News Nosh 2.25.20

APN's daily news review from Israel
Tuesday February 25, 2020
Quote of the day:
"The logic that holds that if terrorists don’t obey the laws of war, the laws of war must be adapted to the war on terror, ignores the fact that a country that does so undermines the very thing that distinguishes its army from a terrorist organization."
--Haaretz Editorial today slams Defense Minister Naftali Bennett for 'collecting' (Bennett's word) bodies of Palestinian militants.*

Front Page:
Yedioth Ahronoth
  • Look them in the eyes - the children of the bomb shelters (Hebrew)
  • Goal: Calm before elections
  • Fire until the ballot box // Yossi Yehoshua
  • Explosive business // Alex Fishman
  • Helpless // Ben-Dror Yemini
  • Who to depend on // Limor Livnat (Hebrew)
  • Price of coronavirus: Enormous damage to economy (Hebrew)
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
  • Between emergency and routine - Escalation in the south
  • “Physically, we’re fine in the meantime, psychologically, we aren’t” - 13 rounds of fire in the Gaza Strip periphery over the last two years and now they are calling again: “We need to get out of the equation and get into an expansive military campaign”
  • Potential for escalation // Tal-Lev Ram on the situation in the south
  • Life in “routine emergency” // Social worker Hannah Tal on dealing with it psychologically
  • Fragile achievement // Anna Barsky on the new election polls
  • The barrages and the polls // Arik Bender on the political agenda
  • Travel warning to northern Italy - coronavirus panic
  • Guilty: Producer Harvey Weinstein convicted of sexual assault and rape
Israel Hayom
  • Prime Minister to heads of terrorists: “Without quiet you are next in line”
  • Day of battle in the south; Chief of Staff: “It’s not certain we are nearing the end of the round”
  • The message: long-term arrangement or the games are over // Yoav Limor
  • Freedom of speech, Lieberman style - Russian-Israelis who run website that is critical of Lieberman say: “His supporters threatened to harm us”
  • Corona danger: Fear that laboratories will collapse from the load
  • Family business
  • “Evil sexual hunter”: Producer Harvey Weinstein was convicted of rape
  • Eden Elana is ready to charge on Eurovision: “I believe in myself”

Top News Summary:
Gaza and Israel exchanged more rockets and missiles ahead of a ceasefire, Israel warned Israelis against travel to Italy and clamped down on home isolation and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his opponent, Kahol-Lavan leader Benny Gantz, exchanged accusations making top stories in today’s Hebrew newspapers.

The tit-for-tat that began after an Israeli army bulldozer dragged the body of a shot Islamic Jihad fighter, who allegedly place explosives near the Gaza border, rocked the Gaza Strip, southern Israel and Damascus yesterday, with Israel killing at least six more Islamic Jihad activists and Gazan rockets hitting an Israeli playground and a backyard. Israel also hit a training camp and an alleged underground weapons store in Gaza. Monday evening, Islamic Jihad said that it had completed its response to the desecration of the body of one of its people and the attack in Damascus. But before they finished, Netanyahu said that leaders of the militias in Gaza should stop or they would be targets and threatened ‘war.’ Israel also put back sanctions on Gaza.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry officially confirmed a warning against travel to northern Italy following the outbreak of the coronavirus there. In Israel, they are concerned about a diplomatic crisis with East Asian countries following the blocking of flights from their countries. (Maariv) Yesterday, 1,350 Koreans left the country, Yedioth Hebrew reported, and a senior Health Ministry official told Maariv that "more than 1,400 people are in isolation in Israel,” most of them in their homes. Haaretz Hebrew reported today that the Ministry of Health has filed police complaints against 3 Israelis who violated house isolation. They had returned from Thailand. The inspectors reached them following reports that reached the office center.

