News Roundup for March 18, 2020

March 18, 2020

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J Street in the News

Pro-Israel groups react to Rep. Dan Lipinski’s primary loss in Illinois, Jewish Insider
“Ben Shnider, vice president of political affairs at J Street, told JI that Newman’s win ‘demonstrates the momentum behind her pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-diplomacy views in today’s Democratic Party. We were proud to support her and look forward to working with her in Washington.’”

US Congresspeople call for stopping support for Israel demolitions of Palestinian homes, Middle East Monitor
“A letter signed by 64 members of Congress addressing US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the American administration to oppose Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes, news agencies reported yesterday […] According to the Palestinian news agency WAFA, the letter was endorsed by J Street, Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) and Win Without War.”

Top News and Analysis

Netanyahu’s Bold Moves: Fighting a Virus or Risking Democracy?, New York Times
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was supposed to be facing trial this week on bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges. Instead, he was shutting down the courts and ordering Israel’s internal security service to identify people who should be quarantined using data harvested from their phones. Both of those extraordinary moves, announced in the dead of night on Sunday and Tuesday, were made in the name of combating the coronavirus. The court shutdown also had the effect of delaying Mr. Netanyahu’s corruption trial by two months.

Watchdog says Israel’s West Bank settlements surged in 2019, AP
Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank surged ahead in 2019, a watchdog group said in a report Tuesday, maintaining a rapid pace that has drawn strength from the friendly policies of the Trump administration. Peace Now, a monitoring group that opposes the settlements, said that Israel’s average annual construction rate has risen 25% since President Donald Trump took office in 2017. Perhaps more significantly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government last year approved plans to build thousands of new homes, laying the groundwork for a sharp spike in construction in the coming years. That included an explosion in plans for new settlement projects approved early this year.

Blue and White’s Lapid: Virus response shows Israel ‘no longer a democracy’, Times of Israel
Blue and White MK Yair Lapid on Tuesday night censured several recent moves announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s transitional government to curb the spread of the coronavirus, declaring that Israel “is no longer a democracy.”


Number of Israelis with coronavirus jumps to 427, Times of Israel
The number of Israelis infected with the novel coronavirus increased sharply overnight with the Health Ministry announcing 90 news cases Wednesday morning, bringing the total number of Israelis with the disease to 427.

The Terrifying Coronavirus Prediction That Pushed Israel to Take Unprecedented Steps, Haaretz
How did Israel reach its decisions to impose measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus? One of the key documents that has influenced policymakers is a mathematical model that tries to predict the impact of the virus’ spread, how much time it will continue and how it will behave – assuming that the government doesn’t take steps to stop it.

Israel didn’t publish coronavirus guidance in Arabic — so Palestinians stepped in, +972 Mag
Weeks after the coronavirus outbreak began, Israel’s Health Ministry had yet to publish Arabic guidance on its website. Palestinian civil society is changing that.

Coronavirus: All 120 Knesset members getting tested, The Jerusalem Post
All 120 of Knesset members will be tested for coronavirus immediately, it was announced Wednesday morning. A number of MKs, including Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, entered quarantine after coming into to close contact with the city of Merhavim’s mayor, who recently tested positive for the coronavirus. 

PM’s top economic adviser: Lockdown will come when we feel we’re losing control, Times of Israel
The government will impose a total lockdown when it feels it is losing control over the situation and can no longer contain the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s top economic adviser said Tuesday, as officials in Jerusalem continued to consider steps to confront the disease.

Gaza prepares for potential coronavirus outbreak [VIDEO], Al Jazeera
Palestinian territory of Gaza yet to report any coronavirus infections – unlike the occupied West Bank, where number of cases now stands at 39.

Palestinian Authority confirms 2 new coronavirus cases, The Jerusalem Post
Two Palestinians who returned to the West Bank from abroad have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, the Palestinian Authority government announced on Tuesday. The total number of confirmed in the PA-controlled areas was 41 by mid-Tuesday.

White House Urges ultra-Orthodox Leaders to Implement Coronavirus Guidelines in Communities, Haaretz
The White House held a phone briefing on the Coronavirus epidemic with ultra-Orthodox community leaders on Tuesday, in an attempt to convince them to better implement the guidelines for slowing the spread of the virus in their communities.

Mideast states not communicating enough about virus: WHO, Reuters
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday that some information about coronavirus cases was being “insufficiently communicated” by Middle East states.

Opinion and Analysis

Netanyahu Exploits Coronavirus Fears to Consolidate Authoritarian Hold on Power, Haaretz
Chemi Shalev writes, “Fear is the tyrant’s best friend – and liberty’s worst enemy. The human instinct for survival is more powerful than any social commitment to decency, due process, separation of powers or the nuances of democracy.”