News Roundup for September 15, 2020

September 15, 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.

J Street in the News

J Street’s new Cleveland chapter to launch with Sept. 30 event, Cleveland Jewish News
“J Street will launch its newest chapter, J Street CLE, with a virtual celebration Sept. 30, featuring U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, New York Times’ columnist Roger Cohen and J Street founder and President, Jeremy Ben-Ami who will discuss J Street’s mission and the challenges facing U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.”

Top News and Analysis

Joe Biden: There’s a smarter way to be tough on Iran, CNN
Joe Biden writes, “I will offer Tehran a credible path back to diplomacy. If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations. With our allies, we will work to strengthen and extend the nuclear deal’s provisions, while also addressing other issues of concern. This includes working aggressively to free unjustly detained Americans and calling out the regime for its ongoing violations of human rights, including the execution of wrestler Navid Afkari this week and the wrongful detention of political prisoners, such as human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh. And we will work to help our partners reduce tensions and help end regional conflicts, including the disastrous war in Yemen.”

A White House Ceremony Will Celebrate a Diplomatic Win and Campaign Gift, New York Times
Michael Crowley and David M. Halbfinger write, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has long owed a debt to President Trump, who has repeatedly bestowed diplomatic gifts at crucial moments as Mr. Netanyahu has battled for his political survival. Leaders of the Persian Gulf states are similarly grateful to Mr. Trump, who has embraced their governments, cracked down on their archnemesis, Iran, and defended them from intense political criticism in Washington. Like Mr. Netanyahu, they are eager to see Mr. Trump win a second term in November. And at the White House on Tuesday, Mr. Netanyahu and a select group of Gulf Arab officials will be returning the favor, doing their part to repay and support Mr. Trump by participating in a signing ceremony for a pair of new accords between Israel and two Gulf nations, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, that Mr. Trump is promoting as a historic breakthrough.”

Netanyahu will not talk to Palestinians: opposition chief, AFP
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has “no intention” of discussing peace with the Palestinians, opposition leader Yair Lapid told AFP ahead of the signing of a landmark deal with the UAE. US President Donald Trump will host a ceremony on Tuesday at which Netanyahu will sign normalisation deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, the first Israel has agreed with an Arab state since the 1990s. While centrist leader Lapid welcomed the Gulf deals, he argued Israel should also resume peace negotiations with the Palestinians. “The current government is saying we have achieved agreements with moderate Sunni countries without paying the price of negotiating with the Palestinians. What I say is it’s not a price. It’s an Israeli interest,” he told AFP at his parliamentary office.


U.S. Jews ‘Locked’ Behind Biden, but There’s Also Good News for Trump, Haaretz
The poll, which included online interviews with more than 800 self-identified Jewish American likely voters, shows Biden receiving 67 percent of Jewish votes, whereas Trump would receive 30 percent in the November election […] The new poll also asked respondents to rank the importance of several issues in determining their decision how to vote. The most important issues were the economy (rated as being either “important” or “very important” among 92 percent of those surveyed), health care (91 percent), the coronavirus crisis (90 percent) and antisemitism (82 percent). Israel, however, is on the bottom of the list, with only 64 percent of the respondents ranking it as important and only 25 percent as “very important.”

Israelis prepare for a second national lockdown to prevent spread of the coronavirus, JTA
The new lockdown represents a full concession that the country’s efforts to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control have fallen short. This spring, Israelis were largely limited to their homes during a monthlong lockdown that sharply reduced cases in the country. But after restrictions were lifted and schools reopened, the virus resumed its spread. Now, the country has the highest per-capita infection rate in the world and the death toll, which was about 250 when the first lockdown ended, stands at 1,136.

Trump highlights foreign policy wins as he woos voters, AP
In the past two weeks, President Donald Trump has notched a string of diplomatic wins he’s highlighting with voters in the run-up to the election, but his report card on the most serious threats to U.S. national security shows an “incomplete.”

Iran warns US against ‘strategic mistake’ after Trump threat, AFP
Iran warned the US on Tuesday against making a “strategic mistake” after US President Donald Trump threatened Tehran over reports it planned to avenge the killing of top general Qassem Soleimani.

