News Nosh 5.12.20

APN's daily news review from Israel
Tuesday May 12, 2020

You Must Be Kidding: 
Twice as many Jews are willing to act violently towards Arabs as Arabs are willing to act violently towards Jews.

Four times as many Jews who define themselves as right-wingers are willing to act violently towards leftists as leftists are prepared to act violently towards right-wingers.
--The Consensus Index reveals the rift in Israeli society and the greater tendency towards violence among right-wing Israelis.*

Front Page:
Yedioth Ahronoth
  • The economic epidemic - price of corona: The crisis that threatens to devastate the self-employed (Hebrew)
  • They forgot them (self-employed) at home // Raanan Shaked (Hebrew)
  • Ignoring the guidelines: Mass Lag B’Omer bonfires in Mea Shearim (ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood) (Hebrew)
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
Israel Hayom
  • “Applying sovereignty is an Israeli decision” - Just before his visit, US Secretary of State in an exclusive interview (Hebrew)
  • Erdan on the way to the US: Dilemma regarding Yamina party: “They are pushing us into the opposition”
  • Mayors against the Education Ministry - On Sunday grades 4-10 will return to school, but just for one day. Municipalities: There is a limit
  • Keeping a distance: This is how the summer military draft will look
  • Limited bonfire - In the presence of 150 people, hundreds of thousands watched the broadcast of the Lag B’Omer hill celebrations
  • Corona is fattening: 55% of Israelis gained weight during the closure

Top News Summary:
Municipalities bashed government plans to partially reopen schools for 4th-10th graders, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu appointed Minister Gilad Erdan as Israeli ambassador to the US AND to the UN and wants to expand the already inflated government and while most of the country did without the Lag B’Omer holiday bonfire, hundreds gathered together at bonfires in two ultra-Orthodox communities, in one police were stoned - making top stories in today’s Hebrew newspapers.

Israel’s annexation plans also made news ahead of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit Wednesday. The papers reported that France is pushing for a tough European Union response if Israel applies sovereignty over West Bank lands and Haaretz+ reported that numerous EU countries are considering it and will meet on Friday to discuss how to punish Israel. Moreover, MaarivOnline ran an interesting interview with commentator Shimrit Meir on US expectations regarding the Deal of the Century and annexation. (See interviews below.)

Elections 2020 / Netanyahu Indictment News:
In an unprecedented move, Likud Minister Gilad Erdan, who wanted to keep his job but won’t, will instead become the ambassador to two key posts - to the United States and to the United Nations. He will replace Ron Dermer and Danny Danon.

Due to Pompeo’s visit Wednesday, the swearing-in of the new government will take place Thursday and instead of the large government of 32 ministers, Netanyahu wants to increase the number to 36 ministers, to resolve the pressure he faces to give his all loyalists in Likud and to give the Yamina party ministries. Yedioth Hebrew, which focused today on the economically desperate self-employed, emphasized the irony of this increase. Kahol-Lavan clarified that "The initiative to swear-in 36 ministers was raised without contacting us.” Yedioth reported that Gantz wants to leave the quota of Kahol-Lavan ministers at 16. However, he faces a problem because the agreement is that ministries be divided half and half between Kahol-Lavan and between the Likud and its right-wing partners. Yamina party is blaming Likud for not giving it a significant portfolio and essentially pushing it out of the government.

Meanwhile, the State Comptroller rejected outgoing Netanyahu loyalist, Justice Minister Amir Ohana’s request to investigate Attorney General Avichai Mendelblitt. It is generally believed that Ohana and others are trying to taint Mendelblitt’s reputation ahead of Netanyahu’s trial. Also, a court is hearing a petition to force Netanyahu to pay back the wealthy businessmen who covered his legal expenses.

