News Nosh 6.14.20

APN's daily news review from Israel - Sunday June 14, 2020

You Must Be Kidding: 
"They double themselves every 12 years, and so it’s something that needs handling.”
--Right-wing pro-settler MK Bezalel Smotrich called for urbanization and “Westernization” of the traditionally nomadic Bedouin community so that there will be fewer of them.*

Quote of the day:
 “The birthrate of the settlers is a kind of bomb that has to be defused. If we don’t neutralize it, it will blow up on us with even greater force. They double themselves every 12 years and this is something that has to be dealt with. The more Western we make them, the more the birthrate will come down. A lawless area has been established here, with no enforcement. Everybody builds wherever they want, they use violence."
--By changing the word 'Bedouin' to 'settlers,' Haaretz+ columnist Gideon Levy illustrated the racism of MK, Bezalel Smotrich.*

Front Page:


Yedioth Ahronoth

  • Ministers in government say about annexation: We need to reach a regional understanding (Hebrew)
  • Be careful and wait // Giora Eiland
  • Between friends // Shimrit Mir
  • The Israeli choice // Shimon Shiffer
  • The one pulling the strings // Smadar Perry
  • Drama in Hebron: Soldier saved Palestinian from [settler] attack: “I prevented a lynch”
  • Riots in Jaffa: confrontations at protest over construction in area of (Muslim) cemetery
  • The players were suspended: Soccer players will be questioned on suspicion of sex crimes

Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)

Israel Hayom

Top News Summary:
The debate sparked by a top Emirati diplomat’s Op-Ed in Yedioth calling on Israel to cancel its annexation plans, an Israeli soldier saved a Palestinian man from being “lynched” by Jewish settlers in Hebron and protests by Arab-Israelis in Jaffa over city plans to destroy an ancient Muslim cemetery to build a homeless hostel on top -  making top stories in today’s Hebrew newspapers along with the collapsing of a landmark Haifa oil refinery cooling tower and the questioning of star soccer players for alleged sexual relations with minors.

*What was remarkable about the reporting on the protests led by Jaffa’s Muslim community against the Tel-Aviv municipality’s decision to destroy the ancient Muslim cemetery and build a homeless hostel on top of it was how that cemetery was described. Maariv’s front page headline called it “land that was a Muslim cemetery” - as if the graves had disappeared or that because no one was buried there recently it lost its cemetery status. Yedioth wrote that the construction was in the “area of a cemetery,” rather than ‘on’ a cemetery. Surprisingly, ‘Israel Hayom’ referred to it as it is, “an ancient Muslim cemetery.” Haaretz called it a “burial site.” Haaretz explained that the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality planned to demolish the 18th century Muslim cemetery that was discovered after plans had been made to build a new homeless shelter and commercial space on the site. The papers noted that on Friday and Saturday, the protests escalated fifth and sixth day of protests, someone threw a burning bottle at the offices of the parking department of the Tel-Aviv municipality and some stones were thrown and some cars were set on fire. One of the demonstrators threw an improvised firebomb at a building that belongs to the municipality, causing mild damage to the building, according to the municipality, which sees such acts as rioting.

Only Haaretz+ looked at the broader picture in Jaffa with an analysis by Bar Peleg, who wrote that “beneath the surface it seems this is not just a struggle over respect for the dead, but a war over much broader problems Jaffa residents are having with the authorities.” MaarivOnline also posted an interview from 103FM with Abed Abu Shahada, a member of the city council and a resident of Jaffa, who said “The municipality has a historic opportunity (Maariv) to make peace with the Arab population in Jaffa.” The US Embassy warned its citizens to be vigilant over Arab riots in Jaffa.

