News Nosh 2.26.20

APN's daily news review from Israel
Wednesday February 26, 2020

NOTE: "Cutting off East Jerusalem from the West Bank" - APN holding briefing call with Jerusalem expert Danny Seidemann (Friday, 2/28, 11:00am EST). Background information here.*

You Must Be Kidding: 
The IDF Spokesperson Unit falsely claimed that a video clip of an Israel Defense Forces bulldozer pushing rocks at high speed through a Palestinian village had been edited and sped up. Haaretz investigated and found that the claim was false.*

Breaking News:
Sanders Says He May Move U.S. Embassy Back From Jerusalem if Elected President
On debate stage, Sanders also called Netanyahu a 'reactionary racist,' Warren encouraged direct negotiations with the Palestinians, Bloomberg pushed two-state solution. (Haaretz+, Maariv and Ynet)

Front Page:
Yedioth Ahronoth
  • 5 days to elections - the campaigns are in the final stretch
  • Expose - “The isolation map” of coronavirus in Israel (Hebrew)
  • The last king of Egypt // Smadar Perry on her behind-the-scenes acquaintance with Hosni Mubarak
  • Sderot’s heart stopped beating - Eli Moyal, who was mayor for 10 years during the beginning of the rockets, died (Hebrew)
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
Israel Hayom
  • “Sit in a cabinet government with Gantz? I prefer a fourth election” - Defense Minister Bennett in special interview
  • The Fifth Dimension company and the demand for a Shin Bet investigation
  • Parting from Mubarak: Memories from the last interview we held // Oded Granot
  • Coronavirus continent: Panic rises in Europe
  • Round of appointments in IDF: Lt. Gen. Tal Kalman appointed commander of Iran Command
  • Senior member of Olympic committee said about corona: In May we will know if the Olympics are in danger

Top News Summary:
Following the ceasefire holding between Israel and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, the newspapers focused on the latest declarations in the political arena ahead of elections (see Election Quickees below), the spread of coronavirus abroad (as well as about the 1600 Israelis in self-isolation) and the deaths of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, 91, (whom Netanyahu praised as “a leader who led his people to peace and security, peace with Israel”and whom MK Amir Peretz, Chairman of Labor-Meretz-Gesher, said “contributed greatly to promoting agreements with Palestinians" - Maariv) and former Sderot mayor Eli Moyal. (Moyal made the controverisal demand in 2006 to wipe Beit Hanoun, the Palestinian village opposite, off the map in order to stop the Kassam rocket fire from there. News Nosh editor, Orly Halpern, then JPost Middle East correspondent, interviewed the mayor of Beit Hanoun. Mohammad Kafarna said in response that the ‘Kassams aren’t meant to kill’ and that he does not wish the same on his neighbor.)

*Also making news, the Israeli government has already issued tenders for construction of thousands of Jewish homes in the long-frozen contentious ’Givat Hamatos’ area of E. Jerusalem and the E-1 area outside of Jerusalem, which will cut E. Jerusalem from its West Bank environs. Maariv reported that the apartments will already be available for sale today. Peace Now told Maariv: “Netanyahu is releasing all reins and the citizens of Israel will pay the price.” Meanwhile, the UN Security Council made a rare show of unity when it called on all parties to maintain their support for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Southern Israel went back to routine and Israel said it would lift restrictions on the Gaza Strip if the ceasefire with Islamic Jihad held for another day, although the broad deployment of Iron Dome anti-missile batteries in the south would remain. Hamas said it wasn’t involved in the exchange of blows and that it doesn’t affect the long-term agreement negotiations with Israel. Nevertheless, the papers interviewed Israelis in the south who explained angrily how difficult their lives are under the sporadic rounds of rocket attacks (Maariv). And the Israeli analysts said that this time Israel was not the one who called the shots. (See Commentary/Analysis below.) Meanwhile, tonight a rally will take place calling for the return of the bodies of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who fell during operation Protective Edge in 2014, in addition to the return of Abra Mengistu, Maariv reported. (Also JPost)

