Back to getting schooled: What the press is saying on September 2
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Israel media review

Back to getting schooled: What the press is saying on September 2

Evening broadcasts and morning broadsheets were supposed to focus on parents finally sending kids off on day 1, but last-minute decision to keep some schools closed steals show

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) and Education Minister Yoav Gallant (L) visit Israeli kids on their first day of school in the Mevo Horon settlement on September 1, 2020. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) and Education Minister Yoav Gallant (L) visit Israeli kids on their first day of school in the Mevo Horon settlement on September 1, 2020. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

1. Not so fast: Schools across the country were slated to open yesterday after ministers rejected coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu’s pleas to keep classes online for students living in so-called “red” towns with high infection rates.

  • But then the coronavirus cabinet flip-flopped, as it tends to do at meetings late at night, so late that many schools in “red” towns didn’t have a chance to let parents know that they were off the hook from carpool duty until the morning.
  • Yedioth Ahronoth’s front page mocks the decision-making process with the headline “In the last minute country,” followed by the underline “Canceling classes in red cities at the last minute, leaving a decision regarding shutdowns over the holidays for the last minute, and waking up to a record of 2,183 new coronavirus cases at the last minute.”
  • “The unity government that was established in order to combat the pandemic has proven that the only thing that can be trusted in the national fight against this virus is that there is really no one to trust,” writes the paper’s Chen Artzi-Sror.
  • The Kan public broadcaster leads its 8 o’clock nightly news broadcast with descriptions of “chaos” in cities with high infection rates. One father from Tiberias says he waited with his kids at the bus stop for 30 minutes before getting a call that school was canceled.
  • Israel Hayom leads its front page with warnings that after delaying school openings in red cities, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein is now considering ordering lockdowns in them as well.

2. Illit but not Elite: The network interviews a resident of the ultra-Orthodox city-settlement of Beitar Illit who is convinced that the Health Ministry’s formula for determining which locales to color in red is “completely political.”

  • Army Radio reports that while a spokesman for Beitar Illit issued a press statement announcing that schools would be closed for the week, many institutions remained open thanks to what appeared to have been the tacit approval of the city’s mayor Meir Rubinstein. “There is no easy way to say this, but the Beitar Illit municipality is simply lying,” tweets Haaretz Haredi affairs correspondent Aaron Rabinowitz upon reading the press statement.
  • Daliyat al-Karmel Mayor Rafik Halbi tells Kan he found out that his municipality was a “red” town through the media. “As if our students are learning in the Philippines,” he tells the network, in an apparent slight of the Southeast Asian republic. “We’re completely invisible to this government,” he laments.
  • Meanwhile, as rumors swirl that Bnei Brak is soon to be added to the list, the ultra-Orthodox town’s mayor Avraham Rubinstein tells the Walla news site that the government and its traffic light plan can shove it because “there’s no way I’ll allow Bnei Brak to become a red area.”
  • In Israel Hayom, the headline for the story reads “Stopping at red,” and it includes interviews from frustrated parents in Kfar Aza, who after dealing with terror from Gaza for weeks now believe their town is being discriminated against by being ordered to keep schools closed over what they deem to be a relatively low number of COVID-19 cases.
  • Even for schools that were able to open — the vast majority of them, to be fair — it was unclear how long they would be able to remain so. Channel 13 shows footage of large crowds at the entrances to elementary schools in Jerusalem where parents tried to give their offspring one last goodbye kiss before finally getting some kid-free time. The footage then pans to the Efrat settlement where Health Minister Yuli Edelstein is welcomed by a pair of students along with a teacher who mark the start of the school year by blasting droplets all over the building entrance via a shofar, or ram’s horn.

3. Peace in our time: US-brokered normalization talks between Israel and the UAE in Abu Dhabi have drawn to a close, but reporters return to the Jewish state on quite a high over what they have just seen in the Arab state, which they couldn’t have imagined being able to visit with such a warm welcome just a few weeks ago.

