News Roundup for November 21, 2019

November 21, 2019

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J Street in the News

To serve short-term political interests, Trump overturns five decades of policy on Israeli settlements, St Louis Post-Dispatch
“With their actions and rhetoric, the president and his advisers have given the Israeli government carte blanche to expand settlements, entrench occupation and move toward formal annexation of the West Bank,’ says Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the pro-Israel policy group J Street. ‘By discarding decades of bipartisan U.S. policy and flagrantly disregarding international law, they are trampling on the rights of Palestinians and helping the Israeli right-wing to destroy Israel’s future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people.’”

Democratic presidential candidates spar on debate stage in Atlanta, Jewish Insider
“The only candidate to mention Israel was Sanders, who echoed remarks he made last month at the J Street national conference in Washington. ‘It is no longer good enough for us to be simply pro-Israel,’ the Vermonter said Wednesday night. ‘I am pro-Israel, but we must treat Palestinian people as well with the respect and dignity they deserve. What’s going on in Gaza right now with youth unemployment at 70 percent or 80 percent is unsustainable…’”

Top News and Analysis

Gantz concedes failure to form coalition, all but assuring new elections, Times of Israel
The announcement came several hours before his midnight deadline. With the declaration, the country’s year-long spiraling political chaos entered uncharted territory, formally laid out in law but never before exercised: Israeli lawmakers now have 21 days during which any 61 Knesset members can back any MK as prime minister, including Netanyahu or Gantz. If that doesn’t occur, Israel will go to unprecedented third elections in under a year.

Bernie Sanders gets applause at debate for call for treating Palestinians with dignity, JTA
Bernie Sanders got applause at a Democratic presidential debate when he said it not good enough to be pro-Israel, and called for treating Palestinians with dignity. […] “It is no longer good enough for us to be pro-Israel, I am pro-Israel, but we must treat the Palestinians with the dignity they deserve.” The audience in Atlanta applauded. Sanders called the situation in the Gaza Strip, where a majority of the working population is unemployed, “unsustainable.”

Netanyahu Indictment Imminent: Bribery, Fraud or Breach of Trust?, Haaretz
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to be indicted for corruption either later Thursday or Sunday. The move follows a four-day pre-indictment hearing in October in which Netanyahu’s legal team tried to persuade Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit to drop the charges against him. If indicted, Netanyahu will face dual challenges:  Fighting to remain prime minister while grappling with the frustrating political deadlock that appears to be leading Israel to a third election in the space of a year.


UN Security Council rebukes US on Israeli settlements, Deutsche Welle
All members of the UN Security Council — except the US — rejected Washington’s decision to no longer consider settlements a violation of international law. Four European nations said the move hindered peace efforts. “Unilateral moves fuel anger and disillusionment and significantly undermine the prospects for establishing a contiguous and viable Palestinian state with Jerusalem as the future capital of both states,” said Nickolay Mladenov, UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process.

Likud’s Sa’ar calls for leadership primaries, declares bid to unseat Netanyahu, Times of Israel
Likud MK Gideon Saar said Thursday that he will demand a Likud leadership race in the event that Israel goes to a third round of elections, arguing that he will be able to succeed where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed and build a government to unite the country.

‘Fake Negotiations’: Netanyahu, Gantz’s Parties Trade Blame Over Failed Unity Talks, Haaretz
“It was fake negotiations, a conversation with nothing to it,” one official said. “Every time we felt that the sides were getting closer, Likud raised more claims designed to make us tell them no.”

Gantz said to blame Lapid, right-wing flank in his party for coalition failure, Times of Israel
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz has reportedly accused the right-wing flank of his party of thwarting a bid to form a minority government bolstered by the predominantly Arab Joint List, and said his partnership with Yair Lapid reduced the chances of a unity government with Likud.

Iran’s Rohani Declares Victory Over Nationwide Protests That Reportedly Saw Over 100 Deaths, Haaretz
Iranian President Hassan Rohani on Wednesday claimed victory over nationwide demonstrations that Tehran has blamed on foreign foes after protests over fuel price rises shook the country, and the government dismissed reports of more than 100 deaths as “speculative.”

Abbas says Netanyahu tried to prevent him attending Shimon Peres’s funeral, Times of Israel
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to stop him from coming to late president Shimon Peres’s funeral in Jerusalem in September 2016.

Opinion and Analysis

With Hypocrisy, Cynicism and Venom, Israel’s Third Election Season in a Year Has Begun, Haaretz
Yossi Verter writes, “Only the brave could beat back the gag reflex as they watched Israel’s top politicians launch their campaigns for the 2020 election. Hypocrisy, cynicism and sanctimony flooded the screens. Everyone portrayed himself as righteous and good-natured while shoveling dirt on his rival.”

Accusing Netanyahu of trying to steal election, Gantz opens campaign for another, Times of Israel
Raoul Wootliff writes, “On Wednesday night, announcing that he had failed to form a government, and paving the way to a likely third round of elections in under a year, Gantz made his most forceful attempt at forging the public discourse and framing the ongoing political deadlock on his own terms.”

Netanyahu and Gantz Both Failed to Form a Governing Coalition. What Happens Now?, Haaretz
Jonathan Lis writes, “Israel’s divided legislature now has 21 days to nominate a candidate. Any Knesset member with the backing of at least 61 out of 120 lawmakers would be tapped to form a coalition on a first come, first serve basis. “

The Two-State Solution Is Not A Gift To Us Palestinians. It’s The Only Way Israel Survives., The Forward
Muhammad Shehada writes, “From the very beginning of the peace process, it’s been crystal clear that working toward a two-state solution and upholding Palestinian rights over our territory is undoubtedly in Israel’s national interest to secure its future if it’s to be a democratic and Jewish state and live in peace and security. This is why no American president has dared to write off the official policy of condemning the settlements.”

With softening of US settlement policy, is annexation train leaving the station?, Times of Israel
Jacob Magid writes, “With Israeli towns in West Bank no longer illegal in the eyes of superpower, it’s easier for the right to advance sovereignty plans and harder for the left to come out against them.”

Trump Crushes Palestinian Hopes Again, Foreign Policy
Robbie Gramer and Colum Lynch write, “The U.S. Middle East peace plan may be in a coma. But that hasn’t stopped Washington from handing major diplomatic victories to Israel.”

Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan Faces Dimmer Prospects Than Ever, New York Times
Michael Crowley writes, “A plan that asks fewer concessions of Israel than those devised by past White Houses would be popular among conservative Republicans, many Jewish voters in Florida and evangelical Christians who support maximal Israeli expansion. Any Trump plan would most likely ‘reframe United States policy to make a two-state solution impossible,’ said Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who served as a Middle East peace negotiator under presidents of both parties.”

Don’t legalize the illegal, The Jerusalem Post
Gershon Baskin writes, “I have some news for US President Donald Trump, and he may not like it, but here it is: Donald Trump is not the point of reference regarding international law. No unilateral declaration of the president or secretary of state of the United States of America can legalize the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The Israeli settlements are not only illegal under international law, they have been and will continue to be one of the main obstacles to reaching a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”