Israel media review

Fizz fizz, flop flop: 9 things to know for August 21

PepsiCo’s purchase of Sodastream has pundits bubbling; the left and Abbas mourn Uri Avnery and regional peace; and jaundiced eyes are cast on Corbyn and Iran’s latest fighter jet

Joshua Davidovich is The Times of Israel's Deputy Editor

SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum (l) and PepsiCo’s CEO Ramon Laguarta at the SodaStream factory in Israel’s Negev Desert next to the city of Rahat on August 20, 2018. (Eliran Avital)
SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum (l) and PepsiCo’s CEO Ramon Laguarta at the SodaStream factory in Israel’s Negev Desert next to the city of Rahat on August 20, 2018. (Eliran Avital)

1. The sale of SodaStream to PepsiCo isn’t close to the largest buyout of an Israeli firm, and the deal is worth less than half of what Frutarom was sold for just a couple of months ago, but the media is still bubbling with excitement (and puns) over the buyout.

  • The story led all of Israel’s major newscasts Monday night and is at the top of two of the three major Hebrew-language dailies, with Yedioth Ahronoth writing out all 8 zeros in 3.2 billion, probably because they look like bubbles.
  • “Soda success” gushes the paper, calling the deal a major success.
  • Haaretz, the only paper to not place the story prominently on its front page, notes the exit is part of a “global health trend.”

2.Business, not boycotts: The purchase is also seen as an Israeli achievement over the pro-Palestinian BDS movement which seeks to isolate Israel, by conveniently ignoring the fact that its move from the West Bank to inside the Green Line several years ago was a direct result of such pressure campaigns.

  • “I think they have learned not to meddle with us. Look at what happened to SodaStream that they targeted, and what has happened to them,” SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum told Channel 10 news Monday.
  • Israel Hayom columnist Eran Bar-Tal goes as far as to call the purchase a victory for pro-Israel advocacy: “Birnbaum’s answer [to the BDS campaigns] was the brave decision to stamp the Israeli flag and the words ‘Made in Israel’ on everything the company makes. … Pepsi’s purchase — beyond other consequences — is also a victory for sanity.”
  • More likely, though, Pepsi just saw a competitor and decided to gobble it up, regardless of where it was from, as it has done with so many other brands. As outgoing CEO Indra Nooyi explained her philosophy to Fortune last year: “When a disrupter comes in, don’t look at it as, here’s someone who’s going to kill your business. Think of how they’re going to aid your business.”
  • Noting Israelis’ love of soda siphons long after they went out of style, which may prove a clue to SodaStream’s resilience, Yedioth columnist Udi Ezion jokes that Tesla will soon be knocking on Israel’s door “for the plans of the Sussita,” a car from Israel’s short-lived auto manufacturing venture in the 1950s.

3. Unlimited budget: Speaking to ToI’s Shoshanna Solomon, Birnbaum says the purchase isn’t only good for the company’s shareholders, but will also help the company reach new heights, though he may be a bit overly optimistic if he thinks PepsiCo’s budget is “unlimited.”

  • “They are in many more stores than we are. We will have access to new markets, new countries, we’ll have unlimited budget, cash for marketing, investments, for growth, capital to expand our factory, so everything that it takes to grow a business will now be greater,” he says.
  • He also says he was first approached about a possible deal six weeks ago. That’s important because Channel 10 news reported Monday night that he recently purchased tens of thousands more SodaStream shares, which could lead to suspicions of insider trading.
  • With the last purchase in early June, though, the timeline should put him in the clear.

4. Mourning a lion of peace: Tributes are pouring in for former MK, peace activist and journalist uri Avnery, who died early Monday at age 94.

  • Liberal broadsheet Haaretz leads the way, with a lead editorial mourning that “the left, which is at a low point in its history, is now even more orphaned than before.”
  • Haaretz editor Aluf Benn calls Avnery the “shaper of the Israeli consciousness,” noting his positions which, unpopular at the time, later became mainstream, especially his decision to interview Yasser Arafat in 1982.
  • “This was a consciousness-changing and ground-breaking move, which within a little more than a decade transformed Arafat from a horrific terrorist and bitter enemy into a peace partner,” he writes.
  • Hagai Matar, head of the 972 magazine, calls Avnery “a teacher, a visionary and a path-breaker.”
  • Even right-wing Israel Hayom pays tribute, kind of, with writer Amnon Lord crediting him with paving the way for the Oslo Accords by turning the PLO into a peace partner, though he notes bitterly that “what happened to that peace is another story.”
  • “It’s doubtful whether any single person had more influence on Israel’s elites,” he writes.

