APN's Aaron Mann in Times of Israel: The right kind of ‘bias’

The comment by US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, made at a press briefing this past Wednesday, was as absurd as it was dangerous: “We are not going to state what the outcome [to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict] has to be. It has to be workable to both sides. And I think, really, that’s the best view as to not really bias one side over the other.”

By this logic, any expressed preference by the Trump administration for a two-state solution risks prejudging the outcome of the peace process in favor of either Israelis or Palestinians.

In reality, an explicit endorsement of a two-state solution is the most unbiased approach that the administration could take.

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The June 25th decision by the Israeli government to suspend the agreement to create a pluralistic prayer space at the Western Wall could not have been more poorly timed. Coinciding with a visit of American Jewish leaders to Israel and coupled with the government’s decision to further a bill tightening regulations on Jewish conversions, the message of disrespect, disregard, and rejection was thus maximized – as was the response.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs of the Union for Reform Judaism cancelled a planned dinner with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and, along with Rabbi Steve Wernick, CEO of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, called the decision a “betrayal.” Jerry Silverman, CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America called the move “a direct insult.” The outrage even included this line from Michael Siegel, the chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel: “Support for Israel does not necessarily mean support for the Israeli government.”

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apparently wants to convince us that he is not interested in reaching a peace deal, but in maintaining power by catering to his radical right flank and the settler movement.

At a June 6 ceremony celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War, Netanyahu promised an audience of settlers that “no one will be uprooted from their home. … I’m doing whatever is needed to protect the Jewish settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria. … We are building and planning in all parts of Judea and Samaria.”

During a White House press conference in February, while expressing his interest in helping make the “ultimate” Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, President Donald Trump appealed to Netanyahu: “I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit,” he said. Trump’s ask clearly didn’t persuade Netanyahu against giving in to the settlers’ demands for expansion. Netanyahu’s promise to the settlers not only contradicts his stated support for a two-state solution, but also jeopardizes the prospects of future Israeli-Palestinian peace.

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APN's Ori Nir in The Forward: Israel’s Settlement Blocs Block Prospects For Peace

"Everybody knows,” goes the argument. “Everybody knows that under any future Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, West Bank settlement blocs will be annexed to Israel.” And because everyone knows that, the argument goes, Israel should be allowed, even encouraged, to continue unhindered with settlement construction in the “blocs.”

Proponents of construction in settlement blocs argue the following. There is an Israeli consensus around the future annexation of the blocs once a peace agreement is signed. Even the PLO gave a nod of approval for such a scenario. Both Israelis and Palestinians have accepted the principle of “land swaps” (Israel compensating the Palestinians for lands it will annex east of the Green Line with Israeli land West of the Green Line). The US has made it clear that it will not insist on an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines. Given all that, they say, why not build in areas that “everybody knows” Israel will end up keeping and annexing? How could that damage future negotiations?

This logic is becoming so rampant that a prominent Washington expert on the conflict recently said: “If settlements are the problem, then the blocs are the solution.”

Really? Is more settlement construction here the solution to the problem that settlement construction there creates?

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As Americans come out in huge numbers to challenge the illiberal policies of President Donald J. Trump, they should be mindful of developments in and emanating from another increasingly illiberal democracy: Israel.

In power in Israel for nearly a decade, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political partners have focused their energies on one goal above all others: expanding settlements and securing permanent Israeli control over territory occupied by Israel in 1967. In pursuing this “Greater Israel” agenda, Netanyahu has governed according to a political ethos that has much in common with that of Trump, starting with the belief that political might makes right; that laws, courts, and public institutions exist solely to serve those in power; that the media and activists are the enemy; that hasbara (Hebrew for “propaganda,” often akin to “alt-facts”) trumps facts; and that democratic norms like “rule of law” and “checks-and-balances” are for suckers.

