News Nosh 5.27.20

APN's daily news review from Israel
Wednesday May 27, 2020

NOTE: News Nosh will be off tomorrow, Thursday, May 31st, and back Sunday, May 31st.

You Must Be Kidding: 

"Let's see what will happen in a year and a half. We'll see whether he'll learn from the best and come prepared for the role."
— Transportation Minister Miri Regev said that Defense Minister Benny Gantz is not ready to be prime minister and that he should learn from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who is standing trial on suspicions of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.**
Front Page:
Yedioth Ahronoth
  • We closed down - The economic pandemic: They invested their souls in their businesses and corona took everything
  • Heads of the protest of medical specialist interns are not giving up: “This is the time to make change”
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
  • Corona routine - The plan to return to work
  • The government inside a government - Difficulties in the functioning of the coalition continue
  • Court ruled: Malka Leifer is fit to stand trial (for sex crimes in Australia)
Israel Hayom

Top News Summary:
Economic plans to get the unemployed their jobs back as restaurants reopen today, a ruling to extradite a Jewish Australian female alleged pedophile and friction within the new government were today’s top stories in the Hebrew newspapers.

*New Government:
The friction between the right-wing Likud and the centrist Kahol-Lavan and Labor parties has already become evident in the first week since the new Knesset began to work. Labor Minister Itzik Shmuli (Labor party) has been very vocal in his criticism of the government that he has joined. On the plans to annex Palestinian land on July 1st, Shmuli said “we will thwart sovereignty from within the government." Likud responded saying, "As Prime Minister Netanyahu said yesterday at the Likud faction meeting, applying sovereignty will be carried out exactly as agreed in the coalition agreements, which are very clear." (Maariv) [See Op-Ed by Akiva Eldar in Annenxation Commentary/Analysis section below. Eldar writes that the agreements are not so black and white. - OH] Shmuli also criticized Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech Sunday, in which he assailed the justice system that put him on trial. Ironically Netanyahu’s party, Benny Gantz and his Kahol-Lavan party are considering blocking the passage of a bill by opposition party Yamina, which would bar a sitting prime minister from being investigated for crimes.

But hardcore Netanyahu loyalist, Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, called for a probe to discover who were the police who told Channel 12 News that the prime minister would not be cut any slack in any new investigations, including a possible police probe regarding a massive payout Netanyahu received in shares from a steel company controlled by his cousin, Nathan Milikowsky. Netanyahu’s lawyer also called for an 'immediate investigation' into the police officers. And then today, Gantz stormed out of a meeting with Netanyahu after learning that another hardcore Netanyahu loyalist, Transportation Minister Miri Regev said in an interview that Gantz wasn’t fit to be prime minister. "I don't think he is ready to become prime minister. He is simply not ready," said Regev. Netanyahu reportedly told Regev later: "Your statements harm the government.” (Maariv) Today, the coalition had one success: it passed the first reading of the so-called 'Norwegian Law,' which would allow for ministers to resign from Knesset and have their seats taken by new lawmakers.

