News Nosh 5.15.19

APN's daily news review from Israel
Wednesday May 15, 2019

Quote of the day:
“The safeguarding of...judges’ independence is therefore one of the cornerstones of every democratic regime.”
--High Court Justice Esther Hayut broke her silence and responded to the reported plans by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to curtail the authority of the High Court.*

Number of the day:
2.8 billion.
The amount of dollars the Netanyahu governments have invested in settlements in the West Bank over the last 10 years, according the the latest Peace Now report.**

Front Page:
Yedioth Ahronoth
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
Israel Hayom

News Summary:
While Israel Hayom reported on the 'indispensable alliance' between the US and Israel at an event yesterday marking one-year since the US embassy move to Jerusalem (Yedioth noted that, ironically, the US embassy 'ruined the party' by releasing a statement that day warning citizens of danger due to the anniversary of the transfer of the embassy, as well as Nakba Day and the Eurovision competition), the other newspapers focused on Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition and legal problems and the pointed speech by the Israeli Chief Justice Esther Hayut. The exciting first semi-final performances at the Eurovision in Tel-Aviv and the concern of an escalation with the Palestinians, who are marking Nakba Day today, also made top stories, as did the level of tension between the US and Iran, which varied depending on the newspaper: Maariv calmed readers with a headline quoting Iran saying that “There won’t be war with the US,” Haaretz’s Amos Harel wrote that “Iran threatens the US and Saudi Arabia,” Israel Hayom’s commentator Oded Granot wrote that “Iran is moving from threats to action,” and Yedioth reported that relations between the two countries were “on the verge of boiling.”

Yedioth’s Yuval Karni wrote that “Despite the extension Netanyahu received (to form the coalition government), time is running out and each of the coalition partners is demanding to sign last on an agreement in order to see what the others have received. Avigdor Lieberman is waiting to see the laws to be given to the ultra-Orthodox, the ultra-Orthodox are waiting for Lieberman, Bezalel Smotrich is buying time, apparently for tactical reasons of negotiations (to get the sensitive Justice Ministry portfolio), and Moshe Kahlon wants to know how much all this will cost him.” Meanwhile, Netanyahu finally paid one of his attorneys, who then collected the evidence material against the prime minister in the three corruption cases, while the rest of the legal team is considering resigning over pending fees. Part of Netanyahu’s negotiations with coalition partners is to get them to agree to sign on to laws that override High Court rulings and give him immunity from those criminal cases. Yesterday, MK Gabi Ashkenaz (Kahol-Lavan) said, “No one is above the law, even if he is prime minister…We must make sure that the prime minister will not succeed in creating for himself a city of refuge.” (Maariv)

*But the bigger headlines were made by High Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut, who “broke the policy of silence on Tuesday,” and referred for the first time to Netanyahu’s reported attempts to draft laws that will reduce the power of the judiciary. Speaking in Nurnberg, Germany at the annual legal conference of the Israel-Germany Lawyers Association, which this year dealt with the place of supreme courts in a democratic state, Hayut invoked the Nazi era in an implicit criticism of Netanyahu’s legislation plans, warning against harming the independence of the legal system, which was ‘one of the cornerstones of democracy.’ In a full-page article on page 4, Yedioth’s Tova Tzimuki called Hayut’s speech the “Nuremberg Speech.” According to Hayut, the choice to hold it in Hall 600 of the Hall of Justice at Nuremberg was moving and profoundly symbolic. "This is because in the 1930s, in Nuremberg, law and justice deteriorated into one of the lowest points in human history," she said. "But here in Nuremberg, in the same place where the racial laws were enacted in 1935, in which special trials were held in the special court established by the Nazi regime, the Allies returned and channeled the law and courts for the purpose for which they were originally intended - justice - and prosecuted the war criminals." According to Hayut, the younger generation in Israel was born into a new reality, decades after the end of World War II. "It is reasonable to assume that you tend to believe that the institutions that defend democracy will prevail and survive every attack. But even existing institutions can be deprived of their power and essentiality,” she warned. As proof, she cited a 1933 editorial in a German Jewish newspaper that argued that Adolf Hitler and his newly elected Nazi party wouldn’t be able to carry out their stated plans due to the country’s checks and balances on government power. “One of the universal lessons we should learn from the historical events I mentioned is that judicial independence, on the institutional and personal level, is one of the most important guarantees that the individual has an address to turn to to protect their rights,” she said. “The safeguarding of that principle and judges’ independence is therefore one of the cornerstones of every democratic regime.” (Also Haaretz+ and Maariv) An Israeli judge who asked not to be named told Yedioth, "We are used to many years of incitement against us and our role in Israeli society, which harms the public's faith in the court. The fact that we cannot comment on the distorted things politicians say makes us face preposterous accusations all the time. Supreme Court justices are democratic patriots who put the welfare and prosperity of Israeli society first, no less than any politician. We live in the Israeli reality and understand its needs, and have no intention of taking over or intentionally dismissing decisions by the Knesset and the government." In a separate article, Yedioth’s legal affairs reporter, Tova Tzimuki, interviewed unnamed political figures who said that Netanyahu's legislative push is all about dodging prosecution. And Channel 13 revealed that Netanyahu asked tycoons to send him cigars during Israel’s Memorial Day and during the conflict with Gaza. (Also Maariv)

