News Nosh 02.18.15

APN's daily news review from Israel
Wednesday February 18, 2015

Quote of the day:
“What were they eating over there? Cornflakes with dolphin milk?”
--MK Shelly Yachimovich (Zionist Camp) wondered why the Prime Minister's Residence's food spending costs more than doubled in two years.** 

Front Page:
Yedioth Ahronoth
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
Israel Hayom
  • The report and the storm – State Comptroller report on expenses: Likud: “PM respects the recommendations of the Comptroller, and is already implementing a great many of them”
  • This is the corruption: Brainwashing in the service of (Yedioth publisher) Moses // Dror Eydar
  • Severe report from public standpoint // Mordechai Ginat
  • They jumped on Netanyahu in order to make him fall // Itsik Saban
  • What a disappointment: No ‘smoking gun’ // Haim Shine
  • It’s possible to say it simply: ‘I made a mistake, I apologize’ // Dan Margalit   
  • It seems harsh, but what about Peres? // Mati Tuchfeld
  • A sad end: Little Adel passed away
  • Unforgettable // Emily Amrousi
  • “If Iran gets the bomb, Obama will be remembered like Chamberlain” – Prof. Alan Dershowitz to Israel Hayom
  • Again, suspicion of sex crimes in police; two deputy commanders interrogated
  • Storm returns: From today, rain and strong winds; later on snow at Mt. Hermon and in Jerusalem

Election 2015 Polls:

News Summary:
The State Comptroller’s concerns of criminal action by the Israeli Prime Minister Binaymin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, as described in his long-awaited report, was the top story of today’s Hebrew newspapers, which (with the exception of Israel Hayom, of course) went into detail about the costs of the extravagant lifestyle of the Netanyahu couple, funded by the public. The prime minister's residences indulged in exorbitant cleaning, makeup and electrician expenses from 2009 to 2013, found that employees were sometimes forced to pay out of their own pockets for Netanyahu's personal expenses — and were not reimbursed. And an electrician who was a member of the Likud Central Committee was employed without a tender, at an exorbitant cost, and apparently was paid for work on emergency days that he did not do, Haaretz+ reported. The Comptroller wrote that it violated ethics and raised criminal suspicions and that misuse of state funds must be treated with full severity no matter how small the amount. Now Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein must decide whether to open a criminal probe against Israeli Prime Minister Binaymin Netanyahu.
Likud responded by accusing everyone of trying to unseat Netanyahu. (Israel Hayom commentators did as well. – OH) It blamed former manager of the PM’s residence, Meni Naftali, who brought much of this to the public attention, and the media, which “deals with trifle matters.”
**The Opposition was quick to react. The Zionist Camp said, “Meni Naftali is Netanyahu’s new Iran threat,” Maariv reported. Zionist Camp’s Shelly Yachimovich wondered at the extravagance asking, “What were they eating over there? Cornflakes with dolphin milk?” Calls were made for an immediate criminal probe against Netanyahu, also by many of the newspaper columnists in Maariv, Yedioth and Haaretz+.
Likud also pointed fingers at the President’s official residence during the Shimon Peres era. The Comptroller report revealed it overspent by millions of shekels. The Residence responded saying that, unlike the Prime Minister’s Residence said you can’t compare because “unlike the Prime Minister’s Residence, this is a placed which is a focus of activities all the days of the year.”
Regarding Gaza, Haaretz+ writes that a Lebanese paper quoted a senior Hamas official saying Hamas wants to fight Israel from Syria and Lebanon. Maariv and Ynet report that new polls show that a majority of Jewish Israelis (54%) believe that Hamas won the 2014 Gaza war up from August when 71% said Israel won. The polls showed that support for a Palestinian state has been dropping among Jewish Israelis for the past three years, from 59% in 2012 to 47% this year. Nevertheless, more than half of those questioned said the correct long-term resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was two states for two peoples.
Whether Hamas 'won' or not, Gazans are living in extreme conditions of devastation following the summer war, which the Israeli newspapers have barely been on. However, it appears that Israel is aware of it. Ynet noted Israel eased some restrictions in Gaza, raising the quota of entry and exit permits for Gaza merchants to travel to Israel and the West Bank and approving the export of more Gazan industrial and agricultural goods to the West Bank. In addition, Israel authorized the entrance of 45 tractors to the Gaza Strip for farming.

