News Roundup for January 15, 2020

January 15, 2020

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J Street in the News

Americans shouldn’t forfeit their freedom of speech so states can support Israel, NBC News
Jeremy Ben-Ami, president and founder of J Street, and Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah write, “Our organizations, J Street and T’ruah, do not support or advocate for the BDS movement. But a true commitment to the First Amendment requires us to defend the principles of free speech even, and especially, when we find it objectionable or offensive. That’s why our organizations, along with Georgetown University’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, filed an amicus brief in support of the Arkansas Times. The local newspaper has never participated in any boycott of Israel, but it refused to give up its free speech rights by signing a contract affirming that it never would. By refusing to sign the document, the newspaper forfeited needed ad revenue from the University of Arkansas.”

The Iran Deal’s Opponents Helped Get Us Here, Jewish Currents
“War with Iran would be a disaster — one we’ve only narrowly averted for now, and one that remains a live threat […] The ‘pro-Israel, pro-peace’ organization J Street was the major exception to the Jewish institutional campaign against the Iran deal, and its support for Obama’s policy helped provide cover for those Democrats, Jewish and not, who voted in favor. J Street has consistently defended the deal, opposed pulling out, and—after the Soleimani strike—voiced support for a House resolution requiring Trump to seek congressional support for further military actions against Iran.”

Top News and Analysis

Senate resolution to limit Trump’s military authority on Iran has enough GOP votes to pass, key Democrats say, Washington Post
The Senate is poised to formally counter President Trump’s ability to initiate further military action against Iran, as four Republicans now say they will vote with Democrats to pass a resolution invoking Congress’s war powers. “Congress cannot be sidelined on these important decisions,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who on Tuesday declared her support for the measure. She joins Sens. Todd C. Young (R-Ind.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and all 47 Democrats. A vote could come as soon as next week.

Trump uses rally to defend Iran policy as Democrats decry it, AP
With Trump firing up thousands in the battleground state of Wisconsin and the Democratic candidates squaring off in Iowa ahead of its Feb. 3 caucuses, the political events were expected to offer very different visions for the country’s future […] Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont said he feared that Trump’s actions in Iran could lead the United States into a foreign policy quagmire of the highest level. Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, said Trump had campaigned on stopping “endless wars” only to bring the country closer to them. And former Vice President Joe Biden said Soleimani’s killing was dangerous and would not have been necessary if Trump hadn’t pulled the U.S. out of a successful nuclear deal that the Obama administration had reached with Iran. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren pledged to bring U.S. combat troops back from the Middle East entirely, saying, “We should stop asking our military to solve problems that cannot be solved militarily.”

Israeli Intel: Iran Will Have Enough Enriched Uranium for Nuke by Year’s End, Haaretz
Iran will have a sufficient amount of enriched uranium to produce one nuclear bomb by the end of the year, according to Israeli army intelligence estimates for 2020. However, the Israeli army believes that at this stage, Tehran does not posses a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, and would need at least two years to develop such capabilities. The United States’ exit from the nuclear agreement signed in 2015 brings intelligence officials to estimate that Iran’s nuclear program is running again after years of not violating the agreement. Israel’s security establishment has assessed that by the end of 2020, Iran will have the required amount of enriched uranium to produce one nuclear bomb.


Netanyahu Throws Weight Behind Kahanists, Far-right Party as Deadline Approaches, Haaretz
In an attempt to ensure that none of the parties to the right of his Likud fall under the electoral threshold in the upcoming ballot, the premier exerted pressure on them to unite under one slate and urged to bring the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit party into the fold.

Likud again pushing to get extremists into Knesset on far-right slate, Times of Israel
Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party is pushing right-wing parties to merge with an extremist faction in a bid to shore up support for his conservative bloc, in a repeat of a move that has drawn vociferous criticism against the premier in the past.

At Debate, Dems Slam Trump On Iran, Call For Scaling Back US Presence In Middle East, TPM
The Democratic presidential contenders on stage Tuesday night agreed generally on the need to end “endless war” in the Middle East, but their answers on strategy in the region revealed some differences in approach. Still, most on stage said they’d want at least some presence in the region.

In debate, Democrats attack Trump for escalating tensions with Iran, AFP/Times of Israel
In the last debate before the first votes are cast in the 2020 presidential primary, Democratic candidates on Tuesday promised to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon while vowing to try re-entering the landmark nuclear deal US President Donald Trump withdrew from.

Iran social media posts call for fifth day of protests, Reuters
Iranian social media postings urged citizens to take to the streets for a fifth day on Wednesday, after the admission by the authorities that they had accidentally brought down a passenger plane after days of denials stoked public outrage.

Iran announces arrests over downing of plane that killed 176, AP
Iran said Tuesday that authorities have made arrests for the accidental shootdown of a Ukrainian passenger plane, which killed all 176 people on board and set off protests in the country demanding accountability after officials initially concealed the cause of the crash.

‘We thought we were basically done’: US troops recall Iranian missile attack, AFP
The volleys of missiles, which soldiers said lasted about three hours, slammed into sleeping quarters directly adjacent to the pilots’ operations rooms.

Blue and White MK struck off slate after threatening to jump ship to Likud, Times of Israel
Hours before the midnight deadline to file party slates ahead of March’s election, the Blue and White party announced Wednesday that it was removing MK Gadi Yevarkan from its list of candidates after he threatened to jump ship to the rival Likud party.

Knesset Speaker, in the Eye of Netanyahu’s Immunity Storm, Under Pressure From Lawmakers, Haaretz
Right-wing faction heads on Tuesday urged Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein to prevent the Knesset plenum from convening, in an attempt to delay the formation of a parliamentary committee to rule on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s immmunity from prosecution.

Hamas intensifies Western dialogues to break political isolation, Al-Monitor
The Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation reported Dec. 31 that Hamas has intensified its meetings with European and US officials in a bid to break its international political isolation and open new channels of communication with the West.

Opinion and Analysis

A stunning rebuke: A majority of the Senate doesn’t trust the commander in chief, Washington Post
Jennifer Rubin writes, “Republican senators can read the polls. They know a sizable majority of Americans do not want war with Iran. They know that most voters think President Trump’s killing of terrorist leader and Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani made them less safe. The announcement that a majority of senators would sign onto a war powers resolution seeking to clip Trump’s wings therefore was not altogether surprising. Nevertheless, when at least four Senate Republicans join all 47 Democrats on a war powers resolution, it is a stunning rebuke of a commander in chief struggling to gain credibility at home and abroad.”

By Releasing Peace Plan Before Election, Trump Would Throw Stink Bomb at Israeli Democracy, Haaretz
Chemi Shalev writes, “Publication of the plan before Election Day would constitute gross intervention in Israel’s election that, in many ways, makes Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential race seem like child’s play.”

It boils down to Netanyahu’s conspiracy theories, Times of Israel
Yedidia Z. Stern writes, “Given the dark insinuations in the PM’s request for Knesset immunity, a vote in his favor would be a vote of no-confidence in the rule of law.”

Israeli Army Sees Chance to Escalate Attacks Against Iran and Its Allies, Haaretz
Amos Harel writes, ” The likelihood of anyone intentionally starting a war against Israel remains low (in recent years, Military Intelligence has freed itself of the taboo created by the 1973 Yom Kippur War and is willing to say that explicitly). But MI sees a medium to high probability of an unplanned slide into war due to escalating reciprocal strikes.”