News Nosh 3.22.20

APN's daily news review from Israel
Sunday March 22, 2020

 
Quote of the day:
“The attempt to prevent the elected Knesset from overseeing what an unelected prime minister does is a coup attempt. And as long as the Knesset is not functioning, we live in a dictatorship.”
Yuval Noah Harari in a chilling Op-Ed in today's Yedioth Ahronoth.*

You Must Be Kidding #1: 
Netanyahu and three Likud ministers wanted to shut down the Knesset for corona-related reasons, but don't down synagogues even though a third of the corona infected cases were tracked back to synagogues. In the Jewish Diaspora synagogues were closed.**

You Must Be Kidding #2: 
Israeli police went into a Palestinian neighborhood in E. Jerusalem to apprehend a young man suspected of performing sanitation work on behalf of the Palestinian Authority in E. Jerusalem, which police do not allow. And residents said that arrests are conducted without protective gear and police officers do not abide by the social-distancing orders.***


Front Page:
Haaretz
  • 88-year-old from Jerusalem died of corona virus; Number of infected skyrocketed to 883
  • Netanyahu and the minister in Likud pushed to close down the Knesset using emergency regulations
  • Not the last call // Yossi Verter
  • Implementation of limitations to movement delayed due to debate over shopping malls (and open markets)
  • More than a third of the recent sick whose path was made public visited synagogues
  • Within a day: Number of dead in Italy jumped by 800, more than 5,000 sick in Spain
  • Official documents reveal: Lack of protective and emergency gear, Israel is in a race to equip
  • Center for Disease Control requested test for monitoring corona two weeks ago
  • Israel considering closing Shuafat checkpoint (in E. Jerusalem) and disconnecting tens of thousands of people from Jerusalem
  • The murder in Um al-Fahem reveals the double danger to Arab women under closure
  • Meals to the door, without medical treatment: A look inside the corona hotels
  • Israel before the ego // Gideon Levy
  • Back to the jungle // Yossi Melman
  • Leaving the framework // Naama Riba
  • According to the estimates, 1/4 of all people in Israel will be sent to furlough
  • Like in a horror film: Athletes who went into quarantine hope that the money won’t run out before they can return to the field
Yedioth Ahronoth
  • Failure #1: The doctors are exposed
  • Failure #2: The labs don’t work (on Shabbat)
  • Corona crisis: 883 infected, 15 in serious condition
  • Half a million unemployed in Israel
  • The first death
  • The surrogate parents who got stuck abroad
  • Due to the situation: Lack of eggs
  • This is how the soccer players’ fees will plunge
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
Israel Hayom
  • The plan to treat thousands of sick
  • The compensation for corona unemployed: Everything you need to know
  • The key to change: Increasing tests and self-discipline // Prof. Ran Blitzer
  • Defense Ministry must take command of the crisis
  • “Gantz, you said Israel before everything, not Lapid before everything”
  • Kahol-Lavan pushes Israel to anarchy // Amnon Lord
  • To save Israel: Emergency government now // Yaakov Berdugo



Top News Summary:
The first Israeli corona death, lack of protective gear for medical staff, fear of a million unemployed people and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s latest unity government offer to Kahol-Lavan leader Benny Gantz were top stories in today’s Hebrew newspapers, while many commentators expressed fear for Israel’s democracy.

Yedioth and Maariv reported that doctors were using the same surgical mask all day long, sometimes for two days. A doctor in the ER told Yedioth Hebrew: "We have been abandoned. Patients arrive with masks from home while we don’t have. It’s absurd.” As of Saturday night, 3,030 medical personnel were in isolation, including 814 doctors and 893 nurses. Maariv reported that someone actually stole masks and disinfectant liquid from Ichilov hospital. Moreover, Palestinians in Israeli jails and in E. Jerusalem complained that Israeli security forces were not using protective gear in searches of them (See Corona Quickees below). A lack of corona testing continued to be a problem and labs were closed for Shabbat, infuriating many. But the first corona test drive-thru was opened in Tel-Aviv for people who had received ‘invitations,’ Yedioth reported. In an interview on Channel 12 Saturday night, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the number of coronavirus deaths could reach the thousands. (See Corona Quickees below for more corona-related news.)

