News Nosh 2.4.20

APN's daily news review from Israel
Tuesday February 4, 2020

Quote of the day:
"It's not the planned annexation of a few settlements in Judea and Samaria that should worry us; The whole vision of 'peace and prosperity' from the Trump company needs to worry us. Because it is dangerous for Israel."
--Yedioth's commentator, Sever Plocker, writes in an Op-Ed today that the creation of enclaves based on nationality or ethnicity lead to more war.*

Front Page:
Yedioth Ahronoth
  • Getting closer to Sudan - On the way to relations: Netanyahu met in Uganda with leader of Muslim state
  • Fire in the face - Disaster that was thwarted: This is how Shahar Medayuni, a  Border Police officer in Hebron, looked the moment a firebomb thrown by a Palestinian hit him
  • Pressure from right-wing increases: “Sovereignty now”
  • The messages between the Finance Minister and a judge
  • From the IDF Induction Center - to Thailand: Day after being drafted, (pop singer) Noa Kirel takes off for a holiday
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
Israel Hayom

Top Stories:
In today's top stories, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu declared he made history (not all the papers agreed) after meeting with Sudan’s leader, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, whom Netanyahu said agreed to begin cooperating toward normalizing ties, the Trump deal continued to spark division, and the Coronavirus continued to spread fear (and spark racism towards Asians in Israel - See Quick Hits. Also interesting was the effect the virus is having on Israel's construction industry - which may affect Palestinians positively. See Features below). Also making headlines was the unusual apology made by Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Center admitting that it distorted facts that erroneously adopted Russia’s wrong WWII narrative in its presentation at the International Holocaust Forum.

‘Israel Hayom’s’ reports today were remarkable in what they left out. While playing up the ‘historic’ aspect of the meeting between Netanyahu and Burhan, the paper played down the reasons behind Sudan’s willingness to make diplomatic relations with Israel. The other papers reported from the Associated Press report that a senior Sudanese military official said Burhan agreed to meet Netanyahu because Sudanese officials thought it would help “accelerate” the process of being removed from the US terror list, a list Sudan was added to back in the 1990s, when Sudan briefly hosted Osama bin Laden and other wanted militants. Indeed, in a phone call after the meeting, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo invited Burhan to visit the United States. And confirming Israel’s thumbs up for Sudan, Netanyahu's bureau also stated that "Prime Minister Netanyahu believes that Sudan is moving in a positive direction, and the prime minister has expressed his outlook to the American secretary of state,” Haaretz+ reported.

Israel Hayom’s reporter Ariel Kahane made no mention of Burhan’s reason for meeting with Netanyahu. And on its English website, Israel Hayom cut paragraphs out from the Associated Press article that explained Burhan’s motivations as well as the parts about how the announcement could give Netanyahu a boost ahead of the upcoming elections by portraying himself as a great statesman so that he would win the elections and find a way to avoid going on trial in three criminal indictments. (Note: ‘Israel Hayom’ also changed the AP report headline from “Israeli PM Meets Sudan's Leader, Aims for 'Normalization’” to “Israel and Sudan reach milestone after historic summit." Compare with AP article on NYT.)

Yedioth reported that Israel wants African states to side with it at the UN General Assembly, which overwhelmingly recognized Palestine as a non-member observer state in 2012. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat slammed the development, calling it “a stab in the back of the Palestinian nation and a deviation from the Arab consensus and Arab peace initiative.” Netanyahu also met with Uganda’s President, who at Netanyahu’s request, said he would consider establishing an embassy in Jerusalem.

Trump Deal News:
Yedioth Hebrew reported that #4 in Kahol-Lavan, MK Gabi Ashkenazi, said he opposes unilateral annexation of settlements and territories in the West Bank, as proposed in the Trump peace plan. "It is impossible to apply sovereignty without dialogue with our neighbors and the US,” Ashkenazi said in an interview with Ynet. "Reckless steps must not be taken without coordination with the US administration. He also argued that Israel's policy against Hamas was a failure, but when asked if it would be necessary to stop transferring the funds to the organization, he replied that he cutting the transfers of money to Hamas from Qatar was not the plan. "No, we will go for a long-term arrangement or we will return deterrence.”

