Israel wary of US overtures to Iran; Biden-Netanyahu speak: Israel Update

February 19, 2021

The Biden administration said it is ready to join talks with Iran and other world powers to discuss the possibility of returning to the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal. The State Department said the US would accept an invitation from the European Union to attend a meeting of the participants in the original agreement. That invitation has not yet been issued but is expected to come soon, following Thursday's discussions between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his British, French, and German counterparts. The Biden administration informed Israel in advance—though not through leadership channels—about its plans to announce this major policy shift.


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Monday to challenge all those who object to his stance toward Iran. “Whoever supports our policies, I’m with him. And whoever endangers us, for example, regarding a nuclear Iran, which is an existential threat to us, so I oppose that,” Netanyahu said. On Tuesday, the prime minister spoke on the phone with US President Joe Biden for the first time since he became president. According to the prime minister's office, the two leaders discussed strengthening US-Israeli ties; the agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbors brokered by the Trump administration; and the threat posed by Iran.


Israel and Syria completed a prisoner swap on Thursday when an Israeli woman held by Syria was exchanged for two Syrians being held by Israel. Negotiations leading up to the swap were mediated by Russian officials and reportedly began around February 8. According to Israeli officials, the Israeli woman has a history of attempting to enter the land of Israel’s neighbors and was detained when she tried to enter Syria in early February. The two Syrians were released to Red Cross representatives through the Quneitra Crossing in Syria. Israel had originally agreed to return two Golan Heights residents but plans changed when one of the two prisoners—a former member of Hezbollah—refused to be returned to Syria, and the other was needed for further questioning by Israeli officials. 


The Israeli Health Ministry launched the long-awaited “Green Pass” certificate this week, which will enable those vaccinated or recovered from the coronavirus to take part in various activities. The ministry simultaneously warned of serious legal penalties for those who might falsify the passes after it was reportedly demonstrated that the QR-codes on the pass could be vulnerable to forgery. In a major easing of sweeping lockdown measures, cabinet ministers recently approved the reopening of stores, gyms, hotels, and other venues—to begin this Sunday. Street-front shops, malls, and markets will be open to all Israelis, but those who have been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 will also be able to use gyms and pools; attend sporting and culture events; and stay at hotels.


The safety, health, and well-being of all community members is a priority for the Jewish Federation. Like many of you, we are closely monitoring the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic. This page is consistently updated to help our community stay informed about efforts to support the community during this time. For detailed information about the COVID-19 vaccination, please see this page.


Shabbat Shalom, 


Jackie Congedo, Director, JCRC


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