Elections 2020 / Netanyahu Indictment News:
In that interview, Netanyahu offered Kahol-Lavan party (for the third time) an ‘emergency’ national unity government, promising he would step down after the first 18 months. He also blamed MK Yair Lapid, one of the four Kahol-Lavan leaders, of preventing it. "I will evacuate [office] on the date we decide, there will be no tricks, no shticks. Millions of citizens are waiting for us to save Israel. This is the last call for unity,” he said. He also accused Kahol-Lavan of attempting to “depose the Speaker of the Knesset,” when, actually, Kahol-Lavan leader Benny Gantz was given the mandate to form a government and therefore has the right to vote to replace the Speaker. Last Wednesday, Speaker Yuli Edelstein prevented the Knesset from convening to vote to replace him. However, many, including from Kahol-Lavan saw Netanyahu’s offer as ‘spin.’ Gantz responded to Netanyahu’s offer on Twitter: "Netanyahu, anyone who wants unity doesn't impose ultimatums, use partial leaks and most certainly does not hurt democracy or the citizens and does not paralyze the Knesset. Lapid also dismissed the PM's offer as insincere. Yedioth political reporter, Yuval Karni, wrote that Netanyahu went back on his words too many times for his opponents and allies to trust him. Other Kahol-Lavan members wrote  on Twitter that Netanyahu was falsely claiming that if a new Speaker were chosen, the country would collapse and that Netanyahu “does not accept the fact that he has no majority in the Knesset.” (Maariv) Gantz supporters made a demonstration outside his home Saturday night, calling on him not to join a unity government. Gantz promised: "On Monday, we will open the Knesset and keep our promises,” Maariv reported.

Yedioth’s judicial reporter Tova Tzimuki wrote that today Attorney General Avichai Mendelblitt was expected to warn Sunday (and he did) that the emergency situation, as bad as it gets, cannot harm the basic principles of democracy that require first of all, the rule of law, protection of individual rights, judicial review of state authorities and the Knesset's oversight of government work. In a telephone conference cabinet meeting last Thursday, Likud ministers David Amsalem, Ze'ev Elkin and Yariv Levin, all close allies of Netanyahu, as well as Netanyahu argued that Knesset activity should be suspended, due to new Health Ministry coronavirus regulations. A Knesset shutdown would prevent passing motions that threaten Netanyahu's hold on power. Other ministers rejected the initiative and so did Mendelblitt.

Last Thursday, world-renowned Israeli historian and intellectual, Yuval Noah Harari, warned on Twitter against a 'Coronavirus Dictatorship' in Israel  ‘under pretext of fighting’ the coronavirus outbreak, to which Netanyahu's son, Yair, called Harari ‘stupid.’ Today, Yedioth published an Op-Ed by Harari, in which he called the shuttering of the Knesset last week “an attempted coup.” (See Commentary/Analysis below.)

A transcript of the police questioning showed one of the eight Israeli protesters, who were detained Thursday for demonstrating against the ‘assault on democracy,' was kept after the others were released and interrogated to find out who led the protest, Haaretz+ reported. When questioned about the demonstration’s alleged violation of Health Ministry orders, the protester asked: “Is there a reason I was put into a police car with five people, and not a single one of them had their face covered?” He added: “Democracy is more important for me than getting the coronavirus,” and argued that his actions were not in violation of regulations to contain the outbreak.

Meanwhile, Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman, Avigdor Lieberman said he wants a unity government, but not with Netanyahu, Maariv reported. “Netanyahu cannot become Mao Tse Tung. There is no cabinet and no transitional government - everything he holds alone, he took all the powers. He uses the corona to skip political processes. I don’t remember that we used such measures against civilians without the Knesset's approval." At the same time, Maariv ran an Op-Ed by Lieberman’s former political strategist and suggested that Netanyahu should resign voluntarily and Lieberman would support a plea bargain and a pardon for him. (See Commentary/Analysis below.)

Also of interest, a poll by a fairly new polling company, Direct Polls Ltd., found that if elections were held now, Netanyahu would easily defeat Kahol-Lavan and receive 40 Knesset seats and form a 62-seat right-wing ultra-Orthodox coalition, while Kahol-Lavan would only get 30 seats. But as Shimon Shiffer writes in Yedioth today (See Commentary/Analysis below), one of the two right-wing owners of Direct Polls, Shlomo Filber, was Netanyahu’s close associate and acted as per his instructions and now is a state witness in one of the worst corruption cases in Israel’s history. Globes Hebrew wrote that Filber and co-owner Tzuriel Sharon were behind Netanyahu’s infamous race-baiting statement, “The Arabs are going in droves to the polls,” of the 2015 election campaign.


