News Nosh 5.19.19

APN's daily news review from Israel
Sunday May 19, 2019

 
Quote of the day:
“In Israel, we do science the way we drive…A stop sign for us is hardly a recommendation. Also a red light. On the road, that’s dangerous. In the laboratory, it's fantastic. That's exactly what you want as a scientist. Let there be no limits. Everything is possible. That you can do it. You know best. Most of the time it fails. But in the moment that it works, it does not look like anything seen before. That amazing moment in the lab, when you know you did something that nobody did before, is worth it. So we probably won’t build a Mercedes, but we will invent Waze and Mobileye and Copaxone and the disk-on-key and sell them. It’s a matter of personality.”
-- Prof. Daniel Zajfman, the outgoing president of the Weizmann Institute, in a fascinating interview.*

Front Page:
Haaretz
Yedioth Ahronoth
  • Represented us with honor - Kobi Marimi swept the audience and ended with tears (at Eurovision in Tel-Aviv)
  • Hallelujah Israel! - The biggest part in Europe - 200 million pairs of eyes watched the Eurovision in Tel-Aviv last night
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
  • Final song (Photo of Israeli Eurovision singer, Kobi Marimi, crying at the end of his performance)
  • This is not Europe // Yuval Bango
  • Immunity being tested - Likud claims Immunity Law not part of coalition agreements, but Union of Right-wing Parties declared that Immunity Law is one of its demands
  • Because of inflammable gas leak: Haifa port area closed to traffic
Israel Hayom
  • We were like dreamers - Europe said Wow! (Eurovision 2019 in Tel-Aviv)
  • Exclusive - “The Palestinians prefer to fund terrorists” - US Special Envoy Greenblatt sharply attacked the Palestinian Authority
  • The direction: More ministers, ministries will be divided
  • Germany against BDS: The test - in actions
  • Al-Jazeera’s hatred video clip - The next generation of Holocaust deniers // Amnon Lord
  • Austrian drama: Political crisis in the country - Elections were advanced
  • Jarring chord: Recording of Madonna singing out of tune

News Summary:
Israel’s amazing production of the Eurovision 2019 event in Tel-Aviv (along with Madonna dressing two dancers with Israeli and Palestinian flags - and Iceland's team waving Palestinian flags - for which they got in trouble), contradictory reports on immunity clause for Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the German Parliament passing of a bill defining the BDS movement as anti-Semitic, reports on an Israeli attack near Damascus and the latest on US tension with Iran were today’s top stories in the Hebrew newspapers. Also making top news was the snap elections called in Austria after Austria’s far-right vice-chancellor, Heinz-Christian Strache, resigned over a video scandal in which he was documented speaking to a woman who posed as a niece of a Russian oligarch and offering to use his connections throughout the world, including to "Israeli friends,” who had close ties to Netanyahu. "They have problems with leftists there," he told her.

The Likud party said that amending the Immunity Law was NOT part of coalition negotiations. The amendment would restore automatic immunity from prosecution for legislators, and help Netanyahu in the three criminal cases he faces. But, Maariv reported that the chairman of the National Union of Right-Wing Parties insisted that it has been negotiated as one of their demands to enter the coalition government. Also, another Likud MK expressed opposition to the Immunity Law, Maariv reported. Michal Shir followed Likud MK Gideon Sa'ar and announced that “personal legislation is wrong and unnecessary,” Maariv reported. Meanwhile, Meretz chief MK Tamar Zandberg appealed to the Attorney General to demand prohibiting MKs who are involved in criminal proceedings from being allowed to vote.

IRAN Quickees:
U.S. Issues Warning on Airspace Near Gulf as Iran Tensions Simmer
Iran can 'easily' hit U.S. warships, Revolutionary Guards official says Friday
'There Will Be No War' With the United States, Says Iran's Top Diplomat, Zarif
Iran's Zarif presses efforts to save 2015 nuclear accord
Trump Denies Friction With Top Aides Over Iran Policy

