APN's daily news review from Israel - Wednesday February 10, 2021
You Must Be Kidding:
—Percent of illegal settlement outposts erected in the Jordan Beqaa Valley of the West Bank that are in an Israeli military firing zone and to which the military turns a blind eye. However, soldiers prevent Palestinian shepherds from even letting their cattle graze in the firing zone.**
- Cabinet approved: Education system will open gradually starting tomorrow
- [MAIN PHOTO:] Ultra-Orthodox protest in Jerusalem against closure of educational institutions. Ultra-Orthodox institutions operated also yesterday without enforcement of corona restrictions
- WHO: Source of virus not from Wuhan lab
- IDF Intel: Iran needs two years to build nuclear bomb from the moment it will decide to
- In (ultra-Orthodox) Bnei Brak municipality, they appointed an associate of (ultra-Orthodox) MK Gafni to a senior position without him fulfilling conditions
- US Secretary of State objected from Trump administration’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights
- The silence campaign of Haifa University: This is how it covers up sexual harassment complaints
- Silence in the right-wing // Uzi Baram on how Gideon Saar and Naftali Bennett make no complaint of Netanyahu’s alliance with the (Kahanist) Itamar Ben-Gvir
- Increased exposure - In an unprecedented decision, thousands of residents can together sue the polluting factories in the Haifa Bay
- The ministers approved: Schools and pre-schools will partially open tomorrow
- This is how the education system failed to prepare for the end of the lockdown (Hebrew)
- Stop trying // Nadav Eyal writes that the government was not trying to find new solutions to dealing with education post-lockdown
- Binyamin’s dream - 6-year-old Jewish Ethiopian whose family is waiting to immigrate to Israel and for him to get life-saving surgery, but is stuck because Ben-Gurion Airport is closed (Hebrew)
- The explosive front: Hezbollah is raising its head
- From the Emirates to Mars
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
- Returning to life - Health Ministry presented the full plan for exiting the lockdown
- “Iran will be able to reach a nuclear bomb in two years”
- Today: The subsidized medicine committee will publish its decisions
- The redeeming ring (of school bells)
- Only 56% of the teachers got vaccinated; Principals: “Chutzpah and irresponsibility”
- IDF Intel hints to US administration: There is time for diplomacy, Teheran should make an effort
- For the first time in the IDF: People with celiac will serve in combat units
- Six years since the death of Adel Biton
Top News Summary:
Israeli Health Ministry revealed its plan to gradually lift the coronavirus restrictions, but still provided no plan for most school children, IDF Intel released its annual intelligence assessment for the coming year declaring that Hezbollah is likely to initiate limited battles and that Iran could make a nuclear bomb within two years if it decided to do so - and Iran’s Intel minister said that if pushed Iran may indeed pursue a nuclear weapon, while US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US does not recognize the Trump administration’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights - making top stories in today’s Hebrew newspapers.
In other diplomacy news: Some of Israel’s Western allies rejected the decision of the International Criminal Court at the Hague to investigate Israel over war crimes due to the building of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Both Germany and Israel’s Attorney General also that the ICC has no authority over Israel because international law doesn't recognize a Palestinian state. The UAE has halted its funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNWRA), of which it is the current chair of the advisory committee, but insisted the decision is not related to newly established ties with Israel. [Israel has been pushing its allies to stop funding UNRWA and the Trump administration indeed cut funding, but the Biden administration is expected to restore it. And 81 British lawmakers called on Israel not to allow settler groups to evict four Palestinian families in E. Jerusalem. Scores of E. Jerusalemite Palestinians staged a rally in front of the Israeli District Court in Jerusalem Tuesday as it convened to hear an appeal against the forced eviction in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah and the transfer of their homes to Israeli settlers.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken got Netanyahu’s back hairs standing when he told CNN that the US does not accept at face value the Trump administration’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. When asked in the interview, Blinken downplayed the fact that Biden has yet to call Netanyahu.
