News Nosh 1.7.20

APN's daily news review from Israel
Tuesday January 7, 2020

Quote of the day:
“When Muslims and Jews meet, even outside of the Middle East, they often feel insecure and suspicious. Even my desire to learn about Jews and Judaism, while living in Gaza, was something I was reluctant to share with others. And if I had never left, I would never have met Jews or Israelis outside of a military confrontation. I would always have been scared of them.”
Mohammed M. writes in Haaretz how being hosted by a Jewish family while participating in a US leadership program that brings Palestinians and Israelis to Washington D.C. to live and work together changed his views.*

Front Page:
Yedioth Ahronoth
  • “I understood from Netanyahu that he won’t ask for immunity” - President Rivlin in an interview with Nahum Barnea at the Yedioth Ahronoth conference (Hebrew)
  • Lieberman and Lapid on battle over immunity: Hint they will act to suspend the Speaker of the Knesset
  • Herzi Halevi, Commander of the Southern Command, on Soleimani’s assassination: “Good that it happened far away”
  • Head rabbi against immigrants from Russia: “Goys that hate religion”
  • Tomorrow: Storm and fear of floods
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links)
Israel Hayom
  • IDF cancels brigade exercises - Dramatic decision: Army changes character of ground forces’ training
  • “(Knesset legal advisor) Inon needs to suspend himself”
  • Exclusive: Uneducated punishment - Locking children in classrooms and humiliating them in front of everyone; Education Ministry report: teachers cross the line with punishment
  • “Todah, giveret” (Thank you, Madam): Tarantino won at the Golden Globes - and celebrated in Hebrew (by thanking his wife in Hebrew)

Top News Summary:
Israel tried to distance itself from the assassination of Iranian commander, Qassem Soleimani, while the US said it will and then it won’t withdraw its forces from Iraq, and at the Knesset, the Knesset legal advisor said he will likely dismiss himself due to a conflict of interests (Maariv) and MK Avigdor Lieberman threatened he will get the Knesset Speaker dismissed if the latter doesn’t agree to form a committee that will vote whether to give Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu immunity or not - making top stories in today’s Hebrew newspapers.

At the weekly security-cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said that Israel was “not the story” in the Soleimani assassination. “It is an American story and that's how it should stay.” Intelligence officials told those present that “there is no real threat to Israel from Iran" and at the Yedioth conference, GOC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi reiterated that “We are not the central story here…We are watching from the side, it’s good it happened far from here…” Nevertheless, the US Embassy in Israel issued a warning to US citizens about possible rocket attacks on Israel.

After Iraq's parliament passed on Sunday a resolution telling its government to end the presence of foreign troops in Iraq, the US military sent a letter saying it would withdraw its troops. But later it said that that was just a poorly worded draft. At Soleimani’s funeral in Teheran, which had possibly the most mourners of any funeral in history, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wailed. Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders also attended. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said that the “Criminal atmosphere propagated by the U.S. is what motivates the crimes of Israel both inside and outside of Palestine.” Egypt and Saudi Arabia were furious that Haniyeh attended.

