News Nosh 2.21.18

APN's daily news review from Israel
Wednesday, February 21, 2018
 
Quote of the Day #1:
“If Shlomo Filber is a state witness, it’s possible Netanyahu will part not only from the (Prime Minister’s) Residence on Balfour Street, but also from his villa in Caesarea for a much less comfortable bed.”
—Senior political analyst, Ben Caspit, writes in Maariv that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s days on the job are numbered following the agreement of one of his closest confidants to act as a state witness against him.*

Quote of the Day #2:
"It's neither cigars nor champagne. This is a bribe to a judge in Israel. Like the worst crime films. Netanyahu and his people cannot stay for another minute in power. This madness must stop.”
--Knesset Member Stav Shafir (Zionist Camp) wrote on Facebook after it was revealed that a Netanyahu confidant offered a judge an appointment in exchange for closing a case against Mrs. Netanyahu.**

Front Page:
Haaretz
Yedioth Ahronoth
  • Earthquake - (Shlomo Filber) will testify against Netanyahu;
  • Corrupt offer: Appointment in exchange for acquittal
  • Will elections be advanced? The pressure on (coalition partners) Kahlon and Bennett increases
  • The witness and the state // Nahum Barnea
  • The fall of the wall // Sima Kadmon
  • It’s over // Hanoch Daum
  • Time for an agreement // Ben-Dror Yemini
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
Israel Hayom
  • Filber on the way to a state witness agreement - PM: “Complete chaos,  persecution campaign”
  • Hefetz-Gerstel affair: “Corruption at the highest level”
  • Special project: Race to the High Court - 4 main candidates
  • Abu Mazen at the UN: There is a plan, without peace // Prof. Eyal Zisser
  • Inji gave birth at age 60: “I received a gift from G-d”
News Summary:
“His days are over,” “He can start packing,” “The fall of the wall of denial”: These were some of the headlines in today’s Hebrew newspapers following the “earthquake” and “bombshell” in which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s confidant and “operations man,” Shlomo Filber, turned against him - and is already testifying against him as these words are typed. If that weren’t enough, it was revealed that another Netanyahu confidant, his former media advisor Nir Hefetz, offered a judge to be appointed Attorney General if she would agree to close the case against Mrs. Sara Netanyahu. (This is the case the judge was supposed to kill.) This is not the first time police suspected Netanyahu planned to appoint an attorney general who would pardon someone. In 1997, “police suspicions pointed to a deal in which Netanyahu would appoint lawyer Roni Bar-On as attorney general (he was Shas’ preferred candidate for the job). Bar-On would then allegedly give Arieh Dery, then a key coalition figure and government minister facing bribery charges, his plea bargain and, in exchange, Shas would support the Hebron redeployment plan,” explained Haaretz+. The deal was known as the Bar-On-Hebron affair.

Knesset Member Stav Shafir (Zionist Camp) wrote on her Facebook account that "Netanyahu's mafiosi offered the judge a bribe in order to close a file on his wife, and all their gloves were removed long ago.  Everything that concerns law and order has become, in the eyes of the Netanyahu mafia, an obstacle that must be dismantled in order to keep it in power. Members of the coalition who continue to remain silent as part of this mafia. It's neither cigars nor champagne. This is a bribe to a judge in Israel. Like the worst crime films. Netanyahu and his people cannot stay for another minute in power. This madness must stop.” (Maariv) Labor party chief, Avi Gabbay, told his party the Netanyahu era has ended, prepare for elections. Former chairman of Bezeq board, Attorney Dov Weisglass, said Netanyahu should suspend himself. "Every substantive decision that the prime minister is making today, especially on security issues, is immediately tainted by suspicion." (Maariv)

Meanwhile, Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh stood up against the grill he faced by Netanyahu supporters at the Knesset. “When dealing with criminals, there's pushback,” said Alsheikh. Haaretz+ has a rundown of cases involving the prime minister and his wife over the last 20 years, some closed due to lack of evidence, others pending.
 
