1. Let my jet-setting relatives go: Peace plans? Primaries? Projectiles from Gaza? The media is still laser-focused on the plight of Israelis stuck aboard a quarantined cruise ship anchored off the coast of Yokohama, Japan.
- On Tuesday, authorities confirmed that the number of cases of Wuhan coronavirus on the ship had risen to 179. Though none of them are confirmed to be among the 17 Israelis on the ship (according to one tally), reports in recent days have indicated that there is an Israeli woman with a fever on the ship suspected of carrying the disease. There is no immediate word if she is among the 30 new cases.
- But even without being sick, scenes on the ship are apparently bad enough for the press to continue to portray it as the vacation from hell, with families’ calls for Israel to rescue them being amplified on the radio and in the news pages.
- “Israel needs to intervene and not wait for Japan to take steps,” Hila Dahan Attiyah, who has 10 family members aboard the ship, tells Army Radio.
- Challenged that Israelis might not have the most sympathy for jet-setters who get to cruise around the world, Attiyah says it doesn’t lessen the need for Israel to help them (and given that the country just mobilized to help a backpacker who decided to travel with weed in her bag, it’s likely she has a point.)
- Israel Hayom puts the “families in crisis” on their front page yet again, reporting on a protest held by the families of the sailing 17 at which they held up, you guessed it, copies of Israel Hayom in which their protest was on the front page.
- The paper reports on a letter signed by 152 relatives sent to an unspecified person or office or Santa, demanding the quarantine be broken to help their families, public health be damned.
- “Our parents are not criminals, they are citizens of the country who went on a trip. The Japanese are attempting the largest experimental quarantine in history. Because of the plumbing, the electricity, the ambient conditions and more, the healthy travelers are also being exposed,” the letter reads.
- (Wuhan, a city of 11 million in quarantine, is slightly bigger than the Diamond Princess.)
2. Cruisin’ for a bruisin’: Life on the Gulag Princess is not exactly fun, report the swashbuckling crew of Israelis on board, with Yedioth quoting one passenger calling it “a horror movie.”
- Hear ye his tale of woe, if yarr nerves be hardy enough, matey, but be prepared to sleep with the lights on: “We can’t sleep much at night. Maybe five hours. We get up at 5:30. I pray until 7 and then they bring us breakfast. My wife cleans the room, and the bathroom and shower, because the maids are not allowed to enter. If we need towels or new sheets, we put the dirty ones by the doorway and they switch them, the same with the food. Between meals we watch YouTube or the news.”
- Yarr, if that not be scary enough, hear ye this other frightful yarn from another passenger who apparently did not realize that going away on vacation meant being away from family: “My granddaughter called me and said she misses us, they want to do kiddush with everyone, and I could not stop crying,” Shimon Dahan tells Israel Hayom.
- That being said, being on the boat does not sound like the best time, and I’m sure it’s unpleasant for them.
3. Time to heal: Luckily, Channel 12 news reports that hundreds of elderly or infirm cruisers are being allowed off the ship “to escape the quarantine” after putting pressure on the authorities.
- And there’s more good news. Kan reports that with Israelis afraid to fly to the Far East, getting there is suddenly a steal. According to the channel, in the last week prices around the world have dropped by 20 percent, and to the Far East by 60 percent. A deal is a deal.
- Plus US President Donald Trump, apparently now an epidemiologist/groundhog, predicted that the virus would pass by April, when it warms up. Yedioth calls Trump’s statement an “attempt to calm fears,” which is a lot nicer than “attempt to dismiss a serious health crisis.”
- He actually may be on to something, though. Haaretz quotes a Chinese epidemiologist saying the virus appears to be slowing down and we may be past it by April.
- But the paper also notes that chances are the virus will get here before then and Israel may not be ready: “Even the most optimistic estimates don’t forecast a coronavirus vaccine in the coming months,” Prof. Eyal Leshem, the head of the travel medicine and tropical diseases center at Sheba Medical Center, is quoted telling the paper. “Which is why we should use the existing and known means to contain epidemics — rapid diagnosis, immediate isolation and quarantine. The question is if Israel is capable of that.”
