News Nosh 04.02.14

APN's daily news review from Israel

Wednesday April 02, 2014
 

Number of the day:

708.
Number of tenders Israel issued yesterday for housing units over the Green Line, while it still thought it had a deal to get the peace talks extended and the spy, Jonathan Pollard, released. But then it got a surprise.**



Front Page News:

Haaretz

Yedioth Ahronoth

Maariv

  • not published today

Israel Hayom

  • The battle over the Pollard deal - arm-twisting and brinkmanship: Will Jonathan Pollard  sit at the Passover seder table after 28 years in jail?
  • The US paper for negotiations - comfortable for Israel // Dan Margalit
  • We want Pollard, but not this way // MK Danny Danon
  • Olmert affair: Senior person from the judicial world is likely to be questioned for obstruction of justice
  • High Court: Dozens of south Tel-Aviv residents clashed with infiltrators
  • Tragedy: Tourist from South Africa tasted tehina - and died from an allergy to sesame

 

Peace Talk Highlights:
The Palestinians surprised everyone with an unexpected move in the chess game of negotiations with the Israelis that threw everything into question, making today's top story in the Hebrew papers. Events changed quickly and drastically Tuesday. Just before 4PM, the Israelis said a deal was about to be sealed with the Americans: Israel would release the 26 Palestinian prisoners it was supposed to release last Saturday, as well as an additional 400, and make a partial unofficial settler freeze in exchange for the release of the spy for Israel, Jonathan Pollard, (whose actions were 'exceeded only by Snowden,' said an ex-US official) and for the Palestinians agreement to extend peace talks till the end of 2014. US Secretary of State John Kerry was to return to Jerusalem and Ramallah today to close the deal. This was despite vows by right-wing MKs and ministers to vote against the prisoner release deal - even if it included Pollard, thereby possibly threatening the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's coalition government.
 
**Meanwhile, Peace Now announced around 4PM that Israel had issued 708 tenders for construction beyond the Green Line in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo. "The Ministry of Housing is trying to forcefully undermine the peace process ... and (US Secretary of State) John Kerry's efforts to promote it," charged Peace Now's Settlement Watch director Hagit Ofran.
 
Just before 7PM, Ynet quoted a Maan report that Israel refused to include popular Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti as part of the release deal, as well as two other senior Palestinians the Palestinians had requested.
 
Then, at about 8PM, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gave an address on live TV and took a vote of senior PLO members, who unanimously approved joining a dozen international institutions. Abbas signed the documents right before the cameras and said the leadership made its decision after Israel did not fulfill its commitment to release the fourth round of prisoners. However, he also said the leadership still seeks a solution to the conflict, through negotiations and through popular resistance, leaving the door open to Israel.
 
Israeli officials said the move was intended to improve the Palestinian side of the deal. Many Israeli commentators acknowledged that the Palestinians were getting the short end of the stick (see Commentary/Analysis below).  
Kerry subsequently cancelled his trip here today [there was really no point, until the Israelis decide what they want to do - OH]. But Kerry also tried to play down what some see as the collapse of the talks, saying that "it is completely premature to draw any kind of judgment about today's events and where things are." He said he spoke with Abbas who promised him that none of the documents were for membership in the UN and that Abbas would continue talks until their April deadline. Indeed, a Palestinian official said that the first document signed by Abbas was a petition to join the Geneva Convention, followed by institutions that have to do with human rights and civilian protection, but he did not sign one to join the International Criminal Court at The Hague. Israel is concerned the Palestinians could bring Israel to court at the Hague over settlement construction in the occupied territories. With the US-Israeli deal now in question, the White House has said it has not decided whether to release Pollard. 

On the new settlement housing tenders, the Palestinian official said, "Israel wants to sabotage Kerry's [efforts] and thinks that the Palestinians are too weak to take a stand."
 

