News Roundup for June 4 2021

June 4, 2021

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J Street in the News

Netanyahu is out, but do liberal American Jews have anything to celebrate?, Forward
“‘For the sake of the health of Israeli democracy, and also for the U.S.-Israel relationship in the long run, getting Benjamin Netanyahu out of the prime minister’s office is an extraordinarily important move,’ said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, the liberal pro-Israel group. […] But, Ben-Ami said, that is only half the battle. ‘It really doesn’t matter whose name plate is outside of the prime minister’s office,’ he said. ‘What matters is the policies that are followed.’”

Is pro-Israel advocacy in crisis? How the Gaza conflict exposed political fault lines, JTA
“The Democratic Party is no longer a redoubt of unquestioning support for Israel. […] J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, said defense assistance deserved scrutiny. The bottom line for being pro-Israel, he said, is ‘are you in a camp that says the United States has Israel’s back when it faces serious security threats?’ But that didn’t mean every arms transfer to Israel was merited. ‘I’m sure Bernie Sanders is in that camp, I know that we’re in that camp — but you have to look closely at what we’re providing,’ Ben-Ami said. ‘At the end of the day, the definition of being pro-Israel can’t be “are you willing to write a blank check?” just because it’s labeled “security.”‘

US Jewish groups await outcome of Israel’s government, liberals celebrate Netanyahu’s fall, JNS
“Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, wrote a long column on the organization’s website celebrating Netanyahu’s removal, saying that his fall from power is a “great relief” for those who care about democracy. ‘It’s nearly impossible to overstate the damage Netanyahu and his party has done to Israeli democracy, civic institutions and the rule of law, the degree to which they have harmed Israel’s relationship to American Jews or the negative impact they have had in expanding settlements, undercutting hopes for a two-state solution and delegitimizing the entire concept of Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy and compromise.’”

The case for American diplomacy in the Middle East, Times of Israel
J Street’s Nadav Tamir writes, “In an article criticizing US President Biden’s policy in the Middle East published in Haaretz on May 28, 2021 (President Joe Biden’s dangerous policy of appeasement – Israel News – Gadi Taub Israeli polemicist and former writer and Michael Doran, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, accuse the Biden administration of ‘appeasement’ in its intention to ‘complete the realignment with respect to Iran, which Barack Obama began’. The approach presented by the authors reveals a lack of understanding of the nature of diplomacy and of US and Israeli interests.”

Top News and Analysis

Jerusalem evictions that fueled Gaza war could still happen, AP
A long-running campaign by Jewish settlers to evict dozens of Palestinian families in east Jerusalem is still underway, even after it fueled weeks of unrest and helped ignite an 11-day Gaza war. An intervention by Israel’s attorney general at the height of the unrest has put the most imminent evictions on hold. But rights groups say evictions could still proceed in the coming months as international attention wanes, potentially igniting another round of bloodshed.

For Years, Netanyahu Outlasted His Rivals. What Changed This Week?, New York Times
Naftali Bennett, the leader of a hard-right political party, stood before television cameras and pledged never to share power with Yair Lapid, a centrist, and Mansour Abbas, an Islamist. It was March 22, the day before Israel’s fourth election in two years. Yet late Wednesday night, just 72 days later, there was Mr. Bennett, sitting down beside both Mr. Abbas and Mr. Lapid and signing a deal that, pending a confidence vote in Parliament later this month, would see all three unite in the first government since 2009 that won’t be led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. […] The question of what changed since a fourth inconclusive election in March — and why — has several answers, both systemic and circumstantial.

Palestinians welcome end of Netanyahu era – but fear more of the same, The Guardian
Palestinians in Gaza are still clearing up after last month’s 11-day war with Israel, which saw tower blocks levelled by bombs. How Palestinians in the occupied territories view changes in Israeli governments is always complicated. The prospect of the departure of Netanyahu as Israel’s prime minister, a little less so. Without a vote in Israeli elections, Palestinians living in the occupied territories have no say in the decision, despite the fact that Israeli politics has far-reaching consequences in defining how Palestinian life is shaped.


