News Roundup for April 4, 2019

April 3, 2019

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J Street in the News

Values Disconnect Coloring How US Jews See Race, New York Jewish Week
“Logan Bayroff, a spokesman for J Street, said a Netanyahu victory would lead to another right-wing government ‘that would take even more extreme steps to make the occupation permanent and undermine hope for a two-state solution — I think American recognition of Israeli sovereignty of the Golan Heights paves the way for Israeli annexation of all or part of the West Bank.’ Bayroff added that in forming a right-wing government, Netanyahu ‘has to appease the settler movement and the ultra-Orthodox. The priorities of both groups are completely counter to those of American Jews — they are against religious pluralism, respect for Reform and Conservative Judaism, and are against the pursuit of peace and a two-state solution.’”

In Israel debate, don’t let extremes drown out moderate center, Times of Israel
J Street’s Alan Elsner writes, “It is always hard to be caught in the middle of fierce, and vitriolic debates about Israel, especially in the hyper-partisan atmosphere of today. It is hard for the large majority in the moderate middle to be heard when those all around us are speaking so loudly — and drawing so much attention. It is hard to argue nuance in an age of extremist certainties. But this has always been the case. Those of us who continue to believe in a two-state solution and a better future for both Israelis and Palestinians need to persist and redouble our efforts to promote our own point of view and pursue our own vision — because to quit means ceding the arena to those who would happily rip each other, and the rest of us, apart.”

The End of Oslo Is an Opportunity, Foreign Policy
“Several of the Democratic senators who are in the race for president in 2020 — including Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Sanders, an independent — also see this shift, as evidenced in February by their rejection of the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act, which, if passed, would give political cover to efforts to quash political free speech in the name of fighting BDS […] That bill, which has not yet been taken up in the House, was backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and Senate Democratic leaders but vocally opposed by grassroots groups, including, J Street, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Indivisible, as well as a number of politically engaged students on college campuses across the country.”

Top News and Analysis

Haaretz Poll: Netanyahu’s Likud Widens Margin Over Gantz’s Party, Haaretz
Benjamin Netanyahu is on the path for a fifth term as prime minister, with his Likud being the biggest party and the right wing-haredi bloc holding a substantial lead over its rival. That is, if the election was held now, a Haaretz poll held Tuesday has found. According to the poll, Likud is widening its margin over Kahol Lavan by three seats (30-27), with Netanyahu’s bloc bolstered up to 67 seats. All right-wing parties cross the electoral threshold of 3.25 and will receive a minimum of five Knesset seats, including Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut, which seemed to be soaring swiftly upward, according to the poll.

Israeli election: the left that dare not speak its name, Reuters
Maayan Lubell writes, “When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to undermine his strongest election challenger, he pins a label on him that many Israelis see as an insult: ‘leftist’. Israel was founded by the left, which dominated politics in the early years of the state. In 1992 it took 61 of the 120 seats in the Knesset, or parliament. Nearly 30 years on, the left is forecast to take only around 25 seats in an election on Tuesday. The left has been reeling after a series of setbacks – the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, the failure of his 1993 and 1995 Oslo accords to deliver peace with the Palestinians, many rounds of failed negotiations and years of bloodshed that have made both sides bitter and mistrustful. Now, only 12 percent of Jewish Israelis identify themselves as left-wing, according to the Israel Democracy Institute.”

Israel-Arab Alliance Hangs on Palestinian Peace, Bloomberg
Hussein Ibish writes, “About two years ago, an opportunity emerged to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process by bringing Israel and Gulf Arab countries closer together. It didn’t happen, and the last chance may depend on next week’s election in Israel. The opportunity for a new strategic partnership was based on mutual antipathy to Iran. Shared Israeli and Arab opposition to the Iran nuclear agreement and Iran’s use of terrorist groups like Hezbollah to destabilize the region started to overcome decades of hostility […] It hasn’t gone well.”

Gantz on Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: ‘Only With New Leadership on Both Sides Can We Try to Move On’, Haaretz
Paraphrasing the words of John F. Kennedy, Benny Gantz, the prime ministerial hopeful, told an audience of English-speakers on Tuesday night that “leaders in a country need to wake up in the morning and ask themselves what do we do for the country and not what the country is doing for us. As much as I hate to say it, that is not the case currently in Israel.” Gantz expressed confidence that he would win the April 9 election and said that when he does, unlike Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “when I wake up and go to sleep, it will be citizens that worry me, not myself.” The leader of the Kahol-Lavan party, which has been largely leading in the polls, was speaking at an event organized by the Tel Aviv International Salon, in cooperation with the Israel office of Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and The Times of Israel.


