News Roundup for May 6, 2021

May 6, 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

A Democratic pro-Israel group calls a longtime Jewish leader an enabler of antisemitism, exposing a fault line in the party, JTA
“Nancy Kaufman led Boston’s Jewish Community Relations Council for 20 years, from 1990 to 2010. She has also led the National Council for Jewish Women. Many progressive Jewish leaders have said she would be a good choice for President Joe Biden’s antisemitism monitor, a position she has said interests her. Then, on Monday, the Democratic Majority for Israel, or DMFI, which backs Democrats who hew to traditional pro-Israel orthodoxies, tweeted about Kaufman: ‘too often she has enabled, rather than battled, antisemitism.’ […] J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group, which like DMFI has an affiliated PAC and has often sparred with the group, called its attack on Kaufman ‘disgusting.’ Kaufman, J Street said on Twitter, ‘has spent her impressive career fighting for the Jewish community and our democratic values.’”

J Street remains committed to Israel’s security, Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle
Mark Fichman writes, “The Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle went out of its way to criticize J Street and its support for Betty McCollum’s ‘Palestinian Children and Families Act.’ Unfortunately, the editorial’s criticisms were based on inaccurate representations of both J Street’s position and the bill itself.”

Jamaal Bowman defends support of bill to regulate aid to Israel, The Forward
“Congressman Jamaal Bowman of New York is defending his support of a bill that would regulate U.S. military assistance to Israel, a measure opposed by many mainstream Jewish and pro-Israel groups. […] J Street, a pro-peace lobbying group, and IfNotNow support the bill.”

Praise for J Street conference, concern for the future, Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle
Phyllis Dreyfuss writes, “I just celebrated my 86th birthday by attending (virtually) another wonderful J Street Conference. As always, the wide scope of the speakers was impressive, from President Abbas to Elizabeth Warren, speaking eloquently for the support of Israel and a two-state solution. The conference strengthened both my own connection to Israel and my hope for the eventual creation of a Palestinian state.”

J Street Deeply Concerned by Worsening COVID Situation and Slow Vaccination in Occupied Palestinian Territory, J Street
“J Street is deeply concerned by the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccination efforts in the West Bank and Gaza. Over the past few months, we’ve watched with excitement and pride as Israeli authorities have moved with great speed and efficiency to vaccinate the vast majority of Israeli citizens and residents, regardless of socio-economic status, ethnicity or religion. We feel great relief that the spread of COVID inside Israel has been almost completely curtailed, while deaths from the virus have dropped nearly to zero. At the same time, we’re alarmed at how efforts to vaccinate millions of Palestinians living in occupied territory have been extremely slow and under-resourced — while the number of COVID infections continues to increase.”

Top News and Analysis

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid gains chance to form government, oust Netanyahu, Washington Post
Yair Lapid, a former news anchor and leader of Israel’s centrist opposition, was picked to negotiate a new governing coalition Wednesday, opening the possibility of Israel getting its first government not led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in more than a decade. President Reuven Rivlin tapped Lapid to make the next attempt to form a government one day after Netanyahu failed to assemble a parliamentary majority after 28 days of effort. Under Israel’s system, Lapid also has four weeks to craft a power-sharing plan. If he falls short, the president could open to the process to any member of the Knesset or call for Israel’s fifth election since the spring of 2019.

Who Is Yair Lapid, Israel’s Would-Be Prime Minister?, New York Times
Yair Lapid, the centrist politician and former media celebrity whose party took second place in Israel’s March election, had pledged to forgo the premiership if that’s what it would take to form a coalition of diverse parties that could oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from power. The unusual exercise in political humility stemmed not from modesty, but from the difficulties he knew he would face in mustering enough parliamentary support to form an alternative government. Now, after Mr. Netanyahu failed to form a viable coalition by Tuesday’s midnight deadline, Mr. Lapid’s political skills and sincerity will be put to the test. The president, Reuven Rivlin, has given him the next shot at cobbling together a government that might send Mr. Netanyahu into the opposition and end Israel’s political gridlock.

This ‘progressive’ Israel lobby group has a racism problem, +972 Magazine
“Since launching in January 2019, the lobby group Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) has marketed itself as the flagship organization for those wanting to integrate ‘progressive values’ with support for Israel. But a recent series of offensive social media posts made by two DMFI board members, coupled with a history of other troubling statements, has undermined the group’s attempt at laying such a claim. For Palestinian rights advocates, the posts — which include a call to ‘burn Gaza’ and a laugh at an anti-Muslim joke — are a stark example of how anti-Palestinian speech is tolerated in Democratic Party circles. The offensive posts came from board members Archie Gottesman and Sam Lauter, both of whom have close ties to the Democratic Party establishment and the Biden administration. Despite ensuing outcry, both remain board members of the organization.”


For first time in a long time, Netanyahu’s rule threatened, AP
For the past 12 years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dominated Israeli politics, vanquishing a stream of challengers as he maintained his tight grip on power. But after a bruising two-year cycle of political deadlock, Netanyahu is facing the toughest challenge of his record-setting rule and could soon find himself pushed into the opposition. Israel’s president said on Wednesday that he has given opposition leader Yair Lapid the task of trying to form a new coalition government. President Reuven Rivlin made the announcement after Netanyahu failed to meet a midnight deadline for forming a government himself the previous day.

