News Roundup for January 17, 2019

January 17, 2019

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J Street in the News

Israel Will Be The Great Foreign Policy Debate Of The Democratic Primary, Buzzfeed

“[T]hus far, prospective candidates have only been forced to engage with BDS in the form of a bill in Congress, reintroduced this year by Senate Republicans, that would penalize companies and organizations that engage in BDS. The bill would allow local and state governments to require businesses contracting with them not to participate in boycotts of Israel. Even organizations that oppose BDS, like J Street, which positions itself as an alternative to the hardline pro-Israel AIPAC, oppose the bill, which some Republicans — and pro-Israel Democrats — are trying to present it as a referendum on BDS itself.”

Top News and Analysis

Netanyahu’s Top Challenger Launches Campaign, Revealing Long-awaited Election Slogan, Haaretz

“Benjamin Netanyahu’s top contender in the upcoming Israel election, Benny Gantz, launched his campaign Thursday, revealing his party’s slogan for the first time. Benny Gantz’s new Hosen L’Yisrael party is running under the ‘Israel Before Everything’ slogan. In a 17-second online video, Gantz said: ‘For me, Israel is before everything. Join me and we will walk down a new path. Because we need something different and we will do something different.’”

The Former TV and Fashion Star Who Could Be Israel’s Next Kingmaker, Haaretz

“If the polls prove correct, Orli Levi-Abekasis could be Israel’s next kingmaker. Anywhere from four to eight Knesset seats (out of a total of 120) will go to her newly formed party Gesher (Hebrew for “bridge”) in the upcoming April 9 election, according to predictions. And that’s even before she’s announced who will be on the ticket. Depending on the final electoral breakdown between the right and left blocs, and based on past scenarios, that relatively small number of seats could be enough to swing the majority to one side. Meanwhile, Levi-Abekasis has done a good job of keeping her cards very close to her chest, not letting on in which direction she is leaning.”


Druze Protest Nation-state Law Outside Israeli Party Leaders’ Homes; Politicians Vow to ‘Fix’ Legislation, Haaretz

Dozens of Israeli Druze protested against the nation-state law on Wednesday outside the homes of the heads of three parties, demanding that the politicians commit to changing the contentious legislation less than three months before a general election. Protesters gathered outside the homes of Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, Labor chairman Avi Gabbay and Gesher chairwoman Orly Levi-Abekasis.

Victory for Netanyahu in Likud Central Committee vote ahead of elections, Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday won the backing of the powerful Likud Central Committee for a series of procedural proposals heavily impacting the party slate in the upcoming elections. The vote, which passed with 63 percent support from committee members, means Netanyahu heads to the polls with more control in shaping the party list ahead of the upcoming primaries and with his party united behind him.

Three More Labor Lawmakers Won’t Seek Reelection as Polls Predict Party Thrashing, Haaretz

Three Labor Party members of Knesset announced on Wednesday that they will not be running in the Labor Party’s primary ahead of the upcoming Israeli election, with polls predicting a dramatic loss of support.  Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin, Hilik Bar and Eitan Broshi said they will not run in Labor’s February primary.

Jewish strategists who worked with Netanyahu said behind anti-Soros campaign, Times of Israel

Two Jewish media strategists who have closely worked with a wide range of Israeli politicians over the years are behind a Hungarian smear campaign against Jewish billionaire George Soros, according to an interview one of them recently had with Swiss weekly Das Magazin. They are Arthur Finkelstein and George Birnbaum, two longtime advisers who worked with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu introduced the pair to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in 2008, The Times UK reports.

Opinion and Analysis

Report: US plan has Palestinian state in most of West Bank, E. Jerusalem capital, Times of Israel

“The Trump administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal provides for a Palestinian state in 85-90 percent of the West Bank, with the sovereign capital of Palestine located in ‘most of the Arab neighborhoods’ of East Jerusalem, an Israeli TV report claimed Wednesday. Based on what it said was information conveyed by a participant at a recent briefing by ‘a senior American,’ the Channel 13 news report specified that the so-called ‘deal of the century’ provides for Jerusalem to be divided, with Israel maintaining sovereignty in west Jerusalem, parts of east Jerusalem and the ‘holy basin,’ including the Old City and its immediate environs. However, it added that the ‘holy basin’ area would be ‘jointly run’ with the Palestinians, Jordan and possibly other countries….The White House dismissed the story as unfounded speculation. ‘As in the past, speculations regarding the peace plan are inaccurate. We have no further reaction,’ it said in a statement quoted by Channel 13.”

The Most Dangerous Thing Trump Could Do Yet, and Its Nightmare Fallout for Israel, Haaretz

Daniel Shapiro writes, “Remove the United States from NATO – and forward-deployed U.S. forces from Europe, which would certainly follow – and the United States’ ability to respond to a Middle East crisis would be diminished….To avoid having to grapple with the nightmarish set of problems that would result from the U.S. leaving NATO, General Kochavi might consider recommending to his Prime Minister and Defense Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, that he use his influence with President Trump to dissuade him from such a dangerous course.”

5 Jewish things to know about Kirsten Gillibrand, JTA

“She has grown more critical in recent years, chiding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2017 for not having a ‘plan for peace.’ She also pulled her sponsorship from a bill that Sen. Ben Cardin, a Jewish Democrat from Maryland, had initiated that would establish penalties for commercial enterprises that join the boycott Israel movement. Schumer, in a rare move for a party leader, co-sponsored the bill. But Gillibrand heeded calls from the civil liberties movement, which said the bill infringes on speech freedoms. Her exit deflated Democratic support for the bill and it never passed.”

In First, Arab Countries Admit Israel Into a Regional Alliance. But There Is a Price, Haaretz

“The announcement this week that many of the countries of the East Mediterranean, including Israel, agreed to set up a forum to create a regional gas market is a landmark development for Israel. It not only creates a framework for developing the region’s energy, but it marks the first time Israel has been admitted to a regional grouping that will give it official status in the Arab world….However, membership in the forum also entails a number of disadvantages for Israel. For one, it could be used as a way of pressuring Israel politically, although it would be done indirectly and quietly since the forum’s mandate is limited to energy issues. In particular, the PA could exploit its membership in the organization to undermine Israel’s growing political and security cooperation with Egypt.”