News Nosh 1.8.20

APN's daily news review from Israel
Wednesday January 8, 2020

Number of the day:
Percentage of Israelis who think that democracy in Israel is in danger.*

Front Page:
Yedioth Ahronoth
  • The rabbi storm - Political echelons condemned the remarks of Chief Sefardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef against immigrants from former Soviet Union (“Non-Jews,” “religion haters”)
  • Mandate for hatred // Chen Artzi-Srur
  • Storm preparation
  • Expose - Case of Elai Chayut was reopened - Following family’s claims, GOC Central Command commander informed Meglan Unit soldier, who was seriously injured in training accident when he jumped from a moving vehicle onto a pile of thorns, that case will be reopened (Hebrew)
  • Flu outbreak: Three-month-old baby in serious condition
Maariv This Week (Hebrew links only)
  • Petition to the High Court: Probe Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef
  • Draft order // Ben Caspit
  • Iran to US: Leave the region
  • Storm preparation
Israel Hayom
  • “Putin’s message: That Iran won’t operate from Syria” - Pompeo warned Teheran: “If you try to retaliate - Trump will attack”
  • After the liquidation: Putin wants quiet in Syria // Oded Granot
  • The oversight at ‘Maaleh Carmel’: “Danger of death for mentally ill” - Electric treatment without anesthesia, medicine dosage triple what is allowed, even one patient committed suicide
  • Mission of the century - Avi Berkowitz, Trump’s new envoy to the region, arrived for a surprise visit in Israel and met with the PM
  • Winter preparation
  • “We found out from the newspaper about the cancellation of the brigade military exercise” - Harsh reactions to ‘Israel Hayom’ report. IDF: Professional decision
  • The race for unions: (Labor party chief Amir) Peretz offers to run with Kahol-Lavan; (Right-wing Ichud Leumi chairman Bezalel) Smotrich refuses the Prime Minister’s mediation

Aftermath of Qassem Soleimani Assassination:
The US prepared for an Iranian attack after Iran simultaneously threatened and made offers (UPDATE: and later, after midnight, Iran shot missiles at US forces in Iraq), Israel’s Chief Sephardi Rabbi got blasted for calling immigrants from the former Soviet Union “goyim” (non-Jews) and “religion-haters” and the weather threatened to bash the country - making top stories in today’s Hebrew newspapers.

The US said that it was “completely coincidental” the the U.S. Air Force launched
52 fighter jets in a Utah training exercise, the same number as the number of Iranian sites that Trump said he would target if Iran were to attack any Americans or any US assets, following the US assassination of Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s al-Qods Force and a national hero. Nevertheless, in a rare rebuke, the Pentagon said US President Donald Trump could not target Iranian cultural sites. The US also warned that ships in Middle East waters could possibly be attacked by Iran. Even before the Iranian attack on US forces in Iraq late Tuesday night, Brett McGurk, Trump’s former special envoy against ISIS, said that the U.S. now needs to assume it is in a state of war with Iran following the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

Earlier, on Tuesday morning, Iran surprised when it announced that it was “ready to come back to full compliance” regarding uranium enrichment as per the nuclear deal, despite announcing on Sunday that it was abandoning the agreement and would enrich as much uranium as it wanted.

In the midst of the tense situation, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a surprise visit to Damascus to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. He was not the only one. Trump’s new Mideast envoy, Avi Berkowitz, arrived in the country and met with Netanyahu reportedly to discuss the Trump administration's so-called "deal of the century" for a future peace agreement with the Palestinians. He also met with Kahol-Lavan leader Benny Gantz. [NOTE: Berkowitz, 31, is an ultra-Orthodox Jew and a lawyer who worked with Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, after they became friends during college, later worked on Trump's presidential campaign and then as an advisor to Kushner and Trump in the White House. - OH]

