APN's daily news review from Israel
Sunday January 5, 2020
Quote of the day:
"The assassination of Qassem Soleimani is a rare event that alters reality and renders everything that happened before it irrelevant. What's required now is almost a complete reassessment of all previously held assumptions and conventions."
--'Israel Hayom' military analyst, Yoav Limor, in his analysis of the ramifications of the assassination of Iran's #2, Qassem Soleimani.*
You Must Be Kidding:
Ghislaine Maxwell, the British woman who has been accused of recruiting underage girls in the Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking scandal, has reportedly found refuge in Israel.**
--'Israel Hayom' military analyst, Yoav Limor, in his analysis of the ramifications of the assassination of Iran's #2, Qassem Soleimani.*
You Must Be Kidding:
Ghislaine Maxwell, the British woman who has been accused of recruiting underage girls in the Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking scandal, has reportedly found refuge in Israel.**
- Qassem Soleimani was killed in US assassination; Iran threatens to take revenge
- The heir will need to retaliate quickly and preserve Iran’s assets in the region // Zvi Bar’el
- Trump will need all the information and discretion that he doesn’t have in order to prevent war // Chemi Shalev
- Security instead of corruption: Netanyahu got a New Year’s present from Trump // Aluf Benn
- Unnecessary victory cheers // Haaretz Editorial
- Israel decided to reinforce troops in the north
- Couple drowned to death in elevator flooded by rains in Tel-Aviv
- Field trial // Ido Baum on dangers of Netanyahu’s request for immunity
- Our stationary // Tomer Persico on Gadi Taub’s claim that The Hgue’s investigation against Israel contravenes “the occupied people’s agreement”
- From Labor to labor: (Former Labor party chief) Avi Gabbay was appointed CEO of Cellcom in one of its most difficult periods ever
- New Middle East - Trump gave order from his resort: “Eliminate him”; End of Qassem Suleimani, the Iranian arch-terrorist and one of the senior leaders of the regime (Hebrew)
- Couple caught in flooded elevator died
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
- Two killed in flooded elevator
- World on alert for terror
- The Qassem (pun for magic in Hebrew) ran out // Ben Caspit
- The rules changed // Tal Lev-Ram
- The 18th victim: one-year-old infant died of flu, 118 hospitalized in serious condition
- The assassination of the century - Arch-terrorist, end. “Suleimani is responsible for a million deaths”
- The most significant assassination in the Middle East ever // Yoav Limor
- Iran wants “suitable revenge,” not war // Oded Granot
- Trump doctrine for war on terror // Avraham Ben-Zvi
- US proves: There is someone to count on // Amnon Lord
- Path of unavoidable confrontation // Eran Lerman
- After he failed in the gamble, Khamenei is in a dilemma // Yossi Menasheroff
- Iran will find it difficult to fill in the empty space left behind // Eyal Zisser
- Dramatic ramifications also in the long-term // Daniel Siriyoti
- Trump won at poker // Boaz Bismuth
- Expansive coverage: The dramatic assassination of the “Terror General”
- The heir: Already angered the US
- Disaster in the elevator
- Country in a storm: Enormous floods in the center, roads blocked
Besides the sudden and massive floods in central Israel Saturday (Tel Aviv received 20% of its average yearly rainfall within a few hours), which killed a young couple stuck in a flooded elevator in south Tel-Aviv, the US assassination early Friday of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani at the orders of US President Donald Trump was the big story of today’s Hebrew newspapers. And while ‘Israel Hayom’ presented the assassination as positive, calling it the “Elimination of the Century,” and its editor-in-chief, Boaz Bismuth, declaring that “Trump won at poker,” most of the analysts were not as joyful or as certain that this was a win for Israel. What they were certain of was that the region would change and no one knew how. See Commentary/Analysis below for very interesting insight and views on what this means for Israel and the region.
Iran and Hezbollah warned the US and Israel of a ‘decisive' response to the assassination and Iran said it had decided how it would react to the US strike. Israel braced for Iranian retaliation, heightening alertness along border regions Friday. Mount Hermon ski resort was shut down amid fears that Iran could order Hezbollah to strike at Israel.
Yedioth Hebrew wrote that “in Jerusalem, they are pleased with the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, the arch-terrorist who was responsible for Iran's consolidation on the northern border.” And Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that Israel stands with the US after Soleimani’s assassination. Netanyahu told his cabinet ministers not to say anything themselves on the subject. As the analysts wrote, the best thing Israel can do right now is to keep a low profile. Other Israeli politicians rejoiced on social media. Likud MK Gideon Sa'ar Tweeted: "God Bless America!" Another Likud lawmaker, MK Yoav Kisch, wrote on Twitter: "The demise of a villain." Yair Lapid of the Kahol-Lavan party congratulated US President Trump on Twitter for killing those responsible for "murderous terrorist acts from Damascus to Buenos Aires.” Palestinians mourned Soleimani. Leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, both recipients of Iranian backing, joined mourners at a tent erected in Soleimani’s honor in Gaza City.
The assassination took place almost a day after Iraqi protesters stopped attacking the outside of the US embassy in Baghdad, following the US attack on a Shiite Iraq pro-Iran paramilitary group that killed dozens. Interestingly, hours before the Soleimani assassination, Israel Hayom had reported that “pro-Iran militiamen withdrew from US Embassy in Baghdad, but Iraq tensions linger.” Iran's supreme leader appointed Soleimani's deputy, Esmail Ghaani, as the new leader of Quds Force. But Israeli analysts doubted anyone could fit into Soleimani’s shoes.
Yedioth Hebrew’s Itamar Eichner wrote that the assessment is that Netanyahu was updated in advance of the attack because he had told political parties that the US was planning a significant move against Iran, and on Thursday, a day before the assassintion, Netanyahu said, without even being prompted: "We know our region…very very dramatic things are happening. We monitor this with vigilance and maintain close contact with our great friend the United States."
