News Roundup for March 1, 2021

March 1, 2021

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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

Jewish groups call on Biden to stop settlement goods being labelled ‘made in Israel’, Middle East Monitor
“Six progressive Jewish American organisations have called on the administration of US President Joe Biden to revoke a directive from his predecessor that all exports from illegal Israeli settlements built on Palestinian occupied lands be labelled as ‘made in Israel’. ‘We believe the [policy] is inconsistent with current US policy on the status of the occupied territories, requires inaccurate and misleading labelling on the origin of products, and is harmful to essential interests of Israelis and Palestinians alike,’ the organisations said in a joint letter sent on Tuesday to Homeland Security Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas […] The letter was signed by Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, J Street. New Israel Fund Partners for Progressive Israel and the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.”

Top News and Analysis

Iran Rejects Nuclear Deal Talks With U.S. Proposed by Europe, New York Times
Iran on Sunday rejected an offer to negotiate directly with the United States in an informal meeting proposed by Europeans to revive the nuclear deal that President Donald J. Trump exited nearly three years ago. A spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry, Saeed Khatibzadeh, said recent actions taken by Washington and Europeans had led Iran to conclude that the “time was not right” to hold such talks. His remarks came days after President Biden ordered retaliatory strikes against Iranian-backed militias in eastern Syria that were tied to recent attacks against American and allied personnel in Iraq. “There has been no change in America’s positions and actions,” Mr. Khatibzadeh said in a foreign ministry statement. “The Biden administration has not set aside Trump’s maximum pressure policy, nor has it announced its commitments” under the 2015 nuclear deal abandoned by Mr. Trump.

Trump rules out third party as he moves to firm up control of GOP, Washington Post
Former president Donald Trump declared Sunday that he is considering a presidential run in 2024, has ruled out forming a third party and will devote himself to building up Republican efforts to take on Democrats and others he claimed have targeted his movement.The address before an ebullient crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference marked Trump’s first political speech since leaving the White House. It was staged as a public declaration of Trump’s intention to play a dominant political role in controlling the GOP through the 2022 election — and to potentially set himself up for a third campaign for the White House. “We began it together four years ago, and it is far from being over,” Trump said of the political journey launched by his 2016 campaign. “Let there be no doubt we will be victorious, and America will be stronger and greater than ever before.”

Palestinians Go Into New Lockdown While Awaiting Vaccines, New York Times
The Palestinian Authority on Saturday announced a new set of lockdown restrictions in the West Bank as coronavirus infections surge and Palestinians await the rollout of a significant vaccination program. The move comes as Israel has secured ample supplies of the vaccine for itself and raced ahead with its own inoculation program, outpacing the rest of the world. The imbalance has added a new layer of friction to the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict and drawn scrutiny of Israel’s obligations in the occupied territories. The lockdown restrictions, set to last for 12 days, include the closure of universities, nighttime curbs on travel and nonessential commerce, and a ban on gatherings for weddings, parties and funerals.


Hundreds of European Parliamentarians Protest Israel’s ‘De Facto Annexation’, Haaretz
Nearly 450 European parliamentarians have signed a letter sent Sunday evening to foreign ministers in Europe, urging them to take advantage of the change in U.S. administration to renew pressure on Israel to stop its “de facto annexation” of the West Bank […] “The beginning of the Biden presidency provides a much-needed opportunity to address the Israeli-Palestinians conflict with renewed effort,” they wrote.

Trump teases 2024 presidential run in lie-filled CPAC speech, CNN
Former President Donald Trump repeated his election lies on stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, Sunday, looking to reclaim his role as the Republican Party’s kingmaker in the 2022 midterm elections and positioning himself for a 2024 presidential run.

Israeli Cops Shot a Palestinian Suspect Dead While He Posed No Danger, International NGO Finds, Haaretz
The police say that Ahmad Erekat tried to ram a Border Police officer at a checkpoint. An international organization investigated and came up with very different findings.

Supreme Court nixes disqualification of Arab Labor candidate Ibtisam Mara’ana, Times of Israel
The Supreme Court on Sunday ruled Labor party candidate Ibtisam Mara’ana is eligible to run in the upcoming elections, overturning a decision by the Central Elections Committee barring her candidacy over past remarks criticized by some as anti-Zionist.

Kentucky becomes first US state to adopt IHRA anti-Semitism definition, JTA
For the first time, a U.S. state has officially adopted a definition of anti-Semitism that has ignited debates worldwide over the extent to which criticism of Israel should be considered anti-Semitic.

