News Nosh 03.04.14

APN's daily news review from Israel
Tuesday March 04, 2014

Quote of the day:
"Twelve years of slavery are needed in order to purchase an apartment in Israel, unless you live beyond the Green Line. It's not a movie, it's the reality." 
--Opposition leader and Labor Chairman Knesset Member Isaac Herzog called on israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu "to stop lying to the public" after statistics released yesterday showed 2013 made a 10-year high in settlement construction.**

Front Page News:
Yedioth Ahronoth
Israel Hayom
  • "We want peace, not a piece of paper"; Obama: Both sides will have to make compromises. PM: The Palestinians are not doing enough
  • Putin sending tanks, the West responds with talk
  • Race against the clock for plea bargain with Zaken: "My heart has broken over the last few days"
  • Another turn about in the (comedian) Yaron Berlad affair: The complainant is now suspected of blackmail
  • Threshold for elections to Knesset raised to 3.25%
  • Recommendation to narrow authorities of welfare workers
  • Oscar ceremonies: The winners, the losers and Ellen Degenris' historic selfie

Peace Talk Highlights:
The few sentences said by US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu before the start of their meeting together was today's top story in most of the Hebrew papers alongside the data revealed that settlement housing construction more than doubled in 2013 compared to the previous year. Finance Minister and Yesh Atid party Chairman Yair Lapid sent a message of support for a framework agreement to Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with Meretz Chairwoman MK Zahava Gal-On and told her he would be willing to extend peace talks under certain conditions. Meanwhile, a US poll found that Americans would favor a one-state solution if the two-state solution fails.
Breaking with convention, the US and Israeli leaders presented their joint statements before the start of their meeting yesterday instead of at its end, noted Maariv/NRG Hebrew's Eli Bardenstein. Obama spoke first saying that "difficult decisions must be made" before the deadline of the peace talks and that a two-state solution is still possible." After him, Netanyahu spoke, blaming the Palestinians saying, “Israel has been doing its part and, I regret to say, the Palestinians have not.” He also repeated his call that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state and said, "Israeli citizens expect me to withstand the pressure and take care of state security." Ynet's Washington correspondent Yitzhak Benhorin wrote that an Israeli official said that Obama's interview with Bloomberg journalist Jeffrey Goldberg heightened tensions between the two.
Lapid expressed words of support for a peace agreement, addressing Netanyahu at his weekly faction meeting, NRG Hebrew reported. "The goal of the talks between Israel and the Palestinians is not to return home safely. Just because there are three or four rogue coalition MKs does not mean we should not go for a (peace) agreement. For that there are 19 ministers and Knesset members from the Yesh Atid party. We wish to say to the Prime Minister: You have political backing. A diplomatic agreement will ensure the existence of Israel as a Jewish state."

****One wonders who at the Central Bureau of Statistics made the decision to release the statistics on settlement construction just before the Obama-Netanyahu meeting. The number of settlement housing units that construction began on them in 2013 made a 10-year record high at a time when real estate prices inside Israel are soaring due to the lack of housing. Labor party Chairman MK Isaac Herzog said "Netanyahu can win the Oscar for lying to the public" because although he could bring real estate prices in Israel down, he chooses to fund settlements. "While Netanyahu meets with Obama, the truth behind his government is revealed in all its glory – a spike of more than twice in settlement construction.

