News Roundup for February 1, 2021

February 1, 2021

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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

Biden picks nuclear deal architect to be Iran envoy as Tehran exceeds uranium enrichment goals, NBC
“Speculation around Malley’s appointment in recent days saw Malley come under fire by some Republicans and Iran hawks who see him as dovish, too soft on Iran and less than fully supportive of Israel. The criticism prompted various progressive foreign policy wonks and groups, including J Street, to then rally in his defense describing him in an open statement as ‘an astute analyst and accomplished diplomat.’”

‘Jewish Space Lasers’ Conspiracy: U.S. Jewish Groups Call for Republican Lawmaker’s Removal, Haaretz
“Jewish organizations and lawmakers are roundly calling on Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene to be punished or removed from office after it emerged she magnified antisemitic and racist conspiracy theories, including accusing ‘Rothschild Inc’ of starting a deadly forest fire with laser beams from space […] J Street, too, called for her expulsion, describing her as ‘ludicrous, bigoted beliefs and statements are a danger to our country, to the Jewish community and to her own colleagues.’”

Jewish groups join chorus of voices calling for expulsion of Rep. Marjorie Tayler Greene, Religion News Service
“Jewish groups are decrying remarks by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a freshman Republican lawmaker from Georgia who has expressed support for numerous conspiracy theories, with at least one organization calling on lawmakers to expel her for endorsing views they say are anti-Semitic […] Liberal-leaning Jewish advocacy groups J Street, Bend the Arc Jewish Action and If Not Now also called for Greene’s expulsion.”

J Street Applauds Appointment of Rob Malley as Us Special Envoy for Iran, J Street
“As a widely-respected diplomat, national security expert and human rights defender who was among the lead negotiators of the JCPOA, Malley is well-suited to play a major role in this urgent effort. J Street has been honored to work with him at many junctures during his career. We have no doubt that he will approach this role with the necessary urgency, nuance and competence. All those who care about the security of the United States, Israel and the wider region should be rooting for Malley and his colleagues to succeed in their mission.”

Top News and Analysis

Who goes first? Biden’s first JCPOA hurdle, Responsible Statecraft
Trita Parsi writes, “Both Washington and Tehran have accepted a mechanism for restoring the JCPOA: compliance for compliance. It is as simple and straightforward as it gets. Both sides simply comply with all of their JCPOA obligations with no preconditions. The Iranians drop their insistence that Washington compensate Tehran for having breached the deal in the first place, and the U.S. side refrains from using Donald Trump’s sanctions as ‘leverage’ to extract concessions from Iran before returning to the deal. Once both are in compliance with the deal, negotiations over disagreements and changes to the deal can begin. As simple as this formula is, however, it doesn’t resolve the question of who should take the first step. “

Iran Envoy Rob Malley Is Not ‘anti-Israel’ or an Iran Apologist. It’s That Simple, Haaretz
Alon Pinkas writes, “Throwing baseless accusations at Biden’s envoy Rob Malley when he faces such a monumental challenge concerning Tehran’s nuclear program is futile and wrong.”

As Lapid emerges as challenger, Likud signals it’s no more Mr. Nice Campaign, Times of Israel
Sa’ar’s star has slowly waned, and a slow shakeup on the left — the weakening of Ron Huldai’s The Israelis party and various other center-left upstarts – has helped push centrist Yesh Atid into second place. Now, halfway through election season, Netanyahu finally has the campaign he wants. With Yair Lapid’s party now seemingly in the lead among the opposing camp — a Friday poll in Maariv gave Yesh Atid 18 seats to New Hope’s 14, and a Sunday Channel 12 survey similarly predicted 17 seats for Yesh Atid and 14 for New Hope — and with the political fruits of the vaccination campaign possibly delayed by the arrival on Israel’s shores of the more contagious and virulent variants of the coronavirus from Britain, South Africa, and elsewhere, the logic behind the unity-and-vaccines campaign is fading quickly.


