News Nosh 3.4.20

APN's daily news review from Israel
Wednesday March 4, 2020

Quote of the day:
"Now the Arabs are tasked with saving the Jewish state."
--Haaretz commentator Odeh Bisharat looks at the irony of how, during the campaigning, Kahol-Lavan rejected forming a government with the support of the mostly Arab Joint List, but now some of its members look to it for hope for forming a government - or at least for preventing the right-wing from forming one.*

Front Page:
Yedioth Ahronoth
  • Victory without a win - Netanyahu’s headache: How to reach 61 mandates (Hebrew)
  • Hunt for the defectors; The unity card; Waiting for the soldiers (votes)
  • Corona panic: 913 Israeli pupils in self-quarantine
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
  • Looking for defectors
  • There is no one but him // Anna Barsky
  • Between the President and the High Court // Dr. Yaakov Ben-Shemesh
  • The problem with the message // Arik Bender
  • Movement for Quality Government petitioned High Court: “Binyamin Netanyahu cannot (legally) form a government”
  • Corona panic: IDF Head of Operations returned from Italy and met with Netanyahu before entering quarantine
  • (Poet) Yonatan Geffen in post on Netanyahu and his voters: “Tarzan, king of the monkeys, and excuse me if I offended the monkeys”
  • Ayman Odeh, Chairman of Joint List: “We know that the Arabs went in droves to the polling stations”
  • Amir Peretz after the defeat of the left-wing parties: “I don’t intend on withdrawing from political life”
Israel Hayom

Elections 2020 / Netanyahu Indictment News:
A day and a half after the polling stations closed, the Hebrew papers were all about what happened and what next. The big story today was about Likud's hunt for defectors from Kahol-Lavan and the left-wing Labor-Gesher-Meretz list because Likud, which made a major victory with 36 seats to Kahol-Lavan’s 32 or 33, still can’t make a government because it only has 58 or 59 seats in its right-wing-ultra-Orthodox bloc - not the 61 needed to have a majority in the Knesset. Kahol-Lavan leader Benny Gantz reiterated that he would not enter a unity government with a man who is indicted for crimes. The papers also looked at the amazing achievements of Likud and the Joint List, as well as the failure of the Kahol-Lavan and Labor-Gesher Meretz, which went from 10 seats as two parties to seven seats as one list. (See Commentary/Analysis below and an interesting set of interviews in the Interview section.) And meanwhile, everyone waited for the count of the last votes: those of the soldiers and of the people under coronavirus quarantine.

Yedioth Hebrew’s Moran Azoulay wrote that Likud was attempting to establish a narrative of victory - even there there is still no decision on who will form a government - or even if there will be fourth elections. Azoulay writes that Netanyahu aims to present a new government within two weeks, but the current deadlock may lead President Reuven Rivlin to deliver the decision of choosing who will form the government immediately to the Knesset.

Three right-wing MKs in Kahol-Lavan and MK Orly Levy-Abukasis, the ‘Gesher’ part of the Labor-Gesher-Meretz list, all denied they were in talks to defect to Likud. Maariv reported that sources in the right-wing bloc said the bloc had made initial contacts with the Labor Party and its left-wing leader Amir Peretz, whose party dismissed the claim.  Moreover, Likud threatened Kahol-Lavan MK Omer Yankelevich that if she didn’t defect they would release embarrassing tapes of her. Haaretz+ reported that Kahol-Lavan was aware of the possibility that some members might defect and some members of the party - made up of three parties - didn’t rule out splitting up. The knives were pointed toward Labor-Gesher-Meretz list chairman, Amir Peretz, but he said he wasn’t going to resign from political life. Haaretz+ reported that the Labor-Gesher-Meretz list was mulling breaking up.