 
Quick Hits:
  • Palestinian Teen Attacked in East Jerusalem by Jewish Teens Yelling 'Death to Arabs' - Ibrahim Sawilam, 16, says he was attacked by group of religious Jewish teens who shouted 'death to Arabs.' Family says that though they filed a complaint, police have yet to investigate. (Haaretz+)
  • Israeli forces attack, injure Palestinian youths in Jerusalem - Israeli forces handed over two injured Palestinian youths to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) crews after beating them and taking them in for interrogation at an Israeli military center. No reason was provided for the attack. (Maan)
  • Israel reduces Gaza's permitted fishing zone, attacks fishermen - Bakr said that the Israeli naval forces prevented Palestinian fishermen from retrieving their fishing nets seven nautical miles off Gaza’s coast. Israeli authorities reduced the permitted fishing zone from 12 nautical miles to only five. (Maan)
  • 35,000 Palestinians Left Gaza in 2018; Hamas Blocking Doctors From Leaving - Most of those departing were young, educated and relatively well-off, and mainly reach Europe via Turkey and then Greece. (Haaretz+)
  • Court rejects petition requesting access for Jews to Temple Mount on Jerusalem Day - Petition was filed following changes in hours allowing Jews to visit Temple Mount during Ramadan. (Haaretz+ and Times of Israel)
  • Israeli university cancels event marking Nakba Day, citing violation of law - Tel Aviv University says holding lecture by Hadash lawmaker Ofer Cassif is 'not possible,' invoking so-called Nakba Law which allows state to limit funds to institutions treating Independence Day as day of mourning. (Haaretz+)
  • US Special Envoy Greenblatt: PA can pay for health care but prefers to pay terrorists - "Senior Palestinian officials and terrorists are taken care of, while ordinary Palestinians are put at risk," peace envoy says, calling out PA's hypocrisy. "We will not pay into such a system," he says in response to claims U.S. was denying funds needed for PA medical bills. (Israel Hayom)
  • Israeli Health Czar Methodically Aided ultra-Orthodox Sex Offenders, Investigation Reveals - A Channel 13 investigation reports that United Torah Judaism Chairman Yaakov Litzman pressured mental health officials into granting furloughs, lightening risk assessments for convicted ultra-Orthodox sex criminals. (Haaretz+ and Times of Israel)
  • They laugh at the law: Dozens of Israeli communities filter out potential residents - According to a report by the Knesset Research and Information Center, 24 kibbutzim, moshavim and community settlements in the Negev and the Galilee operate admissions committees, although they are not permitted to do so. (Yedioth/Ynet Hebrew)
  • Israeli court clears Palestinian of incitement to violence over 'resist' poem - (Arab-Israeli) Dareen Tatour's appeal on her conviction was granted, but judges let stand other convictions over social media posts. (Haaretz and +972mag)
  • Likud members: leaving West Bank settlements was a crime - Knesset members say international support for imposing Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank is high and it is time to return to settlements evacuated as part of the 2005 disengagement. (Yedioth/Ynet)
  • Police files charges against Israeli who spat at Polish ambassador - Assault and criminal threats charges filed two days after Tel Aviv incident that drew strong condemnation from Warsaw. (Haaretz)
  • Construction Company Employees Arrested After Worker Falls to His Death - Migrant workers' deaths in Bnei Brak and Petah Tikvah raise death toll in construction accidents to 16 this year. (Haaretz+)
  • Ireland vs. Hungary: Report Charts Rising Support for Netanyahu Among EU States - For the first time, researchers have mapped the differences in EU members’ relations with the Netanyahu government and analyzed the reasons for the union’s loss of relevance in advancing a diplomatic solution to the conflict. (Haaretz+)
  • Facebook busts Israeli campaign to disrupt elections in African, Asian and Latin American nations - Dozens of accounts, pages and groups operated by private firm peddling fake news were deleted, tech giant says. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Israel-based Campaign to Spread Disinformation Targeted Nigerian Election, Think Tank Says - Accusations come day after Facebook banned dozens of accounts, pages and groups peddling fake news aimed at disrupting elections in Africa, Asia and Latin America. (Agencies, Haaretz and Israel Hayom)
  • Muslim groups apologize for video: Mistake 'ours to own' - Philadelphia's Muslim American Society took responsibility for a video showing children dancing to an Islamist anthem 'We will chop off their heads, we will liberate Al-Aqsa Mosque.’ (Agencies, Ynet)
  • Lebanese Health Minister Says He Overcame U.S. Concerns He Would Funnel Money to Hezbollah - Hezbollah named Jamil Jabak to the post in January despite U.S. warnings. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • UNRWA: 4 Palestinian children killed in attack on Syria refugee camp - The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), on Thursday, condemned the killing of 10 Palestinian civilians, including four children, during rocket fire on the Palestinian refugee camp of Neirab near Aleppo City in Syria. (Maan)


