Bye bye bromance: 6 things to know for November 1

Bye bye bromance: 6 things to know for November 1

Netanyahu warning about Iran’s increasing brazenness widely seen as a reference to Trump administration’s hands-off approach to the Islamic Republic

US President Donald Trump, left, welcomes visiting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House in Washington, March 25, 2019. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)
US President Donald Trump, left, welcomes visiting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House in Washington, March 25, 2019. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

1. A brazen end to the bromance: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a speech to graduating IDF officers full of all the usual bombast about protecting Israel and the Iranian threat. But one sentence caught the attention of the media: “Iran’s brazenness in the region is increasing and even getting stronger in light of the absence of a response.”

The comment is widely seen as a reference to, and perhaps hinted criticism of, the US’s hands-off approach to Iran.

“He may have been referring to the lack of a US response to Iran’s downing of its spy drone in June and Tehran’s brazen attack on Saudi oil installations,” writes Haaretz.

The Los Angeles Times writes that Netanyahu is treading carefully but offered “veiled criticism of the Trump administration’s lack of response to recent attacks blamed on Tehran.”

Former Shin Bet chief Ami Ayalon tells the paper that “Trump uses people [until] they serve his purpose. He used our prime minister, and it worked. At least for the short run.”

Channel 13 reports, without a source, that Netanyahu has been fretting for weeks about the fact that the US was refusing to take action, thus emboldening Iran. According to the report, he told ministers several weeks ago that the US will not act against Iran until after the 2020 election at the earliest, and Israel will need to deal with it itself.

2. More threats: In Walla news, Amir Buhbut writes that Hezbollah may be getting bolder as well, as the attempted shoot-down of an Israeli drone in southern Lebanon may be a sign of more to come.

“The IDF needs to plan … for the possibility that Hezbollah will try to use arms more advanced than what they have in the past in order to change the rules of the game.”

The army may not agree. Yedioth reports that the IDF saw the incident as a one-off and decided to not respond to it.

Haaretz’s Amos Harel takes note of the strange quiet that has seemed to envelope Gaza — aside from a Thursday night rocket attack out of the clear blue sky — which he surmises may have to do with the fact that everyone’s attention is on Lebanon, Iraq, Iran and Syria.

But he also reports that a quickly forgotten incident this week in which the army shot down a drone from Gaza flying at 12,000 feet, much higher than normal, may be more significant than meets the eye.

“This was the first evidence of such an exceptional capability in Gaza, and it points to a certain amount of technological progress in the capabilities of the terrorist organizations in the Strip. A flight at such an altitude can interfere with Israeli drone operations in the south, or provide an opening for intelligence gathering operations – or even an attack by the Palestinians in the future,” he writes.

3. Drinking the Kool-aid: Lucky for Israel, it has the bitchingest army this side of the Euphrates, thanks largely to US military aid, but suddenly it seems that may be up in the air, with Democrats threatening to use it as leverage to pressure the government.

Illustrative. IDF forces gather in southern Israel following clashes in the Gaza Strip on November 13, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

In Israel Hayom, Eytan Gilboa writes that those in support of using aid for leverage, but opposed to the US administration’s cuts to Palestinian funding, are guilty of having a double standard.

“That the Democratic presidential candidates would find it objectionable to push the Palestinians and UNRWA to change their corrupt behavior while at the same time being adamant that military aid to America’s closest ally in the Middle East be used as leverage against it is an indication of how prevalent anti-Israel sentiment has become within the Democratic Party,” he writes.

Elizabeth Warren has been among the most vocal about using aid as a carrot, but JTA’s Ron Kampeas writes that she is not detailing what that means.

But he does some Talmudic-style induction by delving into her statement that she would act “as previous Democratic and Republican presidents have done.”

“No president has leveraged military assistance to pressure Israel since 1981, when Ronald Reagan withheld the delivery of fighter jets for two months after Israel destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactor,” he writes. “But more recently, Presidents George H.W. Bush, Clinton and George W. Bush withheld loan guarantees from Israel commensurate with what it was spending on West Bank settlements. Obama ended the practice, but the law allowing a president to do so remains on the books.”

