1. Chico’s out: The decision by a state vetting commission to not approve Moshe “‘Chico” Edri to be the next Police Commissioner has the political arena and press in a tizzy.
- The panel based its recommendations (or lack thereof) on a meeting Edri had with the lawyer of someone who had complained about him, saying it’s enough for the meeting to smell funny to cast a cloud over his nomination and take him out of the running.
- It also mentioned a less-than-glowing State Comptroller report about him, and Edri is known to have many detractors and a number of swirling reports about his role in various affairs.
- The words “drama” and “red card” appear again and again in stories about the announcement. Yedioth Ahronoth calls it a bombshell.
- The vetting panel’s report is seen as dramatic enough that Haaretz posts a copy of it in full, something rarely done.
2. Second chance? Edri had been the government’s pick, and the news was met with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan immediately saying he would not respect the panel’s decision, though it’s unclear whether he can.
- On Friday morning, he tells Israel Radio that he will seek to speak to the panel and change their minds, but if that fails, will go over their heads. He also says he thinks there is a misunderstanding about the meeting with the lawyer of Rafi Rotem, but it doesn’t matter since the meeting is fine.
- Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who is in Los Angeles and thus was awake enough to comment, backed Erdan, saying it’s up to the government to choose and not the panel (especially since the panel was split on whether to recommend him or not). She also says nobody is perfect.
- On Twitter, Maariv correspondent Yanir Cozin notes that Shaked is building a straw man argument: “They are not looking for perfect but are looking for someone without flaws, and look at that, in the last month the panel managed to approve two candidates, the army chief and the head of the Bank of Israel.”
3. Bashing and backing Alsheich: Outgoing police chief Roni Alsheich has insisted throughout that he was not trying to put the kibosh on Edri’s appointment, but few have believed him, and he has been blamed for various leaks about Edri’s less than stellar performance. On Thursday night he insisted the panel’s holdup in approving him (before he was rejected) was not because of him.
- Nonetheless, tabloid Israel Hayom, which is often regarded as a mouthpiece for the government, focuses some of its disappointment on the man who long ago became public enemy No. 1 to many in the government because of his investigations into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (who nominated him).
- Riffing on the Hebrew saying that somebody who is bad news starts off on the left leg, commentator Itzik Saban notes in a front-page column that he broke his left leg shortly before becoming police chief, meaning “he came in on crutches, and now he’s leaving on the left leg.”
- “The meetings he had with journalists and pundits, the briefings and leaks against the prime minister, by him and those close to him, turned the person who said he would not sell his values for an extra year in office into the belle of the ball. Channel 10 named him Man of the Year, Channel 2 gave him a prime time interview on ‘Uvda’ and his spokesperson got a personal and flattering article. And Yedioth Ahronoth gave him an exclusive interview to respond to the attacks on the police by those around the prime minister,” he writes.
- In Yedioth, columnist Nahum Barnea pretty much acts as Alsheich spokesman, writing that from the commish’s point of view, leaks were coming from Netanyahu’s and Erdan’s camps, who were squabbling over candidates, but they blamed it on the police chief to try to save face.
- “The anger grew as did the damage. It was mostly directed at Erdan. The trust that Alsheich tried to build up within the police for three years has crumbled. He is seen as someone who will expose his colleague and sees only good in himself.”
4. Fake downing: An apparent airstrike in southern Syria against Iran-backed militia sites, according to reports, is widely attributed to Israel, the first such incident reported in real time since the downing of a Russian plane.
- While there was no response right away from Moscow or Damascus, Syrian state TV claimed to have repelled the attack, and a Russian state broadcaster claimed an Israeli plane was downed.
- In Israel, the report of the downed plane was not taken seriously, and the army, which normally doesn’t even bother responding, did put out a statement that the Russian report was false.
- Taken more seriously is a report by the new Kremlin-backed website Sputnik that blasts were heard near the town of al-Dimas, along the Damascus-Beirut highway.
- TOI’s Judah Ari Gross notes that the blasts along the highway may indicate that an arms shipment was targeted in the alleged Israeli strikes.
5. Why drive when you can fly: A cargo plane making its way from Tehran to Beirut caught the eye of Israeli journalists Thursday as a sign of something nefarious.
- That’s thanks in part to the IDF, which indicated that the plane had been carrying weapons into Beirut, albeit without providing evidence.
- Without specifically mentioning the flight, the army’s Arabic-language spokesperson Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee tweeted that Lebanon should stop allowing Iranian planes to bring war materiel into the country, along with a black-and-white satellite photograph of the Rafik Hariri International Airport.
— افيخاي ادرعي (@AvichayAdraee) November 29, 2018
- Hours later, State Department official Brian Hook did a show and tell with journalists on what he said were Iranian weapons that had been seized en route to Yemen and Afghanistan, including one with Farsi writing on it that points to Iran’s “brazenness.”
- Hook mentions that Washington has “evidence that Iran is helping Hezbollah build missile production facilities” in Lebanon, without elaborating.
- The Associated Press notes that “when asked for data that would support administration claims that Iran is increasing support for destabilizing activities in the region, Hook said Iran has spent over $16 billion since 2013 supporting militia forces in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, but did not specify if that spending has increased in recent years.”
6. In Haaretz, Amos Harel notes that Netanyahu’s role as defense minister seems to mostly involve photo ops, including one where he tried some army slop with young recruits this week.
- “Does the 69-year-old prime minister have nothing better to do than watch an infantry exercise at around midnight? Apparently not, especially when there’s an election campaign coming up. Aesthetes may wrinkle their noses at photos of the leader surrounded by masked fighters, but Netanyahu, like Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Ariel Sharon before him, is aware of the electoral value of photos with young soldiers and their solemn commanders,” he writes.
- In Israel Hayom, though, Moti Tuchfeld writes that perhaps elections are not around the corner:
- “True you need every vote in a coalition of 61, but we’ve already seen situations in which the government has been forced to negotiate with individual lawmakers to get a majority. That’s how it will be now. It’s Sisyphean, it’s not easy, but it’s definitely possible,” he writes.
7. You shall not pass: Well, not for every law. Miri Regev’s Culture Loyalty Bill has essentially been taken off the table, but she tells Yedioth that it’s not the last we will hear of it.
- “No vote will come up, including the Gideon Sa’ar bill, until the Culture Loyalty Bill comes back up for a vote,” she tells the paper.
- Big words, but they are likely just words. Even Israel Hayom’s Amnon Lord, no left-winger he, notes that the law already exists.
- “All the law does is move the authority to cut funding for support [for creative works not deemed loyal to the state] from the finance minister to the culture minister,” he writes. “If Regev is finance minister in the next government, or some other time, she can cut the budgets herself under the existing law.”