The assassination of Soleimani came three days before the scheduled publication of the annual security report of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel-Aviv University, during which time the INSS updated the report. The bottom line was that “Soleimani's assassination increased the likelihood of war in 2020.” According to the researchers, "Suleimani's assassination gives greater weight to the possibility of escalation and the need to formulate a new Israeli strategy…and it holds the potential for strategic turnaround, the scope and scale of which is still early to assess.” (Maariv)
Quick Hits:
  • Israel promoting nearly 2,000 settlement homes, watchdog says - Peace Now report says Judea and Samaria settlement enterprise has consistently grown since US President Donald Trump took office. (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
  • IDF annual report: More rockets, less terror acts - Israeli military says 2019 was most violent year since last Gaza war regarding number of projectiles launched at Israeli communities; Palestinian popular terrorism on the decline as knife attacks, firebombings decrease. Two IDF soldiers were killed in 2019. (Ynet)
  • Israeli confiscations, demolitions of Palestinian homes up 45 percent in 2019, UN figures show - Number of West Bank residents displaced as a result more than doubles. (Haaretz+)
  • Israel's Defense Chief Wants Gazans Jailed as Bargaining Chips in Potential Prisoner Exchange Deal - Defense officials shocked by minister's demand, arguing that Gazans who cross into Israel are in distress, rather than posing a threat. (Haaretz+)
  • Undercover police arrest prominent Israeli anti-occupation activist in Haaretz building - Officers arrest Jonathan Pollak at his workplace in south Tel Aviv after he refused to appear in court over a private prosecution filed against him by extreme-right group Ad Kan. (Haaretz+ and +972mag)
  • Teen terrorist who killed Ari Fuld convicted for voluntary manslaughter - Attacker, then 16, stabbed Fuld in the back at a shopping center in Gush Etzion. Fuld shot him before collapsing, preventing the assailant from harming others. The family asked that he receive the death sentence. (Israel Hayom)
  • Israel Expands Attorney General's Authority Ahead of Possible International War Crimes Case - Updated guideline intended to bolster argument that Israeli investigations meet international standards. (Haaretz+)
  • Israeli Police Arrests Suspect in Murder of Arab Teen Anti-violence Activist - A 40 year-old Palestinian who was staying in Israel illegally was arrested Monday on suspicion of having murdered Adel Khatib, 17, last month in the Arab city of Shfaram. Four suspects initially arrested in the victim's neighborhood were all released last week, following a "dramatic development in the investigation," according to the police. (Haaretz+)
  • IDF under fire for plan to substitute brigades' training with simulations - Military says the move, while controversial, was "creative and brave," adding it was "a must considering the new reality on the ground." Defense expert: It seems like someone wants to show that they are reinventing everything. It could be dangerous. (Israel Hayom)
  • Deadly storm claims life of 4th victim in Israel's north - Ali Agbaria and son tried to cross an overflowing river but while the son managed to escape the 47-year-old was washed away by the current as his offspring watched; an elderly man drowned in a stream close to Binyamina just hours earlier. (Yedioth/Ynet)
  • Despite political stalemate, MKs give themselves pay rise - Hike sees lawmakers' monthly salary rise to NIS 45,251, ministers' pay increases to NIS 50,623 - fourfold national average of NIS 11,000. (Calcalist/Ynet)
  • Israel worried over tourism growth after reaching record 4.55 million in 2019 - It’s not security, rather budget cuts that are causing Tourism Ministry officials concern. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Israeli Judge Agrees to Disclose Correspondence With Ex-bar Chief Who Allegedly Promoted Him - Haaretz reported allegations that Efraim Nave worked to promote the judge in return for furthering Nave’s interests. (Haaretz+)
  • Judge Deleted Texts With Israeli Finance Minister During 'Sex for Judgeship' Probe - Judge Eti Craif, suspected of bribery, deleted messages she sent to Moshe Kahlon, who was also on the judicial appointments committee. (Haaretz+)
  • With 2020's First Death at Israeli Construction Site, Activists Pin Hopes on New Minister - Labor rights activists call on minister to ensure stricter safety regulations after 74-year-old dies in northern city. (Haaretz+)
  • Israeli Cybersecurity Startup Makes One Billion Dollar Exit - Armis sold to New York-based global private equity and venture capital firm Insight Partners. (Haaretz+)
  • Israeli Director's Movie Makes Iranian Critics' Top 10 List of the Year - 'It’s very exciting, even though it's clear that no film will prevent confrontation,' director of Golden Bear winner 'Synonyms' says. (Haaretz+)

What You Need to Know About Israel’s New Diaspora Affairs Minister
Her appointment is almost certain to be short-lived, but that doesn’t mean world Jewish leaders weren’t wringing their hands Sunday when they learned that Tzipi Hotovely had just been named Israel’s next Diaspora affairs minister. Hotovely was slammed by many U.S. Jews in 2017 after she criticized them for their ‘convenient lives.’ Can she make amends in her new job? Non-Orthodox leaders have their doubts. A self-proclaimed religious right-winger, her values and positions seem bound to collide with those of large sections of the Jewish world, particularly in the United States. (Judy Maltz, Haaretz+)