Corona Quickees:
  • Israel coronavirus fatalities remain at 258 - 16,526 Israelis has been infected by the virus with 4,312 people currently ill, 67 in serious condition of which 57 patients are on ventilators for respiratory assistance. (Ynet)
  • Israel Eyes Expanding Export of Surveillance Systems in Shadow of Coronavirus - Defense Ministry tender asks civilian companies to provide information on security needs – including systems for tracking civilians – of ‘all countries of the world,’ excluding Iran, Syria and Lebanon. (Haaretz+)
  • Will Pompeo Wear a Mask When He Meets Netanyahu on Wednesday? - Visit to Jerusalem by U.S. secretary of state will be the first by an overseas dignitary since Israel effectively closed its borders to foreigners in March. (Haaretz+)
  • (Right-wing NGO) Report: Palestinians exploiting corona to destroy Hasmonean-era fortress - Under cover of the coronavirus shutdown, the Palestinian Authority paved an access road at the Samaria site that has destroyed the remains of the ancient fortress wall and water cisterns, says [settler - O]) Israeli NGO, Regavim. (Israel Hayom)
Other Top Quick Hits:
  • Army Demolishes Home of Palestinian Accused in Attack That Killed Israeli Teenager - The army report that during the demolition of Qassam Shibli's house in Kobar village, clashes broke out with Palestinians leaving four wounded according to the Red Crescent. (Haaretz+, Maariv and Ynet)
  • Palestinian charged with terror attack for stabbing on Israel's Memorial Day - Mohammed Reisha allegedly set out with the intention of killing a Jewish Israeli on Israel’s Memorial Day, 62-year-old left in moderate condition after attack. (Haaretz+)
  • Israel Examining Unarmed Response to Dangerous Mentally Ill People to Prevent Deadly Clashes With Police - The experimental program will likely include a non-uniformed policeman and a therapist who would treat mentally ill people reported as dangerous by relatives ■ Plan will probably be delayed due to disputes about funding. (Haaretz+)
  • Lebanon fears second coronavirus wave as new infections surge - After a drop in cases which the government hailed as a success, the health ministry recorded 36 new infections on Sunday, the highest one-shot uptick in at least least a month. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Iranian missile strikes own ship, navy says 19 killed - Reports say the support ship was too close to a target during an exercise in the Gulf of Oman. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • U.S. Tells Tehran to Send Plane So It Can Deport 11 Iranian Nationals (in prisoner exchange) - Both governments say ready to return prisoners amid coronavirus outbreak. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • All mosques in Iran to reopen on Tuesday despite spike in cases in southwest - Khuzestan province has been placed under lockdown after its governor warned of a sharp rise in new cases in the county, local outlets report. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Syria's Assad replaces trade minister as economic crisis deepens - Governor of Homs, Syria's largest province, takes over post as local currency reaches record lows. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Saudi Arabia triples VAT rate in austerity push to counter oil slump, virus - Gulf kingdom's struggle with shrinking oil market, exasperating economic downfall prompted by coronavirus restrictions, brings Crown Prince to initiate harsh financial decision to bounce back. (Agencies, Ynet)
  • Yemen declares Aden an 'infested' city as coronavirus spreads, clashes erupt - The World Health Organization says there is a full-blown transmission of the virus in Yemen as clashes erupt in the south despite a nationwide cease-fire. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Iraqi women face systematic inequalities in their fight to return home, report shows - Inability to access property, establish ownership and seek compensation for homes damaged during the war against the Islamic State are just a few of the problems hundreds of thousands of displaced women are facing. (Agencies, Haaretz)

