News Nosh 11.21.19

APN's daily news review from Israel
Thursday November 21, 2019
 
Quotes of the day:
"A declaration by the United States that rape no longer violates the law is already in the works. Will rape then become legal or moral? Of course not. The same applies to the settlements."
—Haaretz+ commentator Gideon Levy. (See Commentary/Analysis)

"The Trump-Pompeo declaration is worth about as much as the statement that the Earth is flat. Trump-Pompeo can push on the Earth from both sides, rest their chins on it until their faces turn as red as a ripe strawberry – and the ball will remain round."
--Human rights attorney Avigdor Feldman. (See Commentary/Analysis)

"I am a partner to their stance that the occupation is corrupting (our) people. We need to make assassinations when it's about a ticking bomb, but policy makers need to look farther. We are not aware and sensitive enough to what we are doing to the other side.
--Former Israel Air Force chief Amos Lapidot, who passed away yesterday at the age of 85.*

You Must Be Kidding:
"This is my president."
--What Yair Netanyahu, son of the prime minister, wrote under a photo he posted of US President Donald Trump after Israeli President Reuven Rivlin rebuked his father for vilifying Arab members of Knesset at "an existenial threat."**

Front Page:
Haaretz
  • Gantz returned the mandate; Choosing a prime minister passes for first time to Knesset
  • The campaign has begun // Yossi Verter
  • The crisis floods once again the initiatives to change the election method
  • In response to shooting rockets on Golan: Israel bombed 20 targets of Iran and Syrian army
  • Following Pompeo’s declaration - Members of UN Security Council: Settlements are not legal and are an obstacle to peace
  • Midday, (Israeli) police closed a school in E. Jerusalem claiming the Palestinian Authority operates there
  • So what if he said // (Attorney) Avigdor Feldman on Pompeo’s declaration on settlements
  • The suckers // Yossi Klein writes that residents of the south suffer from Gaza violence for the sake of the Greater Israel interest
  • Gentle anarchist - Tel-Aviv exhibition of subversive drawings of Raymond Pettibon
Yedioth Ahronoth
  • On the verge of indictment - Netanyahu [corruption] cases (Photo of Attorney General) (Hebrew)
  • On the verge of elections  - The political deadlock (Photo of Netanyahu and Gantz)
  • On the verge of a confrontation - The northern front
  • Playing with fire // Alex Fishman (Hebrew)
  • Under the auspices of the demonstrations // Yossi Yehoshua
  • Approved: Compensation for wedding hall and restaurant owners in the Gaza periphery and Sderot (Hebrew)
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
Israel Hayom
  • We’re sick of you! When you decide - let us know // Eitan Orkibi
  • The political deadlock - Catch 21: For the first time, the mandate for forming a coalition goes to the Knesset for 21 days
  • Fear: Iran could respond immediately
  • “Gantz is not an angel, Bibi is not a devil” - MK (Ahmed) Tibi on the incitement and the ultra-Orthodox friends
  • Amos Lapidot, former commander of Air Force, passed away at age 85
  • For the first time in Israel: Today the infant, Liam, will receive the most expensive medicine in the world


Top News Summary:
Kahol-Lavan leader Benny Gantz failed to do the impossible - form a unity government with Binyamin Netanyahu and his crew of right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties as well as Avigdor Lieberman, who refuses to join a government with ultra-Orthodox - and for the first time in Israel’s history, the mandate to form a government goes to the Knesset. Israel struck numerous Syrian and Iranian targets in Syria, killing numerous people. And Attorney General Avichai Mendelblitt is expected to give his decision in the Netanyahu corruption cases very soon - possibly today - making top stories in today’s Hebrew newspapers. Also, the latest reactions to the US declaration that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are not illegal according to international law and the death of a peace-hoping former Air Force commander.

