News Nosh 5.30.19

APN's daily news review from Israel
Thursday May 30, 2019

Quote of the Day #1:
"The reality is that your government has made the situation very difficult for anyone who asks questions. And that's a very dangerous thing. For any society is is very dangerous."
--Actor Richard Gere explains in an interview with Yedioth why he won't be visiting Israel anytime soon.*

Quote of the Day #2:
"...What we saw in the Knesset on Wednesday night launched a new chapter in the disintegration of Israeli democracy. The newborn Knesset chose to commit suicide solely because of one man's personal caprice. On the one hand, this is utterly shocking; on the other, it is spectacular. The man is fighting for his power, his position, his freedom. Like a fly that refuses to drown in cream, Netanyahu kicked his legs more and more until the cream became butter."
--Yedioth's top political commentator, Nahum Barnea, on Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's desperate attempts to form a coalition before Wednesday night's deadline and what he did when he failed.**

You Must Be Kidding: 
"Seven minutes ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to me and he said he is willing to withdraw from the occupied territories and also to cancel the Nation-State law, and that he supports not only civil equality but also national equality (for Arab citizens), and that he's willing to recognize the Nakba and fix the historical wrong – in return for the Immunity law."
--With a straight face, Arab Knesset Member Ayman Odeh addressed the Knesset plenum just hours before Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's deadline to form a coalition government - and got hoots of laughter, mocking Netanyahu's efforts to do whatever he could to pass legislation that would prevent him from being indicted for corruption.***

Front Page:
Yedioth Ahronoth
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
  • Back to the ballots
  • Convulsions // Ben Caspit on the convulsions before Netanyahu's political end
  • A different politics // Meir Uziel
Israel Hayom

News Summary:
The Knesset voted to dissolve itself last night and hold new elections, making a record in Israel and the top story of today’s Hebrew newspapers. The Israeli commentators all agreed that it was a mad disgusting situation, but while the right-wingers blamed Avigdor Lieberman for refusing to compromise on his demand to reinstate the Draft Law for ultra-Orthodox men, everyone else blamed Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his unwillingness to step aside and let someone else try to form a coalition government when he is not at the head. (See Commentary/Analysis below.) The next elections will be held on September 17th. Netanyahu even tried and failed to seduce the Labor Party into joining the coalition. Labor chief Avi Gabbay was slammed by the commentators and one of his members for saying he was considering the offer. Kahol-Lavan, however, rejected the offer outright. And Haaretz reported that Kahol-Lavan is considering canceling the rotation of its two chairmen, such that only Benny Gantz would lead the party and Yair Lapid would not. This would allow the party to form a coalition with the ultra-Orthodox, who refuse as long as Lapid would be the chair.

***The highlight of the nerve-wracking day and night at the Knesset was when leading Arab party leader MK Ayman Odeh told the Knesset that Netanyahu had approached him, too. Making fun of Netanyahu’s promises to lawmakers Odeh joked that he was offered 'full withdrawal from the occupied territories' and 'equal rights to Arabs’ - and sent the plenum into peals of laughter. ”I have a dramatic announcement and I apologize to my fellow MKs that I didn't let you know ahead of time," he started. “Seven minutes ago Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to me and he said he is willing to withdraw from the occupied territories and also to cancel the nation-state law, and that he supports not only civil equality but also national equality, and that he's willing to recognize the Nakba and fix the historical wrong – in return for the immunity law.

Interestingly, four Arab parties decided to re-establish the Joint List, Maariv reported today. The Joint List was dissembled in the last elections and the individual parties, Ta'al, Hadash, Ra'am and Balad, got less votes.