After Netanyahu failed, here’s Lapid and Bennett’s path to potential government, Times of Israel
After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s mandate to form a government ended Tuesday night, all eyes are now on the two men who may hold the keys to a potential government replacing the longtime premier, although significant hurdles remain. Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid and Yamina chief Naftali Bennett have been negotiating a potential “change government” — “change” meaning ousting Netanyahu — in which the two would rotate the premiership

Russia ready to promote direct Israeli-Palestinian contacts, AP
Russia is ready to promote direct contacts between Israel and the Palestinian leadership and working toward a high-level meeting of the Middle East Quartet mediating the Israel-Palestinian peace process, the Russian foreign minister said Wednesday.

Support Grows for ex-Congressman Robert Wexler to Be Named U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Haaretz
In the days since Tom Nides was reported as the front-runner to become the next U.S. ambassador to Israel, a groundswell of support has emerged for Robert Wexler, the former Democratic congressman from Florida who has spent the past 11 years running the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace. While Nides is still widely considered the favorite, Wexler has received significant endorsements from key figures in President Joe Biden’s orbit and the U.S.-Jewish community – including several contenders for ambassadorships – as well as Rep. Ted Deutch, chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa and Global Counterterrorism.

Police chief said to ask attorney general for state inquiry into Meron disaster, Times of Israel
Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai has asked Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit for either a state commission of inquiry into the Mount Meron disaster or some other form of official investigation of the incident last week, during which dozens of people were crushed to death, the Kan public broadcaster reported Wednesday.

In Sheikh Jarrah, Palestinian youth are leading the struggle to defend their homes, +972 Magazine
Every night for the past week, young Palestinians have been gathering in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood to protest the imminent forced eviction of local Palestinian families. The youth break their Ramadan fast together, sing, and come together in a show of solidarity with the neighborhood’s residents. Israeli police have attempted to disperse these demonstrations using disproportionate force, including stun grenades and the Skunk, a vehicle that shoots putrid liquid at high velocity.

Jared Kushner launches peace institute to advance Abraham Accords, JTA
Jared Kushner has launched an institute to promote his major accomplishment when he advised his father-in-law, former President Donald Trump: the normalization agreements between Israel and a number of Sunni Arab countries. Kushner founded the Abraham Accords Institute for Peace with Avi Berkowitz, a friend who Kushner brought in to be the chief Middle East peace negotiator in the latter part of his father-in-law’s single presidential term, Axios reported on Wednesday.

Since pandemic, has Israel allowed almost no Palestinians out of Gaza for medical treatment, B’Tselem
In March 2020, Israel announced that as part of its fight against the coronavirus, it would further reduce the already miniscule number of Palestinians permitted to leave the Gaza Strip for medical purposes. In doing so, Israel shirked its duty to allow ill residents access to essential treatment unavailable within the Gaza Strip, and left them to their fate.

Opinion and Analysis

The Old Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Is Dead—Long Live the Emerging Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Carnegie Endowment for Peace
The Carnegie Endowment for Peace writes, “It is time to admit what most observers already know: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that diplomats have been dealing with for half a century is over. It is not that a solution has been found. Just the opposite: all the injustices and insecurities that afflict inhabitants of the region between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea are now so deeply ingrained in daily life that no diplomatic framework can address them now. This leaves some people far better off than others, of course—and it leaves many quite satisfied. But even the smug have cause for worry—less about their own lives and livelihood and more about the world to be inhabited by their children and grandchildren. And many others are left stateless, restricted in movement, harshly policed, and pondering how to provide for their family’s needs now rather than for future generations.”

Netanyahu blames Bennett, but it’s his own far-right protégés who doomed him, Times of Israel
David Horovitz writes, “Netanyahu’s effort to muster a majority was doomed not by Bennett, or at least not primarily by him, but by the Religious Zionism party, with its racist and homophobic Otzma Yehudit and Noam components — the far-right alliance of factions that, ironically, the Likud leader had himself welded together, before the March 23 elections, to ensure that no right-wing votes went to waste beneath the 3.25% Knesset threshold.”

The Left should insist on an Arab minister, Jerusalem Post
Shir Nosatzki writes, “In the last few days, the Left has been vocal about its demands for joining the post-Netanyahu government. Whether it’s negotiations behind closed doors, or op-eds in the papers, our camp deliberates whether Merav Michaeli should be minister of interior, or should Nitzan Horowitz take the Ministry of Environmental Protection and so on. But the truth is that the only minister they should really be insisting on, is an Arab minister.”

Netanyahu Is No Magician – and He Never Was One, Haaretz
Zehava Galon writes, “So Benjamin Netanyahu’s mandate to form a government expired. He couldn’t pull one rodent or another out of his hat, like a recommendation of Naftali Bennett as prime minister that would have let him retain control of the option of a fifth election. Netanyahu’s magic has worn off. He knows it, and it’s time for us to realize it too. Some political commentators have been calling Netanyahu a magician since 1996, when he defeated Shimon Peres in the direct election for prime minister, seemingly against all odds.”

The Takeaway: Could a Bennett-Lapid coalition last in Israel?, Al Monitor
The Takeaway writes, “A Lapid-Bennett arrangement would begin on the shakiest of ground and would in some ways remind us of the ill-fated Netanyahu partnership with his rival, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, last year. Gantz was no match for Netanyahu’s political gamesmanship and never got close to the prime minister’s office. That arrangement’s collapse led us directly to this election and the prospects of another seemingly bizarre alliance. Lapid is to the left of Gantz; Bennett is to the right of Netanyahu.”