News Nosh 3.26.20

APN's daily news review from Israel
Thursday March 26, 2020
Quote of the Day:
"The State of Israel manages the corona crisis without an elected government, without a Police Commissioner, without a Director General of the Ministry of Justice, without a Prison Service commissioner, without a State Prosecutor, without an elected Prime Minister, without a Knesset Speaker, without a state budget, without a National Emergency Authority, without masks, without protective equipment, without (enough) respirators, without rule of law, without [corona test] swabs, without a national information system."
--Maariv's top political commentator, Ben Caspit, sums up the situation in Israel.*

Breaking News:
POLITICAL DRAMA: Kahol-Lavan leader Benny Gantz shocks and offers himself to be Knesset Speaker with right-wing support in order to form a unity government with Binyamin Netanyahu and prevent law from being passed that would prevent anyone with an indictment from forming a government - i.e. Netanyahu. Kahol-Lavan faction unravels as partners break-off. (See Elections 2020 / Netanyahu Indictment News below.**)

Front Page:
  • (Knesset Speaker) Edelstein resigned from his position: I won’t obey the ruling of the High Court
  • Your Honor, the Speaker // Yossi Verter
  • Cause for concern // Mordechai Kremnitzer
  • More stringent movement limitations approved, trains stopped; Number of dead rose to five
  • Netanyahu presented a doomsday scenario, but the government still doesn’t operate by it
  • New York battling corona without ammunition
  • Number of dead in Spain larger than in China; Prince Charles diagnosed with corona
  • Number of sick people rose and in intensive care wards they warn: “We will stand helpless”
  • Levine thwarted a regulation that would have allowed holding hearings of Netanyahu’s trial on video
  • The danger raises concerns, but they turn quickly to indifference
  • Get down from the roof // Uri Misgav
  • The soccer leagues in the world were frozen, but Toto (soccer lottery) shamelessly continues to take advantage of its captive audience
  • The wave of dismissals harmed two million home renters. Many of them already made clear they won’t be able to pay
Yedioth Ahronoth
  • The big brother from the Shin Bet (security services)
  • The new restrictions - Guide to closure
  • Effort for unity
  • We’re sick of you! // Yehoram Gaon to the politicians (Hebrew)
  • This is how the unemployed will find work
  • Corona endangers Hollywood
  • (Soccer player) Eran Zehavi’s mad trip to China
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
  • “Staying at home, staying alive” - 2,369 sick, 5 victims, 39 in serious condition - most on respirators
  • The perfect storm // Ben Caspit
  • Economic politics // Yehuda Sharoni
  • Hit at pharmacies: sedatives without a prescription
  • Britain: Crown Prince Charles infected with corona
  • (Knesset Speaker) Edelstein crisis
  • Tonight at 2AM, moving clock forward and going to Daylight Saving Time
Israel Hayom

Top News Summary:
New harsher restrictions on movement in Israel, more corona victims, and an unprecedented situation where the Knesset Speaker resigned after saying he refused to obey the High Court made top news in today’s Hebrew newspapers. [But then in an another shocking move hours ago - Gantz moved towards joining a unity government, causing Kahol-Lavan to break apart.]

**Elections 2020 / Netanyahu Indictment News:
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein - now outgoing - resigned from his post Wednesday after refusing to obey the High Court’s ruling to hold a vote in the Knesset by Wednesday for a new Speaker at the request of the Kahol-Lavan-led majority, shocking the political and judicial establishment. In a speech to the nation Wednesday night, President Reuven Rivlin said it was ‘unthinkable’ that anyone would defy the court, echoing the statements of many former justices, including Dorit Beinisch and Elyakim Rubinstein. (Maariv, Maariv and Ynet Hebrew) Edelstein gave ‘Israel Hayom’ an exclusive and interesting interview in which he laid out his reasons and gave his defense. (Just before Edelstein’s resignation announcement, nearly 1,000 protesters drove in a convoy of cars to Jerusalem again and demanded Edelstein hold the election of a new Knesset speaker. They waved black flags and Israeli flags.)

Rivlin said that now Edelstein was gone, the court order would be implemented and “Israeli democracy will emerge strengthened and more resilient from these testing times.” However, Edelstein said that his resignation would not go into effect for another 48 hours, so a vote for a new speaker would have to wait till next week.  

