News Nosh 2.7.19

APN's daily news review from Israel
Thursday February 7, 2019

 
Quote of the day:
“The justices have rejected every single argument of principle they heard regarding Israel’s planning policy. To the best of B’Tselem’s knowledge, there has not been a single case in which the justices granted a petition Palestinians filed against the demolition of their home."
--New report by B'Tselem accuses Israel's High Court justices of personal responsibility in war crimes and says they have given the permissions for the settlement enterprise to continue.*

Front Page:
Haaretz
Yedioth Ahronoth
  • Their Likud - The winners, the losers and the big stories of the primaries
  • Exclusive - “It’s unreasonable that there's a government in which the culture minister attacks the institutions she's responsible for. The justice minister attacks the institutions she's responsible for. The internal security minister attacks the institutions he's responsible for. The Cabinet attacks the army, and the prime minister attacks everyone” - Gantz; Tomorrow: Shlomo Artzi and Hanoch Daum in the talked-about interview with Benny Gantz
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
  • Netanyahu: “Abu Mazen is happy with Gantz”; Gantz: “You paid protection to Hamas”
  • (Gantz,) Chairman of “Hosen L’Yisrael” party, said in an interview that “The lessons of the Disengagement must be applied in other places,” and won a hug from the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority: “Encouraging statements” - Netanyahu immediately attacked afterward - but Gantz shot back by posting a photo of the Prime Minister with Arafat
  • “Saar shouldn’t expect a senior minister position in the next government” - Netanyahu associates said shortly after results of the Likud primaries were released and Saar got fourth place
  • Yellow card for Netanyahu // Nadav Haetzni
  • US army made official announcement: It is acquiring Iron Dome batteries
  • Parting from the ‘Father of the Weak’ - Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, Chairman of Friendship Fellowship, passed away at age 68
Israel Hayom

Elections 2019 News:
The results of the Likud primaries were a blow for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, whose arch rival Gideon Saar got a high place on the party list and whose loyalists were pushed back, as well as some of the most controversial Likud MKs making the Likud party seem ‘cleaner’ (see Elections Commentary below). Meanwhile, Netanyahu was quick to pounce on his main rival outside the party, former chief of staff and head of the Hosen L’Yisrael party, Benny Gantz, while the Palestinians praised him. Calling Gantz a leftist, Netanyahu warned right-wingers that Gantz would withdraw from land in the West Bank after Gantz said in a Yedioth interview that Israel “doesn’t need to control over other people” and that the lessons of the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza should be implemented elsewhere. The Spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called those same words 'encouraging.' But he criticized the fact that some Israeli politicians (Gantz!) have boasted in their election campaigns of attacking Palestinians. He called on Israelis not to elect an extremist government. Netanyahu used that as ammunition, implying that if the Palestinians were happy with an Israeli candidate that would be bad for Israelis. Gantz’s team responded by posting a photo of Netanyahu with Yasser Arafat. Other right-wing politicians, such as Education Minister and co-leader of Hayamin Hadash party, slammed Gantz, too. Bennett warned that “A Netanyahu-Gantz government could go for the establishment of a Palestinian state” and said that a vote for his right-wing party would “block (Trump’s) ‘Deal of the Century.’” (Maariv) The latest poll shows that an alliance between Gantz and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party would give them 35 Knesset seats, tying with Likud, if elections were held today. Separately, the Attorney General is expected to forbid Netanyahu from posting any photos of himself with soldiers until after the elections.

Other News Summary:
The other top stories were the official announcement that the US will acquire Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile battery, the shelling by Israel on a Hamas post in the Gaza Strip after a rocket from Gaza landed in an open field, and the death of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, a philanthropist who established a Jewish-Christian organization, which organized millions of dollars of donations from Evangelists to Israel.

