Off the map: 8 things to know for April 21
Israel media review

Off the map: 8 things to know for April 21

Passover takes the press on a journey from Palestinian statehood (or lack thereof) to spring storms to tweeted bread to a sensational basketball victory

Jason Greenblatt, left, meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to Jerusalem, March 13, 2017. (Government Press Office)
Jason Greenblatt, left, meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to Jerusalem, March 13, 2017. (Government Press Office)

1. Two-source solution: Sky News Arabia has quoted several comments from a senior US official on the two-state solution.

  • Specifically, the official said that the idea was perhaps no longer helpful to the peace process, and that there was no reason to use the term because each side understood it differently.
  • In Israel (and elsewhere), the comment is widely reported in the media and cited to Trump peace envoy Jason Greenblatt. That’s probably because Sky News reported the comments on its Twitter feed directly after quoting comments that it cited to Greenblatt.
  • Officials during briefings will sometimes mark some parts for attribution and some parts as “off the record,” meaning it has to be cited to an unnamed official. Savvy readers (and journalists piggybacking on the report) can usually figure out who the unnamed official is in many cases.
  • What’s interesting about Greenblatt likely insisting they be off the record is the fact that he has made the comments before. In December, he told a panel that the administration was shying away from using the two-state solution term because “it means different things to different people and that using the term has done nothing to advance the cause of peace.”

2. Let my people vote: The comments make the front page of Israel Hayom, attributed to Greenblatt, natch, alongside a report that plays up Egyptian reactions to the upcoming plan in an attempt to downplay them.

  • The report notes that while Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is hosting an urgent Arab League summit Sunday meant to deal with developments regarding the Palestinians, and has expressed support for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, “the Palestinian issue does not having a starring role on his agenda.”
  • The report notes that the Egyptian press isn’t really concerned with the issue either, nor is the Egyptian street. (Given the fact that the country is holding a massive three-day referendum on its future that’s commanding attention, it’s not clear if the lack of coverage is because they don’t care or because there is more important news, though.)
  • “Who needs the deal of the century,” the paper quotes someone from the “Egyptian establishment.” “There’s regional stability, ties between Israel and the Arab states, including Egypt, are improving. The plan could end up taking the Palestinian state off the table, and force Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt to take in hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees and their descendants, possibly in exchange for financial help.”
  • The report also notes that the Arabic Facebook page of the Israeli embassy in Cairo’s page gets lots of likes.

3. Durable piece: In Haaretz, Anshel Pfeffer writes that the peace plan may hew pretty close to one that Netanyahu envisioned years ago in his 1999 book “A Durable Peace,” in which Palestinians gain civilian autonomy in a demilitarized rump state in 40 percent of the West Bank.

  • Pfeffer notes that Netanyahu hasn’t pursued it because it would have been untenable under Barack Obama, but now things have changed.
  • “The world has much more pressing concerns and with an American administration that seems not only amenable to the Netanyahu vision already recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and its sovereignty over the Golan Heights, this is his moment to change the landscape.”
  • Pfeffer goes as far as making the case that US envoy David Friedman may actually be the pitchman to sell the world Netanyahu’s plan.
  • “It’s pretty clear now that Friedman will be Netanyahu’s stalking horse, presenting his vision, and taking the flak for him. Netanyahu will have the best of all worlds. If the administration manages to gain some traction for the plan, he will reap the rewards. If not, it will have been yet another round of wearing down the Palestinians and Israel will not have made any concessions. At worst, Netanyahu will have bought a few more years.”

4. Free to negotiate: While much of the country is taking the Passover holiday off, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud minions are not waiting to start coalition negotiations.