Interestingly, while the newspapers reported that IDF Intel said that Iran is two years away from nukes, most of the papers did not note that the assessment is based on whether Iran decides to make nukes. Meaning, that the IDF has made public that Iran has not yet decided to do so - something that contradicts what Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and others have been saying for years. Moreover, the papers did not mention that numerous intel assessments have given dates to Iran’s achievement of nuclear weapons and those dates have all passed - possibly because they didn’t mention that Iran had never decided to do so. In rare remarks, Iran’s Intel Minister said Iran might pursue nuclear weapons if it is pressured by if crippling international sanctions. Insisting that until now Iran’s nuclear activities were for civilian purposes, that could change, he said. “If a cat is pushed into a corner - it could act differently than a free cat,” said Minister Mahmoud Alavi. (Also Maariv) Moreover, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi ‘advised’ US President Joe Biden to “learn a lesson after noticing that 42 years of pressures and threats against Iran by former US administrations failed to force the Iranian nation into submission,” Salehi said, adding, "We are telling the US that instead of confrontation, it should also test interaction, which of course should be based on balance.” On Monday, Iran filed complaints against Israel in the UN, accusing Israel ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan of “false allegations regarding Iran's nuclear program” and accused IDF Chief of Staff Avi Kochavi of “war mongering” in a recent speech he made (in which he suggested Israel would attack Iran).
Also on Tuesday, IDF Intel said it does not expect a large-scale war with Hezbollah in the coming year, but likely the initiation of more limited rounds of violence. No wonder that theIsraeli army just began a two-day military drill on the Israel-Lebanon border. And a day earlier, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz threatened to strike Lebanon if Hezbollah attacks Israel. Regarding the Gaza Strip, the assessment was that a continued economic deterioration in the Strip could lead to an escalation in the south.
POLL: Meretz Doesn't Have Enough Votes to Make It Into Knesset; Netanyahu within reach of 62-seat coalition
Kan 11 News survey finds prime minister's coalition is spurred on by the far-right Religious Zionism party, while Gantz's Kahol Lavan scrapes over the threshold for entering the parliament in the March election, Kan poll finds. (Haaretz and Israel Hayom)
Election Panel Orders Netanyahu to Remove Campaign Ad With Soldiers - Israeli political parties are barred by law from using the military in their campaign advertising. (Haaretz+)
- Israel to Reopen Some Schools Thursday, Grades 11 and 12 Only in Two Weeks - Preschools through fourth grades will reopen in areas with low COVID infection rates, second stage of leaving COVID lockdown, more reopenings expected to start at the end of the month. (Haaretz)
- Israel sees lowest virus infection rate at 7.8%, lowest in 4 weeks - Health Ministry says despite promising contagion numbers, the tally of serious cases remains at over 1,000 and 35 patients passed away on Tuesday alone; meanwhile, 24.13% of Israelis already received both vaccine doses. (Ynet)
- Health Ministry backs reopening gyms, malls and museums in 2 weeks - Virus czar presents the outline during a cabinet meeting, where ministers unanimously approved reopening of schools in municipalities with low-to mid-level infection rates; country set to full reopen by March 3, just 20 days before elections. (Yedioth/Ynet)
- Contractors urge Israel to vaccinate 65,000 Palestinian construction workers - Association writes to deputy health minister, arguing that movement between Israel and West Bank creates COVID risk; move can be funded by tax paid by employers, employees. (Times of Israel)
- Important for Palestinians to Receive More COVID-19 Vaccines, U.S. Official Says - State Department official praises Israel’s decision to give 5,000 vaccines for Palestinian health care workers last week, says more are needed in the coming weeks. (Haaretz+)
- Culture, tourism industries plan to open, defying COVID restrictions - Industry leaders bash government for its inaction amid prolonged lockdowns that devastated businesses, say service will be given to vaccinated citizens, those showing negative coronavirus test and children under 16. (Ynet)
- Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox lockdown protesters clash with police in Jerusalem - Rioters opposed to virus restrictions burn trash bins, throw stones at officers, who disperse crowd with water cannons. (Times of Israel)
- Hundreds of Asylum Seekers, Migrant Workers – and Nuns – Flock to Tel Aviv for COVID-19 Vaccine - Vaccination center in southern part of city, which is home to large migrant community, dispenses doses to dozens of people, including migrant workers from Philippines, Moldova and Nigeria, as well as Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
- Israel, Greece sign mutual tourism pact for citizens vaccinated against virus - Greek PM welcomes initiative that would allow 'Israeli tourists the opportunity to spend their holiday in Greece without any restrictions' and PM says 'will allow us to reopen the economy, but carefully.' (Yedioth/Ynet)
- The World's Most Vaccinated Country: How Israel Is Preparing to Lure Back Tourists - Holy sites, beaches, locals are vaccinated against COVID-19: The local industry is strategizing how to get visitors back, but the future is murky. (Haaretz+)
- Israeli cyber industry records 70% growth in investments during pandemic - With many businesses forced to move their activity online, cybercriminals step up their actions against the vulnerable targets, in turn prompting potential victims to seek more security, with 25% of all global investments in cybersecurity going to Israel. (Ynet)
- **Israeli soldiers expel Palestinians while letting settlers stay, military documents reveal - Documents obtained from the IDF show Palestinians are expelled from Jordan Valley firing zones while settlers are left alone. (Haaretz+)
- 'You're not Israelis, you're Arabs': Settlers and soldiers expel family having a picnic - The Arab family, all Israeli citizens, was picnicking at a site near Ramallah, not far from an outpost, when settlers harassed them and called the army. (Haaretz+)
- Israeli troops shoot, injure Palestinian worker near Jenin - Israeli soldiers shot a 50-year-old man, from Tulkarm, in the foot near the separation barrier in the town of Barta'a as he was trying to cross after returning from his workplace inside Israel. (WAFA)
- Israeli girl, 14, lightly injured as car attacked in West Bank - Paint bottles thrown at vehicle near Tekoa settlement; teen suffers facial injuries, taken to Jerusalem hospital for treatment. (Times of Israel)
- Israeli settlers uproot 50 olive trees near south Hebron hills - Settlers from the illegal Israeli settlement outpost Havat Maon uprooted some 50 olive trees belonging to Rabei family near at-Tiwani village, east of Masafer Yatta. (WAFA)
- Israel Police let people file complaints online. But not if you're Palestinian - Online filing was made available to minimize crowding at police stations during the coronavirus crisis. But Palestinians can't access the system, even though Israel Police serves them too. (Haaretz+)
- Palestinian Detainee Faces Serious Coronavirus Complications - Ayman Seder, 54, who was taken prisoner 26 years ago, was only recently moved to the medical center despite the serious deterioration in his health and various complications. (IMEMC)
- Ahuvia Sandak protest activists handcuffed themselves to the doors of the Unit for Investigating Police; Four were arrested - Activists prevented entry and exit Tuesday of the offices and now the police are on the scene. According to the protesters, their protest is against the cover-up of the investigation into the incident in which the teen was found dead. [Sandak was killed when his car turned over in a police chase in the West Bank after he and his friends were suspected of throwing rocks on passing Palestinian cars - OH] (Maariv+PHOTO)
- Israel's Top Court Extends ultra-Orthodox Draft Exemption Until After Election- The state had asked the court to extend the law that allows yeshiva students not to serve their military duty until July 6, after the next Knesset can handle it. (Haaretz+ and Times of Israel)
- NYT: Dershowitz was part of clemency effort for pedophile tied to Mideast talks - Report says US official discouraged idea of commuting George Nader’s 10-year sentence for child sex trafficking, while then-Israeli envoy Dermer was ‘noncommittal.’ (Times of Israel)
