Daily Briefing: DESPITE HISTORIC PEACE AGREEMENT, ISRAEL’S INTERNAL CHALLENGES ESCALATE (September 29,2020)

Table Of Contents:

The flag of Israel in Yad LaShiryon, Latrun, Israel.דגל ישראל ב”יד לשריון”, לטרון, ישראל (source:wikipedia)

AP Interview: Israeli Virus Czar Fights Outbreak, Politics:  Tia Goldenberg, AP, Sept. 25, 2020


Israel’s Cautionary Tale for Risk-Averse Republicans:  Caroline Glick, Newsweek,Sept. 25, 2020

Secret Ties Between U.A.E. and Israel Paved Way for Diplomatic RelationsDion Nissenbaum, WSJ, Aug. 14, 2020

______________________________________________________AP Interview: Israeli Virus Czar Fights Outbreak, Politics
Tia Goldenberg
AP, Sept. 25, 2020When Dr. Ronni Gamzu, one of Israel’s leading public health experts, was named the country’s coronavirus czar in mid-July, he was hailed as Israel’s best hope for halting a fast-growing number of cases.Two months later, Israel is suffering from one of the world’s worst outbreaks and heading into a tough new lockdown. Sleeping just four hours a night, Gamzu has faced withering criticism from opponents, pushback from Israel’s notoriously fractious political leadership and the stark fact that the number of new cases shows no sign of declining.In a wide-ranging interview, Gamzu acknowledged the public’s frustration, accepting some of the blame, while also saying that the Israeli public’s nonchalance and government mismanagement had contributed to the chaos. Ultimately, he took responsibility for decisions that can affect lives and livelihoods.

“There are many uncertainties,” he told The Associated Press. “And you have to make decisions that affect people’s life, people’s habits, social life and living — wages and earnings, businesses. Any kind of a decision that you take, it’s not a medical decision. It’s a social economic decision.”

Gamzu is managing the virus crisis at a bleak time, with the world rapidly approaching 1 million COVID-19 deaths globally.

Israel now has nearly 7,000 cases a day, one of the highest levels in the world on a per capita basis. With 9 million people, it has had nearly 215,000 cases since the start of the outbreak, with 60,000 of those active at the moment. Nearly 1,400 have died.

Friday’s tightening of a nationwide lockdown has deepened the sense of frustration among citizens disillusioned by the government’s often confusing decisions and hit hard by an economic downturn.

But Gamzu is taking it in stride, drawing on a personal battle with cancer just two years ago for inspiration. “I had my personal crisis with the eye cancer. It was a hard time, really, a crisis, personal one. You see almost death coming,” he said. “But going through a personal experience like I went through, it gives you proportion. And you can handle such hardships and criticism.”

A gynecologist by training, the 54-year-old has served as the director of the Sourasky Medical Center, Tel Aviv’s main hospital, since 2015. Gamzu was appointed coronavirus czar in July, just as Israel was seeing a dramatic uptick in new cases.

The country had just emerged from what appeared to be a successful first-wave battle against the virus, decisively sealing borders and imposing a lockdown. At the time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boasted that other world leaders were calling him for advice. He famously urged Israelis to go out and “have fun.”

Still, the economy was hit hard and unemployment shot up. In an attempt to revive the flagging economy, schools and businesses were reopened swiftly — and virus numbers began to creep up. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
______________________________________________________

Fathom Opinions | What Bibi Learned from Arik. And Why it Might Still Not Be Enough.
Calev Ben-Dor
Fathom Journal, September 2020

Despite serving assiduously in each other’s cabinets, Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu intensely disliked one another. David Landau, author of the superb biography Arik, The Life of Ariel Sharon details how Netanyahu served up a ‘cup of mortification’ for Sharon and publicly ridiculed him during Bibi’s first stint as Prime Minister. Sharon meanwhile described Netanyahu as lacking leadership skills and self-control. As one Likud figure tells Landau, ‘Sharon’s attitude to Bibi was one of contempt and revulsion but it was always blended with admiration and fear.’

