News Nosh 3.9.20

APN's daily news review from Israel
Monday March 9, 2020

Quote of the Day:
“Either we enter negotiations with Gantz through the front door or we don’t enter at all.”  
--A member of the Knesset of the Arab Joint List said, expressing anger that Kahol-Lavan leader Benny Gantz appeared to be concealing that he would be negotiating with them to get their support for him to be prime minister.*

 You Must Be Kidding: 

"The talk by (Joint List leaders Ayman) Odeh, Ahmed Tibi and their friends about discrimination and racism are demagogic and unconvincing, but the fact is that it encouraged Arabs to go in droves to the polls."
--Maariv commentator Yossi Ahimeir writes that Arab citizens face no discrimination in Israel and that he can't understand why they elected representatives that say they do.**

Front Page:
Yedioth Ahronoth
  • 39 ill - Blow to the country - 14 new patients diagnosed
  • Land of the virus - Spread of corona in Italy is the nightmare of every country
  • Expose - Death of the thread - Hussein Sheikh al-Islam, a senior Iranian intel agent, was considered the one who held the information regarding the disappearance of Ron Arad. He died from corona in Iran Thursday and took the secret with him to the grave (Hebrew)
  • The stock exchange is dropping
  • An exercise and a fantasy // Nahum Barnea on the move by Gantz and Lieberman (Hebrew)
  • Fight together // Eliezar Shkedi on the racist discourse
  • Corona government // Giora Eiland on the virus and the political deadlock
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
  • Sharp rise in number of Israelis infected
  • Heavy pressure from right-wing on (Kahol-Lavan MKs) Handel and Hauser to thwart minority government
  • Happy, but less so - Purim celebrations canceled due to fear of infection from corona
  • Watershed moment // Ben Caspit on the battles within Kahol-Lavan
  • Order of the hour // Zuheir Bahloul on the hesitations in the Joint List
Israel Hayom
  • Rise in infection, drop in stock exchanges
  • The (political) camps are getting closer
  • The ultra-Orthodox and the Arabs: Ridiculous comparison // Prof. Asher Cohen
  • Corona threat - Assessment: Isolation of all returning from abroad to be declared
  • Italy cries: 133 died from the virus in one day
  • Empty shelves: Rushing for the canned goods
  • Celebration and concern: In the shadow of corona, Israel celebrates Purim
  • Suspect in murder in Hod Hasharon is Barak Ben-Ami: “I was in a madness, I saw red”
  • Kicking corona: Ahead of State Cup tonight, disinfecting the Haifa stadium

Top News Summary:
Coronavirus and the political deadlock continued to be the top two stories with 39 people infected in Israel the Tel-Aviv stockmarket plummeting and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu refusing out of deference to US President Donald Trump to allow the Health Ministry to put the US on the list of countries that arriving from them requires going into self-quarantine, while Kahol-Lavan leader Benny Gantz makes plans to form a minority government.

Elections 2020 / Netanyahu Indictment News:
Kahol-Lavan leader Gantz agreed in a social media post to the terms of Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman (also in a social media post) for entering a government and “apparently” (Ynet) ordered his coalition negotiators to prepare for talks with the Joint List about getting their support for recommending him to be prime minister. The plan, writes Yedioth’s Nahum Barnea, seems to be that Gantz will form a government with Labor-Gesher-Meretz and Yisrael Beiteinu and with the Joint List supporting it from the outside so that it can replace the Likud appointed Speaker of Knesset and pave the way to change the law that would prevent Netanyahu from being allowed to form a government due to the indictments against him. Afterward, Kahol-Lavan would be able to form a unity government with the Likud or some of its members.

The problem is that Kahol-Lavan MKs Yoaz Handel and Zvi Hauser oppose the creation of a minority government that is supported by the Joint List and want to make a unity government with the Likud, immediately following the approval of the proposed law preventing Netanyahu from forming the next government, were it to pass. Sources in Kahol-Lavan told Maariv they were angry with the MKs' behavior, saying it was “serving Netanyahu."

