News Roundup for March 19, 2020

March 19, 2020

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J Street in the News

In Illinois, a J Street favorite beats an AIPAC darling, Times of Israel
“A progressive congressional candidate endorsed by the liberal Mideast advocacy group J Street beat a Democratic incumbent on Tuesday who has long been close to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and was backed by much of the pro-Israel establishment. Marie Newman, a liberal insurgent, edged out a hard-fought victory against Dan Lipinski for an Illinois House seat that encompasses Chicago’s northern suburbs. Newman, who was also backed by progressive superstars Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and  New York Representative Alexandria Ocasi-Cortez, won by two percentage points”

Bernie Sanders was on a path to become the first Jewish president. That was everything to Joel Rubin, Washington Post
“He’s a liberal who worked in President George W. Bush’s security infrastructure. He was raised in a family affiliated with Conservative Judaism, the middle-of-the-road denomination that balances tradition and adherence to Jewish law with modern life. He helped found J Street, a liberal advocacy alternative to AIPAC. His best friend is a rabbi who sits on AIPAC’s board. His wife is a Republican. In other words, Rubin is used to arguing with his fellow Jews.”

Top News and Analysis

529 Israelis have been diagnosed with coronavirus – Health Ministry, The Jerusalem Post
The number of Israelis with coronavirus jumped Thursday morning to 529, according to the Health Ministry.

Coronavirus Shows Netanyahu Is a Good Crisis Manager but a Very Dangerous Leader, Haaretz
Ravit Hecht writes, “In a criminal exploitation of the historic coronavirus crisis, Netanyahu and his party prevented parliamentary proceedings in an effort to neutralize Gantz’s majority.”

Israel parliament speaker shuts Knesset, enraging opposition, AP
Israel’s Knesset speaker Wednesday abruptly adjourned all parliamentary meetings until next week, apparently a response to the new coronavirus, in a move that froze opposition efforts to discuss bills seeking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ouster.


Israel’s Netanyahu accused of exploiting virus crisis, AP
With the Israeli government enacting a series of emergency measures to stem the spread of the new coronavirus, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing growing accusations that he is exploiting the crisis to entrench himself in power and undermining the country’s democratic foundations.

Blue and White said to demand Justice, Foreign Ministries for unity government, Times of Israel
Likud and the Blue and White party have been holding talks for days aimed at establishing an emergency national unity government, with Blue and White demanding several top ministries, the Kan news broadcaster reported Wednesday night.

Orthodox doctors plead with community — via viral WhatsApp messages, The Forward
The voice of Ari Greenwald, an emergency-medicine doctor in Toronto, played on thousands of Orthodox Jews’ smartphones on Wednesday, warning that the novel coronavirus “has been spreading throughout our community like wildfire.”

Knesset legal adviser says speaker can’t keep parliament closed, Times of Israel
Amid fierce accusations that the speaker of the Knesset is stifling parliamentary oversight of the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the Knesset’s legal adviser indicated Wednesday evening that Yuli Edelstein would not be able to continue his closure of the plenary into next week.

UN names new head of troubled Palestinian refugee agency, AP
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday appointed Swiss humanitarian expert Philippe Lazzarini to head the beleaguered U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, which has faced a financial crisis following the cutoff of U.S. funding and a crisis of confidence after its previous leader was accused of abusing his authority.

Coronavirus: blockaded Gaza looks wryly on as world isolates itself, The National
The sight of a world locking itself down seems to have unleashed a wellspring of emotions in Gaza, from sardonic political commentary to schadenfreude, emerging from Palestinian denizens of the tiny coastal enclave that has for years lived with enforced isolation and confinement.

Opinion and Analysis

A National Unity Government Is the Last Thing Israel Needs, Haaretz
Zvi Bar’el writes, “After the government circumvented the Knesset to authorize the Shin Bet security service to find out where each of us has been and how he spends his time while separated from the rest of the population; after the justice minister, with a wave of his hand, froze the legal system; and when the finance minister is rubbing Aladdin’s lamp to produce ingots of gold to encourage the economy, without explaining where the money will come from, what’s left for a unity government to do, other than nullify all criticism, oversight or differences of opinion?”

Why Israel’s politicians shuttered the Knesset just when Israelis needed it most, Times of Israel
Haviv Rettig Gur writes, “Even as the Israeli economy grinds to a halt and the pandemic threatens to claim its first deaths among Israelis, the response of the country’s politicians has seemed startlingly detached. A squabble over Knesset procedure has shut down parliament – the very parliament that might pass funding bills to help those desperate families, or might create meaningful oversight and limits on unprecedentedly intrusive new cyber tracking policies put in place to help stem the spread of the coronavirus causing COVID-19.”

Palestinians Would Die for the Israeli Kind of Lockdown, Haaretz
Gideon Levy writes, “The heavens have darkened and everything is closing in around us. Only fate, God or the shaper of history are laughing at us from up high, a bitter, ironic laughter. The irony of fate: For the first time, Israel is tasting some of the hell it has been dishing out for decades to its subjects. With alarming speed, Israelis have entered a reality known to every Palestinian child.”

Virus presents new mental health challenges, even for battle-hardened Israelis, Times of Israel
Nathan Jeffay writes, “Experts warn that resilience learned in times of terror may not be enough to equip people emotionally for the new reality.”

As coronavirus spreads, asylum seekers in Israel are on the brink of catastrophe, +972 Mag
Oren Ziv writes, “Israel’s policies have left the asylum seeker community impoverished, living in cramped apartments, and bereft of health coverage, putting them at far greater danger.”