News Roundup for September 20, 2018

September 20, 2018

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J Street in the News

The impending Israeli demolition of a Palestinian village threatens innocent families—and hopes for peace in the Middle East, Student Life

J Street U’s Michael Berkowitz writes, “As Americans who care deeply about human rights and democratic erosion in Israel, there is a lot we can do. Just this past year, another Palestinian village in the West Bank, Susya, was threatened several times with demolitions, which were canceled at least partially due to international pressure. Our record of organizing to stop these unjust demolitions shows that when we exercise our power and express our solidarity in unison, our voices can bring about change. Now more than ever, we must keep organizing and redouble our efforts. The High Court’s ruling on September 5 cleared the way for the Israeli government to evict the residents of and demolish Khan al-Ahmar as soon as seven days from the decision. That means we’ve entered the most dangerous time in this process so far—the demolition could take place any minute. We urge you to take action by calling your local consulate or the Israeli embassy. Standing with targeted communities and demanding justice—whether in the Middle East or here at home— makes all of us more free.”

Ted Cruz slams Beto O’Rourke over Israel vote, Houston Chronicle

“O’Rourke was among 58 representatives and senators who boycotted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress. O’Rourke and other Democrats objected to the speech because they saw it as a slight to then-President Barack Obama. Less than two months later, O’Rourke was on a flight to Israel to meet with both Israelis and Palestinians during a seven-day trip paid for by the J Street. Education Fund, which describes itself as a pro-Israel, pro-peace organization. ‘I strongly support the U.S.-Israel relationship, and that is reflected in the votes I’ve taken,’ O’Rourke said. While Cruz calls O’Rourke one of the most “anti-Israel” Democrats running for the Senate, J Street has come to O’Rourke’s support. On the group’s website, it says: ‘defeating Ted Cruz in 2018 would be a major victory for the two-state solution and diplomacy-first foreign policy.’ J Street PAC has been a big fundraising hub for O’Rourke, collecting more than $167,000 in donations for O’Rourke’s campaign from its members.”

Trump Admin’s Disgraceful New Cap on Refugees is Rooted in Prejudice, J Street

“J Street is outraged by the Trump administration’s plans to cap the number of refugees that can be resettled in the United States at 30,000, a new low since 1980. This is just the latest in a disgraceful series of moves intended to choke off the vast majority of immigration to this country. This decision is a betrayal of our nation’s responsibilities, values and history as a place of refuge, freedom and opportunity for those fleeing violence and persecution. There is only one real reason why a global superpower with the world’s largest economy would accept such a paltry number of refugees: prejudice.”


Top News and Analysis

Trump’s tough line on Iran risks backlash at U.N., Politico

Nahal Toosi, David Herszenhorn and Matthew Karnitschnig report, “Donald Trump sees next week’s main session of the United Nations General Assembly as a chance to condemn Iran for spreading what he’s called ‘chaos and terror’ through the Middle East. But many key U.S. allies will likely use the global forum to present Trump himself as a threat to world peace. The result could be an unusually combative gathering at an annual forum meant to promote harmony among world leaders.”

The Trump Administration Is Reinventing the U.S. Approach to Palestine, Atlantic

Robert Malley and Aaron David Miller write, “Through its words and deeds, the administration has made it virtually impossible for even the most optimistic Palestinians to still believe in the peace process, negotiations, diplomacy, U.S. mediation, or even a two-state solution. Those beliefs, and all that came with them—the need to preserve good relations with the U.S.; to keep the Palestinian Authority afloat; to maintain security cooperation with Israel—have constrained Palestinian behavior for the past quarter century. There have been exceptions, of course: the second intifada the most glaring of all. But what Oslo gave the Palestinians in legitimacy and recognition from Washington it took away in freedom of action—no struggle, whether armed or non-violent; no independent diplomatic initiatives; no recourse to international justice mechanisms. By divesting itself of the burden of Oslo, in other words, the administration also has unwittingly unshackled the Palestinians. They have nowhere obvious to go. Their future path is uncertain, but it almost certainly will be different. Boiled down to its essence, the administration’s message to the Palestinians seems to be: You’ve lost, get over it. Underlying its attempt to radically redefine the terms of the conflict is the conviction that all past attempts have failed and that its new approach therefore must stand a chance. The Trump team is indisputably right about the first part. It is dead wrong about the second.”