After four rockets were shot - and intercepted - at the Golan Heights from Syria, allegedly by Iranian-supported groups, Israel said it struck some 20 targets in Syria, more than half Iranian. A war monitoring group said 23 people were killed, 15 of whom were not Syrian. In a first, the new Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett threatened Iranian leaders: “Our message to Iranian leaders: you're no longer immune.” Israel’s assessment is that the Iranian response will not be in the immediate time frame. (Maariv) A satellite company showed before and after images of the nighttime attack. The targets included Iran's Syria headquarters, which was also reportedly Syrian headquarters for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and had a private clinic with 20 hospital beds, vaults holding millions of dollars in cash and two underground bunkers. Maariv reported that according to a report, the reason rockets were launched at Israel two days ago was because the Mossad assassinated a senior Iranian security figure in Syria on Sunday. Russia was furious at the Israeli attack and responded by exposing operational details of recent Israeli strikes in Syria and the fact that IAF jets used Jordanian airspace for strikes on targets in and around Damascus. Russia accused Israel of causing 'increased tensions’ and 'counteracting our efforts to control the situation.’

The 14 other members of the UN's most powerful body, the UN Security Council, slammed the US over its announcement that it no longer considers Israeli settlements to be a violation of international law. Tania Hary, Israeli human rights activist, director of Gisha organization, argued there can be no peace without advocating for Palestinian and Israeli security equally. Israel Hayom reported that the Trump shift on Israeli settlements fulfills the wish list of his evangelical base. The Vatican said the peace process is more at risk now. Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said the US must rethink its Israel policy. “It is no longer simply good enough for us to be pro-Israel," Sanders said. “I’m pro-Israel, but we must treat the Palestinian people as well with the respect and dignity that they deserve,” he added. Sanders also said that “what is going on in Gaza right now, with youth unemployment at 70 percent, is unsustainable.” His comments won strong applause from the crowd watching the debate in Atlanta. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attacked the US announcement and said the "Trump initiative for the Middle East is dead. He also said that Netanyahu refuses to meet with him and even tried to prevent him from attending Shimon Peres’ funeral service, Maariv reported.

*(Leftist and) Former Air Force commander Amos Lapidot died at the age of 85. Lapidot served in the post from 1982-1987 and after retirement was Technion president from 1998-2001. He was also a prominent leftist activist: a member of the Council for Peace and Security, a Meretz party member and president of the “A New Way" organization, which runs projects and educational programs for pupils to promote co-existence in Israel.. "I did not look at Arabs through the gun barrel, I looked at the enemy through the gun barrel,” he told the ‘Sharon Times,’ “The fact that he happened to be an Egyptian Arab or Jordanian Arab or Syrian, that's another thing. I see myself to some extent, maybe that is a bit of an exaggerated word, as a humanist. For me humans beings are human beings.” In 2003, after the 'Pilots' Letter' (saying they would not agree to bomb sites that would harm civilians), Lapidot said in an interview to Yedioth: "I understand the protest of the refuseniks. Their claim is not against the Air Force, but against those who give the orders and who determine the policy, which does not bring us anywhere. I am a partner to their stance that the occupation is corrupting (our) people. We need to make assassinations when it's about a ticking bomb, but policy makers need to look farther. We are not aware and sensitive enough to what we are doing to the other side. We need to begin to take down settlements, we need to recognize that the Oslo Accords failed - not just because of the other side, but also because of us - and we need to give a diplomatic horizon." [NOTE: In a 2011 report by the Israseli Council for Peace and Security, he and hundreds of other Israeli security experts dismissed claims that Israel needs to retain the West Bank Jordan Valley for strategic depth and concluded that “with or without the Jordan Valley, Israel does not have strategic depth; it is only about 40 kilometers [25 miles] across, including that valley,” therefore, “guided missiles and rockets of various ranges … can reach any target in the State of Israel regardless of control of the valley.” (Maariv, Yedioth p. 25, and Haaretz Hebrew)

Elections 2019 and Netanyahu Corruption Cases:
After two elections and two leaders failing to form a government, for the first time in Israel’s history, the mandate goes to the Knesset to choose someone - who agrees - to form a government. The MKs must get 61 members to agree and they have 21 days to do it. If they fail, there will be a third round of elections. Today, Thursday, President Rivlin formally gave the Knesset the mandate.

