News Roundup for September 20, 2017

September 20, 2017

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J Street in the News

Trump and Netanyahu are wrong on Iran deal, wrong on diplomacy, J Street

“Today’s addresses by President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) showcased the disturbing convergence between their bellicose worldviews, which should alarm Americans and Israelis alike. The president’s speech marked an unprecedented moral disaster for American leadership on the world stage. Boasting of US military power, President Trump married “America First” disdain for the rest of the world with reckless sabre-rattling and chilling threats. Stunningly, he threatened to “totally destroy” a nation of 25 million people. He largely rejected the power of multilateral partnerships and negotiations to solve difficult problems and make the world safer – forsaking one of the most important tools of American leadership. Indeed, in a room full of diplomats, he did not use the word “diplomacy” even once. Prime Minister Netanyahu fully endorsed Trump’s stance, stating that he “[N]ever heard a bolder or more courageous speech.” With their harsh attacks on the Iran nuclear agreement, both the president and the prime minister once again ignored the overwhelming consensus of their own leading advisers and security agencies – who have made clear that the the agreement has increased US and Israeli security and should be kept in place.”

Top News and Analysis

Trump ignores Israeli-Palestinian peace in UN speech, says US cannot ‘abide’ Iran nuclear deal, JTA

President Donald Trump told the U.N. General Assembly that the United States cannot “abide” the Iran nuclear deal as it stands but notably omitted mention of Israeli-Palestinian peace. “We cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for an eventual nuclear program,” Trump said Tuesday on the first day of this year’s General Assembly in New York. Again calling the deal “one of the worst” he had ever encountered, the president said it was “an embarrassment to the United States and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it, believe me.” Trump has said there will be a “dramatic” adjustment to how the United States treats the deal by next month, when according to U.S. law, the United States just recertify Iranian adherence to the deal.

Anxious world lobbies Trump on Iran nuclear deal, Politico

“In public, in private, and with few exceptions, world leaders gathered at the United Nations this week are urging President Donald Trump not to follow through on his threat to derail the Iran nuclear deal. But so far, Trump shows no sign of listening to them. And some diplomats and supporters of the agreement even worry the efforts could backfire by triggering Trump’s defiantly contrarian instincts. The issue will take center stage on Wednesday, when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson joins a multinational meeting on the nuclear deal that will also be attended by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, the first time the two men will meet face-to-face. The session is being held on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.”

Trump is conflating Pyongyang with Tehran. The results could be catastrophic, Guardian

Trita Parsi writes, “This is the latest gimmick in Trump’s desperate efforts to kill the nuclear deal with Iran: by focusing on Tehran’s objectionable non-nuclear policies and false claims of the unevenness of the Iran deal, Trump is arguing that sustaining the international accord can no longer be justified since it doesn’t address the totality of America’s concerns with Iran. Problem is: there is no deal that could address the totality of US-Iran tensions unless Trump is willing to engage in extensive diplomacy with Iran for such a grand bargain. Thus far, Trump has shown zero interest in negotiations with Iran. And mindful of how he has conducted himself on the world stage, significant doubts exist as to whether his administration has the capacity and competence to face Iran diplomatically. Instead, the contours of Trump’s Iran policy are crystallizing. Rather than a new deal with Iran, Trump is reigniting the US-Iran cold war that the nuclear deal began to cool down.”

Why Trump’s UN speech thrilled Netanyahu — for the moment, anyway, JTA

Ron Kampeas writes, “Short term, Trump delivered big time on the Netanyahu wish list: He came closer to pledging to kill the Iran nuclear deal reviled by the Israeli leader and did not even mention peace with the Palestinians, which Netanyahu does not believe has traction at this point. But wait, there’s more. Trump mentioned the word ‘sovereign’ and its derivatives 21 times on Tuesday, the first day of this year’s General Assembly in New York. Long term, Netanyahu and Israel may not be as enthused by Trump’s dream of a world in which nations make a priority of ‘sovereign’ interests — or as the president put it, repeating a campaign phrase that unsettled many US Jews, ‘America First.’ Trump’s overarching theme was a retreat from the robust interventionist role that to varying degrees has characterized US foreign policy since the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt. Indeed, that undergirded the US-led effort following World War II and its devastation to establish the United Nations.”

Trump won’t make progress on a two-state solution while Netanyahu is in power, Washington Post

Nathan Hersh argues, “During my time working at Partners for Progressive Israel, a pro-peace nonprofit group based in New York, I eagerly supported the latest iteration of final-status peace talks under President Barack Obama. Even while I was cognizant of Netanyahu’s disingenuousness in joining peace talks with the Palestinians in 2013, my organization and I publicly supported the negotiations. We should have acknowledged what we already knew: Netanyahu has always opposed Palestinian statehood. He first rose to power as the antithesis to the Israeli peace movement in the 1990s. Each of his governments since has strengthened settlements, deepened the occupation and interpreted the Palestinian national movement as permanently and irrefutably at odds with Israel’s existence.”


With Combative Style and Epithets, Trump Takes America First to the U.N., New York Times

President Trump brought the same confrontational style of leadership he has used at home to the world’s most prominent stage on Tuesday as he vowed to “totally destroy North Korea” if it threatened the United States and denounced the nuclear agreement with Iran as “an embarrassment” that he may abandon.

Netanyahu Vows to Curb Iran in U.N. Speech, Wall Street Journal

The Israeli prime minister tells General Assembly to ‘fix or nix’ Iranian nuclear deal and promises to limit Tehran’s role in Syria, on the same day that Israel said it shot down an Iranian-made drone.

Trump to Meet With PA, Jordanian and Egyptian Leaders at Sidelines of UN Summit, Haaretz

U.S. President Donald Trump is to meet with three Arab leaders on Wednesday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. Trump is due to meet with Jordanian King Abdullah for an hour-long discussion before midday. Immediately afterwards, he will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Trump is due to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi in the evening. Trump is expected to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace process with all three leaders.