Corona Quickees:
  • **Coronavirus Cases Traced Back to Synagogues, but Israel Won't Enforce Regulations - A police document obtained by Haaretz shows synagogues effectively excluded from 10-person cap on public gatherings, despite over a third of latest confirmed patients visiting houses of worship in the days preceding their diagnosis. (Haaretz+)
  • Friday prayers canceled in mosques across Israel, West Bank amid coronavirus fears - Israel Police partially closed most of the gates of Jerusalem's Old City to minimize the number of worshipers for the Friday noon prayer on the Al-Aqsa Mosque. (Haaretz+)
  • Jerusalem's Sepulchre church tells visitors to keep distance due to coronavirus - "The Holy Sepulchre is the ultimate place of hope. Hope that faith will defeat doubt, light will defeat darkness and life will triumph over death," church leaders say in a statement. (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
  • Concern Grows in Israel Over 'Terrorist-tracking' Methods to Keep Tabs on Coronavirus Patients - Top security officials worry about how the decision was made and what its repercussions could be: exposure of Israeli intelligence methods, leaks of personal information and a worrisome precedent for democracy. (Haaretz+)
  • ***Israeli Police Continue Operating in Flash Point East Jerusalem Neighborhood Amid Coronavirus Outbreak - Isawiyah residents describe officers without protective gear making arrests without following government orders on maintaining distance. (Haaretz+)
  • Palestinian Prisoners in Israeli Jails Threaten Hunger Strike Over Coronavirus Response - Inmates complain of ban on meeting attorneys and lack of protective measures by guards during searches in their cells without any protective gloves or face masks. (Haaretz+)
  • For Palestinian Construction Workers in Israel, the Coronavirus Is Just One More Danger - Tens of thousands of laborers from West Bank continue to work in Israel – without protective masks or gloves – because construction is deemed essential to the economy. (Haaretz+)
  • Sunday: First Two Coronavirus Cases Confirmed in Gaza - The two Palestinians who tested positive for coronavirus had returned from Pakistan and entered Gaza through Egypt. (Agencies, Haaretz and Ynet)
  • Murder of (Arab) Teenager Shows Dual Risk for (Arab) Women Under Coronavirus Quarantine - Hotlines flooded with calls from (Arab) women confined with abusive partners or families. (Haaretz+)
  • The lack of medical equipment: Doctors use the same surgical mask daily - Doctors and nurses in all hospitals continue to complain about a lack of medical equipment that should protect their health. 3,030 medical personnel are in isolation, including 814 doctors and 893 nurses. (Maariv)
  • Satmar rebbe of Kiryas Yoel diagnosed with coronavirus - All Satmar institutions of both Kiryas Yoel and Williamsburg ordered shut by respective grand rabbis in US and Israel. (Maariv and JPost)
  • Israel Halts Online Schooling for Students Affected by Coronavirus Closures - Teachers discover that the Finance Ministry does not consider remote teaching to be work and they would not be paid for online lessons. (Haaretz+)
  • Israel approves licensing of HIV drug to treat coronavirus - Health Ministry says anti-viral drug Kaletra, produced by AbbVie Inc, could be a possible treatment for COVID-19. (Agencies, Ynet)
  • 117 investigations and dispersal of weddings: Police are fighting the (closure) violators - With the harsher restrictions of the Ministry of Health's guidelines, police officers are struggling with isolation violators and those holding larg crowds. Three weddings in the (Bedouin) village of Aruar were dispersed and the event owners were detained for questioning. (Maariv)
  • “He didn’t heed calls": A man walking on a railroad track in Rosh Hayin was shot by security guards, his condition is serious - A 35-year-old man was seriously injured after being shot by security personnel near the north train station of Rosh HaAyin. From a preliminary probe, the police found that the shooting took place when he was walking alongside the railway tracks and he did not respond to the calls of the security guards, who fired at his leg. (Maariv)
  • Israel Police Preparing for Coronavirus Worst-case Scenario. This Is What It Might Look Like -  The current state of the outbreak in Israel is defined by authorities as “stage 1,” in which the police intend to boost its presence on the roads starting last Friday, and to enforce restrictions mainly on businesses operating in violation of emergency regulations. At this stage, a person leaving their home in defiance of the instructions will not be held criminally liable except in extreme cases, not yet defined by the police. At stage 2, city inspectors will help police enforce the movement restrictions, and people will be questioned alongside “strict deterrence” measures in areas that are under isolation. In 'stage 3', entire districts would be blocked off and inspection stations would be set up to monitor pedestrians. (Haaretz+)
  • Without a conscience: Medical protective gear stolen from Ichilov Hospital - The medical teams at the Tel-Aviv hospital discovered that the masks and sanitizing gel disappeared. (Maariv, p. 11)
  • Passover Downsized: Coronavirus Throws a Matza Wrench Into Jewish Holiday Tradition - With Israel’s Health Ministry already recommending that the Passover seder be kept to the nuclear family, this year aunts, uncles, cousins – and even kibbutz members – will have to do their own thing at home due to coronavirus. (Haaretz+)
  • The bright side? Virus lockdown cuts Israel's air pollution by 30% - The sharp drop in economic activity as part of the efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus results in zero traffic congestion, which has significantly improved Israel's air quality, Environmental Protection Ministry reports. (Israel Hayom)
  • Dispute Over Closing Markets in Israel Delayed Emergency Coronavirus Orders - Police say they can’t enforce latest measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak because there are too many loopholes. (Haaretz+)
  • Israeli Retail Sales Plunge Amid Coronavirus Outbreak and Merchants Fear the Worst - The exceptions – electronics stores and supermarkets – fare well as families stock up on food and refrigerators to store it. (Haaretz+)
  • Coronavirus: Under emergency law, Jordan seals capital - Jordanian army locked down Amman Thursday amid scramble to contain the coronavirus. (Agencies, Haaretz and Yedioth Hebrew)
  • Coronavirus: Egypt to shut all cafes, malls, sporting clubs overnight until March 31 - Egypt has so far registered 210 cases of the new coronavirus, including 6 deaths. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Iran is kneeling under the Corona crisis: More than 150 dead in the last 24 hours - Citizens violated curfew in Jordan, in Sudan they announced a disinfectant crisis, Syria announced general closure and Tunisia stopped domestic flights - Arab world faces the spread of the virus. (Maariv)
  • Iran's leaders strike upbeat tone as coronavirus death toll climbs - On Friday, President Rohani marked the new year by promising a better economy: 'We will put the coronavirus behind us soon with unity, hard work and cooperation.’ (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Without soap or sanitizer, Syrian refugees face coronavirus threat - 'They gave us an awareness session and one bar of soap each, but this is not enough,' said one refugee. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Weakened by War and Hunger, Yemen Braces for Coronavirus - Yemen's shattered healthcare infrastructure and already weakened population suggest the virus could wreak more havoc if takes hold. (Agencies, Haaretz)