The Joint List claimed a 'huge success' with its historic 15-seat win, noting that the list got twice as many mandates as all the left-wing parties together. The party members proudly said that the "Arabs went out to vote in droves" (making fun of Netanyahu, who used the phrase to racebait right-wing voters into going out to vote - OH]. The party got an extra boost from Jewish voters this election. The result is a record number of 17 Arab lawmakers, including five women in four parties. Joint List leader MK Ayman Odeh called his party, the ‘principled alternative for the entire Israeli political map' and said, "We are the real left-wing.” He also attacked Kahol-Lavan leader Benny Gantz, saying, "I will have nothing to do with him and the Kahol-Lavan party, there are quite a few racists there.” During the campaign, Gantz said he would not make a government with the support of the Joint List. ‘Israel Hayom’ (Hebrew) newspaper noted that a week before Election Day the Joint List made huge efforts to bring voters to the polls who were Jewish voters disappointed with Meretz,-immigrants from the former Soviet, post-Zionist left-wingers and extremist ultra-Orthodox factions. To that end, the Joint List campaigned in Hebrew, Russian, Yiddish and Amharic languages.

Elections 2020 / Netanyahu Indictment Quickees:
  • Katz rules out rotation, but not unity - Foreign minister says Gantz missed his chance for premiership, shows his appreciation for Gesher leader Levy-Abekasis who he claims could make a great health minister. (Ynet)
  • 23rd Knesset to see record number of women, Arab lawmakers - With 30 female MKs, women will make up a quarter of the 120-seat parliament. Next Knesset will include only three new MKs, two from the Joint Arab List and one from Shas. (Israel Hayom)
  • Despite the Qassams: Sderot has proven to be a city of the right-wing - Shai Hajaj, the head of the Merhavim Regional Council, said that despite the tension in the south, 53% of the residents of Sderot, the capital of the Gaza periphery, voted for Likud "for many good and justifiable reasons.” (Maariv)
  • (Poet) Yonatan Geffen on Netanyahu: “Tarzan, King of the Monkeys, and sorry if I insulted the monkeys” - The songwriter and journalist posted in his Instagram account the photo of the Netanyahu couple kissing on election night, adding a statement that could be interpreted as condescending and racist towards Likud voters. "Love in the days of Corona. So much sadness after the Monkey King's victory speech. Tarzan isn’t leaving us. And I apologize if I insulted the monkeys," Geffen wrote. (Maariv)
  • The Arab world expressed interest in the undecided elections in Israel - "The Israeli voter said yes to the occupation and racism," PLO secretary general Saeb Erekat was quoted in the Palestinian newspapers as saying, "Lieberman will decide who will win," was the headline of the al-Quds newspaper. The Saudi website “Elaf" referred to Erekat’s quote, stating that "if Israel annexes Palestinian land - it will lead to violence." An article by the newspaper’s Israeli (Arab) journalist Majdi Halabi said: "Netanyahu - who may be disqualified by the Supreme Court on charges against him - will not form a government because of the Arabs, and Gantz - who failed to recruit liberals and the center - cannot form a government without the Arabs. The two leaders acted racistly against the Arab citizens, inciting against them as they incited the Jewish public saying that (forming a government with the Arab party would) violate the Jewish state's national identity." (Maariv)

Quick Hits:
  • IDF general met with Netanyahu after visit to coronavirus-stricken Italy - IDF operations chief Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva returned from Italy last month and met with the prime minister before the Health Ministry required self-quarantine. (Maariv and Times of Israel)
  • Health Ministry: Number of coronavirus cases in Israel up to 15 - Over 5,500 Israelis have now been quarantined amid concerns about the global spread of the COVID-19 virus. World Health Organization says some 91,700 people worldwide were infected with the coronavirus, which has so far claimed 3,100 lives. (Israel Hayom)
  • Israel mulls quarantine for returnees from U.S., France and Germany - Health Ministry says these are merely 'preliminary deliberations,' officials have yet to make final decision as number of people infected with the virus grows in each country. (Ynet)
  • WhatsApp Closer to Winning Spyware Lawsuit After Israeli Firm NSO Is a No-show - NSO promised to 'vigorously fight' allegations it abused a security flaw to hack hundreds of smartphones, but failed to show up in court. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • WATCH Israel's song for Eurovision 2020 in English, Hebrew, Amharic and Arabic - 19-year-old Eden Alene, the first Ethiopian Israeli to represent her country in the international song contest, will sing 'Feker Libi' at this year's contest in Rotterdam, Netherlands. (Haaretz+)
  • Iran Has Nearly Tripled Stockpile of Enriched Uranium, UN Watchdog Says - The current stockpile puts Iran within reach of the amount needed to produce a nuclear weapon, which it insists it does not want to do. (Agencies, Haaretz and Israel Hayom)
  • France Says Syrian Government, Russia Likely Committing War Crimes in Idlib - Kremlin blasted the UN on Tuesday for publishing a report making the same allegations regarding events in 2019, saying it did not have reliable information. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Turkey Shoots Down Third Syrian Warplane in Idlib - Turkey-Syria crisis: UN fears worst humanitarian crisis of Syria war. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • U.S. Willing to Give Turkey Ammunition for Fight in Syria's Idlib - U.S. to send $108 million in aid to Syria, supports additional border crossing. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Pence to AIPAC: Sanders would be most anti-Israel president ever - Making the case for US President Donald Trump's re-election, Pence warns that if elected, Senator Bernie Sanders would be the complete opposite of Trump as it pertains to US-Israel relations. (Israel Hayom)

