News Roundup for December 2, 2020

December 2, 2020

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J Street in the News

Jewish groups lay out priorities for Biden administration, next Congress, Jewish Insider
“Dylan Williams, J Street’s senior vice president for policy and strategy, told JI the Biden administration should take a number of major early steps toward peace, including reestablishing a separate consulate in Jerusalem to serve Palestinians, reissuing State Department guidance on discussing settlements and reinstating and expanding humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, including through the U.N. agency tasked with working with Palestinians. Williams added that the organization has urged Palestinian leadership to ‘take advantage of the opportunity that this new administration provides’ and change its policy of paying Palestinian prisoners jailed for terrorist activities — something the Palestinian Authority is reportedly working toward […] In the longer term, Williams argued that Congress will be critical in pushing back against ‘deepening occupation and creeping annexation,’ and called for legislators to investigate the Trump administration’s efforts to ‘blur the distinction between Israel and the settlements,’ introducing new measures to clarify that distinction and conducting oversight of how Israel is using American aid. J Street communications director Logan Bayroff added that he’s hopeful the Biden transition team and Congress will signal their commitment to re-entering the Iran deal to counter what he described as the Trump administration’s efforts to foreclose the possibility of diplomacy with Iran. ‘Trump’s trying to start a lot of fires and deliberately trying to provoke the Iranians into saying, ‘Well, we can’t work with any American administration,’’ Bayroff said.”

Top News and Analysis

Biden: ‘We’re Going to Fight Like Hell by Investing in America First’, New York Times
“Look, there’s a lot of talk about precision missiles and all range of other things that are destabilizing the region,” Biden said. But the fact is, “the best way to achieve getting some stability in the region” is to deal “with the nuclear program.” If Iran gets a nuclear bomb, he added, it puts enormous pressure on the Saudis, Turkey, Egypt and others to get nuclear weapons themselves. “And the last goddamn thing we need in that part of the world is a buildup of nuclear capability.” Then, Biden said, “in consultation with our allies and partners, we’re going to engage in negotiations and follow-on agreements to tighten and lengthen Iran’s nuclear constraints, as well as address the missile program.” The U.S. always has the option to snap back sanctions if need be, and Iran knows that, he added.

Iran’s Rouhani calls bill to boost uranium enrichment ‘harmful’ to diplomacy, Times of Israel
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday rejected a bill approved by parliament that would have suspended UN inspections and boosted uranium enrichment, saying it was “harmful” to diplomatic efforts aimed at restoring the 2015 nuclear deal and easing US sanctions. The comments came as US President-elect Joe Biden said the United States would rejoin the agreement if Tehran agreed to strictly comply by the terms.

Killing scientists won’t stop Iran’s nuclear work. Diplomacy can., Washington Post
The Editorial Board writes, “Over the past two decades, the United States and its allies have tried two very different strategies for containing Iran’s nuclear program. One has been to apply crushing sanctions to the regime, launch covert operations to disable key facilities or kill scientists, and threaten overt military action. The other has been to negotiate deals with Tehran that freeze key activities, such as uranium enrichment, and provide for international inspections. It is now apparent which works better.”


Gantz says party will vote to dissolve Knesset, setting stage for new elections, Times of Israel
Blue and White party leader and Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Tuesday that he can no longer support the government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and his party will vote Wednesday in support of a preliminary reading of a bill to dissolve the Knesset and call early elections.

Israel may be headed for new elections — again, Washington Post
Israel’s ongoing political crisis, which left the country without a government for more than a year and saddled it with a mostly dysfunctional one during the coronavirus pandemic, threatened to descend into chaos once again Wednesday as parliamentarians poised to dissolve the ruling coalition. A scheduled no-confidence proposal, following months of infighting within the fractious unity government, could dissolve the parliament and send the country to its fourth national election in two years. If passed, Wednesday’s bill would not go into immediate effect. The measure would go before a parliamentary committee before coming back for three more votes by the full Knesset, Israel’s parliament. Among the issues to be negotiated would be the timing of elections.