Yedioth wrote that the “drama has just begun because Attorney General Mendelblitt will give his decision about whether to indict Netanyahu in any of the three corruption investigation cases. The fateful decision “will shake up the political and legal system,” Yedioth Hebrew wrote. If indicted, Netanyahu will face dual challenges:  Fighting to remain prime minister while grappling with the frustrating political deadlock that appears to be leading Israel to a third election in the space of a year, Haaretz+ wrote explaining that "The two issues are deeply intertwined: One of the main roadblocks to the formation of a governing coalition was the refusal of Netanyahu’s potential partners in a unity government to serve as ministers in a government led by a prime minister under criminal indictment."

Meanwhile, another leak from the questioning of a key person in Case 1000: Yedioth published the transcript of the investigation of billionaire Arnon Milchan in Case 1000, which reveals that Netanyahu tried to help him promote the merger of television networks “Reshet” and "Keshet.”   The interrogators mainly focused on the promoting of the merger between the “Keshet” and “Reshet” of Channel 2. According to the interrogators’ suspicion, Milchan gave all the gifts he acknowledged giving in exchange for Netanyahu helping him with the merger. The investigation shows that Netanyahu visited the billionaire's house in Beit Yanai and even brought along then-Director of Communications at the time, Shlomo Filber. “Does it make sense to think that (Netanyahu) didn't just demand cigars and champagne, that maybe he also demanded that (you) help him with positive news?" The interrogators asked Milchan, who confirmed: "It makes sense to think so." Milchan also asked: “Can you erase the word ‘bribe’?” Investigator: "No.” Milchan: "If it’s leaked it will destroy me.” Investigator: "But we don't leak.” Milchan: "But everything is always leaking.” (Yedioth Hebrew)

Yedioth Hebrew wrote in detail about speech that kingmaker and Yisrael Beiteinu chairman, Avigdor Lieberman, gave yesterday. And commentator Nadav Eyal wrote an interesting analysis of it. (See the Commentary/Analysis section below.) Yedioth noted that “Less than a day after the president demanded that the MKs ‘stop with the ugly statements and maintain respectful discourse,’ chairman of Yisrael Beiteinu vilified representatives of the ultra-Orthodox and Arab publics. ‘The ultra-Orthodox parties have become anti-Zionist,’ Lieberman accused, adding: ‘The Arab MKs are a fifth column.’  (Ultra-Orthodox minister) Gafni did not remain obliged and replied sharply: ‘Who do you think you are you? You’re an anti-Semite, corrupt, a zero.’” Lieberman attacked the ultra-Orthodox and Arab Knesset members, referring to the warm words that ultra-Orthodox Chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee Moshe Gafni said yesterday about the outstanding cooperation with MK Ahmed Tibi over the years (Joint List). "When Gafni opens the Finance Committee meeting and praises Ahmad Tibi, and Ahmad Tibi sings a song of kind words to Gafni, it is a collaboration between Arab MKs and the ultra-Orthodox. It's an anti-Zionist coalition that plays between the two blocs. The Arab list is a fifth column, and unfortunately the ultra-Orthodox parties are becoming anti-Zionist,” said Lieberman.”  (NOTE: The ultra-Orthodox and the Arab parties often have common interests in the Knesset to pass laws that benefit their sectors which are similar in that they have many children and low incomes. - OH)