1st UPDATE: Last night, the High Court justices convened a hearing with top government legal officials to seek a way out of the constitutional crisis. Late last night they ruled that the Knesset could appoint an interim Knesset Speaker today to elect a replacement Speaker. That interim speaker would be the most veteran MK, chairman of the Labor Party, Amir Peretz. High Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut attacked Edelstein, saying in her middle-of-the-night ruling that Edelstein had committed "an unprecedented violation of the rule of law" that could lead to civilians not obeying government orders regarding the coronavirus. "If this is how a person of authority behaves, why should the citizen behave otherwise?" [The crazier part comes later...-OH]

In his address, Rivlin also called for an emergency unity government and afterward and it appears, what would later become clear is that this is exactly what Gantz was quietly planning. So while the High Court last night convened with top government legal officials to find a way out of the constitutional crisis and allow for the Knesset plenum to convene to replace the Speaker (after which it would be able to pass the legislation that would prevent Netanyahu from forming a government), Kahol-Lavan leader Benny Gantz was working in the opposite direction: he spoke with Netanyahu last night about forming a temporary unity government and their teams met to negotiate and were supposed to continue negotiations today.

UPDATE #2: At the 11th hour, just before the vote for a new Knesset speaker, a storm erupts in Kahol-Lavan as reports surface that Gantz is interested in joining a unity government with Netanyahu and that he wants to stand for Knesset Speaker. MK Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid party, which is one of the four components of Kahol-Lavan, threatened to leave the alliance. Until that point, it was agreed internally that MK Meir Cohen, a member of Yesh Atid, would be elected the new Knesset Speaker by the center-left ’61 bloc.’ That would open the path to passing a bill to prevent an indicted person from being prime minister. But then at the last moment, Gantz offered himself to be the candidate to be elected Knesset Speaker. So ironically, after fighting to get Edelstein to convene the plenum so that this law could eventually be passed, now Gantz took Edelsteini's place so he, too, could postpone such a vote and make way for a unity government with Netanyahu. Lapid and Moshe Yaalon, leader of the Telem party, another component of Kahol-Lavan, both vehemently oppose a unity government with Netanyahu and boycotted the vote. Other Knesset members, including Avigdor Lieberman, Ayman Odeh and Ahmed Tibi, were also furious and announced that they will not support the move. (Maariv) Indeed, Yesh Atid and Telem party members, Joint List and Yisrael Beiteinu and Labor-Gesher all were absent from the vote. (Ynet Hebrew) But, irony of ironies, Likud and other right-wing legislators voted in support of Gantz. Afterward, in his first speech as Knesset speaker, Gantz argued for an "emergency national unity government" to allow Israel to recover from the coronavirus outbreak. "These are not normal times," he told lawmakers, "and they call for unusual decisions." He said he thought this was “the right thing to do at this time.” Others were not convinced. Lapid and Ya'alon filed a request to split Kahol-Lavan. Their two factions (Yesh Atid and Telem) will remain as one 18-member party and will get to keep the name Kahol Lavan because they are larger than Gantz’s 15-member ’Hosen’ party, including MK Gabi Ashkenazi. Lapid later wrote to his people that “Benny has decided to dismantle Kahol-Lavan to crawl into Bibi's government. There is no way to understand that." (Ynet Hebrew) Ynet wrote that “Gantz apparently decided to run for Knesset speaker out of of the fear that if a unity government were finally formed, Lapid and his allies would not join, making Cohen the Knesset speaker from a non-coalition party.” The Hebrew media websites were already naming what ministries the Hosen party would get in the unity government expected to be formed. Gantz would be foreign minister and replacement prime minister, Ashkenazi was expected to become defense minister and the Hosen party would also get the Economics, Justice and Communications Ministries. This unity government will give Netanyahu his fifth term as prime minister. And, the final shocker is that Yuli Edelstein, who was in contempt of the High Court, is expected to get back his job as Knesset speaker. [Making one wonder if Edelstein’s move was not planned with Gantz to begin with….-OH] Earlier this week, there were reports that Gantz was interested in a short-term six-month unity government. It remains unclear if this will be a long-term government or a limited one.

