News Roundup for May 8, 2020

May 8, 2020

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J Street in the News

Palestinians stiffen battle against annexation at UN Security Council, The Jerusalem Post
“Martin Indyk, former ambassador to Israel and envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, tweeted: ‘Pied Piper Friedman leading Israel off a cliff, with Bibi playing the big drum and [Blue and White leader] Bennie [Gantz] the timbrel and the rest of us too disillusioned or distracted to do anything about it.’ J Street, the progressive Jewish group, similarly slammed Friedman. a J Street spokesperson said “it’s been clear for years that Ambassador Friedman – a longtime benefactor and advocate for the settlement movement – sees it as his personal mission to encourage illegal, unilateral Israeli annexation in the West Bank. ‘As he indicates in this interview, the entire Trump plan is simply a vehicle to provide an American green light annexation under the false pretense of supporting negotiations towards a two-state solution,’ J Street spokesperson added. ‘But no matter what [US President Donald] Trump and Friedman say, the truth is that annexation would be a disaster for the long-term interests of Israel and the United States–which is why it’s strongly opposed by the Israeli security establishment, the majority of Israelis and responsible lawmakers here in the US.’”

Talking Annexation With Former Shin Bet Director Ami Ayalon: Five Takeaways, J Street
“This week, former director of Israel’s Shin Bet security agency, Ami Ayalon, joined J Stream to offer his analysis of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s rush toward unilateral annexation of the West Bank […] Ayalon believes that criticism from political leaders in the United States will prove pivotal when it comes to the Israeli government’s decision to move forward. If it is clear that there is no bipartisan support for annexation, and that there will be significant ramifications for the US-Israel relationship, the rush to annexation may be stopped in its tracks. ‘It will create a major impact on the decision of our government and of our people whether you approve it or not,’ Ayalon said.”

How the Occupation Impacts the COVID-19 Response, J Street
“On Monday, top officials from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency joined J Stream from Washington, Gaza and East Jerusalem for an update on their work responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Top News and Analysis

Poll: Majority of Israel’s Jews against West Bank annexation, The Jerusalem Post
The survey found that a quarter of the respondents (26%) support a potential annexation of the West Bank, while a plurality (40%) support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Set for new term, Netanyahu eyes risky West Bank annexation, AP
Fear of harsh international censure might help explain why Netanyahu hasn’t tried to annex occupied territory in his years in power — even while boosting Jewish settlement expansion there. Those calculations gradually changed after Donald Trump was elected U.S. president in 2016. Surrounded by a team of pro-settlement advisers, Trump delivered diplomatic gifts that Netanyahu never could have imagined under previous administrations […] Annexation would offer benefits to both sides. Netanyahu could solidify his hard-line legacy and shore up support with his nationalist base. It also would give Trump a welcome accomplishment to rally pro-Israel supporters, particularly among politically powerful evangelical voters. Nonetheless, Netanyahu faces obstacles at home and abroad. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who oversees autonomous enclaves in the West Bank, has warned he would annul past agreements with Israel in response to annexation. This could mean the collapse of Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation, a relationship valued by Israel as an added layer of protection against attacks by militants. Annexation could also trigger a fundamental shift in Palestinian aspirations — from setting up an independent state in parts of the Holy Land to struggling for equal rights and full citizenship in a single state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. Such a bi-national state would conflict with Israel’s founding ethos as a homeland for the Jewish people.

Friedman to ‘Post’: We need to strengthen Israel-US ties with peace plan, The Jerusalem Post
The ambassador is confident that Israel could annex the parts of the West Bank mentioned in Trump’s plan with US approval by July 1, but Israel is the one that has to make it happen, he said. “We will be ready to address this issue if Israel is ready,” Friedman said. “Ultimately, as Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo said, it’s Israel’s decision. They have to decide what they want to do.”


Netanyahu gets nod from Rivlin to form government, seemingly cementing rule, Times of Israel
After 17 months of heading a transitional government and fighting for his political survival, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was tasked Thursday by President Reuven Rivlin with forming the next government, which is expected to be announced and sworn in next week

Israel OKs housing expansion for West Bank city of Efrat, JTA
Under the move backed by Naftali Bennett, the Efrat settlement in the West Bank would add some 225 acres for about 7,000 additional housing units, according to the Defense Ministry.

Trump blasts Republicans who voted for Iran war powers bill as Senate fails to override veto, Al-Monitor
President Donald Trump laid into some of his close Senate allies for siding with Democrats on an Iran war powers bill even as Congress failed to override his veto.

5 deaths take virus toll to 245; recoveries continue to outpace new infections, Times of Israel
Five deaths took Israel’s death toll from COVID-19 to 245 on Friday morning, one of the largest overnight jumps in recent weeks.

Israel to discuss with U.S. reported Sinai peacekeeper cutback plan: Israeli minister, Reuters
Israel said on Friday it would discuss with its closest ally the United States a newspaper report that the U.S.-led peacekeeping force in the Egyptian Sinai may be scaled back, calling its nearly four-decade-old presence “important”.

Half of Israelis say financial situation has worsened during virus lockdown, Times of Israel
Around a third of Israelis have reported feelings of stress, almost half that their financial situation has worsened, while 14 percent said they or a member of their household had to cut down on food or skip meals since the start of the pandemic, according to a survey of civil resilience conducted by the Central Bureau of Statistics in the final week of April .

Opinion and Analysis

Stop annexation, in the name of love, Boulder Jewish News
Tom Feldman, J Street Colorado Co-Chair writes, “I oppose Israel’s race toward annexation because I care deeply about Israel’s future. Before Israel undertakes the momentous step of annexation, her leaders need to be reminded: be careful what you wish for. Dangerous unintended consequences for Israel abound. Members of Israel’s defense community have warned that annexation may deal a fatal blow to Israel’s security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority. Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan may be jeopardized.”

The High Court didn’t stop Netanyahu. It won’t stop annexation either, +972 Mag
Meron Rapoport writes, “The center-left camp hoped the High Court would put an end to Netanyahu’s rule. Now that it’s given him the green light to remain in office and advance annexation, opponents need to find new ways to resist.”