Americans should pay attention to Israel not merely for the many lessons it offers about how illiberalism can take hold in a free society. They should pay attention because the same “Greater Israel” agenda that has eroded Israeli society is today poisoning America’s democracy.

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The more Netanyahu hitches his wagon to the White House, the more he and Trump resemble each other, the more American Jews will actively resist both.

Israel’s newly adopted, patently unconstitutional “Regularization Law” further distances most American Jews from the government of Israel and the State of Israel. 

It does so by further underscoring the similarities between Israel’s leadership and U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign of constitutionally controversial executive orders. It thus further deepens the sense of dissonance in the minds of American Jews regarding the U.S.-Israel relationship. 

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Israel’s “Entry Law”: What It Is and What It Means

***UPDATE: The final language of the bill has been significantly broadened, and now applies to “Any person who is not a citizen of Israel or holds a certification for permanent residency in the state of Israel shall not be given a residing certification or permit of any kind, if he, or the organization or agency for the sake of which he acts (she-hu po’el avuram), has knowingly published a public call to boycott the State of Israel, as defined in the Law to Prevent Harming the State of Israel through Boycott of 2011, or if he has committed to take part in such a boycott, as stated.”*** 

***UPDATE: The Knesset passed the "Entry Bill" into law on March 6, 2017***

APN's statement condemning passage of the law is here.

What is the “Entry Law”?

The so-called “Entry Law” currently under consideration is an amendment to Israel’s 1952 “Entry Law,” which determines who is allowed to enter into Israel and under what conditions.

The amendment stipulates that any person who is not an Israeli citizen will be denied entry into Israel if:

“if the person, or the organization or agency for the sake of which he acts, has knowingly publicized a call to boycott the state of Israel, as defined in the 2011 Law to Prevent Harming the State of Israel through Boycott, or (if that person) has pledged to participate in such a boycott.”[while granting Israel’s Interior Minister the prerogative to issue exceptional entry permits to boycotters “for special reasons.”]

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The nomination of David Friedman to be the next ambassador of the United States to Israel has stirred a fierce debate, focused primarily on Friedman’s well-documented bombastic rhetoric and his views on settlements, the occupation, and the Palestinians — views that are at odds with decades of bipartisan U.S. policy.

As the Senate gets ready to consider Friedman’s nomination, what has been largely overlooked is the fact that, based on his own very clear and public record, Friedman is by any objective standard disqualified from serving as America’s diplomatic envoy to any country, and especially to Israel.

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APN board member Mik Moore in Medium: Freedom Riders In Israel

Israel is innovating new products that will help the developing world and isolated areas gain access to fresh produce and water, sustainable energy, and inexpensive traditional housing.

Israel is innovating new ways to deny millions of people basic civil rights; subjecting them to regular violence and intimidation, undermining their ability to be economically self sufficient, and preventing them from building housing, schools, and other necessities.

Over Christmas break I spent two weeks in Israel with my wife and our kids, aged 13 and 9. It was my eighth visit and their first. We saw both of these Israels, up close and personal.

It is not shocking to learn that a country contains multitudes. The good and the bad often exist side by side, each an authentic representation of a nation’s values. It is true in the United States. It is true in France. It is true in Israel.

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Back in 2012, I warned a friend who was working on international trade issues: pay attention to what’s happening with the Palestinians at the UN, because it could cause problems for the U.S. on a wide range of issues, including the ones you deal with. I recall clearly his response, mainly because it was so patronizing. In essence, he told me: “don’t kid yourself – nobody is going to let a boutique issue like Israel-Palestine harm truly important U.S. interests (like trade).”

Now, five years later, President-elect Trump and his surrogates are dropping heavy hints about plans to break with longstanding U.S. positions vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in the direction of changes that both Israelis and Palestinians would view as turning away from a negotiated peace agreement. And like my friend in 2012, few people today seem to grasp the consequences – entirely unrelated to Israel and the Palestinians – such changes are set to unleash, or the profoundly negative implications they would have for all Americans.

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