News Roundup for May 21, 2021

May 21, 2021

Receive the roundup in your inbox every morning!

J Street in the News

Why isn’t Biden pushing Israel harder?, Vox
“Similarly, the reason the US blocked three separate UN statements that called for a ceasefire, some people surmise, may have been in service of not embarrassing Israel publicly. But experts point out that Biden’s approach hasn’t yet stopped the war, despite hopes for a ceasefire to come soon. ‘This is not a successful strategy,’ said Logan Bayroff, the spokesperson for the progressive pro-Israel group J Street. The US hasn’t placed enough pressure on Israel, publicly or privately, to make it stop bombing Gaza. And there are options available to Biden that he simply hasn’t taken, including placing conditions on the $3.8 billion in annual aid the US gives Israel.”

When of the Two Most Likely Solutions One Is Impossible and the Other Is Even Less Likely, What Then? (podcast), Deep State Radio
“The past two weeks have revealed that the Israel-Palestine conflict remains far from a solution. Indeed, of the two most likely solutions discussed–a two-state ‘solution’ or a one-state ‘solution’–both seem impossible. But the problem is a real one with profound human consequences in Israel and Palestine and great resonance in the US (often for the wrong reasons). We discuss the situation and our options with one of the most thoughtful observers and voices on these issues in the U.S., Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J-Street. Don’t miss this thoughtful conversation on a complex and confounding problem.”

Is the US-Israel alliance doomed?, Vox
“…it seems like the US-Israel alliance is as strong as ever. But beneath the surface, there are signs that the relationship isn’t what it once was. Despite Biden’s firm stance, the US and Israel may be heading for a divorce in the long run. […] J Street, the liberal pro-Israel lobby that supports increasing pressure on Israel to end the occupation of Palestinian territory, regularly attracts leading Democratic politicians to their annual conference. Many also boycott a similar event by AIPAC, J Street’s more powerful and more rigidly pro-Israel cousin.”

The Israel-US relations in the Netanyahu era, Times of Israel
J Street’s Nadav Tamir writes, “Now that we have a cease fire and there is more attention to the changing dynamics in the US – Israel relationship, I would like to draw attention to an event that took place before the last round of violence. We had an opportunity to hear from Ron Dermer his views on the Israeli-US relations that he presented at the Makor Rishon gala event (May 9) in an interview with Amit Segal. This interview was very important to understand the Netanyahu government’s policy toward the US that Dermer was its’ main designer.”

The horror show in Israel and Gaza serves only the powerful, Jewish News of Northern California
J Street leader Jon Kaufman writes, “The violence taking place in Israel and Gaza is horrifying. Hamas continues to fire rockets indiscriminately into Israel, and the IDF continues to respond with devastating retaliatory strikes. We condemn both. Our thoughts are with the people of Israel and the Palestinian territory — including our families and friends forced to live through this nightmare. There is no military solution. The fighting must stop.”

Top News and Analysis

Israel and Hamas Agree to End a Brief War That Reverberated Worldwide, New York Times
After more than 10 days of fighting that has taken hundreds of lives and inspired protests and diplomatic efforts around the world, Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire on Thursday, officials on both sides said. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced that his security cabinet had voted unanimously to accept an Egyptian proposal for an unconditional cease-fire, which took effect early Friday morning.

As fragile cease-fire holds, eyes turn to suffering in Gaza and Netanyahu’s political future, Washington Post
As a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas militants held into Friday afternoon, attention shifted from the 11-day conflict to its immediate aftermath, which includes a dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and expected political fallout in Jerusalem. […] But in Israel, where the conflict had potentially boosted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chances of staying in power after another indecisive election, far-right politicians on whom Netanyahu relies to form a coalition and many members of his base in Israel’s south lambasted the cease-fire.

