News Roundup for November 19, 2018

November 19, 2018

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Top News and Analysis

Netanyahu Beating War Drums Is About Politics More Than Security, Haaretz

Amos Harel writes, “Benjamin Netanyahu’s ‘just not elections’ speech on prime-time TV on Sunday night had a clear military hue. The prime minister convened reporters, who weren’t allowed to ask questions, at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv. He spoke about his first day as defense minister and went on without a pause, speaking in what was a rather emotional tone for him, to a recitation of his combat record: about his service in the elite Sayeret Matkal unit; about his late brother, Yoni, hero of Entebbe; and about the time he was almost killed during fighting at the Suez Canal. Netanyahu had a clear message, as political commentators quickly noticed: The perils to Israel’s security are great, and there’s no telling whether bringing down the incumbent government might lead to collapse of the right wing in elections. That failure (and the disaster that would ensue) would be the responsibility of the ministers Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, whose selfishness could destroy the coalition. The defense portfolio, Netanyahu was essentially saying, will stay with him. The ministers of Habayit Hayehudi can quit the coalition but they should realize the implications of such a move.”

Election Talk Throws Yet Another Wrench in US Peace Plan Rollout, Jerusalem Post

Michael Wilner writes, “The Trump administration’s secretive plan for Middle East peace has at its core two primary elements: A comprehensive proposal for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement and a broader plan for diplomatic ties between the Jewish state and the Arab world. Both have been disrupted in recent weeks, forcing the plan’s architects, Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, to reassess its fate. Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, and Greenblatt, his senior adviser, have worked on a plan for nearly two years that they themselves acknowledge will hinge on Israeli participation and Arab support. They have crafted proposals in the belief that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a leader uniquely suited in his willingness and capacity to forge peace, and that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has demonstrated an exceptional interest in making it happen.But the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident with US residency who wrote columns for a major American newspaper, and the near-collapse of Netanyahu’s governing coalition, which will likely lead to early elections, have dealt two consecutive blows to that paradigm.”

Netanyahu’s Non-election Election Speech, Haaretz

Anshel Pfeffer writes, “Despite Netanyahu’s deep belief that no one can do a better job than he can, at anything of any consequence, the prime minister has never shown an inclination to be defense minister as well. He sought instead to create a strong National Security Council in the Prime Minister’s Office and to control the defense establishment from afar. It fits in much better with the ‘presidential’ fashion he always tried to force on Israel’s parliamentary system. That hasn’t changed. But wounded by the Gaza debacle, Netanyahu urgently needs to prove his security credentials in the next few months as Israel goes to elections. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. He prefers running campaigns on his record as Israel’s senior statesman and the captain of its prosperous economy. And besides, he has rarely got on well with the IDF generals, who he has always viewed as too powerful and too left wing. But Netanyahu now knows that by the end of the week the election campaign will have officially begun and Israel will almost certainly be going to the polls in March. This campaign has begun disadvantageously for him and he needs the aura of the one office he never felt he needed before, the one that gives him an excuse for being seen in the company of soldiers in the field twice a week, to give him a boost in these crucial months.”


Netanyahu avoids snap polls for now as Bennett says not quitting government, i24NEWS

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netnayhu’s right-wing government narrowly avoided collapse Monday morning, after hawkish education minister Naftali Bennett backtracked on an ultimatum to quit the ruling coalition if he were not appointed defense minister.

US mulling ‘consequences’ after Palestinians join international bodies, Times of Israel

Palestinian efforts to join international bodies are “premature” and “counterproductive,” a US State Department official said over the weekend, after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas moved to join a UN agency and several international conventions.

Palestinians: Jewish Tours Of Temple Mount Are Part of Religious War By Israel, Jerusalem Post
Jewish tours of the Temple Mount are part of an Israeli scheme to ignite a religious war, the Palestinian Authority said on Sunday.

Special forces were apparently trying to install spying gear in Gaza, Hamas says, Times of Israel

Israeli special forces who entered the Gaza Strip early last week appeared to have been attempting to install equipment that would make it easier for Israel to eavesdrop on Palestinians in the coastal enclave, a Hamas official said.

West Bank Regional Council Built Illegal Racetrack With Public Israeli Funds, Haaretz

A regional council comprising several West Bank settlements used public funds to build an illegal race-car track.