How a Student in the U.S. Reacted to YouTube Videos of Israeli Soldiers in the Occupied Territories
A new documentary by Ra’anan Alexandrowicz captures the reactions of a young American woman as she watches video clips of the Israeli army in action. But can filmed footage really penetrate our preconceived ideas? (Nirit Anderman, Haaretz+)
*Polarization on the Wall: How Deep is the Political Rift in Israeli Society?
Alarming data reveals: 14% of right-wingers are willing to act violently toward leftists, one-third of leftists do not want to hear right-wing media opinions, and about half of Israelis believe corona has deepened the schism. Today, the 'Israeli Congress,' a joint venture of Bar-Ilan University and the Menomedin Foundation, which was established to address the ongoing tension between Israel’s Jewish identity and the state's democratic identity and to create a broad public agreement building process, will present its "National Consensus Index" at a special conference. The index revealed problematic patterns, to say the least, of violence and willingness to deny the rights of rival groups. For example, it was found that 18.5% of Jews are willing to act violently towards Arabs, compared to 9% of Arabs who are willing to do so towards Jews, and that 13.5% of the people who define themselves as right-wingers are willing to act violently towards leftists. This compares with 3.5% of those who define themselves as leftists who are prepared to act that way towards right-wingers. Most Arabs (59%) do not believe that full civil rights should be guaranteed to Jews, compared to 46% of Jews who think that of Arabs, and 67% of Arabs do not believe that Jews should be allowed free expression in the media, compared to 58% of Jews. 43% of right-wingers don’t think full civil rights should be guaranteed to leftists, compared to 22.5% of leftists who think that way of right-wingers. 57% of right-wingers are not willing to allow freedom of speech in the media to the left, compared to 33% of leftists who are not willing to allow rightists. Israelis see the rabbinate and religious leaders as the most divisive institutions in Israel, with the IDF and security threats being the most unifying things in Israeli society. More secular people see religion as a threat to the state than vice versa (12% of secular versus 8% of religious), and more secular are interested in limiting the influence of religious on public discourse (32% vs. 19.5%). The study also shows that 50% of Israelis are less sympathetic to the ultra-Orthodox community following the corona crisis, and that 41% believe the crisis has led to greater schism in Israel. However, there are also many issues of agreement that give cause for optimism. Most Israelis (84%) agree that public transportation should be allowed on Saturday (48% religious and 98% secular). The Jewish Nation-State Law also brings a surprising consensus, with most Jews (63%) and all Arabs (100%) believing that it should be repealed or a paragraph dealing with equality of rights should be added. According to the researchers, these findings indicate the great potential of mediation processes in Israeli society. “The Israeli Congress's National Consensus Index reveals a harsh reality, but also opens up hope,” explains Prof. Shachar Lifshitz, head of the Jewish and Democratic Law Center at Bar Ilan and among the founders of the Israeli Congress. “Despite the deep hostility, the index shows that members of the various groups are not satisfied with the situation and see unity as a significant value that needs to be aspired to.” (Yuval Bango, Maariv)
In Jerash refugee camp, lockdown means ‘living without eating’
Palestinian refugees in Jordan’s Jerash camp were already suffering from severe poverty and public health challenges. Then COVID-19 hit. (Nooran Alhamdan, 972mag)
'They're the family and friends that I was missing'
At just 22, Yosef Friedman left his family, faith and everything he knew to embark on a new path, enlisting in the IDF and discovering the Foundation for Lone Soldiers Without Family Support, which became his new family. (Yuval Haninovich, Ynet)
A Perfect Storm: How Early Christian Farming in the Negev Collapsed
Israeli archaeologists date the remnants of flourishing agriculture in the desert and discover exactly when, and possibly why, it came to a bitter end. (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz+)