What was largely missed by the Hebrew newspapers was the report by B’Tselem accusing the High Court judges of personal responsibility for dispossessing Palestinians from their homes. The court’s support of Israeli planning policy is tantamount to support for “forcible transfer,” a war crime under international law, the report stated. Mekomit online Hebrew news website reported on it at length. Maariv reported on it, but not online. Also The Jerusalem Post reported on it.)
 
Quick Hits:
  • IDF: Settlers opened fire in Palestinian village due to fear for lives - Joint army and police probe into death of 38-year-old Palestinian father of four question why settlement security team entered al-Mughayer on grounds of purported fear of a kidnap, when the young settler involved managed to flee his assailants. (Yedioth/Ynet)
  • U.S. Blocks UN Resolution Denouncing Israeli Expulsion of Hebron Monitoring Group - Draft Security Council resolution expressed regret at Israeli decision to end the mandate of the Temporary International Presence after two decades. (Agencies, Haaretz, Maariv and Ynet)
  • U.S. Senate Passes anti-BDS Legislation With Strong Majority - Democratic Senators were almost evenly split on the bill; Passage in House of Representatives not Guaranteed at this point. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
  • US Mideast envoy: PA official is 'spreading misinformation' - Refuting claims by Saeb Erekat that the U.S. wants to sever West Bank from Gaza, Jason Greenblatt tweets: "Please have more respect for the Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank; they deserve it" • "Reality" is PA-Hamas hatred is to blame, he says. (Israel Hayom)
  • US backs 'dictators, butchers and extremists' in Mideast, says Iran - After U.S. President Donald Trump says Iran "threatens genocide against the Jewish people" in his State of the Union speech, Iranian FM tweets: "Iranians, including our Jewish compatriots, are commemorating 40 years of progress despite U.S. pressure." (Israel Hayom)
  • Images suggest Iran launched satellite despite US criticism - Following U.S. warnings that Iran's space program helps the country develop ballistic missiles, Islamic republic appears to have attempted a second satellite launch Tuesday • It wasn't immediately clear that the satellite, if launched, made it into orbit. (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
  • Hezbollah leader: In event of US war on Iran, Tehran won't be alone - At rally marking 40th anniversary of Iran's Islamic Revolution, Hassan Nasrallah says that while regional struggle may take different forms, Iran remains strongest state in Middle East • U.S. headed for more withdrawals, retreats from the region, he says. (Israel Hayom)
  • Burned by Israel Strikes, Iran to Move Weapons Supply Center Out of Damascus - As the recent Israeli raids caused embarrassment for the Assad regime with the Russians, the Iranians are likely headed to Syrian T4 air base, which was struck by Israel twice last year. (Haaretz+)
  • Israel Police admit to eavesdropping on journalists' conversations with suspects - Police: ' I didn’t listen in on journalists rather on our convicts, with the journalists on the other line.’ (Haaretz+)
  • Israeli Cities Commissioning Street Art to Draw Tourists, Boost Housing Prices - Having realized that graffiti raises real-estate prices, attracts tourism and beautifies urban spaces, cities throughout Israel are hiring artists they once hounded. (Haaretz+)
  • Household debt in Israel jumps 84% in less than a decade - Mortgage debt increases by 70% from 2008 to 2017. Homeownership drops from 70.2% in 1997 to 66.5% in 2017 Household debt to GDP ratio rising. Researcher Labib Shami warns: Households are over-leveraged, which could endanger their financial stability. (Israel Hayom)
  • Eurovision executives blast Netanyahu for dragging feet on security arrangements - In strongly worded letter, contest supervisor warns of 'unimaginable consequences' toTel Aviv event should Israel not take responsibility for security budget. (Haaretz+)
  • Famed Icelandic Singer Paul Oscar Calls on His Country to Boycott Eurovision in Israel - 'The tragedy is that Jews learned nothing from the Holocaust,' Iceland's former Eurovision representative says. (JTA, Haaretz)
  • Beekeepers losing hundreds of hives to 'agricultural terror' - Farmer Yinon Arkin alone lost 20 of the hives he maintains at Beit Guvrin in southern Israel to vandals • Palestinians chop up the honeycomb and smuggle it back to the PA, he claims. "The government doesn't know how serious the issue is," Arkin says. (Israel Hayom)
  • Lebanon accuses Israel of violating maritime border with oil exploration - The two countries have an unresolved border dispute over a sea zone extending along the edge of three Lebanese energy blocks. (Agencies, Haaretz and Israel Hayom)
  • 40 Years On, Chilling Display Brings Torture of Iranian Dissidents (against the Shah) Close to Home - An exhibition at the Tehran site of a former prison portrays horrific acts Mossad-trained intelligence officers carried out by the SAVAK, the Shah's infamous intelligence agency, before 1979's revolution brought Khomeini to power. 'The first hit was very effective; you felt your heart and brain were exploding,' former detainee recalls. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Top Iraqi Cleric Slams Trump's Plan to Watch Iran From Iraq - Iraq 'rejects being a launching pad for harming any other country.’ (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • 'Independence at What Price?': Iran's 'Revolution Babies' Weigh Progress Since 1979 Uprising - More than half of Iran's population is under 35, and all of them deal with the legacy of the revolution that altered the course of their country. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Arab World's First Female Minister in Charge of Security Takes Office - Raya El Hassan is one of four women in the new 30-member Lebanese government, named after nearly nine months of deadlock. (Haaretz+)