 

Quick Hits:
  • Israeli Police's Violent Arrest of Arabs in Jaffa Caught on Camera - 'They started beating me on the head with handcuffs, and four of them attacked me inside the car and hit me.’ Police said the two required medical attention following the arrest. (Haaretz+ and YouTube)
  • Suspected murder in (Arab-Israeli town) Tira: a young man was shot dead - Unknown persons shot dead Mohammed Suleiman, who was in his 20's, and severely injured his relative. No suspects have been arrested and the background is unknown. Since the beginning of the year: 14 people were murdered in Arab society. (Ynet Hebrew and Maariv)
  • Lebanon FM Summons U.S. Envoy Over Ex-member of Israel-backed Militia Being Flown Out - Hezbollah decries 'American interference,' tries to distance itself from the decision to let the Lebanese-American man leave the country. The Lebanese-American man, Amer Fakhoury, was ordered released Monday by a judge in Lebanon because more than 10 years had passed since he allegedly tortured prisoners at a jail run by an Israel-backed Lebanese militia. Fakhoury has denied the charges. Fakhoury was transferred on Thursday amid unclear circumstances, and U.S. officials later confirmed that he was aboard a U.S. Marine V-22 Osprey seen taking off from the U.S. Embassy compound northeast of Beirut. (Agencies, Haaretz)


