News Nosh 2.24.20

APN's daily news review from Israel
Monday February 24, 2020

Quote of the day:
"He did not come looking for votes from us. He came to calm us down. He knows that frightened Arabs are going to the polls in droves.”
--Arab Israeli voter from Qalansawe town says that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu fears mass the Arab vote.*

Front Page:
Yedioth Ahronoth
  • Fire on the south - A week to elections: Dozens of rockets shot from Gaza
  • We tried almost everything // Shimrit Meir
  • Attack on the long-term arrangement // Yossi Yehoshua
  • Braking battle - Director of Health Ministry: “We are preparing for mass spread of corona”
  • Masks and lies // Nahum Barnea
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
Israel Hayom
  • The challenge: Preserve deterrence without being drawn into a round // Yoav Limor
  • Close to midnight: IDF attacked Jihad targets near Damascus
  • Expose - Path that bypasses law: ‘Derkeinu’ organization operations in violation of guidelines” - Documents ‘Israel Hayom’ received show movement encourages voting for left-wing
  • “We are preparing for mass spread of corona in Israel” - Health Ministry
  • (MK Yair) Lapid in ‘Israel Hayom’ and i24NEWS election program: “We won’t need the Joint List (support)”

Top News Summary:
Islamic Jihad shoots a barrage of rockets at Israel after Israeli army bulldozer is filmed dragging body of killed Jihad activist and Israel responded attacking Islamic Jihad targets (UPDATE: the exchange continues today and includes IDF attack of Jihad targets in Damascus), almost 1000 Israelis are in self-isolation as the fear of the spread of coronavirus rises following the visit of infected Korean tourists and for the first time, the Likud party gets more mandates than Kahol-Lavan following the announcement of the investigation into the company that Kahol-Lavan leader Benny Gantz headed - making top stories in today’s Hebrew newspapers.

Yedioth’s Yossi Yehoshua has an excellent summary (See Commentary below) of the violent chain of events that continues till now starting when Islamic Jihad activists apparently tried to lay a bomb near the Gaza border fence. They were shot dead by Israeli soldiers. But what Israeli military analysts agree is that the gruesome video of the IDF bulldozer picking up and then dragging the body of one of them is what led to the escalation (NOTE: Israeli main news websites have taken down the video posted and Maariv even blurred a photo of the body. However, MiddleEastEye has the video.) However, far right-wing Defense Minister Naftali Bennett boasted about the video that this is exactly what needs to be done, because Hamas holds the bodies of two Israeli soldiers. Bennett slammed the “hypocrisy on the bleeding heart leftists.” Abu Hamza, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, threatened Israel following video saying“the Zionist enemy has attacked one of our fighters in the Gaza Strip in a barbaric and criminal way. This is a clear aggression and the enemy must bear its consequences." Then more than 20 rockets were launched as Gaza factions vowed to avenge the mistreatment of the militant's remains. Many of the rockets were intercepted. IDF responded striking Gaza. Egypt and the UN tried to broker a ceasefire. Israel closed schools, roads and train lines in the south. Today Israel targeted Jihad weapons factories in Damascus and Jihad in Gaza responded with more rockets. This all started just as Israel was about to ease numerous more of the sanctions on Gaza as part of the implementation of the long-term arrangement with Hamas. Yossi Yehoshua wrote that Islamic Jihad was acting to thwart that plan.

