News Nosh 5.20.20

APN's daily news review from Israel - Wednesday May 20, 2020

Quote of the day:

"The man accused of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, who dragged an entire country through three costly election campaigns for a whole year in an attempt to evade justice, and who has, in the middle of an economic plague, just finished putting together the most bloated, wasteful, ostentatious, exploitative government Israel has ever known, is suddenly worried about the taxpayer’s money, and claims that his presence in court for a needless technical hearing would “cost the public a fortune.”
—Haaretz Editorial on the request by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to be absent from the upcoming opening of his trial.*

You Must Be Kidding: 
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, Lior Haiat, slammed the European Union for publicly declaring its opposition to Israeli annexation of Palestinian land, calling it 'megaphone diplomacy' and said things should be discussed in 'intimate diplomatic dialogue.' He declared this on Twitter.**

Front Page:


Yedioth Ahronoth

  • Taking care only of themselves - The Norwegian Law yes, but unemployment for self-employed no: Knesset approved the law to allow minister to resign from the Knesset and be replaced by new MKs
  • On the menu: loosening restrictions
  • Israel and Iran: cyberattack
  • Humiliation of a 7-year-old girl (by her teacher) because of a (sleeveless) dress
  • State Prosecutor’s Office: Don’t give Netanyahu an exemption (from attending the opening of his trial)

Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)

Israel Hayom

Top News Summary:
A shadow cyber war between Israel and Iran came to light, attorneys of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu lashed out at the State Prosecutor’s Office for not agreeing to their request that Netanyahu not attend the opening of his criminal trial on Sunday - making top stories in today’s Hebrew newspapers. Also important: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinian Authority was not bound by any of the agreements it signed with Israel and the US. (Report below.)

And interestingly, the corona virus has increased immigration requests to Israel. Maariv reported that requests due to the crisis rose by 20%. Yesterday, 111 new immigrants from Ukraine landed at Ben Gurion Airport. This was the largest flight of immigrants whose trip was funded by the Christian Fellowship Fund since the outbreak of the corona crisis. Vadim Sergejko, 57 who immigrated to Israel alone from Ukraine, said: “I am so happy to immigrate to Israel and have been waiting for this for a long time. Medicine in Israel is on a different level and especially in the days of corona, this is very evident.”

But of great interest was that Iranians are also clamoring to immigrate to Israel. Since they are not Jewish and don’t have an automatic right to immigrate, they are asking for political asylum, Yedioth reported. The Israeli Foreign Ministry said it has received thousands of requests pleading for way to escape the ayatollahs' regime. Yedioth noted that Iran has been hard hit by the virus, which has claimed the lives of more than 7,000 of its citizens.

Iran-Israel Cyberattacks:
After the Washington Post reported yesterday that Israel was behind a cyberattack on an Iranian port in early May, in retaliation for an Iranian cyberattack on Israeli water systems, Israel’s military chief said that Israel will continue to use a “wide range of tools” to defend itself. Israel’s strike on Iran was retaliation for Iran’s cyberattack on water installations in Israel. Haaretz’s Intel correspondent, Yossi Melman, wrote that Israel’s strike “aimed neither to cause physical damage nor casualties, but to send a warning: We can harm you tenfold. (See more analysis in the Top Analysis/Commentary section below.) Israei’s former chief of military intel, Amos Yadlin, wrote in a tweet on Twitter that he believed Israel was behind the large-scale cyber attack and that it was a “significant message about the vulnerability of Iran's economic system.” (Maariv) Arik Barbing, former head of the Shin Bet cyber department warned that Israel “must not underestimate Iran's capabilities.” (Maariv)

Annexation News:
**Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared that the Palestinian Authority is no longer bound by the agreements with Israel and the US due to Israel's imminent annexation plans of West Bank land. Of significance, Abbas' declaration was followed by a joint declaration of Germany and the Palestinian Authority against the Israeli annexation plan and it said that Germany "took note of the Palestinian view that such a step would put an end to all signed agreements.” The German statement follows similar warnings from other European countries, the European Union. And on Monday, Canada's Justin Trudeau also publicly joined the opposition to Israel's annexation plans. The Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman slammed the European Union for declaring its opposition publicly, calling it 'megaphone diplomacy' and said things should be discussed in 'intimate diplomatic dialogue.' Ironically, he did so on Twitter. Declarations aside, Palestinian sources told Haaretz that coordination with Israel continues. And senior Palestinian officials told Israel Hayom that while serious, at this point the assertion is mostly declarative. However, the Palestinian Fatah leadership called on Palestinians to 'prepare' for annexation.

