News Nosh 3.18.20

APN's daily news review from Israel
Wednesday March 18, 2020

Quote of the day:
"Dear world, how is the lockdown? --Gaza."
--One of the many sardonic political social media posts made by Gazans this week.*

Front Page:
Yedioth Ahronoth
  • It’s not a game (Hebrew)
  • It is a duty to comply with the guidelines // Israel’s Chief Rabbi David Lau
  • New restrictions: almost closure
  • Looking for hope - Humanity’s race against corona moves up a gear: In US, first test of vaccine on people (Hebrew)
  • “Danger to democracy” - Likud prevented establishment of Knesset committees: Not allowing Kahol-Lavan to have a majority (Hebrew)
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
  • Stay home!
  • Lethal danger // Ben Caspit
  • Be a personal example // Yehuda Sharoni
  • The battle over the Knesset - Fury in Kahol-Lavan over Likud’s attempts to postpone the establishment of Knesset committees to oversee the conduct of government in the corona crisis
  • The Euro Cup (soccer games) were postponed by a year
Israel Hayom
  • Take responsibility
  • Defeating the virus - on our app
  • Save grandpa and grandma
  • Accept the fear: Questions and answers
  • Hero of the day: Rabbi Arbelich gives the information to the ultra-Orthodox sector
  • The paralyzation of the Knesset increases

Top News Summary:
Moves by the Likud-led government in the battle against corona and moves by Likud politicians in the newly formed Knesset sparked shouts of anti-democratic conduct that put Israel’s democracy in harm - making top stories in today’s Hebrew newspapers.

A full closure is around the corner, reported the papers, as the government put in place new more restrictive measures, such as no leaving the house except for a 10-minute walk and for buying food, medicine and toiletries, closure of all stores not selling food, medicine and toiletries, no public transportation from Thursday night till Sunday morning and more. A full closure is expected in the coming days. But most worrying to many was the middle of the night government approval to track phones of people infected with corona. Israel lawmakers and Knesset legal advisors had already voiced concerns over tracking patients, but in a late night phone vote, the government ignored them and approved the digital tracking.

Elections 2020 / Netanyahu Indictment News:
The battle over the Knesset - Fury in Kahol-Lavan over Likud’s attempts to postpone the establishment of Knesset committees to oversee the conduct of government in the corona crisis

At the Knesset, Kahol-Lavan and Likud battled in a shouting match over the formation of the Knesset committees. Kahol-Lavan called for the Knesset plenum to approve the establishment of the regular committee. That committee then plans to convene the Regulatory Committee to form the Foreign and Defense Committee, the Finance Committee and the Corona Commission. Likud demanded equal representation in all the committees using the 10-person coronavirus limitation as a reason. Kahol-Lavan faction chairman, Avi Nissenkorn, refused and insisted committee representation would be as usual (percentage of seats as per seats in the Knesset) and that everyone could sit in the plenum far from each other. Zohar refused and the Knesset was paralyzed.

Senior Kahol-Lavan people have issued sharply critical statements against the government and the Likud party's conduct, following the recent decisions it has made: the closure of the courts due to the Corona crisis, the postponement of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's trial, and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein's decision not to allow the election of a new Speaker, Maariv reported. Kahol-Lavan MK Lapid accused Netanyahu of having “closed down the democracy.” Kahol-Lavan MK Moshe Ya'alon accused Israeli Prime Minister of turning Israel into a dictatorship (Yedioth Hebrew) and Kahol-Lavan chairman Benny Gantz said that “Likud… is trying to prevent the work of the Knesset. If it isn’t enough that the Knesset hasn’t functioned for a full year, now they also want the new Knesset to do the minimum required work in a time of crisis.”

