News Roundup for August 26, 2020

August 26, 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

RNC defends Pompeo’s appearance at GOP convention amid criticism he is breaking precedent, Fox News
“‘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, president of the liberal J Street, said in a statement.”

Top News and Analysis

UN Security Council rejects US move to trigger ‘snapback’ of sanctions on Iran, AFP
The United Nations on Tuesday blocked a controversial bid by the US to reimpose international sanctions on Iran, with the Security Council saying it could not proceed with the disputed move […] Washington insists on its legal right to trigger the disputed procedure, called “snapback” — despite pulling out of the deal two years ago. The move threatens to torpedo the Iran accord and plunge the Council into crisis, while widening the gulf between the US and almost every other member on Iran policy. Thirteen of the 15 Council members had written to the Indonesian presidency to reject its validity.  The US “is alone” in their approach, and “their ultimate goal is to destroy the nuclear agreement when they have already imposed (national) sanctions on Iran,” one diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity told AFP.

Biden Slams Pompeo for ‘Politicizing’ Israel by Taping Convention Speech in Jerusalem, Haaretz
Joe Biden’s presidential campaign criticized U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo on Tuesday for recording a speech for the Republican National Convention during a diplomatic trip to Israel, calling it “an abuse of taxpayer dollars.” The Biden campaign argued in a statement Pompeo was seeking to turn Israel into a “political wedge issue” ahead of the November general election, adding that “the historic bipartisan support in Washington for Israel and her security should never be subordinated to politicization for personal gain.”

Republican convention speaker out of lineup after retweeting anti-Semitic rant, Politico
A speaker for the Republican National Convention retweeted an anti-Semitic screed on Tuesday morning, the same day she was slated to take the stage to praise President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policies. A person familiar with the matter confirmed to POLITICO on Tuesday evening that the speaker, Mary Ann Mendoza, was no longer appearing at the RNC.


Pompeo faces congressional inquiry over RNC speech during diplomatic trip, The Guardian
A senior Democrat on the House foreign affairs committee has launched an investigation into whether Mike Pompeo is breaking federal law by addressing the Republican national convention while on an official visit to Jerusalem.

In Another International Defeat, The US Is Soundly Rejected By The UN Security Council Over Its Push To Restore Sanctions On Iran, Forbes
In another international defeat, the the U.N. Security Council has denied a U.S. request to restore sanctions on Iran that were lifted by a multilateral nuclear deal struck in 2015, with nearly all the member states on the council determining the U.S. has no standing to make the demand because President Trump left the agreement in 2018.

Security Council Leader Rejects U.S. Demand for U.N. Sanctions on Iran, New York Times
The Trump administration’s lonely insistence on restoring United Nations sanctions against Iran is headed nowhere, the president of the Security Council said on Tuesday, while the U.S. ambassador accused fellow diplomats of having “lost their way.” The confrontation heightened the sense of American isolation at the United Nations under President Trump, whose administration has withdrawn from a number of U.N. bodies and agreements, even as the United States government remains the biggest single contributor to the 193-member organization’s budget.

Pompeo stirs up outrage among some diplomats over speech to RNC, Washington Post
“You can argue that U.S. government resources are not being used,” said a former diplomat, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to maintain contacts within the State Department. “But he is not speaking as secretary of state? Is he speaking as Joe Blow? I don’t think so.” Another former senior official called the decision “very tacky.”

Hamas Might Escalate Fighting With Israel Due to Civilian Pressure in Gaza, Say Officials, Haaretz
Sources in Hamas told Haaretz on Saturday that the organization recognizes great internal pressure from residents of the Gaza Strip to bring about significant easing of the siege, which could lead the political and military leadership to overturn the status quo and deteriorate into another round of fighting.

Israeli aircraft strike Hezbollah observation posts after shots fired at troops, Times of Israel
Israeli aircraft bombed several Hezbollah observation posts along Israel’s northern border early Wednesday after shots were fired from Lebanon toward Israel Defense Force soldiers, the army said.

