News Roundup for October 28, 2021

October 28, 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.

Top News and Analysis

Israel Advances Plan for New Settlement Homes, in First for Bennett Era, New York Times
The Israeli government advanced plans on Wednesday to build more than 3,000 new settlement units in the occupied West Bank, in the first move of its kind since Prime Minister Naftali Bennett succeeded Benjamin Netanyahu in June. A defense ministry planning committee approved the construction of 3,130 new homes that would be spread across 25 existing settlements, most of them deep inside the West Bank, the territory that Palestinians hope will form part of a future Palestinian state. […] The construction would further consolidate the Israeli presence in the West Bank and the barriers to the creation of a geographically contiguous Palestinian state. The announcement has already raised tensions between the Bennett government and the Biden administration, which opposes activity that makes it harder to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Consent Needed to Reopen Consulate in East Jerusalem, U.S. Says, Haaretz
Brian McKeon, the U.S. deputy Secretary of State for management and resources, said on Wednesday that Washington would need the Israeli government’s consent before reopening the consulate in East Jerusalem it once used to serve Palestinians. McKeon said it in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when he was asked by Republican Senator Bill Hagerty whether Israel would have to agree to the United States’ reopening a consulate.

Scoop: Blinken protests Israel settlements approval in “tense” phone call, Axios
Secretary of State Tony Blinken protested the decision to approve 3,000 new housing units in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank during a tense phone call on Tuesday with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, three Israeli officials tell me. This is the first time new construction in the settlements has been approved since President Biden assumed office, and the Biden administration had been privately pressing the Israeli government not to proceed.


Iran to Return to Nuclear Deal Talks in Vienna Next Month, Wall Street Journal
Iran will return to nuclear talks before the end of November, its chief negotiator said Wednesday, restoring the Biden administration’s hopes that it can revive the 2015 nuclear deal. Iran’s return to the negotiations would end a five-month hiatus in talks that has enabled Tehran’s new hardline government to press ahead with its nuclear program.

White House skeptical Iran ready to restart nuclear talks, AP
The White House on Wednesday responded skeptically after Iran’s chief negotiator announced that Tehran was ready to return to nuclear negotiations in Vienna by the end of next month. […] White House press secretary Jen Psaki said administration officials were aware of Bagheri’s comments but were waiting for European officials to confirm that Iran is indeed ready to resume talks. “I would leave to the negotiators to determine when the next round of discussions will be,” Psaki said. “Our framing continues to be compliance for compliance, and we’ll leave it up to the Europeans and our negotiators to determine when the next step would be.”

Israel’s ‘political accident’ coalition beats survival odds as budget looms, Financial Times
Israel’s unwieldy eight-party government, dubbed a political accident by its own leader Naftali Bennett, was given little chance of survival when it took shape in June. The unlikely alliance, which stretches from the hard-right to the fringe left, battled with ideological differences but coalesced around opposition to five-time prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. After four months of defying the sceptics, the coalition now faces its first make-or-break test in the form of Israel’s first budget in more than two years. The milestone comes with a political sting: under Israeli law, failure to pass the budget triggers fresh elections.

Israeli electrical company to cut power to West Bank Palestinians over debts, Times of Israel
The Israel Electric Corporation has threatened to begin cutting power to Palestinian areas of the West Bank next week over some NIS 383 million ($120 million) in unpaid bills. Starting next Wednesday, rolling blackouts will hit West Bank areas near Jerusalem, including Ramallah and Bethlehem until the debts are paid or a deal is reached, Israeli and Palestinian officials said.

Democrats are trying to make antisemitism a key issue in the Virginia governor’s race — and next year’s midterms, JTA
On a crisp fall night in this leafy Washington, D.C. suburb, Doug Emhoff, the second gentleman, and Eileen Filler-Corn, the Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, had a message for a small but influential crowd: Antisemitism is on the rise and voting for Democrats is the best way to combat it. […] Double-teaming a fundraiser last week at the home of Jewish Democratic bundlers Jeff Bialos and Leslie Kerman, Emhoff and Filler-Corn laid out a Democratic argument for Jewish voters ahead of next week’s gubernatorial elections — one that is likely to carry over into next year’s midterm elections.

Opinion and Analysis

Why Is Israel Dictating America’s Mideast Policy?, Haaretz
Dalal Iriqat writes, “Ever since the U.S. Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, came to the region in May 2021, Palestinians have been waiting for his promise to reopen the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, which served Palestinians from the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, to be implemented. That the U.S. has worthy intentions regarding the consulate is not contested. The main obstacle is its apparent insistence on getting Israel to greenlight U.S. policy. Israeli hegemony has become so evident in its relationship with the U.S. that ministers in Naftali Bennett’s government opposed the whole concept of reopening the consulate, and for now, their stance is determining U.S. actions.”

The post-9/11 logic at work in Israel’s attack on Palestinian civil society, +972 Magazine
Anwar Mhajne writes, “Israel’s outlawing of six Palestinian NGOs is part of a post- 9/11 trend of governments exploiting counterterrorism laws to quash human rights work.”

The Climate Crisis Report Is an Indictment of Netanyahu, Haaretz
The Haaretz Editorial Board writes, “The state comptroller’s report on the climate crisis is a most impressive document, consisting of hundreds of pages of explanations and analyses of the sources of the crisis, the threats it creates and the way our recent governments have addressed this immense challenge. Its conclusion is unequivocal: ‘Israel is unprepared for the climate crisis.’ […] The man who headed Israel’s governments for the past 12 years, and who, aside from making occasional statements at international forums, did nothing to prepare Israel for the climate threat. The state comptroller’s report is incomplete without mentioning the name of Benjamin Netanyahu.”