News Roundup for August 11, 2020

August 11, 2020

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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

Will the House Dems’ new Foreign Affairs Committee leader chart a new course on Israel?, Responsible Statecraft
“Before his primary loss in June, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) was one of the most powerful Democrats in Congress. A moderate liberal on domestic policy, he was one of the most hawkish House Democrats on foreign policy. He is now the outgoing chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the race for his successor has taken some interesting turns in the past week. Five liberal pro-Israel groups — J Street, Americans for Peace Now, Partners for Progressive Israel, Ameinu, and Habonim Dror — sent a letter to House Democrats calling on them to appoint a new HFAC chair that would be committed to diplomacy, promote a Palestinian state, and ‘support appropriate, proportional consequences in response to’ unilateral Israeli annexation of West Bank land or more expansion of Israeli settlements.”

How far can Jewish Americans be pushed by Israel?, South Florida Sun Sentinel
Rabbi Bruce Warshal writes, “The current occupation of the West Bank presents massive ethical problems that are becoming difficult to swallow, but annexation will absolutely choke Jewish Diaspora supporters. If AIPAC and AJC do not recognize this, their standing in the Jewish community will diminish. On the ethical front, J Street has distributed separate statements against annexation by 16 national Jewish organizations, including the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist movements, as well as other joint statements.”

From Harris to Whitmer and Bass: How Joe Biden’s Possible Veeps Could Tip U.S.-Israel Ties, Haaretz
“Two months ago, on a Zoom call organized by the left-wing J Street organization, Bass expressed her opposition to unilateral Israeli annexation of settlements in the West Bank, and said that she was worried and disappointed by the fact that Republican members of Congress have not joined the more than 200 Democratic lawmakers who have come out against annexation. She also said that she believes the ‘only’ way to fully stop annexation will be for Biden to defeat Trump in November.”

Top News and Analysis

For Biden to be truly pro-Israel, he’ll have to do more than just refute Trumpism, The Forward
Nadav Tamir writes, “If Biden wants to help Israel confront the only real existential threat to its future, Biden must adopt a stand diametrically opposed to his instinctive tendencies. Despite his friendship for Israel and understanding that the two-state solution is crucial for its future and is in the best interests of the US, Biden must learn from his predecessors’ failures. If elected, Biden will have to adopt assertive leadership to extricate Israel from the toxic status quo in which it is mired. He will have to realize that Israeli politics is inherently incapable of historic decisions and that its impact on US politics paralyzes every initiative.”

Trump Risks Crisis at UN by Trying to Use Iran Deal He Shredded, Bloomberg
David Wainer writes, “More than two years after President Donald Trump quit the multinational nuclear deal with Iran, his administration is risking a crisis at the United Nations by threatening to reimpose international sanctions that were eased under that accord. It’s a threat that could produce an outcome that once was unthinkable: pushing allies such as Germany and France to side with Russia and China in the UN Security Council, leaving the U.S. isolated.”

Israeli Hospitals See First Signs of System’s Collapse From Coronavirus, Haaretz
The Ein Karem branch of Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem recently closed its internal medicine ward’s intensive care unit, which is supposed to treat the ward’s non-coronavirus patients. The unit’s staff was needed to augment the coronavirus ICU, which currently has 22 patients in very serious condition and on ventilators. The closure left the hospital with only one non-coronavirus ICU – the one in the surgery ward, which is meant to handle post-operative patients and trauma victims. It is currently at full capacity.


Voters will judge Omar’s mix of progressivism and celebrity, AP
Omar, the first Somali American and one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, is facing a surprisingly well-funded challenger in Minnesota’s Democratic primaries on Tuesday. Antone Melton-Meaux, a Black lawyer and mediator, raised millions of anti-Omar dollars to fill mailboxes and flood airwaves. His “Focused on the Fifth” message has portrayed Omar, a member of “The Squad” of four progressive female lawmakers, as out of touch with the 5th District.