Elections 2020 / Netanyahu Indictment Quickees:
  • Netanyahu Associate Hired Intel Firm to Dig Up Dirt on Gantz - Prime minister's spokesman denies the report, while Gantz's party says Netanyahu adopting tactics of 'dark regimes.’ (Haaretz+)
  • Assistance in attack: Itamar Ben Gvir's deal with the prime minister - (Kahanist) Otzma Yehudit chairman suggested to Netanyahu: If the Likud assists him (to get into Knesset), he will attack the Attorney General Mendelblitt in the context of Mendelblitt-Ashkenazi tapes. Ben-Gvir emphasized that he would not violate the law, but said, "I am more courageous than the Likud MKs, who are afraid to attack the Attorney General. If I am in the Knesset, there will be someone who will demand this investigation in a loud voice.” (Maariv)
  • Facebook Removes Fake Accounts Aiming to Suppress Arab Voters in Israeli Election - Nonprofit identified 32 suspicious accounts, many targeting official Facebook page of Ayman Odeh, leader of Arab-majority party. (Haaretz+)
  • Election poll: Likud widens gap with Kahol-Lavan 34:32; Advantage to the right-wing bloc - The party led by Netanyahu is gaining two seats in the Knesset over Gantz's party, which has lost three seats; Lieberman is still the kingmaker. The election poll for Ayala Hasson and Golan Yochpaz’s "Seven Nine" radio program on 103 FM, which polled 510 Jewish and Arab citizens (4.4 sampling error) shows that just five days before the election, a noticeable change can be seen in polls. (Maariv)
  • Pilots petition against Prime Minister: "An improper act that paints the corps in political colors" - A petition initiated by former Air Force pilots and signed by some 540 air crew fighters called on President Rivlin not to give Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the responsibility of forming a government if he wins the election. The pilots published the petition in a full-page ad in Yedioth Tuesday. Other pilots opposed the use of the corps prestige to advance political interests. (Maariv)
  • "Netanyahu wants a law to escape trial” - Kahol-Lavan’s goal in round three was to widen the gap with the Likud and try to form a government with one of Netanyahu's bloc parties. But five days before the polls, the impact of the dive in the polls and Netanyahu's personal battle with Gantz are felt strongly at the party headquarters. "It's a close fight, but much harder than we thought.” (Yedioth Hebrew)
  • Naftali Bennett does not rule out fourth election: “We unequivocally will not enter a Gantz-led government" - In interviews, the Defense Minister and co-leader of Yamina party referred to escalation in the Gaza Strip, as well as to the political stalemate and the possibility of further elections: "We will only support Netanyahu-led government - Kahol-Lavan positions are the opposite of mine.” (Maariv and Israel Hayom)
  • Ayelet Shaked: “Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser will join our coalition if we do not achieve 61 seats" - Former Justice Minister and co-leader of Yemina party made it clear that her party will not join Gantz, but said the two [right-wing - OH] MKs from Kahol-Lavan will join Netanyahu's government: “We hope we will have a majority even without them.” (Maariv)
  • Netanyahu: "Ashkenazi expressed condemnation of the Druze" - Prime Minister Netanyahu referred to alleged statements by the Kahol-Lavan MK, Gabi Ashkenazi, but he did not reveal their contents. Ashkenazi responded: "If he is not ashamed that he is lying, I am ashamed of him." (Maariv)
  • Lieberman: “Netanyahu is hysterical - he is scared and he lies” - Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman continues an aggressive line against Prime Minister and Chairman of Likud. "This morning I heard a hysterical Prime Minister telling a number of fictitious stories at the Sheva newspaper conference. Netanyahu is scared and lying. (Shas leader) Deri and (Yehadut Yisrael chairman) Litzman are also scared and lying. They know that only Lieberman is capable of standing up to Netanyahu and keeping Shas and Yehadut Torah in the opposition…The Prime Minister needs to end his role.” (Maariv, p. 4 and Makor Rishon Hebrew)
  • Shas Will Back Netanyahu for PM Even at the Cost of a Fourth Election, Party Leader Says - Netanyahu is a 'natural partner' in maintaining religious status quo in Israel, ultra-Orthodox party chairman Dery says. (Haaretz+)
  • Israel election: Special polling stations set for coronavirus patients - To counter growing popular anxiety, Israeli election committee announces isolation tents for voters under quarantine. (Haaretz+)
  • Forty-three Falashmura arrive in Israel, accompanied by Likud lawmakers - The attorney general opposed the move on suspicion that the initiative was a campaign ploy to win Ethiopian Israelis votes for Likud in the upcoming election. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
  • Panel to Rehear Netanyahu's Request to Accept Legal Fee Donations From U.S. Businessman - The permits committee cited a ‘change in circumstances’ following Netanyahu’s indictment in January as grounds for reconsideration. (Haaretz+ and Maariv)
Quick Hits:
  • Israeli army, police form agency to prepare for violence if settlements are annexed - The body, to include IDF, police, and Shin Bet, will coordinate response for escalation in Israel and the Palestinians territories, with Jerusalem a likely flashpoint. (Haaretz+)
  • **Israeli Army Falsely Claims Video of Bulldozer Pushing Stones at Palestinians Was Doctored - Haaretz examined all three videos of the incident, and all proved authentic. None had been sped up. (Haaretz+VIDEO and YouTube)
  • Sources in the Mossad: "Sara pressed to join trip to Oman, Bibi could not withstand the pressure” - Sources said the PM's wife insisted on joining her husband for the historic meeting in 2018, despite opposition from the country’s sultan. The Mossad agent said that he and his colleagues had to apologize to the Sultan, who eventually decided to put aside his customs and approved the arrival of the prime minister's wife, apparently due to a diplomatic initiative he was trying to promote, in the framework of which it was proposed to hold a secret summit in Oman between Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. According to senior Israeli officials, the PM heard the proposal but did not make a commitment. Abu Mazen, on his part, actually agreed in principle a few days later. Sultan Qabos realized that Netanyahu was not really interested in the proposal and was not cooperating with him, so the issue fell by the wayside. (Maariv)
  • Former Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal passed away at the age of 67 - Moyal had a heart attack about a week and a half ago. He served from 1998-2008, during the Qassam rocket fire on the city. The current mayor, Alon Davidi: “He was a significant figure for residents.” (Maariv and JPost)
  • Rivlin backs speedy extradition for Australian alleged sex offender - In meeting with Australian PM Scott Morrison, President Reuven Rivlin says he understands how “painful and difficult the case of Malka Leifer, the former school principal facing dozens of charges, is for the Australian Jewish community and for Australians generally.” Leifer has been fighting extradition from Israel for years, with the legal wrangle to bring her before an Australian court causing a diplomatic strain between the allies. (Agencies, Haaretz and Israel Hayom)
  • Entry signs into the "State of Palestine" - Last night, activists of Regavim posted warning signs about entry into the "State of Palestine" at 33 spots point across Judea and Samaria that are passage points as per Trump's 'Deal of the Century.' (Maariv, p. 7 and Jewish Press)
  • The Submarine Deal realization phase - After the murky water that flooded public discourse in the "Submarine (corruption) affair," the time comes to get armed. The Defense Ministry will pay 1.8 billion euros, and the German “Thyssenkrupp” corporation will provide the Navy with three "Decker" submarines. By the end of the decade the new and advanced model will replace the “Dolphin" submarines that are about to leave the service. (Yedioth Hebrew)
  • After repeated requests, Monaco to open archives on its role in Holocaust - "We will be asking for some sort of indemnification. We are not talking about a large amount of money. But if we get it, at least there will then be some kind of closure," says Shimon Samuels of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. (Israel Hayom)
  • Sanders Says He May Move U.S. Embassy Back From Jerusalem if Elected President -On debate stage, Sanders also called Netanyahu a 'reactionary racist,' Warren encouraged direct negotiations with the Palestinians, Bloomberg pushed two-state solution. Sanders calls Netanyahu 'reactionary racist'; Sanders' opponents united in attacking the self-avowed democratic socialist. (Ynet, Maariv and Haaretz+)
  • Mike Pence Will Address AIPAC’s Annual Conference for 4th Consecutive Year - Vice president will be joined by multiple Democratic and Republican politicians. (JTA, Haaretz)
  • As Sanders Surges, Bloomberg Eyes Americans in Israel to Win Democratic Nomination - Bloomberg, one of two Jewish candidates in the Democratic race, is popular among Jewish voters in the U.S. with 28 percent of respondents favoring him, according to a recent poll. (Haaretz+)
  • MSNBC Host Apologizes for Comparing Bernie Sanders’ Nevada Win to Nazi Invasion - ‘I’m sorry for comparing anything from that tragic era to an electorate result in which you were the well-deserved winner,’ Chris Matthews said. (JTA, Haaretz)
  • Mike Bloomberg to Attend AIPAC Conference in Washington - The former New York mayor is the first Democratic presidential candidate to announce that he will speak at the confab. (Haaretz+)
  • Turkey-backed Rebels Say They've Seized Town in Syria's Idlib in First Advance - No agreement yet on summit with France, Germany to solve conflict, Erdogan says. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Sixteen dead in Iran as deputy health minister tests positive for coronavirus - Neighboring countries have already declared cases linked to Iran, closed borders as virus fears spread in the Middle East. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • U.S. ‘Deeply Concerned’ Iran Covered Up Details About Coronavirus Spread, Says Pompeo - Iran's coronavirus death toll rose to 16 on Tuesday, the highest outside China, increasing its international isolation. (Agencies, Haaretz)

