News Roundup for April 21, 2021

April 21, 2021

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J Street in the News

J Street Conference Marks ‘A New Day in Washington’ for U.S.-Israel Relations, Haaretz
“J Street concluded their 12th annual conference on Monday, virtually hosting nearly 5,000 activists who listened to lawmakers, experts and activists discuss the current respective political moments in Israel and the United States, as well as the current state of the U.S.-Israel relationship. The event served as a sort of victory lap for the pro-Israel, left-wing organization, whose leadership and staff frequently reiterated how the conference marked “a new day in Washington.” The organization likely views this moment, with a Democratic Congressional majority and a Democrat-occupied White House, as their moment to mobilize their constituents and amplify the voices of their allies in Washington, who are newly empowered to change the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

Walter Mondale was a liberal icon who championed Israel, JTA
“Walter Mondale, the former vice president who represented a time in American history when being pro-Israel and progressive were often synonymous, has died at 93. […] The president of J Street, Jeremy Ben-Ami, was hosting the liberal pro-Israel group’s annual conference on Monday night and had just conferred a peacemaker award on Carter when he interrupted his remarks to note that Mondale had died. ‘On a night when we honored President Jimmy Carter for his many contributions to peace, we are very sad to learn of the passing of his Vice President, Walter Mondale,’ the group said on Twitter.”

Elizabeth Warren at J Street: Israeli opposition must stop infighting to oust Netanyahu, The Forward
“Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has poorly served Israel’s long-term strategic interests, sharply criticizing him for driving Israel to political crisis as a means to protect himself from criminal charges. ‘He has precipitated four stalemate elections in two years in his frenzied effort to immunize himself from well-documented charges of corruption,’ the Massachusetts senator told the J Street 2021 annual conference.”

At J Street conference, Mahmoud Abbas says he’s ready to ‘remove obstacles’ to relations with US, JTA
“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he was ready to “remove obstacles” to renewing U.S.-Israel ties, apparently signaling a willingness to stop the payments to the families of Palestinians who have killed Israelis that have proven to be a stumbling block. Speaking Sunday to J Street’s annual conference, Abbas also urged the participants of the liberal Middle East policy group’s forum to lobby Congress “to repeal all laws that block the road toward enhancing Palestinian-U.S. relations.” The current law designates the Palestine Liberation Organization as a terrorist group and bans direct aid to the Palestinians as long as payments are made to the families of Palestinians jailed in Israel for any terrorism-related offense.”

Daily Briefing Apr. 21 – TOI’s reporting brings alleged fraudsters to justice (podcast), Times of Israel
“J Street held its annual conference this week, hosting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as its keynote speaker as well as numerous high-profile Democrats. What do the speakers and their messages say about the left-wing group’s current direction?”

Top News and Analysis

Negotiators see signs of progress in Iran nuclear talks, AP
Diplomats working in Vienna on a solution to bringing the United States back into the nuclear deal with Iran and world powers are taking a break from talks to consult with their leaders amid continued signs of progress, Russia’s delegate said Tuesday. Mikhail Ulyanov said after a meeting of the deal’s so-called Joint Commission of senior officials with representatives from France, Germany, Britain, China and Iran that they had noted “with satisfaction of the progress in negotiations to restore the nuclear deal.”

Iran Rattled as Israel Repeatedly Strikes Key Targets, NYT
In less than nine months, an assassin on a motorbike fatally shot an Al Qaeda commander given refuge in Tehran, Iran’s chief nuclear scientist was machine-gunned on a country road, and two separate, mysterious explosions rocked a key Iranian nuclear facility in the desert, striking the heart of the country’s efforts to enrich uranium. The steady drumbeat of attacks, which intelligence officials said were carried out by Israel, highlighted the seeming ease with which Israeli intelligence was able to reach deep inside Iran’s borders and repeatedly strike its most heavily guarded targets, often with the help of turncoat Iranians.

Breaking the Israel-Palestine Status Quo, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
The Carnegie Endowment for Peace writes, “After decades of on-and-off negotiations and failed peace initiatives, it is time for a shift in U.S. policy toward Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. Jettisoning former president Donald Trump’s Peace to Prosperity plan is a vital step, but it will not be enough to move beyond the status quo. Instead of reviving a moribund peace process or simply abandoning U.S. engagement, President Joe Biden’s administration should place a rights-based approach at the center of its strategy.”


