News Nosh 4.16.20

APN's daily news review from Israel
Thursday April 16, 2020
Quote of the day:
"By what right does an Israeli general decide how many ventilators Gaza will have?"
--Haaretz's Gideon Levy looks at the report that Israel will let ventilators into Gaza to treat corona patients if Hamas gives Israel information about missing Israelis.*

Front Page:
Yedioth Ahronoth
  • The battle over easing (the closure)
  • Get out of the closure // Nadav Eyal
  • Special project: The European countries trying to return to routine
  • Back to life - Hospital managed to save 48-year-old father of 11
  • Effort to make a (coalition) agreement
  • The angel of sick
  • The fashion industry is collapsing
  • The distress of the soccer players
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
  • Waiting for release (from corona closure)
  • “Benny stop, it’s not too late” - Interview with Moshe Yaalon, chairman of Telem party and former co-leader of Kahol-Lavan
  • The coalition forming game - Night meeting between Likud and Kahol-Lavan negotiating teams before end of Gantz's mandate
Israel Hayom
  • The main dispute: shopping malls and stores
  • Government or explosion: Night negotiations for unity
  • Exclusive - Eichmann papers revealed
  • Sources in Israel: A deal over the prisoners is close, we must act quickly
  • Not taking off - Corona turned Ben-Gurion Airport into an almost completely desolate place

Top News Summary:
The upcoming move to begin exiting the corona crisis restrictions and the last-minute negotiations to form a coalition government before the deadline were today’s top stories in the Hebrew newspapers. Interestingly, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu again quoted a false fact that Israel was the safest country in the world in terms of the corona crisis, which was declared by an unknown company, 'Deep Knowledge Group,' and which has been quoted elsewhere (due to bad reporting - OH). But this time Ynet Hebrew outed the fake news as did MK Moshe Yaalon, in a biting interview in today’s Maariv (see Interviews below).

Also significant, negotiations between Israel and Hamas over the release of each other’s prisoners have moved up a gear, after Hamas reportedly gave Israel names of prisoners it wants released. Maariv reported that a Hamas delegation arrived in Cairo to renew the discussions for a prisoner deal, which Egypt is mediating. As part of it, Hamas Politburo chief Yahya Sinwar insisted on the release of prisoners who were released in the Gilad Shalit deal and whom Israel put back in prison. In a sign that the government is supportive of the deal, the pro-Netanyahu paper, ‘Israel Hayom,’ quoted security officials who said that this was a ‘window of opportunity for a prisoner exchange that cannot be missed.’ Israel seeks to retrieve two Israeli civilians held captive and the remains of two IDF soldiers. The military analysts had interesting things to say about this impending deal, particularly Ynet’s Ron Ben-Yishai, who wrote in general how Israel was positively surprised by the Palestinian governments - both in the West Bank and in Gaza - cooperation with Israel. Ben-Yishai writes that sources in Israel were surprised and encouraged by the pragmatic approach of Yahya Sinwar, because both his conduct and statements hint that he wants to leverage Gaza-Israel interdependence and the need into a wider cooperation. “This is not just a willingness on his part for a limited deal out of humanitarian motives that will ease the suffering of Israeli prisoners and missing persons in return for the release of some of the Palestinian detainees in Israel. He is signaling a willingness to enter into a comprehensive process that will establish and deepen the existing calm,” writes Ben-Yishai.  (See Commentary/Analysis below for more.)

Elections 2020 / Netanyahu Indictment News:
UPDATE: Today President Reuven Rivlin said ‘time’s up,’ and gave the Knesset the mandate to form a government by choosing someone who had the backing of 61 members of Knesset to form a government. If the Knesset fails to find that magic person within the next three weeks, Israel will go to fourth elections. The announcement came after Rivlin gave Kahol-Lavan leader another 48 hours to try to hammer out an agreement for a coalition government with Netanyahu’s Likud party. The two parties reportedly could not resolve the newest request by Netanyahu to have power in deciding High Court justice appointments. And Gantz would not budge on that. Haaretz+ reported that there was also a dispute over a proposed bill to ensure that Gantz is sworn in as prime minister 1.5 years after Netanyahu.

Kahol-Lavan said Netanyahu wants a fourth elections. That may not be surprising in light of the fact that a recent poll found that Netanyahu's Likud party would get 40 seats if elections were held now and Gantz's party would drop to 19. Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman strongly attacked Netanyahu, telling Maariv that Netanyahu wants elections and that “only when he realizes that the legislation (that would prevent him from being prime minister) is advancing and the alternative is worse for him, then eh may add Gantz and Kahol-Lavan to his government.

