APN's daily news review from Israel - Monday November 23, 2020
Quote of the day:
"We don't owe him anything, sorry. He was an American spy who worked for a lot of money. This was not some
Zionist volunteer who sacrificed his life."
--Former prime minister Ehud Olmert said that Jewish-American spy Jonathan Pollard should not immigrate to Israel because it will harm US-Israel relations further.*
- Gantz announced the establishment of a commission of inquiry into the submarines affair; The commission will be able to summon Netanyahu, but not compel him to show up
- Diving into elections // Yossi Verter
- Embarrassment for Netanyahu // Amos Harel
- Domestic abuse complaints tripled since the breakout of corona
- 92% of the rape cases closed last year without indictments
- Small rise in infection does not yet justify the cries of a crisis by the Health Ministry
- Smoking gun // Raviv Drucker calls for probe over evidence of propaganda in ‘Israel Hayom’
- Perversion of memory // Itai Mack on Netanyahu’s attempt to appoint Effi Eitam as chairman of Yad Vashem
- In a new book, Ksenia Svetlov returns to the days as a journalist in places where it is not recommended for an Israeli to be
- Hundreds of young people requested this year aid for housing; Number of 18-25 year-olds helped by welfare services jumped 20%
- “The country is on a low flame because Netanyahu thinks first about the trial. It’s chaos” - Benny Gantz in interview after establishing the commission of inquiry into the submarines affair (Hebrew)
- The outrageous acquittal of an abusive husband (Hebrew)
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
- Deep inquiry (on Gantz’s decision to order a commission of inquiry into the purchase of submarines and war vessels - Case 3000)
- Olmert: “It’s preferable that Pollard does not come to Israel”
- Clear and immediate threat - Dollar rate endangers many businesses // Yehuda Sharoni
- Returning to studies, returning to mistakes - Tomorrow: 5th and 6th grade students finally return to school
- Investigation on subject of strategy opens for political reasons // Amnon Lord
- “Gantz has no problem with (Kahol-Lavan Minister) Nissenkorn resigning”
- If we forget you - Special on soccer fan, gym owner, photographer and tour guide who want a plan to go back to work
- Surge in number of domestic abuse complaints
- Pollard cut his electronic handcuffs and promised: “Soon I will return to Israel”
- As reported in ‘Israel Hayom’: Area where many (Eritrean and Sudanese) infiltrators live will be recognized as an area of national priority
- Cause of death revealed: 40% of those who died in fires smoke a cigarette
Top News Summary:
Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz established a commission of inquiry into the submarine corruption affair - but it doesn’t have teeth, his Kahol-Lavan party may fall apart and elections could be called soon and domestic abuse has tripled since the start of the epidemic - making the top stories in the Hebrew newspapers, while Yedioth gets an exclusive interview with Gantz and Maariv interviews former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who opposes Jewish spy Jonathan Pollard immigrating to Israel (see Interviews section below). Another interesting interview was with former Kadima minister, Haim Ramon, who spoke about what he thought harmed the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. And elections are in the offing as Kahol-Lavan faces an internal rift and Likud - expecting elections - prepares for party primaries. And Israel prepares for a possible escalation with the Gaza Strip.
The commission of inquiry into the submarine affair (Case 3000) is essentially meant to probe whether Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was involved in the huge submarine scandal, whereby officials, some confidants of Netanyahu, received illicit payments for advocating for the $2 billion purchase of naval warships and submarines from a German shipbuilder. ’Israel Hayom,’ as usual, pushed the big unflattering story of the day to page nine, giving it an opaque title on the front page and declaring that the establishment of the commission was for political reasons. The other papers declared that it was a toothless commission, which can’t compel anyone it summons, most importantly Netanyahu, to testify. And both Likud and members of Gantz’s Kahol-Lavan party believe the move was politically motivated - to pressure Netanyahu over his refusal to pass the state budget, his freezing of senior appointments and his constant threat of an early election.