Gantz’s Coalition Plan: Snap Deal With a Moderate, a Far-rightist and the ultra-Orthodox, Haaretz
Kahol Lavan chief Benny Gantz plans to propose a coalition government with Moshe Kahlon’s center-right Kulanu party, Moshe Feiglin’s far-right Zehut party and the ultra-Orthodox parties if he beats Likud by at least four seats in Tuesday’s election, sources in Kahol Lavan said. He says another government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu would only last eight months until the prime minister is indicted in the corruption cases against him, the sources said. The attorney general has already moved to indict Netanyahu, pending a hearing.

Netanyahu thanks Putin for discovery of soldier’s remains, Associated Press
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday thanked Russia for its assistance in finding the remains of an Israeli soldier missing in battle since 1982. Netanyahu is meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow visit just five days before parliamentary elections at home. The vote is largely seen as a referendum on Netanyahu, who has campaigned on his foreign policy prowess and relations with world leaders. On Wednesday, Israel announced the recovery of the remains of a soldier who went missing in a 1982 battle with Syrian forces in southern Lebanon. Putin acknowledged that Russia had worked to retrieve Zachary Baumel’s remains from Syria.

Gantz accuses Netanyahu of ‘political spin’ in return of Baumel’s body, Times of Israel
“I am happy that he is making political hay [out of it], but I’m happier that Zachary Baumel has returned to a Jewish grave and to his family,” [Gantz] said. “Are you saying there was a political consideration in the timing of the publication?” the interviewer asked. “You said it better than me,” Gantz responded. Netanyahu vehemently denied the allegation, which had also been voiced by some pundits, in an interview with Israel Radio earlier Thursday morning.

Israel readies for election as experts warn of cyber threats, Associated Press
As Israel prepares to hold a national election next week, experts say it is vulnerable to the kind of foreign hacks and cyber campaigns that have disrupted the political process in other countries. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says there is “no country better prepared” to combat election interference. But despite Israel’s thriving tech sector and vaunted security capabilities, experts say its laws are outdated and that Netanyahu’s government hasn’t made cyber threats a priority. Campaigning had just started to ramp up in January when the director of the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, told a closed audience that a world power had tried to disrupt the April 9 vote. Suspicion fell on Russian operatives, now infamous for their alleged cyber meddling in America’s 2016 presidential race and the Brexit referendum.

Pressed on graft, fake news, bots, Netanyahu says rivals, not him, guilty of all, Times of Israel
Launching a media blitz with just five days remaining until the national elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday morning fended off multiple accusations of both poor leadership and criminality, pointing the finger instead at his political rivals, who he said were the incompetent and guilty ones, not him. Speaking to the Kan public broadcaster in his first radio interview since the week before the 2015 elections, Netanyahu accused the Blue and White party leadership of a “campaign of lies” and a “blood libel” against him. Rejecting all criticism of his and his government’s record — from Gaza policy to national infrastructure — the prime minister said he had brought “unprecedented prosperity” to Israel that would be threatened by allowing an “incompetent” Benny Gantz to take his job.

Lawmaker Ahmad Tibi: Netanyahu Killed the Two-state Solution, We’re Moving Toward One State, Haaretz
Ahmad Tibi, a member of Knesset and the co-leader of the Hadash-Ta’al slate, told Haaretz in an interview that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “killed the two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, explaining that this is why many on both sides are beginning to think about a one-state solution, although his political party still supports the two-state solution.

Opinion and Analysis

Israeli Election Ads: Anything Goes Against the Enemies Within, New York Times
David M. Halbfinger writes, “Israeli politics is not subtle. Threats are always existential, opponents are out to destroy everything voters hold dear, and the enemies aiming rockets at residential neighborhoods from the Galilee to the Gaza periphery can seem only scarcely more menacing than the supposed enemies within […] Just take a look at the commercials targeting voters on social media as the election next Tuesday draws near. They are in Hebrew and Arabic, but much of what is shown in the ads requires little or no translation. Let’s move from the political right to the left…”

To Bibi Or Not To Bibi? The Election Is In 8 Days And I Still Don’t Know, The Forward
Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll writes, “Some days, I think I have to vote for Likud, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party, for the simple fact of Netanyahu’s record on security. Fewer Israelis have died on his watch than any other Israeli Prime Minister, after all. And for me, being a Zionist means in part that no one can defend us but we ourselves, and that’s got to be our primary objective. After all, if we don’t exist, we can’t fix anything else, so what else really matters? But on the other hand, mere existence cannot be enough. And it seems like Netanyahu’s gone off the rails. He partnered with the extremist Otzma Yehudit Party, revealing that he’d do anything to stay in power. He sounds too much like Trump. And it worries me that he will align with anyone just to get elected, believing he can control them.”