Netanyahu claims his successor-in-waiting won’t stand up to Biden, Axios
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked political allies in a meeting on Thursday to push the talking point that Prime Minister-designate Naftali Bennett would be unable to stand up to President Biden on Iran or fend off U.S. pressure on the Palestinian issue, sources who attended the meeting tell me. Bennett and centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid sealed a coalition agreement to replace Netanyahu on Wednesday, but the vote to swear in the new government might not come until next Wednesday. They will have to keep their wobbly alliance together until then as Netanyahu attempts to sabotage it.

A Historic Moment for Israeli Arabs, but With a Question Mark, New York Times
The agreement on a coalition that would oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after a dozen years in power and include an independent Arab party in the government for the first time blew up fault lines in Israeli politics and opened a potential new era. If Parliament backs the eight-party coalition, it holds out the tantalizing possibility that Arab citizens of Israel, who account for about a fifth of the population, might play a more active role in politics, to unifying effect. At the same time, the prospect of Naftali Bennett, a right-wing nationalist leader, becoming prime minister alarmed many Israeli Arabs.

Can Jews and Palestinians live peacefully in Israel? The data on mixed neighborhoods says yes., Washington Post
Our data shows that, before the current violence, Jewish and Palestinian residents of mixed neighborhoods reported frequent, positive contact with one another. Perhaps surprisingly, they reported little or no negative contact. “Contact” means a face-to-face encounter, such as having a chat or waving at one another. The survey evaluated positivity and negativity based on how respondents felt about their encounter.

Few Israelis wanted a leader to the right of Netanyahu. Naftali Bennett is set to oust his old boss anyway., CNN
The agreement on a coalition that would oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after a dozen years in power and include an independent Arab party in the government for the first time blew up fault lines in Israeli politics and opened a potential new era. If Parliament backs the eight-party coalition, it holds out the tantalizing possibility that Arab citizens of Israel, who account for about a fifth of the population, might play a more active role in politics, to unifying effect. At the same time, the prospect of Naftali Bennett, a right-wing nationalist leader, becoming prime minister alarmed many Israeli Arabs.

U.S. Relief Plan for Gaza Seeks to Bypass Hamas, Wall Street Journal
The Biden administration has committed to help rebuild Gaza after the devastation of the recent Mideast conflict, but without providing any support to Hamas, which governs the territory and is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. and its allies. The U.S. plans to address that challenge by channeling aid through a U.N. agency that frequently faces accusations of bias by supporters on all sides of the longstanding conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

Visiting Israeli defense chief seeks to reaffirm US support, AP
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz sought a reaffirmation of U.S. security commitments to Israel on Thursday as the country weathers its greatest domestic political upheaval in years and the aftermath of last month’s war with Hamas militants in Gaza. A key aim of Gantz’s visit to Washington is believed to be securing U.S. funding to help restock Israel’s Iron Dome, a sophisticated missile defense system that smacked down many of the rockets that Hamas militants fired toward Israel last month.

U.S. says ‘ironclad’ support for Israel to remain whichever govt in place, Reuters
The United States “ironclad” support for Israel will continue regardless of what government is in place, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Thursday, but declined to comment on the government formation process.

Netanyahu’s rivals are getting death threats as they prepare to replace him, JTA
In the days before Benjamin Netanyahu’s rival lawmakers announced that they had formed a government to replace the longtime prime minister, one fled her home with her partner and baby after receiving what she called “severe threats” against their safety. The threats to Tamar Zandberg of the left-wing Meretz party included a fake notice of her death that circulated on social media. Zandberg wasn’t the only Netanyahu opponent to receive death threats. So did Avigdor Lieberman and Naftali Bennett, former Netanyahu allies who have turned against him.

