First Read For Jan. 16
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News RoundupThe headlines American Jews are waking up to today.

First Read For Jan. 16

Jared Kushner as Mideast negotiator? Settler leaders at the inauguration. Muslim-Jewish ties in Toronto. Mideast water pact signed.

Jared Kushner. JTA
Jared Kushner. JTA

The change in the U.S. administration, and what it portends for the Middle East peace process, dominates the news at the start of the week, which will end on Friday with Donald Trump’s inauguration as the country’s 45th president. On Sunday, the Times of London started the chatter by confirming — sort of — rumors that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, would become the soon-to-be-president’s peace mediator.

In an interview with the British paper, following an international peace conference in Paris in which 70 nations — but no Israeli or Palestinian representatives — took part, Trump was asked what role Kushner will play in a Trump administration.

Answered Trump, “Oh, really . . . Ya know what, Jared is such a good kid and he’ll make a deal with Israel that no one else can — ya know he’s a natural, he’s a great deal, he’s a natural — ya know what I was talking about, natural — he’s a natural deal-maker — everyone likes him.”

Asked about his plan to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Trump said, “Well, I don’t want to comment on that, again, but we’ll see what happens.”

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As the number of Democratic members of Congress who will boycott Trump’s inauguration – angered by the president-elect’s criticism of Rep. John Lewis,  an icon of the civil rights movement — mounted, three leaders of Jewish communities on the West Bank indicated that they will attend the swearing-in, as Trump’s guests, the Jerusalem Post reported. According to the paper, the trio — Oded Revivi, Benny Kashriel and Yossi Dagan — said they received invitations through congressional contacts.
They see their trip to the U.S. capital “as a sign that the Trump administration will not follow in the anti-settlement footsteps of U.S. President Barack Obama,” the Post reported. “I think it is an indication that we are an important partner in any dialogue that is taking place or is going to take place about this region,” said Revivi, who is the Efrat Council head and the international liaison for the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria.
“loved Judea and Samaria.”

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In a unique act of Jewish-Muslim cooperation, a synagogue and a neighboring mosque in Thornhill, Ontario, a neighborhood of Toronto, are co-sponsoring a refugee family from Syria who arrived last week, according to the South African Jewish Report. Temple Har Zion and the Imam Mahdi Islamic Centre raised about $37,000 to bring the eight-member Elendari family, members of the Druze faith, to Canada.

Andrew Hazen, co-chair of the Temples’ refugee project, said the decided to team up with the mosque because they thought this was a good way to increase “collaboration and contact and demonstrate Canadian values in action.” The mosque, founded by Iranian-Canadian Muslims to promote the teaching of Islam, is “proud to have collaborated with its neighbour” it stated on its website. “We are hoping this project will be a starting point of more collaboration between Muslim and Jewish communities in Toronto and Canada.”

The shul and mosque’s support for the family will include helping them find housing, connect with English classes and other government services, the Report wrote.

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Peace between the Israeli and Palestinians appears no closer, but they are cooperating on one crucial matter – water.

The coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, and the Palestinian Authority (PA) official in charge of civil affairs, Hussein a-Sheikh, on Sunday signed an agreement to renew the activity of the Joint Water Committee, together with the heads of the Israeli and PA water authorities, Arutz Sheva reported.

The Joint Water Committee was created in 1995 as part of the Oslo Accords. Its purpose is to manage water and sewage related infrastructure in Judea and Samaria. Sunday’s agreement, according to a statement from the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, is intended to “establish a framework for the convening of the Joint Water Committee, so as improve and renew the water infrastructure in Judea and Samaria, a necessity for maintaining the standard of living for the populations in the area.”

Following the agreement, the Joint Water Committee will convene for the first time in six years to discuss the supply of additional water to the West Bank and Gaza. The agreement will enable the installation of new water, sewage, and wastewater pipelines.

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