News Roundup for January 31, 2019

January 31, 2019

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Top News and Analysis

Gantz Closes Gap on Netanyahu: Dramatic Rise in Polls After Debut Speech, Haaretz

“Former Israeli military chief Benny Gantz, largely considered the top rival to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the upcoming Israeli elections, would receive 21 to 24 Knesset seats if the election was held today – eight seats more than the previous polls predicted. The dramatic rise comes one day after Gantz gave his first public remarks on his political platform in Tel Aviv. Likud is forecast to receive 30 to 31 seats out of the 120-seat Knesset, while an alliance between Gantz and Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid would receive 35 seats with Gantz at the helm. When asked who should be prime minister, 36% of those polled by Channel 12 said Netanyahu while 35% said Gantz.”

Former generals join forces ahead of Israeli elections, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit observes, “Gantz has his eye on additional connections and alliances. If he succeeds in convincing another former chief of staff, such as Gabi Ashkenazi, who also served under Netanyahu, to join his party, Israel Resilience, he’ll be able to offer a powerful security alternative to Netanyahu, something no one has done in ages….So far, Gantz’s strategy has been developing according to plan. He announced his candidacy and made a convincing debut in the polls. He has built up expectations and surpassed Lapid and Yesh Atid in the polls to emerge as a possible alternative to Netanyahu — all in the last two weeks. There is now some logic to Gantz asking Lapid to join him as number two.”


Israeli-Palestinian Coexistence Groups Will Lose U.S. Support Because of Anti-terror Law, Haaretz

“A number of civil society groups in the Palestinian Authority and Israel, who have received grants from the U.S. government to promote coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians, could lose millions of dollars as a result of the debate over the “Anti Terrorism Clarification Act.” Joel Braunold, executive director of the Alliance for Middle East Peace – an umbrella organization supporting coexistence groups in Israel and the PA – told Haaretz: ‘As ATCA comes into force on Thursday one of the unintended consequences is the removal of $8 million in contractual obligations USAID had to people-to-people groups.’”

Hundreds block Tel Aviv roads in Ethiopian-led protest against police brutality, Times of Israel

Tel Aviv and the major roads leading in and out of it were brought to a near-standstill Wednesday afternoon as over a thousand Israelis of Ethiopian descent and their supporters blocked several key thoroughfares and junctions in protest of alleged institutional racism and racist police brutality.

Gantz’s Party Looking to Diversify Slate, Which Has No Women or non-European Jews, Haaretz

“The party is aware of its homogeneity, and is working towards bringing women and Mizrahis (Jews of Middle Eastern descent) onboard. Gantz would probably be happy to bring on independent MK Orli Levy-Abekasis, but as of Wednesday morning, there has been no progress on this front. Starting next week, Hosen L’Yisrael is expected to begin to reveal the names of its candidates. Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv Asaf Zamir will likely be added, as will former newscaster Miki Haimovich.”

Polls show Gantz could defeat Netanyahu if he heads joint list with Lapid, Times of Israel

Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz’s Israel Resilience party soared in opinion polls taken Wednesday, a day after he made his maiden political speech, indicating he constitutes a potent threat to the re-election hopes of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Hadashot poll showed that a Gantz-headed alliance with Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party would win 35 seats to the Likud’s 30

Arab-majority Parties to Hold Primaries, New Faces Try to Break Through, Haaretz

Two of the Arab-majority parties running for the upcoming election as part of the Joint List will finalize the make-up of their slate this week. Hadash and Balad are two of the four factions that make up the Joint List, which is projected to again finish as Israel’s third largest party. The factions are still negotiating the terms of their alliance after one of the factions, Ta’al, split off from the party in early January.

Netanyahu to Attend American-Polish Mideast Conference in Warsaw, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will attend the international conference in Warsaw, sponsored by the United States and Poland, aimed at promoting peace and stability in the Middle East.  The United States said earlier this month that the conference is not aimed at demonizing Iran, which has denounced the gathering as America’s anti-Iran “circus.”

Police said probing possible criminality in Bennett’s 2012 party leadership bid, Times of Israel

Police have been conducting a probe into potential foul play by Education Minister Naftali Bennett during his campaign for leadership of the national-religious Jewish Home party seven years ago, an Israeli newspaper reported Wednesday.

Opinion and Analysis

Israeli Paradox: Why Gantz’s Right-wing Extravaganza Anoints Him as the Left’s anti-Netanyahu, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev writes, “It’s hard to reconcile the enthusiasm of committed peaceniks and die hard liberals from Gantz’s performance and especially his inaugural speech, which combined hawkish militarism that bordered on chauvinism and meaningless platitudes about everything else under the sun. Once upon a time, in a Bibi-less world, the left would have railed against the emergence of a right-wing party that will cannibalize the center-left electorate with pretenses of honesty and integrity. In the Bibi-world, the one and only measure of a candidate is whether he is theoretically capable of defeating the prime minister on April 9. Gantz is now the clear frontrunner for the job.”

Europe Protects Itself From Trump’s Caprice, Bloomberg

Esfandyar Batmanghelidj writes, “It’s been a surprisingly short time in coming. It was only last September that Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs, announced that the European parties to the Iranian nuclear deal—formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—would establish an a special purpose vehicle to “assist and reassure economic operators pursuing legitimate business with Iran,” giving them a route around secondary sanctions imposed by the Trump administration. Just four months later, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom are ready to launch the much-anticipated SPV, a first-of-its-kind state-owned trade intermediary.”

Pressured by settlers, Netanyahu ejects Hebron observers, Al-Monitor

Shlomi Eldar reports, “The settlers really understand the situation. They know that once the election is over, they will not be able to get everything that they can get now, with Netanyahu so susceptible to pressure. So far, they can take credit for one big victory.”

The Team Behind Gantz’s Liberal Stance on Religion and State, Haaretz

Judy Maltz reports, “It is worth noting that since launching his political career a few months ago, Gantz has surrounded himself with individuals and advisers who happen to be active in promoting religious freedom and Jewish pluralism. The firm running his election campaign is Ben Horin and Alexandrovitz, a strategic-media consultancy. By chance, it also represents the Reform movement in Israel, as well as its advocacy arm, the Israel Religious Action Center. The latter has been involved in numerous legal battles and campaigns over the years aimed at promoting religious freedom and pluralism in Israel….Sources familiar with the firm say Ben Horin and Alexandrovitz works with clients like these not only for the money but also out of a deep commitment to the cause of religious freedom and pluralism. That these themes made their way into Gantz’s speech, they say, is not coincidental.”