Also noteworthy, on Wednesday, Minister Zeev Elkin blocked holding a video conference during criminal proceedings for defendants not in custody, thereby preventing Netanyahu’s trial from being recorded and shared.

Corona Quickees:
  • Israel's coronavirus cases rise to 2,495, more in serious condition - The Health Ministry says among the 41 patients who are in serious condition, is a 45-year-old man with no underlying health problems; another 68 people in moderate condition. Another 325 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Israel, bringing the country's total to 2,495, health officials reported Thursday. There has been another increase in the number of serious cases, which have been rising daily. (Ynet)
  • Explained: New Coronavirus Guidelines Edge Israel Closer to Total Lockdown - Public ordered to stay home except for vital reasons such as obtaining food or medical supplies, leisure activities heavily curtailed and limited to a radius of 100 meters from home. (Haaretz+)
  • Netanyahu: "If we do not see immediate improvement, there will be no escape from full lockdown” - Prime Minister Olmert made a statement after the restrictions were tightened following the spread of the Corona virus: "Beyond compliance, strict self-discipline is required. Otherwise there will be disaster." Against the background of the severe political crisis, he called for the establishment of a national emergency government. (Ynet)
  • Netanyahu Presents Doomsday Coronavirus Scenario, but His Ministries Don't Operate by It - The Health Ministry and Netanyahu display the most pessimistic estimates, but in contrast to national security emergencies, there is no work being done that’s based on anticipated numbers. (Haaretz+)
  • Israel has no exit strategy from corona crisis, official says - Newly formed Knesset coronavirus committe discovered that there are only 1,437 available respirators in Israel. And, as of January 2019, there were only 758 intensive care beds in Israel and of those, only 32 were designated as respiratory ICU beds. Senior medical expert warns that by Passover, "We may have 80,000 verified patients." (Israel Hayom)
  • Coronavirus tallies in Gaza, West Bank continue to climb - In Gaza, 7 more people, all police officers, tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the tally to 9. In the West Bank, another 2 people became infected, totalling 62. The two are relatives of the Palestinian woman who died on Wednesday from complications related to the virus. One worked in Israel as a laborer and tested positive. (Ynet)
  • Palestinians leave jobs in Israel, citing coronavirus risk - Special arrangements made for tens of thousands of Palestinians; situation could effectively shut down Israel's construction industry, which is heavily reliant on Palestinian labor. Repatriation decision followed Palestinian public outcry over the alleged mistreatment of a Palestinian laborer whom Israeli authorities sent back to the West Bank this week. Videos posted to social media showed the visibly ill Palestinian sitting on the roadside at an IDF checkpoint on the West Bank border. (Ynet)
  • Palestinians Employed in Israel Left Jobless, Without Benefits, by Coronavirus - A request to allow West Bank residents to draw on a fund that has financed their sick leave is under consideration. (Haaretz+)
  • Hamas says will 'hold Israel responsible' if it fails to curb coronavirus in Gaza - The way the terrorist organization usually demands help is by threatening to fire rockets at Israeli cities near its border. If its subpar health-care system is put to the test, it may lash out. (Israel Hayom)
  • Orthodox Sephardic Rabbis Greenlight Video Conference Seders in Stunning Ruling - The ruling hopes to 'remove sadness from adults and the elderly, to give them motivation to continue fighting for their lives,' rabbis say. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
