News Nosh 3.31.21

APN's daily news review from Israel - Wednesday March 31, 2021

Note: News Nosh will be off for the rest of the Passover holiday and return on Monday April 5th.


Quote of the day:

"(I am) hopeful that the elected representatives will adhere to the people's demand for unusual alliances, cross-sectoral collaborations, and professional and dedicated work for the sake of all Israeli citizens."
--Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said that Israelis want their politicians to think and act out of the usual box when they make the next government.* 

Front Page:


Yedioth Ahronoth

  • Bennett’s compromise: Willing for Bennett to lead first (in a rotation government) (Hebrew)
  • Fear: Number of antibodies dropping after second dose
  • Heavy holiday traffic

Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)

  • Sa’ar to Lapid: Give up on your ego
  • Torch lighters: Rabbi Eitan Shenrav and Major Maor Cohen
  • Green country - For first time since the traffic light model, no communities are ‘red’

Israel Hayom

Top News Summary:
As the political system tries to find its way out of the knot it’s in, Gideon Sa’ar suggested to Yair Lapid to put aside his ego and let Naftali Bennett head the anti-Netanyahu camp and be the next premier. The Israeli newspapers celebrated that for the first time since September, there are no corona ‘red cities.’

And in other diplomacy news, Iran refused the Biden Administration offer to partially return to nuclear negotiations (also Maariv) and the Biden Administration, like the Trump administration before it, avoided the term ‘occupied Territories’ to refer to the West Bank and Gaza in its annual human rights report.

The upcoming Palestinian elections also made the Israeli news: jailed former Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti will be running on an independent list for parliament and Israel told the European Union that it won’t allow its observers to enter the country to be observers at the Palestinian election polling stations in Jerusalem, Maariv reported. However, During his recent visit to Europe, President Reuven Rivlin promised that Israel would not prevent elections in Jerusalem, Maariv reported. Moreover, the EU accused Israel of not granting visas to an exploratory delegation of observers to visit Jerusalem in advance of the upcoming Palestinian election.

Lastly, the 45th Land Day events were held in Israel and the West Bank yesterday.The marches held every March 30th mark the day in 1976 when Arab-Israeli citizens held a general strike and demonstrations in protest of the Yitzhak Rabin government’s decision to expropriate their lands in the Galilee. Israeli forces killed six citizens and wounded hundreds of others. Maariv and Yedioth both reported on the the event yesterday and both noted that some people held Palestinian flags and both newspapers avoided mentioning that it was the day that police killed six Arab Israeli citizens who were demonstrating on that day 45 years ago. Maariv noted that the march was “quiet and calm and passed without any disturbances.” Yedioth noted that Arab MKs participated including two from Ra’am, but chairman Mansour Abbas was in meetings. A new Israeli news website, Davar, also reported on the peaceful march. But, ‘Israel Hayom’ and Haaretz did not even mention the event.

Elections 2021: 
*Today President Reuven Rivlin received the final results of the elections and made an unusual statement: that voters want their elected representatives make “unusual alliances” and “cross-sectoral collaborations” to form a government coalition, suggesting including Arab parties in a coalition government and possibly left and right-wing or ultra-Orthodox and secular parties joining hands. On Monday, Rivlin will begin his meetings with party leaders and on Wednesday he will announce who he chooses to form the next government. Likud members slammed Rivlin for “meddling” in political affairs because he implied he would choose the candidate most likely to succeed in forming the next government and not the candidate who receives the most recommendations from fellow lawmakers. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been courting the Arab-Israeli Islamist party, Ra’am, which would would be a very “unusual” and “cross-sectoral” alliance. Today ‘Israel Hayom’ reported that a Ra’am official said the party “will support a Netanyahucoalition 'from outside.’”

