News Roundup for June 23, 2020

June 23, 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

Vulnerable Senate Republicans targeted for supporting Trump on Iran, Al Monitor
“The J Street Education Fund — the nonprofit arm of the liberal lobby group — is targeting Sens. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Marth McSally, R-Ariz., who voted against a war powers resolution limiting Trump’s ability to conduct offensive military action against Iran following the president’s January strike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani. ‘President Trump took us to the brink of another war in the Middle East while some in Congress put their heads in the sand,’ the ads say. They go on to assert that Gardner and McSally ‘would let Trump drag us into war yet again’ and ask voters to tell the senators to ‘stand up to Trump, protect our troops.’ A third ad asks voters to thank Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., for introducing the war powers resolution.”

Rep. Karen Bass: House letter against annexation must be ‘bipartisan’, Jewish Insider
“‘I think that it’s got to be bipartisan,’ Bass, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said during a Zoom call hosted by J Street. ‘I think that it has to be Republican as well.’ The letter, signed by more than 115 members of Congress, includes no Republican signatories. Similar calls in the Senate — including a letter signed by 19 senators — have failed to garner Republican support.”

Top News and Analysis

Mixed Signals on Israeli Annexation Reflect Split Among Officials, New York Times
When President Trump’s Middle East team meets this week to hash out what to do about Israel’s planned annexation of territory in the West Bank, a fundamental question will hover overhead: Is the prospect of annexation a pressure tactic to get the Palestinians to engage with the administration’s peace plan, or is the peace plan just a smokescreen for annexation?

Majority of House Republicans Sign Letter Endorsing Israeli Annexation, Haaretz
A majority of Republican members of the House of Representatives have signed a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu endorsing Israeli annexation of settlements in the West Bank. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California was one of 116 of the 198 Republican House members signed the letter. It praises the Middle East plan presented by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, and blames the Palestinian leadership for choosing to reject it. It also says that its signatories support Israel’s “right to sovereignty and defensible borders.”

Why Israel’s annexation of parts of the West Bank would be a historic mistake, Washington Post
Tzipi Livni, former minister of foreign affairs for Israel writes, “Israel is about to make one of the most fateful decisions in its modern history — a decision that will have a profound impact on its future as a Jewish democratic state and on the prospect for peace. The Israeli cabinet is on the verge of unilaterally annexing territories in the West Bank. This is not a technical issue. It is a question that has a direct bearing on the very nature of the state of Israel — its identity, its values and its future.”


US mulling phased annexation, starting with areas close to Jerusalem – report, Times of Israel
Concerned about the collateral damage that could follow from allowing Israel to move ahead with its planned annexation of areas of the West Bank, Washington is reportedly considering backing the annexation of only of a handful of settlements close to Jerusalem.

Thousands of Palestinians Protest Against Israeli Annexation in Jordan Valley, Haaretz
Thousands of Palestinians rallied Monday against Israel’s planned annexation of areas of the West Bank in a mass protest organized by the Fatah political party. In the protest were Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nations’s Middle East envoy, Arab and other foreign diplomats, including the ambassadors of the European Union, China, Russia and Jordan.

Virus report warns infections may double within week; 377 diagnosed in 24 hours, Times of Israel
According to the report from the Coronavirus National Information and Knowledge Center, Israel’s infection rate is now increasing by around eight percent per day and the number of active patients is currently doubling every nine days.

New Zealand expresses concerns over proposed Israeli annexation plans, NZ Gov
“New Zealand is a long-standing supporter of Israel’s right to live in peace and security.  However, successive New Zealand governments have also been clear that Israeli settlements are in violation of international law and have negative implications for the peace process,” Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said. “The New Zealand Government’s view is that annexation would gravely undermine the two-state solution, breach international law, and pose significant risks to regional security.  We call on Israel to reconsider these plans.”

MKs okay retroactive tax benefits for Netanyahu worth hundreds of thousands, Times of Israel
The Knesset Finance Committee on Tuesday voted to approve controversial retroactive tax benefits worth hundreds of thousands of shekels for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Opinion and Analysis

Israel is about to reveal its West Bank annexation plans. How will Congress respond?, Washington Post
Shibley Telhami writes, “67 percent of respondents in our survey said either that it is ‘acceptable’ to question the Israeli-American relationship, or that it’s the ‘duty’ of members of Congress to do so. Among Democrats, that number was an overwhelming 81 percent, but a majority of Republicans also agreed.”

Criticizing Israel with anguish and love, Times of Israel
Yossi Klein Halevi writes, “This may well be an unprecedented moment in the history of the Israeli-Diaspora relationship. The possible annexation of parts of the territories have forced some of Israel’s most passionate supporters to speak up, some for the first time, against an Israeli government decision on a matter it defines as essential for Israeli security. With anguish and love, they are modeling a healthy Jewish discourse, teaching us how to be responsible critics.”

A “Pro-Israel” Group’s Misleading Attack Ads on Jamaal Bowman Are Bad for the Jewish Community in Our District, Medium
Dr. Jack Gorman writes, “In June 2020, in the midst of a nationwide reckoning over our country’s long legacy of systemic racism, why would a Democratic pro-Israel group stoop to using such an underhanded attack against an inspiring progressive Black man, a school principal campaigning on a platform of racial and social justice?”

New York primary puts Democratic divide over Israel in the spotlight, +972 Mag
Alex Kane writes, “For over three decades, New York Congressman Eliot Engel has used his time in Washington to solidify U.S. support for Israel. He has supported Israel’s assaults on Gaza, downplayed the impact of Israeli settlements, urged cuts to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, and endorsed Israeli control of all of Jerusalem. But come June 23, Engel’s time in office could be cut short — an alarming prospect that Engel’s allies in the American pro-Israel establishment are deeply worried about.”

A Tale of Two Netanyahus: The Six Factors That Will Decide Annexation, Haaretz
Anshel Pfeffer writes, “There are two Netanyahus,’ says an old general who has spent hundreds of hours over the years briefing the prime minister. ‘There’s the clever and politically pragmatic Netanyahu who doesn’t make rash decisions. And there’s the impulsive, history-driven Netanyahu who thinks he knows best. In the past, I thought it was usually the first Netanyahu making the decisions. But right now, over annexation, we seem to have the second.’”

Israel too must wrestle with memory, monuments and history, Times of Israel
Naomi Chazan writes, “There is little willingness to entertain alternative narratives, let alone attempt to understand them or grapple with their roots. In many respects, the dominant discourse on each side is as dismissive as it is devoid of compassion — a sure sign of the depth of ongoing enmity and mutual distrust. But it is also much more: it is a vivid and painful reminder that neither side has either the courage or the maturity to deal with its own history with critical honesty.”