News Roundup for June 22, 2020

June 22, 2020

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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

AIPAC’s biggest Democratic allies break ranks to publicly oppose Israeli annexation, The Forward
“Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sens. Bob Menendez and Ben Cardin, the top two Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and frequent guest speakers at the annual AIPAC Policy Conference, released a joint statement to Jewish Insider on Friday warning against annexation […] The Schumer press release followed a similar letter signed Thursday by at least 115 Democrats in the House of Representatives. The list of 115 signatories ‘runs the gamut from J Street Democrats to AIPAC Democrats,’ a Democratic congressional source told Jewish Insider. Other members of Congress are reportedly expected to sign on before the letter is released to the public next week.”

Steny Hoyer and 115 House Dems sign letter opposing annexation, Jewish Insider
“One hundred and fifteen Democratic House members have added their names to a letter cautioning Israeli leaders against unilaterally annexing portions of the West Bank, according to a list reviewed by Jewish Insider on Thursday […] A Democratic congressional staffer who was involved in drafting the letter told JI that the list ‘runs the gamut from J Street Democrats to AIPAC Democrats,’ noting that despite broader national political conversations and the coronavirus pandemic, ‘you still have a broad coalition of Democrats in the House who are expressing their voice here.’”

Hundreds of clergy members pen open letter opposing unilateral annexation, The Jerusalem Post
“More than 600 rabbis and cantors in conjunction with seminary students have penned a public letter to the Israeli government stating that they unequivocally oppose annexation, according to a J Street statement […] ‘The fact that such a wide range of Jewish clergy, communal organizations and campus leaders are speaking out in unified opposition to annexation shows just how dangerous and extreme Netanyahu’s plan is,’ said the National Director of Rabbinic and Community Engagement at J Street Shaina Wasserman. ‘While doing tremendous damage to the future of Israel and the rights of Palestinians, annexation would seriously harm the relationship between Israel and American Jews.’”

Top News and Analysis

White House to discuss this week whether to approve Israeli annexations, Axios
The White House is expected to hold high-level meetings this week to discuss whether to give the Israeli government a “green light” on annexing parts of the West Bank, American and Israeli sources tell me. Israel won’t move forward on annexation without the approval of the White House, and there are disagreements on the issue inside both the Israeli government and the Trump administration. Security and intelligence officials from both countries fear annexation would lead to violent escalation in the region. The meetings are expected to take place Monday or Tuesday and include Jared Kushner, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien and U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who is expected to travel to Washington to attend.

Trump Administration and Netanyahu Discussing ‘Gradual’ West Bank Annexation Plan, Haaretz
The Trump administration and the Netanyahu government are discussing a plan for “gradual” Israeli annexation in the West Bank, which would take place in several installments over the coming months, according to sources who have knowledge of the debate within the American administration. This, they have said, is one of the options that will be considered this week at the White House when Trump convenes a meeting on the issue with his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and with the American ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, and other senior officials.

Envoy to US: Annexation will help Ramallah abandon ‘illusions,’ accept 2 states, Times of Israel
Israel’s plan to annex large swaths of the West Bank will help, not hurt, the prospects of peace with the Palestinians, by convincing them to abandon their “illusion” of ending the Jewish state project and agree to a true two-state solution, Israel’s Ambassador to the US said in an op-ed published Saturday.


On GPS: Israel’s annexation plans, CNN
Former Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Olmert joins Fareed to lay out the possible ramifications of PM Netanyahu’s plans to annex the Jordan Valley.

Republican Jewish Coalition launches $50,000 pro-Trump ad campaign with an 8-minute video, JTA
The Republican Jewish Coalition has launched a $50,000 ad buy in battleground states. To kick it off, the group released an eight-minute video highlighting President Donald Trump’s pro-Israel record on Friday.

Bolton: Trump told Netanyahu he’d back Israeli military action against Iran, Times of Israel
“‘You tell Bibi [Netanyahu] that if he uses force, I will back him. I told him that, but you tell him again,’ Trump said, unprompted by me,” Bolton writes.

In Israeli Textbooks, the Palestinians Are All but Invisible, Haaretz
A study by Avner Ben-Amos of Tel Aviv University shows that the occupation is rarely mentioned in history, civics or geography textbooks.

Evacuating settlements would pose ‘immediate existential threat’, Times of Israel
The evacuation of settlements in the West Bank would pose an “immediate existential threat” to Israel, according to a memo sent by the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Knesset members from his Likud party on Sunday.

Tel Aviv to recognize same-sex and interfaith couples, JTA
The Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality will recognize same-sex, interfaith and other couples who are not eligible to be married by the state’s religious authorities.

Longtime congressman from N.Y. tries to avoid an AOC-style upset, Washington Post
Engel also has gotten a boost from Democratic Majority for Israel, seeing a defeat for the reliably pro-Israel congressman as a grave threat, and potential victory for the country’s critics. The group’s advertising does not mention Israel, focusing instead on an old tax debt that Bowman has since paid off.

Palestinian Authority places 2 West Bank cities on lockdown over rise in coronavirus cases, JTA
The Palestinian Authority placed two major West Bank cities, Hebron and Nablus, on lockdown following a steep rise in COVID-19 cases.

IDF chief warns Iran now the ‘most dangerous country’ in Middle East, Times of Israel
Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi on Sunday said Iran is now the most dangerous country in the Middle East, not just because of its nuclear program, but also through its conventional weapons and support for terror activities against Israel.

Zeev Sternhell, dovish Israeli expert on fascism, dies at 85, AP
Sternhell, a Holocaust survivor and an acclaimed professor of political science at Hebrew University, was an internationally recognized expert and author of several books on fascism and ultra-nationalism. A longtime peace activist, Sternhell was an outspoken critic of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians and an opponent to Israel’s settler movement.

Opinion and Analysis

I faced anti-Semitism growing up. It pales in comparison to the racism my Black Jewish children face, The Forward
Channa Verbian writes, “Have we forgotten? When we demean and other people who are different, we participate in the dominant culture’s racism. Seeing the continual murder of black bodies, we must ask ourselves this uncomfortable question: Are we truly blind? Or have we just closed our eyes?”