The Washington Post - 03.03.2020

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had not voted for Likud. He also
expressed fear of what the intrac-
table division was starting to do
to the country. The lack of gov-
ernment stability was one r isk, he
said, and deepening civic anger
was another.
“I know people who vote for
different parties than their fami-
ly, and it causes real tension for
them,” he said, before heading off
to join the throngs of Israelis
crowding local parks, malls and
cafes for the rest of the day off.
Pinkosov, the bus driver, had
just voted without fear or confu-
sion, casting his third ballot in a
row for the religious Shas party
that is part of Netanyahu’s coali-
“I killed two birds with one
stone, voting for Shas and voting
for Netanyahu to stay,” Pinkosov
said with pride as his wife and
daughter nodded in agreement.
None expressed any doubt about
Netanyahu’s integrity or commit-
ment to Israel.
Israel’s Arab political parties
also celebrated the early results.
The group of Arab Israeli parties,
which ran together again under
the Joint List banner, won 14 or
15 seats, according to the three
exit polls, maintaining a place as
the Knesset’s third-largest fac-
tion. The Arab vote has grown
over each of the past three elec-
tions, reflecting greater political
participation by Palestinians
who are citizens of Israel.
“our public w ent to the polls i n
droves in the past two hours,”
said Ayman odeh, a Knesset
member from Haifa and leader of
the Joint List. “It means that we
have a responsible public that
understood the enormity of the
The final stretch of the latest
campaign had largely devolved
into a mud fight. Political com-
mentators noted Sunday that tac-
tics had reached a new and dirty
low even by Israel’s rough-and-
tumble standards, after voice re-
cordings of political a dvisers that
reflected badly on their candi-
dates — one working with Netan-
yahu and one working with
Gantz — were leaked to the press
over the weekend.
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state of Israel’s political system
and how it is working for them.
“It’s getting surreal,” said Galia
meir, 42, who declined to say
which party’s ballot she had just
dropped into the box. “This time,
people are more confused and
unsure about how to vote. Every
time, clarity is going down and
down. The longer this goes on,
the more the slogans just make
us lose trust in our leaders.”
meir, an attorney at the fi-
nance ministry, has fretted at
seeing the wheels of government
grind to a near-halt in the year of
political limbo. “I’ve seen proj-
ects that were approved but are
stalled without money from the
budget,” she said.
razi Elbaz, a coder and part-
time musician in a black Vans
T-shirt, would say only that he

dozen special biohazard voting
places staffed by paramedics.
The fears of infectious disease
had been o nly the latest worry for
an electorate anxious from non-
stop politicking, adding hand-
washing to the hand-wringing.
“I’m totally following it, and
I’m totally frustrated,” Jon Pollin,
a Jerusalem-based tech executive
who had voted twice before for
the liberal meretz party but was
thinking of switching this time t o
Gantz’s Blue and White party.
“A nd I’m going to be even more
frustrated when we’re right back
here for a fourth election.”
In modi’in, a city of almost
93,000 halfway between Jerusa-
lem and Tel Aviv, voters at Dorot
Elementary School expressed a
mix of fatigue, exasperation and
growing uncertainty over the

a few votes in play and that this
election was all about turnout,”
said Jonathan rynhold, a profes-
sor of political studies at Bar-Ilan
University near Tel Aviv. “He did
not have to convince people to
vote for him, but he needed to get
people to go out and vote.”
While the election was the
third in less than a year, turnout
outpaced the previous two elec-
tions, a surprise for many politi-
cal observers who had predicted
voters would stay away because
of spiking coronavirus fears and
electoral exhaustion. The final
tally put turnout at 71 percent,
the highest since 2015.
Hundreds of voters who are in
precautionary quarantine be-
cause of possible exposure to
coronavirus donned masks and
gloves and went to more than a

