News Nosh 12.3.19

APN's daily news review from Israel
Tuesday December 3, 2019
Quote of the day:
"For 14 years he is prime minister and now, suddenly, it's urgent for him to complete the annexation."
--Kahol-Lavan MK Yair Lapid responds to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's request to serve first in a rotation government so, he says, that he can impose Israeli sovereignty over the Beqaa Jordan Valley in the West Bank.*

Front Page:
Yedioth Ahronoth
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
  • 333 prosecution witnesses in the indictment against Netanyahu
  • Running to elections - Coalition negotiations stuck - Likud and Kahol-Lavan toughen their stances
  • The climate summit in Madrid: The world is in a emergency situation
Israel Hayom
  • Netanyahu: “Even 333 witnesses won’t help”
  • In 333 words: Weak cases // Haim Shine
  • The trial is still far // Gideon Allon
  • Petition to the Speaker of the Knesset: “It’s a waste of time, return the mandate (to form a government) to the President”
  • No limit to goals (Special project marking Day for Rights of People with Disabilities)
  • Respect and power: “Israel is one of the eight strongest countries in the world”

Elections 2019/Netanyahu Indictment News:
Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mendelblitt submitted the indictments against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, naming 333 witnesses, and gave Netanyahu 30 days to request immunity from the Knesset, just as a battle was warming up between Mendelblitt and Justice Minister Amir Ohana, a Netanyahu loyalist, over who will replace retiring State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan - making top stories in today’s Hebrew newspapers. Also in the news, Netanyahu cancelled his snap trip to London and Environment Minister Zeev Elkin (Likud) cancelled his trip to the Global Climate Summit, due to negotiations for a unity government.

The number 333 was prominent on the front pages of the Israeli tabloids today, making headlines of the number of witnesses the prosecution will call to testify against Netanyahu. (NOTE: Haaretz is not a tabloid and it did not put 333 on the front page. - OH) Only at the end of the article in Yedioth was it noted that “the number of prosecution witnesses is not exceptional. In the Holyland case [for which Ehud Olmert was put on trial - OH], the prosecution called on 370 witnesses to testify and in the indictment in the Yisrael Beiteinu corruption affair there were no fewer than 470 witnesses. The number of witnesses actually called to testify will likely be fewer, Yedioth wrote. Netanyahu’s trial will take place at the Jerusalem District Court and the date for the start of the trial was decided, but not publicized. Netanyahu has till January 1st to ask the Knesset for immunity, but at this point he doesn’t have a majority of 61 Knesset members to give it to him because of Yisrael Beiteinu - the same reason he doesn’t have a majority to form a coalition government.

Netanyahu slighted the Attorney General calling the list of witnesses “a tribute to the Yellow Pages (telephone book). He insisted that “When there is a real claim, there is no need for 333 witnesses, and when there is no real claim, 333 witnesses will not help.” (Yedioth Hebrew) And while there are still discussions to form a unity government, a likely date for the next elections has been marked for February 25th and not in mid-March as initially planned.(Yedioth Hebrew) Meanwhile, some Kahol-Lavan MKS have been urging party leader Benny Gantz not to close the door on Netanyahu’s proposal, whereby he will serve as prime minister for about six months and then be replaced by Benny Gantz, provided guarantees are given that he will pass on the leadership rotation to  Gantz. Right-wing lawmaker Ayelet Shaked said the right-wing bloc will stick with Gantz if Netanyahu breaches the rotation pact. If no agreement is reached, the Knesset dissolves on December 11th at midnight. (Maariv) And senior Kahol-Lavan officials are certain that there are zero chances of a unity government.

*Netanyahu said he wants to serve first as prime minister for six months to implement the Israeli annexation of the Beqaa Valley (West Bank), to which Gantz replied: “I understand that we will have to accept compromise proposals - but not show proposals" (Yedioth Hebrew) Yair Lapid, a Kahol-Lavan co-leader, expressed doubt over Netanyahu’s reason to insist on serving first as prime minister, despite receiving fewer votes than Kahol-Lavan: "For 14 years he is prime minister and now, suddenly, it's urgent for him to complete the annexation." Former Defense Minister MK Moshe Ya'alon, another co-leader of Kahol-Lavan, Tweeted: “What kept him from doing so for over a decade in power? This can be done in less than 5 months, in a unity government, headed by Benny Gantz."