Today, Netanyahu opponent, MK Gideon Sa'ar, called for holding Likud internal elections, with the hope to become Likud's leader: "I support Netanyahu's efforts to form a government - but if he does not succeed, it is not at all clear how Netanyahu can form a government next time...We are a democratic party, we do not have a future that cancels internal elections. In the Likud, primaries have not been held for many years." Minister Miri Regev, a Netanyahu-loyalist, assiduously attacked Saar: "Those who weaken the house cannot win outside." (Ynet Hebrew)

Quick Hits:
  • Israel Border Police Officer Indicted for Shooting at Palestinian 'For the Fun of It' - A Border Police officer was indicted Wednesday for shooting a young Palestinian man in the back with a sponge-tipped bullet. The incident at Al-Zaeim West Bank checkpoint was caught on camera, but the victim has never come forward. [NOTE: Acutally, Karam Qawasmi, 23, spoke to the media after the report first surfaced. The Border Police could have then contacted him. -OH] Authorities learned of the incident while investigating a separate case involving the suspected beating a Palestinian, during which the video clip of the incident involving the border policewoman came to light. Investigators also learned of correspondence among security personnel boasting about the incident. (NOTE: AP, Times of Israel and NYT quoted Qawasmi, who said he was abused for hours before that: first run over by a military jeep, then beaten for several hours before troops released him, only to shoot him in the back. He also said that there was a needle in the rubber-tipped bullet and he was paralyzed for about five minutes, during which time the Border Police shot all around him.  (Haaretz and Maariv, Twitter interview, Times of Israel. AP/NYT)
  • 'Europe's automatic support for Palestinian Authority is propaganda campaign’ - If you want to truly help, you must change your approach because your criticism is preventing direct negotiations,” says Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon. (Israel Hayom)
  • Former Trump peace envoy joins Republican Jewish Coalition - RJC promises “terrific action plan” for energizing and growing Jewish Republican base. (Israel Hayom)
  • Israel to Host Largest Event Ever on Combating anti-Semitism - 30 heads of states set to attend the 5th World Holocaust Forum, as world braces with rising xenophobia, anti-Semitism. (Haaretz)
  • New group joins the effort to battle anti-Semitism through education and inclusion - "As a movement, we are nonpolitical and nonpartisan because it’s not a political game," director of Combat Anti-Semitism says. (Israel Hayom)
  • Poland, South Africa, Ukraine and Hungary Top List of Most anti-Semitic Countries, Says ADL Survey - Anti-Semitic attitudes have also strengthened in Poland, South Africa and Ukraine since 2015, U.S. watchdog finds; Sweden fared best in annual poll, with only 4 percent of respondents holding anti-Semitic beliefs. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
  • Israel Police Raids Jerusalem School It Claims Used by Palestinian Authority - Students and teachers were removed from the Dar al-Aytam school in Jerusalem's Old City, and documents were confiscated, Palestinian sources say. (Haaretz+)
  • Blue Flag international air force drill hailed 'most advanced' to date - The introduction of the F-35 stealth aircraft to joint training helped the IAF integrate with other air forces, since the foreign aircraft all had NATO’s Link 16 communications system installed onboard –a system the IAF has not previously had. (Israel Hayom)
  • Gaza rocket leaves a crater in southern Israel - Residents of Eshkol region were shocked to discover that one Islamic Jihad missile was far stronger then anything they'd encountered before; IDF says it is aware of and has prepared for this new kind of projectile. (Yedioth/Ynet)
  • **Yair Netanyahu vs. President Rivlin: "Trump - my President" - After the President reprimanded the Prime Minister for presenting the Arab MKs as "an existential threat," Yair Netanyahu shared a tweet which called Rivlin "the President of Palestine." Then Yair tweeted a picture of President Trump and wrote: "This is my president." (Ynet Hebrew)
  • (Former associate of Netanyahu) Shaul Elovich on Yair Netanyahu: Crazier than his mother - Channel 12 News broadcast correspondence between Bezeq's controlling shareholder and between the man who was CEO of the Walla website. Also revealed was an irregular request from Yair Netanyahu requesting a paparazzi photo (be published). (Maariv)
  • Rise in Israelis Reporting Sexual Assault - Report from the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel says in 88% of cases, assailant knew the victim; 11% of those who turned to crisis centers were men. (Haaretz+)
  • Cases of Whooping Cough in Israel Have Risen 150% This Year - Increase in disease, which can be fatal and is passed on by coughing and sneezing, reflects global trend for the disease. Biggest rise is among infants and children from 5 to 14. (Haaretz+)
  • Jordan cancels interfaith conference set to have Israeli delegation - The move, one day before the start of the "Peace Between Religions" conference, was made because of "the popular outrage against Israel for the violations in Jerusalem, the aggression in Gaza and the support of Prime Minister Netanyahu in the Jordan Valley annexation law.” (Maariv and Al-ArabyUK)
  • Netherlands Cuts Aid to Palestinian Authority Over Terrorist Salaries - In 2017, the Palestinian Authority paid about $198 million to a fund for the families of terrorists killed during their attacks and about $160 million to Palestinians being held in Israeli jails. (JTA, Haaretz and Israel Hayom)
  • President-elect Argentina is considering canceling labeling of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization - Elected president Alberto Fernandez may plan to make a distinction between the political and Military wings of the Lebanese organization. (Agencies, Maariv and JPost)
  • Newspaper Purported to Represent Iraq Protesters Emerges Amid Nationwide Unrest - 'Tuk Tuk' looks to document the twists and turns in demonstrations in which tens of thousands are taking to the streets to decry rampant government corruption, and provide a medium protesters can trust. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • At Least 15 Dead After Attack on Displaced Persons Camp in Syria's Idlib - Pro-government shelling set tents ablaze and hit a maternity hospital, local sources say. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Urging Iran against destabilizing Syria, France backs Israeli security - "France reaffirms its unwavering commitment to Israel's security," Foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll tells reporters in a daily online briefing. (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
  • Saudi King Blames Iran for 'Chaos,' Says Strikes Failed to Hurt Kingdom's Development - Tensions have risen since U.S. President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of a nuclear deal with world powers last year and reimposed economic sanctions. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Nuclear watchdog calls on Iran to clear up origin of uranium traces - "It is essential that Iran works with the agency to resolve this matter promptly," IAEA chief says after Iran refuses to provide answers on secret atomic warehouse exposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
  • Iran has Middle East's largest missile arsenal, Pentagon report says - "The size and sophistication of Iran's missile force continues to grow despite decades of counterproliferation efforts aimed at curbing its advancement," study by the US Defense Intelligence Agency says. (Israel Hayom)


