APN's daily news review from Israel
Wednesday February 20, 2013
Quote of the day:
"She decided to grab what she could, kick aside the principles, values and ideas on the basis of which she educated the fools who believed in her, and enter a government led by Benjamin Netanyahu..."
--Maariv political affairs commentator Shalom Yerushalmi comments on the decision by Hatnua Chairwoman Tzipi Livni to join the Netanyahu coalition government.**
Front Page News:
- Livni joined Netanyahu's coalition; Advancement towards signing with Shas
- The strange couple // Yossi Verter
- In Jerusalem they hinted: Zygier was Mossad - Investigation of death of Prisoner X: Zygier committed suicide, Israel Prison Service negligent
- (Arab) Beit Safafa residents: Because of our protest against the highway, the authorities are harassing us
- Head of IVF department at Asaf Harofeh Hospital arrested in Romania under suspicion of egg trafficking
- From the diary of the captain fighting Japanese whale hunters
- The great diamond robbery from the Brussels airport
- She went first and profited - Tzipi Livni, first to join Netanyahu's government, to be Justice Minister and will run negotiations (with Palestinians)
- Through the back door // Nahum Barnea
- Politician // Sima Kadmon
- "We warned that the agent was suicidal" - Dramatic testimony from source in Prison Service
- 12-year-old with cancer alone in Thailand - Tourists at a Buddhist monastery were shocked: an Israeli child turned to them saying: "I want to go home." His parents think he will recover this way
- Four junior prison guards likely to stand trial for negligence when guarding Ben Zygier (Hebrew)
- Livni to be appointed Justice Minister in Netanyahu government. Peretz and Mitzna in struggle over job of other ministry (Hebrew)
- Battles in Likud: Yuli Edelstein runs for position of Speaker of Knesset against Rubi Rivlin (Hebrew)
- Saar affair - Police: Letter against the Education Ministr was fake. It's content to be examined
- We're being ignored - The state forgot Bat Hefer Moshav (whose homes and property were damaged in the great storm in January) (Hebrew)
- International criticism of Israel following photo (of Palestinian boy in crosshairs) posted by IDF sniper on Facebook (Hebrew)
- The first partner - Netanyahu and Livni leave their issues behind them: "Israel needs a broad coalition government"
- In Habayit Hayehudi they are beginning to feel the pressure // Mati Tuchfeld
- "Prima facie evidence of failure by Prison Service in Zygier's death"
- Senior Israeli doctor arrested in Romania (for human egg trafficking)
- 12-year-old Israeli boy, alone in a Thai monastery
- Hostel closed due to "risk to the lives of its wards"
- Dream of a home getting farther: Bank of Israel to stiffen conditions for a mortgage
- Yesterday: Hadera mayor's car and a municipal costume storage - set on fire
- A theft that goes down in history: Diamonds worth $50 million robbed from plane about to take off from Brussels
- The arson at the Beitar Jerusalem soccer club: two suspects arrested, one confessed
Tzipi Livni joined the Netanyahu government and more details were revealed about the life and death of deceased Australian-Israeli Mossad agent Ben Zygier making top stories in the Israeli newspapers today. Meanwhile, barely mentioned in the Israeli news was the international criticism and concern regarding Israel's refusal to release or to put on trial hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners.
A senior Israel Prison Service (IPS) source told Yedioth that four days before the death of Australian-Israeli Mossad agent Ben Zygier, the IPS authorities warned the Mossad: "There is a very high risk that he will try to commit suicide...He was filled with fears and feelings of guilt. The prison guards would (regularly) give him psychiatric pills through the slit in the door without anyone knowing to whom they were giving them." The source from the Israel Prison Service also said Zygier's weight dropped dramatically. "The problem was that the Prison Service was responsible for Zygier, but did not have any authority over him. Almost the whole Prison Service was kept out of the loop." The very few prison officials who were allowed to be in contact with him had to do so in coordination with the Mossad, which controlled even the opening of his cell door, said the source. Zygier did have a phone in his cell with which he spoke with his family. He also received books and sports equipment. "He received everything he wanted. Those who were responsible for him cared about him very much and they did not want him to die, and he received every treatment he asked for," said the source, who refrained from specifically naming the Mossad, wrote Yedioth. At Zygier's request, a great deal of his food were vegetables and fruit and he prepared his own meals from what he received.
