News Roundup for April 3, 2020

April 3, 2020

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Top News and Analysis

Israel struggles to form a government, even after sides agree to join forces, Washington Post
Steve Hendrix writes, “Israel’s unprecedented political stalemate — in which no party has been able to construct a governing majority in the deeply divided country for more than a year — has persisted through three ugly national elections, relentless campaigning and round-after-round of negotiations. Now, not even the surrender of one side has been enough to create to a breakthrough. At least, not yet.”

With the World Pre-occupied With Coronavirus, Israel Pushes a West Bank Land Grab, Haaretz
Evan Gottesman writes, “With coalition negotiations underway in Jerusalem, West Bank annexation still remains a top priority on the agenda for the Israeli right. Netanyahu still wants to pursue the Trump plan, and Naftali Bennett, Yamina party head and acting Defense Minister is making annexation a condition for joining the government. “

As coronavirus crisis looms, Israelis launch Gaza solidarity campaign, +972 Mag
Yaara Benger Alaluf, Hadas Pe’ery, Adi Golan Bikhnafo and Guy Shalev write, “When we think of the inevitable disaster ahead of us, we also fear the ongoing indifference of the Israeli public toward the situation in Gaza. But the COVID-19 crisis also holds the potential for us to rethink our reality, question common sense, value our shrinking freedoms, reshape our priorities, and stand in solidarity. That is why we, a group of Jewish Israelis, have launched an independent campaign called “Epidemic in Gaza” to raise awareness and express solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza. Our hope is that in a moment of crisis, when we are anxious about the health and well-being of those closest to us, we can nonetheless find room to acknowledge our responsibility for the reality taking place just a few miles away.”


Israel’s Coronavirus Forecast Plunges From Tens of Thousands to Less Than 1,000 Deaths, Haaretz
The rate of the coronavirus’ spread in Israel has slowed, according to a report prepared this week by a team of 30 experts appointed by the National Security Council to analyze the outbreak, with eyes now cautiously pointed towards devising an exit strategy.

Unity government nears completion as Yamina threatens to bolt, Times of Israel
The major sticking point in the talks — annexation of parts of the West Bank — appears to have been bridged, though reports and claims about how it was bridged contradict each other. Likud had demanded to annex part of the West Bank within the next six months, fulfilling the party’s campaign promise. But Blue and White has insisted on delaying any dramatic geopolitical steps for at least six months while Israel deals with the COVID-19 crisis.

As Coronavirus Spreads in West Bank, Palestinians Also Face Greater Settler Violence, Haaretz
On March 24, in the West Bank, Naji Tantara was hospitalized with a skull fracture after being attacked with an ax. Arua Nasan was hit in the face with a hammer and beaten by youths with iron rods. Eight settlers surrounded Ali Zoabi while he was lying on the ground, and kicked him repeatedly.

Draft of unity deal said to provide for Netanyahu to stay on in PM’s residence, Times of Israel
A draft unity government agreement reportedly provides for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stay on in the official Prime Minister’s residence even after he hands over power to Blue and White leader Benny Gantz in a rotation agreement, the Haaretz daily reported late Wednesday.

Palestinian university produces model for inexpensive respirator, The Jerusalem Post
Researchers at Al-Quds University in east Jerusalem’s Abu Dis neighborhood have produced a fully computerized model of a respiratory machine for treating coronavirus patients, Prof. Imad Abu Kishek announced Wednesday.

Hamas chief threatens Israel over ventilators for coronavirus patients, Times of Israel
The head of Hamas in Gaza warned Israel if more ventilators for coronavirus patients were not brought into the Palestinian enclave then his terror group will “take them by force.”

Netanyahu Behind Closed Doors: ‘Deep State’ Controls Israel, Haaretz
People who met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in recent months have heard lengthy speeches that seemed to be taken from one of Oliver Stone’s conspiracist screenplays. He told them that even though he has been elected repeatedly, in reality, the country is controlled by a “deep state.”

Police deploy in force as virus-struck Bnei Brak becomes ‘restricted zone’, Times of Israel
Police deployed in force in Bnei Brak Friday morning, setting up dozens of checkpoints at entrances and exits to the central city, hours after the cabinet declared the coronavirus hotspot a “restricted zone.”

UK ‘must be pressed to recognise Palestinian state’: ex-diplomat, Al Jazeera
The Conservative British government must be pressed “to recognise the state of Palestine … as the place where Palestinians must be enabled to exercise their right to self-determination”, a former United Kingdom diplomat said on Thursday evening.

Military to evacuate 4,500 elderly Bnei Brak residents to quarantine hotels, Times of Israel
The Israeli military will remove some 4,500 people above the age of 80 from the predominantly ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, placing those residents most at risk from the coronavirus in state-run isolation hotels.

Online Kaddish, Shabbat burials: Jewish legal authorities grapple with pandemic, JTA
As the coronavirus pandemic forces Jews around the world to contemplate a Passover holiday in which large family gatherings will be all but impossible, an unusual question posed to a group of Israeli rabbis led to an extraordinary answer.

Opinion and Analysis

In the Battle Against Coronavirus, Israel Was Both Early Enough and Too Late, Haaretz
Amos Harel writes, “Quick decisions to order isolation and social distancing helped flatten the curve, but rabbis and ultra-Orthodox politicians only just came to their senses.”

You can do it: Your guide to hosting (or attending) a virtual Passover seder, The Forward
Irene Connelly writes, “The whole worldwide pandemic thing is making it a little more difficult to gather together and retell the Passover story. But in the past few weeks, as professional and personal life shifted online, Jewish cooks, clergy, and community leaders mobilized to adapt the age-old Passover seder to an entirely new format: the video conference.”