Worth noting was that the backstory to the cancellation of Netanyahu’s snap trip to London to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the NATO summit, as well as the French and German leaders. The cancellation came after British authorities informed the prime minister's office that they would be unable to provide the needed security for the visit on such short notice while hosting the NATO summit in London. Haaretz reported three interesting things: 1.) This was the second time in recent months that Netanyahu planed snap visits to the United Kingdom to meet with American officials and the previous time was a week before the Israel elections in September. 2.) Netanyahu’s office said he would convene with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, among other leaders though according to the report in Haaretz neither Merkel nor Macron had responded to attempts to arrange such meeting on the summit's sidelines. 3.) The visit is highly unusual as Netanyahu is currently serving as interim prime minister and due to the fact that Israel could go to third elections in less than a week after the scheduled trip.

Separately, Channel 11 News reported that according to former Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein's testimony, he said: "I did not allow Netanyahu to accept gifts." (Maariv) And Haaretz+ reported on the lone protesters who are pitching tents and stopping traffic in their fight to bring down Netanyahu.

Quick Hits:
  • Waqf Guard Bitten by Israeli Policeman, Interrogated by Police - Mohanad Idris is suing a police officer for multiple counts of misconduct, amid a continued confrontation between Israel Police and Waqf guards. (Haaretz+)
  • Jerusalem City Council member launches campaign against donations to UNWRA - Ahead of Giving Tuesday, Dan Illouz calls on Facebook to prohibit donations to the UN agency. (Israel Hayom)
  • KFC Relaunching in Israel for the 4th Time — but This Time It’s Not Kosher - The popular chain first opened in Israel in the 80's and last closed in 2012. (Haaretz)
  • The number of fatalities on construction sites grows - Due to lack of safety procedures, lack of manpower, and authority indifference, fatalities among construction workers in Israel has increased from 38 to 43 in 2019, life-saving European safety standards have been previously approved, but as of yet have not been implemented or enforced. (Yedioth/Ynet)
  • Natural Gas of Israel's Leviathan to Start Flowing Within Two Weeks - Exports to Egypt and Jordan from Israel’s biggest gas reservoir will begin shortly thereafter. (Haaretz)
  • Amnesty International: at least 208' killed in Iranian protests - Philip Luther, Amnesty's research and advocacy head for the Middle East, called the number of deaths 'evidence that Iran's security forces went on a horrific killing spree.’ (Agencies, Ynet)
  • They 'support Palestine,' but can’t find it on a map - While university students in the United States claim to be passionate about advocating for Palestine, they demonstrated an embarrassing lack of knowledge about the conflict. (Israel Hayom)
  • Dutch cartoon accuses Netanyahu of pushing anti-Semitic accusations against Corbyn - Prime Minister shown holding a stone from a pile labelled 'Allegations of Anti-Semitism' along with his indictment charges, while the British Labour leader is seen quoting Jesus from the New Testament. (Yedioth/Ynet)
  • Labour slammed after ad on inclusion omits Jews - Video features audio of shadow secretary talking about Labour being the home for those who "wear a hijab, a turban, a cross," and "black, white, or Asian," while images of various ethnic groups appear on screen. (Israel Hayom)

