News Roundup for September 18, 2019

September 18, 2019

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J Street in the News

Trump raises hackles with notion that military response to Iran hinges on Saudis, Times of Israel
“The liberal Mideast advocacy group J Street emphasized that the Constitution vested Congress, and not Riyadh, with war powers. ‘President Trump needs a reminder that neither he nor Mohammed Bin Salman have the authority to take the United States into war with Iran,’ said the group’s president Jeremy Ben-Ami in a statement, referring to the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. ‘Only Congress can authorize such a response — and they have not done so.’ Ben-Ami noted that in July, the US House passed an amendment that sharply restricted Trump’s prerogative to attack Iran without congressional authorization.”

Top News and Analysis

Israel Election Results: Netanyahu’s Bloc Fails to Secure Majority as 91% of Votes Counted, Haaretz
According to the partial results, Kahol Lavan won 32 out of 120 Knesset seats, with Likud behind with 31 seats. Netanyahu’s bloc, comprised of right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties, currently stands at 55 seats. The center-left bloc has 56 seats. Avigdor Lieberman, whose Yisrael Beiteinu party is projected nine seats, is expected to be the election’s kingmaker. On Wednesday morning, he reiterated his support for a “broad liberal unity government,” which would include Yisrael Beiteinu, Likud and Kahol Lavan. 

Israel’s 2 main political parties deadlocked after election, AP
Israel’s two main political parties were deadlocked Wednesday after an unprecedented repeat election, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu facing an uphill battle to hold on to his job. The election’s seeming political kingmaker, Avigdor Lieberman, said he’ll insist upon a secular unity government between Netanyahu’s Likud and Benny Gantz’s Blue and White parties, who based on partial results are currently tied at 32 seats each out of the 120 in parliament. Without Lieberman’s endorsement, both parties appear to have fallen well short of securing a parliamentary majority with their prospective ideological allies.

Trump leans against striking Iran, Politico
Trump is reluctant to take military action in the Middle East because he wants to live up to his campaign vows to reduce foreign entanglements, according to multiple people who speak with him regularly. He’s also worried about the economic and political ramifications of embroiling the United States in a war with Iran, which stands accused of the recent attack on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia.


Israel’s two main parties locked in dead heat as negotiations begin for new government, Washington Post
Both main parties in Israel’s do-over election were locked in a dead heat on Wednesday, with more than 90 percent of the vote tallied. The inconclusive result was almost certain to trigger weeks of political infighting, the same uncertainty that set this unusual process in motion in the first place.

Israeli election: Netanyahu says he won’t concede, blames media bias, Axios
Netanyahu accused the media of biased coverage during the campaign and insisted that after waiting for the final results, he’d attempt to form a governing coalition. Netanyahu also said Israel needs a Zionist government committed to Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, adding: “No government can be based on support from Arab parties.”

Eyeing coalition with post-Netanyahu Likud, Blue and White says longtime PM lost, Times of Israel
Members of the centrist Blue and White party on Tuesday evening reacted to exit polls showing it ahead of or on par with the ruling Likud party, declaring that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had “lost” and his era was “over,” although at the party headquarters activists were careful not to celebrate before more reliable results came in.

Arab turnout up to 60%, a 10-point bump from April — report, Times of Israel
Turnout in Arab towns in yesterday’s election was roughly 60%, compared to just 50% in last April’s vote, Haaretz reports after tallying 91% of the vote. The Joint List is slated to receive 13 seats, compared to the 10 seats that Hadash-Ta’al and Ra’am Balad received in total when they ran separately in April.

Will Joint List Leader Odeh Start to Receive National Security Briefings?, The Jerusalem Post
Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh could make history as the first-ever Arab opposition leader in Israel, which would involve his receiving monthly briefings from the prime minister and his top advisers on matters of national security. “Opposition leader is an interesting job, and an unprecedented one for the Arab public” in Israel, Odeh said outside his home in Haifa on Wednesday morning.

Likud’s No. 2 says party will stick by Netanyahu, come what may, Times of Israel
Likud MK and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein says that the party will stick by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regardless of the election results.

Israeli citizens are driving Bedouin voters to the polls in droves, +972 Mag
After the Central Elections Committee banned a civil society group from busing Bedouin voters to the polls, dozens of Israelis are stepping in to ensure all citizens have a chance to participate in the elections.

Israel’s Bedouins vote, but without much hope, Times of Israel
Seated on the sidewalk in front of a school being used as a polling station, Bassel Zaanoun was voting “so that they stop demolishing our homes.”

To Find Clues in Saudi Oil Attacks, U.S. Examines Missile and Drone Parts, New York Times
American investigators are examining missile circuit boards recovered after strikes against Saudi oil facilities to determine the trajectory of the attack — and whether it originated from Iran — as the Trump administration debates how, and whether, to retaliate.

Opinion and Analysis

Israel Election 2019: Maybe, Just Maybe, the Age of Netanyahu Has Come to an End, Haaretz
Chemi Shalev writes, “The unimaginable may have happened in tonight’s Israeli elections. Based on initial exit polls, the age of Benjamin Netanyahu may have come to an end. If exit polls are to be trusted, Benny Gantz may end up getting first crack at setting up a new government. Israel stood at the edge of a religious-nationalist abyss and, at the very last moment, took a step back.”

Where do we go from here? All the options for a ruling coalition, Times of Israel
Michael Bachner writes, “The right-wing religious bloc has a total of 55 seats, the center-left has 56, putting Avigdor Liberman in kingmaker position with his Yisrael Beytenu party’s nine seats. Assuming the final tally won’t be wildly different, what could the next coalition look like? Here are the options…”

Israel Wants Palestine’s Land, but Not Its People, New York Times
Raja Shehadeh writes, “Israel already is reaping all the benefits of annexation in the West Bank, and without having to bear any responsibility for the welfare of the Palestinians living here.”

A coalition of the few: U.S. and Saudi Arabia stand alone against Iran, Politico
Wesley Morgan writes, “The United States and Saudi Arabia lack virtually any allies as they consider how to respond to this weekend’s attacks on Saudi oil refineries, raising doubts about whether the Trump administration could build any coalition for military action in the region.”

Who Is Benny Gantz, the Former General Who Just Overtook Netanyahu, Haaretz
Haaretz Staff write, “In an apparent setback for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, exit polls showed the longtime Israeli leader falling short of securing a parliamentary majority with his hard-line allies in Tuesday’s election.”

Muddy results clearly show Israelis unfazed by prospect of life after Netanyahu, Times of Israel
David Horovitz writes, “Netanyahu still has a multitude of options, but none of them are really much good. The electorate didn’t overwhelmingly endorse Gantz, but neither did it heed longtime PM’s cry of desperation.”

Who Is Avigdor Lieberman? 12 Shocking Headlines From One of the Most Bombastic Careers in Israeli Politics, Haaretz
Haaretz Staff write, “Avigdor Lieberman snatched victory out of Netanyahu’s hands last April and this election will again be the king maker, potentially deciding who will be Israel’s next prime minister.”