News Roundup for January 13, 2021

January 13, 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 Legacy in Israel, The New Yorker
“When Netanyahu went before Congress, in 2015, and spoke against Obama’s Iran deal, the fault line between Israelis and Jewish Americans became publicly visible for the first time. By now, it’s an abyss. An Associated Press poll showed that sixty-eight per cent of Jewish Americans voted for Biden, whereas thirty per cent voted for Trump. A poll taken by the progressive pro-Israel lobby J Street showed a larger gap: seventy-seven per cent for Biden and twenty-one per cent for Trump—almost the exact opposite of the preferences of Israelis. According to Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, the divide between American and Israeli Jews is also reflected in a chasm within American Jewry. ‘The local Jewish population, no matter where they live, are dividing into these two camps, one being much more ethno-nationalist and religious and one being much more humanist and liberal,’ he told me. In the U.S., the humanist view is rapidly rising, but ’in Israel it’s becoming the inverse.’ Partly as a result, Israel is no longer the priority that it once was for Jewish Americans, and the formerly tight-knit communities are drifting apart. Netanyahu’s American support now relies on an unlikely alliance of Orthodox Jews and evangelical Christians. This has produced several surreal moments, such as the ceremony that marked the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, which featured a televangelist who had once said that the Holocaust was simply God’s way to get the Jewish people to return to Israel.”

Top News and Analysis

McConnell is said to be pleased about impeachment, believing it will be easier to purge Trump from the G.O.P., New York Times
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, has told associates that he believes President Trump committed impeachable offenses and that he is pleased that Democrats are moving to impeach him, believing that it will make it easier to purge him from the party, according to people familiar with his thinking. The House is voting on Wednesday to formally charge Mr. Trump with inciting violence against the country. At the same time, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader and one of Mr. Trump’s most steadfast allies in Congress, has asked other Republicans whether he should call on Mr. Trump to resign in the aftermath of the riot at the Capitol last week, according to three Republican officials briefed on the conversations.

We are Israel’s largest human rights group – and we are calling this apartheid, The Guardian
Hagai El-Ad, executive director of B’Tselem, writes, “There is not a single square inch in the territory Israel controls where a Palestinian and a Jew are equal. The only first-class people here are Jewish citizens such as myself, and we enjoy this status both inside the 1967 lines and beyond them, in the West Bank. Separated by the different personal statuses allotted to them, and by the many variations of inferiority Israel subjects them to, Palestinians living under Israel’s rule are united by all being unequal. Unlike South African apartheid, the application of our version of it – apartheid 2.0, if you will – avoids certain kinds of ugliness. You won’t find ‘whites only’ signs on benches. Here, ;protecting the Jewish character’ of a community – or of the state itself – is one of the thinly veiled euphemisms deployed to try to obscure the truth. Yet the essence is the same. That Israel’s definitions do not depend on skin colour make no material difference: it is the supremacist reality which is the heart of the matter – and which must be defeated.”

Sheldon Adelson, Billionaire Donor to G.O.P. and Israel, Is Dead at 87, New York Times
Mr. Adelson became one of America’s heavyweight political spenders — the largest single donor in the 2012 elections — following the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010, which removed many limits on political contributions as unconstitutional infringements of free speech. In May 2016, after Donald J. Trump became the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mr. Adelson told him in a private meeting in Manhattan that he was willing to contribute more to help elect him than he had given to any previous campaign, a sum that could exceed $100 million, according to two Republicans with direct knowledge of Mr. Adelson’s commitment. He eventually gave the Trump presidential campaign only $25 million but was still its largest donor […] In Israel, where he had a home and owned major conservative media outlets, Mr. Adelson supported Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party. He opposed statehood for Palestinians, favored Israeli settlements in occupied territories and underwrote junkets to Israel by congressional Republicans.


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ted Cruz fight a Twitter battle over Holocaust analogies, JTA
“They wore Auschwitz shirts, erected gallows, and tried to hang the Vice President,” Ocasio-Cortez said of members of the pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol. “Your continued excusal and denial of Wednesday’s Neo-Nazi presence is abhorrent and dangerous. The most healing and unifying thing *you* can do is take responsibility for your actions and resign.” She also noted two recent news stories implicating the far right in antisemitic language and imagery. “Your GOP colleague in the House praised Hitler this week,” Ocasio Cortez said, referring to a newly elected congresswoman who told pro-Trump protesters Wednesday that “Hitler was right about one thing”: the need to recruit youth.”

FBI warns of plans for nationwide armed protests next week, AP
The FBI is warning of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals and in Washington, D.C., in the days leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, stoking fears of more bloodshed after last week’s deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol. An internal FBI bulletin warned, as of Sunday, that the nationwide protests may start later this week and extend through Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration, according to two law enforcement officials who read details of the memo to The Associated Press. Investigators believe some of the people are members of extremist groups, the officials said. The bulletin was first reported by ABC.

FBI report warned of ‘war’ at Capitol, contradicting claims there was no indication of looming violence, Washington Post
A day before rioters stormed Congress, an FBI office in Virginia issued an explicit warning that extremists were preparing to travel to Washington to commit violence and “war,” according to an internal document reviewed by The Washington Post that contradicts a senior official’s declaration the bureau had no intelligence indicating anyone at last week’s demonstrations in support of President Trump planned to do harm.