*And Joint List members were furious that Gantz appeared to be hiding his plan to negotiate with them. “Either we enter negotiations with Gantz through the front door or we don’t enter at all,” said one Joint List MK. “They must talk to us in the same manner in which they talk to other parties. There will not be deals inked in dark rooms,” he said adding the party will not be “a punching bag” for Kahol-Lavan MKs when it's politically beneficial for them. Maariv’s Ben Caspit wrote that out of the four ‘cockpit’ leaders of Kahol-Lavan, Gabi Ashkenazi also opposes a government depending on the Joint List’s support. Meanwhile, the Joint List said it will only discuss endorsing Gantz after Gantz makes a formal request.

**Likud people have been attacking the possibility of Kahol-Lavan forming a minority government with the Joint List's support and Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz did so again by defaming the members: “They opposed the decision of the Arab League to recognize Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. They are terrorists in suits or supporters of terrorists in suits." Joint List chairman, Ayman Odeh, responded: “In the Likud there are losers with ties." Jewish Joint List MK Ofer Kasif said, "You and your friends are terrorists who exercise all the power of the state against the citizens of the state and against the Palestinian subjects of the occupation.”Joint List MK Hiba Yazbak said Katz was making “unbridled incitement.” (Maariv)

Elections 2020 / Netanyahu Indictment Quickees:
Attorney General Mendelblitt: "The gatekeepers must be loyal to the public interest" - Two weeks after Temporary State Attorney Dan Eldad hurriedly announced his decision to open an investigation into the “Fifth Dimension" affair (former company of Kahol-Lavan leader Benny Gantz), Eldad had not yet instructed the police to open an investigation, and did not even appoint it an attorney, as is normally done with sensitive investigations. Attorney General warns: "Gatekeeper whose loyalty is to the political rank that appointed him cannot fulfill his job." Senior prosecutors say that Eldad is under-performing. According to them, he does not hold meetings with the administration of the State Attorney's Office and does not inform it of his moves. "Eldad has been appointed by Minister of Justice Ohana contrary to the Attorney General's position, and he is not making any attempts to defend the justice system against the attacks of the Prime Minister's associates." (Yedioth Hebrew)
Netanyahu Appeals for Delay to Trial in Corruption Cases - Rival Benny Gantz blasts prime minister for allegedly attempting to evade trial, says 'it has begun.’ (Haaretz+, Maariv and Ynet)
Stop the gush: Posts with content suspected of incitement will be investigated by police - From a meeting held by the Attorney General and the temporary Police Commissioner, it was agreed that any insulting post distributed on social media networks, and which may lead to violence, will be investigated by the police. (Maariv)
Ex-Shin Bet Head Says Agency Should Provide Gantz Protection Due to Incitement - The police are also expected to recommend that investigations be launched against social media users who have been calling in recent days to attack Gantz. (Haaretz+)
In Jerusalem Protest, Netanyahu’s Backers Play Offense, Opponents Play Defense -  ‘Balfour is ours and we’re not giving it up,' chant PM supporters -  “These are our weapons,” said one woman, waving Likud flag alongside Israeli flag, who had come to demonstrate along with other supporters of Likud and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Across the street was a similar number of demonstrators from the Movement for Quality Government, which had erected a protest tent. (Haaretz)
MK Mansour Abbas: "If Netanyahu declares that the Arab vote is legitimate - we can move forward" - The Knesset member from the Joint List was interviewed on KAN 11 News and referred to the possibility that his party would recommend MK Benny Gantz as prime ministerial candidate: "Hope we get a Kahol-Lavan proposal in the coming days.” (Maariv)
Time to abolish Law of Return, Arab MK says - Joint Arab List MK Aida Touma-Suleiman: The law is unnecessary. At the time, it greatly wronged my people, but now it's time to rethink it – and many other things. (Israel Hayom)
MK Toumeh-Sliman: "Support (for Gantz) from the Joint List is conditional on passing on the Deal of the Century” - Members of the faction are expected to convene to discuss the issue of granting the mandate and the conditions they will pose for such a recommendation. Balad Chairman: "We will not recommend without commitments. Repeal of the Jewish Nation State Law is a prerequisite.” (Maariv)
Did the Palestinian Authority push up voter turnout for Arab Israelis? - The unusually high voter turnout in east Jerusalem neighborhoods, together with a meeting three and a half weeks prior to the March 2 election between Joint List members, Islamic Waqf representatives and PA officials, indicates possible coordination. (Israel Hayom)
'Look Beyond the Veil', Says Israel's First Hijab-wearing Lawmaker - Iman Yassin Khatib will serve as one of 15 lawmakers from the Arab-majority Joint List slate which one a record number of seats in last week's election. (Agencies, Haaretz)
On International Women's Day, a Look at Female Representation in Israel's Parliament - A report published by the Knesset’s research center shows the rise and fall of women's presence in Israeli politics, placing the country 83rd globally. (Haaretz+)