Elections 2019 / Netanyahu Indictment Quickees:
- Poll: Center-left Bloc Leads, but Likud Holds Steady Despite Netanyahu Immunity Request - Surveys conducted by Channel 12 and Channel 13 published Thursday night both show Kahol Lavan leading over Likud by two seats, with neither bloc having a clear path to forming coalition. (Haaretz)
- Stav Shaffir to Meretz: “I’m ready to give up second place on the list for a union“ - Chairman of the Green Party forwarded to her colleague from the previous election campaign, Meretz Chairman Nitzan Horowitz, a detailed proposal on how to continue their cooperation, within the framework of the Democratic Camp list. (Maariv and Yedioth Hebrew)
- Netanyahu launched a campaign to unite right-wing parties - PM warned on Twitter: "Both lists may fall below the threshold, leading to the rise of left-wing rule." Prime Minister Netanyahu launched a campaign to unite all right-wing parties last night, arguing that unless there is a union between Naftali Bennett's and Ayelet Shaked's ‘New Right’ party, Habayit Hayehudi party, Ichud Haleumi party and Otzmah Yehudit party the left-wing will take control of the government and the responsibility for that will belong to the right-wing parties. (Yedioth Hebrew)
- High Court rejects ‘premature’ petition seeking to bar Netanyahu from forming gov't - Supreme Court President Esther Hayut says Thursday that there are no legal impediments preventing Netanyahu from seeking reelection. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
- Netanyahu claims to seek 'temporary immunity,' but his request says otherwise - In addition to asking for procedural immunity, which expires at the end of a Knesset's term, on some charges against him, the prime minister is seeking lifetime immunity. (Haaretz+)
- From 'witch hunt' to immunity bid: Netanyahu's evolving narrative of corruption charges - Netanyahu’s immunity bid request and his climatic Wednesday night address cap a public campaign against Israel’s law enforcement, which began with the start of his investigations in late 2016. This is how Netanyahu’s narrative changed, evolved and grew more extreme since then. (Haaretz)
New US Middle East envoy visits Israel to discuss peace plan after months of
standstill - This will be Avi Berkowitz's first visit to Israel since stepping in for Jason
Greenblatt, who resigned as US President Donald Trump's emissary to the region in November.
Although Avi Berkowitz's visit is not expected to lead to a major breakthrough, it signals that the White House hasn't completely abandoned the initiative. (Haaretz+ and Israel Hayom)
- Abbas warns that Palestinian Authority on verge of 'explosion' over withheld tax revenues - The PA pays some $11 million a month to terrorists in Israeli prisons and to their families, as part of a policy that has become known in Israel as "pay for slay." (Israel Hayom)
- Despite Hague Warnings, Israeli Panel to Discuss Annexing the Jordan Valley - An Israeli committee will convene Sunday to discuss the annexation of the Jordan Valley despite a warning by the International Criminal Court's prosecutor. Sources tell Haaretz that reviewing the issue is meant to show that Israel has not abandoned the idea due to international pressure. (Haaretz+)
- 16-year-old (Arab) Israeli Shot Dead in Central Israel - Neighbors say teenager was sitting in front of apartment building in Ramle when he was killed by an unknown assailant. A member of the family criticized police, saying, "Where are they every day? If a 16-year-old boy was murdered somewhere else in the country, the entire police is on its feet and catch [the suspect] in two hours, but if a boy is murdered in Ramle they don't care, because it's good for them that the Arabs murder Arabs." (He is the first victim this year of violence in Arab-Israeli sector. - OH) (Haaretz+ and Yedioth Hebrew)
- (Thursday) Israeli army shoots Palestinian suspected of attempted stabbing attack in West Bank - Army says that the man was shot in the legs and arrested Thursday after he attempted to carry out a stabbing attack at Gush Etzion junction. (Haaretz+)
- Incorporating female soldiers as tankists: The IDF decided to move on to the next stage of the process - After a series of discussions led by the chief of staff, the army agreed that the pilot of female combat soldiers in the Armor Corps showed real potential for integration of women in the corps. The intention is to accelerate planning on the issue. (Maariv)
- [Right-wing] Study exposes truth about 'incitement-free' PA matriculation exams - Israeli branch of international research institute, Impact-SE, which evaluates school curricula for tolerance, discovers that Palestinian students must be well-versed in message of violence and hatred to earn a high school certificate. [NOTE: Impact-SE is an NGO founded by an Israeli settler and which, according to analysts, uses questionable methods and that a similar method at Israeli schools would also find incitement. - OH] (Israel Hayom)
- Iron Dome defense system notes 85% success rate in 2019, IDF says - Gaza-based terrorist groups fired 1,295 projectiles at Israel in 2019, IDF struck 900 terror targets in the coastal enclave. The overall number of terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria decreased, military says. (Israel Hayom)
- The Jebrini family from Hebron will purchase the (Israeli) Miki Deli factory - The move will allow the company to expand throughout the country, even outside the Arab sector, and increase its production capacity. The Jebrini Brothers, one of the wealthiest families in the city of Hebron (in the West Bank) and owners of one of the largest dairies in the Palestinian Authority, al-Jebrini, will buy the Miki Salad factory and its equipment in Rishon Lezion for 2.3 million shekels and the right to lease the building. When the deal is completed, Adi Cohen, former CEO of Tiv Taam Co., will join Jebrini as director of operations in Israel and as a partner. Last month, the Miki Deli brand, the fish factory, the recipes, formulas and knowledge for making Miki salads were bought by the Shamir Salads Company for 6 million shekels. Miki Salads Co. has a 26 million shekel debt to banks. (Yedioth Hebrew)
- Israel to invest $72M in wind energy projects - The project, which seeks to boost renewable energy production while answering security needs, was given the go-ahead by the Energy, Finance, and Defense ministries, as well as by the Israel Electricity Authority. (Israel Hayom)
- **Jeffrey Epstein madam allegedly hiding in Israel - Ghislaine Maxwell reportedly on the run from authorities ever since Epstein’s mysterious death in prison. (Israel Hayom)
The head of the snake: Who was Qassem Soleimani? (Neta Bar, Israel Hayom) The son of a poor farmer, the leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force was known as the "living shahid" among Iraqi Shiites for his battle achievements and willingness to put himself in the line of fire.
Who Is Qassem Soleimani, the Head of Iran's Quds Force Killed in Iraq (Haaretz) Once an ordinary construction worker, Qassem Soleimani quickly climbed the Revolutionary Guards' ranks to become one of Iran's most prominent military figures.