T-shirts of Biden with Hitler mustache on sale at CPAC conference, Times of Israel
T-shirts emblazoned with the image of US President Joe Biden sporting a Hitler mustache above the words “Not My Dictator” were spotted on sale on the sidelines of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference currently being held in Florida, the Guardian reported Saturday.

After harsh criticism, Israel says it will vaccinate Palestinians who hold work permits., New York Times
The Israeli government approved a measure on Sunday to vaccinate tens of thousands of Palestinian laborers, after facing fierce criticism over the small number of inoculations it had provided to Palestinians living under its military occupation. Israeli medical teams will soon begin vaccinating Palestinians who have permits to work in Israel or in settlements in the occupied West Bank, according to a statement by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the Defense Ministry unit that is responsible for liaising with the Palestinians.

Opinion and Analysis

Iran rejects meeting as Biden’s slow diplomacy hits predictable snag, Responsible Statecraft
Trita Parsi writes, “The idea that Iran would talk directly with the United States while Washington maintained its current level of sanctions was tried by President Trump for three years. It didn’t work then, and it likely won’t work now.  Don’t take my word for it. This is what Wendy Sherman, Biden’s nominee for deputy secretary of state, said about it in 2019: I ‘would be shocked if Iran agreed to a meeting without some sanctions relief.’ Sherman was right. Iran’s calculation is more simple than one might think. If Tehran agrees to talks while Biden essentially continues Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ policy, and those talks fail, Iran will be blamed — even though the United States has done nothing to rectify what caused this crisis in the first place: Trump’s 2018 exit from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.”

Benny Gantz won’t quit the election race. Is that for Israel’s sake, or his own?, Times of Israel
Haviv Rettig Gur writes, “There’s no getting around it: Benny Gantz has become a despised figure among a great many of his former voters. In March 2020, Gantz broke his main election promise and entered into talks to form a unity government with Benjamin Netanyahu. It’s hard to believe now, but it was a relatively popular move at the time […] A year later, whatever benefits that unity was supposed to bring have failed to materialize. Israel is going to the polls yet again in three weeks’ time. And to most on the center-left, Gantz is now the man who cruelly betrayed their trust out of a shockingly naive belief that Netanyahu could be relied on — or at least be forced — to carry out his commitments under the unity agreement.”

Occupation routine : my home is not my castle, B’Tselem
Ali Shanan writes, “At around 5:00 A.M., I woke up from an explosion in the building. At first, I thought the water boiler had fallen off the roof. I got out of bed and heard noises behind my apartment door. I shouted, ‘Who’s there?’ Immediately after, soldiers broke down the door, which flew onto me. I don’t know if they blew up the door or just pried it off. Luckily, I moved back. Otherwise, I would have been hurt. I saw about 10 soldiers standing in the stairwell in front of my apartment.”

Biden said ‘Diplomacy is back!’ Then he started dropping bombs, The Guardian
Trita Parsi writes, “Biden has only been president a bit more than a month, but he has already ordered his first bombing campaign. (It took Trump four months to do the same.) The target was facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran-backed militia in retaliation for rocket attacks against US troops in Iraq earlier this month. Presumably, Biden wanted to signal to Iran that it would pay a heavy price if it ordered attacks against US troops in order to pressure Washington to return to the Iran nuclear deal. But by bombing Syria for this reason, Biden proved how failing to rejoin the nuclear agreement endangers US national security – Iran’s nuclear program continues to advance while the US and Iran glide closer to a military confrontation.”

Trump will never stop lying about the 2020 election. His CPAC speech proved it., Vox
Aaron Rupar writes, “If anybody thought the January 6 insurrection and the ensuing second impeachment trial might’ve chastened Donald Trump, his CPAC speech on Sunday should have disabused them of that notion — and of any thoughts the former president would ever accept the reality that his loss to President Joe Biden was fair and legitimate.”

A Scandal Over Flights to Israel Is Rocking the Country, and Could Upend Next Month’s Election, Haaretz
Allison Kaplan Sommer writes, “With Israel’s Election Day less than a month away, a new controversy is threatening Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ultra-Orthodox partners. The scandal involves the closure of Israel’s only international airport and accusations by journalists and opposition leaders that, in fact, the country’s gates are still open – but only to ultra-Orthodox voters likely to cast their ballot in favor of the Netanyahu bloc. “