News Roundup for April 30, 2021

April 30, 2021

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J Street in the News

Biden’s first 100 days according to the Saban Forum crowd, Jewish Insider
“Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, told JI that Biden ‘gets good marks from J Street for articulating good intentions regarding their policy direction during the first hundred days.’ The real test, Ben Ami said, ‘is likely to come in the second hundred days. Will those good intentions be translated into an actual agreement that enables both the U.S. and Iran to return to full compliance with the JCPOA, and which paves the way for subsequent diplomacy?’”

J Street Stunned and Deeply Saddened by Tragedy at Mount Meron, J Street
“J Street is stunned and deeply saddened by the terrible tragedy that has taken place in northern Israel this evening, where dozens were reportedly killed and injured in an apparent stampede during a mass Lag B’Omer celebration at Mount Meron. Our thoughts are with the victims, their loved ones and all Israelis at this terrible time, as we fervently hope for the health and recovery of all those injured.”

Top News and Analysis

Religious festival stampede in Israel kills 44, hurts dozens, AP
A stampede at a religious festival attended by tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews in northern Israel killed at least 44 people and injured about 150 early Friday, medical officials said. It was one of the country’s deadliest civilian disasters. The stampede began when large numbers of people thronged a narrow tunnel-like passage during the event, according to witnesses and video footage. People began falling on top of each other near the end of the walkway, as they descended slippery metal stairs, witnesses said.

Palestinian Vote Delayed, Prolonging Split for West Bank and Gaza, New York Times
When the Palestinian Authority called in January for parliamentary elections, many Palestinians hoped the vote — the first in the occupied territories since 2006 — would revive Palestinian discourse, re-energize the independence movement and end a 14-year division between Palestinian leaders in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. But those hopes were dashed Thursday night when President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority announced that the vote, scheduled for May 22, would be delayed indefinitely. […] “We decided to postpone the legislative elections until guaranteeing that Jerusalem and its people take part,” said Mr. Abbas in a speech in Ramallah. “We don’t give up Jerusalem.”

Netanyahu Rivals Hope to Reach Coalition Deal by Tuesday, but Talks Plagued by Disagreements, The Economist
The Economist writes, “Binyamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas (pictured, right and left) have ruled for so long that it is hard to imagine other people in their places. Yet neither is looking very secure at the moment. Mr Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel since 2009, is struggling to form a new government, as the opposition inches closer to a deal that would unseat him. Mr Abbas, the Palestinian president since 2005, is increasingly unpopular. Were he to hold a free and fair election, as he promised to do this year, he would probably lose. Could both men soon be out of a job?”


World Offers Condolences After Lag Ba’Omer Festivities Turn Deadly in Northern Israel, Haaretz
Many countries have extended their condolences to Israel after at least 44 people were killed and over 150 injured at the mass Lag Ba’Omer festivities at Mount Meron in the north. White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan issued a statement of condolences early Friday morning. “Our hearts go out to the people of Israel tonight following the terrible tragedy at Mount Meron. We offer our condolences to the families and friends who lost loved ones in this disaster, and wish a full and swift recovery to those injured,” Sullivan tweeted.

Blinken meets Israel’s Mossad spy chief for talks on Iran, Reuters
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met the head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency and its ambassador to Washington on Thursday, and the Israeli officials expressed “deep concern” about Iran’s nuclear activities, according to a person familiar with the matter. The meeting in Washington followed talks this week between U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan and his Israeli counterpart in which the Israeli delegation stressed their “freedom to operate” against Iran as they see fit, the source told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Biden hasn’t picked an ambassador to Israel. What does that say of U.S.-Israeli relations?, LA Times
The Biden administration is just passing its 100-day mark, and still: no nomination for U.S. ambassador to Israel. Is this President Biden’s way of signaling to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that it’s a new day in U.S.-Israeli relations? A way to underscore that even though Israel does not like it, the new U.S. government is pressing ahead with negotiations to return to the Iran nuclear accord?

