News Nosh 5.28.19

APN's daily news review from Israel
Tuesday May 28, 2019

Quote of the day:
“I have to ask: What has changed during this period?"
--Israeli Chief Justice Esther Hayut said after quoting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who said in 2017: “One thing that does not change — and should not change — is the need for a strong, independent, honest and impartial court. That has not changed, and it will not change either.”*

Front Page:
  • Netanyahu and Lieberman met and didn’t reach an agreement; Dissolving of Knesset passed preliminary readings
  • Another mistake in Netanyahu’s chain of mistakes // Yossi Verter
  • IDF: Shell shot from Syria towards IDF fighter jet; launcher was attacked
  • Chief Justice Hayut: Netanyahu said in the past that there was a need for a strong High Court - what has changed?
  • Judicial system won’t go to the slaughterhouse without a battle // Mordechai Kremnitzer
  • Netanyau is conspiring a personal judicial revolution // Haaretz Editorial
  • Despite the forecasts, radical right-wing did not increase its strength in the European Parliament; the Green parties skyrocketed
  • Attorney General: The Afula Municipality pledge to “preserve the Jewish character” is legally invalid
  • Severe enforcement against polluting factories will be enforced only in cases of exceptional pollution
  • The ants in California don’t leave wounded behind
  • The boycotters // Raviv Drucker on Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser who didn’t attend the anti-immunity law rally
  • The abhorrent violence // Amira Hass on Israelis’ refusal to believe in settler violence
  • Shadow of hatred // Yaron Gilat on the unprecedented extent that Israeli society is acting like beasts
Yedioth Ahronoth
  • In their hands (PHOTOS: Netanyahu and Lieberman) - Government - or new elections - Last date for deciding: tomorrow night
  • One against 60 // Nahum Barnea (Hebrew)
  • Holding on to his chair // Sima Kadmon
  • Battle of values // Ben-Dror Yemini
  • Wall of judge // Tovah Tzimuki
  • Danger to right-wing // Shlomo Pyotrakovsky
  • Too expensive - Who will stop the prices of the summer camps and why do grapes cost 45 shekels a kilo (Hebrew)
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
Israel Hayom
  • Prime Minister: It’s possible to do a lot in 48 hours - Government or elections? Last minute efforts for a compromise
  • Reason for the crisis: Lieberman’s vindictiveness // Mati Tuchfeld
  • Cynical politician with a zero record // Danny Ayalon
  • Don’t leave the immigrants to Lieberman // Ariel Bolstein
  • The mask was removed - not a right-winger // Michael Lovovikov
  • Lawyers’ convention: Judicial system is broadcasting panic // Amnon Lord
  • Drama also in Austria: Chancellor Kurtz was dismissed in no-confidence vote

News Summary:
Massive Likud efforts to pressure Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman into entering a government coalition in order to form a government by the Wednesday deadline, while at the Knesset, members passed the first reading of a bill to dissolve the Knesset and at an Israel Bar Association meeting, the country's top jurists presented a united front against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s planned efforts to pass laws that will give him immunity from the law and repeal the authority of the High Court, making top stories in today’s Hebrew newspapers. And just before print, the IDF struck at a Syrian army position that launched a missile against an Israeli fighter jet reportedly flying in Israeli airspace.

‘Elections or government’ was the big question of the newspapers after a bill to dissolve the Knesset passed the first of three readings Monday. The Likud MK who drafted the bill said legislative proceedings will not end before Netanyahu’s deadline to form a government Wednesday at midnight. If the bill passes, the new elections are likely to be held September 17. Kahol-Lavan opposes new elections and says it should be charged with forming a coalition. While the front page of ‘Israel Hayom’ blamed Lieberman for the lack of a coalition, Yedioth didn’t take sides and Maariv reported that Likud officials received an order to attack Lieberman and that Netanyahu was also trying to recruit US President Donald Trump to pressure Lieberman. (Trump Tweeted that he hoped “things will work out with Israel's coalition formation and Bibi and I can continue to make the alliance between America and Israel stronger than ever” - an expression of support that experts and former US officials said was ‘unprecedented.’) Netanyahu addressed the nation on television after the failed meeting with Lieberman and appealed to Lieberman saying there was “no need to drag the nation into needless elections that will cost a fortune.” (Commentators said that while it was unclear what will happen, what was clear was that Lieberman was enjoying tormenting Netanyahu. See Commentary/Analysis below.) A senior Labor Party official said Likud officials offered the party to join the government in exchange for supporting the controversial immunity law, which would save Netanyahu from facing trial. But Labor chairman Avi Gabbay refused the offer.

