News Roundup for August 5, 2020

August 5, 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

Liberal Jewish groups warn against Brad Sherman for House Foreign Affairs post, J Street
“Five liberal Zionist groups sent a letter to the House Foreign Affairs Committee Tuesday, laying out the criteria they believe the panel should use when selecting its next chair. These included picking a US House member with a consistent record of supporting the Iran nuclear deal, the US-Israel relationship and a two-state solution. The coalition of progressive Jewish advocacy groups — comprising J Street, Americans for Peace Now, Ameinu, Habonim Dror and Partners for Progressive Israel — also said the next committee chair should oppose Israeli efforts to annex parts of the West Bank, and should be willing to restrict American military assistance from going to annexation. ‘It’s an open question whether Representative Sherman’s views and record are in line with these principles,’ J Street’s communications director, Logan Bayroff, told The Times of Israel. ‘His opposition to the JCPOA [Iran deal] at the moment of truth in 2015, as well as his initial support for the Iraq War, raise real concerns about the strength of his commitment to diplomacy,’ Bayroff added.”

Top News and Analysis

Scores dead and more than 3,000 injured as explosions rock Beirut, Health Ministry says, Washington Post
At least two massive explosions shook Beirut on Tuesday, injuring and killing hundreds of people, strewing devastation across multiple neighborhoods and shattering windows for miles around. The cause of the early-evening blasts was not immediately clear, but senior officials said it appeared that flammable materials stored in a warehouse in the port area had caught fire. An initial, smaller explosion had apparently ignited a fire. Then came two secondary blasts, propelling a vast mushroom cloud of pink and yellow smoke over the city. The casualty numbers rose through the evening, with more than 70 dead, the Associated Press reported, and more than 3,000 injured, according to the Health Ministry.

Reengaging Iran: A New Strategy for the United States, CNAS
Ilan Goldenberg, Elisa Catalano Ewers and Kaleigh Thomas write, “The administration should start with immediate, modest unilateral confidence-building measures, including abolishing the travel ban from Iran, relaxing symbolic sanctions on officials such as Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, supporting a post-COVID-19 International Monetary Fund (IMF) package, and taking additional, tangible steps to ensure sanctions do not interfere with medical supplies associated with addressing the COVID-19 crisis. From Inauguration Day through the spring of 2021 when Iran holds its presidential election, the administration should focus on an initial arrangement that agrees on ‘calm for calm’ in the region and arrests Iran’s nuclear progress.”

What the Israeli Public Really Thinks About Annexation, From 1967 to Today, Haaretz
According to political scientist and pollster Dahlia Scheindlin, even if people are not “taking to the streets to demand the two-state solution, a lot of people are uncomfortable with the annexation plan.” They have many reasons for concern, she suggests. “They’ve heard it may cause escalation or violence on the security level. They understand it could make problems with the U.S. – nobody’s really sure if the U.S. supports it or not. It could mess up relations with the Gulf states, which are starting to deepen, and Europe doesn’t like it.”


Longtime Rep. William Lacy Clay loses Democratic primary in Missouri, Washington Post
Rep. William Lacy Clay lost the Democratic primary in Missouri on Tuesday night, falling to Cori Bush, an activist who entered politics after the Ferguson protests in 2014 and tapped into the recent energy of the Black Lives Matter movement to upset the 10-term congressman […] Clay, whose only previous primary challenge came when he and a former colleague were forced into the same district, was slow to respond to Bush. According to the Federal Election Commission, he spent less than $600,000 on the race, and his final mail advertising was largely negative, accusing Bush of being irresponsible with her finances and working closely with critics of Israel.

Beirut explosion: Frantic search for survivors of deadly blast, BBC
Rescue workers in Lebanon are searching for more than a hundred people who are missing after a huge explosion devastated the port area of the capital Beirut on Tuesday.

‘We Share Your Pain’: Israel Offers Aid to Lebanon After Beirut Port Blast, Haaretz
“Israel has approached Lebanon through international security and diplomatic channels and has offered the Lebanese government medical and humanitarian assistance,” a written statement from Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said. President Reuven Rivlin also offered his assistance, tweeting: “We share the pain of the Lebanese people and sincerely reach out to offer our aid at this difficult time.”

What We Know and Don’t Know About the Beirut Explosions, New York Times
Investigators will try to determine whether the blasts were accidents or intentionally triggered. Beirut was engulfed in civil war from 1975 to 1990 and has seen bombings and conflict since then, raising fears of a possible return of violence. But Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, the head of Lebanon’s general security service, warned against speculating about terrorism before the facts were known.

Palestinians: Israel is ‘secretly’ imposing annexation plan, The Jerusalem Post
“We have repeatedly warned that Netanyahu has not abandoned the annexation scheme,” said a senior Palestinian Authority official. “Netanyahu’s remarks prove that he and the US administration are determined to proceed with this dangerous plan. That’s why we are pursuing our diplomatic efforts in the international arena to warn of the grave consequences of such a move.”

Gantz looking at pushing bill to ban Netanyahu from running in election, Times of Israel
Confidants of Blue and White leader Defense Minister Benny Gantz are looking at potentially passing a bill to prevent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from running for office due to his criminal trial should the two fail to reach an agreement on the national budget, a development that would trigger elections, Channel 13 reported Tuesday.

Netanyahu Repays Cousin $30,000 in Legal Defense Fees Received Without Authorization, Haaretz
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informed the permits committee in the State Comptroller’s Office that he had repaid $30,000 received without authorization from his cousin on Tuesday, the end of the 30-day period given by the committee last month.

Netanyahu said offering NIS 400m for ultra-Orthodox yeshivas amid election talk, Times of Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly offering to funnel hundreds of millions of shekels to yeshivas in order to reduce opposition by ultra-Orthodox parties to breaking up the unity government and calling elections.

Changing U.S. Aid Terms Hit Israeli Defense Industry Harder Than Expected, Report Says, Haaretz
Israel’s Defense Ministry is expected to reduce procurements from the domestic arms industry by a larger-than-expected 5.6 billion shekels ($1.6 billion at current exchange rates) by the year 2028 due to the changing conditions of U.S. aid, the State Comptroller estimated in a report released on Monday.

Opinion and Analysis

How far can Israel go in trying to erase Palestinians?, Al Jazeera
Mariam Barghouti writes, “As international media is abuzz with speculation about Israel’s intent to formally annex parts of the West Bank, and as world governments prepare to issue their n-th statements of empty words against Israel, we in Palestine wonder how much more annexation we can survive. For decades, before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his formal call to annex Palestinian lands, we have been experiencing persistent annexation. Illegal Israeli settlements spring up so quickly, you would think they were built overnight. And just as quickly, they continue to expand, creeping ever closer towards our villages and towns.”

When Covid Subsided, Israel Reopened Its Schools. It Didn’t Go Well., New York Times
Isabel Kershner and Pam Belluck write, “As countries consider back-to-school strategies for the fall, a coronavirus outbreak at a Jerusalem high school offers a cautionary tale.”

For Gaza patients, uncertainty over Israeli permits are a matter of life and death, +972 Mag
Judith Sudilovsky writes, “Israel’s permit regime has become even more arduous for Palestinian patients since the PA halted coordination, with rights groups trying to fill the vacuum.”

Why Religious Israelis Are Steering Clear of the anti-Netanyahu Protests, Haaretz
Judy Maltz writes, “Religious Zionists and ultra-Orthodox Jews are conspicuously absent from the demonstrations, emblematic of a deep-seated distrust of ‘left-wing’ protests. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any there.”