News Roundup for November 30, 2020

November 30, 2020

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J Street in the News

J Street denounces killing of top Iranian nuclear scientist, Times of Israel
“The dovish lobby group J Street on Saturday denounced the killing of top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, saying it appears aimed at ‘sabotaging’ any effort by US President-elect Joe Biden to rejoin the 2015 deal curbing Iran’s nuclear program […] ‘The assassination of a senior Iranian nuclear scientist appears to be an attempt to sabotage the ability of the incoming Biden administration to re-enter the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as well as the chances of further diplomacy, either by limiting the political leeway of Iranian officials who want to restore the deal, or by triggering an escalation leading to military confrontation,’ J Street head Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a statement,”

Assassination of Iranian Nuclear Scientist an Apparent Attempt to Sabotage Diplomacy, J Street
“It seems those who oppose the JCPOA will stop at nothing to kill the agreement once and for all, despite repeatedly being proven wrong about the deal’s success in blocking Iran’s paths to a nuclear weapon and the disastrous consequences of Donald Trump’s violation of the pact. The facts speak for themselves. Iran now has twelve times as much enriched uranium as when Trump took office. Its forces have openly launched missiles at US troops. The Iranian people — suffering cruel sanctions in the midst of a pandemic — blame the United States rather than their own government’s hardliners for their predicament. Thankfully, change is on the way. But for President-elect Biden to have a real opportunity to restore and build on the JCPOA, others must step up in the remaining weeks of the defeated Trump administration.”

Top News and Analysis

Assassination in Iran Could Limit Biden’s Options. Was That the Goal?, New York Times
David E. Sanger writes, “The assassination of the scientist who led Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon for the past two decades threatens to cripple President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s effort to revive the Iran nuclear deal before he can even begin his diplomacy with Tehran. And that may well have been a main goal of the operation. Intelligence officials say there is little doubt that Israel was behind the killing — it had all the hallmarks of a precisely timed operation by Mossad, the country’s spy agency. And the Israelis have done nothing to dispel that view. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long identified Iran as an existential threat, and named the assassinated scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, as national enemy No. 1, capable of building a weapon that could threaten a country of eight million in a single blast. But Mr. Netanyahu also has a second agenda. “There must be no return to the previous nuclear agreement,” he declared shortly after it became clear that Mr. Biden — who has proposed exactly that — would be the next president.”

How the assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist can sabotage diplomacy & start a war, Responsible Statecraft
Trita Parsi writes, “Assuming Israel’s responsibility and the Trump administration’s acquiescence, if not complicity, in additional Israeli provocations, we now find ourselves in a similar, but perhaps more perilous situation for the next two months — especially if Biden and his foreign policy team fail to strongly communicate that Israel will incur costs if it continues to carry out attacks inside Iran during the current interregnum.”

Why Was Iran’s Top Nuclear Scientist Killed?, New York Times
Barbara Slavin writes, “With temperatures running so high, the incoming Biden administration now faces a serious challenge. Mr. Biden has vowed to return to negotiations with Iran, but he and his team cannot do much more than message through the media to Iran to stay patient until the inauguration on Jan. 20 — and to the Israelis to stop their campaign of sabotage. Meanwhile, European countries that have diplomatic relations with Iran and are still parties to the nuclear agreement can help bridge the gap until the Biden inauguration. Britain, France and Germany should seek a swift convening of the commission that monitors implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement. Their foreign ministers should act even sooner and issue a statement condemning the assassination as illegal under international law and damaging to the cause of nonproliferation.”


As Iran Threatens Payback After Assassination, Germany Urges Restraint, New York Times
“A few weeks before the new U.S. administration takes office, it is important to preserve the scope for talks with Iran so that the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program can be resolved through negotiations,” a spokesman for Germany’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “We therefore urge all parties to refrain from any steps that could lead to a further escalation of the situation.”

Rouhani accuses ‘mercenary’ Israel of killing top Iran scientist, Al Jazeera
“Once again, the evil hands of global arrogance were stained with the blood of the mercenary usurper Zionist regime,” President Hassan Rouhani said in a statement, according to the state TV report on Saturday.

Iran to give a ‘calculated’ response to nuclear scientist killing, says official, Reuters
Iran will give a “calculated and decisive” response to the killing of its top nuclear scientist, said a top adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, while a hardline newspaper suggested Tehran’s revenge should include striking the Israeli city of Haifa.

Jerusalem fears attacks on Israelis visiting UAE following Iran hit, Times of Israel
Israeli security officials are concerned Iran could attack Israeli tourists visiting the United Arab Emirates in retaliation for the assassination of the man said to be the Islamic Republic’s top military nuclear scientist, which Tehran blames on Israel, according to a television report on Sunday.

