Israel media review

Cops and ribbers: What the press is saying about terror, terrible jokes and Ukraine

A deadly rampage in the south raises questions about the police, and bickering ministers and a poor joke raise questions about the government

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev attends the funeral of 49-year-old Doris Yahbas, who was killed in a terror attack in Beersheba, at a cemetery in Moshav Gilat, on March 23, 2022. (Flash90)
Public Security Minister Omer Barlev attends the funeral of 49-year-old Doris Yahbas, who was killed in a terror attack in Beersheba, at a cemetery in Moshav Gilat, on March 23, 2022. (Flash90)

1. The south rises again: Israel is still reeling from the deadliest terror attack in years, with the murder spree and its aftereffects at the top of the news agenda.

  • On Tuesday, Hura resident Mohammed Ghaleb Abu al-Qi’an went on an eight-minute rampage through central Beersheba, killing four and injuring several before being shot and killed by two passersby.
  • Three days on, shockwaves from the attack continue to ripple through the media landscape and offer previews of more to come.
  • In Haaretz, Amos Harel writes that the terrorist’s past — serving time in an Israeli jail for joining the Islamic State and recruiting others — means that Israeli security officials are not linking the attack to heightened tensions with the Palestinians around Ramadan, though they may still collide.
  • “For decades, Israeli security forces have viewed the weeks leading up to the month of Ramadan warily. Traditionally, it is a period of heightened religious fervor that manifests itself, among other things, in lone-wolf terror attacks on Israelis. But, according to security sources, the background to the Beersheba murders is somewhat different – although the final word on this will only emerge in the coming days,” he writes. “Israeli security officials say that what happened in Beersheba is part of a wider, worldwide phenomenon. Paradoxically, they say, there may be no connection between the attack and Palestinian terror in the territories. Still, the concern now is that [Abu al-Qi’an’s] success will inspire copycat attacks in Jerusalem and the West Bank, with the approach of Ramadan in the background.”
  • Channel 12 reports on a near-threefold jump in applications for a firearms license immediately after the attack, citing Public Security Ministry data. The network says on the day of the attack, 244 applications for a license were registered, compared to some 60 applications ordinarily. A ministry source tells the network that such jumps are common after terror attacks, though numbers normally stabilize.
  • However, this time around the attack has brought to the fore complaints among Jews living in the northern Negev, who say that the area has been abandoned by police and become a Bedouin version of Mad Max, or somesuch.
  • Speaking to Army Radio, Welfare Minister Meir Cohen says the government needs to send the Shin Bet security service, which normally deals with terror, to police the Negev. “In the last few years there has been a rise in extremism and nationalism, which needs to be dealt with both by the Shin Bet and other security services.”
  • In Walla, Ben Caspit compares the Negev to 1980s New York, when he was a correspondent there, and writes that what worked for the Big Apple should also work for Israel’s big albatross.
  • “I saw how [mayor Rudy Giuliani] took the massive, violent, scary, dangerous city he was left with and turned it into a clean, safe, secure place within three months. How did he do it? With two cops (average height 2 meters, average shoulder width 1.8 meters) on every corner, every subway station. The change was swift and unbelievable. It’s the only way.”
  • The fact that it took police so long to respond that ordinary civilians were the ones who took out the terrorist, also doesn’t help matters for the cops.
  • Kan airs a minute-by-minute account showing the rampage from its start sometime before 4:08 p.m., when Abu al-Qi’an ran over Rabbi Moshe Kravitzky, to 4:16, when he crashed his car by driving the wrong way through a roundabout, got out and stabbed his last victim to death. The channel publishes CCTV video showing the stabber standing next to his victim waving the knife, as cars drive by. According to Kan, it took four minutes from the last killing until people began to approach him to disarm him. Police only enter the frame at 4:21.
  • Authorities are also facing questions regarding why Abu al-Qi’an served so little time in prison and why he was not watched after being let out. But in Israel Hayom, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked floats her idea to solve that: deport ’em.
  • According to the paper, Shaked is preparing to push a bill that would strip citizenship from Israelis convicted of terror offenses, though she presumably only means Arabs.
  • “There’s no flexibility in the war on terror,” she tells the paper. “This draft bill to strip citizenship or residency from terrorists is the appropriate response to the terrible attack in Beersheba.”

