News Nosh 3.31.20

APN's daily news review from Israel
Tuesday March 31, 2020

Quote of the day:
“Benny, how did you get there?...What are you doing over there, Benny?”
--Yesh Atid MK Yoav Segalovich said to his former faction chairman, Knesset Speaker and Kahol-Lavan chairman Benny Gantz, at the first full plenum session that Gantz presided over, after being elected by the right-wing bloc.*

Breaking News:
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi is now in quarantine after contact with someone infected with coronavirus, a day after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu entered quarantine for same reason.

Front Page:
Yedioth Ahronoth
  • “Impose a lockdown on (ultra-Orthodox city of) Bnei Brak” - (Ultra-Orthodox) Health Minister in interview to Yedioth
  • Health Ministry will give guideline: “Cover your mouth with a mask or cloth when you leave the house”
  • Prof. Shashua’s optimistic forecast: “We can exit the corona crisis within two months”
  • Construction contractors warn of the collapse of the industry
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
  • The new restrictions on citizens, the new easing of restrictions for businesses
  • Rescue Ltd. // Yehuda Sharoni
  • Being careful: Netanyahu will remain in isolation until the results of another test
  • The return of children to school after Passover - in doubt
  • Police: “We have moved to a zero-tolerance policy” toward violators of restriction guidelines
  • Lighting up the face of MADA (Israel’s emergency medical services)
Israel Hayom
  • 80 billion shekels to rescue the economy
  • Essential to being a couple - Couples who work in essential services and battle corona
  • Passover Seder only for immediate family, weddings without invited
  • The negotiations are stuck: “No agreement on annexation”
  • Gantz opposes annexation - and against the desires of the US // Caroline Glick
  • (Former Knesset speaker) Edelstein’s battle - a matter of values and principles // Shuki Segev

Top News Summary:
The Israeli government rolls out a massive economic rescue plan, imposes new movement restrictions on citizens and still debates about putting ultra-Orthodox hotspots under lockdown, while Likud and Kahol-Lavan negotiating teams continue to wrangle over who will be Justice Minister, who will be Knesset Speaker and whether Israel will annex land in the West Bank - making top stories in today’s Hebrew newspapers.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s 80 billion shekel ($22.3 billion) economic stimulus plan equals 6% of the GDP and is meant to rescue the economy from collapse after unemployment reached 23%. Moreover, the new movement and work restrictions will reduce economic activity to 15%, down from 30%. The new restrictions bar gatherings of over two people and bar praying in public (synagogues were already banned.)

“Israeli society won't be the same,” Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced in his address. Without naming names, Netanyahu also said there are communities in the country that “disrespect the government guidelines.” But everyone knew he was talking about. The ultra-Orthodox communities lead in the number of infected and the rate of infection as many ignore the social distancing guidelines and refuse to quarantine. Haaretz’s Amos Harel wrote that out of political considerations the lockdown on the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, where one-third of those tested have been found positive, has been delayed. However, in an exclusive interview with Yedioth, ultra-Orthodox Health Minister Yaakov Litzman proposed putting Bnei Brak on lockdown, despite the backlash he faces from his community. The media reported that the ultra-Orthodox community is slowly implementing the health guidelines, but some members of an ultra-Orthodox sect in Jerusalem rejected the restrictions and clashed with police when the latter tried to close down open synagogues.

Israel Hayom reported that the government cabinet ordered the IDF to assist police in enforcing the lockdown, but did not specify where. Some 700 soldiers will be deployed, but without weapons, except in the West Bank. Meanwhile, Netanyahu is in self-quarantine after one of his aides tested positive. The test took he took Monday came out negative, but he will remain in quarantine until another test is taken.

