News Roundup for September 25, 2017

September 25, 2017

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J Street in the News

Abbas’s Speech Re-Affirms His Commitment to a Two-State Solution, J Street

“J Street welcomed much of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s speech today at the United Nations General Assembly that urgently called for renewed, serious efforts to advance a two-state solution.  However, as in past years, we were disturbed by some of the rhetoric in his speech. The hyperbole and one-sided accusations Abbas employed will not help move the parties closer to productive talks. While Abbas again raised the issue of full Palestinian membership in the United Nations, we reiterate that universal recognition of Palestinian statehood can only come about through a negotiated resolution — not action at the UN or any other international organization. Even so, much of President Abbas’s speech marked an improvement over those of President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu. We welcome his explicit endorsement of a two-state solution and openness to compromises on a number of final-status issues — including borders, refugees and the status of Jerusalem.”

Top News and Analysis

Abbas at UN: We’ll Give Trump’s Peace Efforts a Chance, UN Bears Obligation to End Occupation, Haaretz

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the UN General Assembly on Wednesday that Israel was evading its responsibility to end the occupation.  “While we call to end the occupation, Israel incites and pretends there’s no Palestinian partner for peace,” Abbas said, addressing the UN General Assembly hours after U.S. President Donald Trump told him that now might be the Palestinians’  “best shot ever” to achieve peace. Abbas said the United Nations bore a legal, political, moral and humanitarian obligation to end the occupation, adding that Israel knew that the occupation bred incitement and violence. “Draining the swamp of Israeli occupation would greatly affect the fight on terror,” he said, adding that ending the occupation would deprive terror groups of a key rallying cry.

Did Trump Just Make Iran More Popular?, New Yorker

Robin Wright observes, “Trump’s tough talk and sophomoric antics may have had the opposite effect of what he intended….Across the board, the world’s other major powers, most of America’s closest allies, and the vast majority of governments at the United Nations this week made clear that they favor the deal. They are siding with Iran this time….European nations and the U.S. have been repeatedly burned by Iran in the past, and have similar serious, ongoing issues: Iran’s missile tests, its support for extremists, its human-rights abuses, its detentions of their citizens, and a growing pattern of Iranian intervention in Middle Eastern conflicts, notably in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Yet, for the first time in almost four decades, the Europeans appear willing to break from Washington.”

Trump Has No Good Reason to Scrap the Iran Deal, Slate

Fred Kaplan writes, “President Trump seems determined to wiggle out of the Iran nuclear deal, but all the rationales that he and his top aides have put forth to justify the move are specious and self-destructive….The Iran nuclear deal was a carefully worded deal; it is what it says it is, and nothing more. Neither directly, indirectly, nor in any other way does it cover, or aspire to cover, anything beyond Iran’s nuclear program—any more than the decades of nuclear arms-control treaties with the Soviet Union were meant to cover Moscow’s communist ideology, suppression of human rights, or occupation of Eastern Europe….Iran’s ballistic missile program is another worry that makes the nuclear deal more, not less, attractive. This was a contentious issue during much of the negotiations. In the end, the United States and the other powers in the talks agreed to let it drop for two reasons. First, unlike Iran’s nuclear program, which was outlawed by the Non-Proliferation Treaty and some U.N. Security Council resolutions, there was nothing illegal about the missile tests. Second, the missiles were viewed as a threat only if they carried nuclear weapons; if the deal halts the nuclear program, the missiles wouldn’t be a threat—at least not in any way that this agreement encompassed.”

Netanyahu Refuses to Talk to Us. But We American Jews Won’t Be Silenced, Haaretz

Rabbi Rick Jacobs writes openly to Prime Minister Netanyahu, “Our love for Israel transcends governments and harsh policies against us. Our love for Israel transcends the hateful words and actions against us by Jewish religious extremists in Israel. Your government’s policies limit our religious freedom. The chief rabbi of Jerusalem – paid by Israeli tax dollars – says we’re worse than Holocaust deniers, yet faces no consequence….Your recent actions demonstrate once again, that you are not able and not willing to be in dialogue with us. We are not giving up on Israel, on equality, or on democracy. We will continue to insist on our rights. You may try to avoid us, but we trust that the Supreme Court, the protector of democracy in Israel, will give us a swift decision ensuring equality and freedom of religion for all Jews in Israel.”


