News Nosh 4.13.20

APN's daily news review from Israel
Monday April 13, 2020

 You Must Be Kidding: 

Tel-Aviv marijuana dealers are dressing up in food delivery outfits so they can bypass the health guidelines that prevent people from going more than 100 meters from their homes except to buy food or for essential needs.**

Front Page:
Yedioth Ahronoth
  • Studies to the test - Special project: What are the possible ways to renew studies (Hebrew)
  • Battle over the mandate (Hebrew)
  • Signing phobia // Nahum Barnea
  • Behind the mask // Sima Kadmon
  • Protected Cohenim (Photo of just a few men participating in the ‘Priestly Blessing’ prayer at the Western Wall)
  • Former chief Rabbi, Eliyahu Bakshi Doron, died of corona
  • The future of the coffee shops
  • He was seriously injured in battle and is battling cancer
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
Israel Hayom
  • The right-wing bloc is united: “The President must give the mandate (to form a government) to Netanyahu”
  • Fateful day: Unity or the mandate returns to the Knesset
  • When the “scandal” sounds like the “end of democracy” // Limor Samimian-Darash
  • What changed? Apply sovereignty and advance territorial contiguity // Uri Cohen
  • High Court opened door to the next appeal // Yaakov Berdugo
  • Gate closed: Not going back to school
  • Foreign Ministry prepares - this is how the world will look the day after corona
  • Old age homes scandal: Fear - Isolation will continue at least another year

Top News Summary:
President Reuven Rivlin rejected Kahol-Lavan leader Benny Gantz’s request for a two-week extension to form a government and gave him till Monday night at midnight (UPDATE: he extended it to Wednesday), Israel discussed  corona exit plans even as it put 17 neighborhoods in Jerusalem under lockdown and the former chief Sephardi Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron died of coronavirus making top stories in today’s Hebrew newspapers.

Elections 2020 / Netanyahu Indictment News:
After President Rivlin rejected Gantz’s request for more time and gave him till Monday night midnight to form a government, the Likud and the Kahol-Lavan negotiating teams scrambled to see if they could iron out their major stumbling block: Netanyahu’s additional request for Likud to have more influence on the committee that selects High Court justices, something that Gantz rejected outright, saying it would harm democracy. UPDATE: Monday night, with only a few hours to go, Gantz gave a press conference where he called on Netanyahu to agree to a unity government, meaning that they had not reached one. Shortly afterward, Netanyahu responded, saying: “Benny come to Jerusalem let’s sign a deal tonight.” The two are presently meeting. Rivlin gave the two leaders till Wednesday. If they don’t agree on one, Rivlin will give the Knesset the mandate to form a government and if 61 members of Knesset cannot agree on one person to be given the mandate to form a government, Israel will go to fourth elections.

Rivlin made his decision to reject Gantz’s original request for more time after he made some calls. Gantz had said he was close to an agreement, but Netanyahu said they were not. The right-wing bloc was angry that Rivlin did not pass the mandate to Netanyahu. But Rivlin also contacted the two right-wing members of the Telem party, who said they did not support a coalition government backed by the mostly Arab Joint List faction. Rivlin asked them, MK Yoaz Hendel and MK Tzvi Hauser, if they would support giving the mandate to Netanyahu. They said no, they would not be a part of a narrow coalition government led by Netanyahu. (Ynet Hebrew) And Labor leaders Amir Peretz and Itsik Shmuli conveyed similar messages, despite Likud attempts to convince them otherwise. Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc has 58 seats. It got one more from Gesher party chairwoman MK Orly Levi-Abekasis, who broke off her alliance with the Labor and Meretz parties and expressed her support for Netanyahu to form a government. (Maariv) But Netanyahu lacked two more seats to reach the 61 needed to form a government.

Meanwhile, Moshe (Bugi) Yaalon, head of the Telem party, which was formally part of Kahol-Lavan, urged Gantz to cut off unity government talks and rebuild Kahol-Lavan. Members of the Yesh Atid-Telem faction also appealed to Kahol-Lavan MKs, urging them to advance the legislation that would prevent Netanyahu from being prime minister again and which they had pledged to do before Gantz made an about face and tried to join Netanyahu in an emergency unity government. Yedioth Hebrew writes that the transfer of the mandate to the Knesset will allow Kahol-Lavan to control the agenda through the Knesset Committe. One of the proposed laws is to prohibit an indicted MK from forming a government.