Elections 2020 / Netanyahu Indictment News:
So Netanyahu and Gantz plan to swear in a government by Monday, just before Passover begins, but first they need to decide on three Kahol-Lavan demands 1.) Kahol-Lavan MK Avi Nissenkorn be appointed Justice Minister, 2.) Likud MK Yuli Edelstein will not return to his job as Knesset Speaker and 3.) Israel will not annex land or declare sovereignty over land in the West Bank. Haaretz+ reported that MK Gabi Ashkenazi was offered to be Foreign Minister, but turned down the role. Ashkenazi is reportedly looking for a different portfolio, such as health. Previously, it was reported that the former chief of staff would become the Defense Minister.

Also, Israel Hayom reported that, according to the Likud's proposal, in order to ensure that Netanyahu hands over the premiership in October 2021 to Gantz, both leaders will be sworn in together next week so that Gantz will be able to enter office seamlessly and automatically without having to be sworn in a second time. Thus, if Netanyahu decides to disperse the Knesset before the stipulated date for the transition of power, Gantz would serve as prime minister of the transition government.

Meanwhile, the far-right-wing Yamina party is suggesting it will go to the opposition if it doesn’t get a significant ministry. Yamina leader Naftali Bennett said his faction could leave the "left-wing government" Netanyahu is forming. Political affairs reporter Anna Barsky writes in Maariv that the unity government is not the kind of right-wing government that the right-wing is accustomed to. (See Commentary/Analysis below.)

Two of the three Labor party members of Knesset, chairman MK Amir Peretz and MK Itsik Shmuli will also join the government and the negotiations are being held through Gantz, sources in the Labor party told Maariv. The ministries that each is supposed to head will be part of the Kahol-Lavan quota and Labor is expected to split from Meretz, which will stay in the opposition.

*Times of Israel and Maariv’s Knesset reporter, Arik Bender, reported on an 'unusual' clash that took place in the Knesset plenum Monday between Gantz and MKs from his former bloc. The session opened with one-minute speeches. MK Yoav Segalovich took the opportunity to express to Gantz his protest and frustration about Gantz’s political move, accusing him of betraying voters, surrendering to Netanyahu and harming the camp. Turning to Gantz, who was chairing his first full Knesset session as Speaker, Segalovitz asked, “Benny, how did you get there? On Wednesday you sent us, my colleagues and I, to the High Court. You said ‘We can’t accept this link between the Knesset speakership and coalition negotiations. It will not stand. I’m halting negotiations immediately. I’m a man of principle.’…What are you doing over there, Benny?”
MK Orna Barbivai, who served with Gantz in the military, expressed similar sentiments, said: “I never saw you lie… I don’t understand what happened to you. I don’t understand how you turned to such an extreme, on everything you said.”
Meretz Chairman MK Nitzan Horowitz said: "We recommended you to the Prime Minister, we did not recommend you to be the Speaker of the Knesset…You had and we had a majority in the Knesset to act in the Knesset. We set up the committees to elect a permanent chairman, continue the process, pass legislation and formulate the bloc to be a basis for the government. Unfortunately, you have chosen a different path and thus not only harmed the trust of your voters, but actually hurt the prospect of the entire bloc and the prospect of the entire camp maybe for many years to come.”
However, MK Alon Schuster of Kahol-Lavan came to Gantz’s side: "Four weeks ago, something happened in Israel, and very clear numbers showed that the results of the election made it clear that after various attempts, there is paralysis, there is no choice: either a broad government or another election. After more than a year of paralysis, of division and damage to the values of democracy, your decision, Benny, and ours, to join our hands with those to whom we have a lot to say about their conduct, is like firefighters who violate certain values, like breaking into a home, for higher values like saving lives. We are going to join hands, pass a budget, give hope to the State of Israel, then afterward we’ll have plenty of time for a fight.”
MK Yaakov Margi on behalf of Shas praised Gantz and said: "Mr. Speaker, I wanted to say thank you, you and your friends who gave backing to the move. Thank you for saving the state of Israel with your courageous efforts at this difficult time. Don't get upset about all those who preached to you today, those who wanted to lead the State of Israel into a fourth election campaign, a costly and unnecessary election campaign, with schism, division and boycotts. On a personal note, in my book, you have passed the leadership test."

