News Roundup for April 1, 2021

April 1, 2021

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J Street works to promote an open, honest and rigorous conversation about Israel. The opinions reflected in articles posted in the News Roundup do not necessarily reflect J Street’s positions, and their posting does not constitute an endorsement from J Street.

Top News and Analysis

Progressive Dems: Biden needs to move first on Iran nuclear deal, Responsible Statecraft
Two progressive Democratic members of Congress argued on a Wednesday panel that the United States needs to make the first move in returning to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Sen. Chris Murphy (D–Conn.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D–Calif.) called for a more proactive U.S. stance towards the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action at a video event hosted by the National Iranian American Council and several other pro-diplomacy groups. “It was a disappointing start when it comes to Iran policy from this administration,” Khanna said. “We have to try to get back into the JCPOA by getting back into the JCPOA, not playing a game of chicken.” He suggested that State Department Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley has had his hands tied by other factions in the administration. “I know Rob Malley understands this, I know he is qualified to do this, so I wonder where the roadblocks are,” Khanna added.

Israel’s Shadow War With Iran Moves Out to Sea, New York Times
Since 2019, Israel has been attacking ships carrying Iranian oil and weapons through the eastern Mediterranean and Red Seas, opening a new maritime front in a regional shadow war that had previously played out by land and in the air. Iran appears to have quietly responded with its own clandestine attacks. The latest came on Thursday afternoon, when an Israeli-owned container ship, the Lori, was hit by an Iranian missile in the Arabian Sea, an Israeli official said. No casualties or significant damage were reported.

Imprisoned Palestinian leader’s entry shakes up planned vote, AP
A popular Palestinian leader imprisoned by Israel has registered his own parliamentary list in May elections, his supporters said Wednesday, in a last-minute shakeup that could severely weaken President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party and help its militant Hamas rivals. Marwan Barghouti’s wife, Fadwa, registered the list hours before the deadline set by the election commission. Polls indicate it would split the vote for Fatah, potentially paving the way for another major victory by Hamas. That increases the likelihood that Abbas will find a way to call off the first Palestinian elections in 15 years.


Efforts to Restore Iran Deal Remain Stalled, Arms Control Today
More than two months following the inauguration of President Joe Biden, the United States and Iran remain deadlocked over the process of restoring the 2015 nuclear deal. In recent weeks, however, the Biden administration appears to be signaling that it is willing to take a more flexible approach to coordinate the steps necessary for Washington and Tehran to return to compliance with the accord. In a March 17 interview with BBC Persian, Robert Malley, the president’s special envoy for Iran, said that the United States is willing to talk in “whatever format the Iranian government is comfortable with.”

Iran’s Rouhani: ‘We have to pursue negotiations daily’ , Al-Monitor
The comments above are a sign Rouhani is gently and publicly pushing Khamenei to permit Iran’s nuclear negotiators to hold talks with the United States. Rouhani would like to seal his legacy before the presidential elections this summer. A US return to the deal and the removal of sanctions would establish Rouhani as the person who not only negotiated the nuclear deal but was able to finally get the crippling sanctions off Iran. So far, however, Khamenei, who has final say on state matters, has shown little inclination to hurry.  

Report: Shin Bet Chief Demanded President Abbas Cancel the Palestinian Elections, Haaretz
The head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service visited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in early March in a bid to get him to cancel the upcoming Palestinian parliamentary elections, Kan public broadcaster reported on Wednesday.

Abbas said to tell Shin Bet head he won’t call off elections: ‘You built Hamas’, Times of Israel
When the head of the Shin Bet security agency recently urged Mahmoud Abbas to scrap the upcoming elections for the Palestinian parliament if Hamas takes part, the Palestinian Authority president retorted that Israel was responsible for the strength of the terror group, the Kan public broadcaster reported Wednesday. “I do not work for you, I will decide if there will be an election and with whom. You built Hamas, not me,” Abbas reportedly told Nadav Argaman during the meeting.

Meet the anti-LGBTQ Lawmaker-elect Who May Help Form Netanyahu’s Coalition, Haaretz
Noam sees itself as a champion of Jewish, national and religious values. It raises the banner of “Jewish identity,” “family values” and fights against what they call “post-modernism.” While all of which could sound reasonable, in practice, Noam’s representatives have emphasized time and again their opposition to LGBTQ and Reform Jews’ rights, as well as their will to reform the judiciary system.

Joint List’s Odeh and Tibi meet with Lapid, say they could back him for PM, Times of Israel
In a statement, Yesh Atid said Lapid met with Odeh and Tibi, and the three “discussed ways to form a new government that will prevent [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, [far-right Religious Zionism’s Itamar] Ben Gvir and [Bezalel] Smotrich forming a government.”

Lapid in Talks With Bennett, but Fears a Last-minute Escape Into Netanyahu’s Arms, Haaretz
Eight days after the March 23 election, the anti-Netanyahu bloc is still unable to agree on arrangements that would let it assume power. Yesh Atid’s Lapid is trying to secure more votes than Netanyahu of lawmakers who would recommend him to the president to form the next government, but New Hope chairman Gideon Sa’ar is convinced that replacing Netanyahu won’t be possible unless Yamina head Bennett is the bloc’s candidate for prime minister.

Netanyahu set to appear in court Monday after prosecution insists, Times of Israel
Prosecutors told the Jerusalem District Court on Thursday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should attend the court hearings beginning next week in his corruption trial.

Opinion and Analysis

No, really: Divided Israel awaits Islamic MK’s speech to set its political fate, Times of Israel
David Horovitz writes, “Mansour Abbas, leader of the Ra’am party, who split away from the rest of the Joint List alliance of Arab parties ahead of these elections and won four seats, is set to deliver a speech at primetime on Thursday evening in which he may or may not detail his party’s attitude to the State of Israel, and may or may not specify his demands for supporting one or other of Israel’s would-be prime ministers.”

Four Good Things to Say About Israel After the Election, Haaretz
Eric Yoffie writes, “My relatives and friends, utterly befuddled like most American Jews by the fourth Israeli election in two years, wanted to know many things: What did the results mean? Who would form the next government? Would there be another election? Had Israel’s system of governance imploded? And their other question, stated or implied, was: Amidst the political chaos now reigning there, is there anything positive and optimistic that you can share with me about Israel?”