Features:
The Mizrahi author whose book Mahmoud Abbas wants to distribute
Ishaq Bar-Moshe started writing books in Arabic two decades after he emigrated from Iraq to Israel. It was a radical choice, given that the language aroused deep antipathy in Israel  — but Bar-Moshe was undeterred. The one who called to order the books was Ziad Darwish, a member of the PLO’s Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society. A few weeks ago, he invited Bar-Moshe’s family to Ramallah. This is not the first time Darwish’s committee has recognized authors that most Israelis have never heard of. “Shmuel Moreh met the president,” said Darwish, referring to the Iraqi-born professor of Arabic literature who was a recipient of the Israel Prize. “After his death, we organized a memorial event and invited his family. The president ordered 300 copies of his book ‘Baghdad My Beloved,’ and distributed them to the entire leadership in the West Bank. We cherish Arab Jewry; their influence was profound.” (Naomi Niddam, +972mag)
Oligarchs and Torahs: This Wealthy Azerbaijan Town Is 100% Jewish - but Its Community Is Dying
Locals say Qirmize Qesebe’s main drag is the wealthiest kilometer in the world and neighboring cities look on enviously. (Jacob Judah, Haaretz+)
Evangelical media can help Israel's public diplomacy efforts'
Pro-Israel Evangelical media reaches billions of people and one in three Americans tunes in to religious television programs. In recent years, this once-marginal phenomenon has become an important political tool, the power of which Israel is just learning how to harness. (Ariel Kahana, Israel Hayom)
The arbitror
Unlike the conspiracies, Yigal Amir does not live in isolation. In his cell in the new prison, he talks on the phone, receives criminals - and even acts as a mediator between them. (Amichai Attali, Yedioth Hebrew)
 
