News Nosh 2.12.20

APN's daily news review from Israel
Wednesday February 12, 2020
Quote of the day:
"It is easiest to set dialogue on fire. It is very difficult to cool it. For months, there has been a racist discourse held against Israeli Arabs. The prime minister and right-wing politicians did not shy away from calling them "Arab parties" in a negative and bitter context. And what are the Arab parties if not hundreds of thousands of Arab citizens voting for them?
Yedioth political reporter, Yuval Karni, wrote in an Op-Ed following the latest statements against Israeli Arabs and the ‘Joint List.’*

Front Page:
Yedioth Ahronoth
  • “Vaccine: In another year and a half” - Coronavirus panic: More than 1000 victims (Hebrew)
  • The deal of Netanyahu’s confidantes with (Kahanist) Ben-Gvir
  • Following Yedioth investigation: The (expired chemo) medicines affair: Police investigating (Hebrew)
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
  • Unity against the Joint List
  • Currency rates for shekel collapsing
  • Abu Mazen to Olmert: “Negotiations should be renewed from the point they were stopped”
  • Space for losing // Anna Barsky on the publication of the Deal of the Century
Israel Hayom
  • The difficulty of the families (on the coronavirus-hit luxury cruise)
  • “It’s scary to think that once Olmert was prime minister”
  • Voyage to the last Jew of Kabul
  • 19 days till elections:
  • Bennett to his associates: No chance we’ll sit with Gantz
  • (Gantz-led) Kahol-Lavan: We won’t sit with the Joint List
  • (Joint List Chairman) Odeh: We are close to 16 mandates
  • The battles in the right-wing bloc: Unnecessary shooting inside the tank // Haim Shine
  • America votes: Today - results of New Hampshire primaries

Top News Summary:
The Joint List rejected sitting in a Kahol-Lavan government with Avigdor Lieberman, Kahol-Lavan rejected sitting in any government supported by Joint List, Ehud Olmert said he supported Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that was shameful and Abbas said he wanted to renew negotiations with Israel making top stories in today’s Hebrew newspapers. What barely made news was that thousands of Palestinians rallied against the Trump plan.

Elections 2020 News:
In a interview on Army Radio, Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh slammed Kahol Lavan for 'staying silent about the attack on the Arab population, Netanyahu’s attack. Let Gantz say something. Does he think that we’re in his pocket?’ Odeh also said the Joint List would not recommend Gantz to form a government if it made a coalition with MK Avigdor Lieberman or if it didn’t make a statement against transfer of Israeli-Arabs to the Palestinian State and against annexation.” (Also Maariv) After being heckled by Netanyahu for not being able to form a government without the Joint List’s support, Kahol-Lavan leader Benny Gantz, declared that he would not form a government with the Joint List support in a coalition or from the outside. Yamina co-leader and current Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said there was 'no chance' his party would join a Kahol-Lavan-led coalition. ”I won't be the one who is used to remove Netanyahu from the stage," Bennett said.

And Yedioth Hebrew’s Amichai Atali reported that Netanyahu’s associates are trying a new strategy regarding far-right-wing politician Itamar Ben-Gvir, leader of the anti-Arab Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party. Realizing they can’t convince him to give up running in the upcoming elections and fearing that he, again, won’t pass the threshold and those right-wing votes will be wasted, they are suggesting a deal in an attempt to reach a bloc of 61: "We will help you gain votes in this election, if you promise not to run in a fourth election,” in the event there is another one. Also, in an interview he gave to the right-wing religious Channel 20, Netanyahu said, "My great power is my control of US public opinion.” (Maariv) Not everyone thinks that matters. In a letter to President Reuven Rivlin and the 120 members of Knesset, 120 Israeli academics and professors asked Rivlin not to give Netanyahu the option of forming a government if he wins a majority or if Gantz fails. “Do not impose the forming of the government on anyone accused of crimes unless they are proven innocent,” they wrote. (Maariv)

Trump Plan Latest:
Hours after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas slammed the Trump 'peace' plan at the UN Security Council session, he and former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert held a joint press conference in New York, where Olmert said that Abbas was the only partner for peace. Netanyahu called Olmert's support of Abbas a 'low-point in Israeli history.' Interestingly, Yedioth, as well as 'Israel Hayom,' took Netanyahu's position in reporting on Olmert's support. Yedioth's title read, "The strange show of Olmert and Abu-Mazen.” However, Maariv reported chose to emphasize something else entirely. The title read, "Palestinian Authority Chairman: 'I”m prepared to renew negotiations from where they were stopped.'"