Features:
The Israeli Army Trains in Bedouin's Backyard, Even During Holy Fasting Month of Ramadan
Shepherds and their families in the West Bank have to leave their tents behind because of the military exercises. “We were surprised, of course we were surprised,” said Harb Abu al-Kabash. “We didn’t think they would come to train in the month of Ramadan. Once they respected Ramadan, but no longer.” (Amira Hass, Haaretz)
Dog's life: Israeli prisoners get canine companion in rehabilitation
A new program pairs prisoners approaching release with abandoned pups, giving both a second chance in life; 'you were the child I never had," writes one inmate to his four-legged friend, who has since found a forever home. (Etti Abramov, Yedioth/Ynet)
Spy, Agronomist, Entrepreneur: The Israeli Legacy of Aaron Aaronsohn
Aaronsohn, who died a century ago, was a father of invention – and of an underground group fighting the Turks during World War I. (Nir Hasson, Haaretz+)
In Israel, they felt unwanted. They found paradise in Portugal
Farmland goes for a song, farmers receive state support and falafel and malabi are readily available. More and more Israelis are finding a haven on Portuguese soil. (Roy Arad, Haaretz+)
 
Commentary/Analysis:
Israel Denies It, but Gaza Fighting Ended Mostly to Save Eurovision (Yaniv Kubovich, Haaretz+) The Israeli government acted to end the hostilities because it feared the cancellation of the song contest would hurt the country's standing internationally.
Strong against Hamas
(Jacky Khougy, Maariv) Weak against Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar? Criticism of the prime minister is that he is soft and ignores the complex reality. The bottom line is otherwise….With the end of the Eurovision Song Contest a very tense period in the relations between Israel and the Gaza Strip will come to an end. Whoever won the song competition won, but the trophy goes to Jerusalem. Not because of the music but because of the National Security Council and with thanks to the Shin Bet. These two are leading on behalf of the prime minister the long crisis with Hamas in Gaza. This is a dangerous crisis, which has brought us all traps almost every week, and the chances of shedding our blood were high. The price was paid by the residents of the communities of the Gaza envelope, but the price could have been even greater. If the Eurovision Song Contest passes without incident, those security men can have a drink or two, and then they'd better take a long breath. Around the corner waits the next chapter…Even before that, and since the outbreak of the riots in March 2018 [Great March of Return on Gaza border fence - OH], the security establishment has faced a series of dangerous moments. Hamas and Islamic Jihad carried axes all the time. All in order to make it receive easing [of the siege - OH]. Missiles towards Israeli cities, incendiary balloons, attempted attacks on the fence, a (Israeli) secret commando operation that was discovered in Khan Yunis. On several occasions, Islamic Jihad, in contrast to Hamas' instructions, tried to entangle the sides in a violent confrontation. The prime minister's emissaries had to maneuver constantly between heavy pressure from Hamas, subversion of the Islamic Jihad, the cry of the (Israeli) residents of the vicinity, primitive balloon weapons and sophisticated use of them, and demands by the public and the cabinet to renew the assassinations, and to see bloodshed. They had to tread cautiously between Qatar on the one hand, whose contribution to the talks (with Hamas) were central, and Egypt on the other - whose contribution was no less important - while the two of them pressed hard, but neither talks to the other. Hamas demanded an easing of restrictions, and if not - it would ignite the area. In the past 13 months, Israel has managed to maneuver all players in the arena in order to prevent the Gaza terror organization from using its threats. It was a war, a war of minds, in which a new battle was opened almost every week. Bottom line, both sides lost. They both lost credit with the public. On both sides, there were fatalities (more than 300 in Gaza). They both fell into an ensnarlment. It is true that Hamas received Qatari money, but for them, $100 or $200 million a year is small money. This is the money of others, not of Israel. Surprisingly enough, Israel managed to manipulate Hamas for more than a year without actually giving them anything. The group that surrounds Netanyahu, and even himself, deserve chapeau for this period. Not only because of decisions they made, but also because of decisions they did not make. And, due to the sophisticated use of all the cards. It is very easy to push for war. One began two weeks ago. In just a day and a half, four Israelis were killed. At that rate, within two weeks there would have fallen 20 or 30 Israelis. The war would have ended, and the situation would return to the way it was. Gaza will not be saved by such wars, and Israel will not be satisfied by conquering it. The problem needs an integrated solution. Force, whether operated or leveraged, will be only one of its components.
Missiles? BDS? Iran? Forget About Them. Israel Put Its Best Face Forward in a Eurovision That Succeeded in All Ways but One (Allison Kaplan Sommer, Haaretz)  Saturday's broadcast showed off Israel’s most flattering side and did its part to counter the images that the world is more used to associating with Israel – war, strife and blood.
