News Roundup for February 25, 2021

February 25, 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

Jewish Groups Call to Reverse Trump Policy of Labeling Settlement Products ‘Made in Israel’, Haaretz
“The letter – co-signed by Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, J Street, New Israel Fund, Partners for Progressive Israel, and T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights – calls the move, spearheaded by former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, “‘nconsistent with current U.S. policy on the status of the occupied territories, requires inaccurate and misleading labelling on the origin of products, and is harmful to essential interests of Israelis and Palestinians alike.’”

Liberal US Jewish groups urge Biden to reverse Trump settlement label policy, Times of Israel
“A group of six prominent progressive Jewish groups in the US called on the Biden administration to revoke a last-minute directive from the previous White House that requires all US exports from West Bank settlements to be labeled as ‘made in Israel.’ […] The groups that signed on to the letter were Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, J Street, New Israel Fund, Partners for Progressive Israel and T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.”

We are the World, Peres Center
J Street’s Nadav Tamir and Dr. Ehud Eiran write, “Israel would do well to give up the pretense of barricading itself off from the world. Isolationist ideas must be rejected out of hand. The challenge Jews and Israelis faced in the past and are facing today is in shaping an identity that balances the local and the global, one that encompasses the best of the two, rather than rejecting one for the other. An effective balance between the particular and the universal is one of the secrets of success of the Jewish people and the State of Israel; violating the balance reflects a narrow understanding of the past, a limited perception of the present and a potential risk for the future of both Israelis and Jews.”

Daily Kickoff, Jewish Insider
“J Street, the New Israel Fund and other progressive groups sent a letter to Biden asking him to halt a Trump administration initiative to label settlement goods as ‘Made in Israel.’”

Top News and Analysis

Bernie Sanders Slams Israel for Sending COVID Vaccines Abroad While Palestinians ‘Still Waiting’, Haaretz
Senator Bernie Sanders slammed the Israeli government for distributing COVID-19 vaccines to countries with which it has bolstered relations in recent years before sending vaccines to Palestinians. “As the occupying power, Israel is responsible for the health of all the people under its control,” Sanders tweeted. “It is outrageous that Netanyahu would use spare vaccines to reward his foreign allies while so many Palestinians in the occupied territories are still waiting.”

West Bank enters 3rd wave with surging infections, no mass vaccination in sight, Times of Israel
“We are seeing a third wave in Palestine. Unfortunately, we’re seeing a substantial rise in the number of those infected, as well as the entry of new coronavirus variants,” Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaila told the Al-Arabiya broadcaster on Wednesday night.


Netanyahu calls Pelosi to discuss Israel’s COVID response as some Democrats offer criticism, JTA
“Today, I spoke with [the Israeli prime minister] to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between our nations and Congress’s unwavering support for a safe and secure Israel,” Pelosi said Wednesday on Twitter. “We discussed COVID response and our shared hope for regional peace, including a just, stable and enduring two-state solution.”

US renews funding pledge to Palestinians, as PA economy shrinks by 11.5%, The Jerusalem Post
The US has pledged to renew financial assistance to the Palestinians at an international donor meeting that grappled with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the fragile Palestinian economy. The dramatic 11.5% shrink last year was one of “the biggest annual contractions since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority,” PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh told the virtual gathering of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC), which facilitates donor funding to the Palestinians.

Secretive Israeli nuclear facility undergoes major project, AP
A secretive Israeli nuclear facility at the center of the nation’s undeclared atomic weapons program is undergoing what appears to be its biggest construction project in decades, satellite photos analyzed by The Associated Press show.

U.S. and Israel to convene strategic forum on Iran, Axios
The United States and Israel have elected to reconvene a strategic working group on Iran, with the first round of talks on intelligence surrounding the Iranian nuclear program expected in the coming days, Axios has learned.

Top Democratic Lawmaker: I’m Against Annexation, but U.S. Aid to Israel Is Nonnegotiable, Haaretz
“There are certain requirements with some of the other dollars that already … limit what it should be utilized for. I’ve seen some of the horrific acts of violence against Israeli people, I’ve seen how they have to use defensive weapons to stop missiles from coming in,” Meeks said. “But I want to be clear to my friends in Israel, and to Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu in particular, that annexation is not the way forward, that it’s a two-state solution.”

Vote and swab? Planning unprecedented election, ballot officials get creative, Times of Israel
By March 23, over half of the nation will be vaccinated, but with the pandemic still raging and health regulations likely to stay in effect for months or longer, the vote is being planned with special precautions meant to keep election day from turning into a superspreader event.

Israel doles out small batches of vaccine as diplomatic perks, Washington Post
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is giving small amounts of surplus vaccine to several countries that have warming relations with Israel, including two that have moved their embassies to the contested city of Jerusalem, according to his office and local media reports.

Opinion and Analysis

Poll: Iranians support nuke deal but no further concessions, Responsible Statecraft
Matthew Petti writes, “Most Iranians favor resuming full compliance with the 2015 international nuclear deal but only if the United States returns to the agreement and meets its obligations first or at the same time, according to a phone poll of Iranians. The Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland and the independent Toronto-based agency IranPoll surveyed more than one thousand Iranians by phone conducted between January 26 and February 6.”

Israel Is Heading to Its Most Dangerous Election Ever, Haaretz
Gideon Levy writes, “Now an entire country is divided over one issue, which is one man. It’s all anyone talks about. The country’s entire future hangs on the question of whether the next prime minister will be the same as the current one. It doesn’t matter who or what might replace him. It doesn’t matter where the country is going and where it is coming from. The main thing is that it will either be with him or without him.”

Elections can’t fix the Palestinian Authority, +972 Mag
Dana El Kurd writes, “The PA has spent years demobilizing Palestinian society and entrenching its repressive rule. The damage it caused will not be overcome at the ballot box.”