Meanwhile, the Trump peace team arrived in Israel and will meet Netanyahu tonight to discuss the ‘Deal of the Century.’ Senior Trump adviser Jared Kushner and Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt spent Wednesday morning in Jordan to discuss the administration’s plan for Middle East peace and the plan’s economic conference scheduled to take place in Bahrain next month. They have also traveled to Morocco. The Palestinian Authority is boycotting the conference, which is meant to get investors to support an economic peace plan. In the wake of the dissolving of the Knesset, the Palestinian Authority made fun of the Trump Administration peace plans : "Dispersion of the Knesset sent the 'Deal of the Century' to the next century,”  said senior PLO official Saeb Erekat, Maariv reported. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards also said the peace plan will fail, while a top UAE businessman wrote in an Op-Ed that he wants the Palestinians to attend the Bahrain conference: “For Palestine’s sake, and to help us halt Iran.” In attempts to unite the Arabs ahead of the conference, Saudi Arabia invited Qatar’s Prime Minister for a visit - the first time since a blockade was imposed two years ago.
Quick Hits:
  • Former Israeli Chief Justice Said He Sometimes ‘Let the Army Win Too Much’ - Asked by Channel 13’s interviewer Baruch Kra whether he was referring to rulings that upheld demolishing the homes of assailants’ families, Barak replied, “House demolitions are a very, very complicated issue, and one of the issues on which I’m not at peace with myself, that’s true in general.” However, he thought the ruling permitting targeted assassinations of Palestinian militants “was very proper.”  (Haaretz)
  • Thursday: Netanyahu’s son says his father appointed an AG to exonerate Liberman in 2009 - Yair Netanyahu appears to make shocking admission on Twitter; Yehuda Weinstein denies ‘nonsense’ claim he was appointed at Yisrael Beytenu chief’s demand. Yair also tweeted a screenshot of a 2013 article from Haaretz, which discussed a list of witnesses willing to testify against Liberman who either disappeared or allegedly committed suicide during this period. (Times of Israel, JPost and Haaretz)
  • Following Yair Netanyahu’s Tweet: A demand that the Attorney General open an investigation against the prime minister and Lieberman - Meretz chief MK Tamar Zandberg asks Mendelblitt to open an investigation, in light of the Tweeting of the Prime Minister's son regarding Weinstein's appointment as Attorney General: “It raises serious suspicions.” (Maariv)
  • Yair Golan: “I am considering entering into politics, what has happened in recent weeks - disgrace" - The former IDF deputy chief of staff said on 103 FM that he was considering joining politics: "In the coming days, I'll see where I'm going, it's too early to engage in roles and platforms, and I think that sanity should be restored to our public space," he said. What happened in recent weeks in Israel is disgraceful. Elections were held on April 9, ending with two large parties that won 35 seats each. The ideological distance between these two parties is negligible, and instead of forming a coalition of 70 Knesset members, they turned to another way because one person is corrupt and needs to protect himself by a coalition that will legislate for him laws that are dangerous and destructive for the State of Israel." (Maariv)
  • Academics and businessmen tell the government: "Avoid harming the judicial system" - At the request of the Faculty of Law at Tel Aviv University, the leading businessmen in the Israeli economy signed a letter calling on the government not to harm the judicial system: "Infringement of the rule of law is not legitimate in a democratic society.” (Maariv)
  • IDF releases images of ‘behemoth’ Hezbollah tunnel - Tunnel, discovered in January, is some 2,500 feet long and some 22 stories below ground. It features, plumbing, air conditioning, electricity, and a PA system. The IDF plans to fill it in with concrete rather than blowing it up. (Israel Hayom)
  • Israeli Army Seals Hezbollah’s Latest Tunnel That Extends Into Israel\ - But the militant group continues to plan for a possible war despite its economic woes. (Haaretz+)
  • Arab Israeli Shot to Death in North, Marking 25th Fatality of 2019 - Community leaders organize a demonstration in front of the Tel Aviv police headquarters to urge for greater action against gun violence, turnout underwhelming. Amid al-Jesh, 25, was shot at about 1 A.M. near his home in the northern Arab-Israeli town of Arara, (Haaretz+)
  • Arabic workbook for 8th graders mentions killing soldiers, gang rape - Education Ministry says decision by Raanana middle school to use this particular workbook was taken at the local level and orders books to be shredded. (Israel Hayom)
