News Nosh: May 9, 2018

APN's daily news review from Israel
Wednesday May 9, 2018
Quote of the day:
"There is a triple gamble here: Netanyahu is counting on the Khameini's caution, Trump's reliability and Putin's generosity, three traits that have not been found among them to date. We need to pray that it will succeed, for him and for us."
--Senior Yedioth political analyst, Nahum Barnea, examines the possible outcomes of US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.*

Front Page:
Yedioth Ahronoth
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
Israel Hayom

News Summary:
As expected, US President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and Netta Barzilay made it to the finals in the Eurovision competition - making top stories in today’s Hebrew newspapers along with the IDF call to open bomb shelters in the Golan Heights followed by an attack in Syria that was attributed to Israel.

Trump also said he will reinstate powerful sanctions on Iran. Iranian President Hassan Rohani responded saying that Iran will remain in the nuclear deal, but that if talks with the European members of the deal fail, the Islamic Republic will enrich uranium "more than before ... in next weeks." The day before the decision, the Iranian rial was at a near record low. The European members of the agreement said they rejected Trump’s declaration and that they hoped he would change his mind.

The commentators had much to say about the significance of Trump’s decision to pull out from the Iran nuclear deal and much of it expressed concern on the one hand, some were even impressed (see Commentary/Analysis below). Everyone agreed it was a great achievement for Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who called it a brave decision, although how long it would stay that way was still to be seen. Haaretz reported that US Jews were torn over the decision. Saudis and other Sunni Gulf states were thrilled.

Fear of an Iranian reprisal to either Israel’s attack on an Iranian military base in Syria earlier in the week or to Trump’s announcement continued to keep Israeli leaders tense - and threatening. Speaking at the Herzliya Security Conference, Education Minister Naftali Bennett said, “While we're shedding blood fighting (Iran’s) tentacles, the octopus's head is lounging in its chair and enjoying itself." Israel's doctrine should therefore be by "aiming at the head of the octopus and not its tentacles."

