News Nosh 7.27.20

APN's daily news review from Israel  - Monday July 27, 2020

Quote of the day:

“Until now, we dealt with police violence, which is terrible in and of itself. Now the messages of incitement and violence brought citizens to stab a demonstrator in the neck. This could have ended much worse. This could have ended like Emil Greenzweig. Like Yitzhak Rabin. The incitement must end.”
--Labor Party MK Merav Michaeli said following attacks on demonstrators protesting against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.*

You Must Be Kidding:
"I also sometimes ask myself in the middle of the night why is the traffic light red."
--Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's response to question about why there are no female lawmakers left in the downsized corona cabinet.**

Front Page:


Yedioth Ahronoth

  • “It’s impossible to continue with this mess. Why aren’t we banning it?” - The explosive conversation of Public Security Minister with the the candidate for Police Commissioner
  • “We gave out 160 fines over masks. Usually, we don’t do this at demonstrations” - Yedioth investigation revealed the heavy hand of the Commander of the Jerusalem Police towards demonstrators against Netanyahu
  • The corona dispute is not withstanding the heavy load (of patients)
  • The tension with Hezbollah - Iron Dome anti-missile batteries were deployed
  • Israel instead of Nepal: Treks in the days of corona

Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)

Israel Hayom

  • Cry of the laboratory workers - Going out to battle: “Without a change, we will only work 8 hours”
  • “Mendelblit has lost all restraint” - Attorney General called to probe the funding of the legal defense of the Prime Minister’s wife - and was answered with an attack
  • Netanyahu, get funding (for your legal defense) - or resign // Akiva Bigman
  • At the top of the high risk for corona infected: Weight and blood pressure
  • Not all the criticism against the demonstrators is oppression // Eitan Orkibi
  • Tension rising in the North: “Don’t try us”
  • Clashes with police and explosives: The protest in the US renews
  • Elections getting farther away? Senior sources in the Likud: “Kahol-Lavan on the way to agreeing to a one-year budget”

Top News Summary:
Hospitals fill up with corona patients causing concern about winter and  the new corona crisis manager makes plans, the continuing demonstrations against the Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the attacks on protesters concern the Shin Bet and sparked disputes between Public Security Minister Amir Ohana and the Police Chief, while in the north, Israel has takes precautions against a possible Hezbollah retaliation - making top stories in today’s Hebrew newspapers.

Also, conflicting reports about whether Kahol-Lavan chairman and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz will agree to Netanyahu’s demand for an annual budget, which will essentially end in four months. The coalition agreement says the parties will pass a biennial budget. Israel Hayom Hebrew reported that its Likud sources said Gantz is “on the way to agreeing to an annual budget.” But Kahol-Lavan denied and Yedioth reported that the two parties face an impasse. Netanyahu reportedly told Likud officials that if Kahol-Lavan doesn’t agree the country will go to early elections (again), Yedioth wrote. Meanwhile, the budget must be passed by August 25th or the Knesset is dissolved and the country goes to elections. So Minister Yoaz Handel and MK Tzvi Hauser will today submit a bill to postpone to November the deadline for the budget in order to avoid new elections: “The threats of an election are paralyzing.” (Maariv) The dispute has caused Accountant General Roni Hezekiah to announce he will retire this October. He said that he was tired and felt that he has done all he can for the job. He has been managing a continuous budget since January, when the last one ended.

Netanyahu, his Public Security Minister Amir Ohana and Transportation Minister Miri Regev are accusing the anti-demonstrators of being violent and that “it will end in bloodshed.” However, the people being violent have been right-wing citizens and police. Yesterday, the police arrested three people suspected of attacking anti-Netanyahu demonstrators across Israel. The Shin Bet is also worried about violence, but apparently not by left-wing violence. It has tightened protection around Netanyahu, not because of concern that someone will attempt to harm Netanyahu, but it fears that violent attacks on demonstrators could lead to a violent confrontation near the prime minister’s residence.