The prime minister also
pushed back relentlessly against
the corruption allegations, blast-
ing what he said was a rigged
justice system that was desperate
to remove him from office.
“He does amazing things, and
everybody around the world
knows t his,” s aid bus driver Yehu-
da Pinkosov, 63, a Netanyahu
supporter from modi’in. “The left
is just looking for ways to hurt
him and remove him.”
T he Likud party put tremen-
dous energy into motivating its
traditional voters. And in the
end, they rallied to Netanyahu’s
side, turning out in higher num-
bers than in the previous elec-
“Netanyahu got people to
come out and vote for him. He
realized correctly there were only

yahu’s main rival, Benny Gantz, a
ramrod-straight former military
chief who presented himself as
the ethical antithesis of Netanya-
hu. While Gantz’s p erformance as
a political newcomer produced
solid results in the first two
elections, he seems to have fallen
short monday.
Gantz was defiant early Tues-
day, telling supporters that he
would fight on.
“I'm not afraid of a long jour-
ney,” Gantz said. “I'm not afraid
at all.”
Exit polls from three Israeli
television stations gave Netanya-
hu’s Likud either 36 or 37 seats,
with Gantz’s Blue and White
party taking 32 or 33 seats. Ne-
tanyahu’s overall coalition,
which includes several allied reli-
gious and right-wing parties,
co mbined for 59 seats in each of
the exit polls. That is better than
his bloc’s position after the previ-
ous election but a seat less than
after the election last April. Ne-
tanyahu was not able to form a
government after either vote.
officials results are expected
by early Tuesday and, if they
confirm the exit polls, could sig-
nal a continuation of the stale-
mate that has plagued Israeli
politics for months.
“Sixty seats doesn’t guarantee
anything,” said former U.S. am-
bassador to Israel Dan Shapiro.
“A fourth election is still possi-
Gantz’s Blue and White party,
which was formed a year ago as a
center-left alternative to the
prime minister’s coalition, did
well enough in the April election
to deny Netanyahu an outright
victory, by a single seat. In the
September do-over vote, Gantz’s
side won more seats in the Knes-
set but failed to cobble together a
governing coalition.
While campaigning ahead of
the three-peat election, Netanya-
hu waged a diplomatic blitz,
including a visit to the White
House to join President Trump
for the release of his middle East
peace plan and another to mos-
cow to bring home an Israeli
backpacker jailed on drug charg-


Embattled Netanyahu shows strength in Israeli election

Supporters of P rime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu celebrate in Tel Aviv after the first exit poll results are reported.


In a major escalation of a
media war between Beijing and
Washington, the Trump adminis-
tration on monday ordered four
Chinese news outlets operating
in the United States to reduce the
number of Chinese nationals
working on their staffs by more
than a third.
The action comes on the heels
of a State Department decision
on feb. 18 requiring five Chinese
news organizations considered
organs of the government to reg-
ister as foreign missions and
provide the names of employees.
China responded by expelling
three Beijing-based Wall Street
Journal reporters, condemning
as “racist” an essay that ran in the
news outlet’s opinion section crit-
icizing China’s response to the

coronavirus outbreak.
U.S. officials said that by
march 13, the Chinese news out-
lets can have no more than 100
Chinese citizens on staff, down
from 160 currently employed by
the five outlets. The officials said
it was an effort to bring “reciproc-
ity” t o the U.S.-China relationship
and to encourage the ruling Chi-
nese Communist Party to show a
greater commitment to a free
press. They noted that only 75
American reporters are known to
be working in China.
“A s we have done in other areas
of the U.S.-China relationship, we
seek to establish a long-overdue
level playing field,” Secretary of
State mike Pompeo said in a
statement. “It is our hope that
this action will spur Beijing to
adopt a more fair and reciprocal
approach to U.S. and other for-
eign press in China. We urge the
Chinese government to immedi-
ately uphold its international
commitments to respect freedom
of expression, including for mem-
bers of the press.”
In announcing the move, se-
nior administration officials cit-

ed the disappearance of citizen
journalists chronicling the out-
break of the coronavirus in Wu-
han. In a report by the foreign
Correspondents’ Club of China,
called “Control, Halt, Delete,” 8 in
10 correspondents said they had
encountered interference, ha-
rassment or violence while re-
porting and described the envi-
ronment for journalists as deteri-
“We’re witnessing an assault
on free speech inside of China
that goes even beyond what it was
a decade ago,” s aid an administra-
tion official, who like others
spoke on the condition of ano-
nymity under administration
rules for briefing reporters.
The caps were imposed pro-
portionately on four of the five
designated outlets: Xinhua News
Agency at 59, the China Global
Te levision Network at 30, the
parent company of the China
Daily at nine and China radio
International at two. The fifth
designated outlet, the distributor
for the People’s Daily, was not
capped because it has no Chinese
citizens working in the United

