News Nosh 3.17.20

APN's daily news review from Israel
Monday March 17, 2020

Quote of the day:
"Nothing brings people together in solidarity like a natural disaster, even when that disaster requires more social distancing than gathering together. Let the new plague be our shared enemy."
--Middle East experts, Seraj Assi and Zachary Foster, write in a beautiful essay about how Jews and Arabs united to fight a locust plague in Palestine in 1915.*

Front Page:
  • Rivlin announced that he will give the mandate (to form a gov’t) to Gantz today; Netanyahu trial postponed by two months due to corona
  • Alliance of the weak // Yossi Verter
  • Corona danger to public found in gaps between government’s instructions and the implementation of them on the ground
  • In Health Ministry, they wonder where the hundreds of infected who haven’t been diagnosed are walking around
  • The battle against corona also appears corrupt. That’s the price Israel pays when its prime minister is indicted on corruption // Gidi Weitz
  • This is a time of emergency, and not just because of corona: Israeli democracy needs to be protected // Noa Landau
  • Tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox continue to study as usual at the order of their leader
  • Britain plans to isolate those aged 70 and above; 368 more deaths reported on in Italy
  • Hard to believe // Raviv Drucker writes that Netanyahu’s call for unity sounds like spin
  • Where were you? // Miki Ganor writes that gov’t treated the public health system with disdain and now is paying for it
  • News broadcasts do everything to scare the viewers. Who gains from it? // Ariana Melamed
Yedioth Ahronoth
  • Health Ministry demands implementing closure - Battle against corona: rising pressure to close down the country (Hebrew)
  • Director of ward at Ichilov Hospital infected with corona
  • Political elbows - Netanyahu and Gantz agreed to keep discussing unity; Gantz will receive today the mandate (to form a government)
  • (Photos of Netanyahu and President Rivlin and of Gantz and President Rivlin making ‘elbow greetings’
  • A mandate without bullets // Sima Kadmon
  • Flowers for corona // Nahum Barnea (Hebrew)
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
  • Position of power: Gantz will hold negotiations for unity when the mandate (to form a government) is in his hands
  • The mishandling of the corona virus: Weizmann Institute and Hadassah Hospital have labs that can hold 25,000 test a day, but Health Ministry ignored them
  • Holiday is holiday - Schools closed and only 10% of pupils bothered to enter the digital learning system
  • State on remote // Yehuda Sharoni
Israel Hayom
  • The corona assembly
  • Defeating the virus
  • Diary of isolation: A time of empathy and humanity // Emily Amrousi
  • It's preferable to strengthen this government // Amnon Lord
  • Gantz, Lapid and Peretz - come unite // Dalia Itsik
  • Hero of the day: Mohammed Agbarieh enlisted to help treat corona patients (Hebrew)

Top News Summary:
The Israeli Health Ministry was pushing for a general closure on all citizens, so that everyone stays in their homes, as well as the declaration of a national state of emergency, but the government and the Ministry of Finance pushed back, fearing for the hundreds of thousands who will be fired.

In the midst of the health and potential economic crisis, Kahol-Lavan leader Benny Gantz was expected to receive the mandate today from President Reuven Rivlin to form a government (update: he did) after Gantz received a majority of 61 recommendations from among the 120 Knesset members, including all the members of the Joint List, the predominantly Arab party. But Joint List leader Ayman Odeh warned that his party would not support a unity government between Kahol-Lavan and Likud. "If Gantz enters a national unity government we will be the main opponents," he said. (The Movement for Quality Government placed a full-page ad in Haaretz that read: “Honorable President Rivlin, don’t be the first President to give an indicted man the mandate.”) After the swearing-in of the Knesset members today, Gantz’s party planned to raise a vote to replace the Likudnik Speaker of Knesset Yuli Edelstein, but Edelstein Sunday said he would prevent Kahol-Lavan from convening the Knesset to vote. Kahol-Lavan wants to replace Edelstein so that it can pass laws to prevent Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu from ever becoming prime minister again. One law would prevent an indicted person from serving as the premier. Another would limit a prime minister to two terms and a third would make direct elections for a prime minister - and not just for a party.

