News Nosh 12.10.19

APN's daily news review from Israel
Tuesday December 10, 2019

Quote of the day:
"When there's a vacuum, ignorance and lies take place.”
--Dr. Liat Ben David, director of the Davidson Institute of Science Education at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, said after a religious Jewish speaker who claimed that the Earth was flat gave a lecture to ninth graders at the request of the American Jewish religious organization, which operates that school and over 100 others.*

Front Page:
Yedioth Ahronoth
  • The 90th minute - A moment before the Knesset dissolves tomorrow at midnight the political establishment is still trying to prevent elections (Hebrew)
  • 62 MKs demand: Deal with the crisis over subsidized medicines [not approved because transitional gov't can't approve budget] (Hebrew)
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
Israel Hayom

Elections 2019/Netanyahu Indictment News:
Two declarations came out of two Kahol-Lavan leaders’ mouths yesterday, which Maariv and Haaretz political analysts considered game-changing, and which made the top story in the Hebrew newspapers, alongside the date chosen for elections, if no dramatic turn takes place before Wednesday night, midnight: 2nd of March.

Kahol-Lavan chairman Benny Gantz, who until now refused to discuss any unity government where Netanyahu was the leader, announced he would be willing to negotiate to form a joint government with Netanyahu as leader in rotation if Netanyahu would say he is willing to give up on asking for immunity from standing trial in three corruption cases. Then Kahol-Lavan co-leader, Yair Lapid, said he was giving up the rotation of leading the party with Gantz. (While Maariv wrote that Lapid made a mature political move, Yedioth Hebrew wrote that Lapipd declared the move after internal criticism against him and political pressure exerted on him in Kahol-Lavan.)

Haaretz+’s Yossi Verter wrote that “Gantz achieved two goals: he hits Netanyahu in his soft underbelly, the issue which the accused from Balfour Street does not have the support of the majority of voters, namely, continuing to rule with an indictment over his head; and he also gains points in the blame game. Maariv’s Yoav Karkovsky wrote that “for the first time in the last months, the Kahol-Lavan people are determining the political agenda…Gantz threw the ball at Netanyahu and said to him - if you clarify once and for all what you want, leave of absence or immunity, we can talk…The likelihood that Netanyahu will announce that he will give up on his right (of immunity) as an elected official - is zero…If Netanyahu now rejects the offer, Gantz will win one important thing: points in the mutual accusation game, the blame-game. If until now Netanyahu could accuse Gantz mainly that Lapid is thwarting a unity government, now it’s his refusal to talk about the new formula - giving up on immunity - that reveals his real intentions. Not an ideological battle, not a right-wing rule, but rather a personal battle for protection from standing trial - and that’s the only reason for which a government is not being established.” Even the pro-Netanyahu paper, ‘Israel Hayom, (Hebrew)’ acknowledged that Kahol-Lavan “led two major moves.The first was a call for Netanyahu to give up his immunity with the intention of making him refuse, exposing him to his refusal and using it [against him - OH] during the election. The second move is Yair Lapid's announcement that he is giving up rotation with Benny Gantz - a move that, according to internal party assessments, is expected to add two to three seats and even more. Read the full analyses in Election/Indictment Commentary section below.

The reaction of Netanyahu and the Likud was to label Gantz’s call for clarification on the immunity issue ‘spin.’ Netanyahu then turned to Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman with a last-minute attempt to convince him to join Likud and the right-wing bloc in a narrow right-wing government. Lieberman repeated his mantra that a narrow government won’t work.