Corona Quickees:
  • Coronavirus in Israel: Cases rise to 4,831 as death toll hits 17 - West Bank cases rise to 107 ■ New regulations ban all public gatherings, prayer in public ■ Army to help police enforce restrictions ■ Netanyahu tests negative. (Haaretz and Ynet)
  • With 205 Respirators, Palestinian Authority Fears Collapse Amid Coronavirus Outbreak - In an ironic twist, Palestinians have wired the West Bank with roadblocks in a desperate bid to keep the pandemic from spreading beyond 106 current cases and one woman who has died. (Haaretz+)
  • PA intelligence secures 10,000 virus testing kits from China - Official says Palestinians had been down to a few hundred kits to test for COVID-19 before shipment arrived. (Agencies, Times of Israel)
  • Palestinians accuse IDF of spreading coronavirus in West Bank - Video of an IDF soldier spitting on the ground in the Hebron area sparks a wave of rumors that the army is intentionally infecting Palestinians. Defense official: Israel is working tirelessly to help the PA fight the coronavirus. (Israel Hayom)
  • Fearing Gaza virus spread, Hamas preps for mass quarantines - As the first cases are emerging in densely populated and medically unprepared Gaza, Hamas is racing to build two massive quarantine facilities. (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
  • Pandemic cooperation proves Israeli-Palestinian peace talks possible, US diplomat says - US Deputy Ambassador Cherith Norman tells the UN Security Council that joint Israeli-Palestinian effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus demonstrates the type of cooperation necessary to resolve the regional conflict. (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
  • IDF converts assembly lines for tanks to make medical equipment - "Within 12 hours we changed our entire work plan," says Col. Udi Amira, commander of the IDF's Rehabilitation and Maintenance Center for armored vehicles. We are working at full strength to find creative solutions that will save lives." (Israel Hayom)
  • In 45,000 Israeli Families, Both Breadwinners Lost Jobs to Pandemic - A report issued to the Knesset Welfare committee finds half of unemployment claims filed since the coronavirus crisis began were by people younger than 35. (Haaretz+)
  • 'Passover celebrations could kill people' - The head of one of Israel's leading health providers urges medical, religious authorities to cancel public celebrations of Passover and Ramadan to check the spread of coronavirus, which jumped following Purim. (Israel Hayom)
  • Israeli Schools Likely to Remain Closed After Passover - Health Ministry remains vague, Education Minister denies rumors schools will remain closed until the end of the school year. (Haaretz+)
  • Mobile coronavirus testing clinic opens for Arab-Israeli village of Arara - Joint List MK Tibi says his party appealed to Health Minister Litzman and other authorities to establish testing site in Arab community. (Times of Israel)
  • Shortages Spark Fear of Rapid Spread of Coronavirus Among Disabled in Israel - ‘No attention is being paid to the weakest groups, who are liable to pay the highest price,’ says official. (Haaretz+)
  • Israel set to ask public to wear surgical masks when going outside - Ynet learns the Health Ministry mulls announcing a U-turn on its previous position that masks yield little benefit in protecting from pathogen, saying the gear offers partial protection as proven by Asian countries with low mortality rates from COVID-19. (Ynet)
  • Israel Planning Restrictions on Visits and Travel for 35,000 Wards of the State - NGOs criticize the renewable proposal to stop visits to, and leaves from government institutions for 21 days as part of measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus. (Haaretz+)
  • U.S. Renews Sanctions Waivers Allowing Iran Nonproliferation Work - Russian, Chinese and European companies will be able to continue their work, despite the United States tightening sanctions. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • UN Aid Chief Says Syrian Coronavirus Cases Are Tip of Iceberg' - Speaking to a UN Security Council video meeting, UN officials warn Syria is at 'high risk of being unable to contain the pandemic.’ (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Nature reclaims global cities as people stay home - The sight of ibex strolling down the beachfront promenade in Israel's city of Eilat recently shocked the locals; as humans retreat to their homes in wake of pandemic, wildlife steps out of the shadows and returns to the habitats it once ruled. (Agencies, Ynet)