Hosting Eurovision doesn't make Israel part of Europe (Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz+) Eurovision is escapism for Israelis who still, 71 years on, can’t get used to the idea of living in the Middle East. And for Europeans, it's increasingly an escape from their own continent's ethno-nationalist crises.
Israel flees from the Temple Mount, and its weakness spreads to the entire area of the Old City (Prof. Arieh Eldad, Maariv) The police announced that on Jerusalem Day the Jews' right to ascend the mountain would be revoked. But an offense leads to an offense, and a retreat brings a deeper retreat.
Israel throws salt in the wounds of a Palestinian shot by IDF troops (Gideon Levy, Haaretz+) Two months after soldiers opened fire for no apparent reason at civilians near Bethlehem, killing a 23-year-old, the man wounded in the shooting has a long road to recovery ahead. Don’t even ask about compensation.
Palestinian youth are a lost generation (Shimrit Meir, Yedioth/Ynet) Amid the bickering between Fatah and Hamas, indifference of the Arab world and political self-interests Millennials in both Gaza and the West Bank have no prospects and no hope; the least Israel can do is to avoid further violence.
Shame on you, Germany (Gideon Levy, Haaretz+) Germany has just criminalized justice. A blend of warranted guilt feelings, orchestrated and taken to sickening extremes by cynical and manipulative Israeli extortion, caused the federal parliament on Friday to pass one of the most outrageous and bizarre resolutions since the end of World War II…From now on, Germany will consider every supporter of BDS to be a Jew-hater; saying “the Israeli occupation” will be like saying “Heil Hitler.”
A Police Force of and for All Citizens (Salman Masalha, Haaretz) Most of the Arab public is law-abiding and it is fed up with the anarchy. Its right to a tranquil life is indisputable. It is necessary to demand that the government, and above all the Public Security Ministry, put an end to the criminality and afford full security to the Arab citizens of this country. It is necessary to conduct an urgent re-examination of the flawed relationship between the police, the heads of local governments and the Arab leadership as a whole. It seems the Arab citizenry and the police force are alienated from each other.
Indifference, despair and concealment: a look at Israeli elections on the Arab(-Israeli) street (Ruth Wasserman-Lande, Maariv) Many in the Arab public were fed up with the sectoral Arab political parties, which, in their view, dealt mainly with the regional issue (the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - OH) and not with their local problems. But the coolness demonstrated by the Zionist parties brought them back into their arms.
What Kushner does not understand about the Deal of the Dentury is what will bring it down (Shlomo Shamir, Maariv) In contrast to the past, diplomats at the United Nations expressed concern about the American peace plan and claimed that it was too biased in favor of the Israeli side. They say Kushner failed on two counts: he did not grasp the depth of the international community's consensus for a two-state solution. In addition, he misjudged the willingness of the Gulf states - particularly Saudi Arabia - to support the plan, particularly the willingness of these countries to finance aid to the Palestinians, which is reportedly a key part of the peace plan. The UN assessment is that the plan reflects more of an arrangement between the US and Israel rather than a practical initiative to promote a political solution. At the same time, they believe that there is a diplomatic solution.
Their Lives Are Worth Less (Sunday Haaretz Editorial) On Thursday, two more names were added to the growing list of construction worker deaths in Israel. The first of these was Xia Zheng Long, 44, of China, who fell from a height of five stories while dismantling scaffolding at a job site in Petah Tikva. A Hebrew-language Facebook page that monitors industrial accidents in Israel published quotes by friends of Xia, who came to Israel a year ago. “Who will raise his children and support his family now? ” wrote one friend. Less than two hours later, a 31-year-old Moldovan man died after falling three floors at a building site in Bnei Brak. This deadly routine is the result of the Israeli government’s indifference to the lives of the people who work in the country, combined with building contractors’ and developers’ disregard for the law. The dozens of people who are killed and the hundreds who are injured each year share one salient characteristic: They are not Jewish. Apparently, the lives of foreign workers and Palestinians from Israel and the territories are worth less.
Jordan's king is left isolated and weak, at our peril (Smadar Perry, Yedioth/Ynet) As his country's economic crisis worsens, King Abdullah II has no one to turn to, with neighboring countries deeming him not important enough in the region and Washington opting for Egypt's Sisi as its local Arab ally.
I Pray You, Brother, Do Not So Wickedly (Israel Harel, Haaretz+) By aiding the prime minister’s immunity, the religious Zionist MKs are saying that they have no religious or ethical problem with the offenses with which the attorney general seeks to charge (only to charge!) Netanyahu. How, we must ask, will these elected officials be able to face the students and graduates of the fine education system this movement so devotedly created?
Four lawmakers stand between Israel and a banana republic (Gidi Weitz, Haaretz+) Unless they betray their public mandate, Knesset members can foil a plan to make parliament an asylum for suspected criminals.
