News Nosh 03.30.14

APN's daily news review from Israel
Sunday March 30, 2014

Number of the day:
--The number of days it took 150 Dutch workers to duplicate the most famous parts of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad's palace in the Israeli city of Kfar Saba. Tanks and actors to arrive soon.**

Front Page News:
Yedioth Ahronoth
  • Ruling or rejection - Holyland drama at climax: Judge to announce today whether he will give decision in former prime minister Olmert's trial - or will open new trial in wake of Shula Zaken's testimony
  • Assad's palace - in Israel - A first peek at the 'new palace' of Syrian President that Hollywood is building in Kfar Saba
  • The rock that killed the mountain climber - Yedid Luria, 31, suffered a head injury when climbing Moshav Gita cliffs in the Galilee. In north: Toddler buried in pile of dirt at construction site
  • not published today
Israel Hayom

Peace Talk Highlights:
Today's top story in the Hebrew papers was the question whether a High Court judge would decide whether to make a ruling in the Holyland trial or whether to postpone that to allow former prime minister Ehud Olmert's aide to testify again - this time against him.

Meanwhile, Israel did not release the fourth and last group of Palestinian prisoners Saturday, despite agreeing to do so before the peace talks began in July. Now it is reportedly considering making a fifth round of releases - on certain conditions. On Saturday morning, the London-based Arabic Al-Hayat newspaper reported that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told US Secretary of State John Kerry and his aide Martin Indyk that his government would collapse if the fourth round of Palestinian security prisoners release were executed, since it includes 14 Arab-Israeli prisoners. Indeed, a majority - 63.2% - of Jewish Israelis oppose
releasing Palestinian prisoners in exchange for an extension of the peace talks with the Palestinians, an Israel Hayom-New Wave Research poll found. Some 28.5% oppose any prisoner release deal even if the U.S. were to free Jonathan Pollard. An Israeli diplomatic source told Maariv's NRG Hebrew that the refusal of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to extend the talks in exchange for the prisoner release made the Palestinians look bad, not Israel: "We maneuvered Abbas. Now everyone knows that Israel has done everything possible (to make peace)...We proved that the Palestinians are (the ones) refusing peace." 

But US officials have demanded flexibility of Israel, raising the possibility of another prisoner release of long-serving prisoners as a gesture to the Palestinians. "We can't stop a Palestinian UN statehood bid if talks fail," the Americans said. According to Haaretz+, Israel has relayed a message to the Palestinians through the US mediators, according to which, it would release prisoners - but not the 14 Arab Israeli ones - and on condition that the Palestinians agreed to extend peace talks by several months and did not take unilateral steps at the United Nations, a senior Israeli official told Haaretz+. Israel is now waiting for the Palestinian response. The Walla! website reported that Israel offered to release 400 Palestinian prisoners, along with the fourth group of prisoners in exchange for another 6 months of negotiations with the Palestinians. Yedioth reported that a 'mini-deal' is being negotiated, according to which, Israel would release the fourth round of prisoners, then Abbas would agree to an extension of the talks and then Israel would release a fifth round of prisoners. Palestinian sources said that the Palestinian Authority (PA) does not want to appear as if it is responsible for the talks' failure and therefore it has not taken any action against Israel. Indeed, the PA still believes it will take place later this week and negotiations are continuing to make that happen, wrote Ynet. Palestinian Minister of Prisoner Affairs Issa Qaraqae told AFP Saturday that "today the prisoners will not be released... maybe in the coming days." He also said that if negotiations continued, the prisoner release could take place at the end of April. "There are efforts to solve the crisis and I believe that in 24 hours everything will be clearer," he added.

