News Nosh 3.12.20

APN's daily news review from Israel
Thursday March 12, 2020
Quote of the day:
“In the State of Israel, there are no half-citizens. There are deep disagreements, but no semi-citizens.”
President Reuven Rivlin said Wednesday, leveling criticism at the heads of the parties over their apparent disdain for the Arab electorate.*

You Must Be Kidding: 
"This report brings the region closer to peace because as it has been said repeatedly, peace can only be built on a foundation of truth, anything else will crumble and fail."
--Trump Administration officiabolishal told 'Israel Hayom' in regards to the policy change, according to which Palestinians of East Jerusalem are no longer considered Palestinian. They are now referred to as "Arab residents of Jerusalem."**

Front Page:
Yedioth Ahronoth
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
  • Braking battle - WHO declared corona a pandemic
  • In Kahol-Lavan they are convinced: We will achieve a majority to recommend Gantz (to form the government) - even without MK Orly Levy-Abukasis
Israel Hayom
  • (Gatherings) Only up to 100 people; At schools: 5 pupils sicks; In academia: Possibility of postponing studies
  • Orly Levy-Abukasis showed courage in the face of the shoving by the left-wing

Top News Summary:
Coronavirus has conquered the news pages of the Hebrew papers and the outrage over the refusal by MK Orly Levy-Abekasis to support Kahol-Lavan leader Benny Gantz to form a government with the support of the Arab MKs dominated Op-Ed pages in today’s Hebrew newspapers. Barely making the news was the killing of a Palestinian teen from Beita village, who was shot in the face by Israeli forces. Little was reported on why the teen faced off with hundreds of other Palestinians against visiting settlers and the soldiers. More information below.

The number of infected hit 100 by Thursday afternoon. Gatherings were limited in Israel to 100 people. And so for the first time since Israel's inception, the traditional Independence Day torch-lighting ceremony held on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem will be held without an audience, as will the Israel Prize ceremony. Israeli Prime MInister Binyamin Netanyahu announced a $2.9 billion package to help collapsing businesses and the healthcare system, and doctors say there aren't enough staff or virus tests. Moreover, due to the lack of tests, strict guidelines have prevented medical staff from testing sick people, who became even more sick before finally being tested and diagnosed. An Israeli research center announced it developed a vaccine.

