News Roundup for April 23, 2021

April 23, 2021

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J Street in the News

The pro-Israel Iran dilemma: How to influence a policy that Biden has yet to unveil, JTA
“Several House Democrats will urge U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to use the various definitions of antisemitism at his disposal, Haaretz has learned. […] They are currently circulating the letter, which has been supported by Americans for Peace Now and J Street, to their colleagues encouraging them to sign on to the Blinken-addressed letter by Tuesday.”

House Democrats to Urge Blinken: Use All Antisemitism Definitions at Your Disposal, Haaretz
“Several House Democrats will urge U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to use the various definitions of antisemitism at his disposal, Haaretz has learned. […] They are currently circulating the letter, which has been supported by Americans for Peace Now and J Street, to their colleagues encouraging them to sign on to the Blinken-addressed letter by Tuesday.”

75% of House members back no conditions on aid to Israel, JTA
“More than three-quarters of House members oppose placing any conditions on aid to Israel, including some progressives from the Democratic Party’s left wing. […] The bill on increased oversight would restrict Israel from using U.S. money to incarcerate Palestinian minors, destroy Palestinian homes or annex parts of the West Bank. None of the 16 Democrats who sponsored the bill signed the letter. J Street, a liberal Jewish Middle East policy group, backs the bill. Dylan Williams, J Street’s senior vice president, said on Twitter that there is no contradiction between the letter and the bill. ‘The letter did not mention restricting aid at all,’ he said. ‘Many supporters of Israel are opposed to cutting or putting conditions on the provision of aid, while supporting end-use restrictions to ensure aid is used appropriately.’

Top News and Analysis

Israeli police arrest dozens in night of chaos in Jerusalem, AP
Israeli police say 44 people were arrested and 20 officers were wounded in a night of chaos in Jerusalem, where security forces separately clashed with Palestinians angry about Ramadan restrictions and Jewish extremists who held an anti-Arab march nearby. Tensions have spiked in recent days in Jerusalem, which has long been a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and is home to holy sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims. Residents braced for possible further unrest as police stepped up security and the U.S. Embassy appealed for calm.

US ‘deeply concerned’ over Jerusalem violence, doesn’t single out either side, Times of Israel
The US Embassy in Jerusalem on Friday issued a rare statement condemning the rising ethnic violence in the city, after major overnight rioting in which hundreds of far-right Jewish activists chanting “death to Arabs” confronted Palestinians protesting coronavirus restrictions at the Damascus Gate during Ramadan. The embassy statement — issued in English, Hebrew and Arabic — notably avoided singling out either side for the recent violence. “We are deeply concerned about the incidents of violence in Jerusalem over the last several days,” the embassy said. “We hope all responsible voices will promote an end to incitement, a return to calm, and respect for the safety and dignity of everyone in Jerusalem.”

On Iran and America, Israel Must Now Make Fateful Strategic Choices, Haaretz
Efraim Halevy, Ahaaron Zeevi Farkash, and Chuck Freilich, three former Israeli national security agency leaders, write, “Israel stands today at a strategic crossroads, before two interrelated decisions of critical importance: Iran, and our relationship with the United States. The U.S. is determined to return to the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement and, apparently, so too is Iran. Barring any some major surprise, this is probably a done deal. In these circumstances, as former heads of Israel’s national security and intelligence agencies, we recommend that Israel adopt, now, a comprehensive policy towards Iran based on these seven components.”


Israeli officials will object to restoration of Iran deal in D.C. visit, Axios
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed the delegation traveling to Washington, D.C. next week for strategic talks on Iran to stress their objection to a U.S. return to the 2015 nuclear deal and to refuse to discuss its contents, Israeli officials say.

Israel attacks targets in Syria after rocket fire, DW
A Syrian anti-aircraft missile landed in southern Israel, the Israeli military said early Thursday. In response it launched an air strike at the battery that launched the missile and other surface-to-air batteries in neighboring Syria. It marked one of the most serious incidents of violence between Israel and Syria in years. However, Israeli media later described the Syrian missile as an “errant” projectile, not a deliberate attack deep inside Israel.