Security and Diplomacy:
Israel is on high alert after it made 15 airstrikes on Hamas posts throughout Gaza following a rocket shot from Gaza that landed in Ashkelon. The IDF began a military exercise Sunday to improve its war readiness in the south. Analysts said the dire economic situation and the high rate of corona is putting great pressure on Hamas, which is not interested in an escalation with Israel. (See Commentary/Analysis below).
Today, the Israeli news websites reported that Netanyahu secretly - well, not anymore - flew to Saudi Arabia Sunday to attend the meeting between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Saudi crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman to discuss pressure on Iran before US President-elect Joe Biden takes over and also to discuss the possibility of Saudi normalization of times with Israel. But on the same day, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhal Al Saud said that that normalization with Israel would only come after "a permanent and comprehensive peace agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis including the establishment of a Palestinian state on 1967 borders." Mossad chief Yossi Cohen accompanied Netanyahu, but neither Gantz nor Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi were informed of the meeting. Earlier in the day at a commemoration ceremony for Israel's first prime minister David Ben-Gurion, Netanyahu appeared to be sending a message to Biden when he warned the world powers against returning to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. At the ceremony, some 300 people protested against Netanyahu.
- Israeli settlers assault elderly Palestinian man near Bethlehem and villagers in Susya - Muhannad Salah said he was grazing livestock with his elderly father in the hamlet of Shushahla, south of Bethlehem, when armed Israeli settlers from Elazar threw rocks at them to force them off their land. Local residents were able to fend off the attack. Meanwhile, Israeli settlers from the illegal Israeli settlement of Susya assaulted a number of Palestinians as they were trying to kick settlers out of their lands, in the Palestinian village of Susya. (WAFA and IMEMC)
- Israeli forces raid, search Palestinian high school east of Qalqilia - Israeli army soldiers raided and thoroughly searched the classrooms of the high school for boys in the town of Jit. In past 30 months, 296 attacks against education by Israeli forces or settlers and settlement private security guards took place during 235 separate incidents, said the report. (WAFA)
- IDF troops thwart IED attack in Samaria - The incident took place near al-Mughayyir, a Palestinian village southeast of Jenin. According to the IDF, "during routine IDF operations in the area, the troops spotted explosive devices which were camouflaged in order to harm IDF troops.” (Israel Hayom)
- Israeli forces notify to stop construction work on Palestinian water well near Bethlehem - Israeli forces handed local resident Riziq Issa a notice ordering him to stop the construction work on his privately-owned water well in the village of al-Khader, citing unpermitted construction as a pretext. (WAFA)
- Protest Leads Jerusalem Mayor to Reinstate Street Library in Arab Neighborhood - The city said the reading area had been removed because it was vandalized and posed a safety hazard, but locals in Beit Safafa say they acted rashly. (Haaretz+)
- IDF Spokesman: The tank that fired (without permission) at the Gaza Strip - was accidental - Preliminary investigation revealed that the shooting from the tank was due to a misunderstanding between the commanders in the communications network. The investigation into the incident has not yet been completed. This morning, the IDF assessed that the incident was due to "excessive striving for contact.” (Maariv)
- IDF tank overturns during military drill - Initial investigation reveals that the 24-years-old driver did not slow down and drove the armored vehicle at a wrong angle up the carrier, nearly crushing soldiers standing by, and whether he was certified for the assignment. (Maariv and Ynet)