4. Stroll down memory lane: Former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s meeting with Mahmoud Abbas is met with just about the same dismissive tone in much of the Israeli and Jewish press.
- “An unpopular Palestinian president and a disgraced former Israeli prime minister make the case for peace,” reads JTA’s headline about the meeting, which tells you pretty much all you need to know.
- “There they were on Tuesday at a Midtown Manhattan hotel reaffirming their commitment to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict along lines that until recently were broadly endorsed by the international community,” Ben Sales writes.
- Yedioth Ahronoth calls it “Olmert and Abu Mazen’s strange show.”
- Israel Hayom, seen as close to Netanyahu, naturally bashes the meeting to pieces, starting with its headline which terms the meeting a “tailwind for terror.”
- The cherry on top is a column by the paper’s Amnon Lord essentially blaming Benny Gantz for Olmert’s supposed sins. “The main problem is that the man closest to Olmert, Yoram Turbowicz, is Gantz’s campaign manager. Olmert himself has been very close for years to Yair Lapid,” he bashes with his guilt-by-association hammer.
5. Right said Benny: Even Haaretz gives it short shrift, folding coverage into its story about Abbas’s failed push at the UN for a resolution condemning the Trump peace plan.
- Instead the paper focuses on other supposed sins by Gantz, this time his statement saying that the Joint List won’t be part of his future coalition.
- The paper leads off with the story and also devotes its lead editorial to perfidious Benny: “Gantz’s words are a slap in the face to Israeli citizens, Jews and Arabs, committed to changing the dangerous path Israel is walking on.”
- Gantz said during his speech that the coalition would be needed to pass the Trump peace plan, and Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi tells Walla that indeed his party will now block the plan.
- He describes the plan as a “cry across the generations deepening apartheid and destroying the two-state vision,” and says of Gantz that “if he ignores us, we’ll ignore him.”
- Channel 12 notes that in an interview Netanyahu gave to Channel 20, he tried again and again to repeat his message accusing Gantz of planning on joining with the Joint List. “Except one of the times, Netanyahu ‘veered’ off message and attacked instead former prime minister Ehud Olmert,” the channel reports, quoting Netanyahu as saying that Olmert needs the support of Abbas and the Joint List.
- “You’re mixing up your lies,” Gantz tweeted at him, the channel reports.
6. Gulf buddies: In Haaretz, Yossi Melman reports that Netanyahu’s security aides are working at trying to clinch a meeting for the prime minister with an Arab leader, perhaps even Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, in order to use it for his re-election campaign.
- “The chances of a summit between Netanyahu and the Saudi crown prince look slim, certainly after publication of the details of Trump’s ‘deal of the century.’ That’s why Netanyahu would probably be happy to ‘make do’ with his second choice: a meeting with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who is also deputy supreme commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces,” he writes.
- Channel 12 news reports that Gulf Cooperation Countries may be nearing a non-aggression pact with Israel, according to former Qatari prime minister Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani.
- The channel doesn’t say so, but al-Thani did indeed tweet about a pact between the GCC and some others several days ago, which appears to be what it is basing its info on.
- According to Anadolu, he tweeted that “… the next step of the deal of the century will be followed by a non-aggression agreement between Israel and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries in addition to Egypt, Jordan and possibly Morocco.”
- The Anadolu account notes that it’s not clear where he got his info. Unmentioned is the fact that he may be using the claim as a cudgel against regional rivals and just be spewing BS to make them look like toadies of the US and Israel.
- Channel 13’s Zvi Yehezkeli writes that even Abbas is coming around, kind of, noting his softened speech against the plan to the UN Security Council: “After the protests against the plan failed and now that the terror attacks have stopped for the time being, Abbas understood that he won’t gain from fighting Trump — and that he needed to use his speech to turn to the Israeli people. The essence of that was his nonconfrontational approach, but it’s doubtful if anything will come of it.”