Yedioth Hebrew also reported that in recent days, the settlement leaders understand that the annexation dream is moving away, and so, with the aim of forcing the prime minister to cast his vote even before the elections in early March, the Yesha settler Council is setting up a tent outside the Prime Ministers Office office, calling for "sovereignty now." Yedioth noted that Netanyahu's big news from the White House "is becoming a political burden for him, just four weeks before the elections." Yesha settler Council leaders met with Defense Minister Naftali Bennett yesterday and heard from him that he also believes that the sovereignty now is important. “It's a one-time opportunity - what you can take should be taken," Bennett told them. Bennett added that he opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state, and he does not want to implement that part of the Trump plan. Today he was scheduled to take off for a first official visit to the United States, and will meet with his American counterpart, Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark Asper and he will meet with various government officials in an attempt to promote the idea of annexation.

A Christian Evangelist member of President Trump's advisory committee said Israel should not press on the annexation issue, Yedioth Hebrew reported “I hear people making statements, and what is happening now is that some people are taking advantage of the President's plan to try and get an advantage in the elections,” said Dr. Mike Evans, an influential figure in the evangelical world who is very close to the White House, to Trump and to his son-in-law, senior White House adviser, Jared Kushner. “It's wrong," said Evans, a leader of the Friends of Zion organization. "Everyone needs to understand what President Trump has done: he recognized Jerusalem, he recognized the Golan Heights and he now is taking Judea And Samaria off the table. It's a wonderful plan and should not be used for political purposes to upset people.”

On Thursday, Kushner will present the plan to the UN Security Council in a closed-door session. Next Wednesday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to present the Security Council with a draft resolution seeking to quash the US proposal. In an interview with Arabic media, Abu Mazen mocked Kushner, referring to him as “that boy.”  He called the Oslo Peace Accords an “important agreement. You can't compare the 'deal of the century' to it.” (Maariv) Meanwhile, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation rejected the Trump peace plan.

Yad Vashem's Apology:
Yad Vashem made an unusual clarification after it drew criticism for legitimizing Russia's false WWII narrative at the International Holocaust Forum, two weeks ago. In a letter to Haaretz published in the newspaper's Hebrew edition Tuesday, Yad Vashem said that information presented at the high-profile event, attended by dozens of world leaders, contained "inaccuracies" that "distorted" historical facts, which "created an unbalanced impression.” In an Op-Ed, Haaretz's History Correspondent, Ofer Aderet, noted that the apology raised more questions. Aderet noted that the Forum was headed by Moshe Kantor, a businessman, oligarch and billionaire considered close to Russian leader Vladimir Putin and the event was held in collaboration with Yad Vashem. Aderet wrote that for the sake of its integrity, Yad Vashem must reveal the political-financial connections that were behind the event and the misleading information. (Also, Israel Hayom and Yedioth/Ynet)

