News Roundup for April 21, 2020

April 21, 2020

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J Street in the News

US envoy Friedman hails new government as J Street decries annexation plans, Times of Israel
“US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Monday night expressed his satisfaction with the new Israeli unity government agreed in a deal between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz […] Jewish liberal advocacy group J Street said Monday it was ‘deeply alarmed’ by the prospect of Israeli annexation going forward, warning it would damage chances of creating an independent Palestinian state and ‘severely imperil Israel’s future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people, along with the future of the US-Israel relationship.’ It called on US leaders to make clear to Israel that such action could severely damage the two nations’ relationship going forward.”

U.S. Jewish Groups Warn of West Bank Annexation in Wake of Netanyahu-Gantz Deal, Haaretz
“J Street said in a statement that it was ‘deeply alarmed’ by the language on annexation in the Netanyahu-Gantz agreement, and cautioned that it ‘would severely imperil Israel’s future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people, along with the future of the U.S.-Israel relationship.’ It urged ‘responsible American leaders’ to express their stark opposition to annexing parts of the West Bank.”

J Street ‘deeply alarmed’ by annexation threat after Netanyahu-Gantz deal, The Jerusalem Post
“Progressive Jewish group, J Street, on Monday slammed the agreement between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, which has provided an opportunity to start discussing a possible annexation of the Jordan Valley and application of Israeli law to other settlements in the West Bank as early as July 1. Media reports indicated that Gantz would have no veto power over such a move. ‘J Street is deeply alarmed that, in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Prime Minister Netanyahu has formed a new Israeli government that appears able and determined to carry out unilateral annexation of occupied Palestinian territory in the West Bank, with the approval of the Trump administration, within just months,’ the statement reads.”

Right-wing Groups Go After Biden Over J Street Endorsement, Haaretz
“Right-wing groups and supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump lambasted former Vice President Joe Biden after he welcomed the endorsement of the left-wing Jewish group J Street over the weekend. Biden said that he was ‘honored’ to receive the support of the leading left-wing Jewish group, and that he shared J Street’s ‘unyielding dedication to the survival and security of Israel.’”

J Street endorses Joe Biden for president, JNS
“The American Jewish lobby group J Street last week endorsed former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden for president—the first time in its history in which the organization has formally endorsed a candidate for the White House.”

As Netanyahu Forms New Government Committed to West Bank Annexation, American Lawmakers Must Make Clear It Would Lead to Real Consequences for Us-Israel Relationship, J Street
“Any annexation would be carried out with the deliberate intention of preventing the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel and a negotiated resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It would be disastrous for Israel’s interests as well as a gross violation of Palestinian rights.”

Top News and Analysis

Netanyahu’s Power Is Extended as Rival Accepts Israel Unity Government, New York Times
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and his former challenger, Benny Gantz, agreed Monday night to establish a unity government, a deal that finally breaks a yearlong political impasse and keeps Mr. Netanyahu in office as he faces trial on corruption charges […] The final agreement delays consideration of annexation until July 1 at the earliest. It declares that annexation must be done in a way that safeguards Israel’s interests, “including the needs for preserving regional stability, protecting existing peace agreements and aspiring for future ones.” But it leaves those determinations up to the government and says that Mr. Gantz is only entitled to “consultation” with Mr. Netanyahu on annexation, not a veto.The two-month delay gives opponents of annexation, who say it would reignite the conflict and deal a death blow to already dim hopes of a two-state solution, a brief window to build international and domestic support to try to block such a move.

Israel’s Netanyahu, Gantz agree to form emergency coalition government, Axios
Netanyahu’s wish to annex the Jordan Valley and other parts of the occupied West Bank was one of the main sticking points in negotiations on the new government. Gantz gave up on his demand to have a veto power over any decision on annexation. This issue is the only one in the coalition deal that Gantz doesn’t have veto power on. Netanyahu sees the potential annexation of parts of the West Bank as his main legacy as prime minister of Israel.