Elections 2020 / Netanyahu Indictment News:
With a week to elections, the sudden opening of an investigation into the defunct company formerly headed by Kahol-Lavan leader, Benny Gantz, has lowered his party's popularity. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's Likud party pulled ahead of Kahol-Lavan for the first time in polls. And meanwhile, the coronavirus is causing fears about voting in the upcoming elections. Still, 540 former Israeli Air Force pilots appealed to President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday asking that he will not task Netanyahu with forming a coalition, should he win in the upcoming March elections. The Sunday letter joins the Professors’ letter from early February. (Maariv) And Netanyahu is now appealing to marijuana users, saying, "I will advance erasing of criminal records of the thousands of Israelis over the use and possession of cannabis." (Maariv)
Quick Hits:
  • Probe Shows How Police Shot Innocent Bedouin Teacher and Left Him to Die - After he was shot, the car being driven by Yakub Abu al-Kiyan struck police officer Erez Levy, who died at the scene; then the teacher bled to death about 10 meters away. (Haaretz+ and 972mag)
  • Pope cautions against Trump's  ‘unfair’ Mideast peace plan - At a meeting of bishops in southern Italy, Pope Francis cautions that 'inequitable solutions' can spell danger for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Agencies, Haaretz and Ynet))
  • Report: Mossad chief asked to meet with Khaled Mashaal while visiting Qatar - According to the Arabic Independent, Yossi Cohen tried to initiate a meeting with Hamas officials in Doha, but it did not come to fruition. Instead, it was with an Israeli citizen living in the country, whose name was not revealed. (Maariv)
  • Legal Adviser Appointment Pits Netanyahu's Likud Against Itself - 'If the Knesset remains without an acting legal adviser this could cause chaos during the sensitive period while a new government is being formed,' a Knesset source said. (Haaretz+)
  • 'We hope that Fiji will stand with Israel against the anti-Israel UN' - President Reuven Rivlin visits Fiji, then continues to Australia, in what has been called a "historic" visit. (Israel Hayom)
  • Palestinian laborer dies from accident while installing solar panels at kibbutz - In 2019, 86 workers died in accidents in Israel, the highest number since 1997. (Haaretz+)
  • Gett's special taxi service not racist, company says - Newly filed lawsuit cites Jerusalem-based "Mehadrin" service as a means of letting passengers avoid Arab drivers by ensuring car won't drive on Shabbat, but company says anyone can join. (Israel Hayom)
  • Ryanair CEO makes profiling pitch, argues bombers are 'generally of a Muslim persuasion' - "If that is where the threat is coming from, deal with the threat," Michael O'Leary says, causing a firestorm.  (Israel Hayom)
  • Bernie Sanders Says Won’t Attend AIPAC Confab That ‘Gives Platform to Bigotry’ - ‘The Israeli people have the right to live in peace and security. So do the Palestinian people,’ Democratic presidential candidate says on Twitter. (Haaretz+)
  • Iran raises death toll from new virus to 8, infections to 43 - The outbreak in Iran has centered mostly on the city of Qom, but spread rapidly over the past few days to people in four other cities, including the capital, Tehran. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Voter turnout in Iran dips below 50% in a first since 1979 - In a possible sign of widespread dissatisfaction with Iran's clerical rulers and the state of the economy, voter turnout in last week's parliamentary elections stood at 42.57 percent. In comparison, turnout was nearly 62% in the 2016 elections. (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
  • Iran's ayatollahs find new culprit for their declining popularity: Coronavirus - Amid low turnout in parliamentary election, regime lashes out at Iran's enemies. "This negative propaganda about the virus began a couple of months ago and grew larger ahead of the election," Khamenei says.  (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
  • Iran's hardliners win all parliament seats in Tehran, state TV says - More than 7,000 potential candidates had been disqualified, most of them reformists and moderates. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • 'Middle East has no record of anti-Semitism,' Iran's FM asserts - Claims that the region is affected by anti-Semitism are "propaganda. The peoples here have always hosted – and continue to host – Jews in a warm manner," Mohammad Javad Zarif says. (Israel Hayom)

*"Netanyahu wants to put the Arab (Israeli) public to sleep. It won’t work for him"
Between the first and second elections, the number of residents of Qalansawe who voted jumped 40 percent. 96 percent opted for the Joint List, causing a dramatic change on the political map.  Seven days before the third round, when the idea of territorial exchange returned to public discourse under the auspices of the Trump plan, the residents of the ‘triangle’ are not impressed by the Prime Minister's reconciliation attempts: "He did not come looking for votes from us. He came to calm us down. He knows that frightened Arabs are going to the polls in droves.”  (Meirav Betito, Yedioth Hebrew)