Yesterday, the High Court dismissed a petition filed by 117 public figures, including former defense ministers, who demanded that the High Court make that ruling to prohibit Netanyahu from receiving a mandate to form a government in light of the criminal indictments for offenses of moral turpitude which he faces in Cases 100, 2000 and 4000. (Maariv) The court said the filing was premature because Netanyahu had not received the mandate. Haaretz reported that Netanyahu’s immediate concern was that the High Court will indeed rule to prevent him, if he does get the mandate.

Corona News and Quickees:

Israel put a full closure on 17 coronavirus-hit Jerusalem neighborhoods, while it made plans to gradually lift the general closure on the country, but the start date has yet to be set. Special plans are being discussed to return children to schools, such as having children study in school gyms or classes divided so that half the children study three days a week and the other half study three other days. On home days children will do distance learning.

  • Israeli Health Ministry: 116 coronavirus fatalities in Israel, 11,586 cases - COVID-19 has claimed 13 lives in past 24 hours, including 41-year-old woman and three residents of assisted living facilities; 183 people in serious condition, including 132 patients on ventilators; 1,855 people have now recovered from the disease. (Ynet)
  • Liberman, like Netanyahu and Rivlin, accused of flouting ban on Passover guests - Yisrael Beytenu chief reportedly hosted son and his fiancee at Nokdim home for Seder despite strict restrictions; blasts nationwide closure for holiday eve as ‘scandalous.’ (Times of Israel)
  • U.S. Ambassador to Israel Prays at Western Wall in Violation of Coronavirus Guidelines - The prayer in which Ambassador David Friedman took part in included more than ten people. U.S. Embassy says he followed guidelines. (Haaretz+)
  • Full Closure on 17 Coronavirus-hit Jerusalem Neighborhoods Goes Into Effect - To stave off spread of coronavirus, Israeli government approves extending the curfew, already in place due to the Passover holiday that began last week, until Wednesday morning. (Haaretz+)
  • Foreign Ministry prepares for a post-corona world - Coronavirus will lead to more terrorism, less stability, and goodbye to the free market – but opportunities for Israel, according to a document prepared by a team of diplomats and experts. (Israel Hayom)
  • Israeli Army Can't Solve Coronavirus Crisis, Ex-security Official Says - ‘When reasonable decisions are finally taken, political pressure causes Netanyahu to back down on some of them,’ the official says, adding that ‘The Finance Ministry has no real power when facing the Health Ministry.’ (Haaretz+)
  • Shin Bet Tracking Least Invasive Option in Coronavirus Fight, Health Ministry Says - Alternatives to Shin Bet tracking of coronavirus patients in Israel were all rejected, as Health Ministry argues private firms 'were more harmful to privacy.’ (Haaretz+)
  • Israeli corona patients get special boost from naval commandos - In addition to helping deliver food and medicine to nursing home residents, elite Shayetet 13 unit agrees to supply 400 filled oxygen tanks a week. (Maariv and Israel Hayom)
  • Netanyahu boasted about bringing chloroquine to Israel, but there is no scientific basis for the effectiveness of the drug against Corona - The World Health Organization is examining the drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment against the virus. Studies published so far that use them do not meet scientific principles or examine only small groups of subjects. [Netanyahu convinced India's Prime Minister to allow Israel to buy it - OH]. (Haaretz Hebrew)
  • Major Israeli Defense Firm to Produce Ventilators for Coronavirus Patients - Israel's Health Ministry says the country has around 3,500 ventilators, or roughly one for every 2,500 citizens. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Rare Swiss-made Coronavirus Testing Device Completely Ruined on Its Way to Israel - The Roche Diagnostics Cobas series equipment, which is in great demand around the world, had to be returned to the manufacturer. Company representative in Israel says two more devices will be shipped in a week. (Haaretz+)
