News Roundup for December 17, 2020

December 17, 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

Democratic lobby group defends Israel’s demolition of Palestinian hamlet, +972 Mag
“Blaming Palestinians for their own displacement, Democratic Majority for Israel is pushing back against its party’s criticism of the largest West Bank demolition in a decade, memo reveals […] DMFI is the newest pro-Israel lobby group to set up shop in Washington, but its members are no strangers to the Hill. Run by longtime Democratic consultant Mark Mellman, its leadership and board are stacked with party insiders with close ties to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Israel lobby’s flagship organization in Washington […] In a J Street response memo circulated to House Democrats that was also obtained by +972 Magazine, Debra Shushan, the liberal group’s director of government affairs, pushed back against DMFI’s claims. She asserted that DMFI’s arguments ‘mirror Regavim’s talking points’ and that ‘Israel has declared many areas as firing zones to displace Palestinian communities and maintain Israeli control.’ – ‘DMFI is attempting to shield Israel from criticism over its policies that imperil prospects for a viable Palestinian state and a negotiated end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,’ Shushan concluded in her memo. ‘In undermining a two-state solution using pro-annexationist right-wing sources and talking points, DMFI’s defense of demolitions and forced relocations not only runs counter to democratic values, but harms Israel’s future.’”

Top News and Analysis

HMOs want to start mass vaccinations for high risk Israelis from Monday, Times of Israel
Israel’s two largest health maintenance organizations (HMOs) are reportedly asking the government to let them begin mass vaccinations from Monday, a day after the country starts administering the coronavirus shots to front-line health workers.

As Israel prepares vaccine rollout, only 40% say they will take part in first round, JTA
As Jerusalem prepares for the planned rollout of its national COVID-19 vaccination campaign next week, Israeli health officials are grappling with how to convince a largely skeptical population to receive shots whose rapid development has raised concerns over the possibility of side effects.


Senate passes bill elevating anti-Semitism monitor to ambassador, JTA
The U.S. Senate passed a bill that would elevate the position of the anti-Semitism monitor to ambassador, adding punch to the envoy’s mission of pressing other governments to confront anti-Jewish bigotry.

Gantz checking which party MKs will abandon him if he caves to Netanyahu, Times of Israel
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz has been holding one-on-one meetings with his party lawmakers to check who will remain loyal to him if the coalition crisis results in early elections — or if he temporarily resolves the situation by giving in to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demands, which may include giving up on his turn at being premier, the Kan public broadcaster reported Wednesday.

Opinion and Analysis

What Biden Should Do About Israel And Palestine, Bloomberg
Hussein Ibish writes, “One of the most urgent foreign policy tasks facing Joe Biden is repairing the severe damage President Donald Trump has inflicted on U.S. policy towards Israel, and especially the Palestinians. Despite the growing impression, in the salons of Washington as much as the palaces of the Middle East, that the Palestinian issue has become moot, that conflict has demonstrated a persistent ability to suddenly reignite. Resolving it remains crucial to security and stability in the Middle East.”

Netanyahu also influencer-in-chief as master of YouTube, Instagram, Al-Monitor
Ben Caspit writes, “No other politician in Israel, not even the young ones, masters YouTube, Instagram and other social networks as skillfully as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

Pompeo’s Settlement Visit Caps a Four-Year Effort to Destroy the Two-State Solution, WRMEA
Khaled Elgindy writes, “Pompeo’s settlement tour is yet another major gift to embattled Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has been plagued by periodic protests, a looming corruption trial scheduled to start in early 2021, and the possibility of yet another election—Israel’s fourth in less than two years. Some have speculated that Pompeo may be laying the groundwork for his own presidential bid in 2024. Whatever his political ambitions, Pompeo’s gesture is consistent with other measures taken by the Trump administration, such as the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the State Department’s declaration a year ago that settlements would no longer be deemed illegal, all of which are designed to upend international norms, erase Palestinian rights and political aspirations, and consolidate Israel’s permanent control of all the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.”

Occupiers of the World Unite!, Haaretz
Michael Sfard writes, “It’s hard to expect a country like Israel, which itself occupies a nation and denies it elementary rights, sucking in its land and using it for its own needs, to behave with empathy towards other occupied people – and in Western Sahara yet. Who has even heard of them, the nomadic tribes (and perhaps semi-nomadic) there in the Sahara? How do you even say it? Saharans? No. The Israelis sleep well at night with their occupation, and therefore there’s no reason to assume that they will lose sleep because they helped make another occupation permanent”

In struggles for West Sahara and West Bank, thorny parallels may loom for Israel, Times of Israel
Raphael Ahren writes, “Both places are claimed by one people and occupied by another. Could new US recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over one of the territories have impact on the status of the second?”