Top Commentary/Analysis:
Trump won't just 'allow' Netanyahu’s West Bank annexation – he'll force it (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+) With coronavirus hurting his chances in November's election, U.S. president will be desperate to appease his most loyal ace of base: Christian evangelicals.
West Bank annexation will be the end of Israeli-Jordanian peace (Marwan al-Muasher , Yedioth/Ynet) By annexing parts of the West Bank, Israel would put the Hashemite Kingdom at risk of an influx of Palestinians and it should protest such unilateral move at all costs. (Muasher was foreign minister of Jordan and served as Jordan’s first ambassador to Israel.)
We are the next generations (Prof. Eyal Zisser, Israel Hayom) Israeli leaders now have the historic opportunity to finish the job that the country's forefathers could not.
What Pompeo’s High-speed Mid-pandemic Trip to Israel Is Really About (Daniel B. Shapiro, Haaretz+) Iran and coronavirus are obvious deflections. So why is it so strangely urgent and essential for the Secretary of State to visit Israel right now?
Mike Pompeo, Trump Sycophant but Smart, Is an Immediate Threat to the Middle East (David Rothkopf, Haaretz+) Pompeo is visiting Israel this week mid-pandemic in a transparent attempt to avert the End Times for a desperate Trump. From the Palestinians to Iran, the Middle East will pay the price
Together forever: Viruses and bacteria are indifferent to political arrangements and fences (Avi Dabush, Maariv) Even if the separation wall were completed, the reality is that Israelis and Palestinians live together in the same space. That is why we need close and productive cooperation, which cannot take place over time without ending military control in the West Bank.
Palestinians Pay the Price for Israel’s Slavery to the Memory of the Holocaust (Daniel Barenboim, Haaretz+) When saying ‘Never again’ is the only way Israel engages with the past, it can be used to justify undemocratic, militaristic rule over the Palestinians - and now, annexation.
Does media bias against Israel still matter? (Jonathan S. Tobin, Israel Hayom) The slanted headlines and stories by "The New York Times" are important not because they turn most Americans against Israel, but because they influence Jewish opinion.
Iran’s Beleaguered Economy Spells Less Money for Israeli Army (Hagai Amit, Haaretz+) Tehran doesn’t have the resources to wage a real war, so the extra billions the IDF was hoping for won’t be needed.
Iraq's New Prime Minister Is Washington’s Latest Test in the Middle East (Zvi Bar’el, Haaretz+) Al-Kadhimi brings the promise of a democratic Iraq, but he must maintain the fragile balance of relations with both Iran and the United States to keep the country stable
Evangelicals Trying to Convert Jews: A Fair Price for Christian Support for Israel? (Jonathan S. Tobin, Haaretz+) A new Israeli TV channel targeting Jews for conversion to Christianity has triggered tumult even among evangelicals’ most dedicated Jewish friends. But one 'controversy' won’t wreck the Christian-Jewish alliance on Israel.
Yair Netanyahu, Twitter Buddy and Hero of Germany's Nationalist Right (Mati Shemoelof, Haaretz+) The battle against the 'Other' unites the son of Israel's prime minister with the anti-Semitic AfD party. It comes after his father forged alliances with patently anti-Semitic leaders.
Treasury Shamelessly Refuses to Help Israel's Poorest People Hit by COVID-19 (Haaretz Editorial) Even as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his colleagues are pulling the wool over the public’s eyes with crumbs of assistance for “ordinary people” in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, the Finance Ministry isn’t embarrassed to admit that its official policy is not to help them – not the disabled, not single parents, not elderly women and not people receiving income support payments.

Elections 2020/Netanyahu Indictment Commentary/Analysis:
Big, but not big enough for an Arab minister (Jalal Bana, Israel Hayom) All the promises that the new government would include Arab representation that would serve as an alternative to the Joint Arab List have turned out to be empty.
Telepolitics is Netanyahu's game (Baruch Leshem, Yedioth/Ynet) Gantz has none of Netanyahu's charisma nor has he any of the prime minister's abilities to steal the limelight and build up an image of an adored leader flanked by his loyal supporters.
Democracy's saviors? (Dan Schueftan, Israel Hayom) Members of our judiciary have fallen in love with their image as the guardians of liberal democracy but they have gone well beyond what is legitimate, meddling in issues that must be settled through social and political forces.
Giving up on Yamina is absurd (Mati Tuchfeld, Israel Hayom) Through three elections, the right-wing bloc remained in lockstep. It would be ridiculous to break it apart now that a government is about to be instated.