How the Biden Administration Is Preparing for a post-Netanyahu Israel, Haaretz
During his 48 hours in the country, Blinken ended up also meeting two other Israeli officials, who were not mentioned in the original press release: Defense Minister Benny Gantz and opposition leader Yair Lapid. What the two of them have in common, and what differentiates them from Netanyahu and Ashkenazi, is that both are important figures in the emerging coalition that is currently being assembled in an attempt to end Netanyahu’s hold on power.

Opinion and Analysis

The First Job for Israel’s New Government: Clean Up Bibi’s Mess, New York Times
Dahlia Scheindlin writes, “Without a permanent government, budget or substantive lawmaking on large-scale policy for two years, the country is at a standstill. The escalation with Hamas may flare again. Israel’s election nightmare has been a manifestation of the country’s deepest disagreements. If the new leaders are serious about their promised ‘change coalition,’ they need to start with a vision even if they don’t complete the job.”

A Palestinian Writer and an Israeli Writer Exchange Emails — and Seek Common Ground, Washington Post Magazine
In the wake of the recent fighting in Israel and Palestine, The Washington Post Magazine asked two writers — Sam Bahour, a Palestinian American writer and entrepreneur who lives near Ramallah; and Nadav Eyal, an Israeli journalist who lives near Tel Aviv — to correspond with each other. Their exchange, which was lightly edited, took place between May 24 and May 31. To get the conversation started, we posed an initial question: Realistically, where do Palestinians and Israelis go from here?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on the way out. That’s cause for (a little) hope., NBC News
Ilene Prusher writes, “While it might seem that, on the heels of another horrifying bout of Israeli-Palestinian violence, the Middle East is a region of hopeless, intractable conflict where nothing really changes, the fact that a new Israeli government is taking shape this week without Netanyahu at the helm is proof that things are not necessarily as stuck as they seem — and that the Teflon coating could only protect him for so long.”

Israel Could Be About to Get the World’s Weirdest Government, Slate
Joshua Keating writes, “The new government, if it can survive the week, will certainly be the most ideologically disparate one in Israel’s history, and may be the most unlikely governing coalition anywhere in the world. For an American point of comparison, try to imagine a Joe Biden–Ted Cruz co-presidency with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Liz Cheney serving in the Cabinet.”

Israel may finally get a new government — and a fresh start with Biden, Washington Post
The Washington Post editorial board writes, “This remarkable turn of events doesn’t necessarily mean the end of Mr. Netanyahu’s career; he has recovered from previous reversals. Nor will it open the way for a renewal of the “peace process” betwen Israelis and Palestinians, much as that might be needed, since Mr. Bennett and much of the new coalition oppose Palestinian statehood. A new government could, however, repair some of the damage between the Jewish and Arab communities inside Israel, who engaged in violent clashes during the fighting in Gaza; the Arab party on which it depends has been promised budget and legislative concessions. It could also undo some of the harm done to Israel’s democratic institutions by Mr. Netanyahu, who sought to weaken critical media and civil society groups and curb the authority of the Supreme Court.”

The Guardian view on Israel’s new coalition: not yet a new era, The Guardian
The Guardian editorial board writes, “His ousting, if it happens, is a moment of opportunity. But as long as Israeli politics remains on a knife edge, the opportunity will be hard to seize. There will be little incentive for the post-Netanyahu regime to bring new approaches to relations with the Palestinians or with any of the major regional issues on which the former leader thrived so destructively. It may be the end of an old era. But it is not yet the start of a new one.”

Getting rid of Binyamin Netanyahu would help Israel clean up its politics, The Economist
The Economist writes, “Never before has Binyamin Netanyahu’s hold on the premiership of Israel looked so weak. On June 2nd his opponents, led by Naftali Bennett (pictured) and Yair Lapid, agreed to form a government that excludes the man who has dominated his country’s politics for the past 12 years. The only thing left is for the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) to hold a confidence vote. Mr Netanyahu will do his utmost to sabotage it. But if he fails, his long reign will be over.”