  • Suspected of Misusing $100,000 of Public Funds, Sara Netanyahu Signs Plea Deal to Pay $15,000 - The premier's wife was suspected of fraudulently receiving catered meals at at a cost of around $100,000; according to the deal, she will not admit to defrauding the state and she will only return $12,445. and pay a fine. (Haaretz and Israel Hayom)
  • Check how your money to PA is spent, wife of terror victim tells French MPs - Yael Shevah, whose husband was killed in a drive-by shooting near his West Bank home, warns Paris conference that terrorists and BDS are existential threat to Jewish and Israeli life. (Yedioth/Ynet)
  • Church of Holy Sepulchre to Undergo First Major Restoration in Centuries - United by opposition to new Israeli laws and taxes, Greek Orthodox, Catholic, Armenian churches come together on multi-million dollar plan. (Haaretz)
  • IDF incorporating VR simulators into training - Future Lab corps is recruiting computer gamers to design the next generation of realistic combat environment simulators for IDF forces; testing in advanced stages; next up: a 'smart' combat vest. (Yedioth/Ynet)
  • Brain-drain: More High-tech Workers, Doctors, Academic Researchers Leaving Israel - New study shows that Israel's most educated citizens are leaving at a growing pace, which 'could have catastrophic consequences for Israel.’ (Haaretz+)
  • Israeli banks under increasing threat from cyber attacks - While there have been repeated attacks on the country's financial institutions, officials say little damage has been done, but warn customers must take responsibility to secure their own accounts online. (Ynet)
  • Conference of European Rabbis demands Jewish emojis for smartphones - Noting Unicode Consortium has already created emoji of Muslim woman wearing a hijab, rabbinical alliance says lack of Jewish emoji sends the message that Jews should be treated differently from members of other religions. (Israel Hayom)
  • Iran's president says Wednesday road open if U.S. wants talks - Iranian President Hassan Rohani says that "The road is not closed for them, whenever they put aside their cruel sanctions and return to the negotiation table that they left,” referring to the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers. Iran's official news agency says Russia's deputy foreign minister is visiting Tehran to discuss the increasingly unraveling 2015 nuclear deal. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Iran Foreign Ministry says Tuesday it sees 'no prospect of negotiations with America' - Tehran 'pays no attention to words; What matters to us is a change of behavior,' foreign ministry spokesman says Tuesday after Trump suggests they 'would like to make a deal.' (Haaretz)
  • In UAE, Bolton accuses Iran of seeking nuclear arms - John Bolton, long a hawk on Iran, also claimed without offering evidence that the alleged sabotage of four oil tankers off the UAE's coast came from Iranian naval mines. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Iran's May crude exports slide to 400,000 bpd, data shows - The drop in exports has tightened the market, supported prices and deeply reduced Iran's revenue. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Saudi Arabia asks Muslim nations for ‘firm’ response to Iran - Saudi Foreign Minister urges counterparts in Organization of Islamic Cooperation to "make more efforts to counter the terrorist acts of extremist and terrorist groups." (Times of Israel)
  • EU Criticizes Human Rights in Turkey, 'Backsliding' on Laws as Membership Bid Deteriorates - Turkey has been involved in membership talks since October 2005 but progress has been extremely slow. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • UN to Turkey: Free and Compensate Gulen-linked Detainees - 77,000 people have been jailed pending trial by Erdogan's government for suspected connections to the U.S.-based cleric. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Iraq hands over 188 children of suspected Islamic State members to Turkey - A special report revealed in March that about 1,100 children of the terror group are caught in the Iraqi justice system. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Family and lawyer of Al-Jazeera reporter say Egypt rearrested him - Mahmoud Hussein was under arrest for two years on accusations of spreading fake news and was transferred to a police station last week to await his release. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Human Rights Watch Founder, Former Publisher Robert Bernstein Dies at 96 - Bernstein also headed Random House for nearly 25 years, emerging as a leading figure in the publishing world. (Haaretz+)

