News Roundup for April 1, 2019

April 1, 2019

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J Street in the News

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Rare Appearance at Amos Oz Commemoration in Washington, Haaretz
“U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg attended on Sunday an event commemorating Israeli author Amos Oz, who died in December, at a Washington, DC synagogue. Ginsburg told Oz’s daughter Fania Oz-Salzberger that she chose to attend the event because she is a fan of his writing. Oz, one of Israel’s most acclaimed authors, died of cancer at the age of 79. Ginsburg, who is 86, suffered from health problems recently, and her presence at the event marked a rare public appearance. Ginsburg did not make any comments or speak to the media at the event at the Reform Temple Sinai synagogue. She listened to speeches by Oz- Salzberger, as well as by New York Times columnist Roger Cohen and Jeremy Ben Ami, the founder of the left-wing Jewish group J Street. Oz was a supporter of J Street, and the organization helped put together the commemoration event.”

Top News and Analysis

Final Countdown 2019: With Gaza Calmer, Netanyahu’s Trumpian Tactics Draw Fire, Haaretz
Chemi Shalev writes, “After a week-long hiatus imposed by the flare-up in Gaza and ended by a still fragile cease-fire with Hamas, the election campaign resumed on Sunday – or, as the mavens maintain, it finally started in earnest. The closing days of political campaigns, when most undecided voters make up their minds, are always critical, of course, but are usually the culmination of a continuous process. The Gaza recess broke the continuity of the 2019 election campaign, creating a vacuum that the politicians are now rushing to fill.”

Israel, Hamas move toward Gaza cease-fire, Associated Press
A cease-fire deal appeared to take hold between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers on Sunday, with Israel expanding the permitted fishing zone and easing some tight restrictions on movement through its two main crossings with the Palestinian enclave. Egyptian mediators have worked in recent days to broker a cease-fire agreement, but talks have been repeatedly interrupted by Palestinian rocket attacks and Israeli military reprisals. The violence has heightened tensions just over a week before Israeli national elections. In a sign that Egyptian efforts have made progress, the Gaza fishermen’s committee said Israel would be extending the permitted fishing zone along the Mediterranean coast to a maximum of 15 nautical miles, up from the previous limit of nine nautical miles.

Israeli fire kills four Palestinians, says Gaza health ministry, The Guardian
Israeli forces have killed four Palestinians, including three teenagers, and shot more than 40 others at gatherings on the Gaza frontier marking the anniversary of the demonstration movement, the territory’s ministry of health said. In an attempt to limit the huge numbers of casualties at previous rallies, Egypt has sought to broker an agreement between Israel and Hamas, which governs Gaza and has backed the protests. Hamas officials said the group had agreed to prevent protesters approaching the fence and men in orange vests at the main encampments had worked to keep people back. In exchange, Israel would not fire on people who remained far from the frontier. Israel did not confirm that a deal had been reached but less live fire was heard than at previous rallies.

Calling Gantz ‘Unstable,’ Netanyahu Takes a Page From Trump’s Playbook, Haaretz
Yossi Verter writes, “What we’re seeing now is very reminiscent of the 2016 presidential campaign in the United States. On one side is a serial offender who has been sued dozens of times, cheated who knows how many people, gone bankrupt, takes pride in grabbing women’s genitals, lies pathologically and humiliates members of minorities. Okay, but what about Hillary’s emails and what was that coughing fit she had? The similarity between the two countries’ campaigns is illuminating. Attempts were made to claim that Clinton, too, was in a deficient mental state and/or had brain damage supposedly caused by a fall. Videos flooded the web, “medical experts” were recruited to promote Trump’s propaganda, the house network Fox News held learned discussions on the worrisome subject.”