According to a Yedioth investigation, Jerusalem District Police Chief Doron Yedid is taking heavy hand only against anti-Netanyahu demonstrators in the city, in the hopes that he will be appointed by Ohana in the next two weeks as the permanent police commissioner. Haaretz+ reported that a Portland-style ‘Wall of Moms’ has emerged at the anti-Netanyahu protests in Jerusalem to protect demonstrators. Ketty Bar, a 63-year-old artist, who has been active in left-wing political protests over the years [i.e. anti-occupation - OH] started the group. “Something changed for me last week,” she said in a phone interview. “Something really seemed to break in the relationship between demonstrators and the police – it feels political, like we’re being treated like an enemy.” In a recording that emerged of a meeting between Ohana, Acting Police Commissioner Moti Cohen and Jerusalem District Police Chief Doron Yedid, Ohana is heard trying to push the police to stop the demonstrations. Yedid answered that “we fined 160 people for not wearing masks,” as if that were a means of deterrence from demonstrating. Nevertheless, the police commanders are standing up to the pressure to close down the protests, saying they legally can’t. Former police commissioner Assaf Hefetz addressed the matter this morning on 103FM/Maariv, saying, “There is a conflict of interest in the very appointment of Amir Ohana as Minister.” Hefetz said, “There is a problem here of an attempt by the political establishment to influence the police. I am actually under the impression that the police are withstanding the pressure. I hope so..(The acting police commissioner) is not cooperating with Ohana. He's trying to divert him. He says, ‘Hey, we're fining (for not wearing masks).’ He does not talk about the issue of 'how do we prevent these demonstrations'. He understands that this is impossible and on this issue, the main one, he stands strong before the minister.” The interviewers asked Hefetz whether the district commander can act independently of the political echelons when he was appointed by the political echelons. Hefetz said he has no choice. He must be independent. The interviewer asked if Yedid, who called the demonstrators, left-wingers, was indeed independent. "I think he received the criticism he deserved,” said Hefetz. “Also regarding the police treatment of the protesters, also regarding his statements (calling protesters ‘Leftees’). I hope at least he will not make mistakes in the future in this matter. The police must maintain neutrality and serve the law." Maariv also reported that senior police officers think that Ohana doesn’t think highly of Acting Police Commissioner Cohen. They say that the unusual confrontation between the Ohana and Cohen is a sign that Cohen will not be appointed as permanent police commissioner.

The Israeli military is taking precautions: it reinforced troops along the Syrian border, deployed Iron Dome anti-missile batteries and is also smoking the IDF outposts near the border fence so they won’t be visible to possible attacks by Hezbollah. (Maariv.) Both sides say they don’t want war. But following Israel’s killing of a Hezbollah activist in Syria, Israel expects a response from Hezbollah. Hezbollah’s chief said 'retaliation rules' remain the same. Not helping lower tension was that an Israeli drone was discovered in Lebanese airspace when it crashed.

Corona Quickees:

  • 'Israel faces over 500 severe coronavirus cases in next 2 weeks' - COVID-19 forecast model, developed by Ichilov Medical Center, has already accurately predicted the number of serious patients on three occasions, prompting the new 'coronavirus czar' to adopt it as a vital tool in the fight against the virus. If the rapid spread of coronavirus in Israel continues at the same rate, the country could see over half a thousand patients in a serious condition in two-weeks' time, according to model projections developed by top Israeli hospital. (Ynet)
  • Senior doctor to Maariv: "Internal wards may reach 250% occupancy in winter" - Hospitals are concerned about the expected combination of corona and flu. The Ministry of Health announced that it was preparing to increase the annual amount of vaccines against influenza, the HMOs have already started ordering the vaccines. (Maariv)
  • Israel sees 8 new virus deaths as infection rate nears 10% - The Health Ministry says only 5,173 COVID-19 tests were conducted on Sunday, of which 506 returned positive, meaning every tenth person who was tested for the virus, turned out to be infected. The number of patients in a serious condition has decreased to 303, of which 98 are ventilated. (Ynet)
  • New virus czar aims to deploy IDF on testing and tracking mission - While health officials oppose removing responsibility for epidemiological investigations from Health Ministry, they do acknowledge need for assistance after system nears collapse; Defense Minister Gantz willing to task recently demobilized troops with project. (Ynet)
  • Government okays virus bonus for every Israeli - Cabinet approves grants for all citizens, with the exception of highest earning bracket. PM Netanyahu: We are also working on additional plans to encourage the economy. (Israel Hayom and Ynet)
  • Thousands of Yeshiva Students to Be Let Into Israel, Under Relaxed Quarantine Rules - While other nonresidents have to quarantine alone if they’re let in at all, yeshiva students will be able to isolate in groups of six. (Haaretz+)
  • Israeli woman assaults cop over mask dispute at mall - The woman, along with her 14-year-old son verbally and physically assaults officers at Malha Mall in Jerusalem for not wearing face masks; the woman also ripped masks off of officers' faces. (Maariv and Ynet)
  • **Netanyahu reshuffles 'coronavirus cabinet', leaving out women and top ministers - PM's proposal to reduce the cabinet from 16 to 10 ministers prompts some to storm out; female lawmakers lament the lack of female representation in the new cabinet, to which PM responds, 'I also sometimes ask myself why is the traffic light red.’ (Ynet and Haaretz+)
  • CBS: 42% of Israelis report stress, anxiety over resurging corona outbreak - Central Bureau of Statistics says 21% of Israelis find they have to reduce food consumption, 21% have reported depression. (Israel Hayom)
  • COVID adds to despair of young Arabs in war-torn countries - "Seeing economies crumble the way that they are and seeing their prospects vanish before their eyes is going to take a huge toll on their mental health and well-being," says UN analyst. (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
  • Women who recently immigrated and gave birth are awaiting approval for their families to visit in Israel - Following request by MK Michal Kotler-Wensch (Kahol-Lavan), who herself immigrated alone from Canada, the Population Authority has expanded the criteria for visits by families from abroad. Now, the MK is fighting for the new guidelines to apply to 183 immigrant mothers who gave birth before the change. (Maariv)
  • American media magnate's son allowed back into Israel - Brandon Korff returns a month after being asked to leave over quarantine exception controversy. (Israel Hayom)


Quick Hits:

  • AG: Netanyahu may have broken law by arranging legal aid to wife - Avichai Mendelblit says Sara Netanyahu's legal costs were covered by the prime minister's uncle, in possible violation of law prohibiting public officials form receiving gifts because of indirect benefit to the prime minister. (Israel Hayom, Maariv and Haaretz+)
  • AG out to topple Netanyahu 'at any cost,' sources close to PM say - After Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit says PM Benjamin Netanyahu may have broken the law prohibiting public officials from receiving high-valued gifts, sources close to the Netanyahu say Mendelblit "has lost all self-restraint." (Israel Hayom)
  • PM must answer criminal charges in court in December - PM accused of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in three separate probes; witnesses to begin testifying in January; prosecutors reject claim by co-defendant Shaul Elovitch that they deliberately withheld evidence from the defense team. (Ynet)
  • Man killed, another hurt in Umm al-Fahm shooting - Northern town sees drive-by attack amid months-long spate of violence; police launch manhunt and open murder investigation. 55 people have been murdered in the Arab sector since the beginning of the year. Israel-Arabs have protested that the Police are not doing enough law enforcement. (Maariv and Times of Israel)
  • Grants, Scholarships to Students in Israeli Yeshivas, Seminary Programs Will Be Restored - Last month, Masa, which runs hundreds of programs for overseas participants, had announced that it had no choice but to eliminate certain grants and scholarships it provides because of cutbacks in its own budget. (Haaretz+)
  • Apple TV to remake Israeli hit TV show 'When Heroes Fly' - The runaway hit won critical acclaim in Israel and went on to win the Best Series Award at the first Cannes Series Festival in April 2018. Apple TV to name its remake "Echo 3." (Israel Hayom)
  • Young Gaza amputees play soccer again after coronavirus curbs eased - Some of the 26 athletes lost limbs to the various rounds of violence between Israel and Hamas, the terrorist group that rules Gaza. [NOTE: Israel Hayom changed the description of Hamas from ‘militant’ to ‘terrorist’ - OH] (Israel Hayom version of Reuters article and Reuters original)
  • AIPAC praises Congress for $3.8 billion Israel aid package - Financial assistance comes as part of National Defense Authorization Act, despite opposition by some who say the money should be used to pressure Israel to nix West Bank annexation plans. (Ynet)
  • End to Iran arms embargo would ‘intensify’ regional violence, U.S. envoy says - In an online briefing with journalists while on a visit to Qatar, US. special representative for Iran Brian Hook warns Russia and China are looking to Tehran for arms contracts and oppose extension of UN Security Council moratorium on Iran's ability to buy and sells weapons, which expires in October. (Agencies, Ynet)