Elections 2020/Netanyahu Indictment Commentary/Analysis:
Netanyahu Has a Plan, Even Without a Majority (Yossi Verter, Haaretz+) 'Let’s see them vote against, block a new government and basically drag the country to a fourth election,' senior Likud official said.
Lieberman's fork in the road (Dr. Haim Shine, Israel Hayom) It is a terrible shame that the fate of the future government, and subsequently the state, might be used as a pawn in the hands of a politician seeking to ingratiate himself with the judiciary.
Kahol Lavan, Don’t Join Netanyahu in a Unity Government (Haaretz Editorial) As in the last two elections, the political stalemate again raises the possibility of negotiating a national unity coalition. This idea must be rejected outright. The stalemate that has dragged Israel into elections three times in a single year isn’t a fluke. It is the result of Netanyahu’s unprecedented legal situation, and the understanding shared by most Knesset members that it is intolerable for a person accused of a crime to head Israel’s government. Therefore, this is a moment of truth for Benny Gantz and for each and every member of Kahol Lavan and Labor-Gesher-Meretz, who have publicly committed again and again, campaign after campaign, that they will not take part in a government that includes defendant Netanyahu.
3 Israeli elections reconfirm 2 basic facts (Jonathan S. Tobin, Israel Hayom) The effort to break the logjam established that there is a broad consensus on national security, and that only judges, and not political rivals, can topple Netanyahu.
Center-left Doomed by Netanyahu’s Killer Campaign – and Its Own Crippling Complacency (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+) Champions of Israel’s liberal democracy must now tap their inner rage to avert imminent extinction.
Arab Citizens Are Playing the Political Game, but Israel Isn’t Ready for Them Yet (Jack Khoury, Haaretz+) On March 2, the Joint List beat its electoral record, changing the face of Israeli politics; but Israel’s traditional left and its shortcomings are standing in the way
They wanted change: This time the Arab public went in droves to the polling stations (Yasir Ukbi, Maariv) The Arab sector enlisted in mass and went to vote. Those who visited polling stations in the Arab sector on Election Day noticed the strong desire for change. Whoever forgot, Lieberman was the one who united the Arab parties. In the first round of elections, the Arab parties split and the public gave them a red card. They were forced to return to the discussion table, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also made a crucial contribution to reunification [through anti-Arab statements - OH]. For the first time, Arab and Jewish democrats achieved a huge achievement in the Knesset. This time everyone flocked to the polls. Everyone and his own interest. The Arabs want equality, the cessation of house demolitions, the end of exclusion and especially the end of incitement (against them). It was a sweet win. I proudly noticed the faces of many activists, who worked around the clock to bring voters to the polls…Alongside this, there was also concern that the right-wing would again form a government. One thing could not be taken away from the electorate - the vast majority decided that it did not need to appoint a guardian to represent it in the Knesset. If one needs a Knesset member to solve a problem for him, he directly contacts Ayman, Said, Ahmed, Mansur, Amtanes, Aida and the other members of the Knesset. What is good for the ultra-Orthodox is also good for the Arabs.
My Vanquished General Brothers of Kahol Lavan, It's Time to Talk to Israel's Arabs (Yitzhak Laor, Haaretz+) The people who pinned their hopes on Kahol Lavan – and more than one million good citizens did so – erred in at least two ways. First, they made Benjamin Netanyahu the embodiment of all the evil in our lives, and not Likud rule or Israeli colonialism with its hundreds of thousands of settlers. This led to a demonization of Likud voters. The second mistake related to “the morning after a Gantz victory.” If he did win, what exactly was going to happen? How many disappointed Kahol Lavan voters are capable of understanding that Netanyahu’s incitement (“Gantz will go with Ahmed Tibi”) was effective not only for Likud voters, but primarily, historically, for them, too? The more than one million Kahol Lavan voters must learn that we can’t get rid of the right without making a pact with Israel’s Arab population and its leaders. This is a lesson in democracy that must now be repeated and learned.
"Our society stumbled along the way and moved away from humanistic considerations“ (Erez Biton, Maariv) The day after the election, we are hit again with the recognition of the chronic separate camps of Israeli society. We must look for each other and find ways to make the difference into something rounded, harmonious and constructive.
*Gantz's party looks to the Arabs to save the Jewish state (Odeh Bisharat, Haaretz+) While according to the New Testament, Peter disowned Jesus three times before the rooster crowed, Kahol Lavan, and particularly its leaders – the so-called cockpit – have disowned the Arabs three thousand times at least. They have not only disowned the Arabs, but have also been at the forefront of the Arabs’ demonization. The Netanyahu government falsely accuses the Arabs of planning to annihilate the Jews – men, women and children – while Kahol Lavan, the alternative to Netanyahu, follows suit through its own measure of incitement, calling the Arabs jungle dwellers and accusing them of supporting terrorism. But when the moment of truth comes, when Kahol Lavan finds itself on the ropes following the release of the exit poll results on election night, Yael German of the party’s Knesset faction asks the media to hold off announcing the winner until the final results are in – in case the Arab Joint List gains another seat at Likud’s expense. Oh! So, those whom her party just hours before had crucified in the city square are now cast as the saviors who will snatch Israel from the jaws of the extreme right. As the 10th century Arab poet Abu Firas al-Hamdani said: “In the dark night, look for the moon.” Yes, in the darkness after the exit polls, all of the Jewish and Arab democrats look to Nazareth. Now the Arabs are tasked with saving the Jewish state.
