News Nosh 3.5.20

APN's daily news review from Israel
Thursday March 5, 2020
Quote of the day:
"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stood and scrawled his racism on the board for all to see. '58 seats for Zionist right, 47 for the Zionist left,' are, to his thinking, the election results and the basis on which a government should be formed. With the sweep of a marker, the prime minister erased the 575,500 citizens who voted for the Joint List alliance of Arab parties (20,000 of whom, incidentally, were Jews) and put them beyond the pale, as if they were lepers."
--In an Op-Ed, senior Haaretz political commentator Yossi Verter slams thinking that Arab citizens should be excluded because they are not Zionist.*

Breaking News:
Syrian soldier killed, 4 others wounded in alleged Israeli strikes in Quneitra, Homs
State media in the country reports that IDF jets fired a number of missiles 'from northern occupied Palestine' targeting airport, army sites; Qatari aircrafts were en route to Syria at the time of the alleged attack. (Ynet and Haaretz+)

Front Page:
Yedioth Ahronoth
  • More than 50,000 Israelis in isolation - Corona panic: unprecedented steps against spread of virus
  • Return of the deadlock - Netanyahu was quick to celebrate the ‘huge victory,’ but can’t establish a government
  • Corona has taught a lesson in mutual responsibility // Chen Artzi-Srur
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
  • Coronavirus alert
  • Elections again? War of the blocs is still here
Israel Hayom
  • Tens of thousands in quarantine - More severe guidelines: “It’s a burden, but it’s clear there’s no other choice” (Photos of almost empty soccer stadium and people with masks at Ben-Gurion airport
  • In isolation, not isolated // Boaz Bismuth
  • Return of the political deadlock - Kahol-Lavan initiative: Law that will prevent MK with an indictment against him from serving as prime minister; Netanyahu: “Undermining democracy”
  • Irony in the left-wing: made up of MKs who defected (from right-wing) - and it preaches against defecting // Eitan Orkibi
  • Fear of sick economy: Preparing for the affects of corona on the economy
  • Because of corona: Weekend soccer games likely to be postponed
  • The celebration is over: Because of the virus - wave of cancellations of Purim performances and events

Top News Summary:
Between 50,000 to 100,000 Israelis are in home quarantine after Israel declares more severe guidelines and a teen who went to a soccer match was found infected. Meanwhile, after the count of 99% of the votes, the right-wing bloc loses one seat and Kahol-Lavan gains it, making it clearer that a fourth election is a possibility, particularly since potential defectors have told the press they have rejected Likud advances, and now, the center-left bloc wants to pass a law that would prevent an indicted person from forming a government.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu declared that Israelis returning from western Europe will be quarantined, told people not to shake hands and instead to use the Indian ‘namaste’ hands-pressed-together greeting. Israel’s chief rabbi told Jewish citizens not to kiss mezuzahs and Purim holiday parades and events set to take place next week have been cancelled across the country. (Maariv) Also the first Knesset Member is in isolation, Yoaz Handel (Kahol-Lavan) entered home isolation after returning from Austria. (Yedioth Hebrew)

Elections 2020 / Netanyahu Indictment News:
The final results of the ballot counts from the coronavirus polling stations yesterday gave a big advantage to Kahol-Lavan, which won another seat at the ultra-Orthodox Shas party's expense. That put Netanyahu's right-wing bloc down to 58 seats and not the 60 predicted at the time of the exit polls, and now three seats away from forming a narrow government.

Meanwhile, Kahol-Lavan and Labor-Gesher-Meretz are considering passing a law barring an indicted prime minister from serving. It would only be applied in the next Knesset. Together with the Arab Joint List and Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu they have 62 seats, one seat more than needed to make a majority. A draft of the bill would state that “the president cannot assign the formation of a government to a member of Knesset who is under indictment on which the court has not ruled by that time.” Netanyahu backed a similar bill in 2008 during then-prime minister Ehud Olmert's criminal investigations. Haaretz+ explains that a Knesset majority for the bill is not enough. Kahol Lavan will have to gain control of the Knesset committee that makes various decisions right after an election. Netanyahu accused Gantz of “undermining democracy and the voter’s will.” He asked the Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to “Examine ways to prevent legislation against me.” (Maariv) The possible bill has already been dubbed the “Netanyahu Law.” An MK from the Joint List said that his party would pass it “only if the Kaminitz Law is canceled.” (Maariv) Meanwhile, three female MKs said they rebuked proposals and suggestions from the Likud to defect. (Yediot Hebrew)

Separately, Haaretz+ reported that Netanyahu knew that a business intelligence firm had been hired to spy on Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz.

