News Roundup for July 1, 2020

July 1, 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

Netanyahu ally confirms delays in West Bank annexation plan, AP
A confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that the Israeli leader’s plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank would not start on Wednesday, the original target date, as the British prime minister made an extraordinary appeal to Israel to call off the plan. The developments cast further uncertainty over whether Israel will ultimately follow through on the explosive annexation initiative, which has drawn fierce international condemnations from some of Israel’s closest allies. Speaking on Israel’s Army Radio station, Cabinet minister Ofir Akunis confirmed that the annexation process would not begin on Wednesday, saying that officials were still working out the final details with their American counterparts. He said he expected the annexation to take place later in July. “Coordination with the American administration is not something that can be dismissed,” he said.

Ocasio-Cortez raises AIPAC ire over effort to tie Israel aid to annexation, Politico
A dozen Democratic lawmakers have signed on to a hotly debated letter spearheaded by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that calls for placing conditions on aid to Israel if it moves forward with plans to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank or continues related actions, according to a copy obtained by POLITICO. “Should the Israeli government continue down this path, we will work to ensure non-recognition of annexed territories as well as pursue legislation that conditions the $3.8 billion in U.S. military funding to Israel to ensure that U.S. taxpayers are not supporting annexation in any way,” Ocasio-Cortez’s letter reads. “We will include human rights conditions and the withholding of funds for the offshore procurement of Israeli weapons equal to or exceeding the amount the Israeli government spends annually to fund settlements, as well as the policies and practices that sustain and enable them.”

In Hebrew op-ed, UK’s Johnson implores Israel to drop annexation bid, Times of Israel
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged Israel not to follow through with plans to annex large parts of the West Bank and warned that the UK would not accept the move, in a direct plea to Israelis published Wednesday as a front-page op-ed in a major Hebrew newspaper.


Bernie Sanders Signs AOC’s Anti-annexation Letter Threatening to Cut U.S. Military Aid to Israel, Haaretz
The Ocasio-Cortez letter, which now also enjoys Sanders’ support, is much more critical of Israel than an earlier, widely-signed letter, and warns explicitly that unilateral annexation would create an “apartheid” reality on the ground.

859 new virus cases confirmed, in highest 24-hour tally since outbreak started, Times of Israel
The Health Ministry on Wednesday morning confirmed 859 new coronavirus infections over the previous 24 hours, Israel’s highest single-day total since the start of the pandemic.

If Annexation Doesn’t Happen in July, It Won’t Happen at All, Israeli Settler Leaders Fear, Haaretz
Settlement leaders in the West Bank don’t expect Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to meet his self-imposed deadline to begin the process toward Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank on Wednesday, but some even go as far as predicting that if the move does not happen in July, it will never take place at all.

2 settler leaders assail Netanyahu as annexation date arrives sans announcement, Times of Israel
“[Former prime minister Menachem] Begin enacted sovereignty over the Golan Heights in one day. He passed all three readings [of the legislation] in the Knesset and gave no one any chance to oppose his plan. Unfortunately, with Prime Minister Netanyahu this is not the case,” Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan said in a statement.

Hamas fires volley of rockets into sea in warning against annexation, Ynet News
Palestinian media referred to the rocket fire as a “warning” against plans to annex parts of the West Bank.

Joint List to EU: Suspend ties with Israel if it doesn’t renounce annexation, Times of Israel
In letters to senior EU officials, including foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the 15 Joint List MKs claim that “the traditional approach based on providing incentives to Israel has thus far failed to achieve our shared legitimate positions.”

Gantz warns Hamas on retaliating against annexation, Al-Monitor
“If Hamas tests us, they will pay a heavy price,” Gantz said Monday.

In unprecedented harangue, Netanyahu accuses Mandelblit of scheming to oust him, Times of Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday night launched a scathing, unprecedented attack against Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, whom he appointed and who served previously as his chief of staff, accusing him of being part of a deep-state conspiracy scheme aiming to oust him for political reasons.