Elections 2020 / Netanyahu Indictment News:
As in the last few weeks, it was hard today to decide what was election news and what wasn’t. Netanyahu made a number of pro-settler moves yesterday: He announced that 3,000 Jewish homes would be built on the contentious piece of land in E. Jerusalem known as Givat Hamatos, which would effectively separate Palestinian neighborhoods from the West Bank, he ordered hooking up 12 settlement outposts to the electricity grid and he attended the first meeting of the Israel-US committee for mapping Israeli sovereignty in the occupied Palestinian territories. All this comes as a Channel 13 News poll found that his party would be the largest in next week’s elections, with Likud getting 33 seats compared to Kahol Lavan's 32. Moreover, 44% of respondents thought Netanyahu was the most suitable for the role of prime minister, compared to 30% for Gantz.

There were also confusing and conflicting reports about whether Netanyahu said he would advance the so-called “French law” that gives prime ministers and presidents immunity from prosecution. Yedioth Hebrew reported that as part of a blitz of interviews he gave Monday night, Netanyahu did not deny that, if elected, he intended to pass the French law, saying, “When we get to the bridge we'll see what we do," he said. But then he backtracked, saying he would not personally legislate such a law. Gantz says Netanyahu was planning to falsely announce that the next term would be his last, in order to hid his ‘only goal’ of passing the French law to grant himself immunity from prosecution and block the upcoming trial. Gantz said if Netanyahu passed the law, he would be like Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan.  

