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Schlaglicht Number 2/22, Latest News from the Israeli Press, January 16-31, 2022

"Schlaglicht Israel" offers an insight into internal Israeli debates and reflects selected, political events that affect daily life in Israel. It appears every two weeks and summarizes articles that appeared in the Israeli daily press.

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Main topics covered in this Publication:

  1. Easing of the Corona Measures
  2. Prosecutor’s Office Negotiated a Settlement With Netanyahu’s Lawyers
  3. Increasing Violence From Israeli Settlers
  4. Selection of Articles

1. Easing of the Corona Measures

Don’t punish under-fives for being too young to be vaccinated

(…) unvaccinated individuals are more susceptible to infection and on average are likely to be contagious for longer. They are also most likely to require hospitalization for severe COVID-19 infections and be hospitalized for longer than vaccinated counterparts, creating a tremendous burden on the healthcare system. However, lumping in children under five who are too young to vaccinate with unvaccinated adults who are exposed to COVID-19 is unfair and medically unjustified. Evidence shows that children are less likely to transmit COVID-19 to each other and have less severe symptoms than adults when they become infected. (…) Quarantine for young children is much harder on a family than canceling school or even lockdown. While older children may be able to complete quarantine confined to a room alone and separated from siblings, that would be tremendously difficult and mentally damaging to young children. (…) some potential solutions (…) balance small increases to infection against families’ well-being and ability to earn a living: Allow children under five to inherit their family’s Green Pass status: If both parents are fully vaccinated or if both parents plus all eligible siblings are vaccinated, confer the Green Pass on the child at least during this surge. Vaccinated families are less likely to cause an outbreak than unvaccinated families. (…) Shorten quarantine for children under five to four days post-exposure. (…) Allow flexibility to families with a young child in quarantine for exposure only. For example, allow these kids to go outside if completely confined to a stroller since there is little chance of infecting others. (…) Having children is not a crime and should not be punishable by house arrest.

Jennifer Cohen, JPO, 16.01.22

Israel must clarify its confusing COVID-19 rules

Israelis are understandably confused about the rules and regulations the government has issued and regularly revises regarding COVID-19 – from testing and vaccinations to quarantine and travel. (…) it’s time for some clarity. (…) It’s hard for us all to keep up with the adjusting regulations, especially when it comes to children. The situation has become so untenable that the government is now said to be considering a cancellation of the isolation requirement for children at the end of the month. There are an increasing number of top medical experts criticizing the government’s policy. (…) As Israel reaches what appears to be the peak of the Omicron spread, it is crucial for the government to do all it can now to restore public trust in its policies. Most importantly, the public needs calming messages and not ones that feed confusion and sow panic. We all need to be clear what we as citizens should be doing, besides constantly wearing masks or staying at home, taking antigen or PCR tests, going into quarantine or hospital, and monitoring reports in the media. Rules can be updated as necessary, but most people don’t seem to have a clue what the current rules are as we try to assess whether or not they make sense.

Editorial, JPO, 20.01.22

COVID-19 highlights Israel’s need to invest in healthcare

(…) doctors, nurses and medical personnel who were thrust into nonstop service to deal with the unprecedented number of serious cases of COVID-19 and attempt to save the more than 8,000 Israelis who have succumbed to the virus have been nothing short of superhuman in their efforts. We all owe them a huge debt of gratitude, especially when it becomes apparent that they’re working at a huge disadvantage. (…) Still, in the period covered, it’s clear that there are some worrisome deficiencies in our health system. The OECD average for the number of doctors per 1,000 people is 3.69, Israel falls short at just 3.29. (…) the nursing situation in the country is even more dismal. (…) Manpower isn’t the only thing lacking in the Israeli health system, however. An average of three hospital beds is available per 1,000 people in Israel, in comparison to the OECD average of 4.4 beds per 1,000. (…) There’s not a person in the country that doesn’t rely on the healthcare system to provide the best care possible. Especially with the coronavirus pandemic entering its third year, Israel must do more to shore up the country’s health services, invest more in vital equipment and in training quality doctors who won’t end up burning out by having to work round-the-clock shifts and raising our health standards to at least the average among OECD standards.

