News Roundup for March 23, 2020

March 23, 2020

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Top News and Analysis

Gaza reports first 2 coronavirus cases, while West Bank goes into 14-day lockdown, JTA
The two Gazans diagnosed with the disease were tested for the virus after returning to the coastal strip from Pakistan, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which announced the cases Sunday morning. They remain in isolation at a hospital in Rafah in southern Gaza. The emergence of the virus is believed to have been delayed since crossings into Gaza from Israel and Egypt are under military blockade. Gaza could have a hard time combating the spread of the virus. The territory is densely packed, making social distancing difficult.

Nearly 600,000 watch virtual protest against PM, Likud’s shuttering of Knesset, Times of Israel
Nearly 600,000 Israelis tuned in for a virtual protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party’s efforts to shutter the Knesset amid the coronavirus pandemic, in an event streamed over Facebook Live due to restrictions on mass gatherings.

Netanyahu Says Agreed With Gantz on Unity Government; Gantz Denies, Haaretz
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday his party’s negotiation team has reached agreements with Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan on an emergency unity government, which would see Gantz replace him after a year and a half. Netanyahu told Channel 12 News no agreement has been signed, but provided the details he claims were agreed upon, including rotation for the position of prime minister and an equal number of government portfolios for both parties. Gantz said in a tweet shortly after Netanyahu’s interview: “Whoever wants unity doesn’t work with ultimatums, doesn’t use biased leaks and certainly doesn’t hurt democracy and citizens.”


1,238 Israelis infected with coronavirus, The Jerusalem Post
As of Monday morning, 24 people are considered in serious condition – an increase of four people from press time on Sunday.

Fear, anxiety as besieged Gaza confirms first 2 coronavirus cases, Al Jazeera
Authorities in the coastal enclave have shut restaurants and cafes, while Friday prayers have also been suspended.

Citing Threat to Israeli Democracy, Netanyahu Opponents Take Battle to Supreme Court, New York Times
Citing a threat to Israeli democracy, opponents of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked the Supreme Court on Sunday to block what they described as a power grab by the caretaker government under the guise of combating the coronavirus epidemic. The petitioners asked the court to restore the full powers of Parliament, which has been largely blocked from functioning by a Netanyahu ally, Yuli Edelstein, the speaker. He has claimed public health concerns. A new Parliament was sworn in last week, but among the key votes Mr. Edelstein has prevented is one on replacing him as speaker.

PA premier declares wide-scale lockdown to head off spread of virus, Times of Israel
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh on Sunday announced drastic measures significantly restricting freedom of movement, as the Palestinians attempted to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in areas under their administration.

Israel: Gantz holds out on power-sharing deal with Netanyahu, DW
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered to share a three-year term and quit next year so his rival Benny Gantz can take charge. The PM thinks the deal is done, but the Blue and White leader is staying silent.

Rescue flights planned to bring home Israelis stranded abroad by the coronavirus, JTA
Israel’s national airline, El Al, said it would send rescue flights to bring home hundreds of Israelis stranded in several countries that have closed their doors and canceled international flights amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Amid coronavirus, Israel modifies funeral rituals for first victim, Washington Post
Even’s body was carried to the cemetery by a burial party in biohazard gear, photographs of the private ceremony show. The funeral was limited to 20 mourners, each keeping at least six feet apart from the next. The nurse who cared for Even in his final days apologized on social media that his body could not be washed in the ritual way, as antiviral safety protocols now trump tradition.

MKs will enter six at a time for first votes of new Knesset amid coronavirus, Times of Israel
Israeli lawmakers will be restricted to entering the Knesset in groups of six at a time for a series of votes as the new parliament opens for business Monday, facing the unprecedented twin challenges of the coronaviris and safeguarding democratic oversight during the crisis.

Israel Considers Cutting Off Parts of East Jerusalem to Stem Coronavirus Spread, Haaretz
The Israeli government is considering closing the Shoafat border checkpoint in East Jerusalem as part of its effort to stem the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. Such a move would cut off tens of thousands of East Jerusalem Palestinians who are permanent residents of Israel but live on the other side of the security barrier and would be severed from the rest of city.

Palestinian throwing rocks at Israeli vehicles in West Bank shot dead by IDF, Times of Israel
The Israel Defense Forces said late Sunday that they had foiled “a terror attack” in the West Bank, opening fire on a group of Palestinians throwing rocks at passing Israeli vehicles. One of the Palestinians was killed and another wounded.

We rehearse for this all the time’: Holocaust survivors face coronavirus with grit and humor, The Forward
Rather than a source of trauma, childhood recollections of enduring great adversity are helping Holocaust survivors like Hahn better brace for our current global pandemic. As Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials race to hoard water, food and yes, toilet paper, survivors are meeting the challenge of life in the time of coronavirus with signature tenacity and humor.

Opinion and Analysis

Coronavirus Confirmed in Gaza: This Is What Israel Must Do – Now, Haaretz
Shannon Maree Torrens writes, “The identification of the first two cases of coronavirus in Gaza is a frightening moment for its inhabitants. But there are immense legal and moral ramifications for Israel, the occupying power.”

Israel’s caging of Gaza is a recipe for coronavirus disaster, +972 Mag
Jehad Abusalim writes, “The pandemic’s arrival threatens to make Gaza even more unlivable under Israeli siege. Humanitarian aid is not enough — Palestinians need freedom.”

How politicians are using the coronavirus to seize control, Washington Post
Ishaan Tharroor writes, “Numerous Arab monarchies and autocracies, including some under serious political pressure, have invoked public health imperatives to secure themselves a reprieve from mass protests. A widely criticized interim regime in Bolivia postponed planned elections in May as part of a slate of emergency measures, including a 14-day national quarantine. From Hong Kong to India to Russia, authorities cited the risk of spreading coronavirus as grounds to disperse anti-government demonstrations and bar large public gatherings.”

Netanyahu’s Extortion-by-coronavirus Is by Far His Most Shameful and Least Forgivable Offense, Haaretz
Chemi Shalev writes, “The prime minister cites a national emergency to prove the need for unity but will never relinquish his main goal: Avoiding criminal trial.”

Paternal doomsayer Netanyahu fights virus, and accusation he’s undoing democracy, Times of Israel
David Horovitz writes, “Ten days ago, he compared the coronavirus pandemic to the Spanish flu, which killed an estimated 50 million people in 1918. On Saturday night, he repeated that parallel but warned that it might not prove sufficiently grim. This could turn out to be the worst threat to humanity since the Middle Ages, he suggested; even the scientists, he asserted, were praying to the Creator for inspiration and salvation.”

Will coronavirus slow the world’s conflicts — or intensify them?, AFP
Philippe Rater writes, “Syria, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, the Sahel… with the great powers focused intently on the COVID-19 virus, will armed conflicts across the world decrease in severity or intensify? Experts as well as diplomats at the United Nations say there is a serious risk of the latter.”

How the World Will Look After the Coronavirus Pandemic, Foreign Policy
The pandemic will change the world forever. We asked 12 leading global thinkers for their predictions.