Regarding the framework agreement, the Al-Hayat report quoted Western diplomats saying that Kerry had suggested changing the Israeli demand for recognition of Israel as a "Jewish state" recognition of Israel as "the homeland of the Jewish people." In return, the Palestinians would have to agree to a Palestinian capital in a part of E. Jerusalem - not all of it. According to the report, the Palestinians have rejected that proposal as well, wrote Ynet.
Of significance, Abbas told journalists that he did not ask for the withdrawal of the Arab Peace Initiative at the Arab League summit last week, "because I am convinced that it has positive elements for the Arabs, the Palestinians, Jews, Muslims, and the whole region." This comes despite remarks by officials that the 25th Arab League summit would consider withdrawing the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002.

Meanwhile, around 500 people in Amman protested against peace talks, holding signs reading "Zionist occupation is a threat to us" and "The dignity of Jordan is the dignity of Palestine."
Today is Land Day, the day Palestinians demonstrate annually to mark the deaths of six Palestinian protesters - all Israeli citizens - at the hands of Israeli police and troops during mass protests on March 30, 1976 against plans to confiscate Arab land in the Galilee. Palestinians both in Israel and the occupied Territories held demonstrations over the weekend. Amnesty International warned Israel of using 'excessive force' against 'Land Day' protesters, saying that throughout the years, Israel has failed to respect Palestinians' basic right to demonstrate by violently oppressing them. Indeed, Maan reported that Israeli forces targeted a Palestinian journalist in Land Day protest near Jerusalem, hitting him with a high-velocity tear gas canister in al-Eizariya. Dozens of youths were hurt by tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets. At Burin village, near Nablus, villagers had planned to plant olives trees following the demonstration, but Israeli forces prevented them, firing stun grenades and tear gas at the crowds.

