1. Putting the us in virus: The news that Israelis on a quarantined cruise ship have been found to carry the Chinese corona virus leads the news agenda Sunday morning.
- Army Radio and Kan initially report that two Israelis who were on the Diamond Princess “corona cruise” have been determined to be have the virus.
- According to the Health Ministry initially, however, three Israelis were found to be carrying the virus and “the Israelis found to be carrying the virus” have been brought off the ship to be hospitalized in Japan in good condition. The ministry then also downgrades its figure to two.
- “Israel will send a medical expert who will be in contact with the relevant authorities in Japan and will accompany the medical process,” Kan reports, practically cribbing the Health Ministry release word for word.
- The Foreign Ministry tells ToI that the initial discrepancy in numbers is because the third Israeli had not yet been confirmed to be carrying it, and thus remains on the ship.
- That lack of coordination or transparency appears to be a prevalent side effect of the virus. Channel 13 reports that the ship’s quarantine is expected to continue beyond two weeks — though, “because of the little information coming out about the quarantine conditions, it’s hard to know if the new checks are due to some new exposure or they were carrying the dormant virus until now.”
2. Seasick: Even before the cases were confirmed, Health Ministry deputy head Itamar Gruto was on his way to Japan to help coordinate the possible removal of Israelis on the ship back to Israel. One might think the reactions would have been “Phew, good thing we didn’t bring them to Israel,” but rather the reaction is “Bring them to Israel sooner.”
- Gruto tells Ynet that “if the Japanese allow them to be brought to the airport and then to Israel, we’ll think about how it’s possible to do that.”
- Nicole Ben David, an Israeli on the ship tells, Ynet that Gruto is too late and Israel should have never trusted the Japanese.
- “We were naive to listen to the Japanese authorities. We are at the edge of danger and feeling a bit unsettled.”
- She also says they are not being given information. “My family is healthy, but we didn’t get any message from the ship’s crew, from the doctors or the embassy. This just sharpens the point that it’s possible the quarantine is wrong and we should have been allowed to be quarantined in Israel.”
- Israel Hayom, which has been leading the campaign for Israel to send a rescue mission for the Israelis on the ship, quotes a man whose mom is on the ship and who complains that he’s also not getting information. “We’re still trying to figure out who it is. Just yesterday I told you that it was heating up, it’s terrible. While a Health Ministry official is making his way to Japan, more people are coming down with it. … Get them out of there already, you’re causing a disaster.”
3. A day in Hubei: The virus was leading the news agenda even before the news about the sick Israelis became public, thanks to the news that Chinese president Xi Jinping knew about the virus well before the public did, as well as the first fatal case in the West and the discovery of a case in neighboring Egypt.
- Yedioth Ahronoth reports that the Egypt case is the first to be found in any country neighboring Israel.
- In Wuhan, Ofer Dekel, an Israeli factory owner who has been documenting his life online, earning him the nickname “Ofer China,” publishes the first of what he promises will be a series of daily dispatches from the quarantined city for the Globes financial daily.
- “For the 25 days we have been under lockdown I have tried not to think about our factory. What’s money when everything is closed? Now all thoughts are turned to worrying about your family, your two young kids, and if you will make it through this. But it never ends and our factory, which provides to 18,000 customers around the world, is closed. Nine days of New Year’s holiday, plus this never-ending quarantine. Everything is shuttered,” he writes.
4. If you can’t beat ‘em, don’t count the Arabs? Israel, meanwhile, is in a never-ending election cycle. A new poll shows pretty much the same numbers as almost all the polls have been showing since before the first round: Blue and White and Likud in a virtual tie, Joint List in the low teens and everybody else between seven and nine, with no way to break the deadlock without Yisrael Beytenu or a unity deal.
- Haaretz reports that Blue and White sees the right and left blocs staying the same no matter what and so has decided its best chance at making a change is in ensuring it is the largest party, and so has started trying to siphon off votes from Labor-Gesher-Meretz.
- “If Kahol Lavan becomes the biggest party in the Knesset with a large lead, it will be boosted significantly in coalition talks with the other parties,” the paper reports sources in the party believe.
- The paper also reports that LGM thinks the appointment of Likud’s Nir Barkat as finance minister will help send socioeconomic-minded voters on the right its way (though the English edition of the story kind of garbles it).
- “Netanyahu shot himself in the foot in appointing Barkat, and we believe that quite a few of [Moshe] Kahlon’s supporters will be divided between Blue and White and us,” an LGM source is quoted telling the paper.
- Channel 13’s Raviv Drucker reports that Gantz is trying to push a strategy of winning “the Jewish majority,” that is, forming a minority government based on the idea of having enough supporters who are not in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s camp (which sounds both racist and the same as a government supported by the Joint List from the outside).
- “How will they overcome ideological differences? Indeed, it seems that there aren’t really any significant gaps, since their whole ideology is based on the ‘not,’ as in their joint base is to not do whatever Netanyahu does — not to fight the courts, not to attack the media and not to go against the state prosecutor,” Drucker writes with uncharacteristic naivete.
5. Lies and the lying liars who tell them: As if to disprove his point, Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman makes it painfully clear that there are some big differences between him and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz.
- A media blitz by Gantz featured him saying that he will not allow the Joint List into his government, and him speaking about Liberman seemingly being okay with joining his government.
- “I heard [Avigdor] Liberman this morning say that he will sit with Labor and Meretz and he will sit with us. We have no agreements with Liberman. We had great negotiations with him before the previous Knesset was dissolved. We have achieved unprecedented achievements in understanding about religion and the state,” he told Channel 12 news.
- Yedioth splashes Liberman’s response across its front page: “Gantz lies shamelessly.”
- According to the paper, Liberman did not take kindly to being portrayed as in Gantz’s corner or pocket, and so decided to attack him by accusing Blue and White of “selling the country to the ultra-Orthodox.”
- Why the fight? Channel 12 news reports that Gantz is expected to “make three promises in order to move voters from Yisrael Beytenu to Blue and White: He will commit to no government without a deal for the IDF draft bill, won’t appoint [UTJ head] Yakov Litzman to be in charge of health systems, and will reform religion and state.”
6. For it till I’m against it: Gantz takes heat from other quarters as well over his media blitz. Israel Hayom, always in Likud’s corner, also calls Gantz a liar (or quotes Netanyahu doing so), for claiming that he doesn’t plan on asking for Joint List support.
- “Without the support of [Joint List MK Ahmad] Tibi or [Joint List head] Ayman Odeh in the Knesset, he has no government,” the paper quotes the prime minister saying.
- Tibi tells Kan that he won’t support Gantz unless he changes his ways, which the broadcaster translates to mean that Tibi is leaving the door open to working with Gantz.
- As for the Jewish majority idea: “Anyone who supports it is a racist. … We wants to beat the Jewish majority concept, ” Tibi says.
- Channel 13’s Hila Korach wins plaudits for asking Gantz how he felt about “Sharap,” a Hebrew acronym for an idea of allowing private medicine in public clinics. Gantz answered that he supported it in moderation, which to some read as him trying to BS his way out of something he knew nothing about.
- Former editor Shay Niv points out that Blue and White’s Yael German took the idea off the agenda when she was health minister years ago. “Hila Korach’s achievement was in managing to surprise Gantz with a question that hasn’t been asked in studios for years, and for which he did not undergo any prep work,” he tweets. “She also exposed another gap in experience vis-a-vis Bibi.