Avraham Dar, One of the Founders of Israel's Intelligence Community, Dies at 94
Dar was the first field man of the intelligence community in an Arab country. He planned and participated in numerous espionage missions and in 1951, Dar established Egypt's espionage unit, which later became involved in the “Dirty Business,” also known as the ‘Lavon Affair.’ In addition, he led the exit of (Egyptian) Jews across the Suez Canal region during Operation Kadesh in Egypt during the 1950s. (Maariv, Haaretz+ and Yedioth Hebrew)
How i24News Turned pro-Netanyahu to Secure Broadcast License
Haaretz investigation finds a host of puzzling staff departures, banned guests and a flagship show taken off the air for being 'leftist' in efforts to weaken criticism of the prime minister. “It’s not even a propaganda channel for Israel,” said one former executive. “It’s a pro-Bibi channel.” A key period in i24News history began one cold day two years ago, when Melloul convened a meeting with his staff in New York. On the agenda: the possibility of enacting a law that would allow the channel to broadcast to Israelis. “We need to be softer toward Netanyahu,” the CEO was quoted as saying, “less critical.” Even before that meeting i24News was not known, to say the least, for being particularly biting or critical vis-à-vis Israeli policy. It provided fairly favorable coverage, but the change now being requested of it was not related per se to the country, but to its leader. Some of the employees at the company were stunned by the new directives, which they said were quite specific. They were told to give "dry" accounts in their reports of the corruption cases involving Netanyahu. (Josh Breiner and Nati Tucker, Haaretz+)
Tax Exemption Lured Billionaires to Israel. They Left When It Expired
More than 10 years after it was passed, a controversial law hasn’t had the effect its backers intended, turning Israel into a tax haven. (Efrat Neuman, Haaretz+)

Elections 2019/Netanyahu Indictment Commentary/Analysis:
If New Elections Are the Only Way of Pushing Netanyahu Out, So Be It (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+) A damning criminal indictment paints the prime minister’s concocted 'Prosecutors Plot' as heir to Stalin’s infamous 'Doctors Plot.’
Israeli politicians must compromise for the sake of the nation (Ben-Dror Yemini, Yedioth/Ynet) Unlike other countries, Israel is facing security threats from Iran and Gaza and serious internal challenges to its health system, but political leaders insist on standing by their principles and refuse to make the compromises needed to form a government, putting us all in more danger.
Time for electoral reform (Neville Teller, Israel Hayom) If there is anything we have learned from the political logjam crippling the government is that Israel’s current electoral system has landed the country in this mess and therefore it is time to seriously consider changing it.
Hourglass is running out: Two possible solutions to the political deadlock (Ephraim Ganor, Maariv) Here are two solutions that may finally bring us to a government and to address the real issues.The first proposal is to declare a state of emergency and to set up a national emergency government for two years. The second suggestion is that instead of an election campaign, which may produce similar results if not identical to September's election, a referendum be held in which the public is asked to decide on two ballot proposals: for or against a national unity government that will serve a two-year equal rotation, led by Netanyahu (first) and Gantz (second), together with other parties; For or against a national unity government in equal rotation between Gantz (first) and Netanyahu (second), along with other parties.
Netanyahu is not the victim, we are (Yuval Diskin, Yedioth/Ynet) Israelis are held hostage by a man willing to destroy every function of the state and its national unity to serve his own interests; he should recall his own words about his similarly indicted predecessor Ehud Olmert: This is a prime minister who is up to his neck in investigations, and has no public or moral mandate to make fateful decisions for Israel.

