News Nosh 4.5.21

APN's daily news review from Israel - Monday April 5, 2021


Quote of the day:

“Those days are gone.”
—Yedioth’s diplomatic correspondent, Itamar Eichner, writes that the Biden administration is signaling the dawn of a new era in which the US will no longer be basing its policies on Jerusalem's positions.*

Front Page:


Yedioth Ahronoth

  • Between the courthouse and the President’s house
  • There is no going back // Ben-Dror Yemini on Netanyahu’s trial
  • It’s not in his hands // Nadav Eyal on Netanyahu’s ability to form a coalition government (Hebrew)

Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)

  • The evidentiary stage (photo of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in court)
  • The battle over the mandate (photo of President Reuven Rivlin)
  • Terror in the streets: 12-year-old suspected of beating to death a 50-year-old homeless man in Holon

Israel Hayom

  • Deri to Bennett: We will stay in the (Netanyahu) bloc even at the cost of another election
  • (Gideon) Sa’ar’s opportunism has crossed every line // Haim Shine
  • Between the President’s Residence and the court: The frightening day of the Prime Minister
  • “Corona woke in us the memories of the Holocaust”
  • Exclusive: With a bullet in the barrel, deep in Syria - Daring Golani Brigade operation revealed
  • Independence Day: The confusion (over corona restrictions) is celebrating
  • The real danger of Prince Hamza: His popularity // Oded Granot
  • Tragedy near Kfar Adumim: 10-year-old Roni Kafah died in ATV crash

Top News Summary:
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stands in the courthouse today at the beginning of the evidentiary phase of his trial, while his party’s representatives visit President Reuven Rivlin’s house and declare the party’s recommendation that Netanyahu be chosen to try to form a coalition government made the top stories of today’s Hebrew newspapers.

Also making news was the fact that most Israeli school students are still learning through Zoomo and the latest on Jordan’s arrest of a prince and senior Jordanians on suspicion of trying to oust King Abdullah II. Yedioth Hebrew’s Arab affairs correspondent Smadar Perry and the Times of Israel reported that an Israeli man based in Europe offered to send a jet to evacuate Prince Hamzah’s family. And Maariv’s foreign correspondent Gideon Kotz reported that the Iran “took advantage of the crisis in the Hashemite Royal Kingdom to accuse (Israel) of subversion in the neighboring country.” In a statement released by the Iranian Foreign Ministry it said that “any internal tensions and instability are beneficial to Israel. It’s fingerprint can be found in any rebellion in an Islamic state." Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that the alleged plot was an “internal issue” and that Israel will do everything in its power to preserve alliance with Jordan. Yedioth printed a special Op-Ed by Daoud Kuttab, a prominent Palestinian journalist based in Amman, who wrote that the rift was an opportunity for reforms in the kingdom.

Netanyahu Trial and Israeli Elections 2021:
A year and four months after being indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, Netanyahu began the evidentiary stage of his trial today - the same day that President Rivlin held his meetings to decide whether he will give Netanyahu or someone else the mandate to form the next coalition government. At the courthouse, Netanyahu only needed to stay for the much-awaited opening statement by the deputy state prosecutor in regards to Case 4000, according to which, Netanyahu allegedly used his role of communications minister to provide regulatory benefits in exchange for favorable coverage. Netanyahu had received permission to be absent during the testimony of the first witness, Ilan Yeshua.

At the President’s Residence, Rivlin heard from each of the political parties who they recommended to form the next coalition government. But neither Netanyahu nor Yair Lapid, whose Yesh Atid party is the largest party in the opposition, have the minimum 61seats necessary to form a government. (Indeed, Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party recommended Bennett to form the next government.) Tomorrow, Tuesday, the members of the 24th Knesset will be sworn-in and on Wednesday, Rivlin will announce to whom he will give the mandate to try to form the next government. A poll by the Israel Democracy Institute found that 80% of the public expect another election within a year.


Quick Hits:

  • As Israel Races Toward Herd Immunity, a Palestinian Town Teeters Under the Weight of COVID - Few Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have been vaccinated, explaining why the hospitals in Tul Karm are filling up as people die and the city remains under curfew. (Haaretz+)
  • Blinken puts more focus on Palestinians in call to FM Ashkenazi - In phone call Friday with Gabi Ashkenazi, US secretary of state says, "Israelis and Palestinians should enjoy "equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity, and democracy." (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
  • COVID Fines Handed to Israeli Protesters Were Unconstitutional, Top Court Rules - Israelis' right to protest was restricted during the country's coronavirus lockdown, but the High Court ordered all fines for violating distance limits be canceled. (Haaretz+ and Maariv)
  • IDF receives new spy plane as demand for intel on Iraq, Yemen, Iran grows - After nearly 8 years in development, the “Oron,” a retrofitted civilian plane turned intel-gathering jet, is set to take to the skies, boasting cutting-edge sensors, data collection equipment and state-of-the-art radar system. (Maariv, Ynet and Israel Hayom)
  • IDF destroyed Syrian border outpost in 2020 operation - Military Censor allows Israel Hayom to release previously classified details on a mission that saw Golani Brigade troops eliminate a Syrian army position built in volition of the 1974 ceasefire deal between the two countries. The operation was the first Israeli incursion into Syria in years. (Israel Hayom)
  • Palestinians approve 36 groups to run in May election - Aging Palestinian President Abbas' Fatah is facing challenges from dissident factions led by a slew of former allies while Hamas presents a united front ahead of PA polls. (Agencies, Ynet)
  • PA financial support for terrorism circumvents US, Israeli law - In the latest move in its cat-and-mouse game with Israel, the Palestinian Authority has decided to distribute its "pay for slay" funds through its postal banks. (Israel Hayom)


Israeli Police Say a Palestinian Jumped to His Death Amid Chase. His Father Has Another Theory
The Border Police account whereby the young Palestinian tried to flee during a raid on undocumented workers in Tel Aviv and jumped to his death in an elevator shaft raises suspicions. Musa Dib shows us a photograph of his son’s body: There is a very deep gash in his head, a few scratches on his face. The rest of the body was unscathed, says Musa. For him, that raises the suspicion that Mohammed, 21, didn’t fall from a great height, because that would have left fractures and bruises all over his body. He thinks that something caused his son’s death before the fall. The autopsy that was supposed to be performed, with Musa’s consent, was ultimately not carried out – it’s not completely clear why. (Gideon Levy and Alex Levac, Haaretz+)
'My heart and soul are Israeli but I want to save Lebanon'
During his childhood in Lebanon, K. never thought he would one day serve in the IDF. In the early 1990s his father, spurred on by Zionism, decided to immigrate to Israel. When he was drafted to the army, Unit 8200 understood they were granted a gem. (Yoav Limor,Israel Hayom)
How the Israeli Army's Racist System Harmed Hundreds of Thousands of Mizrahim
The 'quality' score has been the chief classification tool used by the Israeli army over the years to evaluate recruits. A sociologist explains how this mysterious criterion became an instrument of discrimination that caused long-term damage to Israeli society. (Amos Harel, Haaretz+)
Ariel Sharon's 'Secret Plan' for the Palestinians
A new but problematic TV series contends that Ariel Sharon aimed to regularize Israel's relations and borders with the Palestinians, not just pull out of Gaza. (Uzi Benziman,Haaretz+)