The Likud faction head was not done with his parliamentary work. Zohar filed two Knesset bills to try to break up the alliance of Kahol-Lavan and Yisrael Beiteinu with the mostly-Arab Joint List. One bill was to annex the Jordan Beqaa Valley and the other was the death sentence for terrorists. "Let's see this wonderful collaboration between the Joint List and Yisrael Beiteinu and Kahol-Lavan,” Zohar said cynically, "We will see how those against the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state work together with members of Kahol-Lavan and Lieberman. These laws are, after all, laws supported by Lieberman, and also supported by some members of Kahol-Lavan. Will we see them oppose this legislation to please their new members from the Joint List?"
(Also Israel Hayom Hebrew)

Meanwhile, the only person on the Gantz side of the political map who refused to recommend him for prime minister, Gesher Chairwoman MK Orly Levy-Abekasis, broke her ties with Labor and Meretz because of her opposition to a Gantz-led government that would rely on the votes of Arab party members. She will now be an independent one-person faction. (Also Maariv) Maariv/103FM reported that the Direct Polls company released a poll that showed that "A quarter of Kahol-Lavan voters oppose the alliance with the Joint List and prefer elections.”

Corona Quickees:
  • Israeli Coronavirus Surveillance Explained: Who's Tracking You and What Happens With the Data - Confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients' cellphones will be monitored by the Shin Bet security service and police. How will it work? Haaretz explains. (Haaretz+)
  • Lieberman: ”Closure without parliamentary supervision - it is unclear whether it is for the maintenance of public health or for over what happens in the Knesset" - Chairman of Yisrael Beiteinu Avigdor Lieberman attacks Prime Minister for his approval of emergency regulations to deal with the spread of the virus in Israel in the shadow of the political deadlock: "There is no red line that Netanyahu and his people did not cross this campaign.” (Maariv)
  • Netanyahu urges more discipline from the public in the fight against the coronavirus - The PM expresses amazement that people have still not internalized the threat from the spread of coronavirus and do not observe the guidelines and restrictions; says thousands of tests will be done to locate those infected by the virus. (NOTE: Maariv reported this week that a company wanted to import thousands of tests from China and the gov’t did not permit him.) (Ynet)
  • Israeli Coronavirus Diagnoses Spike by 27 Percent, New West Bank Cases Emerge - Police make arrests for violating Health Ministry orders. Top health official warns 'hundreds might die' in Israel as more coronavirus cases confirmed. Two Israeli ministers under quarantine after contact with patient. (Haaretz+)
  • Israel's coronavirus tally up to 324, with 5 in serious condition - The Health Ministry confirms a jump of 20 infected since the morning hours with another patient being admitted in a serious condition; health authorities say there's also a rise in number of those who recover. (Ynet)
  • Police will enforce: fines for isolation violators - Police have announced that they will begin to impose fines on those who violate isolation or violate the directive not to be in a group of up to 10 people. From Thursday or Friday, anyone caught violating the isolation obligation will be fined 5,000 shekels or serve up to half a year in prison. In addition, fines of 3,000 shekels will be given to those who crowd in groups of more than ten people or who do not report to the Ministry of Health the obligation to isolate themselves. (Yedioth Hebrew)
  • Under coronavirus lock down, Israel's Armageddon is like the end of the world - Christian pilgrimage sites see no visitors, deeply hurting the economy of the cities that host them; Over 300 confirmed cases in Israel and over 40 confirmed in the Palestinian Authority.  (Agencies, Ynet)
  • The Terrifying Coronavirus Prediction That Pushed Israel to Take Unprecedented Steps - By this model, the worst-case estimates for the coronavirus epidemic’s spread could cause the healthcare system to collapse entirely. (Haaretz+)
  • Modi'in neighborhood at risk of full closure due to coronavirus - The rise in confirmed cases and the growing number of quarantined residents indicate the neighborhood could be top of the list for full closure in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus but the mayor is still reluctant to take the extreme step. (Yedioth/Ynet)
  • *Blockaded Gaza Looks Wryly on as World Isolates Itself - "Because of the years-long blockade on us, Gaza people better understand the current situation in world countries," said Angham Abu Abed, 24, a computer engineer who works remotely with a software company in Britain.(Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Gazans Returning From Israel Fear They'll Bring Coronavirus Back With Them - Palestinians with permits to leave are Gaza staying put, and cancer patients treated in Israel are required to be kept isolated upon their return. (Haaretz+)
  • Israeli Research Center to Announce It Developed Coronavirus Vaccine, Sources Say - Scientists at the Biological Research Institute are making significant breakthroughs in understanding coronavirus, the sources say, but a long process of pre-clinical and clinical trials is to follow. (Haaretz+)
  • Dollar Jumps to NIS 3.862 as Shares Post a Rare Gain - Israeli institutional investors are scrambling for greenback as overseas share markets fall. (Haaretz+)
  • 1,000 Israeli Backpackers Stranded in Peru Due to Coronavirus Outbreak to Be Flown Home - Foreign Ministry and El Al take decision after South American country suddenly closes its borders due to virus. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
  • Iran warns coronavirus could kill 'millions' in Islamic Republic - A state television report gave the warning hours after hard-line Shiite faithful pushed their way into the courtyards of two major shrines closed due to the coronavirus outbreak. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Wednesday: Iran Reports 147 More Deaths in Largest Spike Since Coronavirus Outbreak in the Islamic Republic - Some 17,361 people having been infection nationwide, as authorities have been accused of mishandling the initial outbreak. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Arab media report: Khamenei was taken to solitary confinement after coming in contact with a corona patient - An official from the office of Iran's top leader confirmed to the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida that one of Supreme Leader Khamenei's senior aides carried the virus. As a result, the Ayatollah was moved to isolation. (Maariv)