Corona Quickees:
  • Israel's coronavirus fatality toll up to 140, highest number in any 24 hour period thus far - A rise of 14 new deaths reported; Confirmed cases stand at 12,591; 174 in serious condition, out of which 140 receiving ventilator support; Cabinet to convene later Thursday to discuss strategy to bring Israel out of coronavirus crisis mode. (Ynet and Israel Hayom)
  • Israel's Cabinet to Debate Coronavirus Exit Strategy on Thursday - Health Ministry warns of spike in coronavirus cases in northern Arab towns ■ Roadblocks in ultra-Orthodox hot spot removed ■ 12,501 cases diagnosed in Israel, 316 in the West Bank. (Haaretz+)
  • Israel lifts Passover curfew, hoping to ease coronavirus restrictions - Israelis again allowed to leave municipal boundaries, public transportation resumed to limited extent; Prime Minister Netanyahu to convene government at 3pm to discuss exit plan. (Ynet)
  • President Rivlin issues second apology for flouting Seder lockdown - Rivlin regrets decision to host daughter, her family at presidential residence despite government orders urging Israelis to celebrate traditional feast with household members only. Posts Tuesday night screenshot of Zoom feast with his family members. (Maariv and Ynet)
  • Settlers in Coronavirus Quarantine Attack Arab-Israeli Young Woman and Palestinian Campers, Torch Their Cars - Ten settler youth, all from area of infamous settlement of Yitzhar, attacked two Palestinians and a young Arab Israeli woman so badly that she needed medical aid. The army had built a quarantine tent near the Dead Sea especially for the settler youth so they could spend the Passover holiday together, after they refused to go to a state-run coronavirus hotel, because they would have been in separate rooms and rioted on the government-allotted bus, breaking windows and doing other damage to the bus. A defense official commented that the Dead Sea incident is further proof that the settlers are a "violent, extremist and racist group that reigns terror wherever it goes," adding that security forces will bring the suspects to justice. On Thursday, police arrested two suspects. (Haaretz+, Maariv p. 18, Israel Hayom, Walla Hebrew and Ynet Hebrew with photos)
  • After Weeks of Warning, Coronavirus Spreading Among Palestinians in East Jerusalem - Outbreak could be severe due to overcrowding and a high incidence of underlying illnesses, health professionals warn. (Haaretz+)
  • Israel Shuts Palestinian Coronavirus Testing Clinic in East Jerusalem - Clinic in Silwan neighborhood raided, activists arrested because kits were provided by the Palestinian Authority. According to the clinic's managers, there is a shortage of coronavirus tests in Silwan, where doctors say there are 40 confirmed cases and where overcrowded living conditions could lead to a rapid spread of the virus. (Haaretz+)
  • Hundreds of U.S. Coronavirus Patients Arrived in Israel Within Weeks, Figures Show - U.S. arrivals make up 40 percent of cases infected abroad, Health Ministry says. (Haaretz+)
  • 'No Hugs': Passengers Fly Direct From N.Y.C. to State-run Quarantine in Israel - Arrivals on what has become a rare flight were examined by medics and sent to either hospital or hotel as Israel belatedly implements travel restrictions. (Haaretz+)
  • No Check, No Quarantine: Israel Bizjet Arrivals Exempt From Coronavirus Screening - Haaretz-TheMarker has learned that people arriving on private planes were not required to enter quarantine facilities, and at least one has been found to be infected. (Haaretz+)
  • Israel Weighs Imposing Closure on Arab Town After Spike in Coronavirus Infections - Outbreak at large slaughterhouse in Galilee reportedly followed visit of kashrut supervisor. Health Ministry says residents of Deir al-Asad, Majd al-Krum, Bi'ina and Nahf must remain home. (Haaretz+ and Ynet and Ynet Hebrew on visit of kosher overseer)
  • First victim in the Arab sector: Samiha surrendered to corona - Samiha Diab, 90, from Tamra, passed away in the corona ward of Rambam Hospital, after contracting the virus. In Tamra, there were 16 residents in Corona, and it was regarded in a report released by the Ministry of Health as among the "worrying communities" in the Arab sector. (Ynet Hebrew)
  • "Special Task Forces": Ahead of Ramadan restrictions - Just before the Ramadan fast, the state is beginning to mark the Arab sector’s communities as a sensitive area for virus outbreak. There is an alarming increase in Umm al-Fahm. In the security establishment, a dedicated task force is planning and preparing to impose bans during Ramadan, "which will be different from the Passover closure.” The main difficulty: East Jerusalem, where the poverty and overcrowding is not different from the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. However, the constant nationalist tension alongside a tight the closure - if one is imposed in Arab neighborhoods in E. Jerusalem and not in other parts of the country, could trigger a loosening of discipline that would allow the spread of the virus at best, and a burst of violent resistance or friction with the police at worst. (Ynet Hebrew)