Elections 2020 / Netanyahu Indictment Quickees:
WATCH: Left and right activists protested in front of Orly Levy-Abekasis’ home - Dozens of left-wing activists shouting "Shame on you. Not with my vote!” and waving signs in front of the Gesher Party chairman's house. Soon a counter-protest was organized by right-wing activists who expressed support for Levy-Abekasis statement. (Maariv)
Gantz's Reps Meet Arab Alliance to Discuss Forming Government - Gantz's efforts to oust Netanyahu take blow after member of Labor-led slate disavows support for cooperation with Arab party. (Haaretz+ and Maariv)
Gantz's Party Changes Course as Efforts to Form a Minority Government Face Hurdles - In a bid to pass legislation barring an indicted lawmaker from becoming PM, Kahol Lavan plans to replace incumbent Knesset speaker. (Haaretz+)
'Sometimes You Need to Make Deals With the Devil': Arab Israelis Stand Tall After Election, but Warn Against Fourth Round - Arab voters drove big gains for Joint List alliance, but there is no consensus on what approach (or side) it should take in order to effect change and help Arab society. (Judy Maltz, Haaretz+)
Chairman of the Ra’am party (component of Joint List): "Purpose of Meeting with Kahol-Lavan:  Establishing Blocking Bloc with Extensive Agreements" - Ahead of the meeting scheduled to take place Tuesday between Kahol-Lavan representatives and heads of the Joint List, MK Mansour Abbas was interviewed bu Radio A-Shams. Last night he told Maariv: "This is a positive, important step in the right direction.” (Maariv)
Arab party's Balad faction considers backing Gantz for PM - Balad, which represents the Palestinian nationalist wing of the Joint List, did not recommend Gantz after the previous round. Meanwhile, Labor-Gesher-Meretz's Orli Levi-Abekasis says won't support gov't backed by Joint List. (Haaretz+)
At the request of MK Ahmed Tibi: A complaint was lodged against a military academy - yeshiva whose students beat an image of him - A video was posted showing students at a yeshiva in Sderot beating a puppet in the shape of the Knesset member from the Joint List. Tuesday, Tibi complained to the Knesset officer who forwarded the complaint to the police. (Maariv)
*Israeli President There are no 'semi-citizens' in Israel, says Rivlin in post-election rebuke - Revives plan for joint Netanyahu-Gantz government. Receiving final results of March 2 vote, president levels criticism at party leaders over divisive campaign rhetoric that singled out Arab sector; says his former unity government outline still valid. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
Shin Bet security service to take over Gantz protection amid violent threats - Committee must approve decision to place Netanyahu's election rival, facing social media calls for violence against him, under Shin Bet protection. (Haaretz+)
Quick Hits:
  • **Trump abolishes previous language on Jerusalem, now calls E. Jerusalem Palestinians 'Arab Residents' - According to the new State Department human rights report, the administration no longer considers Arabs in east Jerusalem as Palestinians but rather as "non-Israeli residents" of the capital. The change in terminology comes amid increased disputes following the release of the Trump Mideast plan. (Israel Hayom and Haaretz)
  • B'Tselem now first Israeli NGO to ask ICC to probe Israeli 'war crimes' - B'Tselem director Hagai El-Ad: Israel's attempt to clutch at formalistic straws to evade the ICC's jurisdiction is shameful… Palestine is not a 'sovereign state' precisely because it is under Israeli occupation, whose crimes the ICC has the jurisdiction – and responsibility – to investigate. (Israel Hayom and JPost)
  • After Decades, Israel Permits Picking of Plant Popular in Arab Kitchens - Adalah, a legal center for Arab and minority rights, petitioned the Nature and Parks Authority after its officials first published an opinion to allow unlimited collection of gundelia, known as akkoub in Arabic, a plant popular in Arab kitchens that Israel prohibited from picking for decades, but then announced it would only collection of five kilos a day and would continue enforcement efforts against those caught with larger quantities. (Haaretz+)
  • Arab Parents Fight Israeli City With No Arabic School to Fund Outer-city Rides - Carmiel has 500 Arab students and parents must drive them to schools outside the city. Civil rights group: Obstacle enforces racist segregation. (Haaretz+)
  • 'E1 road is start of apartheid,' PA official states - The E1 area, which stretches across 4 miles just east of the Jerusalem municipal boundary, has been the focus of conservancy as the Palestinians claim it is essential for their future state. (Israel Hayom)
  • Suspect indicted for attempted murder in Jerusalem ramming that hurt 12 soldiers - Sanad al-Turman, 25, faces terror charges for alleged attack on Israeli soldiers touring the capital ahead of Western Wall ceremony last month. Turman’s family consistently maintains that was not a terror attack but rather a traffic incident caused when Turman accidentally mounted the sidewalk in his vehicle. Shin Bet said the resident of the E. Jerusalem neighborhood of A-Tur had no history of terrorist activity. (Yedioth Hebrew and Times of Israel)
  • Spike in Coronavirus Infections Pushes the Middle East Past 10,000 Cases - Over 9,000 in Iran - Turkey reports its first case, Lebanon shuts down flights, Bahrain reports more coronavirus cases from Iran evacuees. (Agencies, Haaretz and Ynet)
  • Iran coronavirus death toll rises to 354, authorities urge everyone stay home - Iranian Health Ministry announced the new deaths amid over 9000 cases in the Islamic Republic, include a vice-president and two cabinet members. (Agencies, Haaretz and Ynet)
  • Report: Senior Hezbollah officials infected with coronavirus - Terror group members believed to have contracted virus after meeting with Iranian military officials; Nasrallah said to be in isolation, though unclear whether contracted strain. (Ynet)
  • Saudi Aramco under fire for using migrant worker as human 'hand sanitizer' - Saudi Aramco said on its Arabic Twitter account Wednesday that it has taken action to stop and prevent this 'abusive behavior’. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Erdogan promises stronger military action against Syria if truce is broken - Turkey and Russia agreed on a ceasefire last week to stop escalating clashes in northwest Syria's Idlib region. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Two U.S., One British Personnel Killed in Iraq Rocket Attack - Air strikes hit targets near strategic border crossing between Syria and Iraq, known to be on a supply route for Iran-backed militia. U.S. officials warn death toll may rise, say too soon to assign blame. (Agencies, Haaretz and Ynet)
  • U.S. Reportedly Drawing Down Troops From Mideast After anti-Iran Buildup - U.S. in process of bringing air defense systems into Iraq: general. (Agencies, Haaretz)