Quick Hits:
  • Six Airborne Firebombs Launched From Gaza Into Israel Amid Uptick in Attacks - The incendiary balloons launched at Israel mark the latest development in a week-long escalation that began after the publication of Trump's peace plan. Two detonate near Gaza border, some exploded before landing; the rest diffused by police. No damage or injuries were reported. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
  • Hamas Encouraging Attacks to Pressure Israel Before Election, Officials Believe - According to assessments, Hamas thinks Israel is not implementing agreements at the required pace. Military meanwhile sees no need for Gaza op at this stage. (Haaretz+)
    Gaza bridegrooms end up in jail over unpaid debts - As unemployment in Gaza tops 50% and the economy is in a parlous state, more people rely on loans for wedding celebrations, which cost around $10,000 in the Palestinian enclave. Tradition of strong family ties and large gatherings often trumps financial common sense. (Agencies, Ynet)
  • Israeli Police Chief 'Intuitively' Sure Officer Didn't Bust Leg of Arab (civil rights) Activist - Haifa officer accused of breaking the leg of a human rights group's director detained in 2018 while protesting Israeli strikes in Gaza. (Haaretz+VIDEO)
  • Round of police appointments: (Public Security Minister) Erdan has appointed a new head of VIP Security unit and of LAHAV 433 Anti-Fraud unit - The Minister of Public Security has appointed commanders to key departments, including the head of the Investigative and Intelligence divisions and the head of the Severe Crime Unit.” (Maariv)
  • "Hate manifestations (toward Asians in Israel) are not acceptable" - The fear of the Chinese virus has given rise to a wave of racism against Chinese citizens living in the country, to the extent that the Ministry of Health issued an extraordinary statement yesterday: “"Don't panic. And it is forbidden to let the fears and prejudice manage the crisis. Expressions of hatred or alienation against people of Asian descent are not acceptable.” Ministry of Health Director General Moshe Bar Siman-Tov also addressed the issue: "I watched a morning program where a student from China who was studying in Israel told about an unpleasant experience she went through when a stranger approached her on the train and used Google Translate to ask her if she was in China recently. More and more evidence is coming to us about people who are making generalizations and acting inappropriately.” (Yedioth Hebrew)
  • Palestinian rioters hurl Molotov cocktail (hitting) Border Police officer - Soldier hit by makeshift explosive in Hebron manages to put out fire unharmed as unrest on Palestinian side over Trump peace plan continues. (Ynet and VIDEO and Maariv)
  • Israel High Court Rejects Petition to Force Army to Allow Women Into Tank Units - Court says chief of staff's decision to extend pilot program for integration of women in tank units preempts petitions. (Haaretz+)
  • Hamas Prisoner Lightly Wounds Israeli Jailer in Stabbing - Prisons Authority began punishment actions against the whole ward. Two weeks ago, 17 Palestinian inmates and three wardens were hospitalized after a violent raid of cellblocks. (Haaretz+ and Maariv)
  • Revealed As defense chief, Lieberman railed against ultra-Orthodox draft evasion. His office gave them deferments - Sources tell Haaretz Lieberman's office had routinely arranged military exemptions for hundreds of Haredi men, but he denies the allegations. (Haaretz+)
  • Ancient Place of Worship Found Near Jerusalem Challenges Archaeologists' Assumptions About First Temple - At least the same size as Solomon’s Temple and resembling that structure’s description in the Bible, Motza temple, which was first uncovered in 2012, was used for worship of both Yahweh and idols. (Haaretz+)
  • Widening of road revealed a 1,300-year Byzantine settlement - The ancient settlement in the Negev near Highway 264 became a Muslim village during the Abbasid period. Archaeologist Yehuda Govrin: "At the end of the excavation, we will cover what was discovered, and perhaps re-unveil it in a hundred years.” (Maariv)
  • Jews, Muslims, Christians meet at UAE interfaith event - The UAE and Saudi Arabia, along with other Gulf states, have been expanding their outreach to Christian groups, like evangelicals, and Jewish organizations. (Agencies, Ynet)
  • Gaza Man Who Lives in Israel Illegally Charged With Murder of Arab Teen - Police say Wissam Abu Alhasan killed 17-year-old Adel Khatib to extort money that could be sent to the defendant’s family in Gaza. (Haaretz+)
  • Probe of Lebanese-American who worked for Israel postponed - Fakhoury who returned to Lebanon from the U.S. in September, was identified by former inmates in the Khiam Prison run by an Israeli-backed militia before Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 where he was a senior warden. (Agencies, Ynet)
  • Turkish forces hit 54 targets in Syria, 76 soldiers said killed, state media reports - Comes hours after Ankara said Syrian shelling had killed five Turkish soldiers in the country's northwestern region of Idlib. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Turkey Says It Will Act Against Syrian Forces if Russia Cannot Control Them - 'If Russia is unable to control the Assad regime from targeting us, we will not hesitate to take actions against any threat, just as we did today in Idlib,' Turkey's communication director said. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Two French detainees detained in Iran for months, accused of crimes against state security - Two prominent French researchers, anthropologist Fariba Adelkha and sociologist Roland Marchal, have been detained in Iran since June. Adelka, who has Iranian and French citizenship, is charged with "propaganda against the government system" and "conspiring against national security," and Roland is charged with violating state security. Pressure from France to secure their release is unproductive, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Monday. (France24 and Yedioth  Hebrew)