Quick Hits:
  • Will Trump’s Mideast Peace Plan Be Another Coronavirus Victim? - Jared Kushner, the architect behind the ‘deal of the century,’ has only one priority at the moment: stopping the pandemic tanking the U.S. economy. (Haaretz+)
  • Construction Worker Killed After Falling From Crane in West Bank Settlement - Incident marks the tenth on-site death this year, after two-year high in workplace deaths recorded in 2019. (Haaretz+)
  • Iraq Ex-governor Named PM-designate as Baghdad Awaits Curfew - The appointment comes after weeks of tense meetings between rival political blocs. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • U.S. Increases Iran Sanctions, Seeks Release of Americans Amid Coronavirus Outbreak - China had called on the U.S. to ease sanctions as the country faces one of the world's worst cornavirus crises, but to no avail. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Saudi-led coalition in Yemen destroys two explosive-laden boats - The two boats constituted a threat to navigation in the Bab al-Mandab Strait, which connects the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea, reported Saudi state news. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Monday Evening: U.S. Base in Iraq Hit With Rockets in Third Major Attack This Week - The rockets hit the Basmaya base near the Iraqi capital on Monday evening, the army statement said Tuesday. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Late Tuesday: Rockets Strike Baghdad's Green Zone in Fourth Attack in a Week, Iraqi Officials Say - Heavily fortified compound hosts U.S. Embassy. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Iran Threatens U.S.: We Responded, Will Keep Responding to Assassination of Soleimani - Two rockets fell outside Baghdad's Green Zone on Tuesday without causing any reported casualties, Iraq's military said in a statement, the fourth such attack in the span of a week. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • After beating the odds, Tunisia's Queer Festival postponed due to coronavirus - The third edition of the Mawjoudin Queer Film Festival was supposed to open this weekend in Tunis. Islamic discourse has not managed to stifle LGBTQ activity in the country, but the coronavirus may have. (Haaretz+)

