News Nosh 12.29.19

APN's daily news review from Israel

Sunday December 29, 2019

Quote of the day #1:

“Even if its intentions are otherwise, by closing the center the university is joining the murky wave of directing fewer and fewer resources to peace research, democracy and humanist values.”
—Prof. Izhak Schnell of the Department of Geography and Human Environment at Tel-Aviv University reacts to the university’s decision to shut down the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research.*

Quote of the day #2:

"Netanyahu, with no authority or responsibility, keeps promoting more construction in the West Bank settlements all the while sacrificing the possibility of an agreement with the Palestinian people."
--Peace Now reacted to the latest government plan to approve 2000 more settler homes.**

Front Page:


Yedioth Ahronoth

  • “If (Gideon) Saar makes more mistakes he will be erased” - Senior Likud people threaten (Hebrew)
  • Balfour’s dilemma // Sima Kadmon on how Netanyahu should but won’t react to his rival, Gideon Saar, who ran against him for the Likud leadership
  • WHO report: Israel is not making the target for flu immunizations (Hebrew)
  • His voice is missed // Eli Amir on the death of Amos Oz
  • The chazan of joy - Bayeh Tespa waited 21 years to immigrate to Israel from Ethiopia and unite with his relatives, yesterday he arrived (Hebrew)

Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)

Israel Hayom

  • After the victory: “We will charge the field” - In Likud, they are encouraged by Netanyahu’s victory: “This is how we will win also in the Knesset elections”
  • Map of the (Likud leadership) primaries: Netanyahu conquered the periphery, Saar conquered north Tel-Aviv
  • Sa’ar’s mistake: He was caught in a bear hug // Mati Tuchfeld
  • The Likud’s challenge: To keep the momentum // Yaakov Berdugo
  • High Court’s weakness: Politicization in the law // Amnon Lord
  • Gantz’s test: Bring the union of the left-wing // Yossi Beilin
  • Today: National Security Council will present to the gov’t the details of the long-term arrangement in Gaza
  • Tonight: eighth candle

Elections 2019/Netanyahu Indictment News:
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu hailed his landslide, albeit low turnout, victory over his challenger, Gideon Saar, while top Likud people debated whether to “punish” Saar for running against Netanyahu or to embrace him "for unity.”  (Yedioth Hebrew) Netanyahu promised he will “convince the US to recognize Israeli settlements" if he wins the Knesset elections in March, he will

Meanwhile, Channel 12 News reported that Netanyahu plans to ask for immunity from the Knesset in the face of his three criminal indictments. According to Netanyahu, requesting immunity from prosecution isn't avoiding trial.
In the center and left-wing, Kahol-Lavan leaders are considering to offer the chairwoman of the Gesher Party the tenth spot on their party list. The joint Labor-Gesher list will soon announce its decision on a union with the Meretz party. (Maariv)

Other Top News Summary:
The other big stories were the high number of people hospitalized due to the flu and the jump in the number of people getting vaccinated, the discussion today in the Israeli security cabinet on resuming the understandings with Hamas as part of a long-term agreement, including resuming the transfer of Qatari money to Gaza and easing sanctions on the Gaza Strip, while at the same time the cabinet was also to approve Defense Minister Naftali Bennett's plan to deduce $43 million from the Palestinian tax money Israel collects for and transfers to the Palestinian Authority. Possibly connected to the planned Israeli resumption of easing sanctions on the Gaza Strip, the Gazan organizers of the weekly Palestinian “March of Return” demonstrations along the Gaza Strip border with Israel said Thursday that they will significantly scale down the gatherings and make them on a monthly, not weekly, basis. Haaretz+ wrote that this signaled the exploration of the long-term truce with Israel. ‘Israel Hayom’ wrote that it was possibly due to ‘dwindling turnout’ and a desire to maintain the ceasefire with Israel.

