News Roundup for March 19, 2021

March 19, 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

Liberals Grow Impatient With Biden’s Foreign Policy Decisions, New York Times
“After seeing Mr. Biden deliver a transformational $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, progressives are asking why his foreign policy feels so conventional. They worry that Mr. Biden and his largely centrist team of national security officials will disappoint the liberal wing’s desires for a new American foreign policy that relies far less on military power, de-escalates tensions with rivals like Iran and China, and places greater pressure — under threat of cooler relations — on allies like Saudi Arabia and Israel […] ‘I think that there is a lack of belief that the politics around some of these issues have actually shifted,’ said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the Israel-focused, liberal advocacy group J Street. ‘There is a lot more political space open to this administration to pursue progressive policy than they think.’ The Middle East, which Biden officials hope to de-emphasize as they turn America’s attention to China, is the source of many complaints. Topping the list is Mr. Biden’s decision not to unilaterally rejoin the Iran nuclear deal by reversing harsh sanctions imposed on Tehran by Mr. Trump after he abandoned the agreement in 2018.”

The Palestinian reconciliation is an opportunity, Times of Israel
J Street’s Nadav Tamir writes, “The Netanyahu government’s approach to maintaining segregation between Hamas and Fatah and between Gaza and the West Bank is detrimental to Israel’s long-term goals, which are Israeli-Palestinian settlement, normalization and regional stability. The process of reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah and the possibility of holding elections for Palestinian institutions, which are part of a positive regional trend, are opportunities that we cannot not give up.”

Top News and Analysis

Biden’s foreign policy team can’t handle new threats with old strategies, Washington Post
Katrina vanden Heuvel writes, “How can the United States focus on new threats — the climate crisis, global pandemics, staggering inequality — while sustaining endless wars, interventionist stances and obsolete Cold War postures? Biden has barely been in office for 50 days, and his foreign policy staffers are still settling into their offices. But Americans are ready for change. The inertial weight of the old foreign policy priorities is already apparent. It remains to be seen whether the Biden people have the desire or the will to extricate us from the mire.”

Final polls: Israeli PM’s fate rests on razor-thin margins, AP
A final batch of polls by Israeli media outlets on Friday showed a razor-thin election, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fate likely turning on the performance of small parties and a former ally who has criticized him but has not ruled out joining his coalition. The elections next Tuesday — the fourth in less than two years — are widely seen as a referendum on Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, who has presided over one of the world’s most successful coronavirus vaccination campaigns but is also on trial for corruption.

Will Netanyahu’s vaccine success outweigh his rivals’ warnings about democracy?, Times of Israel
David Horovitz writes, “If Benjamin Netanyahu is reelected next week, there will be no doubting the central role played by his handling of Israel’s vaccination drive. In a TV interview last week, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla admitted to being “impressed, frankly, with the obsession of your prime minister” in seeking to persuade his company that Israel was the perfect national testing ground for Pfizer’s vaccines. “He called me 30 times,” Bourla marveled.”


ICC gives Israel month to seek deferral of war crimes probe, AP
The International Criminal Court said Thursday it has sent formal notices to Israel and the Palestinian Authority about its impending investigation into possible war crimes, giving them a month to seek deferral by proving they are carrying out their own investigations.

Cars torched, wall daubed in Palestinian village in apparent hate crime attack, Times of Israel
A Palestinian village near Jerusalem was apparently vandalized overnight in a suspected hate crime attack, Hebrew media reports said Friday. Residents of Beit Iksa found two damaged vehicles and a Hebrew-language slogan graffitied on a nearby wall, a spokesperson for the police said.

A Palestinian Photographs a Trespassing Settler. He Gets Five Head Fractures, Haaretz
One of the assailants wielded an ron bar and struck Rima in her back. Then he struck Said in the head. The rest made do with throwing stones, even at an SUV full of shouting and crying children – the youngest an 18-month-old boy, the oldest a 10-year-old girl. The assailants were about eight or 10 young men; some had their faces covered.

Almost 4.5 million fully vaccinated as positive test rate drops below 2%, Times of Israel
Israel’s coronavirus outbreak continued to rapidly diminish Friday amid the widespread vaccination campaign which has seen almost 4.5 million people receive two doses of the inoculation while the rate of positive test results fell below two percent.

Iran to conduct initial testing of redesigned Arak nuclear reactor, Reuters
Iran will cold test its redesigned Arak nuclear reactor as prelude to fully commissioning it later in the year, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said on Friday.

Two Dead, Two Wounded After Shooting in Israeli Arab City, Marking 26 Victims This Year, Haaretz
A 19-year-old and a 22-year old were shot dead and two others were wounded in the town of Qalansawe on Friday, bringing the death toll from gun violence in the Israeli Arab community to 26 victims so far this year.

Exiled Abbas rival Mohammad Dahlan hints he could run for PA president, Times of Israel
Exiled Palestinian politician Mohammad Dahlan’s movement will run in the upcoming Palestinian elections, Dahlan told Saudi Al-Arabiya TV on Wednesday night.

Opinion and Analysis

Israel’s Likud Isn’t the Party of Law and Order Anymore, Foreign Policy
Jonathan Spyer writes, “In his constant quest for power, Benjamin Netanyahu is abandoning the Israeli right’s legalist traditions.”

Asian Jews are suffering. We need you to listen., JTA
Rebecca Kuss writes, “I do exist, and my story is very real, and I’m going to share part of it here in the hopes that it will change even one person’s view of the supposed single story of the Jewish experience. To be honest, I wasn’t sure where to start (because really, where do you start in the face of so much hate?) but eventually I realized that my story, as many second-generation Asian daughters can tell you, begins with my mom.”

Benjamin Netanyahu, Godfather of Israel’s Rising Jewish Fundamentalism, Haaretz
Anshel Pfeffer writes, “Jewish extremism has broken its Haredi glass ceiling with the rise of the ultra-nationalist, virulently racist Religious Zionism party, and it’s thanks to staunchly secular Netanyahu. But the battle for Judaism’s future will continue after he’s gone.”

Israel’s fourth election in two years: What are the differences this time?, The Jerusalem Post
Herb Keinon writes, “For the fourth time in two years, a nation weary of voting will trudge back to the ballot booth on Tuesday in the faint hope that this time things will be different; that this time when the nation wakes up Wednesday morning, it will have rendered a verdict that will make the formation of a stable government possible. Some will argue that this is a vain hope.”

Judaism Dies in Darkness – and When Netanyahu Wins, Haaretz
Bradley Burston writes, “In the quarter century that passed since he first took office, Netanyahu has transformed Judaism in destructive ways. In the end, that will be his main legacy.”