Elections 2019 Commentary/Analysis:
Israel's Ruling Party Just Voted Against Netanyahu (Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz+) The top four top names on the Likud slate after Tuesday's primary are Netanyahu's worst nightmare – four experienced politicians who party members see as viable candidates to replace him.
Netanyahu's political problems are just beginning (Moran Azulay, Yedioth/Ynet) The success of Gideon Sa'ar in the Likud primary shows the limits to the prime minister's power, and the failure of his minions should also serve as a warning.
Likud Members Prove to Netanyahu: We're Not a Flock of Sheep (Yossi Verter, Haaretz+)The voters didn’t agree to the prime minister's war against Gideon Sa'ar. Nor did they heed Netanyahu regarding their other candidates.
They are tired of being the bad boy - Likud Primaries (Tali Ben-Ovadia, Yedioth) The Likud registered members looked forward. Yes, also to the day after [Netanyahu]. They noted who in their eyes would be a candidate to get the inheritance. They looked forward and said, Enough of the madness from the school of Yair Netanyahu.
The Likud brand is detached from reality (Michal Aharoni, Israel Hayom) The Likud is perceived to have changed the social order. But its Knesset list is elitist, white and rich, and has nothing to do with the values and people it professes to represent.
Oren Hazan as an example - Likud Primaries (Einav Shiff, Yedioth) Due the exaggerated focus on the failure of MK Oren Hazan to make it on the Likud list, it is perceived that the Likud loyalists came to their senses...what can I say, we're moving forward...Netanyahu may not have gotten rid of Gideon Saar and also some of his favorites - such as Dudi Amsalem and David Biton - did not get high up on the Likud list. But in honor of (the upcoming) Purim (costume) holiday, it seems that the party definitely succeeded in fulfilling one goal no less important: The Likud party's costume is much more convincing.
Message received (Yehuda Shlezinger, Israel Hayom) Likud voters have for years been depicted as "hooligans" by the media. On Tuesday, those "hooligans" proved their critics wrong when they voted to keep controversial party members off the Knesset list.
Is Benjamin Netanyahu a magician? Anyone who thinks this way simply does not understand the prime minister (Ofir Farber, Maariv) Getting people to follow behind him over the years, the attack on the other side and the feeling that I need to stand behind my team, has done a tremendous service for the prime minister over the years. That’s how it’s done.
Gantz, Don’t Be Another Gabbay (Haaretz Editorial) If Gantz is indeed made of the stuff of leadership, he shouldn’t be frightened by the gallons of venom that will be poured on him in the coming weeks in an attempt to tar him as a 'leftist.’
 Gantz is in a bind (Amnon Lord, Israel Hayom) Gantz would have preferred to make this election about Netanyahu. But if the prime minister were to win again, Gantz would lose any legitimacy to call for his resignation if he were indicted.
No General Can Save Us (Yossi Klein, Haaretz+) In siding with Benny Gantz, Israel's leftists are chasing a dream of victory; soon, it'll become a nightmare.
A moment of truth (Dror Eydar, Israel Hayom)  If the Right loses votes because of tunnel vision by small right-wing parties, the Left will benefit. We don't have to agree on every single idea to form a merger that will prevent right-wing votes from being lost in the election and keep the Left out of power.
Only Five Arab Women Have Ever Served in Israel's Knesset. And It's Not Getting Any Better (Anwar Mhajne, Haaretz+) The long-delayed birth of Arab women’s political activism still faces major obstacles, from institutional discrimination to deep social conservatism. For local elections that's changing – but not in the legislature that governs our lives.