In Hebron, police “summoned some suspects for questioning” [already a sign that the suspects are Jewish and not Palestinian - OH] after they were filmed attacking Palestinians and a soldier in two different incidents in the city Friday. What got the most headlines was the fact that a soldier intervened in one of the settler attacks and it was all caught on video.  The Golani Brigade soldier said afterward that if he hadn’t intervened, the settlers would have ’lynched’ the young man. VIDEO of attack. The soldier also got hit by them. The papers either thought it was remarkable that a soldier would intervene to help a Palestinian or  they thought it was commendable - or both. Issa Amro, a local Palestinian activist, said that usually when settlers attack Palestinians and vandalize their property, Israel Police and army forces are there and are aware of the violence, but don’t act.  Interestingly, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said the soldier who helped the Palestinian victim "acted as is expected of any soldier in the Israel Defense Forces." He added [probably as a reminder - OH] in a tweet that the IDF is "committed to civilians' safety wherever it operates." In the other incident, settlers attacked Mohammed Bader near an Israeli army post, said his brother. "Four settlers attacked him, and one soldier witnessed what was going on." Bader required medical attention and was taken by the soldiers to a hospital in the city, his brother said. Cars were also vandalized by settlers in the city. More than 50 Democratic members of U.S. Congress have signed a public letter calling on the pro-settler US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, to denounce violence committed by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank, just as he condemns Palestinian violence against Israelis.

‘Israel Hayom’ stood out with a large front page article trying to defame Attorney General Avichai Mendelblitt by questioning his integrity and it came with a matching Op-Ed calling on him to resign. And instead of reporting on the much-talked-about Op-Ed in Yedioth by Yousef al-Othaiba, the Emirati ambassador to the US, who called on Israelis to cancel its annexation plan, it reported that an Emirati official will be participating in a Jewish conference next week and it ran an Op-Ed (Hebrew) by Eldad Beck, telling al-Othaiba that the problem was not the application of sovereignty in the West Bank, but the Arab support for a Palestinian state instead of giving Palestinian refugees citizenship in other states.

‘Israel Hayom’ also reported (again) that settlers oppose parts of the Trump plan and that “in Israel and the US they are adamant about annexation by September 1st.” The part about the US contradicts other reports and analyses saying that the US was not keen for Israel to annex now when the US is dealing with so many internal problems. Moreover, the date, September 1st, meant that the original date Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu set for annexation - July 1st - was being pushed back.

What was remarkable about Al-Othaiba’s Op-Ed was that he made the rare step of speaking directly to Israelis through the Israeli media, something that even Egyptian and Jordanian leaders rarely did.  Al-Othaiba explained in his Op-Ed titled, "Annexation or normalization," that despite Israeli reports (particularly in ‘Israel Hayom’ - OH) that the Arab states accept and even support annexation, this was not true and that it would prevent normalization of ties between Israel and the Arab world and it would harm Jordan, which would be dangerous for Israel.

Yedioth Hebrew reported that the Palestinian Authority has refrained from commenting publicly on the Op-Ed, but in closed circles in Ramallah there has been some hope that the Op-Ed might strengthen the international front they are trying to form to exert pressure on Israel not to implement the annexation. However, there was disappointment over the UAE's desire to normalize relations with Israel even without a solution to the Palestinian issue, Yedioth wrote. Today, Netanyahu holds another meeting attended by US Ambassador David Friedman, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, with the aim of formulating an annexation plan agreed upon by all sides.

The Emirati diplomat’s Op-Ed was an attempt to show Israelis that the UAE and other countries were serious about the possibility of normalizing relations with Israel, but not if Israel annexes. Next week the UAE will show another sign of Emirati willingness to normalize relations with Israel. A UAE official, possibly Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash, "will speak at a Jewish conference,” i.e. the American Jewish Committee Global Forum, along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Benny Gantz, among others. (Yedioth Hebrew) Moreover, another high-ranking Arab official, Sheikh Muhammed Al-Issa, secretary general of the Muslim World League, is also scheduled to speak at the conference, which begins next Sunday and will be taking place online because of the coronavirus pandemic, Israel Hayom reported.

Moreover, on Friday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn instructed their ministries to find ways to validate the status of illegally built Israeli structures in the West Bank, days after the High Court of Justice struck down a law that legalizes settlements partially constructed on privately owned Palestinian land, Haaretz+ reported.

While Maariv’s Tal Lev-Ram reported that Israel’s security establishment fears that violent protests by Palestinians in the West Bank will force the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip to respond, even though Hamas’ priority is to improve the economic situation. That’s also a priority for the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank, which is unable to pay May salaries. The reason is because the PA is protesting the planed annexation by refusing to accept from Israel the funds Israel collected on the PA’s behalf from Palestinians working in Israel.