'Today We Must Dress in the Colors of the Palestinian Flag'
My daughter’s kindergarten in Ramallah is making a video about the children's nationalities. It’s a complicated topic in our family. Her father and I aren't even allowed to drive the same car ■ Post #8. (Umm Forat, Haaretz+)

Elections 2020/Netanyahu Indictment Commentary/Analysis:
The Israeli Center Is Making Peace With the Country’s Arabs. But They Haven’t Made History Yet (Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz+) Still, the fact that most of Gantz’s party and the Joint List, and as far as we know even Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, are prepared to vote together for a new government is a turning point.
The time has come for real coexistence: the Arab sector must integrate into political life (Ephraim Ganor, Maariv) In the shadow of the election, the attempt to go with the Arabs and feel without them is absurd. After 72 years of living side by side, it is time for the Arabs of Israel, which constitute about 20% of the country's population, to become full partners in the country’s life.
Not the beginning of a beautiful friendship (Jalal Bana, Israel Hayom) The Arab public yearns for a leader who will declare that Arabs are an integral part of the state, and that he is fine with Arab MKs being in the coalition. Benny Gantz has yet to display such leadership.
Look at municipalities across the country: Jewish-Arab partnership is the reality of our lives (Amnon Barry-Soliciano and Thabet Abu Ras, Maariv) Not only is the coalition of Jews and Arabs not an unreasonable issue, but it is already around us, and it turns out to be a very successful option.
This Kahol Lavan Lawmaker Shows His True, Nationalist, Racist Colors (Gideon Levy, Haaretz+) Yoaz Hendel is the embodiment of the beautiful Israeli: handsome, raised on a settlement, formerly kippah-clad, Shayetet 13 naval commando, lieutenant colonel in the reserves, doctorate in Jewish history, lecturer on terrorism at Bar-Ilan university, author of the book “Let the IDF Win,” talk about the Chosen People slides naturally off his tongue, as if it bore some relation to reality. Head of the splendidly named Institute for Zionist Strategies, founder of a (likewise perfectly named) human rights organization, Blue-and-White Human Rights, devoted to preserving human rights and improving Israel’s standing, and whose findings are relayed to the IDF for investigation. Hendel is the embodiment of the beautiful Israeli because he tells us that we can have it both ways, that we can have it all. This is just how we want to see ourselves – liberal and nationalist, moral and Zionist, occupiers and humanists, Jewish and democratic, secular but basing our claims on a divine promise, enlightened and believing in our exclusive right to the land, modern and seeing holiness in stones, Jewish and Israeli, moral and ethical, patriots who love to hike the Israel Trail and sing patriotic songs together, and of course to do reserve duty with the unit. Hendel is the beautiful Israeli because for him, there is never any ugliness. The IDF is the most moral army, Israel is a beacon of justice, the occupation was imposed on us, we are really its victims….But now his right-wing, nationalist, racist face has been revealed and the enlightened Israelis are beside themselves with anger. How dare he refuse to sit in a government with the Joint List? How dare he rip the mask off our faces? How dare he become so racist? That’s not who we are at all.
The 'Leftist' Who's Ruining Gantz's Chance to Form a Government (Iris Leal, Haaretz+) The pistol had only one bullet. Benny Gantz and Avigdor Lieberman had the courage to form a narrow government supported by the Joint List of Arab parties; they would be able to fulfill their main promise to their voters: replacing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They were willing to pay a heavy price and were hoping that after they had lifted Netanyahu’s stranglehold on the country, all would be forgiven and forgotten...But Orli Levi-Abekasis, a balloon inflated with self-importance, someone devoid of ideology, with no electoral clout, a deceiving scoundrel, robbed the center-left bloc’s voters of this rare opportunity, probably triggering a fourth election. She has buried the chance of replacing Netanyahu for many years and has destroyed his opponents’ bloc.
Levy-Abekasis defeats the Twitter elites (Amnon Lord, Israel Hayom) Despite being a member of a left-wing party, she still has ties and connections to planet earth, which is to say with the public, the street, the common folk; thus differentiating her from the political circle she joined.
Orly Levy-Abukasis’ move eliminated Gantz's slim chances of replacing Netanyahu (Orit Lavi-Nashiel, Maariv) Gesher Chairwoman was not the first to violate election promises, but her move has a taste of personal-political betrayal and a strong odor of opportunism.
