News Roundup for January 20, 2021

January 20, 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

What does the change in the US administration bode for Israel?, Peres Center
J Street’s Nadav Tamir writes, “Israel must return to bipartisan diplomacy with the US and build bridges with progressive and minority elements. Israel must embrace the US Jewish community regardless of political views and streams of Judaism. Israel’s ties with the world’s largest Jewish Diaspora are not only vital to the relationship between the states themselves, but stem from Israel’s very mission as the nation state of the Jewish people.”

Top News and Analysis

Biden State Pick: US To Seek ‘Longer And Stronger’ Deal With Iran, AFP
The US will come back into a nuclear accord with Iran if it returns to compliance, and Washington will eventually seek a stronger deal of greater duration, secretary of state-designate Antony Blinken said Tuesday.

Iran’s Rouhani says “ball in U.S. court” over nuclear dispute, Reuters
“The ball is in the U.S. court now. If Washington returns to Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal, we will also fully respect our commitments under the pact,” Rouhani said in a televised cabinet meeting.

Biden to keep Jerusalem embassy but seek Palestinian state, nominee says, AFP
President-elect Joe Biden will not reverse Donald Trump’s landmark recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital but will seek a state for the Palestinians, Antony Blinken, his nominee for secretary of state, said Tuesday. Asked at his confirmation hearing by Senator Ted Cruz if the United States will continue its stance on Jerusalem and maintain its embassy, Blinken said without hesitation, “Yes and yes.” Trump in 2017 bucked international consensus and recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, despite Palestinians’ claims to the holy city as part of their campaign for a separate state. Blinken indicated that Biden would try harder to pursue a separate Palestinian state but acknowledged the difficulties. “The only way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish, democratic state and to give the Palestinians a state to which they are entitled is through the so-called two-state solution,” Blinken said.


Pompeo’s parting message as secretary of state: Multiculturalism is ‘not who America is’, New York Times
“Wokeism, multiculturalism, all the -isms — they’re not who America is,” Mr. Pompeo wrote. “They distort our glorious founding and what this country is all about. Our enemies stoke these divisions because they know they make us weaker.” The tweet infuriated American diplomats abroad and in the United States who described it as a final insult by an administration that has promoted far more white male Foreign Service Officers than women or people of color. Black and Hispanic diplomats each make up 8 percent of the Foreign Service, and Asians account for 7 percent, according to State Department data from March, the most recent available.

Flags and barbed wire: Jittery Washington DC prepares for Biden’s inauguration, AFP
Outside the White House fence, central Washington on Tuesday took on a dystopian look ahead of US President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, swarming with National Guard troops and largely emptied of ordinary people.

Netanyahu courts Arab voters in election-year turnabout, AP
Few Arabs are likely to heed his call, underscoring the desperation of Netanyahu’s political somersault. But the relative absence of incitement against the community in this campaign and the potential breakup of an Arab party alliance could dampen turnout — to Netanyahu’s advantage. He might even pick up just enough votes to swing a tight election.

Netanyahu’s Likud widens lead over Saar’s New Hope to 15 seats, Times of Israel
According to the poll from Channel 12, Likud would pick up 30 Knesset seats if elections were held today, down from its current tally of 36 but up from other recent surveys. In a survey published by the network on December 15, Likud was forecast to pick up 27 of the parliament’s 120 seats.

Netanyahu’s Party Maintains Lead Even With Potential Center-left Merger, Poll Finds, Haaretz
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party is seen gaining strength in an election poll published on Tuesday, overcoming the center and left-wing parties regardless of a merger.

Government extends lockdown until January 31 amid soaring virus rates, Times of Israel
Government ministers on Tuesday voted to extend the national lockdown by an additional 10 days, as Israel saw its highest-yet coronavirus infection rates since the start of the pandemic.

Ossoff to be sworn in using Hebrew Bible of rabbi whose synagogue was bombed by racists, The Forward
Jon Ossoff, the newly elected U.S. senator from Georgia, will be sworn in Jan. 20 using a Hebrew Bible that belonged to Rabbi Jacob M. Rothschild. Rothschild, who died in 1973, is an icon of the Jewish South who played an integral role in the region’s civil rights and social justice movements. In 1946, the former army chaplain became the spiritual leader of The Temple. He used his pulpit to denounce segregation and build bridges to the city’s Black community.

Biden’s State pick: We’ll consult with Israel, allies before return to Iran deal, Times of Israel
US President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, Tony Blinken, said Tuesday that the incoming administration will consult with Israel and Arab allies in the Middle East before it makes decisions about reentering the Iran nuclear agreement.

Deputy Health Minister: Election May Need to Be Delayed Due to Israel’s High COVID Rate, Haaretz
Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kish said Wednesday morning that if the coronavirus infection rate does not decrease, he does not know whether Israel will be able to hold an election in March as planned.

Opinion and Analysis

Iran nuclear deal: Revenge of the Diplomats, The Interpreter
Rodger Shanahan writes, “Despite Biden having long signalled his intention to re-join the JCPOA, countries such as Saudi Arabia and Israel will remain opposed to the agreement, just as they were when it was orginally signed under Barack Obama’s tenure. Biden has better personal relations with the Israelis and Saudis than Obama did, and this may go some way towards ameliorating the issue, but he will still be criticised by conservatives and conservative think-tanks.”

Politics Will Drag Israel Into Months of Unnecessary COVID Deaths and Suffering, Haaretz
Amos Harel writes, “The major coverage that the media has been devoting to the new, more infectious variants of the coronavirus that have started to appear in Israel is distracting attention from the main scandal unfolding in front of our eyes. This is the continued neglect over the growing incidence of the virus in major portions of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community, which is being met with total inaction by the government.”

No time for softballs: 10 questions we want Tony Blinken to answer, Responsible Statecraft
Kelley Beaucar Vlahos writes, “Antony Blinken has served in powerful positions throughout two Democratic administrations dating back nearly 30 years, but it’s clear today that his nomination as secretary of state comes at a time of extraordinary, if not unprecedented challenges home and abroad. One of those challenges will be to repair the damage done by outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is not only blamed for gutting the agency, but for planting a series of political and diplomatic landmines for the incoming Biden administration on his way out the door.”

‘But Trump Isn’t Hitler’: Unraveling the Reluctance to Define Trumpism as Fascism, and Why It Matters, Haaretz
Mikael Nilsson writes, “Is Trumpism a form of fascism? Since the attempted sacking of the Capitol, that debate has undergone a notable resurgence. As always, the answer depends upon how we choose to define fascism. Several historians of fascism have weighed in on the topic, and they have reached contrasting conclusions. “

The Guardian view on Israel and apartheid: prophecy or description?, The Guardian
The Editorial Board writes, “There is a serious argument about injustices to be had. Palestinians – unlike Israeli Jews – live under a fragmented mosaic of laws, often discriminatory, and public authorities which seem indifferent to their plight. Apartheid is a crime against humanity. It is a charge that should not be lightly made, for else it can be shrugged off. Some might agree with the use of such incendiary language, but many will recoil.”

The Education Minister Is Afraid of the Truth: Israel Is an Apartheid State, Haaretz
Hagai El-Ad writes, “Part of the battle against any unjust situation is fighting attempts to conceal the injustice. In the letter in which the education minister, Maj. Gen. (res.) Yoav Gallant, tried this week to give orders to the education system, he claimed to be against “lies” and in favor of a “Jewish and democratic” Israel.”