Quick Hits:
  • Israel confiscates sole vehicle of Palestinian medical team in West Bank firing zone - Vehicle has been impounded before, cutting off medical care and access to medicine to 1,500 residents for six months.
  • *Democracy Index: 58% of Israelis believe that the government in Israel is corrupt - The Israel Democracy Institute's index also shows: 50% of the public thinks that Israel's situation is good or very good, 55% think that Israeli democracy is in serious danger. (Maariv)
  • Tel Aviv Security Patrol Officer Filmed Punching Homeless Man - Association for Civil Rights in Israel calls for suspension, more investment in social work to address root causes of the homelessness. (Haaretz+)
  • WATCH: Israel Police Filmed Kicking Palestinian in the Head During Arrest on Temple Mount - Six worshipers were arrested on the grounds of shouting nationalist rhetoric at the police. (Haaretz+VIDEO and YouTube)
  • Two months suspended prison sentence to woman who rented out building where a woman working in prostitution (there) committed suicide - Dalia Trofa, 55, who was convicted as part of a plea bargain, was also fined 4,000 shekels ($1150). This is the first time the legal perspective was directed at property owners who knowingly rent their assets to delinquent entities and help the prosperity of the prostitution industry. Trufa is the last person convicted in the Hayarkon 98 (brothel) case, in which all the defendants confessed as part of plea bargains and received lenient sentences. In 2015, G. (Jessica), 36, a sex worker at the brothel on the property, committed suicide. (Haaretz Hebrew)
  • Israeli Cop Who Had Sex With Human Trafficking Victims Jailed for 10 Months - Sacked policeman had been assigned to take testimony from the women. (Maariv and Haaretz+)
  • Cyprus Court Gives Brit Who Accused Israelis of Gang Rape Suspended Jail Term - Several dozen Israeli activists protested the court decision in Cyprus Tuesday, carrying signs reading "Stop victim blaming" and "We believe you." Cyrpriot President Nicos Anastasiades is expected to pardon the woman, convicted of fabricating a claim that she was raped by twelve Israelis in Ayia Napa in July. (Haaretz+ and Israel Hayom and Ynet)
  • British teen to appeal Cyprus conviction over gang rape allegation - Said she was coerced by police into dropping the complaint of rape by Israeli youths; lawyers say they would press an appeal because a pardon would not expunge her criminal record. (Agencies, Ynet)
  • At President Rivlin’s invitation: 41 leaders from around the world will unite in Israel in memory of the Holocaust - Dozens of heads of state and presidents will come to Israel to attend the World Holocaust Forum to be held in Jerusalem to mark 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz and International Holocaust Remembrance Day. (Maariv)
  • Polish President, Denied Demand to Speak at Holocaust Forum in Israel, Will Skip It - Andrzej Duda, who is running for re-election, has been at the forefront of a controversial campaign to focus on the suffering of the Poles during WWII. (Maariv, Agencies, Haaretz and Israel Hayom)
  • A 40-year-old construction worker was killed after falling from a height at a factory in Migdal Haemek - At the same time, a 26-year-old construction worker was moderately injured after falling from a height of four stories at a construction site in Jerusalem. The day before, a 74-year-old construction worker was killed yesterday after falling off a ladder during n renovation near Haifa. Eleven days ago, a 48-year-old construction worker was killed after being hit by a concrete pump at a construction site in Kiryat Gat. (Maariv)
  • Migrant worker, Israeli-born 10-year-old daughter detained ahead of deportation - Activists say immigration authority flouts directive, takes advantage of lack of oversight created by Israel's political deadlock. (Haaretz+)
  • Ukraine leaves UN committee on Palestinians - Israel’s Foreign Ministry lauded the move to leave the "anachronistic anti-Israeli" committee of 25 countries. (Israel Hayom and JPost)
  • Honduras designates Hezbollah as terrorist organization - "Honduras joins Guatemala and other countries in announcing that Hezbollah will be declared an international terrorist organization nationwide," statement by the office of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández says. (Israel Hayom)
  • Jewish NGO names Ilhan Omar its 2019 'anti-Semite of the year' - Minnesota Representative called out for contentious statements on Jews, an endorsement from ex-Ku Klux Klan leader. (Israel Hayom)
  • Trump goes all out against congresswomen for being 'totally against Israel' - Anti-Israel rhetoric would have been "unthinkable" ten years ago, US president claims. "I think they've lost their minds, to tell you the truth," he attacks. (Israel Hayom)

