Republican Jewish Coalition

The RJC Weekly Newsletter

February 18, 2021

Your weekly look at the latest news, analysis, and RJC activities around the country.

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- Featured - 

President Biden

Biden Fails First Test on Iran

The Iranian regime is already testing the new US President, and President Joe Biden's response so far has been very weak. Michael Knights writes at Politico:

Monday night, as many as 24 rockets were fired at a US military base at Erbil International Airport, in the capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The attacked, almost certainly launched by an Iran-backed militia, wounded an American soldier, killed one non-US contractor and wounded five others. Three local civilians were also wounded.


… A smart move would be to directly warn Tehran that the US expects Iran to restrain all its proxies from taking destabilizing moves such as the Erbil attack or the January 23 drone attack on the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh, which was also launched from Iraq. Such a message would alert the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) that America is not fooled by facades, but rather remains clear-eyed about Tehran’s influence over anti-American militias.


… In particular, the Biden team should publicly warn Iran that if another American is killed or wounded in Iraq or elsewhere in the Gulf, then the Biden administration will suspend efforts to restart nuclear negotiations. Only a firm and clear line will safeguard US soldiers operating on the frontlines of the war against the Islamic State or those protecting US interests across the Middle East.

Keep reading here.

Elliott Abrams agrees and advises the Biden administration to adopt a policy of deterrence

[President Donald] Trump tweeted on December 23, two days after an attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad, “Some friendly health advice to Iran: If one American is killed, I will hold Iran responsible. Think it over.”


The messages were clear: If an Iranian proxy killed an American, the US reaction would not target the proxy but would target Iran. What exactly that meant was kept ambiguous; Iran had to calculate risks.


And the Iranian regime did so. From the election to the inauguration there was one attack, and after that December attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad, the Iranian proxies desisted. And to repeat, there is only one logical explanation for this: Tehran got the message and instructed them to desist.


… Iran understood the messages from the United States prior to January 20, but what is the message now? Will we “hold accountable those responsible,” as [AntonyBlinken said, or will we instead allow Iran to hide behind proxies it controls? If we do the latter, the message to Iran is that such attacks are acceptable — and we can expect more of them. These are efforts to kill Americans, and by killing or wounding American servicemembers and contractors to drive the United States from Iraq.

Keep reading here.

Prime Minister Netanyahu

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with President Joe Biden on February 17.

Biden Calls Netanyahu

President Joe Biden finally picked up the phone and spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday. Lahav Harkov at The Jerusalem Post reports:

US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the phone late on Wednesday, nearly a month after Biden entered office.


Netanyahu was the first leader in the Middle East to get a call from Biden. The “warm and friendly” conversation lasted for nearly an hour, the Prime Minister’s Office said.


…Netanyahu and Biden discussed continuing to promote peace agreements between Israel and states in the region, the Iranian threat and regional challenges.

Aaron David Miller, a veteran Middle East expert who worked for both Republican and Democratic administrations over the years, writes at CNN that President Biden is looking to “reset” relations with Israel

… [W]hile Israel will remain America's closest ally in the Middle East, Biden is planning a reset. Unlike his predecessor, Biden is likely to be a pro-Israeli president but not necessarily a pro-Netanyahu one.


… Of course, the President isn't looking to create tensions with Netanyahu, let alone have a sustained fight. And on the Middle East issue of greatest concern -- how to manage Iranian nuclear expansion -- he'll likely try to understand Israeli concerns about Iran's nuclear program and to coordinate, if possible. With regard to Palestinians and a two-state solution, he'll likely refrain from pressing, largely because the prospects of progress right now are slim to none.

At the same time, Miller warns

But if Netanyahu tries to undermine the President's efforts to reengage Iran -- as he did with Obama -- or force his hand with major settlement expansion, let alone annexation, Biden will surely push back. The President is a believer in a strong US-Israel relationship and understands that mutual respect and reciprocity are key to seeing it thrive. But his support is for Israel, not Netanyahu, and that may become painfully clear if Israel's Prime Minister can't or won't accept those two critically important rules of the road.

Rhodes and Obama

Ben Rhodes and President Barack Obama aboard Air Force One.

Saying the Quiet Part Out Loud

Ben Rhodes is the man who wrote President Barack Obama’s “Cairo Speech” and who boasted about creating an “echo chamber” to sell lies about Obama’s dangerous Iran nuclear deal to the American public. This week Peter Beinart featured Rhodes in an episode of his podcast, Occupied Thoughts. During the conversation, Rhodes made clear his personal views of the pro-Israel community, which are shared by the leftwing members of the Democratic Party, some of whom are getting jobs in the Biden administration.


Jewish Insider reports Rhodes' words

…“Number one, you have this incredibly organized pro-Israel community that is very accustomed to having access in the White House, in Congress, at the State Department,” Rhodes told Beinart. “It’s kind of taken as granted, as given, that that’s going to be the way things are done.”


In addition, Rhodes said, “the media interest is dramatically intensified. And that’s both a very aggressive, kind of pro-Likud media in the United States [and] it’s also just the mainstream media that delights in Israel controversies.”

The Washington Free Beacon has more

…Rhodes said the Biden administration is approaching Israel "in a defensive crouch," too beholden to pro-Israel forces in the United States.


"It feels like we’re in the defensive crouch," Rhodes said of the Biden administration, adding that "these issues are shaped and framed and defined from the right" and that "if you’re a mainstream Democrat not only are you expected to take a set of positions, but you are expected to apologize for the people to your left."

...Rhodes and Beinart indicated the new administration—which is filled with many Obama White House veterans—may be inclined to become more adversarial with Israel over time because many of the foreign policy hands had witnessed Netanyahu's maliciousness firsthand.

"Come on, these guys were in with me, Netanyahu made our lives hell every day that he could and every one of those people in the Biden administration know that, that we were treated with no respect," Rhodes said.


… The mainstream Democratic Party’s fear of the pro-Israel community, Rhodes said, "allows this whole debate around Israel to be framed by Bibi Netanyahu, and [former Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo, and [Sen.] Tom Cotton." He expressed concerns that this "defensive crouch bleeds into" how the Biden administration approaches Iran and the Palestinians.

- Short Takes - 

Sheldon Adelson: The philanthropist they loved to hate

This week marked the end of the shloshim, the 30-day mourning period, for RJC Board of Directors member Sheldon Adelson. Jonathan Tobin writes that Adelson “clearly saw himself as someone placed in a position—thanks to his good fortune in business—to do something other than fitting in and playing along. In doing so, he may have earned criticism, but he also accomplished as much if not more for the Jewish people—whether grateful or not—than any of the other great philanthropists in his people’s history.”

Palestinians: More corruption as Biden resumes financial aid

Bassam Tawil writes at the Gatestone Institute that the Biden administration decision to resume unconditional financial aid to the Palestinians is a bad idea. For one thing, corruption is so rampant in the Palestinian regime that the money will not achieve its intended goals, and for another, it’s very likely that Hamas will win significant support from Palestinian voters in the upcoming elections in the Palestinian Authority.

- Tweets - 


- Events - 

Atlanta: Virtual Event with Jonathan Schanzer

Sunday, February 21 at 4:00 PM EST
Jonathan Schanzer is Senior Vice President for Research at Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). 

Topic: "American Foreign Policy in the Middle East Under Biden: Continuity or Change?
Click here to register.

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