News Nosh 8.12.20

APN's daily news review from Israel - Wednesday August 12, 2020

Quote of the day:

“He didn’t want to leave...He went crazy over how beautiful the sea is.”
--A friend of Haaretz+ journalist Amira Hass told her about the reaction of her 25-year-old son, who crossed a breach in the separation fence in plain sight of Israeli soldiers and went to the sea for the first time with his family, as did thousands of other Palestinians families from the West Bank over the last two weeks. The same breach in the fence where soldiers have shot and seriously wounded Palestinian laborers who entered Israel through them.*

You Must Be Kidding: 
"The lifeguard today is not Jewish."
--Sign put up at entrance to city-owned Jerusalem pool, informing visitors the lifeguard is Arab.**

Front Page:


Yedioth Ahronoth

  • Price of silence - Coalition dealing with the battle over the budget, and in the meantime, the government’s work is stuck
  • Enough, get a hold of yourselves // Eliyakim Rubeinstein
  • The fields of fire - More than 500 acres have burned from “balloon terror,” which returned to the south
  • The black senator, Kamilla Harris, is Biden’s candidate for Vice President

Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)

Israel Hayom

  • “They want a compromise, but there won’t be a two-year budget”
  • Today: Knesset to vote on first reading of bill to postpone budget deadline
  • Netanyahu’s dilemma: When to go to elections // Yehuda Shlesinger
  • Lapid’s law (to prevent indicted politician from forming a gov’t): A veto hatchet over the ruling government // Amnon Lord
  • Netanyahu and Mendelblitt: Frontal clash - PM in unprecedented criticism of the Attorney General: “Zero action by you is scandalous permit for our blood to be shed”
  • Black south - Record in balloon terror
  • There’s no incitement in the Palestinian Authority? The Europeans even examined Israeli books
  • Central Tel-Aviv Train Station: The light train stops are revealed
  • Israeli pride: The Police SWAT team developed the best protective mask in the world
  • The judicial absurdity: There is no one to investigate the investigators // Erez Tadmor [chairman of semi-fascist Im Tirtzu organization - OH]
  • (Corona director) Gamzu: “If the rate of infection doesn’t drop - closure is on the agenda”
  • Project: The five best Israelis since the beginning of the millennium

Top News Summary:
The Israeli Prime Minister vilifies the Attorney General who responds plainly, the coalition parties clash over the budget with the possibility of a fourth election looming in the background and the tit-for-tat between Hamas and Israel goes up another gear making top stories in today’s Hebrew newspapers.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu accused Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit of not doing his job and investigating threats to Netanyahu’s life or a post threatening the rape of his wife putting their lives in danger (that Tweet, it was learned, was from 2019). Mendelblitt answered that the police are investigating 19 cases and added his own recommendation to the Prime Minister: “It is not disputed that criminal law has an important role to play, but public leaders also have a responsibility to calm the spirits, so that we do not find ourselves in dire and unforgivable consequences," Mendelblitt wrote back.

But Yossi Verter wrote in an Op-Ed (see Commentary/Analysis below), there is no real direct threat against any of the Netanyahu’s. Maariv reported that Sara Netanyahu filed a complaint Tuesday with the police regarding threats to her life. There was another complaint filed against a man who posted a Tweet suggesting that she needs to be raped “out of patriotism.” The police found that the tweet was posted in 2019. The man was questioned released on parole.  Speaking of (real) threats, the police have tightened security around Netanyahu’s prosecutor, Liat Ben-Ari, over a ‘high level of threat’ to her life. And that level is expected to rise.

So in the end, Netanyahu did agree to support the bill to extend the upcoming deadline for passing a budget, even though he said the day before that he wouldn’t. But a Likud source later said the party would vote in favor in a preliminary vote and a first vote, but wouldn't commit to passing the bill in the final votes. If it doesn’t pass and the August 24th deadline does, the Knesset will dissolve and the country will go to elections. President Reuven Rivlin said that elections would be unthinkable while Israel counts its dead. Rivlin said it would be a ‘painful and unforgettable blow’ to Israel. But the standoff remains between Netanyahu and Kahol-Lavan chairman Benny Gantz over the length of the budget - one year or two. And without a set budget many government programs for the needy are at risk of closing down. Nevertheless, coalition whip MK Miki Zohar (Likud) told 103FM that "Elections are getting closer by leaps and bounds.” Zohar accused Kahol-Lavan of not acting for the benefit of the Israeli economy. (103FM/Maariv) And despite its desire to pass a two-year budget so that Netanyahu can’t call elections at the end of a one-year budget, Kahol-Lavan said it will skip the vote on a bill that bans Netanyahu from becoming prime minister again.
In the latest move in the tit-for-tat between Hamas and Israel, Israel shut the commercial Gaza border crossing for all but humanitarian aid and fuel after more than 60 fires erupted burning 500 acres in the Israeli periphery of the Gaza Strip. Maariv noted that the Israeli security establishment assessment is that Hamas is not interested in escalating the situation and it is preventing other organizations from making attacks. However, Maariv did not explain the background to the renewal of the launching of incendiary balloons, as was explained in recent days. Haaretz wrote that Hamas sources told Haaretz on Saturday that the resumption of balloon launches was intended to send a message to Israel and the international community that Gaza is fed up with the absence of progress toward improving conditions in the territory. Yesterday, ’Israel Hayom’ quoted a Hamas official who said that unless Israel makes things easier for the residents of Gaza, "the security situation will only worsen."