The Broken Pieces of Middle East Peace, The New York Times

Tom Friedman writes, “This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Camp David accords — the high-water mark of Middle East peacemaking….Rather than a breakthrough, Israelis and Palestinians seem to be inching closer and closer to a total breakdown. Without some dramatic advance, there is a real chance that whatever Palestinian governance exists will crumble, and Israel will have to take full responsibility for the health, education and welfare of the 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank. Israel would then have to decide whether to govern the West Bank with one legal authority or two, which would mean Israel would be choosing between bi-nationalism and apartheid, both disasters for a Jewish democracy.”



Netanyahu: If War Is Imposed on Israel, We’ll Act With Full Force, Haaretz

Israel will act with full force if war is imposed upon it, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday. “We must make every effort to prevent war, but if it is imposed upon us, we will act with full force against those who would kill us,” Netanyahu said at a Yom Kippur War memorial ceremony. “Iran is openly calling for the destruction of Israel,” Netanyahu said. “It is our duty to defend ourselves and we will continue to do so.”

Blaming Assad for downing Russian plane, Israel says it won’t stop Syria strikes, Times of Israel

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Thursday blamed “irresponsible and unprofessional” Syrian air defense operators for downing a Russian surveillance plane during an Israeli airstrike on Monday night.

Officials say 15-year-old boy killed by Israeli fire in Gaza, Associated Press

Gaza’s Health Ministry says a 15-year-old Palestinian boy was killed by Israeli army fire during a protest near the perimeter fence with Israel.

Iran and Israel call each other nuclear threats, ask U.N. to take action, Reuters

Iran asked the United Nations to condemn what it described as Israeli nuclear threats against it on Thursday, while Israel said it was stepping up security around its atomic sites as a precaution against threats from Tehran and its regional allies.

Israel Upgrading and Reinforcing Nuclear Sites in Light of Iranian Threats, Atomic Energy Chief Says, Haaretz

Israel is upgrading and reinforcing its nuclear sites amid Iranian threats to attack them, the director general of the country’s Atomic Energy Commission said in a speech Tuesday.

Hezbollah claims retains missile capabilities despite Israel strikes in Syria, i24NEWS

Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Thursday his group maintains both precision and non-precision offensive capabilities, speaking on Israel while giving a speech broadcast in Beirut.

Abbas to hold meeting with ministers, diplomats in New York, Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas has invited Middle East envoys, foreign ministers and Security Council diplomats to a meeting in New York next week to discuss prospects for peace, the Palestinian ambassador said Wednesday.


Opinion and Analysis 

How peace keeps receding in the Middle East, Washington Post

David Ignatius writes, “America doesn’t look so indispensable these days if you’re an Egyptian, Palestinian or Syrian — or a Saudi, Emirati or Iraqi, for that matter. Under President Trump, the United States has ceded the mediating role to others. Trump’s idea of a peace plan is ‘maximum pressure,’ the demonstrably false idea that he can bludgeon Palestinians (or Iranians) into making peace on his terms by starving them of money, food, medical care and other basics of life. maximum pressure could bring peace, the Israelis would have bested the Palestinians decades ago. The reality, it turns out, is that as people become poorer materially, they cling to their dignity and often become less compromising. Sadly, this month of peace anniversaries forces us to reckon with the reality that the efforts of a generation of Americans, Israelis and Arabs to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have largely come to naught. The ‘peace process,’ as we knew it, is dead.”

Oslo’s Jewish Rejectionists Are in Power – and Closer to a Greater Israel Than Ever Before, Haaretz

Susie Gelman writes, “The opposition [to the Oslo Accords] of the 1990s is in power in Israel and in America, and they are making translating their vision into reality. The American Embassy was relocated to Jerusalem in the spring. American assistance to the Palestinians and to UNRWA is finished, and the PLO mission in Washington is being shuttered. That is the right’s reward for being unwavering in their convictions. If believers in two states can draw any lessons from this, we must recognize the importance of settling in for the long haul. Over the course of the past 25 years, Oslo’s opponents never changed their demands. In the pursuit of a secure and sustainable peace, neither should we.”

Israelis experience Palestinian home life in virtual reality, Guardian

Oliver Holmes reports, “An art exhibition in Jerusalem that gives Israelis the chance to experience a Palestinian family’s living room – by wearing virtual reality goggles – has laid bare the entrenched separation of two societies that live side by side but, increasingly, worlds apart. The Israel Museum, where the exhibition is being held, is less than two miles from Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem where thousands of Palestinians live. And it is only six miles from the West Bank village where the family who agreed to be filmed for the project live.”