News Roundup for November 18, 2020

November 18, 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.

Top News and Analysis

Israel Strikes Syria and Iranian Forces as Pompeo Flies In, New York Times
Israeli forces struck Syria early Wednesday, a day after finding antipersonnel mines in Israeli-held territory along the boundary between the two countries and just hours before a visit by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Bahraini counterpart to mark a new, U.S.-brokered normalization deal.

Palestinian Authority to resume coordination with Israel, Al Jazeera
Hussein al-Sheikh, the PA’s civil affairs minister and close aide to President Mahmoud Abbas, tweeted on Tuesday that “the relationship with Israel will return to how it was” following “official written and oral letters we received” confirming Israel’s commitment to past agreements.

Netanyahu goes for broke in Trump’s last two months, Al-Monitor
Ben Caspit writes, “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is still hoping to squeeze last-minute favors from outgoing US President Donald Trump at the expense of his relationship with the incoming administration.”


Pompeo expected to visit Israeli settlement in parting gift, AP
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s expected tour of a West Bank winery this week will be the first time a top American diplomat has visited an Israeli settlement, a parting gift from an administration that has taken unprecedented steps to support Israel’s claims to war-won territory.

Biden speaks with Netanyahu and Rivlin, assures Israeli leaders ties will remain ‘close’, JTA
“The president-elect noted that he expects to work closely with the prime minister to address the many challenges confronting our countries,” Biden’s transition team said in a statement following the call. “The president-elect expressed his determination to ensure that the U.S.-Israel relationship is strengthened and enjoys strong bipartisan support.”

A year before Gantz is set to succeed Netanyahu, both express doubt it’ll happen, Times of Israel
Exactly one year before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to relinquish the premiership to Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz, both leaders expressed doubt on Tuesday that the power-sharing deal between will be honored, and few politicians or analysts seem to believe that the transfer will go ahead.

Israel strikes Iranian, Syrian targets on Golan Heights and near Damascus, JTA
The strikes Wednesday morning, in which Syrian authorities said three military personnel were killed and one was wounded, were against Syrian army positions and targets used by the Iranian Al Quds Force, an Israel Defense Forces officer told Reuters. It was in retaliation for the planting of explosive devices in the Golan Tuesday, he added.

Outrage after Netanyahu supporters hurl insults at family of fallen IDF soldier, Times of Israel
“There is a God and he punished her. I wish upon her another [lost child],” shouted one member of a group of pro-Netanyahu protesters who gathered outside the Caesarea home of the family of Capt. Tom Farkash on Tuesday evening.

Israel Strikes Iranian Forces in Syria After Explosives Found on Border, Haaretz
The Israeli military said Wednesday morning that it struck Iran-backed targets in Syria in response to explosive devices that soldiers had uncovered on the Israeli-Syrian border the previous day.

UN watchdog: Breaching deal, Iran pumping uranium gas into advanced centrifuges, Times of Israel
The UN’s atomic watchdog agency has reportedly found that Iran is pumping uranium gas into advanced centrifuges at an underground part of the Natanz nuclear facility, in the latest breach of the 2015 nuclear deal signed with world powers.

There’s a fight brewing over who will lead Israel’s Holocaust museum, JTA
News emerged in August that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies are hoping to appoint a former far-right politician and general, Effi Eitam, as the next chairman of Yad Vashem. Holocaust remembrance associations and representatives of survivors are calling the move inappropriate and a risk to the museum’s reputation.

Israel to send its second-ever astronaut into space, Times of Israel
Israel will send an astronaut to space next year, for just the second time in the country’s history, officials announced on Monday at a ceremony at the president’s residence.

Opinion and Analysis

Dear Ambassador Friedman, Farewell, I’m Not Shedding a Tear, Haaretz
Victor Harel writes, “You violated a glorious tradition of American ambassadors, all of whom – whether they were political appointments or came from the ranks of the State Department – respected the directives of all the articles of international law.”

After Trump, what will Biden do about Iran?, BBC
Paul Adams writes, “The complex web of US sanctions imposed over the past two years gives Mr Biden plenty of possible leverage, should he choose to use it. So far he’s talked only in terms of Iran upholding its existing JCPOA obligations.”

A bipartisan reform for the first 100 days: A new War Powers Act, Responsible Statecraft
Nathan Smith writes, “The executive branch first entered the U.S. military into involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen without congressional consent, despite Congress’s reserved right in the Constitution on such matters. Several years later, both houses of Congress expressed their desire that U.S. involvement end. The president then simply vetoed the bill, knowing the impossibility of a two-thirds majority to override his veto. Despite a large bipartisan consensus in Congress mandating that the president withdraw from an unauthorized conflict, U.S. participation in that conflict continues to this day. The War Powers Resolution failed once again.”

Israeli Gov’t Mustn’t Allow Far-right Former Politician to Head Yad Vashem, Haaretz
The Editorial Board writes, “In recent years Netanyahu has meticulously chosen people for positions according to the degree to which the appointment would increase his voter base, regardless of the candidate’s suitability. Eitam is just the subcontractor for this policy. The prime minister did the same thing when he appointed Miri Regev as culture and sports minister, Ayelet Shaked and then Amir Ohana as successive justice ministers and Yariv Levin as Knesset speaker. Now it’s Yad Vashem’s turn.”

A Safer World Starts at the Grassroots, The Baraza
William D. Hartung writes, “Although new leadership can accomplish a great deal, don’t expect politicians to take the lead in addressing the challenges to our safety, security, and freedom. All of the great shifts in American history—from the abolition of slavery to women’s suffrage to civil rights, to the birth of the modern-day feminist and environmental movements—have been won through the efforts of ordinary people organizing for change on a mass scale. The solution to our most urgent problems will require action at a similar level over a prolonged period. If movements mobilize on a sufficient scale, political leaders will eventually follow.”

UAE and Israeli settlers find common ground in Jerusalem, Responsible Statecraft
James M. Dorsey writes, “In a twist of irony, the UAE finds common ground with the Israeli settler movement and the Jewish far-right in wanting to weaken Jordanian-Palestinian control of the Haram ash-Sharif and counter Turkish efforts to stoke Palestinian nationalist and religious sentiment. The settlers and the far-right are calling for internationalization of the administration of the Haram ash-Sharif, which plays into the UAE’s hands.”

Despite soaring poll numbers, Bennett appears unlikely to unseat Netanyahu, Times of Israel
Haviv Rettig Gur writes, “Israel is almost certainly headed to an election in the coming months. That’s not based on reading the tea leaves of Israeli coalition politics, nor on surreptitious leaks from campaign managers. It’s based on a simple, reliable assumption: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will do whatever it takes to hold on to his seat.”