On Monday, foreign ministers of the European Union are expected to make a conference call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss Israeli annexation, as per the Trump plan. Another issue that will be raised at the conference is President Trump's decision to impose sanctions on the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Maariv reported. In Lebanon, Prime Minister Hassan Diab met with a delegation of Hamas officials to discuss the Israeli annexation plans. Diab said Lebanon stand by the Palestinians, Israel Hayom Hebrew reported. "This is a dangerous venture," Abdel-Hadi told Diab. "This is part of the American Deal of the Century, which aims to eliminate the Palestinian issue." Hamas envoy added: "The Palestinian people will deal with the annexation plan in a unified way. We are working frantically to create a unified struggle, backed by the dear Arab and Muslim countries as well as by countries which seek freedom from around the world." Diab replied: "Our position is always to stand alongside the Palestinian people." He said, "The Palestinian people have the right to live with dignity." Haaretz’s Hagar Shezaf interviewed Palestinians in the Beqaa Jordan Valley who were clueless about their future.

Quick Hits:

  • Activists (Make Exhibition) Portraying Grave of Autistic Palestinian Shot by Police in Tel Aviv Center, Call for Arrests - The memorial on Rothschild Boulevard also included a sign with quotes from Eyad Hallaq's counselor at his special needs center, who witnessed the shooting (and screamed at them, “He’s disabled” but they shot at him while he was lying on the ground. (Haaretz+)
  • Years after Israeli police killing of Arab man, ruling offers belated justice for his family - Court overrules Justice Ministry's investigation, ordering police to compensate family for wrongful death of their 29-year-old son Mahmoud Hayeb in 2001. (Haaretz+)
  • *Bedouin birthrate in Israel is 'bomb' that needs defusing, far-right lawmaker says - At tour of Negev, Bezalel Smotrich calls for urbanization and 'Westernization' of Bedouin communities. (Haaretz+)
  • Israel Prison Service, Hamas Prisoners Agree on Improved Conditions After Tense Period - Move comes as another sign that relations between the sides are getting better, with the threat of prisoner sanctions and hunger strike lifted. (Haaretz+)
  • Israel Police interrogates man over critical Facebook posts - In one of his post, Elad Moshe wrote he would eat any police officer entering his house without a warrant; police took him in for questioning. (Haaretz+)
  • Netanyahu calls to jail journalist who aired tapes revealing ties with media tycoon - Channel 13's Raviv Drucker broadcast recordings that show how a telecoms tycoon and his wife pressured their news site into favorable coverage for the prime minister, which is at the core of one of the corruption charges against Netanyahu. (Haaretz+)
  • ‘Bad phrasing’: Netanyahu backtracks on call to jailed journalist - Raviv Drucker was attacked by the prime minister's party for airing recordings of media tycoon indicted in one of Netanyahu's corruption cases. (Haaretz+)
  • The government is expected to approve the establishment of the Trump Heights settlement in the Golan today - The government is scheduled to confirm at its weekly meeting the establishment of the (new) Golan Heights settlement, whose establishment was announced at a festive ceremony in June a year ago. It will be a community settlement and will be established near Kela Alon. (Maariv)
  • Israel’s coronavirus resurgence continues with 226 new cases in 24 hours - Number of positive tests also on the rise, with significant new diagnoses in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Bnei Brak; rate of infection also greatly increased since last week. (Ynet)