Israelis support British woman convicted of false (rape) complaint: "We feel shame"
A group of dozens of women, including some men, will board a plane to Cyprus Tuesday to show support for the British young woman convicted of falsely complaining she was gang-raped by a group of 12 Israelis in a hotel room in Aya Napa, Cyprus. After she retracted her complaint, the young Britishwoman claimed that her confession, in which she declared she had falsely claimed she was raped, was taken from her by exerting illegal pressure on her. But the Cyprus court rejected this claim and ruled that she lied. After this court ruling, several dozen Israelis felt that they could not look away, and, in their view, the victim became a defendant and could now be severely punished. Israeli women and men will be present at her sentencing, which will be given on Tuesday, to express their support for her. It began with a Facebook post posted by Weiss last Wednesday in which she called on Israelis to attend the sentencing hearing in Cyprus. "The goal is also to say that this thing, that women victims become the accused, will no longer happen on our watch," says Weiss. "I have nothing to say on a legal level...but on the moral level, I'm not ready to see more guys dancing with kippahs on their heads after they've done that disgusting act. On any scale it's disgusting, and with this slime we don't dance anymore.""Our goal is to tell the British young woman that we believe in her. I want to say this as both an Israeli and a Jew," says Ruhama Weiss, Professor of Talmud at Hebrew Union College. "It was clear to me that I was flying to Cyprus and standing on Tuesday with a sign and telling the girl that I was with her. It was unbearable to me what they did to her." (Ilana Stutland, Maariv Magazine supplement, cover)
The world is against us? Or is it just indifferent?
For years, Israel has invested tremendous efforts and resources to present its side in the conflict with the Palestinians and to improve its image, but success has been limited. In recent years, a new trend has begun: to escape politics and showcase the attractions the country has to offer, focusing on young audiences. The result: a huge increase in tourism and numerous positive mentions on social media networks. “Vibe Israel" is one of the organizations that does just that. "We represent an innovative approach to improving Israel's image in the world," says the founder of the organization, Joanna Landau. "If until now, state institutions have been primarily concerned with explaining Israeli policy in the context of the conflict, we are seeking to promote and market Israel in the way a product or brand is marketed. The organization's flagship activity is to bring bloggers, YouTubers and Instagram personalities, all aged 40 and under - for an experiential visit to Israel. "Our tours include large groups of influencers, who are interested in specific professional areas - fashion, music, culinary, etc. Each group is tailored to the field where its members are active. To date, we have brought over 250 influencers to Israel and created over a billion positive mentions of Israel across social media networks. We have developed a brand book of Israel, which we use to train Israelis and Diaspora Jews to tell the story of Israel in the world, including guidelines on how to communicate it in the most effective ways for the Y generation and the Z generation.” She says the country is missing out on opportunities. "In our view, the government budget for hasbara (PR advocacy) is divided wrong,” she says, "95% of it is directed to crisis management and only 5% to marketing. If, in the past, the Foreign Ministry led the issue, today its budgets are very limited. It is the Ministry of Tourism that is currently marketing the state, mainly to increase the volume of tourists.” Indeed, in recent years there has been a real revolution in the Ministry of Tourism on this issue, and it allocates a huge budget for branding. "There is no longer a body besides us that allocates half a billion shekels of its budget for marketing and branding operations," says Amir Halevi, director general of the Ministry of Tourism. "We operate in 15 countries and have rented 21 advertising agencies and 12 PR offices around the world. We have become the marketing hub of the country."
What caused the conceptual change in the office? "Over the years, Israel has been seen as a region that incorporates strong religious symbolism alongside ongoing conflict, which also connects to the religious side. When Yariv Levin became Tourism Minister, we decided to go toward new avenues. From research we have found we should develop sub-brands such as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, different from the brand General Israel. We marketed Tel Aviv as a non-stop city and as an economic and cultural center, and Jerusalem as a culinary center in the center of the with its focus the gentrifying Mahane Yehuda market. The branding and marketing activities we do in a diverse and smart way using YouTube, Instagram, all media, billboards, articles on global tourist sites and even bringing in bloggers and opinion leaders from abroad to meet the other and new faces of Israel.” (Yuval Gamliel, Yedioth Hebrew's '24 Hours' supplement)
Soleimani Assassination Commentary/Analysis:
Four remarks on the death of Qassem Soleimani: The living martyr (Shimrit Meir, Yedioth/Ynet) 1.) Qassem Soleimani was the rare kind of leader who leaves the world a different place after they depart it; in recent years, he became such a legend that he was talked about as someone who would leave the battlefield to hold one of Iran’s top political roles. Since the negotiations began on the 2015 nuclear deal negotiations, Soleimani and others enjoyed tacit immunity, at least from the Americans. Trump, who was never part of the national security circles, didn’t even hear his name until recently (and once even mistook him for a Kurd). This turned out to be a blessing. The president was not limited by the apocalyptic scenarios of Iran's revenge when he ordered to pull the trigger on the operations to take out Soleimani.
*Soleimani assassination ushers in a new regional reality ( Yoav Limor, Israel Hayom) There isn't an actor in the region, including Israel, whose proverbial jaw didn't drop to the floor upon hearing of his untimely demise.
Iran Is Still a Threat (Haaretz Editorial) Israel can be satisfied that the man who led the Iranian campaign in the Middle East is gone. But it must remember that its challenge was not Soleimani, whom Israel could have taken out a number of times in the past, and that the ring of threats against it has not loosened with his death.