Soleimani Assassination Commentary/Analysis:
Israelis hailing Trump for killing Soleimani forget the destructive consequences of past assassinations (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+) Netanyahu has pointedly refrained from reasserting his unique influence on America’s 'tough stance' against Iran.
The view from Tehran: Soleimani's death is just the beginning (Abbaspur Mohammadi, Yedioth/Ynet) A Tehran-based journalist believes the world is not better since the U.S. killing of the top Iranian commander, claiming the regime's retaliation to the assassination will only make region more unstable.
Iran will try to take revenge, and we must not sit with our hands crossed (Omar Dustri, Maariv) Suleimani's assassination is a defeating blow to Iran's global terror and it is the return of American deterrence. If Israel is attacked, it must respond disproportionately.
Analysis A smokescreen of threats as Iran grapples to avenge its honor (Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz+) Iran blows off nuclear pact, Iraqi parliament calls for ouster of troops, and Trump threatens sanctions on Iraq.
Trump's Fake News move aimed at scaring Iraqis (Ron Ben-Yishai, Ynet Hebrew) Allegedly, a letter was sent stating that the US military was withdrawing US troops from Iraq. This was probably a sophisticated "Trump exercise of Psy-Op” with a message to Baghdad: Those who will be hurt by the demand to remove Americans are only the Iraqis. Sending the letter in which it was implied that the US military intends to withdraw its troops from Iraq was, it seems, a sophisticated “psychological exercise” initiated by the Trump administration to deter the Iraqi government from demanding US troops be expelled. This comes after the Iraqi parliament, following the assassination of Iranian Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad, passed by a majority vote a decision urging the Iraqi government to order Americans to remove their troops from their country. The parliamentary resolution was drafted by none other than Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi himself, who also publicly supported it along with other Shi'ite politicians. Sunni and Kurdish politicians were absent from the vote. The decision was deliberately worded more vaguely, as a response intended to please the Shiite militias that supported Sulimani rather than as a practical act. For example, it is unclear from the decision when the US troops were supposed to leave and what will be the fate of the billions of dollars of aid the Pentagon invests in training the Iraqi army and in the war against ISIS. But the mere passing of the decision in the Iraqi parliament could put pressure on militias to carry it out, and that could be seen as a victory for Iran and boost Iran's ability to threaten and harm US allies in the region, including Israel. Instead of a direct response to the Iraqi parliament's decision, which would have indicated US concern, the Pentagon apparently decided on a move to make it clear to the Iraqi government and the Iraqi army that those who would be harmed by the demand to withdraw U.S. forces would be the Iraqis themselves and no one else. As a matter of principle, according to Donald Trump's isolationist policy, the US would have been happy to remove its troops from Iraq. But for the Americans, it is important at this point in time, after the Soleimani assassination, not to leave Iraq, mainly so that the Iranians cannot mark it as a victory and that Iran cannot threaten from Iraq's territory, especially Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, as well as Israel. That is why the letter was apparently deliberately sent to the Iraqis clarifying their situation - making it clear that the removal of US soldiers is putting them in deep trouble, while it does not matter much to the US. In the letter, the Pentagon makes it clear to the Iraqi government (which is a transitional government) and to Prime Minister Al-Mahdi that it is prepared and ready to remove its troops from Iraq already without delay, if it wants the US to fulfill the Iraqi parliament's decision. But without military and intelligence assistance, Iraq will again be easy prey for ISIS activists still operating in most parts of the country, especially in western Iraq. The Iranians will not send troops to help them, and the militias are too weak to deal with ISIS, which will receive reinforcement from the Sunni tribes. Without US troops protecting the facilities and oil fields and the US contractors who maintain them, Iraq's oil industry will collapse - and foreign investment will stop for Iraq, which will plunge into a civil war between the Shiites and Sunnis in the west and the Kurds in the north. In short, Trump is hinting in the letter that was allegedly sent in error that he is ready to take his troops out of Iraq at any moment, and more importantly - he means it. He has enough bases in other Arab Gulf states, including Kuwait and Qatar, and even in Syria and Jordan from which the US can fight ISIS and Iran. And if Iraq fulfills its threat, US special forces can remain within the Kurdish Autonomous Region in the north and at the base of Syria-Iraq border. Not only that - the move is probably also meant to scare the Europeans, who fear that if the US stops the war against ISIS in Iraq - they will have to deal with it themselves, in Brussels and in other European capitals. And the Europeans got scared, and they are working to convene a ministerial meeting to prevent the move and, in general, calm the situation in Iraq. In addition, it is already clear that Trump wants to demand compensation from Iraq for the trillions the US has invested in it, and he also hints that it will impose sanctions. After the effect was achieved, the Joint Chief of Staff said the letter was just a badly drafted draft and that it had been sent in error, and all heads of government have denied it. A classic “fake news” move that the U.S. government also knows how to do (especially when Trump is the president), when it serves its strategic goals.
After Soleimani Killing, Hamas Caught Between Gaza Calm and Iranian Support (Jack Khoury, Haaretz+) Political chief's decision to attend general's funeral in Tehran could draw unexpected responses from Israel and Egypt, which is mediating talks.

