Politics Heat Up As Israeli Elections Approaches, Parties Make Alliances

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz continues to not rule out the possibility of forming a coalition government backed from the outside by the Arab Joint List. Although in a recent speech Gantz ruled out the Joint List being part of a coalition government, he did not rule out the possibility that the Arab Joint List could back one from the outside. “We will form the government,” Gantz said. “Whoever wants to support can support it. Whoever wants to oppose it can oppose it. That is the way it works in a democracy.” Opponent Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the Likud, was quick to jump on Gantz’s statements, saying, “The lie has been revealed. Gantz is admitting that he will rely on support from the Joint List in order to form a government.” Reported by The Jerusalem Post. Read more…

Avigdor Liberman, leader of the Yisrael Beytenu party, may find himself in a tough spot if he can’t sign a surplus vote sharing deal before February 20, 2020, the deadline for such agreements ahead of the March 2 elections. Blue and White signed an agreement with Labor-Meretz-Gesher, while the Likud has signed with Yamina. The Shas are expected to sign with United Torah Judaism. Surplus-vote sharing agreements allow parties to move votes between them if certain conditions can be met. That sometimes allows a party to pick up an extra seat. Reported by The Jerusalem Post.Read more…

Liberman recently revealed that he would be willing to be part of a coalition with Labor-Gesher-Meretz. In the past, he has ruled out a coalition including Meretz. Liberman explained his about-face over Army Radio, saying, “I sat [in a government] with Amir Peretz before, and we got along, and Orly Levy-Abecassis grew up in Yisrael Beytenu.”

Settlers and activists sent Benjamin Netanyahu a strong message recently, protesting outside his Jerusalem home. The message: annex the West Bank now if you want support on March 2. Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan told the crowd gathered outside Netanyahu’s home, “If you want the support of the Right – act like you are the leader of the Right.” Reported by The Jerusalem Post.Read more…

Likud allegations that Blue and White would collaborate with the Arab Joint List party have harmed Gantz’s party in the polls, but not helped Likud. Blue and White dropped from a polled 36 seats to 34, while the Likud remained unchanged at 33. Interestingly, the poll also showed that the Joint List would pick up a seat. Reported by The Jerusalem Post. Read more…

Right wing religious parties reiterated their alignment with Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud. The Yamina, United Torah Jerusalem, and Shas parties all put their signatures on a letter endorsing Netanyahu. “We’ll only support Netanyahu. We are convinced that the right-wing bloc will succeed in getting 61 seats in the elections and assembling a strong nationalist government for the people of Israel,” the letter said. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

 

Israel Pulls Back On Annexations Until After Elections

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has walked back plans to annex parts of the West Bank. Netanyahu says that annexation won’t occur until after the upcoming March 2 national elections. During a campaign rally Netanyahu announced the change in plan, saying, “When we win, we will continue making history. … When we win, we will extend sovereignty over all the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Nonetheless, Israel is apparently drawing up maps for plans for annexation. The maps are in accordance with U.S. President Donald Trump’s peace plan. “We are already at the height of the process of mapping the area that, according to the Trump plan, will become part of the state of Israel. It won’t take too long,” Netanyahu said in a recent campaign rally. Reported by Reuters. Read more…

The U.S. has warned Israel against declaring sovereignty over the West Bank without U.S. approval. Reported by Reuters. Read more…

Josep Borrell, one of the European Union’s top diplomats, also urged Israel not to annex the Jordan Valley, warning that Palestinian protests could turn violent. Speaking to Europe’s parliament, Borrell said, “This may happen … You can be sure it’s not going to be peaceful.” Reported by Reuters. Read more…

The violence has already arrived, however. At least two Palestinians were killed, and 16 Israelis hurt as a result of violence related to the peace plan. Reported by Reuters. Read more…

 