Lost hands: How does the spread of the Coronavirus affect the construction industry in Israel [and possibly unemployed Palestinians]?
Restrictions on entry of Chinese into Israel following the outbreak of the Coronavirus have created a shortage of construction workers and the concerned contractors are warning: "Immediately increase the quota of foreign worker." About 2,000 Chinese workers were due to arrive in Israel now, but due to the outbreak of the virus, they remained in China. Another 1,000 workers who went on a domestic holiday in China are now not allowed to return to Israel. This week, in an effort to alleviate the plight of working hands, the Construction and Housing minister Yifat Shasha-Biton extended the license of some 1,700 Chinese workers working in Israel. However, this is a drop in the sea, and in the Association of Builders expressed great concern in the face of the growing crisis. According to president of the Builders’ Association, Raul Sarugo, there are currently 15,000 foreign workers in the Israeli construction industry, of whom about 7,000 are Chinese, but there is a serious shortage. "The government must immediately increase the quota of foreign workers by at least 10,000 workers in order to meet the targets it has set itself and the great demand," he According to Sarugo, there are currently 15,000 foreign workers in the Israeli construction industry, of whom about 7,000 are Chinese, but there is a serious shortage. "The government must immediately increase the quota of foreign workers by at least 10,000 workers in order to meet the targets it has set itself and the great demand," he said. The manpower companies actually employ the foreign workers in the construction industry, and the contractors hire Chinese workers' services through them  Eldad Nitzan, chairman of the Union of Manpower Companies for Construction, says foreign workers in general and the Chinese in particular enjoy excellent working conditions in Israel. “By 2005,” he says, “there was a complete mess in the field, and the working conditions were poor. With the establishment of dozens of manpower companies for foreign workers, workers' conditions have improved significantly. Chinese workers have better terms of employment than Israelis. They receive days off, pensions, health pensions and very high salaries, ranging from 13,000 shekels per month and sometimes up to 25,000 shekels per month for a professional Chinese worker. Due to the shortage of workers, the Chinese are even raising prices.” As part of their terms of employment, Chinese workers also live in apartments rented by the manpower companies, ensuring no more than two workers in  a room. The Builders Association is of the opinion that larger quotes of construction workers from Moldova and Ukraine should be brought over. The association is also calling on the government to bring in workers from Turkey despite the shaky relations between the countries. "The Palestinians work well, but their outputs are low due to the long hours at checkpoints, holidays and sometimes closures," Sarugo said. Yehuda Katab, Chairman of the Tel Aviv District Contractors and Builders Association and Vice President of the Builders’ Association, proposes to reopen Gaza gates for construction workers. "The Gazans are the best construction workers, they should first approve bringing workers over aged 40 and then gradually increase the quota," he explains. And what about the Israeli workers? "Although salaries in the construction industry are much higher than the average wage in the economy, there is a minority of Israelis working in the field," he wrote. He said an initiative was started to train construction workers from the ultra-Orthodox sector and some are already working in the field. "It also helps on the national level and gets the ultra-Orthodox into the job market," he says. The Ministry of Construction and Housing said in response: "According to the agreements between the Israeli government and the Chinese government, 2,000 new workers were expected to arrive in Israel, half in February and half in April. At the same time, 1,500 veteran Chinese workers were expected to leave Israel. Due to the outbreak of the Corona virus, and after consultation with the Ministry of Health, the Minister of Construction and Housing intends to approve a decision whereby the veteran workers will remain in the country till the end of May, at which point it will  be examined whether to bring the new workers in. In addition, and to meet the demands of the construction industry for working hands, another 500 workers from Moldova and about 500 workers from Ukraine are expected to arrive.”  (Yossi Hadar, Maariv)