Quick Hits:

  • Jewish extremists spray hate graffiti on convent in Israel - Slogans including "Mary is a cow," "price tag" and "America (is) Nazi Germany" were sprayed in Hebrew on the walls of the Roman Catholic sanctuary. (Maan
  • Right-wing Israelis tour Aqsa compound - More than 100 right-wing Israelis including Yeshiva students entered the al-Aqsa Mosque compound Tuesday morning escorted by Israeli police officers, and toured its courtyards while Muslim worshipers and Sharia students shouted "Allah Akbar." (Maan)
  • Israeli bulldozers demolish Palestinian structures in Salfit, Nablus - Bulldozers, escorted by Israeli military vehicles, demolished a car wash near the main entrance of the village of Haris in the Salfit district for the third time. (Maan)  
  • Israeli court extends detention of 5 Palestinian E. Jerusalem lawyers - The charges against Shireen Issawi, Amr Iskafi, Nadim Gharib, Mahmoud Abu Sneineh and Amjad al-Safadi are confidential. (Maan)
  • Israel has largest gaps in student achievement of all OECD countries, study shows - Grade distribution in PISA tests far higher among Jewish students than among Arabs. (Haaretz)
  • Jerusalem Post offers $1.15 million for Maariv - The Jerusalem Post's publisher is offering to buy the bankrupt daily on the condition that he can fire and rehire the staff. (Haaretz)  
  • Olmert's conviction makes worldwide splash - Verdict in former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's bribery trial makes worldwide headlines as both Western and Arab media declare the end of his political career. Peres: This is a sad day for Israel. (Israel Hayom)
  • Bedouin soldier in Israeli uniform at Land Day festival in Negev - An Arab Bedouin soldier from the Negev who serves in the Israeli army on Sunday showed up in the audience during a festival marking Land Day in the Negev village of Surin. (Maan)
  • Iron Dome accidentally launches interceptors over Eilat - Eilat residents hear explosions early Tuesday morning, prompting fears of rocket attack from Sinai Peninsula. However, it turns out the explosions were the result of an Iron Dome battery accidentally going into action. (Israel Hayom)
  • Dempsey: Israel, U.S. now agree on Iran - Jerusalem now satisfied that Washington has the military option in mind if Iran strays, USA Today quotes U.S. chief of staff. (Haaretz)


Features:

Four hidden truths about poverty in Israel
The Bank of Israel dismantles an elaborate web of myths and misunderstandings about poverty, the causes and cures of which have been distorted by the social lobby and media. (Haaretz)
 
Commentary/Analysis:

The plan for more talks is a short-term fix (Amos Harel, Haaretz) Extending the talks under the proposed conditions benefits all the major players, but brings them no closer to peace.
Why Palestine is heading back to the UN (Bassem Khoury, Haaretz) The PLO’s unanimous vote to go to the UN means the roles have changed: The Palestinian captive has a chance to make the Israeli captor face justice.
Everyone loses (Alon Pinkas, Yedioth/Ynet) Deal securing Israeli spy's release will set Palestinian murderers free, keep 'peace process' going solely for the sake of appearances.
Kerry’s desperate Pollard gamble could cost him the entire Israeli-Palestinian ball game (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz) The plum political prize that Kerry was handing Netanyahu convinced Palestinians that they were getting the short end of the stick; now Kerry must salvage the talks that only a few still believe in.
Time to put Pollard behind us (Ronen Bergman, Yedioth/Ynet) Attempts to make Jonathan Pollard look like a hero have caused major damage to Israel-US ties, but it's time to put an end to this thoroughly miserable affair.
In renewing UN bid, Abbas sends message to the world - and his people (Jack Khoury, Haaretz) Palestinian president wants to step off public stage as national leader who stood up for national interests. 
Lieberman, the state exists to serve its citizens (Eyal Benvenisti, Haaretz) Plan to transfer Arab areas to a future Palestinian state violates Israel’s most basic obligation as a democratic state.
Above all, this is a Jewish state (Yehuda Ben-Meir, Haaretz) The demand to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people relates more to nationality than religion.
Don't hug Pollard when he lands (Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz) Should the convicted spy Jonathan Pollard be freed, Israelis would do better than give him a hero's welcome.
To J Street: Defaming pro-Israel voices harms Jewish unity (Alan M. Dershowitz, Haaretz) J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami has consistently refused to work together with pro-Israel voices of the center toward a two-state solution. Will he now at least give us a platform?
Israel needs less political meddling in academia (Haaretz Editorial) Education Minister Shay Piron is trying to reduce the percentage of academics in planning and budgeting. That's just one of his plans.
 
 

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

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