Trump's strike, Iran's dilemma (Alex Fishman, Yedioth Hebrew) A great strategic miracle has happened here. Suddenly we are no longer alone. For years, Israel has tried unsuccessfully to harness the US for a military confrontation with Iran. On Friday we left our isolation. The United States, which has been cautious since the early 1980s regarding direct attacks on Iranian targets, attacked and assumed responsibility for the assassination of Qassem Sleimani - the man who symbolized the spread of the Iranian revolution throughout the world. It’s no wonder the political-security leadership in Israel is celebrating. This upheaval in the US military policy in the Middle East did not involve an Israeli military move or diplomatic policy, which was accompanied by heavy prices. President Trump has chosen to put his hand into the fire. While Tehran convened to prepare for a confrontation with the US, the Israeli defense minister convened senior officials of the defense establishment for a consultation at IDF Headquarters, but unlike the storm in Tehran, here, they all dispersed for the weekend. It is believed that the Iranians are aware of the fact that Israel has no involvement in the assassination in Iraq and it is doubtful that the Iranians have any interest in opening another front against Israel. However, there is a certain level of preparedness in the intelligence and air force in Israel. For there is a likelihood that pro-Iranian militias in Syria, or perhaps Lebanon, will fire at Israel - even without a directive from Tehran. An act of mourning, anger and frustration. This kind of shooting has already happened in the past. Islamic Jihad from Gaza could also carry out symbolic firing as an act of solidarity with Iran. However, from Hamas and other Palestinian organizations mourning the death of Soleimani there is a clear message: We are not going to open any front because of his assassination. Trump surprised everyone. After all, he acted as if he were in the process of withdrawing from the Middle East. Just a week ago, he declared that he had no interest in a total war with Iran. After the US drone was shot down, he stopped, at the last minute, a major US air strike. Photos of the pogrom at the US Embassy in Baghdad were, for him, one bridge too far. And so when the CIA chief put his intelligence report on his desk stating that there was an operational opportunity to eliminate Soleimani, he gave, in contrast to a similar incident in the past, a green light. This time, Trump decided to make a change in the weak image the US projected not only towards Iran, but towards the whole region. Trump surprised everyone, especially Soleimani. For years he has been acting as a wanted man, but in recent months, against the backdrop of passive American behavior, he has allowed himself to raise his public profile. Given his status in the Iranian regime, both he and his patrons in Tehran did not think anyone would dare to harm him and thus declare war on Iran. His elimination has a far-reaching regional significance far beyond the elimination of bin Laden and al-Baghdadi. However, it is assumed that the Iranians do not want a comprehensive confrontation with the US, as the Americans have a prominent military advantage. Therefore, the US administration is preparing for US facilities and embassies around the world to be targeted. US military bases in the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Saudi Arabia are also targets. The kidnapping of famous American and other citizens is being taken into account. And there is another possibility: alongside or after the revenge operation, the Iranians will seek a way to compromise with the West. For Tehran's supreme goal is the survival of the regime - and war will not serve it.
Trump Exploited Soleimani's Mistake, and Netanyahu Gains the Most (Aluf Benn, Haaretz+) Netanyahu gained the most from Soleimani’s killing. The risky American action that brought the “security situation” back into the headlines, bumping off Netanyahu’s corruption affairs. The security-minded opposition from Kahol-Lavan quickly toed the line. If there is escalation, local or regional, pressure will ratchet up on Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz and his co-leader Yair Lapid to take the defense and Foreign Ministry portfolios under Netanyahu.
Qassem Soleimani felt confident enough, and then made one mistake too many (Jacky Khougy, Maariv) The trickster from Tehran thought Trump had lost interest in the area and he planned to continue his campaign of conquests. But he forgot that Americans had honor. ….Soleimani and the engineer feared that the US assault against “Kataib Hezbollah" might be just the beginning. They sought a way to discourage Americans and their allies, remembering that Baghdad is an American stronghold. If they hold the embassy by its throat, Soleimani thought, they would only threaten it without breaking in - maybe the Americans would think twice before attacking again. He and the engineer did not know how wrongly they thought this time, and what dish was waiting for them around the corner.
Trump's Impulsive Soleimani Strike Is a Gift for Iran (Daniel B. Shapiro, Haaretz+) Trump's abrupt decision to target Soleimani is a burden for Israel and a death-blow to U.S. strategy in Iraq and Syria, if not the wider Middle East.
Not just 'another' Iranian general (Prof. Eyal Zisser, Israel Hayom) For Iran's friends and foes alike, Qassem Soleimani was second only to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Tehran will struggle to find a strategist of this caliber to take his place.
Need All the Strong Nerves and Sophistication He Sorely Lacks (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+) Trump pounced on an opportunity to prove Baghdad is no Benghazi and he’s no Obama/Clinton.
Suleimani counterterrorism: the dramatic of the targeted killings in terms of its consequences (Tal Lev-Ram, Maariv) It is too early to assess how the Iranians will react to the picture clarification, the coming period will be particularly tense. Israel will do well if you keep a low profile. From the immediate implications for the situation in the region, in accordance with the decisions made in Iran on how to respond, and to the implications of even more long-term options, Qassem Soleimani's assassination is one of the most dramatic targeted killings ever. In this case, it was not against the snake's head of a terrorist organization, who lives in the shadows, but rather an assassination of perhaps the most important military figure in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Soleimani was a general close to power and in recent years has been the most significant man in exercising Iranian military power and terrorism outside the republic itself, as part of the Iranian ideological concept of exporting the idea of the Iranian Revolution, to our region and other countries, not only as an idea but also ub building military capabilities in many countries. His hegemony in the Iranian security leadership was undeniable. Operatively, an assassination of this kind also has significance. At the same time, the Revolutionary Guards and the Iranian Qods Force are well-organized bodies, so that Soleimani's assassination is not expected to paralyze the continuation of their activities after the recovery phase and the shock of the assassination pases, but, still, it is a very difficult blow for them. The possibility of assassinating Qassem Soleimani was an idea that, for years, was considered also among the top political security leaders in our country. In 2008, Imad Mughniyeh, Hezbollah's operations officer and the strong man in the terrorist organization after Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, was killed in an explosion in his car in Damascus. This assassination was attributed to Israel, which did not take responsibility for the incident, but it did not drag the area into war. Alongside...the dramatic aspect of the assassination that was then carried out, the understanding in Israel is that the assassination of Qassem Soleimani is an action of another magnitude with implications for both the possibility of direct confrontation with Iran and political complexity for other countries in the world. Thus it was good for Israel that this action was carried out by the world's strongest power, which is openly and explicitly behind the elimination and stands exclusively behind it. It would be good for Israel to keep a low profile, assuming that there will be actors, which will try to get Israel involved in this incident on various accusations. Alongside that, until the picture becomes clear, the coming period is expected to be particularly tense. It's too early to tell how the Iranians will respond to the assassination. And Israeli intelligence will be very busy in the coming days, while options for actions against Israel by Shiite militias operating in Syria are taken into account. As a first step, the IDF did not take risks and shut down the Hermon ski site this morning. Also, taking a wider look, it's too early to know how this incident will affect the security situation in the region. For example, continuing Israeli operations in Syria will lead to a more offensive military line on the part of Iran, where the situation is particularly tense at this stage. These are precisely the issues that are currently relevant in assessing the state of the security system, out of interest at the moment that Israel will not be involved.
