News Nosh 12.30.20

APN's daily news review from Israel - Wednesday December 30, 2020

Quote of the day:

"The main question that will guide [voters] is whether to vote for those who deceived them only a little and to distance those tainted by serious crimes; whether to grant another trial period to someone who promises that this time he will behave differently, who isn’t a habitual criminal and who promises that he won’t steal the votes of the electorate – or perhaps it’s better to hand the victory to a known criminal, who can’t surprise us.
--Journalist Zvi Bar'el in today's Haaretz+.

Breaking News:
Former Jewish American Spy Jonathan Pollard Lands in Israel
Jonathan Pollard, who served 35 years in prison, arrived on board a private jet and was greeted by PM Netanyahu at Ben-Gurion International Airport and received Israeli ID card. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)

Front Page:


  • (Tel-Aviv Mayor) Huldai announced he is establishing a new party: (Justice Minister) Nissenkorn will be number 2
  • (Defense Minister) Gabi Ashkenazi is expected to announce he is leaving Kahol-Lavan and won’t run in elections
  • The divorce and its punishment // Yossi Verter
  • Some half million Israelis got vaccinated; People returning from abroad won’t be required to enter a corona quarantine hotel
  • Rabbis instructed to get vaccinated, but many in the ultra-Orthodox community are still hesitating
  • State consulted with organizations against foreigners over medical insurance for children of asylum seekers
  • Member of judicial forum that Attorney General consulted with over Netanyahu’s cases: “The goal was to exert influence”
  • Decade since the Egyptian revolution, the dreams of the people shattered under the rule of a more violent tyrant than Mubarak // Khaled Diab
  • Do a restart // Ehud Barak writes that parties that are not aligned with Netanyahu must unite to remove Netanyahu
  • Gantz's damages // Sami Peretz on how Gantz ruined the reputation of the IDF being a place from which prime ministers are developed
  • Mr. Rating - After shaping prime time Israeli TV, Yoav Tzafir only wants to provide escapism to a sad country
  • At the last minute, ultra-Orthodox MKs managed to squeeze out hundreds of millions (more) shekels in budget allocations

Yedioth Ahronoth

  • We need more than this // Sima Kadmon (Hebrew)
  • (Side by side photos of Kahol-Lavan leader Benny Gantz and Tel-Aviv Mayor-turned-politician speaking behind podiums)
  • Gantz: “A day hasn’t passed in which Netanyahu looked at your interests” (Hebrew)
  • Huldai: “We got used to broken. To division. To lies. I refuse to get used to it”
  • 2020 Year of Corona: Our lost children // Chen Artzi-Srur on the high price Israeli students are paying for being stuck to a screen under social distancing
  • The vaccination superpower: Half a million already got first dose of vaccination in Israel

Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)

  • The divided camp - Dismantling of Kahol-Lavan continued yesterday
  • Dismantling and assembly // Ben Caspit
  • In the shadow of the (corona) restrictions: The infection rate rises
  • The muscles of Hamas

Israel Hayom

Top News Summary:
Kahol-Lavan continued to be dismantled as Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn joined the new party that Tel-Aviv mayor Ron Huldai announced and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi was expected to retire from politics. Meanwhile, corona infection rates rose and mass numbers of elderly Israelis got vaccinated making the top stories in today’s Hebrew newspapers.

Also in the news, Gaza militants fired rockets into the sea in their first joint exercise in order to test their preparedness for any future confrontation with Israel. Maariv called it ‘flexing muscles.’ According to some of the articles, “media reports” said the drill was organized “by the militants' sponsors in Tehran” to demonstrate risks Israel could face if Iran comes under U.S. or Israeli attack before the end of the Trump Administration. However, none of the articles could point to which ‘media reports.' Nor could they substantiate that Iran was the sponsor of all the militants or that the exercise was organized by Iran.

Also making news, but not as big of news had it been Palestinians, hundreds of pro-settler nationalist religious Israelis threw stones and beat police officers (see VIDEO and VIDEOS) at the second protest in a week against the death of Ahuvia Sandak, who was killed when fleeing police who were chasing his car after he and other settlers allegedly threw stones on passing Palestinian cars. Police detained or arrested 34 people, according to Maariv. Acting Police Commissioner Moti Cohen called the violent rioting “improper and unrestrained Conduct" that should be condemned.

