News Roundup for June 3 2021

June 3, 2021

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J Street in the News

The End of the Netanyahu Era and What Comes Next, J Street
“It’s looking very likely that, within the coming days, we will see the creation of a new Israeli government that — for the first time in over 12 years — will not include Benjamin Netanyahu. Through election after election and coalition after coalition, Netanyahu has successfully clung to the office of prime minister since his election in March 2009, just under a year after the initial founding of J Street. If and when this new government is indeed sworn in and Netanyahu is finally booted from the prime minister’s residence on Balfour Street, it will mark the end of an era not just for Israeli politics, but for J Street and the American Jewish community as well.”

US lobby groups welcome broad coalition, fret over efficacy of ‘ragtag’ members, Times of Israel
“Leading US lobby groups welcomed Yesh Atid leader MK Yair Lapid’s announcement late Wednesday that he had succeeded in forming a coalition government to potentially replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. […] The left-leaning J Street lobby group celebrated the fact that if Lapid succeeds in installing a new government, it will mean ‘Netanyahu is finally booted from the prime minister’s residence after 12 years in power. Netanyahu’s fall from power is a cause for great relief,’ the lobby group wrote. But it predicted that ‘this ragtag coalition of left, center and right-wing parties united primarily by their opposition to Netanyahu will likely struggle to agree on a policy agenda.’”

Netanyahu changed the way Americans view Israel — but not always in the way he wanted, JTA
“‘The Trump-Bibi alliance became the face of the U.S.-Israel relationship, which we said at the time is really bad for Israel,’ said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of the liberal pro-Israel J Street lobby group.”

300 Jewish leaders tie ‘dismantling antisemitism’ to ‘Palestinian liberation’, Forward
“Dozens of rabbis, professors and well-known activists were among 300 progressive Jewish leaders who released a statement Wednesday pushing back against the suggestion that pro-Palestinian activism was behind the recent spate of antisemitic incidents in the United States. […] It was signed by Rabbi Elyse Wechterman, director of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, and a number of other progressive clergy as well as a activists like Ady Barkan and Heather Booth, and leaders affiliated with J Street, Bend the Arc, Americans for Peace Now, IfNotNow, Jewish Voice for Peace and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice.”

Top News and Analysis

Netanyahu foes push for quick vote to end his 12-year rule, AP
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s opponents on Thursday pushed for a quick parliament vote to formally end his lengthy rule, hoping to head off any last-minute attempts by the premier to derail their newly announced coalition government. The latest political maneuvering began just hours after opposition leader Yair Lapid and his main coalition partner, Naftali Bennett, declared they had reached a deal to form a new government and muster a majority in the 120-member parliament, or Knesset.

Would a new government mean a profound shift for Israel?, New York Times
Naftali Bennett, who leads a small right-wing party, and Yair Lapid, the centrist leader of the Israeli opposition, have joined forces to try to form a diverse coalition to unseat Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. […] The opposition parties announced a coalition agreement on Wednesday. But even if they survive a vote of confidence in the Parliament and form a government, toppling Mr. Netanyahu, how much change would their “change government” bring, when some of the parties agree on little else besides antipathy for Israel’s longest-serving leader?

Netanyahu’s On the Way Out. Here’s What Biden Can Expect Next., Politico
Daniel Kurtzer, Aaron David Miller, and Steven Simon write, “Biden’s team should anticipate a few months of calm on the Palestinian issue and the Iran nuclear deal — thanks as much to gridlock in the Knesset as to Jerusalem’s desire to smooth relations with Washington. But they shouldn’t forget that Bennett is an ideologue farther to the right than Netanyahu. The new prime minister’s hardline credentials and the machinations of right-wing members of his coalition are likely to become a problem at some point. There’s no trainwreck in store for Biden with Israel’s new government — but he shouldn’t expect a honeymoon, either.”


Europe sees progress in latest rounds of Iran nuclear talks, AP
European diplomats say the latest round of talks over Iran’s nuclear program has made progress, expressing hope that agreement could soon be reached for Tehran to comply with a 2015 deal aimed at curbing its atomic ambitions and also see the United States rejoin the accord. Enrique Mora, the European Union official who chaired Wednesday’s talks in Vienna, said delegations from Russia, China, Germany, France, Britain, Iran and the U.S. would return home to brief their governments and then meet again in the Austrian capital next week. “I’m sure that the next round will be the one in which we will finally get the deal,” Mora told reporters after the meeting.

