Daily Briefing:THE CORONAVIRUS: A GAME-CHANGER IN ISRAELI POLITICS (March 23,2020)

2019 Novel Coronavirus Commander’s Intent (Source: U.S. Air Force )

Table of Contents:

Benny Gantz and the Pyromaniacal Cockpit:  Carolyn B. Glick, Israel Hayom, Mar. 20, 2020


Netanyahu and the Politics of Leadership During a Crisis: Jonathan S. Tobin, National Review, Mar. 20, 2020


Palestinian Leaders Use Coronavirus to Attack Israel:  Khaled Abu Toameh, Jewish Press, Mar. 22, 2020


Virus Knows No Borders, but Israel and Arab World Not Cooperating to Fight It:  Raphael Arens, Times of Israel, Mar. 22, 2020

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Benny Gantz and the Pyromaniacal Cockpit
Caroline B. Glick
Israel Hayom, Mar. 20, 2020

If Blue and White Party leader MK Benny Gantz forms a minority government with Avigdor Liberman’s Israel Beitenu Party and the Labor-Meretz party, based on the outside support of the Joint Arab List, Gantz’s success will torpedo Israel’s relations with the United States.

This week, a senior official who was present during Gantz’s meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in late January revealed: “Gantz committed in the Oval Office that, if he became prime minister, he would form a government of people that would support the president’s peace deal.”

The Trump peace plan includes applying Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and the Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria. Labor-Meretz and the Joint Arab List are both violently opposed to the Trump plan. A Gantz government that includes them will be a government that is hostile to the Trump plan.

The only way for Gantz to keep the promise he made to Trump is to join a coalition government led by Netanyahu with Likud and its right-religious coalition partners. And that is an option that Gantz and his partners in the Blue and White “cockpit” – fellow former IDF chiefs of General Staff Moshe Yaalon and Gadi Ashkenazy and former media star Yair Lapid – will not support.

They are working feverishly to cobble together a radical government with the post-Zionists in Labor-Meretz and the anti-Zionists in the Joint Arab List. All of which will be hard-pressed to work with the Trump administration.

 How can Trump or his administration trust a man who flat out lied to the President in the Oval Office? What can explain Gantz’s irresponsible behavior?

Did he lie to Trump – and the Israeli public – because he and his colleagues are secretly radical leftists who seek power to undermine everything Israel stands for? They wouldn’t be the first leftist politicians to do so.

In 1999, their commander, former IDF chief of General Staff Ehud Barak ran against Netanyahu by presenting himself as ideologically indistinguishable from him. Barak insisted that he would implement Netanyahu’s center-right policies, but that he would do so with the support of the media and the leftist elite.

The public bought his act. Barak – the centrist – defeated Netanyahu and Barak – the leftist – offered PLO chief Yasser Arafat Judea, Samaria, Gaza, and the Temple Mount as well as the Golan Heights to Syrian dictator Hafez Assad.

Israel is a center-right country. Barak understood the only way for a leftist to win an election in Israel is to pretend to be a center-rightist.

Gantz’s willingness to effectively surrender Israel’s rights in Judea and Samaria to win the parliamentary support of politicians that seek Israel’s destruction as a Jewish state – shared by his partners in the Blue and White leadership – seems to indicate that they are rabid post-Zionists. But a brief consideration of their other positions and actions suggests that something else is motivating them.… [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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Netanyahu and the Politics of Leadership during a Crisis
Jonathan S. Tobin
National Review, Mar. 20, 2020

Like the outbreak of wars and natural disasters, the coronavirus has proven to be a harsh test for leaders. Holding office has always been a double-edged sword in times of crisis. Fairly or not, the person in charge must take responsibility for the bad things that happen on his watch and accept the political consequences.

But what happened in Israel during the first weeks of the coronavirus pandemic illustrates that challenges like these are also opportunities for incumbents. In the United States, it has primarily been Trump supporters who, at least up until last week, were expressing skepticism about the comparative seriousness of the pandemic. In Israel it has been just the opposite, with Netanyahu’s left-wing critics fuming about the way they think the prime minister has exploited the crisis for his own political advantage and voicing doubts about whether the actions he’s taken to halt the spread of the virus are justified.

Indeed, some of the measures that Netanyahu has implemented are debatable. What is not in question is that his pronouncements and decisive actions rallied the nation to view the crisis with requisite seriousness even as he seized the political initiative against his political opponents.

The context for Israel’s attempt to deal with the pandemic is complicated. Israel’s political parties have been in an intractable parliamentary deadlock since the start of 2019. Netanyahu lost his majority in the Knesset when a political ally sought to topple him. What followed were three elections within the space of a year that failed to produce a majority for either Netanyahu and his Likud Party or Benny Gantz, the leader of the opposition Blue and White Party and a former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces.

What has made this process so difficult is that, though the Likud and Blue and White largely agree on security and diplomatic issues, the opposition is animated by a desire to terminate the political career of a prime minister who is under indictment on three corruption charges.

Under Israeli law, the failure of either Netanyahu or Gantz to cobble together a majority has left the incumbent prime minister in place as the leader of a caretaker government. And, though lacking a permanent-government mandate, leadership is just what Netanyahu has shown.

Weeks before his ally in the White House began to realize that his public statements on the virus were handing the Democrats a wedge issue, Netanyahu was in full commander-in-chief mode, with frequent public appearances sounding the alarm about the public-health threat and ordering Israelis returning from abroad into quarantine. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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Palestinian Leaders Use Coronavirus to Attack Israel
Khaled Abu Toameh
Jewish Press, Mar. 22, 2020

What is the connection between US President Donald Trump’s recently unveiled plan for Middle East peace and the coronavirus?