Elections 2020/Netanyahu Indictment Commentary/Analysis:
Between Corruption Cases and an Attempted Coup: What Drives Netanyahu (Gidi Weitz, Haaretz+) Only one thing is stopping Israel’s prime minister from realizing his authoritarian vision: Control of the media.
*Coup attempt (Yuval Noah Harari, Yedioth Hebrew) How do you know that a coup attempt is taking place in the country? It is not simple. No big address appears in the sky "Coup!" The sun continues to shine, children continue to play, people continue to eat. Everything looks normal. When in the USSR there was an attempted coup in 1991, citizens realized that something stinky was happening because on television they broadcast Swan Lake. Across all channels. Again and again in an endless loop. No matter what time you looked at a channel - you only saw ballet. On our televisions, there is now Swan Lake. More and more nonsense talk (pun on word ‘swan’ in Hebrew) on Corona. On all the channels in an endless loop. And under the auspices of the nonsensical talk (‘swans’), a coup attempt is underway. There is no doubt that corona is very important. But corona will pass away at the end, while we will live with the results of the decisions that are currently being made for many more years. These are decisions about life and death, the limits of our freedom, and the distribution of tens of billions (of shekels).  These decisions are currently being made by one person who is accused of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, and who has failed in the last year in three attempts to gain the trust of the people. And the people's elected officials do not supervise what this person decides, because that person has disabled the Knesset. If this person decides to hand over several billion to his friend Yitzhak Tshuva - who will oversee it? If he decides to close media "to avoid spreading panic" - who's going to stop him? There are many other democratic states that are now issuing emergency orders. It is necessary and it is legitimate - because those who issue the orders in Italy or Canada are democratically elected governments by the people. With us, those who issue the orders are someone who has not received a mandate from the people.  About two weeks ago, the people of Israel actually mandated one institution to represent us - the Knesset. But instead of the Knesset convening, electing a chairman, setting up committees and monitoring what is happening here, Netanyahu's emissaries shut it down with an excuse for protecting the health of the MKs. What do we need healthy MKs for if they do not perform their duties in such an emergency? Doctors, police officers and supermarket sellers continue to work despite the fear of infection. So can MKs. Protective suits can be provided to MKs. Online meetings can be held. There are many solutions. But the Knesset must start working immediately. If the Knesset then decides to put its trust in Netanyahu, it is entirely within its authority. If it decides to put its trust in someone else, that’s fine, too. But the attempt to prevent our elected Knesset from overseeing what an unelected prime minister does is a coup attempt. And as long as the Knesset is not functioning, we live in a dictatorship. This coup attempt can be stopped. In Israel, as in Israel, even coups are done with the "success method.” Shut the Knesset up for a few days and see what happens. If the media is silent, Gantz restrains himself, the High Court hesitates and the public ignores, then the Knesset will remain closed. The coup was successful. If the media screams, Gantz is furious, the High Court roars and the public takes to the streets, they will say "What are you making an elephant out of a fly? It's just a small misunderstanding." We must not let the ‘success method’ succeed. Tomorrow is a test of survival for Israeli democracy. If the Knesset does not convene tomorrow, does not elect a new chairman, does not appoint committees - then it will probably not happen anymore. It is the responsibility of all of us to prevent this coup. At least for one day, we must stop watching the Swan Lake and turn our eyes to the Knesset. And if Netanyahu and his messengers, nevertheless, dare to continue the coup attempt even with all the spotlight on them, then the only thing that can stop it is if the citizens take to the streets.
No democracy, no worries (Tsur Shezaf, Yedioth/Ynet) With the government implementing a myriad of anti-democratic measures meant to halt the spread of the coronavirus, we need to realize that Israel’s political system has been a casualty of the crisis.
*Knesset Speaker Edelstein and His Puppet Master Netanyahu, Free Israel's Parliament (Haaretz Editorial) Since a majority of Knesset members – 61 out of 120 – oppose the government, Edelstein was dispatched to block the activity of the legislature and prevent it from voting in a new speaker. It is inconceivable that a temporary speaker would use his authority to set the agenda in order to prevent the selection of a permanent speaker. It is parliamentary bullying, and it must stop immediately. Particularly egregious is the attempt to exploit the Health Ministry’s directives in order to impose paralyzing restrictions on the legislative branch, while inventing excuses such as the threat to the lawmakers’ health. The Knesset is an essential workplace of the first order. Just as physicians, nurses, pharmacists, bankers or supermarket clerks continue to work in spite of the coronavirus pandemic, so too must the Knesset members do their duty, including supervising the government and managing the crisis.
Netanyahu Finally Laid Out His Proposal for Unity, but Gantz Doesn't Seem Impressed (Yossi Verter, Haaretz+) Despite internal disputes, Kahol Lavan is unlikely to disband, now that its quartet of commanders effectively grew by one to include Lieberman.
Benny Gantz and the pyromaniacal cockpit (Caroline B. Glick, Israel Hayom) Amidst a global pandemic, the threat of war with Iran and economic collapse, the Blue and White Party is dead set on bringing Netanyahu down – even if it means taking Israel down with him.
Under Coronavirus Emergency, Gantz Surrenders Unconditionally to Netanyahu’s Continued Rule (Aluf Benn, Haaretz+) As Kahol Lavan leader fantasized about a rotation for PM that will never happen, Netanyahu plans to convince the attorney general that the coronavirus crisis requires canceling his corruption trial.
Constitutional sabotage of the democratic process (Prof. Eugene Kontorovich, Israel Hayom) The series of laws Blue and White seeks to pass aim to disqualify one of the two main possible PMs, leaving Benny Gantz the next prime minister by default.
Israel Adopts Chinese Model to Tackle Coronavirus: Emergency as a Way of Life (Rogel Alpher, Haaretz+) A deep respect was heard for the Chinese authorities in Israeli television, radio and written media, as well as a degree of regret, if not sadness, over the presumption that Israeli authorities would be prevented from introducing similar measures. “Of course such methods would be impossible to take in a democratic country,” went the boilerplate summary wrapping up these reports and discussions. That “of course” contained more than a pinch of envy and admiration for the liberty enjoyed by the Chinese authorities in emergencies. The speakers were not necessarily supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Two months later, the Chinese model no longer seems so unattainable. It’s no longer necessary to sigh when mentioning that Israel is a democracy, as if that were a birth defect that hinders the state’s ability to protect its citizens in an emergency. A lockdown and subsequent economic devastation have been in the air for a long time. The thought was that it would come about amid a war against Hezbollah and Iran, when thousands of missiles would be fired at Israel. Surprisingly, it is taking shape in a different context, in the face of an “invisible enemy,” as Netanyahu termed it.