Iran Investigates Fire That Sank One of Its Largest Navy Ships, Wall Street Journal
Iran is investigating a fire that sank one of its largest navy ships early Wednesday in the Gulf of Oman, according to Iranian state media, the latest blow to the country’s vital infrastructure and military assets. Hours after the ship fire, a large fire broke out at an oil refinery near the Iranian capital. Leakage in a liquefied petroleum gas pipeline at the facility caused an explosion and fire, the head of Tehran’s crisis management team told state television. He said that no one had been harmed. It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the fire.

Who’s the Man Who Could Replace Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu?, Bloomberg
Israel’s political opposition has pulled together a government designed to end Benjamin Netanyahu’s cumulative 15 years in power. If the coalition is ratified by parliament within the coming week, he’ll be replaced as prime minister by Naftali Bennett, a 49-year-old technology millionaire and former cabinet minister whose politics are further to the right than his own. To get where he’s gotten, though, Bennett’s agreed to ally in government with partners whose opposing views could moderate policy.

Arab Islamist helps clinch Israel’s new anti-Netanyahu government, Reuters
Common cause against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu helped bring Mansour Abbas into the political fold late on Wednesday, his tiny Islamist faction securing a paper-thin majority for Jewish parties hoping to unseat Israel’s longest serving premier. The United Arab List would be the first party drawn from the country’s 21% Arab minority – Palestinian by heritage, Israeli by citizenship – to join an Israeli government, whose parliamentary approval is still pending.

145 House Democrats Urge Top Republican: Release Hold on Palestinian Aid Money, Haaretz
145 House Democrats urged the ranking Republican member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to release the hold on $75 million appropriated for Palestinian aid. The lawmakers, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin, wrote to Sen. James Risch “to respectfully request that you release your hold on tens of millions of dollars in appropriated humanitarian aid that is so desperately needed to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians rebuilding their lives in the wake of the fighting between Hamas and Israel earlier this month.”

Biden congratulates Herzog on presidential win, Times of Israel
US President Joe Biden congratulated Isaac Herzog on being picked as the next president of Israel Wednesday and said he looked forward to hosting his predecessor at the White House in the coming weeks. […] Biden’s relationship with Herzog, a former head of the dovish Labor party and leader of the Jewish Agency for Israel, spans decades. They met several times when Biden was vice president and Herzog led the Knesset opposition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition.

Opinion and Analysis

‘Economic Peace’ With Israel Won’t Help Palestinians, Foreign Policy
Ibrahaim Shikaki writes, “Promoting unconstrained economic relations between Israel and Palestine—as has become fashionable in Western capitals of late—is not the answer. Such an approach would only deepen the Palestinian economy’s dependency on Israel’s labor and goods markets. Rather than reinforcing the status quo, international players should work to build an independent Palestinian economy while pressuring Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem as well as its devastating siege on Gaza.”

Were My Criticisms of Israel Fair?, New York Times
“When I wrote a couple of columns criticizing Israel as well as Hamas over the recent Gaza war, I had pushback from readers who asked: So what would you have Israel do? There is no doubt that Hamas committed war crimes in shelling Israeli civilians. But most scholars believe (with not quite the same certainty) that Israel also committed war crimes with its attacks on Gaza that were far more lethal to civilians than attacks by Hamas. A basic principle of getting out of a hole is to stop digging. A basic principle of peace-building is to stop committing war crimes. That’s the only path to making insoluble problems solvable.”

Israel’s left hates Netanyahu. But his real problem is that some right-wingers hate him, too., Washington Post
Noam Gidron and Lior Sheffer write, “Among the multiple forces that have together brought about this fraught political moment, the rise of the “Never-Netanyahu” right stands out. And, yes, there are interesting parallels between the Never-Netanyahu right in Israel and Republican Never-Trumpers in the United States — what’s happening in Israel sheds light on how different electoral systems facilitate political change.”

Israel is trying to oust Bibi Netanyahu. But will he really go?, Los Angeles Times
Nicholas Goldberg writes, “So is this the end of the road for the man who has been the dominant Israeli political figure of his era? Is this the beginning of a sharp change in direction for Israel? My advice? Don’t bet the house on it. And don’t count him out until you hear the prison doors clang shut behind him.”

Now Is the Time to Talk About Dead Palestinian Children. But Don’t Stop There, Haaretz
Arkadi Mazin writes, “Israel’s rights are threatened once every few years when Hamas launches another attack. Israel is trampling Palestinian rights continuously, every day, every minute, on a massive scale, perpetuating extreme misery and injustice, in an open disregard for international law. And yet, was it right to talk about the occupation while missiles were killing civilians in Israeli cities? Couldn’t this wait a bit? Wasn’t it insensitive to bring this up that very moment? No, not at all.”