News Roundup for March 30, 2020

March 30, 2020

Receive the roundup in your inbox every morning!

Top News and Analysis

Netanyahu and staff entering self-quarantine as precaution after aide infected, Times of Israel
As a precaution, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his advisers are voluntarily entering quarantine until Health Ministry officials finish their epidemiological investigation into whether he was exposed to the coronavirus, his office says. “Even before the epidemiological investigation is over and to remove all doubt, the prime minister has decided that he and his close staff will remain in isolation until the epidemiological investigation is completed, and according to the findings, the Health Ministry and the personal physician of the prime minister will set a day to end the isolation,” his office says. Netanyahu’s aide Rivka Paluch was confirmed infected with the virus on Sunday, but it remains unclear whether the prime minister was in close contact with her.

Fearing Gaza virus spread, Hamas preps for mass quarantines, AP
The virus found a way into Gaza, even though the Mediterranean enclave has been largely cut off from the world by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas militants seized it 13 years ago. Yet the terrifying possibility of an outbreak in one of the world’s most crowded territories — 2 million people squeezed into an area twice the size of Washington, D.C. —does not seem to have registered fully. Many in Gaza seem to accept Hamas assurances that the threat is contained. In the meantime, Hamas is racing to build two massive quarantine facilities — hoping to prevent the disease from spreading and overwhelming Gaza’s already shattered health system.

UN praises ‘excellent’ Israeli-Palestinian cooperation in fight against pandemic, Times of Israel
“We hold discussions and consultations every day with the relevant UN officials. We hear from them praise for the State of Israel for the coordination and good cooperation in dealing with the coronavirus crisis, which in our view is essential and necessary for an effective response to the spread of the virus,” Alon Bar, deputy director-general for the UN and international organizations at the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said Sunday.


Coronavirus cases in Israel rise to 4,347, with 80 in serious condition, Times of Israel
The Health Ministry said Monday morning that the number of Israelis infected with the coronavirus was 4,347, a rise of 100 cases since Sunday night.

Gaza protest rallies canceled due to coronavirus, JTA
“We call upon our people not to go to the return encampments on March 30 and to stay home in order to maintain the safety of our people in the face of this lethal pandemic,” Khaled al-Batsh, a senior member of Islamic Jihad, told Reuters.

Invoking Jewish experience, deputy CDC head says fear the virus, not the foreign, Times of Israel
Dr. Anne Schuchat says Jews know what it’s like to be stigmatized, as she pushes for tight-knit yet socially distant response to COVID-19, predicting that battle may take years.

‘For Lack of Choice,’ Israel to Treat Asylum Seekers as Citizens in Coronavirus Crisis, Haaretz
Asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea will receive the same treatment for the coronavirus as Israelis, and “for lack of choice, they will be seen as an inseparable part of the same epidemiological region,” according to an official document obtained by Haaretz.

Yamina party threatens to go to opposition if sidelined in emerging government, Times of Israel
As unity talks were proceeding between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz, the religious hawkish Yamina party on Monday stepped up warnings that it could end up not joining the emerging unity government, as the premier was appearing to make significant concessions to the center-left bloc and sidelining Yamina’s ministers.

Hundreds attend funeral of religious leader in central Israel, flouting Health Ministry directives, JTA
Hundreds of members of Israel’s haredi Orthodox community attended the funeral of a religious leader despite government restrictions on the number of people who can participate in such ceremonies due to the coronavirus crisis.

Quarantine hotels set to open for ultra-Orthodox as fight against virus steps up, Times of Israel
Three hotels and yeshiva buildings were preparing Monday to open as special quarantine centers for the ultra-Orthodox community, as the government and religious authorities stepped up the fight against the spread of the coronavirus in densely populated Haredi areas.

Opinion and Analysis

The Political Wizardry of Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Policy
Joshua Mitnick writes, “The longest-serving leader in Israel’s history appears to have struck a deal with the head of the opposition that would allow him to serve as prime minister for another 18 months, once again demonstrating his total mastery over Israeli politics.”

New tensions between Iran and the IAEA threaten the JCPOA, Atlantic Council
Sina Azodi writes, “Unlike previous reports, which detailed Iran’s compliance, the new documents were reminiscent of the pre-JCPOA era and could signal an increasingly negative trend in the country’s relationship with the world’s nuclear watchdog. Amid the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus, concerns are also being expressed by some experts that the disease could hamper the ability of the IAEA to monitor Iran’s nuclear program. Opponents of the JCPOA are trying to use these developments to destroy what remains of the landmark 2015 agreement by achieving a ‘snapback’ of UN sanctions lifted by the deal.”

Fool me once: Did the Joint List make a mistake backing Benny Gantz?, +972 Mag
Dahlia Scheindlin writes, “Some are already saying that the Joint List, an amalgam of Arab-Palestinian-majority parties, is the second casualty. Breaking decades of tradition, party leader Ayman Odeh recommended that Gantz be tapped to lead the next government twice, only to have Gantz deliver Israel back into the hands of Netanyahu. Hadn’t the Joint List been played for a fool?”

Gantz Made the Right and Brave Choice, the Lesser Evil, Haaretz
Gideon Levy writes, “This week, what is apparently the most reasonable government for Israel will be formed, within the boundaries of the possible. Of the two possibilities before him – a continuation of the deadlock and another election, or joining a Netanyahu government – MK Benny Gantz made the right and the brave choice, the lesser evil.”

If pandemic hits, unrecognized Bedouin villages could ‘become like northern Italy’, +972 Mag
Oren Ziv writes, “Denied basic services, the Naqab’s unrecognized villages are not equipped to deal with the coronavirus — and the Israeli government is not stepping in.”

The Word ‘Magician’ Hardly Describes Netanyahu’s Stunning Achievement, Haaretz
Yossi Verter writes, “The coronavirus pandemic arrived with inconceivably perfect timing from his perspective, a moment before the bloc elected by his opponents – which originally numbered 62 Knesset members – began pushing through laws that would have prevented him from running for prime minister. And of course, every magician needs an audience for his sleights of hand; in this case, the people who negotiated with him were perfect for the role – naïve political children, soon to be miserable ones too.”