Israel Set to Advance Plans Next Week for Some 2,000 New Homes in West Bank Settlements, Haaretz

Israel’s Civil Administration is expected to advance plans as early as next week for up to 2,000 new homes in West Bank settlements, a senior government official said on Sunday. Most of the plans in question will simply be moving onto another stage of the planning process, the official said, with only a few tenders for immediate construction slated to be approved. If the plans aren’t advanced next week, they will be right after the Sukkot holiday ends on October 11, the official added.

Iran Tests Ballistic Missile and Rejects ‘Threats’, The New York Times

Iran said Saturday that it had successfully tested a new ballistic missile with a range of 2,000 kilometers, or about 1,200 miles, and would keep developing its arsenal despite pressure by the United States. The United States has imposed unilateral sanctions on Iran, saying its tests violate a United Nations resolution that calls on the country not to undertake activities related to missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons. Iran says it has no such plans.

Tillerson, Zarif spoke directly at Iran nuclear talks, Reuters

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif spoke directly during talks at the United Nations on Wednesday in what a European diplomat described as a “very difficult” meeting. “Tillerson and Zarif spoke directly for a relatively long time. There was no real great surprise in the positions expressed,” the diplomat said. The diplomat said there was unanimity that the nuclear deal was being respected, but the debate had not really focused on its implementation.

Israel seeking to block fresh Palestinian bid to join Interpol, Times of Israel

Israel is seeking to thwart the Palestinian Authority’s latest bid to join the international law enforcement body Interpol over concerns it would leak sensitive information to Palestinian terror groups. Interpol’s General Assembly will convene for its annual meeting in China on Tuesday, where the international policing organization will vote on new members.

Israel to mark 50 years to ‘return to historical lands’ with state ceremony, Ynet

Israel will hold a large-scale event in late September to mark 50 years to the “return to the historical lands of Judea and Samaria, the Jordan Valley and the Golan Heights.” The hasbara center, led by Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, will organize the event, which will be held in Gush Etzion on September 27. It will feature stories about the lands and the Jewish communities established there alongside videos telling the historical, cultural and human story of these lands, along with pyrotechnics.

Iran nuclear deal is best option, says Israeli general, The Times

Israel’s former nuclear chief has expressed support for the nuclear deal with Iran and criticised the attempts of President Trump and Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, to try to tear up the agreement. Uzi Eilam, 83, a retired brigadier-general who for a decade was director-general of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, said that while he had no doubt that Iran wanted to develop nuclear weapons the agreement signed in July 2015 was “the best of options”.

Settler sics dog on border guard during outpost demolition, Times of Israel

An Israeli settler was arrested after he sicced his dog on a Border Police officer during the demolition of an illegally built structure in a northern West Bank outpost on Sunday, the police said. The border guard was bit on the leg in the Ein Amsha outpost and sent to Petah Tikva’s Beilinson Hospital for medical treatment.

Israeli settlers torch olive trees after illegal outpost evacuated south of Nablus, Ma’an

Israeli settlers site fire to a grove of olive trees on privately-owned Palestinian land in the northern occupied West Bank on Sunday morning, shortly after Israeli forces evacuated an illegal settlement outpost in the area, according to an Israeli NGO. A spokesperson for Yesh Din, a human rights organization working in the occupied Palestinian territory, told Ma’an that officers from the Israeli Civil Administration and the Israeli army had arrived to evacuate the small outpost, which consisted of three tents and a building near the village of Kafr Qalil south of Nablus city. In response to the eviction, settlers later torched a number of olive trees belonging to Palestinian resident of Kafr Qalil.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat in Washington waiting for a lung transplant, JTA

The Palestinians’ chief peace negotiator, Saeb Erekat, is in Washington DC waiting for a lung transplant. Erekat, 62, who also is secretary-general of the PLO executive committee, has pulmonary fibrosis, a serious lung disease. He requires oxygen and can no longer walk.