The Israeli legislator blocking a center-left government must resign (Haaretz Editorial) MK Orli Levi-Abekasis decided on her own to opt for a political renewal and move from the right to the left. She has the right to regret her transition. She has the right to realize that she can’t take the political step her camp is asking her to take. But Levi-Abekasis is part of a political puzzle that set a goal of unseating Netanyahu. This goal remains the overarching objective of the camp she decided to join – on her own initiative.
Gesher's leader is not the victim here (Michal Aharoni, Israel Hayom) She may tick all the right political boxes on paper but after pulling a political stunt that can only be described as an underhanded and vulgar ploy, Orly Levy-Abekasis should resign her seat and go home.
Levy-Abekasis slammed the door on anyone trying to free the state from Netanyahu's grip (Ben Caspit, Maariv) The Knesset's enlightened conscience justifies accepting leadership from those accused of bribery, fraud and breach of faith and trying to crush democracy, but does not allow democratically elected Knesset members to support the government.
Threats of an Israeli Civil War Are a Form of Blackmail (Zehava Galon, Haaretz+) The Arabs are a threat to this country. No, not the Arabs, it’s their party, that party of terror supporters. Benjamin Netanyahu knows them well, but it’s not the same, now that their voice is part of the equation. Even Orli Levi-Abekasis prefers the indicted guy to the Arab voice. So what if she promised otherwise? If you insist on including the Arab voice in the coalition, we’ll have no choice but to launch a civil war. Blood will be shed here, and who knows what kind of embittered souls might emerge and what they might do?...It’s blackmail to use the threat of terror. Contact with the Arab community fueled the incitement against Yitzhak Rabin, who dared rely on Arab Israelis’ votes. That was Netanyahu’s strategy then as it is now. If a government supported by the Joint List of Arab parties is a disaster, a prime minister who cares about the country would step down to let another government be formed, even if he was convinced he was being wronged. He wouldn’t lead the country to a fourth election at a huge cost or, heaven forbid, into the arms of the Arabs. Does that scare you? Then leave.
Getting 15 Mandates against Netanyahu: A Democratic, But Destructive, Move (Amos Gilboa, Maariv) Why a solid Jewish majority? So that the Jewish people can exercise their sovereignty in their nation state according to the Declaration of Independence. This is the position of the center, the moderate right and the Zionist left.
Gesher leader's bold move (Ophir Toubul, Israel Hayom) Gesher chair Orly Levy-Abekasis has earned scorn and virulence for doing what many deem unthinkable: Standing up for her personal and political principles.
The officially most refreshing thing of the elections is the prospect of the decline of national-religious Zionism (Ran Edelist, Maariv) The most reasonable scenario, in terms of the right-wing group, is to join Gantz in exchange for junior portfolios. The scary alternative to them is to drown in the Bibists swamp as a back-line MK in the opposition.
Netanyahu and Gantz should grow up (Ben-Dror Yemini, Yedioth/Ynet) The public is tired of politicians' slogans, excuses and arguments, but most of all the public is tired of the political stalemate and the threat of a fourth election cycle since April 2019; someone needs to step up and lead.
Hatred of Netanyahu Has Made Ya'alon Abandon His Principles (Nave Dromi, Haaretz+) Many on the right seek to mark the Elor Azaria incident in 2016 as the point where the breach between Ya’alon and Netanyahu began. Ya’alon was disappointed with Netanyahu, who changed his attitude towards the soldier who shot and killed an immobilized terrorist in Hebron, in the wake of criticism from the right. However, it appears that the gaps began even before then.
The legislation designed to remove the prime minister is not illegal or morally wrong (Isaac Ben-Ner, Maariv) Before we are all dragged into a fourth election, it should be understood that the idea of a law banning a defendant from forming a government is not bad to keep anyone out of power without a sense of morality, integrity and responsibility.
Israeli Democracy Must Protect Itself, Not Netanyahu (Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz+) Democratic souls are all aflutter. It is not possible, they say, to pass a law that would harm – or benefit – a specific individual or corporation, entity or movement. It’s interesting that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu likes another proposed law, about granting immunity from prosecution for a sitting prime minister, even though if it were passed, it would be legislation that relates to a single individual par excellence.
Eyes wide open: On the painful wake-up that moved me from Meretz party to the moderate right-wing (Nir Kipnis, Maariv) Along with the move from the far left of Meretz to the moderate right, my eyes opened to see the reality without the realtors of the right camp. And it hurts.
Hamas, Hezbollah and coronavirus (Yuval Karni, Yedioth/Ynet) Threats to the north and south and general electoral exhaustion mean Israel cannot afford to waste time on political squabbles; Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Gantz, we need unity now.

