News Roundup for February 12, 2021

February 12, 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

Forget the Politicians: This U.S. Lawmaker Thinks High-tech Can Bring Israelis and Palestinians Together, Haaretz
“Rep. Ro Khanna, who made waves last week for saying the Biden administration would ‘radically reset’ U.S.-Israel ties, is calling for improved relations between the United States, Israel and the Palestinians through innovation and economic development. ‘I believe in the strategic and cultural importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship,’ the Democrat from California told Haaretz on Wednesday. ‘I still believe in the possibility of a two-state solution – I understand the aspiration of a Jewish state, but that can be guided on principles of liberal, pluralistic democracy,’ he says […] Khanna highlights the left-wing, pro-Israel J Street as an example of a group that has ‘created an honest conversation on policy while recognizing the danger of antisemitism that still lurks in the United States and around the world.’ J Street’s chief lobbyist, Dylan Williams, told Haaretz that Khanna ‘has been a leader in pushing back against demolitions and other harmful acts of creeping annexation in the West Bank, and in seeking to ensure that U.S. taxpayer dollars are not used to fund actions that undermine American interests, Palestinian rights and Israel’s long-term future.’”

Resolving the Crisis with Diaspora Jewry, The Peres Center
J Street’s Nadav Tamir writes, “Resolving the rift requires a shift in all Israel-Diaspora relationship paradigms, basing them on actions that connect people, especially those on the liberal side of the spectrum, through joint work on ‘Tikun Olam’ (loosely translated – building model societies to repair the world) projects. This ancient Jewish ideal speaks to all Jews of their relationships with each other and with the rest of the world.”

Top News and Analysis

Biden must prevent Israel’s march toward annexation, Responsible Statecraft
Former head of negotiations with the Israeli Prime Minister’s office Shaul Arieli writes, “Although former President Donald Trump no longer has the capacity to influence the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Israeli government continues to ride the wave of Trump’s “peace” plan and President Biden must take action to stop them. Indeed, the Netanyahu government is still working to implement the plan’s vision, steadily paving the way to annexing vast swathes of the West Bank. In real and significant ways, this is progressing despite Netanyahu’s purported “postponement” of annexation as part of a series of normalization agreements. Until the Biden administration articulates a new plan or map — or at least reveals consequences for Israel’s annexation projects — the Israeli government will continue to advance policies that entrench the occupation, expand settlements and lay the groundwork for unilateral, de jure annexation.”

Why it’s good that Biden’s foreign policy picks are controversial on Israel, The Forward
Abe Silberstein writes, “But by including them in his administration, Biden, an establishment figure par excellence, has sent an important signal to younger and more progressive generations of Democratic policy aides and advisors: Don’t be afraid that good faith advocacy for justice and human rights will be seen as a professional liability down the line.”

Scoop: “Munich Group” makes new Israel-Palestine proposals, Axios
A group of Arab and European countries nicknamed “The Munich Group” is lobbying Israeli and Palestinian leaders to commit to a package of confidence-building measures, Israeli and European diplomats tell me […] Last week, the ambassadors of the four countries met with the director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Alon Ushpiz, and presented him with possible steps Israel could take. They included providing more vaccines to Palestinian medical teams, unfreezing the bank accounts of Palestinian prisoners and transferring the dead bodies of suspected Palestinian terrorists, which are withheld by Israeli security forces. The most substantial request was a freeze on all new settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. That’s always a politically charged issue, but particularly so during an Israeli election campaign.


KKL-JNF may buy Palestinian land to accelerate settler building, The Jerusalem Post
Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund’s (KKL-JNF) board is scheduled Sunday to debate a new plan to purchase private Palestinian land in Area C of the West Bank to help accelerate settler building there.

Jewish National Fund Aims to Officially Work to Expand West Bank Settlements, Haaretz
According to the proposal, the details of which were first published on the Walla news site, the JNF would acquire private land, with priority given to land within settlements, land where construction is expected to face few obstacles, and land adjacent to existing settlements that can be used for their expansion.

JPost Poll: Lapid closing gap with Netanyahu, The Jerusalem Post
The two-month trend of Yesh Atid gaining at the polls and New Hope’s falling continued, as Yamina threatened to pass New Hope into third place. New Hope, which at one point trailed Likud by only five seats, is now 15 mandates behind the prime minister’s party. This was a three-seat drop for New Hope, which last week pulled in 16 seats in a survey by the same pollster.

Mounting evidence suggests Trump knew of danger to Pence when he attacked him as lacking ‘courage’ amid Capitol siege, Washington Post
Mounting evidence emerging as former president Donald Trump’s impeachment trial unfolds in the Senate this week indicates Trump may have been personally informed that Vice President Mike Pence was in physical danger during the Jan. 6 Capitol siege, just moments before denigrating him on Twitter.

US: It’s critical to refrain from settlement activity, terror payments, The Jerusalem Post
“We believe it is critical to refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and that undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two state solution,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington.

Opinion and Analysis

Videos Offer a ‘Smoking Gun’ on Impeachment. Will It Matter?, New York Times
Giovanni Russonello writes, “These proceedings have a very different feel than Trump’s first impeachment trial, in which the Democratic House managers pressed their case in dry, lawyerly tones, arguing that Trump had abused his power in back-room dealings with Ukraine’s leader. Video was scarce in that trial, and so was persuasion: Romney was the only Republican who voted for impeachment, and Trump was easily acquitted. This time around, the impeachment managers are leaning into a far more dramatic style. Raskin and his fellow House managers are aiming to sway Republican senators by way of moving public opinion — via the cameras.”

First Netanyahu Embraced the Kahanists. Now It’s the Homophobes’ Turn, Haaretz
Allison Kaplan Sommer writes, “When Benjamin Netanyahu talks in English, he’s keen to embrace the LGBTQ community. As he strikes deals ahead of the election with far-right extremists who blame gay people for ‘destroying family life,’ it looks like it was shameless pinkwashing.”

As Arab consensus splinters, wangling for community’s vote sparks hard questions, Times of Israel
Haviv Rettig Gur writes, “Israeli politicians, especially on the right, often respond to questions about equality with practical arguments. Investment in the Arab community is good for the economy, good for industry, reduces crime — its strongest argument, in other words, is that it’s good for everyone else. But Lapid’s concern was emphatically about the Arabs themselves.”