Opinions and Analysis

In Ireland, Israel’s Religious Right Engages with Ideas for Peace, International Crisis Group

Ofer Zalzberg joins nine leaders of Israel’s national religious community as they seek ideas for peace in meetings with the architects of Northern Ireland’s peace process.

Trump’s dangerous confusion on the Iran deal, Chicago Tribune

Steve Chapman writes, “If Trump were to renounce the accord, he would be violating an agreement that the international inspectors say Iran has fulfilled. He would be proving to Iran and the other parties to the deal — Germany, Britain, France, the European Union, Russia and China — that Washington’s word is no good. As for pursuing a better deal, why would Iran ever sign another agreement with us? If Trump decides to torch the deal, we will most likely face the choice of watching as Tehran resumes progress toward acquiring nukes or launching another Mideast war in the hope of halting it. The Iranian deal looks bad only if you forget the alternatives.”

Israel’s Message to U.S. Jews: If You’re Against the Occupation, You’re Not Welcome, Haaretz

Libby Lenkinski writes, “There can be no mistake: the Jewish Agency canceled its support of Achvat Amim because of the leaders’ progressive political perspective – though plenty of right-wing programs receive Jewish Agency support. If these institutions insist on one narrow and far-right political perspective, they shouldn’t be surprised when their participant pool dries up. Young American Jews are overwhelmingly progressive. They are committed to an Israel in which Jews’ right to self-realization must not come at the expense of others’ same rights; they believe that we can and must always dream of a better future and work to create it. And rather than embrace them, Israeli institutions are closing their doors….You can’t curate away the truth. American Jews are not blind, though these government-sponsored programs may try to keep the blinders on. American Jews can see the occupation; half of young American Jews believe settlements are hurting prospects for peace. No amount of censorship will stop this. Instead, these institutions are closing the doors to every authentic access point that young (and older) American Jews have to engage with Israel. “

Trump Era Sparks ‘Tectonic Shift’ For Liberal Jewish Activism, Forward

“Across the country, religious leaders of all faiths whose politics are to the left are getting involved in the fight against Trump’s policies on health care, immigration, poverty and the environment. The New York Times recently dubbed it a “religious resistance” — and Jews are increasingly active in it.”

Peres’ secret plan for a two-state solution, Al-Monitor

Uri Savir writes, “Peres conditioned an Israeli-Palestinian peace on the gradual normalization of relations as well as regional cooperation between Israel and most Arab countries. The time line for negotiations would encompass three years (with a framework agreement after the first year) and another three years for implementation. He was convinced that such an Israeli initiative was realistic and would find Palestinian and Arab partners, as well as full international support. Peres believed that such a solution, ending both the Israeli occupation of the Palestinians and the Arab rejection of Israel, was the only path to move toward guaranteeing Israel’s identity as a Jewish democracy, its long-term security and its place among the nations. Much like his mentor, Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, this great man believed that for Israel, its moral high ground was also the basis of its future power.”

As Israel Backs Kurdish Independence, Palestinians May Reap the Benefit, Haaretz

Dahlia Scheindlin writes, “Israel’s support for Kurdish independence is brave, even if self-interested. But quick gains can also boost precedents in favor of national liberation. Even in a cold realist world, an idea whose time has come can be a tough match for policies such as Israel’s military occupation that have lost international legitimacy. Palestinians may look to the Kurds for inspiration, for example based on the Kurds successful state-building and relatively democratic (if flagging) political system. The rest of the world, too, when noticing Israel’s support for freedom of the long-suffering Kurds, will naturally pose the question: ‘And why not Palestine?’”

Bernie Sanders’s big foreign policy speech, Vox

“Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was invited to give a big foreign policy speech at Westminster College, a distinguished venue where former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1946 gave his famous ‘Iron Curtain’ speech. But Sanders didn’t use this opportunity to speak about an existential enemy. Instead, he used it to advocate a progressive foreign policy, one that called on America to focus on the well-being of individuals around the world.”

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