News Nosh 4.6.20

APN's daily news review from Israel
Monday April 6, 2020

Quote of the day:
"At least the Arabs can be happy that they are the first people in history whose name begins with “non.”
--Haaretz commentator Odeh Bisharat reacts to how Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu referred to Israeli citizens who are not Jewish.*

You Must Be Kidding: 
Israel detained two Palestinian Authority officials from E. Jerusalem, who were reportedly working to assist Palestinian residents as part of their response to the coronavirus pandemic.Yet, last week, Israel was fine to let Palestinian security forces enter the city to deal with armed clashes between Palestinian residents.**

Front Page:
Yedioth Ahronoth
  • Air for breathing
  • Closure on Passover Eve
  • Eidan Reichel will light a torch on Independence Day (Hebrew)
  • One in the mouth, one in the ear // Nahum Barnea
  • Boris Johnson hospitalized
  • Ultra-Orthodox are connecting to the internet (Hebrew)
  • The school that operated despite corona (Hebrew)
  • The judo champion who is fundraising for respirators
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
  • Cities under siege
  • Take care of the banks // Yehuda Sharoni
  • A deal and corona - Exchange of messages between Israel and Gaza continue over an agreement
  • Gantz holds on to the mandate (to form a government)
Israel Hayom
  • Let the IDF manage the crisis - Chief of Staff Kochavi in letter to Netanyahu and Bennett
  • “General closure on Passover Eve”
  • “Revolt” of the mayors? “We want to manage the crisis ourselves”
  • Senior Chinese doctor: “Leaving the closure is not dependent on mass testing”
  • Likud: Sovereignty [i.e. annexation] - condition for unity

Top News Summary:
Ultra-Orthodox and other cities put under siege, incitement directed towards ultra-Orthodox, and no progress made between Gantz and Netanyahu to form an emergency unity government - these were the top stories in today’s Hebrew newspapers.

Elections 2020 / Netanyahu Indictment News:
At the time of Kahol-Lavan leader Benny Gantz’s shocking move last week to join Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in a unity government, it appeared that it was a done deal. But with everyday that passes, there are more impasses. Yedioth Hebrew’s Yuval Karni reported that “both sides are already openly talking about the possibility of the talks exploding.” The main sticking point now is the issue of annexation of parts or all of the West Bank with Kahol-Lavan opposing. Israel Hayom reported that Netanyahu has worked tirelessly over the last three years to get the Trump administration to agree annexation and refuses to give up on it. According to a Channel 13 News report on Saturday,  Gantz may be willing to accept the annexation of settlement blocs west of Israel's security barrier as a part of a peace initiative in full coordination with the Defense Ministry, which he will lead under a unity government. Such efforts would begin only after the coronavirus threat has ended, according to the report. According to the report, Gantz is sticking to his opposition to annexing the Jordan Valley, over worries that it could jeopardize the Israel-Jordan peace agreement, Israel Hayom wrote. Meanwhile, Gantz has informed President Reuven Rivlin that he may ask for a two-week extension to form a government. Rivlin said he would consider giving it to him. (Maariv)

Corona News and Quickees:

Israel is placing eight cities and 15 Jerusalem neighborhoods under siege, the majority of them are of ultra-Orthodox Jews: no one can enter and no one can exit. Israel is also considering a full Passover Eve lockdown of the country to prevent people from going to their family for the feast. The IDF Chief of Staff asked Netanyahu to allow the IDF to manage the crisis because it constituted "war.” Troops have already been deployed to the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, which is already under partial lockdown. Soldiers were given Yiddish dictionaries to communicate with locals. President Rivlin lamented the harsh recent statements made against the ultra-Orthodox public, following their high rates of corona infection. "The plague does not distinguish between ultra-Orthodox and secular,” he said. (Yedioth Hebrew) The Health Ministry deputy director said Israel would not be returning to normal after the Passover holiday and that resuming economic activity depended on tests to identify coronavirus antibodies in the blood.

