News Roundup for January 15, 2019

January 15, 2019

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Top News and Analysis

I support Israel, but laws banning BDS are wrong, Houston Chronicle

Paul Asofsky writes, “ I reject BDS campaigns because they single out Israel as the sole obstacle to peace. However, I still oppose Texas’ violation of our First Amendment rights through this law. There are many people, such as the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, who honestly believe that BDS campaigns are the best path toward achieving peace in the Middle East. They are not anti-Semitic. I disagree with them, but I must engage those holding opposing views in debate and not rely on the government to stifle them or coerce them into taking a particular political stance…What might be next? Could academic freedom be stifled by muzzling professors at state-funded universities who refuse to sign a pledge? Could Texas require this pledge of all teachers in public schools? Could it have required that contractors not boycott South African goods during apartheid? No — the state couldn’t then and it can’t now or in future debates. This law crosses a firm line.”

Is an Increasingly Unhinged Trump Good or Bad for Netanyahu?, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev writes, “Netanyahu enjoys both ends of the stick. On the one hand, he has drawn inspiration from Trump’s assaults on the rule of law, raising the volume and intensity of his own, personally motivated attacks against his police investigators and state attorneys. Likewise, Trump’s authoritarian tendencies, his hostility to criticism, his aggressiveness toward the free press and his disdain for the separation of powers, as evidenced in his unwillingness to come to terms with the new division of power in Washington following the November 6 elections, have all emboldened Netanyahu to advance along similar lines, albeit more timidly….Trump’s erratic presidency, however, could also improve Netanyahu’s lot among Israelis who were wary of the U.S. president from the outset, along with those whose view of Trump has changed for the worse because of the Syria withdrawal. If Trump is so dangerously volatile, they reason, who better to handle him than Netanyahu, who arguably wields more influence in Washington today than any of his predecessors.”


Lapid said to rule out union with Livni, vowing he ‘won’t unite with the left’, Times of Israel

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Hatnua’s Tzipi Livni will not be forming a center-left bloc in a bid to challenge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ruling Likud party in the upcoming elections, Hadashot TV news reported Monday. Lapid reportedly rejected the idea of a union with Livni, saying: “Just as I will not unite with Netanyahu, I will not unite with the left.” For her part, Livni is said to have likened Lapid to the prime minister.

Life After Bennett: Controversial Lawmaker Elected Chair of National Union Party, Haaretz

Deputy Knesset Speaker Bezalel Smotrich was elected Monday to chair the National Union party, weeks after the two main Habayit Hayehudi leaders left the party in late December and three months ahead of Israel’s upcoming election. Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Uri Ariel lost the election and is expected to retire from political life. Smotrich, considered the Knesset’s right-wing bellwether, called on Habayit Hayehudi to run for the April 9 election on a unified platform.

Gantz and Lapid said discussing alliance, but neither wants to be number two, Times of Israel

Would-be prime ministers Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid are holding extensive talks on a possible election alliance, but are stymied by the fact that neither wants to relinquish the top spot in any such partnership, a TV report said Monday. Hadashot news said the two men have been “intensively” discussing an alliance to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the April 9 elections, talking deep into the night, directly and via intermediaries.

Mahmoud Abbas set to assume chairmanship of major UN bloc, JTA

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas arrived in New York City to assume the chairmanship of a major bloc of developing countries at the United Nations. Abbas on Tuesday will succeed Egypt as the leader of the Group of 77. He is scheduled to address the General Assembly, which elected the “State of Palestine” in July to head the bloc. The G-77 has recognized Palestine as a member since 1976. The bloc is made up of 134 member states, representing at least 80 percent of the world’s population, though it originally started with 77. It was designed to promote its members’ economic advancement and uses its size to leverage its negotiating capacity.

Threatening more attacks, Netanyahu tells Iran to ‘get out’ of Syria, Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday warned Israel would press ahead with its campaign against Iranian entrenchment in Syria, days after a rare acknowledgement of a bombing raid in Damascus. Speaking at a ceremony at army headquarters in Tel Aviv to install new IDF chief of staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, Netanyahu mocked claims from Tehran that it did not have a military presence in Syria but only advisers.

Opinion and Analysis

Israeli right likely to maintain support for Netanyahu if indicted, Al-Monitor

Danny Zaken observes, “The crux of Netanyahu’s problem lies with his current coalition partner, former Likud member and current chairman of Kulanu Moshe Kahlon, whose party now numbers 10 Knesset members. Kahlon said explicitly Dec. 20 that Netanyahu won’t be able to serve as prime minister when indictments hang over his head. The rest of the coalition parties declared that since the law does not require the prime minister to resign over an indictment, they would be willing to join him in a next coalition. Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who in the meantime left HaBayit HaYehudi and established the New Right party with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, said in a televised interview that he doesn’t agree with Kahlon. He said, “Whether you love him or not, he’s done a lot for the country. I hope it doesn’t happen. But if there’s change through elections, that’s something else entirely.”

All the Ways East Jerusalem Palestinians Get Rejected in Bid to Become Israelis, Haaretz

Nir Hasson reports, “Israel annexed East Jerusalem following its capture of that part of the city in the 1967 Six-Day War. Although in principle the law allows Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem to receive Israeli citizenship, the obstacles on the way have become more and more difficult over the years. Simply getting an appointment to present the necessary documents has taken three years. Then it’s another three to four years until there is a decision.

Ground for rejection of applications include insufficient Hebrew, questions about loyalty to the country and suspicion that the applicant owns property in the West Bank.”

Davos, Chad, DC: Despite elections, legal woes, Netanyahu plans diplomatic blitz, Times of Israel

Raphael Ahren reports, “In addition to handling his legal woes and the current election campaign, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has several high-profile diplomatic events in the coming weeks, including three trips abroad and the arrival of several important foreign dignitaries. Some of the items on his schedule may play in his favor as he asks the Israeli electorate for a fifth term as prime minister — such as the renewal of diplomatic relations with a Muslim nation in Africa, or Latin American countries announcing their intention to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

Two-Way Street – Ten Commandments, Redux, J Street Blog

Rabbi Judith Edelstein writes about her idea for a modern-day version of “The Ten Commandments” centered around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.