Neta Barzilai made an amazing performance last night at the first semi-finals of the Eurovision song competition being held in Tel-Aviv, where Madonna arrived last night after rebuffing calls by BDS activists to boycott the event where she is expected to perform Saturday. "I'll never stop playing music to suit someone's political agenda, nor will I stop speaking out against violations of human rights,” she said.

According to Maariv, Israel doesn’t expect an escalation with Gaza, despite the fact that thousands of Gazans were expected to attend protests today marking Nakba Day and Israeli security forces braced for clashes. Haaretz+ reported that following the cease-fire, Gaza protest organizers urged restrained protests for Nakba Day Marches today. But the Qatari envoy to Gaza, Muhammad al-Amadi, said, "The situation is volatile, action must be taken to stop the danger,” Maariv, reported noting that Gazan civil servants will receive 50% of their January salary. Ynet English ran a Reuters article about Palestinian refugees who still hoped to return to their lands inside Israel as they marked Nakba Day. And Maan reported on the launch of a global campaign to deactivate Airbnb on Nakba Day, today.

Quick Hits:
  • **Peace Now: Israeli settlement spending spiked by 39% under Trump - Since 2009, the Netanyahu governments have invested some $2.8 billion in settlements in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) and built 19,346 settlement units. according to new Peace Now annual settlement report, entitled as “A Glance at 10 Years under Netanyahu.” Netanyahu’s support for the settlement enterprise, is believed to have been reigned in by former democratic US president Barack Obama who was in office from January 2009 to January 2017. Trump is perceived to be supportive of the settlements. But jump in spending actually began in 2016 under Obama when it rose by 20% from $277 million in 2015. (Maariv/JPost, Times of Israel and Maan)
  • Trump election a boon to Israeli settlements, data shows - The government statistics, released by the Finance Ministry, show that in 2017, Trump's first year in office, Israeli spending in Judea and Samaria rose to 1.65 billion shekels, or $459.8 million, compared to 1.19 billion shekels ($332.4 million) in 2016. (Associated Press, Israel Hayom)
  • Israel approves over 700 settlement housing units in Jerusalem - According to Hebrew-language news outlets, the Israeli Civil Administration approved the construction of 706 units, including commercial buildings, in the Giafat Mishfat Israeli neighborhood. (Maan)
  • Israel Dismisses Complaint Against Lawmaker Who Called to Ban Arabs From Highway - Deputy state prosecutor noted that co-leader of far-right party made the statement last December, after attacks against Jewish settlers in the West Bank. (Haaretz+)
  • In murder trial of Palestinian woman, forensic experts disagree on cause of her death - Top doctor believes Aisha Rabi's wounds could not have been caused by a stone, but others disagree; court orders release of Israeli minor, whose DNA was found on the stone that hit her car, to house arrest. (Haaretz+ and Maariv)
  • Months Before Palestinian Official Banned From U.S., Trump Envoy Invited Her to the White House - In a February tweet, Jason Greenblatt told Senior PLO official Hanan Ashrawi that she is 'ALWAYS welcome to visit me at the White House to speak in person.’ (Haaretz+)
  • Australian Labor Party seeks to cancel recognition of west Jerusalem as capital - The Labor Party, which is ahead of the Liberals in the polls, promised to cancel the decision of the Prime Minister Scott Morrison: “We support the view of the international community.” (Maariv/JPost)
  • A Jewish activist close to the Polish PM: The Israeli delegation strengthens the extreme right - "Johnny Daniels criticizes the conduct of the Israeli government, and wonders why the issue is coming up now - so close to the European Parliament elections. "There couldn’t be worse timing…The issue of the return of Jewish property is at the center of a campaign run by the extreme right-wing parties in Poland, which are competing on a single list in the European Parliament. The turnout in these elections is relatively low, and raising the issue of Jewish property at this time only plays into the hands of the extremists. The feeling in Poland is that it does not have to pay compensation to anyone, on the contrary, as a victim of the Germans and then of the Russians, it should receive compensation itself.” (Maariv)
  • Germany sees 20% rise in anti-Semitic crime in 2018, blames far right - The main offenses included hate speech, anti-Semitic graffiti and displaying banned signs like the swastika. German Interior minister: "This is a development that we have to confront, especially in this country." (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
  • Israel Stopped Gazan Food Factory From Selling in West Bank. Now Top Court Hears Petition - Sarayo al Wadiyeh processed food plant is operating at 30 percent capacity since Israel imposed import and export restrictions on the Gaza Strip in 2007. The High Court of Justice will hear a petition on Wednesday demanding Israel be ordered to allow a Gazan processed foods manufacturer to sell its goods in the West Bank. (Haaretz+)
  • Trade War Reaches Jerusalem: U.S. Pushes Israel to Drop Produce Import Duties - Currently, Israeli produce is not subject to import duties in the United States, whereas Israel taxes american exports limiting the quantities with quotas. (Haaretz+)
  • Genesis Prize Foundation grants $1 million toward another Israeli moonshot - Although Beresheet 2 grant is unusual for the philanthropic organization, its chairman says the lunar project and Genesis prize share same goal of inspiring the Jewish people and instilling pride in Israel's achievement. (JTA, Haaretz)
