News Roundup for December 23, 2020

December 23, 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.

J Street in the News

The importance of understanding complexity in other countries, The Jerusalem Post
J Street Israel Director Nadav Tamir writes, “We tend to treat each country as a unified, homogeneous, rational player and adopt policies accordingly. In reality, almost each and every country is composed of many players who influence policy, both within and outside of government. This is also true of nondemocratic countries. Time and again, we fail to recognize their impact on internal processes in various countries. It has become our blind spot in policy decision-making […] We have seen this process play out in our own arena in various ways over recent years. The Israeli government, for example, has ignored the Democratic Party in the US and, by extension, the sentiments of most American Jews, causing long-term damage to our relations with the United States and with the most important Diaspora community. We have also erred in our understanding of the need to empower moderate elements in Palestinian society and consequently strengthened the extremist supporters of terrorism.”

Democrat group pans lawmakers who called Palestinian hamlet’s razing illegal, Times of Israel
“A Democratic pro-Israel group sent a memo to Hill staffers earlier this month criticizing a group of 40 left-wing lawmakers who signed a letter that called the Israeli demolition of a wildcat Palestinian village in the West Bank ‘a violation of international law’ and an example of ‘creeping annexation.’ […] In a counter memo to Democratic staffers, J Street accused DMFI of ‘drawing on the work of Regavim — a far-right Israeli NGO that wages legal battles to evacuate Palestinian villages in the occupied West Bank and campaigns against Palestinian statehood and for Israeli annexation of the West Bank.’ Mellman insisted the use of the Regavim picture was not intentional and that DMFI had no contact with the right-wing Israeli group.”

Top News and Analysis

Netanyahu Gains Steam, Gantz Teetering on the Brink, Election Poll Shows, Haaretz
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party is powering ahead to 29 out of 120 Knesset seats, a poll published Tuesday by Channel 12 News finds, hours before the parliament is set to dissolve, sending Israel to its fourth election in two years. This represents a two-seat increase from last week’s poll for the sitting prime minister, though a clear path to a 61-seat majority continues to elude him.

Israeli Government Collapses, Forcing 4th Election in 2 Years, New York Times
The Israeli Parliament dissolved itself at midnight on Tuesday. The move forced a new election after weeks of infighting and paralysis in the so-called unity government, an uneasy coalition sworn in just seven months ago that paired Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party with his main rival-turned-partner, Benny Gantz of the centrist Blue and White party.

Who Will Prevent the Next War in Gaza, Now That Mladenov’s Gone?, Haaretz
Lior Lehrs and Nimrod Goren write, “Nickolay Mladenov, one of the most successful UN envoys to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was a key mediator between Israel and Hamas. Can his successor leverage a post-Trump Mideast towards a negotiated peace?”


Israel’s New COVID Restrictions Bar Entry of Foreigners as Cases Surge, Haaretz
Israel’s new guidelines drastically limiting the entry of foreign citizens into the country went into effect on Wednesday, after the government had previously made numerous exceptions to its official policy to bar the entry of non-Israelis to the country over the course of the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump administration prods Indonesia to recognize Israel with promise of perhaps $2 billion more in aid, JTA
Adam Boehler, the CEO of the U.S. International Development Finance Corp., told Bloomberg that Indonesia could get $1 billion to $2 billion more in development aid if it joins the rush being organized by the Trump administration in its final days to have Arab and Muslim countries openly recognize Israel.

Trump Appoints Controversial Loyalist Grenell to Holocaust Memorial Council, Haaretz
Richard Grenell, who served as U.S. ambassador to Germany, has been criticized for endangering German Jews by praising the ‘resurgence’ of Europe’s ‘anti-establishment’ populists.

Sharren Haskel is latest Likud MK to defect to Sa’ar’s new party, Times of Israel
Likud MK Sharen Haskel announced Wednesday that she was resigning from the Knesset and joining the recently established New Hope party set up by another Likud rebel, former MK Gideon Sa’ar.

Israel deploys submarine to Persian Gulf in message of deterrence to Iran, Washington Post
An Israeli submarine has embarked for the Persian Gulf in possible preparation for any Iranian retaliation following the November assassination of a senior Iranian nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Israeli media reported.

After murder, IDF sends reinforcements to West Bank, halts home leave for troops, Times of Israel
The military on Tuesday said it was sending reinforcements to the West Bank, following a series of violent incidents in the area.

Ohio lawmakers vote to launch Holocaust education commission, JTA
The Holocaust and Genocide Memorial and Education Commission would “help cultivate knowledge and understanding of one of the most tragic occurrences in the world’s history,” the state Senate said in nearly unanimously approving the bill on Dec. 9. The state House of Representatives followed suit last week in a 77-7 vote.

Health Ministry set to push immediate 3-week lockdown amid rising cases, Times of Israel
The Health Ministry is reportedly planning to present cabinet ministers Wednesday with a proposal to introduce an immediate three-week national lockdown that would include shuttering schools and limiting people to within a kilometer of their homes.

COVID-19 testing site in Israel torched by extremists, JTA
A COVID-19 testing site in Bnei Brak, a mostly haredi Orthodox city in Israel, was set ablaze on Monday evening by extremists, according to The Jerusalem Post. No one was harmed in the attack.

Opinion and Analysis

The End of the Road for Bibi?, Foreign Policy
Neri Zilber writes, “Another Israeli election and a rebellion in the ruling Likud party spell trouble for Netanyahu.”

How Netanyahu’s malicious fear-mongering could backfire on him, Washington Post
Gershom Gorenberg writes, “Netanyahu has exploited multiple divisions in Israeli society, but his portrayal of Arab citizens as a faceless mass of fifth columnists has been particularly blatant. On election day in 2015, he triggered a surge in right-wing turnout with a video warning that Arab voters were ‘advancing on the polling places in droves.’ His Likud Party’s election campaign kicked off in early 2019 with the slogan ‘Bibi or Tibi’ — meaning that a vote for anyone but Netanyahu was a vote for a coalition supported by Arab parties, personified by Arab politician Ahmad Tibi.”

This Israeli Election Season Will Feature Vaccines, Generals and Political Cannibalism, Haaretz
Jonathan Lis, Chaim Levinson, Aaron Rabinowitz and Jack Khoury write, “Netanyahu will flaunt COVID vaccines and peace, Kahol Lavan might fall into oblivion and the Joint List is facing a split as Israel gears up for its fourth election in two years.”

The rivals on the right: Why the new election will be much tougher for Netanyahu, Times of Israel
Haviv Rettig Gur writes, “Gantz has lost, that doesn’t mean Netanyahu has won. In a bitter irony for Netanyahu, his path to outright victory has only grown more difficult with Gantz’s collapse.”