News Roundup for March 19, 2019

March 19, 2019

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J Street in the News

J Street’s New Campaign Likens Netanyahu to Trump, Encourages Americans to Speak Out, Haaretz

“A week before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives in Washington for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference, a new campaign by the Jewish group J Street is spotlighting the similarities between him and U.S. President Donald Trump. The video campaign, unveiled on Monday, three weeks before the Israeli election, shows clips from the two leaders’ speeches and the news that emphasize how alike their viewpoints are on issues like democracy, racism and the rule of law. It urges Americans who support Israel to challenge Netanyahu as they do Trump….The video campaign wraps up by appealing to viewers: ‘For two years, Americans have stood up and fought back when Trump attacks vulnerable minorities and erodes trust in democratic institutions. Pro-Israel Americans shouldn’t hesitate to stand up and speak out when Netanyahu does the same.’ ‘By attacking democratic institutions and targeting vulnerable minorities, Trump and Netanyahu are borrowing from the same far-right playbook, undermining the core values and interests of both the U.S. and Israel,’ said J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami in a statement.”

Top News and Analysis

Netanyahu Seeks Trump Bump as He Brings Re-Election Bid to US, Bloomberg

David Wainer and Ivan Levingston write, “Donald Trump has spent two years showering Benjamin Netanyahu with precious political gifts, from the Jerusalem embassy move to his exit from the Iran nuclear deal. With a close-run election looming, the Israeli leader needs him more than ever […] Netanyahu’s officially coming for the AIPAC conference, an annual pro-Israel policy gathering that’s become a key stop for political leaders, but his visit will serve up excellent campaign optics back home. He’s certain to be photographed meeting President Trump while his speech, delivered in his American-accented baritone, will get plenty of airtime in Israel.”

Indifference to Netanyahu’s Sinister Designs on Democracy Echoes ‘It Can’t Happen Here’, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev writes, “If the elections give Netanyahu a solid blocking majority, he will try to set up a right wing government even more extreme than the current one. He will make his potential partners a deal with the devil they will find hard to refuse. They can realize their life-long dream of destroying whatever is left of the checks and balances of Israel’s democracy in exchange for legislating an escape route for Netanyahu […] Such a move or anything similar will thrust a dagger directly into the heart of Israel’s democracy. It will eradicate any lingering inhibitions or sense of shame that hitherto restrained Netanyahu’s coalition colleague from going for broke. Netanyahu’s way to stifle dissent, neuter the media, destroy the rule of law and equate leftism with treason will be left wide open.”

Trying to Kill the Iran Deal Could End Up Saving It, The Atlantic

Kathy Gilsinan writes, “The Trump administration has made a priority of punishing and pressuring Iran. But the same administration that withdrew from the nuclear deal that President Donald Trump dubbed ‘a great embarrassment’ may actually end up preserving it. Iran and all the other signatories are still observing the deal’s terms for now. The U.S. reimposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic last fall, driving down its oil exports and further stressing its weak economy. But even as the administration pursues what it calls a ‘maximum pressure’ campaign against the country, it has also made exceptions through sanctions waivers that have helped keep Iranian oil flowing and even preserved some international nuclear cooperation with the country.”


Gantz: Netanyahu Guilty of Worst Scandal in Israel’s History, The Jerusalem Post

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz vowed on Monday to form a commission of inquiry to probe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s purchase of German submarines if he wins the April 9 election. Speaking at a press conference at Expo Tel Aviv, Gantz called the purchase of the subs “the worst scandal in the history of Israel.” Gantz admitted “failure” for not stopping the subs from being purchased.

UN experts urge Israel to rein in security forces, Reuters

UN war crimes investigators called on Israel on Monday to stop its snipers using lethal force against protesters on the border with Gaza, as the anniversary approached of the start of demonstrations there last year in which 189 Palestinians were killed. The Commission of Inquiry said Israel should investigate the shooting of more than 6,000 people, far beyond the criminal inquiries it has announced into 11 killings. “The most important thing for the government of Israel is to review the rules of engagement immediately and to ensure that the rules of engagement are according to accepted international law standards,” the commission’s chairman Santiago Canton told the Human Rights Council.