  • Afraid to Call Authorities, East Jerusalem May Be Staying at Home With the Coronavirus - COVID-19 is likely spreading in East Jerusalem but residents are afraid of testing because of stigma. Red Crescent employees not yet authorized to take samples. (Haaretz+)
  • Defense Ministry Undermining Health Ministry in Coronavirus Battle, Sources Say - Health Ministry officials have been sensing that the Defense Ministry is trying to take control of managing the coronavirus crisis and involve itself in health policy that falls outside its authority. (Haaretz+)
  • Will ICU Bed Inventories Suffice to Keep All Coronavirus Patients in Israel Alive? - The numbers will be much higher than the quantity of units capable of handling these cases under normal conditions or during localized emergency situations. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
  • At Jerusalem Nursing Home Where Two Residents Died, Coronavirus and Frustration Spread - Residents have been quarantined as the outbreak in the center continues, but Health Ministry has decided not to test them for the virus: 'We’re talking about people who built this country. Don’t they deserve to be tested?' (Haaretz+)
  • Chief of volunteer rescue organization slams Litzman from sick bed - President of United Hatzalah emergency service, Eli Beer, who is now on life support after contracting coronavirus, says health minister refused his organization's help to perform coronavirus diagnoses. Said he is an ‘evil’ person who acts purely out of self-interest. (Ynet)
  • 40% Can’t Pay Their Tel Aviv Rent as Unemployment Grows Amid Coronavirus, Survey Shows - The coronavirus crisis has hit Israel’s labor market hard, with unemployment now hitting 20%, up from an all-time historic low of 3.4% in February. (Haaretz+)
  • Israeli Children to Head Back to School but at a Pandemic-conducive Distance - Deal reached with the Teachers Union will have primary and middle schoolers in distance learning amid an ongoing coronavirus crisis. (Haaretz+)
  • Delivery times from supermarkets extended to up to two weeks - We checked at the supermarkets and found that food deliveries that you order now will arrive at the earliest on March 31, and may arrive only on Passover. (Yedioth Hebrew)
  • New Israeli research says COVID-19 is here to stay - Researchers suggest unlike SARS, MERS coronavirus strains which were successfully contained during 2004 and 2018 outbreaks respectively, COVID-19 may become perennial danger. (Ynet)
  • Israeli Startup Tries to Figure Out What Coronavirus Sounds Like - Israel’s Ministry of Defense is testing technology developed by voice analyses startup Vocalis Health on confirmed coronavirus patients to see if it can detect a vocal coronavirus fingerprint to help with diagnosis. (Ynet/CTECH)
  • Jews Make Up Five Percent of U.K. Coronavirus Deaths, Report Says - At least 22 Jewish families have lost loved ones to the disease, which has killed 465 people in the United Kingdom. (JTA, Haaretz)
  • Rivlin to Egypt ambassador: Let’s cooperate in fight against coronavirus - At Jerusalem meeting to mark 41st anniversary of 1979 peace treaty, president proposes ‘joint action’ between experts in the fields of health, economics and crisis management. (Times of Israel)
  • Iran Bans Intercity Travel as Coronavirus Deaths Climb to 2,234 - Persian New Year saw many people travel despite warnings. (Agencies, Haaretz and Israel Hayom)
  • Hezbollah deploys medics, hospitals against coronavirus in Lebanon - So far, Lebanon has recorded 333 coronavirus infection cases and six COVID-19 deaths. "It is a real war that we must confront with the mindset of a warrior," says top official with the Iranian-backed terrorist group. (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
  • 'Coronavirus ceasefire' between Israel, Hamas and Hezbollah won't last - Once the pandemic is defeated, it will be business as usual and the terrorist groups will be back to targeting Israel. (Israel Hayom)

