News Roundup for May 3, 2021

May 3, 2021

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J Street in the News

What Israel missed by ignoring the J Street conference, Jerusalem Post
J Street’s Nadav Tamir writes, “The Israeli government and public are unaware of the change in US attitudes toward Israel, especially in the American Jewish community. The lack of attention in Israel towards J Street proves this.”

J Street pans Abbas delay of Palestinian elections, Times of Israel
“The dovish J Street lobby issues a statement expressing concern over Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to indefinitely delay elections scheduled for next month. ‘It’s clear that Palestinians have suffered greatly from a lack of democratic processes stemming from their internal political divisions, and that a newly elected and legitimized leadership would be better positioned to advocate for Palestinian rights and aspirations in the face of endless occupation and de facto annexation,’ the group says. ‘We believe that Palestinian political reconciliation… is an essential condition needed to successfully negotiate a two-state peace agreement and create a globally recognized independent Palestinian state.’ ‘At the same time, we recognize the challenges involved with attempting to integrate Palestinian factions committed to nonviolence and diplomacy with those, like Hamas, that have frequently engaged in violence and terror. It’s critical that any new Palestinian government resulting from new elections continue to recognize Israel and reject violence as a tactic,’ the group adds. J Street notes the reason why Abbas chose to delay elections — alleged refusal by Israel to allow them to take place in East Jerusalem. The lobby says the matter is a legitimate concern and the US should urge Israel to allow elections to take place there but argues that that reason alone is not enough to justify the delay.”

Top News and Analysis

Recriminations Intensify After Deadly Israel Stampede, New York Times
Officials came under growing scrutiny Sunday for ignoring warnings about safety lapses at one of Israel’s most visited holy sites, as the country mourned 45 ultra-Orthodox Jews killed in a stampede at a festival there. The disaster at Mount Meron also heated up the debate over the role of the ultra-Orthodox minority in Israel and the refusal of some of its leaders to acknowledge the authority of the state. The festival had drawn some 100,000 people, most of them ultra-Orthodox Jews, after powerful ultra-Orthodox politicians reportedly pressured Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others to lift attendance restrictions.

Progress noted at diplomats’ talks on Iran nuclear deal, AP
High-ranking diplomats from China, Germany, France, Russia and Britain made progress at talks Saturday focused on bringing the United States back into their landmark nuclear deal with Iran, but said they need more work and time to bring about a future agreement. After the meeting, Russia’s top representative, Mikhail Ulyanov, tweeted that members of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, “noted today the indisputable progress made at the Vienna talks on restoration of the nuclear deal.”

Israel asks whether autonomy of the ultra-Orthodox contributed to the deadly stampede, Washington Post
Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Jews exist in a world within the world, citizens of Israel but pledging their allegiance, attention and obedience instead to their rabbis and God. In isolated enclaves, they’re exempt from the military draft, outside the national school system and — in apartments typically without Internet or television — largely oblivious to the surrounding culture. Now, this shocked country is asking whether that self-segregation — and the secular politicians who for decades have enabled it — is responsible for the worst civilian catastrophe in Israel’s history, the trampling deaths of 45 ultra-Orthodox men and boys at a massively overcrowded religious festival in the early hours of Friday.


Israeli official: Biden told Mossad director U.S. isn’t close to returning to Iran deal, Axios
President Biden told the director of Israel’s foreign intelligence service, Yossi Cohen, on Friday that the U.S. has a long way to go in talks with Iran before it agrees a return to full compliance of the 2015 nuclear deal, per a senior Israeli official briefed on the talks.

Cracks appear in Netanyahu’s armour as deadline approaches, Financial Times
Over four stalemated elections in the past two years, Benjamin Netanyahu has managed to hold on to a master politician’s one crucial asset — the air of inevitable victory. But with two days before the clock runs out on his attempt to corral together a coalition after a deadlocked March poll, Israel’s longest serving prime minister suddenly appears cornered. His rightwing alliance is two seats short of a 61-seat majority in the Knesset and three weeks of public cajoling, back room bargaining and parliamentary machinations have failed to produce a single defection to the five-time premier’s camp.

