News Roundup for March 18, 2021

March 18, 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.

Top News and Analysis

The National obtains US official document for Palestinian ‘reset’, The National
The US memo acknowledges new challenges in approaching the Palestinian situation. “As we reset US relations with the Palestinians, the Palestinian body politic is at an inflection point as it moves towards its first elections in 15 years,” it says. “At the same time, we [the US] suffer from a lack of connective tissue following the 2018 closure of the PLO office in Washington and refusal of Palestinian Authority leadership to directly engage with our embassy to Israel,” the memo says. It mentions growing disparities between Israelis and Palestinians and outlines a “reset under way and the path ahead”.

Inside the U.S.-Israel talks on Iran, Axios
Israeli officials say they are playing for time, hoping the Iranians will continue to reject U.S. proposals for engagement. They hope that every day that passes with U.S. sanctions in place will make it more likely that the Iranians blink first and agree to make concessions before the U.S. lifts sanctions.

Benny Gantz: How I Prevented Israel Becoming a Pariah in Washington, Haaretz
Alternate PM and Blue and White Leader Benny Gantz writes, “Although it was ultimately the path not taken, it is worth considering what it might have looked like had Netanyahu’s annexation plans played out in practice. Most likely, we would now be pariahs in Washington. Violence would likely have erupted in the West Bank. Arab countries with whom we’ve lately normalized relations would have severed ties. It would have damaged, possibly beyond repair, our strategic relations with Jordan and Egypt, which remain a corner stone of our defense and strategic policy.  Not only was annexation likely to spark a violent response, it would sabotage any hope of a future negotiated resolution of the conflict.  “

Top retired Israeli security officials back Colin Kahl, a Biden nominee on ice for his Israel positions, JTA
Three leading Israeli generals who worked with President Joe Biden’s nominee for the undersecretary of defense, Colin Kahl, are backing him amid a Republican campaign to sink Kahl’s candidacy over his involvement in shaping the Iran nuclear deal. Kahl’s nomination is on ice this week as the Biden administration considers whether it can squeeze his nomination past a divided Senate. West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate who would be the deciding vote, has said he is undecided on Kahl. Christians United for Israel is blitzing West Virginia with ads to get Manchin to kill Kahl’s nomination. The group and others say Kahl, who was a senior defense and security official with the Obama administration, would not be a friend to Israel in his new role.


Internal Biden memo said to back 2-state solution along 1967 lines, Times of Israel
The Biden administration will reportedly push for a two-state solution based on the pre-1967 lines, with mutually agreed upon land swaps, reinstating US policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to more traditionally held positions than those of former president Donald Trump.

Israeli Labor Party looks to new leader as elections loom, DW
The Israeli Labor Party is pinning its hopes on the 54-year-old Michaeli. The social-democratic HaAvoda — the party’s Hebrew name­­ — used to be the major ruling party in Israel. But, in recent years, it has struggled to avoid complete political oblivion. In the past three elections, the party earned just six to seven seats in Israel’s Knesset, the 120-seat parliament, and at times barely cleared the electoral threshold. That’s far cry from its heyday in 1992, when it secured 44 seats under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Anti-Netanyahu Protesters Plan One Last Show of Force – but Worry He Will Take Election, Haaretz
This coming Saturday night will mark the 39th consecutive week that Paris Square in the center of Jerusalem is closed to traffic and filled with thousands of demonstrators against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. At the height of the protests last summer, 15,000 – maybe more – came to the square to protest.

Netanyahu claims to have potential defectors in Sa’ar’s, Bennett’s parties, Times of Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed Wednesday that his Likud party was in talks with several members of the rival right-wing New Hope and Yamina parties, seeking to have them defect and join his bloc of supporters after next week’s Knesset election and hand him a parliamentary majority.

Amsterdam mayor accuses Netanyahu of hurting the fight against anti-Semitism, JTA
“If someone says for political gain that a legal investigation by the International Criminal Court of a state actor in Gaza is anti-Semitism, then you deeply undervalue the meaning [of] anti-Semitism and the dark outcomes of anti-Semitism nowadays and in history,” – “You are allowed to criticize the policy of the Netherlands. People should also be allowed to criticize the policy of the state of Israel,” Halsema said, adding that it is wrong to “equate criticizing an act of the state of Israel with hatred of Jews.”

Netanyahu vows to accept election results: ‘What can I do? Cry?’, Times of Israel
“Of course I’ll accept the results. What can I do, cry?” he told Army Radio ahead of the country’s fourth national vote in two years on Tuesday.

Israeli soldiers unjustifiably shoot and injure two Palestinians at entrance to Silwad, B’Tselem
They began to cross to the road and then two were hit by bullets – H.R. (25) in the hand and ‘Ata Sabah (Sharakah) (22) in the buttock. After the shooting, several young Palestinians from the town came to the intersection at the entrance to Silwad. They started throwing stones at the soldiers, who had meanwhile been joined by about four other soldiers. The forces hurled stun grenades and fired tear gas canisters at the young men and fired shots in the air.

Opinion and Analysis

As 4th Election Looms, Some Ask: Is Israel’s Democracy Broken?, New York Times
Patrick Kingsley writes, “Voters are heading to the polls in Israel for the fourth time in two years. And with few signs that this vote will break the cycle, many are already bracing for a fifth.”

Israel’s election: Netanyahu seeks a majority to block his corruption trial, Axios
Barak Ravid writes, “Netanyahu’s narrow path to a 61-seat majority would require him to form an ultra-right-wing government, dependent on the votes of Jewish supremacists and anti-LGBT and pro-annexation members of Knesset. With a majority, Netanyahu could pass a law or take other steps to delay or end his corruption trial.

The Israeli and Palestinian elections offend democracy – each in their own way, The Guardian
Salem Barahmeh writes, “The Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem don’t get to vote for the regime that rules every aspect of their lives, even though the Israelis living on the same land do. These 5 million Palestinians vote for the PA, an administrative body that today has only partial control over 40% of the West Bank and is dependent on Israel for its survival. The PA was supposed to exist for five years while Palestinians transitioned to statehood, but that state never came. Successive Israeli governments made sure of that, using settlements and annexation to turn the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem into an archipelago of disconnected Palestinian population centres.”

Vaccines saved Israel, but can they save Netanyahu’s job?, Financial Times
Mehul Srivastava and Cynthia Offenbacher write, “Facing his fourth election in two years next week, Israel’s longest serving prime minister hopes his success in spearheading the world’s fastest vaccination campaign will bring his political fortunes back to life and break the stalemate at the polls. “

‘LGBTQ rights have become a litmus test in Palestinian society’, +972 Mag
Edo Konrad writes, “The growing visibility of queer Palestinians poses a challenge to Arab political parties that are exploiting homophobia ahead of the Israeli election, says attorney and activist Fady Khoury.”