News Roundup for October 20, 2021

October 20, 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

These Two D.C. Retirements Will Hurt America’s Conversation on Israel, Haaretz
Two Democratic lawmakers who played an important role in navigating the party’s policy on Israel in the past several years have recently announced their intention to retire from Congress following their current term, dealing a blow to the forces within the Democratic Party who are aiming to hold the party together on Israel. Reps. John Yarmuth, one of 25 Jewish Democrats in the House of Representatives and chair of the House Budget Committee, and David Price, among the longest-serving and most respected members of the Democratic caucus, have long been supportive of Israel, but were also tough critics of certain Israeli policies that they believed endanger a potential two-state solution. They are among the lawmakers closely associated with the pro-Israel, left-wing J Street organization.

Top News and Analysis

Senate Committee OKs Biden’s Pick for Israel Envoy, but Sen. Cruz Delays State Dept. Mideast Lead, Haaretz
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday confirmed Tom Nides as the next U.S. ambassador to Israel. Nides’ nomination will now go to the Senate floor for a final vote before he is officially confirmed. […] While Cruz has not placed a hold on Nides’ nomination, he did note his opposition to Nides’ nomination for the record, portending a potential future hold on the nominee’s confirmation on the Senate floor. Sen. Marco Rubio also opposed Nides’ confirmation. What is perhaps even more pressing, however, is Cruz’s blocking of the nomination of senior Middle East National Security Council official Barbara Leaf — Biden’s pick to lead the State Department’s Middle East department.

Scoop: Jake Sullivan discussed Saudi-Israel normalization with MBS, Axios
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan raised normalization with Israel during his recent meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, three U.S. and Arab sources tell Axios. Saudi Arabia would be the biggest regional player to sign onto the “Abraham Accords” peace agreement with Israel, and such a major breakthrough would likely convince other Arab and Muslim countries to follow suit.

Israel announces 3,000 new work permits for Gazans, AP
Israel will increase the number of Palestinian workers it permits to enter its territory from the Gaza Strip, an Israeli defense body announced Wednesday, a gesture seemingly meant to bolster a fragile calm between the sides. Gaza’s more than 2 million Palestinian residents have lived under a stifling Israeli-Egyptian blockade since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007, and unemployment and poverty is rampant. Israel says the closures are needed to contain the militant group, while critics view it as a form of collective punishment.


The US far right hijacked this symbol. Now Israeli soldiers are too, +972 Magazine
A striking symbol closely associated with the far right, the police, and the military in the United States has grown increasingly visible among members of Israel’s security forces in recent years. From soldiers patrolling the occupied West Bank to security guards at a kibbutz in northern Israel, the “Punisher” logo, represented by a skull insignia, has become hard to miss.

How offshore accounts turned the British Virgin Islands into an east Jerusalem landlord, JTA
Some of the most contested real estate in east Jerusalem has come under the legal control of the British Virgin Islands in recent years because the Israeli settlers who managed the properties used offshore accounts and failed to pay corporate fees and taxes. This finding appeared in a series of recent reports by Uri Blau and Daniel Dolev of Shomrim, an Israeli investigative news organization, following a massive leak of records from the secretive world of offshore financial services.

Far-right, Israeli Arab Lawmakers Clash by Palestinian Hunger Striker’s Ward, Haaretz
Knesset members Itamar Ben-Gvir of the far-right Religious Zionism party and Ayman Odeh, the leader of the largely Arab Joint List Knesset, got into a confrontation on Tuesday outside the hospital room of a hunger-striking Palestinian. The incident occurred at Kaplan Hospital in Rehovot, to which the Palestinian, Mukdad Qawasmeh, was admitted after he launched a hunger strike in protest at his administrative detention, meaning that he is being held without trial in Israel.

Palestinians condemn Israeli bill giving broad powers to police, Al Jazeera
Israel is taking steps towards over-policing and increasing its surveillance of the Palestinian population inside its 1949-borders under the pretext of curbing the high crime rate within the community, Palestinians say. In the latest measure, the Israeli cabinet approved a proposal on Sunday granting police with what Palestinians view as overly broad powers – allowing them to freely search homes without a court warrant – “if they think they can find a suspect or evidence related to a serious crime”, according to Israeli media.

The sun is shining, so why isn’t Israel making hay of its solar energy?, Times of Israel
With fires, floods, hurricanes and other disasters putting the consequences of climate change high on the international agenda, many developed nations are finding renewed urgency in reaching net zero emissions targets by 2050, which will involve substantially cutting fossil fuel use. For 2050, Israel has committed to a more modest goal, reducing total emissions by 85 percent from 2015 levels. That will include an 85% reduction in emissions from electricity production, but the country has not set an actual target for how much power will come from renewable resources — primarily the sun — by then. The country did not come close to meeting a goal set by the Energy Ministry for 10% renewables by 2020, reaching only 6%. And despite vast desert tracts, plentiful solar rays and access to new technologies in efficient power generation and storage, there are serious questions as to whether even its goal of 30% renewables by 2030 is a realistic one.

Opinion and Analysis

The cowardice of Senate Republicans blocking a qualified Muslim’s confirmation, Washington Post
The Washington Post editorial board writes, “Dilawar Syed, President Biden’s nominee to be deputy administrator of the Small Business Administration, embodies the American Dream […] But Republicans have frozen his nomination in a Senate committee, and some of his backers — including prominent human rights and faith-based groups — say it is precisely because of his background and religion. […] So what’s the problem? At first, Republicans said they wanted answers on covid-relief loans to Mr. Syed’s business. When that turned out to be a non-issue — the company was entitled to the SBA loans, and it paid off the debt rather than pushing for it to be forgiven as was allowed — they questioned Mr. Syed’s association with an advocacy group that has been critical of Israel.

The Harsh Truth Biden Needs to Tell Israelis Now About Their Future, Haaretz
Daniel Sokatch writes, “Given Biden’s long-held positions on this issue, here is the speech he could give. ‘Friends, it’s simple: you, the Israeli people, have got a choice to make. You can either choose to be a part of the community of democratic nations, with all the privilege and protection that that brings, or you can choose to keep your settlement enterprise on the West Bank. It’s time to decide which one is more important to you. The settlement enterprise isn’t the only obstacle to peace, but it’s one you can do something about right now.’”

If Sally Rooney believes in her own writing, she should want Israelis to read it, Washington Post
Gershom Gorenberg writes, “The only feasible way to achieve this is a two-state agreement. This is also the only way for Israel to survive and flourish. Getting there requires convincing more Israelis that a historic compromise is necessary. BDS is accomplishing the opposite. Rooney’s decision is a case in point. She does not object to a specific action of her previous publisher. It is not, for instance, located in a West Bank settlement, from which she wants it to move. The offense is being an Israeli entity, and that’s shared by other potential publishers. She might make an exception for a Hebrew publisher that publicly takes a political stance matching her own.”

Israel’s ‘Gesture’ to Palestinians Reveals the Extent of Its Control Over the West Bank and Gaza, Haaretz
Amira Hass writes, “Tuesday’s announcement by Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories – that Palestinian residency will be granted to 1,200 people who have been living in the West Bank or Gaza Strip with their families for many years – worried and confused the people most concerned with the issue. […] The activists said there are many more people waiting for residency in the West Bank and Gaza than just 1,200. And Haaretz has discovered that these people and their families indeed have cause to be worried and disappointed.”