All the outlets employ Ameri-
cans as well as Chinese, so the
caps will not eliminate their abili-
ty to cover news in the United
States. But State Department offi-
cials refused to call the affected
employees journalists, saying
they work for propaganda or-
officials said it will be up to the
news organizations to determine
which Chinese citizens to let go
by the march 13 deadline. It i s not
clear how many will have to leave
the country or when because it
depends on the type of visas they
The government in Beijing and
the four outlets were notified of
the restrictions monday morn-
ing. A U.S. official declined to
speculate on how Beijing may
respond but said that if they
retaliate against foreign report-
ers in Beijing, “all options are on
the table.”
An administration official said
it would be “a shame” if Beijing
retaliates against reporters work-
ing in China, predicting it could
lead to a pullback of investor

confidence in the country.
“A merican news outlets aren’t
part of the U.S. government,” the
official said. “That’s the beauty of
our system. They’re completely
independent. It w ould be a shame
if China decided it wanted to take
things out on them.”
Every year, hundreds of Chi-
nese citizens are granted visas
allowing them to report in the
United States, though it was not
immediately clear how many are
currently working as reporters.
The move against employees of
China’s government-controlled
media comes amid an escalating
series of critical statements by
Pompeo about Beijing. He has
repeatedly criticized the govern-
ment’s maltreatment and deten-
tion of muslim Uighurs, warned
U.S. allies of risks associated with
technology from the Chinese
company Huawei and castigated
Beijing’s expanding economic in-
fluence in developing countries.
Pompeo has said Beijing is
intent on international domina-
tion, and during a January visit to
London, he called the Chinese
Communist Party “the central

threat of our times.”
Now, as the world braces for
the spreading coronavirus that
originated in China, Pompeo has
taken the battle to the journalis-
tic arena.
After China expelled the Wall
Street Journal reporters, Pompeo
issued a statement deriding Bei-
jing’s reaction, suggesting it was
acting juvenile.
“mature, responsible countries
understand that a free press re-
ports facts and expresses opin-
ions,” Pompeo said in a state-
ment. “The correct response is to
present counter arguments, not
restrict speech.”
Then, Pompeo accused China
of covering up the magnitude of
the coronavirus outbreak and al-
lowing it to spread and endanger
people around the world.
“Expelling our journalists ex-
poses, once again, the governance
issue that led to SArS and, now,
the coronavirus, namely censor-
ship,” he said in a news confer-
ence, applauding the “brave re-
porters” covering the outbreak in
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Trump administration orders 4 Chinese news outlets in U.S. to reduce staffs

Considered propaganda
arms for Beijing, firms
caught up in media war


The United States on monday
charged two Chinese nationals
with laundering more than
$100 million in stolen cryptocur-
rency from a 2018 cyberattack
linked to North Korea’s illicit nu-
clear missile and weapons devel-
opment program.
The new indictment, accompa-
nied by sanctions and a civil for-
feiture complaint seizing 113 cryp-
tocurrency accounts filed in fed-
eral court in Washington, marks
the first and largest enforcement
action of its kind by the United
States to deter North Korea’s cryp-
tocurrency financing.
“The hacking of virtual curren-
cy exchanges and related money
laundering for the benefit of
North Korean actors poses a grave
threat to the security and integrity
of the global financial system,”

said T imothy J. S hea, U.S. attorney
for Washington.
The charges come after a U.N.
sanctions monitoring panel re-
ported last summer that North
Korea has raised up to $2 billion
for its weapons development pro-
gram through cyberattacks, in-
cluding “increasingly sophisticat-
ed” r aids against financial institu-
tions and cryptocurrency ex-
changes to steal, launder and
generate funds.
Large-scale attacks by North
Korea on cryptocurrency ex-
changes that deal in virtual mon-
ey such as bitcoin and Ethereum
and rely on blockchain technolo-
gy “generate income in ways that
are harder to trace and subject to
less government oversight and
regulation than the traditional
banking sector,” the U.N. expert
panel reported in August.
“The United States will contin-
ue to protect the global financial
system by holding accountable
those who help North Korea en-
gage in cybercrime,” Treasury Sec-
retary Steven mnuchin said.
The charges and enforcement
actions monday are linked to an
estimated $250 million in stolen
funds. About $68 million of the

