News Roundup for April 11, 2019

April 11, 2019

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J Street in the News

Andrea Mitchell speaks with Jeremy Ben-Ami and Bill Neely following election results (Video), MSNBC
“I think it’s a mistake to be referring to what’s about to be put on the table as a ‘peace plan.’ This is not a plan for how you resolve the conflict, I tend to think of it more of the term sheet for surrender,” J Street President Jeremy-Ben Ami tells Andrea Mitchell.

Netanyahu win would complicate prognosis for peace plan, analysts say, Washington Post
“‘We will see a fundamental change in the U.S.-Israel relationship from here forward,’ said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, a pro-Israel, pro-peace group. ‘This will be the breaking point of the long-term, seven-decade bipartisan consensus of support for what Israel is doing. The move to annexation, cementing Palestinian disenfranchisement, is not acceptable for a majority of the Democratic Party and most American liberal Jews. In the short term, the 18- to 20-month prognosis is excellent. But the bill will come due in the 2020s.’”

The election is over, our fight is not, J Street
J Street President Jeremy Ben Ami writes, “Over the course of the 71-year relationship between Israel and the United States, there has likely never been a more difficult or tenuous moment — or a time when the voice and work of our movement was more urgently needed […] We will make clear that if Netanyahu continues to move towards annexation and obstruct any chance for peace, there will have to be a serious re-evaluation of the US-Israel relationship and how it should be working. In our communities, in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail, we will promote a policy vision to counter the Trump-Netanyahu agenda, and ultimately to reverse the terrible damage these leaders have done.”

Israeli government in Benjamin Netanyahu’s fifth term is likely to turn hard right but face stiff opposition, LA Times
“[T]he Blue and White coalition, formed on an ad-hoc basis with many egos and little ideological cohesiveness, will struggle to stay unified. And as a neophyte party, how it will legislate is difficult to predict. ‘How hard will they push for peace? How much pushback on legislation?’ said Yael Patir, the Israeli director of the liberal Jewish advocacy organization J Street.”

No Matter What Happens In 2020, Trump And Netanyahu Will Keep Their Big Win, Huffington Post
“‘I don’t think you can reverse the embassy,’ said Ilan Goldenberg, of the Center for a New American Security, who worked on Israel-Palestinian issues at the State Department under President Barack Obama. Jeremy Ben-Ami, the head of the left-leaning pro-Israel group J Street, told HuffPost that Trump’s decision is ‘very, very hard to undo.’”

Netanyahu can thank populist leaders around the world for his victory, including Trump, Think Progress
“‘As he [Netanyahu] has become increasingly unpopular among the leaders of the world’s liberal democracies, he’s relying on strong support from right-wing figures — none more so than President Trump,’ said Logan Bayroff, a spokesman for J Street, the liberal Jewish organization. He pointed out that over the past two years, Trump has been handing ‘gift after gift’ to Netanyahu.”

What Will J Street’s Israel Trip Mean for Birthright?, Moment
“J Street’s announcement serves as an indicator of growing uneasiness towards the Birthright curriculum within parts of the Jewish diaspora. ‘My hope is that the Jewish community recognizes that in educating people on Israel, there needs to be honesty about the occupation and about the treatment of Palestinians,’ says Miriam Young, a co-chair of her university’s chapter of J Street. ‘In my view, a more nuanced trip includes all stories from all different walks of life in Israel, and an important facet of Israel is its role in the conflict—and to deny that is just absurd to me.’”

Tribute to Amos Oz (Podcast), Peace Now
This episode features three speeches delivered at a March 31 commemorative event at Washington’s Temple Sinai, to honor Israeli novelist Amos Oz, an icon of Israel’s peace movement. The first speech is the keynote speech by Fania Oz Salzberger, Amos Oz’s daughter. The second is by J Street’s president Jeremy Ben Ami. The third is by Natalie Portman, who brought to the screen Amos Oz’s autobiographical novel, A Tale of Love and Darkness.

Top News and Analysis

Final Israeli election results could boost Netanyahu’s lead, AP
Israel is hours away from announcing the final results of this week’s election, while the nationalist New Right party, led by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, is still fighting for its political life. Results tricking out of Israel’s Central Elections Committee on Thursday show the two pro-settler ministers are tantalizingly close to crossing the 3.25% electoral threshold needed to get into parliament. Final results are expected later in the day.

Congress cannot afford to ignore Netanyahu’s embrace of the far right, Washington Post
Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Rep. Gerald E. Connolly write, “Congress must pass legislation calling for the protection of the human rights of Israelis and Palestinians and opposing any actions that sabotage a future two-state solution — including any expansions of settlements to new areas and any effort to unilaterally annex any or all of the West Bank […] Being pro-Israel doesn’t mean we have to support Netanyahu’s policies any more than being pro-American requires us to support Trump’s policies. In the context of recent developments, Congress cannot afford to be silent.”

Bibi Trump and Donald Netanyahu, New York Times
Thomas Friedman writes, “They are both men utterly without shame, backed by parties utterly without spine, protected by big media outlets utterly without integrity. They are both funded by a Las Vegas casino magnate, Sheldon Adelson. They are both making support for Israel a “Republican’’ cause — no longer a bipartisan one. And they each could shoot an innocent man in broad daylight in the middle of Fifth Avenue and their supporters would say the victim had it coming.”


Gantz’s party concedes defeat in Israel election, AP
Israel’s Blue and White party leaders are conceding defeat in Israel’s election, saying they will work against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from the opposition. Yair Lapid, the party’s No. 2 figure, told a press conference Wednesday that though his party “did not win in this round, I respect the voters.” He said his party will “embitter” Netanyahu’s life from the opposition.