Elections 2021:

  • Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai announces new party - 'The Israelis' - Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn joining Mayor Ron Huldai's party after exit from Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan party. Huldai says party will work to safeguard democracy, promote social reforms, care for small businesses, women and minority rights, oppose religious coercion and West Bank annexation. (Ynet and Haaretz+)
  • Gantz: End of Netanyahu's political career - Blue & White's greatest achievement - Blue & White leader directs his slings and arrows at PM at the launch of his electoral run as head of the centrist party, projecting lose for the incumbent in the upcoming election. (Ynet)
  • Gantz asks Nissenkorn to resign as justice minister; Foreign Minister expected to leav ahead of election - Blue & White hits out at Nissenkorn after defecting to Tel Aviv Mayor Huldai's yet-to-be-formed party; FM Ashkenazi set to announce temporary hiatus from politics ahead of the upcoming general vote. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
  • Gantz Says His Party Will Join anti-Netanyahu Alliance After Election - Defense minister says he intends to lead his party again in Israel's March election ■ Speech follows justice minister's departure from Kahol Lavan to join Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai's new party. (Haaretz+)
  • Israel’s Protesters Dream About the Day After Netanyahu but Battle Complacency and Fatigue - Some have concluded that now is the time to enter politics and are stressing transparency, integrity, the principles of the Declaration of Independence and a clear voice for women. (Nir Hasson, Haaretz+)

Corona Quickees:

Interestingly, Maariv reported Tuesday that Israelis are moving back to Israel due to corona and their desire to return to their roots at this difficult time and Haaretz+ reported today that immigration to Israel of new immigrants dropped 40%.

  • Israel surpasses 5,000 new coronavirus cases for second day in row - With 97,395 tests conducted Tuesday, contagion rate climbs to 5.7%; Out of 40,929 patients battling the disease, 609 are in serious condition, with 154 connected to ventilators; death toll stands at 3,292; more than 650,000 Israelis already receive first dose vaccine. (Ynet)
  • Israel orders end to mandatory hotel quarantine for travelers - Israeli nationals returning from abroad will be tested immediately for COVID and sent to self-isolate at home instead; according to data, more than half of arrivals skirted order and sent home. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
  • Will drive-through ballots be Israel's solution to pandemic-era voting? - Voters will pull up to a station, a ballot box will be rolled up to their window, and they then present their ID and pick a candidate without having to step outside. (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
  • Israeli Officials Concerned Over Low Inoculation Rate Among Arabs - Sources say reason behind low figures includes Arab society's wariness of the Israeli establishment. (Haaretz+)
  • Iran Begins First Human Trial of Locally Developed COVID-19 Vaccine - Authorities hope the vaccine, which uses a less advanced technology than Pfizer, Moderna models, will ease the coronavirus outbreak that ravaged the country. (Agencies, Haaretz)

Quick Hits:

  • Israeli settlers fencing Palestinian land in the northern Jordan Valley in a bid to steal it – activist - Israeli settlers have been active since early Tuesday morning in fencing a large tract of Palestinian land east of Khillet Makhoul village in the northern Jordan Valley in a bid to eventually steal it and claim ownership, according to a local rights activist. (WAFA)
  • Israeli occupation demolishes structures in south of the West Bank, clash with local residents - Israeli occupation forces Tuesday demolished a house and two 300-square-meter depots owned by local resident and located near town of Yatta and near Israeli settlements Susiya and Avigal. Forces clashed with local residents who confronted the demolitions. (WAFA)
  • Christmas Tree Set on Fire in Israeli Arab Town, the Third in a Week - Two Christmas trees were set on fire in Sakhnin on Saturday. Catholic church filed complaint. Police investigating all three cases as arson. (Haaretz+)
  • East Jerusalem Palestinians Petition Top Court Against Israel’s Absentee Property Unit - Israel's Custodian for Absentees’ Property says only serves interest of its properties’ legal owners. But Palestinians claim it uses unclear procedures, arbitrary decisions to facilitate settlers’ groups. Properties that belonged to Jews before 1948 remain in hands of Jewish owners or of the custodian, if are unknown. But, assets that were under Palestinian ownership before 1948 were automatically transferred to the state. (Haaretz+)
  • Court orders AG to produce written authorization for PM's probes - In a decision that could have significant political ramifications, the Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday ordered prosecutors to hand over Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit's authorization for police investigations into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Israel Hayom)
  • Attorney General's Secret Meetings on Netanyahu Meant ‘To Exert Influence’, Legal Scholar Says - Prof. Yedidya Stern says he chose the group of legal experts who secretly advised the attorney general before Netanyahu was indicated, with some of the participants known to be critical of the prosecution. (Haaretz+)
  • Israel Press Council: Yedioth must suspend publisher pending (Netanyahu’s) corruption trial's end - The Israel Press Council's Ethics Board on Tuesday ruled that Yedioth Ahronoth must suspend its publisher, Arnon Mozes, over the fact that he is facing criminal charges in Case 2000, for which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also facing trial. (Israel Hayom)
  • After major UAE investment, owner of Jerusalem soccer club confronts its 'racist image' - Beitar Jerusalem is the only major Israeli soccer club never to have signed an Arab player. Moshe Hogeg saw an 'opportunity to buy this club and to fix this racist problem. And then I could do something that is bigger than soccer.' (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Driver jailed for 9 years for (accidental) killing 8-year-old boy on Yom Kippur - Amir Abu Laben also must pay NIS 250,000 to Itay Margi’s family for 2019 death [when his car hit Margi who was on his bicycle - OH], which he caused while selling drugs. Judge: ‘The circumstances of the crime… are most grave.’ (Times of Israel and Maariv)
  • Anti-asylum Seeker Activist Charged With Invasion of Tel Aviv Preschool - Police file indictment against Sheffi Paz and two others, alleging that they broke into a preschool, humiliated children, spray painted hate slogans near schools, and more. (Haaretz+)
  • Honduras becomes 50th country to join Parliamentary Israel Allies Caucus - The Central American country joins a network that mobilizes support for Israel based on shared Judeo-Christian values, a movement that the Israel Allies Foundation calls "faith-based diplomacy." (Israel Hayom)
  • Report: Yemeni official warns against 'any stupid action by Zionist regime' - Iranian media cites an official with the Foreign Ministry of the Yemeni National Salvation Government as threatening Israel after IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman tells a Saudi news website that Israel is monitoring Tehran’s movement in the region over its involvement in Iraq and Yemen. (Israel Hayom)
  • Amos Gilboa, analyst and ex-head of top IDF intelligence unit, dies at 81 - Amos Gilboa, a prominent defense analyst and a former head of the Research Department, one of the most central units of the Israel Defense Forces Military Intelligence Directorate, died at aged 81. Gilboa participated during his service in talks on the separation of powers agreement between Israel and Syria in 1974. In recent years, he wrote an opinion column in Maariv. (Maariv and Times of Israel)
  • Renowned Israel Hayom photographer (of settlers) Miri Tzachi dies - Tzachi was most renowned for her wonderful depictions of everyday life in Judea and Samaria. PM Netanyahu: Miri had an extraordinary talent for capturing moments and people with her lens. President Rivlin: She will always be in my heart. Yamina leader Bennett: Miri was a special soul. (Israel Hayom)
  • Israeli students develop system to prevent friendly fire incidents - As part of a hackathon competition hosted last week by the Jerusalem College of Technology, the team members built a system capable of distinguishing between friend and foe and telling the soldier in real-time, whether he is aiming at an enemy or not. (Israel Hayom)
  • U.S. sold ambassador's home in Israel for $67 million, record shows - The Herzliya house, which appears to be the most expensive single residence ever sold in Israel, was allegedly bought by Netanyahu and Trump ally Sheldon Adelson, [who is publisher of pro-Netanyahu daily 'Israel Hayom' - OH] (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Palestinians rights groups slams DJ’s arrest over mosque party - Head of one organization says Sama Abdulhadi received permission from PA to hold dance event at Nabi Musa, slams arrest as 'not logical', while another says 'arbitrary' step was aimed at satisfying section of local opinion. (Agencies, Ynet)
  • Lebanese PM slams 'diabolical' move to charge him over Beirut port blast - Diab describes being singled out and charged while others knew more, insists the investigating judge must go through parliament to question him further, now that he has been charged. (Agencies, Ynet)
  • House Democrats sign letter calling on Biden to 'swiftly' rejoin Iran nuclear deal - A group of 150 Democrats in the US House of Representatives has signed a letter calling on US President-elect Joe Biden to "swiftly" re-enter the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. (Israel Hayom)