Meanwhile, in the anti-Netanyahu camp, Yesh Atid party leader, Yair Lapid will meet with Ra’am leader, Mansour Abbas, on Thursday and hear what Ra’am’s demands are. But the question over who will lead the anti-Netanyahu camp still remains. New Hope party leader, Gideon Sa’ar, hinted to Lapid that he needed to “put aside his ego” and endorse Yamina party leader, Naftali Bennett, for prime minister in order to replace the current regime and avoid a fifth elections. Lapid answered that he would consider it, but called on the anti-Netanyahu parties to endorse him as prime minister in the meetings with Rivlin. According to Yedioth, Lapid agreed that Bennet would lead first in a rotation government. The other Arab party, the Joint List, will meet with Lapid on Thursday before it decides whoto recommend to Rivlin to be prime minister. Haaretz+ reported that “there is a growing sense, however, in the Joint List and the United Arab List, that a fifth round of Israeli elections is the most likely outcome." Kahol-Lavan’s Benny Gantz has already expressedtacit support for Lapid. Labor party and Ra'am party leaders also met to discuss the possibilities of forming a coalition.

Maariv reported that in the Likud party, they are waiting for a waiting for Netanyahu, “the magician,” to “pull an ace from his sleeve.” But reporter Matan Wasserman added that even if Netanyahu succeeds in getting the Ra’am party to give him support or if he succeeds in getting MKs from anti-Netanyahu parties to switch sides, the chances that the moves will bring about big changes that will lead to the magic number of 61 (mandates) are not high.”

Interestingly, Hadassa Fruman, the wife of the late Rabbi Menachem Fruman expressed her support for Ra’am’s chairman. “Mansour Abbas is a very special man,” she wrote in a Facebook post and said later in an interview with 103FM/Maariv.  Fruman explained: “He represents a moderate Islamic religious line. You could say he is pragmatic, but also much deeper.”

Corona-related Quickees:

  • Hamas, Israel to cooperate on plan to vaccinate 7,000 Gaza traders - In bid to kickstart Palestinian territory's struggling economy, Hamas regime greenlights outline for Qatar to fund purchase of 14,000 vaccine doses, which will then be administered at Erez border crossing by foreign medical teams. (Yedioth/Ynet)
  • Israel Detects New COVID Strain, but Says Vaccines Are Effective Against It - The COVID strain found in Israel has low prevalence and lacks any epidemiological significance, according to the Health Ministry. (Haaretz)
  • Netanyahu warns of vaccine shortfall, accuses Gantz of petty politics - "We will need millions more doses six months from now in order to protect your health and safeguard our economy," PM says in video address after Blue and White rival torpedoes cabinet vote. (Maariv and Israel Hayom)
  • Israel Buying 36 Million Vaccines as an 'Insurance Policy,' Top Official Says - Israeli COVID strain found, but vaccine effective against it ■ Sinai border crossing reopens after a year ■ Health Ministry, emergency services dispute leaves thousands of East Jerusalem Palestinian unvaccinated. (Haaretz)
  • Health officials butt heads over COVID vaccine efficacy, need for repeat jabs - Officials involved in procurement processes insist that if Israel does end up with a surplus of vaccine doses, it will be able to sell them to other countries, store them at a low temperature or postpone delivery altogether. (Israel Hayom and Ynet)

Quick Hits:

  • Israeli navy attacks Palestinian fishing boats off Gaza shore, damage one - Israeli navy attacked Tuesday Palestinian fishermen sailing three nautical miles off the northern Gaza shore and damaged one boat Tuesday. (WAFA)
  • Israeli forces infiltrate Gaza’s border, raze farmland - Israeli military tanks and bulldozers advanced several dozens of meters to the east of the city of Deir al-Balah on Wednesday, razed a large tract of farmland in the area and set up earth mounds. (WAFA)
  • 40-day Hunger Striking Detainee Moved For Hospital To Solitary Confinement - Despite his deteriorating health condition, the Israeli authorities transferred Imad Batran, 47, from Hebron,  who began a hunger strike 40 days ago, from Kaplan Israeli Medical Center to solitary confinement in Nitzan prison. He is among the hundreds of Palestinians suffering from Israel’s policy of administrative detention, jail without charge or trial. (IMEMC)
  • Israeli forces seal off ancient archaeological site near Nablus to stop settlers - Mayor of Sebastia, Mohammad Azem, said that a large unit of Israeli soldiers raided the town and proceeded to close the Sebastia site, preventing from Palestinians from accessing it, as dozens of settlers forced their way into the site. (WAFA)
  • Israeli settlers storm archeological site near Hebron - Dozens of settler, under military protection, forced their way into an ancient site  in As-Samu' town dating back to the Roman era, known as al-Burj, which translates to the “Tower,” where they performed rituals. (WAFA)
  • Seriously ill Palestinian detainee denied medical specialist access - Emad Rabay’a, 43, from Methaloon town near Jenin started facing a deterioration in his health in November of last year and was refused access to a medical specialist until February of this year. He was diagnosed with vasculitis and was again denied access to a medical specialist. (IMEMC)
  • Israeli Right-wing Group's Documents Implicating Leftist Activists May Have Been Forged - Documents released by right-wing Ad Kan organization, which aims to 'expose' groups it deems anti-Israel, have been determined to be forged or suspected as such by the Israeli police and court. (Haaretz+)
  • On the occasion of Land Day, Israel forcibly laid hands on more than 85% of the total area of historical Palestine - Israel, since 1948, laid hand over more than 85% of the total area of the lands of historical Palestine at a time when Jews in the era of the pre-1948 British Mandate exploited only 1,682 square kilometers, or 6.2% of the lands of historical Palestine, today said the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) on the 45th anniversary of Land Day. (WAFA)
  • Land Day rally in West Bank town quelled by Israeli occupying forces - Israeli occupation forces today quelled a peaceful rally marking the 45th anniversary of Land Day in the town of Sebastia, north of the West Bank city of Nablus, by firing tear gas canisters and stun grenades at participants. (WAFA)
  • 150 Jewish Canadian Academics Voice Opposition to IHRA Definition of Antisemitism - “...We are specifically concerned with recent lobbying on our campuses for the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism…The most serious problem however is that the definition is tied to a series of examples of which many are criticisms of the Israeli state,” they wrote in a letter. (IMEMC)
  • Investigators Accept Self-defense Claim of Israeli Officer Who Killed Mentally Disabled Arab Man - The cop who fatally shot Munir Anabtawi in Haifa was reinstated just days after the incident, and as the Justice Ministry's investigation is ongoing. (Haaretz+)
  • Video of overworked pony ride sparks animal cruelty row - As large crowds packed ‘Hay Park,’ a northern Israel zoo, during Passover, visitor says exhausted animals were being worked tirelessly for hours without proper rest or water, forcefully pushed when refused to continue. (Yedioth/Ynet)
  • Bahrain appoints first-ever head of mission in Israel - Khaled Yousif Al-Jalahma previously served as no. 2 at Gulf state's embassy in Washington; mission in Tel Aviv set to open in the coming weeks. (Maariv and Agencies, Haaretz and Ynet)
  • 'Political instability in Israel impacting J'lem-Ankara normalization' - Turkey is concerned about the political deadlock in Israel, Gökhan Çınkara, a political columnist for Independent Türkçe tells Israel Hayom. (Israel Hayom)
  • EU to sanction Iranians for rights abuses in first since 2013 - European bloc set to impose travel bans and asset freezes after recent similar moves against China, North Korea, Libya and Russia as part of effort to take tougher stance on human rights. (Agencies, Haaretz and Ynet)
  • U.S. Announces More Than $596 Million in New Humanitarian Aid for Syria Crisis - UN ambassador Thomas-Greenfield urges international community to allow unhindered humanitarian access to all Syrians, including through cross-border aid. (Agencies, Haaretz)