Other Commentary/Analysis:
Israel’s Latest Highway to Apartheid (Wednesday Haaretz Editorial) While the public’s attention is focused on the coronavirus and the endless attempts to form a government, “life itself” continues as usual: Israel has started planning a new road in the West Bank that Defense Minister Naftali Bennett has already nicknamed “the sovereignty road.” This is a separate road for Palestinians, and it will let Israel build a settlement in the E1 region. E1 is an area of 12 square kilometers (4.6 square miles) that has been appended to the municipality of Ma’aleh Adumim. Plans to build in this area have been frozen for years because construction there would sever the West Bank in two – a step with dramatic political and diplomatic ramifications.
An outbreak of the Corona in Gaza could turn it into a zone (Tal Lev-Ram, Maariv) Gaza reports that the epidemic has not yet erupted and there are no diagnosed patients. Should such a scenario materialize, overcrowding, poor living conditions, and poor medical standards can lead to rapid and deadly spread.
Coronavirus in Gaza: A Death Sentence for Caged Palestinians (Shannon Maree Torrens, Haaretz+) Even a small outbreak among Gaza's densely-packed, blockaded population would put an impossible strain on a healthcare system already teetering on the verge of collapse.
Why is the Gaza Strip calm these days? Hamas knows the answer (Daniel Siryoti, Israel Hayom) "Netanyahu and Gantz are the same thing for Hamas. We have no ties to the Joint Arab List, and a new government would push us back," Hamas official tells Israel Hayom, dismissing the claim that the recent election has had a restraining effect.
Biden is a proven friend of Israel - his policy will not be expressed by breaking the rules (Zalman Shoval, Maariv) After they were swept into revolutionary ideological directions, most members of the Democratic Party return to reality and believe that only by returning to the sources is there a chance to defeat incumbent President Trump…Binyamin Netanyahu, as an effective and sober statesman, knows that Israel must not miss diplomatic opportunities that may not return and that the Trump administration is now an opportunity to advance Israeli political and security interests in an unprecedented way. But that will not prevent him from acting in the same way even if in January 2021, President Biden is in the White House. Biden is a friend of Israel with receipts, and also of Netanyahu. Even if his policy is not an exact transcript of the current US policy, it will not manifest itself in a general breaking of the situation (meanwhile, official Israeli spokesmen should be prevented from expressing themselves publicly for one or another party or candidate). Another condition that matters, not only in terms of current political relevance but in terms of the future of Jews in general: Israeli leaders and US Jewry, which is one of the pillars of the Democratic Party, will act wisely and responsibly to put Jewish unity above all other considerations in the various political system in their countries.

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