News Roundup for November 13, 2020

November 13, 2020

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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

Understanding and Misunderstanding Anti-Semitism and Israel, Jewish Journal
“According to an exit poll conducted by J Street, 78% of American Jews voted for Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate, while 21% voted for Donald Trump, the Republican candidate. No surprise there — Jews have historically voted Democrat […] There are times when it’s tempting to think that criticism of Israel on the left is anti-Semitic, but it really isn’t. Even when criticism and condemnation of Israel are harsh, it tends to be based on politics, not religion. And it’s essential to respond to it that way.”

At the pinnacle of division, an opportunity for Jewish unity, Jewish Journal
“Aligning with their historically overwhelming support for Democratic presidential candidates, American Jews strongly preferred Joe Biden over President Donald Trump this year – 77 percent to 21 percent, according to an exit poll commissioned by liberal lobby group J Street […] Only 4 percent of Jewish voters identify Israel as their first or second-most important election issue. Instead, 43 percent prioritize health care, 28 percent gun violence, and 21 percent Social Security and Medicare.”

Top News and Analysis

Pompeo plans unprecedented visit to West Bank settlement, Axios
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is planning to visit the Golan Heights and an Israeli settlement in the West Bank next week, both firsts for a U.S. secretary of state. Since 1967, all previous U.S. administrations have treated the West Bank and Golan Heights as occupied territory. The trip seems intended to highlight the Trump administration’s policy shifts on Israel. For Pompeo, it also has domestic political significance ahead of a possible presidential run in 2024.

Obama: Netanyahu justified almost anything to keep power as ‘defender of Jews’, Times of Israel
In “A Promised Land,” which comes out on Tuesday, Obama describes Netanyahu as “smart, canny, tough and a gifted communicator,” who used his knowledge of American politics and the media to resist administration policies he disagreed with. Obama writes that Netanyahu’s “vision of himself as the chief defender of the Jewish people against calamity allowed him to justify almost anything that would keep him in power.” Regarding AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying group, Obama charges that its positions moved rightward in accordance with the political shift in Israel, “even when Israel took actions that were contrary to US policy.” He laments that politicians who “criticized Israel policy too loudly risked being tagged as ‘anti-Israel’ (and possibly anti-Semitic) and [were] confronted with a well-funded opponent in the next election.” Obama says he was the subject of a “whisper campaign” that sought to portray him as “insufficiently supportive — or even hostile toward — Israel” during the 2008 presidential race. “On Election Day, I’d end up getting more than 70 percent of the Jewish vote, but as far as many AIPAC board members were concerned, I remained suspect, a man of divided loyalties; someone whose support for Israel, as one of [campaign manager David Axelrod’s] friends colorfully put it, wasn’t ‘felt in his kishkes’ — ‘guts,’ in Yiddish,” he says.


The End of ‘America First’: How Biden Says He Will Re-engage With the World, New York Times
Those who have known President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. for decades say they expect him to move carefully, providing reassurance with a few big symbolic acts.

Pompeo to Visit West Bank Settlement During Israel Trip Next Week, Haaretz
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit an Israeli settlement in the West Bank during his trip to the country next week, two months before the U.S. President Donald Trump must transfer power to Democratic President-elect Joe Biden.

Trump Stacks the Pentagon and Intel Agencies With Loyalists. To What End?, New York Times
President Trump’s abrupt installation of a group of hard-line loyalists into senior jobs at the Pentagon has elevated officials who have pushed for more aggressive actions against Iran and for an imminent withdrawal of all American forces from Afghanistan over the objections of the military.

Peacekeeping force says 7 killed in Egypt helicopter crash, AP
The international force that monitors the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement said Thursday that seven peacekeepers, including five Americans, were killed when one of its helicopters crashed during a routine mission in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. An eighth peacekeeper was badly injured.

Opinion and Analysis

Trump was great for Netanyahu. Biden will be better for Israel, Washington Post
Aaron David Miller writes, “Warren Bass recounts a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion and President John F. Kennedy in which Kennedy reportedly said: ‘I was elected by the Jews of New York. I have to do something for them. I will do something for you.’ Ben Gurion, somewhat taken aback, reportedly responded: ‘You must do whatever is good for the free world.’[…] Trump was great for Netanyahu. But there’s a lesson in Ben Gurion’s reply to JFK. With admiration and respect around the world for the United States, particularly in the Middle East, Israel is stronger. And on that score, President-elect Joe Biden will be better for Israel — strengthening bipartisan American support for the Jewish state and pursuing policies abroad far more effective in enhancing Israel’s security and well-being.”

Israel’s settlements could test ties with Biden, AP
Tia Goldenberg writes, “On a visit to Israel in 2010, Biden was caught off guard when authorities announced plans to build hundreds of new homes in the sprawling Jewish settlement in east Jerusalem. The incident embarrassed Biden and sparked a diplomatic rift with the Obama administration that never quite healed. Yet despite Biden’s opposition to the project, a decade later Ramat Shlomo has ballooned. The episode could foreshadow what lies ahead under the Biden administration — with a U.S. president opposed to Israeli construction on occupied lands claimed by the Palestinians but seemingly limited in his ability to stop it, particularly when dealing with a changing Middle East and preoccupied by domestic priorities.”

Will Netanyahu Strike Iran? Unlikely, but Trump Might, Haaretz
Amos Harel writes, “Faced with the most unpredictable president to ever sit in the White House, Israeli officials are trying to decipher Trump’s intentions about Iran until January.”

Who are Biden’s potential senior appointees, and what are their views on Israel?, Times of Israel
Jacob Magid writes, “On the issue of Israel, multiple sources involved in the campaign said that all of Biden’s picks will be closely aligned with the position of the president-elect. Biden does not see eye-to-eye with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on West Bank settlements and the need for a two-state solution, but views safeguarding the security of the Jewish state as an issue of utmost importance in the region.”