Israel media review

Deal or die: 7 things to know for February 7

Violence rears its ugly head and brings fears of a fresh intifada, as rejection of Trump’s Mideast peace deal catalyzes into terror

Israeli troops clash with Palestinians during a manhunt in the West Bank town of Beit Jala on February 6, 2020. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)
Israeli troops clash with Palestinians during a manhunt in the West Bank town of Beit Jala on February 6, 2020. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

1. Attack o’clock: A string of attacks in Jerusalem and the West Bank Thursday have pushed tensions simmering just below the surface into full view, raising fears of a fresh wave of violence.

  • Times of Israel’s Judah Ari Gross gives a sobering round-up of what Israel Hayom refers to as “terror around the clock.”
  • “Non-stop terror,” reads the front page headline in Yedioth Ahronoth, which like other tabloids and TV news, is a mix of jingoism, fear and blame casting.
  • “This is just a taste,” warns columnist Shimrit Meir in the paper. “In a short time, we went from tensions, to a drizzle, to real rain: Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jenin, Hebron, and of course Gaza, which refuses to pipe down.”
  • Channel 12 news calls it an “escalation” and reports that “the hope is that the events will end in a day or two, but [the army] is taking into account the possibility that an extra ordinary attack will inflame the ground anew.”

2. Just don’t screw up: “Don’t try us,” threatens Israel Hayom on its front page, though the media focus on troops being beefed up in the West Bank, Jerusalem and near Gaza make clear that it will take more than threats.

  • “The string of attacks in the West Bank have an especially flammable potential,” writes Israel Hayom columnist Yoav Limor. “It requires Israel to act with determination, but also smartly, in order to avoid turning this into a mass, deadly wave.”
  • Yedioth’s Yossi Yehoshua writes that the army believes “military and diplomatic activity” can still stop the wave within 48 hours, if the troops can manage to avoid any mistakes.
  • “Any deviation can set the ground aflame,” he warns.

3. Mistakes were made: The need for not screwing up seems obvious, but it apparently was not heeded a day earlier, in Jenin, where Israel went in to demolish a home, leading to intense clashes and a Palestinian police cadet being killed, apparently by accident, after he was misidentified as a terrorist.

  • Yedioth happened to have a reporter doing a ride along with the troops, who does not touch on the killing, but notes that while heading into Jenin they were told that there were “dozens on two legs, some of them armed.”
  • In the end he describes what he calls a “battle,” as the troops worked to demolish the home under a “non-stop rain of rocks.”
  • His report on the operation includes descriptions of setting up a war room in a neighbor’s house, as if they were stopping over for tea and not conducting a military operation, watching the demolition work, and then after three hours “one of the senior officers grabbed a broom and cleaned the mud in the war room before they left.”
  • Haaretz’s Amos Harel asks why the operation had to take place in the first place, with the army knowing everything was so sensitive, and that Palestinians were gearing up for a fight, but also answers his own question: politics.
  • “It is hard to ignore the political context of the insistence on carrying out the house demolition – that specific night – when the heat on the West Bank had been rising steadily over the last week. Defense Minister Naftali Bennett announced last month a stricter policy concerning house demolitions, which would include the homes of those who aided terrorist groups. Right-wing groups and settlers have been regularly applying pressure on political leaders and the IDF to speed up the pace of home demolitions,” he writes.

4. Mistakes were claimed: Meanwhile, the media reports on car-rammer Sanad al-Turman Friday, focusing on his claim that it was an accident and he lost control of his car, careening into a group of soldiers before fleeing the scene.

  • “He escaped because he thought they would kill him,” Army Radio quotes his brother saying.
  • Channel 12 news reports that Israeli authorities don’t believe him for a second. “Firstly, the sources say, the car-rammer blew through a checkpoint while trying to escape [toward the West Bank] — even though soldiers there did not have guns drawn.”
  • Channel 13 also focuses on his past comments on Facebook, which it says points to radicalization. The proof. He shared an old Islamist song on Facebook with the words “I’ll be like a strong pillar, like a mosque spire, I’ll spew my bullets in a strong torrent at the bodies.”
  • “The meaning: I’m ready for war,” the channel reports.

5. Intifadeal: But the real blame is not pointed at the attackers but rather Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and US President Donald Trump and there seems no doubt that the failing deal is to blame for the attacks.

  • “The attacks we saw came under the shadow of a crisis in the West Bank, because of the Deal of the Century,” former general Michael Milstein tells Army Radio.
  • Yedioth’s Meir quips that if things do get worse, the violence will be termed “the intifada of the century.”
  • “The writing was on the wall from the moment Abbas spoke out publicly against the ‘deal of the century,’” writes Amir Buhbut in Walla news. “Abbas is sending double messages to the Palestinian public, not calling for violence … but not hurrying to put out the fires in flashpoint spots.”
  • Channel 13 news reports that among those blaming Abbas is the architect of the plan, Jared Kushner, calling his comments a “harsh attack.”
  • Leaders who are ready for a state “don’t call for days of rage and encourage their people to pursue violence if they’re not getting what they want,” Kushner said, according to the Associated Press.

6. Ehud-sucker proxy: Most other Israeli outlets focus on Kushner’s comments calling out a planned meeting and press conference between former prime minister Ehud Olmert and Abbas.

  • “It is almost pathetic that they are criticizing other people’s efforts to try and reach an agreement,” Kushner said, according to ToI’s Eric Cortellessa. “It comes from a lot of jealousy that they couldn’t do it themselves.”
  • A number of Israelis are similarly incensed. Yedioth Ahronoth calls the planned meeting “baffling.”
  • “Shame on you, Ehud,” writes Channel 12’s Ehud Yaari.
  • “Olmert is voluntarily volunteering to give credence to the claim pushed by Abbas that only Netanyahu is to blame for the lack of a peace deal,” he writes. “While Abbas is backing ‘days of rage’ Olmert is enlisting to shield him, and hurting not just Netanyahu, but all of us.”

7. If you annex it, it is no dream: Israel Hayom’s Nadav Shragai looks on the bright side of things. Abbas’s rejection means it’s time to rock out with your annexation unfreezing pens out.

  • Shragai adds that if Netanyahu cannot start annexing because the US wants him to wait until after elections, he can at least unfreeze building in parts of Jerusalem and the West Bank known as E-1 and Givat Hamatos, stopped because of bitter international opposition.
  • “We need to thank Abbas and the Palestinians for giving us another chance, by refusing to pursue peace and instead sticking to terror and violence, to return to the way of practicing Zionism,” he writes.
  • But Netanyahu has seemingly not given up on the dream of annexation before elections, according to settler leaders who spoke to ToI’s Jacob Magid about their meeting with the prime minister, though it’s clear that he won’t make the mistake of committing to a timetable again.
  • Settler leaders hearing one thing from Kushner and another from Netanyahu are not happy though: “This is woeful. The public in Judea and Samaria and all over Israel demand to know the truth,” settler council head Shlomo Neeman tells Channel 13 news.
  • Haaretz’s Yossi Verter reports, via a trusted source, that Netanyahu is fighting for this “as if his entire life depended on it. Who knows? He might even be successful. He’s not one to give up.”
  • “Diplomatic sources say that Netanyahu is devoting hours every day, either directly with the Trump administration or through pressure from Trump’s Evangelical supporters for example, trying to extract something before the Israeli election, some kind of mini-annexation, anything to appease his disappointed base,” he writes. “That would spare him the image of a tireless master of spin and catapult him to the level of a Beginesque statesman who actually delivers rather than just promising.”

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