Corona Quickees:

  • Israel sees 1,875 new confirmed coronavirus cases Tuesday - There are 377 people in serious condition, 110 of them on ventilators while new cases indicate 6.7% of 26,360 tests conducted found positive; Gamzu warns crowded gatherings must stop or lock-down inevitable. (Ynet)
  • Coronavirus czar warns of imminent closures - Gamzu says that leadership entertains the option of a nationwide lockdown or on COVID-19 hotspots as Israelis less inclined to get tested for virus and fail to observe social distancing. (Ynet)
  • Gov't extends cellular tracking of citizens - In a vote via telephone, government ministers on Tuesday approved the extension of the controversial measure that allows the Shin Bet security agency to track Israelis' whereabouts as part of the coronavirus contact tracing effort. (Israel Hayom)
  • Health Ministry ad campaign fails as Israelis delete coronavirus tracing app - Of the 100,000 people who downloaded the app over the weekend, which provides information on confirmed COVID-19 carriers who have been in the user’s vicinity, half later deleted it. (Haaretz+)
  • Coronavirus Israel Live: Pandemic Czar Says People Afraid of Testing Positive Creating 'Covert Morbidity' - Only four 'green' countries let Israelis enter, official says ■ Education minister vows school year will start on time ■ Cabinet issues new restrictions further limiting crowds ■ Medical staff announce labor dispute. (Haaretz)
  • Health Minister: Israel looks into Russia's COVID-19 vaccine claims - Edelstein says if inoculation proves to be safe, Jerusalem and Moscow will enter negotiations but adds that distribution of an effective vaccine to the Israeli public is still far off. (Ynet)
  • Israel's national library to freeze all operations due to major income loss - Budget cuts and the economic upheaval caused by coronavirus pandemic force the cultural institution to stop all public services and put some 300 employees on unpaid leave. (Ynet)
  • Israel Weighs Using Empty Detention Facility to Quarantine Returning Foreign Workers - Minister says plan considered to use Holot center, which formerly housed asylum seekers, to isolate farm workers who were abroad. (Haaretz+)
  • Jewish federations continue to raise funds, despite pandemic - The efforts, producing some $160 million so far, have helped fund a variety of measures to improve lives of Jews. Short-term loans, food support among measures. (Israel Hayom)

Quick Hits:

  • Gantz to Undergo Back Surgery, Will Be Replaced by Minister From Own Party - Defense minister and alternate prime minister arrives at Sheba Medical Center to undergo surgery and is expected to stay in hospital for a few days. (Haaretz+ and Israel Hayom)
  • **City-owned Jerusalem Pool Puts Up Sign Saying: ‘Today There Is a non-Jewish Lifeguard' - Staff says the sign was put up because it was important to inform religious Jewish women using the facility, but center director ordered it be removed, calling it 'unreasonable.’ (Haaretz+)
  • Pregnant and Protesting: The Israeli Moms-to-be Whose Photo Went Viral - This different wall of moms wants to make sure that their babies have a future in a country racked by government corruption and ineptitude. (Haaretz+)
  • Israeli Former Judicial Officials Ask President to Expunge Former Prime Minister Olmert’s Record - President Rivlin expected to deny request from former attorney general and former state comptroller regarding Olmert, who served time over a corruption affair. (Haaretz+)
  • 'F' for reading comprehension: EU study says PA textbooks promote peace - European Union-sponsored study concludes that the Palestinian Authority does not incite against Israel, but examines Arabic-language textbooks used in the Israeli school system. IMPACT-Se, an international research and policy institute that analyzes school textbooks throughout the world and has a proven track record of examining PA textbooks, and it suspected the EU study was unprofessional and intended to whitewash the facts. [NOTE: IMPACT-Se is an Israeli founded organization, whose main target is of Palestinian textbooks and also reports on other Muslim countries. Most of its board members are right-wing Jews. - OH] (Israel Hayom)
  • PA's Prisoners Affairs Administration must be designated as terrorist organization, [right-wing] MKs demand - The Palestinian body's "sole purpose is to encourage and reward terrorism and Israel must show zero tolerance for this practice," lawmakers tell Defense Minister Benny Gantz. (Israel Hayom)
  • Second death at a construction site within a week: A worker fell to his death in Jerusalem - A 30-year-old worker was killed in a work accident at a construction site on Hazon Ish Street in Jerusalem. This is the 17th worker killed since the beginning of the year at construction sites. Earlier Tuesday, a 24-year-old man was moderately injured when a forklift overturned at a work site in Be'er Sheva. The Forum for the Prevention of Accidents at Work calls on the Knesset not to postpone the scaffolding reform intended to prevent such cases. (Maariv and Ynet Hebrew)
  • Israel Ignoring or Mishandling 99.7% of Asylum Requests, NGO Says - Report shows that in 2011-2019, immigration authority approved 39 out of 64,542 requests, while gov't has reviewed just 32 cases out of 13,000 it said it would reexamine. (Haaretz+)
  • Indictment Filed in Israel Against (Arab-Israeli) Teenagers for Attacking (Arab-Israeli) Gay Men at Jaffa Port - Defendants, boys aged 15 and 17, shouted insults, spat and attacked the young couple, indictment reads.The attackers, who were getting on a boat ride, told the captain, that the couple are Arab, and homosexual sexual orientation brings a "bad name" to the Arab sector, and if they had lived in their neighborhood in Lod "they would not been alive long ago." (Maariv and Haaretz+ and VIDEO)
  • 'Dream destination' cafes offer taste of paradise in Gaza - Many of the blockaded coastal enclave's 2 million Palestinians have never left its borders, and the shoreline restaurants bearing names of far-off locations serve as popular meeting places. (Agencies, Ynet)
  • Egypt allows Gazans to leave strip for first time in months - Egyptian authorities reopen Rafah Crossing, allowing Gaza residents holding Egyptian passports, foreign passports and patients seeking treatment abroad to leave the enclave until Friday. (Agencies, Ynet)
  • Lebanon's Leaders Warned in July About Explosives at Port, Documents Show - A private letter sent to President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Hassan Diab on July 20 reportedly warned that the chemicals needed to be secured immediately, "Beirut will be destroyed." The official said: "There was a danger that this material, if stolen, could be used in a terrorist attack." (Agencies, Haaretz, Maariv and Israel Hayom)
  • Iran sentences two men to prison over spying for Israel, Germany and Britain - One man was accused of sharing information on 'nuclear and missile projects' with Israel and the German intelligence service. (Agencies, Haaretz and Ynet)
  • Iran Says It Thwarted Spy Network Backed by Mossad, CIA Officials - Announcement comes after five suspected spies were recently arrested in Iran, including officials in the Foreign and Defense Ministries as well as the country's nuclear agency, according to Justice Ministry Spokesperson. (Haaretz+)
  • Tunisia PM-elect to form technocratic gov't without parties - Tunisia's prime minister-designate said on Monday he would form a purely technocratic government following wrangling among political parties over the formation of the country's next administration. (Israel Hayom)
  • Biden picks Kamala Harris as Democratic running mate: She opposes BDS and supports 2-state solution - Harris' record as California attorney general and district attorney in San Francisco was heavily scrutinized during the Democratic primary and turned away some liberals and younger Black voters who saw her as out of step on issues of racism in the legal system and police brutality. (Israel Hayom, Haaretz and Maariv/JPost)


The real reason Mizrahi Jews support Israel
Iranian-born professor Saba Soomekh says pro-Israel nationalism is a natural extension of Mizrahi pain; it's "the only place we are accepted." Ron Katz, head of the Tel Aviv Institute, says whiteness plays a large role in this terminology. "White Anti-Zionists labeling Mizrahi Jews' support of Israel as propaganda or 'Mizrahi-washing' is the most virulent kind of bigoted rhetoric," he said. "Its implication is that MENA Jews are somehow incapable of forming independent opinions and are therefore simpletons reliant on state-sponsored bribery. The only thing one can deduce from this is that those doing the labeling, the white majority, have determined that theirs is the only unencumbered voice."  (Hen Mazzig, Israel Hayom)