Quick Hits:
  • Right-wing Jerusalem Councilman Blocking Palestinians' Building Plans in East Jerusalem - Dozens of requests for building permits have been rejected in the past few months by activist and council member Yonatan Yosef, who says he is doing so to prevent corruption and land theft. (Haaretz+)
  • Defense minister mulls shuttering all West Bank crossings over coronavirus - Naftali Bennett seeks to learn about the potential economic implications of closing off West Bank crossings following the COVID-19 outbreak in the Palestinian Authority. Home Front Command holds exercise focusing on national crisis situation over the disease. (Israel Hayom)
  • Burning Man Project Urges Israeli Organizers to Cancel West Bank Festival - 'If the event does move forward, we hope that it won’t cause further harm to the Israeli and international Burning Man communities,' the festival's global network said of the controversial Area C event. (Haaretz+)
  • Arson Suspected in Fire That Destroyed School for Refugees in Lesbos Set Up by Jews and Arabs - School on Greek island was established in 2017 by Israeli Jewish and Arab groups in unusual alliance, helping up to 5,000 refugees from Syria, Iran and Afghanistan. (Haaretz+)
  • Israel to cut funds allocated to fight explosive balloon terror - The Ministry of Agriculture says it will cut some NIS 1.5 million from the NIS 8 million budget earmarked for farmers in Israeli communities bordering Gaza; officials claim airborne attacks are not as rampant as they were 2 years ago when budget was allocated. (Ynet)
  • The Iranian who is thought to be involved in the Ron Arad mystery dies from coronavirus - Hussein Sheikh al-Islam, a senior Iranian diplomat who is believed to be involved in the mystery of the missing Air Force navigator, Ron Arad, died Thursday of the virus. An official in Greece who handled the Arad case told Yedioth: "If this were a police investigation, he would be the first person I would summon." Ron Arad disappeared from where he was imprisoned in May 1988. It is believed that Al-Islam was very involved in handling the navigator's issue, although it is unclear exactly what his actions were and for whom in the complex government in Tehran he worked. (Yedioth Hebrew/Ynet Hebrew)
  • Tanks could soon roll through one of Israel's most important nature reserves - Activists worry that road army plans in preparation for conflict with Hezbollah could badly damage reserve that is home to many mammal species and rare plants. (Haaretz+)
  • Israel Third in World for Rate of Coronavirus Tests, U.S. Last - South Korea has administered the most tests per residents, data website Worldometer shows. (Haaretz+)
  • Report: Israel, US coordinating response to potential ICC war crimes charge - Jerusalem and Washington are not signatories to the treaty upon which the International Criminal Court is predicated, but the Palestinians joint the Rome Statute in 2015. (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
  • Turkish Police Fire Tear Gas to Disperse International Women's Day March in Istanbul - This is the second year in a row police used such measures to break up crowds. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Iran Revolutionary Guard commander killed in Syria, reports say - Iran's semiofficial Fars news agency identified the commander as Farhad Dabirian, but reports had no additional details of how he was killed. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Saudis' arrest of 2 princes called a warning to royal family - The crown prince has succeeded in a few short years at sweeping aside any competition from royals older and more experienced than him. (Agencies, Haaretz)