Elections 2020/Netanyahu Indictment Commentary/Analysis:
A National Unity Government Is the Last Thing Israel Needs (Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz+) After the government circumvented the Knesset to authorize the Shin Bet security service to find out where each of us has been and how he spends his time while separated from the rest of the population; after the justice minister, with a wave of his hand, froze the legal system; and when the finance minister is rubbing Aladdin’s lamp to produce ingots of gold to encourage the economy, without explaining where the money will come from, what’s left for a unity government to do, other than nullify all criticism, oversight or differences of opinion?
After we bury our dead, we will also have to accompany democracy on its last path (Ben Caspit, Maariv) Many believe that "at this time," when Israel is dealing with a deadly epidemic, one should not be caught in trifles. But the Likud does everything to prevent the implementation of the election results in the Knesset and does not stop at anything.
Netanyahu Exploits Coronavirus Fears to Consolidate Authoritarian Hold on Power (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+) Bertrand Russell: 'Neither a man, nor a crowd, nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear.’
Now is not the time to attack Netanyahu (Ben-Dror Yemini, Yedioth/Ynet) As the coronavirus keeps spreading worldwide, some journalists have leveled irresponsible criticism at the PM and the tough decisions he must make; this stems from their anti-Netanyahu obsession and undermines public trust during a major crisis.
Netanyahu’s Coronavirus Coup: Israelis’ Basic Rights Are Now on Life Support (Eva Blum-Dumontet, Haaretz+) By imitating China and Iran, Netanyahu has put Israel’s democratic values in quarantine. He is creating a climate of fear – not of the coronavirus, but of the government.
Be sure that regarding the activities of the Shin Bet - we have someone to trust (Adi Carmi, Maariv) The Shin Bet is committed to the fight against the spread of the Corona virus due to the fact that it has a unique operational capability, which can enable locating people who have a high likelihood of having contracted the virus without their knowledge.
An Epidemic of Surveillance (Haaretz Editorial) Under the cover of the battle against the spread of the coronavirus, Interim Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is concentrating more and more power in his hands, with neither balances nor supervision, and each day he broadens the freedom of action of the security and law enforcement agencies at the expense of individual rights.
The phone surveillance is a tool that can help in the battle for the health of us all (Adv. Oded Revivi, Maariv) Imagine that ten days ago you were in a train car. On the same train you traveled, there was also a man who was ill with Corona. Now, as quickly as possible, all those who were next to him in the train must be contacted. Do you remember which train you sat in? Probably not. But the phone remembers - and the information it provides will save lives. "Sometimes, to get the thing you want most, you have to do the most undesirable thing for you" (from the book "My Sister's Guard"). This sentence should be in the minds of the decision makers. According to the Ministry of Health's position and noting the experience gained in other countries, phone surveillance is the only effective means of "flattening the curve and reducing the size of the infection.”
'Quiet, We’re Sanitizing:' Security Agencies Tightening Grip on Israeli Lives (Noa Landau, Haaretz+) Netanyahu's government, which officially lost its political mandate is nevertheless amassing for itself broad authority in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic.
Vote, but not to dismantle the state (Jonathan S. Tobin, Israel Hayom) Opposing the Joint Arab List has nothing to do with denying equality to Arabs.
Yes, Zionism can cooperate with the Joint List (Dr. Arnon Degani, Ynet Hebrew) The Likud campaign in the last election attacked Kahol-Lavan, claiming it was going to form a government with the aid of the "anti-Zionist" Joint List. Kahol-Lavan did not have a proper answer, other than the denials from which it must now retract with embarrassment and stuttering. It does not have to be this way: If there is a desire to truly express the wishes of most citizens against Binyamin Netanyahu's continued term, no apology or evasion should be made. The truth is that a it is possible to have a Zionist government with the aid - from the outside and from the inside - of the Joint List, while relying on the principles that have accompanied the Zionist movement since its inception. The Joint List’s recommendation (of Benny Gantz) to the President Sunday was a step on the way there. From a historical perspective, the leadership of the state, right and left, clearly recognizes that the security interest - a very "Zionist" interest - is the full integration of Arab citizens into society. Indeed, despite the exclusion, discrimination, and even institutionalized violence of the early days of the state, in the test of results, the integration proved itself. From the early years, the Arab community in Israel and its political leadership recognized the legitimacy of the state, the logic of its establishment and even the Jewish affinity for the Land of Israel. The political struggles of the Arabs in Israel, in the vast majority of cases, became non-violent and within the limits of the law. In the last two decades, a growing trend of "Palestinianization" has been evident in Arab society in Israel, which includes a withdrawal of support for Zionist parties and a growing adoption of the symbols, narratives and agenda of the Palestinian national movement. The Israeli mainstream is very concerned about this trend, which is falls like a ripe fruit for right-wing propaganda. But precisely because of the strengthening of Palestinian identity, the voices in Arab society that pushed for cooperation with Kahol-Lavan, and even with  Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party are particularly surprising. Unlike the days of Mapai and the military