Israel, Coronavirus, Huawei: Your Wednesday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering the reaction to President Trump’s Mideast peace plan, Boris Johnson’s balancing act on trade and the kindness of strangers in Wuhan.

ImagePresident Trump announced his plan with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel announced the planned vote on Tuesday, just as President Trump unveiled a long-awaited peace plan that would make Jerusalem the undivided capital of Israel without requiring the country to uproot any West Bank settlements.

The annexation would establish what the country’s leaders have coveted since 1967: a permanent eastern border for Israel along the Jordan River, recognized by the United States. That’s certain to further inflame Palestinians.

Context: Mr. Trump’s plan offers the Palestinians the possibility of a state with limited sovereignty and essentially dismantles 60 years of bipartisan support for a negotiated process between Israelis and Palestinians.

Response: The Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, immediately denounced it as a “conspiracy deal,” and none of the United States’ Arab allies formally endorsed it.

Another angle: The announcements by Mr. Trump, who is fighting impeachment charges, and Mr. Netanyahu, who is under indictment, seemed designed to bolster their domestic political fortunes, our national security correspondent writes.

Governments and businesses around the world issued new travel warnings for China on Tuesday, as officials in Germany and Japan reported the first known cases of human-to-human transmission in those countries of a coronavirus that originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Here’s the latest.

Notably, the authorities in Hong Kong said they would suspend high-speed train services between the territory and the Chinese mainland, among other measures, starting on Thursday.

Details: At least 132 people have died from the virus in China, the government said today, and the number of cases there increased to 5,974, up from 4,515 a day earlier. Here’s what we know about the virus.

The science: Researchers are working on a coronavirus vaccine, but it’s a slow process. And we look at how bats, which could be the source of the outbreak, carry so many viruses.

Go deeper: The outbreak has blown up the Chinese Communist Party’s facade of a unified society, our columnist Li Yuan writes.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain is risking a rift with President Trump with a decision on Tuesday to allow Huawei to be part of Britain’s new high-speed 5G wireless network despite American concerns.

The move could jeopardize Mr. Johnson’s efforts to negotiate a new British-American trade deal after Britain formally leaves the European Union on Friday.

But Mr. Johnson’s show of independence played well with British commentators, and experts said he had calculated that the U.S. would not halt intelligence cooperation.

Background: Britain’s membership in the so-called Five Eyes intelligence-sharing group, with Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the U.S., gives Mr. Johnson’s decision added significance. And it comes as Germany is also deciding whether to work with Huawei.

Details: British officials said intense American arguments that the Chinese telecommunications giant could be used by Beijing were not persuasive, given Britain’s plan to limit the use of Huawei’s gear to what the officials characterize as “fringe” parts of the national 5G network.

From 2006 to 2011, “cum-ex trading,” a monetary maneuver to avoid double taxation of investment profits, enabled hundreds of bankers, lawyers and investors to siphon about $60 billion from state coffers in Germany, France and other European countries.

Proponents of cum-ex say it is perfectly legal because no law explicitly says otherwise. But the authorities in Germany call it a form of theft, and they’re trying to claw back the money.

Impeachment trial: A question period for senators begins today, a day after President Trump’s legal team finished its oral arguments. A vote on whether to hear witnesses in the trial — including John Bolton, the former national security adviser — is expected on Friday.

Kenya: The country’s high court is expected to rule Thursday on whether a new biometric ID system is constitutional. Civil rights groups say the system, through which nearly 40 million Kenyans have already had their fingerprints and faces scanned, discriminates against minority groups.

King Albert II: A lawyer for the former Belgian monarch said on Tuesday that the Court of Appeal in Brussels would again hear a case in which the artist Delphine Boël has sought recognition as his biological daughter. King Albert’s lawyers said on Monday that DNA tests showed he was Ms. Boël’s biological father.

Cook: Farro with crispy mushrooms and sour cream is similar in texture to a risotto, without the constant stirring.

Read: Our former Cairo bureau chief calls “Black Wave,” a new book about chaos in the Middle East by Kim Ghattas, a Lebanese-born journalist and scholar, a “sweeping and authoritative history.”

Go: Momcations, a getaway designed for tired mothers, are on the rise. While some see it as profiteering, others say it’s a sign of “the mainstream telling moms they deserve a break.”

Smarter Living: Breaking up with a therapist can be nerve-racking. But doing it with these tips in mind can turn it into an opportunity for growth.

Chris Buckley, our chief China correspondent, is reporting this week from the city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. Mike spoke with Chris by phone.

What is it like with these unprecedented restrictions in place?

It may be difficult to envisage just how thoroughly people have retreated from the streets and from public life. I had to cross one of the big bridges across the Yangtze for my reporting. And there I was, on one of these Chinese share bikes that are everywhere, on an almost completely empty bridge, spanning one of China’s biggest cities, crossing its biggest river. And there were just two other people on the bridge.

A lot of people wonder how long the shutdown can last. Even now people are worrying about the jobs they may lose, the businesses that will close, the school semesters that they might miss.

You’ve reported that the anger on Chinese social media is intense.

Yes, and you hear that here as well. People erupt with a kind of anger and exasperation over how it was that this dangerous pathogen was among them but they didn’t understand, in many cases, how serious it was or what was going on until the city was shut down.

But that’s leavened by a sense among many people that the most pressing thing is to get through this crisis — so that as few people die as possible and life can return to a kind of normality as soon as possible.

What else are you seeing there?

You see a combination of reactions when you approach people to talk. First of all, there’s a natural wariness about getting close to anybody. But once you reassure them — you’re outside, at a distance of a good 10 feet — they can be very open and also very generous.

How does that compare to the response you normally get?

The reaction you get as a foreign reporter varies quite a bit across China. But I think these circumstances, where people feel that they — and, in a sense, we — are all in this together, and that you’re there somehow experiencing this as well, make it easier to create that connection.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Mike and Sarah

Thank you
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. You can reach the team at

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