News Roundup for March 13, 2020

March 13, 2020

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Top News and Analysis

U.S. launches strikes in Iraq against Iranian-backed militias after attack that killed coalition troops, Washington Post
The United States launched airstrikes against an Iranian-backed militia in Iraq early Friday, responding to a rocket attack on a military base that killed one British and two U.S. service members in a new round of escalating tensions. The Pentagon said in a statement that U.S. forces hit facilities “across Iraq” linked to Kataib Hezbollah, including storage facilities that housed weapons used in attacks on American and coalition troops.

Netanyahu, Gantz discuss creation of emergency unity government, Times of Israel
The leaders of the Likud and Blue and White parties spoke by phone late Thursday to discuss the possibility of setting up an emergency government, as they sought to put differences aside in order to effectively manage the coronavirus crisis sweeping the country and the globe. Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz expressed support for a unity coalition given the circumstances, but it was unclear if the two had come together regarding the inclusion of the Joint List of Arab-majority parties. Both said earlier in the evening they were willing to begin negotiations on forming an emergency unity government to focus on fighting and containing the coronavirus pandemic that has crippled the country’s economy and public life.

Israel Faces a Defining Question: How Much Democracy Should Arabs Get?, New York Times
Israelis eager to end Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s career won a slim majority in last week’s election. But one thing has kept them from uniting to send him packing: A sizable chunk of the anti-Netanyahu majority consists of Arab lawmakers, and the Jewish ones cannot agree on whether to consider them partners or the enemy.


Coronavirus Cases in Israel Spike to 126, Nearly 2,500 Medical Officials Quarantined, Haaretz
As the highly contagious novel coronavirus spreads around the world, Israel and the Palestinian Authority struggle to contain a local outbreak that has virtually halted air traffic in and out of Israel, led to schools being shuttered and tens of thousands of people entering quarantine.

Virus cases hit 126 as synagogues curb prayer; schools, hotels and theaters shut, Times of Israel
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel rose to 126 Friday morning — an addition of 17 new patients — as much of the country shut down and public life was severely curbed by the spread of the dangerous pathogen.

Netanyahu Says ‘No Terror Supporters’ in Gov’t After Gantz Calls for Unity With ‘All Parts of House’, Haaretz
Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Friday overnight to discuss the possible formation of a unity government to better confront the spread of the coronavirus in Israel, where the number of diagnosed cases rose to 126.

Gantz to try for control of Knesset Monday; Likud blasts move amid virus crisis, Times of Israel
Hopes of the Likud and Blue and White parties coming together amid a national emergency appeared dampened on Friday as Blue and White announced plans to replace the Knesset speaker next week and the prime minister’s party issued a scathing rebuke.

Shabbat services go virtual as governors across U.S. ban large gatherings, The Forward
Synagogues across the country have taken steps to limit Shabbat services and other religious events after governors of three of the states with the largest Jewish populations announced bans on large gatherings.

In a first for Israel, a sitting prime minister goes on trial, The Jerusalem Post
On Tuesday, the public corruption trial of “Defendant No. 1,” aka Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will open before the three-judge Jerusalem District Court panel of Rivka Friedman-Feldman, Moshe Bar-Am and Oded Shaham.

Opinion and Analysis

Coronavirus Is a Death Sentence for Palestinians Caged in Gaza, Haaretz
Shannon Maree Torrens writes, “Even a small outbreak among Gaza’s densely-packed, blockaded population would put an impossible strain on a healthcare system already teetering on the verge of collapse.”

Bleak and worried, Netanyahu implies virus could kill tens of millions worldwide, Times of Israel
David Horovitz writes, “Closing schools, telling Israelis to stay away from each other, and urging an emergency government, PM likens coronavirus to Spanish flu of 1918, which killed up to 50 million.”

Sowing Fear Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak, Netanyahu Is in His Element, Haaretz
Yossi Verter writes, “With a flimsy tissue, video images of an inflamed nose dispersing microscopic nasal discharge and an apocalyptic tone of voice, Benjamin Netanyahu is squeezing every ounce of political and propaganda benefit out of the coronavirus at a time of uncertainty and anxiety about the future. This is his big moment. He is managing matters with a confident hand while everyone else is consumed with petty politics and talking with ‘supporters of terror.’”

Israel’s Arab parties may help determine who runs the next government., Washington Post
Omar H. Rahman writes, “Israel’s election last week left the country no closer to forming a government, despite three voting rounds in the past year. But one major development is the growing strength of the ‘Joint List’ bloc of majority-Arab parties, which is poised to play an important role in determining what Israel’s next government looks like.”

Bernie’s campaign may be nearing its end, but he’s keeping Israel policy on his Democratic agenda, JTA
Ron Kampeas writes, “So is it bye-bye Bernie? Probably sooner rather than later. But the Vermont senator’s ideas, including his sharp criticisms of decades of U.S. Israel policy, are not about to leave the Democratic arena.”