According to most of the political analysts, the Gantz and Lapid announcements were connected - they were quid pro quo. Lapid gave up on a rotation government with Gantz and let him hold the party reins alone if Gantz gave up on forming a national unity government with Netanyahu. it was clear to all that Netanyahu would not give up on immunity, so there would be no negotiations. So what exactly was Gantz giving up on. It was Maariv’s Ben Caspit who revealed what Gantz was actually giving up. According to Caspit, a very detailed proposal for a national unity government was drawn up by Kahol-Lavan experts in negotiations with Likud and approved by Netanyahu, which would allow Netanyahu to be prime minister first in a rotation and then go into leave of absence and be replaced by Gantz on May 4, after Independence Day. Netanyahu wanted to remain as PM on Independence Day. Caspit wrote that “a glimpse of the detailed draft, which spans many pages, sparks wonder and astonishment: It does not leave Netanyahu even a narrow crevice to escape from his leave of absence, the rotation or both.” Sources told Caspit that “Netanyahu really is looking for a way to end with dignity and he believes he can extract significant benefits from President Trump in the coming six months. In addition, he believes his position as prime minister after the elections will help him get a good plea bargain with the state prosecution and prevent not only Israeli elections, but also a tedious, long and expensive trial of the Netanyahu family. Caspit, who wrote a book about Netanyahu and is known for his derision for the Netanyahu family, wrote that he thinks that if he were in Gantz’s place, he would have agreed to the proposal. “In the end, only history will judge the Kahol-Lavan leaders in general and Benny Gantz in particular," he wrote. "Will their refusal of the fantastic Likud proposal turn out to be a fatal mistake or an historic achievement? Are they smart, or right? Do they drag their party and state to a crash and miss an irreparable opportunity to end the Netanyahu era peacefully, or are they demonstrating principled resilience and showing a strong political spine while erecting an iron wall against a defendant in three indictments including bribery?” And while Lapid declared that he decided a week ago in a meeting with Gantz to relinquish the rotation, Caspit wrote that until yesterday, Gantz was still undecided about whether to form a government with Netanyahu based on the latest draft. “Yair Lapid's dramatic relinquishment of the rotation is apparently what ended the possibility of forming a unity government with the Likud, with Netanyahu serving first. As far as we know, this is a package deal between Gantz and Lapid: I give up Bibi, you give up on the rotation.”

Not surprisingly, ‘Israel Hayom’ (Hebrew) chose to use a quote from MK Amir Peretz blaming Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman for another election. "The hatred and racism that (Lieberman) injected into the political system, rejecting the Arabs and rejecting the ultra-Orthodox under the guise of 'unity,’ is one of the biggest lies ever in the Israeli political system," Peretz accused. "He has no other plan. If we do not reject these words, we will find ourselves being dragged after Bibi and Lieberman into a fourth elections.”

Elections 2019/Netanyahu Indictment Quickees:
High Court: The Attorney General must address of the forming of a government by Netanyahu
The judges sent the decision back to Mendelblit's door. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has so far refrained from deciding on the ability of a member of Knesset accused of crimies - namely Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu - to accept the mandate to form a government, stating that this is a "theoretical issue.” But the High Court has now ordered him to submit a response to the petition within nine days. (Yedioth Hebrew)
Netanyahu: If a general election is held, there will be primaries for leader of Likud
The announcement was made on behalf of the PM, in response to reports that he is behind MK David Biton’s initiative to abolish the primaries. Gideon Sa'ar welcomed the announcement. (Maariv)
Poll: Kahol-Lavan is the largest party, there is a tie between the blocs
In the shadow of the Knesset's preparations for elections, a poll conducted KAN 11 Broadcasting predicts that the political deadlock will continue even after another elections, with Yisrael Beiteinu remaining in the balance. (Maariv)