Quick Hits:
  • Palestinians protest as Israeli bulldozers clear land - Palestinian villagers worry that Netanyhau's lead in the polls and his rhetoric throughout the elections campaign regarding the annexation of the West Bank settlements will jeopardize their livelihood. Villagers from Qusra, near the Palestinian city of Nablus, challenged IDF troops guarding the bulldozers as they worked in a field close to Migdalim settlement. In nearby Beita village, residents protested over several days, planting a Palestinian flag and erecting a tent on a hilltop to defend it against settlers from the Itamar settlement.(Agencies, Ynet )
  • THURSDAY: Israel Demolishes Homes of Two Palestinian Suspects in West Bank Murder of Jewish Teen - Military says dozens of Palestinians burn tires, throw stones and Molotov cocktails at troops carrying out demolitions. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
  • Over 100 LGBT Filmmakers Abroad Call for Boycott of Tel Aviv Festival - The signatories back the Palestinian queer community, but TLVFest's founder says 'harm to the festival and the artists who choose to take part will only paralyze the voices of optimism in Israel.’ (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
  • The Israeli Embassy real estate problem in Ireland - Delay in the move of the Israeli Embassy in Ireland. The reason: Tenants in the designated building have asked the court to prevent the move on the grounds that an Israeli presence would jeopardize their safety. The Dublin court ruled that the building was for offices, not embassies. Embassy furniture has already been moved to the new residence. The property company Spectra, which owns the property, is trying to pass a decision under which the structure's purpose is to be changed. Ireland is considered a country that is not particularly sympathetic to Israel's policy and has a very active BDS organization. The possibility is being looked into that it was BDS people who thwarted the embassy move. (Yedioth Hebrew)
  • AIPAC attendees rage at Sanders' Netanyahu remarks - His comments and absence reverberated throughout the event, with speakers ranging from US Vice President Mike Pence to former New York City mayor and current Democratic presidential contender Michael Bloomberg referencing it. (Israel Hayom)
  • AIPAC Conference Attendees Were 'Potentially in Contact' With Coronavirus Patient - Several members of a New York State synagogue where one congregant has contracted the virus attended AIPAC's conference after being in the same space with the patient. (Haaretz+)
  • Coronavirus in 'Nearly All Iran's Provinces,' First Vice President Reported Infected - Several Iranian officials have come down with coronavirus and one senior official died from an infection on Monday. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Two Turkish Soldiers Killed, Six Wounded as New Clashes Rage in Syria's Idlib - Clashes in northwestern Syria have killed more than 50 Turkish troops in the past month, including 33 soldiers killed Thursday in a single airstrike. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Saudi Arabia Says It Thwarted Attempt to Attack Oil Tanker Off Yemen - It is not clear who was behind the attack in the embattled region. (Agencies, Haaretz)

The Israeli who will try to conquer the UN - For the first time ever, an Israeli will run for a seat on the United Nations Specialist Commission for People with Disabilities. The candidate is Odelia Pitosi, who from her birth suffers from muscular dystrophy. All the Committee members are disabled. Pitusi, 42, a resident of Bat Yam, is paralyzed in her lower body, her hands are limited, and she has difficulty breathing. Despite all the limitations, she is a very active woman when it comes to the rights of people with disabilities. She works as an art therapist, taking care of children with and without disabilities. The elections will take place in June, during which 14 candidates from different countries will compete for nine places. The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem estimates that Pitusi's chances of being elected are very good. She said yesterday: "It is important for me to make heard two voices in the UN Committee - the experience of being a child with a disability, and the voice of women with disabilities. (Yedioth Hebrew)
Lowering profile
The number of recipients of mental health exemptions from the IDF is rising. Experts explain why this is mainly the parents fault. If you ask officers from the IDF mental health unit, a spoiled generation is being raised here. But not just spoiled - a generation that is simply too spoiled for the military. And the parents have only themselves to blame. "There are more exemptions for reasons of mental health today," says Haim (pseudonym), who serves as a reserve captain for over a decade. "Our commanders did not tell us, 'Now you will give more soldiers a profile 21,’ [reference to grading system based on physical, mental and psychological capacity - 21 means no need to go to the army. - OH] This is something that Israeli society encounters as a major change - parents work for the children and prevent them from coping, and in the military you have to deal with yourself. When I was a soldier, I don't remember people aged 17 - 18 sleeping with a mother in bed. I get parents today telling me, 'Until this year, this young guy slept with us.' (Gilit Kozba, Yedioth Hebrew)