China Is Involved in a Sensitive Israeli Project. Israeli Government Claims It Didn't Know
An Israeli company working on a major aviation project signed a deal with a Chinese state-owned corporation blacklisted by the U.S. Defense officials voiced concerns it could harm ties with Washington. (Yaniv Kubovich, Haaretz+)
PODCAST: Will this Palestinian matriarch get to keep her Jerusalem home?
Amal Sumarin has been fighting Jewish settlement and a discriminatory legal system for years. An Israeli court may decide her family's fate next month. (Unsettled, 972mag)
How These U.S. Jews Changed America's View of Zionism
A new book explores the innovative work of the Jewish Americans who went against public opinion before World War I and laid the groundwork for future close ties between the United States and Israel. (Isaac Herzog, Haaretz+)

Trump and Netanyahu's 'Maximum Pressure' on Iran Yielded Minimal Results (Alon Pinkas, Haaretz+) The 25-year, $400-billion deal between Iran and China is a further sign that Trump and Netanyahu's strategy toward Tehran was a dismal failure.
Time is on the ayatollahs' side (Oded Granot, Israel Hayom) It seems the Iranians have found ways to bypass US sanctions, and instead of rushing to grab US President Joe Biden's proposals with two hands, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is now signaling that Iran is in absolutely no hurry.
Who's Leaking About the Israel-Iran Brawl at Sea? (Yossi Melman, Haaretz+) In 2018 Qassem Soleimani hatched a clever idea for circumventing the U.S. sanctions. That same day, the Israeli response was also born. Now, news reports, blabbing and ego battles threaten to end it.
Alleged Iranian-caused environmental disaster buttresses Israel-Azerbaijan bond(Eliana Rudee, Israel Hayom) Iran's ongoing threats to both Israel and Azerbaijan should serve to further galvanize the relations between Jerusalem and Baku.
Criticism of Israel and Its Policies Isn't Antisemitism (Omer Bartov, Haaretz+) Last week, an international group of more than 200 scholars specializing in antisemitism, the Holocaust and the Middle East, as well as other fields, published a document called “The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism.” The declaration defines and characterizes antisemitism, which unfortunately is rearing its head in many parts of the world, in order to fight it more effectively. The declaration also distinguishes between antisemitism and criticism, even if harsh, of Israel and its policies. In so doing, this important declaration provides a basis for a new approach to fighting the threat of antisemitism while preserving the sacred values of freedom of expression. (Professor Omer Bartov teaches at Brown University. His book, “Anatomy of a Genocide: The Life and Death of a Town Called Buczacz,” was awarded the 2019 Yad Vashem International Prize for Holocaust Research.)
How should Netanyahu behave? This is the solution to the political tangle (Sam Ben Sheetrit, Maariv) Netanyahu, who previously boycotted Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked and did not include MK Gideon Saar in his government, is now paying for it with their hatred of him, which could prevent him from forming a government under his leadership, despite the 30 seats he received in the last election. At the same time, if someone is toying with the idea that Bennet’s Yamina and the Ra'am party, led by Dr. Mansour Abbas, will fill in the gaps for a government, then Bezalel Smotrich has sworn not to join the government with the support of Ra'am, while the latter is examining the possibility of an alternative government with center-left parties. But it is very doubtful whether such a government will be formed. MK Saar and his party are not ready to sit down with Meretz and the joint list, including Ra'am.  In these days of forming a government, it is worth reminding all those who boycotters and ostracize of the lesson from the past that "Jerusalem was not destroyed, but because of hatred.”
Arabs Will Not Bend Their Principles to Fit a Twisted 'Reality' (Odeh Bisharat, Haaretz+) On Haaretz’s front page on March 30 – as a news analysis, not an opinion piece – Jack Khoury analyzed the election results among Israeli Arabs. At the end of his analysis in Hebrew, Khoury arrived at the following insight: “There’s the ideal and there’s the reality, and for now, the Arabs have chosen the reality.” It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a slogan so at odds with human dignity. After all, MKs Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir are also “the reality.” Should we hook up with them this time, as per the old defeatist Arab adage “kiss the hand you cannot break”?