government, the recent moves of the Joint List cannot be dismissed as motivated from fear or a personal interest from "dignitaries." It’s willingness to recommend Benny Gantz reflects the adoption of a pragmatic approach and the abandonment of ideological purity that many of its Jewish supporters are uncomfortable with. Kahol-Lavan can and should claim that this would be a shame for generations if we ignore this outreach of an authentic faction of the Palestinian people toward the Israeli-Zionist mainstream. In other words, recognizing that the Joint List constitutes a faithful representation of the Arabs in Israel, Kahol-Lavan representatives have the opportunity to follow the past Zionist leaders, such as Moshe Sharett, Levi Eshkol and Menachem Begin, who advocated lowering the walls between Jews and Arabs in Israel. Those who argue against the move in the name of "Zionist" values ignore the fact that over the years the goals of Zionism and the relationship between its values have changed. If we were to show David Ben-Gurion the platform of Balad (a component of the Joint List) in the 1920s, he would have signed it. If Moshe Dayan were to have eulogized Roi Rothberg today, Netanyahu's noisy supporters on social media would call him a "terrorist advocate who identifies with the Palestinian narrative." [Reference to famous eulogy Dayan gave at funeral of Rothberg. Excerpt:
“Early yesterday morning Roi was murdered. The quiet of the spring morning dazzled him and he did not see those waiting in ambush for him, at the edge of the furrow. Let us not cast the blame on the murderers today. Why should we declare their burning hatred for us? For eight years they have been sitting in the refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we have been transforming the lands and the villages, where they and their fathers dwelt, into our estate. It is not among the Arabs in Gaza, but in our own midst that we must seek Roi's blood.” - OH] Go to the different party platforms of the (four) components that make up the Joint List. You won't find affection for Zionism, but all of them recognize Jews as a national community connected to the land. Instead of engaging in the ranks between Zionism and anti-Zionism, imagine what a radical American professor who supports BDS and who is not willing to buy chickpeas produced by an Israeli company would say, while Dr. (and Joint List MK) Ahmed Tibi supports to be prime minister the man who was chief of staff during Operation Protective Edge. --Dr. Arnon Degani is a research fellow at ‘Molad’ - the Center for Democracy Renewal.
What’s Happening Here Is a Transfer of Citizenship (Menachem Mautner, Haaretz+) The idea of population transfer has accompanied Zionism since its outset. Until the state was established, Jews were a minority in the Land of Israel. According to the November 1947 partition plan, 45 percent of the Jewish state’s population were to be Palestinian Arabs. Under these conditions, one possibility that was discussed by Zionist leaders was the transfer of Palestinians. Ever since the declaration of independence, Israel’s stance has been that Arab citizens are entitled to equal rights on an individual basis, but not to national rights. This position was reiterated in the nation-state law that the Knesset passed in 2018. Physical transfer is a moral abomination, whereas transfer of citizenship is a democratic abomination. As noted, it flies in the face of Israel’s position since its establishment.
Israel needs a 'national responsibility government' (Alex Traiman, Israel Hayom) After a year-long political impasse and with the nation facing unprecedented challenges and opportunities, Israel's elected MKs must recognize that this moment calls for national responsibility, and for the creation of a functioning, Zionist parliamentary majority.
An outline for national reconstruction (Manuel Trachtenberg, Yedioth Hebrew) In the midst of the Corona epidemic, we are sunk in health anxiety on the one hand, and in dealing with the disruption of everyday life on the other hand. But beyond these existential concerns is an equally heavy cloud: the ongoing political deadlock, which undermines the authorities' ability to make decisions, set priorities and initiate necessary processes to fight the rapidly spreading virus. For the very same reasons, the Corona poses to all those concerned with respectable ladders, not to step down from the tree but to climb to a position of responsible leadership, which seeks to restore confidence and expand the joint responsibility of Israeli citizens. Here is a simple, fair, transparent outline that, with one glance, could resolve the deadlock: a national emergency government will be set up for 6 months; Netanyahu will serve as prime minister, and Gantz as his replacement. At the end of the six months, rotation will take place, and Gantz will be appointed prime minister. All government decisions are taken by a two-thirds majority and not by a simple majority. Top priority will be given for passing a budget for 2020 and 2021. The government formation will be done in two stages. In the first phase, the Likud and Kahol-Lavan will formulate the government's basic lines, which will determine, inter alia, that the status quo will be maintained on religious and state affairs, policy towards the Palestinians, and relations between the authorities. The distribution of ministerial portfolios between them will be done according to the key of 4 MKs for each minister - meaning, the Likud will receive 8 ministries in addition to the prime minister, and Kahol-Lavan will receive 8 ministries, including the Defense and Justice ministries - and in the second stage all other parties will be invited to join the government based on these basic lines, except when the key for them will be 6 MKs per ministry. Thus, each of the other parties joining will receive one ministry, and the Joint List will receive two. If the Joint List does not join, Kahol-Lavan will receive two more ministries…It is important that a different dynamic is created, and that bitter political enemies sit side by side - leading to a recovery process, which divided and exhausted Israeli society is desperately in need of…