2. It’s no joke: Public Security Minister Omer Barlev would probably like to deport his whole staff. As if heading the ministry that oversees the police were not enough of a headache, Barlev now has two sunny side down eggs right on his face thanks to flubbing a eulogy for stabbing victim Doris Yahbas by promising to capture the dead killer, and then deciding to have a very poorly-thought-out public chuckle about it afterward by tweeting a self-effacing joke (complete with winking emoji) that’s just a tad too soon.

  • “Barlev’s tweet garnered hundreds of angry responses, including many calls for him to be fired,” reports Channel 12.
  • “Mr. Public Security Minister … you must understand that the Israeli public prefers its leaders, especially those involved in security, to be focused and not confused,” disciplines Kan radio host Dov Gil-Har, “certainly not in a sensitive place like a funeral for a terror victim, and definitely not joking or winking about your horrendous mistake.”
  • But Barlev’s faux pas seems small potatoes to bigger problems brewing in the government. The latest tiff, according to several reports, is a petty one-upmanship game between Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz regarding their awkwardly separate visits to India.
  • According to the reports, Gantz had been scheduled to go to India after Bennett, but moved the trip ahead by a week so he could go a few days before the prime minister. However, his people say Bennett started it by scheduling his own India trip to occur a few days before the one Gantz had already scheduled.
  • Why should anyone give a flying minister? Because “the incident reveals more than anything else the foul relationship between the two, and especially between their bureaus,” writes Haaretz’s Yossi Verter, who describes Gantz as a “free player,” i.e. a maverick who isn’t playing nice with Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.
  • “Fortunately, coalition officials say, he does not have a faction that will cooperate with his adventure of dismantling the coalition and assembling something else — now, or as part of a rotation,” Verter adds.
  • In Walla, Tal Shalev writes that Bennett has no less of a headache from Shaked, his apparently soon to be erstwhile political partner. “Senior political sources estimate that Bennett and Shaked’s partnership is coming to an end, and that her commitment to him and to his government will soon dissipate, well before Lapid rotates in [as prime minister as scheduled in September 2023].”

3. In and out: Ukraine also continues to dominate the news conversation, albeit to a lesser and lesser degree.

  • In Yedioth Ahronoth, reporter Ronen Bergman tears the lid off of what he says are underground training camps in Ukraine run by former Israeli commandos to help get that country’s troops and civilian defense units into shape.
  • “Their motivation is insane, they don’t want to stop training,” one person tells him.
  • In ToI, Carrie Keller-Lynn writes about Israeli-Ukrainians trying to get out of dodge, helped by Israeli travel papers and a little bit of subterfuge.
  • “After waiting for several hours, Gonchor, Aaron Groisman and fellow traveling Ukrainian-Israelis of military age presented their brand new laissez-passer to border control, standing firm against repeated requests to produce a Ukrainian passport,” she writes, after accompanying one group from Lviv to the Polish border. “Doubtful that Ukrainian speakers with Ukrainian names on their way out of Ukraine really lacked Ukrainian citizenship or documentation of such, the border control guard gave brief interrogations. Eventually she muttered, ‘Israelis, huh?’ and walked away with their travel documents. After a tense 30 minutes she returned, handed over a stack of papers and left without saying a word. They were free to cross.”
  • Haaretz’s Adi Cohen reports that Israel is suddenly home to a white-hot luxury real estate market, as Russians with rubles rush to get their money out of the country and look to get Israeli citizenship “which would allow them to operate bank accounts and other assets from here while their financial status is currently under threat.”
  • One real estate agent says he’s never seen a rush like this, and another says most of them are looking for homes that rent between $30,000 and $50,00 a month.
  • “They’re looking for private, furnished homes,” says agent Tamir Mintz. “Due to the small number of houses on the market, some of them are approaching people who haven’t put their houses up for rent, trying to tempt them with huge sums of money.”

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