Run it up the flagpole: 5 things to know for June 7
Israel media review

Run it up the flagpole: 5 things to know for June 7

A protest against annexation is overshadowed by Palestinian flags and police violence, and with some moves made preemptively or possibly delayed, July 1 starts to look irrelevant

Protesters gather in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square on June 6, 2020, to denounce Israel's plan to annex parts of the West Bank. (Jack Guez/AFP)
Protesters gather in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square on June 6, 2020, to denounce Israel's plan to annex parts of the West Bank. (Jack Guez/AFP)

1. See you at the crossroads: There’s still almost four weeks to go before anyone can even start their engines, but the battle over annexation appears to be revving up to full throttle anyway. A Saturday night protest against annexation is splashed across the top of all three major dailies, though they do not all have the same take.

  • Alongside a large front page picture of the rally, broadsheet Haaretz highlights a quote from Ayman Odeh in which he said Israel was at a crossroads between democracy and apartheid.
  • Yedioth Ahronoth runs “The annexation trap,” as a headline, playing up opposition from the settler leadership alongside pictures of the Tel Aviv rally.
  • “I’m very worried,” hard-line settler leader Yossi Dagan is quoted saying, riffing off Odeh’s quote. “We’re at a juncture that could bring us excellent results and the historic realization of sovereignty. We’re also at a junction that could realize the creation of a terror state in the heart of our land.”
  • Yedioth columnist Nahum Barnea accuses Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of rolling the dice by trying to get away with annexation without having to pay for it: “He’ll annex the lands, but won’t give locals rights. They will live in tiny Bantustans surrounding by Israeli sovereign land. They tried this idea is South Africa for a few years. They called it apartheid. We know how it ended.”
  • Palestinians are also not waiting around for the annexation hammer to fall: ToI’s Raphael Ahren reports that “the Palestinian Authority is planning to get the United Nations General Assembly to condemn Israel’s plan to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank,” citing Jerusalem’s mission to the UN in New York.
  • The vote is expected to pass with an overwhelming majority, even before the Israeli government takes any active steps to apply sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and all settlements across the West Bank.

2. Flags of our enemies: It’s not the increasing use of the A word that has everyone in a huff, though, it’s the temerity of some protest-goers to wave Palestinian flags, giving the right what it thinks is a chance to dunk on the bleeding heart lefties. (The same “debate” occurs every time Palestinian flags show up at a Tel Aviv rally.)

  • Israel Hayom splashes the headline “They call for democracy and wave terror flags,” across its front page, leaving no question as to its stance on freedom of expression when it comes to Palestinian national aspirations. (Waving a Palestinian flag in public is not illegal, though it is still semi-taboo.)
  • Channel 12’s Amit Segal fumes that “Yitzhak Rabin would be ashamed,” panning what he describes as an “unholy, unnatural alliance between centrist political activists who have joined up with pro-Palestinians in order to thwart Netanyahu.
  • Hitting back at the critics, Tamar Zandberg of Meretz tells Army Radio, “Isn’t strange that those giving us lessons in Zionism when Palestinian flags are waved are the ones who want to annex a million of them into the country.”

3. Bernie and Josef in Tel Aviv: It’s not just the flags, apparently, as Israel Hayom’s Amnon Lord accuses the protesters of making for Ibn Gvirol Street in Tel Aviv and “trying to beat up passersby and bystanders and throwing things at police.”

  • The real threat to democracy, he claims, aren’t extremist settler “hilltop youth,” but rather “black-boot groups [he appears to be making up a group here or may mean the Black Panthers], the black flags, the Red Swastika movement [???] with the hammer and sickle, the Stalin-lovers and communists, the local Bernie Sanderses.”
  • In fact, there were no such reports of rioting, violence or looting and only five people were arrested, ostensibly for blocking the road (and if you know what the red swastika movement or black-boot groups are, I’d love to know).
  • One of the five arrested, in fact, wasn’t even a protester, but Haaretz photographer Tomer Appelbaum. A video shared by his colleague shows police jumping all over Appelbaum as he tries to do his work.
  • Speaking to Kan, Appelbaum says he did not try to resist: “Dispersing protests is always done with liberal violence. I don’t know why their immediate choice is violence, even if the person does not resist.”
  • The police tell the station that Appelbaum appeared to be helping block the street (the video shows otherwise), and that once they realized he was a journalist, he was released.
  • Another video shows another protester taking some punches from a cop. Haaretz reports that a senior police official said that “this was extreme and unnecessary behavior by one cop during the unrest at Rabin Square and he noted that it’s being taken care of.”

4. Buying time: Haaretz leads off its broadsheet with the headline that “the international community is calling on Israel to push off annexation as much as possible,” seemingly heralding a shift away from stopping annexation altogether, and instead just kicking the can down the road.

  • “They’re focusing on convincing the Israeli and American governments that the current timing of moves toward annexation is the worst possible, undermining regional and global stability – in part due to the coronavirus pandemic,” reports the paper, noting initiatives by Germany and the Quartet to “buy time.”
  • Former Likud defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, currently of Yesh Atid-Telem, tells Army Radio that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has no intention of actually pushing annexation in his given timetable: “It’s to distract from the economy. Nothing will happen on July 1.”
  • In Walla, Amir Oren brings up another problem, the fact that Israel cannot annex, under the plan, without earmarking territory of equivalent size to be given to the Palestinians. Thanks to a law pushed by Netanyahu years ago, any ceding of land needs to be accompanied by a referendum:
  • “The law requires 80 signature of MKs, and if not, a referendum. The chances that will happen before November: zilch: And if Netanyahu and Gantz try to get around the law, they will invite a High Court challenge,” he writes.

5. Infection reflection: While the infection rate is continuing to rise, the Knesset is trying to figure out a way to legislate some emergency legislation that somehow does not run roughshod over individual rights.

  • ToI’s Haviv Rettig Gur notes that the Knesset proceedings, especially attempts to pass an austerity budget, are getting even less public input than normal, thanks to the virus restrictions: “The same virus that drove the budget crisis also closed the Knesset off to advocacy groups, journalists, lobbyists, NGOs, industry representatives, diplomats and outside experts who usually play pivotal roles in the development of legislation, including and especially the state budget bill,” he writes.
  • Kan reports that another body not known for transparency, the “corona cabinet,” will meet Monday to discuss whether to leave schools open and other matters.
  • News outlets report that thanks to a rise in cases, trains will not resume service as scheduled on Monday, though Channel 12 news notes that allowing them to begin rolling away despite the high infection numbers will be on the meeting agenda.
  • Trains and event spaces, concert halls and other large venues are about the only places still shuttered, and Ynet reports that musicians and others who make a living off large events fear their comeback will also be stymied. According to the news site, owners and others have yet to receive any guidance on how they will be able to reopen by the book, let alone government help to keep from starving.
  • “I feel like I’m in the movie ‘Home Alone,’” says one event producer. “We got help for March and April. For May and June, when we are still closed, we are not supposed to get help. The whole industry is falling apart, people young and old are crashing without any income.”
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