- PM announces $300M aid package for communities adjacent to Gaza border - Plan includes tax benefits and property-tax discounts, and aims to boost access to social services. Government to increase investment in education and infrastructure. (Israel Hayom)
- Israeli Gov't Approves Netanyahu-Gantz Compromise on Two Senior Appointments - Newly appointed Accountant General Yaheli Rotenberg will have expended responsibilities, while Gantz's close associate tapped as director general of Alternate Prime Minister's Office will lack real authority. (Haaretz+)
- Cabinet Approves a Partial Privatization of Israel Aerospace Industries - The plan is to a sell minority of shares in a Tel Aviv Stock Exchange IPO next year that values defense contractor at up to $4.2 billion. (Haaretz+)
- Palestinian Minister Al-Sheikh welcomes Quartet’s call for resuming peace process as per international resolutions - The statement by Palestinian Minister Hussein Al-Sheikh came as he met with the UK Consul-General to Jerusalem, Philip Hall. Hall commended the Palestinian leadership for resuming the acceptance of the tax revenues which Israel collects on its behalf on a monthly basis. (WAFA)
- Israeli Bankruptcy claims up 40% in 2020 - According to the report, 18,990 bankruptcy applications have been filed for private households since the beginning of the year, compared with 13,441 in 2019. (Israel Hayom)
- Bethlehem Health Chief Calls to Cancel Christmas Ceremonies Amid COVID Spike - With cases rising and observance of restrictions falling in Bethlehem, the tourist-dependent economy faces the prospect of a silent Christmas. Nazareth, meanwhile, was recently declared a 'red city.’ (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
- WHO Warns of Deadly Second Wave of Virus Across Middle East - In a press briefing from Cairo, Ahmed al-Mandhari, director of WHO’s eastern Mediterranean region noted that the virus had sickened over 3.6 million people and killed more than 76,000 in the region. (Agencies, Haaretz)
- Israel-Lebanon maritime border talks stall - Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz and Lebanese President Michel Aoun traded barbs Sunday after the US-mediated negotiations between the two countries on their disputed maritime border stalled. (Israel Hayom)
- Iran Vows 'Crushing' Response to Any Israeli Attempt to Hit its ‘advisory’ role in Syria - Israel, which views Tehran as its biggest security threat, has repeatedly attacked Iranian targets and those of allied militia in Syria. (Agencies, Haaretz and Ynet)
- Assad Appoints Veteran Syrian Diplomat Faisal Mekdad as Foreign Minister - A strong advocate for tightening ties with Iran and Russia, former Deputy FM Mekdad had been expected to fill the position after his boss died earlier this month. (Agencies, Haaretz)
‘Second Israeli astronaut’? Eytan Stibbe claimed he’s a British resident
Last summer Haaretz received a letter from the businessman’s representatives in London: Erase any mention of arms deals from old articles about Stibbe or you may face legal proceedings in Europe. (Ofra Edelman, Haaretz+)
High Times in Zion: An Israeli History of Drugs
New book by historian Haggai Ram chronicles hashish in Mandatory Palestine and Israel – from the camel smuggling operations to Jabotinsky’s psychedelic experience and Tel Aviv cafés that offered customers more than just baked goods. (Yossi Melman, Haaretz+)
‘Valley of Tears’ v. ‘No Man’s Land’: Which of these Israeli-created shows should you watch?
Two new series (‘Valley of Tears’ showing on HBO Max, ‘No Man’s Land’ on Hulu in America) offer very different takes on the Yom Kippur and Syria’s civil war, but only one is truly worthy of your time. (Adrian Hennigan, Haaretz+)
What Does Netanyahu Have to Hide in the Submarine Affair? (Amos Harel, Haaretz+) By appointing a committee to probe the purchase of navy vessels from Germany, Gantz has pushed Netanyahu into a corner.
Why Netanyahu Should Be Pleased Over the Submarine Affair Inquiry (Yossi Verter, Haaretz+) And why Gantz finally did the right thing.
The coronavirus rockets from Gaza (Elior Levy, Yedioth/Ynet) When Hamas feels under fire from its people, it moves to divert the anger towards Israel, and with 30% infection rate, Sinwar is apparently making good on his pledge that if Gaza needs ventilators, Israelis won't be able to breathe either.