  • 24 Hours in the Israeli Arab Town Hit Hardest by the Coronavirus - Even though Jisr al-Zarqa has more confirmed COVID-19 patients than any other Arab community in Israel, many of its locals are disobeying social-distancing rules and refusing to self-isolate. And now Ramadan is coming. (Haaretz+)
  • Missiles Out, Ventilators In: Israeli Defense Contractors Answer the Coronavirus Call - 'We’re very good at war technology, and this is a war' – Defense companies are bringing their skills to medical technology and hospitals are pleased with the results. (Haaretz+)
  • Israel Delays Coronavirus Payments to Asylum Seekers After Right-wing Pressure - Proposed law would allow asylum seekers to receive a portion of their own money being held by the government, deportation activists say they should only get their money when they leave. (Haaretz+)
  • "For the first time since the establishment of the State": Abulafia bakery closed after end of Passover holiday - Khamis Abulafia, one of the legendary owners of the bakery founded 141 years ago in Jaffa, tells Maariv about the difficult feelings: "The sights of masses coming to buy pastries after Passover will not return.” Israel banned bakeries from opening before Thursday. (Maariv)
  • In Israel, Coronavirus Sends Sales Plunging in Four Key Sectors - Numbers from the Bank of Israel point to a free fall in fashion, tourism, restaurants and gasoline. (Haaretz+)
  • IN PHOTOS: Wild Boars Take Over Haifa as Residents Stuck Inside Because of Coronavirus - The Haifa municipality held a Zoom meeting on the matter on Sunday. (Haaretz+, Israel Hayom and Ynet)
  • IN PHOTOS: 5 Days Inside an Israeli Coronavirus Ward - Dozens of staffers at Hadassah Medical Center volunteered to treat COVID-19 patients, and use everything from exercycles to the ‘infected smartphone’ to relieve stress. (Nir Hasson, Haaretz+)
  • Without an audience: Six Holocaust survivors will carry memorial torches at Yad Vashem ceremony - The opening ceremony for Holocaust Remembrance Day was filmed without a crowd due to the Corona epidemic, but will be broadcast on the usual date. Six Holocaust survivors will carry the torches, and Maariv brings their story. (Maariv)
  • With annual event suspended, Israel’s March of the Living launches virtual Holocaust memorial - 2020 march from Auschwitz to Birkenau postponed due to COVID-19, but remembrance of the Shoah continues with virtual plaques dedicated and placed on the infamous train tracks; President Reuven Rivlin places first plaque, as global figures from culture, politics, sport participate in initiative. (Ynet)
  • New Zealand's Prime Minister: “I feel solidarity with my citizens, we will cut government members' salaries by 20%“ - What will our elected officials say? New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stated: "We feel acutely the struggle that many New Zealanders are facing. And so to do the people that I work with on a daily basis. And while it in and of itself won't shift the government's overall fiscal position, it is about leadership.” (Maariv)
  • Palestinian village chooses self-isolation during coronavirus pandemic - The West Bank community of Sinjul restricts access to non-residents, forming committees tasked with enforcing closure, supplying food and essentials to families and monitoring workers returning from Israel. (Ynet)
  • Expose: The IDF began examining corona tests of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip - Ma'ariv learned that as of Tuesday, about the military laboratory examined one hundred tests, about 50 of them on Monday night. The laboratory, which is on the base of the Military Rabbinate in Tzrifin, the laboratory, decodes tests for soldiers suspected of having the virus, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, and can check hundreds of tests of people suspected of having the virus in the Gaza Strip. This is a very significant aid measure toward the Gaza Strip, as part of dealing with the virus. The military is very concerned about a corona outbreak in the Palestinian arena. This can affect Israel directly, since it is a single geographical unit, and the situation could lead to security instability. The army actually supports expanding aid to the Gaza Strip without additional conditions. IDF spokesman said: "The State of Israel is helping the Palestinian Authority and the Gaza Strip deal with the spread of corona. Assistance is provided through international bodies, the Ministry of Health and the IDF, and their roles are divided according to the political echelon. (Maariv)
  • Palestinian Prime Minister requests meeting between Israeli and Palestinian ministers over virus crisis - Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh approached Israel to ask for a meeting between Palestinian and Israeli ministers of social affairs, health and labor in order to settle all issues related to the fight against the coronavirus outbreak. The meeting would address the issue of Palestinian workers normally employed in Israel, some of whom have lost their livelihoods. Shtayyeh also announced Monday that Palestinian Health Ministry will receive test kits and medical supplies from China, some donated by Chinese businessmen. (Haaretz+)
