Striking while the weather is hot
Hebrew media review

Striking while the weather is hot

Reports circulate of Israeli attacks on Hezbollah, but if that weren't enough to spark a war, an MK seeks to assert sovereignty at Temple Mount

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Illustrative photo of an IAF F-16 (IDF Spokesperson's Unit/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of an IAF F-16 (IDF Spokesperson's Unit/Flash90)

Another day, another reported Israeli airstrike on an arms convoy moving from Syria to Lebanon. The Israeli side is mum (no surprise there), and Hezbollah denied the attack ever happened. But in case the threat of regional war weren’t bad enough, there’s also a movement afoot in parliament to assume Israeli control over the Temple Mount and possibly ignite a religious war.

According to Lebanese reports, Israeli planes struck targets near the Bekaa Valley villages of Nabi Chit and Janta, adjacent to the border with Syria. Reports in the Arab press suggested that the targets belonged to Hezbollah.

The atmosphere in the press is almost like hearing about a great party they weren’t invited to, again. For lack of anything more substantial, Yedioth Ahronoth and Maariv run photos of a suspected Israeli airstrike in 2013 with their coverage.

“The LBC network said that the target of the attack was a Hezbollah arms warehouse, which included advanced weaponry which came from the Syrian army,” Maariv reports.

Haaretz says foreign media attributed at least six airstrikes in Syria and its environs to the Israeli Air Force in 2013. This was the first for 2014. The paper notes that Israel has never officially responded to reports that the IAF hit arms convoys, but officials have hinted at Israeli responsibility. Almost as an afterthought, the paper reports that “various intelligence sources” say that despite Israeli efforts, Syria has succeeded in transferring advanced weaponry to Hezbollah.

Yedioth Ahronoth cites Lebanese reports saying that in the wake of the attack Hezbollah put its troops on alert in case of additional strikes, and that Israeli troops were put on alert as well.

“Did IAF planes once again destroy advanced weapons intended for transfer from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon?” asks Israel Hayom‘s lead. Why don’t you tell us? The paper reports that the alleged Israeli attack killed three and injured 10, citing Lebanese media reports.

The Temple Mount features prominently in Haaretz and Maariv for two very different reasons. Haaretz reports that the government is planning to grant control over the southern wall area of the Temple Mount to the Ir David Foundation, a right-wing organization pushing for greater Jewish connection to the City of David and Jerusalem. Maariv reports on a bill being put before the Knesset by Likud MK Moshe Feiglin which would assert Israeli sovereignty at the Temple Mount.

According to Haaretz, the Jewish Quarter Development Company, which owns the area around Robinson’s Arch and the southern wall, drafted an agreement to hand over management of the archaeological park to Ir David, which manages the archaeological excavations in the nearby City of David and works to settle Jews in the Arab neighborhood of Silwan.

The paper says that left-wing groups are planning to challenge the move, which “would expand Elad’s [Ir David Foundation’s] foothold in East Jerusalem and further solidify its relationship with state authorities.”

Maariv runs a full page story on Feiglin’s crusade to take control of the Temple Mount. According to the paper, Feiglin pitched idea of discussing the issue before the Knesset plenum three weeks ago, when there was virtually nobody in the room to oppose it. The discussion is slated for Tuesday, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is opposed to any such move.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu showed great sensitivity to the issue of the Temple Mount in the past year,” the paper says. “As far as he’s concerned, we’re in the middle of negotiations [with the Palestinians] and any event is likely to agitate the deal.” Moreover, Jordanian King Abdullah II has warned against any change in policy over prayer at the Temple Mount.

For the tabloids, though, the top story is the Bank of Israel’s decision to drop interest rates by a quarter of a point to .75%, the lowest they’ve been since 2009. Yedioth Ahronoth puts the beaming faces of a young family along with its coverage and quotes them griping about how this drop in interest rates will hurt them.

“We’re dreaming of flying to Thailand, but now that the exchange rate with the dollar is expected to rise it will be difficult to afford it,” the paper quotes the Meir family saying. “That’s alright, we’ll make another dream come true,” they said, hopes crushed by Bank of Israel Governor Karnit Flug’s decision to combat slow Israeli economic growth and a strong shekel.

Israel Hayom reports that one of the other concerns (besides the Meir family’s vacation plans) is that the drop in interest rates will result in a rise in apartment prices. “That’s because of the fact that the low interest investors will receive from the banks will cause an increase in demand in the housing market,” it says. The Bank of Israel, it reports, says the influence on the housing market will be minor.

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