News Roundup for February 18, 2021

February 18, 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

Divergent views on Israel come to light as Ohio special election heats up, Jewish Insider
“Though the election date has yet to be scheduled, pro-Israel groups are already beginning to rally around Brown as she lags behind Turner in fundraising. In the past week, both Pro-Israel America and Democratic Majority for Israel announced that they were endorsing the 45-year-old first-time congressional candidate. J Street, which recently began meeting with candidates in the race, and the Jewish Democratic Council of America, which is in the process of setting up a candidate forum, have yet to make endorsements. Despite their disagreements, Brown and Turner were aligned on some topics, including support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Top News and Analysis

Biden Calls Netanyahu for First Time Since Being Sworn in as U.S. President, Haaretz
U.S. President Joe Biden spoke to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the phone for the first time since being sworn into office on January 20. The conversation was friendly and very warm, and lasted one hour, a statement from the Israeli prime minister’s office said. The two leaders said they would act together to strengthen their country’s alliance, Netanyahu’s office said. Biden and Netanyahu discussed the continuation of the Middle East peace process, the Iranian threat, and regional security challenges, and agreed to maintain open dialogue on these topics.

U.S., Iran Both Lean on Europe As Iraq Attack Sharpens Nuclear Deal Standoff, Newsweek
On Thursday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with his E3 counterparts in Paris to build a united front on the Iran deal, and convince them that the era of Trump’s unilateral “maximum pressure” strategy is over. Meanwhile, Iranian leaders have also been pushing the European signatories of the JCPOA to convince the Biden administration that relief from Trump’s sanctions is the only way to convince Iran to scale back its nuclear program in line with the nuclear deal’s restrictions. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday, urging the veteran leader to support Tehran’s continued effort to have “inhumane” American sanctions lifted.

This Time, AIPAC Stays Silent on Netanyahu’s Alliance With Far-right, Anti-gay Party, Haaretz
Two years ago, AIPAC and AJC howled at Netanyahu’s alliance with neo-Kahanists. This time, though, no comment. American Jews ‘won’t be particularly shocked or outraged by anything he does at this point,’ says Israel Studies expert Dov Waxman.


Positive signals’ needed to save JCPOA, Merkel tells Rouhani, Al Jazeera
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on Iran to take steps ensuring its return to full compliance to a landmark 2015 nuclear deal, in a rare phone call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Netanyahu allies with Jewish supremacists ahead of Israeli election, Axios
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made great efforts ahead of Israel’s March 23 elections to ensure that Jewish supremacists from the Jewish Power party will make it into Israel’s parliament, the Knesset.

Netanyahu mourns radio host Limbaugh as ‘a great friend of Israel’, Times of Israel
Though Limbaugh was not focused on foreign policy, he was still staunchly pro-Israel, seeing the country as an ally against terrorism. Netanyahu said, “He was a great friend of Israel and he stood by us through thick and thin, always firm, never wavering.”

Biden makes long-awaited call to Israel’s Netanyahu, Middle East Eye
“What a surprise that after Bibi spent years relentlessly undermining the Obama-Biden Administration he’s not at the top of the call list,” Rhodes said in a tweet last week, using a nickname for the Israeli PM.

93% of Palestinians register to vote in election, amid claims of voter tampering, Times of Israel
More than 93 percent of eligible Palestinian voters registered to take part in the scheduled Palestinian elections in May before voter registration closed on Tuesday, the Palestinian Central Elections Commission said Wednesday.

Palestinian Workers Forced to Stay in Israel, but With No COVID Vaccine, Haaretz
Tens of thousands of Palestinian workers from the West Bank are forced to spend the night in Israel due to the pandemic, but Israel refuses to vaccinate any of them.

Hamas to review edict requiring women to get guardian’s approval for travel, Times of Israel
The Islamist terror group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, said Wednesday judicial authorities would review a controversial edict giving parents and guardians power to block adult children or defendants from traveling.

Opinion and Analysis

Biden Now Has an Opening to Save the Iran Deal, Slate
Fred Kaplan writes, “A path to a solution seems clear: The Europeans devise a formula by which the U.S. and Iran do what they need to do simultaneously, step by step, with the EU and the International Atomic Energy Agency verifying each step. It would be daft if either Washington or Iran rejects the formula, whatever its precise terms may be, in favor of roaring ahead toward the head-on crash of highway chicken.”

Biden’s snub of Netanyahu sets the tone for more evenhanded U.S.-Israel relationship, LA Times
Tracy Wilkinson writes, “Rest assured, foreign policy experts say, Biden clearly had Netanyahu’s number — in more ways than one. By making the notoriously arrogant Israeli leader cool his heels while waiting for a call, Biden was signaling a significant refocusing of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East to become more evenhanded in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict […] Biden’s cooler approach contrasts with Trump’s effusiveness toward Israel. Trump moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognized Israeli sovereignty over disputed land in Jerusalem and Golan Heights, and cut off aid to Palestinians, including to refugees and Christian hospitals. Trump’s proposed Mideast peace plan was viewed as one-sided in favor of Israel and was quickly rejected by Palestinians.”

Palestinians Should Drag Architects of Settlements to the ICC, Haaretz
Amira Hass writes, “Far-sighted Israeli planning has turned Palestinian villages and shepherds’ encampments into distant, Orientalist décor within an Israeli space. The Palestinian cities have been hidden behind walls, checkpoints, barbed-wire fences and warning signs. Here and there, the Jewish motorist on a bypass road catches a glimpse of the Third World – gray concrete, industrial buildings in the middle of residential neighborhoods, homes in the middle of industrial zones, a congested architectural jumble that is devoid of greenery; water tanks on every roof and high-rise apartments built without planning permits, abutting one another.”