News Roundup for February 26, 2021

February 26, 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

Pro-Israel Senators to Call on Blinken to Take Stronger Action Over ICC War Crimes Probe, Haaretz
“Two leading pro-Israel senators are circulating a letter to their colleagues calling on U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to take a stronger stance against the International Criminal Court’s potential probe into Israeli war crimes according to a letter obtained by Haaretz […] J Street called the letter an ‘unnecessary act of political posturing that purports to seek clarity regarding an already crystal-clear position of the Biden administration,’ adding that it ‘provides fodder for those who are pushing [the Biden administration] to embrace the Trump administration’s appalling attacks on the ICC, its personnel and the rule of law.’ The response from the liberal Zionist group notes that the State Department already rejected the ICC’s decision, ‘yet the letter then treats the administration’s position as somehow unclear or inadequate, stating that: ‘We encourage you to issue a more forceful condemnation of the Court’s actions.’ […] The organization also cautioned against the Cardin/Portman letter’s language that mirrors their May 2020 letter that urged the United States to defend Israel against ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s defense of the ICC’s jurisdiction to investigate potential war crimes. This letter was later used by the Trump administration to justify sanctions placed on ICC officials and their families. J Street also criticized the senators’ use of ‘disputed territories’ instead of ‘occupied territories’ to describe the area beyond the Green Line”

Washington’s Most Influential People, Washingtonian
“Policymaking changes as governments come in and out of power. But the bedrock underlying it—expertise that enables public service and good-faith debate and explains why idealists still come to Washington—remains.Here’s a look at who’s wielding that influence right now […] Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street, President”

Top News and Analysis

Iran’s nuclear program and regional behavior should be dealt with separately, Israel tells U.S., Axios
Israeli national security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat told his U.S. counterpart Jake Sullivan in a secure video call two weeks ago that Israel thinks Iran’s nuclear program should be dealt with separately from its regional activity in future negotiations, two sources briefed on the call tell me […] Ben-Shabbat said Israel’s position is that Iran’s nuclear program is an existential threat and must be dealt with first, and the lesser threat of Iran’s regional behavior should be dealt with on a separate track, the sources say.

KKL-JNF board advances controversial $11.5 million purchase of West Bank land, Times of Israel
In a contentious vote that passed Thursday by the slimmest of margins, the Jewish National Fund’s board of directors advanced the controversial allocation of NIS 38 million ($11.58 million) in order to purchase lands in the West Bank. The board of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) will meet once again after the March 23 election to determine its policies beyond the Green Line and rule on whether to give final approval for the purchase itself.


U.S. Airstrikes in Syria Target Iran-Backed Militias That Rocketed American Troops in Iraq, New York Times
The United States on Thursday carried out airstrikes in eastern Syria against buildings belonging to what the Pentagon said were Iran-backed militias responsible for recent attacks against American and allied personnel in Iraq.

With mere 2% vaccinated, unrecognized Bedouin villages are an Israeli blind spot, Times of Israel
Deep in the Negev desert, Bedouin residents of a village deemed illegal by the government say more houses have been demolished than people vaccinated, despite Israel’s world-beating coronavirus inoculation drive.

Support for Netanyahu’s Likud Party in Decline, Election Poll Shows, Haaretz
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party is losing some support ahead of Israel’s March 23 election, a public opinion poll released Thursday by Channel 13 News, while the bloc of parties opposing him gains some ground.

Derided by Netanyahu as Lapid ally, Bennett shifts course, moves closer to Sa’ar, Times of Israel
“Yamina will not sit in a government led by the left, including with [Yesh Atid leader Yair] Lapid as prime minister,” Bennett said in a radio interview with the Kan public broadcaster. It was a surprise statement from Bennett, whose entire election strategy has until now been premised on remaining vague about his post-election plans (should he fail to win enough seats to become, as he hopes, prime minister himself).

Opinion and Analysis

Israel Is Recreating the Nakba, Without Putting Palestinians on Trucks, Haaretz
Ilana Hammerman writes, “They’re closing in from all sides: the Jewish settlements on the Arab towns. Ariel, Revava, Kiryat Netafim, Barkan, Bruchin, Alei Zahav, Leshem, Yakir, Peduel, and Beit Arieh are spreading, approaching, and suffocating with fences and roads sown with roadblocks the city of Salfit and the towns of Kifl Haris, Haris, Brukin, Kfar al-Dik, Deir Balut and Deir Istiya. The vast municipal areas of the Jewish settlements, which were intended for their expansion, touch the Arab towns’ orchards and reach their houses. Some let their sewage flow into the villages, some have taken over springs and residents’ reservoirs and turned them into wading pools. Some sic their teenagers on farmers, to cut down and uproot their trees, to threaten, intimidate and destroy.”

This university claims to be pro-justice. So why is it banning Palestine activism?, +972 Mag
Alex Kane writes, “After a four-year legal battle, Fordham University is still refusing to allow a Palestinian rights club on campus. But students are not letting up.”