News Roundup for March 10, 2021

March 10, 2021

Receive the roundup in your inbox every morning!

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

Top Senate Dem accused of helping hawks sabotage Biden on Iran, Responsible Statecraft
“The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had joined an AIPAC-backed effort to pressure President Joe Biden on diplomacy with Iran, sparking a backlash from pro-diplomacy advocates. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Robert Menendez (D–N.J.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R–S.C.) circulated a letter Monday urging President Biden to use ‘the full force of our diplomatic and economic tools…to come to an agreement that meaningfully constrains [Iran’s] destabilizing activity throughout the Middle East and its ballistic missile program.’ Menendez and Graham have both opposed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran that Biden has pledged to rejoin. Biden may already be taking a somewhat harder line on Iran in fear of Menendez’s wrath, Politico reported earlier this month […] ‘We have knowledge that AIPAC was behind this letter,’ said Dylan Willliams, advocacy director at the left-leaning pro-Israel group J Street, referring to the House letter. ‘All of these vehicles on Iran and the Senate letter on the ICC are AIPAC asks’ […] Williams noted that AIPAC got several Democrats to sign onto a letter calling on the Trump administration to get the United Nations arms embargo on Iran extended. The Trump administration then cited the letter as support for sanctions ‘snapback,’ a controversial diplomatic move opposed by the letter’s top Democratic signer. ‘This is a move that AIPAC attempts all the time,’ Williams told Responsible Statecraft. ‘They sell the letter to lawmakers as meaning one thing, and then promote it as backing a materially-different policy.’”

Over 100 Bipartisan U.S. Lawmakers Urge Biden to Curb Iran’s Threatening Behavior in Mideast, Haaretz
“‘This letter was sold to lawmakers as being consistent with the Biden Administration’s approach to a compliance-for-compliance return to the JCPOA. Now that it’s closed, it’s being touted by JCPOA opponents as indicating that signers believe any agreement with Iran must go beyond the scope of the JCPOA,’ J Street’s chief lobbyist Dylan Williams said.  ‘The letter’s vague language leaves it open to such varying interpretations makes clear the letter’s intent to muddy support for President Biden’s approach among House lawmakers from his own party, 150 of whom spoke clearly and unambiguously in an earlier letter in support of first restoring the JCPOA and then building on it through further agreements,’ he added.”

Top News and Analysis

Palestinian hospitals fill up as Israel loosens COVID-19 restrictions, Reuters
Palestinian hospitals are overfull and intensive-care units operating at 100% capacity with coronavirus patients in some areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Tuesday. Palestinian cities have introduced full lockdowns over the last two weeks to control soaring COVID-19 infections, even as neighbouring Israel has begun to lift restrictions as it proceeds with one of the world’s fastest vaccination campaigns. “The percentage of hospital occupancy in some areas has reached more than 100%,” Shtayyeh said in Ramallah, one of the West Bank cities where his Palestinian Authority (PA) exercises limited self-rule.

Iran Offers Prisoner Exchange As U.S. Warns Nuclear Deal Patience May Run Out, Newsweek
Iran and the U.S. remain at odds over the proposed revival of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal, with the State Department warning Monday its patience was not “unlimited” after Tehran’s repeated dismissal of talks with President Joe Biden’s administration. Iran is demanding that Biden lift sanctions imposed by former President Donald Trump after he left the JCPOA in 2018, refusing to scale back its nuclear program until the measures are eased. But the White House has said it will make no concessions until Iran curbs its nuclear activity. Still, the administration has said it is open to talks with JCPOA signatories and has rescinded United Nations sanctions that Trump claimed to have reimposed last year, though this move was disputed by the UN Security Council.


Biden administration reviewing old authorizations for military force, Al-Monitor
US President Joe Biden is considering repealing War on Terror era authorizations on the use of military force amid pressure on Capitol Hill. The White House is conducting a review of the government’s authorizations for the use of military force, an administration official told Al-Monitor on Monday. The National Security Council is leading the review and considering past strategies in light of new terrorism threats. Biden established interim guidelines on the use of military force when he took office, the official said.

Netanyahu warns of African migrants converting after historic court ruling, The Jerusalem Post
Any Reform, Conservative person, Israel is their home; that’s not an issue,’ he said. ‘People can do this and they can come here, and that’s fine. The real issue is we have to protect and prevent fake conversions that could enter the country. You know a lot of people want to come into the country. In fact, I put up a fence, you know,’ he added. ‘They call it a wall. But I prevented the overrunning of Israel, which is the only first-world country that you can walk to from Africa. We would have had here already a million illegal migrants from Africa, and the Jewish state would have collapsed. The Jewish State, Conservative, Reform, Orthodox, would have collapsed.’

‘We have to prevent fake conversions,’ PM says when asked about court ruling, Times of Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday called for preventing “fake conversions” to Judaism, appearing to suggest asylum seekers and migrant workers from Africa would “overrun” Israel by undergoing non-Orthodox conversions to gain citizenship.

ICC orders record compensation for Congo warlord victims, Deutsche Welle
International Criminal Court (ICC) judges in The Hague on Monday ruled that the victims of convicted war criminal Bosco Ntaganda should receive a total of $30 million (€25.3 million) in compensation.

Palestinian PM: We’re prepared to fully cooperate with ICC war crimes probe, Times of Israel
“We will cooperate with the investigation and provide the prosecutor with every detail, which will accelerate the investigations and bring the perpetrators of crimes to justice,” Shtayyeh said.

Opinion and Analysis

Why the Upcoming Election Will Determine the Fate of U.S. Bipartisan Support for Israel, Haaretz
Alon Pinkas said, “While the U.S.-Israel relationship isn’t a major theme in the campaign, there is a sense among Israelis that bipartisan support for Israel in the United States has eroded gradually but steadily in the last decade, especially during the years of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bromance with former President Donald Trump.”

New report by B’Tselem and Kerem Navot reviews Israeli development of West Bank settlements over last decade, B’Tselem
A new report issued today by B’Tselem and Kerem Navot, “This Is Ours – And This, Too: Israel’s Settlement Policy in the West Bank”, exposes the mechanisms Israel uses to encourage its citizens to move into the occupied territory. The report also reviews developments on the ground over the last decade, focusing on the spatial impact of the two large settlement blocs.

Ex-Mossad chief Efraim Halevy: We must try talking with Iran [Podcast], Al-Monitor
Ben Caspit speaks this week with former Mossad Chief Efraim Halevy. The top ex-spy says the ICC ruling on investigating Israel has no real legal basis. “It is possible that the upcoming prosecutor will review the decision and possibly even cancel it,” he notes. Still, Halevy says Israel has over-reacted. “We would be better served if we did not play this story up and did not cry foul and immediately introduce the element of this being an antisemitic act. Its not antisemitism, its struggle between two national movement struggling over a piece of land.”

Netanyahu Took a Gamble on Reopening, and the Cost of His COVID Policy Will Only Be Clear After Election, Haaretz
Amos Harel writes, “It’s impossible to separate the hasty, large-scale reopening of the economy and the schools at the start of this week, following months of lockdowns that caused major economic and psychological damage, from the Knesset election that will take place on March 23. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coronavirus policy is meant primarily to create an appearance of returning to normalcy.”