News Nosh 4.2.20

APN's daily news review from Israel
Thursday April 2, 2020

 
Quote of the day:
"On the one hand, the comic video clip of police cars in pursuit of a lone bicyclist in the Hayarkon Park, on the other hand, a funeral attended by hundreds of people which received police approval in Bnei Brak. Where are the brains, where?"
--Columnist Oded Shalom looks at how the police discriminate in their implementation of the isolation restrictions and don't use discretion in their treatment of Arabs.*

You Must Be Kidding: 
"The Iranians have enough resources to deal with the global coronavirus pandemic."
--Israel Hayom's commentator Eldad Beck writes that Iranians aren't suffering enough to warrant easing US sanctions on them.**


Breaking News:
Israeli Health Minister Yaakov Litzman tested positive for COVID-19 Thursday, keeping Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in self-quarantine, and putting the Mossad Chief, the head of the National Security Council, the Health Ministry director and the director of public health at the Health Ministry in quarantine, as well. The IDF Chief of Staff has already been in self-quarantine since Tuesday.  (Haaretz+ and Israel Hayom)

Front Page:
Haaretz
Yedioth Ahronoth
  • The plan to evacuate hospitals - Health Ministry’s dramatic move
  • A million unemployed - Economy collapsing
  • They’re making money on our backs - Supermarkets decided to cancel holiday sales and Passover grocery shopping became significantly more expensive (Hebrew)
  • Barely an Afikoman // Sever Pocker calls for a clear economic-social welfare policy
  • No reception and no one to fix it (Hebrew)
  • Sport celebs enlisting in the battle (Hebrew)
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
  • The stipend and the warning - PM announced distribution of 500 shekels to every minor and elderly person before Passover
  • Ministry of Finance surprised: No criteria for awarding the grant
  • Loose nerves: Violent demonstrations in Jaffa during detention of someone suspected of violating isolation
  • The official residences affair - Draft of agreement between Netanyahu and Gantz details establishing another official residence, where one of the leaders will live while the other is serving as PM
  • The deposit // Ben Caspit
Israel Hayom

Top News Summary:
As unemployed passed one million people and the number of people infected with corona jumped in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak (where the Israeli army is now running the crisis) Israel took new drastic measures to fight corona in Israel: ordering hospitals to empty 80% of beds to make way for corona patients, preventing entry and exit from the corona-hit ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, requiring people to wear masks outside homes. It also decided to distribute 500 shekels to every minor and elderly person before Passover holiday next week (if Knesset approves).

Meanwhile, Kahol-Lavan and Likud continued to debate who would be Justice Minister and who would be the Knesset Speaker, while reports surfaced that a second official residence will be provided to the leader who is not serving in the rotation.

And in Jaffa, a riot broke out between Arab youth and police over police treatment of locals when a teen refused to identify himself. One older woman who intervened was knocked to the ground by police and received a head injury. Oded Shalom writes in Yedioth how improperly the police acted. Yedioth reporters quote locals, one explained: ”It's not cops, they're criminals. They don't talk. They hit first. This morning there was a riot between police and residents after a 16-year-old refused to identify himself. When a woman came to disperse the mess, she too was beaten. All of Jaffa is furious. We can't stand such a thing that the cops behave in such a way."

Elections 2020 / Netanyahu Indictment News:
The latest news in the negotiations between Kahol-Lavan and Likud to form a unity government is that a draft of the unity agreement permits funding for another official residence for the acting prime minister - at a time of great economic plight. In the Likud, they told Yedioth Hebrew it was not their demand, and in Kahol-Lavan they denied and said, ”Gantz will reside in Rosh Ha'ayin until he is appointed prime minister."

The far-right-wing Yamin party is upset at being sidelined along with its pro-annexation agenda. MK Ayelet Shaked said that "If annexation is not agreed upon within a month - the government has no right to exist.” Yedioth Hebrew reported that if Netanyahu breaks up the right-wing bloc, Yamina will promote a host of laws that should cause a rift between Likud and Kahol-Lavan. Among the proposals: Laws to increase the power of the legislature against the judicial system. Meanwhile, the Opposition list, Yesh Atid - Telem, also plans to cause a rift between Kahol-Lavan and Likud by promoting the bill that would prevent a defendant from serving as prime minister or minister and a bill to limit the tenure of a prime minister to only two consecutive terms. (Maariv)