Elections 2020 / Netanyahu Indictment Quickees:
  • Israel Government Issues Tenders for Jerusalem Neighborhood, Ending Building Freeze - Construction of Givat Hamatos was viewed as problematic as it was thought that in a future plan to divide Jerusalem, would separate two Arab neighborhoods from the contiguity of East Jerusalem. (Haaretz+)
  • Netanyahu orders to connect 12 illegal outposts to electrical grid, a week to Israeli election - Settlement activists welcome further move towards normalization of West Bank outposts, but the timeline for actual delivery is uncertain. (Haaretz+)
  • Sovereignty in Judea and Samaria: The mapping team went out to the field - A week before the election, the Israeli-American mapping team went on a tour of (Israeli West Bank city) Ariel yesterday as part of the plan to apply sovereignty over Judea and Samaria as part of President Trump's plan of the century. Netanyahu attended the meeting, led by US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, his senior adviser Aryeh Lightstone, and Scott Leith, who is the director of Israeli and Palestinian affairs in the US National Security Council. (Yedioth Hebrew and Israel Hayom)
  • Israeli High Court Freezes Election-eve Probe Linked to Case of Ethiopian Teen Slaying - Justices order suspension of committee work aimed at reviewing the handling of complaints about a Justice Ministry unit that probes complaints of police misconduct. (Haaretz+ and Maariv)
  • Government source: Coronavirus could risk elections - Election officials worry most about spread of 'fake news' regarding virus in an effort to deter voters from arriving at the polls; no solution as of yet for Israelis in-home quarantine. (Yedioth/Ynet)
  • Gantz: "Ashkenazi will be Defense Minister" - Kahol-Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz announced on a visit to Gaza periphery last night that MK Gabi Ashkenazi will be appointed defense minister in his government and "correct the failures of Netanyahu who established a puppet cabinet and appointed ministers out of political considerations." (Yedioth Hebrew)
  • 'Nonpolitical' NGO may be illicitly campaigning for Left - Documentation of the operations of Darkenu, an NGO describing itself a "pro-peace organization" indicate that the group is massively campaigning for the Left in aa potential violation of Central Election Committee orders. (Israel Hayom)
  • Tel-Aviv resident suspected of threatening to murder MK Stav Shaffir: "I will slit your throat"  - The Knesset member filed a complaint on January 15, and police investigators succeeded in locating the suspect, who used a false identity to upload threatening Instagram posts. He will be brought to extend his remand in custody. (Maariv and Times of Israel)
Quick Hits:
  • Israel's Attorney General Flip Flops to Back Prosecutor in Gantz Probe - After initially objecting to launching the investigation of a firm once headed by Netanyahu's electoral rival just before the March 2 election, Mendelblit now insists a decision to go. (Haaretz+, Yedioth Hebrew and Maariv)
  • Israel Promotes Procedures Allowing It to Press Civil Suits Against Jewish Terrorists - Move comes in response to a petition filed with the High Court, which demanded that Israel sue the murderers of a Palestinian teen who was torched to death in 2014. (Haaretz+)
  • Israeli Police Question Left-wing Activist Jonathan Pollak on Suspicion of Incitement to Terror - The investigation was opened over statements the activist made in an op-ed that was erroneously published unedited on the Hebrew website of Haaretz. (Haaretz+ and Times of Israel)
  • Israel Conceals Data on Gas Exports to Egypt and Jordan - Citing commercial secrecy, data on overseas sales from the Leviathan gas field are disguised under other categories of exports. (Haaretz+)
  • Bernie Sanders’ “Israeli Boycott"  - The leading candidate to win the Democratic presidential nomination in the US caused a stir yesterday from a tweet that was interpreted as anti-Israeli. Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders announced on Twitter that he will not attend the AIPAC conference - the pro-Israel caucus in the United States - that opens in Washington this Sunday, because it "provides a platform for leaders who oppose the granting of basic rights to Palestinians." According to Sanders, "Israeli residents have the right to live in peace and security, as do the Palestinian people. As President, I will support both the rights of Israelis and Palestinians, and will do everything to bring peace." AIPAC said the message was "disgraceful," and that Sanders had never attended the conference. Some believed that the storm could affect the vote of the Jews for Sanders, himself a Jew. (Yedioth Hebrew)
  • Bernie Sanders 'Lacks Understanding' of Israel, Yair Lapid Says - Kahol Lavan co-chairman expresses doubts about front-runner in Democratic primary, who has called for some U.S. military aid to Israel to be sent to Gaza instead. (Haaretz+)
  • Lapid admonishes Belgian ambassador over anti-Semitic festival - "I told him that if there was a possibility of pressing charges in Belgium I will do it myself, as an Israeli politician but not only; also as the son of a Holocaust survivor," says Blue and White MK Yair Lapid. (Israel Hayom)
  • Iran Lawmaker Says 50 Dead From New Coronavirus in City of Qom; Deputy Health Minister Denies - Iran's health ministry says total infections have risen to 61, noting the government was late in announcing the outbreak and that his city does not have adequate equipment to deal with the health crisis; number of deaths remains 12 according to spokesman. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Afghanistan record first new coronavirus cases - all linked to Iran travel - Afghanistan suspended all air and land movement to and from Iran over the weekend as all three countries' new cases are linked to Iran travel. (Agencies, Haaretz)

