News Roundup for July 27, 2020

July 27, 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

Dovish former MKs urge US Democrats to ‘reject occupation’ in platform, Times of Israel
“A group of 27 dovish former Knesset members and Israeli diplomats sent a letter to the Democratic Party’s platform drafting committee Friday urging them to ‘reject occupation’ in the 2020 policy document. The letter comes after the Democratic National Committee released a draft of the platform last week, which broke new ground from 2016 by opposing annexation and supporting Palestinian rights, but that also disappointed progressives by leaving out any mention of Israel’s military presence in the West Bank. ‘We are reaching out to our friends in the Democratic Party to ask that you ensure that the party’s platform explicitly rejects Israel’s occupation over the Palestinian people, the Trump plan, and the annexation of any part of the occupied territories,’ the ex-officials wrote […] The left-wing Mideast advocacy group J Street, for instance, called the document a ‘step forward’ but said it couldn’t neglect occupation. ‘This draft language is a step forward… but the Democratic platform *must* include mention of occupation,’ the organization tweeted. It also included a link for its members to sign a petition urging the drafting committee to amend the section.”

Insurgent New York primary victories could signal shift in Orthodox voting, The Forward
“Yet Engel’s over-reliance on Israel may have soured some voters on him, as when he repeatedly answered debate questions on domestic issues with statements about Israel […] ’The old political playbook — which cautioned candidates to never criticize harmful Israeli government policies or vocally support Palestinian rights — is no longer relevant,’ J Street spokesperson Logan Bayroff said in a statement. ‘Instead, candidates are taking note that appearing to be too hawkish on these issues is now becoming politically risky.’”

Top News and Analysis

President Joe Biden Will Have the Palestinians’ Back – and Israel’s, Too, Haaretz
Joel Rubin, Bernie Sanders’ Jewish outreach director writes, “From opposing settlements to protecting the right to criticize Israeli policies without fear, the Democratic party platform on Israel-Palestine is the most realistic and most progressive of its kind […] Let’s get real. If a two-state solution isn’t achieved soon, then we will witness further deterioration in the status quo between Israelis and Palestinians and increasing calls for a one-state non-solution. One state will almost certainly lead to either permanent occupation and disenfranchisement of Palestinians, or a minority status for Jewish Israelis. This is why neither side currently calls for such an outcome. Two states must be an urgent priority.”

After Early Success, Israel’s Netanyahu Faces Fury for Flubbing Virus Fight, New York Times
For three nights this week thousands of young Israelis, provoked by what they see as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s flubbed response to the coronavirus scourge, shook off a long political slumber, blocked the streets outside his official residence and demanded that he quit. Many were not even of voting age when Mr. Netanyahu took office in Israel 11 years ago. But their anger signaled that his storied political survival skills are confronting a new risk. “We have woken up,” read an enormous banner on a nearby building. “We’ve learned that we have to look out for ourselves,” said Maayan Shrem, 25, a youth counselor and former combat soldier who came to Thursday night’s protest from his hometown, Karmiel, a two-hour bus ride from Jerusalem. Holding a placard that read “We will not cease to fight for our country,” his friend, Oren Gery, 26, added, “Change has to come from the bottom up.”

Coronavirus crisis sparks a young Israeli protest movement, AP
In attending his first-ever public protest, 34-year-old Nimrod Gross arrived with the only prop he felt reflected him — the blue-and-white Israeli flag. The former combat soldier and current tour guide and after-school science teacher had seen his monthly income plunge to around $500 as a result of the harsh economic fallout from the coronavirus. A centrist who shuns politics, but with siblings who supported Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he sought a unifying symbol to express his despair. Instead, Gross and his flag were pummeled by powerful police water cannons. The moment was captured by an Associated Press photographer, quickly becoming an emblematic image of the public outcry generating the wave of demonstrations sweeping the country against Netanyahu and his perceived failure to handle the country’s deepening economic crisis.


Netanyahu said eyeing loophole to ditch Gantz, form right-wing coalition, Times of Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is looking at dismantling the unity government he currently has with Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz, but before calling new elections, he will try to exploit a loophole in the coalition agreement to form an alternative government, a report said Sunday. Channel 12 said Netanyahu will try to pull in Yoaz Hendel’s and Zvi Hauser’s Derech Eretz party and others to get a majority of 61 lawmakers in the 120-member Knesset, citing unnamed Likud sources.

Mosque torched near Ramallah in apparent extremist hate crime, Times of Israel
Vandals set fire to a mosque in the city of el-Bireh outside Ramallah in the West Bank overnight, according to Palestinian reports Monday morning, in an apparent hate attack by extremist Israelis.