Despite It All, Netanyahu's Still a Defendant (Haaretz Editorial) Despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s indefatigable, no-holds-barred attempts to abuse his power to evade justice, on Monday the Jerusalem District Court will start hearing the evidence against him. This isn’t a trivial issue. Netanyahu hasn’t hesitated to use any means to try to stop the proceedings against him, including dragging the entire country into four elections over the course of two years in the hopes of achieving a Knesset majority that would agree to legislate an escape route for him, and holding the state budget hostage for political ransom. Nevertheless, his efforts have been in vain. There’s no government and no budget, but the trial is proceeding…
Netanyahu's trial in the court of public opinion (Ben-Dror Yemini, Yedioth/Ynet) The three judges who will decide the prime minister's fate have been the target of attempts by the defendant to brand them as scheming leftists while skewed media reporting has already judged him to be guilty as charged.
Netanyahu's Election Master Plan Proves Too Successful for Comfort
(Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz+) The prime minister has brought about the impossible arithmetic that is now making it impossible for him to form a coalition, and it may all come down to what this one politician decides.
Netanyahu's trial may not be decided in court (Tova Tzimuki, Yedioth/Ynet) As the prime minister's corruption trial is getting underway in Jerusalem, the defendant is busy trying to find a way to persuade the president that he must form the next government — one that will inoculate him against any unfavorable outcome.
Indicted Prime Minister? What's the Problem With That? (Dan Ben-David, Haaretz+) It is not clear how and why the legal loophole was created, the one allowing Israeli prime ministers to continue in their posts, even if criminal indictments have been filed against them. As if this loophole were not enough, now – when there are those who want to close it with legislation today, so that it will apply after the next election – there are others who argue that such a law would be perceived as retroactive or personal and should not be passed. That logic is certainly easy to follow. After all, who could even imagine such an outlandish scenario in which a criminally accused prime minister would dare refuse to sign a declaration against conflicts of interest as mandated by the nation’s attorney general? Couldn’t happen in Israel. That a prime minister might bring his cabinet ministers to stand by him in the courtroom entrance on the first day of his trial while he attacks the very institutions over which he himself is in charge? [This all happened. Writer is being facetious. - OH]
Ra’am, Jerusalem and the one-state solution (Avi Gil, Yedioth/Ynet) October 2023 municipal elections in Israel's capital could see the city's Arabs population play a larger role in deciding who will be the next mayor, setting the scene for political participation as a tool for binational statehood.
His condition is serious, but it is impossible to eulogize Netanyahu (Nadav Eyal,Yedioth Hebrew) The tricks are running out and his magic is weaker than ever. The rise of the discourse about Netanyahu being Netanyahu becoming a candidate for the presidency is also a moment of weakness. But how can one be sure that a government will be formed from those in the other camp?
An Arab Teams Up With Corrupt Netanyahu, and Folks Are Ecstatic (Odeh Bisharat,Haaretz+) Judging by the media reactions to last week’s speech by Mansour Abbas, the head of the United Arab List,  many people saw it as an effort to reach out to Jewish society. The truth is that it was reaching out to Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, leaders of the right-wing Religious Zionism party, in the hope that they will agree to bring him under the umbrella of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. That didn’t prevent the much-courted Smotrich from tossing Abbas’ gesture into the trash can.
Ra'am, Arab politics and becoming Shas (Sivan Hilaie, Yedioth/Ynet) This election revolutionized the political power of the Arab sector, with its representatives now the deciding voice who could either end the political stalemate or plunge the state into a fifth vote in some two years.
No One Crowned This Party Leader King of Israel's Arabs, but It Doesn't Stop Him Acting Like It (Samah Salaime, Haaretz+) The conversion therapy the Palestinian-Israeli national conflict is undergoing will be painful for everyone and will ultimately fail. Turning the conflict into a religious one won’t help anyone, and we’ll all pay the price.
Mansour Abbas' speech as the dawn of a black day (Shelly Yachimovich, Yedioth Hebrew) Which side of the political map is more ridiculous in its admiration for Mansour Abbas' speech? It's hard to decide. On the one hand, the right-wing for the most part, which has turned over like a steak, and is engaged in an intense explanation of why the Muslim Brotherhood is a magical movement with which there is no problem forming a coalition with its active support. And this is after suffering from severe amnesia over the fact that until a minute ago they engaged in poisonous and inciting propaganda against every traitor of the center-left, who was considering taking a similar step. Machiavelli turns over in his grave and is tormented by the fact that he died a few hundred years before he had time to write a spectacular chapter about Netanyahu-Abbas in his book. On the other hand, there is the left-wing, which faints…from the "historical" and "exciting" speech of an Arab politician on prime-time television, and from his becoming a legitimate actor on the political field. What a loud sigh of relief that Binyamin Netanyahu, one of the greatest instigators against the Arab public in the country, gave legitimacy to what was supposed to be the staples for the left-wing: a political dialogue with Arab parties. But more serious, and not for the first time, was the painful, superficial and frivolous self-goal that the Democratic camp gave itself. A blatant disregard for the fact that the essence of Netanyahu's joint dance with Abbas, as the latter himself said, is conservatism. How can one be moved by a Jewish-Arab alliance of women’s rights violators and old-fashioned conservatives who together want to erase historical achievements for equal rights achieved through pain and toil?…
