to say that he wants to have negotiations to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians, without specifying that he means a two state solution. Netanyahu will say that he is ready for negotiations, and will demand that the Palestinians stop incitement and payments to terrorists in prison. And both will support modest economic measures to maintain stability in the West Bank. Trump would be wise to adopt the two-state definition, but it is smart not to overreach: a rushed three-way meeting convened by Obama in 2009 ended poorly. This agenda could well carry Trump and Netanyahu to the end of the year – when Trump’s envoys told Abbas they will present a proposal for talks – or beyond. What is not yet known is how long Abbas will have the patience to occupy this top rung with them. If he uses his speech at the U.N. to announce that he is re-opening his campaign for recognition of a Palestinian state, it will be a clear sign that he wants off.”

What Abbas Will Say to the UN, and to Trump: Recognize Palestine. End Our People’s Captivity, Haaretz

Hanan Ashrawi aruges, “This Wednesday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will address the world from the chambers of United Nations General Assembly, an institution founded on the principles of peace, security, equal rights and the self-determination of peoples. The message will be clear: Palestinian rights can no longer be denied, and the captivity and oppression of an entire people under a brutal occupation must end. As countries meet to deliberate the pressing issues of our time, it is an opportunity for the global body to help remedy the historic injustices it helped create 70 years ago, and take steps that help to promote peace. With the two-state solution ailing, recognition of the State of Palestine and the delineation of borders for the two states in accordance with international law can help preserve the internationally accepted basis for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.”

Despite Netanyahu’s Efforts, Even for Trump, Peace With Palestinians Comes First, Haaretz

Barak Ravid argues, “There’s an enormous gap between Trump’s optimistic statements, on the one hand, and the reality on the ground in the West Bank and the deep crisis of trust between Israel and the Palestinians on the other. Still, Trump is trying to alter reality through his statements. In his career as a businessman, this worked more than once. During his visit to Israel in May, Trump resurrected the word “peace” from the grave and returned it to the public debate. Despite the skepticism in both the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ office in Ramallah, it seems Trump is determined to continue in this direction… The meeting didn’t deal only with the Israeli-Palestinian issue; the two leaders also discussed Iran and Syria for a few minutes. But on these two issues as well, which are so important to Netanyahu, it’s not at all clear where the White House stands or what it’s willing to do to address Israel’s concerns about the Iranian nuclear agreement and the situation in Syria once the civil war ends.

A Major Jewish Philanthropist Just Published A Plan To Ethnically Cleanse Palestinians, The Forward

JJ Goldberg writes: “A far-right faction within Israel’s Likud-led governing coalition has endorsed a plan for Israel to annex the entire West Bank and encourage the Palestinian residents to emigrate to neighboring Arab countries. The plan would allow Palestinians who voluntarily gave up all “national aspirations” to remain, granting them limited municipal self-government, but without Israeli citizenship or Knesset voting rights. Make no mistake about this — this plan amounts to a none-too-subtle form of ethnic cleansing. It presents Palestinians with an untenable choice: leave your home or be stripped of basic civil rights, perhaps forever. Despite (or because of) its draconian nature, the plan was adopted unanimously at a September 12 convention of the National Union-Tekuma party, which holds two Knesset seats as the junior partner in the religious-nationalist Jewish Home bloc. National Union leader Uri Ariel serves as minister of agriculture in Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet. The party’s other Knesset member, Bezalel Smotrich, is the author of the annexation plan. It’s a marginal enough party that those concerned with human rights or Israel’s international standing needn’t fear the plan’s immediate implementation. But we should be troubled by the plan’s institutional backing — not just in the Netanyahu government, but in the heart of American Jewish philanthropy. Smotrich’s plan was released September 6 in an 8,600-word lead essay, “The Decision Plan” (Tochnit Ha-Hachra’ah) in the fall issue of the Hebrew-language bimonthly Hashiloach, a conservative journal of ideas published by the New York-based Tikvah Fund.”

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