News Roundup for December 1, 2020

December 1, 2020

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J Street in the News

The Last Few Years Have Spelled a Resounding End to the ‘Jewish Vote’, The Nation
“Jews largely remain very liberal. J Street, a nonprofit advocacy group that describes itself as ‘pro-Israel, pro-peace,’ commissioned exit polling of Jewish voters and found a 77-21 percent preference for Joe Biden over Donald Trump. But Florida and the odd urban congressional district aside, Jewish votes rarely matter much. Jews constitute about 2 percent of the US population—not much more than Muslims. They vote the way most college- and graduate-school-educated urban-ish dwellers do: Democratic. Also, just 5 percent of Jews chose ‘Israel’ as their first or second most important issue—and, being Jews, they disagree on that topic, too.”

Top News and Analysis

As Iran buries slain nuclear scientist, leaders promise revenge and no negotiations with the West, Washington Post
Amid vows to avenge the killing of scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iran’s leadership promised Monday to push ahead with its nuclear program while casting doubt on the future of negotiations with the West. Fakhrizadeh’s assassination — and the pressure now on Iran’s leadership to retaliate after an embarrassing security failure — could undermine President-elect Joe Biden’s pledge to return to a negotiated nuclear deal with Iran and world powers. President Trump left the pact in 2018 while ratcheting up economic sanctions and pressure on Iran. Iran has blamed Israel for Fakhrizadeh’s death, which has elevated uncertainty in the region after Iranian leaders pledged a “definitive punishment” and to respond “at the right time.” “Some say through dialogue and negotiations actions can be taken in order to put an end to such hostility,” Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in a statement read at Fakhrizadeh’s funeral by a representative, according to a translation by Iranian state television. “This is not possible, because our enemies oppose the nature of the Islamic Republic establishment. . . . They will never put an end to their hostilities toward us.”

Gantz said planning to back Wednesday vote to call new elections, Times of Israel
Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party is expected to give initial backing to a bill to dissolve the Knesset and call early elections when it comes up for a vote Wednesday, TV reports said Monday evening, amid widespread speculation that Israelis will soon find themselves at the ballot box for the fourth time in under two years. The opposition-backed motion of no confidence is only going up for its preliminary reading Wednesday. It would still need to be approved by a Knesset committee and then pass three more votes to formally dissolve the government.

‘It’s a Jewish City’: Court Rejects Lawsuit by Arab Students, Citing Israel’s Nation-state Law, Haaretz
An Israeli court cited the controversial nation-state law in dismissing a lawsuit brought by two Arab schoolchildren against their northern town of Carmiel on Monday, ruling that its “Jewish character” must be preserved […] “Carmiel, a Jewish city, was meant to establish Jewish settlement in the Galilee,” wrote chief registrar of the Krayot Magistrate’s Court Yaniv Luzon in his decision dismissing the suit and ordering the plaintiffs to pay legal fees. “Establishing an Arabic-language school… [and] funding school rides for Arab students… could change the demographic balance and damage the city’s character.” Currently, the city’s population is about 6 percent Arab.


Gantz, Seeking Leverage Over Netanyahu, Mulls Voting With Opposition to Dissolve Knesset, Haaretz
Kahol Lavan chairman Benny Gantz is likely to vote on Wednesday for a bill to dissolve the Israeli parliament, in the hope that this will spur Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reach a compromise on a state budget.

Gantz ups pressure on Netanyahu as coalition teeters on brink of collapse, Times of Israel
Amid growing speculation Israelis will soon find themselves at the ballot box for the fourth time in under two years, Defense Minister Benny Gantz ordered his Blue and White party on Monday to prepare proposals for a number of contentious laws that do not have coalition backing, in a move that could bring down the government.

Behind Trump’s final push to limit immigration, Politico
Since Election Day, the president’s staffers have pushed through changes that make it easier to deny visas to immigrants, lengthened the citizenship test and appointed new members to an immigration policy board.

Labor party will back vote for new elections, ending government ‘paralysis’, Times of Israel
The Labor party on Tuesday said it would back a bill to disband the Knesset and call early elections, amid widespread speculation that Israelis will soon head back to the ballot box for the fourth time in under two years.