Muslims and Jews face a common threat from white supremacists. We must fight it together, The Guardian
Jonathan Freedland and Mehdi Hasan write, “The two of us have been having the exact same conversation for the past decade. About antisemitism and Islamophobia. One of us a Muslim, the other a Jew, we have conducted it in public and in private, on Twitter and on TV. We’ve agreed; we’ve argued; we’ve even wandered off topic to trade tips on how to get through a fast. Now we’ve come together because of the urgent and common threat that we face. Both of our communities are under violent attack from far-right white supremacists. In Christchurch, New Zealand, last month a white supremacist gunned down 50 Muslims at prayer. In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, last October a white supremacist gunned down 11 Jews at prayer. Both killers were clear in their loathing of both Jews and Muslims. Both subscribed to the “great replacement theory”, which casts Muslims and other minorities as “invaders” of western societies and a threat to white, Christian majorities.”

When a White Supremacist Murdered Muslims, Jews Were Blamed. How Did That Happen?, Haaretz
Robert Ogman writes, “With the gunman forgiven by his victims, and his white supremacist motivation identified, now the search began for the “real” causes of this heinous act. It is here that many different voices found an age-old and predictable target: Jews. At another memorial event in Auckland, “Love Aotearoa, Hate Racism,” a prominent local Muslim leader Ahmed Bhamji, blamed the Jewish state, implying that they had deliberately targeted the six Palestinians who lost their lives in the attack. The supposedly daring truth-teller declared: ‘I am not afraid to say I feel Mossad is behind this.’ […] One religious leader’s dramatic comments, even when backed by a crowd, does not make a trend, not least when his comments were condemned at the time and later denounced by the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, who stated Bhamji ‘do[es] not represent’ New Zealand’s Muslims. But he wasn’t alone. Politically engaged journalists also quickly spun the long hand of Israel theme, providing it with ‘intellectual’ dressing.”

How Israel is working to remove Palestinians from Jerusalem, The National
Jonathan Cook writes, “A raft of well-documented policies – including house demolitions, a chronic shortage of classrooms, lack of public services, municipal underfunding, land seizures, home evictions by Jewish settlers, denial of family unification, and police and settler violence – have intensified over the years. At the same time, Israel has denied the Palestinian Authority, a supposed government-in-waiting in the West Bank, any role in East Jerusalem, leaving the city’s Palestinians even more isolated and weak. All of these factors are designed to pressure Palestinians to leave, usually to areas outside the wall or to nearby West Bank cities like Ramallah or Bethlehem. ‘In Jerusalem, Israel’s overriding aim is at its most transparent: to take control of the land but without its Palestinian inhabitants,’ said Daoud Alg’ol, a researcher on Jerusalem.”

Netanyahu Deserves to Win. And We Israelis Deserve Him, Haaretz
Anshel Pfeffer writes, ““Outside Israel, there’s disbelief at Netanyahu’s success when he’s so corrupt, divisive, racist, rejectionist and autocratic. But he’s delivered, on his own terms, and Israeli voters have serially failed to demand better.””

I fought South African apartheid. I see the same brutal policies in Israel, The Guardian
Ronnie Kasrils writes, “As a Jewish South African anti-apartheid activist I look with horror on the far-right shift in Israel ahead of this month’s elections, and the impact in the Palestinian territories and worldwide. Israel’s repression of Palestinian citizens, African refugees and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza has become more brutal over time. Ethnic cleansing, land seizure, home demolition, military occupation, bombing of Gaza and international law violations led Archbishop Tutu to declare that the treatment of Palestinians reminded him of apartheid, only worse.”

Dr. Economy and Mr. Nationalist: Three Reasons Not to Vote for Bibi, Haaretz
David Rosenberg writes, “Gaza, the Trump peace plan, weak leftists and Bibi himself – that is what the campaigns ahead of the election next week are all about. The parties are simply ignoring socioeconomic issues, even though more than a quarter of respondents in a opinion poll said that was their main consideration, well ahead of security, or who the party leader might be. To win votes, Netanyahu meets with foreign leaders to enhance his credentials, attacks the media and the judicial system, engages in name calling, and makes deals with Kahanists. Yet he has been silent on the economy – which is strange.”