News Roundup for February 3, 2021

February 3, 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

Poll shows Labor rising, predicts Netanyahu’s rivals can form majority coalition, Times of Israel
A poll released Tuesday showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party slipping slightly and the left-wing Labor party rising, and predicted a potential hypothetical majority for a coalition of the premier’s rivals. The Channel 13 poll was conducted two days before parties must submit their finalized electoral slates and 49 days before the March 23 elections.

Israel’s Vaccine Drive Losing Steam as Number of Daily Jabs Drops by Half in One Week, Haaretz
On Monday, 117,000 Israelis got the vaccine, 84,000 of them with the second dose. A week earlier, this number stood at 226,000, 147,000 of whom were getting the second dose and 79,000 receiving the first dose. Starting last Thursday, people who are over 35 or older could get the vaccine. The expectation was that the expansion of the eligible age group would allow a shift to a higher gear, or at least the maintaining of a rate of over 200,000 people being vaccinated daily.


Labor Makes a Comeback in Latest Election Poll, Giving anti-Netanyahu Bloc Clear Majority, Haaretz
An election poll published Tuesday shows Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayhu’s Likud party losing some support, while the bloc of parties seeking to replace him after Israel’s March 23 election is growing to 66 out of 120 Knesset seats.

Biden official says administration accepts international Holocaust group’s definition of anti-Semitism, JTA
“That is why the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-Semitism, with its real-world examples, is such an invaluable tool,” she said at the meeting convened by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a security umbrella for Western nations. “As prior U.S. administrations of both political stripes have done, the Biden administration embraces and champions the working definition.”

Biden Administration Dodges Iran Offer to Coordinate Nuclear Deal Return, Newsweek
The top Iranian diplomat said that, in his role as JCPOA commissioner, EU Foreign Affairs High Representative Josep Borrell could “choreograph the actions that are needed to be taken by the United States and the actions that are needed to be taken by Iran.”

Democrats, Republicans Tell U.S. Jews: We’ll Work Together to Combat Antisemitism, Haaretz
A bipartisan collection of U.S. lawmakers and officials on Tuesday assured a Jewish Federations of North America virtual mission that the Biden administration and Congress will work in concert to combat antisemitism and domestic extremism.

Senate confirms Alejandro Mayorkas, a Cuban-born Jew, as Homeland Security secretary, JTA
The U.S. Senate confirmed Alejandro Mayorkas, a Cuban-born son of a Holocaust survivor, as Homeland Security secretary on Tuesday.

Emboldened Labor and Meretz Nix Last-minute Merger, Hoping Both Will Get Enough Votes, Haaretz
The Labor Party’s recovery in the polls and the buzz around its new slate for next month’s election may turn the heads of numerous Meretz voters as the deadline for submitting party lists approaches. A mass movement of voters to the rejuvenated Labor could endanger the small left-wing party’s chances of passing the electoral threshold. Despite this, Labor and Meretz do not intend to run a united ticket in this election, as they did in the previous one.

Israel continues policy of forcibly transferring Palestinians: Yesterday, another massive demolition at Khirbet Humsah; today, troops began extensive training among homes and fields of Masafer Yatta residents, B’Tselem
Israel has taken two unusally broad measures this week as part of its ongoing efforts to forcibly transfer Palestinian communities in order to take over their land. Yesterday, Monday, 1 February 2021, Israeli forces confiscated most of the residential structures and livestock pens in the community of Khirbet Humsah. The community was already demolished on 3 November 2020, while the world was focused on the US elections.

Opinion and Analysis

Israel’s risky rhetoric on Iran, CNN
Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky write, “The tough rhetoric has been part of an Israeli pattern that’s been much more bark than bite. Between 2009 and 2013 Netanyahu perennially warned of military action — a bit of bluster that may well have energized the Obama administration to negotiate a nuclear accord with Iran that, paradoxically, Netanyahu came to despise and oppose.”

Don’t laugh at Marjorie Taylor Greene — her Jewish constituents must live with her hate, The Forward
Zoe Katz writes, “Disturbed, exhausted, frightened, frustrated, hurt — these are only a few words members of the Rome, Ga. synagogue Rodeph Sholom have used to describe their reactions to Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene. Within the last week, Greene, a believer in the QAnon conspiracy theory, was revealed to have publicly called for the execution of top Democratic Congressional leaders, harassed David Hogg, a survivor of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas school shooting, and accused the fictional ‘Rothschild Inc.’ of causing massive California wildfires with a space laser.”

Tarnished by its Gaza rule, Hamas may struggle in elections, AP
Fares Akram writes, “It remains to be seen whether the elections decreed by President Mahmoud Abbas will actually be held. Much depends on whether his secular Fatah party and Hamas can reach some kind of agreement overcoming the bitter divisions that have prevented previous attempts to hold a vote. But it’s clear that Hamas’ image among many Palestinians, even onetime supporters, has suffered since 2007, when the group seized Gaza from Abbas’ forces in a week of bloody street battles.”

Trying to Oust Netanyahu, the Israeli Left Shoots Itself in the Foot, Haaretz
Noa Landau writes, “The long-term result of this tactical voting is to legitimize the ideologies of the right, entrenching them for generations to come and allowing the right to set the boundaries of the conversation. On the day after Netanyahu – and that day will come – it won’t be easy to undo all this.”

Netanyahu’s diplomatic blitz now victim of the coronavirus, Al-Monitor
Mazal Mualem writes, “His original plans to hop between Arab capitals are being shelved. Instead, Netanyahu will spend the coming weeks in Israel making efforts to halt the COVID-19 virus that hasn’t been vanquished despite the country’s successful vaccination drive. The prime minister is savvy enough to know that during a domestic crisis, his place is in Israel and not making flamboyant, flashy visits when dozens of Israelis are dying every day from the coronavirus.”

Why Shin Bet torturers don’t have to worry about punishment, +972 Mag
Yael Stein writes, “By clearing the Shin Bet for the brutal interrogation of a Palestinian detainee, the attorney general played his part in masking Israel’s approval of torture.”

Netanyahu Borrows a Page From Tyrants to Divert Attention From Trial, Haaretz
Ziv Bar’el writes, “By sheer coincidence the trial will open the day before Netanyahu is hopping over to the United Arab Emirates for a snap visit of just a few hours. After all, there’s nothing like an international performance in a ‘red’ country to take the edge off reports about the first step in the long journey that could land the prime minister in prison. What better proof could there be of his phenomenal ability to manage the State of Israel and his trial at the same time?”