Eviction of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah part of Israeli policy, Al Jazeera
“Since the eviction order, we’ve been living with the daily anxiety of not knowing when the Israeli army will come and evict us from our home,” said Ahmad Hammad, a resident of Sheikh Jarrah.

Supreme Court strikes down New York’s COVID restrictions on synagogues, The Forward
Deciding two cases at once — one brought by Agudath Israel, an umbrella organization representing and advocating for haredi Orthodox Jews, and one brought by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn — the court ruled that restrictions placed on areas with high COVID test positivity rates unfairly discriminated against houses of worship.

Coronavirus robs biblical Bethlehem of Christmas cheer, AP
Missing are the thousands of international pilgrims who normally descend upon the town. Restaurants, hotels and souvenir shops are closed. The renowned Christmas tree lighting service will be limited to a small group of authorized people, as will church services on Christmas Eve.

Dead pig found outside rabbi’s door in heavily Orthodox New Jersey township, The Forward
The body was found on Shabbat, according to The Lakewood Scoop, and the local police department is treating the incident as a bias crime. Pigs are seen as the quintessentially unkosher animal and have long been used as an anti-Semitic symbol.

Gaza blockade responsible for $16B in economic damage, UN agency says, Al-Monitor
Israel’s military operations in the Gaza Strip and the ongoing blockade of the Hamas-ruled enclave have caused as much as $16.7 billion in economic damage, the United Nations said last week.

Opinion and Analysis

Israel Is the Wrench in Biden’s Iran Policy, Foreign Policy
Neri Zilber writes, “In the wake of the recent U.S. election, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it clear he opposes any reengagement with Iran. While there is near consensus in Israeli political circles with Netanyahu’s hard-line policy on Iran, some former Israeli security officials hold a more nuanced position.”

The Basic Law on Apartheid, Haaretz
The Editorial Board writes, “Without a trace of shame, Luzon stated that preserving the Jewish character of Carmiel in accordance with the nation-state law gives him legal justification for tossing out the Arab children’s lawsuit. The masks are off: The nation-state law has legalized racism and Jewish supremacy, and allows the state to discriminate against Arab citizens in order to keep them from living where they choose under equal conditions, thus deepening ethnic segregation in Israel.”

How Will Iran React to Another High-Profile Assassination?, Foreign Policy
Ariane Tabatabai writes, “The killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a top nuclear scientist, will complicate the incoming Biden administration’s efforts to renew the nuclear deal—and could lead to escalation.”

Iran Has a Range of Options to Retaliate Against Israel After Assassination, Haaretz
Yaniv Kubovich writes, “Revenge for the killing of the nuclear arms program chief Fakhrizadeh could be carried out on the Golan, along the Lebanon border, in the Mediterranean or in the Gulf – but Israeli officials doubt either side seeks an escalation.”

Jews rallied behind immigrants under Trump. Will they stop once Biden is president?, The Forward
Arno Rosenfeld writes, “There is that possibility that in January people feel like, ‘OK, everything is back to normal,’’ said Melanie Nezer, a senior vice president at HIAS, the leading Jewish immigrant aid group. ‘We really have an opportunity here, but it won’t happen without intense pressure.’”

Israel’s Government Is Set to Fall. Here’s How It Got There and What Happens Next, Haaretz
Anshel Pfeffer writes, “By Wednesday night, the seven months of the Netanyahu-Gantz zombie government could be over and Israel will be on its way to an election in March 2021, the country’s fourth in two years. Not that it will change much. The same ministers will remain in their positions and the caretaker government which will continue in office until a new one is formed after the election will be no more dysfunctional than it has been since the cabinet was sworn-in back in May.”

Looking forward to Joe Biden, The Jerusalem Post
Yael Patir writes, “Biden has already announced that he will rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear agreement with Iran and work to improve it, regarding both the nuclear issue and curbing Iran’s regional aggression. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will likely continue to oppose the agreement, precariously holding out for unrealistic goals and failing to secure an agreement that would be good for Israel and the world. In his recently published book, Obama shares that the Netanyahu was the only leader in the world who would turn disputes between them into internal American political disputes. If Netanyahu continues to pull such stunts again, he will not only undermine Israeli’s security vis-à-vis Iran, but he’ll compromise Israel’s security by harming our strategic relations with the US.”