Between (Arab-Israeli) Ra’am party and (Kahanist) Ben-Gvir, Netanyahu must do some soul-searching (Gilad Sharon, Maariv) Netanyahu was elected by a large majority to head the Likud, but he did not receive permission to destroy the party. If he and we want to remain a ruling party, we must do real research and fix the failures…What happened to us in the Likud? How is it that more than 70 MKs come from right-wing parties, the Likud is 13 seats larger than the second largest party, and yet the chances of forming a government are extremely low, and depends on the consent of Hamas supporters? That depends on a guy like Itamar Ben-Gvir on the one hand, and on the other hand on the top critics of the murderers and terrorists in prison? Is this what we in the Likud want? Is this what we have become?..
Democracy and hindsight democracy (Yoram Aridor, Israel Hayom) Trying to disqualify Netanyahu from forming a government essentially means ignoring the votes of his supporters.
Who are the crazy ones? (Kobi Arieli, Israel Hayom) The anti-Netanyahu bloc is promising healing and sanity, but let's ask ourselves, who are the people who are causing all the commotion in the first place?
Gantz Nearly Became the Joke of the Election, but Israel Still Needs Him as a Gatekeeper (Sami Peretz, Haaretz+) His entry into politics led half the people to hate him, and when he joined Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government the circle of his haters grew to three quarters of the people. But Benny Gantz, the chairman of Kahol Lavan, ended the recent election with quite an achievement: eight Knesset seats, making his party the fourth largest in the Knesset…The important takeaway from this now is that a bloc larger than Likud must be formed so that if another option comes up as a last resort to avoid a fifth election – the government will be built under conditions different than those of the current government. Facing off against Likud requires symmetry at the very least, but it would be better to build a larger bloc. If not, it won’t work. Gantz is the newcomer in the bloc for change. His story over the past year has provided the rules of do’s and don’ts in case the scenario of a unity government arises after all the other options being looked at now have failed.
It seems that he who cares the most, wins (Arnon Itiel, Israel Hayom) While the "anyone but Bibi" camp were protesting, the Israeli Right stayed home. But it turned out we stayed home on Election Day, too.
Remember Trump? This Is How Netanyahu Will Look to Us When He's No Longer in Power (Tchia Dov, Haaretz+) Trump’s so-called colorful persona, which had been a regular feature on our screens, felt so jarring after just a few weeks’ absence; his diction and facial expressions, the racial innuendo and insinuations, the toupee, the lies and manipulations and, above all, the hateful and divisive discourse. These qualities, though always vulgar, became far more apparent after just a short break. The things we’d grown accustomed to when we were exposed to them on a daily basis for four years assumed their true absurd and grotesque proportions. I couldn’t help thinking about our prime minister, the criminal defendant from Balfour Street, about his diction, his lies, his reckless and malicious son and his wife, and the hatred and division that he has sown. I mainly thought about his endless lies, always adapted to the circumstances and needs and goals he sets for himself, trying to convince us that we either didn’t misunderstood, misremembered, or couldn't see the whole picture…
Not Enough Vaccines for All the Political Spin (Haaretz Editorial) Instead of recycling spin and sowing unnecessary fear among the public, Netanyahu would do better to follow Mendelblit’s advance and appoint permanent ministers. And he should start with the justice minister.
Does Israel Really Need 30 Million More COVID Vaccine Doses? (Ronny Linder,Haaretz+) A Gantz-Netanyahu Twitter feud may provide the answer.
Palestinian Elections: Abbas’ Biggest Challenger to Date Is Jailed in Israel. He Just Dealt His First Blow (Jack Khoury, Haaretz+) With a base of popular support that the Palestinian president can't ignore, Marwan Barghouti's potential election challenge has Fatah's leadership taking note.

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