“Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, tweeted that it was ‘morally outrageous’ to imagine that those who had followed Kahane could be welcomed into Netanyahu’s political circle. ‘Bolstering one’s political strength with those who profess racist views should be unthinkable,’ he said. The liberal advocacy group J Street called it disgraceful and dangerous, adding that the move showed there was no line the prime minister wouldn’t cross in his ‘desperate attempt to remain in office.’ ‘We call on U.S. officials and pro-Israel organizations to condemn Netanyahu’s efforts to bring these extreme racists into Israel’s next government,’ it said.”
David Schraub writes, “I find it no struggle at all to condemn both Otzma Yehudit’s vicious racism and Netanyahu and Likud for legitimizing and promoting it. And to be clear, I don’t want to suggest that all in the Jewish community are failing this test. Some are, indeed, ‘putting up’……Rabbi Rick Jacobs of the Union of Reform Judaism said it was ‘morally outrageous’ for Netanyahu to try to ‘bolster’ himself politically by promoting naked racism. J Street released a lengthy statement lambasting Netanyahu and Likud for ‘openly mak[ing] common cause with proponents of ethnic cleansing and right-wing terror.’”
Standing together against hatred, Rochester City Newspaper
Ayala Emmett, Yonathan Shapir and Stephen Teitel write, “It is with great distress that we read of the recent arrests of individuals from the Town of Greece accused of making bombs and possessing weapons, with the intention of carrying out an attack on the Muslim community of Islamberg in Delaware County….As members of the Rochester chapter of J Street, a pro-Israel, pro-peace organization that supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we are deeply disturbed by the increase in white supremacist activity in the United States and the attendant rise of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and racist attacks on people of color….As Jews who experienced xenophobia and anti-Semitism throughout our history in the Diaspora, who suffered discrimination and persecution and genocide, we cannot be silent. When acts of hatred flourish, we are all in danger.”
The newly-formed alliance between Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, Kahol Lavan, would overtake Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud if a general election was held today, polls conducted by Channel 12, 13 and Israel’s public broadcaster, Kan, showed on Thursday evening. Just hours after Gantz and Lapid announced the formation of Kahol Lavan, Channel 12’s poll showed the union would get 36 seats in the next Knesset, while Likud would receive 30. Channel 13’s poll, meanwhile, predicted Kahol Lavan would get 36 seats, compared to 26 for Likud. Kan’s poll also put Kahol Lavan on first place, with 35 seats, with Likud coming in second with 32.
“The Democratic National Committee passed a resolution last week calling on the US to re-enter the Iran nuclear deal, a sign that the party’s 2020 presidential candidates will run on returning America to the landmark pact from which US President Donald Trump withdrew. “The United States should return to its obligations under the JCPOA and utilize multilateral and bilateral diplomacy to achieve political solutions to remaining challenges regarding Iran,” the document says.”
Trump’s Idea of a Middle East Nuclear Deal, The New York Times
The editorial board writes, “By ramming through the sale of as much as $80 billion in nuclear power plants, the Trump administration would provide sensitive know-how and materials to a government whose de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has suggested that he may eventually want a nuclear weapon as a hedge against Iran and has shown little concern for what the rest of the world thinks….Efforts by the Obama administration to negotiate a nuclear cooperation agreement faltered over the Saudis’ refusal to make a legally binding commitment to forgo uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing. It’s no surprise that the Saudis would prefer to negotiate over nuclear technology with Mr. Trump, who seems to care far more about profits than about halting the spread of nuclear weapons.”
Yossi Verter observes, “Twenty-five hours before the Knesset gates close to all party representatives, a deal was concluded, certain to go down in the annals of infamy in Israeli politics. The disciple-thugs of Rabbi Meir Kahane, disseminators of hatred, racism and persecution of minorities, carrying the torch of homophobia and racial purity, won an entrance ticket into Israel’s legislature….the instigator of this turn of events is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who, as always, proves that there is no level to which he will not sink, no value too sacred to trash, a person with no morality or accountability when it comes to his political survival – in this case his personal well-being, too.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted Benny Gantz on Thursday evening, calling him and others in his newly-formed alliance with Yair Lapid “left-wing generals who pretend to be right wing.” Netanyahu accused Gantz and Lapid of “relying on Arab parties who not only don’t recognize the State of Israel,” but want to destroy it. He said Israel has already seen such a scenario of “leftist generals,” giving former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the “Oslo disaster” as an example.
