Israel media review

Fire in all the wrong places: 7 things to know for May 3

Many agree to hold their fire for Lag B’Omer, but so-called terror kites set farmland ablaze, while Abbas continues to get toasted for his ‘history lesson’

Ultra-Orthodox Jews dance around a bonfire in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood on May 2, 2018, during celebrations for the Jewish holiday of Lag BaOmer. (AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA)
Ultra-Orthodox Jews dance around a bonfire in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood on May 2, 2018, during celebrations for the Jewish holiday of Lag BaOmer. (AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA)

1. Israelis enjoyed a more subdued holiday of Lag B’Omer Wednesday night, a consequence of the extremely hot and dry weather conditions that made the lighting of traditional bonfires that usually leave the country a smoky mess a nonstarter for many. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t any fires.

  • So called fire-kites, kites with combustibles attached to them that are flown from Gaza into southern Israel, continue to plague the country, with one Wednesday sparking a large blaze near Kibbutz Be’eri.
  • The blaze took over 10 teams of firefighters to get under control, making it the largest one sparked by the fire kites to date, The Times of Israel reports.
  • This is far from the first fire kite to be flown into Israel and thus far they have caused NIS 175,000 of damage to some 350 dunams (86 acres) of land, reports Israel Hayom, noting that farmers are getting fed up.

2. Israelis have a habit of terming everything damaging carried out with nationalistic intent as “terror,” and this is no different, with one farmer telling Israel Hayom he “hopes the subject of kite terror will enter the public consciousness.”

    • But labeling the kites terror could also have implications for insurance and the state paying out for the damage quicker, as TOI’s Judah Ari Gross noted following a wave of fires initially labeled as started with terrorist motivations in late 2016.
Palestinians fly a kite with a swastika on and a burning tail over the Gaza border into Israel on Fridat April 20, 2018 (IDF spokesperson)
  • The question of who is going to pay for the damage is already apparently weighing on officials’ minds: “There’s damage to wheat and barley fields before the harvest. Security personnel and firefighters are working overtime to put out the fires, and not let them spread more and cause further damage,” Eshkol regional head Gadi Yarkoni tells Yedioth Ahronoth. “We expect the state to compensate us for the damage. This will not break us and we will continue to work our land to the last meter. Our fields are our livelihoods and the beating heart of the Eshkol region.”

3. Crying terror now and dealing with the aftermath later can be deadly, as a case in Umm al-Hiran in which a driver was assumed to be a terrorist and shot and killed in 2016 has proven.

  • Haaretz reports in its top story that attempts are continuing to push the incident under the rug, noting that an internal investigation found supposed car-rammer Yaqoub Mousa Abu Al-Qia’an was driving at a snail-like 10 kilometers per hour when he was shot (his car then rammed into cop Erez Levy, killing him.)
  • Nonetheless, State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan has closed the case, rather than clearing Abu Al-Qia’an’s name in the death of Levy.
  • “The department wanted to question at least one of the policemen who shot Abu Al-Qia’an under caution, meaning as a suspect in a crime. But Nitzan refused to permit it,” the paper reports.
Illustrative: Residents of the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al Hiran walk to their homes after a protest against the town’s demolition, on August 27, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

4. Elsewhere in the blame the victim department, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is continuing to come under fire for a speech in which he appeared to blame Jews for the Holocaust.

  • After a scathing New York Times editorial calling for Abbas to step down over his anti-Semitism, among other failings, senior PA official Saeb Erekat accused Israel of distorting his words. Abbas was only mentioning what Jewish historians themselves say, and still “believes in peace, negotiations and the establishment of two states living in peace, security and good neighborliness,” Erekat said.
  • In Yedioth’s op-ed page Ariella Ringel Haifman makes fun of “historian” Abbas for his lessons on Israeli and Jewish history and wonders what he could possibly be thinking: “His words are so distorted that not only German Chancellor Angela Merkel was forced to respond … but even the European Union, not known for its love of Israel, recoiled sharply from them. What kind of domestic or international support did he expect to garner.”

5. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not received the international support he clearly expected following his supposed bombshell revelations on the nuclear deal.

    • Ernest Muniz, one of the architects of the nuclear deal, tells Yedioth that there was nothing new in what Netanyahu revealed, and the negotiators took the fact that Iran lies into account when crafting the pact. “We knew all this and so we made a deal with Iran like you make a deal with cheaters: We knew they lie and we wrapped them up in an inspections regime the like which has never before been seen in history,” he says.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a speech on files obtained by Israel he says proves Iran lied about its nuclear program, at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, on April 30, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
  • Most analysts see the prime minister’s presentation as mostly aimed at giving US President Donald Trump backing to pull out of the nuclear deal. However, Haaretz notes that Netanyahu is actually trying to steer clear of looking like he’s meddling in the US decision.
  • “Over the past few days, he has moderated his message in private and public discussions, briefings, and interviews, and Netanyahu has made it clear that the decision is in Trump’s hands and that Israel does not yet know what he will ultimately decide,” Haaretz reports.
  • Bloomberg’s Zev Chafets writes meanwhile that it’s not only Trump the words were aimed at but a number of others, including Iran, Moscow, Israelis and the Mossad, whose heads he has clashed with in the past: “In gearing up for a fight with Iranian proxies in Syria and Lebanon, as well as the possibility of taking direct action against Tehran he will want to keep the Mossad well-fed and happy.”

6. Walla reports on last-minute preparations being made for the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, with Ambassador David Friedman sending out invitations to the May 14 opening event.

  • The news site reports a delegation of some 250 senior US officials will make the trip for the opening, though it’s not clear if Trump will be among them.
  • “Senior Israeli officials tells Walla that the White House has still not finalized the makeup of the delegation. There is no official confirmation of Trump coming to the event, despite them saying again yesterday that he is supposed to come.”

7. Jerusalemites will get a taste of the traffic chaos that will accompany Trump’s trip with the start of the Giro D’Italia time trials in Jerusalem Friday. Road closures will start Thursday night and a big chunk of the city will be closed off on Friday for the event, being billed as the largest international sporting event to ever be hosted by the Jewish state.

  • Ahead of the race, Israel is honoring legendary Italian cyclist Gino Bartali, who helped ferry forged documents to Jews during the Holocaust, Melanie Lidman reports for ToI.
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