Quick Hits:
  • General Strike in Hebron After Israel Declares New Jewish Neighborhood - Some residents criticize Fatah-led strike, arguing it only harms locals and does nothing to counter Israeli minister's plan for settler homes on Palestinian market. (Haaretz+)
  • 'Arabs = Enemies': 160 Cars Vandalized in East Jerusalem Neighborhood - Police say they are investigating slashing of 160 tires and threatening graffiti in Shuafat. Joint List MK Yousef Jabareen: "Another severe hate crime - in Shuafat. Again, the authorities are closing their eyes. Hundreds of cars have been damaged at this point, as well as dozens of houses of prayer and thousands of trees. Not to forget the murder of the Dawabshe family." (Haaretz+ and Maariv)
  • West Bank Annexation Indefensible at International Criminal Court, Top Legal Adviser Warns Netanyahu - Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley would expose Israeli officials to prosecution, cautions the attorney general's office. (Haaretz+)
  • Israeli Wages Rise for Fifth Straight Year, but Gender Gap Widens - Gap between Jews and Arabs remains wide, too, but showed some improvement in 2018. (Yedioth Hebrew and Haaretz+)
  • Former IDF Chief Gadi Eisenkot: Mutual Defense Treaty with U.S. - unnecessary - Netanyahu claims such a treaty is important for Israel's security and wants to advance this agreement as well as the annexation of the Jordan Valley before the American elections. Former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot said at a conference at the Institute of National Security Studies that "what happened in the Saudi oil fields should bother us and the neighboring countries.” He also said that Israel was “an invincible country” and that he had no appetite to enter politics.” (Maariv and Ynet)
  • Report: Russian fighter jets thwarted Israeli attack in Syria - According to Russian military aviation blog, IAF airstrike was planned for last Saturday and targeted advanced weapons shipment, which included high-tech defense systems, from Iran to secret T-4 airbase. (Ynet)
  • IDF Head of Manpower tells Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee: “The counting of ultra-Orthodox soldiers was done unprofessionally" - After it was exposed on KAN Broadcasting about the falsification of the ultra-Orthodox recruiting data, a discussion began with the participation of Maj. Gen. Moti Almoz, who said: "There was a significant attempt to get real numbers." (Maariv)
  • After getting in trouble with the IDF: (model and soldier) Barak Shamir represents Israel - Soldier and model Barak Shamir, who got into trouble in the past when he posted a photograph of himself dressed sloppily in IDF uniform,  represents Israel with dignity in the world in a British fashion magazine. Shamir made an unprecedented international achievement when he was selected to star on the cover of the international British fashion magazine, ‘Wonderland.’ (Maariv+PHOTOS)
  • At Israeli 'Women's Empowerment' Event, a Single Female Performer, Added at 11th Hour - Women can 'sing aloud, but not from a stage that belongs to men,' lamented Ramle's only councilwoman, whom mayor slammed for being 'populist.’ (Haaretz+)
  • Senior Iranian responds to Katz: "If Israel makes a mistake, we will flatten Tel Aviv from Lebanon" - One of the top advisers of the Revolutionary Guards commander addressed the Israeli Foreign Minister's remarks, saying that "Israel is too small to go wrong with us." He said the regime was ready with "fingers on the trigger" for Khamenei’s orders. (Yedioth Hebrew)
  • *Israeli school invites flat Earther to lecture ninth grade studentד - Matan Gorodish, a known advocate of the Flat Earth Theory, tells students at AMIT's Bar llan school that, 'known science is nothing more than lies meant to advance a certain agenda'; Weizmann Institute specialist slams school for offering its pupils 'such absolute drivel.’ (Ynet)
  • Green light for the establishment of the US Embassy in Jerusalem - For three decades, the Allenby Compound stood in the Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem. The US government leased the area for the establishment of a future embassy, but when the historic relocation move from Tel Aviv was implemented, the first step was to upgrade the consulate in the nearby Arnona neighborhood. Yesterday, the Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon met with representatives of the US State Department, during which it was agreed to begin planning of the construction of US embassy in the compound (on Hebron Road - OH). (Yedioth Hebrew)
  • Natan Sharansky Named Genesis Prize Laureate for 2020 - Former refusenik spent nine years in a Soviet jail, later serving as Jewish Agency chairman. The 'Jewish Nobel' award has been dogged by controversy in recent years. (Haaretz+ and Times of Israel)
  • Jerusalem's chief rabbi makes history in Bahrain - In first visit of its kind, Shlomo Amar heads to Bahraini capital to attend religious forum alongside several Muslim clerics from all over the Arab world; sends country's king 'greetings from Jerusalem,' Israeli media reports. (Ynet)
  • EU to debate Mideast policy as 2-state solution hopes fade - Luxemburg FM says a two-state solution is being taken apart 'piece by piece, day after day,' and that it is time to consider recognizing Palestine as a state. (Agencies, Ynet)
  • Israeli medics take on deadly measles outbreak in Samoa
  •  - The Israeli ambassador to New Zealand, Dr. Itzhak Gerberg, said Jerusalem would not abandon its 'dear friend' Samoa in the face of the crisis. (Israel Hayom and Ynet)
  • Israelis look to Inquisition roots to get Portuguese passports - Some applicants want to move to Portugal or use it as a stepping stone to the European Union's educational and job opportunities while others are seeking a reprieve from the turbulent Middle East. (Agencies, Ynet)
  • Jordanian court sentences man to 8 years for plot to attack Israeli embassy - Khaled Abu Raya planned "to fire on the embassy and its employees in a bid to kill a large number of Israelis," according to charges. (Maariv and Israel Hayom)
  • Lebanon Sunni leaders back Hariri to return as premier - Businessman previously tapped to succeed as PM says he was informed by Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdellatif Deryan that 'a consensus had been reached to name Saad Hariri as prime minister to form the next government.’ (Ynet)
  • Anti-Semitism stokes fear and election angst in UK's 'bagel belt' - With Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn repeatedly accused of anti-Semitism and party insiders saying little has been done to tackle the problem, even its own candidates admit that in north London, 'people are frightened.’ (Agencies, Ynet)
  • Lapid: Corbyn threat is real, I can't be neutral - “Usually, you’re not supposed to interfere with the election in other countries, but in this case I’m going to make an exception. Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-Semite," Lapid says in rare statement. (Israel Hayom)