  • (Arab countries quietly agree to sovereignty:) 'Next few weeks will determine whether future decades will see peace or bloodshed' - "With all due respect to the Palestinians, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Jordan will not jeopardize their relationship with the Trump administration for them," senior Arab official says. Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat says he is "confident the Arab world will not allow Israel to execute its plan to annex parts of the West Bank." (Israel Hayom)
  • Army Chief Is Preparing IDF for Violence in West Bank Over July Annexation - Defense sources in Israel say that in contrast to previous periods of tension, the break between PA security apparatus and its Israeli counterparts is more significant this time. (Haaretz+)
  • Disaster or Opportunity? As Annexation Looms, Israeli Settlers Torn Over Trump's Plan - 'The argument is not between supporters and opponents of sovereignty, but between supporters and opponents of a Palestinian state,' right-wing lawmaker says. (Haaretz+)
  • ICC Requests Palestinians Clarify Whether Oslo Accords Still Stand - Status of Israeli-Palestinian agreements could affect court's ruling on whether it has jurisdiction to investigate alleged war crimes in Palestinian territories. (Haaretz+ and Maariv)
  • Foreign Ministry seeks right buzzwords to smooth path for sovereignty bid - With the word "annexation" grating international ears and "sovereignty" proving hard to swallow, the Foreign Ministry believes that the less politically charged term "applying Israeli law" could pave the diplomatic way for Israel's historic territorial bid. (Israel Hayom)
Quick Hits:
  • Justice Ministry Urges (Only) Disciplinary Action for Policeman Who Attacked a Temple Mount Guard - Department for investigation of police officers said they saw no reason to launch a criminal investigation, despite video evidence of the policeman beating the guard. (Haaretz+)
  • U.S. ambassador calls on Israel to block Chinese moves into 5G network market - Issue raised by David Friedman in talk with new communications minister, as Washington-Beijing tensions soar amid coronavirus crisis. (Haaretz+)
  • Amid U.S. pressure, Chinese firm loses tender for Israeli plant in sensitive location - Government panel chooses local IDE over Chinese rival Hutchison to build Israel's largest desalination plant. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
  • He saved his friend and drowned: Body of Internationally Renowned Dancer found off northern Israeli coast - Ayman Safiah, nicknamed the Arab 'Billy Elliott,' was swept away into the sea on Sunday morning. His family in Kfar Yasif said police didn't do enough to find him. Hundreds of Arab and Jewish volunteers searched for him. Today, a police helicopter spotted him. (Haaretz+VIDEO and Ynet Hebrew and MK Ayman Odeh Twitter)
  • Minister orders police to track down officers who spoke to media about Netanyahu's cases - Amir Ohana asks police chief to 'use every means' to find who told Channel 12 News that the prime minister would not be cut any slack in any new investigations. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
  • Netanyahu's Lawyer Seeks Probe After Police Sources Speak to Media About Investigations - Attorney calls for an 'immediate investigation' into officers quoted in a Channel 12 report suggesting a new case against him may be opened. (Haaretz+ and Maariv)
  • Gantz’s party divided over bill to block investigation of prime minister - As newly sworn in government divided over legislation, Labor minister calls Netanyahu’s remarks blasting the justice system at the start of his corruption trial 'unacceptable.’ (Haaretz+)
  • 'Jewish Illiteracy' Is the Biggest Threat to Diaspora Jews, U.S. Ambassador Friedman Says - Speaking at Haaretz's Judaism Conference, Trump's ambassador to Israel says lack of 'fluency' in Judaism is the 'greatest threat of all' ■ Isaac Herzog says Jewish Agency has handed out $6M in loans to Jewish communities, says 'no doubt' coronavirus will lead to aliyah uptick ■ Watch. (Haaretz)