Iran says Israel remotely killed military nuclear scientist, AP
A top Iranian security official on Monday accused Israel of using “electronic devices” to remotely kill a scientist who founded the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear program in the 2000s.

Palestine’s Mahmoud Abbas pushes back against elections, Financial Times
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is pushing back elections in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, dashing Palestinian hopes they would get to vote for the first time since 2006 and fuelling Israeli fears of further conflict with the Islamist group Hamas.

We won’t be drawn into further reopening, health minister warns as numbers rise, Times of Israel
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said Monday that Israel will halt moves to ease the nationwide lockdown and may even put more restrictions into place if coronavirus infection rates continue to go “in a very wrong direction.”

Renew commitment to Palestinian people, UN chief urges, marking International Day, UN News
Commemorating the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders to explore every opening to “restore hope” for a two-State solution.

Opinion and Analysis

Brazen Killings Expose Iran’s Vulnerabilities as It Struggles to Respond, New York Times
David D. Kirkpatrick, Ronen Bergman and Farnaz Fassihi write, “After suffering a string of audacious attacks, Tehran faces an agonizing choice: embracing hard-liner demands for swift retaliation or trying to make a fresh start with the Biden administration […] Iranian hard-liners argued that the killing of Mr. Fakhrizadeh proved that holding out for a new start with Mr. Biden was only emboldening the country’s foes. ‘If you don’t respond to this level of terrorism, they may repeat it because now they know Iran won’t react,’ the conservative political analyst Foad Izadi said in an interview from Tehran. ‘There is obviously a problem when you see these types of things repeating.’”

Iran scientist’s assassination appears intended to undermine nuclear deal, The Guardian
Julian Borger writes, “The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh may not much have impact on the Iranian nuclear programme he helped build, but it will certainly make it harder to salvage the deal intended to restrict that programme, and that is – so far – the most plausible motive.”

The debate now is not whether Israel killed Iran’s top nuclear scientist, but why, Washington Post
Steve Hendrix and Shira Rubin write, “Commentators, brushing past Israel’s refusal to comment on an assassination that showed the hallmarks of an Israeli clandestine operation, have moved on to asking what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hoped to achieve. Did he seek to draw Tehran into a military response that would, in turn, justify an American assault on Iran’s nuclear program in the waning weeks of the Trump administration? To spoil conditions for the diplomatic reset that President-elect Joe Biden is expected to seek with Iran? Or did Netanyahu simply seize an opportunity to take out Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the brains of Iran’s nuclear program who topped Israel’s target list, in hopes that Iran would show restraint in its response, as it has since the attack?”

Is Iran likely to retaliate over assassination of top nuclear scientist?, The Guardian
Peter Beaumont writes, “What Iran says for domestic consumption in statements by political and military figures and in the Iranian media – calling for Haifa to be bombed for instance – is usually not reflected by its actions.”

Sour Grapes, The Beinart Notebook
Peter Beinart writes, “Given Jewish history, I understand why some Jews feel comforted, even exhilarated, when the Christians who run the world’s most powerful country shower the Jewish state with affection. I just wish the affection were not laced with sadism and lies.”

Biden’s victory, Erekat’s death teach valuable lessons for peace camp, The Jerusalem Post
Nadav Tamir writes, “Biden and Erekat each reflect in their own way one of Peres’s most significant personal and political traits: the belief that a person can shape his or her own tomorrow.”

Israel commits a crime and paints Palestinians as lawbreakers: The homes of 44 Palestinians, including 22 children, were demolished yesterday in the West Bank, B’Tselem
B’Tselem writes, “As part of Israel’s efforts to take over more land in the West Bank, authorities yesterday destroyed the homes of 44 Palestinians (22 of them minors) and cut off entire communities from the water supply. ”

Palestinian rights and the IHRA definition of antisemitism, The Guardian
A group of 122 Palestinian and Arab academics, journalists and intellectuals write, “There is a huge difference between a condition where Jews are singled out, oppressed and suppressed as a minority by antisemitic regimes or groups, and a condition where the self-determination of a Jewish population in Palestine/Israel has been implemented in the form of an ethnic exclusivist and territorially expansionist state.”

How Iranian scientist’s killing could derail future US-Iran talks, Al Jazeera
Jillian Kestler-D’Amours and William Roberts write, “A ‘combustible’ period before Joe Biden takes office could complicate US president-elect’s plan to restart diplomacy with Iran, analysts say.”