Top Commentary/Analysis:
Netanyahu Incites and Whines – and Shows Worrying Signs of Totally Losing It (Yossi Verter, Haaretz+) Despite Netanyahu's whining, the risk to his personal safety is zero – just like the odds of him adhering to coalition agreements.
Basic Amendment: Changing laws is better than going to a fourth election (Lilach Sigan, Maariv) The conduct over the past few months has made it clear that an indicted person indeed cannot serve as prime minister, but, on the other hand, he can overthrow and form governments with a wave of the hand, and also violate agreements.
Netanyahu's election dilemma (Yehuda Shlezinger, Israel Hayom) An election now could benefit the prime minister and the Right, whereas a later one would work against him. The decision is Netanyahu's to make, and he is deliberating.
Yair Netanyahu’s Grip on Likud (Sami Peretz, Haaretz+) Likud is considered a democratic party because it still holds primaries and its list of candidates for the Knesset is not determined by one person. But in recent years, something quite disturbing and undemocratic has happened to Likud. The party that once spawned the “hishukaim” (“constrainers”) and the “Likud rebels” – MKs and ministers who were able to present different positions and to stand up to the party chairman – has become a tamed herd of politicians that blithely goes along with all the personal whims and craziness of the party leader.
Back to the future: The Israeli public will not forgive its elected representatives for further elections (Yitzhak Ben-Ner, Maariv) From the voters of the right-wing parties to the ministers and members of the Knesset who are indifferent, who continue to blindly follow Prime Minister Netanyahu: History may forget your time of wrongdoing. We will not.
I will not vote for Netanyahu, but I will not participate in these demonstrations (Gershon Porush, Yedioth/Ynet) The election did not give them their political desires, so like spoiled children, the protesters kick the game board in an attempt to turn it over. This is simply not democracy.
U.S., U.K. and Israeli Democracies Paralyzed by Delusion: ‘It Can Never Happen Here’ (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+) They are unburdened by World War II trauma that compels European democracies to oppose fascism and protect themselves.
Real rebels defend Israel (David Suissa, Israel Hayom) For young Jews, fighting for Palestinians may be the popular choice – but fighting for Israel is the courageous one.
Kahol Lavan in La-La Land (Haaretz Editorial)  The Yesh Atid-Telem faction, under the leadership of Yair Lapid and Moshe Ya’alon, will bring a draft bill to the Knesset plenum Wednesday designed to prevent someone accused of a criminal offense from forming a government. Their former partners from Kahol Lavan, Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, said yesterday that their faction will not participate in the vote. The decision by the members of Kahol Lavan to absent themselves from the vote is another gentlemanly gesture towards their partner, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for the sake of national reconciliation and the battle against the coronavirus, which goes well with the spirit of the La-La Land in which they are living.
Explained: A Bill Against Netanyahu to Embarrass Kahol Lavan (Jonathan Lis, Haaretz+) Israel's opposition leader Yair Lapid makes a great move, using the legislative process to score points at the expanse of his ally-turned-rival at exactly the right time. The bill he proposes would ban an indicted politician from forming a government.
Gantz’s Ultimatum Has Passed and Netanyahu Is Relishing His Win-win Political Crisis (Anshel Pfeffer, Israel Hayom) Yet another election? No budget? This would be political high-drama, if Israel wasn’t facing, along with the rest of the world, a pandemic. But Netanyahu is relishing it.
*Homeland Tour: Why I Didn’t Write About the Breach in the Border Fence (Amira Hass, Haaretz+) The video clip I received to my cellphone contained 29 seconds of waves breaking on rocks. “We’re in Tel Aviv,” my friend wrote me. How much excitement was compressed into those few words. She is from Nablus. She, her husband and their two children did what tens of thousands of Palestinians from throughout the West Bank have been doing in recent weeks. They left through a breach in the separation fence and entered Israel. This was the first time her 25-year-old son had crossed the Green Line and seen Palestine’s sea. “He didn’t want to leave,” my friend said. “He went crazy over how beautiful the sea is.” As chance had it, they exited through the breach at Far’un, east of Taibeh, about half an hour after I left that exact same spot. Like them, I saw the soldiers standing on the road and watching as masses of people crossed on foot from the fence to waiting minibuses or taxis. I saw entire families, groups of young people, couples, babies in strollers and toddlers trotting along the dirt road after their parents….These breaches in the fence are no secret, soldiers have shot and seriously wounded laborers who entered Israel through them…Farmers whose land is locked away on the other side of the separation barrier also come through them…And over the past two weeks, they have been joined by a never-ending stream of vacationers. I decided to wait with the story and pictures of this exodus…