Editorial, JPO, 25.01.22

When saving lives no longer matters

Imagine a country that is at the peak of a coronavirus infection wave with 80,000 new cases every day and half a million active carriers, thousands of whom are children.In this country, 2,250 COVID patients are hospitalized across 24 hospitals. Of those, 900 are in serious condition, 250 are critically ill – between life and death – and 190 are on ventilators, without which they would not be able to breathe. Among those hospitalized, 120 are children, of whom 20 are in critical condition. The Health Ministry of this country determined that the hospitalization rate is the highest since the outbreak of the pandemic two years ago, and this does not even take into account the 8,500 doctors and nurses who are in quarantine. (…) Now imagine that the prime, health, and education ministers of this country decided – at the peak of morbidity – to remove almost all quarantine guidelines, essentially allowing the spread of the virus among thousands of children.  (…) precisely this is what is happening in Israel (…). One cannot possibly do away with self-isolation at the height of an infection wave, neither by adults nor by children. Such steps can only be taken when infections are decreasing, and even then, it must be done slowly, gradually, and cautiously.

Ran Reznik, IHY, 27.01.22

Israel hopes Omicron reached its peak, but is it just darkness before dawn?

When there is a lot of uncertainty, and the nature of the threat is unclear, caution is required. (…) The government should have been the first, especially the education and health ministries, to say let’s wait before proposing such a reckless policy like scrapping compulsory coronavirus quarantine for schoolchildren. At least when it comes to children under the age of five, who can’t get vaccinated. (…) The truth is the government is scared. It is afraid of public anger over mass, Omicron-induced quarantines, endless COVID testing and pandemic restrictions. And you can understand why, the general feeling is that the pandemic is coming to an end. All those, however, who believe the pandemic is over, that it is “just like the flu,” are not familiar with all the data, but they still keep pushing the government into the corner, urging it to announce that the pandemic is behind us. (…) The real question is whether this government, which tries to paint a rosy picture of the current infection wave, has not become completely disconnected from the glum reality. (…)

Nadav Eyal, YED, 27.01.22

Israel’s ageist COVID policy

(…) The pandemic is raging, and the state is about to increase the infection rate by canceling quarantine requirements for school children. (…)  Israeli hospitals have a severe shortage of intensive care beds – the fewest of all the OECD countries relative to population. While the OECD average is 11.5 intensive care beds for every 100,000 people, Israel has four. Consequently, hospitals have to decide who should receive a bed in the intensive care unit, and the main criterion is the patient’s age. The elderly are less likely to receive a hospital bed as their chances of surviving are significantly lower. (…) Israel is exercising an ageist policy whose impact on the elderly population has been murderous. (…)

Sara Halperin, HAA, 29.01.22

2. Prosecutor’s Office Negotiated a Settlement With Netanyahu’s Lawyers

Netanyahu’s potential plea deal is the lesser of two evils

Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial is ongoing, and with each passing day the matter goes unresolved, the rift among the public keeps widening and public’s trust in its judicial system keeps eroding. The expected plea deal between Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and Netanyahu is, admittedly, less than a stellar solution for an infinite number of reasons. A deal will prove that the law does not treat everyone equally and does indeed differentiate between social rankings. Not to mention it will undo years of investigation, destroying all evidence gathered in the process. The problem, however, is that the alternative is much, much worse. (…) more years of this trial can throw the Israeli public into the abyss. (…) It is doubtful if there is one objective interpretation of what is going on in that courtroom. Each commentator comes out with a politically biased analysis that makes it exceedingly easy to know their stance on the matter. (…) It seems we praise the rule of law only when it leads to the outcome we desire. (…) What good is justice, proper procedure, evidence, and the exorbitant resources poured to reach an indictment when the end result is public’s complete lack of trust in law enforcement and the rule of law? Netanyahu’s trial serves to provoke a heated, painful public debate over the justice system, its authority and its legitimacy. (…) The evidence gathered against him paints a clear picture of corruption, and that is why it can be assumed that the plea deal will result in, more or less, the same outcome as a prolonged trial. (…)

