Bring ’em home, send ’em home: 8 things to know for August 16
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Israel media review

Bring ’em home, send ’em home: 8 things to know for August 16

Israel says no deal with Hamas until bodies are returned from Gaza, but what’s a ‘deal’ anyway; and Eritrean peace may be bad news for asylum-seekers Israel seeks to deport

Palestinian boats participate in a protest against the Israeli-Egyptian security blockade of Gaza, in Beit Lahya on the border with Israel in the northern Gaza strip on August 11, 2018. The Israeli Rutenberg power station can be seen in the background. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)
Palestinian boats participate in a protest against the Israeli-Egyptian security blockade of Gaza, in Beit Lahya on the border with Israel in the northern Gaza strip on August 11, 2018. The Israeli Rutenberg power station can be seen in the background. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

1. Deal or no deal? It’s not just a game show anymore. Now it’s also a semantics game being played by Israel in order to reach an arrangement on Gaza without actually saying it reached a truce that doesn’t include the return of captives or bodies.

  • A senior Israeli official told reporters Wednesday night that the current quiet along the border came about due to “understandings” with Hamas thanks to UN and Egyptian mediation, as if Israel had no truck with any negotiations.
  • The source also said there would be no “real deal” until it included the return of bodies.
  • Channel 10 news reports that in actuality the sides reached a deal to return to the “understandings” brokered at the end of the 2014 Gaza war, which are really just quiet in return for quiet, an expanded fishing zone and the opening of the Kerem Shalom crossing, all of which happened a day earlier.

2. An Egyptian in Tel Aviv: While politicians are making sure to avoid anyone getting the idea that they are considering a deal without the return of bodies, or would even speak to Hamas, the source did say that a stop in cross-border violence would allow humanitarian aid and a deal for the return of the captives and remains, which means talks are likely still ongoing.

  • Haaretz reports that Egyptian intel czar Abbas Kamel was in Tel Aviv Wednesday night to hold talks with Israeli officials on the ceasefire deal, quoting pan-Arabic daily al-Hayat.
  • The broadsheet reports that Kamel is expected to hump his way to Ramallah Thursday for talks with Palestinian Authority leaders for their approval.
  • If all goes as planned, a Palestinian source says, an announcement on a deal will be announced in Cairo later Thursday.

3. Liars: PA President Mahmoud Abbas didn’t mention any Gaza deal in a speech to the Fatah Central Committee, but he did say that he did not think Hamas was serious about reconciliation talks which have become wrapped up in the Egyptian and UN mediation efforts, ToI’s Adam Rasgon reports.

  • Abbas also ranted against the US, saying that it only wanted to extend humanitarian aid to Gaza to help itself and calling the nation “liars.”
  • The Ynet news site notes that Abbas also made some outlandish claims about Yitzhak Rabin assassin Yigal Amir, namely that he gets money from four organizations and gets four furloughs a week.
  • While the four furloughs a week claim is clearly spurious, and it’s unclear where Abbas gets his facts from, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that some right-wing extremists with deep pockets send his wife and child money.
  • The site doesn’t mention the context for the claim, but it’s likely it was meant to offset criticism of the PLO for paying stipends to terror convicts and their families.

4. Eritrea-bound: The Gazan mediation efforts get little play in Israel’s top two tabloids. Israel Hayom in particular is more interested in a peace deal almost 2,000 miles away, between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

  • The tabloid reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered national security adviser Meir Ben Shabat to look into returning Eritrean asylum-seekers back to that country, after a Jerusalem appeals court ruled the move could be legal given the peace deal.
  • In the wake of the deal, Eritrea announced it would end its mandatory military draft, which can last a lifetime and which has become the basis of asylum claims for many of the Eritreans fleeing the Horn of Africa.
  • The paper calls the ruling “extraordinary” under the headline “The way for returning the infiltrators has been paved.”
  • In actuality the ruling, in which a judge rejected an asylum claim, only urged the government to reconsider its policies in the wake of the peace deal, though the judge’s focus on the “suffering of Israelis” because of the “infiltrators” may expose his bias in the matter.
  • Responding to the ruling, Education Minister Naftali Bennett writes on Twitter that he’s “proud we prevented” a UN plan to absorb “infiltrators” in Israel (a plan that Netanyahu had blamed the New Israel Fund for torpedoing, in a bizarre move earlier this year), and now the country needs to return the asylum seekers home “at once.”
  • Yonatan Jakobowicz, an activist pushing for the asylum-seekers to be sent back, writes on Facebook that the most “amazing thing of all the rulings at the appeals court is that the Population Authority didn’t even bother to respond to the appeal. Meaning, if it was up to the state, the same Eritrean would have won legal standing in Israel.”