Coronavirus commissioner requests schools close ASAP, The Jerusalem Post
Coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu has sent a letter to the health and education ministers requesting that schools shut down Wednesday, as opposed to Friday as originally decided.

Violent clashes in Bnei Brak as police fail to enforce nightly curfew, Times of Israel
Footage from the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak on Sunday showed residents clashing with police officers enforcing a nightly curfew, throwing garbage bags at them and repeatedly calling them “Nazis.”

Israel Is Using a Legal Trick to Expel a Jerusalem Native, Haaretz
This month, Interior Minister Arye Dery informed Salah Hamouri, a 35-year-old Jerusalem-born Palestinian, of his intention to revoke his residency status. In other words, Dery intends to expel Hamouri from his country, his homeland and his home.

Florida Latinos are being flooded with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories ahead of the election, JTA
Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are spreading among Florida’s Latino communities ahead of the presidential election, amplified by social media and messaging apps as well as respected mainstream outlets.

Bahrain minister says Israel deal strengthens kingdom in face of Iran threat, Times of Israel
The interior minister of Bahrain said on Monday that the normalization deal with Israel was not a disavowal of the Palestinians, but a move to fortify the kingdom in light of the security threat from Iran.

Opinion and Analysis

The mirage of Trump’s ‘peace’ deals, Washington Post
Ishaan Tharoor writes, “For a leader who spends a lot of time sowing panic at home, President Trump seems rather keen to mend fences abroad. The past week has seen a flurry of White House peacemaking initiatives, timed conspicuously as Trump plunges into a reelection campaign in need of evidence of his success as a statesman.”

Israel’s Peace Deals Are a Strategic Nightmare for Iran, Foreign Policy
Maysam Behravesh and Hamidreza Azizi write, “When U.S. President Donald Trump announced the Abraham Accord, which normalized relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, on Aug. 13, the world took note of it as a historic moment. In Iran, the agreement also registered as a grave threat. In a remarkable show of unanimity, diverse officials across the political establishment denounced the accord and warned about its consequences. It was a signal of a coming, and unavoidable, change of strategy by Iran.”

How Brutal UAE and Bahrain Autocrats Outplayed a Tired, Deluded Palestinian Leadership, Haaretz
Muhammad Shehada writes, “Not that any Palestinian leader could have halted the normalization frenzy between the Gulf and Israel. But the feebleness, cynicism and fragmentation of the Palestinian leaders now in office have critically undermined any potential capacity to prevent, delay, engage with or respond meaningfully to the UAE and Bahrain’s groundbreaking groveling to Israel, and to Donald Trump.”

When it comes to Iran, how many failures is enough for Pompeo?, Responsible Statecraft
Muhammad Sahimi writes, “The United Nations has been the forum for Pompeo’s latest diplomatic belly flops. The U.N. Security Council rejected overwhelmingly a U.S. resolution to extend the arms embargo against Iran that will expire next month. Of the other 14 members of the Council, only the Dominican Republic — historically heavily dependent on U.S. aid — supported the move.”

Netanyahu at the White House: Big Triumph Abroad, Big Failures at Home, Haaretz
Aluf Benn writes, “Netanyahu always excelled as a diplomat, and the ceremony on Tuesday in the White House will be one of his greatest achievements. His resounding failure in managing the coronavirus crisis, his criminal trial in three corruption cases and the domestic incitement and lying he has led should not lessen the importance and symbolism of the Israeli flags that will fly over the Israeli embassies in Abu Dhabi and Manama – and the flags of the Gulf states that will fly over Tel Aviv, along with the Saudi Arabian landscape that will be seen by those Israelis flying to the Far East and back.”

Stop calling these peace deals ‘historic.’ It’s the Arabs who are waiting for peace, The Forward
Daoud Kuttab writes, “For a time, there was at least the pretense that [the occupation] was temporary. Previous Israeli governments gave the appearance of wanting to make peace with the Palestinians, Syrians, and Lebanese, all of who have land occupied by Israel. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government doesn’t even make superficial efforts.”