Quick Hits:
  • An indictment was filed agains a citizen of Israel for helping Hezbollah - The defendant, 25, contacted a resident of southern Lebanon on Facebook, and at his request sent photographs of military targets. She is charged with contacting a foreign agent and handing over information to the enemy. (Maariv and Times of Israel)
  • IDF: Drug smugglers fire at troops stationed near Egyptian border - IDF troops exchange fire with drug traffickers near the Egyptian border Monday night. No injuries or damage have been reported. (Israel Hayom)

Palestinians transform factories in Gaza and West Bank into mask manufacturing plants as virus spreads
Gaza businessman says his company plans to make 25,000 masks every day by the end of March; PA official says firms in West Bank meeting local market’s demand. (Adam Rasgon, Times of Israel)
Top Israeli TV Shows and Films to Binge-watch During the Coronavirus Lockdown
From classics like ‘Fauda’ and ‘Shtisel’ to little-known gems like ‘Off White Lies’ and ‘Dancing in Jaffa,’ here are over 20 Israeli works to keep you entertained. (Allison Kaplan Sommer, Haaretz+)
Through the lens: Israel's lonely and desolate roads
Photographer Eitan Asraf provides us a rare glimpse into an Israel [and Golan Heights and West Bank - OH] that seems to have been abandoned by its inhabitants under the specter of coronavirus. (Ofir Hausman, Ynet)