Trump Deal Commentary/Analysis:
Choose Your Annexationist (Haaretz Editorial) The support of Kahol Lavan’s left-leaning MK Ofer Shelah for U.S. President Donald Trump’s peace plan is a bad sign for those who hoped Shelah’s party would be a political alternative to the right-wing regime, and not just a job placement program. In his remarks this week, Shelah did express vehement objection to the transfer of territories in the Triangle and Wadi Ara, calling that clause “obscene” and promising that if Kahol-Lavan gains power it will be stricken from the agenda. But in the same breath Shelah declared that the “vision” presented by Trump and his team “is my vision.” He described that vision as “a demilitarized Palestinian state alongside Israel that preserves Israel’s security interests.” One has to play innocent really hard to come up with such a description for a plan that circumvents Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan speech from the right and essentially adopts the religious Zionist narrative. The frog that Israel will supposedly be forced to swallow to get everything it had ever asked for is conditioned on a series of demands that no Palestinian leader is likely to accept anytime soon. The vision may be of a two-state vision, but in practice it is America’s acceptance of unilateral annexation, though probably only after the March 2 election.
Last week, Netanyahu and Gantz proved that there were no significant differences of opinion
(Yossi Ahimeir, Maariv)  Last week, in the White House, it was proven in a big way that there was virtually no material disagreement. Already, there has been a longing for the two, Bibi and Benny, who are united in their support of the Trump plan, to transcend themselves and to agree to form a joint government…If we reach a draw again, they must transcend themselves in order to prevent a fourth election campaign in a time of challenges for and events happening in the state. It is their shared responsibility.
Israel-Sudan Ties Have Been Warming for Years, but It Doesn't Hurt to Out Them Before an Election (Noa Landau, Haaretz+) Just as the much-heralded annexations are being delayed, the expulsion of asylum seekers is for now nothing more than a campaign promise.
Trump's 'take it or leave it' Mideast gambit (Thane Rosenbaum, Israel Hayom) The Palestinians’ strategy of rejectionism has failed miserably, and the world has grown tired of it. Their moment as the world’s most favorite refugees has passed them by.
Trump's Deal Is an ‘Opportunity’ Worth Missing (Odeh Bisharat, Haaretz+) Once again, they’ll make sure to accuse the Palestinians of “never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” a slogan that’s been worn to the bone from overuse. Even when the United States moved its embassy to Jerusalem, the Americans asked the Palestinians to support the move, because if they didn’t, they’d “miss an opportunity.” Now it’s the turn of the new player on the political scene, Benny Gantz, to chastise the Palestinians for their actions, saying that Mahmoud Abbas “again isn’t wasting an opportunity for rejectionism.” With this he joins the club of those crying crocodile tears, whose hearts bleed with sorrow for the Palestinians. Blaming the victim is an element of self-defense against pangs of conscience, as if the victim brought the evil on himself. But the “victim is to blame” approach is one of the worst types of human behaviors. Instead of self-examination or introspection, you blame the others and move on.
*The enclaves danger -  (and) What there isn't in the deal (Sever Plocker,  Yedioth) Trump's vision for  a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is anchored in the solution map distributed by the  White House. This is a map of Greater Israel from the sea to the Jordan River, with a small Palestinian enclave in Judea and Samaria, which is disconnected from the outside world and surrounded by Israeli sovereignty. An enclave, even if it  is called  a 'state,' won't  be a state. It won't have an army, it won''t control its borders, it won't control its airspace, and therefore, it won''t be, despite what is written in the  vision, open to commerce and investment. The Gaza Strip does not have a solution plan that is even close to realistic...The map of Trump's final plan is bad for us no less than it is bad for the Palestinians - and history, which is bloody from the national and ethnic enclaves, proves this very well...It's not the planned annexation of a few settlements in Judea and Samaria that should worry us; The whole vision of 'peace and prosperity' from the Trump company needs to worry us. Because it is dangerous for Israel.
The Left's rude awakening (Irit Linur, Israel Hayom) Much has been said about the power of a good epic story. But what happens when Trump's peace deal appears, void of romance, with a script that completely disregards previous fantasies?
Trump Plan Leaves Israeli Left in Empty Street on Boulevard of Broken Dreams (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+) Kahol Lavan’s embrace of 'deal of the century' shatters left’s sense of belonging and renders it in not-so-splendid isolation.
An Arab case for the Trump peace plan (Ahmed Charai, Israel Hayom) Though rejectionist ideologues remain in power, younger generations express greater interest in economic progress, standing up to corruption in their institutions, and engaging Israel and the broader region in pursuit of these goals.
How the Arabs have betrayed Palestine – again (Seraj Assi, Haaretz+) The Arab world, led by the predecessors of today's Saudi Arabia, willingly relinquished sovereignty over Palestine to a superpower a century ago. Nothing has changed.
Gaza, Where Trump's Mideast Peace Plan Goes to Die (Muhammad Shehada, Haaretz+) For Hamas, Trump's 'generous offer' has a price tag that is unthinkable. And if Israel starts implementing the plan, the most unexpected spark could trigger a massive Palestinian response.
The Palestinian street has lost faith in Abbas (Oded Granot, Israel Hayom) Aside from a sparsely attended protest rally at a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, there were no demonstrations in any Arab capital demanding "full rights" for the Palestinians.

