News Roundup for October 23, 2019

October 23, 2019

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J Street in the News

Buttigieg: US aid should be used as ‘leverage’ to change Israeli policies, Times of Israel
“‘I think that the aid is leverage to guide Israel in the right direction,’ Buttigieg said. ‘If, for example, there is follow-through on these threats of annexation, I’m committed to ensuring that the US is not footing the bill for that.’ He suggested that pressuring Israel to preserve the possibility of a two-state solution was in its long-term interest of remaining a Jewish democracy […] Sanders and Buttigieg are slated to speak at J Street’s national conference next week — along with other presidential candidates such as Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, Colorado Senator Michael Bennet and former secretary of housing and urban development Julian Castro.”

Top News and Analysis

As Netanyahu Fails to Form a Government, Benny Gantz Gets a Chance to Try, New York Times
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel abandoned his latest attempt to form a government on Monday, clearing the way for his chief rival to take a shot but leaving a divided country no closer to knowing who its next leader would be. It remained to be seen whether the move was the beginning of the end for Mr. Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, or just another twist in a political standoff that has paralyzed the government for six months. President Reuven Rivlin said he would give Benny Gantz, the former army chief whose party won one more parliamentary seat than Mr. Netanyahu’s in last month’s election, the mandate to try to become the country’s next leader.

‘All Options on the Table’: Warren, Buttigieg Say Expanded Israeli Occupation in West Bank Could Lead to U.S. Aid Cuts, Haaretz
Two Democratic presidential contenders said over the weekend they are open to the idea of conditioning U.S. military aid to Israel on the actions of the Israeli government – even if they didn’t go as far as Bernie Sanders. When asked about withholding aid to Israel if the Israeli government continued building settlements in the West Bank and moving away from a two-state solution, Sen. Elizabeth Warren said that “all options are on the table.” When Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, was asked about this issue, he reiterated his position that Israeli annexations in the West Bank could lead to cuts in U.S. security assistance.

Netanyahu can’t form a government. Here’s what’s next for Israeli politics, Washington Post
Ruth Eglash writes, “Blue and White could try to establish a minority government, bolstered by two very small left-wing parties and backed by factions who remain outside the coalition. Other possibilities could include a move inside Likud to remove Netanyahu as the leader. Although there have been some hints at a leadership race, the technicalities of such a change appear inconceivable at this stage. Of course, Gantz could, for some unforeseen reason, decide to join with Netanyahu despite the possible indictments and allow him to remain prime minister. Or some of Netanyahu’s right-wing, religious bloc could decide to join with Gantz. It’s also possible Liberman might even decide to throw his support behind Netanyahu.”


Israeli President to Task Gantz With Forming Government on Wednesday, Haaretz
Following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement Monday night that he is unable to form a government and that he is returning the mandate to the president, Knesset factions convened Tuesday evening to discuss allowing Gantz the opportunity to try to establish a coalition.

Gantz ‘optimistic’ as he awaits formal mandate from president to form government, Times of Israel
Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz said Tuesday morning that he was optimistic about his chances of forming a government, shortly before he was to become the first person in more than a decade other than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be tasked with that challenge.

Trump hand writes ‘You are great!’ on birthday letter to Netanyahu, JTA
“There has never been a more productive time in the Israeli-American partnership, and I know there are many more victories to come,” Trump wrote in the letter. “Thank you for your strong leadership and loyal friendship. You are one of my closest allies and I look forward to the continued success we will have working together.”

Blue and White said weighing bill requiring Netanyahu to step down if indicted, Times of Israel
The Blue and White party is weighing introducing legislation, already next week, that would require Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to step down from his post if an indictment is filed in the three criminal cases against him, Channel 13 news reported Tuesday.

Day After Incident, Settlers Attack Israeli Security Forces at West Bank Settlement, Haaretz
Jewish settlers hurled rocks toward Border Police troops near the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar on Monday night. The forces fired stun grenades toward the settlers; no injuries were reported and none of settlers were arrested.

Poll: Most Israelis think Netanyahu should quit as Likud head over legal woes, Times of Israel
Over half of respondents (53.5 percent) to the Israel Democracy Institute poll said Netanyahu should step down now as Likud chief, while 65% believe he should do so if indicted. Twenty-four percent oppose him stepping down as leader of Likud regardless.

Palestinian Authority Blocks 59 Palestinian Websites, Social Media Channels Critical of Abbas, Haaretz
A court in Ramallah earlier this week ordered the blocking of 59 Palestinian websites, blogs and Facebook pages that oppose the Palestinian Authority and PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel said bracing for direct cruise missile or drone attack by Iran, Times of Israel
Israel is readying for a direct cruise missile or drone strike by Tehran in response to recent attacks on Iranian regional proxies which have been attributed to the Jewish state, Army Radio reported Tuesday evening.

Opinion and Analysis

New York Times, New York Times
David M. Halbfinger writes, “To understand the paralysis in Israel’s political system, think of a Mexican standoff, like in a Quentin Tarantino movie, minus the guns.”

Israel’s Netanyahu down but not out after failing to form government, Reuters
Jeffrey Heller writes, “Without a deal with Netanyahu, Gantz could seek to form a minority government, with Arab lawmakers’ backing from the sidelines. But that is a big political risk in a country where Arab citizens’ loyalty has been hotly debated.”

Gantz does have a path to the prime ministership. But does he want to walk it?, Times of Israel
David Horovitz writes, “Here’s how the Blue and White leader can muster the votes to oust Netanyahu. Like so much of what has played out in Israeli politics since April, it largely hinges on Liberman.”

Rewarding the Israeli Attackers in the Settlements, Haaretz
Amira Hass writes, “It’s a system – violence carried out with the army’s full backing and with the aim of expanding, on a daily basis, the area from which Palestinians are driven out.”