News Roundup for April 15, 2021

April 13, 2021

Receive the roundup in your inbox every morning!

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

Rep. Betty Mccollum Leads Effort To Block Israel From Using U.S. Aid To Destroy Palestinian Homes, The Intercept
“These developments have also pushed groups closer to the Democratic mainstream to advocate for restrictions on how U.S. aid can be used by Israel. J Street, a liberal group that supports U.S. aid to Israel but opposes Israel’s military occupation, is backing McCollum’s bill — the first time the group backs one of her efforts to ensure that U.S. military aid to Israel comes with strings attached. In addition to encouraging congressional support for McCollum’s bill, the group, whose annual conference will begin on April 18, will lobby members of Congress to introduce language to the foreign appropriations bill to restrict U.S. military aid from furthering policies of annexation or the exercise of permanent military control over a territory under occupation. While J Street’s language does not single out Israel, the group sees it as prohibiting U.S. aid from supporting those Israeli actions.”

J Street and Americans for Peace Now back bill that restricts Israeli spending of US aid, JTA
“Two liberal pro-Israel groups, J Street and Americans for Peace Now, are backing a House bill to be presented this week that would list actions Israel may not fund with U.S. money […] The endorsement by two groups that describe themselves as pro-Israel and McCollum’s new seniority as the chairwoman of the defense subcommittee of the powerful Appropriations Committee suggest that the bill could attract broader Democratic support than previous attempts to restrict how Israel spends U.S. assistance. Americans for Peace Now is a member of the umbrella Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.”

Progressive lawmaker to introduce bill seeking more oversight of Israel assistance, The Hill
“Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) is expected to introduce legislation to exercise increased oversight of American assistance to Israel, as part of efforts to ensure no U.S. tax dollars contribute to alleged civil and human rights abuses against Palestinians. The draft legislation is expected to gain the backing of J Street, the left-leaning progressive pro-Israel group, which has long called for more oversight of such U.S. assistance but had withheld support of McCollum’s earlier bill proposals […] The draft legislation is expected to gain the backing of J Street, the left-leaning progressive pro-Israel group, which has long called for more oversight of such U.S. assistance but had withheld support of McCollum’s earlier bill proposals.”

Insights about the image of Israel, Times of Israel
J Street’s Nadav Tamir writes, “‘Israel is always losing the battle on global public opinion to its enemies, if they only understood the truth, they would change their mind.’ That was what I kept hearing. It had been an axiom that most Israelis and Jewish activists for Israel regarded as a solid fact. The repetitive claim was that our narrative was not effectively presented. Meanwhile the Palestinians were using their ‘underdog’ status to delegitimize Israel. The assumption was and still is, that Israel’s main challenges have to do with the perception rather than our policies. This is also the storyline I have been hearing during my first post abroad as a political officer at Israel’s Embassy in Washington DC (1997-2001), but what I witnessed professionally was very different. The reality I discovered was Israel had much more influence and accessibility to the American Administration and to Congress than any other foreign embassy.”

Group that ‘elevated white supremacist voices’ should remain on Boston Jewish council for now, internal report says, JTA
“Seven months after being asked to kick out a group over allegations of racism, the board of directors of Boston’s leading Jewish coalition has come to a conclusion: Yes, the group’s president ‘elevated white supremacist voices’ — but it shouldn’t be ejected…25 members of the JCRC council in Boston filed a petition saying that the local chapter of Klein’s organization should be removed from the council for undermining the JCRC mission statement, which speaks of promoting democracy, pluralism and justice. The signatories were a mix of local organizations and affiliates of national mainstream and left-wing groups including Keshet, Hillel and the liberal pro-Israel lobby J Street.”

Top News and Analysis

Iran almost ready to start enriching uranium to 60% purity – IAEA, Reuters
Iran is almost ready to start enriching uranium to 60% purity at an above-ground plant at Natanz and plans to add 1,024 first-generation IR-1 centrifuges to an underground plant Tehran says was hit by sabotage, the U.N. atomic watchdog said on Wednesday. Iran has said it will enrich uranium to 60% – a big step closer to the 90% that is weapons-grade from the 20% maximum it has reached so far – in response to what it says was an act of sabotage by Israel against the underground plant.

Israeli settler attacks on Palestinians spike to 210 so far this year, says UN, The National
UN investigators on Wednesday warned of a spike in attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank in recent months, saying the aggressors too often eluded justice. Michael Lynk and other UN human rights experts described 771 such attacks by Israeli settlers last year and more than 210 recorded incidents in the first three months of this year, including one that left a Palestinian dead.