Army Allows Mass Prayer Service for Annexation in Nablus Despite Spike in Coronavirus Cases, Haaretz
The service was intended to “strengthen the prime minister and the success of sovereignty,” organizers said, referring to plans to annex parts of the West Bank.

Dutch MPs urge list of possible sanctions in response to Israeli annexation, Times of Israel
The Dutch parliament on Thursday passed a resolution urging the government to explore possible sanctions against Israel if it goes ahead with its plans to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank.

Opinion and Analysis

Annexation would fundamentally change the American Jewish community’s relationship with Israel. We must stop it, JTA
Nancy Kaufman writes, “This annexation would make the military occupation of the Palestinian people permanent. It would require us to square our Jewish values of freedom and democracy with the permanent denial of citizenship and equality to millions under its control, an impossible task.  If this happens, I fear that many American Jews will simply opt out of supporting and caring about Israel rather than trying to justify these indefensible positions. I fear even more that a generation of young Jews, righteously marching on American streets for racial justice, will look at Israel and see a nation not living up to the values they have ascribed to it for their whole lives.”

Netanyahu’s Taken It Too Far, Haaretz
The Editorial Board writes, “Netanyahu and Gantz are well aware that Israel cannot annex the territories without risking a Palestinian uprising and a regional conflagration. They also realize that annexation undermines the two-state solution, which is still the only solution to the conflict. If Netanyahu is really concerned about his legacy, he must be taking into account the fact that annexation would pave a new way for turning Israel into a binational state, or alternatively, to official apartheid.”

The Guardian view on Israel and annexation: unlawful, unwise and immoral, The Guardian
The Editorial Board writes, “Annexation looks like the executioner of the two-state solution. Israel has changed the facts on the ground, with the rapid growth of settlements rendering that goal less and less viable. But the declaration of sovereignty over parts of the occupied territories, in putting a formal seal on physical realities, will be a new and terrible moment, and above all a fresh injustice to Palestinians.”

As Israel’s friend, I urge you not to annex: PM Boris Johnson, UK Government
Prime Minister Boris Johnson writes, “Our commitment to Israel’s security will be unshakeable while I am Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. So it is with sadness that I have followed the proposals to annex Palestinian territory. As a life-long friend, admirer and supporter of Israel, I am fearful that these proposals will fail in their objective of securing Israel’s borders and will be contrary to Israel’s own long-term interests.”

Joe Biden Can, and Should, Stop Israel’s Annexation. This Is How, Haaretz
Paul Scham writes, “As America’s likely next president, Biden can undo Trump’s damage and differentiate himself from the Democratic party’s radical left and toothless right. But he has to abandon ambiguity.”

Israel’s Netanyahu still working out West Bank annexation plans, Washington Post
Steve Hendrix writes, “Amid pushback from Palestinians, activists and much of the European Union, the prime minister in recent days has been rumored to be considering less-ambitious options as a face-saving way to defuse the controversy, including annexing only a few long-established settlement blocs close to Jerusalem.”

Why Israel’s annexation plans matter for the region, Axios
Rashaan Ayesh writes, “The world is awaiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision on whether to annex up to 30% of the West Bank as soon as July 1 — likely further eroding relations with Arab governments and sparking a new wave of protests in the territory.”

Whatever Israel decides, a one-state reality looms, Washington Post
Ishaan Tharoor writes, “For Palestinians, there’s no moving on. The Palestinian Authority, the entity created to help shepherd the two-state solution forward in concert with the Israelis and the international community, is in deep crisis. It’s at odds with a right-wing Netanyahu government that shows little interest in meeting even baseline Palestinian demands; is facing bankruptcy; is mired in a dysfunctional intra-Palestinian standoff between mainstream factions and the Islamist group Hamas in Gaza; and has become increasingly unpopular among ordinary Palestinians, the majority of whom ‘now see the PA as a liability, not an asset,’ said Ghaith al-Omari, a former adviser to the Palestinian side in peace talks two decades ago.”