Corona Quickees:
  • THURSDAY: Israel's coronavirus death toll rises to 36, cases up to 6,857 - Latest fatalities are a 91-year-old man who was hospitalized at Beilinson Hospital and an 84-year-old man. (Ynet)
  • Israeli hospitals told to cut non-coronavirus care, putting many at risk - A hospital administrator calls the Health Ministry's demand to free up hospital beds by reducing non-COVID-19 treatments by 20%, 'ill-advised'; warns patients suffering from cancer and other serious diseases might be left entirely untreated. (Yedioth/Ynet)
  • UN begins home food drops for Gaza's needy to stem virus - Some 4,000 deliveries have already been made, with an estimated 70,000 others to be made over the next three weeks, UNRWA official says. (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
  • **Defense Minister Hints That Gaza Coronavirus Aid Hinges on Release of Soldiers' Bodies - 'The moment there is talk of the humanitarian world in Gaza – Israel also has humanitarian needs, which are mainly the recovery of the fallen,' Israeli defense minister says. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Israel links coronavirus aid for Gaza to recovering missing soldiers - "The moment there is talk of the humanitarian world in Gaza – Israel also has humanitarian needs, which are mainly the recovery of the fallen," Defense Minister Naftali Bennett says. (Israel Hayom)
  • Defense Minister Insists on Team-up With NSO to Battle Coronavirus: ‘No Tenders in War’ - Naftali Bennett's party member Ayelet Shaked, who is close friends with NSO's president, backs defense minister’s initiative to cooperate with controversial company. (Haaretz+)
  • Bnei Brak coronavirus cases near 1000 as Haredi cities hit hardest - The Health Ministry says over the past 24 hours the number of new diagnoses in the predominantly Haredi city has jumped by 25% to 900 total cases, up from 723; Jerusalem and Modi'in Illit also show large spikes of new cases in past 24 hours. (Ynet)
  • PM announces travel restrictions on Bnei Brak amid spike in coronavirus cases - Netanyahu said all needs of residents in the city will be filled and those tested positive with COVID-19 will be taken to dedicated hotels for treatment; says ultra-Orthodox community now understands the gravity of the pandemic and following directives. (Ynet)
  • Army Brass Spearheading Fight Against Coronavirus in ultra-Orthodox Town - With the infection rate in Bnai Brak soaring, the mayor brought in a former general and other military personnel to try to manage the crisis. (Haaretz+)
  • Government to evacuate 4,500 elderly from Bnei Brak - Defense Minister Naftali Bennett and Interior Minister Arye Dery ordered on Thursday to evacuate senior citizens aged 80 and over to a designated hotel outside predominately ultra-Orthodox city. IDF announces soldiers to be deployed to distribute food, medicine during lockdown. (Ynet)
  • Testing Stalls as Cases Rise in ultra-Orthodox Enclaves - Members of the community with symptoms are turning to back channels to get tested: 'They told me to wait a few days until we get to you. But we realized that if we wait they might get to him too late.’ (Haaretz+)
  • Bnei Brak Struggles to Handle Outside Help in Its Fight Against Coronavirus - Specific obstacles to mitigating the spread of the virus exist in this largely ultra-Orthodox community, including a weak relationship between residents and authorities. (Haaretz+)
  • Virus bites into Israeli economy, over 1 million unemployed - ,Director of the Israel National Employment Service Rami Grauer: The goal is to help Israeli businesses and self-employed get back on their feet when the crisis is over. (Israel Hayom)
  • Israel Sells Rare $5 billion ‘Century Bonds’ to Aid Recovery From Coronavirus Outbreak - The sale came a day after the government said it would spend 80 billion shekels ($22.3 billion) to help the economy cope with the coronavirus outbreak. (Haaretz+ and Israel Hayom)
  • 'Loneliness Hurts,' but No Zoom on Passover, Israel’s Chief Rabbinate Says - Movement restrictions shouldn't lead to desecrating the holiday, statement pushed by official Israeli government channel says. (JTA, Haaretz)