We Tried Having a Peaceful Vacation on the Israel-Lebanon Border
Metula may look like a typical European village, but this picturesque Israeli town is surrounded by an international border. Now its residents want to revive tourism here. (Moshe Gilad, Haaretz+)

Elections 2020/Netanyahu Indictment Commentary/Analysis:
Fear and loathing of Netanyahu breaking down the wall separating Israeli Jews and Arabs (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+) A 180-degree shift in perceptions of last Monday’s elections is spurring a historic change in center-left attitudes towards collaboration with the Joint List.
**The leadership of the Joint List agitates and demagogically portrays the country as racist (Yossi Ahimeir, Maariv)…Ayman Odeh is undoubtedly one of the main reasons for the great achievement of the Joint List. He, who covers his extremism with style and charisma, conquered the hearts of a considerable number of Jewish voters, who saw in the Joint List the replacement for the fragments of the traditional left-wing. Dozens of ballots for the Arab list were indeed counted at the polls in Tel Aviv and the Sharon region. Journalists such as Yaron London and Rogel Alper - and they are just a parable - boasted publicly, the first on the pages of Yedioth Ahronoth, the second on the pages of Haaretz, that they dropped the Joint List’s ballot into the blue box…It is somewhat surprising that the vast majority of Israeli Arabs vote for a distinctly sectoral list that distinguishes them even more from the majority population, while their integration seems to be everywhere and in every corner of life in the country. There is no denying that the important Jewish Nation State Law, incitement from Likud and rejection from Kahol-Lavan, has pushed them to a sectoral vote. To this should be added the fact that the two major parties failed to place an Arab candidate on their lists. The talk by Odeh, Ahmed Tibi and their friends about discrimination and racism are demagogic and unconvincing, but the fact is that it encouraged Arabs to go in droves to the polls. The Arab sector is thriving, it is not threatened, and unlike its shouting, it really isn’t discriminated against. True, Israeli Arabs carry with them harsh memories of the 1948 defeat, but over the years they have been able to integrate into the life of the country. They are more Israeli than Palestinian. In non-political conversations, heart to heart, face-to-face, you will hear Israeli Arabs say how good life is for them in the country. They enjoy freedom and democracy. The discrimination is not real. Their prosperity depends first and foremost on themselves…The rise of Arab representation in the Knesset also requires the two major parties, the "Zionist" ones, to do soul-searching about their relations with the Arab citizens. Already in the next round of elections they should consider incorporating Muslim candidates in realistic places in their ranks. It is not a matter of right and left, it is clearly a matter of national and political interest. If that happens, there is a growing likelihood that the next government an Arab minister will serve again, not necessarily by the name of Odeh or Tibi, and we will remember positively the former Labor party minister, Ghaleb Majadele, a Baqa al-Gharbiya man. But until that happens, is Odeh, who surprised with a great electoral achievement, about to surprise again soon, and despite all that was said, will he with his friends make way for the establishment of a narrow government led by Gantz, an anti-Bibi government, in opposition to the will of most Jewish voters?
'You Want to Kill Me?' Totally, He Said. 'Leftists Are Worse Than the Arabs': Election Day at a Settlement (Naomi Sussmann, Haaretz+) For Election Day, I volunteered to be an observer at a polling station; to be precise, I volunteered to be an observer in the West Bank because I was told that the voting process there isn’t sufficiently supervised. I was sent to Betar Ilit, a sprawling ultra-Orthodox city. I had never been there and will probably never return, but what I discovered there upset me beyond what I had expected.
The exercise and the fantasy (Nahum Barnea, Yedioth Hebrew) The past week started very badly for anyone who is longing for the end of the Netanyahu era, and ended with an improvement trend. The change is essentially psychological: the disappointment with the results at the polls gave way to a slightly more sober examination of reality. Lieberman, followed by Gantz, realized that their political journey had reached a point of no return. If they continue to follow the agenda that Netanyahu dictates, they will be dragged into the fourth and fifth and sixth elections. Each round they will shrink a little, until they disappear. Either they will find a way to work with the Joint List, or they will return their equipment and go home. There is no other solution on the horizon…This is the situation right now: the Arab (Joint) List has a future without them - they have no future without it. Who would have guessed that? If I understand the Gantz and Lieberman moves correctly, they have reached, or at least understood, they have a common strategic goal: a government based on the Likud without Netanyahu, Kahol-Lavan, and perhaps, on the margins, Labor-Meretz and Yamina. To reach such a government, they must first elect their own Speaker to the Knesset, bring to the president at least 59 Knesset members who recommend Gantz, pass or not pass a law that would prevent Netanyahu from forming a government, pass appeals at the High Court, establish a minority government with outside support of almost all of the Joint List, stabilize the minority government they formed and then invite the Likud inside. There’s no doubt about it: It’s a fantastic, most complex, most convoluted exercise. It requires manipulative sophistication that does not shame (mentalist) Lior Suchard and physical flexibility that does not shame (gymnast) Linoy Ashram. Can such an exercise succeed? I doubt it greatly.