  • Mohammed Shtayyeh: Israel limiting our control over coronavirus - Second Palestinian dies in pandemic. (JPost)
  • Turkey Releases Prisoners Over Coronavirus, Keeps Dissidents Behind Bars - The emergency legislation could free nearly 100,000 prisoners but excludes those jailed on terrorism charges, which are often used to silence government critics under Erdogan. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • As Rebel-held Syria Fears Virus, Just One Machine Is There to Test - In recent days thousands of Syrians have begun to leave camps near the Turkish border, some wary of the virus reaching tightly packed quarters, choosing instead to return to Idlib. (Agencies, Haaretz and Ynet)
  • As Coronavirus Spreads in Labor Camps in the Gulf, Workers Are Left Stranded and Jobless - The UAE, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait have locked down areas where low-wage foreign workers live in overcrowded conditions and are now surviving on charity. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Egypt opens Gaza border for returnees stranded by outbreak - Move on Monday allows allowing hundreds of Palestinians stranded by the coronavirus pandemic to return home. But Hamas is struggling to keep the COVID-19 threat at bay in Gaza. (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
  • Egypt to ban Ramadan gatherings to counter spread of coronavirus - Though typically mass iftars are held for poor people, Egypt will ban any gatherings and public iftars, or fast-breaking meals, as well as collective social activities. (Agencies, Ynet)
  • Virus becomes the latest battle between US, Iran (over sanctions) - Initially overwhelmed, Tehran now seeks to sway international opinion on US sanctions by highlighting its struggles with COVID-19. Still, the risk of open conflict between the countries is overshadowed by the pandemic. (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
  • U.S. accuses Iran of 'dangerous harassment' of its warships - U.S. Navy officials say Revolutionary Guard vessels repeatedly crossed bows and sterns of several American ships at close range and high speed; semiofficial Fars news agency acknowledges the incident. (Agencies, Ynet)
  • Coronavirus Crisis Expected to Ravage Battered Middle East Economies, IMF Says - The international lender warns that If Mideast governments mishandle the COVID-19 outbreak, it would sow the seeds for even more instability in the war-torn region. (Agencies, Haaretz)


Other Quick Hits:
  • Report: Israeli Strike Targets Hezbollah Car Near Syria-Lebanon Border - No casualties reported as passengers escape drone attack near the Syria-Israel border, sources say. “The son of Mughniyeh (a Hezbollah official Israel assassinated - OH) was in the vehicle.” The Arab media has released the identity of three of the four passengers allegedly attacked by Israel on the Syria-Lebanon border. They include Mughniyeh’s son, an Iranian official and a senior official in Hezbollah. (Haaretz+, Maariv and Ynet and Israel Hayom)
  • Police fine protesters against Gantz-Netanyahu government - Demonstrators outside the home of Gabi Ashkenazi Monday fined up to 5,000 shekels ($1400) despite protests being exempted from coronavirus ban on gatherings; City of Kfar Saba later nullified fines. (Haaretz+)
  • Sea of Galilee Reaches Highest Water Level in 16 Years - Lake Kinneret expected to fill up even more in the coming days, in part because water is not pumped out during Passover due to religious reasons. (Haaretz+ and Times of Israel)
  • Israel to play key role in giant Google fiber optic cable project - The Blue-Raman cable will run from Italy to India, but due to geopolitics it will be divided into two parts. (Haaretz+)
  • WATCH In Bernie Sanders’ Endorsement of Joe Biden, Foreign Policy — and Israel — Go Unmentioned - Biden told Sanders: 'Your endorsement means a great deal, it means a great deal to me.’ (JTA, Haaretz)

Jewish heart, Egyptian heart
As a child, Tel Aviv-born Haim Netanel dismissed the cultural legacy of his Egyptian Jewish parents. Later in life, he discovered the richness and unique aspects of Egyptian Jewry, and began researching the community in Egypt and what happened to its members who arrived in Israel. (Eldad Beck, Israel Hayom)

Elections 2020/Netanyahu Indictment Commentary/Analysis:
With Gantz’s Mandate to Form a Gov't Expired, Here's What Could Happen Next (Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz+)  Five scenarios leading to Israel's next government, or fourth election.
Gantz's speech shows he's folding (Mati Tuchfeld, Israel Hayom) Both sides have made concessions they never dreamed of, but the red lines PM Netanyahu has laid down are existential, whereas Benny Gantz has already proven he's willing to go back on his biggest demand.