"If Biden is elected then Israeli relations with the new administration will start on the left foot”
Ahead of the upcoming visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Arab affairs commentator Shimrit Meir addressed the White House's expectations of the establishment of the government in Israel and the return of the Deal of the Century to the agenda. (Maariv/103FM)
INTERVIEWER: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is scheduled to arrive in Israel this weekend. What did he come to tell us? There are conflicting reports, against and in favor of annexation. The voices in the US government are different.
Shimrit Meir: "Let's say you want to formulate a position on annexation and let's say you don't really know if it's good, if it's a strategic disaster and whether we need it, etc. There are a few things that can be explored at this point that can give a pretty good picture. But I think it's early, not everyone has pulled out their plan of action yet. First and foremost Americans, where do Americans stand? We were in this film, they celebrated annexation, everyone dancing. "
INTERVIEWER: US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, in my opinion briefed reporters that they are going for annexation.
"And this is exactly what they are doing right now, a real campaign, for good or for bad, by US Ambassador (David) Friedman, especially in the right-wing press, which is really pushing the government toward annexation. What I see is that he is more aggressive on this issue than people within the (US) government itself. It’s really his campaign. The question is, to what extent does he, with this zeal to push Israel into annexing, represent all the voices in the current administration. The Americans according to the indications they give, they want it to proceed from an Israeli consensus. They have no interest in opening a front and starting an internal war, and they have no interest in putting a major landmine on the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty, which is also a consideration. I suppose that what Pompeo came to do here, he, incidentally, says he came at the request of the Israelis, there are other things at stake besides this matter, also to check the water whether there really is a stable coalition, etc. In the previous round, Gantz, who we can say a lot of things about, went to Washington and returned without annexation. That means that this issue is under the pressure of all sorts of other actors.”
INTERVIEWER: (Gantz) returned, agreed to Trump's Deal of the Century Plan, and they added him to the celebration. When they asked his party members whether they were in favor of annexation, in my opinion, there was a large part voting in favor. During the first flight, did they try to tell the Americans we didn't want to?
SM: First of all I want to make a general note, there is this thing that people say, 'In the end, a person on Shabbat has to go to the synagogue and deal with the people there', your immediate community. For that matter, Gantz and Ashkenazi, the community in which they operate, their conscious base is military personnel and retired generals, the vast majority of whom think this is a terrible mistake, this is the context. Secondly, they see it in the context of negotiations with the Palestinians and provided that it does not violate other Israeli peace agreements, I do not see that happening…Of course there is the question of the Palestinians, they are not a player her. I do not say that to annoy, but in the realities of things they are not really a player. They can use the ‘doomsday weapon’ and say 'No more Palestinian Authority, take the keys, no security cooperation no mechanisms, nothing. You want to annex? Please take over the whole thing.” That is a very far-reaching step for them. I find it difficult to see Abu Mazen (President Mahmoud Abbas) make such a decision. We can, of course, see a round of violence and for me this is something that needs to be taken out of the considerations because it is not possible to make strategic decisions on the basis of threats of a week's round of violence or something like that, or by putting intense pressure on everyone they can, first and foremost, the Jordanians and Europeans, to be more aggressive towards Israel.”
INTERVIEWER: Despite all the talk of annexation, we did not see the major Arab states standing on their hind feet. My feeling is that there is less interest in the fate of the Palestinians.
"Absolutely, I agree 100%. I have mentioned the Jordanians who are close to the issue. I have not mentioned the Egyptians and the Saudis and for a reason. They hardly ever address this, they repress it. The Saudis, in general, are in a campaign where they are head-to-head with the Palestinians, a conscious campaign.”
INTERVIEWER: Biden is weakening, getting from the inside by the Democrats.
"Biden has a solid lead, post-corona, on Trump. We don't know what will happen in November and that is the most important consideration. Assuming Biden enters the White House in January and Israel annexes in July and after that we enter a loop of discourse on annexation and all these matters, that means the relationship with the new administration starts begins on the wrong foot, which is a particularly difficult thing, mainly for all the other things at stake, first and foremost with Iran. So, in my view, it’s more important to me than the Jordanians and what the Palestinians do and what people who have ideological considerations in this regard will do. This is one of the things that must be taken into consideration and looked at systematically. Starting a democratic term in the White House on the wrong foot, so blatantly, is not the most intelligent thing to do.”

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