Israel media review

Europe, Iran, and the Strip: 7 things to know for June 4

Benjamin Netanyahu sets off to convince world leaders to amend parts of the nuclear deal with Tehran, but is expected to face tough questions on Gaza in return

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Abbas Araghchi (R), political deputy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran, and the Secretary General of the European Union External Action Service (EEAS) Helga Schmid attend E3/EU+3 and Iran talks at Palais Coburg in Vienna, Austria on March 16, 2018. (AFP/Joe Klamar)
Abbas Araghchi (R), political deputy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran, and the Secretary General of the European Union External Action Service (EEAS) Helga Schmid attend E3/EU+3 and Iran talks at Palais Coburg in Vienna, Austria on March 16, 2018. (AFP/Joe Klamar)

1. Nearly a month after Israel released tens of thousands of seized Iranian documents indicating that Iran pursued a nuclear bomb in the past, and a few weeks after US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 landmark nuclear deal with Tehran, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has set off to Europe in an attempt to sway the leaders of France, Germany, and Britain to amend the contentious agreement.

  • According to Haaretz’s Noa Landau, Netanyahu is banking on the possibility that the US withdrawal from the nuclear agreement will push Britain’s Theresa May, Germany’s Angela Merkel, and France’s Emmanuel Macron to work toward making changes in the expiration clauses of the deal, as well as to the clauses having to do with Tehran’s long-range missile program.
  • May, Merkel and Macron strongly opposed Trump’s ditching of the nuclear deal, and tensions between the three European powers and the US have steadily risen since. The fact that Trump has recently raised tariffs on the import of steel and aluminium to the US from Europe has certainly not helped make matters any less tense. Israel Hayom quotes an unnamed official in Jerusalem as asserting that the European powers’ frustration with the US may negatively impact Israel, which is currently seen as one of the Trump administration’s staunchest allies. The source indicates that for this reason, Netanyahu may have a tough trip ahead of him.

2. Aside from discussions surrounding possible amendments to the nuclear deal, Netanyahu also aims to rally the European leaders to assist in pushing Iranian forces out of Syria.

  • Israel fears that as the bloody, years-long Syrian civil war winds down, Iran, whose forces and Shiite proxies have backed President Bashar Assad, will turn its focus to Israel.
  • Amid the tensions along the northern border, the Israeli air force is believed to have carried out several airstrikes on Iranian positions in Syria over the past months. Last month, the two countries openly clashed when Iran fired dozens of rockets at Israeli positions in the Golan Heights, and Israel responded by striking several Iranian targets in Syria.

3. Meanwhile, Russian officials have signaled in recent days that there may soon be an agreement for Iran to move its forces away from Israel’s border, but there has been no confirmation of any such deal actually taking place.

  • However, sources in Israel have repeatedly denied the reports by Russian officials regarding Syria. Iranian military officials, though known for their bombastic statements, have also denied an Iranian withdrawal from the war-torn region.
  • According to Haaretz, officials have stressed that Netanyahu, who met with Russian President Vladimir Putin several weeks ago, demanded that Iranian forces not only back away from Israel’s border, but retreat from Syria altogether.

4. During Netanyahu’s meetings in Europe, May, Merkel, and Macron are expected to grill the Israeli leader over the IDF’s use of live fire in mass Palestinian protests along the Gaza’s border with Israel.

  • Israel says it is facing weekly attacks by violent protesters at the border, adding that the riots are orchestrated by the Hamas terror group, which rules the Palestinian enclave, and used as cover for attempted terror attacks and breaches of the border fence.
  • Over 110 Palestinians have been killed since the protests began two months ago, including over 60 — almost all of them members of the Hamas or Islamic Jihad terror groups — on May 14-15.

5. As if to answer the expected questions by European leaders, Netanyahu-aligned Israel Hayom takes upon itself to prove that many Palestinian protesters near the security fence have less than peaceful motives in mind.

  • The Hebrew-language daily stresses across several pages that since Friday, Israeli firefighters had been called to at least 40 locations which had been set ablaze by Palestinians who flew flaming kites across the security fence.
  • Yesterday, some 2,000 to 3,000 dunams (500 to 740 acres) of fields and parts of a nature reserve adjacent to Kibbutz Carmia, near Gaza, were destroyed in a fire, which arson investigators say was most likely ignited by a blazing kite, or possibly a balloon filled with chemicals that dripped flames along the area, Hadashot news reported.

6. In central Israel, locals who are already suffering from the effects of the extremely-long-lasting construction of the light rail can rest easy knowing the project is expected to end right on schedule. Nope, just kidding. In Haaretz, reporter Naama Riva delves deep into the hardships facing the construction project, which are likely to cause a delay of years in completion.

  • According to Riva, the whole building of the rail is marked by problems ranging from demands to expropriate lands to mayors of local authorities not receiving information on changes in construction schedules.
  • Only one of three rail lines set to be built is currently under construction – the red line connecting Petah Tikva and Bat Yam. Construction of the green and purple lines has been postponed indefinitely, Haaretz reports.

7. Across the Atlantic, tens of thousands of Israel supporters marched up New York’s Fifth Avenue on Sunday for the annual Celebrate Israel parade.

  • Aside from Israel Hayom, which labels the event the “blue and white apple,” the local Hebrew-language media for the most part ignores the event, or only lightly touches on the matter.
  • Every year, the Israel-centric event is highly secured, but this year, in light of recent tensions between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, the New York Police Department announced reinforced measures with some 1,000 officers working the event, including members of the force’s counterterrorism unit.

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