- Suspected Car Thief Breaks Into Israeli Airbase Housing F-35 Fighter Jets - It was later said that the suspect had fled the Nevatim Base by scaling two barbed-wire fences and an additional 16-feet fence. (Haaretz+)
- IDF soldier finds rare 1,800-year-old coin during military drill - Ido Gardi awarded certificate for good citizenship after finding the rare artifact; on its obverse, the coin bears the head of Roman emperor Antoninus Pius and the reverse shows the Syrian Moon-god MEN. (Ynet)
- Hamas and Fatah held reconciliation talks in Cairo Monday - Egyptian-brokered summit comes ahead of May and July elections, which many Palestinians believe is Abbas attempt to show off democratic credentials to Biden, with whom he wants to reset relations after tense period under Trump. (WAFA and Agencies, Ynet)
- Rival factions agree Tuesday on procedures for Palestinian elections - According to joint statement, groups agreed Tuesday on the formation of an 'election court' to rule in any legal election disputes; Fatah police to guard voting sites in West Bank and Hamas forces to monitor proceedings in Gaza. (WAFA and Agencies, Ynet)
- Palestinians launch postcodes in assertion of sovereignty - Currently, all international mail sent to or from the West Bank has to pass through Jordan or Israel. "In 2020, we recorded more than 7,000 violations of postal equipment on the Israeli side, whether by opening packages, seizing them or summoning their owners for investigation," said Imad al-Tumayzi, head of international relations at the Palestinian Post. Palestinians have complained that they are forced to use costly private courier services to send or receive parcels. (Agencies, Ynet)
- For first time in years, Egypt opens Gaza border crossing 'indefinitely' - Reopening comes on second day of talks between Fatah and Hamas in Cairo aimed at clearing the way for parliamentary and presidential elections in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, set to take place in May and July. (Agencies, Ynet)
- In historic flight, UAE spacecraft ‘Hope’ enters orbit around Mars - Gulf country celebrates Arab world’s first interplanetary mission after tricky maneuver succeeds; minister says achievement opens ‘broad range of possibilities.’ (Times of Israel)
- Paris adopts (disputed) IHRA definition of anti-Semitism - City becomes the first capital in the world other than Jerusalem to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition of the phenomenon. Critics say IHRA's definition stifles free speech. (Israel Hayom)
- Historians Lose Libel Suit in Polish Court for Book Saying Polish Man Handed Over Jews to Nazis - The Holocaust researchers, who have been victims of a smear campaign in Polish media, must publish an apology after niece of the man, a mayor during World War II, sued them. (Agencies, Ynet and Haaretz+)
Worried about The Hague? Make a settlement with the Palestinians (Prof. Daniel Friedman, Yedioth Hebrew) Israel's vital interest is to bring an end to the intolerable situation in which we have been controlling millions of civilian people for decades. This requires rethinking.
The ICC aids and abets terrorism (Yoav Limor, Israel Hayom) Even if no investigation is opened, the IDF will have difficulty operating against terrorists who use civilians as human shields when the threat of the ICC is hanging over its head.
Prosecuting Israeli officials could take years, but the ICC's chilling effect will be immediate (Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz+) The panic number has been disseminated again, lawyers are on alert and Israel has already reached out to friendly countries for advance information on arrest warrants. None of this is justified at present.
We only have ourselves to blame (Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, Israel Hayom) The radical Left and human rights groups are so steeped in hypocrisy that their glee over the ICC's ruling blinds them to the atrocities committed by Palestinian terrorists.
Israel has been given a warning by the ICC (Tova Zimuky, Yedioth/Ynet) The decision by the Hague on Friday at the moment only a psychological impact and is a public relations blow to the country, but experts warn it is no small matter and that any Israeli action on the West Bank may now be litigated.
Irresponsible ICC rulings could trigger further conflict
(Ron Soffer, Israel Hayom) International Criminal Court judges are not supposed to determine the fate of international conflicts, draw borders that aren't agreed upon by the sides and recognize the legal existence of states.