What a Palestinian Woman Has to Do to Visit Her Native West Bank Village
Living in legal limbo for more than 40 years, Maryam Ibrahim has not been allowed to live in her native West Bank village of Beit Furik with her husband and in recent years, Israel hasn’t allowed her to visit. (Amira Hass, Haaretz+)
The Jew From Queens Who Went to Mecca to Study the Koran - and Stayed
Nathan/Mohammed probably knows more about Islam than any other Jew alive. He’s a champion proselytizer who’s still engaged with his Jewish background, but says: 'I don’t feel I belong anywhere in the world now.’ (Adam Sacks, Haaretz+)
After Locking This Palestinian Out of His Home, Israel Revokes His Entry Permit
Omar Hajajla’s family lives in the only home on the Israeli side of a Jerusalem-area village which straddles the West Bank border - and Israel locked the family out of ts home due to 'security threat.’ (Nir Hasson, Haaretz+)
Neither Israeli, nor Palestinian, nor Druze: Just an Artist Trying to Create
Photographer Ronen Zien turns his lens on Khan al-Ahmar, a village that has become a symbol of the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. (Vered Lee, Haaretz+)
A Rumor Spread in Africa That Bibi Is an Albino Born There. This Artist Decided to Investigate
Israeli-Argentinian artist Luciana Kaplun was inspired to make a film about the tale. It will be screened this week at the Musrara Mix Festival in Jerusalem. (Naama Riba, Haaretz+)
Netanyahu Just Suffered One of the Biggest Losses of His Political Career (Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz+)  Even if Netanyahu wins the next Israeli election and forms a government, it could be too late to stop the slow legal juggernaut putting him on trial.
Lieberman’s landmine sends Israel to another election (Mati Tuchfeld, Israel Hayom) This embarrassing situation has nothing to do with immunity or the laws of the land. What caused and sustained this crisis was Lieberman's treachery on one hand, and Netanyahu's inability on the other to identify and neutralize it in time.
Netanyahu’s Darkest, Deepest Fear Just Came True (Bradley Burston, Haaretz+) Whatever happens now, however he weasels out of this one, we have come to know Netanyahu for what he really is, and always was.
**Netanyahu's clearance sale of Israeli politics (Nahum Barnea, Yedioth/Ynet) The prime minister has led the country into yet another snap election and a new chapter of the disintegration of Israel democracy; his no-holds battle for survival is both horrifying and curiously impressive.
Even Netanyahu Knows It’s Over (Yossi Verter, Haaretz+) Netanyahu may win the new election but it will be too late to push through the High Court override and the immunity from prosecution: Who will sign a coalition agreement with someone on his political deathbed?
Israelis must decide: Zionism or annexation (Former Mossad chief, Tamir Pardo, Yedioth/Ynet) Israel is in need of a leader who will deal with the questions over its eastern border, come up with a strategy to ensure Jewish majority and protect Zionist vision that was basis of creation of state.
There Are Things Much Worse Than Netanyahu - for Example, Lieberman (Gideon Levy, Haaretz+) The center-left’s sacred cannon is firing at Netanyahu, and its gunners have forgotten who Lieberman is. We’ll forgive and forget everything for Lieberman if he’ll only take down Netanyahu for us. Character witnesses on his behalf have even emerged from among the enlightened public – he’s pragmatic, strong, wise, serious; his word is his word; wait and see. These assessments are ridiculous and dangerous. Lieberman never deserved them and never will. He’s one of the ugliest, most repulsive thugs in politics, and he may well make us miss Netanyahu.
With Lieberman, it’s enemies for life (Sofi Ron-Moria, Israel Hayom) One must never appease a bully – in this case, a party head who by some miracle passed the electoral threshold and is now demanding the second most important job in the country.
Why a New Election? Only Two Men Know (Noa Landau, Haaretz+) There is an enormous amount of self-interest and conspiracy flowing between Netanyahu and Lieberman, and neither of them has a clean record when it comes to transparency.
Surprises, even after 30 years (Gideon Allon, Israel Hayom) The law allows for the possibility of dissolving a Knesset before a coalition is formed, but it has never happened in the history of the state.
Cult of Netanyahu Compels Zombie-like Knesset to Terminate Itself (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+) The only reason for the demented decision to hold new elections is the prime minister’s frantic frenzy to avoid prosecution – but the lunacy might be contagious.
There is a way out of this: At the opposition demonstration, the barrier of fear of cooperation with an Arab party was crossed (Ran Edelist, Maariv) For decades, the right-wing has been aided by the feverish energy of the settlers and the kippah-wearers, who have joined forces with the feverish energy of those in the ultra-Orthodox yeshivas and ghettos. These are the residues of inferiority due to the historical exclusion that is still being burning in them, and they are the explosive power base of the right-wing. The motivation of the Israeli left-wing got lost somewhere between comfort, ease, cowardice and laziness. The Arab sector has real residues that build motivation and which are supposed to push the opposition cart. So it’s better late than not at all in the hope that the continuation will be more better.
Lapid hints at possible Blue and White split (Yuval Karni, Yedioth/Ynet) The latest coalition crisis appears to have claimed another victim as Benny Gantz's position as the party's leader could be under threat with the faction's co-founder saying he can't commit to being second on the list for much longer.
Kahlon: A Sell-out Foretold (Gidi Weitz, Haaretz+) The Kulanu leader’s link-up with Netanyahu was only the latest in a series of moral implosions that belied his good-guy image.
Peace can’t be bought. But can Trump change the conversation? (Jonathan S. Tobin, Israel Hayom) While the administration’s plans won’t persuade the Palestinians to talk, the economic focus might alter the way the world thinks about peace.
A spectacular self-goal: Kahol-Lavan will pay a heavy price for inviting (Arab-Israeli leader) Odeh to speak (Prof. Arieh Eldad, Maariv) Those two or three mandates of the "soft right" in which they won the elections among those who had enough of Netanyahu's government - were lost in the demonstration. If we go back to the elections, the hug with Odeh will cost them dearly.
No Illusions, no despair (David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom) A new national security plan says avoid risky diplomatic escapades and prepare for war.

