News Roundup for August 25, 2020

August 25, 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

Pompeo draws criticism for convention speech from Jerusalem, The Hill
“‘It’s clear that US policy towards Israel under Pompeo is now — like virtually the entire administration — just a tool to promote President Trump’s political interests and to sycophantically celebrate him personally,’ Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the left-leaning pro-Israel organization J Street, said in a statement.”

J Street blasts Pompeo for making RNC address from Jerusalem, Times of Israel
“The president of the progressive lobby J Street issues a statement lambasting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for his decision to address to the Republican National Convention in a pre-recorded statement from Jerusalem. ‘The Trump administration continues to break new ground in their shameless efforts to use the State of Israel as a political prop and a partisan football. For a sitting secretary of state to make a partisan speech to a nominating convention is already unprecedented; to do so from one of the most diplomatically sensitive cities in the world, while on an official visit, is breathtakingly wrong,’ Jeremy Ben-Ami says.”

Pompeo triggers outrage with Republican convention address from Israel, Middle East Eye
“J Street, a liberal Jewish-American group, called Pompeo’s move ‘shameless’, saying that the top American diplomat is using Israel as ‘a political prop and a partisan football’. J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami […] went on to accuse the secretary of state of pursuing a Middle East policy that aims to boost Trump politically, not bringing peace to the region. ‘It dangerously seeks to use Israel as the backdrop for extreme ideological symbolism and religious pageantry – with the goal of pandering to the president’s base of Evangelical Christian supporters,’ Ben-Ami said.”

Pompeo’s Jerusalem RNC Speech Shamelessly Uses Israel as a Partisan Prop, J Street
“Trump is right that while some Evangelicals may cheer for their stunts, the overwhelming majority of American Jews and pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans are appalled at the damage that he and Pompeo are doing to US foreign policy, the US-Israel relationship and our democratic norms. It’s one of the many reasons why our community can’t wait to vote them out of office.”

Top News and Analysis

On Mideast Trip, Pompeo Mixes Diplomacy With Partisan Politics, New York Times
The backdrop for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s planned speech to the Republican National Convention promised to be spectacular: sweeping views of Jerusalem’s Old City, with the domes and spires of its holy sites. But even before his plane touched down in Israel on Monday, Mr. Pompeo was being criticized there and in the United States for breaking a longstanding taboo against mixing diplomacy and partisan politics. For President Trump, and particularly his evangelical Christian supporters, few locations have the resonance of the holy but fiercely contested city of Jerusalem. “Looking forward to sharing with you how my family is more SAFE and more SECURE because of President Trump,” Mr. Pompeo wrote on Twitter. “See you all on Tuesday night!” He ended the post with a U.S. flag emoji.

Knesset passes bill extending budget deadline, pushing off election threat, Times of Israel
The Knesset on Monday night gave final approval to a bill delaying the deadline for the state budget, breaking through a bitter political logjam and giving the government another 120 days to avoid collapse and early elections.

Fears of ‘catastrophic’ Covid outbreak in Gaza after first cases outside quarantine emerge, The Guardian
The first cases of coronavirus have been detected within the Gaza Strip outside its quarantine facilities, Palestinian officials have said, a potentially disastrous development given the enclave’s fragile health system. Four people from the same family have so far tested positive for coronavirus, Gaza’s interior ministry said on Monday as authorities imposed a 48-hour lockdown.


Biden aides apologise privately over attack on Linda Sarsour, Middle East Eye
Top aides to presidential candidate Joe Biden have apologised to Arab and Muslim Democrats over an attack on Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour by the campaign, in an effort to quell anger over the controversy. In a private call with dozens of prominent activists on Sunday, Ashley Allison, national coalitions director for the Biden campaign, said she was “sorry” for the comments that a campaign spokesman made against Sarsour. Top foreign policy adviser Tony Blinken also expressed “regret” over the incident during the virtual meeting. Anger erupted after a Biden campaign spokesman had condemned Sarsour and suggested that she was antisemitic over her criticism of Israel.

Pompeo shattering precedent, sparking fury with RNC speech, AP
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sent a cable to all U.S. diplomatic missions last month warning American diplomats that under federal law they should not take overt sides in the presidential campaign. On Tuesday, he plans to ignore his own warning by speaking to the Republican National Convention endorsing President Donald Trump for a second term.

Pompeo: We’ll honor Israel’s military edge, but are reviewing arms sales to UAE, Times of Israel
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized on Monday that America was committed to maintaining Israel’s military superiority in the region while appearing to hint at an impending deal by which the Trump administration would provide the United Arab Emirates with advanced fighter jets.

Local virus cases in Gaza raise fears of a wider outbreak, AP
Authorities in the Gaza Strip on Monday announced the first coronavirus cases spread through the community, raising fears of a potentially devastating outbreak in the impoverished Palestinian territory blockaded by Israel and Egypt. Until now, all the cases reported in Gaza were linked to quarantine facilities for residents returning from abroad.

IDF strikes Hamas targets in southern Gaza after continued arson balloon attacks, Times of Israel
Israeli warplanes and tanks attacked Hamas targets in southern Gaza early Tuesday after terrorists in Gaza sent dozens of incendiary balloons toward Israel, sparking at least 36 fires in towns bordering the coastal enclave.

Iran sets June 18 as date for next presidential election, AP
Iran’s constitutional watchdog on Monday set June 18 as date for the country’s next presidential election, a vote that will choose the successor to President Hassan Rouhani who has served two four-year terms in office.

Opinion and Analysis

Pompeo’s Christian Zionism takes center stage, Washington Post
Ishaan Tharoor writes, “Even in an unusual year and under an unusual presidency, what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plans to do is conspicuous. He is expected to participate in the Republican National Convention on Tuesday — which is already controversial because protocol usually obliges the top U.S. diplomat to eschew partisan affairs. But on top of that, he plans to hail President Trump’s renomination and address his Republican allies in a prerecorded message from Jerusalem.”

Netanyahu convinced Israel cannot exist without him [Podcast], Al-Monitor
Ben Caspit, publisher of the bestselling book “The Netanyahu Years,” talks to journalist Anshel Pfeffer, who in 2018 published “Bibi: The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu.” Pfeffer says that by reaching the agreement with the UAE, Netanyahu has reached the peak of his political career as a leader. In his opinion the premier has finished his role and should now let go. However, Pfeffer predicts that Netanyahu is incapable of stepping back. 

Israel and the Emirates, Together in the Post-democratic Revolution, Haaretz
Carolina Landsmann writes, “What is the status of the occupied territories? If they’re a potential Palestinian state, sovereign Israel can somehow be defended as a democratic country in which every person has an equal vote. But if the territories are perceived as part of one Israel, as the right wing contends, how can the country’s depiction as a democracy be defended?”

Meet the J Streeters: 7 Questions With Amos Gil, J Street
Before coming to work at J Street, Amos was the leader of a few of Israel’s most well-respected advocacy groups, including the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and the nonprofit Ir-Amim, which specializes in the special circumstances of Jerusalem in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A Captain (Res.) in the IDF and a former Captain at Israeli Police Headquarters, Amos most recently served as CEO of the Jerusalem International YMCA before joining J Street in 2019.