Elections 2020/Netanyahu Indictment Commentary/Analysis:
On March 2, the Genuine Jewish Democrat Will Vote for Israel's Arab Citizens (Odeh Bisharat, Haaretz+) When they abuse Jews, I feel Jewish. When they oppress blacks, I feel black. When they engage in ethnic cleansing against Muslims, I feel Muslim. When they engage in attacks against Christians, I feel Christian. Yes, that’s what singles out the genuine democrat: No human suffering is foreign to him, no barrier of identity will separate him from those who are suffering. Next Monday the genuine Jewish democrat will overcome all the walls that separate the two peoples, and will give his vote to the most threatened ethnic group in the State of Israel – the Arab population.
In his despair, Netanyahu won’t hesitate to use any means to win (Orni Petrushka, Maariv) You must not be complacent and assume that the state government will provide protection against harm to the purity of elections. It must be appreciated that there are attempts, even dubious ones, to influence their results.
8 Days to Elections: Coronavirus Undermines Netanyahu’s Trump-style Smear Campaign Against Rival Gantz (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+) The defamation offensive evokes both the 2016 Clinton email scandal and the allegations of Biden-linked corruption in Ukraine.
Benny Gantz is taking Israel back to the future (Joshua Leifer, 972mag) Gantz has become the face of the Israeli center today: racist, militarist, and committed to the perpetual subjugation of Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line.
Probing Gantz's Ex-company Is an Effort to Create False Symmetry With Netanyahu (Haaretz Editorial) The appointment of Dan Eldad as acting state prosecutor by Justice Minister Amir Ohana has produced quick results. Eldad is doing exactly what he was appointed for, just as Ohana is doing exactly what he was called on to do by the criminal defendant who appointed him, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Two weeks after being named, without the recommendation of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, and even though it was only last week that Eldad learned details of the bankruptcy of Fifth Dimension, a cybersecurity company once led by Benny Gantz, the newly minted state prosecutor announced he was ordering the police to question company officials before next week’s election.
There's no good time to launch an investigation on Israel's political calendar (Yuval Yoaz, Haaretz+) The criticism of Acting State Prosecutor Dan Eldad began the minute he decided to launch a criminal investigation of the cybersecurity company Fifth Dimension. How easy it is to conclude that this is a “political” investigation – it obviously screams out due to the circumstances: Eldad was appointed, despite the opposition of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, by Justice Minister Amir Ohana, who is himself a personal appointee of a prime minister facing criminal proceedings, in a transitional government that is functioning without having obtained the confidence of the Knesset. On Thursday, less than two weeks before the election, Eldad decided to launch an investigation against a company that was headed by Benny Gantz, who is threatening to topple Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Peddlers of propaganda (David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom) Crass Israeli politicians like Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman are irresponsibly stirring anti-religious passions for electoral gain.
Islamic Jihad Strikes Netanyahu's Soft Spot a Week Before Israel's Election (Amos Harel, Haaretz+) The last thing the embattled PM needs is a violent conflict in Gaza - and paradoxically, even hitting the organization's No. 2 in Syria is less sensitive than bombing the Strip.