At the UNSC session, Abbas said that that the Trump plan  'rewards the occupation,' and that although the Palestinians denounced the plan, they will not resort to violence to oppose it. He said, 'The US cannot be the sole mediator." Meanwhile, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Kelly Craft said the Trump plan was a basis for negotiations and could be subject to changes. Yet the Trump administration nixed funding for Palestinian security forces from the 2021 budget plan, possibly as a diplomatic punishment against the Palestinian Authority for its rejection of the Trump plan, Haaretz+'s Amir Tibon wrote. Ahead of Abbas’ speech at the UN, thousands of Palestinians rallied Tuesday in the West Bank against the plan and twelve Palestinians were injured in clashes with Israeli forces. A poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that 94% of Palestinians reject the Trump plan and 64% favor return to armed struggle. It also found plummeting support for a two-state solution with Israel.

Quick Hits:
  • Business Center for E. Jerusalem Arabs Halted Over Jewish Neighbors' Objections - The center next to Umm Tuba was one of four planned by the Jerusalem Affairs Ministry, but plans have been suspended due to objections by Har Homa residents that included opposition to 'mixing' of populations. (Haaretz+)
  • Israel Taps Settler NGO Lawyer to Handle Bankruptcy of Palestinian Firm He's Working to Evict - Avraham Moshe Segal is using shell companies and other legal means to oust Palestinian owners of the Petra Hotel. Justice Ministry source: An inquiry is needed to determine conflict of interest. (Haaretz+)
  • Over 100 Cars Vandalized, Hateful Graffiti Sprayed in Northern Israeli Arab Town - Slashed tires and graffiti saying 'stop the assimilation' found in predominantly Christian town of Gush Halav mark second time in seven months the town is hit with such an act. (Haaretz+VIDEO, Maariv and Ynet)
  • A 36% increase in the number of acts of violence and hatred towards LGBTs in Israel - The seventh report on the state of LGBT phobia in Israel again raises the question of how liberal and tolerant a society Israeli is for LGBT people, and shows an increase in the number of hate cases against the community. (Maariv)
  • Mothers in Gaza border communities: Where is condemnation of attacks on our children? - Parents whose young sons and daughters face daily barrages of rockets and balloon bombs send letter to UNICEF, condemning its 'unforgivable' silence in the face of terror attacks on Israeli children. (Yedioth/Ynet)
  • Israeli Defense Minister Orders Release of Jewish Teen From Administrative Detention - Sources in Bennett's office deny that he backtracked due to right-wing pressure, a day after signing the administrative detention order against 19-year-old Eliya Ben-David of Nof Hagail. (Haaretz+)
  • Will anti-Israel case go unanswered at The Hague? Israeli lawyers already have a plan - While Israel boycotts the ICC, the Israel Bar Association drafts plan to represent state by getting the status of amicus curiae, Israel Hayom has exclusively learned. This will allow IBA to counter the charges laid by the Palestinians. (Israel Hayom)
  • Instead of peppers from the Arava desert, Rami Levi Supermarket chain prefers to import from Jordan - In addition, the chain also imports cucumbers from Turkey, as well as tomatoes. A source in the Ministry of Agriculture: "This is how Rami Levy wants to negotiate with (Israeli) farmers.” Farmers: "The chain, known for its low prices, is trying to make us bend.” (Yedioth Hebrew)
  • U.S. filmmaker who wouldn't sign Georgia pro-Israel oath sues state - Abby Martin says she 'will not forfeit constitutional rights' by signing pledge vowing not to boycott Israeli government, claims her refusal to comply led to cancellation of her attendance at Georgia Southern University media conference. (Agencies, Ynet)