  • MONDAY EVE: Israel's coronavirus death toll up to 56, with 8,649 confirmed cases - Health Ministry says five people have succumbed to COVID-19 since Monday morning, including a woman who became the seventh resident of a Be'er Sheva nursing home to die of virus. (Ynet and Haaretz)
  • Netanyahu to review efficiency of Shin Bet monitoring of people infected by coronavirus - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will establish a committee to review the success and efficiency of the Shin Bet security agency's tracking of civilians who have contracted coronavirus. (Ynet)
  • Israel Police Seek Software to Locate Gatherings, Enforce Coronavirus Lockdown - The tool would identify a gathering of 50 or more people in ‘almost real time,’ without tracking cellphones or collecting personal information, police claim. (Haaretz+)
  • In the Fight Against Coronavirus Fake News, Israel Police May Harm Free Speech - Some fear that investigations into fake news, which don't require approval by the state prosecutor, will be opened against those voicing legitimate criticism of authorities. (Haaretz+)
  • Israel Won't Allow Cities to Use Information on Coronavirus Patients to Enforce Self-isolation - New regulation permits municipalities to receive information on those who must self-isolate, but it cannot be used to ensure compliance – and some mayors are angry. (Haaretz+)
  • In dramatic operation, police raid bus with coronavirus carrier - Man arrested after refusing to self-isolate despite carrying deadly contagion, forcing the Israel Police to stop bus. He was detained and the 34 passengers will have to self-isolate. (Israel Hayom and Maariv)
  • Israel to Locally Produce Compound for Coronavirus Screening, After Drop in Testing Rate - Local production comes as South Korea and Germany suspend exports, causing a shortage as officials hope to reach 10,000 tests a day in two weeks. (Haaretz+ and Yedioth/Ynet)
  • Testing for Antibodies Crucial to Ending Israel's Coronavirus Crisis, Experts Say - Serological tests would help authorities answer important questions about the virus – most importantly, if herd immunity is possible and if so, how and how long will it take? (Haaretz+)
  • Not a Coronavirus Patient? Hospitals in Israel Won't Treat You - Hospital directors are furious at Health Ministry directive to allocate 80 percent of resources to those with the coronavirus, calling it a death sentence for those suffering from cancer, heart attacks, strokes or other life endangering conditions. (Haaretz+)
  • Spared So Far, Israel's Arab Community Fears Ramadan Could Spark Coronavirus Outbreak - With Ramadan around the corner, experts are worried the relatively low rate of infection in the Arab community could be reversed, with disastrous consequences. (Haaretz+)
  • In the shadow of the Corona crisis, tens of thousands of Israelis may remain without food for Passover - Tachlit organization, which deals with distributing food to needy, has launched a new initiative - a call center where anyone can adopt a needy family in their area of residence, and take care of their holiday meal. (Maariv)
  • Jewish communities Zoom in for a once-in-a-generation Seder - Can you still properly observe Passover traditions during a pandemic? Jewish groups around the world take pains to make sure this Passover will as normal as possible, despite being like no other. (Israel Hayom)
  • 70% of workers in Eilat unemployed - The Employment Service released a report on Sunday, stating that 70% of workers in the southern city of Eilat, were either fired, or forced to take an unpaid leave due the coronavirus epidemic that halted the city's thriving tourism industry. (Ynet)
  • Israel Sees Jump in Sex Crimes, Domestic Violence Cases Amid Coronavirus Lockdown - The total number of criminal cases opened last month was down 19 percent compared to March 2019, mainly due to a steep drop in property crimes. (Haaretz+)
  • Israeli Minister Pushes to Deduct Coronavirus Fines From Asylum Seekers' Deposit Accounts - Apparently hoping to 'bolster deterrence,' Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan wants to dig into migrants' compulsory savings. (Haaretz+ and Maariv)
  • Not really cut off: a surge in the use of internet in the ultra-Orthodox sector - Despite the claims that the ultra-Orthodox were not aware of the corona guidelines, Bezeq Telecom statistics show that in the ultra-Orthodox areas, internet usage in the last month rose by more than 40% per day. The most prominent leap: Beitar Illit and Bnei Brak. (Yedioth/Ynet Hebrew)
  • Drone Footage Shows Israel's Most Crowded City Under Coronavirus Curfew - Aerial shots reveal post-apocalyptic nature of the coronavirus closure conditions in the ultra-Orthodox Israeli city of Bnei Brak. (Haaretz+)
  • Palm Sunday procession goes ahead in near-deserted Jerusalem; Pope opens Holy Week - Pope Francis is celebrating Palm Sunday Mass without the public, since the traditional ceremony in St. Peter’s Square was scrapped because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • No mohels (circumcisers), no brits: The child is almost a month old - and has no name - Countries closed their borders and many Jewish communities around the world found themselves without circumcisers, as the mohel comes from a neighboring country or people simply aren’t allowed to leave their homes. Thus, the son of the rabbi of the Jewish community of Oslo, Norway, Rabbi Zvi Herberger - is almost a month old and is still waiting for his name. He is not yet circumcised, and they don’t know when he will be. (Ynet Hebrew)
  • Norway Pleads for More Aid to Help Palestinians Tackle Coronavirus - The PA estimates it needs $120 million to respond to the outbreak, but Norway's foreign minister expects the needs to grow as the economy takes a hit. (Agencies, Haaretz)

