News Roundup for February 4, 2021

February 4, 2021

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Top News and Analysis

Joe Biden is Playing it Cool with Netanyahu, The New Yorker
Bernard Avishai writes, “Even so, it’s hard to imagine new Israeli-Palestinian negotiations ranking high on the list of the Administration’s foreign-policy priorities. Biden is angling to rejoin and augment the Iran nuclear deal, which the Obama Administration had helped forge and which Trump abandoned. Last week, Aviv Kochavi, the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, told the Institute for National Security Studies—reportedly, with Netanyahu’s encouragement—that any such action would be ‘bad and wrong.’ Three days later, Biden appointed Robert Malley, an architect of the nuclear deal, to be his Iran envoy. So, Biden’s frictions with Netanyahu’s government appear likely to intensify well before the question of Palestine exacerbates them.”

In shot at Trump, Biden official says cutting aid to Palestinians ineffective, Times of Israel
“The suspension of aid to the Palestinian people has neither produced political progress, nor secured concessions from the Palestinian leadership. It has only harmed innocent Palestinians,” Ned Price said at a press briefing. “The US will reinvigorate our humanitarian leadership and work to galvanize the international community to meet its humanitarian obligations, including to the Palestinian people. This is something we’re working on very quickly to restore and announced,” Price added.

Don’t compare antisemitism on the left and right. Marjorie Taylor Greene proves it’s not the same, The Forward
Halie Soifer writes, “Omar’s Feb. 2019 tweet invoking an antisemitic trope related to Jewish influence and Israel was offensive; the organization I head, the Jewish Democratic Council of America, strongly condemned her at the time. But the fact that two people on opposite sides of the political spectrum have both been accused of antisemitism does not make their offenses equal. Suggesting they are — a tactic known as ‘whataboutism’ — is deceptive, because it can have the effect of nullifying or legitimizing a dangerous threat through diversion […] Rhetoric about the existence of antisemitism ‘on the right and the left’ has become increasingly prominent, as though the dangers of white supremacy can be reasonably equated with anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian views, including those that some Jews find offensive. These two things are not the same and should not be equated. No Democratic member of Congress has ever normalized, justified or threatened violence. In 2019, Omar joined with all House Democrats in denouncing antisemitism and other forms of hate, and apologized for her tweet. There is simply no intellectually honest parallel to be made between any Democrat and Marjorie Taylor Greene.”


UAE ambassador: ‘Abraham Accords were about preventing annexation’, Times of Israel
The United Arab Emirates ambassador to the US said Monday that the normalization agreement his country signed with Israel in September was primarily “about preventing annexation.” Yousef al-Otaiba said that while many had sought to cast the agreement in different lights to suit their own narrative, for him it was mostly about stopping Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial plan to extend Israeli sovereignty to large parts of the West Bank.

Israelis loved Trump. They still don’t know what to make of Biden, Washington Post
Israel’s government is adjusting, fitfully, to the reset of its relationship with Washington. Donald Trump — the candidate whom 70 percent of Jewish Israelis preferred in 2020 — has been exiled to Florida. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the third foreign leader Trump called after stepping into the Oval Office in 2017, is still waiting to hear from President Biden. The trailers of coming attractions do not portend harmony between their two countries.

Netanyahu hires ex-Breitbart journalist as campaign chief, AP
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has named a former journalist with the right-wing Breitbart news site, who authored books challenging Barack Obama’s fitness for president, as his campaign chief for March 23 national elections.

Sisi conditions Netanyahu visit to Egypt on support for two-state solution, Axios
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to visit Cairo, but Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has a condition: Netanyahu must make a positive statement on the Palestinian issue, such as re-committing to the two-state solution, Israeli sources tell me.

Yesh Atid, Yamina, Blue and White file their election slates, ruling out mergers, Times of Israel
Registration opened Wednesday for parties to submit their lists of candidates in the upcoming Knesset elections, with several major parties unveiling their slates and several small parties quitting the race. The slates can be handed to the Central Elections Committee until Thursday at midnight, meaning that parties have just one day left to finalize potential mergers, or to announce they aren’t running.