  • CIA Owned Encryption World Leader, Read Secret Comms for Years, Report Reveals - Israel was one of four countries privy to Operation Rubicon, which saw U.S. and West German intelligence eavesdrop on classified communications from WWII until online encryption. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Lebanon government wins confidence vote as protests rock Beirut - New Prime Minister Hassan Diab is expected to read new government's policy statement, which includes a rescue plan to try get Lebanon out of its economic and financial crisis. Hundreds hurt in unrest. (Agencies, Haaretz and Ynet)
  • Ex-Qatari PM: Israel, Gulf states set to sign non-aggression pact - Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim says he is 'not against' such an agreement, believes unanimous decision taken by Arab League last week to reject the U.S. peace plan was not in best interests of the Middle East. (Agencies, Ynet and Israel Hayom)
  • Saudi-Qatar talks to end lengthy Gulf dispute falter, sources say - One diplomat said Saudi Arabia wanted a new arrangement with Qatar that would involve Doha making fresh commitments. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Turkey-backed rebels down Syrian army helicopter as fighting escalates - Ankara is trying to stem rapid advances by Syrian government forces in Idlib, which is fueling a refugee crisis in the region. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Turkey Says 51 Syrian Soldiers Killed as Rebels Hit Back in Idlib - Hours before, a war monitor reported that Syrian government forces seized control of the main Aleppo-to-Damascus highway that runs through Idlib. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Syrians scramble for refuge against harsh winter as Idlib attacks fuel crisis - Almost half of the 700,000 uprooted since Dec. 1 are children, the UN estimated. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Syria displacement is worst since conflict began, UN says - 700,000 have fled the flashpoint province of Idlib since December, with close to 300,000 more at risk of doing so. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • WATCH Iraqis wake up to snow for first time in over a decade - It was a rare moment of respite during which residents took selfies and children played in parks, lobbing snowballs before the fluffy flakes disappeared and the white cover dissolved into grey puddles. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Fugitive Iranian judoka, Israel's Muki meet at last - Long-awaited meeting takes place after athletes foster warm online friendly relations, exchanging messages of praise on social media. (Ynet)
  • Hundreds of Thousands of Iranians Mark 1979 Islamic Revolution Anniversary Amid High U.S. Tensions and tributes to Soleimani - Rohani calls on Iranians to vote in upcoming parliamentary elections despite 'possible complaints and criticism' as country roils in economic turmoil. (Agencies, Haaretz and Ynet and Israel Hayom)
  • A landmark in the neighboring country: 100 million inhabitants - The Egyptian Planning Minister, the Alliance Minister and the head of the Bureau of Statistics convened a press conference in Cairo yesterday, declaring: Egypt's number of people has reached 100 million. (Yedioth Hebrew)
  • Doctors in Egypt launch anti-genital cutting campaign after 12-year-old girl dies from procedure - 87 percent of women aged 15-49 have undergone the procedure according to a 2016 survey by the UN Children's Fund. (Agencies, Haaretz)

Welcome to Summayl: Tel Aviv’s Controversial Multimillionaires-only Compound
The ruins of Summayl – an Arab village that was abandoned by most of its residents after the War of Independence – remained a wild enclave in the middle of Tel Aviv. Up until now. (Yael Darel, Haaretz+)