Netanyahu must reach out to Arab parties (Jalal Bana, Israel Hayom) There is a theoretical possibility for some form of integration of Arab lawmakers in the realm of the coalition but not necessarily as an integral part of the government.
And what if Israel's Zionist left joins forces with the Joint List's 15 seats? (Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz+) There are 15 Knesset seats rolling around in the street that no one wants to touch; 12.5 percent of the seats in Israel’s next Knesset will remain unoccupied. True, flesh-and-blood people will sit in them, representatives who were voted into office in a free election, but they have a fatal flaw that disqualifies them from Israeli politics. They’re Arabs. Not only do they belong to the lowest caste in Israel’s economic and social hierarchy, they’re untouchables; anyone who touches them is contaminated. Imagine, however, if the seven measly Knesset seats won by the Labor-Gesher-Meretz hodgepodge had been joined by the Arabs’ 15 seats and by the Ethiopians’ two. All of a sudden, the left would have become an actual bloc – not just in terms of size, but in its ability to offer an ethical platform that honors leftist ideas. It could have even trimmed a few Knesset seats from Kahol Lavan, in whose branches many voters without a political home reluctantly sheltered.
Gaza for Netanyahu, West Bank for Gantz (Elior Levy, Yedioth/Ynet) The Palestinian Authority had hoped a change in Israeli leadership would ensure no one-sided moves to annex the settlements and Jordan Valley, while Hamas preferred the 'devil you know.’
Premature celebration (Yossi Beilin, Israel Hayom) You would think that the first to declare victory is the one who seizes it, or creates a public perception that ties them to victory, but that is not always the case.
Israel's Center Will Not Hold: Time for a Political Cleanup (Abed L. Azab, Haaretz+) Hatred of Arabs: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brought it to the level of an art form. Kahol Lavan built a museum to house it. Even when they weren’t asked they declared that they wouldn’t cooperate with Arabs. The occupation: Netanyahu plans to annex, and so does Benny Gantz. The "deal of the century": Netanyahu cooked it up and Gantz signed it. The nation-state law: The Zionist left started it, Netanyahu passed it and Gantz adopted it. Swinish capitalism: A large percentage of Netanyahu voters have difficulty making ends meet. Gantz voters – a white elite.
Israel's Election Is Over. Now, Where’s the Money to Pay for the Promises? (Meirav Arlosoroff, Haaretz+) The cupboard is bare and coronavirus looms large, but politicians vowed no new taxes.
The Left Learned the Hard Way That the Whole Is Smaller Than Its Parts (Jonathan Lis, Haaretz+) After the April election Labor-Gesher and Meretz thought the time had come to establish a left-wing slate. Now it’s uncertain whether the failed merger can be undone.
The science of spins
Why did Netanyahu defeat Gantz by a knockout in running the campaign, what was the covert question that determined the outcome of the election and how did the Joint List make such an unprecedented achievement? The experts analyze our third round at the polling station…Now that the dust has fallen and the flyers are being thrown in the trash, it remains to be understood what is actually happening here, and why. For example, what happened to the big promise of Part II, Benny Gantz? Netanyahu, who seemed to be losing his grip, suddenly returned to the game and made a tremendous personal achievement, even if he failed to secure 61 mandated government seats. (Noam Barkan and Iris Lifshitz-Klieger, Yedioth Hebrew)
Prof. Yossi Shane, author of the bestseller, “Israeli Century" and head of the School of Political Science, Government and International Relations at Tel Aviv University:
"Netanyahu has always identified communities. The ultra-Orthodox are a community, the Ethiopians are a community, so he brought Gadi Yavrakan to Likud. Communities are safe voters, and so are the former Likudniks, who just had to brought to the polls. In the previous round, they thought his era was over and suddenly they saw he had more lives. Kahol-Lavan has no communities.” Netanyahu's most successful community bet was the ultra-Orthodox community, says Shane: "This is an extraordinary personal alliance. Deri says he is more loyal to Netanyahu than his Likud supporters are to him. Demography works to his advantage and is a critical element. The ultra-Orthodox are the fastest growing communities. Netanyahu has even agreed to to pay to (Kahanist politician) Itamar Ben Gvir's communities, if only they will come in (to Likud). Because of community fundraising, he starts with 16 - 17 certain mandates, maybe more. Nobody starts with so many seats. See the Labor party, it has no safe seats at all. Netanyahu calls his bloc ‘Jewish and Zionist," though not all are Zionists. It's a alliance of money and a lot of jobs." Shane also compliments Netanyahu's campaign. "He also plays as winner, as the security man, as a leader - but also as a victim. These are two extremes that he knows how to play in a pretty amazing way."
So he managed to get voters to vote that they didn't vote in the past?
"Some Likud and right-wing voters in April did not vote in September. But when they saw there was no government made and realized that Netanyahu was not going anywhere, they asked themselves, 'Who will lead us.' They have no other leader. And Netanyahu is also the ultimate expression of their identity. As Netanyahu's adviser Nathan Eshel said, they build on hate and the greatness of the leader. At the same time the economy is booming, technology is booming. He sees himself as the leader of the start-up state, but at the same time the state of Jewish Law.”
What about his partners in the world?
"He was very lucky with Trump, he bet right. Trump's rise gave him a tremendous position in world politics. The fact that America introduced the Deal of the Century as if he were its architect - served him. He is everywhere with inexhaustible energy and he is hungry for power all the time. He presents himself as a leader of historical virtues, so his voters say, ‘Because of the cases of the previous elite, we won't vote for him?’ He goes out against the elites - even though he's actually an elite himself.”