A series of statements and moves took place parallel to Trump’s announcement. Prior to the announcement, Netanyahu accused Iran of deploying arms in Syria to threaten Israel. After the announcement, the IDF ordered local authorities to ready bomb shelters, deployed an Iron Dome battery in the Golan Heights and called up some reservist forces. Then came the missile attack on a base south of Damascus. Syrian news agency: 'Missile defenses intercepted 2 Israeli missiles'; 9 militiamen reported killed.
Quick Hits:
  • Elor Azaria, Israeli soldier convicted of killing a wounded Palestinian terrorist, set free after nine months - So-called 'Hebron shooter' was released two days before his sentence officially ended so he could attend his brother's wedding. Family, friends ecstatic as they welcome Elor Azaria home after he serves half his 18-month manslaughter sentence. PM Netanyahu says he is "glad" affair is over. Minister Yisrael Katz asks President Rivlin to have Azaria's criminal record expunged. (Haaretz+, Ynet and Israel Hayom)
  • Five Minors From ‘Wedding of Hate’ to Be Tried, Court Rules - A lower court’s ruling of procedural faults is overturned in the case of Israelis suspected of inciting to violence by celebrating a fatal attack on a Palestinian family. (Haaretz+)
  • Israel Police arrest three for threatening Breaking the Silence supporters - Protesters suspected of blockling road, throwing eggs at car of women apparently affiliated with anti-occupation NGO at Tel-Hai College. (Haaretz+)
  • Kite terror continues to strike Gaza border communities - Incendiary kites being flown from Gaza continue causing severe damage estimated at hundreds of thousands of shekels; IDF assures Gaza border communities' residents that a solution will be found soon; Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon assures farmers compensation for the damage. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
  • "You don't look like someone who wants to enlist, go convert to Islam like your father" - Meir (a pseudonym), the son of a Jewish mother and an Arab father, wanted to enlist in the IDF like all his peers, but the remark by a soldier at the recruitment center during this first call up made him regret: "I felt humiliated." (Maariv)
  • Knesset passes bill to deduct terror funds from PA in first reading - Under bill, money taken out of Palestinian tax money Israel collects on behalf of the PA will go towards paying compensation to terror victims, supporting the fight against terrorism; Lieberman: 'We're pulling the plug on Abbas.' (Ynet and Israel Hayom)
  • Israeli Watchdog Raps Hospitals, Police, Asylum-seeker System and Construction Safety Authorities - Hundreds of police commanders were appointed in 2016 and 2017 by Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich without having the required qualifications, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira says in his annual report. The state prosecution and the police seek indictments without examining all the investigative material, and sometimes before receiving a forensic report, which casts doubts on their decisions. (Haaretz and Maariv)
  • Fictitious tweets in the name of former chief justice - It turns out that the anonymous person running the popular fictitious Twitter account in former chief justice Miriam Naor's name is Eran Schwartz, the owner of a PR company that represents extremist right-wing organizations including 'Honenu' and 'Derech Haim.' Schwartz opened the account two years ago as part of a campaign of 'Derech Haim' against High Court judicial activism, but due to its success, he "got into the role" of the pluralist secular judge and continued to run the account that has thousands of followers. (Maariv, p. 24)
  • US Embassy will be in Jerusalem, but the July 4th celebrations won't be - The US embassy may have officially moved to Jerusalem, but the reception for US Independence Day, traditionally held at the ambassador's residence in Herzliya Pituach, will not be held in Jerusalem. US Ambassdor David Friedman decided to hold it at hall near Ben-Gurion Airport. The reason is because people always complained that they sweat in their suits on the coast and no air-conditioned hall could be found big enough in Jerusalem. (Yedioth, p. 31)
  • Israeli embassy in Iraq opened - on Facebook - Foreign Ministry's new 'digital embassy' seeks to harness war-torn country's supposed affinity for Israel with page highlighting 'glorious' Jewish-Iraqi history. The Iraqis may not really be able to visit in Israel, but from now on they can make 'Internet Visits' at the Iraqi-Israeli restaurant, Azoura, in Mahaneh Yehuda in Jerusalem and exchange recipes with Israelis for kubbeh. The page is called, "Israel in Iraqi dialect." (Yedioth, p. 31 and Times of Israel)
  • Ammonia plant crisis in the Haifa Bay: the Knesset against the National Security Council - The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee's Subcommittee on Home Front Preparedness decided in favor of an opinion, which was contrary to that of the NSC and Haifa Chemicals Co., determining that the supplying of ammonia to Haifa Chemicals would be carried out using small containers. The NSC and Haifa Chemicals want to implement another alternative: an ammonia ship. But the Knesset and Haifa Municipality say this is much more dangerous because the floating plant will be exposed to missile attacks. (Maariv)
  • Israel approved 0.09% of asylum requests over past nine years - The state comptroller cites a 'violation of decency' that 'seriously undermines' the migrants' rights amid a failure to honor international commitments. (Haaretz+)
  • Israeli elite unit commander's promotion scrapped after soldier accidentally killed - The officer will not be promoted to brigade commander after the March death of Staff Sgt. Shachar Strug that has led to manslaughter charges against another soldier. (Haaretz and Ynet)
  • Israel-Cyprus Dispute Over Gas Field Risks Delay for Creating Energy Hub - Disagreement over ownership threatens to delay multi-billion dollar plan. (Haaretz)
  • Colombia turning Israelis away after misconduct by Israeli tourists - Israeli embassy in Bogota has called on Israelis visiting the country to 'respect local rules and laws,' after reports of the Israelis being caught with drugs. (Haaretz)
  • Palestinian Ministry of Health to send $3 million in aid to Gaza - The move was confirmed by Health Minister Jawad Awwad, who said that a total of 20 trucks worth of medical supplies -- valued at $3 million -- will be dispatched from warehouses in the northern occupied West Bank city of Nablus, to the besieged Gaza Strip in the next few days. (Maan)
  • PLO official calls for demonstrations against US Embassy relocation to Jerusalem - The date selected for the opening -- Monday 14th of May -- marks the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian’s Nakba, or catastrophe. In the words of Ahmad Majdalani, Executive Committee Member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, opening the embassy on this date adds insult to injury, and deepens the historical injustice perpetrated against the Palestinian people; in 1948, over 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from their land by zionist militias. (Maan)
  • Israeli hacker crashed Hamas website for hours - "Zhacker," who managed to disable the website of the terrorist organization and other Arab sites, said: "The site is secured with the best tools, and I have published student details in Lebanon." (Maariv)
  • Nearly 250 Jewish Clergy Oppose Trump’s CIA Nominee, Citing Torture Record - The petition was organized by T’ruah, a rabbinical human rights group with 2,000 affiliated cantors and rabbis across the Jewish religious spectrum. (JTA, Haaretz)
  • Airplane and Oil Deals at Risk if Trump Nixes Iran Nuclear Deal - For Western businesses, the deal meant access to Iran’s largely untapped market of 80 million people. Most prominently, airplane manufacturers rushed in to replace the country’s dangerously dilapidated civilian fleet. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Russian Helicopter Crashes in Syria, Killing Two Pilots - Russian Defense Ministry says preliminary information points to technical malfunction as cause for crash. This is the second fatal incident involving Russian military aircraft in Syria this month. (Agencies, Haaretz)