Hour-by-hour: Biden’s behind-the-scenes push for cease-fire, AP
“The diplomatic flurry was over and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu was on the phone telling President Joe Biden that it appeared the furious fighting between Israel and Hamas was about to end. But Biden remained wary even after the afternoon phone call. Things still could go crosswise with hours to go before the cease-fire took effect, his team reasoned.”


Palestinians see victory in Gaza truce as Israel warns Hamas, AP
Palestinians rallied by the thousands early Friday after a cease-fire took effect in the latest Gaza war, with many viewing it as costly but clear victory for the Islamic militant group Hamas. Israel vowed to respond with a “new level of force” to any further hostilities.

Israel-Hamas tensions aren’t new — but this level of pro-Palestinian support in the U.S. is, NBC News
As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict intensified in recent weeks before the cease-fire announced Thursday, tens of thousands of people gathered in striking numbers across the country, demanding an end to the occupation of the Palestinian territories — and, in some cases, the dissolution of the Israeli state. At rallies in cities like New York, Miami, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, diverse groups of people demanded that the U.S. stop funding Israel’s military, saying the Biden administration is complicit in “war crimes” in the region, as the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF, hit Gaza with airstrikes and artillery and Hamas launched rockets into Israel.

U.S. Looks to Rebuild Gaza, but Aid Could Hinge on Hamas’s Rocket Arsenal, New York Times
A senior Biden administration official said the United States was planning to be at the fore of an international response, most likely costing billions of dollars, to include restoring health and education services, and other reconstruction. The senior official said that rebuilding Gaza — which will most likely be coordinated through the United Nations — was at the top of a list of festering diplomatic obstacles that the administration would face between Israel and the Palestinian Authority now that the fighting was to wind down.

Biden increasingly impatient with Netanyahu, sources say, CNN
President Joe Biden became increasingly impatient with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following a blunt phone call Wednesday in which the US President set a deadline for violence to ease between Israel and Hamas. The call, which took place a day before Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire in the 11-day conflict, was more “direct, frank and candid” than any of their previous conversations since the President took office, according to a senior administration official. And Biden — who has a relationship with Netanyahu that stretches back decades — did not hold back, the official added.

Secretary of State to meet with Israeli, Palestinian leaders following cease-fire, The Hill
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in the region after the Israeli Security Cabinet signed a cease-fire with Hamas on Thursday. The State Department spokesperson Ned Price released a statement Thursday night detailing communication between Blinken and Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. Price said that Blinken and Ashkenazi had been in discussions Thursday morning and afternoon regarding the cease-fire and Blinken’s trip to the region.

Scoop: Biden leaning toward Thomas Nides as ambassador to Israel, Axios
President Biden is closing in on his pick for ambassador to Israel, with Thomas Nides, a former deputy secretary of state, most likely to be the pick, a source familiar with the process told Axios. Former congressman Robert Wexler was seen as the other primary contender, and was supported by many members of Congress and a coalition of Jewish organizations, but Biden is leaning towards Nides, the source said, while cautioning that the decision was not final.

The Daily: Netanyahu and Biden — A History (podcast), New York Times
It has been more than a week since the latest escalation between Israel and Hamas. President Biden has been taking a cautious approach. The president has stressed Israel’s right to defend itself, but he seems reluctant to place too much pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. But that leaves Mr. Biden in a difficult domestic situation: Republicans have attacked him for being insufficiently supportive of Israel, while many Democrats have criticized his tentative approach. Mr. Biden has known Mr. Netanyahu for decades. Is that a help or a hindrance?

US campuses become a growing front in Israeli-Palestinian conflict, The Guardian
The volatile climate at the University of Michigan reflects rising tensions across several US campuses in the wake of the eruption of violent clashes in Jerusalem three weeks ago. Renewed fighting in the Middle East has prompted students in universities across America, emboldened by last summer’s wave of Black Lives Matter protests, to rally against more than half a century of Israeli occupation and to call for an international boycott modeled on the ostracism of apartheid South Africa.

