News Roundup for December 2, 2019

December 2, 2019

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Top News and Analysis

Facing indictment, Netanyahu is taking the low road, Washington Post
The Editorial Board writes, “Rather than accede to the many calls for him to resign — and a poll showing that a majority of Israelis want him to go — Mr. Netanyahu has adopted what might be called, and what probably deliberately is, a Trumpian defense. The charges against him, he claims, are an ‘attempted coup’; the police investigators and prosecutors who spent years preparing them are guilty of a ‘witch hunt’ and should themselves be investigated.”

Israel Plans to ‘Double’ Jewish Settlement in Battleground City of Hebron, Haaretz
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett has instructed the Israeli Civil Administration in the West Bank to inform the Hebron municipality that a new Jewish neighborhood is planned for the area of the Hebron fruit and vegetable market, which has stood empty for 25 years. According to the plan, the market’s existing buildings, which belong to Hebron’s municipality, will be demolished to make way for new shops and residential buildings. According to Bennett, the neighborhood “will create a territorial continuation from the Cave of the Patriarchs to the Avraham Avinu neighborhood, and double the number of Jewish residents in the city.”

Scant progress in coalition talks, with nation said ‘hurtling towards elections’, Times of Israel
A meeting Sunday between negotiators of the Blue and White party and the Likud party on a potential unity government ended without any breakthroughs that would prevent the country from holding a third round of elections within months. A Blue and White source told the Ynet website that the country is “hurtling towards elections.” And a party source told Channel 12 news that Likud was “refusing to give up the bloc,” in reference to the 55-MK bloc of right-wing and religious parties that have vowed to negotiate as a single unit. In an official statement Blue and White said the meeting was amicable but “the gaps between both sides remain significant.”


Netanyahu charges re-delivered to Knesset, starting clock on immunity request, Times of Israel
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit released a new version of the indictment against Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, designating the Jerusalem District Court as the bench that may hold the first ever trial of a sitting Israeli prime minister and naming 333 witnesses that the state may call.

Palestinian teen shot dead by Israeli forces in Gaza Strip, Al Jazeera
Fahd al-Astal, 16, died after being shot in stomach east of Khan Younis in southern Gaza, ministry of health said.

PM’s fresh push for leadership stalls as right-wing MKs delay pledging support, Times of Israel
The Likud and Blue and White parties were both racing Sunday to gather signatures from lawmakers in a bid to win another attempt at forming a government, although it quickly became apparent that getting the required 61 signatures would probably only be possible next week.

Israel planning new settlement in flashpoint city of Hebron, Al Jazeera
Israel’s defence minister has approved plans for the building of a new illegal settlement in the heart of the flashpoint city of Hebron, drawing sharp criticism from Palestinian officials.

Israeli fighter planes strike Hamas military compound in northern Gaza, JTA
Israeli fighter planes struck what the Israel Defense Forces identified as Hamas “terror targets” in retaliation for a rocket fired on southern Israel.

President Trump speaks with Israel’s Netanyahu about Iran, other issues, Times of Israel
US President Donald Trump spoke Sunday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with the two leaders focusing talks on “the threat from Iran,” the White House said. “The leaders discussed the threat from Iran, as well as other critical bilateral and regional issues,” a terse statement said late Sunday.

Six European countries join Iran sanctions-busting mechanism, AFP/Times of Israel
Paris, London and Berlin on Saturday welcomed six new European countries to the INSTEX barter mechanism, which is designed to circumvent US sanctions against trade with Iran by avoiding use of the dollar.

Israel minister’s plans for Hebron settlement ‘result of US policy’ says Palestinian official, The National
“Israel’s decision to build a new illegal settlement in occupied Hebron is the first tangible result of the US decision to legitimize colonization,” Saab Erakat, secretary-general of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, said in response to the move.

Bennett orders IDF to conduct feasibility study on artificial Gaza island plan, Times of Israel
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett has thrown his support behind an initiative to construct an artificial island port off the coast of Gaza, ordering the IDF to conduct a feasibility study into the project, Channel 12 reported on Saturday.

Opinion and Analysis

With Ten Days Left to Form a Government, Can Israelis Be Spared a Third Election?, Haaretz
Chaim Levinson and Jonathan Lis writes, “Just ten days remain until the period ends in which the Knesset can present a candidate to form a government. If that effort is unsuccessful, the Knesset will dissolve and a third round of elections will be inevitable. If, on the other hand, a Knesset member is successful in collecting the required 61 signatures, the president will give that person 14 days to form the government. Here are the possible scenarios…”

Seeking calm but wary of the street, Hamas stuck in an uneasy tango with Israel, Times of Israel
Avi Issacharoff writes, “The Gazan terror group and Jerusalem have taken steps to keep the border quiet, but if popular anger builds, they may end up swinging back into more rounds of violence.”

Three Scenarios for Netanyahu’s Chaotic Climax: The Good, the Bad and the Horrendous, Haaretz
Chemi Shalev writes, “Salvation, stagnation or capitulation – These are the ways Israel’s paralyzing political stalemate might be resolved…”

Netanyahu directs supporters to protest law enforcement, Al-Monitor
Ben Caspit writes, “No Israeli government had ever organized a demonstration against the rule of law. No Israeli prime minister had ever urged his supporters to take to the streets and call for the arrests of the state prosecutors and police investigators tasked with handling suspicions of his criminal wrongdoing. But that’s what occurred for the first time ever Nov. 26 in front of the Tel Aviv Art Museum. Several thousand ardent fans of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed up, rather than the larger masses that the Likud predicted, but their message was loud and clear and the event plainly showed that the prime minister is willing to sacrifice the state and its institutions to avoid prosecution.”

Even After Weekend Violence, Israel and Hamas Moving Toward Long-term Gaza Calm, Haaretz
Amos Harel writes, “Even after a pretty violent weekend on the Gaza border – a Palestinian teenager killed by army fire at a demonstration near the fence, rockets intercepted in the western Negev skies, a false alarm in Ashkelon – Israel and Hamas continue to hold indirect discussions on a long-term agreement.”