*Meanwhile, the top jurists in the country declared they would fight to protect the authority of the High Court from a law that is meant to castrate it. Speaking at the Israel Bar Association conference in Eilat, Chief Justice Esther Hayut quoted Netanyahu from a speech in 2017, when he said, “One thing that does not change — and should not change — is the need for a strong, independent, honest and impartial court. That has not changed, and it will not change either.” Then she said, “I have to ask: What has changed during this period? ” Speaking of Netanyahu's move to limit the High Court's power, Mendelblit said that "if such an initiative exists, it needs to be opposed." He denied Netanyahu’s accusations of persecution by the courts and the police, calling the claims "nonsense." State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan also defended the legal system against claims by Netanyahu and his supporters of a deliberate campaign to oust Netanhyahu from power. “One baseless claim follows another and the lie — as is the nature of lies which are repeated again and again — starts to slowly seeps into the hearts of many,” Nitzan warned. (Also Maariv)
Quick Hits:
  • Arab Israeli Ex-lawmaker, Jailed for Smuggling Cellphones, Released From Prison - Basel Ghattas admitted he brought in cellphones to a security prisoner, but insists his motive was humanitarian and not criminal. (Haaretz+, Israel Hayom and +972mag)
  • Northern Israeli City's Pledge to 'Preserve Jewish Character' Found Legally Invalid - An Arab lawmaker demanded Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit invalidate the Afula City Council's declaration of allegiance: 'There are no words for the severity of the racist oath.’ (Haaretz+)
  • The post that caused a storm: “The moment the High Court Override clause is passed I will stop going to reserve duty" - Omer Nahmani, an IDF reserver officer, published a post that got hundreds of shares and thousands of Likes, along with furious responses from the other side: “In a reality in which the prime minister personally violates the law and receives a bribe, and then arranges for legislation that will keep him out of prison, I am willing to take the risk of calling for democratic disobedience to the law...It is inconceivable that I will continue to serve in the reserves and be an exemplary citizen when the prime minister arranges for himself a ticket to get out of prison under the auspices of the law. It’s not reasonable that I endanger my life for the state, when the government has unlimited power to harm minorities, including the gay community, which I belong to.” (Maariv)
  • Israeli army sentences conscientious objector to 30 days behind bars - Roman Levin will serve another 30 days in military prison for refusing to continue his military service due to his opposition to the occupation. (+972mag)
  • Florida governor forges new ties, makes history on Israel visit - Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signs Memorandum of Understanding between Florida State University and Ariel University, becoming the first sitting governor to establish a relationship between a U.S. state and an Israeli university in Judea and Samaria. De Santis tells audience: "I say here: BDS has no place in Florida." (Israel Hayom)
  • SodaStream hosts thousands for Iftar feast in southern Israeli Bedouin town - Some 3,000 Bedouin, Jews and Palestinians at Ramadan-ending feast in Rahat. U.S. envoy to Israel David Friedman, in attendance at event, touts Israel-based company as paragon of peace. (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
  • China, Russia Will Not Attend Trump's Bahrain Conference, Top Palestinian Official Says - PLO secretary general says the two superpowers announced they will not take part in the international conference on the Palestinian economy in June. (Haaretz+ and Maariv)
  • Qatar Says Invited to Emergency Arab Summits in Mecca by Saudi King - Last week Qatar said it had not been invited to the two summits Saudi is planning in Islam's holiest site to discuss the implications of drone strikes on oil installations in the kingdom and attacks on four vessels. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Unlicensed Crane Operator Arrested in Tel Aviv as Construction Deaths Rise - Court slams employers after worker falls to his death at Ashkelon construction site. (Haaretz)
  • Israel Open to Border Talks With Lebanon to Boost Mediterranean Gas Exploration - The two countries are in a dispute over an energy block extending along their maritime borders. (Agencies, Haaretz and Israel Hayom)
  • Iraq offers to serve as mediator in Persian Gulf crisis - Shiite-majority Iraq has been trying to maintain a fine line as allies Iran and United States descend into verbal vitriol. (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
  • The Israeli government re-authorized trade with Iraq - Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon signed a directive in the law that excludes Iraq from the definition of the Trade with an Enemy Ordinance. The list still includes Iran, Lebanon, Yemen and Syria. Despite the ban on trading so far with Iraq, it is known that quite a few Israeli products in medicine, agriculture and even dates have been sold to Iraq, mainly through Jordan or Cyprus. According to many publications, the ministry permits Israeli companies and dealers of arms to sell to Arab countries, including Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq (Kurdistan), the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and others. It can be assumed that the main reason for the decision to exclude Iraq (from sales of arms) stems from the unofficial (and perhaps illegal) economic and security ties with the autonomous region of Kurdistan. (Maariv)
  • Mossad accused of leaking video that rattled Austrian politics - A former German intelligence official said that only the Mossad has the capability and interest in toppling far-right politicians for fear of welfare of European Jewish communities; CER: a dangerous claim, whiffs of anti-Semitism. (Yedioth/Ynet)
  • Trump Says He's 'Not Looking for Regime Change' in Iran - The U.S. President Donald Trump said that he's open to making a new deal with Iran on their nuclear program. (Agencies, Haaretz)

