News Roundup for February 23, 2021

February 19, 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

Trump’s antisemitism envoy leaves a polarizing legacy as Biden prepares new pick, The Forward
Arno Rosenfeld writes, “At the height of the debate over Israel’s possible annexation of the West Bank last summer, J Street, the liberal pro-Israel group, was urging followers on social media to write to Senators opposing the move. Elan Carr, the State Department’s envoy to combat antisemitism, jumped in to take exception to J Street’s use in a Tweet of a photo of then-President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at the White House as Jared Kushner and two other Jewish advisers looked on […] It was a bold accusation to lob at a Jewish organization widely accepted within the country’s liberal mainstream. ‘It came out of the blue,’ Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street’s president, recalled in an interview. ‘It was kind of an astonishing use of that office to attack domestic political critics of the administration.’ But the attack on J Street fit a pattern for Carr, a former gang prosecutor who Trump named to fill the envoy role in 2019. In less than two years in the role, Carr expanded its mandate to include domestic antisemitism and adopted a controversial set of views about what anti-Jewish bigotry looked like and approach to stopping it.”

Progressive Groups Dismayed by JNF-KKL Decision to Permit West Bank Land Purchases; Call on Board to Reject It, Progressive Israel Network
“Members of the Progressive Israel Network join the broad chorus of American Jews dismayed by the recommendation of Israel’s JNF-KKL’s Executive Board to bring the organization into lock step with Israel’s expansionist settler right.  By buying West Bank land for settlements, JNF-KKL in Israel turns Palestinian dispossession into its policy. Members of the Progressive Israel Network have highlighted how, in recent years, JNF dollars collected globally in Jewish synagogues, schools, and homes have been used to undermine the values on which the State of Israel was founded. There have been verified reports of JNF-KKL undertaking shady land deals through secretive shell companies. This latest decision, which brings those practices out of the shadows and makes facilitating permanent occupation of the West Bank official JNF-KKL policy, demands unequivocal condemnation.”

Top News and Analysis

Ex-IDF generals, top Mossad officials urge Biden’s return to Iran deal, The Jerusalem Post
A group of former top officials from Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission, the IDF and the Mossad sent a letter on Monday to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressing support for a US return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Led by former IDF deputy chief of staff Matan Vilnai, Commanders for Israel’s Security said in the letter that it “welcomes the American initiative to get Iran to again transparently follow the guidelines in the JCPOA, as long as it includes an Iranian commitment to abide by UN Security Council Resolution 2231” regarding development of ballistic missiles.

Netanyahu corruption hearings postponed until after Israel’s election, Axios
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got some good news on Monday: The testimony phase of his trial won’t begin until after Israel’s March 23 elections. Netanyahu faces charges of bribery, breach of trust and fraud in connection with a series of corruption scandals. If witness testimony and the presentation of evidence began before the election, it could have dominated the news cycle and damaged his hopes of winning a majority.

Blinken speaks to Ashkenazi, touts Biden support for 2-state solution, Times of Israel
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke Monday with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, reiterating the Biden administration’s belief that a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians is the only way to maintain both Israel’s Jewish and democratic character.


Former defense officials back US return to Iran deal, urge new long-term pact, Times of Israel
Over 20 former senior military and intelligence officials in Israel sent a letter Monday to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz backing a US return to the Iran nuclear deal, while calling for a new international agreement that will curtail Tehran’s military activities in the region. The letter, dispatched by former IDF deputy chief of staff Matan Vilnai — also a former Labor minister — welcomed the Biden administration’s efforts to reengage with Iran. “We welcome the American initiative to bring Iran into compliance… with the nuclear deal, provided that it also requires Iran to fully comply with its obligations under UN Security Council resolution 2231 on the development of missiles and the IAEA inspections agreements,” the letter said.

CPAC cancels speaker who said Judaism is a ‘complete lie’, JTA
CPAC, the conservative political conference, has canceled the appearance of a speaker who has made several derogatory comments about Jews on social media.

Netanyahu’s Lawyers Plan to Put Attorney General on the Stand, Haaretz
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attorneys plan to summon Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit to testify for the defense in the prime minister’s corruption trial.

Amos Oz’s daughter claims he physically abused her, JTA
A daughter of Amos Oz, one of Israel’s most celebrated authors, alleges that he physically abused her beginning in her childhood. In “Something Disguised As Love,” an autobiography released in Hebrew on Sunday, Galia Oz writes that “my father beat me, swore and humiliated me,” and that “the harassment and abuse continued until the day he died” in 2018, according to Haaretz.

Report: Greek tanker suspected in oil spill that polluted Israeli beaches, Times of Israel
A crude oil tanker sailing under a Greek flag and currently anchored off Cartagena in Spain has been named by an Israeli news outlet as a suspect in the oil spill disaster that has covered most of Israel’s Mediterranean beaches in tar.

Opinion and Analysis

What comes after ‘maximum pressure’ on Iran, Washington Post
Ishaan Tharoor writes, “The Biden administration has already made small technical moves at the United Nations to help reset the table. They lifted restrictions placed on Iranian diplomats in New York and rescinded the Trump administration’s 2020 assertion — rejected even then by the U.S.’s European allies — that all U.N.-mandated sanctions on Iran were in place. Glimmers of a broader thaw could be seen in South Korea’s decision Monday to unfreeze a significant sum of Iranian money blocked in its banks because of U.S. financial sanctions. In both Washington and Tehran, though, there’s plenty of opposition.”

I’m Tired of American Jews Making Excuses for Netanyahu and His Proud Boy Allies, Haaretz
Eric H. Yoffie writes, “Just as Trump normalized the Proud Boys, Bibi is normalizing the neo-fascist Kahanists and their anti-Arab hate. But instead of outrage from AIPAC and U.S. Jewish groups, there’s apologetics, or silence.”

Can a new generation change Palestinian politics?, CSM
Taylor Luck and Fatima Abdulkarim write, “Young Palestinians are so frustrated with ossified political institutions that they prioritize replacing out-of-touch leaders, even before achieving national independence. Will upcoming elections bring new blood?”

A Youth-led Palestinian Protest Movement Is Rocking the Hills South of Jerusalem, Haaretz
Jonathan Shamir and Nicolas Rouger write, “Activist Sami Huraini, 23, is one of the coordinators of a West Bank youth group engaged in weekly demonstrations. His family history of nonviolent protest has yielded some unlikely victories.”

Two-way Street for Purim 2021, J Street
Rabbi Vivie Mayer writes, “Living in this world as activists entails navigating our way through chaotic weather storms of ego, honor, righteousness, pragmatism, defensiveness, hatred and hope. We ask for humility, wisdom and perseverance in maintaining the balance between the still silence of surrender, and the never silent voice of advocacy. As we enter this season of joy and redemption, let us continue to pray, to work and to wait for a lasting and just peace in the Land of Israel for all its inhabitants.”