News Roundup for April 14, 2021

April 14, 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.

J Street in the News

New Letter Shows Majority of Dems Continue to Back Biden Admin’s ‘Compliance for Compliance’ Approach to Jcpoa Reentry, J Street
“J Street welcomes a new letter, signed by a majority of the Senate Democratic Caucus, supporting the Biden administration’s commitment to urgently seek a mutual return by both the US and Iran to full compliance with the terms of the JCPOA nuclear agreement. Led by Senators Tim Kaine and Chris Murphy, the 27 Senators who signed this letter to President Biden state that they ‘strongly support returning to the JCPOA and using a ‘compliance for compliance’ approach as a starting point to reset U.S. relations with Iran. Should Iran be willing to return to compliance with the limitations set by the JCPOA, the United States should be willing to rejoin the deal and provide the sanctions relief required under the agreement.’ Like the administration, they also support building on a return to JCPOA compliance with subsequent diplomatic engagement to help extend key provisions of the agreement and address other concerning Iranian actions.”

Top News and Analysis

More than two dozen Senate Democrats sign letter backing Iran deal re-entry along 2015 terms, Jewish Insider
Twenty-six Senate Democrats, led by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Tim Kaine (D-VA), signed onto a letter sent Tuesday to President Joe Biden urging him to quickly re-enter the Iran nuclear deal as it stood in 2015. The letter, which endorses the Biden administration’s “compliance for compliance” approach, supports lifting U.S. sanctions on Iran in line with the 2015 agreement if both sides come back into compliance.

Iran plans major jump in uranium enrichment after Natanz nuclear site attack, Washington Post
Iran will begin enriching uranium to 60 percent purity, a top official said Tuesday, far exceeding its current level, in a defiant move following an attack on one of its key nuclear sites, Iranian news agencies reported. Iran’s state-run Press TV quoted Iran’s lead nuclear negotiator, Abbas Araghchi, as saying the country informed the International Atomic Energy Agency of plans to start 60 percent uranium enrichment. The announcement puts Iran closer to weapons-grade levels of more than 90 percent enrichment and exceeds its current top level of 20 percent. The move adds another major hurdle to negotiations to revive a 2015 nuclear deal negotiated between Iran and six world powers.

Trump-era spike in Israeli settlement growth has only begun, AP
An aggressive Israeli settlement spree during the Trump era pushed deeper than ever into the occupied West Bank — territory the Palestinians seek for a state — with over 9,000 homes built and thousands more in the pipeline, an AP investigation showed. If left unchallenged by the Biden administration, the construction boom could make fading hopes for an internationally backed two-state solution — Palestine alongside Israel — even more elusive.


Democrats back up Biden bid to return to Iran nuclear deal, The Hill
The Democrats, led by Sens. Tim Kaine (Va.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, and Chris Murphy (Conn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism, panned then-President Trump’s 2018 decision to withdraw the U.S. from the agreement, which led Iran to increase enrichment of its uranium beyond the limits set forth in the deal.

Senate confirms Iran deal negotiator Wendy Sherman as deputy secretary of state, Times of Israel
The US Senate on Tuesday confirmed the nomination Wendy Sherman, a chief US negotiator for the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, as deputy secretary of state. Sherman’s nomination to become Anthony Blinken’s number two passed by a vote of 56-42 and comes at a time of heightened tensions between Israel and Iran, and renewed talks between Washington and Tehran to reenter the nuclear deal.

Israeli Officials Warn Iran Leaks ‘Will Blow up in Our Face’, Haaretz
A recent series of reports attributing a number of attacks on Iranian targets to Israel has security officials concerned, as well as suspicious that there are political officials who want to exploit tensions with Iran for personal needs and competition for prestige among different security agencies. The most recent reports, which quoted anonymous Israeli and U.S. officials as saying that Israel was behind an incident at Iran’s uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, have made some officials worried that the problem could lead to an unwanted increase in security tensions.

Israeli-Owned Ship Said Attacked Off UAE Coast Amid Sky-High Tensions With Iran, Times of Israel
An Israeli-owned ship reportedly came under missile fire on Tuesday near the United Arab Emirates, in the third attack of its kind in months. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the strike, but officials in Jerusalem believe Iran is responsible, according to Hebrew media reports.