Benny Gantz Led Israel’s Army. Now He Eyes a Long Siege of Netanyahu, New York Times
On Wednesday, Mr. Gantz’s partner in Blue and White, Yair Lapid, offered a warning to Mr. Netanyahu and the Likud: “We are going to make your lives miserable […] We will turn the Knesset into a field of battle,” he said. “And we will do one more thing: We will show the citizens of Israel how a real, true alternative looks.”

New Right demands recount after it falls just short of winning Knesset seats, Times of Israel
The New Right party on Thursday said it would demand a recount of its votes as it emerged that it had fallen just short of entering the Knesset, after all votes were tallied but with a review of the vote-count process underway.

Israel Voting Cameras Lowered Arab Turnout, Netanyahu Backers Claim, New York Times
An Israeli public relations firm aligned with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party said it was behind the placement of some 1,200 cameras in predominantly Arab polling stations, and claimed the tactic helped lower Arab voter turnout in the election Tuesday.

Labor secretary-general calls on Avi Gabbay to resign as party leader, Times of Israel
The secretary-general of the Labor party is calling for  chairman Avi Gabbay to resign after leading the party to its worst ever election result, saying that a new leader is needed in order to “begin the work of rebuilding” the once venerable shaper of Israeli politics.

Netanyahu’s Coalition May Help Stave Off Indictment, New York Times
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who emerged from this week’s election poised to win a fourth consecutive term, may benefit from an effort by his right-wing coalition to protect him from prosecution on possible corruption charges. At least one right-wing party expected to join his new governing coalition has been open about its goal of passing a law granting immunity to Israeli Parliament members, including prime ministers.

Trump’s Golan move causes concern in Lebanon for land owners, AP
Akram Kanaan looked toward an Israeli military position on a snow-capped mountain that overlooks the village of Chebaa in southern Lebanon, pointing toward the scenic area captured by Israel more than five decades ago. No matter how long it takes, he says, it will eventually return to Lebanon’s sovereignty.

Opinion and Analysis

Impeccable Timing and Brilliant Campaigning Give Netanyahu His Biggest Win Yet, Haaretz
Anshel Pfeffer writes, “It was a ruthless and impeccably timed plan, right down to the ‘gevalt campaign’ of the last few days that succeeded in cannibalizing the coalition parties perfectly. It avoided endangering too many of his preferred allies, all while pushing the pesky Naftali Bennett and Moshe Feiglin’s parties beneath the electoral threshold. If votes were allocated solely on political performance, Netanyahu deserved to win by a landslide. Instead, it was another close affair, although he still eventually won with relative ease. This is what he does better than anyone else.”

Trump Must Not Let Jared Kushner’s Peace Plan See the Light of Day, Foreign Policy
Robert Satloff writes, “Netanyahu’s apparent victory means that the White House rollout of the plan could be imminent. That would be a disaster […] Releasing a U.S. proposal that is bound to fail would legitimize Israeli annexation, give Saudi Arabia leverage, and strengthen Iran and its allies.”

Did Israelis just vote to end the two-state solution?, Brookings Institute
Hady Amr writes, “[T]he number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank is now reaching a tipping point whereby it may be too painful to evacuate them to make room for a Palestinian state. And when Israelis and Palestinians come to terms with the fact that as Netanyahu says ‘no settler [will be] uprooted,’ the prospects for a Palestinian state will have collapsed. That will mean that Jews and Palestinians will be living in adjacent communities in the West Bank controlled by Israel where Jews have the right to vote in Israeli elections and Palestinians do not.”

Netanyahu, More Emboldened Than Ever, Will Do Anything to Stop Indictment, Haaretz
Yossi Verter writes, “There’s no doubt that the raison d’etre of Netanyahu’s political existence today is to save himself from the indictments that await him. Passing the so-called French law, which would bar a sitting prime minister from indictment, has apparently been taken off the table due to the lack of a guaranteed parliamentary majority. A second option – hiding behind his parliamentary immunity – would be easier to achieve, but it’s problematic for other reasons.”

The Daily: Netanyahu won, the two-state solution lost (Podcast), New York Times
The Daily reports: “President Trump has promised to broker the deal of the century between Israelis and Palestinians. His partnership with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, may have made such a peace deal all but impossible.”

Israel’s election exposes its deep political divisions, AP
Joseph Federman writes, “Bolstered by his base of religious and working-class voters, Netanyahu can be expected to press ahead with a hard-line agenda that will likely eliminate the last hopes of a two-state solution with the Palestinians. A looming indictment in a series of corruption scandals could even accelerate these trends. For all the talk of unity from political leaders during the campaign, Israel is a deeply tribal country. People are divided between Jews and Arabs; religious Jews and secular Jews; Jews of European ancestry and those of Middle Eastern heritage; and residents of the secular, high-tech metropolis of Tel Aviv and people from dusty, outlying towns, West Bank settlements and the conservative capital of Jerusalem.”

How Ilhan Omar Is Changing the Conversation About Israel—and Upending the 2020 Campaign, Newsweek
Jonathan Broder writes, “Omar, a Somali war refugee, and her fellow Muslim freshman, Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, are speaking out as ­never before against Israel’s 52-year occupation of the West Bank, U.S. financial and political support of the Jewish state, and discrimination against Muslims in the United States. ”

Israel’s Lesson for the Democrats in 2020, New York Times
Roger Cohen writes, “His victory contains a warning for any Democrat still imagining that the 2020 election will bring an easy victory over Donald Trump. The Netanyahu playbook will be President Trump’s next year. Gather nationalist and religious voters in your camp, add in a strong economy, dose with fear, sprinkle with strongman appeal, inject a dash of racism and victory is yours — whatever indictments are looming.”