Corona-related Quickees:

  • Israel Rescinds Order to Wear Masks Until End of Heat Wave - Newly appointed Health Minister Yuli Edelstein announces that due to soaring temperatures, wearing masks in open areas or classrooms without air conditioning is not mandatory. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
  • Bars reopen around Tel Aviv despite coronavirus regulations - Police also disperses gathering of hundreds of people in Dizengoff Square; 'This disrespect for bar owners and self-employed people in general cannot continue,' says one owner, pointing out that beaches and malls have reopened. (Ynet)
  • Israel to Reopen Restaurants Starting May 27 as Coronavirus Cases Remain Low - The Health Ministry says there will still be no live performances in clubs, with event halls to reopen on June 14. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
  • Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque to reopen next week - Waqf officials announce that worshipers would be permitted to return immediately after the month-long Ramadan holiday ends at weekend. Muslim holy site has been shuttered since mid-March. (Ynet)
  • Direct UAE-Israel Flight Delivers Coronavirus Supplies for Palestinians - Israel and the United Arab Emirates do not have formal diplomatic relations, but there are many clandestine contacts between the two countries, as well as the occasional public visit by Israeli officials. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
  • Iran blasts UAE for delivering aid to Palestinian Authority via Israel - United Arab Emirates carrier Etihad Airways makes the unusual flight to deliver 16 tons of humanitarian aid for Palestinians via Tel Aviv. Supreme Leader Khamenei calls for armed struggle against Israel in the West Bank, says Persian Gulf states "betray Palestine by supporting Israel." (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
  • Israelis, Palestinians Trust Netanyahu, Abbas on Coronavirus More Than Americans Trust Trump, Survey Finds - Among Israeli citizens surveyed, attitudes were relatively similar across the Jewish-Arab divide regarding the future, with both more optimistic than U.S. citizens or Europeans. (Haaretz+)
  • Then-Health Minister Litzman Says He Was Not Involved in Coronavirus Decision-making - Yaakov Litzman says that recommendations were made under the purview of senior bureaucrats who reported to Prime Minister Netanyahu and then-director general of the Health Ministry, Moshe Bar Siman Tov. (Haaretz+)


Other Top Quick Hits:

  • Coalition readies ‘Norwegian law,’ nixes increased payouts to self-employed - Opposition members lash out at government, calling it ‘arrogant’ and saying it reneged on a deal in a ‘completely crazy’ move. (Times of Israel, JPost, Haaretz+ and Yedioth Hebrew)
  • 1 out of 10 Israelis calls Jerusalem home - Data from the Central Bureau of Statistics shows that the capital's population is nearing 1 million, and Jerusalemites are very busy having babies and shopping online. (Israel Hayom)
  • Monday: School bans girls for wearing shorts despite extreme heat - Ra'anana middle school bars group of female students from entering the grounds for 'violating' dress code; move sparks uproar from parents who accuse educators of religious coercion and unequal treatment, as boys were allowed to wear the item of clothing. (Yedioth/Ynet)
  • Tuesday: School forces 7-year-old girl to spend day in underwear for breaking dress code - Teacher in Petach Tikva decrees little girl's sleeveless dress was in breach of regulations and refuses to allow her to wear sweater without school emblem, instead child was given T-shirt and ordered to remove her dress. (Maariv and Yedioth/Ynet and PHOTOS)
  • Tuesday and Wednesday: Israeli schoolgirls don shorts to protest 'sexist' dress code - Hundreds of female students in Ra'anana, Kfar Saba, Gedera, Modi'in and other cities wait outside for hours as they're barred from entering school and even threatened with suspension after they break dress code in protest. (Maariv, p. 12 and Ynet)
  • Singer Yardena Arazi on the storm that her words sparked: "It's infuriating that the word ‘left-winger’ is equal to ‘traitor’” - The singer sparked outrage after saying on TV talk show that she was labeled as "traitor" because her views "did not fit a particular circle." In an interview with 103 FM, she tried to explain: “I wanted to say that this labeling, the need for politicians to simplify the public discourse, to label anyone who does not think just like them, a leftist, and make that equal to being traitor, in my eyes is so outrageous, because I come from a family that has paid in blood for this country. (My family) is scattered among kibbutzim, everyone was in combat units, people who love the tag people like us as leftists as a derogatory word? (Maariv/103FM)
  • Joe Biden: Israeli Threat of Annexation, Settlement Activity 'Will Choke Off Hope of Peace' - Biden says that although his 'commitment to Israel is completely unshakable,' annexation would not get a 'green light' or recognition from his administration. (Haaretz+ and Israel Hayom)
  • UN envoy: Syria's warring parties agree to Geneva talks - After nine years of bloody conflict, peace mediator announces Damascus and rebel groups are set to relaunch talks after coronavirus outbreak in country has been overcome. (Agencies, Ynet)