Ben-Dror Yemini, YED, 17.01.22

Netanyahu should take the plea deal

The time has come for the country to move on from Netanyahu-gate. For this reason, we support efforts to reach a plea deal whereby former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu will plead guilty to lesser charges of fraud and breach of trust, receive a jail sentence commuted to community service, and accept the “moral turpitude” designation that will bar the 72-year-old from politics for seven years. This will put an end to a saga that began with police investigations in 2016 and turned Netanyahu into the fault line that split – and continues to divide – the nation. If the trial runs its course and Netanyahu is found guilty, the significant part of the country that supports him will be further convinced that the trial was a witch hunt launched to bring down a right-wing premier, and their faith in the legal system will sink even lower. If Netanyahu is acquitted, these same people will be strengthened in their belief that the legal system was used for political ends, since an acquittal would reinforce their belief that the case should never have gone to trial. Those who passionately oppose Netanyahu will still believe he is a crook and that justice was not served, and their belief in the legal system will sink. In either scenario, confidence in the fairness and impartiality of the judicial system will take a beating, which does this country no good. (…)

Editorial, JPO, 18.01.22

To justify Netanyahu plea deal, public interest must be preserved

(…) The plea deal (…) is the “least-bad” option and should be supported. The Left needs to understand that although “equality” in general, and “equality before the law” in particular, are extremely important values, they are not absolute values. (…) Should the trial proceed, we may expect continued arm wrestling between sectors of the polity for at least the next five years. Netanyahu’s trial has become a maelstrom that is sweeping Israeli society into a deep abyss. Socially, extremists on both ends deny the legitimacy of the other’s positions. Institutionally, there is a growing erosion of the authority of state organs entrusted with mediating the matters that divide Israelis. The Netanyahu trial is a disaster for Israeli solidarity. (…) A continuation of this trial, which tears society into camps and fuels a culture war between Israelis, would be an irresponsible waste of that credit – like the burning of stored grain during the great revolt of the Second-Temple-era – and would have a real impact on national resilience. (…) The Netanyahu trial is a dangerous catalyst for those forces seeking to liberate the representative authorities – the Knesset and the government – from the critical and restraining power of the professional authority, the judiciary. The Netanyahu trial has unleashed mass mobilization against the legal authorities, to the detriment of us all. (…) The Right must ask itself why Netanyahu is courting the deal. (…) Netanyahu and his legal advisers know that the legal machine will continue to toil, and that the possibility of an actual prison sentence is real. Belligerent rhetoric and public incitement will not affect the legal outcome, and this is a risk Netanyahu understands well. But in order for the plea deal to be justified, it must be strictly ensured that the public interest, which allows a deviation from equality, is preserved. The deal must be formulated in a way that will leave Netanyahu and his faction no incentive to continue their campaign against the justice system. (…)

Yedidia Stern, JPO, 20.01.22

Much judicial ado about nothing

Five years into a legal and media campaign designed to prove to the public that Benjamin Netanyahu is guilty of three serious corruption cases, the mountain has turned out to be a molehill. (…) It seems that instead of three serious corruption cases, we are left with a judiciary that is trying to exploit Netanyahu’s fear that he has no chance of getting a fair trial to blackmail him into admitting to breach of trust – an amorphous, blanket charge that allows the judiciary to grab the political system by the throat. (…) there are several key reasons why Netanyahu should not pursue a plea bargain. (…) The hatred for Netanyahu is the main agenda of a significant part of the legal and media elite and they will not leave him alone. Weakness in the face of blackmail only invites more bullying and not only will a plea deal not promote healing, it will do the opposite (…). Bullying can meet only one response: an iron wall. (…) Netanyahu is required to make a sacrifice that precedes the rule of any law in order to allow us to rebuild democracy. (…) On the other hand, there is enormous damage in Netanyahu admitting to something he did not do. An admission by Netanyahu, as meager as it may be in relation to the original allegations and even when it is clear that it stems from extortion, will sentence Netanyahu to a historic disgrace, and that is a stain he will find very difficult to remove. Last, but not least, there is the political reason why the opposition leader should not agree to a plea deal: the latter will lead to Netanyahu’s exit from politics, but if he keeps fighting, there is a high probability that he will return to the Prime Minister’s Office within a few years.