  • “Summing up: the Gulf is very serious about normalizing relations with Israel,” tweet’s ToI’s diplomatic correspondent and Middle East minyan man Raphael Ahren as he boards the plane back to Tel Aviv.
  • In a separate Reporter’s notebook, Ahren describes the sightseeing he managed to get in with the other reporters while Israeli and Emirati delegations hashed out the details of the brewing normalization deal. They were accompanied by a tour guide from the UAE government who was eager to give a biography of the UAE’s founding father, Sheikh Zayed, and who, “when we asked her what he would think about the normalization with Israel, replied: “He’d be very happy. He was a man of peace.”
  • “And how does she feel about it? ‘We follow our leaders. Whatever they decide we support, blindly,’ she said,” to what surely were crickets from the Israeli reporters.
  • That remark did not appear to have made it into the video that the UAE government published recapping the organized reporters’ trip to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, where participants can be seen oohing and aahing over the museum’s impressive exhibits.
  • In an interview with UAE’s WAM news agency, senior White House adviser Jared Kushner predicted that all other Arab countries could and should gradually follow the United Arab Emirates in normalizing ties with Israel, causing the “vocal minority” that opposes the move to become increasingly isolated in the region.
  • Axios/Walla correspondent Barak Ravid reports that things in the UAE went so well that Israeli officials are hoping that a signing ceremony will be able to take place at the White House this very month. “Officials from all three countries expressed enthusiasm about the pace, atmosphere and results of the talks, and optimism that the US-brokered normalization deal would soon be implemented,” the news site reports.
  • Israel Hayom says that in addition to its plans to open an embassy in Israel, the UAE want to establish a consulate in either Haifa or Nazareth in order to reach out to Israel’s Arab citizens. “We’re signing a peace deal with the nation of the Jews, but the peace in practice will be done with all Israelis,” says an Emirati official, who apparently spoke with the pro-Netanyahu outlet.

4. Pooh-poohing the peace parade: “But despite the warm feelings from the summit, Israeli and Emirati officials expressed caution about what future relations will look like,” Ravid adds.

  • “Several Emirati officials took umbrage at statements from Netanyahu and other Israeli politicians about bringing together Israeli ingenuity and Emirati money. The Emiratis see themselves as the Arab startup nation… and say they expect the Israelis to treat them as equal partners.”
  • Nonetheless, Arab affairs analyst Shimrit Meir tells Walla’s Tal Shalev on the latter’s podcast that Israeli businesspeople will be lining up in droves to make trips to the UAE as a result of this agreement. “This is not a peace of slogans, but a peace that you can take to the bank,” she says.
  • However, Meir warns that the sides still must get past the elephant in the room — the UAE’s strong desire to purchase F-35 advanced fighter jets from the US, a sale that is not directly part of the agreement, but clearly correlated.
  • Meir predicts that the brewing purchase could give Defense Minister Benny Gantz an opportunity to retaliate against Netanyahu for the latter’s recent political games by pressuring members of the US Congress to block the F-35 sale in what could very well end up souring the Israel-UAE deal as well.
  • In Israel, some of the few who remain sour about the normalization deal are notably to Netanyahu’s right. Haggai Segal, who edits the Makor Rishon pro-settler weekly, laments that there’s a connection between the recent delay of the Defense Ministry meetings to advance settlement construction and the normalization deal. “It’s definitely not ‘peace in exchange for peace,'” writes Segal, mocking the way Netanyahu has described the deal.

5. Peace is here, peace is there, peace is everywhere: And it’s not just the UAE and Israel that are making nice, but Israel and Hamas as well, thanks to our rich friends in Qatar, who quite literally bought the Jewish state some more quiet time.

  • Fuel trucks began entering the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom Crossing yesterday after Qatari-brokered ceasefire was struck, providing Gazans with some much-needed electricity.
  • Channel 12’s Roni Daniel says the longevity of the ceasefire will depend on whether Israel allows for the advancement of various humanitarian projects in Gaza, which Jerusalem has been stalling for months due to Hamas violence.
  • A senior official in the Gaza-based terror group, Khalil al-Hayya, says as much in an interview with official Hamas al-Aqsa TV. “Our demand is for the occupation to follow all of prior agreements without procrastinating or delay… We will give the occupation two months, and we will monitor its behavior in implementing projects and bringing in other projects. They need to implement the projects.”
  • “Now that the dollars and peace have returned [to the Strip], it is worth stopping and thinking about whether it makes sense to reduce the Gazans to four hours of electricity a day instead of punishing Hamas [more directly],” writes Meir, warning that policy leads to “more despair and hatred” in Gaza.
  • In an interview on Kan, Haifa professor Ronit Mazan warns Israel against becoming too reliant on Qatar in buying quiet on its southern border. The researcher of Palestinian politics and society asserts that Qatar is not doing this out of the goodness of its heart, but is rather seeking to advance its standing along with that of Turkey in what will pose as a counter to the “bloc of moderate Sunni states.” Ultimately, Mazan claims, Qatar, Turkey and Hamas are seeking to replace Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s regime in Egypt and return the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Cairo — a scenario from which Israel would stand to lose.
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