"We will vote Corbyn and nothing will convince us that he is anti-Semitic"
"There is no evidence that Corbyn is a racist or anti-Semitic. He is actually from the  anti-racism stronghold. Just because he supports peace in the Middle East, then the Israeli government is not happy, and his accusation of anti-Semitism is one of the tools to attack him." It doesn't matter to them that the Wiesenthal Center declared him the "worst anti-Semite in the world," nor the fact that he took part in a memorial ceremony for the Palestinian terrorists from the Munich Olympics. For hundreds of Israelis living in the UK, Jeremy Corbyn is the ultimate prime ministerial candidate. In the interview, they tell how they fell in love with him and why despite all the warnings they will vote in two days for the Labor Party. (Yaniv Khalili in London, Yedioth’s ’24 Hours’ supplement)

Elections 2019/Netanyahu Indictment Commentary/Analysis:
Collective Insanity Gives Netanyahu’s Right Wing a Crushing Advantage Over Center-left Rivals (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+) As with Trump’s GOP, the Likud is no longer constrained by laws, conventions, traditions or values.
Political farce is one man's handiwork (Mati Tuchfeld, Israel Hayom) Since April's elections, Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman has become a one-man political stumbling block. The more power he wins in the March 2 elections, the more likely we are to head toward fourth consecutive elections.
Four Ways Netanyahu Protected Himself and Survived for Three More Months (Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz+) A third consecutive election may seem like a hollow victory, but considering the PM's situation, the bottom-line result is a win.
What does Lieberman want? To be the Defense Minister or the Prime Minister? (Dror Raphael, Maariv) It was likely that he would use the power given to him to decide with whom a government would be formed, but the chairman of Yisrael Beiteinu is not a reasonable person. He enjoys watching others respond helpless to his whims.
Gantz Took Netanyahu's Favorite Trick — and Used It Against Him (Yossi Verter, Haaretz+) Gantz’s offer to Netanyahu – that the latter give up his quest for immunity in exchange for “opening a dialogue” – was one of those quips the addressee has turned into an art form. Its whole purpose was to put Kahol Lavan's rival on the defensive, while in practice being a non-starter. Gantz, after several discussions with Netanyahu, understood that the latter has no intention of relinquishing his quest for immunity, just as he has no intention of giving up his current post. Thus, Gantz achieved two goals: he hits Netanyahu in his soft underbelly, the issue on which the accused from Balfour Street does not have the support of the majority of voters, namely, continuing to rule with an indictment over his head; and he also gains points in the blame game regarding the identity of the person most responsible for Israel sliding into a third election in one year.
The ball was thrown in Netanyahu’s hands (Yoav Karkovsky, Maariv) It’s rare that it happens to them, but for the first time in the last months, the Kahol-Lavan people are determining the political agenda. Less than three days before the dissolution of the Knesset, Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid are making headlines. Until this moment, Gantz stopped and pushed away every offer that came from Netanyahu about him staying as the leader of the government. In the last three days, Gantz threw the ball at Netanyahu and said to him - if you clarify once and for all what you want, leave of absence or immunity, we can talk. The meaning is that Gantz, for the first time, did not reject establishing a government with Netanyahu, if the latter promises not to do any parliamentary tricks to stop the judicial process. The likelihood that Netanyahu will announce that he will give up on his right (of immunity) as an elected official - is zero. Netanyahu not only cannot accept Gantz’s call, he also gives up on the idea of the unity government that he spoke about so much and returns to the well-known plan - a strong right-wing government. Netanyahu’s strength as we go to elections is his ability to play for time. He believes that he will be able to stop the wheels of indictment. If Netanyahu now rejects the offer, Gantz will win one important thing: points in the mutual accusation game, the blame-game. If until now Netanyahu could accuse Gantz mainly that Lapid is thwarting a unity government, now its his refusal to talk about the new formula - giving up on immunity - that reveals his real intentions. Not an ideological battle, not a right-wing rule, but rather a personal battle for protection from standing trial - and that’s the only reason for which a government is not being established. Lapid proves again how much he matured politically, and his official announcement of giving up a rotation proves how much he is focused on the goal. His dream to be prime minister did not disappear, it only went into waiting. After he gave up on the rotation in the case of a national unity government, now Lapid removes the title of the Likud campaign against Kahol-Lavan and against him personally. While Netanyahu is concerned about his personal issues, Lapid stores away his ego only in order to replace the government. The ones who pay the price, alongside Lapid, are (fellow Kahol-Lavan leaders) Gabi Ashkenazi and Moshe Yaalon. The decision to give up on the rotation will be accompanied by a much wider freedom of action for Gantz as chairman of the party and its candidate for prime minister. No more four-way joint decisions. Now the leadership is in the hands of Gantz, who earned it honestly. The one who gave him his trust was Lapid, the responsible adult made from Kahol-Lavan. Maybe this way there will be a political future for this move in the third round (of elections).