Quick Hits:
  • At UN, Abbas Calls on World Leaders to Recognize Palestinian State - Addressing UN Security Council, Palestinian president calls for international conference on Israeli-Palestinian peace by mid-2018, slams U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as 'unlawful decision.’ Israel's Envoy Danny Danon: 'Mr. Abbas, you are not part of the solution. You are the problem.'  (Haaretz and Ynet)
  • Lieberman vows to 'settle scores' with weekend (Gaza) bombers - Paying visit to soldiers wounded in bombing at Gaza border fence, defense minister promises consequences against perpetrators, rails against Hamas ‘using citizens as live ammunition.' (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
  • Minister Bennett: "If war breaks out, the home front will be hit on a scale we did not know before" - The Minister of Education observed an alert exercise by the Home Front Command at the Ehud Manor School in Or Yehuda and warned: "The level of risk to Israeli citizens has increased, many homes will be damaged in the next confrontation.” (Maariv)
  • The state to the High Court of Justice: postpone the eviction from houses at Netiv Ha’Avot (outpost) - in order to implement it peacefully - The government requests that the evacuation be postponed by three months for the purpose of completing an outline that is in its final stages of implementation, and by virtue of which it will be possible to provide a temporary solution for the residents. (Maariv)
  • Israel's Expulsion Begins: First Asylum Seekers Jailed for Refusing Deportation - Asylum seekers at Holot detention facility launch hunger strike in protest of imprisonment of seven Eritreans. (Haaretz+)
  • 4 senior officials in construction company were detained for questioning on suspicion of bribing foreign officials - The National Fraud Investigation Unit at Lahav 433 opened an investigation into an international affair, during which an Israeli company attempted to bribe foreign officials to allow the execution of construction projects in Africa worth hundreds of millions of dollars. (Maariv)
  • Israeli Teens Heading to Poland in Record Numbers Despite Controversial Holocaust Law - Some 40,000 Israeli high school students are expected to visit the country this year. (Haaretz)
  • Syria Suffers Heaviest One-day Death Toll in Years: 100 Dead in Government Air Raids - Monday's bombardment is part of a wider escalation in warfare on several fronts in Syria in recent months as President Bashar Assad pushes to end the seven-year rebellion against him. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Syrian-Turkish Standoff Nears as pro-Assad Forces Enter Kurdish-held Enclave - Erdogan says pro-Assad forces turned back after Turkish artillery fire. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Grandson of Munich Massacre Terrorist Is Running for Congress – Sounding a Peaceful Tone on Israel - Ammar Campa-Najjar’s grandfather was in the terrorist organization Black September in the 1970s, but the Democratic candidate in California strongly rejects violence as a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. (NPR has a fascinating interview with his father, who saw his grandfather assassinated and later emigrated to San Diego. - OH) (Haaretz+)
  • Netflix to Screen Its First Ever Middle East Production in March - Stand-up show ‘Adel Karam: Live from Beirut’ promises to tackle such subjects as what makes Arabs laugh. (Haaretz)
  • Sources in Algeria claim that "the court in Israel sentenced to death the ‘spy of Israel’” - A channel affiliated with the government in the Arab north African country reported that "a criminal court in the south of the country convicted the 'Israeli spy' Alam al-Din Faisal’ and sentenced him to death. According to the report, Faisal, who is a Liberian citizen, is originally a Lebanese citizen. It was also reported that the other members of the network, from Mali, Ghana and Guinea were sentenced to ten years in prison. The affair was first revealed on the Algerian television channel. The reports claimed that the network acted to bring ethnic and sectarian tensions between Arabs and Amazighs in the country. (Maariv)
  • Egypt opens border with Gaza temporarily - Egypt to open Rafah border crossing with Gaza Strip for 4 days to ease humanitarian crisis, allow patients to seek medical assistance, and students, foreigners to leave the enclave. (Agencies, Ynet)
  • Ahead of elections in Egypt: the conduct of the A-Sisi regime has frightened the public - The Egyptian public, which is in a more difficult economic and social situation than in 2014, has become indifferent to the elections that will take place next month. (Maariv)

 