Israel's dilemma regarding the 'bad boy' of the Mideast (Michael Milstein, Yedioth/Ynet) Qatar has everything to gain from sending money to the PA and Hamas, in its effort to look like a force to be reckoned with in the region; Israel needs the calm the Qatari money brings, but has to maneuver its relationship with the Gulf state in a way that doesn't step on other international toes
Restitution Both in Poland and Israel (Carolina Landsmann, Haaretz+) Israelis’ relationship with Poland is complicated to say the least, and in recent years this complexity has been reflected in several ways. It’s possible to empathize with the Poles’ frustration that their country has become the address of Israelis’ disgust at Nazi crimes, while Berlin serves as a refuge for young Israelis fleeing budding fascism at home. When it’s convenient, Israel is the land of the Jewish people, whose demands cross borders. And when it’s convenient, Israel is the land of the Jewish people returning home and the territorial domain of the Israelis. Israel is a state whose citizens by definition have two passports and two complementary ownership demands. Now this is the real deal of the century.
Only Bibi: Too many Israelis embrace Netanyahu's autocracy (Alon Ben-David, Maariv) For many of the citizens, who may be even the majority of the people, the cries of "the end of democracy" are as sure to be as pleasant music. It seems that people of our nation are fed up with the current method of rule. Many prefer a strong and authoritarian rule over the frenzy and instability inherent in democracy. They willingly renounce freedoms in return for promises of stability and economic prosperity. Let them fly every year for a pampering vacation abroad and they gladly give up freedom of expression and the unpleasant need to hear opinions that are contrary to theirs.
The claims of a threat to the rule of law are demagoguery and incitement of the lowest kind (Michael Kleiner, Maariv) I think that the High Court override clause is more appropriately called the "cessation of adolescence” clause. It is time for those supporting judicial activism to show maturity and understand that they lost the elections. It is time for them to understand that the public wants things differently. The legislature acts in the name of the majority, and democracy is not in danger when the majority receives appropriate expression. Democracy is in danger when judges who do not vote in general elections take over a power that puts them above the majority.
Likud Can Draw a Line Against Netanyahu (Haaretz Editorial) Remember that the recent election was held early solely out of consideration for the prime minister’s legal needs. After Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit unveiled his draft indictment against Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, pending a hearing, the formation of a new government was made subject to the needs of Netanyahu’s legal defense: cabinet portfolios in exchange for support of a law granting Netanyahu immunity.
What do secular Israelis believe in? (Ofri Ilany, Haaretz+) Against the background of the growing religionization of Israel, the occupation with secular identity shows that it’s a flimsy ideology that doesn’t truly exist in its own right.
Time for independence: Does the state work for us, or do we serve it? (Prof. Rafi Carasso, Maariv) After 71 years you would expect that the treatment of the simple citizen from various institutions would be reasonable and correct, but this is not so. Is not it time for a new road?
Gulf States Are Sabotaging Trump’s Campaign Against Iran - and Their Own Security (Mary Beth Long, Haaretz+) Recent attacks on shipping, blamed on Iran, expose the fragility of Gulf states’ security and economies. But their in-fighting could derail U.S. strategy on Iran - and fuel insecurity across the Mideast.
The US is not interested in war, but dramatic moves by Iran may change everything (Tal Lev-Ram, Maariv) The economic situation in Iran is getting worse, but it seems that Trump is not a running a strategy for the overthrow of the ayatollahs. And in Gaza, the declarations in Israel about the deterrence that has been achieved seem completely hollow.
As tensions rise between U.S. and Iran, each side is waiting for the other to blink (Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz+) Both Tehran and Washington eschew war, but must save face. A powerful mediator, like Moscow and Beijing, is necessary to pull them back from the brink.
The source of the Iranian danger is not Iran, but the Trump and Netanyahu governments (Ran Edelist, Maariv) American history in the Gulf proves that Iran is not pushing for confrontation, but rather the American president and the  Israeli prime minister are. In fact, no one has any idea what Trump thinks about the nuclear issue.
Trump, Send the B-52s Home and Let the Sanctions Do Their Work (David Rosenberg, Haaretz+) The Iranian economy has been hit hard, but America’s saber-rattling is just stiffening Iranian resistance.
Hezbollah’s smuggler in chief steps out of the shadows (Yoav Limor, Israel Hayom) A recent photo of Hezbollah operative Hajj Fadi shows just how symbiotic the relationship between Hezbollah and Iran has become. Hezbollah needs Iranian support to survive; Iran needs Hezbollah to fight its global battles and help it buck U.S. sanctions.
Alabama's Anti-abortion Law: This Is What Christian Rule Looks Like in America (Debra Nussbaum Cohen, Haaretz+) The evangelical crusade making its way from Alabama to the Supreme Court will force American Jews to submit to their distinctly Christian anti-abortion dogma.
 
