Misquoting Kissinger
Hebrew media review

Misquoting Kissinger

Israeli papers read the tea leaves on a possible military strike on Syria, with one columnist garbling America's favorite elder statesman along the way

A US fighter jet during practice maneuvers over the desert (illustrative photo credit: Courtesy/US Air Force by Master Sgt. Benjamin Bloker)
A US fighter jet during practice maneuvers over the desert (illustrative photo credit: Courtesy/US Air Force by Master Sgt. Benjamin Bloker)

The mess in Syria and what America will or won’t do continues to dominate Hebrew media coverage Monday morning, though each paper leads with a slightly different angle.

For Maariv, the front page news is Russia’s preemptive warning against American action, which Moscow said would have far-reaching consequences. The paper doesn’t think it’s that important though, burying the actual sentence about the Russian warning (yes, one whole sentence) at the bottom of its main news story, which is an erratic hodgepodge of all the news about what people are saying about Syria rolled into one “article.”

The paper’s Shai Ilan gives a wide-ranging history lesson of Washington’s various engagements over the past couple of decades, and tries to explain why Americans are suddenly picky about which Middle Eastern countries they invade, mangling some Henry Kissinger quotes along the way: “The tapestry of American friendships with Arab countries is dependent mostly on their ability to provide access to energy sources. Two sentences from Henry Kissinger work well with the American doctrine, ‘Foreign policy is not missionary work,’ and ‘Whoever controls energy sources can control whole continents.’’

The actual quotes, for the record, are “Covert action should not be confused with missionary work” and “Control oil and you control nations.”

A just-the-facts-ma’am Haaretz, meanwhile, leads off with the US confirmation that it believes Assad carried out a chemical weapon attack in Damascus last week, and that UN inspectors will be allowed into the site. To analyst Amos Harel, Israeli immunity to all this hubbub in the Mideast over the last several years has lulled the country into thinking it is weathering “A stable storm of instability,” when that is in fact just a bunch of malarkey. In fact, it’s likely that Israel will no longer be able to watch from the sidelines.

“Last week’s use of chemical weapons in Damascus makes it clear that there’s no such thing as ‘stable instability.’ The Syrian chaos is constantly producing dramatic developments, the last of which threatens to drag the United States into the war, something the Obama administration has done its utmost to avoid,” he writes. “If Washington makes such a move it could have implications for Israel, even though Jerusalem believes that Syrian President Bashar Assad would prefer to avoid direct military confrontation with Israel. … But while Israel is cheering the United States on from the stands, it should also be preparing itself for scenarios that now have a relatively low probability, such as getting dragged into the Syrian conflict.”

Israel Hayom ramps up the excitement with a headline touting a meeting between the American and British army chiefs in Jordan (where else?) where a Syria plan will supposedly be formulated. More interestingly, the paper follows a German report, citing a former Mossad man, that members of the Israeli intelligence unit 8200 were listening in on Assad’s forces when the order for the attack came. Dan “Sunshine” Margalit writes in the paper that Assad’s offer to let chemical weapons inspectors into the alleged attack site will buy him time and get him out of the jam, and then pulls a 180 on himself and says that the West will in fact attack, though it will be a smaller, symbolic strike.

“Bashar Assad is buying time, as he learned to do from the Iranians, the kings of confusion on the nuclear front. Now the UN weapons inspectors will be allowed into the attacked neighborhood next to the capital, and afterwards a report will be written and there will be appeals. In the meantime, [Assad] will hope that the West will be overtaken by the idea that the time for action has passed. I’m convinced that in the end, the West will not be content with a final warning to the criminal regime, and it’s more likely it will attack Damascus in moderation. Something symbolic, something that will only signal a warning that next time will be harsher. This won’t be an attack that uproots the Assad house.”

Yedioth Ahronoth, meanwhile, proves it will do anything for some dramatic rising action, with a headline falsely quoting the US army as saying it is awaiting an order (presumably to strike), helpfully decorated by a bunch of little biohazard signs, in case you weren’t sure whether the paper was trying to inform or merely fear monger. Perhaps sensing that words are not its strong suit, the daily gives tons of leeway to its graphics department, running a massive map showing where Syria’s chemical sites are and what it thinks are the three military options, including a sea-based cruise missile attack, planes swooping down from the north, and a ground invasion from Iraq into the country’s vast eastern wasteland that is so off the charts even Sgt. Bilko wouldn’t fall for it.


With one day to school starting, papers are also high on the education hog. Before they get to the overused “Shalom Kita Aleph” (Welcome first grade) trope so beloved by headline writers, papers go with more abstract stories, like Maariv’s report that waiting for kids in your car outside of school may actually be unhealthy.

The paper writes that the combination of children’s young age and the collective pollution of oodles of idling cars can be particularly harmful, and the Environmental Protection Ministry is asking parents to only leave their car going for one minute, after which they should move it or turn the engine off.

“Drop off and pick up points at schools or kindergartens are areas where most of the population are kids,” environmental expert David Brody is quoted saying. “More than the fact that we are talking about a population that is more susceptible to diseases in general and breathing issues in particular, the kids are shorter and closer to the height of the source of most of the air pollution — the car’s exhaust pipe. Thus they are breathing in air that is dirtier.”

Israel Hayom has a little write up of an ex-Shin bet operative who has decided to take his battle against terror to high school, where he will teach civics. I smell a movie, Hollywood. “My whole life, I dealt with Arab terror, I learned at the Ariel Academy and abroad how to profile terrorists,” Pini Shmilovich tells the paper. “In the course of teaching civics, I will also be able to impart to the youths the professional angle.”

In Haaretz, Yitzhak Laor wields his pen to excoriate the left for its failure to present a united opposition to the government, instead getting caught in internal political squabbles or worse, apathy: “Anyone who recalls the loneliness of the leftists at the beginning of the Second Intifada, vis-à-vis the media, the government, the right, the army, understands the meaning of ‘the death of the opposition.’ How much effort was required at the time to pull ourselves together again. Since then, the issue has disintegrated into a large number of groups and nonprofit organizations that have been unable — even by means of reducing solidarity with the Palestinians — to construct a united front. Blabbing from every rooftop against Zionism — at bargain prices. Political activity — yuk.”

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