Ex-Israeli soldier now believes treatment of Palestinians is immoral, Business Insider
“I wanted to be the moral soldier. I believed I could be that soldier who gives the Palestinians good service – service with a smile,” Carmel said. “Later I realised you could be as smiley as you like. You could give Palestinian children sweets, but ultimately, you control their lives with military power.”

At least 5,000 protest Netanyahu’s handling of the coronavirus crisis in Jerusalem, JTA
The protesters chanted “Bibi go home,” using Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s nickname, and waved signs criticizing his government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. The Times of Israel approximated the crowd to be 5,000, while Israel’s Channel 13 estimated it to be 10,000.

Activists to picket police minister’s home after he tells cops to quash rallies, Times of Israel
Leaders of the protest movement against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Monday that they will stage a protest Tuesday evening outside the home of Public Security Minister Amir Ohana after he was recorded pressuring police brass to step up enforcement against demonstrators.

Start With Drums, End in the Slammer: Anti-Netanyahu Protests Gain Momentum, Haaretz
Eleven days have passed since the first big protest near Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem, when the first demonstrators were arrested and police used water cannon trucks to disperse the crowd. In those 11 days, at least eight major demonstrations were held on or near Balfour Street, each of them bigger than the last.

Netanyahu’s Public Security Minister ‘Aggressively’ Trying to Stifle anti-Netanyahu Protests, Senior Officers Say, Haaretz
Public Security Minister Amir Ohana is trying to exploit the appointment of the police commissioner to put an end to the ongoing demonstrations taking place outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, senior police officials said in closed-door meetings.

Opinion and Analysis

I’m a Zionist. Here’s why I protested in L.A. against annexation, The Forward
Dan Lainer-voss writes, “It will turn the occupation, which I long considered a temporary aberration, into the norm which will destroy the possibility that sometime, in the future, a just Israel may reassert itself. The annexation will make it clear that this country, which I love so deeply, is no longer mine. While my own story is unique, I suspect that this is true for all American Jews who care about Israel and about the equality of all people. If the occupation becomes permanent, loving Israel will be impossible.”

Netanyahu faces Israelis’ anger as virus surges and unemployment rises, The Guardian
Oliver Holmes and Quique Kierszenbaum write, “As well as the usual demonstrators from Israel’s small but vocal anti-occupation movement and anti-corruption activists, protest numbers have swelled to include artists, environmentalists, students and even people from the dominant right wing. Many who rally are recently unemployed, or business owners now facing ruin in the face of the pandemic.”

Iran, sanctions, and the COVID-19 pandemic, Responsible Statecraft
Roxane Farmanfarmaian writes, “As the new surge in infections grips five out of Iran’s 31 provinces, the government is battling social distancing fatigue and widespread fear that the currency drop will cut deeply into people’s ability to withstand the economic slowdown. Although the roads are choked with traffic, and the bazaar, quiet for the first time in centuries, is now bustling, the concern is that hyperinflation may be in the offing, and hard decisions balancing health against economic welfare, according to the Health Minister, Said Namaki, could prompt protests.”

Hope and optimism should be key pillars of Israel’s foreign policy, The Jerusalem Post
Nadav Tamir writes, “While Israel has become a regional power with world-renowned defense and economic capabilities, many Israelis continue to feel the existential threat that marked our history. Our leaders have fanned these sentiments in recent years, whether out of certain authentic personality traits or as a tool for political manipulation. In order to examine how foreign policy based on self-assurance and initiative differs from foreign policy driven by a sense of victimization and pessimism, I will touch on three geo-strategic challenges confronting Israel: The Iranian threat, the Arab Spring and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Israel’s Second Coronavirus Wave Stalled Annexation, but Netanyahu Still Wants It, Haaretz
Barak Ravid writes, “The second wave of the coronavirus has pushed annexation off the agenda for now, but if the pandemic is halted Netanyahu is likely to reintroduce it in September, in a last-ditch attempt to advance it before the November election in the United States. It would be a dirty last-minute play, of course, but beyond that, the failures in managing the coronavirus crisis should prove even to supporters of annexation Netanyahu’s limitations when it comes to managing such a dramatic maneuver.”

Why is the world unable to see Gaza’s true potential?, The National
Janine di Giovanni writes, “I been travelling to the Gaza Strip since the end of the first intifada – the Palestinian uprising – in the early 1990s. Every time I have made my way past the Erez border crossing, I have had a sense of being locked in, despite holding a passport that gives me the option to leave whenever I want. For Gazans, who are seldom able to cross the barrier to find work or even to meet relatives and friends in the West Bank or Jerusalem, the feeling is permanent.”

Anti-Netanyahu Protests: Five Signs That His Supporters Should Be Worried About, Haaretz
Nir Hasson writes, “In the two weeks since the demonstrations began, the number of protesters in Paris Square has swelled from around 1,000 to the roughly 10,000 who were there on Saturday night.”