While Hamas is isolated and vulnerable, Israel is preparing for the consequences (Tal Lev Ram, Maariv) The leading assessment in the security establishment is that the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization is the one behind the shooting yesterday from the Gaza Strip towards the Gaza Strip periphery. The response this time, attacking Hamas targets, has been relatively greater in scope than in recent times, with two main targets being two rocket and munitions depots in Gaza and Khan Yunis, alongside a Hamas defensive tunnel shaft and a facility used by Hamas' naval force for training. It is already now clear that even in 2021, the Gaza Strip will remain the main operational sector where the chance of a military confrontation is highest. This is from an analysis of various variables, such as the economy, internal pressures and struggles and constant tension with Israel. Apparently, until a few months ago, one could be wrong and think that there is a chance for a settlement between Israel and Hamas. The scope of terrorism in the Gaza Strip has decreased in almost every parameter, the various mediators have learned to create a direct dialogue between Israel and Hamas and around the challenges of the corona epidemic. Create a sense that the security reality can be stabilized, and perhaps even move forward on the issue of prisoners and missing persons and reach a long-term settlement, the stated policy of Yahya Sanwar, Hamas' powerful man in the Gaza Strip, is to prioritize improving the economic situation in the Gaza Strip over any other option these days - and all of these have created a sense that security realities can be stabilized. However, in the last two months, the music has changed: positive trends for Israel, such as the renewal of security coordination in Judea and Samaria with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the "Abraham Agreements" with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan, are isolating Hamas in a strategic corner. The Gazan organization also saw last week how the PA buried a final grave in the idea of internal Palestinian reconciliation, which was hopeless in the first place. When these circumstances exist against the background of an escalating economic crisis due to the consequences of the corona epidemic, the instability increases accordingly - and with it the chance that the pressure valves from the Gaza Strip will once again be directed in the direction of Israel.
Israel Police Are Throttling the Protests (Haaretz Editorial) The behavior of the police doesn’t leave room for doubt; the force has been enlisted to suppress the protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a clear exhibition of contempt for the right to demonstrate. In an effort to choke off this freedom – a fundamental right in any democratic state – the police are expected to charge a number of protest leaders shortly. The police are targeting attorney Gonen Ben Itzhak, a leader of the Black Flags and the Crime Minister protest organizations who was questioned on suspicion that he lay down under a police water cannon, Yishai Hadas from the Crime Minister movement and other activists.
Now more than ever: a threat alongside an opportunity in the northern sector (Uzi Dayan, Maariv) Despite a successful record of silent attacks in Syria, the latest attack was accompanied by an important and significant statement. Now, we have to take advantage of the possibilities that come our way in the tense sector…The latest attack in Syria - actually not the last - demonstrates the intelligence and operational capability that also rests on impressive IDF technology, and overall our policy in Syria and our military and diplomatic power. We have a successful record of silent attacks in Syria, but the latest attack differs because we took responsibility, which serves a purpose - clarifying the importance and Israeli determination to continue to push out Iran from establishing itself in Syria.
Joe Biden: Israel's best friend? (Jerold S. Auerbach, Israel Hayom) Time will tell as to whether he embraces or rejects the palpable hostility of former US President Barack Obama, his political idol, or forge his own path to more positive relations.
The Israeli Army's Soft Sadism (Amira Hass, Haaretz+) Checkpoints are an intentional operation whose direct result is shortening the active lives of the Palestinians. Unlike stolen land, stolen time cannot be returned.
What does a Biden administration mean for PA? (Pinhas Inbari, Israel Hayom) The Palestinian Authority is already signaling to President-elect Joe Biden that it's willing to return to negotiations, but its maximalist positions clash with the prevailing mood in the Arab Sunni world.
Israel Still Owes American Jews an Apology for the Jonathan Pollard Affair (Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz+) Israel’s actions forced American Jews to defend themselves against accusations of divided loyalties – and that type of blatant disregard continues to this very day.
How should Netanyahu approach the Biden administration? (Eric R. Mandel, Israel Hayom) With the Israeli premier looking to renege on his deal to hand over power to rival Benny Gantz next year, he will be seriously challenged to advance Israel's goals while advancing his own political interests.
Trump’s Lame Duck Moves Will Impact U.S. Jewish Community Long After His Term Ends (Allison Kaplan Sommer, Haaretz+) The outgoing president’s heavily partisan appointments are deepening divides that will persist even after Joe Biden assumes office next year.
