Israel media review

An officer, a gentleman and a true friend: 5 things to know for August 27

Death of John McCain is a rare unifying moment for Israeli politicians, as both the right and left honor the veteran US senator for his stalwart support of Israel

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

John McCain (with Joe Lieberman) visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City March 19, 2008. (Nati Shohat /FLASH90)
John McCain (with Joe Lieberman) visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City March 19, 2008. (Nati Shohat /FLASH90)

1. As Americans mourned the death of John McCain, Israeli politicians across the political spectrum hailed the veteran senator for his principled leadership and stalwart support of the Jewish state.

  • McCain, a war hero and towering figure in American politics known for reaching across the aisle in an increasingly divided nation, passed away Saturday following a battle with brain cancer. He was 81.
  • In Israel, where politicians rarely agree on anything, McCain’s death was a rare unifying moment, as both right -and left-wing politicians honored the long-time Republican lawmaker.
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called him “a great American patriot and a great supporter of Israel,” while President Reuven Rivlin bade farewell to the “defender of his people, a man of strong values, and a true supporter of Israel.”
  • Tributes continued to pour in for McCain on Sunday and Monday, including from opposition leader Tzipi Livni, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, former prime minister Ehud Barak and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.
Senator John McCain, left, with then Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on March 19, 2008. (Matty Stern/US Embassy/Flash90)

2. Hebrew-language newspapers also heaped praise on McCain for his principled leadership, personal courage and insistence on treating even his foes with respect.

  • Yedioth Ahronoth’s obituary fondly eulogizes McCain as “an officer and a gentleman” who “knew how to fight for the path of justice, even when he was against the tide…. “America has lost one of its most powerful moral voices in its public arena.”
  • On its front page Haaretz’s Chemi Shalev writes that the eulogies lauding McCain’s integrity, courage and service to his country are highlighted by the contrary traits exhibited by the US president. “Even in death, McCain sought to mark a red line between the bitterly contested politics that nonetheless upholds basic integrity.”
  • Shalev says that by banning Trump from his funeral at a time when the president is politically besieged like never before, McCain will deliver a harsh blow to Trump. “This is McCain’s sweet revenge on the president he deplored: Even from his grave, he will have the last word,” he said.

3. Israeli defense officials have expressed concern the Trump administration’s decision to cut over $200 million in bilateral aid to the Palestinians would worsen the humanitarian conditions in Gaza and could strengthen Hamas’s grip on the coastal enclave.

  • Sources told Haaretz Monday that a serious cut to the budget of the UN’s Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) would create a vacuum in the provision of basic services in the Strip, where the majority of residents are dependent on the organization.
  • The paper says UNRWA is set to fire thousands of teachers in the West Bank and Gaza in the coming days, leaving tens of thousands of Palestinian kids and teens out of school at the start of the semester next week, increasing chances for violent clashes with IDF forces.
  • The main personnel crossing with the Gaza Strip was reopened Monday following a week a relative calm along the border.
Palestinians are seen crossing at the Erez crossing with Israel near Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip on August 27, 2018. (AFP/ MAHMUD HAMS)

4. The construction of the long-delayed egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall was approved by the Jerusalem Municipality thanks to a legal loophole, Haaretz reported.

  • Construction on the prayer space has been repeatedly stalled over clashes between Orthodox and progressive Jews but was given the final okay by municipal officials under pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office under a special regulation that allows the city to fast-track a project that will make a site handicapped-accessible. “That would eliminate the need to get the plan approved by the local and regional planning committees, since under this regulation, approval by the municipal engineer is sufficient.”
Reform female and male rabbis pray together at Robinson’s Arch, the Western Wall site slated for future egalitarian services, on Thursday, February 25, 2016. (Y.R/Reform Movement)

5. The man who killed two people and shot nine others before fatally shooting himself has been identified in US media as 24-year-old Baltimore native David Katz.

  • His identity was not confirmed by the FBI, but the agency said that the Baltimore-area home of the Jacksonville shooter was raided late Sunday night.
  • Katz, who was reportedly Jewish, was described by neighbors and others as a quiet loner with few friends. One eyewitness told the LA times that Katz opened fire at the tournament after being eliminated a day earlier. A crime reporter for the Baltimore Sun tweeted that court records relating to the divorce of Katz’s parents say that he had “significant medical problems and healthcare needs.”
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