  • Israel's NSO high-tech company linked to WhatsApp hack - Spokesman for company says spyware penetrated phones via missed calls, attacks discovered in early May, targeted unknown number of users, likely in the dozens. (Agencies, Ynet)
  • Petition to revoke NSO license as WhatsApp warns about Israeli firm's cyber-weapon exploit - The Financial Times reports that a vulnerability in the chat app allowed attackers to inject spyware developed by NSO Group into phones. (Haaretz+)
  • US official in Beirut to discuss border dispute with Israel - Lebanon has long sought energy development but political bickering and dispute with Israel over maritime border has caused delays. (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
  • Iran's supreme leader says 'there will be no war with US,' vows to withstand pressure - Amid increasing speculation of new Iranian aggression, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei suggests neither side wants war. Leader insists country will not renegotiate nuclear deal from 2015. (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
  • Saudi oil pipeline hit by drones, Iran-backed Houthis (in Yemen) claim responsibility - Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih: drones attacked petroleum pumping station running to Red Sea port amid heightened regional tensions with Iran; oil infrastructure sites in Riyadh region also targeted. (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
  • Saudi Arabia retaliates hours after Houthis attack oil facilities - Houthi rebels in Yemen, who are backed by Saudi Arabia's arch-rival Iran, claim attack on Saudi oil pipelines. Incident comes two days after four vessels are sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
  • Iranian lawmaker blames ‘Israeli mischief’ for tanker attacks off UAE coast - Parliamentary spokesman Behrouz Nemati blames Israel for "events" that damaged ships. Meanwhile, satellite images of vessels indicates that damage might not be significant, despite reports. (Agencies, Israel Hayom and Ynet)
A New Spin on Kibbutz Volunteering — for Laptop-lugging Millennials
New project offers digital nomads the chance to spend a month using communal settlement’s facilities while doing their own work. Upside: No backbreaking farm tasks; downside: it can cost as much as $3,000. (Judy Maltz, Haaretz+)
'Safe Haven'? What Israeli, Palestinian Scholars Think About Rashida Tlaib’s Holocaust Comments
Leading academics express confusion at Democratic congresswoman’s reading of events between Arabs and Jews in pre-state Israel, though some say reaction to her comments is overblown and politically motivated. (Allison Kaplan Sommer, Haaretz+)
If Need Be, He’ll Replace the State (Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz+) A prime minister who was elected by just one-third of the eligible voters sits there, drafting a law for himself, crumpling the justice system, spitting on basic ethics, convinced that he is the victim of the system he himself created, and the public goes on believing that it’s all just a circus act. This method allowed the prime minister to trigger an election and now to build himself a barricade of power-crazed cabinet members who demand bags of bribes in exchange for signing a writ of surrender to the supreme leader. It won’t be a court that will determine Benjamin Netanyahu’s innocence, but rather his fellow gang members, who are already counting their protection money.
It's Israel that's in danger, not Netanyahu (Amnon Abramovich, Yedioth/Ynet) The Jewish state is falling victim to narrow political calculations whose sole aim is to save the prime minister's skin; the surrender to ignorance and regression has led to a failing education system and a widespread desire to leave the country that has the people's prosperity at the very bottom of the government agenda.
Wolf, wolf: The public is not moved by legislation against the High Court of Justice (Yanir Kozin, Maariv) The prime minister, who has been careful in the last decade to remove any initiative against the court, now argues that it is necessary to pass laws that have been disqualified or delayed, but some of them have not been fully legislated. The Likud headed by Netanyahu has been in power for a decade, and almost all this time Netanyahu was careful to delay, postpone and remove any initiative aimed at "restoring the balance between the authorities" and he even boasted about it. In addition to the fact that this is his fifth term, the great difference between Netanyahu of now and the Netanyahu of the last decade is his personal legal situation and if this will be the motive for enacting the various laws, it will probably not pass the High Court test.
Disingenuous Liar and Suspect (Haaretz Editorial) As the last of the populists he tries to instill in Israel the feeling that the state has for decades been under a judicial dictatorship headed by the High Court of Justice, which has used its power to expropriate the nation’s sovereignty. “I am determined to act without fear on your behalf, Israeli citizens. That’s why you elected me.” These are outright lies. They are factually untrue: The High Court has indeed overruled amendments to the Prevention of Infiltration Law, but the bills mandating the death penalty for terrorists and the expulsion of their families never even reached the court. (In effect, Netanyahu himself stopped the death penalty law, and that’s a good thing.) The falsehoods also have to do with values: The only real threat to Israeli democracy is Netanyahu and his co-conspirators in this crime, who are trying to subjugate the legal system to the will of the electorate. In the absence of an independent judiciary, majority rule becomes unrestricted. In the absence of the separation of powers, which in the absence of a constitution is the only guarantor of human and minority rights, democracy would lose the ability to defend itself.