Central Bureau of Statistics data: From which countries did the most immigrants immigrate to Israel in 2019?
According to the CBS, there was a sharp increase of 18.1% in the number of new immigrants to Israel, of which 73.8% from the former Soviet Union countries, 7.6% from the United States and only 6.8% from France. The composition of the immigrant population that arrived in Israel between March and June was different from the corresponding period last year. The share of tourists who changed their status from tourist to immigrant jumped during this period to 42% of all immigrants in 2020, compared with 17% in the corresponding period in 2019. At the same time, the share of immigrants who entered with an immigrant visa decreased and stood at 58% compared to the corresponding period last year (83%). The CBS estimates that the reason was probably due to the fact that the tourists who changed their status to immigrants arrived in Israel even before the air borders were closed on March 8, while others could not arrive at all. The data also show that the immigrants who arrived in Europe in 2019 were the oldest of the immigrants, with a median age of 36.9 years. The others, were immigrants from Asia whose median age was 33.6 years, from Africa - 28.8 years, and America and Ukraine - 27.7 years. (Maariv)

Top Commentary/Analysis:

Protest Turbulence Threatens to Destabilize Netanyahu – or Israeli Democracy (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+) The prime minister’s hysterical response is fueling and energizing the demonstrations he seeks to subdue.
Containing virus of hatred (Meir Indor, Israel Hayom) How can conspiracy theories and violence flourish during a time of national emergency?
Anti-Netanyahu Protests: Five Signs That His Supporters Should Be Worried About (Nir Hasson, Haaretz+) Even if they don’t lead to Netanyahu’s ouster, the right is growing frustrated with the protests’ growing popularity – and rightfully so.
Children of anarchy (Adv. Aharon Papo, Maariv) It's not corona that is the reason for the appearance of the black flags at the demonstrations, but rather the desire to cancel the democratic regime and the Jewish nation state. Otherwise, why are the carrying the international flag of anarchy?
Ohana, Prevent the Next Murder (Haaretz Editorial) Public Security Minister Amir Ohana is worried by the demonstrations outside the prime minister’s official residence. “I’m truly worried by the hatred I see in the air...I have the impression, and even see a high probability, that this will end in blood.” This attempt by Ohana and Minister Miri Regev to portray the nationwide protests as fertile ground for left-wing violence that will end in bloodshed echoes similar accusations by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But this is simply lying propaganda whose goal is to delegitimize the demonstrations. Netanyahu and his loyalists have presented a warped version of the protesters’ sociopolitical profile, describing them as homogenous in their ethnicity (Ashkenazi), class (elite) and politics (leftist)...Netanyahu and the right have no problem denying the incitement that led to Rabin’s murder, in order to shirk responsibility for it, even as they accuse the protesters of not having learned anything from that murder...(Recent attacks against anti-Netayahu demonstrators by Netanyahu's supporters) should not be viewed in isolation from the ongoing, systematic incitement by the prime minister and those around him...
There are good reasons to provide special protection in situations of political crisis over the right to demonstrate (Prof. Yuval Shani, Maariv) Increased protests against the government and its leader, coupled with the rise in contagion, have led to calls from politicians and journalists to impose restrictions on gatherings for demonstration purposes. The main argument raised in this context is that the ban on large gatherings for private events, sports games and prayer should also apply to political demonstrations. Another argument is that where general or local traffic restrictions are imposed, there is no room to stop traffic specifically for the purpose of arriving or returning from a demonstration…But the right to demonstrate (or the freedom of assembly) has special characteristics that justify a different treatment of it and its deviation from the restrictions imposed on some of the other rights. The right to demonstrate, like the freedom of expression, the right of access to the courts and the right to vote and to be elected, are not just civil rights that allow an individual