News Roundup for May 5, 2021

May 5, 2021

Receive the roundup in your inbox every morning!

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

How America Can Ensure Its Tax Dollars Don’t Fund Israel’s Occupation, Haaretz
J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami writes, “America allocates nearly $4 billion in military aid to Israel every year. Congress and the Biden administration must establish it’s not exploited to undermine U.S. interests and Palestinian rights by entrenching the occupation.”

Leading Jewish Republicans differ sharply over a Biden human rights nominee, JTA
“Sarah Margon, up for a top human rights role at the State Department, is the latest Biden nominee to face fierce pushback from conservatives, among them the Republican Jewish Coalition. […] Margon has earned supportive statements from the Jewish Democratic Council of America and J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East lobby. ‘J Street is proud to support the nomination of Sarah Margon, one of our country’s most experienced, knowledgeable and passionate advocates for global human rights,’ said its senior vice president for policy, Dylan Williams.”

Top News and Analysis

Netanyahu Fails to Form New Israeli Government, Prolonging Deadlock, New York Times
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel failed to form a new government by the midnight Tuesday deadline, putting his political future in jeopardy as he stands trial on corruption charges and prolonging a political deadlock that has only worsened after four elections in two years. Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, may now give a rival, eclectic camp of anti-Netanyahu parties a chance to form a government, which could oust Mr. Netanyahu from power after 12 consecutive years in office.

Israel may toss millions of vaccines. Why won’t it give them to the PA instead?, Times of Israel
Lazar Berman writes, “In November 2020, while the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine was still in its trial phase, Israel contracted to purchase ten million vaccine units from the British-Swedish company. Jerusalem has since decided it will not use the vaccines, relying instead on the more expensive Pfizer and Moderna versions. But the millions of doses are on their way, and Israel is still not sure what it is going to do with them. Coronavirus czar Nachman Ash said that Israel was looking into the possibility of diverting the vaccines to other countries, and has hinted that the doses might even be thrown away if they arrive. This talk of tossing the vaccines might well be bureaucratic posturing to send a message to other Israeli government ministries, but there’s no question that the fate of millions of doses remains up in the air. Israel’s closest neighbor, meanwhile, faces the opposite problem.”

Israeli Officials Had a Plan to Prevent Tragedy at Mt. Meron. It Was Ignored, New York Times
A week before the annual Jewish pilgrimage to Mount Meron in northern Israel, officials from six government departments, hoping to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, agreed on a plan to limit attendance at the most popular parts of the site to just 3,000 pilgrims at a time. But at the pilgrimage itself, shortly after midnight on Friday, one of those restricted areas was instead flooded by as many as 20,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews. And when many later tried to leave at the same time, 45 were crushed to death in a stampede.


Did Netanyahu just lose? Here’s what happened Tuesday in Israeli politics., JTA
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has failed to form a government by the deadline imposed by Israeli law, thrusting the country into uncertain political territory yet again. This could mean that after more than 12 years as Israel’s prime minister, Netanyahu will have to leave office. But he’s been in this situation before and managed to survive. It all depends on what happens next: Another politician could replace him, or Israel could head to its fifth round of elections since 2019.

Israeli coalition talks resume after PM misses deadline, AP
Israel’s president on Wednesday signaled he would move quickly to task a new candidate with forming a government after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to do so ahead of a midnight deadline. Netanyahu’s political future was thrown into question when he failed to assemble a ruling coalition in the four weeks allotted to him. That raised the possibility that his 12-year run as prime minister — the longest in Israeli history — could soon come to an end. It follows more than two years of political paralysis.

Netanyahu’s two main rivals seek chance to form government after he fails, Reuters
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s two main political rivals each asked the president on Wednesday for the chance to try to form a government, after Netanyahu failed to meet an overnight deadline to assemble a coalition. Israel’s longest serving leader, Netanyahu, 71, has been fighting to hold onto office through four inconclusive elections since 2019. The most recent vote on March 23, held while Netanyahu is also on trial for corruption charges he denies, yielded no majority for the prime minister or for a loose alliance of rivals from across the political spectrum aiming to topple him.

After Netanyahu Fails, Lapid Gathers 51 Reccommendations to Form Next Government, Haaretz
President Reuven Rivlin is consulting with party leaders to decide which candidate to task with forming a government after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s mandate expired on Tuesday at midnight with no breakthrough in coalition talks, prolonging Israel’s unprecedented political stalemate that has seen voters return to the polls four times in less than two years. By law, Rivlin now has three days to decide whether to give the mandate to Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett, or whether to give the Knesset a chance to find 61 MKs who can agree on a candidate to form a coalition.

Biden stresses importance of normalization with Israel in call with Abu Dhabi crown prince, Reuters
U.S. President Joe Biden, in a phone call on Tuesday with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, underlined the strategic importance of the normalization of relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, the White House said in a statement. Israel established formal relations with the UAE in September as part of a U.S.-brokered agreement. The UAE and Israel share common concerns about Iran.

Israel not reassured by Biden’s meeting with Mossad chief, Al Monitor
US President Joe Biden and Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen met on April 30 at the White House. A spokesperson for the American National Security Council said Cohen’s original meeting was with the agency’s chief Jake Sullivan, and that Biden “dropped by to express condolences for the tragedy in Mount Meron.’’ But diplomatic sources told Al-Monitor the meeting was anything but a “drop by” — the kind of meeting senior Israeli officials have grown accustomed to over the years. It was apparently a full meeting set up by the White House at the president’s request. Cohen, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s final weapon in his desperate bid to derail the looming US return to the Iran nuclear deal, had a lengthy one-hour sit-down with Biden last Friday.


Opinion and Analysis

Netanyahu blames Bennett, but it’s his own far-right protégés who doomed him, Times of Israel
David Horovitz writes, “Netanyahu’s effort to muster a majority was doomed not by Bennett, or at least not primarily by him, but by the Religious Zionism party, with its racist and homophobic Otzma Yehudit and Noam components — the far-right alliance of factions that, ironically, the Likud leader had himself welded together, before the March 23 elections, to ensure that no right-wing votes went to waste beneath the 3.25% Knesset threshold.”

The Left should insist on an Arab minister, Jerusalem Post
Shir Nosatzki writes, “In the last few days, the Left has been vocal about its demands for joining the post-Netanyahu government. Whether it’s negotiations behind closed doors, or op-eds in the papers, our camp deliberates whether Merav Michaeli should be minister of interior, or should Nitzan Horowitz take the Ministry of Environmental Protection and so on. But the truth is that the only minister they should really be insisting on, is an Arab minister.”