Wanted: A Connection clause (Amichai Atali, Yedioth Hebrew) Supreme Court Justice Esther Hayut is now in the midst of the battle of her life. For years, the animosity between the Israeli right and the judicial system has grown, but it seems that the point of no return will actually occur on Hayut’s watch. For years the court made decisions that were interpreted as one-sided: it did not lift a finger against the violation of the human rights of Gush Katif [Gaza settlement -OH] evacuees, it rejected the Infiltrators Law and thus prevented the state from dealing with tens of thousands of (African) migrant workers, it ejected the ‘Neighbor procedure’ [taking a Palestinian by force to knock on the door of a wanted man so that no one would open fire on the IDF force - OH], which was supposed to prevent harm to IDF soldiers and it was very active when it ordered the evacuation of illegal outposts in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank-OH]. But it was much less decisive in terms of illegal construction in the Arab and Bedouin sectors. For years, the right-wing speak of weakening the power of the High Court, but now it seems that the conditions are ripe. There are those, particularly Prime Minister Netanyahu, who want to do so only for personal reasons, after blocking almost any attempt over 10 years to reform the justice system. If the next coalition suddenly gains the ability through him to make changes, it is clear to all that Netanyahu's motive is at best vindictive and at worst survival. Others, and Bezalel Smotrich is one of them, desire change on a regular basis. The ultra-Orthodox and Lieberman certainly will not come to the defense of the system, which has caused them quite a lot of personal or sectoral problems, and such Hayut is left leading a mighty campaign. But she chose yesterday to deal with it with tools that are simply incomprehensible. "The next step taken by the Nazi party to establish its status using legal tools was the enactment of the Enabling Act in March 1933," she said in a speech yesterday. "By virtue of this law, the German government was granted full legislative powers that enabled it to bypass the Reichstag as a legislative branch." Instead of asking for a meeting with Netanyahu to open negotiations with him that would moderate what appears to be a very serious blow to the judicial system, to make proposals such as reducing the power of the [judicial] system in the way in which judges are elected in Israel, Hayut chose to shout aloud that she is detached. Of all places at a conference in Germany, and in Nuremberg, she addressed these difficult issues. Even if none of the far-reaching reforms planned by the right-wing will be implemented, even if the (High Court) Override Clause is wiped off the face of the earth, the manner in which Chief Justice Hayut conducted herself proves that the a ‘Connection Clause’ is urgently required. To reality.
It is precisely when political corruption is rising that a strong High Court is needed (Prof. Eli Zeltzerberger, Maariv) Despite the prevailing view, the High Court in Israel is much less involved in legislation than most of its world counterparts, and its portrayal as the enemy of democracy could lead to the collapse of the rule of law.
To Repel Netanyahu’s Onslaught on Democracy, the Israeli Left Must Find Its Inner Rage (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+) Trump supporters and the Israeli right are driven by fury and resentment that burn intensely, even when detached from reality.
Netanyahu's Erdoğanization of Israel (Ben-Dror Yemini, Yedioth/Ynet) The lethal combination of two extremely dangerous pieces of legislation being promoted by the prime minister - a new law protecting his immunity from prosecution and a push for a legislation to overturn Supreme Court decisions - is going to lead to a constitutional crisis.