It’s unclear to what extent – if any – Netanyahu feels himself to be in Sharon’s (literally and figuratively enormous) shadow. But he used the recent Israel-UAE normalisation agreement to start a PR blitz pushing a narrative that his achievements not only dwarf Sharon’s, but those of all previous leaders since David Ben-Gurion. High on hubris and low on nuance, Netanyahu’s line was that while Begin’s agreement with Egypt was ‘land for peace’, Rabin’s Oslo Accords were ‘terror attacks for peace’ and Sharon’s Gaza disengagement (which Netanyahu voted for) was ‘missiles for peace’, his deal was ‘peace for peace’ and ‘peace through strength’.

Having worked in governmental policy planning for several years, I can attest to the fact no serious policy recommendations are cost free. Good options include opportunities and risk. All involve forms of compromise between (often conflicting) national interests and the geo-strategic or domestic-political reality. All except those in the alternate reality Netanyahu is trying to sell us.

The Prime Minister may not carry a wallet nor own a credit card. But just because he doesn’t pay for Falafel in the shuk or ice cream at his residence doesn’t mean he can convince the public that there’s such a thing as a free lunch. Certainly not in the Middle East.
 
The truth is that the Abraham Accords were historic enough without the hyperbole. Yet Netanyahu’s ‘peace for peace’ claims seemed even hollower when set against reports that he had suspended plans for West Bank annexation and de-facto closed his eyes to the American sale of F35s to the Emiratis. Netanyahu’s denials fooled no one other than his most loyal followers.
Yet while Netanyahu disparaged Sharon (who was known to like a lunch or two) and his predecessors, he has adopted some of his former rival’s guiding principles.

The first is to always stay in the game come what may. Before being lauded by world leaders for his courage, Sharon suffered from a rollercoaster political career that hit rock bottom with the devastating conclusions of the Kahan Commission after the Lebanon War. Reflecting back, Sharon would say that one should always keep one’s hands on the wheel. ‘At times you are up, at times you are down. But the wheel keeps moving,’ he would recount. Even during his years in the political wilderness, Sharon always believed things could improve. He just had to hold on. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK– Ed.]
______________________________________________________

Israel’s Cautionary Tale for Risk-Averse Israel’s Republicans
Caroline Glick

Newsweek, Sept. 25, 2020

The battle over the vacancy on the Supreme Court created by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death drives home the extent to which judicial politics have become polarized, ugly and disruptive.

Some Republicans fighting for re-election in purple states, like Maine Senator Susan Collins, want to leave the seat vacant until after the November 3 elections. President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell prefer to have the fight now, while Republicans have the votes to confirm a conservative justice, rather than risk losing the opportunity on November 3.

This is not a minor dispute. How Republicans act now will have a major impact not only on the Court, but on the future of representative politics in America.

To understand the stakes involved, Republicans should consider Israel’s predicament. Today, a thoroughly politicized Supreme Court and an army of politicized government lawyers stand on the verge of destroying Israeli democracy.

It’s a complicated and convoluted tale. But a good place to begin is with a seemingly esoteric story that flashed across Israeli local news for a few days last month.

Israel’s (very small) conservative media reported on credible documentary evidence that Deputy State Prosecutor Liat Ben Ari committed several crimes and administrative infractions regarding an investment property she purchased with her husband. According to the story, Ben Ari and her husband falsely committed to live in the investment property in order to make themselves eligible to bid for the as-yet unconstructed home. After winning the bid, Ben Ari and her husband allegedly divided the newly constructed house into rental units, in breach of the building license.

This minor story was a major event because Ben Ari is the chief prosecutor in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial for the “crimes” of negotiating with media outlets for less hostile coverage and receiving gifts of wine and cigars. Ben Ari is viewed as one of the people most responsible for the controversial decision to describe these trivial acts as “fraud and breach of trust and bribery,” and to indict a sitting prime minister on charges that are dubious at best.
Within days of the reports, Ben Ari’s misconduct was retroactively made legal. The municipality where the property is located convened a special planning board meeting and approved Ben Ari’s unlawful actions after the fact. News coverage dried up and Ben Ari carried on.