Elections 2020/Netanyahu Indictment Commentary/Analysis:
*Netanyahu, Show Up in Court (Haaretz Editorial) Nothing could have been more predictable than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request not to go to court for the first day of his trial on Sunday. From the moment suspicions were raised against him, all along the road to court, he has never missed an opportunity to demand special treatment from the law, as befitting someone who is outstandingly unique in his own eyes. The arguments Netanyahu raises are a mockery and an insult to the public’s intelligence: The man accused of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, who dragged an entire country through three costly election campaigns for a whole year in an attempt to evade justice, and who has, in the middle of an economic plague, just finished putting together the most bloated, wasteful, ostentatious, exploitative government Israel has ever known, is suddenly worried about the taxpayer’s money, and claims that his presence in court for a needless technical hearing would “cost the public a fortune.”
The opportunity to make a big change is precisely from the lowest place (Attorney Ilana Shoshan, Maariv) If the mechanism would allow us to elect our ministers directly, we might and probably would have chosen people whose skills and experience would suit the roles to be filled. The Legislature anticipated this, so it decided, and not mistakenly, that a minister does not have to be a Knesset member, to allow the prime minister to select people with the skills and experience to play an administrative and executive role. However, the role of the minister has become a kind of reward for the Knesset members who squeeze the minister's role from the prime minister. It is not the public agenda they supposedly advance that interests them, but the respect and title of a minister…But there is an opportunity to make a big change, especially when the Knesset has an absolute majority. There is an opportunity to make changes to the method, such as allowing the citizen to truly elect some of his representatives in direct regional elections, demanding that Knesset members who become ministers vacate their seats in the Knesset as a precondition for accepting the electoral role, and approving party funding only for democratic lists that will see transparency. Let’s see you do it.
Israel's New Ministers, Please, Just Don’t Try to Leave a Mark (Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz+) We’ve been had, big-time. Deceived, betrayed, our votes stolen, our money dispersed. They went and established a 36-headed monster and made a laughingstock of the country. But we’ll show them. We’ll be waiting for them at the corner. The corner of David Hamelech and Ibn Gvirol, at Café Landwer and at the bakery, as soon as they open. We’ll write hard-hitting articles, we’ll fill social media with clever caricatures, we’ll dispel their stench by spraying graffiti on the walls – and we’ll wait quietly for the next election. We won’t begrudge the tens of millions that will be spent to finance the existence of three dozen ministers. After all, we’re not short of money. We saw how, in the blink of an eye, 80 billion shekels were found, as if it were Monopoly money, to aid those impacted by the virus crisis. Nor will we begrudge the armored sedans, the bodyguards, the bureaus, the refreshments, the trips abroad and all the other goodies. But there is no need for these people, who will have left office long before we manage to remember all their names and can match faces to ministries, to try to leave a mark. This is where the real danger lies. We have yet to heal from the searing marks left by previous governments – racist laws, wasted budgets, the Meitzav and PISA examinations that revealed the sorry state of the education system, the collapse of hospitals, unaffordable housing, the corruption of the prime minister, the live fire directed at the justice system – to list just some of the most prominent traumas that “left a mark.”
We dreamed of a lean and professional government, but we have what we got and with it we will try to succeed (Ben Caspit, Maariv) An endless series of spins, condemnations, slander, incitement, lies and promises came to an end this week with the establishment of the 35th government.
Despite Despair, Israel's Left Must Pick Up and Move On
Rami Livni, Haaretz+) What hasn’t the left tried in recent years?…There is no magic recipe or single person who will salvage this camp and solve its problems. But with all due understanding for the difficulties and disheartenment, the left cannot give up. The mission at hand continues to be fateful, a sacred mission: to extricate Israel from the grip of the right at the first opportunity that offers itself. The right is disastrous for the lives of us all. It’s not just the ultra-Orthodox, Miri Regev, or even Netanyahu. It’s the right. And it’s not invincible. The game goes on.
The wide gaps of the unity government: Netanyahu's most loyal (Yitzhak Ben-Ner, Maariv) This mixture of people, masters and ladies, for the most part is unsuitable for their ministry roles and has won high-power offices and budgets because of their unique advantage - loyalty to the last of their lifeblood to the prime minister.
Will Netanyahu get a fair trial? (Doron Menashe, Israel Hayom) The basic assumption of the criminal justice system is that judges must rule solely on the evidence presented to them at trial. In the prime minister's case, the "trial by media" may compromise the case.