Yesterday, Israel released 10 pages of the 29-page report into the investigation into Zygier's death, which concluded that he hanged himself in the shower of his cell. Judge Daphna Blatman Kedrai. who called for the report, found evidence of alleged negligence by the Israel Prison Service. For that reason, said the state, it wanted to hold back a number of details in the investigation to prevent interference with another probe into the possible negligence in his death.
On the blaming of the prison authorities for Zygier's death, Yedioth's source responded saying: "Either (the judge) did not understand what they told her or they gave her wrong information." Indeed, Israel Prison Service officials insist that the parts of Judge Daphna Blatman Kedrai's report that were released were intended solely to clear the Mossad from suspicion of involvement in Zygier's death, and do not reflect the general outline of the event.Chief of the Israel Prison Service Aharon Franco told senior staff that Zygier was isolated from other prisoners for security reasons, but he was not - as previously reported - held in a cell that was specifically designed to prevent suicide, Haaretz reported. Maariv and Israel Hayom reported that two prison guards and two junior prison officers will likely stand trial for negligence in Zygier's death.
Meanwhile, the German Der Spiegel reported that Zygier worked in a Mossad shell company in Milano with two other Australian Jews who immigrated to Israel joined the Mossad and travelled to Iran and Syria as well as other Arab countries. The agents, Paul Y. and David Z., were living in Israel under false names, the paper said. The Prime Minister's Office made its first statement on the affair yesterday when it announced that Zygier had worked for Israel, but had no connection with the security service in Australia. Haaretz's Barak Ravid believes that "the announcement was also phrased in a manner that seems to confirm, albeit in a roundabout way, that Ben Zygier worked for the Mossad - or, if not for the Mossad itself, then at least somewhere in state security." He writes that "the unusual announcement was also seen as an attempt to minimize the damages to the diplomatic relations between Israel and Australia, and to prevent the two countries' cooperation in intelligence efforts from stalling. The Zygair affair has caused great embarrassment not only to the Mossad, but also to the Australian Security Intelligence Organization and to the Australian government at large." Haaretz's Anshel Pfeffer writes that while there is now little reason to disbelieve Ben Zygier committed suicide, there are still 10 main questions hovering over the case.
Hatnua Chairwoman Tzipi Livni, who in 2009 when she headed Kadimah - then the largest party in the Knesset - refused to sit in a government with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, causing Kadima to be in the opposition, has become the first to join Netanyahu's coalition government. If Netanyahu succeeds in forming a coalition government with 61 seats with the two weeks left he has, Livni will serve as the Justice Minister and her party will head the peace talks. At a joint press conference Livni and Netanyahu claimed that their mutual goals had trumped their differences. But the political commentators of most of the Israeli papers agreed that she was just interested in power and that, despite her claims that a peace agreement was her priority, Netanyahu would be calling the shots. See commentary below.) Meanwhile, it was unclear whether MK Amir Peretz or Amram Mitzna will receive the Environmental Protection Ministry.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Netanyahu Monday to express his deep concerns about the condition of Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli jails it his spokesman said yesterday. The UN chief said Palestinian detainees should be charged and face trial or be promptly released. He also called on Israel to ensure prisoners' family visiting rights and to respect the human rights of detainees. The conversation came a few days after a Day of Rage in the West Bank in solidarity with the hunger-strikers, which erupted in clashes, particularly near the Ofer Prison, where many Palestinian detainees are held without trial. It also came a day before a solidarity hunger strike on Tuesday with the four fasting Palestinian prisoners. Among the solidarity strikers was Sheikh Adnan Khader, the first Palestinian detainee to hunger-strike for an extended period. Israel eventually released him and he inspired many after him.