Quick Hits:

  • The Last Palestinian on Hunger Strike Defying Israel’s Detention Without Trial - By the 97th day of a strike while deprived of his right to a defense, Ahmed Zahran had lost 66 pounds, and since the 45th day he has needed a wheelchair. (Haaretz+)
  • **Caretaker government set to okay some 2,000 new settler homes - Despite political stalemate and ahead of third elections in 12 months, Supreme Planning Board will convene later this week to promote construction of West Bank settlement houses; Peace Now: Netanyahu sacrificing chance of agreement with the Palestinians. (Yedioth/Ynet)
  • *Tel Aviv University Shutting Down Center for Peace Research - Sources say decision to shut down the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research not preceded by any examination of center’s work in past several years. Decision slated to go into effect in middle of academic year. (Haaretz+)
  • Ex-Israel Bar Chief, Embroiled in Bribery Claims, Faces New Corruption Allegations - Efraim Nave, accused of taking sexual favors as bribes, allegedly helped secure position for judge in exchange for advancing his interests. This matter was not investigated by police as part of the corruption probe against Nave, in which the state prosecutor has decided to indict him, subject to a hearing, for taking bribes in the form of sexual favors from Judge Eti Craif. (Haaretz+)
  • Court Administration Calls for Release of Ex-top Lawyer’s Texts in Corruption Case Involving Judges - According to the information obtained by Haaretz, in 2016 then Israeli Bar Chief, Efraim Nave acted to advance a senior judge, with whom he had close ties, to a post being sought by several judges, in exchange for the latter’s commitment regarding a legal matter of interest to Nave. Israel's judiciary 'does not seek to conceal anything,' statement says, arguing it would put to rest 'irresponsible slander against judges.’ (Haaretz+)
  • Defense Minister's aide violates IDF rules by taking kids on army chopper - Sources in the defense establishment told Haaretz that the military secretary used his personal ties with Naftali Bennett to take his kids along, and that his decision showed bad judgment. (Haaretz+)
  • Netanyahu, Following Indictment, Appoints Health Minister Who May Also Face Indictment - PM, required by law to turn over his ministerial portfolios, taps Deputy Health Minister Litzman, who is embroiled in bribery charges, for the post. (Haaretz+)
  • Australian Jews blast health minister candidate implicated in pedophile case - Zionist Federation of Australia publishes lengthy open letter to Netanyahu entreating him to reconsider nomination for United Torah Judaism head Yaakov Litzman, the current deputy health minister who is accused of helping a former Melbourne school principal evade extradition to face charges of sexually abusing three female students. (Ynet)
  • Netanyahu Adviser Pushing Plan to Cut Benefits, Wages for Foreign Workers - Economic adviser seeks to free employers of obligation to pay into pension funds and allow them to pay less than minimum wage ■ Plan contradicts current laws and treaties, sources say. (Haaretz+)
  • Netanyahu asks Putin again to release Israeli jailed in Russia over drug charges - Leaders' phone call Thursday comes days after court rejected Naama Issachar's appeal in politically charged case. (Haaretz+)
  • Israelis’ quality of life improves in most areas, study finds - Statistics show improvement in 31 indexes and decline in 14. (Haaretz+)
  • Some 35,000 Israelis requested Portuguese citizenship in 2019 - Jump of 30% compared to last year. In December, 600 approvals for the citizenship were given. (Maariv, p. 8)
  • Gal Gadot to co-produce film adaptation of barred novel on Israeli-Palestinian romance - Dorit Rabinyan's 'All the Rivers' was at the heart of a controversy after Israel's Education Ministry refused to include it in reading list for high school students. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
  • Prosecutor at The Hague: "No personal charges against Israelis for war crimes" - In an interview with Ma'ariv, Fatou dismissed the allegations that she had succumbed to anti-Israeli pressure, stating: "I work objectively and professionally. Any attempt to imply otherwise - is misleading." (Maariv)
  • Israeli teen's Palestinian killer seeks plea deal - Arafat Irfayia's attorney tells hearing in Jerusalem that his client confessed to raping and stabbing 19-year-old Ori Ansbacher near Jerusalem last February, but the 29-year-old remains silent making confession inadmissible. (Ynet)
  • Four Palestinians Arrested While Attempting to Smuggle 94 Birds in Their Pants - The men are suspected of bringing the goldfinches into Hebron from Jordan, to sell for hundreds of shekels each. (Haaretz+)
  • Operations to Start at Leviathan Gas Field After Israeli Ministry Gives Green Light - Israel signed off on the project, which was supposed to begin earlier this week, but needed extra data from the energy companies running the field. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Hamas Court Hands Comedian 18 Months in Prison Over Mock Beheading Video - Aadel al-Mashwakhi sentenced over video that has circulated on social media since September and shows him ridiculing ISIS. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Egyptian YouTube star arrested for videos criticizing president - Last fall, Shadi Srour posted a video titled 'Enough al-Sissi,' in which he endorsed calls made by self-exiled businessman Mohamed Ali to rise against the president. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Lebanon’s Vital Tourism Industry Takes Huge Hit Amid Turmoil - Business owners say they really began to feel the economic crunch after protests swept the country in mid-October, paralyzing businesses with road closures and strikes. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • 'We are not paying': Lebanese protesters turn their ire on banks - Dozens of protesters entered private banks, shouting 'down with bank rule' and insisting that no one would leave without the money they came for. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Aid Group Says Syria's Idlib at 'Breaking Point' and Warns of More Displaced - The International Rescue Committee warns that continued violence could displace as many as 400,000 in the coming weeks. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Algeria names new prime minister who protesters are unlikely to accept - The country's massive street protester movement is expected to oppose anyone appointed by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, whose election they see as illegitimate. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Saudi supporter of Israel claims citizenship revoked - Journalist Abdul Hameed al-Ghobein favors normalization, cooperation with Jewish state, calling it ‘strategic choice’; Fatah official says he 'deserves' to be disciplined for his actions. (Ynet)
  • Iraqi human rights group says 490 protesters killed since October - Mass uprisings prompted the resignation of former PM Adel Abdul-Mahdi late last month, with protesters demanding an independent candidate for the post. (Agencies, Haaretz)