The building infractions were not Ben Ari’s only alleged offense over the years. She has also been credibly accused of submitting false written and oral testimony to courts on multiple occasions. None of the allegations have been investigated. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
______________________________________________________

Secret Ties Between U.A.E. and Israel Paved Way for Diplomatic Relations
Dion Nissenbaum
WSJ, Aug. 14, 2020

The diplomatic breakthrough between Israel and the United Arab Emirates caps more than a quarter-century of deepening—but largely secret—business and security ties between the two countries that signals a major shift in the geopolitics of the Middle East.

A major driver bringing the Israelis and Emiratis together has been their shared distrust of Iran, which they view as a destabilizing force in the region, and their concern about its growing military capabilities. That drove increasing intelligence cooperation between the two, according to current and former U.S. officials.

Business connections also grew. Even though the two nations didn’t maintain direct air or telecommunications links, deals got done. It became possible to hear Israeli businessmen quietly speaking Hebrew in certain Dubai hotels.
“This was more or less something that has developed, I would say, organically” and in “many, many areas,” said Anwar Gargash, Emirati minister of state for foreign affairs. This week, he said, the establishment of diplomatic relations transformed it into “something tangible.”

Thursday’s agreement now paves the way for other Arab and Muslim nations that have warming relations with Israel, including Bahrain, Oman and Morocco, to follow the Emirati lead. Trump administration officials said they are cautiously optimistic that they will see similar steps by the end of this year.

Like the U.A.E., other Arab nations have quietly developed budding business, security and intelligence ties with Israel. Israeli businessmen have meetings with Saudi counterparts in Riyadh restaurants. In 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a rare visit to Oman. Morocco is looking at opening up commercial flights with Israel. And last year, the foreign ministers of Bahrain and Israel had their first public meeting in Washington.

Bahrain hailed the deal, but didn’t respond to request for comment about its own relations with Israel. U.S. officials said they expect Bahrain will be the next to follow the Emirati lead.

A tentative outreach from Israel to the U.A.E in the 1990s planted the first seeds from which the relationship grew, according to people familiar with the talks. Israeli diplomats quietly met with Emirati intermediaries to talk about the U.A.E.’s efforts to buy new F-16 fighters from America.

Then, as now, Israel was concerned about maintaining its military edge over its Middle East neighbors. After discussing the deal with Emiratis, Israel told the U.S. it wouldn’t object to the sale. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
______________________________________________________

For Further Reference:

Bercovici: CoronaviVivian Brus Brings Israel to its Knees: Vivian Bercovici, National Post, Sept. 11, 2020 — Over the last several weeks, Israel has surged to the fore of the global COVID-19 pack in a most inglorious way. And now, the government is bringing down the hammer.

Israel Going Back Under Nationwide Lockdown To Combat Surge In Coronavirus Cases:  Tia Goldenberg And Aron Heller, Global News, Sept. 13, 2020 –– Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday announced a new countrywide lockdown will be imposed amid a stubborn surge in coronavirus cases, with schools and parts of the economy expected to shut down in a bid to bring down infection rates.

‘We Are on The Brink of Disaster, Stop Blaming Each Other’:  Arutz Sheva, Sept. 25, 2020 — Yamina chairman and former Defense Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday detailed the steps that the government must take towards lifting the hermetic lockdown.

Opposition MKs Block Bill To Limit Protests And Public Prayers During Pandemic David Rosenberg, Arutz Sheva, Sept. 25, 2020 — Opposition lawmakers have challenged the government’s plan to pass legislation allowing it to use emergency powers to significantly curtail the rights of demonstrators to protest and worshippers to gather during the coronavirus pandemic.