Death, taxes, and early elections: 7 things to know for October 12
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Israel media review

Death, taxes, and early elections: 7 things to know for October 12

Pundits are 100 percent certain a snap poll is looming, Gaza is chided for spending too much on its tunnels and a ministry finds its way by making a mess of everything

Knesset election ballots at a polling station in Jerusalem, January 22, 2013. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Knesset election ballots at a polling station in Jerusalem, January 22, 2013. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

1. Certain about an early vote: Early elections haven’t been called yet, and in fact the earliest they can be is Monday when the Knesset resumes after a several-week recess, but speculation is running to the point of certainty that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on the verge of calling for a new vote.

  • “Among coalition party heads there is wide agreement that a decision has been made:  Everything is heading toward February 2019, the beginning of March at the last [for new elections],” Haaretz’s Yossi Verter writes. “It’ll be before the attorney general makes a decision on his investigations, after a new police chief and IDF chief are picked and toward the end of the second round of municipal elections. They didn’t believe Netanyahu when he told them at the start of the week that he still hasn’t decided.”
  • Israel Hayom’s Motti Tuchfeld writes that the press conference held by the normally camera-shy Netanyahu is proof that elections are on the way.
  • During the last elections, “Netanyahu even gave interviews to internet sites he had never heard of. After he’s even done away with the bi-annual holiday interviews over the last few years, the press conference this week definitely shows that things are moving in a different direction, that there’s an end-of-term atmosphere, the strong smell of elections in the air,” he writes.

2. The Gantz juggernaut: A poll from Channel 10 news mostly dovetails with previous polls showing Likud still in the lead, Yesh Atid gaining, others shrinking, and the Orly Levy Abukasis Experience making it in.

  • Where it differs, though, is that it shows Zionist Union dropping to an unprecedented low of eight seats should former IDF chief Benny Gantz enter the race (or 14 if Ehud Barak retakes the party’s helm).
  • The poll shows Gantz nabbing votes from all over the place, including Likud, Yesh Atid and even Jewish Home.
  • While the numbers show Likud still comfortably ahead of every other party, in the analysis of ideological blocs, the Channel 10 poll sees Gantz as actually boosting the center left, leading them to advise Yesh Atid and Zionist Union of going after him: “If they want to capture control, the center-left bloc needs to campaign against Orly Levy Abukasis, since she takes votes away from them and brings them to the right-wing bloc.”

3. Labor pains: Zionist Union may have enough trouble just avoiding in-fighting. Specifically the Labor party, which makes up half of the faction. A party meeting Thursday saw Eitan Cabel very nearly directly attack party leader Avi Gabbay over the way he is running the party.

  • Yedioth Ahronoth calls the session “stormy,” reporting that Cabel told Gabbay, a Labor newcomer, that none of them want to lose their jobs and he will “fight for the party until his last drop of blood.”
  • The paper reports that Gabbay responded by accusing Cabel of leaking to the press and “trying to destroy me from the inside.”
  • “I was hoping you wouldn’t answer me like that,” Cabel responded. “I even went to the Western Wall and put in a note, but it didn’t help. Leave me alone, enough.”

4. Subterranean spending blues: Israel’s announcement that it found and destroyed a Hamas tunnel running from Gaza into Israel is plastered all over the print press, a sign of the still high border tensions.

  • Describing the passageway’s pimped out electricity, telephone line and “advanced building methods,” Israel Hayom calls it the “supreme tunnel.”
  • It’s not only the diabolical schemes planned for the tunnel that bothers some, but also the funneling of money that Gazans could really use for other projects.
  • “The destruction of the tunnel signals again that Hamas is continuing to lose assets and military infrastructure,” Israel Hayom’s Amnon Lord writes. “When you speak about the larger conflict, without getting into the fence intifada, time is working in Israel’s favor.”

5. Foundering manhunt: Yedioth Ahronoth plays up the tunnel story as a sign of the success of Israel’s underground system that’s meant to find and block tunnels.

  • In contrast, columnist Yossi Yehoshua writes that the army is not seeing the same kind of successes against terror in the West Bank, after two attacks in which the assailant got away.
  • Hours after Thursday’s stabbing, the attack suspect was indeed collared, leading Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to promise, yet again, that the terrorist behind the Barkan industrial zone shooting will be caught.
  • But Yehoshua is not so sure: “The intelligence picture in the hunt for the terrorist is not good enough, and so he’s still out free. If we add to that the fact that he managed to escape despite the fact that the area was blanketed in security cameras, we get that there is unsatisfactory effectiveness from the army and Shin Bet in the West Bank.

6. A column by Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer takes a look at the history of the Strategic Affairs Ministry, which is behind the hamfisted (or “cack-handed” in his words) handling of a ban on supposed BDS activists.

  • Comparing the useless ministry to Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks, Pfeffer notes that the office had no purpose but as a home for political sweetheart jobs, until it decided to start fighting BDS, and even then was wandering in the desert until Minister Gilad Erdan saw a chance to use it to boost his right-wing bona fides.
  • “To track BDS activists, he needed intelligence — and not one of Israel’s spy agencies were prepared to give his ministry access to their databases. … So Erdan tried to set up his own database but was shot down, this time by the attorney-general, who ruled that the ministry did not have the legal power to collect such information,” he writes.
  • “A shadowy corporation was set up to channel funds and maintain discreet links with like-minded organizations abroad. He directed the ministry to embed itself with the border-control officials at Ben-Gurion Airport and back at headquarters, there were researchers poised to google any suspicious name. This is the main reason behind the highly-publicized recent rash of cases in which American Jewish journalists and activists have found themselves detained for hours for ridiculous political questioning at the airport.”

7. What’s the matter with Walla? The paper of silly stories might be a good name for the Walla news site.

  • While everyone publishes clickbait, Walla (which also publishes legitimate news and analysis) seems to take it to the extreme.
  • In the course of 10 minutes just after midnight Friday morning, the site published a story on proof that the earth may be flat and on something called a “sex island,” which I’m not going to click into to find out.
  • If that weren’t enough, just a few hours earlier on Thursday, the site published yet another time traveler story, this time about a guy from the year 8973 who took a polygraph and was found to be speaking the truth.
  • Given that 2018 just featured Kanye West in the White House talking about hydrogen planes and dropping an F-bomb, I’d say one doesn’t need to make stuff up to get insane stories, but that’s just me.
  • Or as Leonard Cohen might have put it: “I am the Walla of Walla/ The Walla/ Of the great bogus shift of bullshit culture.”
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