News Roundup for May 18, 2020

May 18, 2020

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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.

J Street in the News

As Possibility of West Bank Annexation Looms, Democrats Mull How to Sway Israel, Atlanta Jewish Times
“The letter itself does not mention US aid to Israel. J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said his organization does not support cutting aid over annexation but stressed a number of other potential responses, including implementing stricter restrictions and reporting requirements to ensure American taxpayer money does not go toward annexation and not protecting Israel at the UN. ‘It’s is not a single yes-or-no question,’ Ben-Ami told The Times of Israel. ‘Slashing aid is a very, very strong term and implies you’re taking a very blunt instrument and just hacking away. I think the tool kit for American foreign policy is a lot more robust than a slasher. You’ve got many, many things that could be done.’ — ‘Far greater oversight and limitations on how money could be used would be certainly called for and I think widely within the range of discussion,’ he added.”

Israel put itself in a corner, Medium
“Who else is opposed to annexation? J Street, a pro-Israel advocacy and lobbying group in the U.S., sent out a mailing where they ask this question and provide an answer, among others, ‘The majority of the Israel security establishment.’ The mailing linked to an ad signed by 220 high ranking former Israeli officers, including former Shin Bet Director Ami Ayalon, former Mossad Director Tamir Pardo, and former commander of the IDF Central Command Gadi Shamni. The ad warns that ‘Deterring unilateral annexation is both urgent and essential.’”

More of a Protest Than a Party’: What Pride Means for Jerusalem’s LGBT+ Community, J Street
“J Street is proud to stand with pro-peace Israeli organizations who do amazing work to create a better future for Jewish Israelis, Arab Israelis and Palestinians. As part of a series of profiles focused on our progressive Israeli partners, we’re lifting up the important work Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, an LGBT+ community center in Israel’s capital. ”

Top News and Analysis

After three elections and political deadlock, Israel finally swears in new government, Washington Post
Israel’s new government, headed once again by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was sworn into office on Sunday, ending nearly a year-and-a-half of political stalemate involving three stormy elections and multiple rounds of coalition negotiations.

Ending Crisis, Israel Swears in Netanyahu-Led Government to Rescue Economy, New York Times
A unity government with Benny Gantz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former rival, will brace for a second wave of the coronavirus while restoring “jobs, jobs, jobs,” Mr. Netanyahu promises.

New Israeli FM Ashkenazi: Trump Peace Plan a Historic Opportunity to Shape Israel’s Future, Haaretz
Gabi Ashkenazi, a member of Gantz’s Kahol Lavan party, said plan ‘will be advanced responsibly’ and called to safeguard alliance with Egypt and Jordan.


West Bank Annexation Will Encourage Radicalization on All Sides, Mideast UN Envoy Says, Haaretz
The UN Special Coordinator to the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov addressed Israel’s plans for West Bank land annexation Sunday, saying it will have difficult “legal, political and security implications” and will “diminish prospects for normalization of ties between Israel and Arab states.”

Pompeo says US will ‘exact consequences’ if International Criminal Court continues to investigate Israel, JTA
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. will “exact consequences” on the International Criminal Court if it “continues down its current course” of attempting to “assert jurisdiction over Israel.”

Jordan’s king warns of ‘massive conflict’ if Israel annexes land in West Bank, Times of Israel
Jordan’s King Abdullah has warned that should Israel move forward with plans to annex parts of the West Bank, it would lead to a “massive conflict” with his country, and did not rule out pulling out of Amman’s peace deal with the Jewish state.

Jewish extremist convicted in arson that killed Arab toddler, AP
An Israeli district court on Monday convicted a Jewish extremist of murder in a 2015 arson attack that killed a Palestinian toddler and his parents, a case that had sent shock waves through Israel and helped fuel months of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Virus cases continue to fall, but small increase in patients on ventilators, Times of Israel
The Health Ministry said no new cases of coronavirus were diagnosed on Monday morning as of 11 a.m., though there were four new cases during the night, bringing the total number of infections to 16,621, an increase of 14 cases since Sunday morning.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper wants to remove US troops from the Sinai Peninsula. Key Democrats and Republicans disagree., JTA
Twelve lawmakers representing key Senate and House of Representatives committees called for continued U.S. support of the international peacekeeping force in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula in a bipartisan letter last week.

Ebullient Netanyahu laughs off the notion that new government will be his last, Times of Israel
He was asked whether, as the head of the 35th government in modern Israeli history, he intends to lead Israel’s 36th as well. Laughing, Netanyahu answered: “No more than the 37th.”

GOD TV’ spat exposes tensions between Israel, evangelicals, AP
An evangelical broadcaster who boasted of miraculously securing a TV license in Israel now risks being taken off the air over suspicions of trying to convert Jews to Christianity.

Opinion and Analysis

What’s the Real Purpose of Israel’s Annexation Plan?, Haaretz
Hagai El-Ad writes, “The Israelis don’t need annexation to continue successfully advancing, and at zero cost, the Israeli project on the backs of the Palestinians. The Palestinians don’t need it either to understand Israel’s long-term intention: It has already been doing as it pleases with them and their lands without formal annexation, and they have already realized that Israel has no intention of leaving and that it has no intention of giving them rights or liberty or self-determination or civil equality. So, why the need for annexation?”

Coalition flaw isn’t all the new ministries, but the ones that were ripped apart, Times of Israel
Haviv Rettig Gur writes, “Israeli prime ministers have always invented extra cabinet posts to help stabilize coalitions, but rarely by slicing vital agencies or halving ministers’ terms.”

As West Bank Annexation Looms, What Are Jordan’s Options?, Haaretz
Zvi Bar’el writes, “The ‘Judaization’ of Jerusalem and the status of Jordan in the holy sights are still at stake, but the international struggle will now revolve around stopping the annexation.”