Netanyahu, internalize your situation: Lieberman is your only rescue wheel (Menny Pe'er, Maariv) After the emergency situation returns to normal and we return to a more sane world, we hope, it will be clear that the better Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu internalizes that Lieberman is determined to refuse (to join a government with him), maybe then he'll finally realize that it is in his interest to resign voluntarily and with his self-respect, and take advantage of the time he has earned from postponing his trial, in favor of signing a good plea deal for himself, which will free us all from the harsh views of a humiliated prime minister. No one, except those filled with unnecessary hatred of Bibi, wants it, and certainly not when it comes to a man who...has done so much for the State of Israel, its image, its security and its development. Moreover, I would suggest that all the Knesset members unite around a passionate call, transparently, for the President of the State, to grant a pardon to Netanyahu, and that he resign, respectfully, now, or when the corona is less threatening. When the Corona period is over, it would be appropriate for a Zionist national unity government to be formed with another Likud chairman (Edelstein, Erdan, Galant, Sa'ar or Katz), along with Kahol-Lavan - united or not, Yisrael-Beiteinu, Labor-Meretz and Gesher. And in my opinion, the ultra-Orthodox should be in this government, but accept Lieberman's basic principles, which are also agreed on in Kahol-Lavan and are acceptable to most Likud members. And if, in due course, Netanyahu insists on deluding himself that it is not a torrential rain that splashed on his head and will mistakenly hope that the arsenal of ideas to hasten the end of his term has expired, he will probably find that there are still creative ideas - but then the plea bargain option and perhaps the option of a moving call (for a pardon) may also be missed. Quite a few concerned voices are heard about the government's handling of the Corona crisis. Please - stop worrying that Israel will not exist if Netanyahu does not lead it. Even Miri Regev, Minister of Culture Affairs, will soon discover that not only does Netanyahu have a replacement, but he has excellent substitutes. Be a realistic moment and put aside political opinions and feelings. Be assured that three IDF chiefs of staff, along with Lieberman, a person who I am personally acquainted with, and putting objectivity aside, I can say that Israel does not have many people with the leadership, judgment, calmness, extensive knowledge, decision-making ability, and wide Zionist vision, that he has, will know how to manage the Corona crisis and the other challenges around - no less than Netanyahu and probably better than him, especially in a country that has been blessed with the best doctors and nurses in the world, and the best emergency medics service in the world...So for the attention of the reader, Netanyahu, we will not bother you at the moment, but begin to internalize your situation and you will find that one day in the future your rescue wheel of 2020 was called Avigdor Lieberman. (The writer is a strategic-communications consultant, "Pe-er Levine Communications."  Full Disclosure - The writer served in the last campaign as a personal strategic advisor to Avigdor Lieberman.)
Netanyahu Rises to the Challenges Posed by the Coronavirus. But You're Still Not Satisfied (Israel Harel, Haaretz+) The leaders of the “anyone but Bibi” party are negotiating with the “only Bibi” party about establishing an emergency unity government. In short, what was once treyf is now kosher. If this is truly the moment when all the creatures of the world will be judged, the man most appropriate to manage it – and there’s no comparison – is Benjamin Netanyahu. In their heart of hearts, even Kahol Lavan’s leaders think so.
****At-risk Group (Shimon Schiffer, Yedioth Hebrew) 1.) The Corona has tagged me as one of the biggest risk groups for getting the virus. Fear of death is supposed to hover over the heads of those who have passed the age of 60 and are defined as "adults," or "elderly.” So, in these days of dealing with the Corona, let me say something to Benny Gantz, who said once that his son Nadav persuaded him as they sat down together for a beer to get off the fence and join the political establishment to save the country from politicians, led by Netanyahu, who lost the moral compass that was supposed to mark mark their path. And now, just before Gantz might join Netanyahu's government, he should remember not us, the older ones who have already seen everything in politics, but the "young people" - those whose chances of surviving the Corona virus are immeasurably greater than ours. For their sake, stand by the principles you have sold to them. 2)…Israeli democracy did not go on unpaid leave. After they instructed us to live in quarantine, to give up salaries and to live in economic uncertainty, everyone must be vigilant and demand that elected officials adhere to the rules of the game through which we will live here the day after…4.) 4. And there is also a new poll recently published: If the Knesset elections were held today, the right-wing bloc would win 62 seats, the Likud would sweep 40 seats, the Joint List 16, and Lieberman would have been left with 7 seats. Kahol-Lavan, on the other hand, would shrunk to 30 seats. The survey was conducted by Shlomo Filber (of Direct Polls), the state witness in Case 4000 where Netanyahu is accused of taking bribes…Tell me who did the survey and I will guess exactly what the results were.
Unity Under Bibi Would Be Capitulation (Friday Haaretz Editorial) The worrying reports that Kahol Lavan chairman Benny Gantz is leaning toward agreeing to a unity government in which Benjamin Netanyahu would serve as prime minister first – even at the price of breaking up the Kahol Lavan joint ticket – implies a complete capitulation by Gantz. It would also be a suicidal step for the governmental alternative to Netanyahu that he built.
Netanyahu's unity problem: No one trusts him (Yuval Karni, Yedioth/Ynet) The prime minister is not believed either by both his opponents or his allies, having gone back on his word too many times; even a political novice like Gantz knows his promises cannot be counted on.
Netanyahu Is the Best There Is for Now. Gantz Must Join Him to Minimize Damage (Gideon Levy, Haaretz+) Benny Gantz joining a government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not a disaster. In fact, it is the only possibility that is left, except for the continued deadlock that will lead to another round of elections. While those who can’t stand Netanyahu are once again beating their drums loudly against such a step, in reality only Kahol Lavan joining the government could put a halt to the dangers they are warning about.
Coronavirus Conspiracies: In an Israel on Edge, Panic-mongering Incitement Can Kill (Edan Ring, Haaretz+) Conservative TV stars slur Arab citizens as 'quarantine refusers,' politicians spread debunked paranoid theories. Disinformation on the coronavirus is spreading like wildfire in Israel - and it poses a real public danger.