Meanwhile, in Ramallah, Abbas hosted Meretz leader MK Zahava Gal-On, telling her that he was pessimistic about achieving a framework agreement because the latest draft US Secretary of State John Kerry showed him in Paris was unacceptable. However, he said, talks could continue if Israel made conciliatory gestures such as releasing more Palestinian prisoners beyond the 104 pre-Oslo prisoners or by freezing settlement construction. But "If the [U.S. drafted] framework agreement does not provide solutions to the core issues, I will not extend negotiations. I will lay my keys on the table and turn to international organizations," he said. Abbas stressed that he too faces strong opposition to continuing the peace talks from the Palestinian leadership. “I also have an opposition, not just Netanyahu,” he told Gal-On. On the issue of refugees, Gal-On quoted him saying, “I don’t want to destroy Israel and no refugee will return to Israel without Israel’s consent. But I expect Israel to provide a quota of refugees it will absorb each year."
A US survey found that American public support for a two-state solution is lukewarm: only 39% of respondents preferred a solution to the conflict that includes an Israeli and a Palestinian state side-by-side. Only 10% preferred Israel maintaining "occupation indefinitely" as a solution to the conflict. And were peace talks to collapse, most Americans would opt for a one-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict. More here.
Quick Hits:
  • **Settlement construction more than doubled in 2013 - Figures released by Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics mere hours before Netanyahu was due to meet with Obama in Washington show a 123% rise compared to the year before. (Haaretz+, Israel Hayom and Ynet
  • **Herzog: Netanyahu can win the Oscar for lying to the public - Labor party leader slams Netanyahu after release of statistics showing spike in settlement construction in 2013. Meanwhile, the settlers' Yesha Council said: "The solution to the surge in housing prices - construction in Judea and Samaria." (Ynet and NRG Hebrew)
  • Arab MKs to 'educate’ airport officials on humiliation in security checks - Knesset Public Petitions Committee chairwoman MK Adi Kol (Yesh Atid) also recommended airport authority officials meet Arabs who have been humiliated. Decision came after public outcry after Israeli Arab teacher was strip-searched at Eilat Airport. Airport Authority’s legal adviser claims Arabs treated no differently than Jews. (Haaretz+ and NRG Hebrew)
  • Bill threatening Arab representation in Knesset wins committee approval - Parties with less than 4 seats would be out; the Arab parties would have to merge to survive. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
  • Turkish Airlines flight lands in Iran with 20 Israelis onboard - Flight from Turkey to India makes emergency landing in Tehran after one of the passengers fell ill. (Yedioth, p.1/Ynet
  • Palestinian Ministry: Israeli forces arrested 31 Palestinian minors in second half of February - In a report, the Ministry of Information recorded the details of the arrests of 31 Palestinians between the ages of 13 and 18 in the Palestinian territories between Feb. 16 and Feb 26. (Maan
  • Israeli forces arrest woman en route to visit jailed husband in Israel - Maysoon al-Sweiti, 34, was on her way to visit her husband, who was transferred to Ramla prison clinic on Sunday because he was experiencing neurological complications after he was given the wrong medication. (Maan
  • One dead, two wounded in Air Force strike on Gaza - Army says it struck a team preparing to fire rockets into Israel. (Haaretz+ and Ynet and Maan
  • Annual AIPAC conference opens in Washington - State Secretary John Kerry, Sen. John McCain, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to address second day of annual America Israel Public Affairs Committee confab. (Haaretz+)
  • Kerry at AIPAC: Israel's security is our first priority - U.S. secretary of state voices support for diplomacy in Iran nuclear negotiations, peace talks with Palestinians. (Haaretz)
  • Police chief: There's no crime wave in Israel - Yohanan Danino bombards lawmakers with stats showing drop in serious crime. MK Moshe Feiglin: You're missing the elephant in the room. (Haaretz+ and Israel Hayom
  • 17 shots fired at imam's house in central Israel - Leader of Lod's largest mosque falls victim to violence sweeping the streets; no substantial damage or injuries reported. (Ynet
  • Canadian speed skater inaugurates Bethlehem women's gym - Women's participation in sports is still relatively unusual in Palestinian society, which encourages gender separation in much of public life. (Agencies, Haaretz
  • Middle East news website wins prestigious journalism award - International Press Institute says al-Monitor 'exemplifies the invaluable role that innovative and vigorously independent media can play.' (Haaretz)
  • Flight carrying Israelis forced to make stopover in Iran - Turkish Airlines flight makes emergency landing in Tehran so passenger can get medical treatment. (Haaretz+) 
  • Etihad Airways omits Israel from its official flight map - Etihad also teaches its flight agents to identify Israeli travelers by their 'accents and traits,' the BBC reported in 2010. (Haaretz
  • Belgian organizations protest settlements goods - Importing settlement products contradicts obligations under international law, groups say. (Haaretz)
  • As Israel boycott picks up steam, students at UC Davis offer new BDS course - The course, taught by pro-Palestinian student group, covers the history and tactics of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. (Haaretz
  • Gaza public workers: Hamas not paying salaries - Labor union says Hamas government has been paying partial salaries to its 46,000 workers. (Agencies, Ynet
  • Watch: The Gaza Strip as you've never seen it - Palestinian youths launched a small UAV into the air with a camera and filmed a bird's eye view of the city, perhaps as seen from IDF planes. (NRG Hebrew+VIDEO
  • U.S. casino magnate Sheldon Adelson makes Forbes' top 10 billionaires list - This is the first time since 2007 that the Jewish gambling magnate (who owns Israel Hayom newspaper) has made it to the top ten. (Haaretz)
  • 18 Israelis make "Forbes" 2014 Billionaires List - The richest Israeli is Eyal Ofer in 191st place with a fortune of $7 billion. He is followed by his brother Idan Ofer ranked 244 with $5.7 billion and Stef Wertheimer in third place at 267 with a fortune of $5.3 billion. (Globes)
  • Under threat, Syria's Christians sign accord with Islamists - While Christians opt for a medieval-style 'protection agreement' and tax over conversion or death, Assad bolsters standing as the preferred option in Syria. (Haaretz+) 
  • UN watchdog: Iran nuclear deal being implemented as planned - Iran struck a deal with the United States, France, Russia, Germany, Britain and China on November 24 to curb its nuclear program in exchange for some easing of sanctions, and it took effect on January 20. (Agencies, Haaretz)