  • **Tel Aviv drug dealers don delivery uniforms to skirt virus rules - Couriers taking marijuana to buyers stuck at home under coronavirus restrictions say outfits worn by workers for companies such as Wolt and Gett give them freedom of movement untroubled by police - and these items are of high value. (Ynet)
  • Rabbis Forced to Take Pay Cuts, Unpaid Leave as Coronavirus Hits Israel's non-Orthodox Movements - Heads of Reform and Conservative movements acknowledge ‘very challenging times’ as COVID-19 heavily impacts finances of non-state-funded organizations. (Haaretz+)
  • Aliyah to Israel Still Possible – but Only After Two Weeks in ‘Coronavirus Hotels’ - Jewish Agency says new olim will have to go to either absorption centers or special quarantine hotels; group of 22 Americans still on scheduled to make aliyah this May. (Haaretz+)
  • Pandemic dims priestly blessing service at Western Wall - Event, usually a draw for thousands of worshippers, scaled back to mere quorum of 10 in accordance with Health Ministry's social distancing directives. (Israel Hayom)
  • 'Life Will Prevail' Says Jerusalem Archbishop on Easter Sunday - Despite officially closing in March, a small number of Roman Catholic clergymen attended service at Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Jews Account for Over 10 Percent of Coronavirus Deaths in Morocco - The spread in the Moroccan Jewish community is believed to have come from several French Jews infected with the virus who attended a local wedding. (Haaretz+)
  • Jews in the Muslim world celebrated Passover in seclusion - Iran is not under any curfew, but the Jewish community has imposed one on itself, with the Chief Rabbi deciding as early as Purim that all Iranian Jews must stay away from synagogues to avoid danger. Members of the community say they are not experiencing any anti-Semitism and the authorities are respectful of their faith. In Mosul in northern Iraq, a Jewish family celebrated Passover for the first time. They just recently returned to their Jewish roots after living among Muslims, their entire lives and were never before told by their families that they were Jewish.(Yedioth/Ynet)
  • Gaza resumes coronavirus (after Israel allows kit entry) - But spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said the five kits would be of "limited immediate help" because they could be used to test only about 500 people in a densely populated territory of two million. International, Israeli and Palestinian organizations donated additional test kits and ventilators to the terror group that rules the coastal enclave, where so far 13 virus cases have been confirmed. (Agencies, Ynet)
  • Turkey says it will deliver medical aid to Palestinians via Israel - Medical supplies for the Palestinian Authority will be shipped along with the equipment earmarked for Israel as part of Turkey's coronavirus-related efforts, says office of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. (Israel Hayom)
  • Pandemic prompts Iranian Revolutionary Guard top brass to reach into their pockets - Top commanders in Iran's IRGC will distribute 20% of their salaries to fellow Iranians who lost their livelihoods due to the coronavirus epidemic. (Israel Hayom)
  • Saudi Arabia Extends Coronavirus Curfew Indefinitely - Coronavirus infections in six Gulf Arab states exceed 13,000 with 88 deaths. Saudi Arabia's King Salman extended a nationwide curfew until further notice due to the spread of the new coronavirus, the interior ministry said on Sunday, after the kingdom reported more than 300 new infections on each of the last four days. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • UN Mideast envoys urge warring factions to fight pandemic, not each other - The envoys for Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict stressed that solidarity is required to face the challenge of COVID-19 and this cannot happen "if the guns of war and conflict are not silenced." (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
Other Quick Hits:

Hamas Proposes Exchanging Information on Israelis in Gaza for Prisoners' Release - Officials in Gaza say Hamas may convey updates on Israeli captives and bodies in Gaza if Israel is ready to release a round of old and sick Palestinian prisoners to advance efforts to retrieves missing Israelis, remains of IDF soldiers - as a first step in a possible broader deal. The Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida quoted sources Sunday as saying that Israel had agreed to release "all prisoners under the age of 18 and all women", and all that is left is to discuss the number of older prisoners to be released. The source added that "Hamas has agreed to release the two Israeli civilians and to transfer the body of a soldier held there since 2014, and to convey information regarding the fate of a second soldier that the organization did not reveal details about him.”
(Haaretz+, Maariv and Israel Hayom)
Twelve were arrested on suspicion of involvement in a shooting incident in Rahat during which two police officers were injured
- A preliminary investigation indicates that this is a land dispute. The cops rescued themselves in the shooting, and two were injured and needed medical attention. Several suspects have been arrested, including the son of a well-known figure in the city. The exceptional event revealed a "problem-in-problem": the sharp scourge of crime and violence in Arab society, which continued even in the corona period, alongside the plight of Bedouin society in the south, which long neglect and little governance created a void filled by tribal and criminal forces. (Maariv)
Elbit wins $20M Latin American drone upgrade deal - Defense electronics giant to integrate satellite communication systems and automatic takeoff and landing systems into the Hermes 900 unmanned aerial vehicle its clients are already operating. (Israel Hayom)


Elections 2020/Netanyahu Indictment Commentary/Analysis:
As if Coronavirus Wasn’t Enough, Israel’s Constitutional Contagion Is Out of Control as Well (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+) President Rivlin refuses to extend Gantz’s mandate or hand it over to Netanyahu, plunging politics into mayhem.
Rivlin will have to call on Netanyahu (Mati Tuchfeld, Israel Hayom) It is unclear why the president rushed to announce that if Gantz fails to form a government, the mandate will be handed to the Knesset.
The question of the legitimacy of the Arab parties in Israeli society is here to stay (Meir Uziel, Maariv) The opposition to a coalition alliance with the Joint List cannot be considered a racist opinion, but rather as a war against racists. This is what history teaches us, but that is often forgotten in our area of the world.