Meanwhile, between Saturday night and Sunday morning, Justice Minister and Netanyahu loyalist Amir Ohana closed all courts due to corona, postponing Netanyahu’s trial from this Tuesday until May. Gantz and other opponents of Netanyahu accused Netanyahu of using the coronavirus to avoid going to trial, putting a shadow over Likud's efforts to form a unity government.

Corona virus Quickees:
  • Corona cases in Israel hit 255 Sunday night - Israel to receive news tests that will allow it to increase blood workups to 4,000 a day. Mayor of West Bank city of Tulkarem orders lockdown after second resident infected with coronavirus. The first person was someone who worked in Israel. (Haaretz+, Israel Hayom and Ynet)
  • To Stop the Coronavirus, Shin Bet Can Now Track Cellphones Without Court Order - The security service will use location data to send messages ordering self-quarantine to anyone who was in vicinity of an infected person in the 14 days prior to their diagnosis. (Haaretz+)
  • Government approves penalties for violating coronavirus quarantine - Incarceration facilities to be reassigned as quarantine compounds for prisoners; police arrests man in Tel Aviv after violating quarantine, attacking security guards. (Ynet)
  • Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque Shut as Precaution Against Coronavirus by Muslim Clerics - Israel's Chief Rabbinate said last week that Jewish worshippers should not come to the Western Wall or pray en masse there. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • IDF takes emergency steps to protect soldiers, civilians from virus - The defense establishment’s role is twofold: to ensure that the disease does not harm its readiness and to assist civilian systems to cope with the pandemic. (Israel Hayom)
  • Tens of Thousands of Haredi Students Went to School Sunday, Violating Coronavirus Closure - Prominent rabbis relented later in an agreement with Netanyahu, after principals told the police that they had received orders from their rabbis to keep the institutions open, and were let off with a warning. (Haaretz+)
  • Damage to tourism: Billions of shekels a month - This is the estimate of the hotel association. Airlines cancel thousands of flights. Resorts and hotels close: "one-year losses.” If the crisis continues, about 10,000 workers in the industry will be fired. (Israel Hayom Hebrew)
  • Jerusalem, Tel Aviv light up with Italian flags amid coronavirus crisis - Israeli capital's Old City Walls, Tel Aviv City Hall showcase il Tricolore's green, white and red after European country records 368 new deaths from the COVID-19 virus in one day. (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
  • Indian Israeli beaten in Tiberias for 'causing coronavirus' - Am-Shalem Singson, a member of the Bnei Menashe community, suffers severe chest injuries when pushed to ground and kicked repeatedly by assailants shouting 'Corona! Corona!' (Yedioth/Ynet)
  • Jewish worshippers urged not to kiss Western Wall - Coronavirus prompts Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz to issue instructions for worshippers at the holiest site where Jewish prayer is permitted to keep their distance from the Second Temple-era stones as well as each other. (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
  • Annual Holocaust remembrance ceremony to take place without audience - Israel's annual Holocaust remembrance ceremony at Yad Vashem will be held without an audience. It will be pre-recorded and given to the media for broadcast. (Haaretz+)
  • It Was Supposed to Be the Exhibition of the Year. Then Coronavirus Hit - With works worth $140 million and the presence of star-artist Jeff Koons, this Tel Aviv exhibit was poised to become the event of the year. But American-Israeli Jose Mugrabi and wife Marie, who contributed the works, learned the coronavirus has other plans. (Haaretz+)
  • Arab world races to contain coronavirus outbreak - Persian Gulf states restrict movement, limit foreigners' entry. Morocco creates $1 billion fund to counter pandemic. Jordan seeks to bolster its tourism industry. (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
  • The major blunder related to the state's unpreparedness for Corona is the tests - Israel has the ability to perform over 25,000 corona tests a day, but so far no one has bothered to test, implement or apply it. It is already possible to determine with a high degree of certainty that the main failure related to Israel's unwillingness to corona epidemic is the failure regarding tests. Prime minister is now looking into these options. Better late (than not at all). Weizmann Institute has capability of performing 10,000 corona tests a day. Institute's president, Prof. Alon Chen, met with Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday and presented the institute's capabilities. The two are scheduled to speak again today, to finally test the feasibility of conducting PCR tests that will allow Israel to quickly take on a large number of civilians and map the "clusters" of the infection in a way that is able to stem the epidemic as successfully done in South Korea. Prof. Zeev Rothstein, CEO of Hadassah, raised the idea more than a week ago, but got a cold shoulder from Ministry of Health management echelons. Hadassah also has ability to carry out about 15,000 tests a day. Rothstein has already issued a calling among the medical and nursing student and doctoral students to recruit volunteers to perform the tests…(Ben Caspit, Maariv)