Opinion and Analysis

Avoiding Early Elections Is Good for Netanyahu, Bad for the Country, Haaretz

The Haaretz editorial board writes, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not want early elections. This is despite the fact that Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned and Israel Beiteinu is leaving the government; Habayit Hayehudi chairman, Naftali Bennett, is willing to remain only in return for the defense portfolio; and Kulanu head Moshe Kahlon and Shas head Arye Dery are in favor of holding elections as soon as possible. It seems the Israeli public has become accustomed to the fact that the future of the government depends on the personal needs of the prime minister, whether these are his legal, electoral or political needs….Instead of Israel’s interests dictating a fateful decision such as the dissolution of the government, the entire political system is subordinated to the needs of its leader. This is intolerable. We must hold elections as soon as possible.”

At ballot box, in new poll, American Jews reject Trump’s policies and ideology, Times of Israel

Rabbi John L. Rosove, a member of J Street’s Rabbinic and Cantorial Cabinet, writes, “In last week’s midterm elections, we learned a lot about the state of our divided nation. We in the American-Jewish community learned a lot about ourselves as well. For many of us, the choice this year was different than in previous elections. The fact that it came only days after the worst attack on our community in US history made it deeply personal. The Pittsburgh massacre brought home to us, in the most dramatic way possible, that President Trump’s racism, constant lying and demonization of minorities, women, asylum seekers, Muslims and immigrants in general also have direct consequences for us as Jews. This was confirmed by a poll of American Jews conducted by the polling firm GBA Strategies and commissioned by J Street, the pro-Israel pro-peace organization. It found that 72 percent of Jewish voters believe that President Donald Trump’s policies and comments were somewhat or very responsible for inspiring the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue, a stunning and unprecedented indictment of the President. Over 79 percent said that they were concerned about the rise of anti-Semitism, right-wing extremism, and racism since the president took office….American Jews know in their guts that we’ve never had a president in this country who stands so firmly against so many of our core beliefs. We are commanded to love the stranger; Trump spurns the stranger. We are commanded to protect the weak, the widow and the orphan. Trump targets them. We are commanded to pursue peace; Trump pushes us closer to war. We are exhorted to treat our fellow humans with respect and to honor the dignity of all humans “created in the image of God.” Trump does the opposite. We are taught to seek out the truth. Trump lies and lies and lies. In response to this unprecedented threat, American Jews are not backing down or staying silent. Through groups like J Street and others that share our values, we have mobilized politically and voted our conscience. We are battling for our goals and supporting leaders who we believe can promote a better future for our country, for Israel, and for the world.”

In the age of Trump and Netanyahu, progressive values are winning, +972 Magazine

Bar Gissin and Maya Haber write, “Something remarkable happened in the last few weeks: progressive candidates won elections in Israel and the United States, despite the rise of far-right, anti-democratic politics in both countries. This might come as a surprise, but it shouldn’t be. Many Jewish Israelis support ending the occupation, women’s right to pray at the Wailing Wall, and LGBTQs’ right to get married and adopt children. Similarly, most Americans approve of labor unions, support same-sex marriage, want stricter gun control, and oppose illegalizing abortions.So why do the policies of the Israeli and American governments fail to reflect voter demands? The reason is simple: President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu use fear to channel voter anxieties. Just look at how Trump repeatedly labels refugees as criminals and belittles their claims of persecution to mobilize the Republican base. Similarly, for the past 20 years, Netanyahu has been stoking existential fears, warning of attacks by Iran and Hamas in Gaza. Countering this hate has trapped liberals and progressives in a defensive, apprehensive posture, leaving little space to push a proactive agenda forward.”

American Jews Face a Choice: Create Meaning or Fade Away, The New York Times

Gal Beckerman writes, “When a gunman slaughtered 11 worshipers in a Pittsburgh synagogue on a Shabbat morning last month, American Jews were left with a jumble of intense emotions: horror and fear, certainly, but also an old embattled feeling, centuries in the making. They were victims, in America, a country that has never seen even a hint of a pogrom. In their pain and worry, individual Jews had a rare chance to feel themselves part of a larger community — one that mourns together, gets angry together, imbued with a separate and unique identity, threatened yet resilient. And in this, victimhood offered an illusion.”