Commentary/Analysis:
Police Crack Netanyahu's 'Black Box,' and There's No Turning Back (Yossi Verter, Haaretz+) Israel learned in just 12 hours about an attempted bribe to close a case against Sara Netanyahu and that a PM confidant is turning state's evidence.
Netanyahu's Shakespearean tragedy (Nahum Barnea, Yedioth/Ynet) The fact the prime minister feels persecuted doesn’t mean he isn’t being persecuted. The criminal aspect in many of the allegations against him has yet to be established. The problem is the accumulation of things: With so many dark clouds in the sky, the chance for rain increases.
Pursued by the Law, Netanyahu Sparks Revival of Right-wing Lunacy (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+) A Likud MK’s demented analogy with the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin nonetheless hits a raw nerve.
What Does America's Ambassador Have Against Israeli Democracy? (Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz) Ambassador David Friedman has cast aspersions on Israeli society and the Israel Defense Forces by suggesting that the country could descend into civil war.
Netanyahu can not do anything without arousing suspicion that he is acting under pressure from interrogations (Udi Segal, Maariv) The suspicions testify to the manner in which advisers close to the prime minister see the nature of his appointments to senior positions. Perhaps they were looking for someone who would not be hostile to him, and would pass the appropriate filter…This turns Netanyahu into a captive. He can not appoint a person for any position, and any action that he makes in the diplomatic or political spheres will make him seem like he’s entrenched. Whatever he does, he will have a question mark and a heavy cloud over him. Netanyahu may not announce his absence, but from now on he is captive, because any action he will take now will be accompanied by a public suspicion that he is doing so in the wake of police pressure.
If True, This Is the Worst Case of Government Corruption in Israel's History (Ido Baum, Haaretz+) The fact that someone thought such a senior judge could be bribed with the offer of a lofty position is just one shocking aspect of the affair.
*Filber is a state witness: Netanyahu will ask himself why he didn’t stop when it was possible (Ben Caspit, Maariv) Shlomo Filber is much more to Netanyahu than what Shula Zaken was to Ehud Olmert. Zaken (who was a state witness in the trial against Olmert) was Olmert's secretary. But Filber was Netanyahu's secret and most intimate operations officer for many years. Always in the shadows, always loyal, efficient, secret and ideological, Bibi knew that he could trust him. Until yesterday. And also: Did Nir Hefetz act of his own initiative when he made his proposal to Judge Gerstel or did he plan to sew the deal first and then tell?
This Is the Man Who Will Lead Us to War? (Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz) At this point, the Israeli public wouldn't trust Netanyahu to sell them a new piece of furniture.
The division of the Attorney General: To strengthen the rule of law, not to harm it (Prof. Arieh Eldad, Maariv) I do not envy him, the attorney general. There is a built-in conflict of interest between being the government's attorney and deciding whether to prosecute a minister or prime minister…According to the bill I proposed, the role of the state attorney will be defined as a separate and independent entity that is not subject to the attorney general. The attorney general will deal only with advising the government, on civil law and administrative law, while the powers of dealing with criminal law will be transferred to the state attorney as an independent entity. The state attorney will be appointed by the Justice Minister from among candidates recommended by a public committee of five members, headed by a retired High Court Justice appointed by the Chief Justice of the High Court. The State attorney, pursuant to the proposal, will serve only one term of office of seven years, and will deal with the conduct of criminal proceedings. According to the bill, a criminal proceeding will not be conducted on behalf of the state, but by the state attorney or his representatives. The Deputy State Attorney and district prosecutors will work alongside him. At the time, it was then-defense minister, Ehud Barak, who thwarted the bill. Many on the left and in the liberal center congratulated him and tied his head to the crown of the "guardian of the rule of law." Without the support of the Labor Party (then in the coalition) the bill had no chance, and it was removed from the agenda. Without the support of the Labor Party (then in the coalition) there was no chance for the proposal, and it was removed from the agenda. And today again there are new voices calling to return and discuss the bill. This time, on the left-wing, they fear that Attorney General Mendelblit will be loyal to Netanyahu who appointed him, and will not be severe with him, and therefore some see an advantage in splitting up the position. This is also the policy of Justice Minister Shaked. Perhaps now, when the conflict of interests is obvious to any one, this essential step will be taken. It was meant to fortify the rule of law, not to harm it
The Final Days of Benjamin Netanyahu's Rule (Aluf Benn, Haaretz) The police commissioner isn't afraid of the prime minister and now his man at the Ministry of Communications has crossed the line to turn against him.
The Netanyahu files: People are beginning to be skeptical of the media (Meir Uziel, Maariv) Many in Israel wonder whether it is possible to rule honestly in the midst of the terrible noise of demonstrations, guillotines, headlines and scoops. What is interesting in the recent affairs is that in some cases the charges are "sympathetic coverage.”
Before Netanyahu Departs, It's Going to Get Ugly (Ravit Hecht, Haaretz) Many people on the right won’t blink at breaching the rule of law at the behest of their leader.
To prevent a war, Israel must create an Assad-Iran rift (Giora Eiland, Yedioth/Ynet) The Syrian president isn’t interested in a conflict at this time, and he definitely doesn’t want to lose important assets because of Iran; if Israel attacks important Assad regime assets every time it is faced with an opportunity to attack an Iranian target, it might be able to create tensions between the two and hope Russia takes Assad's side.
To Push Iran Back, Israel Ramps Up Support for Syrian Rebels, 'Arming 7 Different Groups' (Amos Harel, Haaretz) With the Assad regime's advances the civil war and America's reduced involvement in the region, Israel has been forced to make significant changes in its policies in the Golan Heights.
Netanyahu's show of weakness in Munich (Alex Fishman, Yedioth/Ynet) The government and prime minister should deal with the security threats—in Gaza, Syria, Iran and anywhere else—with determination, rather than whine and make a mockery of Israel by presenting it as a country haunted by fears.
Why isn't Egypt joining Israel's natural gas deal party? (David Rosenberg, Haaretz+) The contrast between how Israel and Egypt reacted to Monday's agreement should serve as a warning to anyone looking forward to a grand new era of energy cooperation.
Logic and common sense ceased to guide Abu Mazen's conduct (Shlomo Shamir, Maariv) The strategic error of the Palestinian Authority chairman is his declared and demonstrative effort to place the Security Council as a central, influential and leading force in its efforts to formulate a political solution to the conflict.
The Proposed Nation-state Law Is Discriminatory and Nationalistic (Haaretz Editorial) In its new version, the nation-state bill does not recognize the status of Arabic as an official language, and will allow the establishment of separate communities based on ethnicity or religion.
Israel is helping Rwanda rewrite the history of genocide (Eitay Mack, +972mag) Israel, which has supplied numerous despotic regimes with advanced weaponry, is now helping the Rwandan government rewrite the narrative of the 1994 genocide. So much for the lessons of the Holocaust.
David Grossman, Accept the Israel Prize (Shachar Ben Meir, Haaretz) If there’s anything the great author should understand, it’s that the government is not supposed to interfere in art.

 
Prepared for APN by Orly Halpern, independent freelance journalist based in Jerusalem.
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