News Roundup for February 11, 2019

February 11, 2019

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J Street in the News

Israel fights boycott movement as pro-Palestinian campaign gains global support, NBC News

“Legislation similar to the bill that passed the Senate this week has been opposed by the ACLU and the liberal Jewish advocacy group J Street, as well as Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. It has been backed by major Jewish organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League.”

Top News and Analysis

Israeli gunfire kills Gaza teens during border protests, Reuters

“Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinian teenagers including a 14-year-old boy during Gaza border protests on Friday, Palestinian health officials said. Israel’s military said it had opened fire in response to explosives and rocks hurled at the border fence….Gaza health officials said one of the youths shot dead on Friday was 18 and the other 14.”

Shin Bet: Murder of Israeli Teen Near Jerusalem ‘Nationalistically Motivated’, Haaretz

“The Palestinian man arrested as a suspect in the murder of 19-year-old Ori Ansbacher is thought to have acted out of “nationalistic” motives, Israel’s Shin Bet security service said on Sunday evening.  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the Ansbacher family home in the West Bank settlement of Tekoa and updated her relatives on the Shin Bet’s findings..Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, have so far failed to respond to the murder. The silence on their part is unusual, and contradicts the pattern of responses that usually follow terror attacks.”

These Politicians Are Instagram Stars. But Can They Save Their Party?, Haaretz

Allison Kaplan Sommer reports, “In the 2013 and 2015 Labor primary campaigns, Facebook was the powerful tool harnessed by relative newcomers like Merav Michaeli and Stav Shaffir to turbo-charge their campaigns, reaching places on the party slate that the old-fashioned glad-handing would never take them. Today it is primarily Instagram which is the vehicle for rallying and maintaining support….Unfortunately for this generation of ambitious up-and-comers in the Labor Party, their personal political stars have risen at a time when the strength of their chosen political home is failing. They must, therefore, fight for both their personal political survival – if they don’t make it into the very top spots, they won’t be in the Knesset at all – and then, for the survival of their party.”


Israel Says Will Legalize West Bank Homes Built on Private Palestinian Land, Haaretz

The state informed the Jerusalem District Court that it will retroactively legalize structures built in part on private Palestinian land in the West Bank settlement of Alei Zahav. In doing so, the state will for the first time invoke a legal mechanism the attorney general approved in December, senior sources say. Alei Zahav is a secular settlement located close to Route 5, which links Ariel and the Greater Tel Aviv area.

Merger talks between right wing Jewish Home and National Union fall apart, Times of Israel

Unity talks between the Jewish Home and the National Union hit a “dead-end” Saturday evening, according to officials from both of the national religious factions. The split will likely imperil the Knesset hopes of both factions. Recent polls have shown a joint Jewish Home-National Union ticket hovering just above the electoral threshold of 3.25 percent of the national vote. However, surveys show two independent runs would see both parties fail to garner enough support to enter the Knesset unless they find other factions to join up with.

Arab-Israeli MK Tibi says ‘won’t serve in any govt’, slams Gantz Gaza campaign video, i24News

Prominent Arab-Israeli lawmaker Ahmad Tibi reaffirmed his refusal to serve in “any government”, and declared his intention to upgrade the status of the Arab minority “from the outside,” in an exclusive interview with i24NEWS and Israel Hayom on Sunday evening. Turning to former-IDF chief Benny Gantz, dubbed as the most powerful challenger to incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the run up to the April 9 elections, Tibi expressed disregard for the former’s recently published campaign video on Gaza.

Demolitions of Unauthorized Bedouin Buildings on the Rise, Haaretz

The number of illegal buildings demolished in Bedouin communities has tripled over the past five years. In 2013, when the government first began keeping records, 697 buildings were demolished. By last year, the figure had reached an all-time high of 2,326. Of these, 2,064 were demolished by the owners themselves to avoid the fines the state imposes if it has to tear a building down.

Netanyahu to meet Pence, Pompeo at Polish Middle East summit, Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to meet US Vice President Mike Pence and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a Middle East conference in Warsaw later this week. “The first issue on the agenda is Iran — how to continue preventing it from entrenching in Syria, how to thwart its aggression in the region and, above all, how to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said Sunday in his weekly cabinet meeting.

Shas Leader Arye Dery Drops Effort to Form Joint ultra-Orthodox Ticket, Haaretz

The chairman of the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox Shas party, Arye Dery, announced on Sunday that his party would not be running on a joint ticket in the April 9 Knesset election with its ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazi counterpart, United Torah Judaism.

Opinion and Analysis

Netanyahu’s new anti-indictment weapon: his own TV channel, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit reports, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has launched a Facebook television channel in a bid to fortify his constituency ahead of the critical decision by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit regarding his possible indictment. Not that Netanyahu lacks media outlets under his control. He has a freebie newspaper with a circulation in the hundreds of thousands (Israel Hayom), a TV station wholly dedicated to right-wing propaganda and Netanyahu support (Channel 20), and he has a loyal cadre of so-called “journalists” — some wholly lacking in skills or experience — in major media outlets. All ensure that his messages resonate clearly on all available platforms. Netanyahu, however, wants more. Like his patron, Donald Trump, he can never get enough favorable coverage and flattery. Even if all the real journalists in Israel are silenced, Netanyahu will continue to feel persecuted.”

The Zionist Left Must Unite, Haaretz

The editorial board writes, “Labor, Meretz and Hatnuah must all run on a joint ticket representing the Zionist left. The principles that would govern such a merger are simple and well known: support for a two-state solution; opposition to the nation-state law; ensuring the Supreme Court’s independence; freedom of expression for civil society organizations, artists and cultural institutions; and an end to religionization…..[R]inow, the left isn’t vying to head the government, but merely to give political expression to the views of a large segment of the population that may otherwise be pushed out of the political system entirely. Faced with Gantz’s surge in the polls and the possible mergers on the right, the left must unite.”

IDF rabbis find easy road to politics, Al-Monitor

Akiva Eldar observes, “The IDF rabbinate has long served as a jumping-off point to the country’s chief rabbinate and the leadership of yeshivas. The Feb. 3 choice of the IDF’s former chief rabbi, Brig. Gen. (res.) Rafi Peretz, as head of HaBayit HaYehudi shows that the religious political right has discovered the political potential that lies in the combination of a senior military rank and a top rabbinical authority. However, this coin has another side. The army has become the playing field of an entire political sector that views religious law as competing with the laws of the state and often superseding them. Military rabbis have become halachic (Jewish law) authorities, issuing rulings any time they deem that government decisions and commanders’ orders are not in tune with divine injunctions.”