From friends to foes: How Israel and Iran turned into arch-enemies
The two countries enjoyed good relations for 30 years, but since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Israel and Iran have been a study in enmity – despite not sharing a border or having any territorial disputes. (David B. Green, Haaretz)

Trump Tells World to Drop Dead as Netanyahu Dictates His Nixing of Iran Deal (Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz+) Israeli prime minister hopes decision to withdraw from agreement will see Iran go the way of the Soviet Union once harsh sanctions kick in.
*Breaking the rules (Nahum Barnea, Yedioth) Trump's speech yesterday and Netanyahu's meeting with Putin today create new rules of the game in Israel's dealing with Iran. Netanyahu strives for a situation in which the US will prevent an attack on Israel from Iran, and Russia will thwart an Iranian attack from Russia. There is a triple gamble here: Netanyahu is counting on the Khameini's caution, Trump's reliability and Putin's generosity, three traits that have not been found among them to date. We need to pray that it will succeed, for him and for us. In the meantime, the gamble is working. The Iranians still have no reacted to the two bombs that hit their forces and missiles in Syria. Even on the attack last night, near Damascus, they have avoided in the meantime responding...The question is what will happen if instead of breaking, the ayatollahs choose war, or, what is more likely, the area will deteriorate into war as the result of a hasty, uncalculated move, of one of the actors. Will Trump be ready, in order to protect Israel and Saudi Arabia, to open a new front in the Middle East? If he does that, it will be contradict everything he promised voters...Trump is the opposite of Obama in another way: Obama doubted America's greatness, doubted its righteousness, doubted its pretension to be a model to others. He acted in his second term at the White House, not as a leader of the world, but as a one who oversees the dismantling of his company. Trump lacks doubts. It's possible that his gut feeling about America's position is a more efficient tool in foreign policy than Obama's educated doubtfulness...Putin will receive Netanyahu (today) and wil make clear to Netanyahu that Russia does what is good for it. There are no deals for celebrities: What Netanyahu did not achieve in the seven prior meetings with Putin he won't achieve in the eighth.
Withdrawal with an asterisk: Trump allows Iran and the world to rethink their steps (Yossi Melman, Maariv) Ostensibly, the US withdrawal from the nuclear agreement is Netanyahu's wet dream, but not necessarily a zero-sum game. The victory of the prime minister does not mean a crushing defeat for Tehran…It should be made clear, however, that the significance of Trump's announcement is not that a war is at hand. Last night, the IDF informed the residents of the Golan Heights to prepare for the possibility of an Iranian response. At the same time, a limited mobilization of intelligence units and anti-aircraft units began. It is estimated that if the scenario is realized, short-range missiles will be launched into bases or communities on the Golan Heights, a decision that is not willing to take risks, but is not necessarily related to the Trump announcement and the nuclear program "If Iran decides to respond by firing rockets at the Golan or the Galilee, it will be in order to avenge Israel for the attacks on Iranian bases in Syria attributed to it, disconnected from the moves related to the nuclear agreement…In this interim period Iran will be able to calculate its moves. It will try to assure for itself that the impact of the US sanctions will be minimized, and will try to achieve this by means of contacts with the other five signatory countries - Germany, Britain, France, Russia and China - to ensure that they do not withdraw from the agreement. If Iran reaches the conclusion that US sanctions will trigger a second wave of sanctions by companies in the world that will cease to trade and invest in it, it may announce its withdrawal from the nuclear agreement. Even then it will not necessarily run for the bomb.
A disastrous withdrawal - who will pay? (Shimon Shiffer, Yedioth) …After almost a decade at the head of the government, Netanyahu can list for himself an amazing achievement, which usually only appears in science fiction books: An American president fulfills word for word his world perspective on an issue that appears to him as imperative, the existential threat that Iran faces us with. All this with the sad fact that until now it was not possible to point to a diplomatic single success or achievement that Netanyahu leaves behind him. Not regarding an arrangement with the Palestinians and not a breakthrough with the Arab world. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that the Israelis are the immediate candidates to pay the price of the decision that Trump made. There are no happy wars: the IDF, declared the Prime Minister yesterday, is strong and prepared. The IDF, promised Netanyahu, will win. But the war between Israel and Iran could have a heavy price in blood on our side. The shelters in the north were opened to a great extent as a result of Trump’s decision: our fears will follow us through the coming period…