Poll predicts 7 small parties would fail to clear electoral threshold, Times of Israel
Compounding the current fragmentation in Israel’s political landscape and as multiple mergers are expected over the next few weeks, a survey published Tuesday indicated that seven small political parties headed by known politicians and officials would not cross the electoral threshold if elections were held today. That included the left-wing Labor party, Moshe Ya’alon’s center-right Telem, Bezalel Smotrich’s right-wing National Union, Orly Levy-Abekasis’ center-right Gesher, Ofer Shelah’s center-left Tnufa, Itamar Ben-Gvir’s far-right Otzma Yehudit, and Yaron Zelekha’s New Economic Party.

Anti-Netanyahu Bloc Has Majority Even as Likud Gains Strength, Election Poll Shows, Haaretz
The broad coalition of political parties that oppose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would win a majority of seats in the upcoming election, according to a poll published Tuesday evening by Channel 12 News, even as the premier’s party has gained strength over the past week.

Most Israelis believe democracy in danger; trust in Supreme Court, Knesset dives, Times of Israel
Israelis are losing trust in public institutions, with over half saying the country’s democracy is in danger, according to an annual Democracy Index poll released Monday. The Israel Democracy Institute survey also recorded a decline in social solidarity amid the coronavirus pandemic and in the number of Israelis who believe the Jewish state is a good place to live.

Pompeo floats dubious claim that Iran is helping al-Qaida, Responsible Statecraft
Mike Pompeo on Tuesday accused Iran of acting as al-Qaida’s “new home base,” the outgoing secretary of state’s latest attempt to advance a dubious claim that could justify a military strike against Iran or sabotage President-elect Joe Biden’s diplomatic efforts. The administration has tried several times to tie Iran to al-Qaida, a claim that has been called politicized or an outright lie. Pompeo made the latest allegation with less than two weeks left in office, and did not offer any new evidence to back it up.

Jewish leaders: DHS needs liaison focused on domestic terror, The Forward
American Jewish leaders, shaken by last week’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and its antisemitic underpinnings, told the Secretary-designate of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, that he should create a new liaison to the Jewish community focused on domestic terrorism.

Israel isn’t a democracy, it’s an ‘apartheid regime,’ rights group says, CNN
The human rights group says that the traditional view of Israel as a democracy operating side-by-side with a temporary Israeli occupation in the territories “imposed on some five million Palestinian subjects … has grown divorced from reality.”

Opinion and Analysis

Netanyahu is smarter than Trump but no less dangerous, YNetNews
Moshe Gorali writes, “From free press to independent judiciary, PM has already planted seeds of insurrection against democratic institutions, but the true size of his base and how far they are willing to go to preserve his grip on power remains to be seen.”

Pirro, Parler and Kristallnacht: The Menacing Antisemitism of Cosplaying as Jews, Haaretz
Noah Berlatsky writes, “Following the failed fascist pro-Trump insurrection last Wednesday, social media and internet service providers have, belatedly, begun to close their platforms to those spreading dangerous conspiracy theories and instigating violence.  The far right, of course, claims they are being persecuted. More than that, they offensively, but predictably, claim they are being treated the way that Jews were treated in Nazi Germany. The reversal is ridiculous. It’s also a reminder of just what many on the right think of Jewish people. Disgraced former Iowa GOP Representative Steve King complained on Twitter: ‘I have lost 8,000 followers on this twitter account in one day. Apple, Google, Facebook, & others have cancelled many conservatives. Last night was cyber god’s Kristallnacht!’”

Gantz unity plea falls flat, but his deep coffers are nothing to sneeze at, Times of Israel
Tal Schneider writes, “If the last three campaign cycles are any indication, the politicians will hem and haw until the last second about possible unions, though many differ from each other by only hairline nuances. Gantz last night became the first party leader to make a grand public gesture proposing a consolidation of nearly all of the parties in order to topple Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, even without him as head of such an alliance.”

This is apartheid: The Israeli regime promotes and perpetuates Jewish supremacy between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, B’Tselem
B’Tselem writes, “Jews go about their lives in a single, contiguous space where they enjoy full rights and self-determination. In contrast, Palestinians live in a space that is fragmented into several units, each with a different set of rights – given or denied by Israel, but always inferior to the rights accorded to Jews.”

Israel is having yet another election — could Netanyahu lose? Here are the basics, JTA
Ben Sales writes, “Like the past several votes, this one is mainly a referendum on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been in power for more than a decade. But unlike in the previous elections, most of Netanyahu’s chief rivals this time are on the political right, too. The two top performers in polls behind his Likud party are former close allies. “

With Sheldon Adelson’s death, Netanyahu loses key supporter, AP
Tia Goldenberg  writes, “With Adelson’s death, Netanyahu loses a key U.S. backer who for the last four years had the ear of the American president and worked tirelessly to push Israel’s priorities at the White House and in Congress. He also bids farewell to an important backroom player in Israeli politics who funded an influential free daily newspaper that served as an unofficial mouthpiece for Netanyahu.”

Sheldon Adelson’s legacy of underwriting American militarism, Responsible Statecraft
Eli Clifton writes, “In 2013, Adelson proposed that then-President Obama should scrap nuclear negotiations with Iran and instead fire a nuclear weapon into ‘the middle of the [Iranian] desert.’ That nuclear strike, said Adelson, should be followed up by a nuclear attack on Tehran, a city of 8.6 million people, if Iran didn’t abandon its nuclear program. And in 2008, the New Yorker reported Adelson saying, ‘I really don’t care what happens to Iran. I am for Israel.’”