Quick Hits:
  • Settlers prepare move into key East Jerusalem site -Radical Jewish settlers readying to move into major property in commercial heart of occupied E. Jerusalem. "The group is now renovating it for the yeshiva and for a school to prepare Orthodox Jews for military service," said an Israeli official. "They are trying to set it all up before Passover on April 13." (Agencies, Maan)
  • Israeli army shoots two near Syria border - Suspects armed and trying to damage 'border infrastructure,' the Israel Defense Forces said; some Israeli media outlets report they were killed; army confirms hit but doesn't comment on their condition. (Haaretz and Israel Hayom)
  • Tensions in the North: the rules of engagement (to open-fire) were expanded - In light of the rise of attempted attacks against IDF forces on the Syrian border, a the rules were changed and deterrence attempts will be made against suspicious people who approach the border fence. (Maariv's NRG Hebrew
  • Boycotted by Jews in Belgium, welcomed by Likud deputy minister in Israel -  Ofir Akunis, a Likud party strongman and deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, met last week with a visiting delegation from an extremist right-wing party in Belgium that the Israeli embassy and the Jewish community are boycotting. The meeting was organized by the head of the Samaria Regional Council, Gershon Mesika. (Haaretz+)
  • Belgian lawmakers visit Judea and Samaria (West Bank) - Senator Anke Vandermeersch, who agreed to head pro-Israel public diplomacy efforts in Belgium and in the European Parliament, heads Belgian mission visiting settlements as guests of the Shomron Regional Council's foreign relations committee. Reality is different from that shown by the European media, she says. (Israel Hayom)
  • Israeli forces disperse weekly Bilin protest - Dozens of Palestinian, Israeli and international activists planted olive trees near the Israeli separation wall and placed empty tear gas canisters under existing trees. One person was injured on Friday as Israeli military forces dispersed a weekly Friday demonstration by villagers. (Maan)
  • Israeli forces shoot, injure man in northern Gaza - Israeli forces opened fire on dozens of Palestinians who had stormed an area of the buffer zone east of Jabaliya, injuring a 19-year-old in the leg. (Maan)
  • Top U.S. general to visit Israel (today) for talks with IDF chief Ya'alon - Israeli military says General Martin Dempsey and his hosts will discuss 'issues of mutual strategic interest.' (Haaretz and Israel Hayom
  • US defends Israel at UN Human Rights Council meeting - On final day of its winter conference, the UN's top human rights body passed five resolution on Israel, with the US the sole country voting against. (Ynet
  • Canadian FM: Jewish refugees should be part of Mideast peace accord - Baird stresses recognition of Jewish refugees from Arab countries 'does not diminish or compete with the situation of Palestinian refugees.' (Ynet)
  • Pope to pray with Orthodox patriarch in Jerusalem - Pope Francis will pray side-by-side with Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, in a powerful sign of Christian unity during his May visit to Holy Land, the Vatican said on Thursday. (Agencies, Maan)
  • Report: Israel warned Turkey about Syrian response - Israeli official reportedly told Turkish government officials that Syria could use chemical weapons, missiles to retaliate for downed plane. Reports say Israel and Turkey will announce restoration of ties after Sunday's local elections in Turkey. (Israel Hayom)
  • Egypt opens Rafah crossing for 3-day period - Egypt will allow medical patients, students, and foreign nationals to travel through the Rafah crossing in both directions from Saturday until Monday. More than 6,000 Palestinians have submitted travel applications since Egypt shut down the terminal in February. (Maan)
  • Israel to host international cross-country race - More than 400 teens from 20 countries to race Tuesday in Israel's first international cross-country race in 30 years. "Sports transcend borders and opinions, and this [event] allows students from around the world to get to know Israel," director says. (Israel Hayom
  • **Assad's palace duplicated in Israeli city - Syrian president's luxurious residence to star in Fox network's new high-profile drama 'Tyrant,' which will begin shooting in Kfar Saba in two weeks. (Yedioth, p. 1/Ynet)
  • 'Resistance against Israel is the only option, but we are not seeking war' - In a typically boastful speech, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah says the resistance's deterrence caused Israel to carefully consider its moves against Lebanon and that Hezbollah is stronger than it was before Second Lebanon War. Refers to Israel by name - and not 'Zionist enemy.' (Ynet and Haaretz+ and Israel Hayom+VIDEO)
  • Peres to meet with atomic agency chief in Austria - President Shimon Peres to leave Sunday for three-day visit to Vienna. He will meet with International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Yukiya Amano to discuss Iranian nuclear threat. (Israel Hayom)
  • Obama makes fence-mending trip to Saudi Arabia - US president travels to Middle East to reassure key American ally in the region, as Saudi kingdom may be questioning the benefits of the alliance with Washington. (Agencies, Ynet)
  • S&P affirms Israel's A+ credit rating - International ratings agency Standard & Poor's lauds government's efforts to cut spending, practice responsible fiscal policies. "We could consider raising Israel's ratings if it makes material progress in defusing external security risks," it says. (Israel Hayom)
  • Terror victims can't seize Persian relics in reparation - Chicago judge rules survivors of 1997 terrorist attack in Jerusalem can't seize thousands of museums items to pay a $412 million judgment against Iran. (Agencies, Ynet)
  • Israeli mother invents harness to help disabled son take first steps - Now with a Northern Ireland company, Debby Elnatan is making the harness available for children worldwide. (Haaretz+ + VIDEO)

Open wounds
Bereaved Israeli families, both Jewish and Arab, oppose the release of terrorists who killed their loved ones. "Every murderer needs to pay the entire price, and it doesn't matter if he's Israeli Arab, Jewish, Russian, or Sudanese." (Nadav Shragai, Israel Hayom)
The Knesset's laziest voters, from Lieberman to Yishai
Voting is just one part of an MK's job, and some bother to do it a lot more than others. (Haaretz+) 
The Bethlehem Code
How a Tel Aviv rabbi, a former Jerusalem yeshiva student, and a Christian cardinal rescued a Torah scroll from the basement of a church on the other side of the Green Line. (Israel Hayom)