If This Is the Israeli ‘Opposition’ (Iris Leal, Haaretz+) American public opinion is divided, but in Israel, as always, those who oppose the assassination or warn of regional deterioration are of course traitors who side with the enemy. That is what happened to Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman, who dared tweet that “the Trump administration is risking the lives of everyone in the Middle East – Iranians, Israelis and everyone in between. No to war!” It seems to me that in comparison to the Democratic members of Congress, Touma-Sliman was moderate. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said that Trump had “tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox,” while Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren condemned the action and called it irresponsible. Luckily for them, they are not Arabs. Kahol Lavan MK Yoaz Hendel trumpeted the reprimands he saves for such occasions; that is, a golden opportunity for him to pour populistic poison over 280 characters and push send. “Joint List MKs who blame the Americans for killing Soleimani have once again picked the wrong side.” The legitimate claim voiced by most commentators and many members of Congress – that Iran would extract a heavy price for the killing and a military confrontation between Iran and the United States is a serious possibility – is identification with the enemy in Hendel’s eyes.
Biden Is Against Soleimani's Assassination, While Gantz Applauds It (Gideon Levy, Haaretz+) There are very few things in America today that inspire jealousy. Here’s one of them: The immediate harsh criticism by leaders of the Democratic Party of the assassination of Qassem Soleimani. In Israel, where there is no Jewish opposition to any shedding of Muslim blood, we’ve never seen such conduct from the opposition. When Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders come out against an American assassination while Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid and Amir Peretz automatically cheer it, with blind stupidity, it’s once again clear that in Israel, people speak with only one voice. In America, there’s no such thing as “Quiet, we’re shooting.” In Israel, there is – not just when the Israel Defense Forces are shooting, but even when American drones are.
The Four Critical Questions After the Assassination of Iran's Soleimani (Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz+) It’s impossible to exaggerate the repercussions of this event, and even Trump’s most steadfast supporters should be regretting the absence of a seasoned national-security staff around him.
Not everyone has a replacement (Yossi Yehoshua, Yedioth) Qassem Soleimani was Israel's bitter enemy for the last 20 years. He was the man who planned and even succeeded to a great extent in his plans to close on us from all directions and borders: Hezbollah in Lebanon, Islamic Jihad and Hamas in Gaza, and in recent years, also in Syria, where he led the establishment of Iran with the goal of creating a 'Hezbollah 2' front. His assassination is a terrible mortal and operational blow to Iran and excellent news for Israel. There is the perception, according to which, after every assassination rises a more dangerous heir, but in this case, not everyone has an heir. Senior officials in Israel said that over the years they know few "professionals' on the level of Soleimani. Take, for example, Imad Mughniyeh, the chief of staff of Hezbollah and close friend of Soleimani and his right-hand, who was assassinated in 2008, in what was attributed to Israel and the US. Since then, Nasrallah has not succeeded in finding him a suitable heir and so it is likely with Soleimani.
The Trump doctrine for a war on terror (Prof. Abraham Ben-Zvi, Israel Hayom) The 45th US president has set a new precedent when it comes to holding the architects of global terrorism responsible for their actions. Will the doctrine be applied to "lesser" Iranian provocations, as well?
Iran's 'Crushing Revenge' May Prove Formidable Challenge for Soleimani's Successor (Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz+) Esmail Ghaani will have to demonstrate Tehran’s resolve in continuing its policy in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon while taking into account the vulnerability of Iran's oil terminals.
Netanyahu’s No Statesman, and His Iraq-Iran Policy Proves It (Avi Shilon, Haaretz+) If Netanyahu really was a profound statesman for anticipating the danger from Iran, he wouldn’t have so ardently pushed for the war that brought down Iraq, leading to Iran’s creeping takeover of its western neighbor. For Israel, the upshot is that in 2020, as military chief Kochavi said in his speech, Israel’s front against Iran has expanded to Iraq. Netanyahu is therefore a very short-sighted statesman who failed badly on the very issue he identified as most critical.
