News Roundup for February 8, 2019

February 8, 2019

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Top News and Analysis

Joint Gantz-Lapid Slate Would Overtake Netanyahu, Oust Meretz, Poll Shows, Haaretz

“A merger between Benny Gantz’s Hosen L’Yisrael and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid parties would take the lead in Israel’s general election with 36 out of 120 Knesset seats, according to a poll published Thursday by Channel 13 News. Such a union would overtake Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, predicted to get 32 seats. The poll also predicted that in such a case, left-wing Meretz would not clear the electoral threshold and be left out of parliament.”

Do Israelis vote for political ideology or cult of personality?, +972

Dahlia Scheindlin writes, “Ultimately, it seems that a dazzling personality isn’t sufficient to win elections. Parties still matter, and not only due to inertia. It turns out that voters are looking at the values, worldview, and policies. Candidates would be well advised to have some.”


Israel Resilience party reveals top picks for Knesset slate, Times of Israel

Israel Resilience party leader Benny Gantz and his political partner, Telem party chairman Moshe Ya’alon, on Thursday announced seven new candidates who will be placed in prominent spots on their joint slate in the upcoming April elections. The list of new potential lawmakers includes Netanyahu’s former cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser and former news anchor and environmental activist Miki Haimovich. Also joining the party are Yoaz Hendel, a newspaper columnist and head of the Institute for Zionist Strategies think tank who previously served as a senior aide to Netanyahu; Hili Tropper, a high-school principal and former adviser to the education minister; Meirav Cohen, a well-known elderly-rights activist and former Jerusalem city council member; Michael Biton, a former mayor of the southern town of Yeruham; and Orit Farkash-Hacohen, a former chair of the Israel Electric Corporation and a prominent business attorney.

Palestinian Officials Call on Israelis Not to Elect an Extremist Government, Haaretz

Senior officials in the Palestinian Authority commented publicly on Wednesday about the upcoming election in Israel, calling on Israelis not to elect an extremist government and to pursue a leadership that would advance a two-state solution to the conflict.

Yesh Atid unveils detailed policy plan to promote LGBT equality, Times of Israel

The centrist Yesh Atid party on Thursday released a detailed policy plan on promoting equality for the LGBT community in Israel, saying it would allocate NIS 50 million to fund local groups, outlaw “gay conversion” therapy for minors and introduce mandatory school studies on the matter.

Kushner, Greenblatt to Visit Middle East to Discuss Economic Aspects of Peace Plan, Haaretz

Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, will visit the Middle East at the end of February to discuss the economic aspects of the President’s peace plan. Kushner will be accompanied by Trump’s special envoy to the region, Jason Greenblatt, on a visit that will include stops in at least five Arab countries. Kushner and Greenblatt will meet with the rulers of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates – three countries that could play a key role in supporting efforts to strengthen the Palestinian economy.

Teachers’ union head Randi Weingarten endorses Stav Shaffir ahead of Israeli election, JTA

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, endorsed liberal Israeli lawmaker Stav Shaffir ahead of Israel’s election in April. “Stav is one of the most, if not the most, effective ambassadors to America that Israel has,” Weingarten said in a video published by Shaffir’s campaign Thursday. “She brings with her not just a passion for progressive Zionism but for what that represents: a shared society, peace and security for all, a fight against racial bigotry, a fight against economic inequality and a fight for the kind of Israel that all of us have always looked up to.”

Opinion and Analysis

Netanyahu whitewashing far-right activists, Al-Monitor

Shlomi Eldar observes, “Netanyahu….no longer sees red lines. As far as he is concerned, anything and everything goes. After former army chief Rabbi Rafi Peretz was named on Feb. 5 to head HaBayit HaYehudi, the Likud urged the party to join forces with Otzma Leyisrael, which consists of Kahane’s disciples and fans, to prevent the weakening of the right. Netanyahu thus bleached the mark of shame that Israeli society had imprinted on Kahane’s racist movement, granting his successors a political clemency that they probably never imagined was possible….Otzma Leyisrael is now headed by its founder, Michael Ben-Ari…Ben-Ari espouses undermining the standing and rights of Israel’s Arab minority. He calls for their transfer to other countries, as well as for Israeli soldiers to disobey orders to evacuate Jewish settlements.”

Does Racism Now Define Jewish Identity in Israel?, Haaretz

Anshel Pfeffer writes, “I don’t think Israel is necessarily more racist today than it was then (and I’m not even going further back to the wonderful days of the Mapai governments when Israeli Arabs lived under martial law for decades)….What has undeniably changed and for the worse, as Netanyahu’s urging to bring the Kahanists in to the legitimate political tent (back in the day when Kahane was an MK, the other 119 members, including all Likudniks, would boycott his speeches, leaving him to address an empty plenum) perfectly shows, is that we’ve become much more tolerant of racism. And in many ways tolerating racism, even if we believe ourselves to be non-racist, is equally bad. Treating Otzma L’Yisrael and its ilk as a legitimate party means that racism is an option. And when it’s an option, even if we claim not to choose it, racism permeates everything.”