News Roundup for August 4, 2020

August 4, 2020

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J Street works to promote an open, honest and rigorous conversation about Israel. The opinions reflected in articles posted in the News Roundup do not necessarily reflect J Street’s positions, and their posting does not constitute an endorsement from J Street.

Top News and Analysis

White House still mulling annexation, which could happen this month – source, Times of Israel
Avi Berkowitz, the US administration’s envoy to the Middle East, is continuing to work on the implementation of US President Donald Trump’s peace proposal, including conducting meetings with interlocutors preparing for possible Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank, according to a well-placed source. More discussions between Jerusalem and Washington are needed for annexation to take place, as are gestures toward the Palestinians, the source said, but the move could possibly get underway in the near future. But after August ends, annexation becomes increasingly unlikely due to the approaching US elections in November, he added.

Israel Strikes Syrian Military Positions in Response to Attempted Border Attack, Haaretz
The Israeli army said late on Monday it struck targets in southern Syria in response to an attempted border attack on Sunday night.

Netanyahu: West Bank annexation ‘not off the table’; issue ‘is in Washington’, Times of Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday told his Likud faction meeting that Israel’s planned annexation of West Bank land is not off the table, but is being held up by the US administration. “The issue of applying sovereignty is in Washington. It’s not off the table, the option still exists,” he said.


Netanyahu’s Son Says Israeli Leader ‘Entertained’ by Mass Protests Against Him, Haaretz
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son Yair said Monday that his father laughs at pictures of “aliens” demonstrating against him. “He sees the sights that all of us see, of these aliens,” Yair Netanyahu said in an interview with Galei Israel Radio, a West Bank-based Israeli station. “It makes him laugh. It’s like entertainment.”

European states denounce ‘illegal’ Israeli building plans in Jerusalem area, Times of Israel
The countries and the EU expressed their “grave concerns regarding the advancement of settlement construction in Givat Hamatos and potentially in the E1 area” in a démarche filed with the Foreign Ministry.

In a Pickle, Seth Rogen Tells Haaretz What He Really Thinks About Israel and ‘White Supremacist’ Trump, Haaretz
“Things I said were taken and chopped up, and the context literally removed from it, and if I read some of those things out of context I would also probably be upset about it,” he says. Rogen describes himself as a “proud” Jew, and discussed speaking out against antisemitism, including when it happens on his home turf of Hollywood. He was equally outspoken about politics and the recent Black Lives Matter protests, saying that “no part of me was questioning why people were as angry as they were.”

Likud minister: If Gantz fails to back budget, we’ll form alternative government, Times of Israel
Regional Cooperation Minister Ofir Akunis warned Monday that if the Blue and White party does not back a single-year budget as pushed by his Likud party, the latter will seek to replace the unity coalition with an alternative government of 61 MKs.

Racism Is Everywhere in Israel, Even at anti-Netanyahu Protests, Ethiopian Israeli Activist Says, Haaretz
“They see it as a white protest, and our community is angry and bitter at the whites who, instead of supporting us, have blamed us and accused us of being hooligans at our demonstrations,” Mola says.

Obama gave a House candidate his blessing — after reading his letter to a rabbi, Times of Israel
Barack Obama unveiled his first wave of down-ballot endorsements for the 2020 elections Monday, which included the Bronx Middle School principal Jamaal Bowman. After receiving the former president’s backing, Bowman explained the backstory behind the announcement: Obama had reached out to him after reading his response to a local rabbi who questioned the candidate’s positions on Israel.

Yair Netanyahu Fails to Pay Court-imposed Penalty in Libel Case, Haaretz
Yair Netanyahu, the son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, failed to pay the 500 shekels (around $150) in legal expenses he was ordered to give to Molad, a progressive think tank. The two are engaged in a mutual libel case, and neither would comment on the proceedings.

Cars torched, graffiti scrawled in West Bank village in apparent hate crime, Times of Israel
Photos from the scene published by the local council showed a burnt car and graffiti reading, “The Land of Israel [belongs] to the People of Israel.”

Disabled Gaza couple make dolls, costumes to give their children ‘decent life’, AFP
“We won’t give up, even if it’s hard,” said Zeinab as she prepared tea on a stove in their one-bedroom apartment in Rafah refugee camp of southern Gaza. Like nearly 50 percent of Gaza residents, the Jarboas receive food aid from the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).

Opinion and Analysis

Israel facing tensions on northern, southern borders, Al-Monitor
Rina Bassit writes, “The IDF is now worried not only about escalating tensions on the Syrian and Lebanese borders but also about growing tensions along the border with the Gaza Strip.”

Netanyahu Chose His Target for Next Election Campaign: Protesters and the Media, Haaretz
Yossi Verter writes, “Netanyahu, as we know, must have an available enemy, whom he can attack and portray as demonic and inhuman. On the eve of a possible election campaign into which he is dragging a country which has become his hostage, he is beginning to design the target for the campaign: the media and the demonstrations.”

The longer-term coronavirus fallout could erode democracy. Here’s how that could play out, Washington Post
Cristina Bodea and Christian Houle write, “The ongoing coronavirus pandemic already has contributed to the deterioration of democracy in multiple countries, including Hungary, Israel, India, the Philippines and Brazil. Leaders have used the excuse of a health emergency to centralize power and reduce democratic freedoms. But what about the longer-term impact on democracy? Our research points to the causal pathways that can lead to the breakdown of democracy — as a result of the global economic fallout from the pandemic.”

What Comes First, an Israeli Army Firing Zone or Palestinian Villages?, Haaretz
Amira Hass writes, “As we can conclude from its response to the villagers’ petitions, the government expects justices Esther Hayut, Uzi Vogelman and Hanan Melcer to decide that the Jews always come first. That it’s always kosher, suitable and proper to erase the natural human-geographical continuum of the Palestinian communities.”

Israel Can’t Hide Evidence of Its Occupation Anymore, Foreign Policy
Zena Agha writes, “For more than 20 years, an obscure U.S. law concealed satellite imagery of Israel’s activities in the occupied territories. Because of an abrupt reversal, satellite technology can now be used to defend Palestinians’ human rights.”

My fellow Orthodox Jews: Start fighting for the Uighurs, The Forward
Avi Shafran writes, “The overwhelming majority of Uighurs, and likely all of those in China’s detention centers, are innocent civilians. It is their ethnicity and religion that make them subversives in the eyes of the Chinese authorities.”