Other Commentary/Analysis:
Imagine Netanyahu Sending Sheldon Adelson to a State-run Quarantine (Hagai Amit, Haaretz+) Behind the policy regarding flights landing in Israel is a political issue: Netanyahu can’t afford to single out the U.S. without alienating his ‘good friend’ Donald Trump.
A disingenuous debate about annexation (Jonathan S. Tobin, Israel Hayom) American Jews protesting the prospect of Israeli action to formalize its hold on territory aren't defending chances for peace or a realistic plan to achieve it.
The Militarization of the Coronavirus Crisis, as Seen on Israeli TV (Edan Ring, Haaretz+) In the eyes of Israeli authorities and the general Israeli public, the coronavirus pandemic is a security issue: The Shin Bet security service was recruited to operate electronic surveillance devices to track patients and their relatives, the Mossad was sent to bring medical equipment, the National Security Council has set up a war room, the Israel Defense Forces Home Front is publicizing recommendations for proper parenting, and above all of them sits Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, who is trying to wrest control of the crisis from the Health Ministry.
Don't give in to Jordan's scare tactics (Nadav Shragai, Israel Hayom) When Israel annexes Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, Jordan will probably rage, bluster, and threaten – but ultimately, common interests will prevail and Israel's ties with the kingdom will remain intact.
The new government must restore the role of the Arab sector adviser (Itzhak Levanon, Maariv) The corona crisis and the unity government striving to represent wider sections of the population create an opportunity for mutual rapprochement between Jews and Arabs.
Netanyahu’s Ministers of Mayhem Are Ruining Israel’s Comeback From Coronavirus (Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz+) Cabinet members should be doing what’s best for their constituents – but the four horsemen of Israel’s potential coronavirus apocalypse could be squandering all the country’s early advantage in fighting the pandemic.
Israel's leaders have betrayed the public trust (Sima Kadmon, Yedioth/Ynet) They ordered us to remain at home, to isolate and spend Passover alone, while they celebrated Seder with their own families; how can Rivlin and Netanyahu expect us to have faith in them during this unprecedented crisis when they act with impunity?
Opportunity from crisis: The case of Iran (Raphael G. Bouchnik-Chen, Israel Hayom) Considering how long-lasting and potentially explosive the Iranian nuclear issue is, it seems sensible to consider the strategic dimension under the current extraordinary circumstances.
Netanyahu Must Start Implementing a Coronavirus Exit Strategy Before It’s Too Late (Haaretz Editorial) The task force concluded that the risks of a spreading economic plague are high, whereas according to the data in its possession, the risk of infection in the workplace is relatively low, and would be further reduced if returning to work is conditioned on compliance with stringent requirements for hygiene and social distancing.
Not a "problem of the Arabs“: Bedouin violence should worry us too (Michael Milstein, Maariv) The recent shooting event in Rahat demonstrates the claim that has been raised for several years, that the crime and violence in Arab society will not be "a problem of Arabs" and that a thin border separates between it and between harm to law enforcement agencies.
The next government must implement a set of measures to promote social equality (Ruth Wasserman Lande, Maariv)  If any of us has not yet understood, then corona has helped to explain the fact that all of us in this world must be mutually responsible for each other. Equal investment in all sectors in the country is critical. It doesn't matter if we are left-wing or right-wing, whether we are Jews or Arabs, ultra-Orthodox or secular, whether we live under the Ayatollah regime or we are the President of the United States. Corona doesn't care. The virus does not respect race or nationality - making the global village even smaller. It is no longer a question of worldview, of realpolitik versus naivete. This is simply the order of the hour. The fate of the Jews living in the country is intertwined with that of more than two million Arab citizens. Therefore, the next government must take a number of emergency measures: 1.) Designate a government ministry to deal with minorities, headed by a professional team. 2. The above office must establish a permanent steering committee, composed of senior representatives from all parts of Arab society. These are not politicians, but the best professionals in health, planning and more, who can point to the trends, needs and directions required. 3. Major budgets should be allocated for planning and headquarters work in Arab society, along with budgets included in Government Decisions 922 and 1480, and those to follow. So far, not enough resources have been allocated for planning, which is the basis for the success of any venture. 4. At the same time, a dedicated and professional system to monitor the execution of programs and projects promoted in Arab society should be established. 5. The state must increase and improve the level of Hebrew education in schools in Arab society, in order to provide Arab young people with the tools required to integrate into the Israeli labor market. Today, the level of Hebrew of many young Arabs does not allow this. 6. The ground must be prepared for a more significant integration of civil service in the Arab population. This can be done through the new Ministry and not necessarily through the Ministry of Defense. This is in order to encourage the integration of Arab young people into the Israeli mainstream and to increase their acquaintance with the various populations. 7. It is important to advance discourse and information with the Arab society regarding the need for dense construction, which currently exists in individual authorities in Arab society, for example in Kafr Manda. The issue is still far from acceptable among Arab citizens, whereas space constraints require strategic thinking in this regard. 8. . A national emergency plan, especially in the field of education, must be created with regard to preventing violence in Arab society. This plan must run concurrently with a dedicated program promoted by the Ministry of Public Security, inter alia through law enforcement mechanisms, and in maximum cooperation with the heads of the Arab authorities. 9. A group of religious leaders, Christians, Muslims, Druze and others, should be established, where they will sit at one table in the Minority Ministry, together with the best of the journalist and the media, and create a respectful, welcoming and inclusive discourse that will explain government policy to these sectors, in their language and according to their culture, on various subjects. This forum should include the heads of the various forums of the Arab authorities, including the Druze, Bedouin, etc. 10. In view of the lack of government stability for over a year and the health emergency situation, the enforcement of the Kaminitz Law dealing with construction offenses must be frozen for several years. This is to enable law abusers to regulate the offenses under the law, while conducting respectful discourse and explaining. Turning two million citizens into construction offenders will not really serve any factor in the country. However, the construction issue must be regulated, including the process of approving master plans for the Arab localities. 11. It is important to introduce the Declaration of Independence into the National State Law, including a reference to the value of equality for all citizens of the state, regardless of race, religion, gender or nationality. This is the path of a Jewish and democratic state. 12. It is vitally important to promote legislation that will require the integration of Arab experts and professionals in all public sector mechanisms. As the Arab doctors and nurses have become an integral part of the national war on the corona virus, so it should be in countless other areas where they are the pillars of our daily lives.
Prepared for APN by Orly Halpern, independent freelance journalist based in Jerusalem.