Elections 2020/Netanyahu Indictment Commentary/Analysis:
Gantz’s Slap in the Face to All Democratic Israelis (Haaretz Editorial) Remarks Tuesday night by Kahol Lavan chief Benny Gantz are a slap in the face to democratic Israelis – Jews and Arabs alike – who yearn for a change in Israel’s dangerous political direction. During an event launching his party’s election headquarters for Arab women in Kafr Bana, Gantz said the Joint List of Arab parties couldn’t be part of any government he would form…Evidently, Gantz..gave up on a Jewish-Arab partnership. It’s very possible that by rejecting a partnership with the Arabs, Gantz has slammed the door on the possibility of forming a government that would replace the Netanyahu regime. By cooperating they could offer a way to heal the wounds that years of the violent, racist and inflammatory Netanyahu government have inflicted on Israeli society. But by tilting rightward, Kahol Lavan has chosen to leave the Arabs’ outstretched hand hanging.
*To speak, not to hate (Yuval Karni, Yedioth Hebrew) The discourse must be changed about Jewish-Arab relations in the country: it is easy to incite hatred, it is hard to chill it. Kahol-Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz yesterday condemned Netanyahu's "Arab" campaign. In recent days, Netanyahu has sent a harsh and blatant message that without the Arab parties, Gantz would have no government. This is as factual as it was in the last election. Still, the message about the "Arab" partners has also succeeded in permeating the top of the Kahol-Lavan party. Not that they had the intention of forming a government with the Joint List, but in the face of Netanyahu's negative campaign - Gantz preferred to say it aloud. "The Joint List will not be part of my government," he said. His associates later refined the message: There will also be no government with the support of the Joint List from the outside. It is fair to assume that Gantz made the decision following a High Court decision that allowed MK Heba Yazbak’s to run for Knesset. To his disappointment or perhaps fortunately - there are judges in Jerusalem. The aggressive and violent political discourse in Israel failed to lead to an in-depth, serious and responsible discussion of the sensitive and complex relationship between Jews and Arabs. It is easiest to set on fire the discussion. It is very difficult to cool it. For months, there has been a racist discourse held against Israeli Arabs. The prime minister and right-wing politicians did not shy away from calling them "Arab parties" in a negative and bitter context. And what are the Arab parties if not hundreds of thousands of Arab citizens voting for them? Subsequently, it was no longer pleasant to say the “Arabs" or the”Arab parties,” so they just settled for the laundered phrase "the Joint List.” This obnoxious racist discourse did not take place in a vacuum. Some of the leaders of the Arab public in recent years, such as former Knesset members Azmi Bishara and Hanin Zoabi, and the current Heba Yazbak, have succeeded in upsetting a wide public in Israel because of blatant and extreme statements. In the case of Bishara, it reached the level of deeds (suspected of compromising state security). Neither did they bother to understand that respectable discourse as well as that both sides are needed with good will and not with cheap provocations. The despair of the shallow political discourse in Israel is the refuge of politicians who have embraced a narrative based on slanderous slogans, idle accusations, lies and inflaming people’s hatred. Yesterday I heard (talking) two Arabs from the village of Jeish (Gush Halav), where a hate crime was committed: dozens of vehicles were vandalized in the village. The villagers spoke with a heavy heart about the political discourse in Israel and not about the punctured car tires. They felt pushed away and rejected. “Enough already of this discourse about the Arabs or the Joint List. Bibi can't talk like that," they said. “They must stop. We are all Israeli. We served in the military. We are citizens like everyone else.” Netanyahu campaigned against the Israeli Arabs - when he said they were “flocking in droves“ to the polls) and against the Arab parties. Gantz announced that the Joint List would not be party of his government. Instead of bringing them closer - we're just getting more distant. And we're all guilty.
The Spirit of Benny Gantz's Party Is a Bit Too Viennese (Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz+) “Miserable utterances that would better not have been said and don’t in any way reflect the spirit of Kahol Lavan.” That was the reaction of MK Ofer Shelah of Kahol Lavan to the words of his party colleague Yoaz Hendel, who unleashed a hurricane when he divided Israel’s Jewish population into two categories: the Viennese and all the rest. Hendel committed a serious political offense. He said what he thinks and added insult to injury when he described the culture of the Arab countries surrounding Israel as “a jungle.” That’s the reason for the anger at Hendel’s words. He didn’t upset the spirit of the party, he harmed its marketing policy and caused a dilemma.
Netanyahu and Ben-Gvir's Faustian deal (Amihai Attali, Yedioth/Ynet) Netanyahu's close advisors even suggest pushing Ben Gvir over the parliamentary threshold by securing ultra-Orthodox votes for the extremist party from voters who will cast the ballots their religious leaders demand.
The Arab Joint List Can Either Exploit Trump's Plan in Its Favor, or Let the Opportunity Slip (Jack Khoury, Haaretz+) Some feel that the discussion over the Trump plan and heightened political issues could actually raise the voter turnout of Arab citizens in Israel.
Balad's rude awakening (Jalal Bana, Israel Hayom) The new generation of politicians in the hawkish Arab party realizes what the old guard does not: The rules of the political and legal game have changed and the party must evolve to survive.
Wanted: An Arab Prince or King, for Election Photo-op With Netanyahu (Yossi Melman, Haaretz+) Secret forays to Gulf countries are a regular flight path for Israeli security officials and business-people. Now Netanyahu wants to publicize his own trips.