Interviews:
A Daughter of Palestinian Refugees, This German Politician Is Fighting anti-Semitism
Sawsan Chebli doesn't stay silent, and it has gotten her far. (Interviewed by Itay Mashiach in Haaretz+)
Chebli and her dozen sisters and brothers grew up in a three-room apartment in the Moabit neighborhood of what was until 1990 West Berlin. They were a family of stateless refugees, without work permits, legal protections or stability. Their visas had to be renewed every few months. Her father was expelled three times and returned illegally each time. Only Arabic was spoken at home. Chebli only started to learn German when she entered school. Chebli’s parents were not political people. Their primary occupation was survival. In Lebanon, where they’d lived before arriving in Germany, they barely took any interest in religion. Once in Germany, however, they drew close to Islam, read the Koran together, prayed five times a day. Her parents cultivated a rich community life. Their door was always open, and their small apartment was like a second home to many of the neighborhood’s Palestinians.

The person who fought for the Cheblis to receive a residency permit, who once got Sawsan’s father released from detention and saw to it that the family was eventually granted German citizenship, was a Jewish lawyer of Lebanese origin. Conservative but modern, a devout Muslim and also a career woman – Chebli frequently complains that it’s hard for people to accept her because they can’t fit her into any slot. In 2016 an interviewer asked her about the phenomenon of young Muslims who prefer sharia to the German Constitution.

*The outgoing president of the Weizmann Institute breaks stigmas. The education system? Successful. Life outside Earth? Does not rule out that it exists. Israeli society?
Prof. Daniel Zajfman has been at the head of the important scientific institute for 12 years. Now, toward the end of his term, he talks about the brain drain, the screens generation, and he attacks the ethical code. (Interviewed by Ben Caspit in Maariv)

We talked about Israeli chaos. It also has disadvantages, doesn't it?
“In Israel, we do science the way we drive…A stop sign for us is barely a recommendation. Also a red light. On the road, that’s dangerous. In the laboratory, it's fantastic. That's exactly what you want as a scientist. Let there be no limits. Everything is possible. That you can do it. You know best. Most of the time it fails. But in the moment that it works, it does not look like anything seen before. That amazing moment in the lab, when you know you did something that nobody did before, is worth it. So we probably won’t build a Mercedes, but we will invent Waze and Mobileye and Copaxone and the disk-on-key and sell them. It’s a matter of personality.”