Commentary/Analysis:
So Pompeo Said It (Avigdor Feldman, Haaretz+) The Trump-Pompeo declaration is worth about as much as the statement that the Earth is flat. Trump-Pompeo can push on the Earth from both sides, rest their chins on it until their faces turn as red as a ripe strawberry – and the ball will remain round. Or elliptical, to be more precise. But the declaration brings back into our consciousness the question, which in the past was asked many times in the Supreme Court: What is the source of the legal authority by which the State of Israel imposes a military government on some two and a half million people, who have been born and died, who are being born and dying for the 52 years in the occupied territories? In recent years the question has disappeared.
An important correction, not a “revolution”: In the past, the US also disapproved of the definition of settlements as illegal (Zalman Shuval, Maariv) At that time, the administration of Bush the father had contacted the White House Attorney General, who ruled that the settlements were not illegal from the Americans viewpoint. However, the Pompeo message has importance, because it emphasizes that it is the opinion of the authorities in determining official American policy, and not merely a statement that may be attributed to political or other considerations.
New U.S. Stance on Israeli Settlements Is Akin to ‘Thou Shalt Murder’ (Gideon Levy, Haaretz+) Donald Trump is turning out to be one of Israel’s most dangerous foes; he’s doing everything possible to corrupt it, deepen its rot and make it increasingly more repugnant in the eyes of the enlightened world. To worsen the corrosion, his secretary of state went so far this week as to turn the Ten Commandments on their head. From now on, say “Thou shalt steal,” and soon, “Thou shalt murder.” Absent any moral standing or legal authority – the last areas where the Trump administration can pass judgment – Mike Pompeo announced that the West Bank settlements don’t violate international law. One could hardly think of a more bitter joke. A declaration by the United States that rape no longer violates the law is already in the works. Will rape then become legal or moral? Of course not. The same applies to the settlements.
Land of Controversy: Even a positive event is received by us in disbelief (Lilach Sigan, Maariv) The polar and superficial rhetoric that has taken over the political establishment has hampered our ability to act as one unit. The responses to the Pompeo statement are the latest example. Many deal with the legal analysis of the Pompeo declaration regarding the legality of the settlements, but its true gospel is is in the psychological aspect. Its importance is mainly found in that it shook up the moldy situation and showed that there is another possibility, and it also serves those who believe in the two-state solution. We have become accustomed to the reality that Israel is slapped by the international community, including the decision this week in the EU to label settlement products. But years have passed, and this tactic turned out to be a failure. The constant petting received by the Palestinian leaders became self-evident, made them feel that as time passed they could demand more, and eventually got us stuck. This is an approach that, in the outcome test, did not lead to an agreement, did not bring the conflict to a close, and certainly did not bring peace.
PA’s corruption dooms chances for peace (Ken Cohen, Israel Hayom) PA President Mahmoud Abbas, now in the 15th year of his four-year term, has elevated the crookedness of PA finances to a level even Yasser Arafat might admire.
The PFLP: Abbas’s dirty little secret (Stephen M. Flatow, Israel Hayom) The entire premise of the Oslo Accords and various “peace processes” that followed was that the Palestinian leadership had sincerely given up terrorism and the goal of destroying Israel.
