News Roundup for January 31, 2023

January 31, 2023

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J Street News Roundup

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

Blinken to Meet Netanyahu at Turbulent Moment for Israel, The New York Times
“Many U.S. officials are also personally wary of Mr. Netanyahu, who returned to the prime minister’s office after a brief political exile and while facing criminal charges. The comeback stunned — and in many cases dismayed — American officials who well remember his bitter clashes with President Barack Obama over Iran, the Palestinians and other matters. The Israeli leader worked closely with President Donald J. Trump, and is largely mistrusted by Democrats as a Republican ally. “This moment is probably the most severe political challenge to the U.S.-Israel relationship since Menachem Begin became prime minister in 1977,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of the liberal Israel advocacy group J Street. ….Thus far, administration officials have tempered their public criticism of Israel’s government, preferring to have difficult conversations in private, according to people familiar with the exchanges, particularly on matters of internal Israeli politics. “They like to be private and behind the scenes,” Mr. Ben-Ami said. “Our line is that the administration has to be tougher, and more public about it.””

Is Israel’s Democracy America’s Problem?, Foreign Policy
“Ben-Ami of J Street argues that the United States should apply the “oversight and accountability” to Israel it demands of other recipients of aid. American funds should not be used, Ben-Ami argues, “to oversee the evacuation of Palestinian villages in contravention of international law.”

The Escalation in Israeli-Palestinian Violence, and What the Biden Administration Must Do, J Street
J Street President Jeremy Ben Ami writes, “All of us at J Street know that stepping back from the challenge, or treating the situation simply as “business as usual,” should not and cannot be an option. There’s far too much on the line — for Israelis, for Palestinians, and for the United States’ own long-term hopes for the region. As events on the ground unfold in the days and weeks ahead, we’ll continue to promote a vision of a better future rooted in peace, justice and self-determination for both peoples, and continue to champion the American policies that we believe can help make that future possible.”

Top News and Analysis

Blinken Heads to West Bank After Surge in Violence, The New York Times
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken visited the occupied West Bank on Tuesday for a meeting with the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, in the final stop of a whirlwind regional tour aimed, in part, at calming a spasm of tensions in the region. The meeting, at the Palestinian Authority’s headquarters in Ramallah, came amid one of the deadliest months in the West Bank in several years. More than 30 Palestinians have been killed in the territory in January, mostly during Israeli military raids aimed at quelling a growing insurgency and arresting Palestinian gunmen.

Blinken Visit Deepens Israeli and Palestinian Skepticism About U.S. Role, The Washington Post
On one topic, Israelis and Palestinians appear to agree: Both are deeply skeptical, even scornful, of renewed calls being made by the Biden administration for a two-state solution here. Many called the gesture — at this moment of violence and radicalism — feeble, even farcical. On his first trip to the region after the return of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to power, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken promoted the long-held dream of two states side by side — one Israeli, one Palestinian — as the best guarantor of peace.


‘North Star’: In Unusual Gesture, Blinken Sets Aside Time to Meet With Israeli Civil Society Leaders, Haaretz
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met on Tuesday morning in Jerusalem with representatives of Israeli civil society organizations, who have come under growing attacks since the formation of the new far-right government. U.S. embassy sources in Israel said it was rare, if not unprecedented, for America’s top diplomat to meet with civil society leaders in a democratic country and that Blinken had wanted to convey a message of solidarity with those fighting in Israel for equality, minority rights and Jewish-Arab shared society.

Abbas Assures US Security Ties With Israel Only Partially Cut, Can Be Restored, The Times of Israel
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told CIA director William Burns Sunday that parts of a security coordination apparatus with Israel have remained in place, despite announcing a total freeze on cooperation last week following a deadly IDF raid in Jenin.

Israel Clears a Hurdle for Visa-Free U.S. Travel — But There Are Strings Attached, NPR
As Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in Jerusalem, the State Department has announced Israeli tourists may qualify for visa-free travel to the U.S., but only if Israel stops discriminating against Arab Americans. Israelis were rejected for U.S. visas last year at a low rate. But before Israelis can travel to the United States without a visa, the Israeli government must agree to share security data about its citizens and allow Palestinians with U.S. passports to land freely at Israel’s airport on their way to the occupied West Bank.

Over 70 U.S. Legal Scholars Warn Against ‘Speed and Scale’ of Israel’s Judicial Overhaul, Haaretz
Prominent legal scholars in the United States have joined the opposition to the Benjamin Netanyahu government’s proposed judicial reforms, in a public statement saying that they are “deeply worried” that the reforms as proposed “will seriously weaken the independence of the judiciary, the separation of powers and the rule of law” in Israel.

Opinion and Analysis

‘No Freedom, No Hi-Tech’: This Right-Wing Knesset Puts Israel’s Tech Sector in Peril, J Weekly
Offir Gutelzon and J Street Leader Ben Linder write, “The power of the Israeli economy to attract foreign investment depends in large measure on the confidence that investors have in the country’s democratic institutions. Investors need to believe that the system of government operates according to the rule of law, the economy is predictable and stable, and property and intellectual rights of investors are protected by a strong, independent judicial system.”

The U.S. on Israel’s Far-Right Government: It Is What It Is., Politico
Nahal Toosi notes, “While the Biden administration routinely says it supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it has “abandoned the issue in all but rhetoric,” said Khaled Elgindy, a scholar with the Middle East Institute. “Palestinians are low on the agenda.””