Netanyahu said to back Bennett forming coalition in return for legal protections, Times of Israel
With just one day remaining for him to form a coalition, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly agreed to a plan that would allow Yamina party head Naftali Bennett to try and put together a right-wing government, in return for him committing to a series of measures that could help the premier put an end to his ongoing criminal trial. While Yamina’s negotiating team was meeting with representatives of the Yesh Atid party last week, Channel 12 news reported Sunday, Bennett and Netanyahu held a secret meeting, not disclosed to the media, where they discussed the details of a potential rotation government between the two.

Biden calls Netanyahu to offer condolences over Mount Meron stampede, Axios
President Biden called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday to offer condolences and U.S. assistance following a deadly stampede that killed at least 45 worshippers, the White House said.

Three injured in West Bank drive-by shooting, JTA
Assailants opened fire on Israeli civilians, wounding three in a drive-by shooting in the West Bank. The Israel Defense Forces on Sunday reported the shooting, at Tapuach Junction in the northern West Bank, and said its forces were in pursuit.

Israeli settlers attack Palestinian village after shooting, AP
Israeli settlers attacked a Palestinian village in the occupied West Bank overnight, setting brush fires and hurling stones, Palestinian officials and an Israeli rights group said Monday. It appeared to be a revenge attack after three Israelis were wounded in a drive-by shooting at a nearby traffic junction on Sunday.

Israel ambassador likely to be named this week, with shortlist narrowed to two, The Forward
President Joe Biden has narrowed down his list of candidates for ambassador to Israel to two candidates who have strong ties to the pro-Israel community. Tom Nides, a former official in the Clinton and Obama administrations; and Robert Wexler, a former congressman from Florida, are both on the short list for one of the high-profile diplomatic posts of the administration, sources close to the White House said. The appointment could come as soon as this week, with Nides emerging as the likely pick. Sources said Secretary of State Tony Blinken is in favor of Wexler while Steve Ricchetti, a counselor to the president, is pushing for Nides’ appointment.

What is happening in occupied East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah?, Al Jazeera
Dozens of Palestinians are facing imminent dispossession from their homes in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, in what they say is a move to force them out and replace it entirely with a Jewish settlement. The Jerusalem District Court ruled at least six families must vacate their homes in Sheikh Jarrah on Sunday, despite living there for generations.

Opinion and Analysis

American Jews, Stop Funding Jewish Terrorism, Haaretz
Jill Jacobs writes, “The far-right Jewish extremists rampaging violently against Palestinians are backed by a complex network of funding sources in both Israel and the United States. It’s our moral duty to defund them”

Netanyahu is responsible for the 45 Meron deaths. Here is why – analysis, Jerusalem Post
Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman writes, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is responsible for the deaths of 45 people at Mount Meron on Thursday night – and of thousands of people during the COVID-19 pandemic – due to his political pandering to the haredim (ultra-Orthodox), analysts told The Jerusalem Post. Some 100,000 Israelis, mostly ultra-Orthodox, attended this year’s Lag Ba’omer gathering on Mount Meron, despite Health Ministry warnings that the event could lead to a resurgence of the virus. The crowd was so large and unruly that police said they could not make people obey COVID restrictions – ultimately the least of their challenges.”

International law sides with Palestinian refugees. But can it solve their plight?, +972 Magazine
Sam Bahour writes, “A new book dives into the myriad laws that protect Palestinian refugees and their right of return. Its proposed solution, though, may be hard to swallow.”

Postponing of Palestinian Election Proves Abbas Is Closer to Israel’s Interests Than His Own People, Haaretz
Amira Hass writes, “The decision to postpone to an unknown date the Palestinian general election, announced Thursday by President Mahmoud Abbas, proves that he and his handful of Fatah cronies – whose advice he listens to – are more loyal to Israel’s interests to preserve the status quo and prevent any shocks or changes. In postponing the May 22 election for the Palestinian Legislative Council, they’re showing that Israel’s objection to holding the vote – the Palestinians’ first since 2006 – outweighs the views of 93 percent of the electorate, who registered to vote and thus clearly expressed their yearning for the democratic process.”