Commentary/Analysis:
The people of the underground fought, each in their own way, for a common national goal (Yossi Ahimeir, Maariv) The meeting with Baruch from the Haganah, Yoske from the Irgun (Etzel) and Yael from the Lehi flooded all that is missing today in the country: cohesion. Perhaps this is the message to those who are fighting today, politically, not over the state, but over (who is in) the next government.
It's Leftism or Zionism - You Can't Have Both (Gideon Levy, Haaretz+) The two-state solution is dead, and the Zionist left helped kill it. Zionism never declared that it planned to build an apartheid state in the Land of Israel, nor did it ever intend to build an egalitarian Jewish-Arab state – a state of all its citizens – like all other states. But over the past 52 years, Zionism has chosen the first option. And there’s no indication that it’s about to change its mind. Israel would rather be an apartheid state than a democratic one, and it’s doing everything in its power to consolidate and perpetuate this state. We’ve reached the Rubicon and crossed it. And as with all Rubicons, there’s no way back. Zionism, the scaffolding on which the state was built, must be dismantled. Not only is there no longer any need for it – the house exists and stands on firm foundations – but it’s no longer relevant. Today, the scaffolding is only for cosmetic purposes, to further a deception. “We’re Zionists” means we’re the good guys, and therefore, anything is permitted to us. It requires a great deal of courage and integrity to admit that Zionism has reached the end of the road. It’s no longer an ideology, but a fanatical religion, and religions permit no heretics. A non-Zionist is a traitor – soon to be enacted in legislation. For the left, there can only be one choice: equality and democracy in a single state, a state that has already existed for more than half a century and shows no sign of being about to disappear. If you so desire, you can call this Zionism.
I survived the Gaza violence that Benny Gantz brags about (Hanine Hassan, +972mag) ‘As a Palestinian expelled from Jaffa to Gaza, as someone whose family and friends have repeatedly been on the receiving end of Israel’s brute force, like all Palestinians, I know that the more violence Israel uses, the more it destroys the very legitimacy it seeks.’
10 years since 'Cast Lead': How Israel first declared total war on Gaza (Avihai Stollar, +972mag) The firepower, scale of destruction, and numbers of Palestinians killed during Operation Cast Lead were unprecedented in the brutal history of the conflict. Since then, the tactics used have become part of the IDF’s arsenal in its wars on Gaza.
Palestinians in Hebron Could Now Face Another Massacre (Muhammad Shehada, Haaretz+) Israel just expelled the only international monitors protecting Hebron’s Palestinians from 800 heavily guarded far-right settlers, one of whom committed the 1994 massacre that triggered their deployment. No one expected Trump to respond - but where's the European outcry?
How to turn human rights activists into 'traitors' in a few easy steps (Orly Noy, +972mag) The Israeli right’s years-long effort to portray Breaking the Silence as traitors fell flat on its face this last week. Will the media or the politicians who incited against them apologize?
Baby boom threatens to make Israel unbearably crowded (Meirav Arlosoroff, Haaretz+) Unless trends change, by 2065 we will be the most densely populated place on Earth after Bangladesh – with severe harm to the economy and quality of life.
It's time for a medical school in Ariel (MK Nachman Shai, Israel Hayom) The need for high-quality doctors trained in Israel should override any petty, irrelevant considerations that are obstructing the launch of a new faculty of medicine.
Trump Speech Angers Democrats as Expected but Caters to American Jews, for a Change (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+) Trump's cry against a concocted socialist conspiracy emulated Netanyahu's trusted tactics of division and incitement.
Politicizing human rights in Hebron (Itai Reuveni, Israel Hayom) Canceling the TIPH mandate sends a signal to governments and organizations that they must choose between human rights and humanitarian aid or the cynical politicization of these principles.
 