European nations warn that Iran’s increased uranium enrichment fulfills no ‘credible’ civilian purpose, Washington Post
A group of European nations on Wednesday called Iran’s plans to increase uranium enrichment to 60 percent purity “regrettable” and warned that enrichment at that level, using advanced centrifuges, had no “credible” civilian purpose. The joint statement — by Germany, France and Britain, which are among the signatories to the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers — also warned that Iran’s actions could complicate diplomatic efforts to revive the deal, which languished after the United States withdrew from the accord three years ago under the Trump administration.


Iran’s supreme leader: Vienna offers ‘not worth looking at’, AP
Iran’s supreme leader on Wednesday dismissed initial offers at talks in Vienna to save Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal as “not worth looking at,” attempting to pressure world powers after an attack on the country’s main nuclear enrichment site. The comments by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all matters of state in the Islamic Republic, came after a day that saw Iran’s president similarly ratchet up pressure over the accord.

The Israel Prize Is Meant to Unify. More Often, It’s Mired in Controversy, New York Times
The latest ruckus goes to the heart of the political divides and culture wars rocking the country’s liberal democratic foundations even as it remains lodged in a two-year leadership crisis.

US Secretary of State: Israel’s group of friends to grow wider in years ahead, Times of Israel
In an Independence Day message to Israelis on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that he expects more countries to normalize ties with the Jewish state in the coming years. Blinken lauded the normalization deals Israel struck in the past year, naming Morocco and the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan in particular.

On Memorial Day, Dozens Protest in Solidarity With Israeli Army Vet Who Set Himself on Fire, Haaretz
Dozens of people, including disabled Israeli military veterans and those with post-traumatic stress disorder, demonstrated on Wednesday in front of Defense Ministry’s rehabilitation clinic in central Israel, where a disabled veteran set himself on fire on Monday, protesting a lack of support from the ministry in vets’ rehabilitation. The demonstrators called on the ministry to “stop burying” those suffering from PTSD, holding up signs reading, “We are all Itzik Saidian,” referring to the 26-years-old veteran, who remains hospitalized in critical condition with extensive burns.

Biden Faces Tangle Of Sanctions In Talks With Iran, Barron’s
Reviving the Iran nuclear deal would seem like a simple task for US President Joe Biden. Iran wants him to lift sanctions in exchange for Tehran’s return to compliance. But as Iran and the United States resume indirect talks in Vienna led by the European Union, the Biden administration faces the question of which sanctions exactly are on the table.

KKL-JNF board members say move to buy West Bank land illegal, demand it halted, Times of Israel
Representatives of the Reform and Conservative movements on the Jewish National Fund’s board demanded the organization suspend its push to purchase land in the West Bank on Tuesday. The management of the Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) approved a policy change on Sunday that would permit it to buy the West Bank lands, including areas with isolated settlements. The decision is still subject to the approval of the full board.

Opinion and Analysis

The Iran Nuclear Deal, Bloomberg
Jonathan Tirone writes, “After the U.S. under President Donald Trump withdrew from the pact and reinstated sanctions in 2018, Iran began violating the deal’s restrictions and, in early 2020, said it would no longer observe limits on the amount of nuclear material it produces. President Joe Biden, who replaced Trump in 2021, has said he would return the U.S. to the deal if Iran resumes complying with it, a condition Iran says it will only agree to after sanctions have been lifted.”

What are the Iran nuclear talks all about?, AP
David Rising writes, “U.S. President Joe Biden has said that he wants to rejoin the deal, but that Iran must reverse its violations. The European Union called the talks in the hopes of doing just that. Though an American delegation is present in Vienna, they are not meeting directly with Iran. Instead, diplomats from the other countries shuttle back and forth between the two sides. Heading into the talks as they started last week, Iran said it was willing to return to full compliance with the deal, but that the U.S. would first have to drop all of the sanctions imposed under Trump.”

What we know about the Natanz nuclear site attack, Washington Post
Iranian authorities on Monday blamed Israel for an electrical blackout over the weekend at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility — which left some older centrifuges damaged — calling the apparent cyber attack “nuclear terrorism” and vowing revenge. Israeli public broadcaster Kan reported Sunday that Israel was behind the attack. The incident, which comes after a years-long series of Israeli efforts to undermine Iran’s nuclear program by a variety of means, marks yet another escalation in hostilities in the region as world powers attempt to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, with U.S. and Iranian negotiators holding indirect talks in Vienna in recent days.

Nuclear chutzpah in the Middle East, Al Jazeera
Marwan Bishara writes, “Considering that the latest attacks constitute a dangerous escalation, Washington’s silence is deafening. The Biden administration has chosen to simply distance itself from the incident, as if it were a mere spectator, raising doubts about its commitment to replace the irresponsible policies of its predecessor with meaningful diplomacy.”