Other Quick Hits:
  • Dozens of cars vandalized in suspected hate crime in West Bank - Suspicion of a ‘price-tag’ (settler vandalism against Palestinians) act in Huwwara village in Samaria (West Bank): A security camera filmed 10 masked youth or men arriving on foot, smashing trucks and tractors for minutes with stones and batons - and then escaping. Police suspect the motive is in fact nationalistic. No arrests reported. [NOTE: In English version, subtitle gives ‘reason’ for the settler violence. - OH] (Yediot/Ynet and VIDEO)
  • Shin Bet reveals Hamas recruited Israeli-Arab woman from Israel's north - Aya Khatib, a 31-year-old mother of two from Arab town of Ar'ara was arrested 2 months ago and admitted during her questioning to having helped the terror group divert aid funds for terror projects and gather intelligence. (Ynet and Maariv)
  • Several Bedouin IDF troops arrested in bust of weapons trafficking ring - Suspects allegedly stole ammunition and weapon parts from IDF bases in southern Israel, then sold the booty to Israelis and Palestinians for hundreds or thousands of shekels per unit. (Israel Hayom)

Elections 2020/Netanyahu Indictment Commentary/Analysis:
Crazy Israel Concurrently Convulsed by Coronavirus Crisis, Netanyahu Putsch and Gantz’s Come-from-nowhere Triumph (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+) A constitutional crisis, wacko politics and a fateful battle for Israeli democracy – and that’s just the past 24 hours.
Those dreaming of a government with the Joint List show dangerous ignorance (Dr. Haim Misgav, Maariv) We must not make the mistakesof the past. Arabs are entitled to civil rights; Not beyond that. They need to recognize that they live in a country designed to serve as a national home for the Jewish people. Make no mistake: I do not know how the political saga will end, but one thing I do know - something very bad is going on among some parts of the Jewish people. The alienation of the Zionist values expressed in the Declaration of Independence, which is the founding document of the Jewish state, cannot end well. This has happened to the Jews in the past too many times, but the lesson was apparently not learned. The crash always started inside. The enemies of the outside could not defeat the Jewish state, in its various incarnations. The civil wars brought destruction upon it again and again. I might not have expressed this so harshly had it not been for Benny Gantz's response to the Prime Minister's proposal to set up an emergency government for a fixed period due to the Corona crisis. The demand to arrive at the canopy with the "mistress" - and there is no other way to see the attitude of the cockpit (Kahol-Lavan leaders) towards the Joint List - is self-evident. Not a few Arabs lived in the territories allocated to the Jewish state in the United Nation resolution of 1947. Their percentage must have exceeded 20%, except that the leaders of the Zionist movement, led by David Ben-Gurion, did not shy away from the demographic threat and declared the establishment of the Jewish National Home in the Land of Israel. They did not delineate its limits out of foresight. Either way, the Arabs were not, of course, invited to the signing ceremony of the Declaration of Independence. Their opposition to the whole move was overwhelming. They were not prepared for a Jewish state to arise on any territory - and this is their position to this day; And no one will doubt that. All those dreaming of a government with the Joint List simply ignore its basic positions; And those who today try to integrate them into government systems simply show ignorance that endangers our very existence here. More than 70 years have passed and here we are again facing the same anarchist influx of the Jewish people that, at the time, was opposed to the very establishment of a Jewish state. Many of them even traveled to the United States to get its leaders to oppose Ben-Gurion's moves. Today, they are trying to change from within what has been so laboriously established here. The innocence of those at the head of the gullible venture called the Kahol-Lavan Party is not like the opposition that existed, at the time, to the Zionist movement's quest to realize its vision, but the result could be similar. (Kahol-Lavan’s) lust for power overcomes them and makes them to connect to a party that explicitly declares its desire to change the character of the State of Israel…
