News Nosh 02.19.15

 APN's daily news review from Israel
Thursday February 19, 2015

Quote of the day:
“Wiesel is acutely, and understandably, sensitive to the harm Jews suffer. Yet he is largely blind to the harm Jews cause.”
--Haaretz+ commentator Peter Beinart examines Elie Wiesel’s whitewashing of Jewish behavior and Israeli government actions in cutting piece.**

Front Page:
Yedioth Ahronoth
  • Snow alert – Forecast: White weekend
  • Test of the Attorney General – Being demanded to decide whether to open probe against Netanyahu following State Comptroller report
  • He has no choice // Ben-Dror Yemini
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
Israel Hayom
  • Snow alert – The big storm is arriving
  • “I quit because of the (bad) treatment,” or “to help my father”?
  • New Chief of Staff staff of Eizenkot
  • Parting from Adel
  • The shake-up in the police: Commissioner dismissed three more top commanders
  • High Court: Zouebi and Marzel can run in elections
  • White House accuses: “Israel is leaking and distorting information about Iran”; Despite that: Advisor Yossi Cohen – in Washington

News Summary:
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s attack on Zionist Camp’s Tzipi Livni in response to the severe report by the State Comptroller against him, the latest declarations and decisions regarding the elections and the US declaration that Israel is distorting information regarding the Iran nuclear talks were top stories in today’s Hebrew newspapers along with the snow storm arriving today in Jerusalem and the north.

The Comptroller’s report that exposed extravagant taxpayer-funded spending at the the Prime Minister's homes was a ‘smokescreen’ to cover up the attempt to ‘sneak’ Tzipi Livni into the Prime Minister's office, Netanyahu said. According to him, “Tzipi Livni is a danger to Israel.” Netanyahu asserted that the Zionist Camp is trying to hide that Livni and Zionist Camp leader Isaac Herzog will rush to “negotiation of concessions” with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and bring Hamas to rule in the West Bank. Livni had a mouthful for Netanyahu in response: “Destroying Israel’s relations with the United States is a danger to Israel, the social gaps are a danger to Israel, poverty is a danger to Israel, and tunnels under the houses of Gaza-border residents are a danger. All this has happened during the nine years Bibi has been in power.”
Maariv’s top political commentator Ben Caspit mocked Netanyahu’s attempt to blame Livni for the severe report. Caspit wrote, yes, by way of their mutual name, Livni used her husband, named Naftali, to make a connection with Meni Naftali, the PM’s residence manager who exposed some of the irregularities at the house, to get him to say bad things about the prime minister, while Livni’s accomplices snuck into the State Comptroller’s office to plant false reports of expenses. “And the rest is history.” Meanwhile, Maariv reported that Livni has received death threats following Netanyahu’s increased negative statements against her, for which the Shin Bet will increase the security around her.

Yedioth focused on the ‘dilemma of the Attorney General.’ Legal Affairs reporter Tovah Tzimuki wrote that “if he orders a probe, his relations with the Prime Minister (who appointed him) will go bad, if he ignores the findings of the Comptroller’s report he will find it hard to explain to the High Court how that decision stands the test of equality." Interestingly, Maariv ran a feature about how world leaders are living more modest lifestyles, “driving beat up VWs, doing their own laundry or giving up on expensive homes, while here in Israel, we are busy with a comptroller report on the expenses of the prime minister.” 
Yesterday, the day before the US delegation began another round of Iran nuclear talks in Geneva, the US made two statements accusing Israel of distorting facts. The White House slammed what it called a continued Israeli practice of 'cherry-picking': "There's no question that some of the things that the Israelis have said in characterizing our negotiating position have not been accurate," said Spokesman Josh Earnest. And State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: "I think it is safe to say not everything you are hearing from the Israeli government is an accurate reflection of the details of the talks.”