  • Palestinians stranded by coronavirus seek way home - PA says there are 6,000 Palestinians across the world who want to come back, but facilitating return is extremely complicated since all borders remain closed due to pandemic and Ramallah is unable to arrange special flights to bring its nationals back. (Agencies, Ynet)
  • Palestinian Authority unable to pay May salaries - PAs refusal to accept funds including taxes on imports and income tax for Palestinians working in Israel is in response to the planed annexation of parts of the West Bank. (Ynet)
  • Rabbis rule entering places requiring temperature checks on Shabbat forbidden - Top ultra-Orthodox adjudicators claim function transgresses prohibition on work on the holy day, suggest hiring non-Jewish workers to conduct temperature check on weekends. (Agencies, Ynet)
  • 800 Rabbis Sign Statement Supporting Peaceful Protest Against Racism - The statement invoked Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, an iconic Jewish civil rights activist who marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (Haaretz)
  • Trump OKs sanctioning ICC staff, Netanyahu applauds move, says court 'obsessed with Israel' - The order blocks the financial assets of court employees and bars them from entering the United States; Netanyahu accuses court of fabricating “outlandish charges” against Israel and the U.S. (Agencies, Ynet and Israel Hayom)
  • European Court Strikes Down French Conviction of Israel Boycott Activists - BDS activists didn't cross the line and call for violence, hatred or intolerance, Human Rights Court rules, ordering France to compensate them. (Haaretz+)
  • Hamas outraged after uncovering Iranian espionage operation - The terrorist organization discovered that at least one person working for Musa Abu Marzouk, who heads Hamas' foreign relations wing, is an Iranian agent likely recruited through Hezbollah. (Israel Hayom)
  • Lebanese protesters clash with security forces in second night of unrest - Amid continuing financial crisis, demonstrators throw fireworks and stones at law enforcement Friday in central Beirut and the northern city of Tripoli. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Syria's Assad fires his PM amid worsening economic crisis - Assad designated engineer Hussein Arnous as his replacement. (Agencies, Ynet)
  • Syrian infant flown to Israel for emergency heart surgery - Complex operation expedited by Israeli Embassy in Nicosia, the Cypriot Health Ministry, and Israeli and Cypriot doctors. This is an expression of solidarity, to save the life of a baby is always the right thing to do," said Israel's Ambassador to Cyprus Sammy Revel. (Israel Hayom)
  • Iran says ready to cooperate with IAEA - The Iranians claim the IAEA request for access to its nuclear sites is based on fabricated information supplied by the United States and Israel. (Agencies, Ynet)
  • Iran vs. U.S.: Inside the proxy battle that keeps an Iraqi city on its knees - At stake: political control of Nineveh province, of which Mosul is capital – a region rich in natural resources and a link in a supply route from Tehran to the Mediterranean. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Iraq and U.S. affirm commitment to U.S. troop withdrawal, says state media - In joint statement, Washington said it would continue reducing forces and discuss with the Iraqi government the status of the remaining forces. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Turkish court sentences U.S. consulate employee to jail - Metin Topuz, a translator and assistant for the DEA, accused of having connections with exiled opposition leader Fethullah Gulen, whom Istanbul blames for the 2016 coup attempt. (Agencies, Ynet)
  • Egypt police raid homes of activist's uncles, rights group says - Human Rights Watch quoted a member of Mohamed Soltan’s family as saying that more than a dozen uniformed and plainclothes police searched the houses of two of Soltan's uncles. (Agencies, Haaretz)


