News Roundup for March 31, 2020

March 31, 2020

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J Street in the News

Basic Agreements for New Israeli Government Must Include Block on West Bank Annexations, J Street
“Now that Blue and White party leader MK Benny Gantz has agreed to negotiate the formation of an Israeli “unity government” in which Benjamin Netanyahu will remain prime minister, J Street is deeply concerned that the prime minister and his right-wing allies will use this government to implement their dream of unilateral annexation of occupied Palestinian territory in the West Bank.”

Progressives are calling for U.S. sanctions on Iran to be lifted amid COVID-19 crisis, but Biden says he doesn’t have enough information yet, Mondoweiss
“Earlier this month, nine members of Congress called on the Trump administration to lift its sanctions on Iran in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Asked if he would support such a policy on Sunday, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden would not endorse that call and said he needed more information to make a decision […] A letter was also sent to Pompeo and Mnuchin by over 25 organizations, including NIAC Action, J Street, Truman National Security Project, MoveOn recently. It echoes the congressional call to suspend the sanctions.”

Top News and Analysis

Netanyahu tests negative for virus, but will remain in quarantine, Times of Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tested negative for the novel coronavirus Monday after an adviser and her husband came down with the disease a day earlier, but the premier said he would remain in quarantine as a cautionary measure.

Europe sends medical goods to Iran in test of sanctions bypass mechanism, AFP
France, Germany and Britain have exported medical goods to Iran in the first transaction conducted under a trade mechanism set up to barter humanitarian goods and food after the US withdrawal from a 2015 nuclear deal, Germany said on Tuesday.

It’s Up to Israel to Stop a Coronavirus Catastrophe Among Palestinians, Foreign Policy
Zaha Hassan and Hallaamal Keir write, “The Palestinian health care system has been held back by military occupation and is unprepared for the coronavirus onslaught. Israel must act swiftly.”


Virus Soars Among Ultra-Orthodox Jews as Many Flout Israel’s Rules, New York Times
Failure to comply with government restrictions is causing the coronavirus to spread in ultra-Orthodox communities up to eight times faster than elsewhere in Israel.

Two women – 49, 50 years old – die of virus, raising Israel’s death toll to 18, Times of Israel
Two women — one 49 years old, the other 50 — died of the coronavirus on Tuesday morning, becoming the youngest people in Israel to succumb to the disease and bringing the country’s death toll to 18.

With 205 Respirators, Palestinian Authority Fears Collapse Amid Coronavirus Outbreak, Haaretz
In an ironic twist, Palestinians have wired the West Bank with roadblocks in a desperate bid to keep the pandemic from spreading beyond 106 current cases and one woman who has died.

One-third of people screened for coronavirus in Bnei Brak tested positive, The Jerusalem Post
The city with the most coronavirus patients is Bnei Brak at 34% of those tested, according to data shared by the Ministry of Health to the Hebrew website Ynet. Some 10% of Jerusalemites and 6% of Tel Avivians who were screened for the novel virus tested positive.

In first since virus emerged in Gaza, banks deliver Qatari grants to poor, Haaretz
Postal banks in the Gaza Strip began distributing the latest installment of small grants from Qatar on Tuesday morning to impoverished Palestinian families, Palestinian news sites based in the coastal enclave reported.

Chairing his first full Knesset session, Gantz faces assaults from former allies, Times of Israel
Chairing his first full Knesset session as speaker Monday, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz confronted intense criticism from his former allies in the center-left bloc for having abandoned them to enter into unity talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Trump faces pressure from a federal judge to release detained migrant kids as coronavirus spreads, Vox
A federal judge on Saturday confronted the Trump administration on its treatment of an especially vulnerable population — migrant children in US custody — as the coronavirus pandemic rages.

Gantz, Netanyahu get closer to forming coalition, as stumbling blocks crop up, Times of Israel
Interim Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz inched closer to forming a unity coalition, with reports saying that the government could be sworn in as early as next Monday, though squabbles within the premier’s bloc were poised to delay the negotiations.

Opinion and Analysis

Benny Gantz just sold out Israel’s perilously ill democracy, Washington Post
Gershom Gorenberg writes, “Gantz had one path to restoring democratic norms. He needed to follow the example of the health system and create a Jewish-Arab coalition to battle the country’s ills.”

Netanyahu seeks to draw out unity talks, as Gantz’s hand weakens, Times of Israel
Raoul Wootliff writes, “Despite calls from both Likud and Blue and White for negotiations on forming a national unity government to be completed as soon as possible in order to tackle the coronavirus crisis, Channel 12 news on Monday night reported that the talks could extend until the Passover holiday, which starts next week, and even beyond.”

Political Concerns Delay Necessary Closure of Israeli Coronavirus Hot Spots, Haaretz
Amos Harel writes, “After a few days break, press statements and new restrictions on the public have resumed. It’s hard to avoid thinking that the changes in the coronavirus battle are connected, somehow, to the volatility of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political position.”

Even under pandemic, Israel can’t treat its subjects as equals, +972 Mag
Hagai El-Ad writes, “If all the people who live in the territory under Israel’s control were treated as equals, Netanyahu would not have had to divide them into three categories to speak to them directly. Yet that is exactly how the Israeli regime works; it is neither humanistic nor universalistic, and relies on allocating different rights and liberties to different people according to their classification.”

In the face of coronavirus, our homes must become shuls and yeshivas, The Forward
Eli Steinberg writes, “For haredi Jews, especially those in my town of Lakewood, New Jersey, shul is not just a place we go for a Shabbat or holiday service. It is one of the most central institutions of Jewish life. It is also more than just the place to go for thrice-a-day worship. It is a place where we engage in Torah study, especially with our children, imparting the beauty and wisdom of our tradition to them, thousands of years old, in the very same manner it was handed over to us.”

Netanyahu Won, but Israel’s Right Wing Lost, Haaretz
Nave Dromi writes, “The government that’s coming together is not going to be a right-wing government, certainly not the way the right would have imagined it. It’s a government which reflects that while Benjamin Netanyahu won, the right lost. It’s a government that indeed removes the cloud of personally-tailored laws that was hovering over Netanyahu’s head, but at the same time spreads heavy clouds over the head of the national camp.”

Top Israeli TV Shows and Films to Binge-watch During the Coronavirus Lockdown, Haaretz
Maybe you planned a visit to Israel that looks like it’s not going to happen because of the coronavirus. Perhaps you want to check out the original version of the many Israeli series that have been, or are set to be, remade for wider audiences in English. Or you could just be an aficionado of Israeli fare who has been too busy – until now, at least – to catch up on the numerous television shows and movies coming out of Israel. Or maybe you are looking for something new and different to binge-watch.