Other Commentary/Analysis:
What History Can Teach Us About the Coronavirus (Irad Malkin, Haaretz+) Epidemics shake up a society, its economy, culture, religions and environment, but the biggest concern is social and moral deterioration. Gird your loins.
Much more than a closure (Sever Plocker, Yedioth Hebrew) An official closure - in fact, a comprehensive curfew on a civilian population - is a decree that the public in a democratic state cannot withstand for more than two weeks: after that, the patience of the civilians who are shut in their homes expires, the violations of the curfew jump, and the blanket of the severe prohibitions becomes increasingly full of holes. In the end, the closure becomes a fiction. Man is, first and foremost, a social being. In addition to psychology and sociology is economics. True, the main thing is health - but not only corona affects one’s health. The severe damages to normal functioning of economic life, crashes in the capital markets, rising unemployment, the severe fear of loss of livelihood and pensions - all of which will be reflected, as many studies show, in a sharp rise in suicide rates, drug and alcohol consumption, domestic violence, uncontrolled obesity, severe stress and wild behavior. All of these phenomena have devastating health outcomes, some irreversible, possibly more severe than Corona. They must not be ignored. Hence the crucial importance of the timing of the closure; Not too late, but not too early either. A distinction must be made between community and social distancing, domestic isolation and avoidance of interaction with foreigners, and total closure, complete elimination of social life and almost complete paralysis of economic life for a relatively long period. The first moves are necessary, and the sooner the better. On the other hand, closure for over two weeks, give or take, should only be step of "no alternative,” when there really is no alternative and other options run out. Millions of people in the country and hundreds of millions around the world will not remain locked in their homes and absent from work for many months, or even a few months. This is impractical - both in a democracy and in a dictatorship. The curfew was lifted from many provinces in China much earlier than the medical establishment there recommended…If and when Israel reaches the declaration of a general closure, citizens must be assured above all that this will not be a political move, but a very precise result of the national costs and benefits - health, social and economic - of this severe step.
Israelis Face Draconian Measures as Government Fears Losing Control of Virus (Amos Harel, Haaretz+) Authorities take a half-step toward a police-enforced closure, while plans to use geolocation data raise serious rights concerns.
Is Tehran exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to continue its nuclear pursuit? (Israel Kasnett, Israel Hayom) Iran's leaders might be focused on dealing with the coronavirus, but on the flip side, they might also be taking advantage of it.
The Bernie Sanders Paradox: Why Liberals Aren't Ready for a Jewish President (Etan Nechin, Haaretz+) The Sanders candidacy represents a type of Judaism that not only threatens the right wing, but also challenges the liberal left.
Obeying the Talmud in coronavirus crisis (Chen Artzi Sror, Yedioth/Ynet) The insistence on keeping the ultra-Orthodox education institutions open it a time where gatherings are strictly prohibited is sacrilege that contradicts the basic Talmudic principle of saving a life above everything else.
Prepared for APN by Orly Halpern, independent freelance journalist based in Jerusalem.
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