News Roundup for February 25, 2019

February 25, 2019

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J Street in the News

Netanyahu Sparks Outrage Over Pact With Racist Party, The New York Times

“The embattled Mr. Netanyahu, grasping for every potential vote, has turned to the extremist party Otzma Yehudit, or Jewish Power, whose leaders have a long history of expressing support for violence against Palestinians, expulsion of Arabs from Israel and the occupied territories, and a ban on intermarriage or sex between Jews and Arabs….The pact between Mr. Netanyahu and the Kahanists set off a predictable eruption from liberal Jewish groups like J Street and Americans for Peace, as well as the Union of Reform Judaism, which normally stays out of Israeli politics.”

An existential dilemma, Greenwich Time

Alma Rutgers writes, “This time I’m participating in a mission sponsored by J Street, a pro-Israel educational and advocacy organization. This educational mission is intended to provide American policymakers and opinion leaders “with balanced information that lays the groundwork for pursuing Israeli-Palestinian peace through diplomacy.” Five members of Congress are expected to join the trip….I experience our mysterious connection to this place as integral to our role in realizing the redemptive promise for all humankind. I hear the answer to ‘why’ in the words of the prophet Isaiah: ‘My House shall be a house of prayer for all peoples.’”

Top News and Analysis

How Netanyahu Revived Jewish Supremacism and Paved Its Way to Power, Haaretz

Anshel Pfeffer writes, “Dan Meridor, one of the last truly moderate Likudniks once told me: ‘Bibi isn’t racist, but he does sometimes use racism.’ I think even Meridor would admit now that there’s no real difference between the two. He’s no longer a party member, and other seemingly moderate Likudniks have been dragged in to the racist morass by their leader….The Jewish Defense League, born in Brooklyn, is finally home and dry in the Jewish state. Just like any child of immigrants, it has shed all traces of its accent and has become a full-fledged native. Kahanism 3.0 is a totally homegrown Israeli strain of an old racist virus.”

Pompeo doesn’t criticize Netanyahu over right-wing outreach, CNN

“In an interview with Jake Tapper, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo does not condemn Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu for outreach he’s conducted to a right wing extremist group.”

The Ticking Time Bomb That Could Upend Israel’s Election, Haaretz

Amos Harel reports, “A series of negative developments on issues relating to the Palestinians – Jerusalem, prisoners, Palestinian Authority funds and the condition of Gaza’s infrastructure – once again are threatening an escalation between Israel and the Palestinians, possibly during the six weeks left until the Knesset election. The Palestinians themselves, and even Jordan, are responsible for some of these developments, but it seems the Israeli leadership is marching into a potential crisis with its eyes wide open.”


A Lamentable Failure’: Dozens of Orthodox Rabbis Condemn Netanyahu for Deal With Kahanists, Haaretz

Close to 90 Modern Orthodox rabbis and educators, many of them prominent names in the religious Zionist community, have issued a fierce denunciation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for initiating a move that could bring loyalists of racist rabbi Meir Kahane into the Knesset. “The prime minister has a legitimate desire to win victory for his bloc in a hotly contested election,” they wrote in a public statement. “However, in this case, the ends do not justify the means. This deal with a detestable group to get them into the Knesset will give a black eye to Israel and its standing in the world as a moral and democratic state. This is truly a lamentable failure on the part of a leader who has focused his life on Israel’s security and on strengthening its international standing.”

Israel’s AG to Announce This Week Whether He Will File Charges Against Netanyahu, Haaretz

Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit is expected to publish his decision this week on whether to file charges against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Mendelblit hopes to release the decision before the end of the week, about 40 days prior to the April 9 election, but it may be delayed to the beginning of next week.

Lapid: Blue and White will seek coalition with post-Netanyahu Likud if it wins, Times of Israel

Yair Lapid, the co-leader of the newly formed Blue and White party, has cleared some of the fog surrounding the alliance’s policies, saying that if it wins the upcoming elections it will contact Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud to form a unity government, assuming Netanyahu is no longer leading the party. At an event Sunday night in the northern city of Karmiel, Benny Gantz’s No. 2 stressed that the party would not band together with the Arab parties to form a government or to block Netanyahu from forming his own coalition.