Israeli Soldiers Placed Explosive Devices in West Bank Village for ‘Deterrence’, Haaretz
Israeli soldiers planted at least three explosive devices last week along a road in a Palestinian village that runs near a residential area. The Nahal Brigade soldiers entered the West Bank village of Qaddum shortly before midnight last Wednesday to plant the explosive devices, which were armed and ready to explode when touched. The explosives were hidden with stones, cloth and weapons crates.

Iran’s Rouhani says talks possible, if U.S. returns to 2015 nuclear deal, Reuters
If the United Sates wants an agreement with Iran, first it should return to Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six powers that the nuclear deal that Washington abandoned two years ago, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday.

Netanyahu scolds visiting British FM for rejecting Iran sanctions, Times of Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed disappointment over the UK’s opposition to the imposition of snapback sanctions on Iran, during a meeting with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in Jerusalem on Tuesday.

US Presses Other Muslim Nations to Establish Ties With Israel, New York Times
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Sudan and Bahrain, two of the administration’s top prospects for bringing Israel together with more of its neighbors in a region where it has faced generations of hostility. But American officials cautioned that the situation remained fluid and no one should expect overnight agreements.

Opinion and Analysis

Palestinian leaders stay the course as crises mount, AP
Joseph Krauss writes, “In three decades of failed peace efforts, the Palestinians have never faced a more hostile U.S. administration, a more self-assured Israel or a more ambivalent international community. But even as their hopes for statehood have never seemed so dim, there’s no indication their aging leadership will change course. President Mahmoud Abbas remains committed to the same strategy he has pursued for decades — seeking international support to pressure Israel to agree to a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, lands Israel seized in the 1967 Mideast war.”

Trump Can’t Have His Cake and Eat It Too on Iran Sanctions, Foreign Policy
Saheb Sadhegi writes, “Washington has no right to impose snapback sanctions on Tehran because it is no longer a participant in the Iran nuclear deal.”

Trump’s schadenfreude foreign policy and its political appeal, Responsible Statecraft
Paul Pillar writes, “The conflict between Israel and Palestinians that has been at the core of Arab-Israeli animosity is still very much unresolved. The new step in Israeli-UAE relations reduces further any Israeli incentive to make the changes necessary to resolve it. Meanwhile, this step sharpens lines of conflict in the Persian Gulf region and may escalate conflict there, given that the sale of more advanced U.S. arms, including perhaps F-35 fighter aircraft, to the Emirates evidently was part of the price that Abu Dhabi extracted from the Trump administration for agreeing to the diplomatic relationship with Israel.”

Trump uses powers of government in service of reelection, with pardoning and naturalization ceremonies, Washington Post
Anne Gearan, Colby Itkowitz, Felicia Sonmez and John Wagner write, “President Trump and the Republican Party placed the powers of the federal government in service to Trump’s reelection on Tuesday — staging pardoning and naturalization ceremonies as part of the GOP’s official nominating convention and using the White House Rose Garden for a speech by the first lady, who extolled “my own American Dream” of citizenship after a childhood under communist rule.”

Pompeo Delivers RNC Speech From Israel, With Eye Toward 2024, New York Times
Lara Jakes writes, “In addressing the Republican Party faithful on Tuesday night from one of the world’s holiest cities, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is betting that he has more to gain politically than he would lose by challenging decades of diplomatic decorum.”

Ego Clashes and Counter-terrorism: Behind the Scenes of Israel-Gaza Talks, Haaretz
Yaniv Kubovich writes, “Israel and Hamas have been passing along messages for the past few weeks, all with the same content: A return to rounds of fighting is imminent. The organization is signaling this to mediators Qatar and Egypt by using balloons to set Israeli fields on fire near the border and firing of rockets at communities in the south – while in response, Israel attacks Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip to show that it will not let this pass in silence. Defense officials understand that the mediators can prevent the military escalation, but estimate that they will not receive much help from the political leadership, which is more concerned by the coronavirus and accompanying economic crisis. The military is thus the main actor dealing with the issue.”