Quick Hits:
  • Hamas: Quartet links (post war) Gaza aid to (Hamas) acceptance of two-state solution - Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk, via his Facbook page, said Israel, not the Palestinian side, opposes the 1967-border solution. Abu Marzouk also said that Quartet envoy Tony Blair set five conditions for continued transfer of funds to rebuild Strip. Blair's office said no conditions had been set. (Haaretz+)
  • Facebook removes Hamas news page with 2.7 million likes - Israeli students complain to social media network against page of Shehab News Agency, which shares Hamas' ideology, posting anti-Semitic and inciting content. (Ynet)
  • Facebook to encourage Israelis to vote on Election Day - Study shows that over 300,000 Americans voted after seeing that their virtual friends had done so in last U.S. election. (Haaretz+)
  • Israeli army may probe Hannibal directive use during Gaza war (that killed possibly 150 people) - Controversial military procedure, used immediately following a possible abduction of a soldier in Rafah, resulted in the killing of at least 40 Palestinians on August 1 [Palestinians put the number at between 130-150. – OH] (Haaretz+)
  • Israel Police officer admits to shooting at crowd during raid that killed Bedouin man - Autopsy shows Sami al-Ja'ar, 20, was hit in waist and bled to death; police officer, who claimed only shot in air and changed his story several times during questioning, placed under house arrest. He only relayed his final version of story to investigators only after polygraph test. (Haaretz)
  • Rivlin: Bedouins cannot be second-class citizens - President Reuven Rivlin visited the Bedouin town of Rahat on Wednesday in a gesture of solidarity following last month's (erroneous) shooting of 22-year-old Sami Al-Ja'ar by a police officer and ensuing riots. Also visited families of 8 Bedouin women killed in road accident. (Ynet and Maariv, p. 14)
  • Israeli Arab schools face serious restraints in pre-election activities - Jewish schools encounter none of the restrictions put on Arab counterparts, such as no party posters or propaganda. (Haaretz+) 
  • (Privately-owned) Palestinian land in East Jerusalem to be used for Israeli landfill site - Site will lead to removal of 120 Bedouin from area; this is first time since 1991 that private Palestinian land in East Jerusalem has been expropriated. (Haaretz
  • Settler body had no issue with anti-Semitic motifs in anti-left video - Samaria Regional Council had claimed that they did not approve of the video before publication, but in turns out they only disagreed with the final scene. (Haaretz
  • Palestinian boycott activists ask PA to call off natural gas deal with Israel - Boycott campaign supporters says deal undermines Palestinian strategy of fighting the occupation and would only increase dependence on Israel. (Haaretz+)
  • High Court overturns decision: Zoabi and Marzel can run in election - Central Elections Committee had disqualified the Israeli Arab MK and right-wing extremist from running in the March election on grounds of incitement. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
  • Kahlon refused to meet Netanyahu and Herzog regarding who he will recommend to the President - Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition both tried to meet with Kulanu party chairman, who is considered the one who will tip the scales. Kahlon: "I won’t hold contacts until they announce they’ve adopted our economic plan.” (Maariv)
  • Kahlon: I'll join any gov't that makes room for my social agenda - Political contender and head of the Kulanu party greeted citizens on train from Haifa to Tel Aviv, taking selfies with supporters and answering tough questions about the housing crisis and his political allegiances. (Ynet
  • Bennett came to the military preparatory program on Eli settlement and attacked: "We voted for Likud and got disengagement" - A week after Netanyahu’s visit, Chairman of Habayit Hayehudi spoke with the youth in the (isolated) settlement saying, "Only if we are in the government can we stop the things that Likud is doing." (Maariv
  • New Israeli army commander chooses top brass - Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot has begun peopling the Israel Defense Forces with the generals who will lead the military in the years to come. (Haaretz+) 
  • Israel Air Force base fuel leaks into northern Israel river - Fuel contamination was reported on Tuesday afternoon to the Environmental Protection Ministry, but the source of the leak has yet to be found. (Haaretz+)  
  • Israel to launch $4b wave of privatizations in 2015 - A decade after Jerusalem last sold off its state-owned enterprises, top Finance Ministry official says stakes will be offered in electric, rail, water, and mail companies, as well as 2 ports and defense firms. (Agencies, Ynet
  • Gil Schweid: "Israel has ceased to be an attractive destination for investors" - CheckPoint CEO told Maariv-Online that he pays less taxes in the world: The state is legislating laws and not holding up to them. Profitability is becoming eroded.” He revealed: “In the past I was offered to enter politics, but it's not for me." (Maariv)
  • Divers find record trove of gold coins in Mediterranean - Scuba divers come across 'almost 2,000 gold coins in different denominations' from the Fatimid Caliphate on seabed in ancient harbor in Caesarea; experts say find was 'so valuable that its priceless.' (Ynet)
  • Howard Dean calls Netanyahu a 'disaster,' terms his Congress speech 'stupid' - The former DNC chairman's harsh broadside is indicative of the escalating rhetoric directed at the prime minister. (Haaretz+)
  • Jeb Bush 'eager to hear' Netanyahu's Congress speech, surprised at White House reaction - Former Florida governor called on Obama to work with lawmakers to boost defense budget while criticizing White House for opening diplomatic ties with Cuba. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Teenagers arrested for damaging Jewish tombs in France - One teen turns himself in and implicates another four, who admit to spitting on Star of David on tombs and giving Nazi salute. (Agencies, Ynet)
  • Oslo Muslims to form 'peace ring' around synagogue during Shabbat services - More than 800 people have signed up on a Facebook page called Frendens Ring, or Friendship Ring, to take part in the event. (JTA, Haaretz)
  • Swedish radio asks ambassador: Are Jews causing anti-Semitism? - Scandinavian country's national broadcaster publicly apologizes, wipes question from interview recording in its digital archive. (Yedioth/Ynet)
  • Qatar recalls ambassador to Egypt over air strikes in Libya - Report says Doha had expressed reservation over Egypt's unilateral decision to carry out air raids in Libya without consultations with other Arab states. (Haaretz
  • Middle East Updates / Libya calls on UN Security Council to lift arms embargo so it can fight ISIS - Brawl breaks out in Turkey parliament over security bill; Syrian rebels regain ground lost near Aleppo; Ali Khamenei: Iran can resist sanctions; Tunisia militants kill 4 police in checkpoint attack. (Haaretz
  • India to spend $1b on Israeli weapons - Israeli defense minister travels to India for first time in history to open Israeli pavilion at air show, as South Asian country adds Israeli-made interceptors to air fleet. (Ynet
  • Uni. of Toledo students rule Israeli divestment 'unconstitutional' - Resolution called on university to divest from any companies that 'provide direct support for and directly profit from illegal occupation of Palestinian territories.' (JTA, Haaretz)