Nothing short of a war crime (Friday Haaretz Editorial) The IDF cannot simply shrug off the death of Yusef a-Shawamreh.
The blood it’s acceptable to shed (Gideon Levy, Haaretz+) The further trials and tribulations of the most moral army in the world (part of an ongoing series, alas). 
Imagine an Olmert government (David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom) If Ehud Olmert is acquitted and returns to politics, peace will undoubtedly come to the Middle East.
J Street's challenge to the U.S.-Jewish right: Focus on peace (Jeremy Ben-Ami, Haaretz+) In Jewish communal venues, let’s call an end to attack videos and mudslinging, and discuss the challenges facing Israel and the Jewish people. A response to Alan Dershowitz.
J Street’s hypocrisy must be exposed (Alan M. Dershowitz, Haaretz+) J Street’s 'Big Tent’ is open only to one side - the anti-Israel and BDS-supporting hard left of its own position; pro-Israel centrists are censored.
Pressure is not good negotiating form (Dr. Haim Shine, Israel Hayom) Equating the release of Pollard with the release of terrorists who slaughtered women and children throughout Israel is unfair and totally immoral.
A Palestinian Bantustan won’t end the conflict (Daniel Levy, Haaretz+) Credible leaks indicate the lop-sided Kerry framework is a step backward for Palestinians and rewards Israel’s intransigence. How can the talks regain their legitimacy?
The left-wing's perpetuation of the occupation (Ben-Dror Yemini, Maariv's NRG Hebrew) Amos Schocken and the left-wing are running a campaign against the demand for Palestinian recognition of the Jewish state, thereby contributing to the perpetuation of the conflict, because Netanyahu needs this recognition to form a majority of supporters for a historic compromise.
Why I don’t care about Jonathan Pollard (Rogel Alpher, Haaretz+) The idea of linking the potential release of the jailed spy with the peace talks is idiocy of the highest order.
Don't be the 'ugly Israeli' (Lior Varona, Israel Hayom) It is time for Israelis travelling abroad to realize that their behavior, good and bad, reflects on the entire country and could affect our future. 
Population dump: Is Lieberman's plan to redraw Israeli demographics legal? (Aeyal Gross, Haaretz+) The foreign ministry's argument for the plan's legality is based on entirely false comparisons.
Generals, open the door to women [for the sake of peace] (Merav Betito, Yedioth/Ynet) Military games are becoming increasingly dangerous, but no one dares raise his voice and announce that the games are over and that it's time to talk like adults. The growing use of army forces within a civil population only illustrates the chaotic confusion of Israel's security leadership. Women are needed to change the security discourse, offer a different perspective.
Only Lieberman can rise to the occasion and bring peace (Eyal Megged, Haaretz+) Lieberman has everything that was good about Ariel Sharon and none of his carelessness.
The real reason Netanyahu is stressed (Yossi Verter, Haaretz+) The prime minister’s clout on the national level is in inverse proportion to his poor grip on his party, which holds its convention next week.
Israel striking Obama, rooting for Putin (Efraim Halevy, Yedioth/Ynet) US president must envy his Russian rival for respect he receives in Israel as opposed to daily dose of scorn and alienation served to our 'ally.'
Unintended consequence of Putin’s Crimea folly: Obama and Europe are closer together (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+) Is Israel’s ongoing silence on the Ukraine crisis just realpolitik - or does it disguise a secret admiration for the Russian leader’s annexationist, go-it-alone, world-be-damned conduct?
Divide Israel into cantons (Carlo Strenger, Haaretz+) Israel's various cultural groups agree on little other than security; it's time to follow the Swiss, Germans and Americans and devolve power to the local level. 
Regional approach, Arab Peace Initiative are key forward (Yuval Rabin and Charles R. Bronfman, Yedioth/Ynet) Opening up a regional discussion track with Arab states, parallel to the bilateral peace talks, could help increase chances of a lasting peace accord.
Israel has failed to learn lessons of first Land Day (Jack Khoury, Haaretz+) 38 years on, Israeli Arabs are losing what’s left of their trust in Israel’s Jewish populace.

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