Seeking to Arrest a Mentally Disabled Palestinian, Israeli Troops Kill a Teenage Bystander
After a special ops unit failed to find a 'wanted,' disabled youth in a refugee camp, a soldier aimed at the roof of a five-story building, his bullet smashing into and killing a teen watching the goings-on…Zeid Qaysiyah, 17, dreamed of becoming a famous singer. To help himself realize his dream he bought a simple amplification system with money his mother loaned him, promising to pay her back when he became a star. He performed for free at almost every family event in Al-Fawar, the refugee camp south of Hebron where he lived, and in the surrounding towns. Shortly after dawn on May 13, the young man’s dreams were aborted forever. A soldier from the Israel Defense Forces Duvdevan special ops unit who was positioned on a street in the camp, aimed his rifle at the roof of the building where Qaysiyah was standing with his younger brother and their cousins, watching what was going on. From about 100 meters away the soldier fired one bullet – straight into the center of Qaysiyah’s face, killing him instantly. (Gideon Levy, Haaretz+)
A 'Like' for a neighbor from Iraq
After 70 years, and thanks to the Israeli Foreign Ministry's Iraq Facebook page, an exciting virtual meeting was held between an 88-year-old Israeli born in Iraq and her Muslim neighbors in Baghdad. Magdalen Einchi was born in Baghdad and grew up in the Beitawin neighborhood that was a favorite of the Jews. In 1951, when she was 18, she left Iraq with her brother and immigrated to Israel. Although she dreamed of Jerusalem, her memories of her native country did not leave her, and even today at the age of 88 the longing does not let go. In recent years, Magdalene has become a media favorite on the Iraqi Facebook page of the Israeli Foreign Ministry. In a video interview on the page, she talked about the warm relationship with her Muslim neighbors and the regular celebration that included joint showers of the Jewish and Muslim little girls, whose names she had not forgotten. "The memories do not disappear. There were very good relations between the neighbors. We loved each other. I won’t ever forget them. We would get out of the bath, the barbecue was ready, and the tea was prepared... laughing and telling jokes," Magdalen said. The video reached nearly a million views of Iraqi civilians and received riveting responses. Among them was a particularly exciting one, written by a relative of Magdalen's Muslim neighbors. A brief correspondence led to a conversation with two of the family members with whom Magdalen grew up. The excitement grew when the Muslim friends sent a photo from those days when Magdalen and her sister Rebecca met with the Muslim neighbors. After the correspondence came a telephone call from friends from the past. (Yedioth Hebrew+PHOTO)
Assassinations, Terror Attacks and Even Castration – the Hidden Actions of Israel's Pre-state Militia
This month marks the 100th anniversary of the formation of the forerunner of the Israeli army. While the Haganah boasts of its heroic acts and looks down on similar right-wing groups, its history also includes dark operations it would prefer not to mention. (Ofer Aderet, Haaretz+)
Many Arab Israeli students look elsewhere for higher education
The number of Arab students in Israeli academia has doubled over the past decade, but thousands of others choose to study abroad or in the Palestinian Authority. Former Education Ministry official: Instead of stepping up integration, we hand over education to the Palestinian elite. (Akiva Bigman, Israel Hayom)
'If I Fall, the Nation Falls': Testimony Reveals How Netanyahu Pressured Billionaires to Meddle in Israeli Media
In corruption case testimony, Arnon Milchan explains PM's method: 'He told me 'We’re in trouble with the Iranians…soon they’ll start dropping atom bombs on us…I’m sitting here telling you secrets that no one knows.' (Gidi Weitz, Haaretz+)
A Mossad agent, an international hedge fund and the mysterious death of an Argentinian prosecutor
On Ilana Dayan's Channel 12 program, a former Mossad member claims he handed an envelope to Alberto Nisman that might have gotten him killed. (Hagai Amit, Haaretz+)