The greatest enemy of all (Ronen Bergman, Yedioth Hebrew) He followed Khomeini, leapt up the Revolutionary Guards chain of command to the Quds Force, and teamed with Mughniyeh and Nasrallah. One man, alone, on a regular commercial flight, from Damascus to Baghdad. No bodyguards, no entourage. Contrary to expectations, Qassem Soleimani lived and acted simply. He became Commander of the Qods Force, the international arm of the Revolutionary Guards, roamed the world without royal graces, ruling, trying to create as little noise and attention as possible, unlike those who are accompanied by security convoys, bodyguards and private planes. But the low profile did not save him Thursday night. His modest life and conduct were somewhat reminiscent of those of his good friend, Imad Mughniyeh, who found his death shortly after Soleimani separated from him on February 12, 2008, and departed from Damascus back to Tehran. Mughniyeh also traveled alone or with one escort, usually a relative, with no entourage, no plastic surgery and no use of camouflage. A kind of insignificant person. But like Mughniyeh exponentially - Soleimani was the furthest from being an insignificant person: As one of the most intimidating personalities from among a host of leaders of enemies of Israel, Soleimani, as the Iranian commander of the secret arm for overseas operations, acted on a number of fronts, and as of 2012, turned this activity public, and himself into a strategic threat to the security of the region. Soleimani was in charge of the implementation of Iranian foreign policy and, in this sense, far more important than Foreign Minister Zarif: He had to make sure that Iran became and remains the most influential factor in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and perhaps most importantly - Iraq. Soleimani, known as Hajj Qassem, was born on March 11, 1957 in the Kerman area. In 1976 he began his activities against the monarchical regime of the Shah, and was among the many who followed Khomeini. Shortly after the Islamic Revolution, he joined the Revolutionary Guards, the organization founded by Khomeini to maintain power and to export the revolution. When the Iran-Iraq War broke out in 1980, he was sent to the southern front at the head of a force from Karman. He quickly climbed the chain of command and already in his twenties he took command of Division 41 of the Revolutionary Guards. From that point, he quickly shot up and held a number of senior positions in the organization. His vast experience in the war and his successes in the fight against smugglers underpinned the Supreme Leader's decision to appoint him in 1998 as Commander of the Qods Force, the elite unit of the Revolutionary Guards. Initially, Soleimani dedicated most of his energy to support of Hezbollah in Lebanon: under the auspices of his people, Imad Mughniyeh led a sophisticated guerrilla war against Israel, which led to the withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. After that, Hezbollah, with Iranian assistance, built the "Nature Reserves" system that held its own against the IDF during the Second Lebanon War. Twice in six years, Hezbollah was seen as "defeating" the strongest army in the Middle East. In these results, Quds and Soleimani have a large share of rights. Soleimani was at the center of the Hezbollah missile fleet, which also has an Iranian goal: Soleimani deployed the missiles to deter Israel from attacking Iran's nuclear facilities. His successful support for Hezbollah was just part of a much larger plan - creating regional, intelligence and operational cooperation with Middle Eastern elements, not just Shiite and religious, but those representing identification with Iranian interests. Soleimani formed an alliance that, according to its people, was called the "Front of Resistance,” and according to Israeli intelligence the “Radical Front.” And he worked on connecting Iran and Syria to three important jihadist movements - Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. At the operational level, this network included three factors: Soleimani represented Iran and the Revolutionary Guards, Imad Moughniyeh represented Hezbollah, and Syria was represented by a mysterious man - General Muhammad Soleiman. He was so secretive that his name and picture were never published, until after his death. On Thursday night, the series was completed, with all three found dead in assassinations. Following the death of Mughniyeh, Hezbollah and and the Quds Force initiated a series of operations to avenge his death, and later (to avenge) the deaths of Iranian nuclear scientists who Soleimani was certain Israel was responsible for. They planned to kidnap Israelis who had previously served in the intelligence community, to blow up Israeli and Jewish Agency representations, to harm Chabad affiliates and Israeli tourists. Almost all of those operations were thwarted in time. The terror attack (in 2012 against Israeli tourists, killing seven,) in Burgas, Bulgaria, and the injury of the commercial attache at Israeli embassy in New Delhi, were incidents that were not thwarted. Then came the Arab Spring that changed everything and turned Soleimani from being a shadow man into being a major player in geopolitical processes. "Soleimani's professional life can be divided into two periods,” said former Mossad commander Tamir Pardo in an interview published in Yedioth Ahronoth as part of a broad profile of the man in April 2018i. “Until the Arab Spring, he was perceived by most countries of the world as the powerful commander of a terrorist body, which has branches in various parts of the world, trying to make a mess where possible to promote some kind of interest, very active in Syria, Lebanon and in Iraq, but ultimately an operational body whose main purpose is terrorism. From the shock that befell the Middle East and later with ISIS’ appearance, the man changed direction. He becomes a real player, who knows how, with great talent, to take advantage of the secret infrastructure he has established over so many years, to achieve non-covert objectives - to fight, to win, to establish presence, to build significant military infrastructure, to influence map design and everything - to generate precious international profits for Iran.” Soleimani became a very public man whose travels across the Middle East and his photos with his soldiers on the ground, with other Iranian officials, have been marketed on a near daily basis to the social media network. He became an Iranian superstar, a symbol of the rule, the adopted son of the spiritual leader Khamenei, and someone whom many considered a candidate for Iranian president. Soleimani always denied, saying he was a soldier, and all he cared about was being a Quds Force commander. Starting in late 2012, the West negotiated with Iran a nuclear agreement and made Iran, at least for a while, a legitimate interlocutor. Much more important: the war against ISIS turned Soleimani's soldiers, indeed, the good guys. "Suddenly being a friend of the Iranians is not unacceptable," Pardo said. Russia's military involvement in Syria was the last act that made Soleimani an international figure: although for years he was on the US wanted list and couldn’t leave Iran except to a few countries such as Syria and Lebanon. But that did not stop Putin from inviting him to a meeting in the Kremlin, which opened a series of visits, some visible, some undercover, in Moscow, to coordinate the activities in Syria that saved Assad's rule. Soleimani’s operations in Syria had two goals. The first: to save the Assad regime. Second: Establishing an infrastructure for Hezbollah to act also from Syria against Israel. Hezbollah already had bases in Syria for many years, and President Assad, a Nasrallah fan, allowed them to set up missile and other weapons depots with him, but they did not operate from Syria directly against Israel. Soleimani understood that if the Iranian gamble succeeded, and Assad’s regime will be rescued with the help of his forces and Hezbollah, Iran could ask for anything it wanted in return - even if it did not suit the Syrian interest. Soleimani set up a highly secretive unit of Hezbollah, subject to the guidance of a general on his behalf under the command of Jihad Mughniyeh, Imad's son, and, among others, Samir Kuntar. According to the publications, both Mughniyeh Jr. and Kuntar were eliminated by Israel, and hundreds of assaults against Soleimani's forces in Syria were attributed to the Israeli Air Force. But his efforts to build a front against Israel continued, and at the end of the day Iran has three borders with Israel - in Syria, Lebanon and Gaza. Israel has no border with Iran. Soleimani was the driving force behind the escalation in the Iran-US triangle. Beginning last May, he initiated a series of actions against American targets or allies in the Gulf and the Middle East to show that Iran does not fear escalation, all to exert pressure on the US to stop economic sanctions against the regime. But these kinds of actions, sometimes get out of control. So long as Trump thinks things don't hurt US honor and therefore his own honor - the President has swallowed the frogs, even the damage to Saudi oil facilities. Trump doesn't want a war with Iran that could hurt his chances of being re-elected. Here, Soleimani apparently made the fateful mistake. Iraq is considered Iran's sworn enemy. Ever since Iraq destabilized following the US invasion, Iraq became fertile ground for the policy that Soleimani initiated: Iranian intelligence documents leaked to the New York Times reveal how Iranians entered the space left by the Americans, recruited many in the leadership as agents, and in fact took over large parts of the ruling circles. Soleimani became the patron of Shiite militias that fought against ISIS, but after they won, they massacred the Sunni population. In divided Iraq, Soleimani's actions have remained unanswered and a wave of demonstrations has flooded the country in recent months, were directed mainly against Al Qods Force operations and Iran. It is likely these things worried Soleimani, who felt that Iranian control of Iraq was lossening, until Wednesday he decided to fly to Baghdad himself to make sure his instructions were implemented. But the siege on the embassy, a symbol of US rule, and the humiliation the US has suffered in Iraq over the past week have been one step too far, Soleimani’s miscalculation. Trump, at least for now, has decided to change direction. And that mistake cost Soleimani his life.
