News Roundup for March 26, 2020

March 26, 2020

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J Street in the News

How Israeli NGOs Are Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis, J Street
In this special installment of J Street’s ‘Our Israel’ project, we take a look at the inspiring Israeli civil society groups who are stepping up to meet the moment.

Covid-19, Iran sanctions, and how politics aids a pandemic, The Daily Star
“Iran faces a shortage of sanitisers and preventative gear for medical professionals in the country […] Civil society, including Jewish advocacy group J Street, signed a letter to the US administration requesting temporary lifting of the sanctions. ‘To help stem the continued spread of the virus inside Iran and beyond, we urge you to issue a time-bound suspension of those US sanctions that make it harder for ordinary Iranians to secure basic goods and services to weather the crisis,’ the letter read.”

Top News and Analysis

Israeli Parliament Speaker Quits, but Political Deadlock No Closer to an End, New York Times
The speaker of Israel’s Parliament, Yuli Edelstein, a staunch ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, abruptly resigned on Wednesday rather than comply with a Supreme Court order that would allow lawmakers to choose his successor. The move will allow Benny Gantz’s opposition Blue and White party and other opponents of Mr. Netanyahu to take control of the legislative process. They have threatened to enact laws that could bar Mr. Netanyahu from a new term in office.

Israeli parliament to choose new speaker amid double crisis, AP
Outgoing Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein resigned in protest Wednesday. A close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Edelstein had refused to comply with a high court order to convene the plenum for a vote on his successor the same day, angrily accusing the court of an “arrogant intervention” in the legislative branch. Even in stepping down, Edelstein tried to stall the vote for several days, as his resignation would take effect 48 hours later.

Number of coronavirus cases up to 2,495, including 41 in serious condition, Times of Israel
The Health Ministry said Thursday morning the number of people infected with the coronavirus in Israel has climbed to 2,495, an increase of 126 new cases of the disease since the night before.


Netanyahu and Gantz Discuss Emergency Unity Government in Rare Phone Call, Haaretz
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz spoke on Wednesday for the first time in 12 days, and discussed the possibility of forming an emergency unity government in light of the coronavirus outbreak.

As ventilators run short, health chief ‘not optimistic’ there’ll be enough, Times of Israel
The director general of the Health Ministry on Thursday said he was “not optimistic” that the healthcare system would be able to deal for much longer with the scope of the coronavirus pandemic.

Israel can track cellphones of citizens with coronavirus, its Supreme Court rules, JTA
On Tuesday, the court lifted an injunction against the practice approved last week by the government. The aim is to find where the infected person was and who he or she came into contact with in order to stem the spread of the virus.

Netanyahu allies slam High Court for okaying Thursday vote on new speaker, Times of Israel
Democracy is dying slowly,’ alleges ex-justice minister Shaked, as another MK accuses judges of ‘despicable arrogance’ and says they should stand trial; vote to be held at 4 p.m.

In Israel, a Time to Pray Amid a Health Crisis, New York Times
When an emergency medical team had a break, they stopped to pray, one member facing Mecca and the other Jerusalem. A photo of it struck a chord.

Opinion and Analysis

Under siege, medical advice will do little to fight coronavirus in Gaza, +972 Mag
Osama Tanous writes, “Instructions like hand-washing, wearing masks, and consulting doctors online are a dark joke when Israel is trying to send Gaza ‘back to the Stone Age.’”

Set on Succeeding Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Adopts PM’s Destructive Doctrine, Haaretz
Yossi Verter writes, “With a series of miserable decisions, Yuli Edelstein turned from a respected, statesmanlike political figure into one of the symbols of the constitutional and democratic abyss that Israel is sliding toward at a worrying pace.”

Edelstein showed us the rules of Israeli politics are changing fast, Times of Israel
Haviv Rettig Gur writes, “Yuli Edelstein was a well-regarded figure in the Knesset, seen by right and left as a fair-minded administrator and umpire of the parliament’s political confrontations over the years. His resignation announcement was all the more startling because of that staid reputation.”

Brookings experts on the implications of COVID-19 for the Middle East and North Africa, Brookings
With the coronavirus crisis evolving at a breakneck pace, Brookings scholars look forward, sharing their thoughts on what are likely to be the key implications of the pandemic for the MENA region. In the following outlooks, the scholars outline critical regional challenges, touching on political, economic, security, and social issues. Though many facets of the pandemic remain unknown, these outlooks offer important insights into the impact that the coronavirus has already had on the region, as well as implications of what is yet to come.