News Roundup for October 2, 2020

October 2, 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.

Top News and Analysis

Trump Tests Positive for the Coronavirus, New York Times
President Trump revealed early Friday morning that he and the first lady, Melania Trump, had tested positive for the coronavirus, throwing the nation’s leadership into uncertainty and escalating the crisis posed by a pandemic that has already killed more than 207,000 Americans and devastated the economy. Mr. Trump, who for months has played down the seriousness of the virus and hours earlier on Thursday night told an audience that “the end of the pandemic is in sight,” will quarantine in the White House for an unspecified period of time, forcing him to withdraw at least temporarily from the campaign trail only 32 days before the election on Nov. 3. The dramatic disclosure came in a Twitter message just before 1 a.m. after a suspenseful evening following reports that Mr. Trump’s close adviser Hope Hicks had tested positive. In her own tweet about 30 minutes later, Mrs. Trump wrote that the first couple were “feeling good,” but the White House did not say whether they were experiencing symptoms.

Amid record infection numbers, Netanyahu warns of tighter lockdown, Times of Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Thursday that if the national lockdown to curb an ongoing coronavirus outbreak does not reduce infection rates, the restrictions will be further tightened.

Here’s What Happens With the Investigations the Israeli Army Launches When It Kills Innocent Palestinians, Haaretz
Gideon Levy and Alex Levac write, “Almost every time Israeli soldiers kill a Palestinian in the territories, the army announces the opening of an investigation by the Military Police. But a look back at incidents reported here over the past year reveals that such inquiries rarely conclude – if they ever began.”


In First Direct Talks in 30 Years, Israel, Lebanon Agree to Negotiate Maritime Border, Haaretz
The talks will be mediated by the United States, under the auspices of the United Nations and led by Israel’s National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz. According to U.S. Assistant Secretary of Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker they are set to begin on October 14.

With funding plummeting for pro-Israel groups worldwide, Israel’s government planning aid program, JTA
“The Ministry of Strategic Affairs has been working in recent months on a financial aid program that will provide an economic lifeline to the pro-Israel network, to ensure the change and streamlining of their activities so they continue to remain an influential and relevant source into the future,” Orit Farkash-Hacohen, the minister, said in a statement.

Netanyahu’s lawyers given more time to respond to charges, likely delaying trial, Times of Israel
The Jerusalem District Court on Thursday gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu until November 29 to respond to the criminal indictment against him, pushing back the original October 18 date.

2 armed Palestinians infiltrate from Gaza into southern Israel, JTA
They threw a grenade, which proved to be inactive, prior to their arrest, according to the Israel Defense Forces. They were questioned at the site. No one was injured in the attempted attack.

Rivlin makes ’emergency’ visit to top ultra-Orthodox rabbi as virus cases spiral, Times of Israel
President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday made an “emergency” visit to a top ultra-Orthodox rabbi, urging him to encourage his followers to obey COVID-19 restrictions as Haredi communities have been among the hardest-hit by the virus in Israel.

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, 92, diagnosed with coronavirus, The Jerusalem Post
One of the leading rabbis of the non-hassidic haredi world, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, 92, has been diagnosed with coronavirus.

NYC has at most 5 Yiddish-speaking contact tracers despite COVID spike among the Orthodox, The Forward
While New York City has hired thousands for its Test and Trace Corps in an attempt to contain the coronavirus pandemic in the city, there are no more than five Yiddish speakers on staff.

Opinion and Analysis

Democracies are backsliding amid the coronavirus pandemic, Washington Post
Adam Taylor writes, “Democracies around the world are suffering amid the global pandemic. The coronavirus has exposed inequalities in health care and weaknesses in economic safety nets; elite apathy and government mismanagement have helped push the global death toll over 1 million.”

A moment of reckoning for American Jewish leaders, +972 Mag
Natasha Roth-Rowland writes, “A spat over a comparison between present-day America and 1930s Germany showed the American-Jewish establishment is unequipped to protect its community.”

In 2020, voter access is a defining issue — just like it was on the old Lower East Side, The Forward
Talya Zax writes, “After spending the summer sowing disinformation about the security of mail-in voting and generally undermining public trust in the country’s electoral systems, Trump this week urged his supporters to monitor polling places, immediately raising concerns about voter intimidation. In the history of American politics, such concerns are hardly new — in fact, they were on the minds of Forward editors as far back as 1908.”

Flailing in the face of COVID-19, Israel is now on the brink of catastrophe, Times of Israel
David Horovitz writes, “The contagion rates, serious case numbers and death toll are dire and worsening. They are not yet exponential, but they will be soon in the absence of a coherent, credible strategy”

How the Trump admin’s prisoner swap photo-op complicated future exchanges with Iran, Responsible Statecraft
Matthew Petti writes, “Wang and White only came home because of the work of private hostage negotiators, who carried sensitive messages between Iranian authorities and the U.S. Justice Department, as the New Yorker, CNN, and Al Monitor have reported. The State Department dragged its feet on doing any diplomacy with Iran at all, only jumping in at the last minute to take credit.”

With Huge Gifts to Birthright Israel, Wealthy Donors Influence American Jewish Identity, Inside Philanthropy
Lila Corwin Berman writes, “The question is not whether philanthropic organizations are political; they are. Rather, the proper question is whether the political power of philanthropy threatens to undermine the political will of the public it purports to serve.”

The Two Way Street for Sukkot | Sustaining the Sukkah of Peace, J Street
Rabbi David Teutsch writes, “As we think about bringing peace in the United States, we need to work on the prerequisites — meeting needs, bringing full justice and preserving every person’s dignity. Peace is achievable in our time if we recognize our interdependence and our obligation to do our part in bringing that peace.”