  • Israelis Raise Half a Million Dollars in 24 Hours for Orphaned 4-year-old Twins of Coronavirus Victim - The money will be transferred to a foundation that will allow the money to be used specifically for the children, Lod Mayor Yair Revivo says. (JTA, Haaretz)
  • Death in the Holy Land: Coronavirus changes burial for Jews, Muslims - The contagious virus has resulted in the bodies of victims being buried in impermeable plastic, while funerals can be attended by no more than 20 people; the new health officials' directives also affected the Jewish tradition of Shiva. (Agencies, Ynet)
  • IDF draft and Israel's Matriculation Exams to Be Curtailed This Year Due to Coronavirus - The army's summer draft will be postponed and the psychometric exam that should have been given in April has also been postponed to an unspecified date. (Haaretz+)
  • Holy Land custodian urges Israel to let clerics celebrate Easter in Holy Sepulchre - As Easter draws ever nearer and Israel finds itself in the midst of harsh coronavirus restriction, representatives of the three main Churches in Jerusalem send statement, saying that prayers at the site of Jesus' crucifixion will continue. (Agencies, Ynet)
  • Coronavirus Surveillance Poses Long-term Privacy Threat, UN Expert Warns - Israel joined countries like Singapore, South Korea and China in using surveillance and monitoring measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus. (Haaretz+)
  • Netanyahu uses clip from TV show claiming it was virus-hit Iran - PM shows a viral video from 2007 American mini-series, ‘Pandemic,’ to his ministers during a cabinet meeting, claiming the footage of bodies being thrown into a garbage pit had been shot in the Islamic Republic and asserting that Iranian authorities have been hiding the real number of coronavirus-related fatalities. (Ynet)
  • Iran's Coronavirus Death Toll Rises to 3,136, Health Ministry Official Says - 'We have 3,956 infected people in critical condition ... There was 2,875 new cases of infected people in the past 24 hours.’ (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Rohani: U.S. Has Lost Opportunity to Lift Iran Sanctions Amid Coronavirus Outbreak - 'It was a great opportunity for Americans to apologize ... and to lift the unjust and unfair sanctions on Iran.’ (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Sanders urges U.S. to lift Iran sanctions to ease coronavirus 'suffering' - The Jewish senator appeals to in a tweet to Pompeo and Mnuchin telling them to put aside 'our countries' disputes'; the Democratic presidential candidate was joined by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilan Omar; Iran's leader says U.S. missed a chance 'to apologize.’ (Ynet)
  • Iran Doesn't Have Proxies, It Has Friends, Says FM After Trump Warned of 'Sneak Attack' in Iraq - 'Iran will pay a very heavy price, indeed!' tweeted Trump without clarifying what information he was referring to. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Iran General Visits Baghdad, Tries to Forge Political Unity - Esmail Ghaani, head of Iran’s expeditionary Quds Force, succeeded slain Iranian general Qassim Soleimani who was killed by a U.S. strike at Baghdad's airport. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Hezbollah Asserts Role in Lebanon's Coronavirus Fight - The Iran-funded group is a significant backer of the government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab, which took office in January, and picked the current and former ministers of health. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Fearing coronavirus, teachers in Syrian refugee camp adapt once again - Teachers are switching to digital learning, using Whatsapp to communicate lessons with students in the Atmeh camp near the Turkish border. (Agencies, Ynet)
  • ISIS, Al-Qaida See Global Chaos From Coronavirus as an Opportunity to Mobilize - With domestic security efforts down, some Islamist extremists are encouraging followers to learn about Islam and increase attacks. (Agencies, Haaretz)