Erez Tadmor, IHY, 26.01.22

Israel’s Attorney General Mendelblit will go down in history for indicting Netanyahu

The term of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit (…) was replete with dramatic challenges (…) even though on many occasions he met the “expectations” of the person who appointed him, on other occasions he stood up to the powers-that-be in a manner commanding respect. (…) Mendelblit often demonstrated a soft approach that increased the chaos of governance. But he also knew how to stand up to powerful and shameless right-wing figures who tried to undermine the operation of legal advisers in government ministries. In the area of defense, Mendelblit enabled the government to realize its discriminatory policy against the Palestinians. A straight line connects this approach and the gangs of Jewish thugs now roaming unhindered in Palestinian villages. In the area of human rights, Mendelblit allowed the passage of the nation-state law, which anchors in law Jewish superiority and Arab inferiority. He even defended this law in the High Court of Justice. But at the same time, he objected to another law that was aimed at robbing Palestinians of their land. (…) Mendelblit’s term will be remembered foremost in the context of the fight against corruption. (…) In the annals of history, Mendelblit will go down as the first Israeli attorney general to indict a sitting prime minister. Although he did all he could to squeeze and slash the charge sheet, when he finally made the decision to prosecute, he was not deterred by the vicious incitement against him by Netanyahu and his many followers. (…)

Editorial, HAA, 29.01.22

3. Increasing Violence From Israeli Settlers

Government ministers must condemn extremist settler violence

(…) settlers from a nearby outpost – descended a mountain in the West Bank and violently attacked a group of Palestinians and Israelis (…) The masked men carried clubs and threw rocks (…) injured a number of the activists and then proceeded to pour gasoline on a nearby car and set it on fire. These are criminals, hooligans who need to be arrested, jailed and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. (…) only two ministers – Yair Lapid and Yoaz Hendel – had condemned the violence, calling on the police to catch the attackers. Defense Minister Benny Gantz who is in charge of the IDF and the West Bank? Silence. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett? Quiet. The same deafening silence was heard from Justice Minister Gideon Saar, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked and more.  Why the silence? Because they are afraid. They fear the political repercussions for calling out settler violence in the West Bank and condemning it. They prefer a short-term political gain over doing what is right for the country. (…) Is Jewish terrorism like Palestinian terrorism? No. It is a rare occurrence and it is not state-sanctioned like in the Palestinian Authority which pays jailed terrorists and their families. But it exists and there should not be a problem admitting that. (…) The government needs to take a tough hand to the Jewish perpetrators of this violence. They need to be stopped, arrested and taught a lesson. If they aren’t, we should not be surprised that this phenomenon will only continue to grow. (…)

Editorial, JPO, 22.01.22

Instead of being shocked by settler violence, Israel must separate from the Palestinians

(…) So now we are all shocked, but tomorrow we will have forgotten. (…) we will forget the reason for the incident – the unbearable friction between two hostile populations, in a country lacking borders, with a small messianic and violent minority that knows no limits, that strives for the annexation of millions of Palestinians into the State of Israel, while destroying the Zionist dream, undermining democracy and forcing the views of a violent minority on the sane majority. This minority has been leading the majority for years. It settles wherever and whenever it wants (…). If we were to annex Judea and Samaria, Arabs will become 38 percent of Israel’s population. If we were to also annex Gaza, the figure would rise to 47 percent. This is what the messianic far right wants – an apartheid state in which Jews oppress the Arabs, make their lives miserable and encourage them to emigrate. (…) the best thing we can do is to separate. Israel must set its borders immediately, create a barrier between the populations and allow the Palestinians to shape their own future. (…) The time has come to decide: An Israel that preserves its Jewish and democratic identity is an Israel that acts vigorously to separate, so that our children will want to live here and sustain a free, democratic, progressive and prosperous country.