Annexation Commentary/Analysis:
Annexation will be a serious setback for better relations with the Arab world (Yousef Al Otaiba, Yedioth/Ynet) Recently, Israeli leaders have promoted excited talk about normalization of relations with the United Arab Emirates and other Arab states. But Israeli plans for annexation and talk of normalization are a contradiction. A unilateral and illegal seizure of Palestinian land defies the international consensus on the Palestinian right to self-determination, will ignite violence and send shock waves around the region, especially in Jordan whose stability - often taken for granted — benefits the entire region, particularly Israel.
A Powerful Player in Washington, UAE Envoy's Message on Israeli Annexation Draws a Red Line (Zvi Bar’el, Haaretz+) An article published in an Israeli newspaper by Ambassador Al Otaiba, Jared Kushner's confidant and close friend, serves as a proof that reports of Arab backing of Israel's West Bank annexation plans are completely baseless.
A risk-filled move: Unilateral annexation serves mainly political needs (Yaakov Pery, Maariv) In response to the repeal of the Regularization Law, right-wing leaders seek to apply sovereignty in Judea and Samaria. But the move that serves political interests has no strategic gains.
One more acre for the land of Israel (Uri Heitner, Yedioth/Ynet) Those who oppose applying Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley on the assumption it will divide the land, are afflicted with the same shortsightedness of the extremists who opposed the Partition Plan in 1947 due to their worldview of Greater Israel - the thing is though, Zionism was never about ‘all or nothing,’ it has always been about slow methodical expansion.
With U.S. in turmoil, Netanyahu's annexation dream is fading (Itamar Eichner, Yedioth/Ynet and Ynet Hebrew) As U.S. is engulfed by racial justice protests and economic fallout from coronavirus, it is quite clear that the PM's dream of annexing 30% of the West Bank is growing more and more distant [Hebrew version says ‘shattered’], and it seems he'll probably have to settle for a more 'symbolic' move. Two days ago, a UAE official warned in an article in Yedioth Ahronoth: "Annexation could have consequences.”
Netanyahu's Annexation Bet Drifts Further Away From Jackpot (Amos Harel, Haaretz+) For Netanyahu, the move mixes ideology and personal survival. Why is the Israeli army chief warning of 'a grave mistake' that would carry a 'heavy price'?
There is only one way to prove that the sane and Zionist majority in Israel supports the application of sovereignty (Prof. Arieh Eldad, Maariv) When a polling institute presents results opposite to its political worldview - only then can the results be believed. Therefore, it can be summarized: The sane and Zionist majority in Israel support the annexation of territories in Judea and Samaria.
Explained: Israel's Top Court Annulled West Bank Land-grab Law, but Will Annexation Replace It? (Hagar Shezaf, Haaretz+) Controversial law retroactively legalizing settlements passed in early 2017 but was never applied. After the High Court struck it down, what could be the implications?
Applying sovereignty now seems like a cover story to advance the establishment of the Palestinian state (Kalman Libskind, Maariv) The Trump plan and its map are promoting the dangerous establishment of a Palestinian state. The Land of Israel belongs to us. We don’t play with it, we don't gamble with it, we don't freeze its construction, and if the fight over it requires time and perseverance, we have them.
High Court's meddling in the political arena will backfire (Att. Aharon Gerber, Yedioth/Ynet) Israel top court's decision to nix legislation, retroactively legalizing thousands of settler homes, is last in series of oddly timed rulings, raising concerns judges may not be acting solely out of their understanding of the law.
Annexation? Israeli Apartheid? Hounding Journalists? Gantz Didn't Come to Fight (Yossi Verter, Haaretz+) The Kahol Lavan leader seems to have forgotten that his party was supposed to represent an alternative to Netanyahu’s aggressive ways.
Repealing the Regularization Law: An honest country would seek reasonable solutions for all involved (Nadav Haetzni, Maariv) After the repealing of the regularization law by the High Court, the duty of proof and solution is on Attorney General Mendelblitt. Also, the fear of the authorities in the face of the violent society that is growing within the state. [Haetzni is writing about the Bedouin, not the settlers. - OH]
High Court nixing of settlement law keeps Israel out of ICC (Gilead Sher, Yedioth/Ynet) Legislation to retroactively recognize settler homes built on private lands could have led to petitions at The Hague, but a strong judiciary is an Iron Dome against claims that the Jewish state cannot abide by its own regulations.
Politicians in Black Capes (Israel Harel, Haaretz+) Anyone who knew who sat on the High Court of Justice panel hearing the appeal against the Arrangements Law on settlements could have called the results, with 100 percent accuracy. Eight justices fueled with political-ideological faith, leaning to the left to one degree or another, struck down the law this week. Only one, right-leaning justice (who is also a settler) objected to it…Whoever determined the panel, determined the result. For some reason, whenever the ruling is on political or sensitive religious issues, the side opposed to President Esther Hayut (it was the same before her) is left out of the panel. Cynically, only one whose worldview is different was added to the panel.
Curb the imperious High Court (David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom) "Reasonableness" is authoritarian jargon which allows Israeli justices to substitute their own sensibilities for law and government decision-making. Time to legislate limits on the High Court's reach; or at the very least, enact an override provision.
Netanyahu won: World demanded Israel make peace, now it just begs it not to annex (Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz+) The international community is conceding to Bibi. It doesn’t want him to gobble up parts of the West Bank, but it’s acknowledging that the occupation can continue.
Binyamin Netanyahu should be wary of the roulette ball called the establishment of a Palestinian state (Michael Kleiner, Maariv) The likelihood of the Palestinian Authority agreeing to Trump's outline only to achieve the goal of getting a state is not high, but it does exist. Still, Israel must not gamble over its future and its security.
Annexation will plunge Israel's relations with the EU into existential crisis (Beth Oppenheim, Haaretz+) Timid, toothless warnings from Europe won't stop Israel's annexation - and a subsequent cascade of human rights abuses. It must act now.