News

Abbas: US to Allow Israel to Annex Parts of West Bank, Give Hamas, Gaza, The Jerusalem Post
The Trump Administration will allow Israel to annex portions of the West Bank and split the Gaza Strip from the West Bank so that it can be a state of its own, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday. Speaking at the Arab League summit in Tunisia, “What is coming from the US is more dangerous and serious,” he said. “The US will tell Israel, annex part of the Palestinian lands and grant self-rule to what’s left of the land, and give the Gaza Strip a state so that Hamas can play there. “The US administration’s decision is to destroy the Arab Peace Plan and constitutes a dramatic change from the positions of previous US administrations,” Abbas continued. The Palestinian leader spoke in advance of the anticipated roll out of what US President Donald Trump is calling the “Plan of the Century” to resolve the Israeli-Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Campaign questions mental fitness of Netanyahu’s rival, Associated Press
Down in the polls, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party has released a new campaign trying to paint his main rival, former military chief Benny Gantz, as mentally unstable. The video ads are the latest move in a campaign that has been heavy on personal insults and short on substance. Elections are scheduled on April 9. Recent polls have placed Gantz’s Blue and White party ahead of Likud. Gantz’s campaign has stressed his security credentials — an important quality with the Israeli electorate. But since Gantz fumbled two television interviews last week, Likud has tried to capitalize by publishing a video with extracts zooming in on the former general’s wide-eyed look with the signature violin screech from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” playing in the background.

Gantz on his Blue and White leadership colleagues: I don’t trust any of them, The Times of Israel
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz said he does not trust a single member of his party’s senior leadership, in a new batch of leaked recordings aired by Channel 13 on Sunday night. The TV channel released a series of remarks made by the prime ministerial candidate on a host of issues, including his thoughts on his fellow party members, the possibility of joining a government led by Benjamin Netanyahu, and the performance of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in the corruption probe involving submarine purchases from Germany.

Twitter Network Uses Fake Accounts to Promote Netanyahu, Watchdog Finds, New York Times
An Israeli watchdog group has found a network of hundreds of social media accounts, many of them fake, used to smear opponents of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in next week’s election and to amplify the messages of his Likud party, according to a report to be released Monday. The messages posted on the network’s Twitter and Facebook accounts are frequently reposted by prominent Likud campaign officials and by the prime minister’s son, Yair Netanyahu, the report says.

Gantz claims Netanyahu trying to ‘steal elections’ as fake news network revealed, The Times of Israel
The Blue and White party called Monday morning for police to investigate the funding of fake social media accounts promoting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and spreading smears about his rivals, and accused the premier of “trying to steal the elections.” In addition, the party called for the Central Elections Committee to order “the immediate cessation of this ugly fake news campaign,” referring to revelations reported in the New York Times and Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth on Monday morning of hundreds of fake Twitter and Facebook accounts spreading pro-Netanyahu propaganda.

Opinion and Analysis

Eight Steps to Shrink the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, The Atlantic
Micah Goodman writes, “The first step toward dramatically shrinking the conflict is to break free from the flawed equation that more control over the Palestinians equals more security for Israel. In reality, the occupation of the Palestinians can be shrunk without also shrinking Israelis’ security—but not as part of a perfect, redemptive project. In meetings with intelligence and military officials in the two years since Catch 67’s Hebrew publication, I discovered that their desk drawers contain modest and practical proposals for policies that offer an alternative to the zero-sum game. Israeli think tanks have also proposed important and interesting ideas, which the wider public and international community should seriously consider. Any proposal for shrinking the conflict must meet both the following criteria: shrinking the occupation of the Palestinians, but also leaving Israelis’ security intact.”

Israel and Hamas Need Each Other, Foreign Affairs
Aaron David Miller writes, “{T}he two sides’ failure to agree to a lasting deal shows that both, in their own way, benefit from the status quo. For Netanyahu, Hamas is probably the least bad option in Gaza. The Israelis worry about Hamas’ ties to Iran and its capacity to launch rockets into Israel (last Monday, for instance, a rocket launched from Gaza destroyed a house north of Tel Aviv). But Israel has few good options. An Israeli reoccupation of Gaza would be too costly, and the Egyptians are not about to assume responsibility for the area. Destroying Hamas, meanwhile, would create a vacuum that could be filled by even more dangerous jihadist groups, including affiliates of the Islamic State (ISIS) now operating in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Hamas is also useful—it provides an easy target for Israeli propaganda, but it is also a group that Israel knows it can negotiate with, whether through Egypt, the UN, or perhaps (on occasion) directly.”

