News Roundup for April 9, 2021

April 9, 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

J Street: Republican hold on aid to Palestinians ‘cruel, not pro Israel’, The Jerusalem Post
“J Street criticized the US Republican party delay on $75 m. in aid to Palestinians saying that ‘these lawmakers clearly view the Palestinian people as just another pawn to be used for partisan warfare against President Biden.’ – ‘Congressional Republicans are doubling down on the cruel policies of the Trump administration by putting a hold on the resumption of critical aid to the Palestinian people. Holding up this aid isn’t pro-Israel. Israel’s own security establishment has repeatedly made clear that robust US aid benefiting the Palestinian people helps combat extremism and makes Israelis safer.’ Congressional Republicans put a hold on $75 million of the newly reinstated US aid to the Palestinians, two sources in Washington confirmed on Thursday.”

Top News and Analysis

Iran nuclear deal: A view from the Middle East, The Jerusalem Post
Ami Ayalon, Orni Petruschka and Gilead Sher write, “Former US president Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, formally known at the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – a move that was encouraged and cheered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – has led to a dangerous situation. Iran is now much closer to a nuclear bomb than it was before Trump pulled out. As the outgoing deputy director of the Mossad declared in a March 5 interview: ‘Our situation today is worse than it was at the time of the [2015] nuclear deal.’ In our view, the best way available for US President Joe Biden’s administration to attain the objective National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan articulated – ‘to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and to do so through diplomacy’ – and to restore America’s standing in the Middle East is to connect the Iran issue and the Palestinian question and integrate both into a multilateral, three-tiered Middle East policy: returning to the Iran deal, initiating an Israeli-Palestinian process and creating a regional coalition. “

‘Here’s the (Iran) deal, folks’: Americans are fine with a return to the JCPOA, Atlantic Council
Barbara Slavin writes, “Those who claim there is some groundswell of opinion in the United States against a swift and unconditional return to the JCPOA are either insincere or don’t understand American public opinion (six in ten Americans approve of a nuclear deal with Iran) […] Thanks to the fact that the Donald Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA has been such an obvious and abysmal failure, a majority of Americans—and two-thirds of US-based Middle East experts—now support the original deal. They also understand that there can be no ‘better deal’ without reviving the JCPOA first.”

Smotrich threatens to expel Arab MK, other Muslims who don’t accept Jewish rule, Times of Israel
MK Bezalel Smotrich, who leads the far-right Religious Zionism party, on Wednesday warned he would “make sure” a prominent Arab lawmaker and other Muslims would not remain in Israel if they did not recognize that the land belongs to the Jews.


Israeli construction plan to encircle Jerusalem, Al-Monitor
The Jerusalem municipality has moved forward on 540 new housing units in the controversial Har Homa neighborhood across the Green Line, a plan that will encircle Jerusalem on three sides.

43 soldiers and civilians killed since last Memorial Day, taking total to 23,928, Times of Israel
Forty-three soldiers and civilians were killed since last Memorial Day and the total number of Israeli casualties of war stands at 23,928, according to figures released by the Defense Ministry on Friday. Since last Memorial Day, 112 new names were added to the roster of those who died defending the country since 1860.

U.S. Defense Secretary Austin to Meet With Netanyahu, Gantz, in First Visit by Biden Official, Haaretz
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz in Israel, the Pentagon said Wednesday, in the first official visit since President Joe Biden took office in January.

Israel rejects ICC’s Palestinian war crimes probe, DW
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that his government would not cooperate with an International Criminal Court probe into possible war crimes committed in the Palestinian territories.

Netanyahu, Bennett to meet again after ‘positive’ talks at PM’s residence, Times of Israel
Seeking a path to securing a ruling majority, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett Thursday evening in the first sit-down between the two since the premier was tasked with forming a coalition.

Republican Rep. Meijer calls AUMF repeal ‘Constitutional hygiene’, Responsible Statecraft
Freshman Rep. Peter Meijer, a Republican from Michigan whose independence on Trump and war issues has made headlines in his first two months in office, confirmed his support for repealing the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, saying it came down to two words. “Constitutional hygiene.”

The Real Losers of Israel’s Election, Slate
“The Palestinians barely featured in this election,” said Jeff Kaplan, an anthropologist who works with the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. He told Slate that Palestinian rights, and the occupation of the West Bank and blockade of the Gaza Strip, “didn’t even feature in the campaigns of the Arab parties, let alone in the campaigns of the Israeli left.”

Ultra-Orthodox said to tell Netanyahu they won’t stick with him in 5th election, Times of Israel
After sticking with Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu through four inconclusive elections, ultra-Orthodox allies of the incumbent prime minister have told him that they will not follow him to another round of voting, Israeli television reported Wednesday.

Opinion and Analysis

They’re Israel’s Far Right, Pro-ethnic Cleansing Nationalists. But Don’t Call Them ‘Nazis’, Haaretz
Anshel Pfeffer writes, “On the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, far right leader Bezalel Smotrich threatened Palestinian citizens of Israel with ethnic cleansing. Calling him a Nazi is too easy a way out of the real, pressing problem his camp poses for Israel and Judaism.”

The biggest impediment to a new nuclear deal with Iran? Domestic politics, The Guardian
Holly Dagres writes, “With both Iran and the United States signalling a desire to return to the deal, one might think the path back was fairly straightforward. But it’s full of landmines otherwise known as ‘domestic considerations’. Neither wants to take a false step that could blow up back home.”

Netanyahu’s Shameful Speech: When Holocaust Remembrance Day Becomes a Campaign Event, Haaretz
Alon Pinkas writes, “For the prime minister, it’s all about him. Always. For him, Holocaust Remembrance Day is just another opportunity to make a political speech, a self-serving tirade. As a bonus encore, just to make things even more politicized, this year’s speech also included a warning to President Joe Biden on Iran.”

Netanyahu’s scorched-earth battle with court is unhealthy for democracy, The Jerusalem Post
Yaakov Katz writes, “Does Netanyahu not realize what he is doing? Does he not understand that speaking this way will turn part of the country against our criminal justice system, will make them lose what little trust is left in our country’s institutions? Is that good for the country? Will it make us stronger? Will it make us a better nation?”

Dr Martin Indyk on making peace in the Middle East [Podcast], The Lowy Institute
In this episode of The Director’s Chair, Michael Fullilove speaks with the Australian-American diplomat, Middle East scholar, and author Dr Martin Indyk. Martin worked in both the Clinton and Obama administrations as Assistant Secretary of State, US Ambassador to Israel and Special Envoy for Middle East Peace. He is a Distinguished Fellow at the Council on Foreign Affairs and a long-serving Board member at the Lowy Institute. Michael and Martin discuss his career working on Middle East peace, as well as Israeli politics, recent events in Jordan, and the Biden administration’s approach towards Saudi Arabia.