Other Top Commentary/Analysis:
The Explosive Natural Increase of Israeli Settlers (Gideon Levy, Haaretz+) “The birthrate of the settlers is a kind of bomb that has to be defused. If we don’t neutralize it, it will blow up on us with even greater force. They double themselves every 12 years and this is something that has to be dealt with. The more Western we make them, the more the birthrate will come down. A lawless area has been established here, with no enforcement. Everybody builds wherever they want, they use violence. This is a ticking time bomb and the Netanyahu-Gantz government has raised a white flag. The takeover of the land is such that anyone traveling the roads can see that we’ve lost the State of Israel here. The rate of the settlers’ natural increase is a key component in the urgency of dealing with the problem…Now look, you can bury your head in the sand and think that if we don’t talk about the problem it will disappear (because there are a few right-wingers who don’t like it). That’s what the State of Israel has been doing for a few decades now, and so the problem has gotten worse. The first stage in solving the problem is to recognize it and put it on the table. Now let’s talk about a solution. Supporters of PC are trying to silence this discussion to prevent a solution to the problem and allow the settlers to continue to take over the West Bank and in fact occupy it and destroy the Zionist vision of David Ben-Gurion.” These statements were made on Thursday by MKs Naftali Bennett and Bezalel Smotrich at the end of a tour of the Negev, and they are presented here word for word. Just one word in the text has been changed: Instead of Bedouin – settlers. It’s a small thing, of course. The main thing, is that these two leaders of the right-wing Yamina party really did put their finger on the source of the malady – natural increase...
Can both sides show some restraint, please?
(Yaakov Ahimeir, Israel Hayom) The Likud should not be calling for journalists to be sent to prison, and the media, for the most part, needs to figure out that its constant and often baseless denigration of Netanyahu only makes him more popular.
Speaking of Jail…(Friday Haaretz Editorial) “In a properly-run world, Raviv Drucker would go to jail today for broadcasting criminal leaks and obstructing justice.” That statement was issued in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s name by his own Likud party on Wednesday, even if by Thursday, he was already claiming that he “isn’t a fan of putting journalists in jail” and blaming the statement on “a spokesman’s infelicitous phrasing.” The statement was issued in response to the journalist’s investigative report, broadcast on the television program “Hamakor,” which provided additional evidence that Shaul Elovitch and his wife, owners of the Walla news website, pressured tits editors to favor Netanyahu and his family in its coverage at the same time the prime minister was helping Bezeq, another Elovitch-owned company.
Netanyahu's campaign of incitement could end in bloodshed once more (Yuval Diskin, Yedioth/Ynet) If the prime minister's latest inflammatory statements lead to harm befalling those he claims colluded against him, his supporters will not be able to claim that they did not see it coming.
Israelis Sure Won’t Be Taking to the Streets (Yossi Klein, Haaretz+) There have always been good reasons to take to the streets: the nation-state law, the law on whether grocery stores can stay open on Shabbat, and laws related to the coronavirus. And now there’s the plan to annex parts of the West Bank. Any one of these is reason enough to protest, and not one is a red line: Maybe it’s insufficiently threatening, it’s not so terrible, we can live with it…We won’t take to the streets because we think everything will work out even without that; we think that if we demonstrate politely, unjust laws will be overturned. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote: “A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that ... had no part in enacting or devising the law.” That’s not the situation here. The majority doesn’t have a problem inflicting laws on a minority. We can live with annexation; after all, this month we’re celebrating 53 tranquil years of unlawful annexation…
Construction on Muslim Cemetery Brings Mistrust Between Jaffa's Arabs and Israeli Authorities to Boiling Point (Bar Peleg, Haaretz+) Five consecutive days of protests and clashes with police are sign of a much broader issue…Bneath the surface it seems this is not just a struggle over respect for the dead, but a war over much broader problems Jaffa residents are having with the authorities.Three events during the past year have clouded the relationship between the residents and the municipality: The complete closure of the main street, Jerusalem Boulevard, for work on the light rail, at very short notice and contrary to the plan promised to residents; the drawing up of a plan to divide the Tasso Muslim cemetery without consulting the residents; and now the construction on the ancient burial ground.
