First Read For Jan. 13
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First Read

First Read For Jan. 13

The headlines American Jews are waking up to today: Eyes on Paris; Goodbye Banai, Jewish landlords arrested in illegal gas hookup scheme; New findings from Pew.

Eyes are on Paris this weekend as France hosts a Mideast peace summit attended by some 70 countries, in what is being seen as the final chance for the Obama administration to frame its positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Not surprisingly, Israel’s continued settlement activity is a key agenda item, and according to reports, the summit members will restate their opposition to settlements.

The Times of Israel is reporting today that, according to a draft statement obtained by The Associated Press on Friday, the conference will urge Israel and the Palestinians “to officially restate their commitment to the two-state solution.”

It also will affirm that the international community “will not recognize” changes to Israel’s pre-1967 lines (read: settlements) without agreement by both sides.

Neither position is likely to go over well with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, or presumably, with President-elect Donald Trump.

The summit comes on the heels of a UN Security Council resolution last month that condemned the settlements as illegal. The resolution passed 14-0 after the United States declined to use its traditional veto power and instead abstained.

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Israelis are mourning the death of beloved singer Meir Banai, who died yesterday at age 55. Citing his signature article of clothing, The Times of Israel said the singer was “as familiar and recognized as the battered black fedora that was nearly always on his head. It was the kind of hat probably worn by his great-grandfather, Meir Eliyahu Banai, known as a master storyteller and the progenitor of a family of entertainers closely identified with the shifts and evolution of Israeli society.

Banai’s career spanned more than 30 years, and he moved “from soul to rock before finally landing on a soulful spiritual sound that has become part and parcel of the Israeli music scene,” the paper reported. He fused ancient lyrics with modern sound, it said, something now emulated by Banai’s younger brother Eviatar Banai and their cousin Ehud Banai, is today heard in rock concerts, albums as well as by younger artists competing on reality shows like “The Voice.”

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It wasn’t a good day for Jewish landlords in the city.

Forty-one people, including several Jewish landlords, were arrested in Brooklyn allegedly for conspiring to circumvent gas safety regulations to increase their profits, according to JTA.

The actions attributed to the suspects, who were arrested Thursday, allegedly took place last year acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez was quoted as saying by NBC.

“These defendants operated a criminal enterprise and accepted cash for illegal installation of gas meters at thirty-three residential buildings in Brooklyn and some in Queens,” he said. Most suspects are former employees of National Grid, a provider of electricity and natural gas servicing homes and businesses in New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

A photograph of one of the suspects published by the New York Post shows a large young man with sidelocks wearing a large kippah and a black-and-white suit favored by charedi Jews. He was not named.

Prosecutors said they have a voice recording of a main suspect conspiring with one landlord.

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It’s long been known that Republicans and Democrats are moving in opposite directions when it comes to Israel. The presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders and the bid to name Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison as head of the Democratic National Committee have made that clear.

Now comes more evidence of the split, this time from a new Pew Research Center survey.

The difference between the proportion of Republicans and Democrats who sympathize with Israel over the Palestinians is the largest it has been in surveys dating to 1978, according to a new report cited in JTA.

While 74 percent of Republicans sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians, the number is 33 percent for Democrats, according to a Pew survey conducted Jan. 4-9 and published Thursday.

Eleven percent of Republicans sympathize with the Palestinians over Israel, and 15 percent sympathize with neither, both sides or did not express a view. Among Democrats, those numbers were 31 percent and 35 percent, respectively.

The findings, say JTA, represent the first time in surveys conducted by Pew that Democrats were about as likely to sympathize with the Palestinians as with Israel. Among “liberal Democrats,” 38 percent of respondents sympathized more with the Palestinians while 26 percent sympathized more with Israel.

The proportion of Republicans sympathizing more with Israel has risen since 1978 while it has fallen for Democrats. In that year, 49 percent of Republicans and 44 percent of Democrats sympathized more with the Jewish state, according to data from the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations obtained by Pew.

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