As Netanyahu Faces Bribery Charges, Even Battling Coronavirus May Seem Corrupt (Gidi Weitz, Haaretz+) Any decision that affects the premier’s legal troubles – like the justice minister's decision to postpone his trial, which seemed reasonable at face value – will be greeted with extreme suspicion.
Hate in the Time of Coronavirus (Odeh Bisharat, Haaretz+) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s obsessive hatred seems like an inverse of the obsessive love of Florentino Ariza, the hero of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel “Love in the Time of Cholera.” Both are over 70. The former fights indefatigably against human brotherhood, the latter fights indefatigably to realize the love of his youth. Here’s one conclusion from this weekend’s two media briefings: Netanyahu, cynically exploiting the coronavirus, continues to sow hatred and race furiously toward destroying Israel’s fragile democracy by rendering its Arab community powerless. So trust me when I say that Kahol Lavan holds the main key to repulsing this wicked attack. It’s true that the Arab rock provides a firm foundation for repulsing fascism, but a foundation, no matter how strong, is no substitute for an entire building.
Flowers for corona (Nahum Barnea, Yedioth Hebrew) Gantz and Netanyahu have to thank Corona; it kept them from having to make the fake handshake that she ended their previous meetings. They both know that they have reached the finishline: Gantz will receive the nomination from the president today, but his chance of forming a minority government is zero; While Netanyahu manages to maintain the integrity of the right-wing blocc, his prospect of persuading Knesset members to defect to it and form a narrow right-wing government also is zero. Even dreams of a fourth, decisive round (of elections), are over: the corona killed them. Each has his own difficulty in entering negotiations. Gantz doesn't believe a single word of Netanyahu: It's one of the lessons he learned from his first year in politics. Netanyahu does not attach importance to the truth: it is one of the lessons he has learned from his thirty years in politics. When you have to lie, you lie, and then you turn the page. He has only contempt for Gantz's political skills. The second problem is the ups and downs of the positions of the two leaders. Netanyahu is said to be a different man on Sundays: the views he heard on Saturday at his home in Caesarea are polarizing his views; On Gantz they say that after every cockpit meeting (meeting with other three Kahol-Lavan leaders), he is a different man: the opinions he hears from his fellow Kahol-Lavan peers polarize his views. The Likud is (in) a decision-making process within a complicated family; Kahol-Lavan is (in) a decision-making process within a complicated quartet. In such a reality it is difficult to reach the Golden Path. President Rivlin tried his best. He did a lot to make it clear to everyone that this was their real time. Lieberman realized he could no longer sit on the fence; Orly Levy, too. Also the Balad party (part of Joint List) and the other (three) components of the Joint List…Corona is the key to the agreement. Netanyahu listens to some senior health ministry officials and outside consultants. He hears the warnings that the health system will collapse in two weeks. There are statistical models that predict a catastrophe for Israel of the proportions of Italy. He knows that the praise he gave himself at the press conferences he holds each night are at best a wish, not a sober reading of reality. He celebrated for a week, but there is no guarantee he can celebrate later. If