Could crippled Left still outrun Likud? (Mati Tuchfeld, Israel Hayom) An alliance of Labor, former Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelach, Blue and White, Meretz, Yesh Atid, and the Israelis party would ensure they all make it past the electoral threshold, but it also guarantees internal fighting as each of the parties tries to make it to the finish line as the largest party in the bloc.
Why Did the Right Win the Jackpot? (Stav Shaffir, Haaretz+) Only one thing is clear: 2020 demonstrated that liberal ideas - regarding Israel’s health system, diplomacy with Arab countries, attitude toward the environment and that it’s possible to triumph over populist leaders - were winners, but the right took the jackpot. How did that happen? There’s a layer of mold stuck on the veteran left-wing parties. With their refusal to renew themselves and battle with the right, they have lost the confidence of the public. Only this week the Knesset Finance Committee transferred millions of shekels to religious and settler projects; this is election bribery…The right has actually rejuvenated itself, but from an evolutionary perspective it’s moving backward: From Menachem Begin and his concern for the weak and the disenfranchised, it is now running on the platform of power, money and status. The settlers, who were being perceived as delusional and detached, now have a new face from Ra’anana [Naftali Bennett] to conquer the mainstream. Netanyahu’s rhetoric has changed, adopting the fascist populism that’s spreading abroad.
Israel's Left is on its last legs (Dina Dayan, Israel Hayom) The Left never really worked on presenting an alternative. Quite the opposite, anyone who has tried promoting a new, more relevant, more realistic agenda has been silenced.
We have never experienced such an election campaign, where everything is open, everything is possible (Ben Caspit, Maariv) The left is mixed with the right, which will be tucked into the center of the center, which disguises itself as the right, in order to oust Netanyahu at all costs. The only thing Israel is doing faster than vaccines is the formation of parties.
A ‘Dirty Trick’ – or a Crime? (Haaretz Editorial) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vehemently denied any connection to an alleged plot to embarrass the judges in his trial by recording one of their relatives, as reported last week on Ilana Dayan’s investigative television show “Uvda” (“Fact”). Dayan’s evidence came from a secret video recording of attorney Ariel Roth, a partner of Netanyahu’s defense attorney Amit Hadad discussing it with a businesswoman (later identified as Orit Greenberg).
The next election should be over the question: Yes, Bibi or No, Bibi (Avraham Tirosh, Maariv) Perhaps it is time to discuss the possibility of limiting the term of office of the Prime Minister of Israel - the man of action, the decision-maker and determinant, the director of state - to only two terms.
Everything is personal and that has a price (Karni Eldad, Israel Hayom) If our leaders have abandoned the ideas and values that are larger than all of us, how can we the people be expected to show solidarity, sacrifice, discipline, consideration for others?
After Three Elections, Two Lockdowns and Zero Budgets, Bibi’s Luck Is Running Out (David Rosenberg, Haaretz+) The Israeli economy can’t suffer such prolonged abuse. Netanyahu’s day of reckoning may finally be coming.
Huldai shouted, but he too did not believe in himself (Moran Azoulay, Ynet Hebrew) We'll see how many of you will vote for me and only then will I decide if I will take a personal risk. The mayor of Tel-Aviv is essentially saying he will not resign. And Gantz did not understand when to flee. Ron Huldai made many statements last night, but the most important of all was the one that was not said: his decision not to resign as the mayor of Tel Aviv, and to keep the chair until it becomes clear whether he will succeed in getting himself a senior position (in the goverment). It is clear to everyone that Huldai will not accept only serving as a Knesset member, and if the move he made yesterday does not bear fruit, he will remain in charge of the city.
Tel Aviv Mayor Just Proved What’s Wrong With Israel's Center-left Parties – All Six of Them (Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz+) The Israeli center-left doesn’t lack for voters, parties, or would-be leaders – but they have no vision, no plans and no compelling reason for anyone to vote for them.
We need more than this (Sima Kadmon, Yedioth Hebrew) At 76, Huldai seems to be pushing for time: his dream of becoming prime minister may not come true, but he intends to make an impact. Huldai launched last night in full force in national politics. As someone who has been in the Israeli public for so many years, it is hard to say that his belligerent, aggressive, somewhat reprimanding speech surprised anyone. This is the man…The man thinks what he says and says what he thinks. For better and for worse. In his speech he promised us a different leadership. He does not apologize, does not turn once to the right and once to the left. Honest, direct leadership, sometimes too direct.
*Israel's Upcoming Election – the Con Men's Reality Show (Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz+) We’ve reached the decisive stage in the Ninja competition of the 2021 politicians. A series of new, glittering, well-oiled and enthusiastic stars is beginning to flex its muscles before embarking on the obstacle course. But a closer look reveals that most of them are not really new. They are refugees from previous reality series, like Ofer Shelah “from Yesh Atid,” Gideon Sa’ar “a Likud refugee” and along with him members of the tribe – Yifat Shasha-Biton, Zeev Elkin, Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel. The spotlight is directed to the sidelines for a moment, illuminating the new discoveries who have passed the preliminary auditions, such as Ron Huldai and Gabi Eisenkot, and from the depths emerges the figure of Tzipi Livni, like the fairy godmother from a fairy tale…If we were talking about rank-and-file con men, TV presenter Haim Etgar would already be pursuing them and screaming, “How can you do that to unfortunate people, the disabled, the elderly, the handicapped?” but you can’t pursue ministers and lawmakers like that in the street. These are VIP con men. There is no clause that legally prohibits vote stealing, false promises to the public, fraudulent legislation, betrayal of a platform or political adultery...
Ahead of elections, Arab voters have a lot to think about (Jason Shvili, Israel Hayom) How can the Arab Israelis be expected to stop voting for the subversive Joint Arab List if the Zionist parties don't even pay any attention to them?
The Slow Fraying of Gantz's Party Has Turned Into a Panicked Flight (Yossi Verter, Haaretz+) Former TLV Mayor Huldai's new party steals Gantz's justice minister, and his thunder, as it aims to consolidate its position as a serious left-wing alternative to Netanyahu.
Can the Palestinians adjust to changing times? (Jonathan S. Tobin, Israel Hayom) The Arab states have moved on. The Israeli left is powerless. And no one expects the Biden administration to help. So why are the Palestinians acting as if they don't have to change?
This is the story of a hilltop youth. Don't push him (Tamar Asraf, Ynet Hebrew) With the old clothes, the enormous yarmulkes and side locks, they look violent and wild, but that's not the truth. They're a little lost. Their persecution by the police and society is pushing them to cross the red lines.

