News Roundup for April 29, 2021

April 29, 2021

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J Street in the News

Human Rights Watch says Israel has crossed ‘apartheid’ threshold, JTA
“A report by Human Rights Watch says that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza has crossed the threshold into apartheid and recommends far-reaching punitive measures, including prosecutions for crimes against humanity. […] The president of J Street, a liberal pro-Israel group, said his organization would not use the apartheid term, but called on other Jewish groups to refrain from “defaming” those who do use it. ‘While we do not ourselves use the term “apartheid” to describe the current situation in the occupied territories, we believe it’s deeply wrong and harmful to defame scholars, activists and political leaders who use it themselves,’ Jeremy Ben-Ami said.”

Israel must recognize Armenian Genocide, not monopolize ours – opinion, Jerusalem Post
J Street’s Nadav Tamir writes, “Showing how Israel remembers not only the non-Jews who saved the Jews but also those who save a fellow human from destruction would be a great moral operation worthy of a great people, a great culture and a great country. The first step in this direction should be recognizing the Armenian Genocide and other genocides and stop monopolizing these kinds of large-scale human tragedies.”

Why Biden’s attempt to return to the nuclear deal with Iran is not causing alarm … yet, The Forward
Jacob Kornbluh writes, “If an alternative government is formed in the coming weeks, anyone replacing Netanyahu will seek to avoid confrontation with the U.S. administration. However, if the deadlock continues, mainstream Jewish groups will be more reluctant to take part in a campaign led by an embattled prime minister — assuming he is still in power — who has alienated the Democratic Party. Looking back, Netanyahu and his supporters’ aggressive opposition to the 2015 deal didn’t achieve its goal. As one leader, speaking on the condition of anonymity, put it: ‘Their teeth were sharper than in reality.’ Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, noted that not a single member of the Senate or the House who voted for the Iran deal lost their seats in the 2016 elections. Another Jewish Democrat added that ‘there is not one person in Congress that would have voted yes and voted no because of what Bibi did, and there are people who would have voted no but voted yes because of what Bibi did.’”

J Street Dismayed by Vitriolic Attacks on New Human Rights Watch Report, J Street
“We are deeply dismayed by the vitriolic response of some Jewish communal and pro-Israel organizations to the new report by Human Rights Watch titled ‘A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution.’ While J Street does not use the term ‘apartheid’ to describe the current situation in the occupied territories, we believe this new report raises critical concerns that should deeply trouble both supporters of Israel and those who care about Palestinian rights.”

Top News and Analysis

US eyes major rollback in Iran sanctions to revive nuke deal, AP
The Biden administration is considering a near wholesale rollback of some of the most stringent Trump-era sanctions imposed on Iran in a bid to get the Islamic Republic to return to compliance with a landmark 2015 nuclear accord, according to current and former U.S. officials and others familiar with the matter. As indirect talks continue this week in Vienna to explore the possibility of reviving the nuclear deal, American officials have become increasingly expansive about what they might be prepared to offer Iran, which has been driving a hard line on sanctions relief, demanding that all U.S. penalties be removed, according to these people.

U.S. and Israel seek to “fence off” Iran deal dispute from other issues, Axios
Israel and the U.S. want to fence their disagreements over the 2015 nuclear deal off from cooperation on other Iran-related issues, a senior Israeli official told me following talks on Tuesday in Washington between White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and his Israeli counterpart, Meir Ben Shabbat.


Senate confirms Colin Kahl, a shaper of Iran nuclear deal, to senior defense post over objections by some pro-Israel groups, JTA
The Senate confirmed Colin Kahl to be undersecretary of defense for policy, a Biden nomination that survived a fierce challenge from the pro-Israel right, which targeted Kahl for his role in shaping the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Kahl was confirmed 49-45 in Tuesday’s vote along party lines.

Palestinian president Abbas expected to delay elections, blame Israel, Axios
“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to announce on Thursday that he is postponing the May 22 parliamentary elections, citing alleged Israeli obstruction, Palestinian and Israeli officials say.”

U.S. and Israel have a policy of ‘no surprises,’ says Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, NBC News
The United States and Israel disagree about reviving the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran but have an understanding to ensure there are “no surprises” between the two governments, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told NBC News. In an interview with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Sullivan indirectly addressed allegations that Israel was behind a recent cyberattack on an underground Iranian nuclear facility in Natanz.