Other Quick Hits:
  • Istanbul Prosecutor Indicts Saudi Suspects Including Crown Prince Aid for Khashoggi Murder - Prosecutor's office accuses two men of instigating the killing of the journalist and 18 for carrying out the orders. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Former FBI Agent Levinson Believed to Have Died in Iran Custody, Family Says - Trump said he had not been told that Robert Levinson, the former FBI agent who disappeared in March 2007, was dead. (Agencies, Haaretz)

Elections 2020/Netanyahu Indictment Commentary/Analysis:
Set on Succeeding Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Adopts PM's Destructive Doctrine (Yossi Verter, Haaretz+) With a series of miserable decisions, Yuli Edelstein turned from a respected, statesmanlike political figure into one of the symbols of the constitutional and democratic abyss that Israel is sliding toward at a worrying pace.
Edelstein must uphold the High Court ruling, but it is unclear how the meeting will be conducted (Attorney Yair Leibowitz, Maariv) The resignation of the Speaker of the Knesset will only take effect in two days. The problem is that the law and the Knesset regulations did not foresee such a situation.
Knesset Mutiny, Produced and Directed by Netanyahu, Will Live in Infamy (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+) Jewish hero, Prisoner of Zion and successful Israeli politician sullies name and risks future to help criminal defendant avoid trial.
Edelstein sacrificed himself for the Knesset (Mati Tuchfeld, Israel Hayom) There are rules, laws and statutes that finely regulate the balance of power within the Knesset's walls. The High Court's intervention in this process is a dangerous precedent of the highest order.
*Perfect storm: We live in a script taken from science fiction (Ben Caspit, Maariv) The State of Israel manages the Corona crisis without an elected government, without a police commissioner, without the Director General of the Ministry of Justice, without a Prison Service commissioner, without a State Prosecutor, without an elected Prime Minister, without a Knesset Speaker, without a state budget, without a National Emergency Authority, without masks, without protective equipment, without (enough) respirators, without rule of law, without [corona test] swabs, without a national information system. What is there? There is corona, there is a silly dispute between the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense over who gets credit, there is a call by senior ministers not to obey the High Court's rulings, there is a Knesset Speaker who ignores High Court orders, there is unprecedented governmental chaos, hundreds of thousands unemployed, almost total lockdown on the streets and cities and two speeches to the nation in one evening: one by the President of the state, the other by the Prime Minister (who was not elected).
The real threat of Israeli civil war (Ron Ben Yishai, Ynet) During previous crises, a sense of unity and external threats brought the country back from the brink, but now both the left and the right are entrenched in their positions strengthened only by their mutual hatred.
The End of Knesset Speaker Edelstein (Haaretz Editorial) Edelstein’s response to Supreme Court President Esther Hayut, who was hearing a petition by the Hozeh Hadash (“New Contract”) organization to order Edelstein to convene the Knesset under the Contempt of Court Ordinance, is a stellar example of cynicism. “I’m not interested in scorning the court,” he said. “Respect the order of my conscience. My replacement can do what you want in 48 hours.” How much cynicism it must take to ignore a court ruling, steal democracy from the majority and take the name of “conscience” in vain. To buy another 48 hours for his boss, Benjamin Netanyahu, Edelstein agreed to sell himself out. Even before the constitutional mess he got us into is sorted out and without regard to the result, we can already state with certainty that Edelstein – who without a drop of shame or responsibility is grasping the corners of the altar while carrying a constitutional explosive belt on his person – is ineligible to serve in any public or state capacity in the future.
Lapid has an axiom that works in every situation - not believing Netanyahu (Ran Edelist, Maariv) It is not easy to deal with a prime minister whose media channels allow him daily access to act as a spokesman for his messages. Lapid stays true to his approach, presenting true facts and revealing how the lie was born.
Israeli officials are fighting each other instead of coronavirus (Sarit Rosenblum, Yedioth/Ynet) The number of confirmed cases in Israel is on the rise, so is the number of seriously ill and, most frighteningly, the dead; yet, people are still out and about enjoying their 'time off' and spreading the virus further.
In the name of the stateliness of the institution: Edelstein must obey the court's ruling (Prof. Moshe Cohen-Eliah, Maariv) Those severely attacking the High Court should understand: On a day not too far away, they will need the court. If and when personal legislation is passed against Netanyahu, they will be the first to petition the court.
Crisis of trust (Daniel Friedmann, Yedioth Hebrew) Yuli Edelstein's decision to withhold a vote to replace him has hurt democracy, and it's good that the move has been stalled by the High Court. In contrast, Edelstein's resignation from the Knesset chair constituted a wise political move for him.  It was clear that the High Court's ruling could not be avoided, so that he would lose the job anyway. Now his resignation won him much sympathy, certainly in his circles of his party and perhaps beyond. Not to mention that the hostility towards the High Court in broad circles reached such proportions that if Edelstein would have held the vote for the Knesset Speaker's role, as the High Court required him to do, his status in the party could have been compromised. Now he left the position to the person who will replace him.
Like It's 1991: Israeli Parliament Is Reminiscent of the Good Old Soviet System (Dmitry Shumsky, Haaretz+) In the early 90’s, Russian parliament, led by Speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov, was a holdover of the Soviet Union’s constitutional system, which did not recognize the principles of separation of powers that the country’s first elected president, Boris Yeltsin, sought to promote, and it stuck spokes in the wheels of reforms and democratization. Parliament assumed political authority that was essentially unlimited, including numerous powers belonging to the executive branch. In early October 1993, in response to a September 21 presidential order directing the anachronistic and confrontational Supreme Soviet to disband so that a true parliament could be established in the spirit of the separation of powers, Khasbulatov and his people tried to depose Yeltsin. The clashes left more than 150 people dead, most of them unarmed civilians. The antidemocratic forces led by Khasbulatov may have lost the battle, but they won a decisive victory over the long term, as seen in Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime.
Israel’s Supreme Court Rigs the Game Again (Gadi Taub, Haaretz+) It’s hard to blame those who think that Israel's Supreme Court is in reality the left's legal team. The recent ruling regarding the petition against Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, forcing him to conduct a vote on his own replacement, certainly didn’t do much to diminish the feeling that the game is rigged in the left's favor. This is just one more brick in the wall of left-leaning judicial hyper-activism that we have all come to expect from the court.  Still, there's a ray of light in the ruling. This time the court, which has taught us that the "essence" of democracy (read: minority rights) should prevail over the will of the majority, at long last recognized the importance of the majoritarian principle – or at least recognized its importance when the majority is of the left. The ruling has declared this principle "basic" to democracy.
Netanyahu won the political battle, but Israel lost coronavirus war (Yossi Yehoshua, Yedioth/Ynet) PM and the Health Ministry's continued refusal to cooperate with the defense ministry to tackle the COVID-19 crisis may cost the nation many lives and all because Netanyahu didn't want to give an upper hand to his political rival, Naftali Bennett

