News Roundup for May 20, 2021

May 20, 2021

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J Street in the News

Jeremy Ben-Ami Interview on the Reid Out with Joy Ann Reid, MSNBC
“‘The United States is not doing everything that it possibly can to stop this’: President of J-Street on the violent conflict between Israel and Palestine.”

Gaza Tests Biden Foreign Policy Team’s Promise To Learn From Obama-Era Mistakes, Huffington Post
“Many experts believe the humane thing to do is obvious. ‘As a global superpower and Israel’s closest ally, the U.S. has a responsibility to do much more to end this escalation,’ the influential liberal Jewish group J Street argued in a Monday statement. The organization asked Biden to publicly tell Israel to stop hitting densely populated areas, call for a ceasefire and abandon his hands-off approach to Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy […] In its Monday statement, J Street said that drawing a clear line with Israel is the only way to achieve the Israeli-Palestinian peace that Biden’s team says it wants. ‘The White House must … recognize that the provision of a financial and diplomatic ‘blank check’ by the United States to the state of Israel means that its current government feels little incentive to end occupation, pursue serious diplomacy and find a solution to the conflict that provides Israel with real security and Palestinians with their rights,” the organization said in its Monday statement.’”

‘The blinkers have been removed’: American voters are changing their minds on Netanyahu and Israel, The Independent
“Logan Bayroff, a spokesperson for the liberal pro-Israel group J Street, said Netanyahu’s 2015 speech was a ‘huge inflection point’. He explained that groups like J Street were able to successfully make the case to US officials that Netanyahu did not actually speak for all Israelis, and that there were ‘a number of voices in Israel, and in the Israeli security establishment in particular, who thought the [Iran nuclear] deal was good and good for Israel… and that Democrats and Americans don’t have to go along with things just because he said so.’”

My Love for Israel is Personal—That’s Why I’m Condemning It,
Yale Fried writes, “The Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, which comes amid the worst violence between Israelis and Palestinians since the last Intifada, marks the first time in my life when the American outlook on Israel has been complicated by a period of wrenching introspection about our own racial and political inequalities. Both developments leave American Jews betwixt and between. In America, most Jews are white and many lead lives of privilege, yet we are also targets of deadly and intensifying domestic race hatred. American Jews are also progressive—J Street estimates 77 percent of Jews voted for President Biden in 2020—and our values are now in direct conflict with the Israeli government’s staunch insistence that political and numerical dominance over the land it governs is a non-negotiable requirement of Jewish survival.”

Top News and Analysis

Few signs of ‘imminent’ cease-fire as Israeli airstrikes, Hamas rockets continue, Washington Post
The conflict between Israel and Hamas stretched into an 11th day Thursday with the former launching airstrikes on Gaza and the militant group firing rockets at Israel amid mounting demands for a cease-fire. The violence continued despite increasing international pressure on both parties and reports that an “imminent” cease-fire could come as early as Friday. President Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday that he “expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire.” But Israeli warplanes again pounded Gaza overnight as Hamas rocket barrages, after a lull of several hours in the early morning, targeted communities in southern Israel into the afternoon.There were few other signs of the conflict letting up overnight.

Iran nuclear talks show increasing hopes of a resolution, AP
World powers met Wednesday for a new round of high-level talks on bringing the United States back into the nuclear deal with Iran amid growing hopes that an agreement might soon be within reach. Enrique Mora, the European Union official who chaired the talks between Russia, China, Germany, France, Britain and Iran told reporters “we have made substantial progress” though there were “still things to be worked out.” “I will not venture a date because you never know, but I’m quite sure there will be a final agreement,” he said.