Commentary/Analysis following Qassem Soleimani Assassination:
Following attack on US bases: Iran’s plan was to hurt America, not start war (Ron Ben Yishai, Ynet) In Tehran, they were probably looking to hit American soldiers, but the missile attack on both bases in Iraq was measured and designed to test Trump's response. The message to Israel was intended to discourage it from participating in a US response, should it come. The Iranian attack on Wednesday in ”revenge" for the assassination of Qassem Soleimani is intended to harm first and foremost US soldiers, and cost them a bloody price. Therefore, it was conducted on two large US bases, where US and Iraqi forces reside in separate and distant areas. [NOTE: Written and published on Ynet website after the Iranian attack late Tuesday night.]
Soleimani's death and the world order (Dan Schueftan, Israel Hayom) What stands between us and chaos and allows for a relative modicum of stability in a turbulent and dangerous world, is a world under US stewardship.
Leaked U.S.-led Coalition Letter to Iraqi Officials Reveals an American Desire to Leave the Middle East (Amos Harel, Haaretz+) With Qassem Soleimani’s death, Trump might take the advice Lyndon Johnson received during the Vietnam War – declare victory and get out.
Suleimani's targeted elimination is greater than his removal from the field (Zalman Shoval, Maariv) The elimination of the Al-Qods Force commander proved that those who were quick to criticize what they saw as the continued withdrawal of the US superpower from the area, erred in their assessments…The meaning of the targeted elimination of Qassem Soleimani - the snake's head of Iran’s terrorist and subversive activity in the Middle East and the originator of the geo-religious effort to establish Iranian hegemony in the region and to establish a Shiite power in it - is greater than his actual removal from the territory. But it is too early to determine whether this should be seen as a fundamental change in policy that President Trump has taken in recent years compared to President Obama's withdrawal policy towards the Middle East. The partial evacuation of US troops from Syria and what appears to be the abandonment of their Kurdish allies, the lack of response to the attack on Saudi oil facilities and tankers in the Persian Gulf, the lack of response to the downing of the American drone - all have encouraged Tehran to pursue a strategy of provoking the Americans. By doing so, Iran demonstrates its growing weight toward the United States' allies and rivals against America's alleged slackness. The joint maritime exercise of Iran, Russia, and China two weeks ago in the Gulf of Oman was intended to signal that America's influence in the Middle East, and perhaps the world at large, is declining - a goal that serves the interests of these three countries outside the Middle East context. This, alongside Russia's striving, despite its basic weakness, to emerge as a global superpower and it has become in recent years a significant player in the region. he US counterterrorism operation, and even before that, the attack on the Shiite militia in Iraq and in Syria and the deployoment of additional US troops to Iraq are, therefore, intended to make the Iranians see the mistake in their strategic assessment. In addition, the operation allowed the Arab Gulf states, America's traditional allies, to stand upright at a time of concern over the determination and efficiency of the American protective wall. Another message from Trump is that harm to the US embassy will be considered harm to America itself - compared to the US negligence in regards to the terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi during Obama and Secretary of State Clinton’s period where the US ambassador to Libya was also killed. Meanwhile, Europeans - Britain, France, and Germany - like the Europeans, instead of standing alongside the Americans called on “both sides" to avoid escalation. Democratic presidential candidates have also come out against the elimination of Spleimani - a political and psychological mistake to add to their other mistakes. Before the US operation, commentators, also in Israel, rushed to complain at what they saw as the continued US withdrawal from the region, while giving good grades to the Iranian strategy. But apparently their estimates were wrong, at least in part, and in any case too early. At the same time, there is no rush to conclude that from now on, that the Trump administration will incorporate into its sanctions policy on Iran a permanent military dimension against Tehran's provocations, as the president is determined not to embark on another comprehensive war in the Middle East. But the Iranian leadership will also have to admit that its strategy has failed, knowing, in spite its boasting remarks, that a genuine military confrontation with the United States is completely hopeless for them. It is likely we will see some kind of Iranian revenge action against various US representatives and against US allies, including Israel, mainly by their proxies. But the Lebanese political situation and the real threat of massive Israeli response may reduce and even eliminate Hezbollah's freedom of action at this time. According to various reports, Soleimani was in Israel’s crosshairs for more than a decade, but the Olmert government avoided (assassinating him) under American pressure - and that may have been a mistake for the United States and for us, as Spleimani became the dominant and active figure everywhere in every place where Iran’s aggressive fingerprints were seen. The survival of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, the Iranian pursuit of Iraq's dominance, the civil war in Yemen, the various terrorist acts against the Saudis and the transformation of Hezbollah into a military agent. The last word has not yet been spoken, neither by the Americans nor by the Iranians, but in the meantime, however, the dictionary has changed.
Should we expect an Iran-US war? (Rachel Avraham, Israel Hayom) Trump is predictably unpredictable. But it is also plausible that what unfolds will be a war of attrition between America and Iran.
Can America Win an Unconventional War Against Iran? (Daniel J. Levy, Haaretz+) America has the big guns: but Iran is a master of unconventional warfare. Could Tehran repeat the many successes of its asymmetric, proxy-based warfare if conflict with the U.S. escalates?
Is there a bad time to fight evil? (David Suissa, Israel Hayom) Iranian military mastermind Qassem Soleimani drenched country after country in blood, including Jewish and American blood, and the United States let him get away with it – until it didn’t.
The end of Soleimani: A cause for celebration (Sarah N. Stern, Israel Hayom) It is beneficial for free men and women everywhere that this evil genius, who cannot be replaced so easily, has been eliminated.
Putin needs quiet, not war, to achieve his goals in the Middle East (Oded Granot, Israel Hayom) In Syria, the Russian president wants to make sure pro-Iranian militias don't provoke the Americans and Israelis. Libya, meanwhile, could become Russia's second naval foothold in the Mediterranean basin, after Syria, if he convinces Turkey to stand down.

Other Commentary/Analysis:
Police in Service to the Right Wing (Haaretz Editorial) On Monday, undercover police officers waited for left-wing activist Jonathan Pollak at his workplace, Haaretz, and arrested him. His arrest resulted from a private criminal complaint submitted by the right-wing organization Ad Kan. Even though Pollak’s arrest stemmed from his refusal to attend court hearings, this arrest must be seen as a clear case of political persecution by the right-wing organization Ad Kan, in which the court and the police volunteered to serve as the group’s operational arm.
A possible bombshell for Arab politics (Jalal Bana, Israel Hayom) If former Sakhnin Mayor Mazen Ghanayem leaves the Balad party and runs with the Democratic Union, will Arab voters move away from the Joint Arab List?

Prepared for APN by Orly Halpern, independent freelance journalist based in Jerusalem.
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