The Palestinian politician who turned terrorist
Khalida Jarrar, a senior official in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was named by the Shin Bet as the head of a 50-strong terrorist cell in the West Bank, responsible for the murder of 17-year-old Rina Shnerb earlier this year. (Elior Levi and Elisha Ben Kimon, Yedioth/Ynet)
Shin Bet Claimed She Was Behind Israeli Teen's Murder. Her Indictment Says Otherwise
The re-arrest of Palestinian lawmaker Khalida Jarrar sparked a media campaign accusing her of alleged involvement in the murder of Israeli teen Rena Shnerb. No one took an interest in the actual indictment. (Gideon Levy, Haaretz+)

Elections 2019/Netanyahu Indictment Commentary/Analysis:
Cowards in the Face of Netanyahu (Zehava Galon, Haaretz+) The exact depth of the absurdity has revealed itself in recent days. One minute the attorney general is ferociously arguing with the temporary justice minister about the appointment of a temporary replacement, while the next minute he avoids saying whether it’s proper to ask that a government be formed by someone he himself has charged with bribery. Show me the battles a man chooses to wage and I’ll tell you who he is.
The silent deaths building Israel's cities (Chen Artzi Sror, Yedioth/Ynet) As the death toll at construction sites approaches 500 in a year, which party will raise the issue of worker safety in the upcoming election? Which politician will be the first to tackle this national disgrace, despite its lack of electoral benefit?
The Hand of Israel’s Attorney General Is the New Hand of God (Carolina Landsmann, Haaretz+) They want to tell us that the hand of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit – embodied in the corruption indictments against Benjamin Netanyahu – is also illegal. Or as the prime minister himself has said: “a coup by legal means.” Before responding from the gut to this accusation and rejecting it in disgust and with self-righteousness, it’s worth taking a moment to look at the meaning of the words. After all, this is Netanyahu, the wizard of words, who traps his rivals in a semantic spiderweb that he weaves around them. What does that mean, “a coup by legal means?"
The valley of unfulfilled Netanyahu promises (Meirav Batito, Yedioth/Ynet) Residents of the Jordan Valley may hope annexation will improve their lives, but they risk becoming pawns in the prime minister's efforts to distance himself from his criminal prosecution despite his failure to provide even basic medical services for the area.
Likud still believes Netanyahu can win – and Bibi keeps proving he can fight (Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz+) The prime minister battled for every vote to keep Gideon Sa’ar under the psychologically important 30 percent mark, a result Netanyahu feels has cemented the right-wing bloc for the next general election.
Netanyahu now has some tough decisions to make (Yossi Verter, Haaretz+) Next up for Netanyahu: appointing four new ministers, a strategic decision on whether to seek immunity and then the March election, where even greater dangers may lurk.
Sa'ar's Likud prospects look bleak after primary pounding (Moran Azulay and Itamar Eichner, Yedioth/Ynet) After Netanyahu's overwhelming victory over his main challenger, some Likud members call to embrace the party's rebel in order to portray unity ahead of March 2 election, while others want 'punishment.’
Israel's General Election Will Be a Totally Different Game for Netanyahu (Yossi Verter, Haaretz+) Despite his Likud primary win, any connection between the outside world and the mystical devotion of the party’s members to their leader isn’t loose, it’s nonexistent.
Labor, Meretz, Come Down to Earth (Ravit Hecht , Haaretz+) The Labor Party is busy fighting over the reserved slots at the top of the Knesset list that chairman Amir Peretz will be able to fill with people of his choice. Meanwhile, Meretz and MK Stav Shaffir are heading for a collision over the latter’s position on the Democratic Union joint ticket. All these spats could be compared to someone hospitalized in the intensive care unit who, as his bed is beeping alarms, is arguing over the phone about his seat on the flight for his next Pesach vacation.
Israel’s Suicidal Left (Gideon Levy, Haaretz+) The Israeli left is in a frenzy, a fatal frenzy – opinion pieces, petitions, manifestos and advertisements. “The left either unites or it commits suicide,” screamed one petition published Friday. We haven’t had such an active, animated left for a long time – not since the last election. What’s all the fuss about? The airstrike that killed nine members of a Gaza family in November? The decision in The Hague to investigate Israel for war crimes, in preparation for a trial? The deportations of the Israeli-born children of refugees? The warmongering against Iran? Not even close. What woke the Israeli left from its slumber is the existential question of whether MK Revital Swid will serve in the next Knesset, whether MK Ilan Gilon will be in or out. That’s the truth about the battle to unite the left. It revolves around whether No. 6 on the Labor-Gesher ticket and No. 5 on the Democratic Union slate are in or out.