Netanyahu Rivals Hope to Reach Coalition Deal by Tuesday, but Talks Plagued by Disagreements, Haaretz
With less than a week left for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cobble together a new government, negotiating teams from Yamina, Yesh Atid and New Hope held intensive talks on Thursday in an attempt to reach an agreement on forming an alternative coalition. Yamina and New Hope are hoping to reach an understanding before Netanyahu’s mandate to form a government expires, possibly as soon as Saturday – but Yesh Atid is opposed to this. Yamina and Yesh Atid have therefore marked next Tuesday as the date by which they hope to reach an agreement. Netanyahu’s mandate will expire at the end of Tuesday.

IDF says detention of 5 Palestinian children near illegal outpost was a mistake, Times of Israel
The Israel Defense Forces has said that the detention of five Palestinian children in the South Hebron Hills last month was a mistake. Last month Israeli soldiers detained five children between the ages of 8 and 13 after settlers in an illegal outpost reported that they had trespassed.

Israel and the US are learning to manage JCPOA disagreements , Jerusalem Post
According to an Israeli official, the Israeli delegation told the US delegation that there is no point negotiating specific details at this moment of the “longer and stronger” deal

Opinion and Analysis

After the Two-State Solution, Foreign Affairs
Marwan Muasher writes, “In rapid succession, in its final months in office, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump negotiated agreements establishing diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and, finally, Morocco. Though the Abraham Accords—as the Arab-Israeli normalization deals were grandiosely titled—were touted as historic steps toward ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they were brokered without any Palestinian involvement. With their focus on delaying Israel’s plans to formally annex Palestinian territory, the deals implicitly legitimized Israel’s expanding occupation of the West Bank, in flagrant violation of international law.”

Mount Meron, the disaster everyone knew was waiting to happen, Times of Israel
David Horovitz writes, “The pilgrimage site was never properly equipped to cope with the vast annual crowds. The particular walkway was a known bottleneck. So why was a tragedy foretold allowed to happen?”

So Israel’s an Apartheid State. What’s Next?, Haaretz
Anshel Pfeffer writes, “Human rights organizations have a sacred duty to monitor and report human-rights violations. It’s a Sisyphean task and the frustration of those who work in these organizations at what seems as a lack of influence over the situation is perfectly understandable. Bombastic PR campaigns that do nothing but banalize the term ‘apartheid’ are not the way to address that frustration.”

Netanyahu needs to go, Israel needs a reset, Jerusalem Post
Yaakov Katz writes, “It is sad to say, but Netanyahu today is a danger to the State of Israel. Even his longtime supporters must recognize that this country is more important than this prime minister.”

How a Drunk, Unstable Billionaire Became Netanyahu and Mossad Chief’s Confidant, Haaretz
Gidi Weitz writes, “James Packer wasn’t just another billionaire who developed relationships with Israel’s elite. The Australian media and casino tycoon with the troubled psyche mingled with those in the most secret circles in the country. Benjamin Netanyahu exploited him to the hilt – and he wasn’t the only one who did so.”

Elections or not, the PA is intensifying its authoritarian rule online, +972 Magazine
Marwa Fatafta writes, “The run up to PA elections has alarmingly shown what Palestinian political activism is facing in the digital age: more surveillance, more repression.”

Lifting U.S. Sanctions Won’t Solve Iran’s Problems, Haaretz
Zvi Bar’el writes, “While oil exports after the lifting of sanctions may help fill the state coffers, the economic crisis could drag on for years without a significant change in the economy’s structure, banking laws and oversight that would control spending and eradicate corruption, a feature of the regime’s DNA. There is enormous poverty, an official unemployment rate at about 12 percent but three times higher among young people, inflation near 40 percent and the printing of billions of rials to cover the budget deficit. None of this will go anywhere even if a new nuclear agreement is signed.”

Deporting African Hebrews is a betrayal of Zionism and Jewish values, Times of Israel
Yirmiyahu Danzig writes, “If we allow these deportations to go forward, we would not only damage the future of many children who are citizens of no other nation, the future of the sons, daughters, nieces and nephews of people who have contributed mightily to this country and its security. We would also be damning the future of this community as an integral part of the State and people of Israel. The Prophet Micha told the children of Israel that our main responsibility is ‘to do justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy G-D.’ If the Ministry of Interior proceeds with these threatened deportations, we will not be humble, kind, or just.”