News Roundup for December 18, 2020

December 18, 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.

Top News and Analysis

IAEA chief says nuclear security risks increased under Trump, urges Biden to re-engage, CBS
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the global nuclear watchdog, told CBS News that the world has become a more dangerous place partly due to President Donald Trump’s policies, and he urged Mr. Trump’s successor to return to nuclear negotiations with adversaries. IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi discussed the risks of both Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs to the world, and said Mr. Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the international nuclear agreement with Tehran had intensified the danger. “From that moment, Iran, as a response to this [U.S. exit], decided to gradually start diminishing its compliance” with the nuclear pact, Grossi said in a wide-ranging interview, urging President-elect Joe Biden to reopen negotiations with Tehran.

Biden and the JCPOA: Lessons from Arab and Iranian public opinion, Responsible Statecraft
James Zogby writes, “In 2014, substantial majorities of Iranians (between 90% and 60%) expressed support for their government’s involvement in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. In 2015, after the framework agreement was announced, that percentage began to drop and by 2016 support for these foreign entanglements had plummeted to below 50% in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, and just 20% in Yemen. By 2017, after the US pullout and the introduction of new sanctions on Iran, the Iranian public’s support for these foreign involvements had risen to over 60%.”


PA announces two-week closure throughout West Bank as virus surges, Times of Israel
The Palestinian Authority announced a two-week closure in the entire West Bank Thursday evening, after three weeks of tightening restrictions failed to curb the coronavirus outbreak among its residents.

Palestinians left waiting as Israel is set to deploy vaccine, AP
Israel will begin rolling out a major coronavirus vaccination campaign next week after the prime minister reached out personally to the head of a major drug company. Millions of Palestinians living under Israeli control will have to wait much longer.

GOP’s Loeffler Takes Hard-Right Turn, Polarizing Race in Georgia, Bloomberg
Senator Kelly Loeffler’s campaign was designed to broaden the Republican Party’s appeal to voters in Georgia’s increasingly Democratic suburbs — instead the race has turned into a contest in which each side is hardening its core supporters and few undecideds remain.

Iran builds at underground nuclear facility amid US tensions, AP
Iran has begun construction on a site at its underground nuclear facility at Fordo amid tensions with the U.S. over its atomic program, satellite photos obtained Friday by The Associated Press show.

Health providers open up booking for vaccinations; first appointments on Monday, Times of Israel
Elderly Israelis and at-risk populations can now reserve doctor’s appointments to receive a vaccine against the coronavirus, ten months after the pandemic first reached the country.

Menorah at Dartmouth shot with pellets, in latest Hanukkah attack, JTA
Rabbi Moshe Gray, who runs the campus Chabad center with his wife Chani, said he discovered the vandalism on Wednesday evening, as he prepared to turn on the menorah’s electric lights for the holiday’s seventh night. Holes from a pellet gun had broken seven of the menorah’s nine lights.

Over 2,800 new COVID cases logged for 2nd straight day; 400 in serious condition, Times of Israel
The Health Ministry on Thursday morning reported over 2,800 new coronavirus cases for a second straight day, as renewed lockdown measures to contain the pandemic appeared days away from being imposed.

Opinion and Analysis

Trump’s recognition of Western Sahara is a serious blow to diplomacy and international law, Washington Post
Fmr. Secretary of State James A. Baker III writes, “President Trump’s recent proclamation recognizing Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara was an astounding retreat from the principles of international law and diplomacy that the United States has espoused and respected for many years. This rash move disguised as diplomacy will contribute to the existing deadlock in resolving the long-standing conflict between Morocco and the people of Western Sahara over the status of that territory. Further, it threatens to complicate our relations with Algeria, an important strategic partner, and has negative consequences on the overall situation in North Africa.”

How will Joe Biden deal with an emboldened Israel?, Responsible Statecraft
Mitchell Plitnick writes, “They have seen that increasing their hold on the West Bank and maintaining an unrelenting siege on Gaza will no longer be an obstacle to normalization with Arab states. They can reach agreements with major players in the Arab world without giving anything at all to the Palestinians and, at least based on early responses, without endangering the rule of the autocrats they establish normal relations with.”

Biden’s Foreign Policy Challenge: Balancing Iran and Middle East Allies, Haaretz
Come January 20, Joe Biden will have the busiest domestic agenda since the inauguration of Franklin Roosevelt, but a major foreign policy challenge remains: angling for a détente with Iran while not alienating Israel and Washington’s allies in the Gulf.

Trump’s Mideast deals are good for Israel. But they involve bad trade-offs., Washington Post
The Editorial Board writes, “The bribes Mr. Trump has had the United States pay for the upgrading of Israel’s relations are troubling. In exchange for a partial normalization with Israel, the administration removed Sudan, a onetime base of Osama bin Laden, from the State Department’s list of terrorism sponsors. Now, its government is threatening to withdraw from the deal if Congress does not grant it immunity from lawsuits stemming from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.”

The Conservative U.S. Group Trying to Transform Israel’s Justice System, Haaretz
Nettanel Slyomovics writes, “With inspiration and cooperation from the Federalist Society, the organization that’s behind the appointment of most of the U.S. Supreme Court justices, the Law and Liberty Forum has the money, connections and clout to spur a similar process in Israel.”