News Roundup for April 27, 2021

April 27, 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

Israel is committing the crime of apartheid, new report says, Washington Post
“Israeli authorities are ‘committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution,’ according to a major new 213-page report released Tuesday by global advocacy group Human Rights Watch. The organization argued that, in terms framed by existing international law, overarching Israeli policy toward Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem constituted an agenda to both maintain Jewish Israeli domination and systematically oppress Palestinians […] The conversation around Israel is clearly, if slowly, shifting in the United States. ‘This new HRW report raises critical concerns that should deeply trouble both supporters of Israel and those who care about Palestinian rights,’ said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, a liberal pro-Israel advocacy organization in Washington that does not use the term ‘apartheid’ to describe the Israeli context. ‘The fact that the occupation inherently threatens Israel’s future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people and involves the systematic deprivation of Palestinian rights simply cannot be ignored,’ he told Today’s WorldView.”

How Trump and Bibi’s Special Bond Damaged the U.S.-Israel Alliance, The Daily Beast
David Rothkopf writes, “This week, J Street, the more progressive—which is to say humane and sensible—of the Washington organizations devoted to the U.S.-Israel relationship, held its annual meeting. Five thousand people were in virtual attendance. The turn-out and the quality of speakers—including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and legions of other top U.S. and Israeli political leaders—was a sign of the relative ascendancy of a group that not so long ago was seen as far less influential than the older, right-leaning America-Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC). No longer. With a Democrat in the White House and Democrats holding majorities in the Senate and House—and AIPAC having over recent years served as a platform for increasingly partisan, pro-GOP messages from Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies—J Street sent a clear message that it had arrived at a moment of influence unrivaled in its previous 14 years of existence.”

Top News and Analysis

Israel is committing the crime of apartheid, rights group says, The Guardian
Human Rights Watch has accused Israeli officials of committing the crimes of apartheid and persecution, claiming the government enforces an overarching policy to “maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians”. In a report released on Tuesday, the New York-based advocacy group became the first major international rights body to level such allegations. It said that after decades of warnings that an entrenched hold over Palestinian life could lead to apartheid, it had found that the “threshold” had been crossed. “This is the starkest finding Human Rights Watch has reached on Israeli conduct in the 30 years we’ve been documenting abuses on the ground there,” said Omar Shakir, the group’s Israel and Palestine director. Shakir said his organisation had never before directly accused Israeli officials of crimes against humanity.

Israel and Iran Are Pulling the United States Toward Conflict, Foreign Affairs
Daniel Kurtzer, Aaron Miller and Steven Simon write, “Israel and Iran aren’t yet on the verge of a major escalation or war, and continued progress on the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna would likely forestall one, if Israel judges that trying to undermine a deal would exact too great a cost in its relations with Washington. But the factors that might well produce a significant blowup are now aligning in frightening fashion.”


Palestinians to discuss delaying vote over Jerusalem dispute, AP
The Palestinian leadership will convene later this week to discuss whether to postpone next month’s elections if Israel does not allow voting in east Jerusalem, where days of violence have ratcheted up tensions. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said at a Cabinet meeting Monday that the leadership would discuss the elections on Thursday, when representatives of all the main factions are set to meet.

Netanyahu’s Party Scores Tactical Win as Challengers Admit ‘Difficulties’, Haaretz
An influential Knesset committee that could decide the fate of ongoing coalition talks, in the wake of Israel’s inconclusive March election, approved on Monday a proposal tabled by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party. Meanwhile, the leading contenders seeking to replace Netanyahu admitted “difficulties” over the past days in negotiations to form a so-called “pro-change” unity government.

GOP tears into Kerry amid Iran controversy, Politico
[Despite the GOP attacks, it is] unclear whether Kerry allegedly revealed the Israeli operations to Zarif before they were publicly reported by Israel itself in 2018. Kerry denied Zarif’s account in a tweet later Monday, writing: “I can tell you that this story and these allegations are unequivocally false. This never happened — either when I was Secretary of State or since.”

Spokesman: Israel to deport dozens of African Hebrews, AP
Dozens of members of a polygamous, vegan sect in Israel have received deportation orders from the government, the group’s spokesman said Monday, despite much of the community having received permanent residency under arrangements with Israel. The community, which numbers around 3,000 people, is comprised of Black Americans whose founders moved to Israel in the 1960s and believe they are descendants of an ancient Israelite tribe. Most live in the southern desert town of Dimona.

Israel said to warn Hamas of major retaliation if rocket fire continues, Times of Israel
Israel has reportedly sent a message to the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip, warning that if rocket fire from the enclave continues it will draw a major military response. Over the past three nights, terrorists in the Strip fired some 45 rockets at southern Israel, causing damage in several Israeli communities near the border. In response, the Israel Defense Forces conducted a limited number of airstrikes on sites controlled by Hamas, which rules the enclave, and barred Palestinians from fishing off the Gaza coast.