Do Israelis love peppers more than they hate the occupation?
As the vegan movement in Israel grows, the dilemma of purchasing succulent West Bank produce grows with it. (Haaretz+)
Israeli corporations don't give to charity
Most NGOs in Israel rely on the government, or overseas donors. The report, based on a sample of such organizations, shows the Israeli philanthropic sphere is not very well developed, and organizations and charities base themselves mostly on funds from government ministries and local authorities to pay for their activities. (Haaretz+)

Obama's perfectly-timed ambush of Netanyahu (Barak Ravid, Haaretz+) Washington visit starts on sour note for PM, wrong-footed by Bloomberg interview in which Obama said it's Israel's responsibility to advance peace talks with Palestinians.
The last tango in Washington (Shimon Shiffer, Yedioth/Ynet) As long as settlement construction increases, one can understand why Palestinians are refusing to join Mideast peace dance and why Obama's remarks had a strong scent of despair.
Drop the force-feeding law (Haaretz Editorial) The government is trying to find roundabout ways to quell a protest. 
Obama the realist? (Elliott Abrams, Israel Hayom) The U.S. president's policies have weakened America's sway in the world, as our Arab and Israeli friends in the Middle East -- and more, recently, the Russians -- are all saying quite publicly.
Faced with the sum of all fears in Ukraine, Obama softens tone toward Netanyahu (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+) Despite harsh Bloomberg interview, Obama can’t afford to set Netanyahu on a warpath now, because 'life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans,' as John Lennon noted.
This isn't a new Netanyahu (Henry Siegman, Haaretz+) Yet again the experts have been proven wrong: There's no newly pragmatic Bibi, so perhaps the time for a UN Security Council-brokered peace has come.
Push for an interim deal (Dan Margalit, Israel Hayom) In a choice between Obama and Bennett, Netanyahu would be wise to pick Obama. 
Obama giving Netanyahu one last chance (Orly Azoulay, Yedioth/Ynet) White House has failed to find any signs indicating that Israel's prime minister really intends to make a move towards peace.
How close are Moscow, Kiev, and Jerusalem? (Seth Lipsky, Haaretz+) Will John Kerry's language in Ukraine echo U.S. Mideast approach? "Last chance the little nation has for peace, time is running out?" 
Fear and loathing in Neot Tzahala (Aner Shalev, Haaretz+) The fact that no one shot at the group home in Tel Aviv doesn’t erase the widespread prejudice in Israel against the weak and the different.’
Why hypocritical Israel has stayed silent on homophobic Uganda (Yonatan Berman, Haaretz) Although most Western countries have condemned the African state for its new, virulently anti-gay law, Israel has preferred to look the other way - at the asylum seekers it wants to send to Uganda.
Israel is neither good nor bad, it just is (Mira Sucharov, Haaretz+) Can Israeli-Palestinian conflict stakeholders move beyond hardened binaries to come up with creative solutions that respect the needs, fears and dreams of both sides?

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