Elections 2020/Netanyahu Indictment Commentary/Analysis:
Just Not Bibi Camp Is Really the Just Not Arabs Camp (Rogel Alpher, Haaretz+) There is no Just Not Bibi camp. It does not exist. There is an Only Bibi camp. And it won 58 Knesset seats in the election. Not enough to form a government. But this camp is not facing a Just Not Bibi camp with 61 seats. That is just a lie. If the goal were really Just Not Bibi, then Kahol Lavan, Labor-Gesher-Meretz, Yisrael Beiteinu and the Joint List could form a government of 61 MKs. It’s time to acknowledge the truth: Bibi succeeded in misleading the media and the public into believing that this was their goal. And wonder of wonders: They are stubbornly refusing to capitalize on their victory at the voting booth and realize their life’s mission. Because for all that Lieberman wants to oust Netanyahu, he is not willing to cooperate with Arabs. With this refusal, he is keeping Netanyahu alive. And as much as Kahol Lavan wants to oust Netanyahu, it is only willing to do so with a Jewish majority. It is not willing to rely on the Arabs. So it appears that Lieberman and Kahol Lavan’s only-Jews agenda is topping Just Not Bibi in the order of priorities. They are Jews first of all, and only afterwards democrats who are fighting corruption. They are racists first of all, and only afterwards valiant upholders of the rule of law. They are nationalists first of all, and only afterwards liberals.
They settled at the polling stations (Amichai Atali, Yedioth Hebrew) The settlers again laid on the fence for Netanyahu. Will he reward them for it this time ? Segmenting voting data in communities beyond the Green Line reveals unprecedented mobilization of the settler community for Binyamin Netanyahu. The settlers again layed on the fence for him. Now he will be examined for his actions: whether his request that they support him stands on an ideological basis, or is it merely a political interest. On the face of it, the party that Judea and Samaria (West Bank) residents were supposed to support, certainly the people of the ideological communities, is to the right (of Likud). But Netanyahu, in his usual way, made every effort to get the settlers to support him and devoted quite a bit of his energy in the campaign to persuade them. He brought a government meeting to the Jordan Beqaa Valley, he did not stop talking about sovereignty, made sure to approve the legality of the Jericho settlement, visited Ma'aleh Adumim and Efrat, inaugurated a new neighborhood in Kiryat Arba and also took the settler leaders with him to Washington to declare the Deal of the Century. Last Sunday while inaugurating the neighborhood in Kiryat Arba, he stood on the stage and said: "The truth must be told, enough with the hypocrisy. You need to vote Likud." And it worked. According to polls in the Judea and Samaria settlements, the settlers were flocking in the masses. In Ariel, support for Likud jumped nine percent, in Ma'aleh Adumim ten percent, in Shaarei Tikva by 12 percent, and even in Yitzhar, perhaps the ideological settlement of all, eight percent increased its support for the Likud. The settlers responded to Netanyahu's call for their support and those who paid the price for it were the more right-wing parties. Assuming that Netanyahu is the one to form the next government, will he now repay them? Past experience indicates that is not at all certain. After all, Netanyahu was the one to freeze construction in Judea and Samaria in 2009-2010. Even if he explanations were accepted that this freeze was imposed on him by the Obama administration, now is the time for Netanyahu's test. He has repeatedly stated in the last three election campaigns that if he just got the mandate (to form a government), he will apply sovereignty in the Jordan Beqaa Valley, implement the Plan of the Century, and make good of the American recognition that the settlements do not violate international law. The following is written cautiously since the actual results of the votes are not before us, but now that we will probably not return for another election round, and assuming that Netanyahu will form the government, his true ideological test time will come. Are his pledges of sovereignty and normality of living in Judea and Samaria localities based on values he truly believes in? Or have his recent tours and visits to settlements been just another political round on the back of this innocent and devoted public?
*With One Stroke of the Pen, Netanyahu Writes Off Half a Million Israelis (Yossi Verter, Haaretz+) The prime minister's 'enormous victory' has been revealed to be a defeat, and he has demonstrated a total loss of shame and statesmanship.
No respect for each other: It is time that our elected respond favorably to citizens (Dalia Itzik, Maariv) Despite the disappointment and frustration of the government paralysis, despite the shallow and ugly discourse and even the Corona virus, most Israeli citizens went to the polls.  More than the leaders respecting their constituents, their constituents respected them.
No right to lecture 'defectors' (Dr. Eithan Orkibi, Israel Hayom) The bloc ridiculed as the "immunity bloc" is turning out to be the most moral thing in politics in years. The left-wing bloc, in contrast, is looking like a collective coming apart at the seams.
...And on the fourth (Election) Day, God said, 'don't go to the polls' (Ariela Ringel Hoffman, Yedioth/Ynet) After 3 nasty elections, Israeli politics finds itself back in square one with an endless list of parties and all imposing tit-for-tat embargoes on each other; but if our lawmakers' stubbornness does send us to the polls for the fourth time, we must protest with our votes or lack thereof.