funds l aundered b y the t wo defen-
dants flowed to nine named Chi-
nese banks, the government said.
The case underscores the role
played by China’s banking system
that has agitated relations be-
tween Beijing and Washington,
people familiar with the case said.
The U.S. Treasury Depart-
ment’s office of foreign Assets
Control alleged that Tian Yinyin
and Li Jiadong provided material
support for “a malicious, cyber-
enabled activity” and assisted an
attack by Lazarus Group, a North
Korean government cyber group
that has carried out the bulk of
North Korea’s malicious hacks
against U. S. and foreign banks,
corporations and other targets.
The Trump administration in
September sanctioned the group,
whose accused exploits include an
attempted ransomware attack on
hundreds o f thousands o f Wanna-
Cry users in 2017, and the 20 14
hack of Sony Pictures after it
backed a satirical m ovie depicting
the assassination o f North Korean
leader Kim Jong Un.
The Treasury Department at
that time sanctioned the Lazarus
Group and two subgroups dubbed
Bluenoroff and Andariel, saying

all three are controlled by North
Korea’s primary intelligence
agency, the reconnaissance Gen-
eral Bureau.
North Korea has resorted to
hacks against financial institu-
tions to obtain income in the face
of global sanctions imposed over
its nuclear program that have
starved its access to foreign cur-
rency and the world banking sys-
tem, experts say.
The U.S. indictment, handed up
Thursday and unsealed monday,
comes amid a renewed rise in
tensions over North Korea’s mis-
sile threat. North Korea on mon-
day launched two short-range
projectiles off its east coast in its
first weapons test in three
months. The test came a year after
Kim’s f ailed summit meeting with
President Trump and amid allega-
tions that nuclear talks have bro-
ken down.
Pyongyang has pledged never
to give up its nuclear weapons,
which the United States and its
allies say must be the goal of any
negotiations. North Korea has
separately denied allegations of
orchestrating cyberattacks and
The U.S. actions will be seen by

North Korea as part of the admin-
istration’s “hostile policy,” said
Jung Pak, a senior fellow at the
Brookings Institution and a for-
mer CIA analyst. “ It highlights
that the two countries are on par-
allel tracks.... T hey’re going to
lob missiles. We’re going to do
what we’re doing, which is desig-
nate, investigate,” Pak said.
The U.S. charges appear to bol-
ster the U.N. panel’s accusations
on Pyongyang’s “deceptive prac-
tices” and exploitation of weak
enforcement by cryptocurrency
exchanges and foreign banks.
U.S. criminal filings allege that
Tian and Li received funds from
North Korean co-conspirators
who had attacked four cryptocur-
rency exchanges since 2017. Court
documents do not name the ex-
changes, but the details link them
to publicly reported hacks that the
U.N. panel tied to North Korea’s
revenue generation efforts. They
include a December 2017 hack on
Youbit that took 17 percent of its
assets and s ent it into bankruptcy,
a $49 million hack on Upbit in
November 2019, and $30 million
stolen in June 2018 from Bithumb
— a ll three of South Korea.
much of the laundered money

came from a nearly $250 million,
previously undisclosed hack in
2018 of another Asian exchange,
court documents said. The intru-
sion came after an employee un-
wittingly downloaded malware
while communicating with a po-
tential client, the documents said.
U.S. court documents allege
that Tian and Li sent roughly
2,500 deposits with $67.3 million
in stolen funds to nine Chinese
banks: China Guangfa Bank, Agri-
cultural Bank of China, China Ev-
erbright Bank, China CITIC Bank,
China minsheng Bank, Huaxia
Bank, Industrial Bank, Pingan
Bank and Shanghai Pudong De-
velopment Bank.
Tian and Li are not in U.S.
custody and are assumed by U.S.
authorities to be in China
U.S. court filings did not accuse
the banks of any wrongdoing.
regulators said banks are typical-
ly required under “know your cus-
tomer” regulations to question
clients and identify the source of
such large deposits, and to report
suspicious transactions, several
people familiar with the process
[email protected]
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2 Chinese nationals charged in cryptocurrency scheme linked to N. Korea

U.S. says they laundered
$100 million stolen in
2018 cyberattack
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