Quick Hits:
  • Israeli forces to question young East Jerusalem brothers - The boys' father, Arafat Abu Sbeitan, said initially Israeli troops wanted to arrest his sons Muhammad, 12, and Ibrahim, 10, but he refused to turn them over because of their health issues. The soldiers then ordered Abu Sbeitan to bring his sons to Israeli police station for questioning. (Maan)
  • Israel releases Palestinian schoolgirl, 14, from jail
  •  - Malak al-Khatib was released after a two-month prison sentence on charges of stone-throwing and possession of a knife, which she denied. The Palestinian Prisoners' Club estimates that 200 Palestinian minors are held in Israeli prisons, but only four are girls, and Malak was the youngest. (Maan
  • Israeli forces raid E1 protest camp, 3 detained - Israeli forces raided the "Jerusalem Gate" protest camp near Abu Dis on Monday, just as dozens of activists had started building concrete rooms inside the protest camp, which was originally set up in early February but has since been demolished five times. (Maan)
  • Israeli intelligence raids al-Aqsa compound - Two Israeli intelligence members escorted by two police officers raided the al-Aqsa compound and toured it. 15 right-wing Israelis also entered the compound. Israeli police continue to impose restrictions on entry of women and youth. (Maan)
  • Israeli doctors rebuild Syrian man’s face in cutting-edge procedure - He arrived barely alive, after a projectile destroyed the lower part of his face. Three months after surgery, Mohammed is preparing to return home to Syria. (Haaretz)
  • Plea bargain in works for MK Zoabi, accused of incitement to violence - Lawmakers lawyer says she ‘conceded mistake’ in denouncing Arab policemen. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
  • Defense minister departs on historic visit to India - "The government of India is a true friend," says Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, who is making the first official visit to India by an Israeli defense minister. Ya'alon to inaugurate Israeli pavilion at Aero India 2015 defense industry exhibition. (Israel Hayom)
  • Lieberman: We'll propose a bill to impose death sentence for terrorists - Yisrael Beytenu leader says if convicted terrorists are not executed 'we're inviting more and more terrorism'; notes fourth round of fighting with Hamas 'inevitable' and that Israel should already think how to prevent fifth. (Ynet)
  • Dennis Ross: Netanyahu should admit decision to address Congress was a mistake - Israel must not be allowed to become a partisan issue in the U.S., former peace talks envoy tells Haaretz editor-in-chief Aluf Benn at the Israel Conference on Democracy. (Haaretz+)
  • CNN Poll: Most Americans are opposed to Netanyahu's speech in Congress - According to the survey, 63 % disagreed with the move, while 33% believe it was proper, CNN reported. The poll also shows that a large majority of US residents believe that the US should refrain from interfering in what is happening in the Middle East. (Maariv and JPost
  • New IDF chief presides over first General Staff meeting - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot: You won't have a single day of grace; the Middle East is falling apart and there is no mercy for the weak. "We are in the midst of a challenging period," Eizenkot says. (Israel Hayom)
  • Livni at Haaretz conference: Netanyahu is turning democracy into a dirty word - At Israel Conference on Democracy, Rivlin says: Jewish democratic state is not a democratic state for Jews; MK Tibi: Lieberman and Bennett are destroying Israel much better than the Arabs could. (Haaretz)
  • Likud seeks injunction against V15 group - Party motions Jerusalem District Court for urgent interim order barring Labor, Victory 2015 campaign, Meretz and OneVoice from "engaging in financed election propaganda" pending ruling on whether such action violates elections, campaign financing laws. (Israel Hayom)
  • Attorney general: Petition against Israel Hayom lacks legal merit - Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein says Central Elections Committee cannot regulate press coverage, as "this would go beyond the law's stated purpose."  He says an injunction against the paper would be tantamount to censorship. (Israel Hayom
  • Israeli authorities approve landfill project in E. Jerusalem - Israeli authorities on Monday approved a solid waste landfill project on over 500 kilometers on lands of al-Issawiya and Anata neighborhoods occupied E. Jerusalem, despite objections by Palestinians and (Jewish) residents of the French Hill settlement neighborhood. (Maan)
  • Israeli forces uproot dozens of Tubas olive trees - Several Israeli military vehicles stormed an outskirt of Tayasir with officers of the Israeli ministry of environmental protection and the Civil Administration. The fields belong to Adnan Daraghmah, who was notified that the area was a military zone and that he couldn't plant or build any structures without permission. (Maan)
  • Hundreds of Jewish worshipers pray at Nablus tomb, sparking clashes - Seven buses escorted by Israeli military forces arrived at Joseph’s tomb, where Israelis performed religious rituals until dawn. Clashes broke out between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian youths, with no injuries reported. (Maan
  • Russian tourists stop coming to Israel's southern resort - Russia’s economic crisis and the collapsing ruble have stanched the flow of visitors from Moscow and St. Petersburg to the Red Sea resort city of Eilat. (Haaretz+)
  • Ministry to rebuild tower block destroyed during Gaza war - "The rebuilding of this (residential) tower is a significant event and is the start of the rebuilding of all towers destroyed during the war,” said Palestinian Minister of Public Works and Housing Mufid al-Hasayneh. (Maan
  • Infant killed in Gaza refugee center fire - A Palestinian infant died and three others were injured in a fire that broke out in UN school which holds a number of Gazan refugees. Thousands of Palestinians still live in UNRWA-run refugee centers since the Israeli war on Gaza last summer. (Maan)
  • Israeli forces fire at Palestinian farmers and shepherds in Gaza - Locals told Ma'an that Israeli forces opened fire near a cemetery east of Jabaliya. (Maan)
  • Gunmen open fire at Fatah official in Gaza - Two of Mamoon Sweidan’s bodyguards exchanged shots with the gunmen Monday and were hit during the attack. The incident is the latest in a string of tit-for-tat attacks between Fatah and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (Maan)
  • Hamas condemns killing of 21 Egyptian Christians by ISIS in Libya -  The group said it "condemns this ugly crime and this shameful approach to the distortion of the image of Islam by violating its principles." (Maan)
  • Hamas and Iran said to be renewing ties - Al-Hayat reports Mashal met with Quds Force commander Soleimani a few days after Protective Edge; meeting was followed by Hamas delegation arriving in Tehran for official visit. (Ynet)
  • Hollande: Anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim acts threaten France - Speaking during visit at vandalized Jewish cemetery, French president vows 'firmness in searching down and prosecuting those who carry out anti-Semitic or racist acts.' (Agencies, Ynet)

