News Roundup for March 23, 2021

March 23, 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

Israelis vote in fourth national election in two years, The Guardian
Israelis are voting in their fourth national election in two years, the result of an unprecedented political deadlock that has seen the country’s longest-serving leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, face off against multiple rivals. This time round, the prime minister is hoping that voters will credit him for a world-beating coronavirus vaccination campaign that has seen Israel reopen shops, bar and restaurants while simultaneously pushing down infection rates. “We are the world champions in handling the coronavirus,” Netanyahu told crowds in the lead-up to the vote.

Israel’s ‘Totally Crooked’ Prime Minister, The Atlantic
Jeffrey Goldberg writes, “Netanyahu, who has been prime minister since 2009 (and served an earlier term from 1996 to 1999), is currently standing trial on bribery and fraud charges, and he is not paranoid to believe that an electoral loss will light a pathway to prison. (Such a loss would not result in mourning among his American critics, including many liberal American Jews and most Democratic Party leaders, who loathe Netanyahu for disrespecting Barack Obama and venerating Donald Trump […] I called Lapid last week to ask him to explain the convoluted nature of Israeli politics, and Netanyahu’s uncanny ability to save himself at the last moment. We also talked about the U.S.-Israel relationship, which is in danger, he said, if Netanyahu continues his seemingly endless reign […] Lapid: He was the first one to understand that the battle in Israel is not between right and left, even though he uses these terms. He made the battle between Jews and Israelis. The tension between the two identities. He’s exploited it well.”


Turnout, fate of small parties crucial as polls open for 6.5 million Israelis, Times of Israel
The election cycle, like the previous three, revolves around Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The ground has shifted since the last vote — with right-wing rivals defying him for the first time, and the centrist challenge mounted by Blue and White’s Benny Gantz having faded — but Netanyahu has so far managed to keep his footing, with polls showing him gaining ground at the expense of his rivals in recent weeks.

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Is Mostly Absent In Israeli Election Campaign, NPR
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is barely an issue in the upcoming Israeli elections, which are a referendum on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But the vote will impact Palestinians.

With more absentee ballots than ever, vote aftermath may be fuzzier than usual, Times of Israel
Officials expecting up to 600,000 people to cast so-called double-envelope votes — enough for 15 seats, challenging exit polls and sparking fears of chaos until fog clears.

Israel Election Live: Polls Open in Israel’s Fourth Election in Two Years, Haaretz
With four parties flirting with the electoral threshold, the final hours of the campaign could be crucial in deciding the fate of Israel’s political future, with many not discounting the possibility of a fifth election.

Top Abbas advisors urge Palestinian statehood with ‘soft sovereignty’, Times of Israel
Two of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s top advisers on negotiations with Israel urged in an editorial that Palestinians abandon their campaign for an independent state and instead aim for a “soft” sovereignty that would see Jordan and Egypt take over responsibility for border security affairs.

Opinion and Analysis

Israel’s election is a big opportunity for Netanyahu, Axios
Barak Ravid writes, “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will contest his fourth election in two years on Tuesday, fighting for a parliamentary majority that could help him undercut his ongoing corruption trial […] If Netanyahu manages to get to 61, he will form the most religious and conservative coalition in the history of the country. His rivals claim that such a government could challenge the democratic character of the country. Netanyahu denies that he plans to fire the attorney general or pass laws to suspend his corruption trial, but several of his would-be coalition partners have expressed support for such steps.”

Claims of fraud, a delayed result and fears of insurrection: Israel’s elections could look a lot like America’s, JTA
Ben Sales writes, “Israel is holding yet another election on Tuesday, and voters there are hearing a warning that might sound familiar to Americans: Don’t expect to know who won on Election Night or even a couple days later. Don’t believe claims of widespread fraud in the days following the vote. And don’t attempt violence to protest the result.”

Tensions With Arab Allies Undermine a Netanyahu Pitch to Israeli Voters, New York Times
Isabel Kershner writes, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel presents himself as a global leader who is in a different league than his rivals — one who can keep Israel safe and promote its interests on the world stage. But strains in his relations with two important Arab allies, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, have dented that image in the fraught run-up to Israel’s do-over election.”

As Israel votes again, Palestinians still wait their turn, Washington Post
Ishaan Tharoor writes, “Netanyahu or another right-wing leader may yet fulfill the wishes of many in the settlements and formally annex chunks of territory in the West Bank. Though the move would outrage political elites elsewhere in the Middle East and even some lawmakers in Washington, it may not change much for ordinary Palestinians long accustomed to having their rights subject to the imperatives of Israel’s military occupation.”

Why the Arab Joint List is the party that best represents my Jewish values, The Forward
Abby Seitz writes, “I am not alone as a Jewish Israeli in finding hope within the Palestinian-led Left. In the last election, in March, 2020, an estimated 20,000 Jews voted for the Joint List, up from 9,000 in the prior round, six months before.”

Israel Election: Netanyahu or Not, the Next Knesset Will Be Right-wing, Haaretz
Jonathan Lis writes, “From the final polls conducted before Tuesday’s election it is unclear who will be able to form the next government (or whether anyone can at all), but one truth is apparent: the elected Knesset will include a clear majority of right-wing parties.”