More than half of American Jews have seen or experienced anti-Semitism in recent years, ADL finds, JTA
More than half of American Jews have either witnessed or directly experienced anti-Semitism during the past five years, according to an Anti-Defamation League survey published Tuesday. The ADL also found that 63% of American Jews say they are less safe than they were a decade ago.


Rotation, annexation et al: Key elements of the Netanyahu-Gantz coalition deal, Times of Israel
The government will serve for 36 months, with Netanyahu remaining prime minister for the first 18 months and then handing the position over to Gantz. This transfer of power will happen automatically, without requiring a separate vote or decision. Each man will be the other’s “acting prime minister.” An official residence will be provided for the acting prime minister.

Annual Holocaust Remembrance Day torch-lighting at Yad Vashem held without audience, JTA
In a prerecorded rite without an audience, six torches representing the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust were lit in honor of six living survivors at the start of the commemoration on Monday night at Yad Vashem’s Warsaw Ghetto Square in Jerusalem.

Israeli survivors remember Holocaust amid virus quarantine, AP
With the global coronavirus pandemic ravaging the elderly, Israel’s aging population of Holocaust survivors finds itself on the country’s annual Holocaust Remembrance Day this year much like they were during World War II — alone and in fear of the unknown.

For Israel’s Holocaust survivors, coronavirus is the plague of loneliness, Times of Israel
Over 15,000 Holocaust survivors died in Israel over the past year, data gathered by the Finance Ministry indicates. More than 31,000 Holocaust survivors living in Israel are over 90 years old; their advanced age automatically positions them at the top of the list of populations at risk of contracting the coronavirus and suffering from its lethal complications.

Domestic abuse against Palestinian women soars, Al Jazeera
Since start of coronavirus lockdown, at least five women have been killed at the hands of their abusers, activists say.

Syria: Israel fired missile on areas near historic Palmyra, AP
Syrian air defenses opened fire and shot down several missiles launched by Israeli warplanes Monday night near the central historic town of Palmyra, state media said.

Opinion and Analysis

Israel’s new ‘unity’ government is neither united nor likely to govern well, Times of Israel
Ravit Hecht writes, “The deep distrust between Netanyahu and Gantz shapes every facet of the new coalition deal, transforming the nascent government into a two-headed hydra of contradictory impulses.”

Netanyahu-Gantz Unity Deal: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the Ominous, Haaretz
Chemi Shalev writes, “The Netanyahu-inspired constitutional revolution and usurpation of democracy that Israeli moderates feared will be shelved for the time being. The disproportionate influence hitherto exerted by the ultra-Orthodox parties and the settler lobby will be diminished. The new center of power, according to the coalition agreement, will reside with Gantz and Netanyahu alone: Their wishes, if they ever agree on anything, will be the new government’s command.”

Approaching the endgame on the Iran nuclear issue, The Strategist
Connor Dilleen writes, “As policymakers globally are preoccupied with managing the devasting impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, a perfect storm of events appears to be coalescing around the Iran nuclear issue. Although both the US and Iran stepped back from the precipice of direct military conflict in early 2020, following the killing of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Qassem Soleimani, a number of developments since then—including Covid-19 itself—have arguably increased the prospect of Washington launching a strike against Iranian targets at some point before the US presidential election in November.”

Holocaust trivialization at protests isn’t just offensive. It threatens democracy, The Forward
Frank Hornstein writes, “The comparison to the Holocaust is deeply offensive. As Colorado’s Jewish governor, Jared Polis, noted, ‘We act to save lives, the exact opposite of the slaughter of six million Jews, Gypsies, Catholics, gays and lesbians, Russians and so many others.’”

In ‘unity’ deal, Gantz hopes he’s compelled Netanyahu to let him be PM one day, Times of Israel
David Horovitz writes, “Netanyahu, for his part, hopes he’s achieved the least bad arrangement in the event of the High Court attempting to seal his fate — with a formula that ensures Israel moves automatically to new elections if he is disqualified within the government’s first six months, the period during which the court is most likely to issue any such ruling.”