Other Top Commentary/Analysis:
How Israel Covers Up Corruption by Its Spies, Soldiers and Arms Dealers (Yossi Melman, Haaretz+) Israel's security apparatus is in bed with an over-collaborative judiciary to hide dirty deals and espionage from public scrutiny.
Donations have become a substitute for a real welfare policy (Dr. Orit Miller, Maariv) This is how they solve the poverty problem in Israel today: They ask the citizens to open their heart and wallet for the benefit of others because the state does not have enough budget to do so.
To Prison, Again, for Protesting Against Israel's Colonial Rule (Jonathan Pollak, Haaretz+) I am currently detained in an Israeli jail, the result of refusing to attend or cooperate with criminal charges laid against me and two others for joining Palestinian protests in the West Bank against Israel’s colonial rule. It has been almost nine years since the last time I was incarcerated for more than a day or two. Much has changed since. Politically, reality does not even resemble that of a decade ago, and none of the changes were for the better.
*How I, a Palestinian From Gaza, Lost My Fear of Jews (Mohammed M., Haaretz+) Growing up in the shadow of the second intifada, I firmly believed that our fight was with Judaism. Then I was 'adopted' by a Jewish family in America.
Thoughts of immigration to Israel may now be forming in the American Jewish community (Yossi Ahimeir, Maariv) Not only religious and traditionalists, but liberals and secularists will also realize that there is no other way to really and truly protect their way of life, to ensure their safety and to avoid anti-Semitism.
This is religious Zionism’s privatization generation (Yair Ettinger, Haaretz+) The movement has a large number of identities that could not have previously existed within Orthodoxy’s boundaries.

Elections 2019/Netanyahu Indictment Commentary/Analysis:
Netanyahu's Biggest Bribery Isn't the One He's Indicted For (Kobi Richter, Haaretz+) “They accuse me of getting positive media coverage,” complained Netanyahu. No, you’re not accused of receiving positive coverage, but of giving a bribe worth millions (of my money as well as that of all other citizens of this country) in exchange for the positive coverage you sought. This is like a thief who steals a watermelon and when caught, whines about being accused of eating a watermelon. The most frightening thing is not what Netanyahu did or is accused of doing, but what will happen if he manages to continue to mortgage the future of this country for the sake of a maximal postponement of the legal proceedings against him. This is the biggest act of bribery, and this is the reason a person charged with bribery, proving each day that he’s willing to continue bribing to obtain immunity from prosecution, cannot continue to serve us, even if the complimentary comments of his supporters regarding his fantastic capabilities are true.
Elections 2020: As in the military, to win must you must go out to the field (Orit Farber, Maariv) The third round of elections brings an old new trend: “town square speeches,” just like the old days.
Lately, those close to me have difficulty understanding how I am prepared to defend Netanyahu (Nir Kipnis, Maariv) The impeachment of Netanyahu, not through elections, has in recent years become the goal that justifies all means of his opponents. I feel obligated to face them, even though they are from my "base.”
If Indicted Netanyahu Can Serve as PM, Why Can't Criminal Suspects Be Ministers? (Haaretz Editorial) After Netanyahu last week appointed Deputy Minister Yaakov Litzman to be health minister even though five months ago police recommended he be prosecuted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, and given the fact that the prime minister himself is accused of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, one is forced to admit that Bitan’s logic is even more valid now. If Netanyahu, Dery and Litzman can, why can’t Bitan? That’s how it is when corruption becomes the prevailing government norm.

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