to exercise his or her freedoms and personal choices. They are also political rights through which the individual can influence the decision-making processes in the state's systems of government. These rights are part of the legal infrastructure on which the democratic system is based. The decision that the battle against corona will be carried out without infringing on the political rights that support the democratic process is first and foremost a value decision: it means a willingness to take calculated public health risks in order to protect the democratic character of the state. But this decision can be justified by three other special reasons: one stems from the fact that the corona crisis has led to the exercise of special emergency powers, including the government's power to hastily enact draconian regulations restricting basic liberties. In such a reality, the protection of political rights, such as freedom of demonstration, plays a particularly important compensatory role: to serve as a substitute for the balances and political restraints that exist during a normal times between government authorities. The second reason stems from the connection between the exercise of political rights and the quality of decisions made at the political level. The right to demonstrate allows relatively broad publics to reflect their preferences and expectations of decision makers, including their support or opposition to the government’s moves or the very continuation of its tenure. It is very important that the hearts of the public be present to the decision makers when dealing with the corona crisis, which requires difficult decisions with dramatic implications for the lives of citizens. Third and last is the connection between political rights and political violence. Political rights, including the right to demonstrate, allow opponents of the government to express their opposition to government policy legally. The demonstrators are operating in the hope that the public pressure they are exerting will affect the policy directly or indirectly. Without such a legal channel of influence, there is a fear that unpopular policies will lead to outbreaks and widespread acts of vandalism on the part of those affected by the anti-government policies. Preserving the right to demonstrate is also important in terms of regulating pressures in society, especially during the Corona crisis, when pressures (on people) are very strong. From all that has been said here, it appears that there are good reasons to provide special protection in situations of political crisis over the right to demonstrate. This, even at the cost of taking a certain risk to public health that we are not willing to take as a society in relation to the protection of other rights. It is important to emphasize that a particular risk is not equivalent to promiscuity. There is therefore room to demand from the organizers of the demonstrations, as well as from the Israel Police, to enforce, as far as possible, reasonable demands from the field of public health, such as physical distance, wearing masks and preventing crowding indoors. [The author is the Vice President of the Israel Democracy Institute and a full professor in the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University.]
Government's coronavirus law is impractical and undemocratic (Dr. Amir Fuchs, Yedioth/Ynet) Legislation giving ministers total authority over decision-making sets dangerous precedent for Israeli democracy and chaotic decision making will surely diminish the already-dwindling public trust in both government and future emergency regulations.
Senior Likud figures know that the base is boiling, and that the reality is different from what is portrayed in the polls (Ben Caspit, Maariv) What will happen in the election? The real situation is different from what is presented in the current surveys. Netanyahu knows this. The blocs have returned to a draw. The anti-Bibi bloc, which is the democratic bloc, still lacks a leader. There is no formula that will reshape the circle and create an alternative.
How do we go to elections if I have no way to scare you? (Dr. Baruch Leshem, Yedioth Hebrew) Netanyahu would have been happy to return to the polls, but his failure to deal with the Corona crisis will make it difficult for him to launch an effective emotional campaign against the Leftees, the Arabs or any other demon.