Time for the Shin Bet Chief to Step Up and Defend Democracy (Yossi Melman, Haaretz+) There is a short distance between incitement against anyone who doesn’t agree with Netanyahu, and actions. And it is becoming shorter with every post on Facebook, every tweet on Twitter and every story on Instagram by fans of the “cult” founded by Netanyahu, his son Yair and their yes-men, who are devoid of inhibition or conscience…Netanyahu may not want a civil war – but he is doing nothing to stop it. Therefore, the time has come for the head of the Shin Bet and his organization to take action. First and foremost, it’s their legal obligation to do so. The law demands that the Shin Bet protect Israel’s democracy.
Between the Joint Arab List and joint nationalism (Prof. Asher Cohen, Israel Hayom) No one would rule out cooperation with the Joint Arab List if its MKs stopped reminding us that they hope Israel would cease to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
Partnering with the Joint List is a spit in the faces of 60% of the nation (Ariel Kellner, Maariv) The second largest party, which purports to represent the left-center wing in Israeli politics, turns its back on the foundations of the Zionist ethos and sees as a legitimate partner a party whose platform is clearly anti-Zionist.
Netanyahu Exempted U.S. From Coronavirus Travel Ban for Fear of Trump (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+) The U.S. president’s diminution of the disease makes its potential spread a time bomb that could scuttle his chances of reelection.
Three members of the Kahol-Lavan cockpit are currently supporting a minority government (Ben Caspit, Maariv) A tremendous drama is now taking place in the party, with Gantz, Ya'alon and Lapid wanting to realize the possibility of forming a coalition based on the joint list. Ashkenazi disapproves, but prefers Hauser and Handel to do the hard work.
Health, Not Politics (Haaretz Editorial) Netanyahu’s staff has been pressing to thwart an order to quarantine people returning from the United States, out of fear of undermining Israel’s relations with America and particularly with President Donald Trump. It wasn’t the first time the PMO intervened in U.S.-related health directives. The coronavirus is spreading rapidly, but not enough is known about it. The decision-making process must be more transparent and led by professionals based on medical considerations, not political ones. Public health must be paramount.
Personal legislation violates the rule of law (Prof. Aviad Hacohen, Israel Hayom) The proposed law seeking to prevent a specific individual – PM Netanyahu – from fulfilling a specific role utterly violates the spirit of the law, but the chances that the High Court of Justice will strike the bill down are alarmingly low.
Drop the Personalized Law (Uzi Baram, Haaretz+) I’ll neither conceal nor deny it: The results of last week’s election raised the curve of despondency and disappointment in Israel. The sanctimonious among us will continue to argue that the differences between Kahol Lavan and Likud are microscopic and that this lack of clarity was the main reason for Kahol Lavan’s relative failure.
A free society must shed all patriarcal manifestations (Joint List MK Aida Toumeh-Sliman, Maariv) Representation is not enough, the question is what feminism do we want to build here, and what we are fighting for. Gender discrimination is part of a system of oppression against all the weakened, female and male…After the murder of two women who joined about 150 others in the last decade, I, along with other female Knesset members, submitted an urgent proposal to set up a parliamentary commission of inquiry to investigate the failures of the law enforcement authorities in the phenomenon of femicide. 58 Knesset members opposed the proposal, including 12 female Knesset members. Opponents included Minister of Social Equality Gila Gamaliel, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and MK Nava Booker of the Likud…(The three mentioned were all members of the right-wing coalition -OH.)  This vote, and many others, proved to me that it doesn’t matter what high position a woman reaches, she can still act against the real interests of women, because her ideology is not of equality.
Israel's Arab parties and defending democracy (Jonathan S. Tobin, Israel Hayom) Making common cause with those who wish to destroy the Jewish state is indefensible. Still, Netanyahu's defenders must be careful not to bolster slander that Israel isn't a democracy.
Toward the End of History (Israel Harel, Haaretz+) The “ideology” of the last election was a mishmash of personal impulses, vengefulness, spite and bruised feelings of discrimination. More than any solidly formed worldview, this is what affected the question of which slip to place in the ballot box. These voters belong to four main camps: The first – temperamental, idolatrous and, mainly, ecstatic – is the “Just Bibi” camp. Opposite it we have – at first energetic, now beaten and battered – the “Just Not Bibi” camp. It turns out that negating Netanyahu wasn’t enough to bring this camp to power, and, being an ad hoc assemblage, it may now cease to exist. The third camp, the union of the Haredim, is a stable one in terms of its institutions and has been growing moderately in strength from one election to the next. And in this election, we also saw the birth of the fourth significant camp: the “Just Not Bibi, Just Not Benny (Gantz), Just Not Zionist Jews” camp – the Joint List.

