News Roundup for January 27, 2021

January 27, 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

Biden Will Restore U.S. Relations With Palestinians, Reversing Trump Cutoff, New York Times
“The Biden administration will restore diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority, more than two years after President Donald J. Trump effectively ended them. The action signals a return to a more traditional and evenhanded approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after a Trump administration policy that was heavily slanted toward Israel. The shift, which will include a resumption of American aid to the Palestinians, was announced on Tuesday in a speech by Richard Mills, the acting United States ambassador to the United Nations. Mr. Mills also reaffirmed support for a ‘mutually agreed, two-state solution’ between Israel and the Palestinians, ‘in which Israel lives in peace and security, alongside a viable Palestinian state.’ And he called on the parties to refrain from unilateral actions, such as the annexation of territory and settlement activity by Israel, or incitements to violence by the Palestinians, that could make such an outcome more difficult. ‘This is exactly the type of swift action the administration needs to take to restore American credibility as a diplomatic mediator between Israelis and Palestinians,’ said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, a liberal advocacy group that supports an Israeli settlement with the Palestinians. ‘Undoing the terrible damage done by the Trump administration starts with re-establishing a working relationship with the Palestinian leadership and people.’”

Top News and Analysis

Biden administration lays out its policies on Israel-Palestine at the UN, Axios
Mills said Biden would encourage Israel and the Palestinians to avoid unilateral steps that will make a two-state solution harder to reach — like annexation, settlement building, the demolition of Palestinian homes by Israel, and the payments to terrorists from the Palestinians.

Report: Israeli settler population surged during Trump era, AP
Israel’s West Bank settler population has grown at a far higher rate than the country as a whole over the last four years, a pro-settler group said Wednesday, a period that coincides with the Trump administration’s unprecedented acceptance of settlement activity. The report by West Bank Jewish Population Stats shows the settler population growing by around 13% since the start of 2017 to reach 475,481. During the same period, Israel’s population grew by around 8% to reach nearly 9.3 million, according to the government. The group’s report, which is based on official government data, does not include annexed east Jerusalem, home to more than 200,000 settlers.

Biden Wants to Return to the Iran Deal. He Can Start Here, New York Times
Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations Majid Takht-Ravanchi writes, “The United States must immediately adhere to its commitments in the nuclear agreement, which was enshrined in international law in United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231. By doing so, the Biden administration will put the country back into compliance. The new administration should also swiftly remove the new sanctions that the Trump administration placed on Iran. This will indicate the new government’s commitment to rebuilding the United States’ shattered global credibility. Iran, for its part, has declared on numerous occasions that it is ready to return to the obligations initially agreed under the nuclear deal and expeditiously reverse the measures we have taken since, if all of the sanctions are withdrawn that were imposed and reimposed by the Trump administration after its illegal withdrawal from the accord.”


Three weeks into lockdown, rampant mutated strains keep infections sky-high, Times of Israel
Some three weeks into Israel’s tightened nationwide lockdown, with more-infectious mutated coronavirus strains running rampant, the outbreak was continuing at full force, shattering even the most pessimistic of predictions.

US to review sanctions on ICC officials who investigated Afghan killings, The National
“Much as we disagree with the ICC’s actions relating to the Afghanistan and Israeli/Palestinian situations, the sanctions will be thoroughly reviewed as we determine our next steps,” the spokesman said in a written response. The Donald Trump administration last year accused The Hague-based tribunal of infringing on US national sovereignty when it authorised an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Afghan forces, the Taliban or US troops.

Despite Stricter Lockdown, Israel Fails to Curb British COVID Strain as Pandemic Rages, Haaretz
Exactly a month since the third lockdown was imposed and two-and-a-half weeks since it was tightened, there doesn’t seem to be an exit point in sight. Senior Health Ministry officials, the coronavirus chief, people on the Magen Yisrael coronavirus task force and other professionals convene daily – sometimes twice a day – to assess the situation, but they still have no good news. This is the first time that a lockdown – the heaviest weapon in the government’s arsenal for managing the pandemic, which has already succeeded in bringing raging numbers under control – is still far from dealing its familiar knockout blow. According to estimates, merely extending the lockdown by another week won’t make a difference.

Staff at Jerusalem hospital says it’s collapsing under wave of COVID infections, Times of Israel
Medical staff and patients at a Jerusalem hospital said it is collapsing under the strain of the third wave coronavirus outbreak in Israel in a report published on Tuesday.

900 Holocaust Survivors Died of COVID-19 in Israel Last Year, Haaretz
The coronavirus pandemic claimed the lives of 900 Holocaust survivors in Israel in 2020, with a total of 5,300 survivors testing positive for COVID-19, statistics released by Israel’s Holocaust Survivors’ Rights Authority on Tuesday showed.