Israel to allow vaccinated tour groups starting in May, JTA
Israel will be reopening its gates to fully vaccinated tour groups on May 23. The Jewish state hopes to allow individual vaccinated tourists by early July, a source in its Tourism Ministry told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Israel has vaccinated most of its own population, and largely reopened public and recreational spaces, while seeing the number of COVID cases plummet.

Ahead of Palestinian elections, West Bank homes of 2 candidates hit by gunfire, Times of Israel
Tensions in the West Bank city of Hebron have risen over the past two days, with the homes of two local politicians sprayed with bullets ahead of the Palestinian legislative elections in May. Armed gunmen allegedly opened fire on the home and office of parliamentary candidate Hatem Shaheen early on Monday morning. Shaheen, a lawyer, is currently running on a list sponsored by former Fatah security chief Mohammad Dahlan.

Russian top diplomat says Moscow ‘expects’ Iran nuclear deal to be saved, DW
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday said Moscow expected the Iranian nuclear deal to be saved and condemned EU sanctions against Iran, saying they could undermine ongoing nuclear talks. ‘We expect that it will be possible to preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),’ Lavrov said, referring to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal after talks with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in Tehran.

Israel comes to a standstill to remember 23,928 fallen, Times of Israel
Country plunges into mourning as sirens mark start of Memorial Day; 43 soldiers and civilians killed since last year; Rivlin entreats nation: Israel must not be ‘taken for granted’

Rockets Began Falling in This Israeli City 20 Years Ago. This Is the Story of the First Fatality, Haaretz
Mordechai Yosepov, the first person to be killed by a Qassam rocket fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip, barely knew Hebrew. He had immigrated to Israel from Uzbekistan in the early 1990s and found work at a factory in Sderot, near the Gaza border. He was killed on June 28, 2004 when a rocket that landed near a kindergarten in the town exploded.

Opinion and Analysis

Israel plays spoiler in Biden’s Iran gambit, Washington Post
Ishaan Tharoor writes, “Iranian officials allege Israel was behind a Sunday attack at the key Natanz nuclear facility, which, according to reports, led to a fire and blackout that damaged centrifuges used to enrich uranium. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the breach was an act of ‘terrorist stupidity’ that would only ‘strengthen’ Iran’s hand in ongoing indirect talks in Vienna with the United States and its European partners on restoring both Iranian and American commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal.”

Netanyahu Is Playing With Fire in Iran, Haaretz
Yossi Melman writes, “The attack on the Republican Guards’ spy ship in the Red Sea and sabotage of the Natanz uranium enrichment site are both attributed to Israeli intelligence, and, taken with the leaks about these attacks – it shows that Israel, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is playing with fire. Official Iranian spokesmen vow that Iran will respond. Based on precedent, they can be believed. There is no question that they will seek reprisal against Israel, even if success is not assured.”

Diplomatic gridlock only sure bet for Israel’s next government, Al-Monitor
Mazal Mualem writes, “It’s been three weeks since the March 23 election and Israelis are still waiting to find out who will lead the next government, what parties will make up the new coalition and even if a coalition can be formed.And yet despite all the open questions, the fate of negotiations with the Palestinians is becoming increasingly clear. It can already be assumed that the diplomatic deadlock will continue. In each of three likely possibilities, the next prime minister will be a candidate from the right, with a right-wing worldview and a strong commitment to the settlers.”

Israel Is Walking Straight Into an Iran Crisis With Eyes Wide Open, Haaretz
Amos Harel writes, “Most of the people who brought us an unnecessary, preventable war in the Gaza Strip in summer 2014, 51 days with no victory, are also involved in what’s happening today – a steady, dangerous slide toward the possibility of an even worse military conflict with Iran.”

Yom Hazikaron: A Moment of Pain, Resolve and Resolution, J Street
J Street’s Nadav Tamir writes, “A long time ago, I realized that the best way to honor those we have lost to the cycle of violence and conflict is to commit ourselves to ending it. To work toward peace, and a future in which the pain we feel does not have to be felt by others. That’s why I’ll also be attending the annual, joint memorial ceremony for both Israelis and Palestinians lost to the conflict.”