Welcome home, Jonathan Pollard (Charles O. Kaufman, Israel Hayom) Relative to commonplace hacking today and undetected cyber violations, one thing is clear – Pollard no longer presents a danger to the world.
Israel’s Five Betrayals of Jewish Spy Jonathan Pollard (Yossi Melman, Haaretz+) The U.S. decision not to extend restrictions against Jewish American spy Jonathan Pollard is the correct one. Israel now has the chance to do likewise for Mordechai Vanunu. An epilogue to the affair that shook Israel-U.S. relations in the 1980s.
A saga that tested US-Israel relations (Prof. Abraham Ben-Zvi, Israel Hayom) Israel's refusal to fully cooperate with the FBI on the Jonathan Pollard investigation only led to greater suspicions.
Discovering peace in Dubai (Ben-Dror Yemini, Yedioth/Ynet) A visit to UAE second city was an experience of welcome embrace; I have been to a great many encounters with academics and students around the world but have never experienced such a wave of empathy.
The Pros and Cons of Normalization Between Israel and Qatar (Michael Herzog, Haaretz+) Qatar is often mentioned as a worthy target for Israel’s efforts to normalize relations with the Arab world. But beneath the Qatari honey is a hornets’ nest.
*Former PM Olmert: 'For Israel's sake, I hope Pollard stays in NY'
In interview with Maariv newspaper, Ehud Olmert cautions against celebrating convicted spy Jonathan Pollard's planned arrival in Israel, which he says could harm US-Israel ties. "I prefer, with all due respect, for Pollard not to make aliyah. We don't owe him anything, sorry. He was an American spy who worked for a lot of money. This was not some Zionist volunteer who sacrificed his life," he says. (Maariv and translated in Israel Hayom)
“Benny Gantz, is the decision to establish a submarine investigation committee a political decision?” Gantz: “There is no doubt that a political connection can be found to this. I told the Prime Minister I was not trying to get him”
For half a year they have served side by side in the government. The Prime Minister and the Alternative Prime Minister. After a year of political upheaval with three election campaigns, Netanyahu and Gantz joined forces and promised a unity government in favor of a battle against corona. Half a year has passed, the corona has not been been defeated, nor has unity been achieved. A moment after he announced the establishment of an "investigation committee" into the (corruption) submarine affair - perhaps the most explosive issue in his complex relationship with Binyamin Netanyahu, Benny Gantz speaks. In an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth, he first refers to the decision he made, how it may affect the integrity of the government and its relationship with its leader, and also talks about the Kahol-Lavan crisis with Justice Minister Nissenkorn over the hidden appointment deal (with Likud), the heating up of the situation (with Gaza) in the south and more. (Interviewed by Yuval Karni in Yedioth Hebrew/Ynet Hebrew)
Yedioth: Likud claims that you are acting for political motives and dragging Israel into elections.
BG: “They will say about everything that it is a political matter. Tell me, why is there no budget [Likud refuses to pass one - OH] - because there is no need or because it is political? Why there are no appointments [Likud refuses to agree - OH] - because there is no need or because it is political? Why there is no orderly government work - because there is no need or because it is political ? The state needs one of two options: either a budget and a functioning government or to go to the polls. Here I say to you out loud: I think Israel needs a budget and a functioning government. I will continue with all the tools at my disposal to achieve a budget and a functioning government or we will go to the polls.”
Yedioth: Does this mean that you will support the dissolution of the Knesset and early elections even before December 23?
BG: “In the situation we are in, when there is hardly a government meeting and issues of the size of a stamp are put on the agenda - so what country is this? Which government is this? I am not willing to take responsibility for a dysfunctional government. The state is working on a small flame today. Netanyahu is thinking first about [his] trial. It’s chaos.”