Elections 2020/Netanyahu Indictment Commentary/Analysis:
Four Weeks From Israeli Election, Even Netanyahu’s Political Stunts Can’t Rouse Voters (Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz+) Unless Likud can unearth some voters it somehow overlooked in last year’s elections or Kahol Lavan can draw soft-right voters away from Netanyahu, we are headed for another stalemate on March 2.
The disqualification of Hiba Yazbak: an opportunity for the High Court (Attorney Uri Keenan, Maariv) The case  of the  Knesste member from the Joint List is borderline. The disqualification of Meir Kahane's Kach party is very reminiscent of this case.  If the High Court approves MK's participation in the elections, the right-wing side of the political map will be able to wonder whether they have not been subjected to substantive inequality.

Other Commentary/Analysis:
Netanyahu's ignoring of the Democrats is wrong and grave ((Shlomo Shamir, Maariv) The Prime Minister's total disregard for the existence, presence and centrality of the Democratic Party is not only an insult to Democrats, it is an erroneous behavior that has unpleasant consequences for Israel.
Sudan heralds winds of change (Amnon Lord, Israel Hayom) An increasing number of Arab nations seek to normalize relations with Israel as they understand the time has come to do so. The Palestinians would be wise adopting this rational position.
Adoption of False Russian WWII Narrative Calls Yad Vashem’s Integrity Into Question (Ofer Aderet, Haaretz+) The extraordinary apology that Yad Vashem published as a letter to the editor in Haaretz (running in Tuesday’s Hebrew edition), in which it admits that the content of the impressive event contained “inaccuracies,” “a partial picture of the historical events,” and an “unbalanced impression,” raises as many questions as it answers. It must clarify the exact nature of the ties and relationship between Yad Vashem and Moshe Kantor, an oligarch considered close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is a donor to Yad Vashem, president of the European Jewish Congress, and who organized and funded the ceremony. To preserve its good name, credibility, and reputation, Yad Vashem has to tell the public the whole truth about what went on behind the scenes at the ceremony.
Israel should be China's friend in need (Alon Goldstein, Yedioth//Ynet The coronavirus is a Chinese tragedy and in the eyes of the world, all people of Chinese descent are lepers, whether they hail from Wuhan or Beijing or San Francisco; but Israel, with its proud history of helping others in times of national crisis, can be a beacon of light in the darkness.
It's the Joe and Bernie show in Iowa (Prof. Abraham Ben-Zvi, Haaretz+) From the White House's perspective, a Sanders' win in Iowa would be wonderful news. His social-democratic views on society and the economy can only be found on the fringes of the American legacy and would make him exceedingly vulnerable to Trump's attacks.
Prepared for APN by Orly Halpern, independent freelance journalist based in Jerusalem.