Elections 2020/Netanyahu Indictment Commentary/Analysis:
Will the Defendant Appoint the Judges? (Haaretz Editorial) After Likud agreed to give the justice portfolio to Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan in the negotiations to form a governing coalition headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a creeping erosion of Likud’s willingness to cede control of the judicial system set in. First the party announced that the portfolio would indeed go to Kahol Lavan, but Likud would have a role in choosing the justice minister. Now it’s seeking “partnership” in appointing the Justice Ministry controls, including both senior ministry officials and judges appointed by the Judicial Appointments Committee.
What are you in such a hurry to join? (Ariella Ringle Hoffman, Yedioth Hebrew) Amir Peretz, what are you in such a rush for? What burns you to join the Kahol-Lavan - Likud coalition? To do this even before an agreement is signed, even before its clauses are clear, in a situation where this whole romance could end as one big fiasco? I find no reasonable explanation for why this man, who took down the mythical mustache with a great ceremony while promising not to join Netanyahu's government, is doing it now. With urgency…It may not be a great pleasure to sit in the opposition and raise your hand in plenary votes that will lose its power against a coalition of 73 MKs - but that is exactly what is expected of you, to fight from there… You don’t need to be a political genius to understand what lies behind this move, what is hiding behind the blown-up texts about a critical emergency time for the citizens of the State of Israel. Peretz, I suppose, knows that this is probably his last term. Not because he has reached an age where it is impossible to start, but because all other possibilities are closing down. In the next election, the Labor Party will run in a new format that is difficult to predict today, but it can be said with confidence that Peretz will not be able to lead. This cannot be said about (Labor MK Itsik) Shmuli, for whom this move may turn out to be - faster than he estimated - a bad bargain, reminiscent of the foolish head dive by the one who nimbly leapt up descending stairs, Stav Shafir.
Gantz, preserve the democracy (Amir Fuchs, Haaretz Hebrew) The health emergency is expected to lead to the establishment of a national emergency government. Of course, this was the compromise of Benny Gantz and his party, who agreed to serve as minister under a prime minister with severe indictments, in opposition to the main flag they campaigned with in the election. But from now on, they have been demanded, without compromise, to assume the role of maintaining liberal democracy in Israel. Not just to prevent schemes of legislation that would destroy the rule of law such as the French law, amendments to the Immunity Law, or turning the role of Acting Prime Minister into a haven for defendants in government corruption. They must prevent greater danger: the threat posed at the gate of the justice system and the rule of law in general.
A Huge Disappointment': Gantz’s Double Dealing With Netanyahu Sends Israel’s Arab Voters Into Despair (Judy Maltz, Haaretz+) A minority center-left government headed by Kahol Lavan would have won key concessions for the Arab community, but the former army chief allegedly opted for 'the politics of contempt.’
Not everything has to do with blocs and mandates; during an emergency, capability is more important than ever (Lilach Sigan, Maariv) A personal example of concern for the state is to show proper priorities, and to demonstrate that you are giving up a great deal of your political demands. Personal example is certainly not about taking care of your make-up and your hair while you’re in isolation. [A jab at Netanyahu, who made a point of saying that he did that ahead of a press conference. - OH]
Netanyahu Is a Colossal Failure. But Against the Coronavirus, He Is All Israel Has (Eric H. Yoffie, Haaretz+) He has no real foreign policy achievements. He's presided over the near-collapse of Israel’s educational and health systems, even before coronavirus. But for the duration of this crisis - we're all stuck with him.