By assassinating Soleimani, U.S. takes another step toward war with Iran (Amos Harel, Haaretz+) The violent Iranian response could last a long time on a number of fronts and rope in Israel, which is already threatened by Iran's presence in Iraq.
Elections 2019/Netanyahu Indictment Commentary/Analysis:
Netanyahu Is an Unbridled Liar, but His Supporters Don't Mind (Ravit Hecht, Haaretz+) Benjamin Netanyahu’s lying performances could cause anyone with minimal sensitivity to the value of truth to grow dizzy. Now there’s a new slogan, aimed at softening the rigid language for his mouthpieces and courtiers: “Immunity is always temporary.” Even before we get to being upset or outraged, there’s something shattering and frightening about the complete erasure of reality that results from Netanyahu’s permanent lies. It is such a fundamental distortion of our familiar map – the clear distinction between truth and lies – that it undercuts even people who could have sworn that just a moment ago, Netanyahu said something completely different.
Vote of confidence in the law (Yedidya Stern, Yedioth Hebrew) The Prime Minister decided to exercise his right to apply for immunity. Apparently, the hearing on the request, to be held in the Knesset and then in the plenary, will decide on a definite point - when will Netanyahu's trial be conducted, immediately or when he ceases to serve as a Knesset member. In fact, however, the debate on immunity will deal with an immeasurably important matter: the status of the rule of law in Israel. The legal claims made in the request made by the prime minister and the rhetoric of the document leave no room for doubt that Netanyahu is claiming immunity because he believes law enforcement agencies are making an illegally putsch against him. For example, "the indictment undermines the very basic principles of democracy." Therefore, the real decision on the question of immunity is not for or against the prime minister as a political leader or for and against some policy or another, but a vote of no confidence or disbelief in law enforcement agencies.
Benny Gantz's Year in Politics: Netanyahu's Complete Opposite Inches Closer to PM Seat (Chaim Levinson, Haaretz+) Gantz almost quit after the Iranians hacked his phone – but quickly learned to navigate Israeli politics.
Because of the splintering of the parties: no one can assure us that there will not be a fourth elections (Ephraim Ganor, Maariv) Not only are the transitory parties an obstacle to forming a government in Israel as we see today, these parties are empowering sectoralism and tribalism in Israeli society. The political crisis that the State of Israel has been experiencing in the past year is a signal from heaven that is strongly signaling to us that the era of the small parties is over, there is no more room for fragments that only contribute to the political chaos the country is facing. There is an immediate need to change and to act in regards to elections and the political structure.
Netanyahu has realized he has nothing to lose (Yossi Verter, Haaretz+) With $14.5 million in taxpayer money, Netanyahu has launched a campaign to re-brand immunity.
The battered Israeli left faces off against Netanyahu and offers no alternative (Orit Lavi-Nashiel, Maariv) All the warning lights are flashing, the seismographs are moving nervously, indicating that civil society is about to collapse. On the one hand stands Netanyahu, who brought us to this point, and where is the other side?
Netanyahu’s Pitiful Desperation Conjures Devastating 1999 Election Defeat (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+) The prime minister’s application for immunity is a Trump-style headfirst dive into deep state paranoia.
Netanyahu is exercising his legal right by seeking immunity (Amichai Etieli, Yedioth/Ynet) The prime minister remains a strong political force despite the charges against him and it is the voters who will now decide whether he should continue to lead the country.
Netanyahu's only alternative is to make the Knesset a city of refuge (Ben Caspit, Maariv) The Prime Minister crossed the rubicon that still separated him from being delusional. He looks around him and realizes he has nowhere to run. He is not fighting for his tenure, he is fighting for his life and legacy… Netanyahu knows he has no majority vote for receiving immunity. Avigdor Lieberman on Thursday knocked the last nail in the cupboard when he announced, with glee, that YIsreasl Beiteinu party had no intention of supporting it. Lieberman remembers how Netanyahu praised his decision to resign after he was indicted. Lieberman remembers how Netanyahu called for Ehud Olmert to resign when investigations began against him. By the way, Olmert really resigned before the indictments and did not dream of getting immunity. Netanyahu also voted in favor of a bill that would prevent a prime minister who has been indicted from serving in office. The law was passed in a preliminary reading but was shelved after the Knesset was dispersed. Now, Netanyahu has revealed the stolen light. He knows that immunity is his last line of defense en route to Maasiyahu prison [prison for white collar crime - OH], so he has made immunity out as a "cornerstone of democracy." To this day, he has scornfully rejected (and under the influence of those in his home) all efforts to persuade him to strive for a respectable exit, when it was still possible to leave in a dignified manner. Now he looks around in panic and realizes that there is no way and nowhere to escape. The only alternative is to turn the Knesset into a refuge city and the Prime Minister’s residence into the altar to which the whole family will tie itself.
Will the Knesset Speaker Be Loyal to the Country or to the Man Holding It Hostage? (Friday Haaretz Editorial) Sitting in the driver’s seat, Benjamin Netanyahu ran Israel off the road two days ago. Four hours before the deadline, he submitted an official request to the Knesset for immunity from prosecution for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. With this one maneuver, the prime minister was able to freeze the legal proceedings against him until the request is formally discussed. To avert this disgrace, the request must be discussed and rejected. However, by law, the only committee authorized to decide on the immunity application is the Knesset House Committee, which has not been convened since April. Worse, its activity is not expected to resume until at least after the election in March. And in his desperate attempt to avoid trial, Netanyahu is liable to drag Israel to a fourth or even fifth election.