Other Commentary/Analysis:
For Hebron Settlers, New Neighborhood Announced by Defense Chief Is Only the Beginning (Amira Hass, Haaretz+) With Defense Minister Bennett’s backing, they aim to Judaize the city’s historic old market.
Transcendence in Hebron (David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom) From the leftist Israeli media you would never know that 50,000 Jews celebrated Zionism in Hebron last weekend.
More harm than good (Amos Gilad, Yedioth Hebrew) A defense alliance between Israel and the US seems like a great idea to those who are not in the know, but in practice it is an idea whose damage outweighs its benefits. On the one hand, it is clear that it is worthwhile to have a defense alliance with the US - but for what purpose? The State of Israel is in a very complex area that require independent IDF activity - activity that is often inconsistent with overall US policy over the years. As part of a defense alliance, you will need to seek approval and coordinate any activity in advance and comply with the restrictions. The foundation of the Defense Alliance Initiative appears to be from Israel, and it seems to stem from political considerations such as image reinforcement for elections. It is appropriate that such a debate be about the issues and not propaganda. Intelligence cooperation exists anyway, and it is best to keep it flexible rather than being defined in agreements because of its importance. The security restrictions cannot be discussed publicly, but it is no secret, for example, that during the Gulf War, Israel was asked by the United States to refrain from attacking Saddam Hussein, who ordered missile launches on Israel. The controversial Israeli interest was to accept the American request, but it is not always the case…it is better to focus on expanding the good practical relationships and industries that exist today, rather than shackling our hands in alliances whose benefit is doubtful.
Why Jordan Conducted a Major Military Drill Against an Israeli Invasion (Amos Harel, Haaretz+) Jordan's message to Israel: Our anger with you is real, but some steps are meant to vent public pressure.
Games of honor (Smadar Perry, Yedioth Hebrew) After (Israel) returned Tzofar and Naharayim lands (to Jordan), Israel-Jordan relations seemed to be at an unprecedented low; but the military exercise conducted by the kingdom in recent days, in which they prepared for an Israeli invasion into their territory, proves that the situation is even worse than thought. Relations between Israel and Jordan have seen better days than they have in recent years, and after King Abdullah's assertion that "relations were never in such dire straits," we no longer needed proof. But nevertheless, the kingdom provided us with this, in the form of a military exercise against an Israeli invasion. Although the Jordanian army did call "the enemy" by Israel's name, the intention is clear: the Jordanian army has set out to demonstrate its capabilities against the enemy "from the west." King Abdullah, dressed in military uniform, and senior representatives of the Jordanian royal palace, watched the exercise, called "Swords of Honor," and parts of it were broadcast on Amman TV channels. Relations with Jordan have suffered another blow in recent months, with the announcement of the Israeli intention to annex the Beqaa Jordan Valley. This is in addition to King Abdullah's anger at (Israel’s) conduct at the Temple Mount, and after the return of Tzofar and Naharayim lands to the kingdom by Israel. Had it not been for the Jordanian anger, a senior official told Yedioth Ahronoth state yesterday: "King Abdullah would not have insisted on getting back the Nahariyim and Tzufar areas." The source firmly stated that "Abdullah's anger at Prime Minister Netanyahu is real. Israel takes us for granted and does tricks behind our backs. This is instead of sitting down and discussing with the king directly." However, it was learned that Prime Minister Netanyahu tried at least twice to talk to King Abdullah, but his petitions were firmly rejected. The Jordanian added that Abdullah does not play games. He has very good reasons to be angry with Prime Minister Netanyahu." Israeli sources said Abdullah's anger could be understood, but he said that "security ties are being maintained and so is the transfer of water from Israel to Jordan."And meanwhile, yesterday, at the Security Court in Amman the trial began of Israeli Constantine Kotov who is accused of infiltrating the territory and having possession of and using drugs. The Jordanian authorities stressed that Kotov was being treated “very fairly" during his detention. Yesterday, Kotov claimed he did not know that drug use was prohibited, but admitted to illegally entering Jordan. Kotov is the first Israeli to be tried in Jordan. His trial is conducted through a Jordanian interpreter translating Hebrew, and the court will soon appoint a lawyer.
Don't forget the Jewish refugees from Muslim lands (Jonathan S. Tobin, Israel Hayom) Palestinians and their supporters not only erase the Jewish history of the land of Israel, but also of the Jews of Arab lands who lost their homes 70 years ago.
Why Gideon Levy's attack on Jews who fear Corbyn is so disturbing (Azriel Bermant, Haaretz+) Unpacking the strange and dishonest claim that a conspiracy by 'disloyal' Jews is behind Labour's anti-Semitism crisis – and that it's all about the occupation.
A Stranger in Her Ancestral Homeland
Fida Jirys, a writer born in Beirut to Palestinian parents in voluntary exile, now lives in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Her unique, near but unfamiliar voice is one of dozens in a new collection of Palestinian prose in Hebrew. (Interviewed by Ariana Melamed in Haaretz+)

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