Yair Golan, HAA, 26.01.22

Israel needs to combat settler violence

(…) Oded Revivi was one of the only politicians in Israel willing to recognize the truth. (…) dozens of masked residents of the illegal outpost of Givat Ronen descended a mountain armed with bats and stones and attacked a group of left-wing Israelis and Palestinians who were planting trees in a nearby olive grove. (…) Revivi, mayor of Efrat in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, was the first settler leader and member of the Yesha Council to condemn the violence. (…) Revivi knows what it means to get along with his neighbors. As mayor of Efrat, he has cultivated a close relationship with leaders of the nearby Palestinian villages. (…) there is a type of lawlessness in the West Bank that needs to be confronted with a comprehensive policy. (…) There are violent criminals in some of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. Israel can’t bury its head in the sand and pretend that they will just go away on their own and attacking the messenger does exactly that. There needs to be a plan in place to confront this problem and solve it. (…) the damage this tiny but violent group is causing to the good name of hundreds of thousands of Jews living in the territories cannot be ignored. (…) There should be no hesitating with condemnations. The next time these masked men strike, the entire government needs to stand as one and condemn it. Their voices must be heard.

Yaakov Katz, JPO, 27.01.22

Israel must resist one-state solution despite settler pressure

Israel faces an outbreak of violence, and you don’t have to call those who are responsible for it subhuman, but they are, nevertheless, anti-Zionist hooligans. (…) You can, and even must, condemn violence, you need to pursue the perpetrators, denounce them, and punish them. But any condemnation by the Yesha Council or the politicians won’t help because the root of the problem is the mixture of hostile populations in one small area. (…) some on the further end of the right-wing want more and more settlements outside areas designated for Israel, through the establishment of “neighborhoods,” which are actually just illegal outposts. And these radicals need to explain how we will get out of this mess. If Israel will only have one set of civil rights for the Jews, and different ones for the Arabs, it will become an apartheid state. But if you give the Palestinians the exact set of civil rights as the Jews, then Israel will become a bi-national state. (…) Even in the heart of Europe, in Yugoslavia, it seemed that a multinational society could be created, but we all know how that ended. So why does anyone think this can work here? (…) settlers who chose violence are (…) a minority, but they are a very loud minority. A minority that is creating our future – one that would make the Zionist vision obsolete. It is certainly encouraging that there is a broad consensus, even among most on the Right, that violence must be condemned (…) but we need there to be a consensus on Israel being a Jewish and democratic country – which cannot be achieved in a bi-national state.

Ben-Dror Yemini, YED, 29.01.22

4.  Selection of Articles

Threatened Teachers’ Strike

Israeli teacher union leader isn’t a nice person. So what?

Yaffa Ben David, the secretary general of the Teachers Union, has no class. She’s not nice. When she talks she always looks grumpy and annoyed. She doesn’t arouse empathy or sympathy. She arouses antagonism. That, by the way, is the constant paradox that characterizes labor union members. If they try to protect the people they represent, they “arouse antagonism.” If they’re belligerent, they’re “animals.” If they’re Mizrahim, they’re “vulgar,” “rude” and “mafiosi.” And if they’re women – then it’s an overall disaster, evoking especially juicy insults. In the state of the wealthy, they like their workers’ representatives cute and polite; that is, without influence or power. (…) The decision to cancel quarantines in schools is ultimately a correct, courageous one. (…) Reality is clear and hard. Too few workers are holding up an entire system, while the pandemic is at its peak. Canceling the quarantines and keeping the schools open – correct and bold though this may be – cannot take place without devoting any thought to the education staff. A rogue strike is not a solution, of course. (…) we must listen to the outcry from the teachers. We must pay attention to the mass desertion from the teaching profession, which is increasing due to the harsh conditions these days. (…) Investing in the education system – raising the teachers’ wages, mobilizing more teachers, reducing the number of students per class – is vital not only to prevent dividing society into castes, with the upper caste sending its children to private schools and existing in an obtuse bubble. It is also critical as a fundamental social anchor in acute historic crises like this one.