  • Likud negotiator Yariv Levin is expected to kick off talks Sunday with the Yisrael Beytenu party, seen as the most stubborn about entering a coalition.
  • On Saturday party head Avigdor Liberman tweeted that “Yisrael Beytenu has a clear agenda consisting of three issues: security, immigration and absorption, and religion and state. With all the will to join a coalition, and with a willingness to be flexible, we will not give up our basic principles.”
  • According to Channel 13 news, Liberman “is expected to agree to soften his positions, but is signaling to Netanyahu that he won’t let him embarrass him and he will not be willing to go so far that it will make it difficult for him to manage politically in the future.”

5. Where is Moshe? Yedioth Ahronoth notes meanwhile Netanyahu has met with all the parties expected to join his coalition except Moshe Kahlon of the Kulanu party.

  • That could be for a few reasons. 1. Kahlon’s demands are straightforward. He wants to remain Treasury chief and have the party’s Eli Cohen as economy minister. 2. Kulanu is the only party so small that Netanyahu could actually form a coalition without them, albeit a thin one. 3. Likud is pushing Kahlon and Kulanu to rejoin Likud. Recognizing him as a party leader would be at cross purposes with trying to make him as insignificant as possible.
  • According to the paper, both sides are trying to play it like they are the ones too busy for the other: “Likud is under pressure. Kahlon will meet with Netanyahu in a few days or after Passover,” a Kulanu source is quoted saying.
  • A Likud source says “Kahlon is trying to telegraph that he is hard to get and not in Netanyahu’s pocket.”

6. Let it rain: While Passover is normally a time to enjoy the warm spring weather, with hundreds of thousands of matza-crunching families crowding every national park, nature reserve, amusement park and beach, the weather Sunday is literally raining on their parade.

  • Despite the late date for the holiday, and the fact that it rarely rains past early April, Sunday is seeing temperatures dipping to near freezing in some areas, with rain and thunderstorms from the north to the center.
  • It even snowed on Mount Hermon.
  • Channel 13 notes that the rain has managed to fill up the Sea of Galilee to the point that an island that had appeared near Deganya Beach during the drought years is once again submerged and area people “are once again smiling.”
  • “We are at a level that we couldn’t even imagine. Another 52 centimeters and we’ll be 3 meters up,” a local fisherman tells the channel excitedly. “I do hope we make it to three meters up.”
  • According to a local government website, the Galilee as of Sunday morning is at 211.47 meters above sea level, 1.57 meters above the lower red line (below which ecological damage occurs), but another 2,63 meters below full.

7. Afi-come on: Several non-Jewish politicians are have taken to Twitter to wish their Jewish constituents happy Passover, including those who have had adversarial relationships with some in the community, like US Rep. Ilhan Omar.

  • Both the British Labour Party and US Rep. Rashida Tlaib use the same graphic to illustrate their greeting, which some point out contains what looks to be a loaf of bread (or a hairy potato).
  • While Tlaib leaves hers up, the Labour party cleans out the leavening.
  • It’s worth noting that while many Jews refrain from eating bread over Passover, plenty of secular Jews observe the holiday while not necessarily keeping all the Kashrut laws, and there are plenty of foods that are kosher for Passover that resemble bread.

8. Miracle on hardwood: Lastly, congratulations to the boy’s basketball team of the Tichon Hadash high school in Tel Aviv, which won a worldwide tournament with an astounding last second buzzer-beater three-point shot.

  • The shot capped an unbelievably exciting last 2 minutes of the game in which the Israeli team managed to come back from six points down, find itself down by three points with 25 seconds left, and then after hitting a three pointer, again find itself down by two with just 2.5 seconds left.
  • “I prayed for the shot to go in and thanked God,” hero Ariel Lachovitz is quoted saying after the game on Channel 13 news.
  • The team makes the front page of Yedioth Ahronoth, which notes the school is a basketball powerhouse in Israel and a magnet for up and coming basketball players, many of whom also play on the youth teams of Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Tel Aviv.
  • The paper also notes that the team clinched the win despite not having its best player, senior Deni Avdija, who is thought to have a future in the NBA but decided to sit this tourney out on the advice of his coaches at the school and Maccabi.
  • You can watch the whole game (or just the last couple of minutes) here:

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