1. Rocket return: After weeks of quiet, Gaza raised its head Monday, with a rocket fired out of the Strip.
- According to the IDF, the rocket was fired by the Islamic Jihad terror group, an Iranian-backed organization that is second in strength only to Hamas and has an even larger missile arsenal.
- The rocket, which landed in the sea off of Ashdod, apparently came at about the same time that Hamas was launching rockets into the sea as part of regular tests that usually go unreported, leading to some initial confusion.
- As punishment, the IDF retracted the recently expanded fishing zone off the coast, and in a statement, specifically mentions Baha Abu al-Ata, an Islamic Jihad commander responsible for the group’s activities in northern Gaza, as having given the order to fire the rocket.
- Identifying al-Ata by name can be seen as a tacit threat by the military. The IDF also tweeted out a photograph of the Islamic Jihad commander. Al-Ata has been targeted by the IDF in the past, both in the 2014 Gaza war and in the 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense.
2. Let’s make a deal: The statement also included a pro forma line about Hamas being held responsible for any terror emanating from the Strip, but the IDF seems keen on not rocking the boat regarding its understandings with the terror group.
- In a tweet, IDF Arabic language spokesperson Avichai Adraee says Monday night’s rocket launch came at a “time in which calm was restored to the Gaza Strip, in which tangible civilian measures that you all felt were undertaken and the other expected major measures were discussed.”
- The Walla News site reports that just before the rocket launch, Hamas sent a secret message to Israel with a list of issues it wants to discuss as part of a ceasefire effort.
- The wish list includes expanding the fishing zone, allowing more medical aid and medical workers into the Strip, expanding Gaza’s import and export activities, and UN-backed job sites to address rampant unemployment.
- According to the report, Israel did not directly reply to the requests but sent a message to Hamas, via Egypt, that it wants to discuss the return of Israelis and soldiers’ remains being held in the Strip.
3. The Syrian connection: Israel Hayom, citing pan-Arabic daily a-Sharq al-Awsat, reports that a deal may be in the works between Israel and Syria in which the remains of Israeli soldiers would be returned.
- In exchange, according to the Israel Hayom account of the report, Israel would repatriate Syrians held in Israeli prisons and “Druze residents of the Israeli Golan Heights.”
- Rumors have ramped up of Israel recovering more bodies of soldiers since that of Zachary Baumel was returned after over 36 years earlier this month. Israel and others have denied all reports.
- Russia, which helped facilitate the transfer and chided Israeli media over rumors of spy Eli Cohen’s body being recovered, is finding dealing with Syria and closing out the civil war there more complicated than it thought, thanks to all the various actors involved, Haaretz’s Zvi Bar’el notes.
- “Iran, for its part, is seeking to preserve its influence in Syria now that Russia has seized economic control of the state’s resources, like its oil and gas fields, whose development rights have been sold to Russian firms, and Tartus Port has been leased to Russia for 49 years,” he writes. “This economic struggle has intensified given what Iran calls the plot between Russia and Israel to force Iran out of Syria. Iranian analysts point to Russia’s granting Israel a green light to attack Iranian targets, Russian restraint after Trump recognized the Golan Heights as part of Israel, and recently the release of two Syrian prisoners in exchange for the body of Sgt. Zachary Baumel as evidence of an Israeli-Russian ‘alliance’ targeting Iran.”
4. No money, mo problems: While Gaza has been mostly calm, fears of chaos in the West Bank are ramping up over a standoff between Israel and the Palestinian Authority regarding tax transfers.
- On Monday, PA President Mahmoud Abbas responded to Israeli reports that Jerusalem was preparing for the financial collapse of the PA and holding talks to try to get it to take the money by doubling down on his refusal.
- Channel 13 news reports that Israel also approached Jordan to ask it to talk some sense into Abbas but Amman refused.
- According to a report in Haaretz, though, both Jordan and Egypt are involved in talks to try and solve the crisis.
