News Roundup for December 9, 2020

December 9, 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

Biden National Security Adviser Sees U.S. Rejoining Iran Nuclear Deal, Wall Street Journal
President-elect Joe Biden’s national security adviser said the incoming administration wants to put Iran “back into the box” by rejoining the nuclear deal and forcing Tehran to comply with the terms of the original agreement. In return, the U.S. would be prepared to honor the terms of the 2015 deal, said Jake Sullivan, Mr. Biden’s choice for national security adviser, at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit on Monday. “We think that it is feasible and achievable,” Mr. Sullivan said. Mr. Biden will attempt to undo the damage his camp believes was done when President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the deal in 2018. Re-entering that agreement, which would mean lifting sanctions worth billions of dollars to Tehran, would lay the groundwork for a “follow-on negotiation” on broader issues, he said.

Gideon Sa’ar quits Likud, ‘a tool for Netanyahu’s interests,’ to lead ‘New Hope’, Times of Israel
Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar, long seen as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief rival within Likud, on Tuesday announced he was quitting Likud and will form his own right-wing party, to be called “New Hope,” and run for the premiership in the next election. Sa’ar announced his intention to leave Likud at a press conference on Tuesday night. He said he would quit the ruling party and the Knesset on Wednesday.

Joe Biden faces pushback over his defence secretary nominee, Financial Times
Joe Biden has nominated Lloyd Austin as defence secretary despite running into early opposition from some lawmakers who questioned his suitability for the job. Mr Biden said Mr Austin — who would be the first African-American to serve in the role if confirmed — was “uniquely qualified to take on the challenges and crises we face in the current moment” in a statement on Tuesday. The comments underlined the important role the retired four-star general would play in rolling out coronavirus vaccines and restoring US alliances harmed during the Trump era. However, politicians on both sides of the aisle expressed their concern over the pick and experts warned against bucking the US tradition of civilian leadership at the Pentagon.


Likud slams Sa’ar for quitting and forming new party, predicts he will ‘crash’, Times of Israel
The Likud party on Tuesday assailed MK Gideon Sa’ar over his decision to leave the party and set up his own rival political movement, saying in a statement that the veteran member was doing so due to plummeting popularity rather than any ideological motive.

Rouhani: ‘No negotiations’ needed to restore Iran nuclear deal, Al Jazeera
Iran’s nuclear deal can be restored without negotiations despite recent escalations following the assassination of a top nuclear scientist, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has told world powers.

Jim Mattis Privately Defends Trump’s Biggest Arms Sale As Congressional Opposition Grows, Huffington Post
Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is trying to save President Donald Trump’s massive weapons sale to the United Arab Emirates as skeptical senators worry about the country’s brutal track record across the Middle East, three people familiar with Mattis’ involvement in the sale told HuffPost.

AIPAC does not oppose F-35 sales to the United Arab Emirates, JTA
The preeminent Israel lobby AIPAC does not oppose the sale of F-35 stealth fighters to the United Arab Emirates — a sign that the Trump administration has sold the Israeli government and its U.S. supporters on a deal that not so long ago they vigorously opposed.

As world scrambles for COVID-19 vaccines, Palestinians pin hopes on WHO program, Times of Israel
As countries compete for vaccines to combat the novel coronavirus, the Palestinian Authority has yet to make public a clear plan for how it intends to vaccinate Palestinian residents of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but has applied for a UN program that would provide and fund 20 percent of the total doses needed.

UN urges Iran to address nuclear, ballistic missile concerns, AP
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is urging Iran to address concerns raised about its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and return to “full implementation” of its 2015 nuclear deal with major powers. The U.N. chief expressed regret in a report to the Security Council obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press that the Trump administration withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions against Tehran, and at Iran’s 2019 decision to violate limits in the deal including on centrifuges and enriching uranium.

Number of Israelis in poverty shot up 50% since pandemic’s start, report finds, Times of Israel
Over a quarter of a million households in Israel have fallen below the poverty line since the start of the pandemic, an increase of nearly 50 percent, a survey released Wednesday revealed.

Opinion and Analysis

Biden’s Good News for the Jews: A President Who Will Fight America’s Antisemites, Not Flatter Them, Haaretz
Steve Israel writes, “Trump isn’t going away and neither will his hardcore supporters. His campaign to convince them of a conspiracy to overturn the election will further deepen resentments and incite hatred. The armed white supremacist groups, the far-right militias, the expressions of antisemitism, the display of swastikas at right-wing protests – none of these will disappear overnight. But, beginning on Biden’s first night as president, the response to these crimes will change. That change will be stark both in style, and in substance.”

Sa’ar steps out of Netanyahu’s shadow, and will likely cost him the premiership, Times of Israel
Haviv Rettig Gur writes, “According to the poll, Sa’ar, among the most popular figures in the Likud rank and file until he challenged Netanyahu’s leadership last year, moves some four seats from pro-Netanyahu Likud to an anti-Netanyahu offshoot. And while he also weakens Yamina and Yesh Atid, it is Netanyahu who cannot afford the drop. The danger is now so acute for the prime minister that it became a matter of conventional wisdom among pundits Tuesday night that Netanyahu will look for ways to avert an election at the last minute, even if it means passing a state budget for 2020 and 2021 and being forced to hand the rotating premiership to Gantz, as promised in the agreement the two men signed back in May.”

Two-State Solution is ‘the Only Path’ for Palestinians, Israelis to Live in Peace, Secretary-General Tells International Media Seminar, UNSG
UN Secretary-General António Guterres writes, “I understand the deep sense of despair of the Palestinian people. The dreams of generation after generation have been dimmed by conflict and more than half a century of occupation. I also recognize the legitimate concerns of the Israeli people and their aspirations to live in peace and security. The position of the United Nations is defined by resolutions of the Security Council and General Assembly as well as international law and bilateral agreements.   The two-State solution remains the only path to ensuring that Palestinians and Israelis can both realize their legitimate aspirations ,living side-by-side in peace and security, based on the 1967 borders, and with Jerusalem as the capital of both states. “

Let the Israeli Left Choose Their Own Leaders. Only Then Will They Replace Netanyahu, Haaretz
Stav Shaffir writes, “For now, opinion polls show that the left has no chance of defeating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Lawmakers Amir Peretz and Itzik Shmuli, by crawling into his government, have turned the Labor Party into a historical relic. Both Labor and Meretz have forgone primaries, leaving power in the hands of their leaders. There is no democracy in the parties of Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid either. This leaves Likud, embarrassingly, as the only democratic party.”