The Russians are watching, the Russians are watching
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Hebrew media review

The Russians are watching, the Russians are watching

With Syria now sporting Putin-supplied air defenses, Israel's reported strike there takes on extra meaning

Illustrative: An Israeli Air Force jet conducts training maneuvers in 2013. (IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)
Illustrative: An Israeli Air Force jet conducts training maneuvers in 2013. (IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)

Though tales of senior officials tangled up in sexual deviancy hover prominently, it’s a reported Israeli strike on a weapons silo in Syria that wins in the battle for front page superiority across Israel’s major dailies Thursday morning. As the old saying goes, if it explodes, it leads.

As an especially precocious child might ask at the Passover Seder, why is this reported Israeli strike on a weapons convoy in Syria different from all other reported Israeli strikes on a weapons silo in Syria?

The answer, the papers make all too clear, is that the Potemkin fantasy of plausible deniability regarding the reported Israeli strikes on a weapons silo in Syria isn’t the only thing from Russia going on over there. There’s also the Moscow supplied and operated air defense systems, which are meant to give Syria and Russia total air superiority over the war-torn country, and could have shot down the reported Israeli strike on a weapons silo in Syria.

Israel Hayom cites reports that Israel carried out the attack with Russia’s blessing (if it did carry out the attack, the report is sure to repeat), and reminds readers that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin several times over the issue.

“It’s safe to assume that if Israel indeed did attack in Syria last night, the Russian systems watched the air activity and tracked it, but thanks to the cooperation mechanism set up, didn’t interfere with Israel,” the paper “reports,” using that age-old journalistic ideal of assumption. “Israel’s defense complex has done yeoman’s work in the last few months and years to make sure the red lines it set stay strong.”

In an accompanying commentary, Yoav Limor also praises that coordination mechanism with Russia and says it’s allowed Russian planes that fly over Israel by mistake to retreat without the IDF engaging them. More than that, though, it’s not clear Putin cares all that much about some weapons shipment to Hezbollah.

“It’s doubtful the Russian are really bothered by the attacks attributed to Israel. From their point of view, a convoy is more or less meaningless, so long as it doesn’t play a larger role in their main interest — propping up the Assad regime,” he writes.

In a meandering analysis, Haaretz columnist Amos Harel says both that Russia probably tracked the Israeli planes, but also that Israel isn’t necessarily telling its Russian counterparts about strike plans unless there’s “an urgent need,” though whether Putin sees taking out a Hezbollah arms silo as an urgent need is not known.

“If Israel really did attack Syria on Tuesday night, there was probably an urgent need. Addressing the UN General Assembly in September, Netanyahu said Israel would continue to take action to prevent advanced weapons systems from reaching Hezbollah from Syria. But it seems Hezbollah has already received new SA-22 anti-aircraft missiles and accurate Yakhont anti-ship missiles,” he writes. “Another development that has been worrying Israelis leaders for a long time is the smuggling of rockets that enormously improve Hezbollah’s medium-range accuracy. Does Russia understand Israel’s urgent needs? Is it willing to ignore attacks that are attributed to Israel as long as they stay rare? Neither country will say.”

The God-fearing sexual assaulter

While a mesh veil of silence remains smothering full knowledge of a reported Israeli strike on a weapons silo in Syria, the blanket of silence regarding former IDF general Ofek Buchris, accused of serious sexual offenses, is slowly being lifted, even as he nears a plea bargain that will see him admit to lesser crimes and avoid jail time.

Yedioth Ahronoth leads off with Buchris, including word that one of the accusers might not be happy with the plea deal. Not that she wants to put a spanner in the works for her own jollies, though, a chorus of her inner circle is quoted saying.

“She isn’t looking for revenge,” the chorus is quoted saying in unison (or just one person, and the paper is lying when it attributes the same quote to several people). “She wants this whole affair to just be behind her, closed. She wants Buchris to take responsibility for the severe things he did and admit that it was against laws and morality, just as she claimed at the beginning of this difficult chapter.”

The paper also plays up a Channel 10 report that revealed some transcripts of talks between Buchris and his accuser, including her description of a scene at a cabin in northern Israel, after he claimed at an earlier meeting that they were never together in a cabin.

“You asked me to put down my bag, you placed me next to the kitchen wall, you went with me into the bedroom, you laid on me, undressed me and I was frozen in place. You moved the towels that were on the bed. Afterward you couldn’t find your kippa. You got stressed out over it. What kind of God do you have,” she’s quoted telling Buchris and the investigator.

Ofek Buchris, the former military brigadier general accused of rape and other sexual crimes against subordinates, seen at the Jaffa military court on September 29, 2016. (Flash90)
Ofek Buchris, the former military brigadier general accused of rape and other sexual crimes against subordinates, seen at the Jaffa military court on September 29, 2016. (Flash90)

In the transcript, Buchris does not respond, but asks her to describe the scars on his body.

One terrible turn deserves another, as they say, and alongside Buchris are reports, first aired on Channel 2, that a former top Netanyahu aide has been accused of sexual offenses by an artist and placed under house arrest.

With the gag order still in place, the official is not named in any of the papers and reporters, though knowing full well who it is, are forced to skirt around the issue while dropping hints here and there.
In Haaretz, this includes detailing how the former official was accused of sexual assault and regular assault before becoming bureau chief. The paper says the attorney general declined to prosecute, following an investigation, because of the statute of limitations, though they did convey what they found to Netanyahu, so there’s no way he didn’t know.

“In addition, the accuser sent Netanyahu a letter describing the attack and asking that the official not be allowed to continue working there,” the paper reports. “Despite that the suspect continued to work there.”
Israel Hayom, normally protective of Netanyahu, also covers the story, even putting it on the front page.

The paper quotes Netanyahu’s office as denying it ignored the claims against the former official, but “after speaking to the attorney general several times [decided] that there was no impediment to his employment.”

Those rabble-rousing Jews

Lest you think the tabloid had turned a corner, though, it spills far more ink on acting as Netanyahu’s attack dog against the media, including an article that’s essentially a transcript of a Facebook post against the media that Netanyahu wrote, and a column by Haim Shine, joining in on bashing in the fourth estate with a baseball bat.

Clearly referring to the recent probe against Netanyahu lawyer David Shimron in the submarine affair, Shine dismisses the great reporting on it as gossip, blames media for forcing Netanyahu to waste his time writing these Facebook posts (many of which are personal attacks on journalists), and compares him to other leaders who have had to deal with the ungrateful rabble, like the biblical Moses, David Ben-Gurion and Menachem Begin. Oh, and he throws in a little casual anti-Semitism too for good measure.

Scene from the 1956 movie The Ten Commandments where Moses 'parts' the sea to save the Hebrew slaves from the Egyptians. (Screenshot: YouTube)
Scene from the 1956 movie The Ten Commandments where Moses, much like Netanyahu, ‘parts’ the sea to save the Hebrew slaves from the Egyptians. (Screenshot: YouTube)

“Thankfully for the country, it’s important that Netanyahu knows being a great visionary who leads means being cool, collected and able to absorb anything. It’s not easy to lead Jews, and even more so with elites being switched out. The old elite isn’t able to make peace with the end of its era and so pushes against the womb,” he writes. “Those who believe in their path are willing to pay the price, no matter how dear. The Israeli right led by Netanyahu will continue to lead the country. Clowning and gossip won’t influence the direction of the State of Israel, the flowering of our redemption and the end of our exile.”

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