Left-wing party head to i24NEWS: No future for Israel without Palestinian state, i24 News

Israel does not have a future without a Palestinian state, head of Israel’s left-wing Meretz party Tamar Zandberg told i24NEWS and Israel Hayom during a special edition of 2019 elections coverage on Sunday.

Ultra-Orthodox party rules out coalition with Lapid, Times of Israel

Leaders of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party on Sunday ruled out joining a government that includes former finance minister Yair Lapid, while voicing support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form the next ruling coalition after the elections in April. Lapid, who last week merged his Yesh Atid party with Benny Gantz’s Israel Resilience to form the Blue and White alliance, has been a vocal supporter of introducing core curriculum studies into ultra-Orthodox schools and ending blanket exemptions to mandatory military service for seminary students.

Israel Arrests Temple Mount Custodian Following Clashes Over Flashpoint Holy Site, Haaretz

Israeli police forces arrested Sunday the head of the Waqf, the Islamic custodian of the Temple Mount, and his deputy following clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians over a contested building at the compound in recent days. Sheikh Abdel-Azeem Salhab, who is considered one of Jerusalem’s leading religious figures, was taken from his home in the early morning. The council’s deputy head, Sheikh Najeh Bkeirat, was also arrested for allowing Palestinian worshipers into the Temple Mount building.

Lapid: Imperative to stop Kahanists persuaded me to enter alliance with Gantz, Times of Israel

Asked Saturday evening in an interview with Channel 12’s “Meet the Press” what caused him to agree to finally give up the top spot and his personal leadership aspirations after weeks of unsuccessful merger talks, Lapid said it was the announcement of the far-right alliance. “I know when it happened. We sat and endlessly discussed matters, and suddenly entering the mix was that Kahanists were entering the Knesset and that Netanyahu promised Smotrich to be our children’s next education minister,” Lapid said, referring to Jewish Home party head Bezalel Smotrich.

Opinion and Analysis

To unseat Netanyahu, his challengers risk becoming just like him, +972

Dahlia Scheindlin argues, “[W]hether Netanyahu is indicted on corruption charges or not, we can expect to see Blue and White trying to look and sound more and more like a political home for the moderate right: bragging about bombing Gaza, or whatever fresh meat the generals believe right-wing Israelis need to devour….I personally find it demeaning to those voters, even on the other side of the map.If Gantz and Lapid become the campaign they are expected to run, following strategies to power instead of expressing a vision, they won’t change the country’s direction even if by a fluke they do win. We’re right to excoriate the Kahanists, but voters should really be demanding that the most likely challengers offer a genuine alternative.”

After Collapse of Joint List, Israeli Arabs Fear Poor Election Outcome, Haaretz

Jack Khoury reports, “Now that the slates have been finalized, the four Arab parties that made up the Joint List in the last Knesset will have to address their voters’ eroding trust. The situation worsened over the past week during the fraught negotiations between the four parties as they strove to recreate a united slate for the April 9 election. The talks continued Thursday night right until the deadline for filing party tickets. The four parties decided to run as two separate lists: Ahmad Tibi’s Ta’al with Ayman Odeh’s Arab-Jewish Hadash, and Balad with the United Arab List. But the damage – and the deep rupture between the parties and the Arab community – was done.”

Israel’s terror fund deduction rekindles Palestinian support for Abbas, Times of Israel

Avi Issacharoff writes, “On its face, Israel’s dramatic announcement last week that it was deducting about half a billion shekels ($138 million) from tax revenues collected and transferred to the PA — claiming that it is being used to pay salaries to relatives of jailed and slain terrorists — should have been a heavy blow to Abbas. But in practice, that last days have seen an opposite trend in Palestinian public opinion. Abbas’s countermeasure of refusing to accept even a penny of the tax funds as long as Israel deducts the terror payments has caused an outpouring of support for him.”