After Yet Another Gaza Flare-up, It's Time for the Power of Mothers’ Solidarity (Sharon Geva, Haaretz+) The chasm between the accolades for the Israel Defense Forces, the parade of former generals through the television studios and the silence of the politicians, and the pain of the grandmother from Dir al-Balah who lost three of her grandchildren when the IDF bombed the Sawarka family’s house, once again leads one to wonder what things would be like if women held key positions. It’s wishful thinking, usually accompanied by the assumption that everything, or almost everything, would be different. The foundation for this question is those characteristics that are traditionally associated with women: Compassion and concern and the way they see the world – not as a hierarchy, but a network. There is also the assumption that because of motherhood, women are capable of expressing solidarity, even if they’re on opposite sides of the border.  This view was common during the first years of the State of Israel, Women on the radical left who attacked government policies called on women on both sides of the border to show solidarity, on the assumption that motherhood is universal. From their perspective, motherhood blurred differences of nationality and religion; the border they drew was gender-based. Since the women of both nations can give life, they said, they had a joint interest in preserving it. This universal call by women for peace was heard then at the margins, outside official channels. It was considered provocative and not Zionist enough (if at all). As a result, it remained unheard. Since then 60 years have passed, and it’s clear that the time has come for an outcry.
After ten years in power, Netanyahu doesn’t have the slightest thought to solve the Gaza problem (Ephraim Ganor, Maariv) The Israeli government says openly: "There is no solution to the Gaza problem, you have to live with it." Anyone who cannot find a solution to such a problem must go home.
High Profile Spy Companies Are Damaging Israel’s Image (Omer Kabir, Calcalist English) Israel’s tech ecosystem is world-renowned for its innovation, but companies like NSO, Black Cube, and AnyVision are casting a sinister shadow over it.
An end to the ambiguity (Thane Rosenbaum, Israel Hayom) Israel had claims to Judea and Samaria; it did not invade another country, offensively, to take away its land. And the Palestinians weren’t living in a nation of their own that could be occupied.
Playing with fire (Alex Fishman, Yedioth Hebrew) From temporary restraint to a missile attack on infrastructure targets in the depths of Israel - these are the ways in which Iran may respond to the Israeli attack in Syria. Meanwhile, Bennett has to remember that he is the defense minister and that his speeches are taken seriously in Tehran. The blows on the northern front are not over yet. This is a sensitive confrontation, as any unnecessary word spoken in Israel can change the situation. And here, in his first test as defense minister, Naftali Bennett acted like a boy who got a package of fireworks and ran to show the guys how it worked. His eloquence - "you are no longer immune" - aimed at Iran's leaders is taken seriously in Tehran. And, in general, since when has Israel been harming the leaders of foreign countries, even if they are hostile, and what’s more, announced it in advance? These are slogans for town squares. Bennett needs to understand that the days when he was the “kibbitzer" [Yiddish for chatter] who harassed defense ministers is over. He is now required to be the responsible adult.
Forcing the dilemma into Iran's court (Yoav Limor, Israel Hayom) Iran's new policy is to respond to any attack against its assets, which means its decision to fire missiles at Israel on Tuesday was likely in retaliation to an Israeli operation – even if it hasn't been publicized.
In Iran, It's Not the Economy, Stupid (David Rosenberg, Haaretz+) The protests and headline data give the impression things are falling apart, but the economy is actually quite resilient.
In Heavily Subsidized Iran, High Fuel Prices Could Spell Disaster for the Regime (Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz+) Iran is in dire need of economic reform, but the latest squeeze of the middle class is a dangerous bet for Tehran, hoping to repress a massive wave of riots.