Top Iran official: Power fully restored at Natanz, enrichment renewed, Times of Israel
Power has been restored in Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility and uranium enrichment activities there have been renewed after a blast at the site earlier this month, the head of the country’s atomic agency said Tuesday.

Netanyahu admits Ra’am-backed government not an option, urges direct vote for PM, Times of Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said he sees no option of forming a government backed by the Islamist Ra’am, after the Arab Israeli party voted against his bloc Monday in a key Knesset vote. Rather, Netanyahu said the only options are Gideon Sa’ar reneging on his New Hope party’s central campaign promise not to join forces with the Likud leader, or holding special, one-off direct elections for prime minister, an idea floated — and criticized by many — in recent days.

Netanyahu Ally Gafni: If Likud Goes Into the Opposition, We’ll Follow, Haaretz
If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party goes into the opposition following the results of last month’s Knesset election, United Torah Judaism will go with it, its chairman Moshe Gafni, said on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Netanyahu called on Yamina leader Naftali Bennett to “announce by the evening whether he supports direct vote” for prime minister, a move floated by another Netanyahu ally, Shas’ Arye Dery, in a bid to resolve the ongoing political stalemate. Netanyahu arged “If Bennett wants a right-wing government,” he should support the initiative.

Florida university accused of fostering anti-Palestinian racism, 972 Magazine
Last June, a few days after Palestinian-American Ahmad Daraldik was selected as Florida State University’s (FSU) student senate president, he noticed an Instagram post authored by a fellow student. […] The Instagram post marked the beginning of a 10-month saga that saw Daraldik barraged with racist messages, denounced by his own school president, and removed from his presidential post — a stark example of how Palestinians in the public eye are treated by Israel advocates and university administrations.

Medication and medical staff shortages cause surge in Gaza covid deaths, The National
Record numbers of Palestinians are dying from coronavirus in Gaza, where doctors face a sharp increase in the number of critical patients and shortages of vital drugs. Gaza’s health ministry on Tuesday announced a daily coronavirus death toll of 21, after 16 deaths the previous day and a record 23 on Sunday. “The situation in the hospital is getting worse because of the large number of coronavirus cases and their critical condition,” said Dr Yousef Al Akad, general manager of the European Gaza Hospital in Khan Younis.

Opinion and Analysis

As Iran and the US move cautiously toward a deal, Israel needs a new approach, Times of Israel
Lazar Berman writes, “An eventual deal is likely because all sides want one, not least Iran. Israel’s apparent ongoing covert sabotage campaign against Iran’s nuclear program — which has scored some high-profile successes — is unlikely to halt the slow-moving train, and could antagonize a Biden administration that doesn’t appear especially friendly toward Israel under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

For a Seat at Biden’s Iran Table, Israel May Need a New Prime Minister, Haaretz
Alon Pinkas writes, “With negotiations underway in Vienna, Israel should strengthen its ties with the United States instead of picking fights. But under Netanyahu, Israel, not Iran, has become isolated on the nuclear issue.”

Hawks okay with Israeli attacks on Iran leading to all-out war, Responsible Statecraft
Matthew Petti writes, “A former advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Israeli actions against Iran may lead to a war that endangers civilian life, but supported that strategy over the Biden administration’s current diplomacy with Iran. Speaking at the Jewish Institute for National Security of America, retired major general Yaakov Amidror found a receptive audience of American hawks who believed the Biden administration needed to be saved from its own policy choices.”

Uncertainty About Palestinian Election Adds Fuel to Fire Flaring in Jerusalem, Haaretz
Amos Harel writes, “At a time when Israel’s strategic attention is focused on Iran and its politicians are devoting most of their waking hours to desperate survival tactics, a new and explosive Palestinian front is developing in Jerusalem. It’s a problem that has been impacted by several local incidents, Ramadan tensions, the influence of social media and right-wing Jewish activists. And in the background, a diplomatic crisis between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is brewing over whether voting in the PA’s upcoming election can take place in Jerusalem.”