Other Commentary/Analysis:
Coronavirus Crisis Forces Israel and Palestinians to Stare Into the Same Abyss (Amos Harel, Haaretz+) An unofficial cease-fire in Gaza and an agreement forged in relative silence with the PA over the entry of workers from the West Bank: cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians is at its tightest ever.
The crisis of the eruption of corona has an immediate impact on the Israeli home front (Tal Lev-Ram, Maariv) Netanyahu has taken the reins in the crisis over the virus spreading, and the defense establishment has partially taken part, but it can do much more. And when the plague is raging, the rockets are silent. As the crisis gets longer and deeper, the Ministry of Defense will have to be much more dominant. The prime minister would do well to place the overall responsibility on him, and it is already clear that a civilian closure requires tremendous logistical means. Management capabilities for such a crisis exist only in the defense establishment, and in the IDF in particular…Of course, the Corona crisis also harms countries hostile to Israel. Already, the situation in Iran is affecting the volume of military activity against Israel, including in arms shipments and its ability to fund terrorist organizations. Lebanon is also in a bankruptcy crisis - which is expected to affect Hezbollah, which has been criticized for its contribution to government instability. Friction with the IDF is the last thing Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah needs. And to the south, Hamas needs Israel, wants isolation, and in any case it has no one to exert pressure on to (implement) the long term arrangement (with Israel), because all countries of the world are busy with their national challenges. So, the corona is a common enemy of all, and the war against the virus is restraining the security tension, which was on the verge of boiling.
Israel's Shin Bet Security Service Deserves Thanks, Not Slurs (Nehemia Shtrasler, Haaretz+) They are just tracking corona patients’ cell phones, to identify those in their vicinity during the two weeks prior to the diagnosis, and yet have been accused of the worst crimes. What hasn’t been said about the government’s decision to ask the Shin Bet for information on corona patients’ movements? That it’s the end of democracy, that it’s trampling individual rights, that we’ll all be under surveillance, that it’s spying on innocent people and that the story will end with the Shin Bet ruling our life. The critics apparently didn’t notice that we’re in the throes of an acute emergency, and the criticism should have been reversed: Why didn’t they do it sooner?
Defense Ministry must lead the war on corona (Ran Reznick, Israel Hayom) While the nation's health authorities seem to be faltering, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett has proven himself capable of procuring vital equipment and keeping the public informed. His ministry is the most capable of handling a full-blown emergency situation.
For Communities – Jewish or Otherwise – Coronavirus Proves a Reckoning and an Opportunity (Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz+) For Israelis, non-Haredi Jews in the Diaspora and the ultra-Orthodox’s non-Jewish neighbors, the coronavirus is a-once-in-a-lifetime moment of shared fate with the Haredi community.
Mixed messages in the ultra-Orthodox population over coronavirus (Kobi Nachshoni, Yedioth/Ynet) Some rabbis are adamant that heeding the Health Ministry's instructions is enough, while others have issued unprecedented instructions and restrictive measures meant to keep their people safe from the ravages of the virus.
Solidarity is the most effective weapon (Amir Peretz, Israel Hayom) The coronavirus crisis has caught free market advocates with their pants down. The "invisible hand" is ineffective here – what Israel and the rest of the world need is government investment in social infrastructure.
Israel's coronavirus crisis exposed a starved health system on the verge of collapse (Amos Harel, Haaretz+) Years of neglect by successive governments have made Israeli hospitals the weak link in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Israel can escape Italy's fate (Ran Balicer, Israel Hayom) The correct decisions were made in time; borders were closed, sick people were identified and quarantine protocols were issued. All these bought us an extremely valuable few weeks of time. Now we must follow the quarantine directives to the letter.
The Coronavirus Won't Hurt Most of Us, but Lockdown Economy Will Bring Death (Adam Raz, Haaretz+) As I write these lines, the media headlines are screaming, “Israel is heading for a lockdown.” In this context, it’s important to present two truths: first, an economic crisis is equivalent to death. Not only does it cause securities to lose their value – a painful situation for the increasing number of impoverished people – but it also creates a society that will live in debt for years to come. In reality, to save lives today, society is “willing” to sacrifice the lives of many tomorrow. Soon experts will start calculating the effects of the economic holocaust being generated now on the population’s life expectancy, on the poverty and unemployment that will abound, and on the stagnation.
As Iran struggles with coronavirus, will it lash out against Israel, US? (Israel Kasnett, Israel Hayom) Whether or not the regime will make any moves against Western forces in the region or push its proxies to open a front against Israel remains to be seen, according to two Mideast analysts.
Wonder What a Post-coronavirus World Would Be? This Country Is Already Living It (Ofri Ilany, Haaretz+) Many talk about the 'post-corona' period, imagining a quick return to routine. But looking at China shows the country is facing a new reality.
The viruses of Lebanon (Clifford D. May, Israel Hayom) The country is plagued by more than the debilitating global coronavirus pandemic as terrorists beholden to Iran's rulers are inflicting just as much damage, if not more.
Turkey Isn’t Buying Erdogan’s Cure for the Coronavirus Crisis (Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz+) Erdogan is under the impression that this will all blow over, but with a crumbling economy and a refugee population at risk, the public is losing faith.
 
