News Roundup for March 22, 2021

March 22, 2021

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J Street works to promote an open, honest and rigorous conversation about Israel. The opinions reflected in articles posted in the News Roundup do not necessarily reflect J Street’s positions, and their posting does not constitute an endorsement from J Street.

Top News and Analysis

Israeli election seen as referendum on divisive Netanyahu, AP
Israelis vote Tuesday in their fourth parliamentary election in just two years. Once again, the race boils down to a referendum on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu, who has served as prime minister for the past 12 years, hopes voters will reward him for leading the country’s successful coronavirus vaccine rollout and his diplomatic outreach to the Arab world. His challengers have highlighted his earlier missteps in the coronavirus strategy, his reliance on divisive religious and ultra-nationalist allies and his ongoing corruption trial.

More than 20,000 protest outside Netanyahu’s residence days before Israeli election, JTA
As Israel nears its fourth election in two years, tens of thousands of people protested outside Benjamin Netanyahu’s home Saturday night. On Sunday, the prime minister made a campaign promise of direct flights between Israel and the Muslim holy city of Mecca. Israelis go to the polls Tuesday in an election whose outcome is uncertain. The 20,000-person protest on Saturday was the latest, and the largest in months, in a series of demonstrations that have taken place outside the Prime Minister’s Residence regularly since the middle of last year. The protesters have called for Netanyahu to resign due to his ongoing corruption trial and his handling of various aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Palestinian Hamlet Embodies Fight for the West Bank’s Future, New York Times
Israel suspended a decision to annex a section of the territory last year, but its military still exerts tight control over Palestinians in the area. “Before, life was about waking up and milking and making cheese,” Ms. Abu Awad said in a recent interview. “Now we’re just waiting for the army.”


Abbas receives first vaccine dose as Palestinian inoculation drive set to begin, Times of Israel
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas received at least dose of a coronavirus vaccine, the official PA WAFA news agency confirmed on Saturday.

Israel’s Election Panel Chief Warns Against Fake News in Days Following the Vote, Haaretz
Orly Ades, director general of the Central Elections Committee, decried attempts to delegitimize the committee and the election results, which she said is now a years-old phenomenon.

Israel revokes permit of Palestinian foreign minister, AP
Israel on Sunday revoked the VIP permit of the Palestinian foreign minister after he returned to the West Bank from a trip to the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Israeli and Palestinian officials confirmed.

Israelis retaliate against Palestinian minister for ICC move, Axios
The Israeli domestic security service Shin Bet revoked Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki’s VIP status when he returned to the West Bank from Jordan today, Axios has learned from Israeli officials.

Former top Saudi adviser: No Israel normalization before Palestinian statehood, Times of Israel
A former senior adviser to the Saudi Arabian government said in an editorial published Monday that the kingdom would not normalize ties with Israel until a peace agreement is reached that establishes an independent Palestinian state.

Israel Election: Officials Fear COVID Regulations May Stir Confusion, Slow Vote Count, Haaretz
Tuesday’s election required the Central Elections Committee to make extensive arrangements costing hundreds of millions of shekels to allow all eligible voters their right to vote, even if they have COVID-19 or are in quarantine. But these arrangements have raised concerns of overcrowding and confusion. They are also likely to slow down that vote count because of the large number of votes being cast in double envelopes.

Bennett signs pledge not to join government with Lapid as prime minister, Times of Israel
Yamina leader Naftali Bennett on Sunday pledged that he would not support a government in which Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid was prime minister.

Opinion and Analysis

Israel Election: Netanyahu Failed to Manage the Pandemic, but Vaccines May Get Him Reelected, Haaretz
Amos Harel writes, “The coronavirus crisis was a collection of governmental mistakes, but Netanyahu got lucky: Israel’s return to routine coincides with the election.”

Netanyahu credits himself with bringing Israel ‘back to life.’ Now he hopes his Covid-19 campaign will save his political future, CNN
Hadas Gold writes, “Netanyahu has made Israel’s handling of the pandemic, and especially its robust vaccine drive, personal: appearing almost nightly in televised addresses to the country in the early weeks of the pandemic, obsessively negotiating vaccine deals with pharmaceutical companies, receiving the first doses at Tel Aviv’s airport and getting vaccinated on primetime TV.”

Anti-Netanyahu Protesters Won the Street Battle. But Can They Win the Election?, Haaretz
Allison Kaplan Sommer writes, “Up to 50,000 anti-Netanyahu demonstrators turned out in Jerusalem on Saturday night, three days before the election, to hear the message: It’s in your hands now.”

Challenging Israel’s exceptionalism in American politics, Responsible Statecraft
Khaled Elgindy writes, “Unlike conservatives, whose illiberal stances on Israel/Palestine are largely consistent with their stated values, many progressives routinely talk about principles of freedom, justice, and  equality, while consciously or unconsciously carving out an exception for Palestine and Palestinians. Moreover, the authors argue, such negligence directly harms Palestinians given America’s inordinate involvement in the conflict.”

Israel Election: Arab Voters’ High Aspirations Have Yielded to Modest Hopes, Haaretz
Jack Hkoury writes, “In the 2020 election, voters hoped the Joint List could shape Israel’s political agenda. Now, after a split in the Arab alliance and an uptick in gun violence, voters are focused on the basics: personal security, housing and jobs.”

4 scenarios for Israel’s unprecedented 4th election: What you need to know, The Forward
Jacob Kornbluh writes, “After three elections in less than a year changed neither Israel’s prime minister or the generally conservative and religious makeup of its government, Israeli voters head back to the ballot box on Tuesday for yet another referendum on Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership.”

The settler bashed my head with a pipe, and everything went dark’, +972 Mag
Basil al-Adraa writes, “I spent last Saturday in Hebron’s Al-Ahli Hospital. A wounded Palestinian man lay in the bed across from me, barely able to speak. Said Abu Aliyan, a resident of Umm Lasfa, a village in the South Hebron Hills, has been a mentor of mine for many years. He was awaiting surgery to treat his jaw, which had been broken that morning by a settler wielding a metal pipe.”