A cold civil war (Einav Schiff, Yedioth Hebrew) If "the people said its word" in the election, then the declaration is that there is no "people.” The fault line called “Binyamin Netanyahu" is larger than the man himself and touches the bare nerves of the matter: what are the rules of the game, including the tenure of a prime minister under severe indictments. Binyamin Netanyahu's victory lies in the definitive proof that separating him from Balfour by any means other than establishing a government with a genuine majority will not come to fruition. Therefore, the idea that the other bloc would enact a law that would prevent Netanyahu from forming a government would do unprecedented damage in the long run and accelerate what even feels like a cold civil war. Even assuming that the parliamentary effort succeeds, it will not be possible to uproot the heart of some 58 seats, including the largest party. All the data was visible and so there is no subtext. Radical change during chaos is not fundamentally different from parallel aspirations, which also have no moral validity. They don’t call it paralysis for nothing. …The present entanglement is not the result of pampering and pettiness. Au contraire. What is at stake is so critical, to the point of the mad threat of calling a fourth elections. Yes, there is a real fear of steps that will get Netanyahu out of a trial and trample on the rule of law. Yes, there is sincere anxiety about the overriding of existing law, which was approved under legitimate conditions, which states that a prime minister may serve until a final judgment. However, it is precisely because of this that the solution cannot be steps after which there is no turning back. Already now, 58 seats for the right-wing bloc led by Netanyahu mean that the existing system is on the verge of collapse. At the political level, the occupation will not end and the binational state is already here. At the legal level, the High Court and the Attorney General were caught up in the pliers between Netanyahu's troubles and Ayelet Shaked's agenda. Therefore, even if the other party fufills its only homogeneity and gets rid of Netanyahu, the sigh of relief will not last long, and at some point will be replaced by distress cries. The huge noise that Netanyahu produces is also a smoke screen: beyond him, a solid right-wing awaits. The question for the center politicians (which are closer to the right) and to the left is whether it is better not to raise Netanyahu's personal political capital in order to calm the system wherever possible: avoiding unnecessary wars in the north and in Gaza. Stopping the annexation fever and the nationalist ultra-Orthodox elements in (public secular) education. Using the full legal procedures while thwarting the brutal attack on the gatekeepers. And maybe, if Netanyahu is somehow internalizes that that’s it, he doesn't have the mandate to fulfill all the stages of his revolution, maybe even agree on what some sort of exit from this nightmare. The outlook: Better chance of all parties getting into home quarantine.
Purim, AIPAC, Bernie, Biden, Bibi (David Suissa, Israel Hayom) If there's one Jewish holiday that offers us all a break, it's Purim. For that one day at least, we can pretend to be someone else – but is that as simple as it sounds?
In Israel, Zionism Is a Religion, and It Is Mandatory (Gideon Levy, Haaretz+) The Joint List’s impressive, welcome achievement comes tempered with disappointment: The glass ceiling of Jewish voters was not broken. On the eve of the election, in certain circles it seemed that, thanks to Jewish voters, Ayman Odeh would be prime minister and Ahmad Tibi foreign minister…Arabs vote for Zionist parties more than Jews vote for the Joint List. True, the Joint List doubled its support in Givatayim, but we’re talking 316 votes compared to 179 in the September election – still less than one percent in a left-wing city with 48,500 eligible voters. Ramat Hasharon also showed an increasingly radical tilt: 149 voters compared to 74 in the previous election. Nice, but it’s still hardly anything. A curiosity…I know some Israelis who agonized for days whether to vote for the Joint List, who talked about crossing the Rubicon and the end of the world, and at the last moment their hand betrayed them and they voted for Gantz or Peretz. They say they just couldn’t do it. What exactly prevented them? After all, they support justice and equality and peace for two states – and the Joint List offers them all of this good stuff. But they found excuses for themselves.
Hatred will always lose: Supporters of the center-left in Israel need to do some soul-searching (Arad Chopin, Maariv) The three chiefs of staff and Yair Lapid took all the important issues and threw them in the trash. After a long and tedious campaign, and over a year without a stable government, the story returned to being "just not Bibi.”
Arab Voters Rebuke Netanyahu and Gantz, Send Message That They Want in the Political Game (Meirav Moran, Haaretz+) Like the ultra-Orthodox, Arab citizens also want to leverage their political strength for financial gain.

Other Commentary/Analysis:
Refugees Are Erdogan's New Diplomatic Leverage, but Numbers He Shows Don't Add Up (Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz+) Turkey has received 6 billion euros that are meant to help fund the humanitarian aid it provides refugees. So why is it claiming the EU didn't pay up?
Prepared for APN by Orly Halpern, independent freelance journalist based in Jerusalem.
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