News Roundup for January 19, 2021

January 19, 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

How Israel Is Harming the War on Antisemitism, Haaretz
“The Netanyahu government has deliberately blurred the Green Line between criticism of Israel and criticism of the settlements, thereby further fanning the controversy. U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration then added fuel to the fire when it announced that it planned to label important human rights organizations like Amnesty International “antisemitic.” […] Last week, in a step that flew under the radar of the Israeli discourse, 10 liberal Jewish organizations, including J Street and the New Israel Fund, issued an unusual joint call for the Biden administration not to implement its predecessor’s pledge to enshrine the IHRA definition in law. This was in contrast to establishment Jewish organizations, which have been urging the Biden administration to adopt it. The inauguration of a Democratic president provides an opportunity for Israel to reconsider, in light of the fact that its involvement is harming the war on antisemitism more than it is helping. The politicization of this issue is clearly an unwise, erroneous step that has also proven counterproductive; it is a battle that has actually served to strengthen the BDS movement.”

Netanyahu’s envoy Dermer departs US, but to Democrats he’s been gone for years, Times of Israel
“Ambassador Dermer’s tenure sadly set back both the US-Israel relationship and the relationship between Israeli and American Jews. His determination to act as a partisan operative, aligning Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government with the Republican Party, seriously angered and alienated many leading Democrats,’ said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the dovish, pro-Israel lobby J Street. While few Democratic Party-affiliated and liberal-leaning individuals would go on the record saying anything negative about Dermer, even the more moderate members of the party, which remains overwhelmingly pro-Israel, declined to praise the envoy’s performance and insisted that no colleague of theirs would agree to do so either.”

Praise for Western PA legislators, Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle
“President Trump, an angry mob of rioters and a compliant group of Republican legislators presented their latest and most aggressive challenge to our democracy. As leaders of J Street Pittsburgh, we are grateful for the Western Pennsylvania representatives and senators who showed courage and leadership in the moment.”

Born on the 4th: Israeli parties look to US playbook for pandemic-era campaigns, Times of Israel
“Meretz maintains close contact with Democratic adviser Jim Gerstein, founding partner of GBAO Strategic Communications, and also with Jewish political organizations such as J-Street and Partners for Progressive Israel, the latter a Jewish movement close to Meretz. The party official said it was learning from the Americans how to deal with countering lies and attacks by pushing out its party’s progressive platform instead. ‘We learned from the American system that there is a way to deal with fake news,’ the official said. ‘The lies should not be repeated and echoed, and we can and should present an alternative and push for a social, health-care and economic changes.’”

Israeli activists launch drive for pro-Biden billboards, The Jerusalem Post
“The objective is both to send a message of hope to the Israeli public and of solidarity with the Americans,’ former J Street Israel Director Yael Patir, who privately launched the crowdfunding initiative, said.”

Top News and Analysis

Trump expected to issue pardons on last day as president while Senate set to reconvene, CBS
President Trump plans to spend his last full day in office on Tuesday issuing 100 pardons or commutations, a senior administration official and a senior White House official tell CBS News. Meanwhile, the Senate will reconvene that day for the first time since the House impeached Mr. Trump last week, and will begin confirmation hearings for some of President-elect Joe Biden’s Cabinet nominees.

Poll: Republican support for convicting Trump in Senate growing, Politico
About 20 percent of Republicans said they “strongly” or “somewhat” approved of convicting in the latest poll, conducted Jan. 15-17. That’s an increase from the previous poll, conducted Jan. 8-11, in which 14 percent of Republicans said the same.

Israel passes 10,000 daily infections for first time since start of pandemic, Times of Israel
For the first time since the pandemic began, more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases were confirmed Monday in Israel, despite the ongoing nationwide lockdown.


WHO raises ‘concerns’ about vaccine inequity between Israel and Palestinians, Times of Israel
The World Health Organization has raised “concerns” about the unequal distribution of coronavirus vaccines in Israel, which has given shots to more than 20 percent of its population, and the Palestinian territories, an official said Monday.

Israel moves to rein in rights group over ‘apartheid’ use, AP
Israel’s education minister says he is banning groups that call Israel an “apartheid state” from lecturing at schools — a move that targets one of the country’s leading human rights groups after it began describing both Israel and its control of the Palestinian territories as a single apartheid system.

UN calls on Israel to stop new settlement construction in West Bank, Times of Israel
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday urged Israel to “halt and reverse” its decision this week to approve almost 800 new homes in West Bank settlements.

Abbas Announces Palestinian Elections After Years of Paralysis, New York Times
Sixteen years after he was elected for what was meant to be a four-year term, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority announced on Friday that presidential and parliamentary elections would be held in the spring and summer.

Iran says it is producing half a kilo of 20% enriched uranium every day, Times of Israel
The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, said Monday that the country was producing almost 500 grams of uranium enriched to 20 percent purity a day, after beginning to do so earlier this month in breach of the 2015 nuclear accord.

Merger Mania: Israeli Parties Will Link Up Before the Election – Here Are the Possibilities, Haaretz
Two and a half weeks before the party tickets close for the March 23 general election, political observers say a big consolidation is in the cards, but somehow the opposite is happening right now.

Palestinian shipment of Russian Sputnik vaccine delayed, Times of Israel
The doses had been expected to arrive on Tuesday but were delayed due to “technical issues,” according to an Israeli security official.

Opinion and Analysis

Pompeo, Who Led Trump’s Mission at State Dept., Leaves With a Dubious Legacy, New York Times
Lara Jakes writes, “Spurned by many foreign allies, ridiculed by adversaries, disliked by a significant number of his own diplomats and trying to preserve his political future, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week offered an insight into his legacy as a commander of the Trump administration’s scorched-earth foreign policy by citing a seminal moment in his personal history.”

Israeli Minister’s Decision on B’Tselem Is an Insult to Education, Haaretz
The Editorial Board writes, “Education Minister Yoav Gallant’s failed attempt to bar B’Tselem’s executive director, Hagai El-Ad, from addressing students at a Haifa high school is further proof that an anti-democratic plague is spreading in Israel.”

Traumatized by Capitol riot and awaiting inauguration, Jews in D.C. are terrified, The Forward
Carly Pildis writes, “Washington, D.C., the city I call home, is in lockdown: a state of emergency has been declared in advance of President-elect Joe Biden’s Wednesday inauguration, and over 25,000 troops have moved in. Our city has turned into a fortress in order to protect the transition of power from President Trump to Biden from any attack building on the deadly Capitol riot two weeks ago.”

What Biden’s antisemitism czar should learn from the Capitol riot, +972 Mag
Carinne Luck writes, “To fight antisemitism, Biden should pick an envoy who recognizes the gravity of right-wing violence facing Jews, while partnering with threatened groups.”

Ivanka Trump Is Perfect Cover for Antisemitic, Racist, Conspiracy-loving Republicans, Haaretz
Mia Bloom writes, “The Republican Party has sent the vanguard of a noisy new generation of racists, antisemitism appeasers and insurrection-enablers into Congress. And a deluded Ivanka Trump thinks the GOP’s dark future belongs to her.”