  • False alarm: rocket sirens sound in Israeli communities near Gaza border - Relative calm has pervaded for weeks as Israel and Hamas battle coronavirus. (Haaretz)
  • Coronavirus Live: Israel Sees Biggest Jump in New Cases in Almost Three Weeks - 36 new coronavirus cases diagnosed as restaurants, pools, tourist sites reopen. Jerusalem school shuts after three students test positive. (Haaretz)
  • Israel okays greater return to normalcy by reopening restaurants and tourist sites - Bars and pools also reopening, with all patrons required to follow restrictions.  (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
  • Rise in number of isolated elderly dying without anyone knowing - Since last year, there has been a 33% increase in cases of people with no family whose death went undetected for days or even weeks; phenomenon worsened due to coronavirus lockdown, with 59 bodies discovered since start of 2020. (Ynet)
  • Israel Extends Security Service Tracking of Coronavirus Cases for Three More Weeks - Knesset subcommittee authorizes continuation of Shin Bet surveillance for the purpose of contact tracing. (Haaretz+)
  • Report: Hackers target Israeli researchers working on coronavirus vaccine - Channel 12 says attackers sought to disrupt process not steal data. but efforts resulted in little to no actual harm; incident apparently came amid massive hacking effort, which saw Israeli websites changed to show fake images and videos of Tel Aviv in flames. (Ynet)
  • PA vexed over prayer restrictions at Cave of the Patriarchs - Ramallah accuses Jerusalem of infringing on freedom of worship following restrictive measures imposed on services at the holy site in Hebron. Move part of coronavirus-related limitations on public gatherings. (Israel Hayom)
  • Mossad reveals full extent of its massive coronavirus gear haul - Intelligence agency's internal report, obtained by Ynet, counts over 80 million face masks, nearly 30 tons of disinfectants and over 10,000 ventilators, some obtained from nations that have no diplomatic ties with Israel. (Yedioth/Ynet)
  • Lebanese PM Visits UN Peacekeepers as Israel Calls for More Assertive Role - Israel wants the peacekeepers to have access everywhere in southern Lebanon and to report any obstructions on the part of Hezbollah operatives to the Security Council. (Agencies, Haaretz and Ynet)
  • Hezbollah chief unfazed by U.S. pressure on UN peacekeepers - As UN gears up to renew its mandate of interim forces in Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah says Israelis and Americans conspire to change the nature of 'UNIFIL's mission' by allowing it to raid, search private properties. (Agencies, Ynet)
  • Iran law to ban the use of Israeli technology goes into effect, local media reports - President Hassan Rohani issued the implementation order on Tuesday, according to Fars, the semi-official news agency of the Iranian government. (Agencies, Haaretz and Ynet and Israel Hayom)
  • U.S. to End Sanctions Waivers Allowing Some Work at Iran Nuclear Sites - Move will put an end to nonproliferation work by Russian, Chinese and European firms, agreed as part of 2015 nuclear deal. (Agencies, Haaretz and Ynet)
  • Four suspects, including soldier, arrested for attempting to steal weapons from IDF base - Indictments against the four men, including an IDF soldier, are to be filed on Monday with the Southern District Attorney's Office. (Maariv and JPost)
  • Father's Beheading of 14-year-old Daughter Sparks Outcry in Iran Over So-called Honor Killing - Romina Ashrafi's case has led President Rohani to urge his Cabinet to speed up harsher laws against such killings, pushing for speedy adoption of relevant legislation. (Agencies, Haaretz)