Israel’s Left-wing Meretz Party Rejects Push for Greater Arab Representation: ‘It’s Not Worth It’, Haaretz
Senior officials from Israel’s left-wing Meretz party have rejected an initiative to merge with Arab parties ahead of a potential election, after a public opinion poll commissioned by the party showed the move could alienate voters.

Gregory Meeks wins key recommendation for Foreign Affairs chairmanship, Jewish Insider
Twenty-nine members of the steering committee voted for Meeks, who has the support of the Congressional Black Caucus. Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-TX) garnered the support of 13 members, while Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) received 10 votes.

Israel transfers $1B to cash-strapped Palestinian Authority, AP
Israel transferred over $1 billion in taxes and customs duties it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday after a six-month hiatus in which the Palestinians had severed ties with Israel over its plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.

Active virus cases in Israel pass 11,000 for first time in over a month, Times of Israel
Health Ministry data on Wednesday morning showed 1,182 new cases of coronavirus diagnosed in Israel a day earlier. The number of active cases in the country stood at 11,072, the highest figure since October 30.

Opinion and Analysis

Iran will lose the battle, but win the war, Brookings
Ranj Alaaldin writes, “At worst, Iran has to contend with the possibility that its rivals can and will decapitate the cohort of individuals that are central to its nuclear program and its foreign legion of proxies. But leaders in Tehran will take comfort in knowing that its adversaries will struggle to eliminate the institutions and networks underpinning Iran’s national security, both at home and in the region.”

Toughest Job in Israel? The Challenges Facing Biden’s Future Ambassador, Haaretz
Allison Kaplan Sommer writes, “In the current situation, the need to represent the policies of the incoming Biden administration, following the unprecedented symbiotic relationship between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Donald Trump, and return it to anything resembling its previous state, presents a particularly daunting challenge.”

How US media manipulates Iran’s nuclear program into a sinister myth, Responsible Statecraft
Ben Armbruster writes, “Misleading and false reporting about Iran’s nuclear program gives Americans ammunition to support hawkish policies and war at worst, or at best, inflate the Iranian threat, which only serves to help block diplomatic efforts and maintain the antagonistic status quo.”

Netanyahu, Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza Need Vaccines, Too, Haaretz
Sari Bashi writes, “The news that pharmaceutical companies have apparently succeeded in developing an effective vaccine against the coronavirus is encouraging, especially in light of the Israeli government’s success in signing deals to supply of millions of doses of the vaccine. But senior health officials erred in their calculations: They counted only the number of vaccine doses needed to immunize nine million Israeli citizens, and failed to include the number of doses needed to vaccinate five million Palestinians, residents of the West Bank and Gaza, living under Israeli control and responsibility.”

Biden warned of Israeli annexation 50 years ago. Will he finally stop it?, +972 Mag
Hagai El-Ad writes, “Progressives should remind Biden of his early moral clarity on Israel’s occupation — and that rhetoric without action is what has helped sustain it.”

Reparations for Jews but Not Palestinians, Haaretz
B Michael writes, “Once again the district court ruled that dozens of Palestinians will be uprooted from their homes in Jerusalem, and those homes will be handed over to Jews.”

Birthright’s insulting obsession with intermarriage is erasing young Jews, The Forward
Jennifer Thompson writes, “The results are in: Birthright is a success. Or at least, this is the message of a new report out of The Cohen Center’s Jewish Futures Project which measured the impact of the ten-day free trip to Israel for Jewish North Americans. But what do they mean by success? A closer look at the study reveals how deeply the Jewish community remains enthralled to an outmoded view of Jewish engagement that’s based on antiquated and insulting views about intermarriage. Meanwhile, the crucial work of scholars emphasizing how compatible intermarriage and Jewish continuity are continues to be sidelined. “

How Gantz Fell Victim to Netanyahu’s Most Sophisticated Political Sting Operation Ever, Haaretz
Yossi Verter writes, “The Knesset will dissolve, the budget won’t pass, and the country will sink into an economic abyss, because Netanyahu never meant to give Gantz his rotation.”