the pessimistic predictions are true, it would be best to receive the blow when Kahol-Lavan sits in government. At first he wanted to get the four Kahol-Lavan heads into his government without giving them powers. When he saw that there was no chance of that, he offered them responsibility. After seeing that, too, was not enough, he returned to talk about a rotation government. In the meantime, each side acts as if the other side doesn't exist. Kahol-Lavan reached the 61 votes that enabled Gantz’s appointment (to try to form a government). The party intends to appoint a Speaker of the Knesset from among its members. Justice Minister Ohana has closed the courts, thus allowing Netanyahu's trial to be postponed. Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein announced, it’s unclear on what basis, that he would not allow the Knesset to elect a new Speaker. The chair must be his, from Knesset to Knesset. Netanyahu is in Balfour, and Edelstein is in the Speaker’s Office: God chose us to rule. Edelstein's announcement reminded me of a conversation I had with him in 2013. The Knesset Speaker was Ruby Rivlin of the Likud (now President). Edelstein wanted to replace him. He explained to me that Rivlin asks to become the President of the State; that he may use his role as Speaker to persuade Knesset members to vote for him. Edelstein is a friend of Netanyahu, who had issues with Rivlin, and Edelstein was elected Speaker of the Knesset. So it was a good deed to replace (the Speaker). Today it is an unbelievable sin.
It's Time for a New Knesset Speaker (Haaretz Editorial) Israelis woke up Sunday morning to discover that while they were sleeping the justice minister ordered the courts closed except for urgent hearings. Under the cover of the new coronavirus, Amir Ohana, an interim minister in an interim government, simply shut down the judicial system. Later in the day it was announced that the trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which was scheduled to begin Tuesday, was postponed by two months. A few hours later, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein announced that he would not permit the Knesset to choose a replacement for him. Edelstein said “The time for petty politics is over” and declared that he wouldn’t facilitate “a consensus-breaking move whose aim is to make opportunistic grabs in the legislature.” It’s hard to think of a more obvious grab in the legislature. The decision on whether to place an issue on the Knesset agenda is indeed reserved exclusively for the speaker, but his decision to use this authority to deny the Knesset the legitimate opportunity to replace him is certainly underhanded opportunism.
Mistrust, Bad Blood and a Global Virus: Don't Pin Your Hopes on Gantz-Netanyahu Unity (Yossi Verter, Haarez+)  Even if Kahol Lavan chief and the PM overcome their suspicions to form an emergency unity government, it will be an alliance of the weak.
Orly Levy stabbed Israel's left-wing in the back (Sima Kadmon, Yedioth/Ynet) The head of the dying Gesher party gained her Knesset seat thanks to leftist voters, but not only did she commit a shocking act of betrayal, she also lied before the elections about her support for a narrow government.
Levy-Abukesis, Hauser, and Handel have backbone of minimum morality (Meir Uziel, Maariv) The only possible move now is the unity government and the state leaving this blatant hatred of madness. I hope we hear about more sensible politicians in the left-wing parties.
Emergency government uncalled for (Yossi Beilin, Israel Hayom) As long as there is no new government that enjoys the Knesset's confidence there is nothing preventing the current government from dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.
In order for something to move - a national emergency government is needed (Yehuda Sharoni, Maariv) Compared to the private sector's mobilization in favor of the victims of the "Corona Economy,” the government continues the ‘All Talk’ program, and essentially offers zero solutions for casualties.