The Tiny Team That Tells Israeli Leaders What the Future Is Likely to Bring
The Intelligence Ministry’s Horizon Scanning desk examines global trends to make sure the country isn’t caught flat-footed in a rapidly changing world. (Refaella Goichman, Haaretz+)
Meet the Israelis trying to stop arms sales to dictatorships
For decades, Israel has been selling arms and providing military training to some of the world’s most brutal regimes, from Rwanda to Burma to Pinochet’s Chile. Now a group of Israelis are coming together to try and force the government to stop those arms deals, and come clean about its past and present ties to murderous dictatorships. (+972mag)
Forget AIPAC, the Israeli Army's Biggest Fan Can Be Found in Japan
‘Sigcchi’ has collected tags, insignias, berets, pins and gear for the IDF units he portrays, but it’s a controversial counterterrorism brigade he loves most. (Linda Dayan, Haaretz+)
Israelis Are All Republicans (Amira Hass, Haaretz+) Telling Israelis about settler violence is like telling Republicans about global warming. There’s no ban on publicizing the troubling facts, but there’s also no obligation to seek them out or to reach the obvious conclusions. The one major difference is that at least among young Republicans, cracks have recently emerged in the wall of refusal to understand the danger.
Israel's tech giants need to defend democracy (Nadav Eyal, Yedioth/Ynet) Entrepreneurship and prosperity go hand in hand with democracy, and the new legislation planned by Netanyahu would endanger the highly prized high-tech industry; now is the time for this sector to speak up and take a stand.
A Revolution for One Man’s Sake (Haaretz Editorial) In her speech to the Israel Bar Association in Eilat on Monday, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut denounced the harsh statements against the judiciary that ministers and Knesset members have been making ever since the election campaign began, and which they have continued voicing in the wake of the election as part of the negotiations to form a government. Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, who attended the conference as well, also rejected claims that his staff is persecuting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying this is “complete nonsense.”
Likud is paying the price for ignoring Lieberman’s electorate (Ariel Bolstein, Israel Hayom) Russian-speaking voters have allied themselves with Lieberman because other Israeli politicians have never courted them. This should end.
The Chain of Critical Mistakes Netanyahu Made During Coalition Talks (Yossi Verter, Haaretz+) For the prime minister, the only acceptable option is to form a new government. Anything else, and his party will realize that there is life after him.
A vindictive politician with no record to speak of (Danny Ayalon, Israel Hayom) Despite his years of zigzagging, Yisrael Beytenu party chief Avigdor Lieberman has worked over the years to foster an image of himself as a "bulldozer," although in practice, he has no real record to speak of.
For the Moment, Avigdor Lieberman Is the Unlikely Antihero Who Can Save Israel From Itself (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+) He is no fan of the Supreme Court or rule of law — but his delight in tormenting Netanyahu could salvage them both.
One against 60 (Nahum Barnea, Yedioth/Ynet Hebrew) Lieberman's advantage over all the other players in the political arena is what he does not have - he has nothing to aspire to and no one he needs to make happy. "For me politics is not an obsession," he said in the past, meaning what he said. In a world of obsessions, the non-obsessive is a king…He sees the ministers who have long understood that the real threat to the Likud's rule, to their rule, does not come from the opposition, nor from the voters. He came from Netanyahu; Understand and remain silent. They have ambitions - a more senior portfolio, cabinet membership, closeness to the monarchy, help in the primaries. Their ambitions are the cords that tie their legs, the bandages that clog their mouths. They are obsessive. Some of them think that if Netanyahu had offered Lieberman the title of acting prime minister, he would have agreed. This title is meaningful only in one case - when the prime minister is suddenly forced to abandon his chair because of a health problem (Ariel Sharon) or a legal problem. This is exactly why Netanyahu will not give this title to anyone. That's all he needs - a replacement to breathe down his neck in the middle of the hearing. Netanyahu is recruiting President Trump to pressure Lieberman. He is enlisting even the Syrian anti-aircraft system. The freebie [Israel Hayom newspaper] was recruited, with all its professional nakedness. He is sending in Elkin, the minister for the Russian electorate, to threaten the pensioners, a large proportion of them from Russia, that the promised increase in their allowances will be canceled. What exactly will he say to them in the election campaign - that he succumbed to blackmail? That he is punishing them for Lieberman's sins?…Is Lieberman buying his world by tormenting Netanyahu? I'm not sure. Does his party have a future as a secular right-wing party, as the dam that will prevent the state of Netanyahu from becoming a state based on Jewish law? Very doubtful. What is certain is that he is enjoying every moment.