Other Commentary/Analysis:
The Unjust War (Ami Ayalon, Haaretz+) It requires great naivete not to ascribe all the talk of annexation, and the Trump peace plan itself, to the Likud election campaign. Nevertheless, it’s important to understand that this talk gives legitimacy to ideas that distance the possibility of an agreement with the Palestinians and will lead to new rounds of violence.
The danger: Olmert's connection to Gantz (Amnon Lord, Israel Hayom Hebrew) There was one person at the end of the joint appearance of Olmert and Abu Mazen, who received special treatment from Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas). If I correctly identified him it was Jeremy Ben-Ami, the head of the J Street organization. Abu Mazen kissed him on both cheeks. It wasn't just a dry courtesy gesture. They seemed to be partners in the struggle. Olmert is a guest of J Street in the US. The organization is committed to every anti-Israeli campaign and is certainly an important pillar of the Palestinian Authority's propaganda in the US. While Olmert denied being recruited in the United States for the PA's propaganda, he repeatedly referred to him as "the president," but in practice he certainly stood by while pointing out that the Israeli side was not of his liking. "Abbas is the only partner," he said. "He is a man of peace. He opposes terror.”…The main problem now is that the closest person to Olmert, Yoram Turbovich, is Benny Gantz’s (campaign - OH) manager. Olmert himself has been close to Yair Lapid for years. Lieberman brings Martin Schlaf's dowry with him. The very fact that Olmert suddenly has a high profile is a reminder of the corruption and the moral, political and security collapse that preceded the Netanyahu era.
The days of intifada are long gone (
Moshe Elad, Yedioth/Ynet) Abbas can call for the Palestinians to take to the streets in a new outburst over Israeli policy, but it will fall on deaf ears; both Israel and his own people are familiar with his saber-rattling which ultimately never leads anywhere.
The Israeli left vs. Palestinian and Arab-world pragmatists (Ruthie Blum, Israel Hayom) Hearts that bleed for the enemies of Western democracy who subjugate their own people and terrorize everybody else are attached to heads in need of psychiatric examination.
Donald Trump Wants to Revoke My Citizenship. Because I'm an Arab (Anwar Mhajne, Haaretz+) Trump’s Mideast plan pushes the hard right dream of population transfer: the involuntary revocation of Israeli citizenship for 300,000 people. We, the Arab minority, had no say.
History will remember Abbas as peace rejectionist (Amb. Danny Danon, Israel Hayom) The Palestinian leader seems to prefer fighting Israel in the international arena to promoting Palestinian interests that could facilitate statehood.
Only anti-Semites Don’t Buy Calves in Israel (Amira Hass, Haaretz+) If there’s one lesson to be learned from the terror wielded by Defense Minister Naftali Bennett against Palestinian farmers, it’s that there’s no need to broadcast every act of natural resistance to our tyrannical regime. Ways could have been found to stop buying calves from Israeli importers gradually, without announcing it in advance. The ground assumption is that the evil of the only Jewish democratic state in the world knows no bounds, and evil must be countered with sophistication.
America gave Israel the opportunity of a lifetime (Dan Schueftan, Israel Hayom) The newly released peace plan means that Israel no longer has to choose between three bad options. It now has a great option and it must seize it, despite the costs.

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