Jewish groups condemn Marjorie Taylor Greene. Her response: ‘I will never back down.’, JTA
“I will never back down,” Greene said in a defiant statement Friday afternoon, one day after revelations of one of her conspiracy theory-filled Facebook posts from 2018 thrust the term “Jewish space lasers” into public discourse.

Ministers extend lockdown until Friday morning, keep airport closed for week, Times of Israel
The Israeli Cabinet has voted to extend a nationwide lockdown for at least five more days as it struggles to bring a raging coronavirus outbreak under control.

Uncontrolled Exit From 3rd Lockdown Will Lead to Harsher Outbreak, Experts Warn, Haaretz
Despite an extensive vaccination campaign, coronavirus cases in Israel remain high and show little signs of decreasing. Israel is in the midst of a third nationwide lockdown, which the government extended by a week on Sunday night. Israel has halted inbound and outbound flights and closed down its overland border crossings. 4,796 Israelis have died so far of the virus.

Gantz: Israel will take military action against nuclear Iran if needed, Times of Israel
“The IDF and Israel’s defense establishment are holding onto the option of taking action against Iran’s nuclear project if that is what has to be done,” he said, according to quotes from the interview provided by his office. “I hope it doesn’t come to that.”

Israel Delivers 2,000 COVID Vaccines to Palestinian Authority, Haaretz
Israel delivered 2,000 coronavirus vaccines to the West Bank on Monday, the first batch of 5,000 inoculations intended for Palestinian medical staff.

Poll shows 10% of voters support parties that fall below electoral threshold, Times of Israel
An election poll released on Sunday indicated about 10 percent of the electorate support parties that are not expected to win enough votes to make it into the Knesset, highlighting the need for party mergers before electoral slates are finalized on Thursday.

Bomb explodes outside of Israeli embassy in India but injures none, JTA
Local police described it as a “very low-intensity improvised device” and said an investigation so far “suggests a mischievous attempt to create a sensation,” according to The Times of Israel.

Opinion and Analysis

Israel holds all the cards in the West Bank – it should vaccinate everyone, The Guardian
Maya Abu Al-Hayat writes, “After a year of this pandemic, we Palestinians have started to run out of options. No applicable preventive measures seem to be in place to constrain the virus, while an economic crisis rages and our businesses are being destroyed. Our health sector continues to suffer from a lack of resources.”

So Now Yair Lapid Is the Israeli Left’s Pet Candidate?, Haaretz
Tchia Dov writes, “This will be just like the previous election campaigns, when ‘we’ supported Benny Gantz. We ignored the lack of an agenda and his Teflon characteristics; we closed our eyes and ears (and mouths) to his festive declaration about the number of Palestinian deaths he was responsible for – 1,364 killed, he said proudly – and we tried to dismiss it as a slip of the tongue. We were captivated by his blue eyes, believed in the wonders of Photoshop and filled the opinion pages with enthusiastically supportive essays.”

Cynical ploy or positive development? How liberal Zionists see Netanyahu’s courting of Arab voters, The Forward
Jacob Kornbluh writes, “Recent polls show Netanyahu’s Likud Party projected to win an average of 30 out of the Knesset’s 120 seats, including one or two based on Arab votes. On Thursday, following a visit to the Bedouin town of Ar’ara in the Negev, Netanyahu told reporters that Arab voters disappointed in their leaders now have an opportunity to vote for his party.”

Rabbi’s Funeral Amid COVID Lockdown Makes a Mockery of Israelis’ Trust in Gov’t, Haaretz
Amos Harel writes, “Sunday’s mass funeral in Jerusalem turned the Israeli government’s claim of equitable management of the coronavirus crisis into a farce, undermining the public’s faith and increasing anger at the Haredi public.”

The vanquish of ethical monotheism from the Republican party, Times of Israel
Rabbi John Rosove writes, “That a major national political party could be taken over by a self-serving racist autocrat and be supported by the vast majority of that party’s congressional caucus with little resistance is only part of what ails us nationally. We can look to the growth of right-wing media, to legitimate economic distress, a sense of powerlessness among large swaths of the nation, bigotry and hate to explain much of it. But, something else is going on that’s more basic…”