Israel's Cesspool of Corruption Is Filling Up (David Rosenberg, Haaretz+) Shari Arison joins a growing list of the rich and powerful facing indictments, but at least it shows the legal system is working. Bibi wants to put an end to that.
WHO, France and dabbling in anti-Semitism (Ben-Dror Yemini, Yedioth/Ynet) It is astonishing that World Health Organization is so concerned by impact of occupation on Palestinian health, when they have high life expectancy and low infant mortality, while the nations behind this rush to accuse Israel have a miserable public health record.
Israel's High Court Seeks Order, Not Justice (Yael Stein, Haaretz+) The gap between the aura of the High Court and what transpired – yet again – within its walls last month, cannot be greater. This was clear in a ruling handed down by Justices Isaac Amit, Alex Stein and David Mintz, after Palestinian local authorities and human rights groups petitioned against an Israeli military decree that allowed structures built without a permit to be demolished within 96 hours of a court ruling, with no right of appeal. Minutes after attorneys starting arguing the case, Justice Amit hurried to define its boundaries: “Our role is limited …we’re only discussing demolition, not planning.” Thus, artificially severing the link between different stages of the expropriation process – demolition and planning – the judge turned all West Bank Palestinians into “construction transgressors” who choose, consciously and willfully, to violate the law and annoy the occupation authorities. Does Justice Amit really believe that there is no link between Israeli planning, which denies Palestinians any possibility of building legally, and the enormous amount of permit-less construction across the West Bank? Why, actually, does the judge "only" deal with the demolition side of it? This disconnect is so removed from reality that it’s hard to believe that Supreme Court justices have been insisting on applying it for so many years, ignoring evidence proving the opposite, presented to them time after time. The policy adopted by Israel in the West Bank is open and declared: It set up a planning authority devoid of Palestinians, deliberately denying them almost any option of construction and development. It thereby condemns hundreds of thousands of people to overcrowding in the enclaves it deigned to grant them, with no possibility of future development to meet their needs. Thousands of people live under shameful, inhuman conditions, with non-existent links to life in the 21st century, as exists but a few kilometers from them. They are forced to live in dilapidated shacks, in tents flapping in the wind, or in caves, with no electricity or running water.
Hezbollah paying the price of Iranian obstinence (Dr. Yaron Friedman, Yedioth/Ynet) U.S. sanctions on Iran are taking toll on its Lebanon-based proxy: fighters' salaries are sliced, assets sold off and even prized Al-Manar TV station is laying off staff; meanwhile, the group itself has not escaped American scrutiny.
Europe's Far Right Populists Didn't Get Their Tsunami. But They're Still as Dangerous as Ever (Richard C. Schneider, Haaretz+) Despite their over-hyped predictions, populist nationalists still got a wave. That should disturb anyone opposed to the danger the intolerant far right poses to Europe.
Fascism and the Far Left: A Grim Global Love Affair (Alexander Reid Ross, Haaretz+) There was shock when far-right U.S. provocateur Steve Bannon and leftist UK firebrand George Galloway shared an intimate moment in Kazakhstan recently. But the 'red-brown' alliance's roots run deep, and their mutual attraction shows no sign of waning.
Europe Has Been Given Another Chance to Avoid Nationalist Chaos — Perhaps Its Last (Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz+) This isn’t Merkel’s Europe anymore, but neither is it anyone else’s.
Prepared for APN by Orly Halpern, independent freelance journalist based in Jerusalem.
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