Interviews:
"You could say that the American Jews are at the forefront of the resistance to Trump"
Jeremy Ben-Ami is convinced that J Street supporters are the real Zionists. We are trying to push America to help Israel be democratic, Jewish, and secure. This is our agenda. This is the message that is important to Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, the pro-Israel American Jewish lobby, to convey to the public in Israel. “The way Trump's America supposedly helps you now does not really help the country to be democratic, Jewish and secure in the long term…Israel has been kidnapped by the settlements.” (Interviewed by Yanir Kozin in Maariv)

According to the liberal lobby, the president of the United States, who has already been dubbed here ‘the Messiah,’ is actually the one who is causing Israel to lose its Zionist path. This is a message that is not easy to transfer to many Israelis who believe that relations with the United States are at an all-time high. But for many Jews who live in America, and some of whom hold positions of influence, this is the real reality.
"The Jews in the United States are very liberal," Ben-Ami says in a special interview. "In Israel, they are called leftists, but we are proud to be liberal, and more than 70 percent of American Jews voted for the Democratic Party in the last elections, and Trump is very unpopular among American Jews. two years.”

J Street was founded in 2008 to provide a platform for liberal views that were not presented until then in the various Jewish organizations, the most known of which is AIPAC, the Jewish pro-Israel lobby.
"Our worldview is similar to that of former President Barack Obama," says Ben-Ami. "There are about six million Jews in the United States, 90 percent of whom are not Orthodox. They are either Reform or Conservative or streams that are not recognized by Jews in Israel at all, and yet the presidents and chairpersons of the recognized Jewish organizations are Orthodox and do not reflect the majority." He added: "That's why a decade ago, we said, 'How can the vast majority of Jews in America be liberal, but those who speak about relations with Israel are very conservative, religious. J Street's ultimate goal is to help the United States in the establishment of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and if it is not achievable at the moment, then at least help Israel separate from the occupied territories, which will form the basis for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside it.”

I met Ben-Ami in Tel Aviv during one of his four annual visits to Israel, in which his organization brings influential officials from the US administration to show them the complexity of the conflict with the Palestinians.
"We are not the organization that brings people to Israel to have fun here, in order to make them fall in love with the place," he says. "We bring people with political power, who hold senior positions in American politics and we show them the reality in a fair and balanced way on both sides. Our hope is that they will succeed in influencing American foreign policy regarding the conflict. That is the most pro-Israeli thing American Jews who care about Israel can do.”

A survey published by J Street in November 2018 showed that 78% of American Jews support a peace agreement based on the two-state solution based on the 1967 lines with agreed upon changes of the border. The Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem, as well as the Western Wall, will be under Israeli sovereignty, and the Arab neighborhoods will be under the Palestinian flag.