Other Commentary/Analysis:
What is stopping Europe from challenging the ‘Deal of the Century?’ (Robert Swift, 972mag) The EU's fixation on the two-state solution has detached it from changes in Israeli politics and U.S. policy. It has the clout to act, but does it have the will?
As Iran's Coronavirus Death Toll Rises, There's One Thing Its Regime Can Be Grateful For (Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz+) As some 23 Iranian lawmakers catch coronavirus, one of the faces behind the 1979 U.S. Embassy hostage crisis is the latest to die of COVID-19.
The Shiite crescent and the coronavirus (Hillel Frisch, Israel Hayom) Regarded by Tehran as a key tool with which to penetrate and ultimately conquer the Arab world, the Shi'ite crescent is fast becoming a boomerang, spreading the epidemic out of and back into Iran.
Ex-Shin Bet Chief Predicts Israel's Future: Either Bad, or Very Bad
If Israel adopts the Trump plan, it will trigger a right-wing messianic ideology that will spark chaos – declares Carmi Gillon, who asserts Jewish terrorists are no longer on the margins. Just days before the vote this week, Gillon appeared in a video with five other former heads of the Shin Bet and of the Mossad, in which they explained how dangerous Netanyahu is. But this was not a clear endorsement of Gantz, according to Gillon. CG: “I believe, but also know that he is… how to put it, a mediocre person,” he says of Benny Gantz. “And he is also busy with survival. Even when it came to the post of Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, he really wasn’t the first choice, and rightfully so. However, political life maneuvered him; it wasn’t the other way around. And sometime in the very near future, he will have to decide about the Trump plan. Let’s say the Israeli government adopts it fully, including partial withdrawal from Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]. That is the moment that will be a trigger for right-wing messianic ideology to act, to create chaos through attacks by a new underground.” Still, Carmi Gillon doesn’t want to give up and leave – or wait for the apocalypse. “I still believe in this great idea, the State of Israel, and in the need and in the ability to return to sanity: to return to the 1967 borders, to focus on building a different, better society,” he says. (Interviewed by Ariana Melamed in Haaretz+)

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