News Roundup for February 2, 2021

February 2, 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.

Top News and Analysis

In first public contact in years, senior Palestinian, US officials share call, Times of Israel
In what appeared to be the first official contact between Washington and Ramallah under the newly inaugurated administration of President Joe Biden, two senior Palestinian and American officials spoke on the phone to discuss the relationship between the two parties on Monday. Palestinian Authority Civil Affairs Commission chairman Hussein al-Sheikh said in a statement that said he had spoken to US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr.

It’s Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Party Now, New York Times
Michelle Goldberg writes, “By now, you’ve surely heard her theory that California wildfires might have been caused by a space laser controlled by Jewish bankers. That wasn’t Greene’s first foray into anti-Semitism; in 2018 she shared a notorious white nationalist video in which a Holocaust denier claimed that ‘Zionist supremacists have schemed to promote immigration and miscegenation.’ […] There was a moment, after the Capitol riot, when it seemed as if a critical mass of the Republican Party was recoiling at what it had created. But the moment passed, because it would have required the party’s putative leaders to defy too many of their followers. Senator Mitch McConnell floated openness to convicting Trump in a Senate trial, but ended up voting that such a trial was unconstitutional. Fox News, finger to the wind, purged many of its real journalists and gave the conspiracy theorist Maria Bartiromo a prime-time tryout.”

Dems deliver GOP ultimatum over Marjorie Taylor Greene, Politico
Top House Democrats are moving to force Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene off multiple committees this week — with or without Kevin McCarthy’s help. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer delivered an ultimatum to McCarthy on Monday: Either Republicans move on their own to strip Greene (R-Ga.) of her committee assignments within 72 hours, or Democrats will bring the issue to the House floor. The Democrats’ move, while highly unusual, comes amid intense fury within the Democratic Caucus over Greene’s long record of incendiary rhetoric, including peddling conspiracy theories that the nation’s deadliest mass shootings were staged. Greene also endorsed violence against Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats before she was elected to Congress. Last week, Greene was officially awarded seats on the House Education and Labor Committee and the House Budget Committee.


Mitch McConnell Says Marjorie Taylor Green’s ‘Loony Lies’ Are a ‘Cancer’ on GOP, The Hill
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday blasted Georgia GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s embrace of “loony lies and conspiracy theories” as a “cancer for the Republican Party.” – “Somebody who’s suggested that perhaps no airplane hit the Pentagon on 9/11, that horrifying school shootings were pre-staged, and that the Clintons crashed JFK Jr.’s airplane is not living in reality,” McConnell said in a statement first shared with The Hill. “This has nothing to do with the challenges facing American families or the robust debates on substance that can strengthen our party.”

New Democratic Ad Campaign Ties G.O.P. to QAnon, New York Times
As Republicans splinter over how to deal with Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, the QAnon devotee from Georgia who peddles an array of false conspiracy theories, Democrats are seizing on the infighting to make her the avatar for an array of G.O.P. lawmakers. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Tuesday began a $500,000 advertising campaign on television and online tying eight House Republicans, including Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, to Ms. Greene and QAnon, an effort to force them to make a public affirmation about Ms. Greene.

In Reversal, Israeli Military Chief Backs Sealing Defense Pact With U.S., Haaretz
After years of the Israel Defense Forces’ opposition to a defense pact with the United States, Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi was finally persuaded to support the idea last year. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been pushing this idea for years despite the defense establishment’s opposition.

Israel’s Netanyahu to Visit UAE in First Trip Post-Normalization, Bloomberg
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to travel to the United Arab Emirates next week in the first public visit by an Israeli leader to the country, cementing the normalization of ties.

Biden faces deadline pressure on Iran deal, The Hill
Iran’s parliament has set a Feb. 21 deadline for European signatories to the JCPOA to ease restrictions on the country’s banking and oil industries that are under pressure from Trump’s sanctions. If that deadline is not met, Tehran has vowed to end access for UN nuclear inspectors and further increase uranium enrichment.

Opinion and Analysis

Biden and Netanyahu’s decades-long friendship faces new test after Israel’s Prime Minister went all in for Trump, CNN
Oren Liebermann, Nicole Gaouette and Kylie Atwood write, “Netanyahu was a bottomless source of unwavering support for Donald Trump in office, not once publicly criticizing the unpredictable and often spiteful President. The 71-year-old celebrated nearly every foreign policy initiative of the Trump administration in the Middle East, becoming his most visible international cheerleader. With an upcoming election, a third national lockdown, and an imminent resumption of his trial on corruption charges, Israel’s longest-serving leader must work with the man who ousted Trump from the Oval Office.”

The State Fills Israel’s High Court With Lies About Palestinians in the West Bank, Haaretz
Amira Hass writes, “Mass, immediate expulsion, creeping banishment and displacement, bit by bit; the types of expulsion that Israel imposes on the Palestinians are not topics raised during our election campaigns. The campaigns don’t deal with the violence of the settlers, the Civil Administration and the army, which are planning to erase rural communities and force their residents into urban areas. Israeli judges, who are pressured by the army and the settlers to approve expulsions and semi-displacements, know that these earthquakes in the lives of Palestinians don’t upset the party candidates. The judges rule amid the fog of most Israelis’ indifference.”

Israel’s Labor party looks to new leader for revival, AP
Tia Goldenberg writes, “Michaeli, a firebrand feminist, promotes a message that has rarely been heard in Israeli politics in recent years. She seeks social justice, equality for all Israelis and peace with the Palestinians. Yet she also won’t rule out sitting in a coalition with right-wing parties, likely hindering her agenda, if that realizes the shared goal of ousting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

A decade after the ‘Arab Spring’, Peres Center
J Street’s Nadav Tamir writes, “Many changes in history which are considered positive changes today, have endured difficult and bloody periods. The transition from one state of historic equilibrium to another, naturally passes through a chaotic stage of instability. This was the case after the Reformation led by Martin Luther, which eventually resulted in progress for Christianity. However, in the process of change, many Christians in Europe were killed due to deadly conflict between Catholics and Protestants. There are already several signs that the ‘Arab Spring’ will turn out to be a positive development in the end, despite the atrocities that have taken place along the way. It is already evident that in many Arab countries, the leaders are paying greater attention to the public even if they are not yet exactly ‘Jeffersonian democracies’ (in retrospect, Jefferson himself did not believe that black citizens or women should enjoy the same rights given to white men).”