Jews and Palestinians Protest Netanyahu, Trump’s Cozy Relationship at UN Assembly: They Feed Off Each Other!” Haaretz

About a hundred Jews and Palestinians gathered in front of the United Nations building in New York on Tuesday night to protest Netanyahu and Trump’s appearance at the General Assembly.

Bernie Sanders, Jewish Senate Colleagues Blast Netanyahu for Blocking Equality Among Israeli Jews, Haaretz

Seven Jewish senators, including former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, have expressed their “deep concern” to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about recent Israeli government decisions that “reject the equality of Judaism’s non-Orthodox movements.” In a letter sent to Netanyahu on Monday, the senators refer to the government’s decision to suspend plans to create a new egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall, and to a new bill that would grant the Orthodox-run Chief Rabbinate a monopoly over conversions in Israel. Under pressure from world Jewish leaders, Netanyahu decided in June to suspend discussion of this controversial conversion bill for six months.

Egypt’s Sissi to Netanyahu: Israeli-Palestinian Peace Would Create New Reality in Mideast, Haaretz
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting in New York Monday night that he thought an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord would create a new reality in the region, strengthening stability and security throughout the Middle East.

‘Flawed’ Iran nuke deal must be reworked, Tillerson says, Times of Israel

The United States is looking for support from its allies to persuade Iran to re-open talks on the nuclear deal, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday, pointing to the fact that it will expire as its biggest problem.

At UN Trump Calls Iran Nuclear Deal ‘An Embarrassment,’ to Israeli Delegation’s Applause, Haaretz

U.S. President Donald Trump told the United Nations General Assembly that “the U.S. will forever be a great friend to the world, but we can no longer be taken advantage of” in his first speech to the international body, specifically calling out Iran, North Korea, Syria, Cuba and Venezuela.

Macron Tells Trump Iran Nuclear Deal ‘Good’, Irresponsible to Not Respect It, US News and World Report

French President Emmanuel Macron hit back at U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday staunchly defending the “good” Iran nuclear deal saying that those who did not respect it were irresponsible. “Renouncing it would be a grave error, not respecting it would be irresponsible, because it is a good accord that is essential to peace at a time where the risk of an infernal conflagration cannot be excluded.”

Sebastian Gorka Joins Pro-Trump Political Group, The Forward

Sebastian Gorka, the controversial former White House adviser who quit after top political strategist Steve Bannon was ousted, has joined a nationalist pro-Trump campaign organization, the group announced on Tuesday.

In response to court, state shuts door on Western Wall deal, Times of Israel

The State of Israel has no plans to “rethink” its freeze of a 2016 government decision to create a permanent pluralistic prayer platform at the Western Wall — and the court can’t compel it to implement the plan, according to an 11-page state response to the court filed Tuesday.

Opinions and Analysis

Trump Attacks Iran Deal at UN, But Offers Little in Return, Newsweek

“President Donald Trump’s mission to renegotiate or scrap a historic nuclear treaty put into effect by his predecessor and Iran and other leading powers could risk sparking a conflict in the Middle East, observers say….With the U.N. General Assembly underscoring a united anti-Iran front among the U.S. and Israel, what the deal has already achieved is at risk. Jarret Blanc, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Geoeconomics and Strategy Program and deputy lead coordinator and State Department coordinator for Iran nuclear implementation at the Department of State under Obama, said a U.S. abandonment of the JCPOA could ultimately lead to more clashes, a nuclear-armed Iran and further alienation between the U.S. and European allies who remain committed to the deal.”

What happens when teaching diaspora Jews about occupation gets ‘too political’, +972

Edo Konrad interviews Karen Isaacs, the founder of Achvat Amim. The Jewish Agency recently pulled Masa’s funding from Achvat Amim amidst charges that “‘Achvat Amim participants took part in ‘violent clashes’ with Israeli soldiers at Sumud Freedom Camp in the south Hebron Hills. Sumud was a nonviolent direct action by diaspora Jews, Palestinians and Israelis to allow the Palestinian residents of Sarura to to return to their homes, decades after being displaced. Ad Kan, which has a history of ‘infiltrating’ left-wing organizations and recording their every move with hidden cameras, this time relied on videos and materials that were published by the activists themselves.”

Dahlan’s influence key to Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, Al-Monitor

Shlomi Eldar writes, “Dahlan and his supporters in the West Bank and Gaza may have been purged from Fatah, but in private conversations with Al-Monitor, they reiterated that Abbas’ decision was illegal, and they were and continue to be loyal members of the movement. One of them claimed that Dahlan, whom they admire, is doing everything for “the sacred cause” of mitigating the suffering of his people in Gaza. He added that one way of doing so is to bring about reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah so that the two movements can wage a joint struggle against the blockade on Gaza and the Israeli occupation. Dahlan’s supporters utterly rejected the notion that his fundraising activities were intended to restore his position in Fatah and help him replace his rival Abbas and lead the movement one day. But even if we assume that Dahlan’s intentions were free of any political ambitions, it is obvious that there can be no reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas without him.”

Why Trump’s UN Speech Is Bad News For Human Rights Around The World, Buzzfeed

John Hudson writes: “Donald Trump’s speech before the United Nations earned attention primarily for his threat to “totally destroy North Korea” and his questioning of the Iran nuclear deal, which he called a deep embarrassment to the United States. But for human rights advocates around the world, it was the philosophy he expressed that was most alarming, the idea that every nation should do what it considers to be in its best interests. It was a pivot away from what has been the US position for over a half-century, that the way to global peace and prosperity lies in international rules and cooperation.”

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