So now there is a Republican administration that is leaning toward Israel. The citizens of Israel will say that the democratic Obama administration was more inclined to the Palestinian side.
"We see things differently. There is an attempt by the government to annex the West Bank in the name of Israel's security, with the encouragement of the settlement enterprise ... In fact, Israel was kidnapped by the settlements, so that today there is no desire for a Palestinian state. We see a government doing everything in its power to deepen control in the West Bank: the expansion of settlements and the confiscation of land. The Palestinian people’s desire for self-determination and independence are ignored, which is bad for the American interest in resolving the conflict.”

Despite the data showing that most of American Jewry holds most of J Street's positions, the organization is actually boycotted by the Israeli government. "Every time, when we ask to meet with Netanyahu or with the Israeli ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, we receive a negative response," says Ben-Ami. "The prime minister and his advisors are making a strategic mistake, in real historical terms, when they want nothing to do with the largest Jewish community outside of Israel. They are essentially putting all of Israel's interests in the basket of the Republican Party and the Evangelical Movement. That is such an enormous mistake in the understanding of where the United States is moving to in these days.”

Where is the United States going?
“In the midterm elections, you saw 60 new members of Congress - young, progressive, women, of all races and cultures - who would not cooperate in any way with what is happening in the West Bank. For Israel and the United States, the special relationship between Israel and the United States is composed of shared values and interests. Both are now crumbling. The values of the United States are democracy, freedom, equality and justice. Look what happened in November, in the midterm elections, think about what will happen in the presidential elections in 2020. That's the direction. "

At least it seems that Israel and the United States are broadcasting on the same wave in terms of policy.
"This single moment in which Bibi found his twin in the White House will not last forever. It’s a dot in the  historical view. The direction the United States is going to is much more liberal and multi-cultural. It will not tolerate ethnic nationalism. And therefore it is long-term harm to Israel's interests. "
 
I asked Ben-Ami why the Israelis would care what the American Jews thought were thousands of miles away and did not live here.
"It's nice to think that after all that American Judaism has done for Israel, someone will also care about what we say," he explains. "Israel has benefited a lot from these relations, we sent our children here, we strengthened Israel's ties with the administration. Over the years it was a one-sided relationship. It would be appropriate for the Israelis to also thank their cousins overseas…Take it from a place of Israeli interest: The unlimited support that the United States gives you is exceptional, and if it's important for Israelis, it's worth understanding that they need the support of both parties, and Israel has to keep in touch with the Democrats. American Jews are on the side of the Democrats."

People think that Netanyahu is a world leader, accepted all over the world and in the US. For example, he was recently welcomed with open arms in Chad.
"In the year 2025, I hope that Israel's security will be able to rely only on Chad. Good luck with that. By the way, my family came to Israel in 1882. They (were among the families that) established Tel Aviv. I'm not interested in the elections. I am very worried about Israel's place in the United States. It’s going to a different place, it’s not good.”
 
Ben Ami says that he is connected to the Israeli experience.
"I lived here for a few years, in the late 1990s, and these were the good years, I have a deep connection to Israel," he says. "I've been in politics for 35 years, I was at the White House with Bill Clinton, I did several election campaigns in the United States."

Despite his great criticism of the Israeli government's policy, he stresses, "We oppose the BDS movement and boycotts in general. But Israel's way of dealing with the BDS is stupid - if you ignore it, it will disappear. The obsession with turning it into something big helps them politically. We met with ministers Yuval Steinitz and Gilad Erdan. We want to talk to them about the conflict and they always want to talk about Iran and BDS. If you think J Street is extreme left, then you have no idea what you're talking about. On some campuses we are the most right-wing organization. This is the center of American Jewry. There are so many Jewish leftist groups that are really against Israel and support BDS. We are indeed left from the Israeli center, but this map is not fully understood by Israelis."

As for Ben-Ami's sense that Israel is becoming more religious and less accepting of other streams, Ben-Ami says: “There must be change soon. If, in the end, Naftali Bennett and Betzalel Smotrich will be the face of Israel, you will lose most of American Jewry in the next generation."

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