The first rule of annexation club… : 5 things to know for June 5
Israel media review

The first rule of annexation club… : 5 things to know for June 5

… is you do not talk about an annexation club. At least that’s Netanyahu’s strategy, which appears to only be adding to the sense of impending doom

Two pieces of brown soap. (vovashevchuk/iStock by Getty Images)
Two pieces of brown soap. (vovashevchuk/iStock by Getty Images)

1. Up the creek without a map: The annexation train has seemingly left the station, but nobody is quite sure where it is headed.

  • In The Times of Israel, Judah Ari Gross details the army’s challenges in preparing for the potentially explosive move, with even less information than normal, thanks to the fact that US and Israeli civilian officials are refusing to let them see the proposed annexation map, and keeping others, like the National Security Council, out of the loop.
  • According to several reports, the army does not even know what “annexation” means, whether it will be a symbolic declaration or more concrete, and what it will include.
  • “The Netanyahu government’s decision to keep Israel’s security services out of the discussions marks a major shift in civil-military relations, particularly in terms of peace negotiations and preparations for territorial moves,” he writes.
  • “This is supposedly the final border. You’d think everyone the government could bring in would be involved and that the NSC would be spearheading it,” former deputy national security adviser Chuck Freilich tells him. “It’s a remarkable thing that the country’s future is going to be determined in this haphazard fashion … I don’t know if even [Netanyahu] knows what we’re doing.”
  • Former general and national security adviser Giora Eiland tells Army Radio that “the discussion on what to do has to be with full cooperation — the IDF chief of staff is the strategic echelon.”
  • In Haaretz, Yossi Melman quotes a senior officer saying that, “We’re just a month before the decision and the IDF still has no idea which scenario to prepare for.”
  • “If an area is annexed, will the Palestinians living within it receive Israeli citizenship? How will the borders be marked? Many months of preparatory work by the IDF Planning Directorate and civilian experts would be required, and to date no such teams have been assembled. In the West Bank, even moving a single rock from one side of the road to the other has security implications,” Melman writes.

2. Out of the loop: It’s not just the military that is not being informed of what is going on, but political leaders as well are being kept in the dark, along with settlers.

  • “Why Netanyahu has decided to keep players who are most affected by the Trump map at arm’s distance is a mystery,” writes Israel Hayom’s Ariel Kahana, taking up the settlers’ cause. “The distance and the lack of answers from the prime minister about questions having to do with sovereignty left room for doubt to creep in. These doubts turned into concern, and the concern into active opposition.”
  • In Yedioth, Alex Fishman notes that even Defense Minister Benny Gantz doesn’t know what’s up: “It’s not clear that the defense minister’s bureau even knows who is on the joint mapping committee. The Israeli side is cloaked in mystery. Israel thinks White House aide Avi Berkowitz is on the US side, but is not even sure about that. It could be some career diplomat sitting at the US embassy doing it.”
  • “All the relevant professionals, in the Defense Ministry, Foreign Ministry, Justice and Shin Bet, are not anywhere in the loop and no relevant political or diplomatic forum, like the security cabinet or Knesset Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee, has even convened to discuss the plans or its consequences,” writes Tal Shalev in Walla.
  • “Meanwhile, despite or maybe because of Netanyahu’s purposeful ambiguity, the domestic and international political hubbub is only growing from day to day,” he adds.
  • Even if Benjamin [Netanyahu] is keeping Benny [Gantz]out of the loop, the two are still getting along famously, writes Kan’s Michael Shemesh.
  • Shemesh adds that even if the backbenchers are squabbling, Netanyahu and Gantz have earned the sobriquet “a pair of lovers,” quoting a senior coalition source.
  • Settlers also seem to be trying to reignite the flame with the Trump administration after criticism by Yesha settler council head David Elhayani. “I think Elhayani meant to say that the plan does not show that America is a friend, not that the president is not a friend of Israel,” former Yesha head Hananel Dorani tells Army Radio.

