News Roundup for April 7, 2021

April 7, 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.

Top News and Analysis

Iran and U.S. Agree on Path Back to Nuclear Deal, New York Times
The United States and Iran agreed through intermediaries on Tuesday to establish two working groups to try to get both countries back into compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. In a meeting of the current members of the deal in Vienna, all parties agreed to establish one working group to focus on how to get the United States back to the deal by lifting harsh economic sanctions imposed or reimposed after President Donald J. Trump pulled out of the accord in May 2018. The other working group will focus on how to get Iran back into compliance with the accord’s limitations on nuclear enrichment and stockpiles of enriched uranium. The two groups have already begun their efforts, according to Mikhail Ulyanov, the Russian representative who is ambassador to international organizations in Vienna.

Netanyahu asked to form new government, but faces long odds, AP
Israel’s president on Tuesday handed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the difficult task of trying to form a new government, giving the embattled Israeli leader a chance to extend his lengthy term in office. But with the newly elected parliament deeply divided and the prime minister on trial for corruption charges, Netanyahu had little to celebrate. He now has up to six weeks to lure his political foes into a coalition, an effort that appears to have slim odds of success. At the same time, those opponents will be working to form an alternative government that could end his 12-year reign.

Netanyahu Gets First Crack at Forming a New Government in Israel, New York Times
Isabel Kershner writes, “While the country remains split along the fault lines of secular and religious, right-wing and left-wing and Jewish and Arab, the main rupture has increasingly revolved around the polarizing figure of Mr. Netanyahu himself. He got the nod to form a new government one day after the opening of the evidentiary stage of his trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.”


At 24th Knesset’s swearing-in, Rivlin pleads with lawmakers to end deadlock, Times of Israel
The ceremony was held after President Reuven Rivlin tasked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Likud leader, with forming a government, while saying he was doing so reluctantly — noting the apparently slim prospects for any party leader to assemble a coalition and the incumbent prime minister’s ongoing corruption trial, which was taking place concurrently across town in Jerusalem.

US boosts aid to Palestinians as some in Congress cry foul, AP
The Biden administration is moving again to increase U.S. assistance to the Palestinians as it fires up a new Mideast policy that is directly opposite of the one pursued by its predecessor. For the third time in two weeks, the administration has either publicly announced or quietly notified Congress of its intent to provide the Palestinians with tens of millions of dollars in aid. On Monday, the administration informed lawmakers that it would give the Palestinians $40 million for law enforcement and security costs in the West Bank and Gaza.

Progressives rally around Nancy Kaufman for antisemitism envoy role, The Forward
As factions within the Jewish community jockey over who President Joe Biden will name as his special envoy for combating antisemitism, some progressive support is coalescing around Nancy K. Kaufman, former chief executive officer of the National Council of Jewish Women.

As anti-gay MKs sworn in, activists fear ‘step backwards’ on LGBT rights, AFP
Hundreds of people demonstrated in Jerusalem on Tuesday against a group of newly elected Knesset members who oppose gay rights. The protesters included groups supporting women’s and LGBT rights and others calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s resignation.

Lapid urges ‘leap of faith’ to build ‘national consensus government’, Times of Israel
A day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was formally tasked with assembling a government, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid urged party leaders from across the political spectrum to take a “leap of faith” and agree to form a “national consensus government” instead of one headed by Netanyahu.

Israeli Lawmaker Didn’t Want to Sit Next to Women. The Knesset Let Him, Haaretz
The Knesset secretariat let an ultra-Orthodox lawmaker switch seats during Tuesday’s swearing-in ceremony so that he would not have to sit between two women.

Smotrich: Arabs who don’t accept that Israel belongs to Jews ‘won’t stay here’, Times of Israel
“Ahmad, the Land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel, and in the long term Arabs like you that don’t acknowledge it won’t stay here,” Smotrich tweets. “Rabbi Shmuel [Eliyahu] and his thousands of students, us included, will ensure it.”

Israel-Iran Sea Skirmishes Escalate as Mine Damages Iranian Military Ship, New York Times
An Iranian military vessel stationed in the Red Sea was damaged by an apparent Israeli mine attack on Tuesday in an escalation of the shadowy naval skirmishing that has characterized the two adversaries’ exchanges in recent years.

Netanyahu Trial: PM Aides Vetted Senior Appointments at News Site, Key Witness Says, Haaretz
On Tuesday, Yeshua testified that he was asked by Bezeq’s owners to erase all correspondence between them that indicated that Walla’s coverage had been tilted in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s favor. He said the owners also asked him to coordinate his story with Netanyahu’s advisers.

Opinion and Analysis

Reviving The Iran Nuclear Deal: Here’s What It Involves And Why It’s Hard, NPR
Larry Kaplow writes, “Now, as the Biden administration and Iran argue over who should make the first move — that is, the U.S. removing sanctions or Iran dismantling some of its nuclear equipment — there’s risk of greater conflict. Already in February, U.S. officials said Iran-backed militias were behind sporadic rocket attacks on American troops in Iraq, and President Biden ordered a retaliatory airstrike on a militia.”

Road to a coalition seems blocked, but Netanyahu is in the driver’s seat, again, Times of Israel
David Horovitz writes, “Benjamin Netanyahu is back in the driver’s seat of Israeli politics, having been chosen Tuesday by a plainly unhappy President Reuven Rivlin for the task of constructing the next coalition. An uphill task it certainly is, and one the president declaredly did not want to give him.”

Ideological foes weigh pact to oust Netanyahu, Axios
Barak Ravid writes, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has the first crack at forming Israel’s next government, but the job could ultimately fall to a much less well-known figure: Naftali Bennett. Bennett’s right-wing Yamina party won just seven seats in the March 23 elections, but an unprecedented set of political circumstances has created an opening for the former defense minister and tech entrepreneur to replace Netanyahu, with the support of the center-left.”

Netanyahu Is Now More Desperate and Dangerous Than Ever Before, Haaretz
Yossi Verter writes, “In the next 28 days, we will likely meet a Netanyahu we’ve never seen before; more desperate and dangerous than ever, with nothing left to keep him in check. He knows that at the end of this road a fifth election campaign does not await him, which would leave him in his preferred situation: The prime minister of an interim and paralyzed government. But this time he will likely face a Bennett-Lapid government. His days will be spent in the political opposition and in court.”