Top Commentary/Analysis:
With Cyberattack on Iranian Port, Tehran Gets a Warning: Civilian Installations Are a Red Line (Amos Harel, Haaretz+) Leak of details of the operation, attributed to Israel, seems to be intentional, sending a clear message that the damage Iran can expect could be greater than what they can inflict on their adversaries.
Iran's cyber attack introduced a new variable into the shadow war (Tal Lev-Ram, Maariv) The recent threats posed by the Islamic Republic to Israeli infrastructure are almost unprecedented. It’s possible they have chosen this option to escalate the situation - and Israel will not sit back and take it.
Israel has drawn a line in the sand (Yoav Limor, Israel Hayom) Tuesday's Washington Post report could signal that the world's first cyber war has officially begun.
Iran Struck First. 'Israel' Retaliated Massively. Behind the Cyber War Rattling the Middle East (Yossi Melman, Haaretz+) The retaliation attributed to Israel by Washington Post aimed neither to cause physical damage nor casualties, but to send a warning: We can harm you tenfold
Israel and U.S. are sending a clear warning to Iran (Ron Ben-Yishai, Ynet) The cyber attack on Israeli water facilities using American servers at the height of the coronavirus crisis wrought a swift and heavy response, paralyzing Iran's state-of-the-art port, and its blatant leak to the Washington Post was designed to inform Tehran and the world of the price of such attacks.
Extortion, using the peace treaty (Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen, Israel Hayom) The problem with Israel's "cold peace" with its neighbors isn't the lack of symmetry in the treaties, but rather that Jordan and Egypt are using the agreements to deter Israel from acting in its own best interest.
At this time, there is a great distance between Israeli talk of annexation and its implementation on the ground (Tal Lev-Ram, Maariv) The Palestinian Authority has much to lose from severing relations with Israel, and certainly in the security field. Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) knows he has quite a few enemies on the inside, especially Hamas, who may take advantage of the situation.
Does the term 'annexation' even apply? (Dr. Dore Gold, Israel Hayom) Is it correct to label Israeli actions with respect to the West Bank "annexation?" Can you annex territory that has already been designated as yours?
Bad Guys and Sick Hamsters: Leaving Ramallah for a Foray Into Israel (Umm Forat, Haaretz+) For the first time after two months of corona-closure, we were leaving the West Bank to visit a close friend and his kids in the Israeli city Holon | Post #13
I'm a German Jew, and I'd Love to Be Normal (Tobias Ginsburg, Haaretz+) In Germany, Israel and the Jews are fought over with a crudely absolutist, hysterical intensity. Caricatured, exploited, courted and vilified by left and right, normality sounds to me like a distant promise.
Let the Shin Bet defeat crime (in the Arab sector) (Jalal Banna, Israel Hayom) Israeli Arabs already think the shadowy agency is omnipresent, so let them work on our behalf to stem to out-of-control gun violence in our communities.

'Netanyahu stabbed us in the back'
Outgoing Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich says Yamina is at peace with the decision to stay out of the coalition: "We couldn't have joined, with PM Netanyahu's 'humiliating' attitude toward religious Zionism," he says. (Interviewed by Yehuda Shlezinger in Israel Hayom)

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

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