Senior Israeli delegation arrives in Washington amid Iran tension, The National
A senior Israeli delegation is due to arrive in Washington on Monday for talks on matters including opposition to the US returning to the nuclear deal with Iran and recent attacks on Iranian targets, which have been blamed on Israel. The delegation will include Mossad chief Yosef Cohen, head of military intelligence Tamir Hayman, and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, Israeli media reported.

UAE urges Israel to stop Jerusalem violence in rare rebuke, AP
The United Arab Emirates on Monday warned that any moves to change the historic identity of Jerusalem threaten peace, and called on Israel to put an end to violence following the latest clashes between Israelis and Palestinians in the city. The statement was a rare rebuke of Israel by the UAE, which has welcomed tens of thousands of Israeli tourists and signed a slew of deals to strengthen bilateral ties since the administration of President Donald Trump brokered a historic and surprise deal to normalize relations between the two countries some seven months ago. The UAE move laid the path for Bahrain and Sudan to also formalize ties with Israel.

Opinion and Analysis

For diplomacy to work, Iran must understand that it cannot overplay its hand, Washington Post
Dennis Ross writes, “If there was any doubt that Iran wants and needs sanctions relief, it was removed on April 11. Rather than using what seemed like Israeli sabotage at Natanz, Iran’s largest uranium enrichment site, as pretext to walk away from the talks in Vienna — as many argued they would — the Iranians remain engaged with the British, French, Germans, Russians and Chinese, who are acting as mediators between the Islamic republic and the United States. There was no disruption of the talks, aimed at bringing the United States and Iran back into compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).”

Israelis, Palestinians are headed for a collision without intervention, Jerusalem Post
Nitzan Alon, Avi Mitzrahi, and Gadi Shamni write, “It is no secret that the Middle East is not high on President Joe Biden’s list of strategic priorities. But the recent round of violence along the Israel-Gaza border and violent clashes between Israeli extremists and Palestinian residents of east Jerusalem, serve as reminders that our neck of the woods has a nasty habit of forcing itself on the American agenda. Left to their own devices, Israelis and Palestinians are on a collision course. The detonators are already visible. They include, in addition to the noted clashes in Jerusalem and militant Hamas policy, the humanitarian plight of the Gaza Strip and an associated endless cycle of violence along its border with Israel; the de facto West Bank annexation – once creeping, now galloping; the eroding popularity and governance capacity of the Palestinian Authority (PA); Israeli settler violence perpetrated against Palestinians; tensions surrounding Jerusalem’s holy sites, and more. Active US involvement is needed to arrest these trends and begin reversing the slide toward the tragedy of one state between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River – a recipe for endless conflict.”

Haaretz Editorial Board: Despite It All, Naftali Bennett, Haaretz
The Haaretz Editorial Board writes, “The talks to form a national unity government headed by Yamina Chairman Naftali Bennett, that would put an end to the toxic regime of Benjamin Netanyahu, are cause for optimism. No one in the center-left has any illusions about such a government: Bennett is a man of the right who is the leader of a right-wing party. His partner in leading the party, Ayelet Shaked, is a woman of the right. The other senior partners are also right-wingers. Gideon Sa’ar and his New Hope party are right-wing, and Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman is a man of the right. Nevertheless, we must hope that Bennett and Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid will succeed in their mission to enlist them all to a unity government.”

Direct election may work – but only after Netanyahu goes, Times of Israel
Dan Perry writes, “Benjamin Netanyahu’s credibility is at the point where I wouldn’t trust him to tell me the time of day. But even a broken clock is right on occasion. A case in point is the idea of reinstituting direct election for prime minister, which the spin machine is currently marketing as the solution to the country’s political crisis. […] I certainly do not support such a rule change in the middle of the game, and it seems anyway more plausible that a joint Naftali Bennett-Yair Lapid government will emerge in the coming days and weeks (alongside other possibilities). What I am saying is that such a government of opposites, which will have trouble agreeing on much, should consider the idea.”

Canceling the Palestinian Elections Is Patronizing, Unjust – and Dangerous, Haaretz
Muhammad Shehada writes, “No one really thought Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would set a date for general elections, after 15 years of indefinite procrastination. But his formal decree last January surprised and puzzled Palestinians and observers alike, not least when the big three threats to the status quo – Trump’s unconstrained assault on the Palestinian cause, Israel’s annexation and an Arab stampede on the Palestinians – have subsided, for now. And now it appears likely that Abbas is suffering from buyer’s regret so severely he is likely to call off the elections, propelled by considerations of power and ego, and backed by Israel and the Biden administration. But for Palestinians, denying their right to a democratic vote, silencing their ability to choose their representatives, this would be a patronizing, unjust and even dangerous decision.”