Former minister Haim Ramon: "If there is a God, he probably supports the settlers"
The former minister of justice spoke with Erel Segal and Yariv Oppenheimer to mark the 15th anniversary of the formation of the Kadima party, and compared the party he founded with what is currently happening in the Kahol-Lavan party. “Sometimes I come and say, I'm probably a free man, but if there is a God he probably supports the settlers.” (103FM/Maariv)
103FM: This week, 15 years ago, the Kadima party was formed, which created a "big bang" in Israeli politics and became the first ruling party other than the Likud or Labor. The party then collapsed and senior members of it were convicted of corruption.
HR: The centrist parties have people from the right and from the left…they have the desire to separate from the Palestinians. There are those on the right who say our partners are problematic, we should not wait until they are kind enough to make peace with us, and until then the trends that are bad will continue to exist, and I am talking about the political issue. There is a similar thing in the economic matter as well but I will leave it at that. In the political issue we want to say goodbye to the Palestinians, not because we want to do something good for them, but because we want to do what is good for the Jews. That’s Kadima. It rose on this basis, when Arik Sharon during his time as prime minister on behalf of the Likud did two unilateral moves with the (intention) of separation: the construction of the (separation) fence, which both right and left opposed, and the unilateral disengagement from Gaza, which both right and left opposed. This was the main motto, and when we went on to win the 2006 election, we announced afterward, not in advance, that there would be a disengagement (withdrawal from settlement) which Olmert called a gathering inward, and he announced it after the election and not before. That is the motto of a centrist party: it deals with separation from the Palestinians from a point of view first of all - what is good for the Jews.
103FM: Is Kahol-Lavan a centrist party?
HR: Kahol-Lavan is nothing. Even in the election campaign, it dealt with only one issue - Netanyahu's personality, Netanyahu's corruption, and in all of these issues it did not deal with any ideological issue, certainly not political. As (journalist) Abramovich said, it is a Likud without indictments. That’s Kahol-Lavan in general. It did not have an ideological union and we see that now.
103FM: Maybe that's part of Kadima's mistake? The question is not just Palestinians, but about settlements. The word is whether you are for or against.
HR: Kadima went to the polls and announced that it would gather inward. What was the gathering? The idea was to evacuate-compensate everything beyond the settlement blocs, and annex all the blocs, which I think then was 250,000 people, and 65,000 people beyond the blocs. I did polls and checked how many would agree and how many would not. What was the main idea in Gaza? Stop controlling two million Palestinians in order to reduce the demographic risk and the transformation of the State of Israel from the Jewish state into a bi-national state. The right-wing won much of the battle for the settlements as soon as people like me came and said that all the settlement blocs, that at the time we opposed, i.e. Ma'ale Adumim and Gush Etzion - all of these were inside the fence, inside the fence map of Kadima - and we said 'we will annex them to the State of Israel'. Over this we will negotiate.
103FM: Who made Kadima disappear from the political map?…Who is responsible for its complete failure?
HR: The first blow to Kadima was the death of Ariel Sharon. Then came the Second Lebanon War, which greatly undermined (Ehud) Olmert's status, then came the investigations, and then came Ehud Barak, who twice gave blows. Once, when he was the one who, unfortunately, led Olmert to resign even before there was a police recommendation, in the midst of (peace) negotiations (with the Palestinians), which I do not know if they would have borne fruit or not, but they were serious. And again after the 2009 election when we reached an agreement on rotation between Bibi and (then-Kadima chairwoman, Tzipi) Livni, 2/3 instead of 1/3. Before that there was Livni's lack of political experience: Ehud (Olmert) had resigned and (Livni) failed to form a government after the election and at the last minute (Ehud) Barak joined Bibi and Bibi fled the yet unsigned (peace) agreement. These were a series of blows, natural or not. But (this was) a party that came out of nowhere and became a ruling party. Sharon came at a certain moment and realized that parting from the Palestinians is the most important thing for our future as the Jewish state. And, unfortunately, the left, the right and the center have forgotten that."
Prepared for APN by Orly Halpern, independent freelance journalist based in Jerusalem.