News Roundup for June 2 2021

June 2, 2021

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J Street in the News

US-Israel relations poised to enter new phase without Netanyahu, The Hill
“The relationship between the U.S. and Israel is poised for critical change with political momentum building to oust long-time Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu. […] ‘It’s definitely a mistake to count Netanyahu out before the moving truck actually is departing with his stuff from the prime minister’s residence,’ said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the American, left-leaning Israeli and Palestinian advocacy organization J Street. […] But even Netanyahu’s ousting would be unlikely to moderate the criticism of progressives, according to J Street’s Ben-Ami. ‘The departure of Trump from the White House didn’t mean that the United States had overcome structural racism – the departure of Netanyahu from the prime minister’s office is not going to mean that the occupation has come to an end,’ he said. ‘What people are focused on is not the name on the door of the prime minister’s office, but on the conditions that millions of Palestinian’s are living in, under an occupation that is funded by American tax dollars, and that is what motivates progressive lawmakers.’”

Democratic primaries will reveal party’s debate on Israel, CQ Roll Call
“The split in the Democratic Party over Israel burst into the open after its bloody conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip in May. For now, the party’s pro-Israel wing remains dominant, but primaries this election cycle will reveal if the divide is growing or narrowing. […] J Street, a liberal Jewish political organization that advocates a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and endorsed Newman in her primary against former Rep. Daniel Lipinski, believes it has offered Democrats the room to be considered pro-Israel while also criticizing the Israeli government on the way Palestinians are treated. Logan Bayroff, the group’s vice president for communications, said it’s ‘politically safe’ for Democrats to separate support for Jews from support for the actions of the Israeli government. ‘What we’ve seen again and again is that the supposed political risk just does not exist,’ Bayroff said.

This didn’t have to happen, Jewish Standard
J Street leader Marty Levine writes, “This didn’t have to happen. And it doesn’t have to keep happening. We’ve gotten used to it. Every few years, one of the many injustices of Israel’s occupation leads to an uprising, Israeli police subsequently crack down on Palestinians, Hamas rains rockets on the civilian population of Israel, Israel bombs Gaza, and innocent people on both sides are killed.”

Top News and Analysis

As Israelis Await Netanyahu’s Fate, Palestinians Seize a Moment of Unity, New York Times
To Israelis, Mr. Netanyahu’s possible departure constitutes an epochal moment — the toppling of a man who has left a deeper imprint on Israeli society than most other politicians in Israeli history. But for many Palestinians, his putative removal has prompted little more than a shrug and a resurgence of bitter memories. […] Instead, many Palestinians are consumed by their own political moment, which some activists and campaigners have framed as the most pivotal in decades.

Snubbed, fired and vilified, opposition lawmakers unite in disdain for Netanyahu, Washington Post
The governing coalition now poised to take power in Israel is an ideological mix — many would say mess — of factions that range from religiously oriented advocates of Jewish settlements in the West Bank to secular supporters of an independent Palestinian state. But there is one thing they all agree on: It is time for Benjamin Netanyahu to go. This new government, if it is voted into power by the parliament in coming days, will be the anti-Netanyahu government. The organizing principle of the “change coalition” is the assertion that the prime minister’s dogged push to keep his office after four inconclusive elections is harming the country.

Gaza’s bereaved civilians fear justice will never come, AP
The fear that justice will never come makes it harder for the family to deal with loss, he said. He worries that Gaza and its problems, including a suffocating blockade enforced by Israel and Egypt since 2007 to contain Hamas, will soon sink back into oblivion. “We know that the world is now empathetic, but after a while it will forget our problem,” Al-Kawlak said. “Even when they remember us again, they will remember us as numbers.”


Scoop: Democratic senators urge Blinken to press Israel on Gaza reconstruction, Axios
Seventeen Democratic senators have written to Secretary of State Tony Blinken urging him to press Israel to allow materials needed for reconstruction and humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip. The effort is led by Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). The U.S., Egypt, Qatar and others have committed to rebuilding Gaza — where many homes, health care facilities and schools were destroyed and crucial water infrastructure was damaged in the fighting — as well as providing humanitarian aid. But Israel is threatening to hold up that process.

What to know about Naftali Bennett, the Israeli politician who could succeed Benjamin Netanyahu, Washington Post
Though still to be confirmed by Israel’s parliament, the deal on the table would make a former Netanyahu protege, Naftali Bennett, Israel’s next prime minister — at least for a fixed time, according to the terms of the bargain taking shape, before handing off to Yair Lapid, a centrist politician. […] Here is what to know about Bennett, a technology millionaire turned far-right religious lawmaker, who is a staunch supporter of Israeli settlements and opponent of a Palestinian state.