US disagrees with rights group’s accusation that Israel committing ‘apartheid’, Times of Israel
The United States voices disagreement with Human Rights Watch’s allegation that Israel is committing “apartheid” against the Palestinians but says it is committed to condemning abuses. “It is not the view of this administration that Israel’s actions constitute apartheid,” a State Department spokesperson says. US President Joe Biden’s State Department, however, says it won’t “offer public evaluations of reports by outside groups” — a shift from Donald Trump’s administration which loudly berated advocacy groups that criticized ally Israel.

Israel’s Netanyahu scrambles to form a government to prevent a fifth election in two years, CNBC
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will hit his deadline to form a new government on May 4, six weeks after the country’s fourth election in less than two years. The last Israeli election, on March 23, reflected a country split down the middle, with no political bloc winning enough seats in the 120-member parliament, or Knesset, to secure a majority. At the front of voter’s concerns are the economy and recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. But the core issue of the election itself, many Israelis say, comes down to “Bibi or no Bibi,” referencing the prime minister by his popular nickname.

Bennett ready to rely on Abbas to form government, Jerusalem Post
The two politicians who hold the key to the formation of the next government, Yamina leader Naftali Bennett and Ra’am (United Arab List) leader Mansour Abbas, held a fateful meeting at the Knesset on Wednesday that both sides said broke the ice between the two. During the election, Bennett firmly ruled out a coalition formed with the support of Abbas’s party – in dramatic fashion. But his associates said for the first time after the Bennett-Abbas meeting that a minority coalition relying on Abbas would no longer be vetoed.

Israel and US consult on Iran nuclear talks, JTA
Top Israeli and U.S. officials dealing with the Iran file met in a signal of the Biden administration’s efforts to keep Israel in the loop as it moves forward in reentering a nuclear deal that Israel rejects. Jake Sullivan, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, met Tuesday with his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben-Shabbat at the Israeli Embassy in Washington D.C.

Senate confirms former Obama official Samantha Power to lead USAID, The Hill
The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Samantha Power to lead the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Senators voted 68-26 to confirm Power, who served in the Obama administration as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. President Biden is also expected to put Power on the White House National Security Council, where she served during Obama’s first term.

Opinion and Analysis

Israel uses apartheid to exclude Palestinians. When will Washington face that?, Washington Post
H.A. Hellyer writes, “On Tuesday, the international organization Human Rights Watch released a 213-page report declaring, for the first time in its history, that the Israeli government is committing two crimes against humanity for its treatment of the Palestinians: the crimes of persecution and apartheid. Some may think Human Rights Watch is going too far, but actually it is behind the curve. Late last year, I convened a panel with veterans of the South African anti-apartheid struggle who certainly know what apartheid looks like, including the former South African ambassador to the United States. They were in no doubt that what is happening in the occupied territories is indeed apartheid. Other human rights organizations, including Israeli ones such as B’tselem, have also reached the same conclusion.”

The Price Israel Will Pay for Not Vaccinating Palestinians Against COVID, Haaretz
Ronny Linder writes, “Even if we set aside the legal and even moral debate, one thing is hard to ignore: The coronavirus is blind to borders and international law. Israel is not exactly an “island nation,” as it is often called, but a country that shares borders with the unvaccinated Palestinians, among whom the pandemic is rampant. In other words: While in Israel they talk day and night about the danger of coronavirus variants entering the country via Ben-Gurion Airport, the physical borders are neglected.”

The high cost of delaying Palestinian elections, Al Monitor
Daoud Kattab writes, “The election that the Palestinians have delayed for 15 years appears set to be delayed again, despite the huge desire by Palestinians to make their voices heard. Of the 2.3 million qualified voters, 1 million are first-time voters. According to Palestinian election sources, 93% of qualified voters have registered to vote. A delay will cause a huge backlash and disillusionment to many Palestinians who genuinely believe that this time around their vote will be heard and can make a difference.”

The ‘A’ Word: Why Israel Is Not an Apartheid State, Despite HRW’s Claims, Haaretz
Alon Pinkas writes, “This week’s Human Rights Watch report on Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians exhibits two glaring flaws, while its attempts to compare Israel and the old South African regime are flimsy and unfounded.”

‘Israel’s worst constitutional crisis,’ until the next one, Times of Israel
David Horovitz writes, “Netanyahu’s failed bid to install his ex-spokesman as justice minister underlines the dangers of tinkering with Basic Laws to suit the needs of leaders who come and, eventually, go”