Mendelblit must step down (Jacob Bardugo, Israel Hayom) Now that we know that Avichai Mendelblit did everything within his power to change the rules of the game in a manner that dealt a serious blow to the principle of equality before the law, he cannot remain in office.
Investigate Netanyahu's Steel Shares Affair (Haaretz Editorial) It was Israel’s political crisis that prevented the launch of an investigation into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s buying and selling of shares in the SeaDrift Coke company, owned by his cousin, when the affair first broke in February 2019. The policy of the Justice Ministry is not to launch probes of senior politicians on the eve of an election. Under ordinary circumstances, the sophisticated financial trick of Netanyahu’s purchase of shares in SeaDrift at a tenth or less of their real cost should have led to an immediate investigation the moment news of the affair broke. The information on which the concealed transfer of wealth into Netanyahu’s pocket is based is mostly open to the public as it appears in reports filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The rest of the relevant material is in the state comptroller’s office. And so it’s not clear why any more information is needed including that which has been requested from the U.S. authorities, which are dragging their feet. The affair should be investigated at once, without waiting for the Americans.
Trump increases his support for Israel to unprecedented levels (Ariel Kahana, Israel Hayom) By taking a clear stand against the International Criminal Court and backing it up with sanctions that also apply to ICC probes against Israel, the 45th president is once again proving himself Israel's best friend.
Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran: How Israeli Annexation May Trigger a Multi-front War Within Weeks (Chuck Freilich, Haaretz+) Israel stands before one of the most difficult periods it has ever known, from a coronavirus economic crisis to Netanyahu's assault on the rule of law. But his annexation plan could lead us to the precipice of war – and beyond.
If AIPAC isn't supporting Israel's government, what's its purpose? (Jonathan S. Tobin, Israel Hayom) By distancing itself from Jerusalem on annexation, the lobby is creating a crisis for the pro-Israel community, no matter who wins the next US election.
Justice for the men of the Altalena (Shlomo Nakdimon, Yedioth/Ynet) This violent confrontation was another tragic tale in the history of inter-Jewish wars, but now - on its 72nd anniversary - it is time to clear the names of those who were wrongfully accused of treason in Israel's early days.
Meet Netanyahu’s new Trump-boosting, conspiracy-peddling media adviser - once Bannon’s 'Man in the Middle East' (Alexander Griffing, Haaretz+) Will Breitbart's Aaron Klein use his Trumpworld experience to accelerate the deterioration of Israel's political discourse?
Fuming Over Comparison Between Rape and 1948, Leftist Leader Does Damage (Carolina Landsmann, Haaretz+) There was something overly theatrical in Zehava Galon’s response to the rhetorical use of rape imagery by TV host Kalman Liebskind when he interviewed her on his daily program on Kan public broadcaster. “You’re making a shameful and shocking parallel between the rape of women and what happened here in 1948,” she fumed. “The comparison to rape is unacceptable under any circumstances” she cried, then got up and left the studio. But is Galon actually saying that these issuess cannot be compared?…Are comparisons to fascism, Nazism, apartheid, ethnic and cleansing allowed but comparison to rape and blaming the victim forbidden, as far as she’s concerned? Furthermore, it’s not so difficult to dismiss such a comparison. Liebskind’s attempt to present Jews as (rape) victims of the Palestinians and the criticism of Israel as an attempt to blame the victim is playing innocent and sanctimonious at best, and impudent, demagogic and mendacious at worst…
As Assad marks 20 years of brutal rule, U.S. tries to force his hand by sanctioning allies (Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz+) Washington is due to slap harsher sanctions on Syria and those who help it, but that will likely do little to deter Russia and Iran from aiding the regime.

'Sovereignty bid will cause another crisis in Israel-Turkey relations,' expert warns
INSS research fellow Dr. Gallia Lindenstrauss, who is finishing a book on Israeli-Turkish relations, shares some insights about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkey's role in recent developments in Jerusalem, as well as the eastern Mediterranean region. (Interviewed by Ran Puni in Israel Hayom)

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