U.N. Blacklists Companies Doing Business In West Bank

The U.N. has published a list of companies with business ties to Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Although most of the companies are Israeli, two were U.S. companies—TripAdvisor and Airbnb. Another was a British truck and digger maker, JCB. Eleven international firms also made the list. Although the list has no legal affect, it does have political implications, and could lend support of activists who seek to influence governments and consumers into boycotting Israel. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo quickly blasted the U.N. Human Rights Office, calling the list an “outrage.” Pompeo said, “The United States has long opposed the creation or release of this database, which was mandated by the discredited U.N. Human Rights Council in 2016. … Its publication only confirms the unrelenting anti-Israel bias so prevalent at the United Nations. The United States has not provided, and will never provide, any information to the Office of the High Commissioner to support compilation of these lists and expresses support for U.S. companies referenced.” Reported by UPI.Read more…

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) also condemned the report, saying, “This blacklist is clearly designed to target American and Israeli companies for boycotts and other punitive action.” Reported by Breaking Israel News. Read more…

Amnesty International, however, had a different take, calling the list an “important step towards accountability in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” Reported by Amnesty International. Read more…

 

Palestinian Plans At U.N. Fall Short

Jared Kushner rejected Palestinian accusations that they were not consulted over the peace plan. Meeting with members of the U.N. Security Council in New York ahead of a visit by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Kushner told the Council that he had met with Abbas on four occasions regarding the plan. He stated that the Palestinians lost credibility with their response to the plan. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

The Palestinians hoped the U.N. Security Council would back them and support a resolution against the plan but shelved their proposal after the United States and United Kingdom raised objections to a draft of the resolution. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

 

Khamenei Says Peace Plan Will Be Dead Before Trump Is

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, says that the White House peace plan will “die before the death of Trump,” referring to U.S. President Donald Trump. He said that due to “the coming and going and expenditures for it,” unveiling the plan was “a stupid move.” Trump, however, says his plan is the “most detailed proposal ever put forward.” Trump also said it was a “a win-win opportunity for both sides.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

U.S. Tries To Smooth Relations With Iraq In Wake of Soleimani Killing

Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, paid a damage control visit to Iran. His mission: calm the calls for the removal of U.S. troops in the wake of the attack that killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani. He is the most senior U.S. official to visit Iraq since the attack on Soleimani, which occurred as the Iranian general was leaving Baghdad airport. McKenzie met with Iraqi leaders and visited U.S. troops stationed in Iraq. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Biden Says He Would Not Have Ordered Strike

Former U.S. vice-president Joe Biden—a Democratic presidential nominee contender—said two weeks ago that he would not have ordered the strike that killed Soleimani. He said that he would not have ordered the strike because there was no “evidence yet of an imminent strike that was going to come from him.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Hezbollah has unveiled a statute dedicated to Soleimani. The statue is at Maroun al-Ras in Lebanon and shows Soleimani pointing towards Jerusalem. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said that “Palestine’s liberation will not be delayed.” Reported by Breaking Israel News. Read more…

The number of U.S. troops injured in a retaliatory missile strike from Iran has risen to over one hundred say defense officials. According to reports, 109 service personnel have suffered traumatic brain injury, or TBI, from the attack. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

More Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

Iranians took to the streets to celebrate the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iranians denounced President Trump and carried posters of Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Ozra Shahbakhti, a 50-year old Iranian, told reporters, “America can’t do a damn thing through the sanctions. Even if we die from poverty and hunger we will not compromise with America, no way. I’m telling this to officials, foreigners, and America.” Another Iranian, Ali Akbar Nikki, said, “You stretch your hand for friendship towards us and then you assassinate our great general and consider this a victory?” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Iran’s Guardian Council Purges Moderate Candidates

Iran’s Guardian Council, appointed by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been purging moderate candidates from upcoming national elections. More than 90 members of Iran’s parliament of 290 have been barred from running for re-election, on a variety of excuses. Nine thousand out of the more than 16,000 who have applied to run have also been disqualified. A reformist council claims that it will have no candidates for 230 of the 290 seats, rendering the election little more than an appointments process. Even moderate president Hassan Rouhani’s chief of staff has complained about the alleged bias. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

Thousands demonstrated against the disqualification of candidates from upcoming elections. Dissidents called for voters to overthrow the current regime. “The boycott of the sham elections is a patriotic duty and the bond of the Iranian people with their martyrs, especially the over 1,500 martyrs of the November uprising,” said Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. Reported by Fox News. Read more…