News Roundup for February 26, 2019

February 26, 2019

Receive the roundup in your inbox every morning!

Top News and Analysis

Could new Israeli party topple Netanyahu’s Likud?, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit writes, “For the first time since he returned to power in 2009, Benjamin Netanyahu finds himself facing a rival of his own weight. A last-minute scaremongering campaign against the Arab enemy and the terrible security dangers like Netanyahu waged in the last week of the 2015 campaign won’t work this time….What will determine this election isn’t only the result between the Likud and Blue and White, but also which satellite parties of these two blocs won’t manage to pass the vote threshold. Right now, this danger is looming over Meretz on the left, but also over Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu and Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beitenu. Netanyahu knows that if one of the parties in his right flank stays outside the Knesset, he would lose the right-wing bloc that would enable him to form a government.”

‘Netanyahu Delegitimized Me’, Foreign Policy

Joshua Mitnick interviews Tzipi Livni. “I believe that the idea is not just to replace Netanyahu. It is to replace the path that he took Israel on. I believe that the choice is between a Jewish democratic Israel at peace with the Palestinians and annexation [of the occupied West Bank] and less democracy. I believe in substance—not only merger. And I hope that the new merger will represent this.”

Netanyahu’s new rival is surging in Israel’s polls, Washington Post

Alon Yakter and Mark Tessler observe, “For many, Gantz’s recent surge seems to have come out of nowhere. In reality, his party is only the latest instance in a recurring pattern. For the past two decades, almost every Israeli election has seen the emergence of a new centrist party, typically led by a fresh and charismatic leader. While these parties often won a surprising number of votes, by the next election, they had lost much of their appeal and were eclipsed by newer centrist parties in the same mold….The platforms of Israel’s self-proclaimed ‘center parties’ have varied on some issues, including the economy, state-religion relations and pensioner rights. But their platforms share one important common element. Like Gantz, they all take ambiguous, often contradictory, positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, placing themselves between the dovish left and hawkish right.”


Kushner: Trump Peace Plan to Address Israel’s Borders, United Palestinian Entity, Haaretz

Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s senior adviser, told Sky News Arabia on Monday that the administration’s peace plan will address all core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including borders. Kushner, who is also Trump’s son-in-law, said that the White House would like to see a unified Palestinian government, instead of the current situation in which Gaza and the West Bank are separated from one another.

New Right, Likud accuse each other of enabling Kushner’s two-state push, Times of Israel

Likud and the New Right entered into a mudslinging match Monday evening, after US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner gave an interview on the administration’s upcoming peace plan — with each party issuing stark warnings that the other would enable the establishment of a Palestinian state. “There’s a clear and immediate danger in front of us: the establishment of a Palestinian state,” Bennett said in response to the Kushner interview.

Mohammad Javad Zarif: Iran’s foreign minister submits resignation, BBC Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said he is stepping down, in a surprise announcement posted to his Instagram account. He apologised for “shortcomings” during his time in government.Mr Zarif played a prominent role in negotiating the landmark 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and major international powers.

Amy Klobuchar First Presidential Prospect to Denounce Netanyahu’s Pact With Kahanists, Haaretz

The Minnesota senator, who anounced her presidential candidacy earlier this month, tweeted a New York Times report on Netanyahu’s deal with Otzma Yehudit and wrote: “This is wrong and has been rightly condemned.” She also quoted from a statement by the American Jewish Committee, in which the veteran pro-Israel group wrote that Otzma Yehudit’s views “do not reflect the core values that are the very foundation of the State of Israel.”

US Reform leader: Netanyahu’s deal with extremists is like ‘welcoming’ the KKK, Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s strong push for a unity deal with a racist political party makes it harder to advocate on Israel’s behalf, liberal US Jewish leaders said Sunday, with one rabbi saying the move was tantamount to “welcoming” the Ku Klux Klan into an American administration.

Opinion and Analysis

Why Benjamin Netanyahu Loves the European Far-Right, Foreign Policy

Zeev Sternhell writes, “The reality is that the four states composing the Visegrad bloc—Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic—form a common entity imbued with hostility to the values of the Enlightenment, to human rights, to the concept of a nation as a community of citizens, to the principle of equality, and, generally speaking, to foreigners….Not only does Israel collaborate willingly with this Trojan horse, which aims at destroying the fabric of the liberal values of the West, but it also sees itself as an integral part of this anti-liberal bloc led by nativist xenophobes who traffic in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories….Indeed, this is the natural place of an Israel dominated by a nationalist, occupying, and colonialist right wing that does all it can to efface whatever remains of the liberal principles inscribed in its unwritten laws and legal system since its inception.”

Why Israel and Jordan Are Clashing Over the Temple Mount, Haaretz

Nir Hasson reports, “There are many responses to the question why the Waqf and the Jordanian government would decide to spark clashes over the Bab al-Rahma building on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount at this particular time. The Waqf, the Muslim religious trust that administers the compound, says it has to do with the fact that all low-profile efforts to open the building to Muslim worshippers have failed. Others say, however, that it is a response to what Muslims deem an erosion of the status quo on the Temple Mount, a site holy to Jews as well as Muslims. Still others say the clashes are the result of Jordan’s desire to buttress its standing in Jerusalem in relation to Turkey and Saudi Arabia. In any event, matters involving the Bab al-Rahma, a contested building inside the mount’s Golden Gate, have deteriorated quickly — much faster than the Waqf had anticipated.”

Israeli Arabs engaging in electoral campaign, Al-Monitor

Shlomi Eldar reports, “Even before Hadash and Ta’al announced their union, young Arabs were flooding social media with posts urging their fellow Arabs to exercise their civil rights and prevent a victory for the right. The message was clear — vote for whichever party you want, not necessarily the Arab parties, with the focus on stemming the flood of undemocratic, discriminatory legislation enacted by successive right-wing Netanyahu governments over the past decade, which peaked in 2018 with the passage of the Nationality Law that officially downgrades Israeli Arabs to second-class citizens….The Hadash-Ta’al alliance is counting on this message, which appears to be making inroads into Arab society. Odeh and Tibi realize that the Gantz-Lapid alliance will work in their favor, but they are not interested in serving the anti-Netanyahu bloc so much as being a force to be reckoned with against fascism and Kahanism.”