'When Israel, Arab nations unite, world should take notice'
Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan says perhaps Iran should be thanked for inspiring "this newfound bond." (Interviewed by  Shiryn Ghermezian in Israel Hayom)

Meretz MK Yair Golan: "The Israeli Zionist Left has at least 30 seats"
The member of Knesset spoke with Ben Caspit and Inon Magal about what is happening in the political arena and the integration of forces in the center-left bloc: "It is not certain that there are benefits to unification, but this is not the time for dramatic statements." (103FM/Maariv)
What’s the difference between Meretz and Huldai's party?
"The differences are differences in ideology, not very significant. We can sit together, the real difference is the path. We [in Meretz] strongly believe that the road is long and difficult, you have to carve into the mountain and you have to do it with a party that existed yesterday and will exist tomorrow."
Magal: In our poll this morning, says that if you unite the entire left - Yair Lapid [NOTE: Lapid is not left, he’s right-wing anti-Netanyahu - OH], Meretz party, Ron Huldai and MK Ofer Shelach - you’ll have 25 seats. This is the number of seats also if you don’t unite.
“I think at the moment it is not worthwhile to come out with too dramatic statements. There are at least 30 seats and in my opinion more.”
Caspit: Netanyahu fully connected with the agenda of the left-wing, giving up on annexation (of West Bank). He stole the agenda (of the left-wing).
"Netanyahu never gave up annexation. The dangerous annexation is what happens every day in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank].”
Magal: Do you believe in the fairytale of a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria?
“The greatest danger to the State of Israel is to annex 4-2.5 million Palestinians. I am surprised that you call yourself a member of the national camp."
Caspit: He's not, he's a Bibist.
Magal: I'm not right-wing, I'm a Bibist.

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