1. Send in the counters: The press Thursday is full of tales of Israel preparing for a summer of uncertainty, with annexation and a possible second virus wave looming.
- Yedioth Ahronoth reports that though the mapping work is far from done “Israel is already readying for the day the order is given.”
- According to the paper, the Defense Ministry is preparing for the possibility that it will have to enter Palestinian towns that end up getting annexed to Israel to count the Palestinians there, but it also seems to be preparing the proverbial ideological ground for not granting them citizenship: “The main fear, at least in Israel, is that once the start of the annexation procedure is announced, Palestinians will come settle in areas being annexed,” the paper reports.
- The paper also reports that the Defense Ministry will treat the mission as it did the Gaza disengagement, forgoing police or army uniforms for more calming safety garb.
- According to Haaretz, this is the first time since 1967 the Defense Ministry will try to count the Palestinians in the West Bank, and it’s trying to prepare for various scenarios since it doesn’t have much idea what the political leadership is planning, including the possibility of violence.
2. Mapping Madness: Though there is no map to speak of, Yedioth Ahronoth still publishes one, seemingly based on one being bandied about by settlers in opposition to the proposal, albeit with slightly less garish and scary colors.
- Walla also jumps on what the settlers are selling, reporting on a survey commissioned by the Samaria Regional Council, which is vociferously against annexation that leaves any area open for Palestinians to have a state. Shockingly the survey finds that most Israeli Jews “who have formed an opinion on the matter” support annexation and 72% think that isolated settlements should not be left as enclaves.
- Leaving no doubt as to the point of the survey, it also reveals that 54 percent of Likud voters would change their vote if party leader Benjamin Netanyahu decides to recognize a Palestinian state.
- Israel Hayom reports that the mapping is going swimmingly. Unnamed sources are quoted telling the tabloid that “much work is advancing, and the process is expected to continue soon,” in the words of the paper.
- But Channel 13’s Barak Ravid tweets that the US and Israel are “pretty far apart” on the matter.
U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman will meet again on Sunday with Netanyahu, Gantz and Ashkenazi in an attempt to get them on the same page regarding annexation. For now they are pretty far apart
— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) June 10, 2020
3. Terra Sanction: Haaretz plays up a warning by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas that other countries will take sanctions against Israel and could recognize Palestinian statehood, though Germany won’t do so itself.
- Quoting unnamed Palestinian officials, Kan TV news reports that several European countries, among them Ireland, have said they will recognize a Palestinian state if Israel extends sovereignty over areas designated for it under US President Donald Trump’s peace plan.
- Kan also reports that the Palestinian Authority is querying the positions of France, Spain, Luxembourg, Portugal and Belgium.
- However Haaretz writes that the PA is having trouble even getting its public to line up behind it against annexation, with a recent Ramallah rally drawing sparse crowds and people much more interested in how the lack of coordination with Israel will hit them in the wallet.
- “The crisis of confidence between the leadership and the public has deepened so much that the public can no longer back its leadership. The masses will not take to the streets over annexation, but would over the economic crisis,” Jack Khoury writes.
4. What threats may come: ToI’s David Horovitz writes that Netanyahu’s desire to push annexation is befuddling. “Much of the world community currently accepts Israel’s presence in the disputed territory, and its overall security control there, as an interim situation whose specifics will be finalized in bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations — as Israel has always demanded. “
- “Unilateral Israeli annexation, by contrast, renders Israel the intolerant party, the party changing facts on the ground, and thus invites accusations that Israel is torpedoing prospects for a negotiated accord — turning Israel’s hitherto quietly tolerated presence anywhere and everywhere in the disputed territories into a subject of front-burner international focus,” he writes.
- In Israel Hayom, though, Yitzhak Ilan writes that of course Netanyahu is pursuing annexation now, with the timing oh so perfect.
- “Exactly 53 years later than we should have, after the spectacular victory in the Six-Day War, we must apply sovereignty in the Jordan Valley to display through action that we will never withdraw,” he writes. “Time is on our side, more so than for the Palestinians. We can’t afford to squander this opportunity because we might not get it again. After all, without the support of the US administration, it cannot be done and it’s entirely uncertain that such a rare confluence of circumstances – American support for the move together with Arab and European weakness – will ever repeat itself.”