Israel said ready to offer Gaza easing of export limits, larger cash transfers, Times of Israel

Israel is reportedly mulling a package of benefits for Gaza as it resumes indirect ceasefire negotiations with the Hamas terror group, angering some hawkish ministers. The high-level security cabinet met Sunday to discuss efforts to restore calm and prevent an escalation of violence with the Palestinian enclave ahead of April elections, Channel 13 news reported. According to the report, Israel is considering offering an expanded fishing zone off the Gaza coast, eased restrictions on the export of Gaza agricultural products, and increased monthly cash deliveries from Qatar which provide millions of dollars for needy families in Gaza.

Netanyahu: If Gantz Can’t Protect His Phone, How Will He Protect the Country?, The Jerusalem Post

The hacking of Blue and White leader Benny Gantz’s is a personal failure on his part, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Monday night. During a Likud event in Jerusalem, Netanyahu touted Israel’s advances in cybersecurity, when someone shouted from the crowd: “Ask Benny Gantz!” – “Since you brought it up,” Netanyahu said, “I strongly condemn the wild attacks by [Blue and White co-leaders Yair] Lapid and Gantz against the Mossad, Shin Bet and myself. We are protecting Israel’s security.”

Israel’s Justice Minister Sprays Herself With ‘Fascism’ Perfume in Provocative Campaign Ad, Haaretz

“A new election ad for the far-right Hayamin Hehadash party featuring Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked in sultry poses, spraying herself with a perfume labeled “Fascism,” has the look and feel of a satiric sketch, echoing the 2017 “Saturday Night Live” send-up of Ivanka Trump in a mock commercial for the scent “Complicit.” But the Shaked ad was no send-up: The images are accompanied by the seductively whispered phrases (in Hebrew) “Judicial reform,” “Separation of powers” and “Restraining the Supreme Court” — all meant to highlight her efforts to weaken the activist courts and give more power to the legislative branch. Shaked then delivers the tagline to camera: “To me, it smells like democracy.”

US, Israel Press ICC Against Full War Crimes Probes, The Jerusalem Post

The last few days saw the US, Israel and their allies fire warning shots across the bow of the International Criminal Court about diving deeper into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Since September, there has been speculation that the US might take concrete actions against the ICC if it pressured Israel with a full war crimes investigation. This past weekend, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made that threat real. He said that any member of the ICC who was involved in a criminal investigation of Israelis would be blocked from traveling to the US and might face financial sanctions.

Opinion and Analysis

Why Are the Wheels Coming Off the Benny Gantz Election Campaign?, Haaretz

Anshel Pfeffer argues, “The tide has turned again in the last 10 days. The gap between Likud and Kahol Lavan has closed and Netanyahu’s governing coalition of right-wing and religious parties once again has a majority that would deliver him victory. There are still three weeks to go and the variables in the polls — not least the distinct possibility that as many as half a dozen parties which either side relies upon in their coalition calculations could fail to pass the electoral threshold — ensure that the result will remain on a knife-edge until 10 PM on April 9.”

Trump Stoked The Islamophobia That Led To The New Zealand Mass Murder, The Forward

Peter Beinart writes, “Let’s review the record: The President of the United States, his attorney general, his secretary of state, and his first and current national security advisors have all either made blatantly anti-Muslim statements or promoted blatantly anti-Muslim groups, or both. Islamophobia isn’t incidental to the Trump administration. It is one of its defining features.”

How Hamas Became Another Enemy of the Palestinian People, Haaretz

Muhammad Shehada writes, “For four days in a row, thousands of Gazans from the politically neutral, decentralized popular movement ‘We Want To Live’ have taken to the streets, protesting the ever-worsening living conditions in the Strip, despite the unimaginable bone-breaking brutality inflicted on demonstrators by Hamas. The movement’s activists officially emphasized that they’re not targeting any party in particular, but are standing against the inhumane policies of all parties involved with Gaza. That long list includes the recent Hamas tax hikes on basic consumer goods, the Palestinian Authority’s economic sanctions on Gaza, Israel’s the blockade, the intra-Palestinian divisions. Young people simply declared: We’ve had enough of it all.”

By Barring Kahanist, Israel’s Supreme Court Did Its Job: Protecting Democracy, Haaretz

Mordechai Kremnitzer writes “In a democracy, one must be particularly wary of a political majority that is national-ethnic in essence, and that seeks to silence a national minority and deny it political representation. In Israel’s special circumstances, and in light of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, it is not surprising that there is a large gap between the minority’s perspective and that of the majority. Even when the minority’s perception is anathema to the majority, democracy requires the majority to tolerate it.”