For Elite Israeli Intelligence Alumni, Cybersecurity Is Out and Health Tech Is In
World-famous for their hacking skills, many former members of the IDF's elite 8200 unit see the convergence of biology and data as Israel’s next hot industry, and want in. (Sagi Cohen, Haaretz+)

Elections 2020/Netanyahu Indictment Commentary/Analysis:
Trial Evasion in French (Haaretz Editorial) The public and the media know that Netanyahu hasn’t given up on finding a way to avoid justice. Asked in an interview whether, if he succeeds in forming a government, he would promote a version of the French law, Netanyahu responded, “I haven’t dealt with that at all. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” In another interview he said, “I will not legislate a French law and I will smash all the arguments against me in court.” What’s shameful is that it isn’t the contradiction between the two responses that should bother the public, but the fact that whatever he says is no assurance of anything. The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter what Netanyahu says, because lying is a way of life for him. An entire country watched as he sat with Keren Marciano before the first election last year and lied shamelessly on live TV. When asked then about the possibility that he would seek parliamentary immunity, or that he would try to advance legislation or make any other move that would prevent him from standing trial, he said, “What? Of course not!”
Netanyahu's Latest Election Spin Is a Point of No Return for Israeli Settlements (Nir Hasson, Haaretz+) Construction in the West Bank's Givat Hamatos and Area E-1 makes a future Palestinian state unimaginable. And it can't be undone after next week's election.
The escalation in the south has taken over the political agenda - and politicians are taking advantage of it (Arik Bender, Maariv) Just days before the election, Kahol-Lavan exploits the barrage of shooting and the difficult images of frightened children from the Gaza periphery to punch Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to gain more votes.
Will Doomsday Polls Galvanize or Demoralize Center-left Voters? (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+) With Gantz running a tired campaign in the face of Netanyahu's last-ditch effort to maintain power, center-left voters have started despairing before the polls even open for the Israeli election.
For Israeli election, 4th time will be the charm (Rabbi Dov Fischer, Israel Hayom) With the electoral crisis growing and no real winner showing in the polls leading to next week's vote, all signs point to a real possibility that Israel will need yet one more national election to nail down a government.
Coronavirus Fears Are the Most Exciting Thing About Israel's Boring Third Election (Allison Kaplan Sommer, Haaretz+) There are two great unknowns as Israelis return to polling places on March 2 – voter turnout, and whether the coronavirus might have an impact.
Polls, Gaza, Netanyahu and Gantz (Ruthie Blum, Israel Hayom) Even members of the public forced into bomb shelters on a regular basis realize that the prime minister is doing the best he can to keep Hamas at bay, while reserving the option to launch a ground incursion into Gaza as a last resort.
Israel Has to Get Rid of Netanyahu, and Not Because of His Ideology (Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz+) Netanyahu and his governments have created over the past decade a warped reality in which the state, that is to say Netanyahu, is above all else. The public’s short memory can only recall the tributes he has held in cities and neighborhoods, his farcical appointment of the state prosecutor and his empty promise to annex the territories. This memory isn’t sufficient to internalize and file away the threats regarding Hamas and Islamic Jihad that have become a joke or the lies wrapped up in his campaign to save himself, his promise not to ask for immunity, not to legislate the so-called French law or the land-grab bill. The public’s medium-term memory has already forgotten the culture war that Miri Regev waged, her disdainful use of language when he told Kahlon four years ago: “You will never get the votes of the Mizrahim — only I know how to get them. I know who they hate: They hate the Arabs. And I know how to deliver the goods.”
Why Israel's electoral stalemate isn't a disaster (Jonathan S. Tobin, Israel Hayom) As Israeli voters approach the March 2 election with resignation, the country may be sick of Netanyahu, though rests easy knowing that he's still in charge.
Return with the same currency: Netanyahu's charges of corruption against Gantz worked in his favor (Anna Barsky, Maariv) Recent polls prove that the prime minister's goal has borne fruit, and that the allegations he pointed at his political rival, reminiscent of those against him,  have earned him more votes.
Israel’s bizarre role reversal pits Gantz’s conservative center-left against Netanyahu’s revolutionary right (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+) Monday’s election isn’t about choosing a new government, but about changing the regime itself.
Why US Jews must interfere in the Israeli election (Martin Oliner, Israel Hayom) Israel is facing critical times. To weather them, it needs the best leader possible and no one has more experience or is more suitable for the role than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Why I'll be voting for PM Netanyahu once again (Rachel Avraham, Israel Hayom) Under Netanyahu, the economy has improved, tourism is booming, diplomatic relations are at an all-time high and life in Israel has improved overall.