5. Ramallah also remembers Avnery: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also mourned Avnery’s passing and sent condolences to his friends and family, according to the PA’s official news service.

  • Elias Zananiri, a 40-year friend of the peace activist, tells ToI’s Adam Rasgon that Abbas and Avnery met frequently, though recently they saw less of each other because of Avnery’s deteriorating health.
  • Abbas and Avnery have long “had a close relationship of mutual interest and respect. Their relationship was based on both of their desires to end the conflict and achieve peace,” Zananiri says.
  • Avnery himself wrote earlier this year that he met Abbas at one of his first meetings with Arafat, and the two shared a bond over a connection to Safed, where Abbas had fled from and where Avnery’s wife Rachel had spent summers as a child.

6. The kids are all one-staters: Channel 10 news reports that Abbas’s son does not share either’s zeal for the two-state solution, with Tarek Abbas telling White House envoy Jason Greenblatt that in September that he support “a one-state solution between the Jordan [river] and the Mediterranean Sea, with equal rights for all its citizens.”

  • The news comes a day after the same channel reported that Jordan’s King Abdullah warned US President Donald Trump that more young Palestinians were backing a one-state formula:
  • “Many young Palestinians don’t want the two-state solution anymore, but would rather live together with the Israelis in one state with equal rights for all… The result will be that Israel will lose its Jewish character,” he reportedly said.

7. Mad in Mecca: Reuters reports that some pilgrims at the Hajj in Saudi Arabia are annoyed at Arab leaders, including from Saudi Arabia, for not holding their ground against Trump over moving the embassy to Jerusalem.

  • “The Arabs are weak and have not taken a stand on the issue of Jerusalem,” one man tells the news agency.
  • In Gaza, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh marks Eid al-Adha by telling Palestinians that the “siege” on the enclave will soon be lifted and Trump’s peace plan is “clinically dead,” Haaretz reports.

8. Corbyn’s follies: i24 News’s Eylon Levy, apparently combing through the archives of British socialist paper Morning Star, where Jeremy Corbyn was a frequent contributor, reports that the current UK Labour leader paid a visit to Israel in 2010, where he met with Hamas officials and possibly broke rules by failing to report the visit to authorities.

  • Not only did Corbyn not meet with any Jews during the trip, which also included a stop in Gaza, but a short time later he called Israeli MK Tzipi Livni a “war criminal” according to the station.
  • Livni refuses to comment on Corbyn’s eight-year-old broadside, according to i24.
  • According to British tabloid The Sun, Corbyn also bragged about having takeout in the bombed-out ruins of the Gazan parliament building with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal during that trip.
  • However, not only is there apparently no such building in Gaza, the supposed dinner was two years before Mashaal visited the Strip for the first time.

9. Iran’s fighter pooh-poohed: Doubts are also being cast on Iran’s unveiling what it calls its first domestic fighter jet.

  • While state media published pictures of the Kowsar in the air, AFP notes that live footage of the jet taxiing cut off before the plan actually took off.
  • The suspicions aren’t unfounded, given that Iran’s last “first” domestic fighter jet, the Qaher F-313, was determined to be a glorified piece of cardboard that could not even evade near universal mocking.

  • Even if the Kowsar is a more serious development, some analysts are already noting its similarities to the Northrop-Grumman F5-F Tiger, a variation of a plane that was state-of-the-art about six decades ago but is still a mainstay of Tehran’s air force.
  • Iran, which was once a US ally, has a number of older US planes in its fleet and its new air force chief is a former F-14 Tomcat pilot.
  • But if anyone ever tries to claim Iran’s air force is a joke, just show them this picture:
In this Sept. 23, 2015 photo, Iranian soldiers take a picture with a Winnie the Pooh character next to an F-14 fighter jet in an exhibition of achievements and equipment of Iran’s air force in Tehran, Iran. (AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)
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