Other Top Commentary/Analysis:
Attack against the long-term arrangement (Yossi Yehoshua, Yedioth Hebrew) While Israel and Hamas are in talks for a long-term arrangement, Islamic Jihad is doing everything to torpedo it. After two of its men were killed while attempting to plant explosives on the (border) fence, a battle ensued over their bodies - at the end of which an IDF bulldozer dragged one of the bodies. The defense minister quickly took credit, but the IDF made it clear: This is not a new guideline. The response was not late in coming: dozens of rockets were launched, IDF attacked Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza. Last night: An exceptional attack by the Air Force in Damascus against Islamic Jihad weapons factories. The Israeli government has set out to achieve an expansive agreement with Hamas and has been prepared to carry out a series of far-reaching easing of sanctions, such as have not been seen in Gaza since Hamas came to power: Israel has committed, that in the near future, to make generous actions that included expanding the fishing zone (off the Gaza coast) and bringing another $12 million from Qatar to Gaza residents. But for some reason, Israel forgot to close a small detail with Hamas: to demand that it enforce peace on all organizations, especially Islamic Jihad. The result: frightening barrage on southern communities yesterday. The escalation of the last 24 hours did not come suddenly: on Wednesday, Jihad tried to harm the long-term agreement through a sniper squad in the Khan Yunis area. It was thwarted by good intelligence and the proper preparation of the Gaza Division, which placed UAV snipers that hit the target. But the IDF refrained from taking an additional price beyond that. Jihad was back in action yesterday morning, this time when two of its men tried early in the morning to place explosives on the perimeter fence. This is a cell that has already operated in the same area. Both terrorists were killed by gunfire from the Kfir Brigade fighters. After the terrorists were killed another confrontation ensued, this time over their bodies. This is an event that, unlike (what has been printed in) publications, is not new - nor is it related to instructions from Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, who boasted yesterday that he had ordered the collection of terrorist bodies. Shortly after the cell was eliminated, an IDF bulldozer entered the Gaza Strip to remove the bodies. Palestinians threw stones at it in an attempt to thwart the evacuation, but the force prevented Palestinians from reaching the bodies - and it took one. The IDF explains the decision as having "intelligence value" and claimed that it could serve as a future bargaining chip against Hamas. The military also believes that the the controversial method of taking the body - which hung on the bulldozer's shovel and was dragged by it - was also justified and aimed at protecting the soldiers from the possibility that the body was boobytrapped. The military claims that this was the case with similar incidents at the border in the past year, including the incident in which Golani fighters killed 4 terrorists who tried to infiltrate Israel in August. In most cases, the evacuation of terrorists' bodies is carried out at night, this time the incident was filmed in full and caused psychological damage. This is also probably what led to the escalation. After Hamas called the incident an “ugly crime" and accused Israel of "deliberate murder of the young man and abusing his body,” Jihad began to launch threats against Israel after which came the barrage: from 17:30 until late at night, repeated barrages were fired at Gaza. Ashkelon, Sderot and surrounding communities. Iron Dome intercepted dozens of launches. Bennett tried yesterday to take credit for the evacuation of the bodies: Against the criticism voiced that the collection of the body is a "disgraceful and shocking" action that damages Israel's image in the world, he tweeted “I’m fed up with the left's hypocritical criticism of ‘the lack of humanity’” and he welcomed the move: “This is how it needs to be done. In the face of terrorists we will work intensely.” Last night Bennett joined Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in a special situation assessment at IDF Kirya Headquarters with Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, Shin Bet Chief of Staff Nadav Argaman and the IDF brass. Last night, the Air Force attacked Islamic Jihad targets in the Gaza Strip - and exceptionally in the Damascus area. But the Israeli dilemma is clear: On the one hand, Hamas, who is responsible for being the sovereign, should be harmed. On the other hand, Islamic Jihad is obviously leading things to an escalation - and so it is likely to be the one to bear the price. Netanyahu and Bennett do not want another round of fighting a week before the elections. But Jihad has other plans: It wants to drag Israel there, forcibly, just as it tried to do before the previous round of elections.
According to the Talmud, in besieged Jerusalem they studied Torah, but they ignored the (problem) of hatred (Shlomo Shamir, Maariv) What is happening in the political arena is more reminiscent of the awful stories from the biblical sources about the poisoned social reality that was prevalent among the Jews in Jerusalem besieged by the Romans, on the eve of its destruction.
Conservatives Won Iran's Parliamentary Election: Now Comes the Hard Part (Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz+) According to unofficial sources, voter turnout was just 40%; and waiting for the incoming parliament is the country’s deep economic crisis.
Israel Is Obscuring the Truth About Gaza and Ignoring the Warning Signs (Amos Harel, Haaretz+) Netanyahu and Defense Minister Bennett talk a big game but are willing to go far to ensure calm – Sunday's rocket fire shows Hamas is in no rush to implement a cease-fire.
The Palestinians have never really sought peace (Ben-Dror Yemini, Yedioth/Ynet) The refusal to drop the right of return that would effectively destroy Israel as a Jewish state coupled with outright rejectionism of all proposals shows that the Palestinians, aided and abetted by a delusional global left-wing, have never really been interested in ending the conflict with Israel.
Israel Needs Qatar to Prevent Gaza From Spiraling, and Hamas Knows How to Exploit It (Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz+) Israel could untie this Gordian knot by lifting the Gaza blockade, perceived by Jerusalem as a red line that cannot be crossed, even though its efficiency in reducing violence is doubtful.
Why do we put up with the United Nations? (Henry Roth, Israel Hayom) Maybe after all these years of having their thoughtful and moral arguments before UN bodies ridiculed and rejected, it's time for Israel to try some other approach to international relations.
Violence, incitement and the wild discourse must be denounced for the sake of the next generation (Dr. Orit Miller-Katab, Maariv) An anti-violence video featuring the president and Internet stars is a welcome initiative, but it is also necessary that the government and we, the parents, to take responsibility and be a role model.
'Jewish mission to Saudi Arabia the result of 2-decade effort'
Much of the diplomacy takes place over time and under the radar, says Malcolm Hoenlein, longtime executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, "by building meaningful relationships across the board. (Interviewed by  Alex Traiman in Israel Hayom)


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