Ravit Hecht, HAA, 28.01.22

Holocaust Education in the Arab Sector

Arab Israeli youth must learn about the Holocaust

(…) International Holocaust Remembrance Day is a good opportunity to remind of (…) the Final Solution. (…) Antisemitism is rearing its ugly head across the world. This year alone, attacks on Jews have tripled. World leaders must stop the fire of Jew-hatred in their respective countries, which has never fully extinguished. As a proud Arab Israeli, I call on the national and educational leaderships to significantly increase Holocaust studies in Arab schools across Israel, as well as visits to museums and meetings between Arab Israeli youngsters and survivors. On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I bow my head before the survivors and reverberate the promise of never again.

Nael Zoabi, IHY, 27.01.22

Anti-semitism on the Rise Again


(…) Antisemitism is perhaps the most coercive word among the Jewish people. (…) Antisemitism makes Jews special. The persecution that has been focused against the Jews turns the morbid spectator into an amateur, an “amateur” of Israel’s tribulations. (…) hatred towards the people of Israel, almost always gratuitous, has claimed the lives of many people throughout history. Innocent people, children, old people, pregnant women, babies, etc., martyrs and more martyrs is what the people of the book have. (…) Antisemitism goes beyond hostility and prejudice, as recent and not so recent history shows. Wanting to eradicate a people from the face of the earth, wanting to exterminate all the people of a community is not normal. Nor is it normal that, in the face of so many grievances, persecutions, exiles, assassinations and general population depletions, there is still a Jewish people and after an exile as remote in time as in space, there is a Jewish state under the name of Israel and in the territory where it once was. (…) Antisemitism is like a hungry wolf that hides in the woods and comes out in the glow of night to hunt its prey. Always dormant and always on the prowl. It does not sleep, but neither can it be seen continuously. It comes and goes, attacks when it can, hides when it cannot. But it is always there. (…) Where there is a Jew there is antisemitism and even where there is not. Antisemitism is not inert and is not eradicated, it beats within thousands of hearts, but Israel is more than that and will prevail over it. (…)

David Rosenthal, TOI, 28.01.22

Spy Software Also in Use in Israel

The NSO scandal should be an earthquake for the Israel Police

It’s not that we didn’t know that our smartphones are mobile spying devices and that the digital breadcrumbs we leave behind us can be used against us. And yet, the revelations about the use of NSO’s Pegasus surveillance system by the Israel Police to monitor demonstrators and local mayors, and simply to “fish” for possible suspects, should still send some serious shockwaves. (…) using the Pegasus system is the closest thing possible to getting into our minds and our souls. It allows everything to be extracted from a phone: emails, WhatsApp correspondence, social media usage, photos and videos, location data, documents, notes, and metadata. (…) When intrusive information-collection technology is made available, it’s only a matter of time before it is used against us (…). Surveillance of Israeli citizens without judicial approval or a court warrant should constitute an earthquake for the Israel Police (…). the right to privacy is not a left-wing or right-wing issue. Cellular phone intercepts harm us all, from Netanyahu’s advisors to the Black Flag demonstrators. The Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Public Security must immediately undertake every effort to examine this affair in depth and make sure that it never happens again.

Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler, TOI, 21.01.22

HAA = Haaretz
YED = Yedioth Ahronoth / Ynetnews
JPO = Jerusalem Post
IHY = Israel HaYom
TOI = Times of Israel
GLO = Globes

Published: February 2022.

Responsible: Dr. Paul Pasch, Head of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Israel
Editors: Susanne Knaul, Judith Stelmach

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