Hamas’ grip on Gaza is tighter than ever, despite protests, Associated Press
Karin Laub and Fares Akram write, “Over the weekend, Gaza’s Hamas rulers marked a year of bloody, weekly protests that have failed to break the Israeli blockade. Rocket attacks brought a wave of Israeli airstrikes and unprecedented protests broke out against the Islamic militants’ increasingly unpopular rule. And yet Hamas’ control over Gaza is tighter than ever. The militants’ rule has been strengthened by an unlikely overlap of interests with Israel’s right-wing government. Neither wants to see an independent state established in all the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, as the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

A Lottery to Pick the Next Israeli Victims of West Bank Annexation Policy, Haaretz
Rogel Alpher writes, “In the current round of fighting in Gaza, TV stations have adopted an emergency footing of nonstop live broadcasts including endless analysis and commentary. But they don’t tell viewers the simple truth, a truth they obviously prefer not to know: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to perpetuate Hamas rule in Gaza so he can annex the West Bank.”

Netanyahu is not responsible for everything wrong with Israel, 972 Magazine
Dahlia Scheindlin writes, “For his supporters, everything good is due to Bibi — from the Israeli moon mission and Eurovision, to wars fought and wars averted. For the opposition, Netanyahu is the source of anti-Arab race-baiting, the normalization of corruption in politics, democratic erosion, the creeping annexation of the West Bank, and the end of the two-state solution. Netanyahu has become the national prism for each Israeli voter, supporters and opposition alike, to credit or blame him for everything. The campaign is often described as a referendum on Netanyahu. However, the idea that Netanyahu is the master of all things bad or good is another myth that it’s time to bust.”

AIPAC And The Two-State Dilemma, The New York Jewish Week
The Jewish Week Editors write, “Until recently, a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a key talking point of the pro-Israel community. But at this week’s policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), attended by more than 18,000 people, scant mention was made of what had been the centerpiece of U.S. policy in the region […] The pro-Israel leadership is caught between an Israeli government that is moving to the right on a range of issues, including decades-old fundamentals of Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy, and an American Jewish community that still supports those fundamentals. The dilemma is all the sharper because President Trump, reviled by many American Jews for his domestic policies and his apparent tolerance for white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups, is in a warm embrace with the Israeli prime minister — an embrace now even tighter in light of the president’s recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli territory.”

In a destructive decade, why has no one tried to rein in Netanyahu?, The Guardian
Simon Tisdall writes, “It is difficult not to marvel at the scale of Benjamin Netanyahu’s personal achievement. Israel’s prime minister celebrates 10 consecutive years in power on 31 March. His country’s youngest-ever leader in 1996, he has been re-elected three times since 2009, matching David Ben-Gurion’s record. As matters stand, he has a good chance of winning again in polls on 9 April. Netanyahu’s political achievement is altogether less marvellous. Under his grimly negative, fearful tutelage, Israeli society has shifted steadily rightwards. Attitudes to a peace settlement with the Palestinians have perceptibly hardened. Thanks in large part to Netanyahu’s uncompromising stance, the issue no longer occupies centre stage as it once did.”

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Undertaker of the Two-state Solution, Haaretz
Anshel Pfeffer writes, “Benjamin Netanyahu has the distinction of being both the only leader of Israel’s right wing to accept the two-state solution and the man who has done more than anyone else in the last quarter-century to prevent a Palestinian state from becoming a reality. Actually, Netanyahu’s attempts to block a Palestinian state go back even further, to more than 40 years ago, before he began his diplomatic and political career. You can still watch it today on YouTube, in a 10-minute clip much beloved by Netanyahu’s supporters.”

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