Amid crisis, Gantz allies said to be split on bill to bar Netanyahu from premiership, Times of Israel
Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party is split on whether to back a proposal that would prevent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from forming a new government, Hebrew media reports indicated Monday, amid a standoff over the state budget that could send Israel to new elections.

Trump vows ‘deal with Iran within four weeks’ if reelected, The Hill
“When we win,” Trump said in a video from the fundraiser on Sunday shared by a Jewish Insider reporter, “we will have a deal within four weeks.”

Lebanese government quits amid fury over Beirut blast, Reuters
Lebanon’s prime minister announced his government’s resignation on Monday, saying a huge explosion that devastated Beirut and triggered public outrage was the result of endemic corruption.

Israel Shuts Gaza Border Crossing Amid Flare-up After Coronavirus Lull, Haaretz
Israel announced late Monday it would shut the Kerem Shalom crossing on its border with the Gaza Strip, in response to the resumption in recent days of cross-border attacks.

Iran jails man accused of spying on nukes, missiles, for Israel and Germany, Times of Israel
Iran sentenced a man to 10 years in jail for spying on the Islamic Republic for Israel and Germany, judicial authorities said Tuesday.

Iran nuclear deal at risk as U.N. council prepares to vote on arms embargo, Reuters
The U.N. Security Council is preparing to vote this week on a U.S. proposal to extend an arms embargo on Iran, a move that some diplomats say is bound to fail and put the fate of a nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers further at risk.

Opinion and Analysis

Israel lobby faces off with Palestinian rights movement in Ilhan Omar primary, +972 Mag
Alex Kane writes, “The reputation of Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar as an unabashed critic of Israel and supporter of Palestinian rights, along with her other leftist political positions, has earned her great admiration from American progressives. But that reputation has fueled a serious primary challenge that will, two years after her emergence onto the U.S. national stage, come to a head on August 11, the date of the Democratic primary for Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District […] An Omar victory would further bolster the rising power of the Palestinian rights movement, which in recent years has increasingly flexed its muscles in American electoral politics. A loss, though, would mark a high-profile victory for the pro-Israel lobby — and the defeat of one of the Palestinian rights movement’s top allies in Congress.”

The UN Secretary-General Is Letting Powerful Countries Get Away With Killing Kids, Foreign Policy
Jo Becker writes, “By removing Saudi Arabia and other serial violators of children’s human rights from the annual list of shame, António Guterres is weakening one of the U.N.’s most effective accountability mechanisms […] The first major successful attack on the credibility of the list was in 2015, when the secretary-general’s special representative on children and armed conflict recommended adding Israel for violations during a major military offensive in the Gaza Strip the year before. The U.N. reported that at least 557 Palestinian children were killed and at least 4,249, most under the age of 12, were injured. According to diplomatic sources, both Israeli officials and the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. lobbied Guterres’s predecessor, Ban Ki-moon, to keep Israel off the list. Ban succumbed to the pressure and omitted Israel.”

Will Netanyahu Fold? Is Israel Headed for Fourth Election? All the Scenarios, Haaretz
After a day of mutual accusations and verbal clashes between legislators from Likud and Kahol Lavan, and with two weeks to go before the current deadline to pass the 2020 state budget, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears determined to move forward toward elections. Over the weekend, Likud planned to attribute the cancellation of the weekly cabinet meeting to “a dispute with Kahol Lavan,” in an effort to paint Benny Gantz’s party as the one that is not addressing the coronavirus crisis properly. It’s too early to say whether Sunday’s announcement that Likud will support a bill extending the deadline to pass the 2020 budget will stabilize the situation. 

Zionism, Israel, and the Palestinians – Book Recommendations, Times of Israel
Rabbi John L. Rosove writes, “I’ve compiled a list of volumes that educate and enlighten the history of the Jewish State, the Zionist dream, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These volumes explain why a Jewish state matters so much to the Jewish people, and why a two-state solution is the only viable option for peace, security, and justice for both Jews and Palestinians.”