Campaigner Moshe Klughaft:
"The way to succeed in this campaign is to do it, period. Bibi worked around the clock and conveyed to his staff and voters a message that he did not give up. Before all the apps and technologies, a leader had to convince voters to go out and vote for him and show them he really wanted their voice in order to get more voters. Bibi let nothing stop him, he didn't only ask, sometimes he also pleaded. The trick isn’t to hold a megaphone on the last day and to call on voters to go out to vote. That doesn’t feel authentic. You have to understand, Bibi is a world-class campaigner. Anyone who follows him on Facebook sees him posting a live in the morning from (his residence on) Balfour, and then sees him fixing a flashlight that broke down in the car on the way to the north, he continues in live from a rally in Afula, in the middle he meets a bride who comes to vote for him with a wedding dress and then arrives in Bat-Yam for a visit at the Ohana family and calls on all the neighbors to vote for him. In the end, that’s the personality that wins it. It's no longer about the agenda.”

Dr. Gil Samsonov, a veteran publicist from Glickman Shamir Samsonov, who has advised and led quite a few political campaigns, author of "Princes," and will soon be releasing his new book, "The Begins.”
“Bottom line, our people are right-wing and religious...Those who analyze why the Likud campaign was most moving to voters need to understand sociology. The tribes almost all vote for certain parties. The only rogue tribe are the Russian sector voters, who were the ones who decided the election in their favor for Sharon, Rabin and Bibi. This time the tribe split - some went to vote Lieberman, some Likud. Kahol-Lavan, in its campaign, failed to touch them. In fact, the Kahol-Lavan campaign failed to connect with the tribes living in the periphery.”
"They had the image of a tall, handsome man with two falafels on his shoulders but without a stance. The Likud had a consistent and direct message, even if manipulative and not always truth-telling. It's the spice of great leaders, we saw it in Ben Gurion, in Rabin, in Churchill, and that explains the results of the election. The people were not stupid. They saw what they saw and voted in the ballot box."