5. The war on tourists: The Shin Bet detainment scandal at the airport is still making waves. Israel’s public broadcaster reports that 250 people have been barred from entering the country since the beginning of the year, though it’s unclear how that number compares to past years.

  • Most of those who were stopped were Muslims, or in the process of becoming Muslims, and arrived from Arab countries, Europe and Africa, the report says.
  • It’s not known how many others who are allowed in are stopped at the airport and interrogated, but judging from the flood of stories on Twitter, it’s a high number.
  • Despite the Shin Bet disputing author Reza Aslan’s claim that he was interrogated and threatened, and the prime minister saying the detainment of Peter Beinart was a mistake, the security body and Netanyahu are still coming under pressure for what is seen as Israel’s increasingly authoritarian policies.
  • “This was not an administrative error, but a systematic error. The government has decided to fight anyone who criticizes it, and the entryway to Israel has become another tool in this war,” reads the lead editorial in Haaretz.
  • In lefty online magazine 972, Lisa Goldman writes that the Shin Bet is more interested in intimidation than security, the supposed reason for the detainments.
  • “People who have experienced the Shin Bet’s style of interrogation at ports of entry know that it has nothing to do with security concerns — that its purpose is to humiliate and intimidate.”

6. Shin Bet bias: In Haaretz, analyst Mordechai Kremnitzer claims that the Shin Bet isn’t just interrogating leftists at the airport, but also in Israel, and thus taking sides in an ideological fight.

  • He traces what he calls harassment of Arabs and leftists to a court ruling that gave the body permission to deal with “subversion” as a form of preventing terror.
  • “Except for the exceptional cases of the activities of Jews on the Temple Mount, where the fear is of acts that will bring to actual bloodshed, as has happened in the past, the Shin Bet’s actions to prevent subversion is directed toward Arabs and the left that opposes the occupation. In doing so, the Shin Bet has taken a side in the political dispute that splits Israeli society and harnesses itself to advancing partisan political interests, in complete opposition to the security service law,” he writes.
  • “Such a Shin Bet, operating in a partisan fashion, is itself destroying the public’s faith in it,” he adds.

7. Chilly summer: In an op-ed, ToI founding editor David Horovitz says Israel’s democracy is in under assault, putting various incidents — from the detainment of Peter Beinart to the campaign against Yair Golan for army chief to the arrest of Rabbi Dov Haiyun — together to paint a “bleak” picture of Israel.

  • “Uniquely in the Middle East, we in Israel have enjoyed free speech, freedom of religion, a free press, equality before the law, an independent judiciary and more,” he writes. “But in this Israeli summer of 2018, there’s a chill in the air. There’s a danger — and it’s not only from Damascus and Tehran, Hamas and Hezbollah.”
  • An op-ed in the New York Times from Naftali Bennett might as well be answering Horovitz, but it’s actually in response to one in the same paper from Ron Lauder.
  • Bennett calls Lauder’s argument against the nation-state law in particular bizarre: “Keeping Israel as the Jewish nation-state does not threaten the future of the Jewish people; it safeguards it.”

8. The Lep takes a bite: Unsurprisingly, the Health Ministry warning about leptospirosis in some Golan streams has led people to shy away from visiting them and anything in the area, despite it being the high tourist season.

  • Israel Hayom reported that there has been a 60 percent drop in tourism in the Galilee and Golan over the scare.
  • “They carried out a targeted killing against us. The water here is fine and there’s no reason for a leptospirosis outbreak,” the owner of a kayaking place in a river near where the outbreak was identified tells Yedioth Ahronoth.
  • Some people, though, are willing to take a swim on the wild side.
  • “I’m not afraid of leptospirosis,” one tourist at the kayaking place tells the tabloid. “I’m afraid of falling in the water.”
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