No leadership, no performance, no worry. Bibi - let go (Judy Nir Moses Shalom, Yedioth/Ynet) How is it possible that the corona crisis is going so badly? For that, we paid Social Security all our lives. And what happened to the "leadership, leadership" fuss you've been selling us all these years? It's time, sir, for you to take a timeout and let us be. Israel needs a caring and concerned leader, who will deal with the catastrophe and not his criminal problems or his private bank account. Judy Nir Mozes Shalom in an open letter to the Prime Minister.
Oslo Accords Spared Israel From Handling Coronavirus in West Bank (Amira Hass, Haaretz+) If not for Palestinian self-ruled enclaves, Israelis and Palestinians would have had endless points of encounter and potential for friction, over everything from eggplants to masks.
Corona does not need to push aside sovereignty [annexation of parts of West Bank] (Tamar Asraf, Yedioth Hebrew) Along with the fight against the corona plague, the State of Israel must also engage in annexation in Judea and Samaria. If the Americans find time to engage in it, then so can we.
Time to call Nasrallah's bluff (Prof. Eyal Zisser, Israel Hayom) Israel needs to change the Hezbollah leader's calculations. He won't want to and can't afford to pay with his life or a full-blown war.
An alarming anniversary: The Iran deal, 5 years later (David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom) The nuclear accord has emboldened Iran's hegemonic march across the Middle East and has not halted its advance towards nuclear weapons. All of which hastens the day towards all-out Israeli-Iran confrontation.
Does Iran Really Want to Build Nuclear Weapons at Any Cost? Maybe Not (Yossi Melman, Haaretz+) In the past it took nations three to 10 years to build nuclear bombs, yet 30 years since re-launching its nuclear program, Iran hasn’t assembled a bomb. It aspires to be on the threshold.
Without a policeman in the Middle East, three countries do as they please (Ghassan Charbel, Yedioth Hebrew) The United States is busy with China, the Russians are still focusing on Syria, so Turkey, Israel and Iran are free to act as they see fit. The editor of al-Sharq Al-Awsat writes about a new Middle East.
The Eastern Rainbow: The Chinese influence in the Middle East is better than the American one (Ran Edelist, Maariv) While Netanyahu's government is waging a tiny gang war, the Iranian front is now carrying out a groundbreaking geo-strategic move, seeking economic and security cooperation with China…China's global policy on the road to world conquest is: stop fighting and start manufacturing. This is why it must be examined where the State of Israel stands in the struggle between the two titans who claim to control the world. The immediate answer is, of course, the United States, which is now a government that functions like a wild continent, leaning on evangelical organizations, run by tycoons of oil, gambling and right-wing media. I myself, if I had to choose between a Chinese or American Trump-style influence, I would go for the Chinese. Not only because one has to gamble on the most powerful bully in the neighborhood, certainly not because of the contributing measures of the rule of fear and repression of freedom of expression in China, but because of the simple reason that Chinese think wars are bad for the economy. Not that the Beijing administration cares who kills whom and how many in the Middle East or anywhere else. They have a huge army of their own, which is the least important part of protecting their investments, where they are protected from economic dependence and anchoring their agreements in international law…In the background of the signing of the Sino-Iranian alliance flashes the expiration date of the arms embargo imposed by the Security Council on October 18, 2020. Russia and China have stated they will veto the US proposal to extend it. And if it were Joe Biden, he would bring back Barack Obama's nuclear deal and finally eliminate Iran being on the way to the bomb, and on this occasion Netanyahu's fate will be decided as the toxic proxy of the Republicans.
Sissi Sets His Sights on Al-Azhar, the Beating Heart of Egypt's Religious Life (Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz+) Sissi has been at loggerheads with Al-Azhar and its head since 2013, but now he has set out to bring its branch responsible for the interpretation of religious law under government control.
Islamists co-opted the George Floyd protests
(A.J. Caschetta, Israel Hayom) From the moment that video footage of Floyd's death went viral, Palestinian activists tried to turn the subsequent protests against police brutality into an American intifada.

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