On Twitter, former US ambassador Daniel Shapiro holds forth in a long thread on what the aid means and why Obama did not want to use it for leverage.

“The MOU represents a US commitment, as well as a self-interest. Those who advocate withholding or conditioning security assistance need to bear that in mind. The US needs to keep its commitments,” he writes.

4. Air apparent: Netanyahu’s relationship with Trump may be souring, but he, or whoever is prime minister, will soon have a spiffy new plane to visit all their other friends around the world.

That is it ever gets working. Israel’s Air Force 1, as the new prime ministerial plane is being called, took a first test run Thursday, but briefly appeared to be having more trouble getting off the ground than a governing coalition.

As the Boeing 767-300ER left its hangar for one of a series of engine tests, the brakes overheated and created fears of a fire that could have caused significant damage. An emergency was declared and firefighting teams were sent in before the emergency situation was declared over.

“Still not in the air,” reads a headline in Yedioth, which notes that the plane is not new, but had been flown by an Australian airline for 20 years. Still it calls the incident no more than a “mini drama.”

Israel Hayom, which is much more gung-ho about the plane, writes that preparations are complete, and goes into painful detail about the blue and white paint job and the various gadgets and doohickies the jet has.

A Boeing 767-300ER plane remodeled as an Israeli version of Air Force One during a test run at Ben Gurion Airport on October 31, 2019. (Israel Aerospace Industries)

Haaretz, which includes information about the budget battles over the pricey plane, writes that the new ride “was initially to be outfitted with a shower, but that was ultimately scrapped due to the complexity of installing the necessary plumbing system.”

5. Fake new immigrants: A Times of Israel exposé reveals that the dozens of purported immigrants to Israel that were featured on the social media accounts of the Immigration Absorption Ministry were entirely made up.

Until Thursday, the ministry’s Twitter and Facebook pages were littered with posts featuring success stories of individuals who purportedly immigrated to Israel. But the only problem is that none of it was real: the quotes gushing about Israel were entirely made up, and the photos of the “immigrants” were from stock photography sites.

Some immigrants were offended by the ministry’s use of apparently invented people for its campaign, while PR experts who weighed in said the whole-cloth invention of names and quotations is not an accepted practice in the field, especially in today’s media climate of authenticity and transparency.

“For the many of us who have made the difficult step, and built our homes in Israel. For those who are far from family and face daily obstacles to adapt and adjust, this is truly insulting,” said Jason Pearlman, an immigrant and former spokesperson for both President Reuven Rivlin and former Diaspora affairs minister Naftali Bennett.

Stock images purporting to be immigrants to Israel used in a social media campaign by the Absorption Ministry. (Collage by Times of Israel)

After an inquiry by The Times of Israel, the ministry quickly deleted the posts, and blamed them on an outside firm it hired to manage its English-language social media accounts.

6. Not again: Meanwhile, after two elections this year, Israel remains in political deadlock, with only a caretaker government in charge since last December.

With increasing talk of a dreaded third election in a single year on the rise, the frustration at the lack of progress in solving the coalition crisis is palpable in the Hebrew-language press.

Seeking to put a human face to the cost of the longest-ever political impasse in Israel’s history, Yedioth on its front page features the story of an elderly Haifa woman who was treated in the hallways of Rambam hospital due to overcrowding.

The paper says that 97-year-old Victoria Douk waited in the hallways of the Rambam emergency room for 27 hours before she was given a room.

“No government, the country is frozen while our health system is falling apart,” the paper says. “This has turned into a full-blown phenomenon all across the country.

Yedioth is not optimistic that Blue and White chief Benny Gantz will be able to form a unity government with Netanyahu’s Likud by the time the deadline expires: “With just 19 days left

Channel 12’s political reporter Amit Segal writes in the daily that another election is inevitable. “Even [the most optimistic] of us needs to accept the reality that after a month of Netanyahu having the mandate, and now Gantz for the last 10 days: the third elections are already here. There’s even a date: March 3, 2020.”

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