News Roundup for January 28, 2021

January 28, 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.

Top News and Analysis

New U.S. secretary of state stands by demand Iran return to nuclear deal before U.S. does, Reuters
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday stuck to his stance that Tehran must resume complying with the Iran nuclear deal before Washington, which abandoned the pact under former President Donald Trump, would do so. Making his first public comments on Iran as the chief U.S. diplomat, Blinken reiterated President Joe Biden’s policy “that if Iran comes back into full compliance with its obligations under the JCPOA, the United States would do the same thing.” The nuclear deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was struck by Iran and six major powers in 2015 and committed Iran to restricting its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief from the United States and others.

Biden administration places hold on weapons sales to UAE, Saudi Arabia, Washington Post
The State Department has ordered a hold on some U.S. arms sales and transfers, including controversial approvals during the final days of the Trump administration of stealth F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates and precision-guided missiles to Saudi Arabia. A department statement called the pause “a routine action” that would allow a review to ensure “transparency and good government,” as well as meeting the Biden administration’s strategic objectives. The Persian Gulf transactions, along with other last-minute Trump administration approvals of weapons transfers to Egypt and the Philippines, had drawn the attention of lawmakers who objected to earlier arms transfers and what they saw as efforts to circumvent congressional objections.

Why an Israeli Human-Rights Organization Decided to Call Israel an Apartheid Regime, The New Yorker
Masha Gessen writes, “B’Tselem appears to be the first Jewish-Israeli human-rights organization to use the term ‘apartheid’ to refer to the Israeli regime in its entirety, though Palestinian activists have been using it for years. The paper also marks the first time the organization has taken a position on the Israeli regime as a whole rather than focussing on the occupied territories.”


‘BDS Verges on Antisemitism,’ Biden’s Pick for UN Envoy Says, Haaretz
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. President Joe Biden’s nominee for UN envoy, said Wednesday that she finds the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel “unacceptable,” saying that “it verges on antisemitism, and it is important that they not be allowed to have a voice at the United Nations.”

Biden in remembrance day statement: ‘The Holocaust was no accident of history’, Times of Israel
Expressing concern over the increasingly amplified voice of Holocaust deniers, US President Joe Biden on Wednesday stressed the importance of passing down the lessons of the Nazi-perpetrated genocide to future generations, in a statement marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day. “We must pass the history of the Holocaust on to our grandchildren and their grandchildren in order to keep real the promise of ‘never again,’ Biden said in the statement released by the White House. “That is how we prevent future genocides. Remembering the victims, heroes, and lessons of the Holocaust is particularly important today as Holocaust deniers and minimizers are growing louder in our public discourse.”

Backing Netanyahu on Iran, Israel’s Military Chief Strikes Defiant Tone Against Biden, Haaretz
Israeli chiefs of staff usually portray their opinions and plans as the direct continuation, sometimes with tweaks, of their predecessor’s program. But Kochavi’s speech Tuesday marked a decisive break with Eisenkot, notably by assailing the Iranian nuclear agreement and avoiding the sensitive topic of the Israel Defense Forces’ relationship with Israeli society.

Gantz appears to rebuke IDF chief over public criticism of US, threat to Iran, Times of Israel
Defense Minister Benny Gantz appeared to rebuke IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi on Wednesday over a speech he made the day before, in which he criticized the White House’s Iran policies and threatened potential military action against Iran.

Alliance of Israeli Arab Parties to Split Ahead of March Election, Haaretz
The Joint List alliance of Arab majority parties will split ahead of the upcoming election, the parties announced Wednesday after talks between its four constituent parties collapsed.

Opinion and Analysis

‘What did the world give us?’ A letter to President Biden from Nabi Saleh, +972 Mag
Bassem Tamimi writes, “I used to believe in peace and the two-state solution adopted by the Palestine Liberation Organization — our people’s leadership — as our path to liberation from the occupation. I defended that solution, debated others over it, and struggled to achieve it. I sang for peace and named my own son ‘Salam’ as a harbinger of a different future. But after decades of the peace process, ‘peace’ itself is yet to be born. The power balance is skewed in favor of our opponent. The bulldozers impose a reality on the ground that cannot be overcome with the good intentions of love and peace alone.”

Israel’s COVID crisis deepens even as the vaccination rate climbs, Axios
Barak Ravid writes, “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had hoped to declare victory over the pandemic before the elections on March 23, but new fast-spreading variants of COVID-19 have dashed those hopes. Netanyahu’s main political vulnerability is his handling of the pandemic. He has acknowledged that his poll numbers will be directly connected to the rates of vaccinations, new infections and deaths, as well as his ability to reopen the economy.”

Drawing the Palestinians close, drawing Israel closer: Biden administration unrolls Middle East policy, JTA
Ron Kampeas writes, “Statements and appearances by U.S. officials suggest the Biden administration’s emerging Mideast strategy: reassuring Israel while resuming ties with the Palestinians ruptured by President Joe Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump.”

Two D’Varim for Tu B’Shvat, J Street
Rabbis Aviva Richman and Rabbi Nathan Martin write, “In recent decades, Tu B’Shvat has become a holiday for trees and to raise awareness and concern for our natural environment. I would like to draw attention to the ways that, at its core, Tu B’Shvat is about the intersection of the natural environment and social equity.”