Other Commentary/Analysis:
An emergency for Israeli democracy: Coronavirus crisis cannot chip away at checks and balances (Noa Landau, Haaretz+) The epidemic comes at a time when caretaker prime minister Netanyahu, who is indicted for corruption and fighting for his political and personal future, has too much authority and too much at stake.
*Coronavirus Lesson: How Jews and Arabs United to Fight a Plague in Palestine Once Before (Seraj Assi and Zachary Foster, Haaretz+) A century before coronavirus, tens of thousands of Arabs and Jews died in Palestine’s worst 20th century plague before they recognized the catastrophe as their shared enemy – and cooperated to defeat it
The Corona crisis is also an opportunity to restore our relations with the Palestinians (Gen. (res.) Michael Milstein, Maariv) The global challenge the world is facing as one body embodies possibilities for re-establishing relationships. Assistance provided by Israel to Palestinians may ease tension with the Palestinian Authority and put pressure on Hamas to maintain the quiet. There was no more problematic timing for the appearance of the Corona - in the Israeli-Palestinian context - than now. The outbreak of the epidemic occurs when relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) are in deep crisis in the face of the “Deal of the Century,” and in the Gaza Strip the fragile calm depends on braking. However, as time goes by, the common threat may also present opportunities. The Corona epidemic demonstrates, first and foremost, the close link between Israel and the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on the economic-civilian level. The Palestinians depend on Israel in aspects of employment, movement and assistance, while the Palestinian workforce is very vital to Israel. Therefore, both sides develop deep anxiety about the closure of hermetic borders, which could have strategic implications. In Judea and Samaria (West Bank), the PA is said to have succeeded in controlling the spread of Corona, but at the same time, the government and the Palestinian public are concerned about the widespread and prolonged prevention of 120,000 workers going to work in Israel and the settlements - which will undermine the fabric of civilian life, which is the true basis for the relative quiet in Judea and Samaria. This understanding is rooted in the depths of Israel's thinking, which has so far avoided widespread restrictions on civil-economic relations with the West Bank. The situation in the Gaza Strip is more complex. So far, Corona carriers have not been discovered in the area, but the level of anxiety in the Gaza public is high, mainly because it is clear that the Hamas administration does not have the means to treat the disease if and when it breaks out in the area. The lessons of the past have already taught that there is a Gordian connection between civilian and security realities in the region, and this time, too, that civil adversity, not to mention a protest against Hamas, will be channeled to friction with Israel. However, the Corona challenge may also present a number of opportunities. First, targeting all parties on the issue may help reduce the risk of violent friction in the near future, especially in Gaza. The assistance Israel provides to the Palestinians in regards to Corona may help to ease some tension with the PA. And with the Gaza Strip it could be a lever for extracting concessions from Hamas, for example, with regards to preserving security calm, and perhaps even in the field of the prisoners' and missing people (held by Hamas) -  a point that Israel should raise in regards to future Hamas requests for assistance). Israel should prepare to increase its civilian support in the Palestinian arena for the sake of preserving security stability, but this will be more difficult than in the past, given the severe economic challenge Israel is facing today.
Israel's Leading Rabbi Thinks Not Studying Torah Is More Dangerous Than Coronavirus (Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz+) In the U.S., the ultra-Orthodox accept the state powers and play by the rules – but in Israel, they're so focused on maintaining their autonomy that they don’t care if they turn into a public health threat over the coronavirus.
Coronavirus 'Truce': The Guns Falling Silent Across the Middle East (Yossi Melman, Haaretz+) A sudden quiet reverberates around one of the most troubled, violent regions on earth. Israel’s military is mirroring the enforced restraint shown by Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas - for now.
Israel needs war-time leadership to fight coronavirus (Sarit Rosenblum, Yedioth/Ynet) To win this war, we must enlist all the experience gained from decades of battling terror and ensure all government agencies work in harmony and are coordinating their response.
Not Even Wars or Terror Attacks Prepared Israelis for the Coronavirus Crackdown (Allison Kaplan Sommer, Haaretz+) Israel woke up to a new reality on Sunday – one this most communal of cultures has never had to face before: being home alone.
A Life-and-death Matter': How Israel Helped Singapore When It Needed It Most
Singapore and Israel share 'a certain kindred spirit,' says former foreign minister George Yeo in an interview to Haaretz – both small nations having to survive under difficult odds and surrounded by Muslim-majority countries. (Interviewed by Shaina Oppenheimer in Haaretz+)

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