*Not just a pretty man
From Binyamin Netanyahu to Donald Trump: Everyone gets it from Richard Gere, who isn’t afraid to say excactly what he thinks about the political situation in Israel and America. Now he stars in a new series and warns: “Your government has made the situation very difficult for anyone who asks questions, which is very dangerous.” (Interviewed by Binyamin Tobias in Yedioth’s ’24 Hours’ supplement and Yedioth Hebrew, cover)

Just two years ago you played in an Israeli film ("Norman") a person close to an Israeli prime minister who is in trouble. Do you see such populist behavior in our leaders as well?
"Sure, with Netanyahu," says Gere directly. "I think it's clear to everyone that Netanyahu is exploiting the fears in you. He plays on the fear of the Israeli public in a way that creates a false impression that he is the only one in the world who can defend Israel, the only one in the world."
Is this something you noticed especially in the last election campaign?
"I just see the way his discourse has developed, which is getting worse, for example, the fact that now in the election campaign he said he will work to annex parts of the West Bank. This is clearly a statement designed to please his audience. Or that he again legitimizes the settlements, which are completely illegal. Completely. This too was done in order to speak to a very specific audience."
Will you visit Israel and Ramallah again? Will you continue to try to promote peace here?
"I always want to try and find time to do things like that and visit (Israel). But the truth is that it is very difficult politically these days to visit Israel. And it is especially difficult to come to Israel at the moment and to question the status quo and the current situation as it is, as you all probably all know," he says, perhaps as a reminder of what happened to Natalie Portman, another (Hollywood) star who loves Israel, and who was given bad treatment after she dared to express opinions that are not a sweeping nod to the Israeli government.
"The reality is that your government has made the situation very difficult for anyone who asks questions. And that's a very dangerous thing. For any society is is very dangerous."

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