First Read For Feb. 15


D.C. Summit: Two States Dead or Alive?

All eyes are on Washington this morning as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Donald Trump meet at the White House. While a swirling controversy over contacts between members of the Trump campaign and Russians known to U.S. intelligence officials threatens to eclipse the meeting, a lot is riding on it. According to the Times of Israel, the White House announced late Tuesday that the two-state solution — long the centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy — may not be the framework to bring about peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The New York Times op-ed page today — with a pro-two-state-solution piece by Thomas Friedman, and a two-states-are-dead, it’s-time-for-one-state piece by settler leader Yishai Fleisher — puts into sharp relief this crucial moment as Trump and Netanyahu hit the reset button on the U.S.-Israel relationship. A press briefing with the two leaders is expected at noon.

David Friedman: Sorry for ‘Kapos’ Remark

David Friedman, President Donald Trump’s pick for ambassador to Israel, is set to apologize for derogatory comments about liberal Jews made last year during the presidential campaign, according to the Times of Israel.

Friedman, who is expected to issue the apology during his confirmation hearing on Thursday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), the senior Democrat on Committee, that he will express his regret for calling supporters of the liberal Jewish group J Street “worse than kapos,” in reference to Jews who aided Nazis during the Holocaust.

The Times cited an article in the New York Times.

Are BDS’ Days Numbered in Spain?

A recent court decision in a small Spanish city that annuls an anti-Israel boycott may impede the nationwide activities of the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement, the Jerusalem Post reports.

The court issued a resolution that annuls the boycott against Israel called by the city council of Xeraco, a town of some 6,000 inhabitants south of Valencia.

The Council last year passed a decision that committed itself to the BDS movement and declared the town as a “Free Space of Israeli Apartheid.”

A report that a special public attorney for hatred crimes has begun investigations to clarify if a local city council government incurred criminal responsibilities for incitement to hatred following its declared boycott of Israel will likely harm future BDS activities in Spain, said Angel Mas, president of the Spanish pro-Israel lobby ACOM.

A magistrate ruled that asking for statements on a controversial issue of foreign affairs is “inappropriate” for a city council, which is bound to “impartially serve the general interest of its neighbors, an area where is preeminent, the absence of coercion into the beliefs of others.”

Israel High on List of Pot Producers

Israel is at the center of a huge growth in worldwide production of cannabis “because of its well-developed ecosystem of cannabis researchers, farmers, entrepreneurs, pharma and government policies,” the website reports.

Israel is up to a decade ahead of most other countries in weed innovation, said Saul Kaye, a pharmacist and chief executive of iCAN: Israel-Cannabis venture fund. “You can’t put cannabis into a category. It’s not just pharma and it’s not just agro-tech. It’s not just lifestyle or recreational.”

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has a multidisciplinary center on cannabinoid research, Ariel University offers a course on the use of medical cannabis, and the Volcani Agricultural Research Organization is building a national institute for medical marijuana research.

Startup accelerator Cann10 hosts an annual International Medical Cannabis Conference and iCAN hosts the annual CannaTech cannabis innovation summit. The next summit is set for March 20-22 in Tel Aviv.

‘Punch a Zionist Today’

A student at McGill University in Montreal who tweeted “punch a zionist today” has expressed qualified regret, citing his own Jewish heritage, according to the Canadian Jewish News.

Following condemnation and calls for his resignation, Igor Sadikov, a member of the board of directors and legislative council of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), posted that phrase on his Twitter account, where it remained until Feb. 9, when B’nai Brith Canada issued denounced it as an incitement to violence.

The school’s administration indicated that it will take disciplinary action against Sadikov, whose tweet it termed “disturbing.”

Sadikov, a former news editor of the McGill student publication, responded on his Facebook page that he opposes Zionism “in the same way that I oppose colonization and dispossession in Canada, in the United States, and elsewhere in the world. Given my own Jewish heritage, I believe that we must continue to disentangle Jewish identity from Zionism. Finally, I do not condone nor advocate violence on the basis of membership in any identity group.”

Technion Scientists Devise Innovative Cancer Test

A group of researchers at Technion−Israel Institute of Technology and other institutions have reported that they can diagnose cancer from examining people’s breath, Fortune magazine reports.

The test is effective “with a modest level of specificity and sensitivity,” according to the magazine – the scientists have developed a device “that combines an array of carbon nanotubes and tiny gold particles that is able to sense electrochemical signals from tell-tale chemicals (known as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs) in human breath.”


Jewish Museum Slated for Lithianian Shtetl

The architects of Warsaw’s award-winning POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews will design a state of the art Jewish museum outside a former shtetl in Lithuania, JTA reports.

The museum, slated to open in 2019, will be part of the Lost Shtetl memorial complex inaugurated in 2015 in and around the small town of Šeduva. Sergey Kanovich, founder of the Šeduva Jewish Memorial Fund, said the museum will be designed by the Finnish company “Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects,” which designed POLIN.

Study: Fewer nicotine withdrawal problems for Orthodox smokers on Shabbat

While Orthodox Jews in Israel are as heavy smokers as other Israelis, they report fewer nicotine withdrawal pangs on Shabbat, when smoking is forbidden, than during the week, according to a new study conducted by several Israeli hospitals.

The findings, published in the Israel Medical Association Journal, show that “the percentage of religious smokers experiencing withdrawal symptoms on Shabbat morning after a night without cigarettes was significantly lower than on weekday mornings,” the Jerusalem Post reports.