Suddenly it turns out that the "President's plan” (for a coalition government) was actually ‘fake’ (Ben Caspit, Maariv) Just before signing a historic agreement, the two sides recalled that the complex and unprecedented legal platform, which the jurist Avi Lich, a former deputy attorney general, established to ensure the rotation between Netanyahu and Gantz, does not hold water. Suddenly it turns out that the "president's plan” in question, which both sides accuse each other of not agreeing to sign, was actually fake. In recent days the question marks have risen. External consultants (distinguished professors of constitutional law) were brought in, who argued that the (legal rotation) structure that was constructed through the hard work of the former deputy attorney general would not hold before the High Court. It’s unconstitutional. It’s impossible. How can you swear-in two prime ministers? How can one determine that "if the High Court disapproves of it, we will go for elections?" In short, we start from scratch. Now it's a question of trust: Gantz (and Ashkenazi) don't know who to believe and what to do. Is this a real problem identified by Netanyahu's people, and their goal is to save the deal before it breaks down? Or is it, for the umpteenth time, a typical Netanyahu trick that aims to scramble the cards at the last minute?
'Protecting' democracy with hypocrisy (Jacob Bardugo, Israel Hayom) The recent conduct of Blue and White, Yesh Atid, and the rest of the "anyone-but-Netanyahu" bloc is the embodiment of two-faced politics.
Amid Israel's Coronavirus Outbreak, Netanyahu and Bennett Are at War (Nehemia Shtrasler, Haaretz+) Defense Minister Naftali Bennett asked Netanyahu some time ago to be made responsible for testing. Army Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi begged for such a decision. Deputy Chief of Staff Eyal Zamir promised to meet Netanyahu’s goal of 30,000 tests per day within two to three weeks. But Netanyahu has refused to transfer responsibility to Bennett and the army. He sees the world through a narrow personal prism, viewing Bennett as a dangerous political rival who threatens his job. It’s less important to him that Bennett is an appropriate person to handle the coronavirus project, with skills and an organized plan to eradicate the pandemic. He also knows we need to get out from under the lockdown to avoid a terrible level of joblessness and economic collapse. But Netanyahu has the opposite agenda. He is doing everything to cut Bennett down to size, to harm and eliminate him. To hell with the pandemic. In his book “The Prince,” Niccolo Machiavelli wrote that a leader needs to find a stratagem to get the citizens “to need his government all the time, at every hour and in every circumstance, because only then will they be loyal to him.” That’s precisely what Netanyahu is doing.
Culture of lies: the real reason that human race is endangered (Nir Kipnis, Maariv) The lies of elected officials spread faster than corona and are more dangerous than any virus. Now, our politicians don't even pretend to care about anything but themselves.

Other Commentary/Analysis:
**Israel Trading in Ventilators for Helpless Gazans Is Inhumane (Gideon Levy, Haaretz+) If Israel had even a hint of human feeling toward the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, at least during the coronavirus pandemic, it would immediately lift all the bans and allow unlimited medical and economic aid into the enclave. If it showed more generosity and less haggling, it could also achieve a prisoner exchange with Hamas. But in Israel, where the coronavirus has turned everything upside down, only one thing remains as it was, cruel and hermetic: the Gaza blockade. The entire world has changed except for the biggest prison of all, which anxiously awaits an outbreak with only 65 ventilators, without testing kits for over 2 million people and with shuttered gates whose key is in the hands of the Israeli jailer. The height of the humiliation: Early this week, Haaretz reported that Hamas may give Israel information on the two Israeli civilians and the remains of two soldiers held in Gaza in exchange for ventilators. By what right does an Israeli general decide how many ventilators Gaza will have? What’s the source of this evil?
Coronavirus Brings Israel and Hamas Closer to a Long-delayed Prisoner Swap (Amos Harel, Haaretz+) Hamas’ goal is to chalk up some achievement on the road to a deal, while keeping all the cards in its hands.
