News Roundup for August 26, 2021

August 26, 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

Biden and Naftali Bennett to Meet, Seeking to Burnish U.S.-Israel Relations, New York Times
When Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of Israel meets President Biden at the White House on Thursday, the two new leaders plan to seek a reset in relations between their countries and reinforce a bond that has showed signs of strain. […] “These are two very central issues in the U.S.-Israel relationship on which there are radically different points of view,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, a liberal pro-Israel advocacy group. “The tone and the atmosphere cannot substitute for the fact that there is a fundamental difference in view on the core issues at stake in the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

Biden to meet Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett amid ‘new era of cooperation’, USA Today
Israel’s new prime minister heads to the White House on Thursday for an introductory meeting with President Joe Biden and the promise of a “new era of cooperation” in U.S.-Israeli relations. […] “This new government in Israel is a welcome change, as is the government in Washington, D.C.,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president and founder of J Street, a left-leaning, pro-Israel advocacy group. But, “the tone and the atmosphere cannot substitute for the fact that there is a fundamental difference in view on the core issues at stake in the U.S.-Israel relationship,” he said.

Israeli PM to make case to Biden against Iran nuclear pact, AP
President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett are set to hold their first face-to-face meeting Thursday, and Israel’s new leader intends to press Biden to give up pursuit of reviving the Iran nuclear deal. […] Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the liberal Jewish advocacy group J Street, […] noted that the two leaders are out of sync on several issues in addition to Iran. Bennett opposes the creation of a Palestinian state and supports expansion of settlements in the West Bank, which Biden opposes. “The warmth that is going to be projected and the good solid working relationship cannot fully mask the fact that the agenda that Prime Minister Bennett comes to Washington with and the agenda that the Biden administration is pursuing on some of the core issues are still almost as different as they could possibly be,” Ben-Ami said.

Top News and Analysis

Israel’s Bennett Seeks New Political Order. Netanyahu Stands in the Way., Wall Street Journal
Since taking over in June as Israel’s prime minister, Naftali Bennett has tried to construct a new political order. The biggest obstacle might be the man he displaced, his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr. Bennett, a right-wing politician who will be in Washington this week to meet President Joe Biden, heads an unstable coalition of leftist, right-wing and Arab parties and by necessity must govern from the center.

Israel to allow goods into Gaza in move to ease tensions, AP
Israel said that it would be easing commercial restrictions on the Gaza Strip and expand entry of goods to the Palestinian enclave following days of heightened tensions. The announcement came after hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated Wednesday near the Israeli border, calling on Israel to ease a crippling blockade days after a similar gathering ended in deadly clashes with the Israeli army.

U.S. has options if Iran talks fail, officials say ahead of Israeli PM’s visit, Axios
If diplomacy fails, the U.S. will consider using other means to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, senior Biden administration officials said in a briefing ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s visit to the White House. Iran is the main agenda item for Bennett’s visit, and he is expected to push for a “Plan B” now that nuclear talks have stalled. The U.S. officials didn’t say what exactly the administration would consider but are clearly trying to reassure the Israelis that they are willing to pressure Iran.


Israel’s Spy Agency Snubbed the U.S. Can Trust Be Restored?, New York Times
In the spring, Benjamin Netanyahu, then Israel’s prime minister, even curtailed intelligence sharing with the United States because he did not trust the Biden administration. The challenge for the two countries — as Israel’s new prime minister, Naftali Bennett, meets with Mr. Biden at the White House on Thursday — will be whether they can rebuild that trust even as they pursue contradictory agendas on Iran.

Palestinians in Gaza protest against Israel’s crippling blockade, Al Jazeera
Hundreds of Palestinians have demonstrated near the Israeli separation barrier in the southern Gaza Strip, calling on Israel to ease a crippling blockade, days after a similar gathering ended in a deadly crackdown. The demonstration wrapped up without a repeat of Saturday’s violence after Hamas, which governs the besieged Strip, kept the crowds from approaching the separation wall.

Bennett Holds First Climate Briefing Ahead of Biden Meeting, Haaretz
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett held his first meeting with climate experts on Tuesday, in preparation for his meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday. Some of the experts who took part in the discussion urged Bennett to set a more ambitious target for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in Israel, according to sources.

US knows Iran deal may be lost, is open to Israeli proposals — Bennett staffer, Times of Israel
The US administration recognizes that a return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran might not be possible, and as a result is open to Israeli approaches to countering Iran, according to a senior member of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s entourage. The staffer said on Wednesday evening that on Iran, the Israeli team’s positions received “significant attention” from the administration, as “they themselves understand that it may be that we find ourselves in a reality without an agreement, and [even] if there is an agreement, there are holes that must be filled.”

Opinion and Analysis

Can We Worry Only About a Wounded Israeli Soldier, and Not the Victims in Gaza Too?, Haaretz
Gideon Levy writes, “In Gaza there are more than 300 bereaved families from the previous wave of protests, at least 36 families who lost children that were killed by this accursed wall, and thousands of families with a wounded or disabled family member from the 27,000 who were wounded, 88 of whom lost limbs. No one thinks about them. No one talks about the boy Omar. Is it permitted in Israel to worry about him? Is it permitted to think that he is the main victim?”

Biden will discover Bennett is no Bibi, The Hill
David Makovsky writes, “Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will be welcomed to the White House on Thursday. Many in the U.S. have come to view his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu as synonymous with Israel, as he led the country for the last dozen years. While both leaders have a hawkish foreign policy orientation and both are as comfortable in English as they are in Hebrew, it would be a mistake to view the leaders as interchangeable. It is critical to understand the key differences between them.”

For Hamas, May’s War With Israel Never Ended, Haaretz
Amos Harel writes, “Criticism over the wounding of an Israeli officer led to a tighter deployment at the Gaza fence, but Hamas is still striving to get all its Qatari money and the border crossings opened.”