News Roundup for March 20, 2020

March 20, 2020

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Top News and Analysis

Hundreds of Israelis Protest Netanyahu’s Strict Measures, New York Times
Demonstrators, defying coronavirus fears, took to a main highway into Jerusalem to condemn what they say are antidemocratic moves by the prime minister since his March 2 election defeat.

Coronavirus: Infected Israelis hit 705 as emergency orders roll out, The Jerusalem Post
The Health Ministry guidelines to fight the spread of coronavirus will no longer be recommendations or requests. Rather, overnight Thursday the government signed existing restrictions into legally enforceable orders, hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a national state of emergency.

Gantz Eyes Unity With Netanyahu First as PM, Even at Price of Breaking Up Kahol Lavan, Haaretz
Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz is inclined to form a unity government with Benjamin Netanyahu serving as prime minister first in a rotation, despite Gantz’s suspicions of his rival and even at the price of breaking up Kahol Lavan, political sources said. Gantz is conditioning the move on the enacting of a law to ensure that the rotation takes place on a set date. Earlier this week, Gantz said his broad unity government would “heal Israeli society of the coronavirus, as well of the virus of hatred and division.”


Israelis accuse Netanyahu of exploiting virus to keep power, AP
Israel appeared to be barreling toward a constitutional crisis Thursday as opponents took to the streets and turned to the Supreme Court to fight a series of unprecedented steps taken by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while confronting the coronavirus pandemic.

As virus spreads, US officials struggle to halt ultra-Orthodox gatherings, Times of Israel
Despite strenuous warnings from health officials and federal authorities to avoid large gatherings amid the coronavirus outbreak, many ultra-Orthodox Jews in New York have continued to congregate in large groups, risking the rapid spread of the new coronavirus.

Coronavirus: Gaza faces worst-case scenario, DW
The coastal enclave is considered one of the worst-prepared places to deal with a severe outbreak of the coronavirus. UN agencies and human rights lawyers are calling for life-saving assistance before it’s too late.

Iran releases jailed US Navy vet Michael White on medical furlough, Al Monitor
Iran has released US Navy veteran Michael R. White, 48, on medical furlough, the State Department announced today. White is currently in the custody of Swiss diplomats in Iran undergoing medical observation, a spokesman for White’s family said.

Teva to send US millions of malaria pills with potential to help COVID-19, Times of Israel
Israeli generic drug giant Teva announced Friday that it will provide ten million doses of its anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, which could potentially prove effective in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, to US hospitals free of charge.

Opinion and Analysis

Coronavirus in the West Bank: We Palestinians Have Plenty of Experience Surviving Curfews and Lockdowns, Haaretz
George Zeidan writes, “It turns out there are ironic ‘benefits’ in being so easily blockaded by our neighbors. And another surprise: an unlikely outbreak of pride in the Palestinian Authority’s commitment and competence.”

In Israel, the pandemic becomes an instrument of preserving power, JTA
Ron Kampeas writes, “Politics goes on in a time of fear and quarantine, and each shapes the other.”

A coronavirus coup in broad daylight, +972 Mag
Michael Sfard writes, “As democracy goes into quarantine and surveillance of citizens becomes the norm, Israel is heading straight for an autocracy run by Benjamin Netanyahu.”

Israel’s Coronavirus Crisis Exposed a Starved Health System on the Verge of Collapse, Haaretz
Amos Harel writes, “The heart of the problem in Israel’s battle with the coronavirus – even before its flawed preparations, which are now being exposed – is the overall state of its health system.”

How coronavirus outbreak has boosted Palestinian-Israeli cooperation, Al-Monitor
Daoud Kuttab writes, “The coronavirus outbreak has done what local and international politicians and activists have been unable to do. It has sparked an extraordinarily high level of cooperation and coordination between Palestinians and Israelis.”

Iran Knows Who to Blame for the Virus: America and Israel, Foreign Policy
Kasara Aarabi writes, “The regime’s ideological army is spinning conspiracy theories even as it helps spread the virus among Iran’s long-suffering people.”