- Israel’s Channel 12 news, describing the standoff as a dead end, reports that the PA budget last month was half of what it was the month before, with civil servants only getting half of their salary.
5. Sausage-making 101: The 21st Knesset is set to be sworn in Tuesday. On Monday, 49 of the fresh faces showed up at the parliament for orientation, ToI’s Raoul Wootliff reports, to learn about the various perks they will get and all the rules of being a lawmaker.
- It feels like the first day of school,” Union of Right-Wing Parties almost-MK Idit Silman is quoted saying.
- While the lawmakers will get complimentary cars as part of their job, Wootliff notes that on Monday they drove their own rides, ranging from shiny and pricey range rovers to a beat up Ford. One new MK, Merav Cohen, hoofed it to work, with a backpack slung over her shoulder.
6. Cutting class: New lawmakers who did not bother showing up were former IDF chiefs and current Blue and White bigwigs Benny Gantz, set to be opposition chief, and Gabi Ashkenazi.
- “The two decided to embitter the life of the coalition from home,” media news site The seventh Eye quips.
- The site notes that while right-wing Israel Hayom plays up the duo’s truancy on its front page, Yedioth barely mentions it.
7. Bad rabbis: A report on Channel 13 news details comments from rabbis at a religious pre-military academy in the settlement of Eli.
- Rabbi Eliezer Kashtiel, the head of the Bnei David academy in Eli, is recorded praising the enslavement of non-Jews, among other things. “The gentiles will want to be our slaves. Being a slave to a Jew is the best. They’re glad to be slaves, they want to be slaves,” he tells a class in one of the video clips.
- Not to be outdone, Rabbi Giora Redler is recorded praising Hilter’s ideology during a lesson about the Holocaust: “He was the most correct person there ever was, and was correct in every word he said… he was just on the wrong side.”
- The channel notes that the yeshiva is considered a leader in educating members of the religious Zionist community, but its rabbis keep get caught saying racist, misogynist or other vile things.
8. Look who’s talking: One could say the same thing about the channel, which takes fire for the second time in as many weeks for featuring views considered beyond the pale.
- While last week it was a host saying France was covering up an Islamist arson of the Notre Dame cathedral, this time it is “expert” Guy Bechor blaming progressive Jews for causing anti-Semitism.
- “These Jews are bringing a terrible tragedy on the Jews of the US,” he charges wildly.
- “A thing like this has never been seen on mainstream TV,” Eli Zusman writes above a widely shared clip of Bechor on Twitter.
9. We will survive…: Bechor might fit in well with those accusing the New York Times of anti-Semitism and those going even further by connecting a cartoon printed in the paper to Saturday’s deadly synagogue shooting.
- One person who seemingly does not agree is Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who was shot in the attack and uses the gray lady as a platform to spread his message of Jewish resilience.
- “I pray that my missing finger serves as a constant reminder to me. A reminder that every single human being is created in the image of God; a reminder that I am part of a people that has survived the worst destruction and will always endure; a reminder that my ancestors gave their lives so that I can live in freedom in America; and a reminder, most of all, to never, ever, not ever be afraid to be Jewish,” he writes.
10. …with closed doors: While Goldstein writes that he will be “more brazen” in his Jewishness, others are taking the opposite tack after the attack, the Forward reports.
- The newspaper reports that synagogues are being told to close and lock their doors for safety, which is a “a bitter pill to swallow for many American synagogues, for which open doors have been all but an article of faith.
- “What it means is that a small number of haters really overturned a tradition of being open and welcoming,” American Jewish history professor Jonathan Sarna is quoted saying. “And the Jewish community will have to find a new balance.”
- A report from the ADL out Tuesday notes that there was actually a drop in anti-Semitic incidents in 2018 from the year earlier, though it still saw the third highest total ever recorded.
- JTA reports that the ADL says the last three months of 2018 were “unusually active” in terms of incidents, which was likely connected to the shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue at the end of October which “likely drew more attention to anti-Semitic activities.”