Other Quick Hits:
  • Hamas signals readiness for a prisoner deal - According to various sources, the talks were accelerated in light of the ongoing corona crisis and after Hamas politburo chief Yahya Sinwar's remarks last week that Gaza was "ready for concessions.” If such a deal is made, Israeli citizens Ebra Mengisto and Hisham a-Sayed may be released. Gaza officials said that "Sinwar is ready to transmit information in exchange for the release of elderly, ill and women prisoners.” Hamas refuses to call it a deal and calls it a "humanitarian initiative." (Maariv and Ynet Hebrew)
  • Three Palestinian workers of Jerusalem attacked by Jews in Jerusalem - Three municipality workers, residents of the Shoafat refugee camp in Jerusalem were physically attacked by three Jews Sunday. The three were taken to hospital for treatment and will lodge a complaint with the police, which claims one of the suspected assailants has been detained. (Ynet)
  • Israeli Town Councilman Urges Residents to Stop Selling Homes to Arabs - The remarks in a local Whatsapp group, for which Shmulik Simchon apologized, have drawn criticism from local police and political figures, who called the statements racist and divisive. (Haaretz+)
  • **Israel arrests Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Affairs who was assisting in corona response - PA Jerusalem Affairs Minister Fadi al-Hidmi detained early Friday for violating an Israeli ban on Palestinian political activities in east Jerusalem. Palestinian officials said al-Hidmi was working to assist residents as part of their response to the coronavirus pandemic. Ramallah condemns move, EU calls it "worrying.” It was the fourth time he has been arrested since he took office in April 2019. He was released several hours later. (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
  • Israel arrests PA Governor of Jerusalem for ‘illegal activities’ said linked to pandemic - Israel detained Sunday the Palestinian Authority Governor of Jerusalem over “illegal” activities, in at least the seventh time Adnan Ghaith has been arrested in less than 18 months. A video circulating on social media shows Ghaith, wearing rubber gloves and smoking a cigarette, being escorted by police out of his East Jerusalem home. His attorney Rami Othman said he was detained primarily due to Palestinian activity related to the coronavirus outbreak. (Ynet and Times of Israel)
  • Likud Aims to Block From Supreme Court The Ex-state Prosecutor Who Helped Indict Netanyahu - Netanyahu's party considers Shai Nitzan to be a red flag because of his aggressive stance on governmental corruption, which resulted in the premier's indictment. (Haaretz+)
  • Hezbollah Official Who Tracked Israeli Collaborators Found Murdered, Group Says - Lebanese security forces not ruling out criminal motive in death of Ali Muhammad Yunis. (Haaretz+)

Elections 2020/Netanyahu Indictment Commentary/Analysis:
Benny Gantz and his party members want to establish a national paralysis government (Haim Misgav, Maariv) Although the political world is about compromising, the Kahol-Lavan Chairman, in his brazen and nauseating demands, actually says he is doing a favor to the right-wing bloc by being willing to delegate his spirit to it.
Gantz, Have You No Red Lines at All? (Haaretz Editorial) There are several proofs of the fact that the term “national emergency government” is devoid of content. One is that Yaakov Litzman is staying on as health minister. Another is that the Kahol Lavan party didn’t demand “coronavirus portfolios” like the health and finance ministries. And here’s a third piece of evidence demonstrating that the pandemic is just a smokescreen for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: the fact that during Likud’s negotiations with Kahol Lavan over forming a government, the main dispute has been over the issue of annexation. The self-evident question is why, at the height of an unprecedented health crisis – at a time when the health system is on the brink of collapse, the education system is shut down, the population is in quarantine, the elderly are separated from their families, cities are under lockdown and more than a million Israelis have become unemployed – why, amid all this chaos, is Netanyahu, and presumably other sections of his right-wing bloc, primarily concerned with the issue of unilaterally annexing parts of the West Bank?
Gantz should save spots in the unity government seats for his former friends from Yesh Atid (Uriel Lin, Maariv) The opposition can provide us with statements and protests, but those who really strive to promote values in Israeli society should give up comfort and join the government, the world of action and implementation.
In the choice between values and deals - (Labor MKs) Peretz and Shmuli chose the latter (Eran Nissan, Maariv) When the possibility of them entering the government is in the air, the Labor MKs must remember that they should not drag the faction's respectable legacy into Netanyahu's mud.