- Report: Israelis meet Egypt intel chief - Egyptian sources say Israeli delegation made short visit to country to discuss border security, lull agreement with Hamas. (YnetVIDEO)
- Kerry to bypass Israel on 1st Mideast trip - New US secretary of state to visit Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar; Spokeswoman Nuland says Kerry will arrive in Jewish state with Obama in the spring, 'after Israel forms new government.' (Agencies, Ynet)
- Jewish Agency urges Obama to free Pollard - In passing resolution, Sharansky notes the growing consensus in favor of Pollard's release among former Pentagon and CIA officials, American dignitaries, legal authorities, the Israeli government, and American Jewish leaders. (Haaretz)
- Israel to award Obama prestigious medal during visit - President Shimon Peres to recognize U.S. President Barack Obama for his "unique and significant contribution" to strengthening Israel and the security of its citizens. (Israel Hayom)
- Young activists fight for their neighborhood against city hall's tractors - Residents of Jerusalem's Beit Safafa say the city's plan to build a highway right through the middle of the Arab neighborhood will end life as they know it, and will only serve settlers. (Haaretz)
- Residents of Palestinian village accuse Israeli authorities of harassment - Tax raids, fines and arrests are just some of the means by which the state hopes to quell protests against road that would bisect Beit Safafa; police, city deny collective punishment. (Haaretz)
- Israel Police is overflowing with volunteers - but most of them aren't properly trainedThey have all of the authority but a fraction of the training of their paid counterparts on the force. They are considered highly motivated, but officers don't trust them in sensitive situations. (Haaretz)
- Bereaved parents move to Israel from Yemen in secret operation - Parents of Moshe Nahari, who was murdered in Raydah in 2008, arrive in Israel. His widow and nine children left Yemen for Israel after the murder. Jewish Agency representative says Jews in Yemen are under increasing threat of anti-Semitic attacks since President Ali Abdullah Saleh's ouster. (Israel Hayom)
- Poll: Nearly one-fifth of Israeli couples marry abroad - Some 9,262 couples went abroad to marry in 2010, mostly in the U.S., followed by Cyprus, Russia and the Czech Republic. 73% of couples who married abroad were Jewish, survey reveals. (Israel Hayom)
- Belgrade bloggers enamored with Israel - Six young, influential Serbians make their way to Jewish State to find 'wonderful people, outstanding food, and soldiers with big guns and huge smiles.' (Ynet)
- Israel arrests Beitar Jerusalem fans suspected of torching soccer club's office - Two weeks after arson attack burns down Jerusalem offices of Israeli soccer team, police arrest two suspects thought to be members of racist 'La Familia' fan group; more arrests expected. (Haaretz)
- Republicans' rising star visits Israel - Florida Senator and potential 2016 presidential candidate Marco Rubio set to meet Peres, Netanyahu. Learn more about the man dubbed 'The Republican Savior' by Time Magazine. (Ynet)
- Putin: Jewish texts to stay in Russia - Russian president says returning disputed collection of Jewish writings to NY-based Chabad-Lubavitch group will set precedent, paving way for more such claims dating back to Soviet times. (Agencies, Ynet)
- Lebanese probe: How Mughniyeh was assassinated - Hezbollah-affiliated newspaper offers 'detailed account' of 2008 assassination of top Hezbollah commander; points finger at Mossad, notes role of Syrian citizen in assisting. (Ynet)
Art of boycott
What is the limit? Is it acceptable for an Israeli artist to compete in the most important film festival in the world with a film that was financed and screened according to the rules of the boycott against the state? Director Udi Aloni, who won the Berlin Festival prize this week, explains why he is proud of his steps. Outgoing Sports and Culture Minister Limor Livnat and Habayit Hayehudi MK Ayelet Shaked, on the other hand, are convinced that he has crossed the redlines. (Yedioth's '24 Hours' supplement)
Will Israel be able to thank the Academy this Oscar season?
Two of five films nominated for this year's Oscar for Best Documentary Feature come from Israel, and neither paints a pretty picture. With a ruling change allowing all academy members to vote for this year's winner, does either pic stand a chance? (Haaretz)
Draconian arrests of Palestinians (Haaretz Editorial) There is no measure of justice or reason in jailing a man for years because he visited an adjacent neighborhood or even assumed political activity.