IDF chief to make first US visit next week to discuss Iran, Hezbollah, Times of Israel
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi will travel to the United States on Sunday to discuss the threat of Iran’s nuclear program and its entrenchment throughout the region, the military said Friday. Kohavi’s trip — his first since entering his position — comes amid considerable tensions between the United States and Israel over the Iran nuclear issue. US President Joe Biden’s administration intends to return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, a move that Israeli officials, including Kohavi, staunchly and publicly oppose.

Progressive U.S. Lawmaker: ‘We Need to Be Able to See What’s Happening in Gaza’, Haaretz
Rep. Mark Pocan, one of the most vocal supporters of Palestinian rights in Congress, called on the Israeli government on Wednesday to immediately allow U.S. lawmakers entry into the Gaza Strip. The Wisconsin Democrat told a webinar for Americans for Peace Now, a nonprofit whose stated aim is to help find a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that he is particularly concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Strip. He described the coastal enclave as an “open-air prison,” and lamented the conditions he says are radicalizing Gazan residents.

Conservatives are more likely than liberals to hold anti-Semitic views, survey finds, JTA
Is anti-Semitism more of a problem on the left or the right? Should Jews concentrate their energy on combating the far right? Or should they focus on fighting anti-Israel bias on campus? How do questions of race relations in the United States play into anti-Jewish bigotry? As anti-Semitism has risen in the United States in recent years, these questions have preoccupied and divided Jewish leaders, activists and journalists, along with ordinary American Jews struggling to understand a country that may feel less safe than it once was. Now a survey of American adults, published this week, hopes to answer those questions with data. And the results, according to the two academics who authored it, are clear: Conservatives are more likely to hold anti-Semitic attitudes than liberals, with young conservatives being the most likely to believe stereotypes about Jews.

Opinion and Analysis

Young Palestinians are fed up with their leaders. Can elections bring change?, 972 Magazine
Henrietta Chacar writes, “This summer, Palestinians in the occupied territories are set to vote in parliamentary and presidential elections for the first time in 15 years. Osta, 30, is running as the head of Nabd al-Balad (“the pulse of the country” in Arabic), an independent list seeking to represent Palestinian youth and their interests. […] half of those eligible to vote this year are between the ages of 18 and 33 and have never cast a ballot in national elections before. Despite polls showing they are the most disillusioned age group in Palestinian society, many youth seem hopeful about the elections — though not without skepticism.”

Jerusalem Violence Raises Specter of Return to Lone Wolf Attacks, Both Jewish and Palestinian, Haaretz
Nir Hasson and Josh Breiner write, “Jerusalem is united this morning. United in its stench and feeling of hatred and fear. The two major squares of the city, Zion Square and the Damascus Gate plaza, reek of the skunk water used by the police. Both are spotted with piles of police cavalry dung. Civilians in both halves of the city are scared, and just like in the bad old days, they are planning their routes from place to place based on where the other side’s thugs may be lying in wait for an ambush. The fragile fabric of relations between the two parts of the capital has been torn apart again.”

Halting Palestine’s Democratic Decline, Carnegie Europe
Beth Oppenheim writes, “‘Palestinians will not accept dictatorship. People want to be free,’ one Palestinian adviser on the conflict with Israel said in March.1 But since the last Palestinian parliamentary election in 2006, Palestine’s nascent democracy has been slowly squeezed by Israeli occupation and increasingly authoritarian Palestinian leaders. Now, fifteen years later, President Mahmoud Abbas has finally scheduled parliamentary and presidential elections. Rumors abound as to whether they will materialize. Ninety-three percent of eligible voters across Gaza and the West Bank have registered—of which roughly half (ages eighteen to thirty-three) have never voted. For some Palestinians, it is a moment of hope; for the EU, it is a moment of sobriety.