News Roundup for April 13, 2020

April 13, 2020

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J Street in the News

Can the United Nations Survive the Coronavirus?, Foreign Policy
“‘There is no way to protect ourselves from the coronavirus today, or its resurgence in the fall, if we don’t mount a global response,’ U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat, said Tuesday in a conference call organized by J Street, an advocacy group focused on ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Calls grow for Trump to relax humanitarian sanctions on Iran, Roll Call
“‘The United States first and foremost just has a moral obligation to make sure that our foreign policy doesn’t result in the knowing death of innocent people,’ the Senate Foreign Relations member said in a Tuesday video conference call organized by the liberal Pro-Israel group J Street. “

Sen. Chris Murphy doubles down on calls to provide relief to Iran, Jewish Insider
“Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) discussed his recent letter to the Trump administration, which called for the easing of sanctions on Iran for medical supplies and humanitarian relief, during a webinar hosted by J Street on Tuesday […] Murphy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, suggested that the maximum-pressure campaign on Iran has failed on all fronts. ‘Our sanctions policy has not worked. It had made the situation there worse,’ he stated.”

COVID-19 pandemic intensifies Iran sanctions debate, Al-Monitor
“Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who dropped out of the Democratic presidential primary today, wants to go further than Biden. Sanders led 33 progressive lawmakers last month in a letter beseeching the Trump administration to lift the broad financial sanctions on Iran for the duration of the pandemic. The left-leaning lobby group J Street was among the 13 organizations that backed the letter.”

Top News and Analysis

Netanyahu gains strength as coalition deadline nears, AP
While Gantz now appears desperate for a deal, Netanyahu is riding a wave of popularity thanks to his handling of the coronavirus crisis. Israel has reported nearly 11,000 cases and over 100 dead, but appears to be weathering the crisis better than most countries. This popularity could give Netanyahu the upper hand in last-minute negotiations with Gantz, or position him well for a future election.

President Rivlin Denies Gantz’s Request for Extension to Form Government, Haaretz
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin notified Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz on Sunday that he will not grant him an extension in forming a government. Gantz told Rivlin on Saturday that he needed more time to reach a final agreement for a unity government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud. The president “made this decision after also speaking to Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, who did not confirm [he and Gantz] are close to signing an agreement that would lead to a unity government,” a statement from Rivlin read.

Abbas in phone call blitz to prevent Israeli annexation in West Bank, Times of Israel
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas held a round of phone conversations with Middle East leaders to urge them to oppose Israel’s possible annexation of parts of the West Bank, senior Palestinian official Saeb Erakat said on Saturday. The extension of Israeli sovereignty to areas of the West Bank was included in the Trump administration peace plan rolled out on January 28 in Washington, and has been embraced by Israel. Last month, senior White House officials were quoted by Israeli TV news as saying that they intended to green-light the annexation within months if the Palestinians do not return to the negotiating table, which they have refused to do after entirely dismissing the peace plan.


With deadline looming, progress reported in unity government negotiations, Times of Israel
Progress was reported Monday morning in the negotiations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and Benny Gantz’s Blue and White to form a unity government, even as a former partner urged Gantz to return to the center-left bloc opposing the premier.

Israel tightens quarantine in Jerusalem to halt virus spread, AP
The Israeli government approved a tight quarantine of several areas of Jerusalem on Sunday, including the historic Old City, in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the city’s most susceptible neighborhoods.

Blue and White said threatening Likud with anti-Netanyahu law if unity bid fails, Times of Israel
With a midnight Monday deadline for Benny Gantz to form a government approaching, his Blue and White party has warned the Likud that unless a unity government deal is signed they will push forward with legislation that would bar Benjamin Netanyahu serving as prime minister, Channel 12 reported late Sunday.

Hamas Willing to Trade Information on Israelis Held in Gaza for Ventilators, Sources Say, Haaretz
Hamas and Israel are holding indirect negotiations for a prisoner exchange deal, Palestinian sources said on Sunday, adding that under the proposed agreement, Israel would send humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, including ventilators, as the Hamas-controlled enclave braces for a potentially disastrous outbreak of the coronavirus.

Israel’s Not-So-Secret Weapon in Coronavirus Fight: The Spies of Mossad, New York Times
The Israeli intelligence agency has played an outsize role in acquiring the medical gear, and knowledge, needed in the pandemic.

Landing in Israel during the pandemic? You now must head straight for a state-run quarantine hotel., JTA
An emergency order issued Sunday means that anyone arriving in Israel from overseas now must go directly to a state-run quarantine hotel.

Opinion and Analysis

Israel’s frustrated president threatens new elections – in a bid to avoid them, Times of Israel
Haviv Rettig Gur writes, “He informed the 23rd Knesset to either unite within 22 days — finally forming the country’s first full-fledged government in 18 months — or head to a fourth election in the shadow of the coronavirus crisis.”

As if Coronavirus Wasn’t Enough, Israel’s Constitutional Contagion Is Out of Control as Well, Haaretz
Chemi Shalev writes, “President Reuven Rivlin threw a monkey wrench into Israel’s already paralyzed political machinery on Sunday. Contrary to widespread expectations, Rivlin refused to extend Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz’s mandate to form the next government and at the same time indicated that he would refrain from passing it on to Benjamin Netanyahu. If the Knesset then fails to resolve the political impasse within the three weeks allotted by law, the hitherto-inconceivable will occur: Israel will head into its fourth straight elections, following three inconclusive ones.”

Biden Likely to Embrace Some of Sanders’s Foreign-Policy Ideas, Especially After the Pandemic, Foreign Policy
Robbie Gramer, Jack Detsch and Colum Lynch write, “Even in defeat, Sanders had an impact on important foreign-policy issues for the Democratic Party, according to several of the volunteer advisors and other experts. This includes opening a debate on conditioning aid to Israel, the United States’ closest Middle East ally; pushing for cuts in defense spending; and driving forward the debate on congressional war powers authority in response to the United States’ controversial support for the Saudi-backed coalition fighting in Yemen. They point out that the progressive wing of the party won’t disappear off Biden’s radar just because Sanders ended his presidential bid. “

Abandoned by Israel, Jerusalem’s refugee camp is left to fight COVID-19 alone, +972 Mag
Yuval Abraham writes, “With no tests, medical supplies, or isolation zones, the residents of Shuafat Refugee Camp are mobilizing to ensure they stay safe in the case of an outbreak.”