Interviews:
MK Yair Golan: "There were physical threats to me"
Former Deputy Chief of Staff and MK of the Labor-Gesher-Meretz party, Yair Golan, was hosted on the Maariv military affairs correspondent, Tal Lev-Ram, on his podcast on 103FM, where he discussed the possibility of a series of talks with Hamas, tensions in the north and political violence. (Maariv)
"We are making war (against Gaza) and there is no policy behind it. The fact that the State of Israel is unable to provide security for the people of the South over time is unacceptable, it is an endless tragedy and it is due to a lack of political vision,” Golan said. “In my view, it was possible to advance and achieve much more significant achievements than we actually achieved. They are just dragging feet, nothing has gone as it should," said the reserve general. "The amazing political phenomenon is that the Israeli public does not hold the prime minister and his ministers accountable for this ongoing failure," he added. Golan later qualified his remarks, saying that if Hamas chooses the path of terrorism, "one should go to a large-scale military operation and smash Hamas's military arm. If Gaza continues to produce active terror, then there is no choice but to return to Gaza and kill those who perpetrated this terror." MK Golan expressed concern over the possibility of political violence, saying that “…a country that has already murdered a prime minister, over the Oslo accords, should be very fearful of political violence and act accordingly." He revealed that "I see it every day. Open the last (social media) post of (popular right-wing rapper) “The Shadow” and you’ll see the explicit threat of violence, and tell me if you aren’t worried. During the two (election) campaigns I (was in), I have had physical threats against me." At the end of the conversation, he concluded: "I say to all my fellow politicians - be careful of your words, the inflaming hatred, this demagogic politics - it is unbelievably dangerous."

'Trump Is Right About the Coronavirus. The WHO Is Wrong,' Says Israeli Expert
Dr. Dan Yamin has developed models for predicting the spread of infectious diseases, and helped curb the Ebola epidemic. He says the coronavirus could take some 13,000 lives in Israel – but there's cause for optimism. (Interviewed by Oded Carmeli in Haaretz+)

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