A Disastrous Pullout (Haaretz Editorial) Netanyahu might think that Israelis should be grateful to Trump, but at this point the U.S. pullout endangers the world and threatens Israel.
Trump out - We understood what you are against. And what’s the alternative? (Alon Pinkas, Yedioth) None of the three ways that it is possible to interpret Trump’s announcement offer a ‘Default B.’ No other plan, no policy. I announced, I declared, I stood by my word, terrible deal. And what instead? What about the implications? What is the strategy? At his most important moment as president, in the field of foreign policy, Trump remained Trump: an agent of chaos.
Trump Quits Iran Deal: A Career-defining Moment for Netanyahu That May Have a Price (Noa Landau, Haaretz+) Twenty-five years ago an up-and-coming Likud legislator published a column on the Iranian nuclear threat. Now let's see if Israel gets what he wished for.
Tough times for Iran (Dr. Ephraim Kam, Israel Hayom) Iran may be a regional superpower, but it has good reason to keep retaliatory actions against Israel small, because any face-off could develop into a broader conflict and put Iran's other interests at risk.
Nixing of Nuclear Deal Turns Rohani Into Lame Duck, Empowers Conservatives in Tehran (Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz+) Trump’s decision to exit the nuclear agreement actually presents Iran as the responsible country, one upholding the agreement to the letter.
Trump first: The president was burning to prove that he is decides all the world's problems (Shlomo Shamir, Maariv) In his statement, it seems that the US leader simply could not resist until the official date, to announce a decision and chose a process that demonstrates his ability and his uncontrollable urge to shock the international arena.
Trump Casts Himself as Vigilante Sheriff After Quitting Iran Nuclear Deal (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+) Netanyahu has taken a risky gamble, as the chief instigator of a dramatic shift in U.S. policy, one that could ultimately embroil it in another Middle East war.
Israel’s message to Tehran: An unusual IDF order and a ‘preventive strike’ (Ron Ben-Yishai, Ynet) The alleged Israeli attack on a base used by Iranian militias near Damascus, and the earlier order to open bomb shelters in the Golan Heights, may have been an attempt to make it clear to Iran’s moderate camp, led by President Rouhani, that the Revolutionary Guards are adopting a policy that could harm their country at this sensitive time.
Trump and Netanyahu are triggering a risky, unnecessary war of choice in the Middle East (Daniel Levy, Haaretz+) But neither Israel's prime minister, nor other regional U.S. allies, have any assurances America will stick around to manage the dangerous fallout from the Iran deal's implosion.
Is it Kennedy or Trump? The possibility that the world would block the Shiite bomb was strengthened (Ben Caspit, Maariv) While the American president read the summary of Netanyahu's speeches yesterday, word for word, the shelters in the Golan were opened and war winds began to blow over our heads with tremendous speed.
How the U.S. State Department Deleted the Occupied Territories (Gerard Horton, Haaretz+) Its official reports now adopt the 'occupation denial' language of senior Trump appointees. But the damage to America's credibility won't be limited to Israel/Palestine: Russia and China will also have reason to celebrate.
Elor Azaria's release: In another moment, Azaria will be lighting a torch on Independence Day (Anat Moshe, Maariv) The family's joy at the release of its son Elor is obvious. But the public expression of excitement by senior public figures is not only incomprehensible, it also has a bad taste, morally and publicly.
By Emasculating High Court, Religious Minority Exposes Itself to Tyranny of Israel’s Secular Majority (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+) Perceptions of the court as bastion of interventionist leftists are just an illusion.
Between two poles: Portman denies supporting BDS but has acted according to its intentions (Zalman Shoval, Maariv) The phenomenon that is now more dangerous than extreme right-wing anti-Semitism is precisely the one coming from the left. FYI to the film actress.
In Israel, Fun Is for Right-wingers (Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz+) When the left is deliberating whether it’s permissible to enjoy the Giro d’Italia bicycle race, sing old Israeli songs or watch an air force flyover, it’s playing the right's labeling game
Prepared for APN by Orly Halpern, independent freelance journalist based in Jerusalem.
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