Other Commentary/Analysis:

2010-2019 The decade that devoured the ties between Israel and U.S. Jews (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+) Netanyahu’s brawls with Obama and his bromance with Trump accelerated a split rendered inevitable – by the occupation.
The spins it would be better to leave in the past decade (Lilach Sigan, Maariv) The threats about the end of democracy, the narrative of occupation and annexation, the will of the people and other spins that it is best to leave in the past decade, so that we can finally move forward.
The Hacked Phone That Could Rock Israel’s Judiciary (Friday Haaretz Editorial) Sensitive material from the cellphone of former Israel Bar Association chief Efraim Nave has been leaked and published. The evidence was collected in a criminal investigation against the lawyer suspected of advancing judicial appointments in exchange for favors. A gag order prohibits the media from publishing the correspondence and makes its distribution on social media a criminal offense. The constitutional right to privacy that protects Nave and all citizens is a supreme right. This is all well and good, but new suspicions have come to light, including allegations that judges accepted bribes in the form of rendering a false verdict in order to gain a promotion. These suspicions cannot be allowed to remain in the dark, and they certainly must be examined or investigated. The judicial branch acted correctly Friday when it announced that it had no interest in maintaining the gag order. In the meantime, the gag order protects not only Nave’s privacy but also key figures in the judiciary. To factor them into deciding whether to allow publication constitutes a concrete conflict of interest.
A Probe That Exposes the Corruption Behind Israel's Judicial Appointments (Gidi Weitz, Haaretz+) Investigation against Efi Nave uncovers other sub-affairs, though still covered up by a scandalous gag order shielding important legal figures, among them a top judge.
Quest for legitimacy behind Hamas’ change of heart on elections (Media Line, Ynet) Prominent Arab analyst says group acting as 'de facto government in Gaza and wants to be internationally recognized as the official authority,' adding that both it and rival PA pressed by Qatar to hold ballot with consensus list of candidates.
Hamas is serious about a ceasefire (Yoav Limor, Israel Hayom) The time is finally ripe – Israel and Hamas have equal interest in a long-term ceasefire deal that would ease conditions for both residents of Gaza and residents of southern Israel.
Israel-Iran Collision Almost Inevitable, IDF Chief Makes Clear (Amos Harel, Haaretz+) In resolute speech on Mideast threats, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi implied Israel attacks Iranian weapon convoys smuggled through Iraq. He also warned of a conflict up north.
IDF chief's promo for Israel's next major war (Gal Perl Finkel, Ynet) Aviv Kochavi Wednesday's speech contained indirect warnings aimed not only at the Israeli public, but also at Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas; it was an attempt to convey that in the next conflict the home front will come under intense fire and the army will suffer great losses.
Iran will continue to challenge Israel in 2020, but Gaza could steal the show (Tal Lev-Ram, Maariv) In the year when tensions in the north are expected to intensify, it is not by chance that the IDF is trying to push towards a long-term arrangement  But until then, and despite the joint desires, further rounds of escalation may develop.
Fighting Iran's undivided and indivisible regime (Caroline B. Glick, Israel Hayom) The myth that has guided Western policymaking regarding the regime in Iran has been the existence of a power struggle between moderates and hardliners. Its brutal crackdown against protesters has finally shattered that myth.
As Israel Eyes Harsher Strikes on Iran Targets, End Goal Remains Murky (Amos Harel, Haaretz+) While Defense Minister Bennett openly talks about driving Iranian forces out of Syria, the army seems content with a more realistic option ■ Politicians embrace new IDF chief, but even he knows how quickly they could turn.