Police Brace for Temple Mount Riots After Gaza Cease-fire, Haaretz
Israeli police beefed up their forces Friday on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount after calls from Palestinians on social media to protest there after Friday’s prays and after a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas that ended the recent flare-up in Gaza. Tens of thousands of Palestinian worshippers participated in Friday’s prayers on the Temple Mount. While most of the worshippers left the compound quietly, some Palestinians waved Palestinian flags. Half an hour after the prayer ended, a small police force entered the compound to confiscate the flags and dispersed the crowd.

Opinion and Analysis

You’ve done the hard, right thing before, President Biden. Why not with the Palestinians?, Washington Post
Michael Chabon writes, “Now, right now, is the moment for decisive action on behalf of the civil liberties and human rights of the Palestinian people, and thereby on behalf of Israel’s survival. Now is the time to hold Israel accountable for the nearly $4 billion in U.S. aid that it receives every year, by insisting that none of it be used to support the occupation or the settler project. Make U.S. aid contingent on Israel’s respecting and upholding the civil and human rights of Palestinians. Make it clear to the Israeli leaders and people that they can no longer take for granted the abundant financial support they have so long and so brazenly enjoyed.”

Israel Is Falling Apart, Because the Conflict Controls Us, New York Times
Dahlia Scheindlin writes, “Although many Israelis scoff at the left-wing tendency to blame the occupation for the country’s problems, and Mr. Netanyahu has insisted for years that the conflict doesn’t control our lives, reality says otherwise. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict dominates Israeli politics, muscling out sound policymaking in other critical areas of life. The conflict is suffocating liberal values, eroding Israel’s democratic institutions. Israeli leadership at large is collapsing under its weight.”

What happens when allies like Israel don’t respect the free press?, Washington Post
Jason Rezaian writes, “Violent affronts to media freedom happen around the world every day, but Israel’s actions in Gaza this month, including the destruction of media offices and vital journalistic equipment, underscore a problem that has become painfully clear. If there are no consequences when our allies abuse the free press, there is no hope of deterring abuse by our adversaries.”

Israel-Gaza cease-fire doesn’t mean the IDF should be excused for striking health facilities, NBC News
Ahmed Twaji writes, “The targeting of health care facilities such as this one is a potential war crime. Beyond the humanitarian tragedy the situation poses for Palestinians on the ground, understanding why this constitutes a war crime is vital for assessing the true scope of the damage Israel has inflicted. Protected from United Nations Security Council criticism by the Biden administration, Israel has conducted airstrikes across Gaza with impunity. Even if the fighting soon stops under an expected cease-fire, not holding Israel to account for potential war crimes greenlights future heinous attacks.”

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict won’t be the same again, Washington Post
Ishaan Tharoor writes, “Israeli and U.S. officials may tout the return of “calm” after a cease-fire, but experts fear the opposite. There is no meaningful dialogue between an unpopular, enfeebled PA and a right-wing Israeli government where many politicians now openly reject the idea of an independent Palestinian state. Israel’s entrenched system of control over the Palestinian territories and its creeping annexation of Palestinian lands, unchecked for years by an acquiescent United States, may only provoke more angry resistance.”

The Guardian view on the US and Israel: time for change, The Guardian
The Guardian Editorial Board writes, “Mr Biden has plenty to preoccupy him at home and internationally. Essentially, he wants all this to go away. But this latest violence has shown that it will keep returning until the real problems are addressed. The injustice of occupation has been compounded as settlements change the facts on the ground to make a viable Palestinian state look ever less possible, while Israel denies its Palestinian citizens the same rights as Jews. The US may prefer not to think about all this for now. But in the long run, Israel may find that it cannot count on such a compliant partner.”

How Palestinians are asserting their right to live in the holy city, +972 Magazine
Dina Abumaria writes, “Despite weeks of intense police and settler violence, Jerusalem’s Palestinians are reclaiming their spaces and their voices.”