- In Foreign Policy, policy wonk Richard Goldberg writes that European companies should be wary of US anti-boycott laws before punishing Israel. “That some European governments would threaten sanctions against Israel while refusing to impose sanctions on Iran and Hezbollah is disappointing. If they’re serious, these European governments should be on notice: Their companies will pay the price.”
5. Persona non-Grotto: Perhaps the biggest story of the day is a series of exposes revealing that Health Ministry Deputy Director Itamar Grotto abused his powers to get billionaire Tedi Sagi out of having to quarantine, among other bad deeds.
- According to a Channel 12 news report Wednesday, Sagi first asked outgoing director-general Moshe Bar Siman-Tov to allow him to enter the country without having to self-quarantine for 14 days as all arrivals are required to do, but was turned down. Sagi then turned to Grotto, Bar Siman-Tov’s deputy, who the network said approved the request.
- Yedioth Ahronoth reports it obtained the email in which Grotto approved the waiver, in which Sagi said he had been infected with COVID-19 two months ago in London and recovered. He also submitted his antibodies test and underwent another coronavirus test days before his flight, which turned up negative, the report said. Sagi also argued in his request that quarantine was not necessary since he arrived from Cyprus, which has few cases.
- Grotto is now facing being suspended or fired according to several reports. “If this doesn’t come to enough to fire or suspend him, at least Grotto will be stripped of authorities regarding coronavirus cases,” Army Radio reports, citing health officials.
- In The Marker, Roni Linder writes that Grotto giving Sagi a pass is one small part of a much larger phenomenon whereby the rich and powerful get to flout the rules as they please.
- “Starting with the reports of the well-connected getting tests for them and theirs, through to Passover where they told Israelis to celebrate without their grandparents and then it became clear that the prime minister, president and several ministers and MKs had gone to celebrate with extended family,” she writes. “Where were [the authorities now up in arms] when the leaders of the country broke the rules, and will you respond harshly like this next time it comes out that a senior official or other well-connected person flouted the law?”
6. Lock him up and throw away the pen: There are some very dark clouds hanging over journalists’ ability to do their job as the fifth estate, after the Likud party launched a campaign pushing for Channel 13 journalist Raviv Drucker to be jailed.
- In response to a Channel 13 investigative report detailing Netanyahu’s alleged pressuring of the owner of the Walla news site Shaul Elovitch to provide positive coverage in exchange for regulatory benefits — an issue for which the prime minister is on trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in Case 4000 — Likud and Netanyahu issued a statement claiming veteran journalist Raviv Drucker was “running wild with leaks and extortion of witnesses.” “In a proper world Raviv Drucker would be going to jail today for airing criminal leaks and obstructing justice,” it said.
- Benny Gantz earns some friendly headlines for his tweeted response: “Journalists’ job is to critique us. So it has been, so it is now and so it will continue.”
- Walla quotes Yesh Atid’s Ofir Shelah (pictured shirtless with Drucker in an ad put out by Likud) saying that “the problem is not how Drucker is doing, but the insane reality in which the prime minister is openly calling to harm journalists.”
7. Freedom from the press: Journalists aren’t having a great time with the rest of the government either, which has refused to publish the minutes from cabinet meetings related to decisions about coronavirus guidelines, leading to a court petition.
- Speaking to Army Radio, cabinet secretary Tzachi Braverman says “we can’t allow the minutes to be revealed. In that situation, participants would be prevented from speaking their minds out of fear from outside influences.”
- After Walla’s Tal Shalev notes that past cabinet secretaries would at least brief journalists once in a while, Haaretz’s Noa Landau tweets that it is not the situation today: “No briefings, no minutes, and the cabinet secretary claims that he’s doing us a favor by even publishing the cabinet’s decisions regarding the public.”
- Kan’s Shaul Amsterdamski writes that the government’s argument that it will release the minutes in 30 years does not really help much either: “The public deserves to know now if its elected representatives — people who we voted on to manage our lives — are providing the goods or not. Did we vote correctly?”