Other Commentary/Analysis:
Israel, the Palestinians, coronavirus and peace (Alan Baker, Israel Hayom) Like water, contagious diseases know no borders. But it is to be hoped that this crisis will enhance mutual trust and confidence between Palestinians and Israelis.
Israel Predicts Up to 40,000 Coronavirus Patients May Die. What if There’s a Way to Avoid This? (Meirav Arlosoroff, Haaretz+) This forecast is predicated on the current situation, after the country has been put in a partial shutdown for a week.
Lies, transparency, and pandemics (Ben Cohen, Israel Hayom) When authoritarian regimes lie to their own people about a worldwide, contagious disease, their lies have an impact on those of us who are otherwise mercifully spared from living under their direct jurisdiction. In these dire circumstances, authoritarian regimes will never move to reassure their citizens. Instead, they willfully increase the climate of fear and distrust, the key to regime survival. As has been the case with its ally China, where the virus first coalesced, and Iran, now the epicenter of the virus in the Middle East, doctors in Venezuela similarly face repressive measures for calling out incompetence, indifference and corruption among government officials, or – again as in China and Iran – for even being transparent about the number of coronavirus cases they have encountered. "It's better to say you don't have any cases of corona, even if you have your suspicions," Dr. Jose Manuel Olivares, an oncologist and opposition congressman who fled Venezuela last year, told The Wall Street Journal. "Call it a cold, another flu, or H1N1, anything but corona."
As the Coronavirus Spreads in Tel Aviv, Homeless Women Are Treated Like Lepers (Vered Lee, Haaretz+) In February I met a homeless woman, addicted to drugs, who is a 42-year-old mother who had worked as a prostitute for years. Now she collects bottles and sleeps in the street with other homeless people in the old central bus station compound in Tel Aviv. The incitement towards homeless has gotten more intense since the coronavirus outbreak. The marked lack of humanity these days toward the most vulnerable population in society is outrageous, especially since organizations are continuing to help these people in these times. The fine line between raising awareness of the difficult situation in south Tel Aviv and dealing with social problems is being crossed these days, and has become a shameful campaign of dehumanization. These are desperate women, most of whom can function but have no network of assistance and distrust the state authorities that have abandoned them. These are mothers and even grandmothers, some of whom live a double life: They sleep in these places and engage in prostitution for a few days, then go back to their families. The closures, although celebrated by the neighborhood activists, could lead these women to turn tricks on the street, that’s how desperate they are.
Prepared for APN by Orly Halpern, independent freelance journalist based in Jerusalem.
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