Start-down nation: The high-tech community is alienating Netanyahu and his government (Ran Adelist, Maariv) Instead of embracing liberal progress in the global world, the right-wing government goes back to the days of witchcraft, racism, nationalism and quick finger on the trigger instead of on the keyboard.
Other Top Commentary/Analysis:
Israeli Troops Ambush and Shoot Palestinians Hoping to Make a Living (Gideon Levy, Haaretz+) There are about 30 breaches in the separation barrier near Tul Karm, where IDF soldiers often lie in wait for Palestinians sneaking into Israel to find work. They even shoot at these men, although they pose no danger.
Israel’s New Condition for Palestinians Hoping to Work Their Land: A Pop Quiz in Map Reading (Amira Hass, Haaretz+) The army confiscated dozens of crossing permits of farmers whose plots are beyond the separation barrier. While they labor to retrieve them, their land remains untended.
IDF pushing for thousands of Gazans to work in Israel (Yoav Zitun, Yedioth/Ynet) Bringing workers from the Hamas-run coastal enclave into Israeli territory will potentially force the terror group into a period of calm while giving in to opposition from the right and the Shin Bet could trigger another dangerous engagement
Sanctions on Ramallah, Deal With Hamas: Israel's Risky Message to Palestinians (Amos Harel, Haaretz+) Why does the Israeli army go to lengths to stress the significance of assassinating an Islamic Jihad operative? Suicide bombing down in 2019, but 2020 could see a spike.
Why in Israel they don’t talk about the package of sweets for Hamas (Jacky Khougy, Maariv) Last Sunday, the government security cabinet met to discuss the Palestinian arena. Ministers discussed two main issues. They decided to give Gaza a small package of gifts, as part of negotiations with Hamas, and they decided to punish the Palestinian Authority (PA) with a financial fine. Only one issue appeared in the official announcement from Jerusalem after the discussion, and the other was hidden. Guess which it was. Throughout 2018, the Palestinian Authority allocated 149 million shekels to injured or to family members of martyrs. It was decided that this amount be deducted from the tax money that Israel transfers each month to the PA. The ministerial decision was widely cited in the media, but nothing about the Gaza debate was made public. Several hours passed, and news sites in the Gaza Strip published the secret section. It turns out that Israel has agreed to allow agricultural fertilizer into Gaza, which so far has been prohibited because it could be used to make explosives. It allowed buses to be imported after two years that it was prohibited because they were used to transport demonstrators to the fence. Israel also allowed the import of tires, which it banned from introducing because they were set on fire at demonstrations. In addition, it allowed the Gazans to purchase fishing boats, contrary to its policy. In the export sector, Israel agreed to allow the sale of 600 tons of strawberry and other crops to Israel. One can guess why Israel was trying to hide these details. Many regard any ease of sanctions for Hamas as a prize for terrorism, and the fact that the Cabinet approved such a line of relief could serve as a tool for Netanyahu's opponents to slam him, and even moreso during the election period. But not only the opponents of the prime minister made faces. Hamas also felt anger. Three days before that, the top of the Hamas movement responded to the pressure of the Egyptians, and decided to stop the “Marches of Return,” the name for the demonstrations along the border fence. Israel has been demanding for more than a year for Hamas to put an end to these demonstrations, and now, the time has come and the demand was met. Hamas was hoping for a great reward. Although they were happy about agricultural fertilizer and buses, it wasn’t just for that they stopped the demonstrations. Hamas' main demand from Israel was to ease things that bring in money. Mostly export licenses, such as strawberries, for example, but in a much higher variety and numbers. Or thousands of exit licenses for workers to work in Israel - not hundreds. Each such worker brings an average of NIS 300 to NIS 500 per working day. The sums flow to the Gaza economy and their ability to resurrect it. In comparison, salaries of workers (working in Israel - OH) is one of the pillars of the Palestinian economy in the West Bank over these last years.
Iran Is Declaring War on Israel – From Gaza (Muhammad Shehada, Haaretz+) Iran is doubling down on its explosive investment in Gaza: Islamic Jihad. An impoverished Hamas faces a militant, rejectionist and increasingly untamable rival, flush with cash and determined to trigger war with Israel.
Israel Is Hiding Documents That Could Help Its War Crimes Case at the ICC (Yaacov Lozowick, Haaretz+) The state zealously conceals archival documents that could be useful in the international arena, but the bureaucrats involved are misguided.
When Bibi Gets It Right: Poverty in Israel Is Going Down (David Rosenberg, Haaretz+) But considering that Israel's economy has been growing since 2003, it should have gone down a lot more. What's keeping poverty high is politics.
Contrary to popular belief, most US Jews support Trump (Yossie Hollander, Israel Hayom) In the 2016 presidential elections, most polls declared that 70% of American Jews voted for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, but that was not necessarily the case.
The Jewish Left's Tragic Problem With Solidarity for Jews (Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz+) Jews on the right don't get racism. Jews on the left don't get solidarity.
Despite politicians' promises, Israelis still require visas to enter the U.S. (Itamar Eichner, Yedioth/Ynet) Israeli tourists are spending money when traveling in America and if their number would grow, their contribution to the local economy could be in the amount of 3.6 billion.
Inside Hezbollah's American Sleeper Cells: Waiting for Iran's Signal to Strike U.S. and Israeli Targets (Matthew Levitt, Haaretz+) In case of war with the U.S., Tehran can draw on 200,000 Mideast proxy militants to attack Israel. But less well-known are Hezbollah’s overseas Black Ops units - and both Israeli and American targets are in their sights .
A Crystal Ball on 2020 (David M. Weinberg, Haaretz+) A political-diplomatic forecast for the year ahead: A fourth election in Israel, Trump victorious, Jerusalem expands into E-1, and regrettably, more antisemitism.
Prepared for APN by Orly Halpern, independent freelance journalist based in Jerusalem.