Israel's Leftists Will Have to Put Their Egos Aside (Carolina Landsmann, Haaretz+) Since the murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, the left has been afraid to form a political alliance with Arab parties. For good reason. The objection to the Oslo Accords and the bitter outcry in the streets against giving up land were mixed with criticism that Rabin’s minority government lacked legitimacy because it existed only with the support of the Arab parties’ five legislators on the outside. The Oslo Accords’ opponents protested that Rabin didn’t have a “Jewish majority,” which they maintained was required to concede part of the homeland in a peace deal. “They don’t have a mandate,” they accused. Everyone knows how it ended. This fear is so deep that even Israel’s most decorated soldier, Ehud Barak, who won in the 1999 election, didn’t dare take the risk….The message is clear: Israel’s Arab citizens can go to the polls in droves or not, it makes no difference because their legislators aren’t considered legitimate for forming a coalition, even from the outside…(So) the move Netanyahu, of all people, is leading, to form a right-wing government based on a civic majority rather than a Jewish one has the potential to effect real political change – immeasurably more than a similar move on the left. After all, such a foray on the right, like signing a peace agreement, will receive legitimacy from the left and actually lean on both a civic and Jewish majority…
Bennett Is Close to Achieving His Goal, And No Big Sacrifices Are Needed (Yossi Verter, Haaretz+) Contrary to the impression that his religious Zionist rivals are trying to create, Bennett is definitely taking a calculated risk.
The dilemma of his life: Bennett must decide - is he a right-wing man or a Bibist?(Ben Caspit, Maariv) In the face of all the events produced by the people of Balfour [i.e. Netanyahu family -OH] and their servants, Bennett stands and must prove whether he can become the first religious prime minister in Israel. I suggested to him - imagine what Netanyahu would do.
Only Bennett can unite Israel (Moti Shklar, Yedioth/Ynet) Religious Zionists who follow teaching of Rabbi Kook understand need to unite humanism and faith, nationalism and universalism; they can accept the Islamist Ra'am party just as they accept Evangelical Christians.
Biden must leave the Iran nuclear deal in history's dustbin (Gary Gambill, Israel Hayom) The first step towards making America's international commitments "once again mean something" is to desist from making international commitments that mean nothing.
Israel Watches on as U.S. and Iran Look to Revive Nuclear Deal in Vienna (Alon Pinkas, Haaretz+) As the corruption trial of Benjamin Netanyahu begins in earnest and as efforts to form a new government continue, talks between Washington and Tehran are actually the biggest show in town.
Israel daydreams as Iran speeds toward nukes (Ariel Levite, Yedioth/Ynet) While U.S. desperately tries to lure Tehran back into some sort of agreement, Jerusalem must not make the Iranian issue an Israeli one and demand implementing checks and balances to offset any risks entailed in such a move.
Even before it is implemented, the Biden Plan proves how important our relationship with the US is (Shlomo Shamir, Maariv) President Joe Biden's infrastructure plan is significant for Israel, even if it is not implemented in its entirety in practice or is not implemented on the ground exactly as the president aspires. The detailed plan, the excellent objectives, the budgeted sums and the audacity shown by the President in publishing a plan of such a historical scope - and at the beginning of his tenure - have already placed Biden as a leader with a good chance of resembling other great presidents who have changed the face of the United States. With such an image, which is reflected in every article published in the media in the United States after the publication of the plan, leaders in Israel should seriously think about how to behave, how to react, what to do or not to do when a new relationship with the White House and the new administration is formed….This will have an indirect but a real effect on relations between Israel and the White House. The new government that will be formed in Israel will have to formulate one of the first and essential issues on its agenda - a careful policy regarding its relations with the White House. Especially critical is original thinking on the part of Israel regarding the future of the nuclear agreement with Iran. President Biden's infrastructure plan is still in its infancy. The president is expected to fight hard in the Senate for its approval. But it has already strengthened his position in the United States and around the world. Precisely as a traditional ally, strong relations with such a president is important.
*Israel is not in Trumpland anymore (Itamar Eichner, Yedioth/Ynet) U.S. bid to rejoin Iran nuclear deal, ending sanctions on ICC officials and resumption of aid to PA are clear signs that Israel has lost its sway over American foreign policy decisions.
Sourpuss about peace, while pursuing Iran
(David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom) How can the Abraham Accords thrive when Washington seems to be running helter-skelter into another deal with the Ayatollahs of Iran?
Real Challenge in Palestinian Elections: Convince Jerusalem Voters to Cast Their Ballots (Amira Hass, Haaretz+) The multiple party tickets express the Palestinian thirst to take part in the decision-making process in a society split between two authoritarian regimes, and lacking power in the face of Israel's occupation.
Abbas finds himself up the creek without a paddle ahead of PA polls (Elior Levy, Yedioth/Ynet) Despite warnings from Israel and his own advisers, Fatah Leader Mahmoud Abbas is racing towards the Palestinian polls with a broken and divided faction, while terror group Hamas demonstrates a united front, not unlike its successful 2006 round.
Israel Returns to Sanity, but Ignores Rising COVID Infection in the West Bank and Gaza (Amos Harel, Haaretz+) While Israel has vaccinated tens of thousands of Palestinians, the vast majority remain unvaccinated at a time when Israel has surplus coronavirus vaccines. It could all come back to haunt it.
The Bad Blood That Runs in Jordan's Royal Family Isn't What's Threatening the Kingdom's Stability (Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz+) Jordan's King Abdullah has proven skilled at politics, but not at making progress. He may have overcome an alleged coup attempt, but he still has to tackle an economic crisis and COVID's severe consequences.
King Abdullah Survives This Coup, but His Troubles Are Far From Over (David Rosenberg, Haaretz+) Time is running out for Jordan's economy amid a changing Middle East.
Russia's Expansionist Aspirations Aren't Bothered by 'Marginal' Issues Like Syrian Human Rights (Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz+)  While rights groups sound the alarm on rights violations involving Russian forces in the Middle East, Moscow is looking at maritime maps of the region in search of natural gas drilling sites.


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