Biden’s warning to Israel shakes up diplomacy — and politics, Washington Post
President Biden’s unusually blunt demand Wednesday that Israel de-escalate its military attack on Gaza is creating a rare rift between the two countries and dismaying some of Israel’s supporters in the United States, while heartening Democrats who have increasingly pushed for a tougher U.S. stance toward Israel. Biden for days had hesitated to publicly confront Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and his demand for “a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire” shook up the worlds of politics and diplomacy. It was the clearest evidence yet of a rapidly changing political dynamic, at least among Democrats, that is far less accepting of actions Israel says it is taking in self-defense.


Netanyahu’s prospects bolstered amid Israel-Hamas fighting, AP
Israel is at war with Hamas, Jewish-Arab mob violence has erupted inside Israel, and the West Bank is experiencing its deadliest unrest in years. Yet this may all bolster Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Just over a week ago, the longtime Israeli leader’s political career seemed all but over. He had failed to form a coalition government following an indecisive parliamentary election, and his political rivals were on the cusp of pushing him out of office. Now, as Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers wage their fourth war in just over a decade, Netanyahu’s fortunes have changed dramatically.

Sen. Bernie Sanders to introduce resolution of disapproval on $735 million U.S. arms sale to Israel, Washington Post
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is preparing to introduce a resolution on Thursday disapproving of the U.S. sale of $735 million in precision-guided weapons to Israel, according to a draft obtained by The Washington Post. The resolution aims to halt the planned sale to Israel by the Biden administration of JDAMs, or Joint Direct Attack Munitions, and Small Diameter Bombs, as the worst hostilities in years continue between Israel and Hamas. […] Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) introduced a similar resolution on Wednesday opposing the sale of weapons to the Israeli government.

Gaza Conflict Stokes ‘Identity Crisis’ for Young American Jews, New York Times
“As the violence escalates in the Middle East, turmoil of a different kind is growing across the Atlantic. Many young American Jews are confronting the region’s longstanding strife in a very different context, with very different pressures, from their parents’ and grandparents’ generations. The Israel of their lifetime has been powerful, no longer appearing to some to be under constant existential threat.”

US says it opposes UN resolution calling for Gaza cease-fire, AP
The United States said Wednesday it opposes a proposed U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire in the conflict between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers, reiterating that it could interfere with the Biden administration’s efforts to end the hostilities. France drafted the resolution after the U.S. blocked at least four attempts to have the council issue a press statement calling for an end to the violence, giving the same reason. Diplomats said all other council members supported the statement.

Humanitarian groups providing aid in Gaza face steep barriers, Washington Post
As Israel began a campaign of airstrikes in the Gaza Strip last week — which have since left more than 200 people dead, according to local officials — international aid organizations sprang into action, creating makeshift emergency shelters and arranging shipments of medical supplies for overwhelmed hospitals. But the humanitarian response has been complicated by the reality on the ground: Continual Israeli strikes have torn up roads and made it difficult for residents of the Palestinian territory to access medical care, and border closures mean relief workers and critical supplies aren’t able to get where they’re needed.

‘I Was Surrounded by Death’: Gaza Father Is Rescued, Emerging to Grief, New York Times
Riad Ishkontana said that when rescuers pulled him and his 7-year-old daughter from the rubble after an airstrike, he awoke to a new life — one without his wife and four other children.

Gaza’s health system buckling under repeated wars, blockade, AP
The Gaza Strip’s already feeble health system is being brought to its knees by the fourth war in just over a decade. Hospitals have been overwhelmed with waves of dead and wounded from Israel’s bombardment. Many vital medicines are rapidly running out in the tiny, blockaded coastal territory, as is fuel to keep electricity going.

Israeli-Palestinian strife feeds a spate of anti-Semitic acts in Europe., New York Times
Rocks thrown at doors of a synagogue in Bonn, Germany. Israeli flags burned outside a synagogue in Münster. A convoy of cars in North London from which a man chanted anti-Jewish slurs. As the conflict in Israel and Gaza extended into a 10th day on Wednesday, recent episodes like these are fanning concerns among Jewish groups and European leaders that the latest strife in the Middle East is spilling over into anti-Semitic words and actions in Europe.