In U-turn, AG says $300K Netanyahu got from cousin is an illicit gift, Times of Israel
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit told the High Court of Justice Tuesday that $300,000 which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received several years ago from his wealthy cousin Nathan Milikowsky is an illicit gift, reversing a position he voiced two years ago in light of new information about the business ties between the men.

Facebook Among Worst Social Media Platforms at Combating Holocaust Denial, Report Finds, Haaretz
Facebook is among the worst social media platforms at combating Holocaust denial, according to a new assessment released Wednesday by the Anti-Defamation League.

How many monuments honor fascists, Nazis and murderers of Jews? You’ll be shocked, The Forward
A Forward investigation reveals there are hundreds of statues and monuments in the United States and around the world to people who abetted or took part in the murder of Jews and others during the Holocaust.

Opinion and Analysis

Biden should look beyond leverage to rejoin the Iran deal, CNN
Ellie Geranmayeh and Esfandyar Batmanghelidj write, “If Biden intends to contain Iran’s nuclear program through diplomacy, he should make concrete economic relief felt on the Iranian streets. The cost of US sanctions have so far been felt most by ordinary Iranians, who have been hit with high inflation. The worsening economic situation did not lead to regime collapse or capitulation as the Trump administration had bet on, but instead contributed to low election turnout in Iran and protests that were met with brutal force by the security apparatus. Public sentiments around diplomacy with the West are much more negative than when the nuclear deal was first agreed. The Trump experience has given ammunition to hardline camps inside Iran to argue the US will never negotiate in good faith.”

The best way to remember the Holocaust? Preserve our American democracy, The Forward
Frank Hornstein writes, “Today’s commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day comes exactly three weeks after the United States Capitol was stormed by a mob of Trump supporters, many of whom were affiliated with groups expressing racist, antisemitic, Islamophobic and xenophobic fury. The sight of Confederate flags and a Camp Auschwitz shirt in the halls of the Capitol, and the construction of a makeshift gallows outside of it, were traumatizing for many, including me […] The task for government leaders at every level must be to prioritize policies and actions to address the scourge of hate-inspired violence. President Biden’s announcement over the weekend of new efforts to vigorously investigate far-right extremism is a good start.”

Biden Has to Clean Up Trump’s Mess in the Middle East. There’s Plenty of It, Haaretz
Alexander Griffing writes, “From Iran to Israel, Damascus to Dubai, from exiting nuclear deals and withdrawing troops to brokering normalization and assassinations, Trump’s four years have left deep scars. How will Biden engage with the region, and with Trump’s legacy?”

Enfeebled and enraged, Haredi society feels forsaken on all sides, Times of Israel
Haviv Rettig Gur writes, “Ultra-Orthodox violations of the virus restrictions aren’t new. The problem has simmered for months, occasionally waning as contagion rates and corresponding restrictions recede, then exploding again onto the public agenda when the pandemic returns with a fury. But the latest round of anger and anxiety surrounding Haredi struggles with the virus has quickly reached a fever pitch. Recent days have seen violent riots in Haredi population centers as police moved in to enforce long-ignored health closures.”

Netanyahu Was Banking on Vaccines to Win Him the Election, but There Are a Few Things He Didn’t Account For, Haaretz
Chaim Levinson writes, “The PM’s strategy toward the ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities could yet backfire, while the COVID-19 mutation threatens to imperil his desired timetable for reopening the country.”

Back from the brink? Merav Michaeli has two months to save the Labor Party, Times of Israel
David Horovitz writes, “Labor had been gradually but inexorably reduced since the assassination of Rabin, marginalized by the collapse of mainstream Israeli confidence in the possibility of peacemaking with the Palestinians, and helped toward oblivion by the campaign mastery of Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of its historic rival Likud. Its apparently unstoppable demise was expedited by a rapid turnover of increasingly inappropriate, inept and even duplicitous leaders, with the apparent death blow delivered when Amir Peretz chose to betray his own and Labor’s electoral pledge and partner with Netanyahu in the short-lived outgoing coalition.”

Welcome to the Worst Job in Israeli Politics, Merav Michaeli, Haaretz
Anshel Pfeffer writes, “Now that so many previous leaders have fallen sway to joining right-wing and center-right coalitions, can Labor’s new leader Merav Michaeli reverse course before Israel’s founding party goes under?”

How an Israeli smear campaign is ripping away funds from Palestinian farmers, +972 Mag
Alex Kane and Mariam Barghouti writes, “Israel lobby groups are targeting the funding sources of a major Palestinian agricultural union — by dubiously claiming it has ties to ‘terrorists.’ Other Palestinian organizations are facing the same attacks.”