Top Commentary/Analysis:
*Collecting Bodies (Haaretz Editorial) Every Israeli ought to be worried by the video clip of an army bulldozer dragging the body of a Palestinian who was killed by Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip. This isn’t the behavior of an army that is strict about upholding purity of arms and claims to exemplify morality in combat…Defense Minister Naftali Bennett’s utter contempt for what he termed “the left’s hypocritical criticism of the ‘inhumanity’ of using a bulldozer” leaves no room for doubt: The IDF’s action and the full backing given to it by the defense minister are a direct continuation of what Bennett said in numerous interviews earlier this month. Ever since he took office in November, he says, “We’ve been picking up Hamas members to use as bargaining chips” and “amassing the bodies of terrorists to hurt and pressure the other side,” in an effort to promote the return of the Israeli civilians and the bodies of Israeli soldiers that are being held in Gaza…The logic that holds that if terrorists don’t obey the laws of war, the laws of war must be adapted to the war on terror, ignores the fact that a country that does so undermines the very thing that distinguishes its army from a terrorist organization.
(Defense Minister) Bennett and his cheerleading choir have lost the remnants of self-control (Ben Caspit, Maariv) Once, it was the Arabs who were raging, bragging, boasting and threatening while we were silent and victorious. Today we brag and get hit by rockets. A little modesty won't hurt here.
Israel's Gaza delusion (Elior Levy, Yedioth/Ynet) Jerusalem is trying desperately to broker some kind of long-term agreement with Hamas, but the terror group is making minimal concessions and all the while letting its unruly partner Islamic Jihad do the dirty work.
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.
Hamas torn between long-term calm, popular resistance (Ron Ben Yishai, Ynet) The Islamic Jihad is instructed by Tehran to increase its terror activities and block any long-term calm, since the Islamic republic is its benefactor, a change in strategy is unlikely.
There is no way to cure the oozing wound called the Gaza Strip (Dr. Haim Misgav, Maariv) Already tired of hearing those who have the answer to the Gaza problem. Many good ones in the past promised the same thing and failed. Everyone knows that this issue has no solution.
Israel doing everything it can to avoid 4th Gaza war (Shimrit Meir, Yedioth/Ynet) Unlike in the 2014 conflict, Jerusalem is trying everything to reach a long-term agreement with Hamas as violence flares in the now traditional escalation on the eve of an Israeli election.
A maverick vision requires an open mindset (Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen, Israel Hayom) One cannot judge the US's Middle East peace plan through the prism by which political developments were judged in the 20th century. Times have changed and if Israel is to make the most out of this historic opportunity, it cannot afford to be held back by narrow minds.
What About Equality at Military Funerals? (Nehemia Shtrasler, Haaretz+) The Numa committee exceeded its authority and presented recommendations that would mean completely giving up on recruiting Haredim, so that they can continue on their own path. Let them work, study, do what their hearts desire – the IDF will get by just fine without them. This is arrogance. The committee is really saying that Haredim are not good enough to serve in the IDF.
Saudis, Egyptians Wage War on Spiking Rap and Electronic Music Scene (Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz+) Male and female artists alike under fire for video clips gone viral on YouTube and Twitter.

Elections 2020/Netanyahu Indictment Commentary/Analysis:
7 Days to Election: Netanyahu Prays Gaza Won’t Shoot Down His Skyrocketing Polls (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+) Islamic Jihad reminds Israelis that Netanyahu has no solution to Gaza rocket attacks – and might not even want one.
When the guns are thundering (Limor Livnat, Yedioth Hebrew) It was to be expected that during the hours, days and nights of the shooting at Ashkelon residents, Netivot, Sderot and the surrounding area, all parties would decide to stop the flood of text messages, signs, videos and mud they are throwing against each other. One would hope that in the few days before the third round of elections within less than a year, someone who claims the crown of leadership would stand up and stop the constant flow of election propaganda that is so loathsome - because, as it turns out, no one is really convinced or listening to the mud slinging and slander of the other and the lauding of their own candidates and parties...Because who is even thinking about the people of the south? Who is even considering the citizens and sees life itself?..The public looks up and asks itself: Why should I even go vote? After all, the state is unable to provide itself and its children with its basic needs: security, security and security.
These 50,000 Israelis Can Send Netanyahu Packing (Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz+) At the end of three Israeli election campaigns in a year, there are very few floating voters left untapped. Even so, Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan will be hoping to find some in the ‘soft-right’ flank of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.
A Week to Election: Netanyahu Takes the Lead, but Throws Rival Gantz a Lifeline (Yossi Verter, Haaretz+) Netanyahu's Likud grows stronger and seizes the lead from Gantz's weakening Kahol Lavan, although recent shifts in public opinion don’t herald a victory for either bloc.
Will the Democratic Party let its members be vocally pro-Israel? (Moshe Hill, Israel Hayom) A Sanders nomination will put many Democrats to the test, but none more so than those that claim to be pro-Israel.
Prepared for APN by Orly Halpern, independent freelance journalist based in Jerusalem.