How a former Netanyahu aide is boosting Israel's Jewish majority, one 'lost tribe' at a time
Though little, if any, proof exists of their Jewish lineage, the Bnei Menashe of northeastern India are moving to Israel in large numbers thanks to an unprecedented government decision. Haaretz investigates how this unusual operation came about. (Judy Maltz, Haaretz+)
The Tunisian rift: a glimpse into the lives of Jews in the country that promised democratic life
Four years after the Arab Spring, Tunisia is considered to be the sole survivor of the revolution, but despite the seemingly democratic constitution, 2,000 Jews there are still suffering from anti-Semitism and politicians among them are accused of Zionism. (Gideon Kotz, Maariv)

The State Comptroller report tells us what we already know about Netanyahu (Yossi Verter, Haaretz+) Report revealing hedonism of Israel's prime minister is out. And yet, somehow Netanyahu and his aides will manage to convince Israelis that he's the victim in all of this. 
**The tragedy of Elie Wiesel (Peter Beinart, Haaretz+) Why does such a great man keep apologizing for a government that betrays his ideals?  
Israel’s new army chief inherits a headache on all fronts (Amos Harel, Haaretz+) Friction with Hezbollah could spread to Syria, a bad nuclear deal with Iran is possible, and tensions are rising in Gaza and the West Bank. 
Israel-India strategic ties are no longer a secret (Amos Harel, Haaretz) Cooperation between the two nations was ramped up over a decade ago, but the Indian government preferred to keep a low profile, until now.
The Likud deserves better (Yoel Esteron, Yedioth/Ynet) Anyone who read the state comptroller's appalling reports recently could clearly see that the country's problem is not one of left or right, but lies in one particular man. 
American Jews are in a terrible dilemma following Netanyahu's (planned) speech to Congress (Shmuel Rosner, Maariv) Netanyahu's insistence on addressing Congress is dividing Jews of the US and requiring that they choose between loyalty to Israel and standing alongside President Obama. Could it be that the scale tips in favor of the Prime Minister?
Iran and Hamas, publicly outed (Dr. Reuven Berko, Israel Hayom) Whose interest was it to leak the details of a meeting between Hamas and the Iranians from six months ago?
In Israel, leaders aren't ousted for shameful conduct (Nahum Barnea, Yedioth/Ynet) A prime minister doesn’t have to be an exemplary figure, but he should be expected to know how to lead. That's what Netanyahu should be given a failing report card for, not for the way his household is being run. 
No way to treat a friend (Sarah N. Stern, Israel Hayom) It is overwhelmingly apparent that instead of confronting threats, Obama prefers to launch ad hominem attacks on the Israeli prime minister and to muzzle his voice. 
American Jews, speak out against Netanyahu’s policies (Benjy Carmon, Haaretz+) The Israeli prime minister and the majority of U.S. Jews fundamentally disagree on key issues. The time has come for American Jewish institutions to address this tension.
Media brainwashing (Dror Eydar, Israel Hayom) It is the Israeli media that is corrupt, not Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 
It's not the house, it's the couple who lives in it (Sima Kadmon, Yedioth/Ynet) Even those who were fooled by the misrepresentation of the poor condition of the prime minister's residence cannot ignore Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu's sickening behavior, as revealed in the state comptroller's report.

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