News Roundup for September 17, 2020

September 17, 2020

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J Street in the News

American Jews Know Israel’s Only Real Peace Deal Is With the Palestinians, Haaretz
J Street Director of Government Affairs Debra Shushan writes, “While the normalization of Israeli relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain is a positive development in this regard, this is not about peace, as Trump and Netanyahu would have us believe […] Israel’s only existential conflict is with the Palestinians, and it is with them that Israel must make peace, by agreeing to an independent, viable Palestinian state. Should Israel have less incentive to do that, amid a perception that the Arab world has forsaken the Palestinians, it will be to Israel’s detriment.  “

Editorial: Israel got a deal with two tiny Arab countries, but don’t call it ‘peace’, St Louis Post-Dispatch
“Trump is desperate for any victory he can claim before the Nov. 3 election, having badly mismanaged the pandemic response and plunged the United States into economic catastrophe. Trump’s silly showmanship served to underscore his desperation to garner positive headlines and distract voters from his multiple failings. ‘Comprehensive peace between Israel and its neighbors in the Arab world will only be achieved through an agreement that resolves the issues at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and leads to the establishment of a viable and independent Palestinian state alongside Israel,’ says Jeremy Ben-Ami of the pro-Israel group J Street.”

After UAE, Bahrain deals signed, Trump says 7-9 countries seek peace with Israel, Times of Israel
“The president of the liberal, pro-Israel J Street Lobby lauds the peace agreements Israel will be signing later today with the UAE and Bahrain, but clarifies that they don’t ‘fundamentally address the Palestinian issue.’ Ben Ami argues that while the latest normalization agreements are positive developments that gives Israel a ‘taste’ of what could be, the Jewish state is still ‘not fundamentally accepted in the region’ and won’t be until it resolves the Palestinian issue.”

Top News and Analysis

As lockdown set to begin, Rivlin apologizes for leaders’ virus failures, Times of Israel
President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday apologized to Israelis for the government’s failure to contain the coronavirus pandemic, as the country geared up to enter a three-week lockdown amid a surge in few infections and COVID-19 deaths. “I know that we have not done enough as a leadership to be worthy of your attention. You trusted us and we let you down,” Rivlin said in a televised address to the nation from the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.

On Rosh Hashanah call, Trump tells American Jews ‘We love your country’ and asks for their vote, JTA
President Donald Trump spent much of his 20-minute call with American Jewish leaders making the case for more American Jews to vote for him. He closed by repeating a line that has raised their eyebrows before. “We really appreciate you,” Trump said as he signed off the call, an annual pre-Rosh Hashanah presidential tradition. “We love your country also.” Earlier, introducing his Jewish son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who brokered the historic deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain that were signed Tuesday at the White House, Trump called him “an unbelievable leader for Israel.” The comments echoed others he has made in the past that suggest that American Jews think of themselves as Israelis, including at a White House Hanukkah party two years ago.

Trump’s pre-election diplomatic offensive glosses over awkward realities, The Guardian
Julian Borger writes, “The other signatories of the ‘accords’, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, had never been at war with Israel. They are Gulf monarchies from the high-end enclaves of the Arab world, who have exchanged intelligence and technology with Israel as wall as a mutual fear of Iran, for several years already. The ‘peace agreements’ involved three Middle Eastern governments putting an official seal on once furtive friendships, in a brash ceremony honed to benefit Trump, part of a broader diplomatic flurry that is part of his reelection campaign.”


Government okays lockdown to start Friday as new infections recede slightly, Times of Israel
The government gave final approval to a nationwide lockdown set to begin Friday, authorities announced Thursday morning, as Health Ministry figures showed a modest drop in new infections Wednesday after a record-smashing spike a day earlier.

Israeli Police Prepare to Enforce Coronavirus Lockdown Amid Calls for Defiance, Haaretz
The Israel Police are making preparations to enforce the lockdown policy, even as voices from several groups have announced they will not follow restrictions. The police are following these calls on social media, among other things – although they have not identified any mass movement, but only a number of individual calls.

Israel ‘normalisation’: Is Saudi Arabia softening its stance?, Al Jazeera
Sudais, who in past sermons prayed for Palestinians to have victory over the “invader and aggressor” Jews, spoke about how the Prophet Muhammad was good to his Jewish neighbour and argued the best way to persuade Jews to convert to Islam was to “treat them well”.

‘Stupid, Scandalous, All Because of Bibi’: In Quiet Tel Aviv Suburb, Rage Over Israel’s Second Lockdown, Haaretz
“The Americans, the French, all of the immigrants – from the beginning they’ve been wearing their masks, waiting in line. They’re fine; they listen and follow rules,” said Hen, himself a full-fledged Israeli of Moroccan descent. “But Israelis don’t believe what’s happening, or they don’t care. They don’t listen to their government, to their leaders or to me – they don’t listen to anyone. Why? I suppose it’s because they don’t have any faith in anyone.”

Palestinian refugee agency warns of instability amid crisis, AP
The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees is experiencing a financial crisis that could force it to halt some services to an already impoverished population of more than 5 million people, the head of the agency said Wednesday.

Man seriously injured in rocket attack was delivering food to needy when hit, Times of Israel
An Israeli man who was seriously wounded in a rocket attack on Tuesday was delivering food to the needy in the southern city of Ashdod when he was hit by shrapnel, hit family said Wednesday.

Qatari Envoy to US Says Normalizing Ties With Israel First Requires Two-State Solution, VOA
Qatar has no objection to normalizing ties with Israel if “the conditions are proper” and there is a commitment to a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, Qatar’s ambassador to Washington Sheikh Meshal Bin Hamad Al-Thani told VOA.

Opinion and Analysis

Ami Ayalon Hasn’t Given Up on the Two-State Solution, Times of Israel
Ami Ayalon tells the Times of Israel, “The way we are going, the policies that we choose – I think they will bring Israel as a Jewish democracy to a dead end. It will not be the Jewish democracy that was envisioned by the founders at the end of the 19th century, or as written in our Declaration of Independence.”

The Real Reason Gulf States Are Normalizing Relations With Israel Right Now, Haaretz
Shira Efron writes, “It’s been widely discussed that the U.S. selling F-35 stealth fighter is a prime objective for the UAE. Furthermore, for Gulf states, peace with Israel paves a more solid path to the U.S. Congress and to the prospect of further arm sales. The agreements could also help sustain U.S. involvement in the region. Both Israel and U.S. Arab partners fear the threat of a bipartisan consensus in Washington to withdraw from the Middle East.”

Is Mike Pompeo preparing an October Surprise?, Responsible Statecraft
Trita Parsi writes, “With less than seven weeks left until the U.S. presidential elections, the faction within the Trump administration aligned with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seems to be preparing the ground for an October Surprise — a confrontation with Iran that will be cast as both defensive and lawful. The first direct clash may take place as early as this coming Monday.”