The empty space left by the US in the region will have to be filled by Israeli intelligence (Alon Ben David, Maariv) New territories, including Iraq and Yemen, have entered the annual Intelligence Assessment this year, with factors likely to be stretched in the coming year amid widespread intersectionality among an unprecedented number of arenas.
It's time to apply maximum pressure on Iran (Ken Abramowitz, Israel Hayom) The US needs to turn up the financial, cultural, diplomatic, and military heat to prevent the all-out war we're heading into if the Iranian regime is not stopped.
Turkey maneuver could block Israel's access to the sea (Shaul Chorev, Dr. Beni Shpeinner, Dr. Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak, Ynet) Israel - which is 99% reliant on its seaports for import and export of goods - must take note of new reality taking hold in Mediterranean, as Ankara seeks to take advantage of gaps in UN's 1982 Maritime Boundaries agreement.
Gaza Rocket Forced Netanyahu Off Stage, but Didn't Crush Army's Faith in Hamas Deal (Amos Harel, Haaretz+) On the eve of the Likud primary for party leader, the prime minister once again made it about himself.
Tiptoeing around the ICC (Ariel Kahana, Israel Hayom) For a decade, Israel's decisions on crucial issues has been influenced by the specter of The Hague. Since caution hasn’t worked, Israel should adopt other tactics before it is too late.
The world's blatant hypocrisy (Ben-Dror Yemini, Yedioth/Ynet) Although ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bendousa cannot deny her services for one of Africa's deadliest dictators, the international community has shown its duplicity by pointing a finger at Israel and ignoring the crimes of regimes such as Syria, Iran and Turkey.
Israel should show that the criticism of the Hague has the opposite effect (Prof. Arieh Eldad, Maariv) Israel's enemies no longer have a need for rockets and tunnels to file a complaint with the International Tribunal for "war crimes.” This is the weapon that really paralyzes the Netanyahu government. It's enough for them to file a complaint with The Hague and Prime Minister Netanyahu will refrain from (settlement) construction, give up on the war on terror, and will not evict land thieves. He fears that Israel will be accused of committing "war crimes.”
Why Israel Should Let Palestinians Hold Elections (Muhammad Shehada, Haaretz+) Palestinians are fed up with Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. The planned elections could allow new, pragmatic parties to emerge and offer a way out of the deadlock in Gaza Strip.
A long-awaited holiday gift for terror victims (Sarah N. Stern, Israel Hayom) For many families who have been suffering in quiet anguish for the last 18 years, a new US law is nothing short of a miracle.
2010-2019: Flight Travel to and From Israel Soared in the 2010s, but Now It Will Come With Guilt (Moshe Gilad, Haaretz+) At the end of the decade it's clear: It almost doesn't matter where you fly. Sometimes you just have to get out of here.
Decade in review How the 2010s changed the face of the Arab world – and Iran (Zvi Bar’el, Haaretz+) Oppressed masses awoke after a single slap at a Tunisian market, Tehran won legitimacy with its nuclear deal, and ISIS may be down but it’s not out.
Abu Dhabi and Jerusalem are warming relations, and the opening of an Israeli representative office there is not a distant dream (Jacky Khougy, Maariv) The UAE has crossed the Rubicon and its leaders are ripe for public contact with Israel. And that is why Egypt has just started its campaign to restore synagogues.
In the 2010s, anti-Semitism Went Mainstream (Jonathan A. Greenblatt, Haaretz+) To understand the rise in murderous attacks like those currently plaguing New York City, we must recognize one of the most disturbing trends of the last decade: the normalization of anti-Semitism.


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