Top Commentary/Analysis:
Gaza escalation was about bodies not bombs (Alex Fishman, Yedioth/Ynet) The IDF has claimed that the flare-up was because an Islamic Jihad militant was killed but the sight of his corpse being dragged away by a bulldozer incensed the street in Gaza; and if Israel does not realize this, it will all happen again.
Israel achieved nothing in latest Gaza fighting (Elior Levy, Yedioth/Ynet) The latest flare-up in Gaza began because of Israel's perceived mistreatment of the body of an Islamic Jihad militant killed trying to lay a bomb at the border fence. And it only ended when the Islamic Jihad said it did, and even though Jerusalem has repeatedly declared Hamas responsible for all aggression from the Strip, the ruling organization was given a free pass by the IDF, which avoided striking any of its assets.
Wait for the next rounds: Israel is trying to buy quiet in the Gaza Strip for a bribe (Batia Holtzin, Maariv) The latest barrage of rockets, like the ones before it, reflects life in the Gaza Strip as Hamas continues to blackmail Israel, while we respond and try to buy fake quiet.
How did Western media become Gaza's useful idiot? (Ben-Dror Yemini, Yedioth/Ynet) Every time Jerusalem decides to embark on a military operation in the Hamas-run enclave, it finds its military superiority over Gaza's terrorist factions canceled by a wave of shrieking reporters and pundits as soon as the first brutal images of war surface.
Conclusions from the recent round of escalation in the Gaza Strip: Jihad learned lessons, Israel less so (Tal Lev-Ram, Maariv) The upcoming elections have made the Gaza escalation round significant because of the timing it came at. This time - it wasn’t Israel who dictated the pace and outcome of the fighting, but the proactive side.
By boycotting AIPAC, Sanders hurts the Palestinians (David Suissa, Israel Hayom) By blasting and boycotting AIPAC, the senator from Vermont is missing an opportunity to help his own cause.
AIPAC Has Bigger Problems Than Sanders' Snub – and It Could Define Its Future (Amir Tibon, Haaretz+) A major clash between Sanders and AIPAC won’t just hurt the organization’s bipartisan bona fides in the short run. It could also come to define AIPAC for an entire generation of young American voters.
Will Sanders turn Jews into Trump supporters? (Jonathan S. Tobin, Israel Hayom) Not even the victory of a socialist backed by a coalition of Israel haters will persuade liberal Jews to abandon their party, let alone vote for a president they hate.
If I forget thee, east Jerusalem (Moshe Phillips, Israel Hayom) When anti-Israel extremists created the term "east Jerusalem" it was for one reason: They sought to rip Israel's capital apart in order to defeat the Jewish state.
Israel feared Mubarak’s death for decades. But his final years were a surprise (Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz+) Egypt-watchers who analyzed the former president's every cough never thought he would die years after being deposed in a popular revolution.
"Who allowed you to publish the item on the coup attempt?” Mubarak shouted at me (Smadar Perry, Yedioth Hebrew) At their first meeting, in the mid-1990s, he was furious that she had revealed that there was a coup attempt against him. Then she was invited to his palace to "arrange things.”  Since then, Yedioth Ahronoth reporter Smadar Perry met with President Mubarak 30 times for engaging interviews. Yesterday he passed away, leaving a lot of memories and stories.
Hosni Mubarak, the President Who Founded the Republican Monarchy (Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz+) Hosni Mubarak is often described as a dictator, but his legacy is complicated. While ruling Egypt with an iron fist, he was a stable leader on economic and diplomatic fronts.
Sanitizing Soros through guilt by association (Melanie Phillips, Israel Hayom) Just because George Soros is a magnet for anti-Semites does not mean there aren't well-founded grounds for complaints against his behavior.
For Intel Firms, Changes to Cold War Arms Treaty Could Make Hacking Phones Much Harder (Yossi Melman, Haaretz+) The field is now subject to the Wassenaar Arrangement, which regulates technology that can be used for both civilian and security-related purposes.
'The Arab way of thinking towards Israel has become archaic'
French-Moroccan professor Youssef Chiheb: "Israel is not an enemy of Morocco... the Arab world has been brainwashed with anti-Zionist and anti-Israel rhetoric." (i24NEWS and Israel Hayom)
Prepared for APN by Orly Halpern, independent freelance journalist based in Jerusalem.