Asked whether “given the current geopolitical reality in the Middle East” they support “two states for two peoples”, 42% of respondents said they support such a solution to the conflict compared to 36% who did not. Another 22% of respondents said they did not know.
A candidate from the far-right Otzma Yehudit faction, which has merged with the Jewish Home party, on Thursday defended the late rabbi Meir Kahane, the leader of movements deemed terrorist by Israel and the US after his death, amid mounting criticism of the merger deal brokered at the urging of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Hundreds of Palestinians broke into Bab al-Rahma on Friday, a large structure at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City that has been at the center of reignited tensions in recent days. The police arrested 60 East Jerusalem residents in their homes on Thursday night on suspicions of incitement and rioting ahead of the Friday prayers at the Temple Mount. The police said additional arrests are possible throughout the day.
Labor party rules out union with Meretz, Times of Israel, Times of Israel
The Labor party announced Thursday afternoon that it would not form an alliance with the left-wing Meretz party for the upcoming Knesset elections, after saying earlier that it would consider the idea. “After a thorough examination by the Labor Party today, we came to the conclusion that a merger between Labor and Meretz would be lesser than the sum of its parts. A combination of the two movements does not increase our strength — on the contrary, it weakens the bloc,” a statement from the party said.
Qatar, disregarding the disapproval of the Palestinian Authority (PA), says it has no plans to stop supplying financial grants to the Gaza Strip. “[Qatar] will continue to support the Gaza Strip,” Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said Feb. 17 in his speech at the Munich Security Conference.
The mixed Arab-Jewish Hadash party reached an agreement Thursday with veteran MK Ahmad Tibi’s Arab Movement for Renewal (Ta’al) to run on a joint ticket in April’s national elections. The move comes just weeks after Tibi indicated he would mount an independent run for the Knesset and pulled Ta’al out the Joint (Arab) List, an alliance of four parties — Hadash, Ta’al, Balad and United Arab List (Ra’am) — formed ahead of the 2015 elections that went on to win 13 seats in the 120-member Knesset.
David Horovitz observes, “Surveys to this point, even those that asked Israelis how they’d vote if Gantz and Lapid joined forces, have not shown any significant movement of votes from the Netanyahu-led right of the political spectrum to the center. Those polls have shown the merged parties winning more seats than Likud. But if the new centrist partners don’t draw votes from the right, they simply won’t form the next coalition. That’s why Thursday’s great big political shake-up is only a partial revolution.”
It’s Foreign Policy That Distinguishes Bernie This Time, The Atlantic
Peter Beinart argues, “Sanders doesn’t just talk about foreign policy more. He talks about it in a more radical way. None of the senators running for president are hawks….What distinguishes Sanders is the same quality that distinguished him on domestic policy in 2016: his willingness to cross red lines that have long defined the boundaries of acceptable opinion…Sanders’s darker view of Cold War foreign policy isn’t mere historical revisionism. It’s linked to his critique of American foreign policy today. Now, as then, he wants America to shun the quest for global supremacy that leads it to overthrow regimes it can’t control and to instead pursue a foreign policy based on ‘partnership, rather than dominance.’”
Elizabeth Warren speaks to Tommy Vietor about domestic and foreign policy, including her opposition to anti-boycott laws, her support for the two-state solution, and her criticism of the Trump-Netanyahu partnership.
All This Should Remind You of the Run-Up to the Iraq War, Foreign Policy
Steven Cook writes, “Taken together—the Warsaw conference, Pence’s bullying of the Europeans, Bolton’s threatening video, and the broader background noise in Washington—the events of the past week were familiar in a foreboding way. The chatter about Iran has not become the war fever that gripped Washington in 2002 over Iraq, but the echoes of that year are not hard to miss in the Trump administration’s effort to shape the domestic and international debate about Iran. No one has made a reference to smoking guns and mushroom clouds, but how far off are we when the most senior U.S. officials have essentially declared their Iranian counterparts to be little more than a murderous gang hellbent on dominating the region? This was the same message that the George W. Bush administration stressed over and over again about Saddam Hussein and Iraq.”
Etan Nechin writes, “Benjamin Netanyahu faced media criticism this week for hosting the right-wing prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary who have been accused of being anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic. But in response, Likud MK Anat Berko epitomized Netanyahu’s politics in a single sentence: ‘They might be anti-Semites, but they’re on our side.’ Netanyahu lost his moral compass years ago, but in this election cycle – a chronicle of a victory foretold – he no longer cares about appearing as the fascist-enabling Pied Piper who will lead Israel into oblivion and isolation only to keep himself in power.”