Elections 2019 Commentary/Analysis:
Israel’s Attorney General Must Decide on Netanyahu Before the Next Election (Haaretz Editorial) Israel finds itself in a political deadlock not only due to its inability to decide ideologically between right and left. The deadlock also reflects the Gordian knot that binds politics to Netanyahu’s legal status, affecting the option of voting for him or forming a governing coalition with him. In the two elections this year, voters went to the polls under a cloud of uncertainty. The public was unsure whether the right’s candidate for prime minister was about to face an indictment for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. This is an intolerable situation, and the political system responded accordingly, unable to resign itself to the absurdity in which a cloud of uncertainty hovers over a candidate. Enough time has elapsed for making a decision. The lavish-gifts case (Case 1000) and the Yedioth Ahronoth news for favors case (Case 2000) were opened in mid-2016, becoming criminal investigations in January 2017. The Bezeq-Walla news for favors case (Case 4000) was opened at the end of 2017. For the sake of comparison, Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein and State Prosecutor Edna Arbel needed only three months for ruling on the Bar-On-Hebron affair in which an offer to replace the attorney general was allegedly made in exchange for closing a case against Netanyahu’s wife. The charges against Ehud Olmert in the cash-filled-envelopes case were filed by Attorney General Menachem Mazuz one year after the investigation was launched; in the case against former Finance Minister Abraham Hirschson, this number was 15 months.
The balloon about to burst - Lieberman’s show (Nadav Eyal, Yedioth Hebrew) Maybe you heard an unpleasant sound during Avigdor Lieberman’s press conference yesterday. That was the sound of a balloon that is expanding a moment before it bursts. Lieberman gave a speech that was heavy in enmity towards minorities - ultra-Orthodox and Arabs. He slammed and accused, in the most populist manner, “both sides” of not establishing the secular unity government he was advancing. According to all the polls, the public thinks differently: the respondents thought that Netanyahu was guilty of the failure of the formation of a government. That’s understandable. Netanyahu is not coming to the negotiations to establish Lieberman’s dream government only with himself, but rather with the ultra-Orthodox parties. It’s very surprising that Lieberman’s secular initiative failed in consideration of the fact that one side [Netanyahu’s] was not willing to abandon the ultra-Orthodox. Because Netanyahu comes to the ‘shidduch’ (arranged marriage meeting) with Lieberman and Gantz when he is already married and he complained that they are not serious enough. But that’s just one angle. Netanyahu also does not want to part from the seat of the prime minister, despite the fact that he received fewer mandates, and he wants the political establishment to give him a letter of forgiveness in the style of the pope so that if and when he stands trial, this way he’ll stay at the Prime Minister’s Residence, lacking authority, but having much respect. Lieberman knows that most of the responsibility for the unity failure is Netanyahu’s, but he continues to play the game of the UN Secretary General. Not exactly the UN: The elections are in the horizon and therefore he is busy in his usual inflaming against ultra-Orthodox and Arabs and he is placing himself in the very center…What exceed good taste yesterday was Lieberman’s moralizing the sides on national responsibility. Benny Gantz is not a suspect or an accused in severe criminal acts - like those that sent another prime minister to jail. If tomorrow morning Gantz is replace by any other MK of the Kahol-Lavan party nothing will change in the party’s positions. IF Netanyahu will be replaced tomorrow morning, by afternoon there would be wonderful mutually agreed upon government. The responsibility is not equal., and Lieberman is not the responsible adult. It was enough to listen to his proposal yesterday for direct election of a prime minister, with giving the prime minister the power to revoke laws, to establish a government without the Knesset’s support (a government of experts, of course) that could pass a budget, again, without the Knesset’s support. It was a waste of valuable minutes: This is a operative proposal to completely cancel Israeli democracy. Lieberman’s attempt to dance at all the weddings will soon reach an end, apparently during elections, and it’s not at all clear that the public will give him the power it gave him before. The position of kingmaker is comfortable and the media attention is nice. Unnecessary addiction to it will end in a strange loss.
With Hypocrisy, Cynicism and Venom, Israel's Third Election Season in a Year Has Begun (Yossi Verter, Haaretz+)  Unity government is off the table, unless a Netanyahu bribery indictment or a large-scale military confrontation shake things up.
 
Prepared for APN by Orly Halpern, independent freelance journalist based in Jerusalem.
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