Biden should let the ICC do its job (Amjad Iraqi, 972mag) The White House is right in saying that Palestine is not a sovereign state — under the peace process, Israel and the U.S. made sure it couldn't become one.
ICC's ruling on Israel is baseless but dangerous (Eytan Gilboa, Israel Hayom) That the court delayed the announcement of its decision until after the US election provides additional proof it is a politicized, biased institution.
B'Tselem's 'Apartheid' Document Can Help Achieve a Two-state Solution (Dmitry Shumsky, Haaretz+) As long as it was customary to believe that unlike the military occupation beyond the Green Line, Israel proper had a democratic regime, one could take pleasure in the famous Haaretz op-ed by the late Moshe Arens a decade ago proposing that Israel offer citizenship to the Palestinians in the West Bank. I remember well that Arens’ piece was enthusiastically received by some leftists who support the creation of one democratic state between the river and the sea.
A bleak future awaits Middle East during Biden's term (Eldad Beck, Israel Hayom) With each speech, President Joe Biden makes it more evident that his administration is determined to follow in the footsteps of Barack Obama: forging new alliances with Iran and the Palestinians and disregarding America's longtime allies in the Middle East.
Trump is no longer here to defend Netanyahu, and the Biden administration has other plans (Ran Adelist, Maariv) The court in The Hague plus Joe Biden's term plus Netanyahu's disregardful conduct are definitely a good reason for some soldiers and civilians to start looking for lawyers for themselves.
Biden's policy diametrically opposed to Trump's ( Damian Pachter, Israel Hayom) In the eyes of Biden's more radical supporters, if you were an ally of "he who shall remain nameless," you would be wise to hide and brace yourself because the bell tolls for thee.
Biden Isn’t Calling Netanyahu. For Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen That’s Actually an Opportunity (Yossi Melman, Haaretz+) In the rift between the White House and the Prime Minister’s Office, the U.S. president aims to signal to Netanyahu: ‘You’re nothing special.’ While Israeli intelligence says Iran is two years from a bomb, the outgoing Mossad head hopes to be the point man.
The silence of the Israeli media's occupation lambs (Amira Hass, Haaretz+) Both print and electronic outlets are supporting the project of crowding Palestinians into Bantustans so that most of the West Bank will be annexed and the Jews will benefit from cheap real estate.
Israel must not ignore the powder keg on the northern border (Alex Fishman, Yedioth/Ynet) Hezbollah's attack on an IDF drone last week could have triggered a chain of events that led to a massive eruption on the Lebanese front; while neither side truly wants an escalation, just as in 2006, one could come out of nowhere.
Coronavirus Taught the World a Lesson in Limits of Intel Forecasting (Amos Harel,Haaretz+) Israel’s Military Intelligence sees Iran and Hezbollah as the year’s main challenges, but the coronavirus pandemic is bound to reshape the Middle East through 2021.
Iran, not the West, should be the anxious one (Yoav Limor, Israel Hayom) As opposed to the recent assessments emanating from Washington, the IDF's Military Intelligence Directorate believes there's still time to force Iran into an improved nuclear deal.
'Okay, but never again': How Israel Air Force sealed $9 billion U.S. arms deal (Avi Bar-Eli, Haaretz+) The defense establishment made an unusual legal maneuver to justify funding the purchase of F-35s and other air force hardware.
Netanyahu plays a double-header in court (Tova Tzimuki, Yedioth/Ynet) At his court hearing, Netanyahu's defense team tried to use any legitimate legal loophole to make his case, but these loopholes are a part of the same judicial system he is constantly attacking.
The annulment of Netanyahu's trial is the only way to restore the belief that we live in a fair regime (Meir Uziel, Maariv) The Netanyahu trial shows us the depth of our sickness. It is sad to see what happens when people are politically driven by emotions. There is no emotion more powerful than hatred, and there is nothing unimportant that becomes important like an ego struggle…Imagine: a man infiltrates an Air Force base where F-35s are stored. He is caught. He says, "Just not Bibi." He is released. "It was a legitimate protest," law and order authorities explain. And now for reality: this is the atmosphere in the days of the opening of the Prime Minister's trial. The main thing has long since been abandoned. Bibi hatred has become a veto issue over any other issue.
