News Roundup for September 9, 2020

September 9, 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.”

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Top News and Analysis

State TV: Iran constructing new building near nuke site, AP
Iran said Tuesday it is building a sophisticated new building near its underground Natanz nuclear site, state TV reported. The report quoted Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the country’s nuclear department, as saying the new structure is being built in the wake of a July explosion that damaged a building that housed centrifuge machines. “Regarding the evil action and sabotage that was carried out, it has been decided to establish a more modern, vaster and inclusive (building) to be constructed in the heart of the mountains around Natanz,” Salehi was quoted as saying.

Health Ministry said to seek immediate, month-long nationwide lockdown, Times of Israel
Israel could soon be returning to a full national lockdown for more than a month amid skyrocketing coronavirus infection rates, according to reports citing comments made Tuesday night in a videoconference with top Health Ministry officials and hospital chiefs. Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy said in the call that if a lockdown is approved, it will last for at least a month due to the current high morbidity rate, according to leaks from the call carried by Channel 12 and Ynet.

Call It What You Will, but It’s Still Occupation, Haaretz
Michael Brizon writes, “Israel’s legal trick is to argue that because there was no legal sovereign in the West Bank in June 1967, it’s impossible for the territory to be occupied. For there to be an occupation, there must be a sovereign from whom the territory was captured. If there is no sovereign, then there’s no occupation. Not one serious person worldwide ever bought this shady maneuver. It’s been thrown out of every possible door. Even when the late Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy recruited all of his prestige to market this Israeli bluff, nobody bought it.”


Israel, UAE to sign deal at White House next week, AP
Israel and the United Arab Emirates will sign their historic deal normalizing relations at a White House ceremony on Sept. 15, officials said Tuesday.

Netanyahu to Seek Full Lockdown, After He’s Back From UAE Deal Ceremony in D.C., Haaretz
Members of the coronavirus cabinet believe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeks to impose a nationwide lockdown of limited duration toward the end of this month. A power struggle is shaping up within the cabinet that was formed to handle the pandemic, with members from Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan working to reduce the likelihood of having to announce a full closure.

Netanyahu apologizes to family of man killed by police and accused of terrorism, Times of Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly apologized on Tuesday night for the Israeli government’s claim that a Bedouin teacher shot dead by police was a terrorist.

Coronavirus pummels already crippled Palestinian economy: UN, Al Jazeera
Faltering donor aid and Palestinian tax revenues leaking to Israel’s treasury had already brought economy to its knees.

Israelis pessimistic ahead of new year, but see hope in UAE peace deal — study, Times of Israel
Ten days before the start of the Jewish new year, Israelis see a pessimistic nation and expect the current political impasse to force a fourth election within months.

Despite COVID-19 Travel Ban, Israel Lets in 70 Evangelicals to Volunteer in Settlements, Haaretz
Although Israel’s borders have been largely closed to non-citizens since the coronavirus outbreak, volunteers from a Christian evangelical organization have obtained special government permission to enter the country in order to help with the grape harvest on West Bank settlements.

Serbia won’t open Jerusalem embassy if Israel recognizes Kosovo – Serbian source, Times of Israel
A ‘diplomatic relationship’ with Pristina is acceptable, but full recognition would ‘destroy’ Israel’s ties with Belgrade, source says after speaking to Serbian leader.

Opinion and Analysis

The U.A.E.-Israel Flight Is Nothing to Celebrate, New York Times
Diana Buttu writes, “Rather than continuing to press for a two-state solution, the P.L.O. should instead press for equal rights. While there isn’t a single Israeli or Palestinian political party advocating a one-state solution, polls show that support for the two-state solution among Palestinians is waning […] I am under no illusion as to how difficult this transformation will be. Yet if the aim is to secure Palestinian freedom, continuing on the path delineated by the Oslo Accords will only prolong Palestinian suffering. The Palestinian leadership and the international community must together acknowledge this reality and chart a genuine new course that prioritizes the realization of Palestinian freedom, rather than normalizing the denial of freedom.”

Of course we should care about who rabbis think we should vote for, The Forward
Eli Steinberg writes, “Why should any opinion columnist — such as this one, for example — be invited to voice his or her opinion, while a rabbi, especially one as prestigious as Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, who has been directing and advising thousands of students at one of the world’s foremost educational institutions for nearly 70 years now, and whose counsel is in demand far beyond that, is told that he must remain silent?”

Israel’s Virus Czar Was Making Headway. Then He Tangled With a Key Netanyahu Ally., New York Times
David M. Halbfinger and Isabel Kershner write, “As he moved to slow the pandemic, Dr. Ronni Gamzu kept butting heads with ultra-Orthodox leaders. Then Israel’s top virus fighter was suddenly undercut.”

Will there be an ‘October surprise’ in foreign policy?, Washington Post
Daniel W. Drezner writes, “There is also the degree to which polarization has poisoned the well for an October surprise. Even if Trump were to achieve, say, a North Korean peace deal, the cynicism about any announcement will be rather high. The White House’s attempt to fluff up the Serbia-Kosovo deal feeds this cynicism even more. Some observers fear he might launch a war to seek a rally-round-the-flag effect, but for reasons I elaborated a year ago, this seems unlikely.”

Virus-battered Israel pays the price of Netanyahu’s endless election campaign, Times of Israel
Haviv Rettig Gur writes, “The system is frozen in place. Everyone smells a looming election, and it’s exceedingly hard to get anything done in the Knesset in its shadow. Elections overpower the senses and transform every decision and compromise of the sort required to produce a state budget into an unsanctionable risk. In Israel right now, they are overpowering the elected leadership’s capacity to effectively tackle a pandemic.”

Millions displaced by US combat since 9/11, Responsible Statecraft
David Vine writes, “The wars the U.S. government has fought since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have forced 37 million people — and perhaps as many as 59 million — from their homes, according to a newly released report from American University and Brown University’s Costs of War Project.”