Since the beginning of this year, an unprecedented but little-noticed campaign has been waged in Congress—backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and others—in support of Israeli settlements. At the core of this campaign is an effort to legislate a change in U.S. policy, which since 1967 has remained firmly opposed to settlements, under both Republican and Democratic presidents.

Backers of the campaign, both in Congress and among outside groups like AIPAC, are promoting numerous pieces of legislation that redefine “Israel” to mean “Israel-plus-the-settlements” and make supporting settlements an integral and mandatory part of American support for Israel, as a matter of policy and law. They pass off their efforts as an entirely non-controversial matter of countering boycott-divestment-sanctions (BDS) against Israel in general, countering BDS policies adopted by the EU and some European countries, in particular.

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Michael Koplow, the Policy Director at the Israel Policy Forum, this week added his voice to those suggesting that the US should drop its 48-year-old policy of opposing all Israeli settlement construction, and replace it with one that in effect green lights some such construction - or in Koplow's words, a policy that "distinguishes between kosher and non-kosher settlement growth." Koplow joins Brookings' Natan Sachs and others, all of whom follow in the footsteps of Dennis Ross in supporting such shift and predicting that it would help pave the way to peace. And Koplow - like his predecessors - uses words like "realistic" and "pragmatic" to describe his approach, suggesting that those who disagree are anything but.

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Support for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) targeting Israel is growing, generating great angst and solution-searching amongst Israel supporters – including pro-peace progressives – in the United States and elsewhere in the world.  From the Adelson-Saban summit earlier this year, which gave birth to a new anti-BDS organization (to be led by someone who for years headed a far right-wing, pro-Israel, Evangelical Christian operation), to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s letter to Jewish leaders, BDS is now being treated even by many pro-peace progressives as the new “existential” threat to Israel, despite the fact that the actual track record of the BDS movement, in terms of concrete impact, is thus far mixed.

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APN Legislative Round-Up: November 20, 2015

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APN Legislative Round-Up: November 6, 2015

1. Bills & Resolutions
2. Settlements= Israel, Round 3
3. Hearings
4. On the Record

Shameless plug:

Lara Friedman in HuffPo 11/4: Bibi's 'Anti-Solutionism' as Cover for 'Anti-Solution' (response to Natan Sachs in Foreign Affairs)
Lara Friedman & Hagit Ofran in Haaretz 11/2: Don't Be Fooled by Netanyahu's Sleight of Hand on Settlements

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A recent article in Foreign Affairs by Brookings fellow Natan Sachs is getting a lot of attention: Why Israel waits: Anti-Solutionism as a strategy. (Full disclosure: Sachs is a friend and someone for whom I have great professional respect.)

The piece offers some valuable insights into how Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and those around him justify their approach on national security issues. However, the analysis suffers from an important omission with respect to the Israeli government's approach to the Palestinians, and offers a policy recommendation that, if adopted, would be disastrous.

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APN Legislative Round-Up: October 30, 2015

1. Bills & Resolutions
2. Hearings
3. On the Record

Shameless plug:

10/29: Time for a New Israel-Palestine Peacemaking Paradigm (by Lara Friedman, in Huffington Post)
10/20: Netanyahu's REAL Settlement Record (by Lara Friedman & Hagit Ofran)

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The Obama Administration enters its final 14 months in office with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict escalating into daily bloodshed. This crisis is taking place to a backdrop of a fatally discredited peace process, a political clock ticking down toward American elections, and an international community awaiting direction and leadership from a White House that is providing neither. More broadly, it is taking place to the backdrop of Israeli policies - including settlement expansion, demolitions, and coercive displacements - that disclose an unmistakable drive to implement a one-state outcome, notwithstanding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's continued (if weak and intermittent) rhetorical support for a two-state solution.

It is now self-evident that Israeli-Palestinian peace will not be achieved on President Obama's watch, nor will meaningful progress towards a peace agreement come from another round of negotiations. In this context, the Obama Administration has three options: walking away, playing it safe, or charting a new course.

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APN Legislative Round-Up: October 23, 2015

1. Bills, Resolutions, and Letters
2. Hearings
3. On the Record
 

Note: Recently defenders of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu have been arguing that settlement construction has actually decreased under Netanyahu (and that he has thus been unfairly criticized when he deserves to be praised). This argument is based on a single, misleading statistic – a case APN and Peace Now came together to make in a joint report laying out the facts of Netanyahu’s real settlements record, here.

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Netanyahu’s (Real) Settlement Record

Jointly authored by Lara Friedman, APN (USA) and Hagit Ofran, Peace Now (Israel)

Defenders of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu have seized on a recent report in Haaretz to argue that Netanyahu’s record shows that he has, in fact, been less pro-settlements than his detractors (including Peace Now) have suggested. Their argument hinges on a single statistic raised in that story: the average number of construction starts in settlements per year, as counted by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS), across the 6 years Netanyahu has been in office, compared to that same number for previous prime ministers over the past 20 years.  But as is often the case when it comes to statistics, the devil is in the details, and a single statistic taken in isolation will always obscure more than it reveals.

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