Palestinian leaders seem to believe that there is a connection between the peace plan, also known as the Deal of the Century, and the coronavirus pandemic. According to these leaders, Israel is taking advantage of the health crisis to implement the Trump plan and build new housing units for Jews in the West Bank. They are referring to Israel’s intention to build a new road between the E1 area and Jerusalem, and 3,500 apartments in Ma’aleh Adumim, east of Jerusalem.

First, the building program in the area has been on the agenda for more than 20 years. All Israeli governments since Yitzhak Rabin’s second tenure as prime minister in the 1990s have supported it.

Second, the recent Israeli announcement was made in the last week of February, before the outbreak of the coronavirus in Israel and the West Bank. In fact, the announcement came on the eve of the March 3 election and was more likely a pledge from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s electoral campaign.

On March 18, the PLO Executive Committee, whose members held a meeting in Ramallah, said that it “rejects the Israeli occupation government’s exploitation of the coronavirus to pursue its policy of settlement construction and colonial expansion.”

The committee, consisting of veteran PLO leaders and loyalists of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, claimed that the Israeli government and Jewish settlers were exploiting the outbreak of the virus to “destroy trees, attack houses and vehicles, and pave new roads for the use of settlers [in the West Bank] in order to implement the ominous so-called Deal of the Century.”

In addition, the PLO leaders went on to condemn Israel for supposedly allowing “herds of Jewish settlers to storm the Al Aqsa Mosque” in Jerusalem. They were referring to routine, peaceful, visits by Jews to the Temple Mount. In fact, Jews do not “storm” the compound. Instead, they enter as visitors in coordination with the Israeli authorities. Moreover, contrary to the claims of the Palestinians, none of these Jews has ever set foot inside the Al Aqsa Mosque.

The Palestinian officials, however, are not prepared to be “confused by the facts.” They continue, on a daily basis, to spread such lies about Israel and Jews, even as Israel is helping them combat the coronavirus. In Arabic, we call it wakkaha (audacity). … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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Virus Knows No Borders, but Israel and Arab World Not Cooperating to Fight It
Raphael Arens
Times of Israel, Mar. 22, 2020

Austria was one of the first European countries to impose draconian measures to fend off the spreading coronavirus, including a semi-lockdown identical to that implemented by the Israeli government.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz credited a recent conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his prompt action. “Hey, you in Europe are underestimating this. Wake up and take action,” he quoted the Israeli leader as telling him.

Kurz wasn’t the only foreign official Netanyahu discussed the pandemic with; two weeks ago, he convened a videoconference with the leaders of six other European countries. He also spoke to US Vice President Mike Pence and the White House coronavirus coordinator, Dr. Deborah L. Birx.

At about the same time, Netanyahu said he would also conduct a conference call “with the leaders of countries in the Middle East.”

But that call never took place.

In fact, despite the virus impacting the entire region, there is no coordination or cooperation between Israel and its neighbors to tackle the challenge together.

Before the epidemic broke out, Netanyahu did not make any effort to hide his disdain for Europe, but spoke enthusiastically about the deepening relationship between Israel and the Arab world. Having common foes in Shiite Iran and in Sunni fundamentalism, and common interests in Israeli innovation and technology, virtually all Arab states were eager to work together with Israel, he said time and again.

But for some reason, the current crisis has not proven to be fertile ground for strengthening these ties.

In fact, Jerusalem has not joined forces with any of the states in the region in the fight against the pandemic, not even with the two countries with which it has formal diplomatic ties — Egypt and Jordan — a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry said Sunday.

There is some cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, the spokesperson said, adding that he did not want to elaborate in order not to endanger the partnership, which is not appreciated by all Palestinians.

On Sunday, health authorities in Gaza announced the first two carriers of the coronavirus in the coastal enclave. Some 60 cases are known in the West Bank, prompting the Palestinian Authority on Sunday to declare dramatic limitations to people’s freedom of movement, including a 10 p.m. curfew.

“We and the Israelis are now in a joint operations room to deal with the contagion and to prevent its spread. We and them are in danger,” PA Government Spokesman Ibrahim Milhem said at a Sunday press conference in Ramallah.
 
“Moreover, we are coordinating with them on a high level. There are areas where we control or don’t control. We are coordinating at a high level with the Israelis to keep the contagion away from us, them and the entire world.” Spokespeople for the Prime Minister’s Office and the Regional Cooperation Ministries did not respond to Times of Israel queries. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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For Further Reference:

Netanyahu Urges Gantz to Join Unity Government, Vows ‘No Shticks and Tricks’ JNS, Algemeiner, Mar. 22, 2020 — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday night his Likud Party and rival Blue and White had reached agreement on the outlines of a national unity government, and called on Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to sign the deal, saying “millions of Israelis are waiting for us.”

Eugene Kontorovich: To fight Coronavirus Spread, Israel is using Cellphone Technology – Could US do the same?:  Eugene Kontorovich, Fox News, Mar. 19, 2020 Israel’s government this week approved the use of people’s cellphone location information to help battle the coronavirus epidemic – the strongest such action of any Western country.

WATCH:  “Understanding Israel’s Deep Changes” with Jonathan Tobin:  Middle East Forum, Mar. 20, 2020 Jonathan Tobin, editor-in-chief of JNS, appeared on MEF TV for a discussion on “Understanding Israel’s Deep Changes.”  Mr. Tobin explained Israel’s elections and the hidden consensus on the conflict with the Palestinians in the context of an intractable electoral standoff.

The Real Reasons Coronavirus is Spreading in my Hasidic Community:  Mayer Labin, JTA, Mar. 20, 2020 A vicious rumour has been making the rounds: Hasidim are neglecting to take the coronavirus pandemic seriously because we are selfish.