Weinstein's test: Will he be able to make decisions without regards to the election? (Aviram Zino, Maariv) State Comptroller's report regarding expenses of Netanyahu couple raises three criminal cases. Attorney General must now decide whether to adopt the position of the State Comptroller, and thus direct the police to open a criminal investigation against the Prime Minister. 
Legitimizing the racist perceptions at the heart of Israeli politics (Aeyal Gross, Haaretz+) Marking people like Haneen Zoabi and Baruch Marzel as the 'lunatic fringe' hides the fact that the 'mainstream' is responsible for democracy's real problems.
Netanyahu called me an ISIS collaborator (Captain (res.) R., Yedioth/Ynet) Despite being a leftist, I promise to report to reserve duty in Israel's next war on terror; Netanyahu and his intimidations, on the other hand, are a passing episode. 
An immediate probe by the Attorney General is necessary before election (Adv. Moshe Shuchtman, Maariv) On the face of it, the State Comptroller's report shines a light where it would appear dark. In normal times, you could wait and see how things develop, but these are days of elections.
If the left can't beat Netanyahu, they should join him (Ravit Hecht, Haaretz+) If the left-center fails to form a bloc to prevent a Netanyahu government, the pragmatic mission is to leave Habayit Hayehudi outside the government. 
Obama may not be gregarious, but, to Israel, he is an excellent president (Shlomo Shamir, Maariv) The leader of the world's greatest power is not a friendly man. He is not gregarious. But keep in mind that he isn’t just anyone. He is also something. He is a sympathetic president to Israel, but Netanyahu has difficulty distinguishing between the White House and the Likud Central Committee. 
European Jews moving to Israel are trading anti-Semitism for racism (Zvi Bar’el, Haaretz+) French and Danish immigrants will find that Israel swallows its immigrants, but it doesn't digest them.
Western leaders are impotent in the face of terror (Noah Klieger, Yedioth/Ynet) What else has to happen before the free world's leaders realize that they must use the heaviest and deadliest tools available in order to save their countries and democracy? 
Will the man who sold Israel's secrets to Iran be Turkey's next prime minister? (Zvi Bar’el, Haaretz+) Hakan Fidan, the former head of Turkish intelligence and 'keeper of all secrets,' is running for a seat in parliament. Is he going to help or hinder President Erdogan?
Goodbye, everyone (Uri Orbach, Yedioth/Ynet) Habayit Hayehudi minister Uri Orbach, who died Monday, served as a Yedioth Ahronoth columnist for 13 years. This is the last column he wrote in December 2008 before moving into politics.
Confessions of an anti-Zionist (B. Michael, Haaretz+) Watching all the self-proclaimed Zionists denouncing their rivals as anti-Zionists, I think I prefer the company of the latter.
Rawabi's dried-up pipe could land Israel in deep water (Nahum Barnea, Yedioth/Ynet) There are quite a few ways to explain to the world why uninvolved people were killed in Gaza or why Jews are allowed to settle in an occupied territory; but there is no way to explain why Israel is preventing a Palestinian city from receiving water.
Israel must connect the new Palestinian city of Rawabi to the national water grid (Tuesday Haaretz Editorial) For many Israeli settlers and politicians, every Palestinian success is an Israeli failure. 
With north beginning to boil, Eisenkot is right man at right time (Ron Ben-Yishai, Ynet) The new IDF chief of staff will have to face a potential massive conflagration on the northern border, but he has the tools to deal with whatever is thrown at him.
Eisenkot's first war will be against politicians (Yoaz Hendel, Yedioth/Ynet) The chief of staff's current job is to fight on two fronts, Arab and Jewish. He can win on the Jewish front if he gets the cabinet to discuss reality and make decisions now; otherwise, after the next war, the fire will be directed at him.
Is Obama an enemy of Netanyahu's Israel? Are you? (Bradley Burston, Haaretz+) Netanyahu makes a campaign promise he can keep: The next four years will be worse than the last. And they've already started.
Eisenkot's Herculean task (Yossi Yehoshua, Yedioth/Ynet) The likelihood of a war breaking out on more than one front during the 21st IDF chief of staff's term is much higher than during his predecessors' time in office.  
The IDF chief who reinforced Israeli democracy (Aluf Benn, Haaretz+) The just-retired chief of staff's tenure will not be studied in combat legacy and strategy classes, but ought to be remembered in political science courses.  

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