Other Commentary/Analysis:
The closure will save us, in Gaza the closure will kill (Neve Gordon, The Nation and Haaretz Hebrew) Residents of the Gaza Strip will suffer not only from the natural complications caused by the virus, but also from the fact that the siege put upon them places them at a huge disadvantage in all three categories considered essential in the fight against the spread of the corona: health care, social conditions, and the possibility of physical distance…Israel, which continues to control Gaza’s borders, has for decades intentionally weakened the economy and health of the world’s largest open-air prison.
Responses to corona expose Arab world's fault lines (James Dorsey, Israel Hayom) The lesson of Egypt's, Pakistan's and China's initial handling of the coronavirus pandemic is that neither self-serving autocrats nor authoritarians have the wherewithal to confront a crisis like this in a timely fashion.
Who Needs Doctors When You Have an Army? (Raviv Drucker, Haaretz+) Allow me to present the real heroes of the war – starting with the head of the Mossad, who, by marvelous coincidence, encounters a television camera every time he leaves his office. Through a daring operation, he has managed to buy 500,000 coronavirus testing kits, respirators and 10 million surgical masks (where are they?). Fear not, Israel, Yossi Cohen is guarding you. And he isn’t alone. Soldiers from the elite Sayeret Matkal unit “bring stratagems, operational capabilities and resourcefulness to these missions,” to quote an article on the Ynet news site. The missions in question aren’t assassinating senior Hezbollah operatives, but merely obtaining reagents for coronavirus tests and locating patients whose tests have gotten lost. Almost as a matter of course, you ask yourself whether this is an army that has a public relations office or a public relations office that has an army.
*Netanyahu Doesn't See Arabs, Only 'non-Jews' (Odeh Bisharat, Haaretz+) The non-Arab prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, never misses an opportunity to prove how racist and petty he is, even during these days of deep crisis. During the huge fire in Haifa a few years ago, instead of exploiting the distress to forge civilian unity, he and his cohorts started to speak of arson terror by Arabs. To this day there has never been proof of any such “terror.” Now, when he addresses the citizenry, he is addressing the “Jews” and the “non-Jews.” At least the Arabs can be happy that they are the first people in history whose name begins with “non.” Meanwhile, the propaganda machine is working overtime. Even though all the indications show that the Arab population is exhibiting good citizenship, awareness and impressive discipline during this crisis – the mosques and churches are closed and no one is praying there secretly; no religious or societal leader came out against the official guidelines – every time someone mentions the serious situation in the ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) community, another hastens to ask: And what about the Arabs?” So this is the situation with the Arabs: According to MK Mtanes Shehadeh, chairman of the Knesset subcommittee on the coronavirus in the Arab community, the percentage of Arabs found to have been infected is very low, even after the recent wave of testing, and so is their percentage of patients in critical condition. My dear right-wingers, we are sorry for the disappointment we’ve caused you. What would you like us to do to raise morale in the state of the Jewish majority? Perhaps we should spray ourselves with coronavirus in order to please the crown prince, Yair ben Netanyahu (can we refer to him as YbN, the way people refer to MbS, the Saudi crown prince so beloved by the royal family here?). Netanyahu the son pushed the incitement another few steps forward and tweeted the photo of a demonstration from 2014 as if it was a news photo from Jaffa last week. “When are they locking down Jaffa?” asked the incited masses on social media? Bnei Brak is not alone.
Coronavirus, and Saudi Arabia, Force Moscow to Freeze Its Plans for Middle East Domination (Dmitriy Frolovskiy, Haaretz+) The coronavirus pandemic and the Kremlin’s battle with Saudi Arabia over oil prices are exposing both the vagueness and fragility of Putin’s ambitions in the Mideast, from Damascus to Tehran to Riyadh.
Coronavirus Could Threaten Qatar's World Cup Dreams (Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz+) The fate of the 2022 World Cup is a top concern for host country Qatar, but the failure to comply with coronavirus safety measures could spell trouble for the games
Why is this night different from all the other nights? This night we're all zooming (Dror Raphael, Maariv) Why is this night different from all the other nights? On all other nights we eat between guests and those being pampered - this night is all about deliveries. We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt. And the Prophet Moshe Bar Siman-Tov [Health Ministry Director - OH} arrived and removed us from liberty and put us in slavery and we were careful and we didn’t go farther than a hundred cubits from our homes. And even though we are all wise and we are all virologists and we all know medicine - we must tell of the spread of the corona through the small drop or through the button of the elevator and the cart of the supermarket, and all those who tell more that is commendable.  

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