3. It’s only a flesh wound: Israel Hayom, seemingly shifting away from trying to convince settlers that the plan is all their dreams come true, instead pushes the line that “Europe won’t actually do anything to us,” the latest in its series of “tis but a scratch,” stories (see under: Secret Gulf support beneath the radar).

  • Citing unnamed European diplomats, the paper’s Kahana writes: “According to the European envoys, the internal working guidelines of EU institutions, the historical relationship between Israel and Germany, as well as other EU member nations, and Europe’s interest in maintaining good relations with Israel will ultimately prevent the EU from responding harshly to the application of Israeli sovereignty.”
  • Many do not agree about the lack of fallout. Channel 12’s Amnon Abramovitch writes that by going ahead with annexation, Netanyahu is endangering his two greatest achievements: “From his point of view, it was his ability to push the Palestinian question to the sidelines and create an alliance against Iran. Annexation will endanger both of them. But given his personal legal troubles, he’s willing to endanger the nation.”
  • Even Benjamin Pogrund, an ally of Nelson Mandela who always led in the fight against calling Israel an apartheid state, is now changing his tune on that, reports ToI’s Raphael Ahren.
  • “I have argued, uphill and down dale, and lectured about it in a dozen countries and books and articles, that this is not apartheid. There is discrimination against the Arab minority and there’s an occupation in the West Bank — but it’s not apartheid,” he says. “Come July 1, if we annex the Jordan Valley and the settlement areas, we are apartheid. Full stop. There’s no question about it.”
  • In Haaretz, UK lawmaker Luciana Berger and 34 other Jewish community leaders print an open letter to Israeli ambassador Mark Regev deploring the plans: “
  • We are yet to see an argument that convinces us, committed Zionists and passionately outspoken friends of Israel, that the proposed annexation is a constructive step. Instead, it would in our view be a pyrrhic victory intensifying Israel’s political, diplomatic and economic challenges without yielding any tangible benefit.

4. The schools are (almost) all right: Army Radio reports that virus cases rising to over 100 a day and Israel in a four-day doubling pattern, the country has now hit two of the three warning levers that will necessitate a return to lockdown.

  • Channel 12 news reports that 92 schools have been closed and 304 cases have been linked to schools, with nearly 14,000 students and staff in quarantine.
  • But the outlet also notes that the percentage of sick within the school system is less than 0.01% and the percentage of schools closed is only 0.36%.
  • Yedioth Ahronoth also throws cold water on the idea of a large, non-localized outbreak: “The statistics show that most of the sick are in Jerusalem; 72% of them are from the Gymania Rehavia High School. In other areas, there is only a small distribution of sick.”

5. They get tests, we get a warrant: Channel 13 news reports lawmakers are busy trying to put together a new version of a widely pilloried emergency law that would give the government extraordinary powers. According to the channel, the new draft will make it so cops still need a warrant to enter a home and will keep courts open.

  • That is, they would be working on it if the Knesset could get to work, after being shut down in the wake of MK Sami Abou Shehadeh getting infected with the coronavirus. Knesset director Albert Sacharovich tells Army Radio that “we assume we’ll get a fuller picture soon. The infection of Abou Shehadeh is different from earlier cases, because of its intensity and the fact that we had fully returned.”
  • Channel 12 news reports that ministers have been invited to get tested, though most normal citizens can’t get such treatment. “The move was surprising not only compared to the public testing policies, but because parliamentary aides won’t get tested, even though there is a worry they were in contact with Abou Shehadeh and others.”
  • The HMOs running the testing can’t even keep up with the limited tests they are being given, according to the channel.
  • The channel reports that Dr. George Prajgrod, the head of the Medical Laboratory Division at the Meuhedet HMO, sent a letter to a Health Ministry official reading: “Please contact the senior managers of the Health Ministry and update them that all the labs are in crisis and there is no chance of meeting the target number of tests — this time not because of regents or machines but because we don’t have enough manpower for this task.”
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