For Australian Jews, the Zygier affair is the nightmare that occurs when two worlds collide (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz) They love Israel and they adore Australia, and usually there is no contradiction between the two. Suddenly, their dual loyalties have turned into dueling loyalties.
**Political cynicism (Shalom Yerushalmi, Maariv/NRG Hebrew) Yerushalmi believes that given the choice between political oblivion in the opposition and joining with her former rival, Livni, "decided to grab what she could, kick aside the principles, values and ideas on the basis of which she educated the fools who believed in her, and enter a government led by Benjamin Netanyahu...Apparently, there is no limit to political cynicism. Yerushalmi reminds his readers that Livni has spent the last four years railing against Netanyahu and only recently tried to coax Ehud Olmert into running against him and that party member MK Amir Peretz recently declared, "Our movement will not sit in a Netanyahu government, period," and mocked the idea that Netanyahu will actually allow her to manage contacts with the Palestinians.
As long as Netanyahu is PM, Livni will have to deal with the Palestinians his way (Yossi Verter, Haaretz) Tzipi Livni, like other politicians that came before her, will have to yield to coalition politics in the pursuit of her pet cause - reaching an agreement with the Palestinians.
A Politician was born (Sima Kadmon, Yedioth) "We have every reason to allow feelings of disgust to rise in our throats, the same disgust that Livni tried to fight against with her clean politics. We might also feel nauseous. If Livni, the woman of principle, was seen last night as having sold out on her principles, her promises and her agenda in exchange for a doubtful promise, and as becoming what she stated she would not be, i.e. a fig-leaf in a Netanyahu government, nothing can surprise us anymore." Kadmon questions how Livni can expect to achieve today, with only six seats, what she could not achieve four years ago with 28 seats and dismisses outright the possibility she will be able to make any headway in the diplomatic process...
A partnership of alchemists (Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz) The strange alliance between Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid has transformed both of their parties into something they're not.
The Arabs are the same Arabs (Ziyad Abou Habla, Haaretz) The Arab population should take a more liberal and open approach that will change the rules of the game. It should support separation of religion and state, and demand that its leaders formulate a comprehensive strategy that sets minimal preconditions for the status of Arab citizens.
The simple arithmetic (Dan Margalit, Israel Hayom) he election results allow for some maneuvering, but there is no real flexibility: Netanyahu needs Lapid and Bennett.
Campus today, Capitol Hill tomorrow: Israel is losing future Democratic leaders (Tom Dan, Haaretz) The increasing antagonism toward Israel voiced by the 'elitist liberals' of Harvard University show how tomorrow's Democratic Party will sound. Their lack of support for what is increasingly seen as a troublemaker and not a partner should be of critical concern for Israel.
Peres and Obama: A love story (Ruthie Blum, Israel Hayoom) They have certain fundamental things in common, such as seeing a situation as they wish it to be, not as it is.
Israel should stop suppressing debate about its drone policy (Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz) There is no reason why Israel can't admit publicly that that the IDF uses drones for strike missions in Gaza. Hiding unmanned warfare from the public view, in stark contrast to the recent U.S. Senate hearings, only shuts down a long-overdue debate on Israel's drone policy.
The perils of an anonymous letter (Dr. Aviad Hacohen, Israel Hayom) The menacing shadow of this unresolved sexual harassment allegation against a senior cabinet minister cannot be allowed to linger.
Obama's best and worst-case scenarios for Israel's new government (Bradley Burston, Haaretz) For Obama and John Kerry, still holding out hope for a two-state solution, one of the best scenarios would be a government in which Lapid's Yesh Atid agrees to co-anchor the ruling coalition with Netanyahu.
Even after report into Zygier's suicide, his motive remains a mystery (Amir Oren, Haaretz) Israel has released information on the death of Prisoner X, but it's a pathologist's report, not a psychologist's report.
Big Brother is winning (Asher Shechter, Haaretz) Ever since the gag order imposed on Ben Zygier's existence was rendered ridiculous by the ruckus on social networks, whoops of victory have been heard. (But) here's a news flash, for free: Repressive regimes know how to use Facebook too. You know what your government wants you to know. No more.
Prepared for APN by Orly Halpern, independent freelance journalist based in Jerusalem.