Professor Amal Jamal, from Tel Aviv University's School of Political Science, does not think the high percentage of voters from the Arab sector was due to the Trump plan or to incitement against the Arab public. "Incitement has always been, although there was no Trump plan, but there were other plans," he explains. "In my opinion, the main reason lies with the population itself, with the changes it has undergone. The public is beginning to understand that it needs to manage on its own, take care of itself. The attacks by the right-wing and especially by Netanyahu over the past decade have been convincing enough. The Joint List was established as a result of a technical issue over the changing of the percentage of the minimum threshold (to enter the Knesset), but in my opinion, it answered the Arab society’s deep desires. In April, when there was no Joint List, not as many (Arab) people voted. When there was a Joint List in September, they were already flocking to the polls.” Prof. Jamal said the Arab population demanded that the leadership unite and advance a civilian agenda. "There are those who worry about Palestinians in the Territories and elsewhere, but there is no one who cares about Palestinians in Israel," he explains. "They want the leadership to represent their needs, to put the controversy aside. There is a desire to take matters into their hands and to integrate into Israeli society to change the reality. It is also important to note Ayman Odeh, who is at the top of the list, is a very charismatic and popular person who managed to talk to the people, to reach different communities, to convince with his good will to do what is needed. Beyond that, you can see that two more (Arab) women are coming in to this Knesset, and that reflects the deep processes that are taking place in Arab society. This creates a better atmosphere among the population."

Moshe Cohen, a communications consultant to politicians and senior officials in the private sector and the man behind the YouTube channel "School of Charisma."
"Each election campaign is decided on the basis of a particular question. In this election campaign, Benjamin Netanyahu waged a psychological war to make the central election question, ‘Who is better suited to be prime minister?’” says Cohen, saying that Netanyahu promoted the idea that Gantz is simply a pale imitation of him: "Netanyahu's slogans such as 'Benny Gantz is Bibi from AliExpress', and the election campaigns that presented Gantz and Yair Lapid as a cheap imitation to Netanyahu were very effective." "Of course, the answer is the original and not the one trying to emulate it."

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