Corona has shaken the Middle East and could also create opportunities for Israel
(Ron Ben Yishai, Ynet) Most of the countries where the fighting is taking place, and especially refugee camps, do not constitute global tourist attractions. Businessmen and migrant workers, too, to say the least, do not flock to these places. Therefore, the number of people infected by them is reduced in relation to the size of the population. The curse of the inhabitants of those areas became a blessing in the corona ear. The short life expectancy in most countries in the region has also become a disadvantage - an advantage. The relatively small number of seriously and moderately ill patients and of virus deaths are explained by the relatively young age of the citizens of the region. The majority of Middle Eastern citizens are less than 60 years old…and in the vast majority of cases, they recuperate without any symptoms at all. Meanwhile, in Iran and Turkey, where every year millions of foreigners pass through them, the plague has hit hard. Officials in the Israeli intelligence community estimate that the death toll in Iran today reaches 20,000, and maybe even more. By the way, many in Iran, even among the Ayatollahs, members of the conservative establishment, publicly claim that the first focus of the outbreak of corona was in the city of Qom - the Iranian equivalent of our (overpopulated - OH) city of Bnei Barak. According to the claim, which there are quite a few facts that support it, those who infected the Iranians were young Shiite clerics from China whom the regime in Tehran brought with the goal of positioning Shi'a as a dominant stream in Islam - and Iran as a regional power. The Chinese Shiites infected their Iranian teachers and public figures who came into contact with them and traveled to Tehran, which is why the first to be infected in Iran were government and parliament officials. However, there was concern that Iran would take advantage of the period when global attention was focused on the epidemic to secretly and openly promote its nuclear weapons project and hegemony in the region, including the explulsion of the Americans from Iraq, the establishment of a front against Israel in Syria, and the arming of Hezbollah with all kinds of missiles. In regards to the Palestinians, the picture was less clear. In Israel, they feared that the Palestinian Authority - and even more so, Hamas - would not know and would not be able to cope with the outbreak of the plague in the territories under their control, and that if the situation got out of control in both regions it would threaten the State of Israel and its citizens. Among the concerns that worried Jerusalem about the spread of the Corona among Palestinians: uncontrolled spread of the disease by workers illegally in Israel and by Palestinians working in settlements - leading to a mass charging of Palestinians and Palestinian asylum seekers on the separation fence. In addition, they feared the conspiracy theory that spread like wildfire in the Palestinian Authority, whereby Israel intentionally infects the Palestinians with the virus. Israel feared that it would be a short path from that to terrorist attacks that would emerge as revenge from the PA's territories. Another danger came from the assessment that the Palestinians, especially the desperate Gazans, would try to extort medical and economic aid from Israel, as well as easing the closure, by firing rockets and terrorist attacks. In the Gaza Strip, for example, one of the popular theses was that Israelis would be afraid to huddle together curing these corona days in shelters - thus surrendering to all Palestinian demands. In light of those assessments, the IDF increased its readiness for possible escalation, especially in the Gaza Strip, while Israel is doing everything it can to help the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to flatten the contagious curve. Another concern, that meanwhile did not happen, was of an outbreak in Jordan that would threaten King Abdullah's rule, and of a major outbreak of morbidity and mortality in Egypt that would topple General al-Sisi and bring the Muslim Brotherhood back to power. None of this has happened, so the latest assessments in Israel are far more optimistic than a month ago. Threats to Israel from the radical Shi'ite axis led by Iran (including Lebanon and Iraq) did not fade, but their intensity diminished…The Palestinians surprised us for the better. Cooperation with Israel is tight and effective - and the results will indicate that. Sources in Israel are surprised and encouraged by the pragmatic approach of Yahya Sinwar, a Hamas leader in Gaza who hints in both his conduct and statements that he wants to leverage Gaza-Israel interdependence and need for greater cooperation because of the plague into a wider cooperation. This is not just a willingness on his part for a limited deal out of humanitarian motives that will ease the suffering of Israeli prisoners and missing persons in return for the release of some of the Palestinian detainees in Israel. He is signaling a willingness to enter into a comprehensive process that will establish and deepen the existing calm. Abbas is also now showing flexibility in regards to dealings and agreements with Israel, and there are even those who argue that Israel should look at ways to help the Syrian regime and the millions of refugees there to deal with corona. Afterward, on the basis of the trust that will be built, we must begin dialogue with the Assad regime with the help of the Russians to put an end to Iran's establishment in Syria. Either way, Putin and Assad are not happy about the Iranian presence in Syria, and Assad is apparently demanding and imploring Iranians not to complicate him in the confrontation with Israel in the current period. However, those who notice signs of encouragement in our major threat arenas warn that we should not be get carried away. These are, for the time being, signs and signals that could be interpreted differently and evaporate the moment problems arise. However, it is important to monitor what happens across the border and seize the opportunity - if it turns out to be practical. Most importantly, to do everything secretly until results are ripe.
Stars align for an Israel-Hamas deal. But the road is long (Yossi Melman, Haaretz+) Alignment of circumstances plus the coronavirus have created a unique opportunity for a deal between Israel and Hamas, but the gaps between the sides remain vast.
Arab sector is an after-thought in battle against virus (Ynet) As Ramadan holiday draws near, infection numbers within the Arab population show worrying rise, especially in East Jerusalem; authorities to launch special task force for Arab community.