Support for the Palestinians Is Growing in Washington, and It’s Not Just About Gaza, Haaretz
The latest round of violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has provoked previously unimaginable levels of public criticism from members of the Democratic Party toward the Israeli government. What began as steadily increasing condemnations of Israel’s potential evictions of three Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem, has extended to full-throated denunciations of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians over the past seven decades, with lawmakers accusing Israel of violating international law from the House floor.

Opinion and Analysis

The ‘Unshakable’ Bonds of Friendship With Israel Are Shaking, New York Times
Nicholas Kristof writes, “If you oppose war crimes only by your enemies, it’s not clear that you actually oppose war crimes. That’s a thought worth wrestling with as many experts suggest that both Hamas and Israel are engaging in crimes of war in the current Gaza conflict. For the same reason that we deplore Hamas’s shelling of Israel, shouldn’t we also demand that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel accept a cease-fire and stop bombings that kill far greater numbers of innocents?”

Biden’s Democracy Agenda Faces First Big Test in Gaza, Foreign Policy
Elise Labott writes, “To break the cycle of violence, the United States could try to make both Israel and Palestine more responsive democracies.”

Israel tests Biden’s influence, and progressives’ patience, NBC News
Jonathan Allen writes, “The question now is whether the new Democratic president has real influence on the Israeli leader. It amounts to the first big foreign policy test of the Biden era, and the outcome will go a long way to demonstrating whether this Democratic president’s application of soft American power can be effective. For four years, Netanyahu and President Donald Trump locked arms, further driving a wedge between Israel and Democrats who had been frustrated with Netanyahu’s aggressive criticism of President Barack Obama. At the same time, many progressives see Palestinians as a people oppressed by Israel, and their perspective has gained traction and volume within Democratic circles.”

Why the United Nations is stuck on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, CNN
Richard Roth writes, “The deadly ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the kind of challenge you might think the United Nations could address. After all, it played a major role in establishing Israel as a state more than 70 years ago, what Palestinians refer to as the Nakba or “catastrophe.” But it’s not doing much on this one. The UN’s powerful 15-nation Security Council is charged with preserving international peace and security. But continuing a decade-long deadlock, that credo has not been upheld.”

Fighting in Gaza Marks the Start of a More Violent Era, Foreign Affairs
Khalid Shikaki writes, “At some point soon, the current military conflict between Israel and Hamas will end. But the ramifications of this latest round of Israeli-Palestinian confrontation—Israeli military strikes in Gaza, Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli cities, and rising intercommunal violence between Arabs and Jews—will be long-lasting and profound. Above all, it will reinforce the sense among Israelis, Palestinians, and most of the international community that the search for a peaceful resolution to the conflict has come to an end for the foreseeable future.”

Why Netanyahu Is in No Rush to Listen to Biden on Gaza, Haaretz
Amos Harel writes, “Netanyahu has a number of reasons not to respond immediately to Biden. The military activity against Hamas has so far resulted in limited achievements, without a decisive conclusion in Israel’s favor; it is difficult for Netanyahu to appear to have knuckled under to American pressure, because he will be attacked from the right wing for being weak; and the end of the operation, with a feeling that once again Netanyahu has failed to deliver the full security goods that he promised, still leaves a slight chance for his rival, MK Yair Lapid, to put together a coalition before his mandate runs out on June 2. And yet, the obvious move is to accede to Biden and try to improve the level of trust in their relationship.”

Israel’s mixed Jewish-Arab cities are on fire. Here’s how put out the flames., JTA
Nasreen Haddad Haj-Yahya writes, “The horrific violence that has erupted over the past few days between Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens came as a surprise to many. After all, haven’t we heard recently that the elected representatives of Arab citizens of Israel in the Knesset are the new kingmakers? And that in return for their support, the next government was to have made a serious effort to close the glaring socioeconomic gaps and address the significant challenges facing the Arab minority?”