Other Commentary/Analysis:
In B'Tselem, We Believed the Israeli Public Needs to Know (Zehava Galon, Haaretz+) I was one of the founders and the first executive director of B’Tselem, when it was founded thirty years ago. We weren’t thinking 30 years ahead. We believed that the Israeli public just had to know what was being done in its name. How wrong we were. B’Tselem was established as a response to a question that is still tearing the Israeli public apart: What should you do when your country commits an injustice. Not a random injustice, not a mistake, not a blind bureaucratic decision, but an ongoing, deliberate policy that treats human beings like something to be trampled. The answer that people give to this question shows a lot about them. There are some who remain silent, there are some who convince themselves that everything is all right, there are some who explain that we have to fight, but not now and certainly not abroad. And then there is B’Tselem. It’s thankless work, because many Israelis believe that their security comes before the human rights of the Palestinians. But most Israelis also know that security doesn’t justify everything, because otherwise they wouldn’t make such an effort to deny the facts that B’Tselem exposes.
Israel fights for justice at the UNHRC (Vladimir Sloutsker, Israel Hayom) Not only has the UN Human Rights Council failed to improve the UN’s reputation or ceased its Israel derangement syndrome, it has entrenched both.
When the Settlement Bloc Expands (Amira Hass, Haaretz+) If, seven years from now, settlers declare that the Palestinian village of Atara, north of Ramallah, endangers them because of its high location and proximity to the road, and demand that its homes be emptied, what will the army’s district brigade commander and Central Command chief do? What will they do if the declaration is accompanied by violence and vandalism targeting the villagers, and later mass prayers at the entrance to the village? Judging by previous experience, it’s likely that the senior officers will send soldiers to protect the Israeli citizens during their assaults and their prayers, and might even shoot at Palestinians who dare to protest. But we cannot rule out the possibility that the commanders will also find or invent an appropriate order allowing them to permanently expel the villagers from their homes, because that’s what the settlers demand. Go to Ramallah, there are lots of vacant apartments there, the Civil Administration officers will say as they come to deliver the expulsion orders. We hope the residents of Atara will forgive us for using them as an example in such a horrifying script.
Israel Is Not a City of Refuge (Haaretz Editorial) On Tuesday morning, the Jerusalem District Court will hold a decisive hearing in a case that has cast a heavy shadow over Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism), while bringing to an unprecedented nadir Israel’s relations with Australia’s government and its Jewish community. Senior psychiatrists are expected to testify as to whether Malka Leifer — who fled Australia for Israel after being charged with the rape and sexual assault of students at the ultra-Orthodox school in Melbourne where she was the principal — is mentally fit for extradition to Australia in order to stand trial.
Anti-Semitism, born in the U.S.A. (Orly Azoulay, Yedioth/Ynet) The plethora of Jews are involved in Trump's impeachment process greases the wheels of anti-Semitism, with some on the far-right calling it a 'Jewish coup'; but the president isn't anti-Semitic himself, he does not have the intellect.
Why Would Israel Reportedly Have Missiles That Reach Beyond Iran (Yossi Melman, Haaretz+) Last week, Israel tested what foreign reports said was a nuclear-capable Jericho missile amid reports that Iran has deployed its own missiles in Iraq, 400 kilometers from Israel.
It’s time for Europe to stand with the Iranian people (Eric R. Mandel, Israel Hayom) What will it take for the international community to realize that no amount of money, accommodation or deference will change the DNA of Iran’s leaders, who are bent on eradicating Israel, and the ascendance of Shi’ism over Sunnis and minority populations living in the Mideast?
Trump’s Pitch to Israelis and Evangelicals: Make America Hate (Jews) Again (Bradley Burston, Haaretz+) Donald Trump is a genius. Setting Jew against Jew, and Evangelical against Jew, he's reshaping the U.S.-Israel bond to his own electoral advantage.
Prepared for APN by Orly Halpern, independent freelance journalist based in Jerusalem.
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