News Roundup for February 4, 2019

February 4, 2019

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J Street in the News

From Celebrated to Vilified, House’s Muslim Women Absorb Blows Over Israel, The New York Times

“Defenders of the women warn that their critics are entering dangerous territory by conflating anti-Zionism, hostility toward Israel as a Jewish state, with anti-Semitism, hostility toward Jews — a trend that Jeremy Ben Ami, the president of J Street, the liberal Jewish advocacy group, said he found ‘disturbing.’ J Street did not endorse Ms. Omar and rescinded its endorsement of Ms. Tlaib after she declined to publicly support a two-state solution with Israel and a Palestinian state existing side by side. Even so, Mr. Ben Ami said the two are ‘opening up a discussion that is absolutely needed on American policy,’ and are helping to pull the Democratic Party more toward the view espoused by J Street and ‘younger liberal Jews’ who believe that ‘you can be sympathetic to the state of Israel and also sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinian people.’”

Top News and Analysis

Like Netanyahu, Gantz Plays on the Anxieties of His Would-be Voters, Haaretz

Aluf Benn writes, “Gantz promised to unite the nation and refrain from divisiveness, rifts or personal attacks, but his debut speech last Tuesday played on a range of anxieties of his would-be voters, even if his style was more refined than that of Netanyahu. Gantz’s electorate, most of whom are Ashkenazim (Jews of European descent) and secular Jews, are afraid that their fate in Israel will resemble that of Christians in neighboring Lebanon – a large and influential community which founded the country, but lost its strength due to demographic changes and internal conflicts, and for the most part left the country and settled abroad.”


PM slams AG for ‘surrendering to the left’ on refusal to delay indictment call, Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday lashed out at Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit for rejecting his call to delay until after the elections the announcement of a decision on whether to indict Netanyahu for corruption. Netanyahu charged that Mandelblit was failing to do his job properly in rushing to rule on the cases, and claimed that he had “surrendered to the pressures from the left and the media.”

Chairman of Israeli Arab-Jewish Party Reelected Amid Possible Split in Alliance of Arab-Israeli Parties, Haaretz

Ayman Odeh was reelected Friday as the chairman of Hadash, part of the Joint List political alliance of Arab-majority parties, ahead of the April 9 election. Hadash, the only Arab-Jewish political party in Israel, is considering joining forces with the Balad party for the upcoming election, as Joint List parties are discussing ending their alliance after prominent MK Ahmad Tibi’s Ta’al party withdrew from it.

Netanyahu steps up attacks on Likud rival Sa’ar ahead of primary, Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday went after a rival in his Likud party, repeating claims that former minister Gideon Sa’ar planned an internal party putsch to unseat him. Netanyahu made the claim during an interview on Facebook with a propaganda channel for his Likud Party, which launched Sunday.

New Election Poll Says Israelis Prefer Gantz Over Lapid as Head of Center-left Bloc, Haaretz

People would rather see Hosen L’Yisrael Chairman Benny Gantz at the head of a center-left bloc than Yesh Atid chairman MK Yair Lapid, according to a new survey published on Saturday night on Channel 12’s “Meet the Press.” Of those surveyed, 33 percent responded that Gantz would make a better leader of such a bloc, and 11 percent said Lapid would.

Fearing wasted votes, PM urges fringe parties on far-right to join forces, Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been reaching out to leaders of the smaller right wing parties, urging them to unite in order to avoid a scenario where one or two factions do not receive enough votes in April to cross the electoral threshold. Netanyahu asked National Union Chairman Bezalel Smotrich to merge with the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, in addition to calling on Shas Chairman Aryeh Deri to form a united ultra-Orthodox bloc with the United Torah Judaism Party, Channel 12 reported Sunday.

Opinion and Analysis

Netanyahu’s top rival, neither right nor left, Al-Monitor

Danny Zaken writes, “Gantz is not a leftist. The conclusion is unavoidable, based on his actions and his speech. The opinions he expressed tend mainly to the right, with just a few positions leaning toward the center. The fact that the media and left-wing voters support him stems mainly from the possibility that he could form the next government instead of Netanyahu, or at least put up a good fight. His clean image of an honest man, contrary to Netanyahu’s entanglement in various affairs, increases his popularity. On the other hand, if he does form the next government or joins the next coalition, it is doubtful that Gantz will fulfill the hopes and expectations of the Israeli left.”

Can the Center-left Cheat Fate and Snatch Middle Class Voters From Netanyahu’s Hands?, Haaretz

Sami Peretz writes, “A major new force in the current elections, Gantz’s Hosen L’Yisrael, hasn’t spelled out its political program yet. But it is taking its votes from Labor, which means its electoral base is Israel’s highest income earners. Alas, what the 2015 Knesset election taught was that a strong standing in Israel’s top two income deciles doesn’t bring victory. The votes of those in the bottom decile are equal to those at the top and in order to win enough votes to form a government, a party has to win support up and down the income ladder. The income data provide a clear picture of the chances of a united party of the center-left capturing a large number of mandates. To succeed, it is going to have to win votes from middle income groups – the top alone won’t suffice.”