Is there anything left of what the state’s visionary wrote? (Dr. Orit Miller-Katab, Maariv) We replaced Binyamin Zeev Herzl’s vision of the productive state and its separation from religion with rising unemployment, the distribution of allowances [to ultra-Orthodox - OH] and the import of produce from abroad. It is time to return to the previous era.
Between Loujain al-Hathloul and Saudi-Israel relations (Smadar Perry, Yedioth Hebrew) Saudi human rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul is likely to be released from prison in three weeks. Two and a half years ago, she was captured by security forces, driving a car at the border crossing between Dubai and Saudi Arabia, and she was taken to prison. This was not the first time, but in the latter case, the authorities have insisted on accusing Loujain of spying for Iran and the Qatari principalities, receiving funds from international organizations and deliberately undermining national security. It has been three weeks since she was placed in solitary confinement, and Regent Muhammad bin Salman has announced allowing driving licenses for women. Contrary to expectations, he did not release Loujain, but rather the opposite: he sent a special investigation team to prison, which included his personal adviser, Saud al-Qahtani, to be present at the series of tortures that Loujain underwent in the interrogation room. By all accounts, Loujain, a laureate for the Nobel prize, the Sakharov Prize and a long line of international accolades she has already won, will go free. She refused to sign an early release letter, in which she would ‘clean’ the government emissaries from her torture. Two human rights organizations in Europe calculated the days they [sic] had already sat and the pardon and marked the end of February as the date of release. But it will not be a complete freedom: in the future, any offense that Loujain is suspected of committing will be immediately return her to long prison terms. In addition, she is not allowed to go abroad for the next five years. Her husband, who was forced to divorce her by order of the authorities, refused to marry another. She herself undertook not to engage in the affairs of her friends, the human rights activities left behind. It is worth noting: The new US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, called his Saudi counterpart Faisal bin Farhan on Tuesday. The conversation was matter-of-fact and focused on security matters. The American side reiterated that Saudi Arabia must immediately stop the attacks on the Houthis in Yemen. From the American angle this goes along with the new effort to harness Iran for negotiations. The Houthis fulfill Tehran's offense orders along the joint border of Yemen and Saudi Arabia, mainly against the oil fields and black gold deposits within Saudi Arabia. Loujain story is an example through which one can understand the delicate fabric of relations between Washington and Riyadh, and from there also with Israel. While the foreign ministers of the US and Saudi Arabia were talking to each other (Israel has not yet received an American call as of this writing), President Joe Biden has begun detailing his plans for Saudi Arabia. He announced the halt to arms shipments to Saudi Arabia, which his predecessor had promised to supply. That will be a serious blow to the Saudi army. And not only that: Biden also spoke about the terrible human rights situation. He himself has mentioned Loujain al-Hathloul on more than one occasion and his advisers summoned her brother, Walid, for a quiet conversation. This is where Israel comes into the picture: despite 40 years of acquaintance between them, Biden "plays the same voice" against Netanyahu. He is certainly talking about the possibility of opening a dialogue with Iran, along with the condition he presented Sunday - the cessation of uranium enrichment. Until the changeover in the White House, Saudi Crown Prince Bin Salman planned to trust Netanyahu to pave the way for him. He was even willing to bypass the leak on the secret meeting in the desert city of Naum. Now, all of a sudden, the picture has changed. The regent ordered to repel Israeli requests. Stay away. But the speech of Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi actually caught his attention. Suddenly there is someone to talk to about the Iranian issue. Bin Salman is sitting on the fence, waiting to see if Netanyahu will be elected again in two months.
Prepared for APN by Orly Halpern, independent freelance journalist based in Jerusalem.