What ex-Mossad chiefs really think about targeted killings
In rare interviews to mark the 70th anniversary of the organization’s founding, three former directors shared their views on assassinations as a tool of national security, revealing who really called the shots. (Yossi Melman, Haaretz+)
When Israel Placed Arabs in Ghettos Fenced by Barbed Wire
Censored documents in Israel's State Archives reveal disturbing truths about the military restrictions imposed on Arab city dwellers during the War of Independence. (Adam Raz, Haaretz+)
Netanyahu's corruption trial: The key players who will decide the PM's fate
A glance at some of the main players who could tip the balance in Netanyahu's trial in three cases on charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust. (Netael Bandel, Haaretz+)
Terror, Violence and Constant Hiding: Gay Life in Tel Aviv Before It Became an LGBTQ Mecca
Few gay men in Tel Aviv need to live in the closet these days, but things were much different a few decades ago. Just ask this 79-year-old. (Gal Uchovsky and Liran Atzmor, Haaretz+)

Annexation Commentary/Analysis:
Israeli Annexation Explained: What Is Netanyahu Planning for the West Bank and What Does It Mean (Noa Landau, Haaretz+) Based on his agreement with Gantz, Netanyahu will be able to commence West Bank annexation plans on July 1. Will the U.S. require Israel to implement the less favorable parts of Trump’s Mideast plan as well, and what are the consequences for the Palestinians?
The benefits of keeping mum (Oded Granot, Israel Hayom) Israel's budding relations with the Persian Gulf states will continue regardless of the plan to apply sovereignty to large parts of Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley – just below the surface.
Netanyahu's Allies Know Annexation Will Not Happen (Akiva Eldar, Haaretz+) It’s hard to believe that two generals (Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi) with such extensive experience in controlling the Palestinian people would think for a second that any of their leaders would accept "Bantustans" that don’t even control the air above them and agree to call this a state. They therefore composed, along with Netanyahu, the section of the coalition agreement saying that applying Israeli sovereignty to areas in the West Bank is contingent on maintaining regional stability and extant peace agreements, and on seeking future peace agreements. Any reasonable person would realize that unilateral annexation of the Jordan Valley will contribute to regional stability and to current and future peace agreements like regional war contributes to stability and peace.
The settlers' misleading campaign (Ariel Kahana, Israel Hayom) In recent days, the settler leaders have tried to convince politicians that they have a finalized version of the map under the Trump peace plan. But the joint mapping committee is still working on one.
Trump's Mideast peace plan is a trap (Yossi Shain, Yedioth/Ynet) The Trump administration starts questioning whether its support of Netanyahu's annexation ambitions do more harm than good; Israeli right slowly realizes that annexation also means a Palestinian state.
Annexing the Future (Haaretz Editorial) Israel stands on the verge of altering the definition of its boundaries as recognized by the international community in 1948. But the sprint toward annexation would not just be a gross violation of international law. Unilateral annexation would embroil Israel in a diplomatic confrontation with most of the world, and the EU in particular; it could undermine Israel’s relations with the U.S. administration should Donald Trump fail to be reelected; it would perpetuate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; it would endanger the peace treaty with Jordan; and above all it would shut the door to any chances of good relations with neighboring Arab states.
Sovereignty may prove a costly revolution (Dan Schueftan, Israel Hayom) Everyone is talking about the pros and cons of annexation as a move that is both relatively modest yet revolutionary in its implications.

Other Top Commentary/Analysis:
Inside Netanyahu's Smear Campaign Against the Justice System (Chaim Levinson, Haaretz+) Using Likud ministers and his son Yair to test the waters, Netanyahu is no less concerned about public opinion than about the court proceedings. The goal: Make the public believe he won't get a fair trial.
Israel is not prepared for the next war (Ben-Dror Yemini, Yedioth/Ynet) As tensions with Iran and Hezbollah rise and a massive rocket assault becomes a question of when and not if, we must look with an open mind at the country's level of readiness for conflict; listening to experts' warnings could save many billions of dollars and many lives.
Our Nightmare: Why Applying Sovereignty Should Be Welcomed (Gideon Reicher, Maariv) If we, G-d forbid, were and in the place of (the Palestinians), we would say: You want to annex us? Go for it. We are annexed, as you wish, with joy. We will find no objection. On the contrary, we want to unite with our Arab brothers, residents of Israel and its citizens. We seek not only Israeli citizenship but even to serve in the army, if we will be asked to. Of course, no enemy will be able to stand before us.
Demonstrating against the forces of condescension (Ruthie Blum, Israel Hayom) Protestations to the contrary, the chattering classes in the press, academia and the courts have been on an endless campaign to delegitimize the right.
US Jews feel that Israel needs guidance to preserve democracy (Shlomo Shamir, Maariv) From conversations with senior Jews, rabbis, businessmen and community activists it is implied that there is real concern for what is defined in talks as the "Future of democracy in Israel" and the reputation of its judicial system.
Netanyahu's campaign to control the message during his trial (Moran Azulay, Yedioth/Ynet) PM's media guru Ofer Golan was dispatched to prepare the scene at Jerusalem District Court on Sunday, bringing with him a podium adorned with the state insignia and directing the photo of Netanyahu flanked by his supporters in Likud.
In Washington, they did not hesitate to say to Israel: Choose - it’s us or China (Gili Cohen, Maariv) When talking about annexation in Jerusalem, Americans have other concerns, and they are threatening: Cooperation with China could cost the end of cooperation with the US.
Netanyahu Had Little Choice but to Have China Lose Big Israel Bid (Amos Harel, Haaretz+) Israel thought it could navigate between the powers, but the coronavirus crisis has sharpened tensions, and Trump's reelection campaign is centered on blaming China.
Going about it the wrong way (Jalal Banna, Israel Hayom) The National Committee of Heads of Arab Localities' demand for more funds and better municipal services is justified, but their campaign was riddled with mistakes.

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