Can you preserve the bubble? Politics is constantly trying to sneak in, as can be seen when Science Minister Ofir Akunis canceled the appointment of Prof. Yael Amitai, who signed a (anti-occupation) petition years ago.
"It's true that this is a problem, it does not matter right or left, there have always been attempts to infiltrate politics, and that's a dangerous thing, not because politics is not important.”

Is there a political discourse at the Institute?
"I'm not a politician, people talk about what they want here, I don’t limit anything."

Is there no fear that tomorrow that they won’t approve one of your scientists to receive a certain position, just because he signed a [left-wing political - OH] petition? They might find out you were in Hashomer Hatzair [left-wing kibbutz youth movement - OH].
"There is some truth to this. In recent years it was possible to identify a desire to deal with existing problems. Sometimes there are problems and exaggerations within the system. The problem is that they use collective punishment, such as the attempt to introduce a code of ethics. I strongly opposed this move." An ethical code is needed in the army, not in the university. This is a different system. Fortunately, it seems frozen now. Prof. Asa Kasher formulated something, but it was not accepted."

What do you think is bad about a code of ethics?
"I think it's a very dangerous thing. At the university, you need people to think what they want, to meet different opinions. These people are mature enough. If someone, no matter which political side, wants them to have a certain opinion, they will be able to deal with it. The students have already gone through the army, they are not children. Do we want a generation wrapped in cellophane that does not know how to deal with all the opinions and does not know all the sides? I want a generation that is critical, that it will hear everything, so it will build its own view, let him agree, let him oppose it. It's a healthy society. Anyone who tries to isolate the academic system from any political messiah is delusional. It can not happen in a democratic country.”

What worries you about the future of the state?
"The Jews have survived for thousands of years, I don’t think that will change. But I am concerned about violence, not necessarily physical violence, but also verbal violence. This is a terrible problem. It creates unhealthy elements, unhealthy discourse, it poisons and it is worrisome. It can easily lead to fascist regimes, because people will believe that you should restrict speech and freedom of speech and then you find yourself on a slippery slope. And it has a simple, ingenious, perfect solution. It's called education. It's an amazing solution. It's cheap, it takes a little time, but it solves everything. If only we would invest in it. I'm not talking about scientific education. I'm talking with concern about large parts of society that don’t get a worthy education. And it is impossible [to provide them with it.]

Is that what you would do as an education minister?
"Yes, I would go to the periphery. Everyone talks about it, few do it. We at the institute took Ofakim [poor periphery town - OH] as a special project. We invested a lot there. It’s possible and it costs nothing, relative to the input. Trust me.”

What is the problem?
"It's simple: children in the periphery don’t have the options that children in Tel Aviv have. They grow up in the system and understand that they don’t have options, they are blocked and limited, and that's where the violence starts. We have to fix it from the bottom, from the start. We took upon ourselves one place and you see the amazing youth, the will, the ability, the wisdom. You just have to approach them at eye level, without condescension, not as someone who comes from the Weizmann Institute. To go there to work. You learn there no less you teach.”

How do you explain the great percentage of Jews among Nobel Prize recipients?
"There are two answers, one is a joke, and I heard it from a Nobel Prize winner, a Jew, from Stanford University…I asked him why it was that 25% of the recipients were Jews, he said it was because of anti-Semitism. Why, I asked. He replied that if there were no anti-Semitism, it would be 50%. But seriously, I think the explanation is connected to Jewish culture. Let's go back to the Talmud. One of the cornerstones of Jewish thinking is the need to ask questions. To argue, to dispute, to conduct endless discussions, to doubt. This debate, the endless interpretations, is part of Jewish culture, and this is precisely the engine of growth of research and science…What should a good scientist do? Ask questions all the time, and even when he gets answers, he searches for what is not okay, what is wrong, where are we made a mistake. To dig. This digging is a Jewish thing. Disrespect for authority, what we discussed at the beginning of our conversation, leads to questions, doubts, aspirations for excellence. It's bad in lines (queues), it's bad on the road, it's great in the lab. It has nothing to do with knowledge, the results of tests from high school, discipline. I don’t remember what I learned in high school. I do remember the values they gave me in Hashomer Hatzair in Belgium. That’s the Jewish genius, the not accepting of authority, the endlessness of the discussion, being annoying and continuing to wonder and think. All the time.”

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