Israel Elections: Political draw looms – poll, The Jerusalem Post
The poll finds the pro-Netanyahu and anti-Netanyahu blocs evenly matched with 60 seats after the religious Zionist parties united, as many center-left parties fail to clear the electoral threshold.

Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope files election slate, heavy with ex-Likud MKs, Times of Israel
Former Likud lawmaker Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope party filed its party slate Wednesday evening, rounding off the major parties to register for March’s election on the first of two days to do so.

Israel Election: Three of Four Joint List Factions Run Together, United Arab List to Go Solo, Haaretz
Three of the four factions of Joint List – Hadash, Ta’al and Balad – have signed an agreement for a united bid for Israel’s March election, parting ways with the conservative United Arab List after a prolonged period of disagreements.

Far-right parties led by Smotrich and Ben Gvir, a Kahane disciple, join forces, Times of Israel
A day before final electoral slates must be presented, the far-right Religious Zionism and Otzma Yehudit parties announced on Wednesday that they had signed a merger agreement to run jointly in the upcoming election. The alliance will also include the anti-LGBT Noam party.

Opinion and Analysis

The GOP Isn’t Big Enough for Jews and for Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Jew-hate, Haaretz
Jonathan S. Tobin writes, “Despite all they disliked about him, the overwhelming majority of Jewish conservatives were ready to live with the fact that the Republicans had become Donald Trump’s party. Or at least they were, until the Capitol riot discredited him in the eyes of most Americans – even if the GOP base wants no part of either the effort to impeach him or to repudiate his presidency. But living with the GOP becoming Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s party is quite another thing.”

‘My Birthright trip was super radicalizing:’ A conversation with IfNowNow co-founder Max Berger, The Forward
Zachariah Sippy writes, “Berger, 35, whose activism is rooted in his opposition to human rights abuses in Israel, shared that perhaps his first foray into activism was in his early teens: On the advice of his rabbi, he donated some of his Bar Mitzvah money to Palestinians displaced by the occupation of the West Bank. As Israel faces its fourth general election in two years, and the Biden administration gains steam in addressing international issues, I spoke with Berger for his perspective on what the future of left-wing Jewish organizing might look like.”

Lapid Finally Has His Moment in the Election Ring With Netanyahu. He’ll Have Just One Chance, Haaretz
Anshel Pfeffer writes, “The trend of the last couple of weeks could still be reversed, but for now it’s clear. Yesh Atid is the largest opposition party, making Lapid the main challenger to Netanyahu. And if the current polls are anything to go by, Lapid has a difficult but viable majority coalition of the anti-Netanyahu parties, which includes New Hope, Yamina and Yisrael Beiteinu to his right and Labor and Meretz to his left. Media commentators and pundits (including this writer) who have spent most of the last decade dismissing Lapid as a shallow dilettante lacking in gravitas, experience and any real policies have started to roll the words ‘Prime Minister Yair Lapid’ on their tongues. “

Every antisemitic thing Marjorie Taylor Greene has said and done (so far), The Forward
Mira Fox writes, “Antisemitism is not alone among Greene’s problematic beliefs — as is often the case, it comes along with myriad other conspiracy theories. She has also used anti-Black and anti-Muslim rhetoric, promoted death threats against prominent Democrats and supported the false claim that Donald Trump won the 2020 election. But to make this list manageable, we’ve limited it to her antisemitic statements.”

Israel Denies East Jerusalem Resident’s Citizenship Because His Home ‘Doesn’t Make Sense’, Haaretz
Nir Hasson writes, “The toothbrushes seemed too new, there were too many cleaning products: Wasim Masis’ case gives an insight into the many hurdles Jerusalem’s Palestinians face when they apply to become Israeli citizens.”

In its war on Palestinian students, Israel deems book fairs and falafel sales a crime, +972 Mag
Anat Matar writes, “From campus raids to dubious indictments, Israel’s persecution of Palestinian students aims to suppress political activism in West Bank universities.”

Why Is the Israeli Military Exercising in These Palestinian Villages, for the First Time in 7 Years?, Haaretz
Zen Read writes, “Despite explicit promises to residents of Masafer Yatta, military vehicles drive onto farmland, damaging vital crops and cisterns, during large-scale drills.”