Elections 2020/Netanyahu Indictment Commentary/Analysis:
On Their Knees to Netanyahu (Haaretz Editorial) The coronavirus and the state of emergency cannot explain the deception of masses of voters. Until Monday, the anti-Netanyahu camp was mourning its abandonment by the man who stood at its head, Kahol Lavan chairman Benny Gantz, who thus dismantled the only possible governing alternative. Then Labor voters, who were still trying to recover from the bolting of Gesher chairwoman Orli Levi-Abekasis, had to digest the total turnabout performed by the leader of the left, and absorb the news that Amir Peretz, who shaved off his mustache on live TV as an oath that he wouldn’t join up with Netanyahu, plans to attach himself to this individual…Experience teaches that it’s only a matter of time before Gantz, Gabi Ashkenazi, Peretz, Shmuli and their colleagues learn who Netanyahu is and what toxic stuff he’s made of. Then, when they return to the movement and seek its confidence, they will find no one left who will believe them or be prepared to follow them.
Despite Gantz giving in: The right-wing needs to come to terms with the fact that this is not a normal right-wing government (Anna Barsky, Maariv) Even before the rise of the long-awaited government, which raised hopes in the right-wing that its establishment marked a de facto political victory, they must remember that this is not the right-wing government “like the good ol’ days.” That is, the Minister of Justice will not be "one of us,” not Amir Ohana nor Ayelet Shaked. Gantz will have the right to veto the application of sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, Naftali Bennett will not sit in the IDF Kirya Headquarters, and more. It will no be another unity government led by Netanyahu. This is a fact, and the right must accept it. The other option is to fight it and risk the return of the entire state to chaos, from which we began to emerge thanks to the same Gantz, who violated his promises to part of the public and thus saved the entire public.
A Good Leader Betrays His Voters (Orian Morris, Haaretz+) Did Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz “betray” his voters? I think not. From the outset, Gantz spoke about unity and partnership, not only about destroying Bibi-ism. The latter wasn’t his main promise to his voters. He incontrovertibly said he would not serve in a government led by a criminal defendant, and he kept that promise through two elections and two postelection efforts to form an alternative ruling coalition. But once he discovered that no such alternative was possible, what should he have done? He seems to have done the most responsible realpolitik thing he could have – becoming part of the government during the waning days of Bibi-ism and then inheriting the leadership from within.
Israeli sovereignty and Gantz's bad faith (Caroline B. Glick, Israel Hayom) Blue and White leader Benny Gantz opposes applying Israeli law to the Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria, despite giving US President Trump his word that would support the move. Politicians may survive by lying to voters, but they don't get very far by lying to US presidents.
In Israeli Politics, the Watchword Is: The Jewish Race Before All Else (Odeh Bisharat, Haaretz+) If the MKs of the “bloc of 62” (Kahol Lavan, Yisrael Beiteinu, Labor-Gesher-Meretz and the Joint List) had all been of pure Jewish origin, Benny Gantz would be busy now dividing up the ministerial portfolios. But it was Gantz’s bad luck that nearly a quarter of his bloc were Arabs; the other bloc may have gotten 58 seats, four seats fewer, but the members of that bloc are all kosher Jews. why is this ugliness only now being discovered? It’s because for as long as all those outside the racial pale were on the margins, one could tolerate their presence, or even enjoy it. But when their power started to increase in all areas of life, the right raised its head – and when they began to exercise their democratic power in Jewish society, all the fuses blew. What? Arabs will decide who will be prime minister? In the United States, African-Americans didn’t only determine who would be president, one of them became president, and there was no earthquake there.
Netanyahu Won, but Israel's Right Wing Lost (Nave Dromi, Haaretz+) The right’s failure is huge. Chili Tropper, who is slated to be justice minister, certainly won’t fight for a fair, professional judicial system the way Amir Ohana did. Gabi Ashkenazi, who built a “tolerant” army, won’t fight left-wing anarchists nor will he build a Jewish neighborhood in Hebron like Naftali Bennett was planning. And if it were up to Miki Haimovich, she would have left the natural gas – and the billions of dollars – buried in the ground. That doesn’t mean the portfolios on offer to the other partners – education, culture, health, agriculture and transportation – are not important or politically advantageous. Bezalel Smotrich as transportation minister managed to invest in the Judea and Samaria communities by paving roads and strengthening infrastructure while bolstering his public image.
Political Concerns Delay Necessary Closure of Israel's Coronavirus Hot Spots (Amos Harel, Haaretz+)  It’s hard to avoid thinking that changes in the coronavirus battle relate to the volatility of Netanyahu’s political position.

Other Commentary/Analysis:
Israel Should Fight the Coronavirus With a Scalpel, Not a Sledgehammer (Meirav Arlosoroff, Haaretz+) An experiment with continual monitoring at Israel Aerospace shows the way. But Health Ministry isn’t interested.
Don't break quarantine in the name of Judaism (Yossi Marcus, Israel Hayom) There is no basis in Judaism for saying: "I trust in God and therefore I can ignore medical advice." To the contrary, the same God who tells us to fast on Yom Kippur or go to synagogue tells us that to protect our health, we are required to eat on Yom Kippur or stay away from the synagogue.
(Ultra-Orthodox Health Minister) Litzman failed us and has to go (Ron Ben-Yishai, Ynet) Though recent numbers show positive trajectory against coronavirus in number and classification of patients, the laundry list of faults, poor decision-making and lack of equipment can all be placed at the feet of one man.

‘Our Hearts Are Dying’: The Palestinian Doctor at the Epicenter of Italy’s Coronavirus Catastrophe
Anesthesiologist Talal Soufan, from Nablus, is on the front line against the pandemic in the world’s hardest hit region, and has an urgent message for his compatriots back home in the West Bank. “I know there are no beds in intensive care left, and I dread the moment when I’ll have to make a decision on a new critical patient on my own,” he says. “During the last night I worked, I had a man in his fifties who was going to die and no space in the ICU. In the end, I put him on two portable ambulance ventilators, which are less effective but kept him alive. In normal times, we would put people in their nineties in intensive care, but now it’s like a war,” he says. (Interviewed by Davide Lerner in Haaretz+)

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