News Roundup for October 4, 2021

October 4, 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

Marcia Freedman, First American Woman in Knesset, Dies at 83, New York Times
Marcia Freedman, who was the first American-born woman to serve in the Israeli Parliament, known as the Knesset, and who helped lead the feminist movement in Israel in the 1970s, died on Sept. 21 at her home in South Berkeley, Calif. She was 83. […] In the United States, she was the founding president of Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, also known as the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace, established in 2002. It organized American Jews on behalf of a two-state negotiated Israeli-Palestinian peace and in 2010 merged with the advocacy group J Street, which has carried on that mission.

Top News and Analysis

Palestinian Officials Say U.S. Seeks to Reopen East Jerusalem Consulate After Israel Approves Budget, Haaretz
Senior U.S. officials have informed the Palestinian Authority that the American Consulate in East Jerusalem is due to reopen as planned in several weeks, Palestinian officials told Haaretz. […] Israel opposes the move, and Israeli officials are working to reverse the American decision. The East Jerusalem consulate served Palestinians from the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, but was closed by the Trump administration in 2018.

Palestinian president hosts Israeli ministers in West Bank, AP
The Palestinian president hosted two Israeli Cabinet ministers for a late-night meeting Sunday, in a new sign of slowly improving ties between the sides. Israeli Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Freij were the second group of Cabinet members to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas since the new Israeli government took office in June. Defense Minister Benny Gantz also met with Abbas at his West Bank headquarters in August.

Calls for peace with Israel backfire after Iraqi conference, NBC News
Before Israel’s historic agreements with Arab countries beginning in August 2020, openly discussing the possibility of normalizing relations with the Jewish state would have been unthinkable in Iraq. But last week, speakers at a conference attended by hundreds in the country’s Kurdish region did just that. […] The Iraqi government has condemned the conference and has issued arrest warrants for two of the main speakers and at least three other participants, including al-Ta’i, who has also been dismissed from her job at the culture ministry. The conference organizer said al-Ta’i had attended in a private capacity.


Violent Crime Spikes Among Arabs in Israel as Officials Admit Neglect, New York Times
The killings — not by Israeli soldiers but by Arab criminals — account for about 70 percent of all Israeli homicides, though Arabs represent just over 20 percent of the population. The surging violence has shocked the country and put a spotlight on what the government acknowledges to have been decades of neglect of crime in Arab communities.

Biden confidant to mediate Israel and Lebanon’s maritime border dispute, Axios
The State Department’s energy envoy, Amos Hochstein, will serve as the new mediator between Lebanon and Israel in a dispute over the maritime border and natural gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean, Israeli and U.S. officials tell Axios. Hochstein is one of President Biden’s closest confidants and has worked with him for many years. Appointing Hochstein as the mediator raises the profile of this ongoing conflict, and signals it is a higher priority for the Biden administration.

Kamala Harris ‘strongly disagrees’ with student who said Israel was carrying out ethnic genocide, JTA
Vice President Kamala Harris “strongly disagrees” with a university student who told her that Israel was carrying out “ethnic genocide,” her office said, pushing back against claims that she encouraged the student’s view. “Throughout her career, the Vice President has been unwavering in her commitment to Israel and to Israel’s security,” Harris’s spokeswoman, Symone Sanders, said Friday in a statement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “While visiting George Mason University to discuss voting rights, a student voiced a personal opinion during a political science class. The Vice President strongly disagrees with the student’s characterization of Israel.”

Has a lone Palestinian aid worker been falsely accused of the biggest aid money heist in history? (podcast), The Guardian
Mohammed El Halabi is accused of stealing relief money and giving it to Hamas for their war effort against Israel. But five years on, the evidence against him looks seriously flawed.

Israel Amps Up Booster Effort, Requires Third Shot for Exclusive ‘Green Pass’, Reuters
Israel on Sunday piled pressure on its vaccinated citizens to get a booster shot by making only those who received their third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine eligible for a “green pass” allowing entry to restaurants, gyms and many other venues. Israel was an early adopter of Pfizer/BioNtech booster shots — administering them to members of risk groups in July and by the end of August to anyone above the age of 12. Its campaign is being watched closely by other countries.

Netanyahu-led parties missing in action as Knesset reopens with budget at stake, Times of Israel
The first state budget bill in over three years hangs in the balance and with it the fate of the new Bennett-Lapid government, a government that hangs by a thread, dependent on the narrowest possible parliamentary majority of 61 reliable votes out of the Knesset’s 120 seats. Passing the budget should be all but impossible for such a narrow coalition. Every debate should be tense, every vote a nail-biter. But as with most things surrounding this strange new government, things are moving forward with surprising speed and efficiency.

Opinion and Analysis

Israelis are enjoying their boring new government. But the calm comes at a price., Washington Post
Gershom Gorenberg writes, “The price for this domestic cease-fire is evading the issues most basic to Israel’s character and future: the ongoing occupation and unsolved conflict with the Palestinians. Lapid insists he is ‘a devoted supporter of the two-state solution’ — and that nothing can be done about it with Bennett as prime minister. This is the quid pro quo for Bennett doing nothing about the ‘solution’ he avidly pushed in the past: annexing Area C, more than half of the West Bank, thereby creating a permanent, de jure one-state reality.”

If Not for Peace With the Palestinians, Then for Democracy, Haaretz
Mickey Gitzin writes, “The simple fact is that there is no other liberal democracy in the world that is occupying an area and a population like Israel, and for which occupation has become such a central part of its identity. Israel has been an occupying country for almost three quarters of its existence. During the lion’s share of the 54 years that have passed since 1967, the occupation was considered a temporary situation that would be solved some day in one of two ways – withdrawal or annexation. Israeli democracy, inevitably, depends on the temporary nature of the occupation, on the promise that one day it will end, and meanwhile it exists due to security constraints and serves as a bargaining chip for a future arrangement.”

No Way Out: How the Opening of a Tunnel Blocked the Path to Peace in Jerusalem, Politico
Andrew Lawler writes, “What might sound like a minor decision instead sparked a bloody uprising, precipitated an international crisis, and ultimately unraveled talks designed to secure Israel, create a Palestinian state and end decades of violence. The story behind the tunnel’s opening sheds important light on the periodic upheavals in Jerusalem, as well as the difficulty of resolving one of the world’s most intractable political challenges.”