Even When Lives Are in the Balance, Israel Excludes Women and Arabs (Zehava Galon, Haaretz+) The team assembled by the National Security Council for planning the “exit strategy” out of the coronavirus crisis includes 31 people; physicists, experts in signal processing and in computational thinking. There was no room for women. The only two on the team are research assistants, and even they are in a minority, numbering two out of eight. But that’s nothing to complain about. At least they’re not Arabs – not one of whom was found worthy enough to be included. Israel has a law stipulating the appropriate representation of women in public commissions, as well as a law prohibiting discrimination against its Arab citizens. It’s hard to know if the council willfully ignored these laws, or if they weren’t aware of them. Both possibilities are shameful, exemplifying the extent to which this legislation has not been internalized in government circles. Legislate and disregard.
Corona will even lead Arabs volunteering for National Civil Service (Michael Milstein, Ynet Hebrew) From the point of view of the Arab-Israeli public, the corona crisis has sharpened the importance of activities within institutions involved in civilian aid, and some of the traditional barriers to hostility and suspicion towards governmental mechanisms, especially its security agencies, may also be shed. It is therefore possible that the corona crisis will give Arab society a different view  towards the compulsory recruitment of young people to institutions such as Magen David Adom (national paramedics), fire and rescue services, welfare services, health, community policing and education, and possibly even to the police, and perhaps even to the Home Front. Already, there are voices in Arab society that argue that such a move, which is not as charged as military recruitment, should be considered and may contribute to dealing with the general sense of basic disenfranchisement prevalent among a significant proportion of Arab youth, who constitute 43% of Arab society in Israel, and 22% of them do not work or study. Thus, precisely during a severe crisis in Jewish-Arab relations in Israel - against the background of expectations and rejection felt by many Arab citizens in the political context - the corona crisis presents an optimistic model for developing the two societies’ relations in the country. It is recommended that this be integrated into a thorough and multidimensional strategic study that is necessary in Israel following the corona crisis, and that it should lead to fundamental changes in various aspects, including Jewish-Arab relations.
Money for terrorists but not for coronavirus? (Yossi Kuperwasser, Israel Hayom) The PA continues to pay salaries to terrorists held by Israel and to the families of terrorists killed in attacks despite the severe economic crisis brought about by coronavirus, but donor countries have yet to change their policy.
It’s Their Money, Erdan (Haaretz Editorial) One again, fear of being called a “leftist” is clouding the judgment of the cabinet. Two weeks ago the government introduced a bill that would allow asylum seekers to withdraw up to 2,700 shekels ($750) a month from the money that has been deducted from their wages and held in escrow until they leave the country. The bill was drafted as a temporary measure, based on the assessment that more than half of asylum seekers, who are ineligible for most social benefits, have lost their jobs in the coronavirus crisis. But pressure from pro-deportation activists and organizations as well as the fear among senior politicians of being seen as pro-asylum seekers led the cabinet to delay its approval. Professionals have warned that if asylum seekers are not permitted to withdraw funds, thousands will be unable to pay their rent and are at risk of resorting to violence and crime and of posing a health risk to themselves and their milieu.
Israel is not "weaker than spider webs,” as Nasrallah has said (Shmuel Rosner, Maariv) Israel's resilience is certainly being hit by a crisis. Still, in the Second Intifada and in other crises, it was well positioned - thanks to a strong central government, a vigilant army and an experienced public.
Let the Army Help, Not Lead (Tuesday Haaretz Editorial) Despite the fact that the IDF has experience in dealing with times of emergency as well as a mechanism rich in personnel and resources, processes, wartime protocols, in its purchasing division, its recruiting system and more, it’s important to withstand the temptation to assign this task to the military. The coronavirus crisis is a civilian crisis. The threat is not a military one; the response to it must remain in civilian hands, which approach it from a comprehensive civilian perspective with regard to the problem’s health and economic aspects.
Coronavirus Deals a Deadly Blow to Jewish Newspapers. Here's Why It Matters (Jonathan S. Tobin, Haaretz+)  Jewish weeklies were the glue that held Diaspora communities together. Their demise will be felt in every aspect of Jewish life.
What Asian States Can Teach Israel About Coronavirus Surveillance Tech (Gedaliah Afterman, Haaretz+) Rather than using its security agencies, Israel should cooperate with the Asian countries on the coronavirus front lines to develop civilian technologies for controlling the epidemic.
Women Lead Better Than Men? The Coronavirus Crisis Proves It Once and for All (Netta Ahituv, Haaretz+) Angela Merkel, who holds a doctorate in quantum chemistry, has met the challenge quietly and effectively. Five countries headed by women are coping with the coronavirus in exemplary fashion, and it’s no coincidence. To become a female head of state you must prove extraordinary capabilities, otherwise the position will go to the mediocre man who just happens to be running against you.
Israel's Many Coronavirus Exit Strategies Fail to Address Its Most Basic Failure (Amos Harel, Haaretz+) Most of the exit plans do not mention the real Achilles’ heel of the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis: The small number of tests and the cumbersome, inefficient process of interpreting their results – in spite of the Health Ministry’s frequent promises to fix these faults.