Irony at its best: Netanyahu can’t stop the explosive balloons, and is photographed in front of an F-16 (Tal Lev-Ram, Maariv) The Prime Minister's inability to reach decisions regarding the Gaza Strip is not surprising. Since when should the State of Israel threaten an elite balloon unit? How did we get into this situation? As with other issues, in dealing with the terror of balloons and fire in the Gaza Strip periphery communities, the Israeli government operates under a policy of extinguishing fires, and not with an orderly conception of decision-making and preliminary staff meetings. It is enough to look at the zig-zag in the policy of using force in response to the renewal of (explosive balloon) launches in order to understand this. Last Thursday, when incendiary balloons and explosives were fired from the Gaza Strip, the IDF responded in a relatively unusual way, attacking a number of Hamas infrastructure targets by the Air Force, under the message that Israel would not accept the resumption of balloon terror and fires. On Friday and Saturday, when there was a relative decrease in the number of fires in Israel, it was decided to exercise restraint. On Sunday, in response to the exchange of fire on the fence that ended without casualties on both sides and continued fires, the IDF contented itself with sending a message to Hamas in a symbolic attack on an observation post near the fence belonging to Hamas. n response to Monday's fires, Israel has already gone in another direction: closing Kerem Shalom's commercial crossing in an attempt to put pressure on Hamas. An experience that, according to today's situation, when Israel continues to conduct itself in such a way that every day is a different improvisation, it is no wonder that Tuesday is probably threats by state officials. From the prime minister to the defense minister, one after the other, each in his own military setting, senior officials today sent threats to Hamas that Israel would charge a heavy price to the terrorist organization. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday issued a statement to the media standing with Israeli Air Force's fighter jets in the background. Netanyahu sent threats to Hamas "There will be a very heavy price for balloon terrorism. We will not tolerate it, we will act and collect a high price, we have done it before, we should remember that we will do it now as well." It’s possible that this message from the prime minister, with the backdrop of fighter jets, may be one last threat before execution, but the fact is that for more than two years now Hamas has been harassing and setting an agenda in Israel, using balloons, does not really stand in Netanyahu's favor. Many defense ministers were replaced during his guard, but there was only one prime minister - and this reality cannot be explained otherwise. In the last months of the Corona, Gaza has been quiet, Hamas has been dealing with its internal affairs, and terrorism from Gaza has been relatively low in recent years. During this period, senior IDF and defense officials identified a ripe time time to improve the economic situation, and additional relief for the Gaza Strip. The logic was simple, making moves from a position of power and not from a position of extortion, while at the same time continuing efforts to advance a prisoners and missing persons deal. Like other important issues, this issue has not received attention from our political establishment. A government that has not held important discussions on lessons learned from the first corona wave and assessments for the second wave, will find time for an in-depth strategic discussion with meaningful decisions regarding the Gaza Strip? The answer is clear, because even in recent years it has not really happened. The mayors of the Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip periphery and in the south are among the most state-like and responsible we have, in their political identity. They do not even pretend to tell the government and the army what needs to be done, but one thing they demand, and that is government policy. A government that makes decisions at the political level, and makes decisions in the context of the use of military force. The State of Israel in recent years mainly decides not to decide, and the results are accordingly. With no path, no direction and no orderly system, one terrorist organization conducts a regional agenda using incendiary balloons. The day will come when we will have to explain to ourselves how we got to a situation where the Israeli prime minister is standing against the backdrop of Air Force fighter jets and threatening the “(Hamas) ’Bnei Zuari’ elite balloon unit“ with a harsh Israeli response.
Hamas shoots, Israel reacts, and the Qataris pay (Yoav Limor, Israel Hayom) The terrorist organization that controls Gaza is in very serious trouble, and wants to pressure Israel into solving some of its problems.
It's time for a new Arab party (Jalal Bana, Israel Hayom) A new party, based on support from the young generation of Arab Israelis who want to be part of society, could change the entire political map. 
How Biden VP Kamala Harris Could Tip U.S.-Israel Ties (Allison Kaplan Sommer and Amir Tibon, Haaretz+) Harris has walked the tightrope on the issue of Israel, facing criticism from the left wing of the Democratic Party after meeting AIPAC leaders in 2019.
Now He Wants Their Money: Trump’s Changing Relationship With Republican Jews (Allison Kaplan Sommer, Haaretz+) Between alienating Adelson and dropping annexation from the agenda, Trump’s attitude toward the conservative Jewish vote could threaten his fundraising efforts.

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