Other Commentary/Analysis:
Israel's Refusal to Test Its Arab Population for COVID-19 Is a Ticking Time-bomb (Dr. Nihaya Daoud, Haaretz+) Speaking on Channel 12 news on Sunday, the director general of Magen David Adom emergency medical services announced that there will be no more testing for the coronavirus in the Arab community if the criteria aren’t changed. This surprising statement only intensified our fears that the number of those infected in the Arab community is far higher than what has been reported until now, but there is no information because there are no tests. Today the illness is harshly stigmatized in Arab society, and people treat patients like lepers. This situation could have been avoided had the information come on time and in a rational manner, from experts in the Arab community, immediately at the start of the outbreak in Israel. In terms of public health, due to the present situation the Arab communities are likely to become epicenters of the coronavirus outbreak, which will threaten the health of the entire population.
The search for scapegoats won't save any lives (Jonathan S. Tobin, Israel Hayom) Toxic partisanship, mockery of faith and singling out some communities for blame won't fill the prescription for recovery from the coronavirus disaster.
With the World Pre-occupied With Coronavirus, Israel Pushes a West Bank Land Grab (Evan Gottesman, Haaretz+) Pushing annexation right now is playing with fire. It would likely force Israelis and Palestinians into a two-front war: an armed conflict, while fighting, without coordination, COVID-19.
*Wise law enforcement is needed (Oded Shalom at a demonstration in Jaffa, Yedioth Hebrew) For two hours now, the police helicopter is whirring above our heads. It's an early evening, a few minutes past seven. In Jaffa, not far from Yeffet Street. The thick smoke rising above the city dissipated and so did the stifling smell of smoke grenades. Jaffa was conquered by IDF and Border Force forces who roam here as if they were in the kasbah in Nablus (in the West Bank). The police show very little intelligent judgment in the crazy days we are going through. On the one hand, the comic video clip of police cars in pursuit of a lone bicyclist in the Hayarkon Park, on the other, a funeral attended by hundreds of people which receives police approval in Bnei Brak. Where are the brains, where? The police needs to use its head a little, not to walk through the wall with it. Conduct yourself wisely, through dialogue, certainly with the sectors that also routinely feel cut off. According to talk in the Jaffa streets, police officers harassed the boy who was riding an electric bicycle with his friend. They asked for IDs, began by shouting, people walked outside their homes to intervene, an elderly woman was pushed by a police officer and hit her head. The police version is that this is a guy who violated isolation. Either way, Jaffa now looks like a battlefield. Yeffet Street is black from  the soot of the (burned) garbage bins the youth set on fire. Large stones are everywhere, evidence of barrages thrown at the police. The helicopter hovers overhead and sends SWAT teams on idle chases in the alleys. Cells of Border Police combat (soldiers) patrol in Jaffa with stun grenades in their hands, which they will raise at rabble-rousers. Part of the second season of "Fauda" was filmed here in Jaffa and the city now looks like a huge set of fourth season filming. These are not normal days, so the situation is not so simple either. The police needed to turn their heads a little, not to walk through the wall with him. To drive wisely, in dialogue, surely with sectors that also routinely feel disconnected and do not belong to the entire Israeli society. In Jaffa, in the Arab sector in general, as in Bnei Brak, dialogue is needed, wise enforcement. In Jaffa yesterday, none of these were present.
Ventilators by Cloak-and-dagger (Gideon Levy, Haaretz+) The Mossad is the new Red Cross. Tuesday’s episode of the investigative journalism series “Uvda,” on Mossad operations to bring medical equipment to Israel, was maddening and embarrassing. Leaving aside the fact that this saccharine, loathsome public service announcement has nothing to do with journalism, does its host, the covert operations groupie Ilana Dayan, have any idea how many of the stories of heroism she’s been told by the super-spies are actually true? Based on what? What kind of journalism is it when the super-investigative reporter already knows, and states: “When this battle ends, the Mossad agents will be on the correct side of the commission of inquiry. They did their part.” The coincidental – of course coincidental – meeting in an alley with Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen, in his designer sunglasses and designer bag, is not journalism. Neither are starry-eyed gazes and hymns of praise.  But the message sent by “Uvda” is much more important than any TV review. The Mossad agents boasted about stealing medical equipment ordered by other countries. As Dayan chuckled, ”H.,” the head of Mossad’s technology division, said with a wink: “We stole, but only a little.” By what methods? Threats? Guns? Robbery? Like with the Boats of Cherbourg, only more criminal? That, of course, H. wasn’t asked.
Is Iran using pandemic chaos to race toward nuclear weapon? (Yoav Limor, Israel Hayom) According to intelligence assessments, the regime's distress – perhaps the most severe since the Khomeini revolution in 1979 – could drive it to seek to fortify its position inside the republic and externally against the world.
Coronavirus Economic Impact Could Decimate the Middle East (Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz+) Amid coronavirus crisis, wealthy Gulf States can no longer provide aid to struggling Arab neighbors and may soon lay off millions of foreign workers.
**Iran trying to pull the wool over West's eyes (Eldad Beck, Israel Hayom) The Iranians have enough resources to deal with the global coronavirus pandemic. Anyone who endorses easing the sanctions on Tehran at this time will be made to pay dearly later on.
Trump proves he is the most dangerous element in the war against the virus (Ran Edelist, Maariv) No one should use the example of Prime Minister Netanyahu's friends and masters on how to run a health crisis. American politics is governed by the big money behind the denial of corona.
Quiet Now, Intellectuals. We Don't Know What the Future Holds (Shlomo Sand, Haaretz+) There’s a well-known saying in Jewish tradition that after the Temple’s destruction, prophecy was taken away from the prophets and given to fools and babies. Nevertheless, now of all times, amid an unprecedented worldwide calamity, an array of intellectual would-be prophets are popping up and purporting to be able to predict the future, both near and far.
Coronavirus has sealed the coffin of Israel's dying privacy (Einav Schiff, Yedioth/Ynet) Israelis are submerged by coronavirus-related cacophony emanating from their televisions and smartphones, not taking the time to worry the defense establishment is collecting data that could ultimately be used to control them.
It’s Time to Let Litzman Go (Zehava Galon, Haaretz+) President Reuven Rivlin famously said in a 2015 speech that Israel has four tribes that must learn to live together. The true number is higher, but the argument holds. Unlike Arabs, Bedouin, asylum seekers and Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, the Haredim have representatives in the government. These cabinet ministers should have conveyed to them the gravity of the situation. That is the minimum that could be expected. It didn’t happen. Many politicians have sold out their voters lately, but none of them put them in harm’s way as Litzman did to his. He insisted on exceptions from the lockdown for Haredim, as if he were handing out candy and not invitations to a funeral. The coronavirus is exposing an ancient leftist truth: We’re all in the same boat. Before the pandemic hit, it was possible to ignore this, to tell ourselves that an asylum seeker’s poverty is his problem. The virus did in this lie. There is no such thing as “it’s their problem” now. The virus doesn’t recognize the false borders we have erected.
Fighting coronavirus the smart way (Giora Eiland, Yedioth/Ynet) Countless mistakes have been made in this battle simply because the authorities failed to realize that the Health Ministry can't manage the crisis alone; the government must explore better alternatives to an increasingly tight lockdown.

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