Iran lifting coronavirus closure is a risky bet for a country on the brink (Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz+) The government has decided to start easing coronavirus measures to avoid further economic collapse, but with a popular revolt simmering, the biggest challenges may on the horizon.
Amid Coronavirus Crisis, UAE Offers Iran a Surprising Olive Branch (Amira Khan, Haaretz+) The UAE's unprecedented shipment of coronavirus-related medical supplies to longstanding rival Tehran may indicate a more substantial shift in Middle East politics.
Yaalon opens up: "Stop, Benny, you are whitewashing Netanyahu's corruption"
Moshe Boogie Ya'alon let everything out and explains why he went to war against Netanyahu and how disappointed he is with Benny Gantz and and why he considers the dissolution of “Kahol-Lavan” a disaster. (Interviewed by Ben Caspit in Maariv)
BC: Gantz and Ashkenazi will enter the government, influence from within, Benny will be prime minister in another year and a half. Isn't it better than continuing to insist on principles? To be on the inside?
MY: ”I was inside. So what? That prevented him from doing the submarine deal behind my back? And the approval to sell submarines to Egypt? Look at how he works. In militias. He established militias and with them he runs the state. What happened with us in Kahol-Lavan is a great loss. A tragedy.. Also the fish that was swallowed by the shark thought it would make an impact from the inside. Benny did not go under the stretcher (i.e. give a hand when help was needed - OH). He entered under the canopy on which Netanyahu sits." 
BC: Did you talk to Gantz? Demand explanations?
MY: "Yes. We were supposed to elect Meir Cohen as Speaker of the Knesset, according to an early agreement of the Cockpit [reference to the four leaders of Kahol-Lavan: Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid, Moshe Yaalon and Gabi Ashkenzai - OH]. And I said to Benny: 'You made a commitment. If you can't convince Yair to give up on Meir Cohen, you have to keep him. And Benny tries to avoid me. I tell him, ‘Benny, you are breaking up Kahol-Lavan!’ And I look at him and see that something has happened. I tell him: ‘Benny, remember, just don't break up Kahol-Lavan. We made a commitment. We have a mission." And he doesn't look me in the eye. And when I hear that he has submitted his candidacy to be the Speaker of the Knesset, I understand that he has crossed the rubicon, and I run to him again and say to him: ‘Benny, you are breaking it up. Don't do this. We have a mission!' But I understand that it is lost. And it’s a huge disappointment, and a terrible loss, and a hard feeling.”
"After all, Netanyahu said it should be limited to two terms," Ya'alon adds, "but he is trying to perpetuate his reign. As you demand, you don’t need to do? He controls the agenda and the media. It is the Yom Kippur of the media. So, he has no substitute? Really? There was nothing here before he came? Only does he know English? Only he met Trump? Everything is thanks to him? Until he arrived, our economy was based on oranges [reference to claim by Netanyahu’s son, Yair - OH]? Do people really believe that? What, Benny Gantz didn't meet Trump? And also high-tech (success) is due to him? Look how many high-tech people are leaving the country. This is what worries me, that people will understand that this country is corrupt and just give up. It's a war for the state, no less…
"After all, Netanyahu warned against exactly what is happening to him now. It's a turnaround. Like in nature, if the water does not flow - there is a swamp, mosquitoes and corruption. Look how many people around him are involved in the submarine (corruption) affair. Why is no one involved from the Defense Ministry?
"Today the Prime Minister once again tweeted Fake News that Israel is in first place as the safest country against Corona. He does it shamelessly, with the official figures showing that in morbidity we rank 200 out of 225 countries, and in mortality - in the 175th place. So no, that's just not true. The Prime Minister has threatened us with one million patients and ten thousand dead. It was a lie…His political considerations outweigh the considerations of the epidemic. If the considerations were relevant, he would have long ago transferred the crisis management powers to the Ministry of Defense…Every evening we are told that we are the best and most successful because there could be tens of thousand sick here. And you look at the real situation and you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Over the neglecting of the health care system, over the failure to care for the nursing homes, over the confused policy of testing, masks, whatnot.”
BC: When will you give up? Aren't you discouraged?
MY: "I will never be discouraged. Never. There is a country here. It is not self-evident. I have fought for it my whole life and will continue to fight for it."

'Netanyahu's actions more dangerous than coronavirus'
In an exclusive interview, Edward Snowden, the man who bared the secrets of American intelligence, says he is surprised that Israelis are not furious over the use of Shin Bet anti-terrorism measures to track people infected with the virus, which he calls 'intolerable.’ (Interviewed by Ronen Bergman in Yedioth/Ynet)

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