Only one who doesn’t understand can assume that we will give up the heart of our homeland (Prof. Arieh Eldad, Maariv) Only those who do not understand or ignore our historical legality will assume that the Kingdom of Israel will stop in the middle of its development. Only those who have lost confidence in Israel will be surprised that we have spread wings.
Barring Eurovision from Jerusalem was a win for BDS (Shay Attias, Israel Hayom) Many Eurovision contests were not held in the official capitals of the winning countries. In Israel's case, however, holding the event in Tel Aviv is a loss.
Israel stays silent as Poland discriminates against its Jews (Sever Plocker, Yedioth/Ynet) Heading into the European parliamentary elections later this month, and the Polish general elections later this year, Jews are now being singled out as enemies.
On the 71st ‘Nakba Day,’ the Palestinians will have to mourn another self-inflicted disaster (Yoni Ben Menachem, Maariv) Both in the Gaza Strip and in Judea and Samaria, the Palestinians are ruled by corrupt and oppressive dictatorships. Their situation is another defeat with additional tragic consequences for their situation.
A particularly happy anniversary (Ruthie Blum, Israel Hayom) Unlike its predecessors, the Trump administration understands Palestinian terrorists don't need an excuse, other than the Jewish state's existence, to spill the blood of innocent people.
Shabbat Costs Israel Tens of Billions of Shekels Every Year (Meirav Arlosoroff, Haaretz+) The ultra-Orthodox parties are demanding even less work on Shabbat. If they win, Israel has a lot to lose.
Is Qatar Foundation using university grants to fund radical individuals, groups on campus? (Sean Savage, Israel Hayom) Two legal groups are seeking information on potential influence the government of Qatar is wielding at Texas A&M University and a satellite campus of the university.
Not all criticism of Jews is anti-Semitic dog-whistling (Jonathan S. Tobin, Israel Hayom) While the trope that Jews use money to buy influence is a classic tactic in the anti-Semitic playbook, the idea that Jewish political donors are off-limits for criticism when they engage in partisan politics is preposterous.
Rashida Tlaib wants to rob Jews of their history (Yisrael Medad, Israel Hayom) The congresswoman is not only pushing a cover-up of the historical record, she is fashioning an old message into a new narrative form: It is that thanks to the Arabs that Jews have a home.
Why does Rashida Tlaib keep campaigning for Donald Trump? (Jonathan S. Tobin, Haaretz+) Tlaib's 'calming feeling' about the Holocaust is just the latest gift Democrats in Congress have handed the president on Israel and anti-Semitism.
Iran Threatens the Saudi-U.S. Axis Without Taking Direct Responsibility (Amos Harel, Haaretz+) The two consecutive attacks on Saudi Arabia are a clear defiance of the Trump administration.
Is Iran's nuclear issue becoming relevant again? (Tal Lev-Ram, Maariv) Since the signing of the nuclear agreement, Tehran generally abided by it. But as Iran's provocations intensify in the region, this fact can also be undermined.
Iran Is Choosing the Time and Place to Confront America (Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz+) Repeating mistakes of Obama administration, U.S. is allowing itself to become distracted from other places where Iran is advancing its agenda, both in the Middle East and further afield.
Iran must decide: To be or not to be (Col. (res.) Ronen Itsik, Israel Hayom) Iran's top priority is to preserve the rule of the ayatollahs, so if the U.S. is prepared to back threats with military action, it will agree to a better nuclear deal from President Trump.

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