Israel media review

Workin’ on some night moves: What the press is saying on December 8

The government decides to give a curfew a shot at bringing infections lower, even if few think it will do much more than make some front page news

Israeli police seen at the entrance to the neighborhood of Ramot in Jerusalem, as Israel enforces a night curfew, applied to some 40 cities all over Israel which have been badly affected by the coronavirus, September 9, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
Israeli police seen at the entrance to the neighborhood of Ramot in Jerusalem, as Israel enforces a night curfew, applied to some 40 cities all over Israel which have been badly affected by the coronavirus, September 9, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

1. The night time is the wrong time: Israel’s coronavirus cabinet decided Monday night to impose a nightly curfew on the nation to curb coronavirus infection rates, though it’s hard to say move is making the nation sleep well at night.

  • Channel 12 news calls it a “serious step that shows the failure in dealing with the disease,” laying out all the other restrictions Israel has already imposed, some of which still remain in place.
  • Israel Hayom’s front page headline juxtaposes the curfew with the “Vaccine on the way.”
  • The tabloid calls the curfew a “dramatic step” by the cabinet and predicts that a fuller lockdown may still be on the way, previewing steps “to deal with the third wave” of the virus, which it says is already here.
  • (The “Are we headed toward or already in a third wave” debate in the media is reminiscent of the “Are we headed toward or in a third intifada” question that the media immediately jumps into any time there is an uptick of violence.)
  • Some other news sites juxtapose the decision with what they term a cabinet decision to “open the malls.” While that may read as if the cabinet okayed all malls to open, in actuality it’s just a decision to allow a pilot that has allowed some malls to open to continue.
  • Haaretz, the home of many anti-Netanyahu demonstrators, makes sure to highlight the fact that an official announcement on the move notes that “the right to demonstrate won’t be harmed by the restrictions.”
  • Several news outlets report that according to the plan, if new infections hit 3,500 a day by December 20, tightened restrictions shutting businesses will be put in place, and if Israel hits 4,500 by January 2, a full lockdown will return (as if Israel has yet to stick to any plan or timeline yet.)

2. Half-step: Where there are decisions, there is opposition and second guessing. In Israel that means a kvetchy clutch of critics asking whether the curfew is too much or not enough.

  • “A curfew has not been proven to work in any place bringing down morbidity or death,” infectious disease expert Dr. Yoav Yehezkeli tells Army Radio. “The decision makers are only looking at the coronavirus and not at public health in a wider sense — they’ve lost proportion.”
  • In Yedioth Ahronoth, columnist Sarit Rosenblum calls for “drastic steps” to be taken, though a curfew is not among them, and chides the government for what she sees as a lack of consistency, with its insistence on pilot programs to keep stores and other things open even as infections rise.
  • “It’s not clear what’s going through the feverish minds of the country’s leaders before they got to this point. Did they think it would be interesting to see what would happen if they send more than a million students to school and daycare with no protective measures, via a slapdash plan, which has already shown itself to be a failure at least twice? Were they curious to see what would happen if they opened the malls exactly on Black Friday?”
  • Arnon Afek, a member of the panel of professionals that advises the so-called coronavirus cabinet, tells Ynet that while it makes sense to try a curfew, he had little hope that it will achieve the desired result.
  • “I think it makes sense to try a nightly curfew,” says Afek, who is the deputy director of Sheba Medical Center. “Do I think it will work? I’m afraid not. We may arrive at a full lockdown, but at least we’ll have proven to all those people who are hurt by it that we made every effort [to avert it],” he says.
  • Ayman Seif, the deputy coronavirus czar in charge of the Arab community, tells the Kan public broadcaster that “a nightly curfew should contribute some amount to lowering morbidity. Its efficacy is under doubt — but the desire is to prevent a general nationwide lockdown.”
  • Army Radio reports that when health officials tried to make their concerns known at the coronavirus cabinet meeting, they were shut down and told to tell someone who cares (in not so many words) by the cabinet secretary.
  • “It’s too bad they don’t accept the opinions of the professional staff,” Shuki Shamir, a member of the team advising the cabinet, tells Army Radio. “As Ash said — this means a shutdown in January for sure.”

3. Consistently inconsistent: Several news sites contain play by plays of parts of the closed-door meeting, likely thanks to leaks that — no surprise here — make out many of the gaggle of ministers to be fighting for the people’s rights in the face of a faceless bureaucracy steamrolling them back under lock and key.