Isaac Herzog elected as Israel’s 11th president, Axios
Isaac Herzog was elected on Wednesay as the 11th president of Israel, winning more than two-thirds of the votes in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. The president of Israel gives would-be prime ministers the mandate to form a new government, highly important during the ongoing political crisis in Israel, and can also offer pardons — which could become relevant with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on trial for corruption.

Graham says Israel will request $1 billion from US after Gaza war, The Hill
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Tuesday that Israel will request $1 billion from the U.S. to replenish its Iron Dome missile defense system and other military supplies after an 11-day war with militants in the Gaza Strip. Graham, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, met Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz as he tours Israel following the fighting. The panel on which Graham sits is in charge of foreign military aid.

Despite ceasefire, most Gazans seeking medical care still can’t enter Israel, Times of Israel
Even though a fragile ceasefire has put an end to the fighting between Israel and Hamas terrorists, many Gazans with permits to enter Israel for medical treatment were still unable to do so on Wednesday. Israel issues permits for Gazans who receive referrals to hospitals in Israel and the West Bank for treatments not available in the blockaded coastal enclave. The Israeli military closed the crossings during the 11-day war last month between Israel and Gaza-based Palestinian terrorists. After the ceasefire, the Defense Ministry announced that Gazans seeking medical treatment in Israel would once again be allowed to enter. But Israeli officials later clarified that only Gazans in need of “life-saving” treatment will be allowed to cross at the present time.

Opinion and Analysis

What the U.S. should learn from Israel’s odd-couple proposed government, Washington Post
David Ignatius writes, “One unsettling similarity between Israeli and U.S. politics is that Netanyahu’s die-hard supporters have been threatening violence in recent days, just as Trump’s supporters did in the Jan. 6 insurrection. […] The change coalition won’t solve all Israel’s problems. But it will reinforce the fundamentals of Israeli democracy — and the need for people to unite, even when they disagree bitterly over policy. Let’s hope Americans experience the same revelation before it’s too late.”

An anti-Netanyahu coalition government would suggest Israelis are ready for change, The Guardian
Dahlia Scheindlin writes, “The symbolism of Israel establishing a government for the first time with the votes of a party representing Palestinian citizens of Israel – as an “outside” supporter, or even within the coalition – cannot be overstated. The move towards Arab representation in Israel’s executive branch is painfully incremental and inexcusably late, and liberal spirits are not fully lifted by a conservative Islamist homophobic party breaking this ground. But it is progress nonetheless.”

His Rule Slipping Away, Netanyahu Could Bring Capitol Insurrection to Israel, Haaretz
Alon Pinkas writes, “Much has been written, dissected, said and analyzed about the similarities between former U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They are two different men with entirely different backgrounds, vastly different experiences and distinctly different intellects. Yet they share a striking similarity underlined by a deep sense of entitlement, self-ordained grandeur, self-aggrandizement and a common Louis XIV attitude: L’état, c’est moi. The state is I, or: I am the state. […] With his brother-in-arms Trump out of power, consumed by incoherent ranting and mumbling in Mar-a-Lago about how the election was stolen from him by Democrats and the media, Netanyahu has one last page to copy from Trump’s playbook: creating his own ‘January 6.’”

What the new government in Jerusalem means for US-Israel relations, Responsible Statecraft
Mitchell Plitnick writes, “All of this will present new challenges to the Biden administration which, after the recent Israeli airstrikes in Gaza and Hamas rocket fire into Israel, seems to have recognized that the president cannot simply ignore Israel and Palestine. Bennett is even farther to the right on the issue of the Palestinians than Netanyahu. Unlike Netanyahu, he has never even paid lip service to a two-state solution. He has consistently, adamantly, and unambiguously opposed it. Given that the pro-Netanyahu right is already accusing Bennett of being a traitor and — worse in Israeli right-wing parlance — a leftist, he will not want to appear to be conciliatory as Netanyahu’s replacement.”

Sheikh Jarrah – Not an “Ordinary Property Dispute”, J Street
Yudith Oppenheimer and Amy Cohen write, “The devastating violence of the last two weeks has placed a spotlight on the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where attempts by Israeli settlers to evict a number of Palestinian families from their homes led to protests which eventually escalated into a full-blown war. While the hostilities between Israel and Hamas have ended, at least for now, the situation in Sheikh Jarrah remains volatile and will stay that way unless the underlying injustice against the Palestinian families living there is addressed with a solution that respects their rights.”