  • Channel 13 news reports that during the meeting, coronavirus czar Nachman Ash called the curfew a “half-step,” but said that any move they made would likely not see any results for two weeks.
  • “If we start with these steps now, we’ll hit 3,000 patients in any case,” he’s quoted saying.
  • Though the channel does not make it clear if his comments were only in the case of the curfew or no matter what steps are taken, it says that Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi piped up at that point by adding that “I agree, the curfew is problematic.” It notes that he voted in favor of it anyway.
  • “They are looking to us for consistency,” Walla quotes Equality Minister Meirav Cohen saying. “It’s really hard when we’re having one discussion on opening malls and a second one on a lockdown. We have a real problem with implementation.”
  • It also quotes her saying that she would rather the economy be shut down if it means schools can open.
  • Kan reports that Interior Minister Aryeh Deri had an even better idea than raising fines, telling fellow cabinet members that if they want quarantine measures to be effective, they need to shorten the period required to quarantine. “According to the numbers, some 50 percent of those who require isolation do not keep it.” (One wonders if he would suggest the same solution for Jewish holidays and Shabbat should he find out that most don’t keep those either.)
  • Kikar Hashabbat includes a back and forth between Deri, who eventually abstained from the vote, and Blue and White Minister Izhar Shay, in which Deri flogged the science minister for “talking about elections in February in the Knesset in the morning and talking about a lockdown in February in the evening.” The dispute ends with them both agreeing that they don’t want new elections.

4. Election selection: Someone else who is trying to avoid new elections, it appears, is Yamina’s Ayelet Shaked, but it’s not because she is so enamored of the makeup of the current government.

  • Rather, according to Army Radio, Shaked is trying to woo Derech Eretz to join up with her faction behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a newer, right-wingier coalition.
  • The station reports that while Derech Eretz confirmed the report, Shaked, who apparently made the moves behind the back of leader Naftali Bennett, is denying it.
  • Reporter Tal Schneider, who will become ToI and Zman Yisrael’s Knesset correspondent next month, writes on Twitter that the gambit has several flaws.
  • “If I remember correctly, according to the Basic Laws amended and distorted beyond recognition, a move like this by Likud will automatically turn [Benny] Gantz into the prime minister. Problem 2: Shaked denied the report. Problem 3: It’s totally contrary to Bennett’s campaign over the last few months. Here’s a boggler: Which politicians have an interest in leaking this.”
  • The advent of an even righter government would not surprise Aron Heller, who writes in Haaretz that it’s unlikely Israel will have a leader to the left of Netanyahu anytime soon.
  • “It would take a perfect storm for the ideologically murky parties of Gantz, Yair Lapid and Avigdor Lieberman to cobble together enough mandates for a makeshift alliance with Bennett and others that could potentially freeze out Netanyahu,” he writes. “In Israel… the demographics play to the right. Israel’s fastest growing sector, ultra-Orthodox Jews, have been Netanyahu’s most loyal coalition partners. Even if they were to somehow break with him, it’s hard to imagine them ever siding with the egalitarian, gay-friendly zeitgeist of the liberal left or the secular sentiments of most of the anti-Netanyahu crowd.”
  • Israel Hayom reports that Blue and White is worried about what it sees as Netanyahu attempting to use the coming coronavirus vaccines as a campaign tool in upcoming elections, and is thus pushing for elections in March, before the vaccines will be fully deployed and when the Likud leader will be attenuated by criticism of his handling of the pandemic.
  • “From conversations with Blue and White sources, a picture has emerged of them understanding that the rotation won’t happen, and now they are trying to figure out what the best date for elections will be.”

5. When you’re here, you’re La Familia: The purchase of half of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team by UAE Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Nahyan is met with a mix of joy, bemusement and confusion.

  • “Beitar is favorite of rightwing politicians and has never fielded an Arab player. Radical fan group ‘La Familia’ partial to chants about prophet Mohammed & burning Arab villages. Good luck,” tweets journalist Neri Zilber.
  • Haaretz’s Noa Landau tweets a picture of Beitar fans holding a sign calling the team “ethnically pure,” with a 50% jimmied in, representing Hamad bin Khalifa’s stake.
  • Channel 12’s Moshe Primo is kinder, writing that Beitar owner Moshe Hogeg is “distancing himself from racism and making history,” calling the owner “brave” for allowing a rich Emirati to buy into his club.
  • “There’s no other word to describe what’s happening at Beitar Jerusalem other than ‘historic,’” he writes.
  • Kan calls it “the dawning of a new age for Beitar.”
  • Actor Menashe Noi, annoyed at venues still being shut, wants to get in on the action too, telling Army Radio that he suggests “one of the Emirati sheikhs buys an Israeli cultural hall, since the government here doesn’t care about them anyway.”
  • But Haim Baram writes in left-leaning Local Call that with Israel a right-wing stew where even the leftists are willing to sell out for a gilded peace with the Emirates, Hogeg’s move fits right in.
  • “Hogeg is an outstanding example of a centrist in Israeli politics. There’s no difference between the far right in most parameters and the drive for peace with the wealthy religious zealots in Saudi Arabia or the Gulf states.”
  • It’s a two-way street, according to Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer, who writes that the Emiratis are investing in the people who really rule Israel — the right.
  • “The ‘Abraham Accords’ between Israel and the United Arab Emirates is Likud’s achievement. A ‘peace’ agreement with a distant oil-rich Sheikhdom, brokered by U.S. President Donald Trump and ignoring the Palestinians is Benjamin Netanyahu’s crowning glory,” he writes. “There’s nothing ironic about Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan owning half of Beitar Jerusalem. His family has made a strategic decision to invest in their ties with Israel’s leadership and the businessman knows a good investment when he sees one. He knows exactly what the club represents. The Emiratis are now invested in Israel’s ruling class.”
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