Forced hands: 7 things to know for September 12
Israel media review

Forced hands: 7 things to know for September 12

The US decision to close the PLO mission in DC may push the Palestinians into a corner, and might not turn out that great for Israel

People are seen outside the Palestinian Liberation Organization Delegation office in Washington DC on September 10, 2018. (AFP/Andrew Caballero-Reynolds)
People are seen outside the Palestinian Liberation Organization Delegation office in Washington DC on September 10, 2018. (AFP/Andrew Caballero-Reynolds)

1. Mission impossible: The Israeli press is agog over the US demanding the Palestine Liberation Organization close its mission in Washington — for better or worse.

  • On the better side, Israel Hayom, close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a big fan of US President Donald Trump, follows the premier’s lead in feteing the move, with a big bold front page headline calling it “the right step.”
  • “The Trump administration is not differentiating between the diplomatic war the Palestinians are waging against Israel in the international arena, and their terrorism,” the paper’s Amnon Lord gushes.
  • On the worse side, Haaretz’s Chemi Shalev writes that “Trump is pushing the Palestinians into a corner, beating up on them while they’re there and humiliating them in the process.”
  • “With planning by Netanyahu, execution by Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, assistance from US Ambassador David Friedman, and the active encouragement of the heavy donors and messianic believers who are regular guests at the White House, Trump’s policy is the Israeli right wing’s sweet dream come true,” he adds.

2. Abbas’s move: The stated goal of the move wasn’t just to beat up on the Palestinians but force them to the negotiating table with Israel.

  • Will it work? At least from initial reaction, the Palestinians seem to be the opposite of cowed, at least in public. “The Palestinian Authority said it ‘won’t give in to America’s threats and bullying’ and swore to respond harshly,” Yedioth Ahronoth reports.
  • According to Channel 10 news, that response may be cutting the last ties the PA is maintaining with the Trump administration.
  • “Trump has become an enemy of the Palestinian people and an enemy of peace. The American president is encouraging terror and extremism with his policies that could lead to violence in the region, which will explode in the faces of Israel and the US,” a Palestinian official is quoted saying.
  • The US, though, seems to be maintaining that everything is going swimmingly.

3. The silver lining: Haaretz’s Jack Khoury reports that for Palestinians there may be a silver lining in the US pushing them away.

  • “Some Palestinians see the American actions as a window of opportunity for a strategic change vis-a-vis the United States and Israel, letting the Palestinians free themselves from the economic and security reliance dictated by Washington after the Oslo Accords. Some say this situation could lead to moves in Palestinian politics to heal rifts and resuscitate Palestinian national institutions.”

4. Unmanned: Yedioth Ahronoth’s Nahum Barnea crowns Trump the “man of the year of Israeli politics,” though mostly in the sense that he’s the most influential wildcard, not the best guy.

  • Barnea writes, though, that his past decisions to pull US international engagement back haven’t gone great and wonders if the same could happen now.
  • “Nobody knows where the Palestinians’ distress will lead to, to them giving in or a new intifada. No less important, nobody knows if Trump with his fights with allies and enemies hasn’t turned the US into non-relevancy in world politics. This is a problem for Israel. We saw what happened in Syria, when Trump gave up the arena to the Russians and Iranians. We saw what happened in Iran. The Europeans are now going to the extreme to compensate the Iranians. Could the same happen with the Palestinians?”

5. The kids are underfunded: Israel got terrible grades in an OECD report showing it dead last in investment in education for daycare- and kindergarten-age kids among developed countries.

  • Hadashot news reports that the reason for the low number is the fact that only 23 percent of kids below the age of 3 are in state-subsidized daycare programs.
  • “Especially in an advanced country with one of the highest birth rates in the world, kids these ages are being pushed to the margins despite all the studies showing that investment in them is critical for developing toddlers,” Yedioth quotes from an advocacy group pushing for more funding for kids under 3.
  • The paper reports that Israel is also below the OECD median in funding kids all the way up to high school, below in teachers salaries, and above average in class size.

6. A reluctant MeToo: Two years after New York state senate candidate Julia Salazar posted privately on Facebook about being sexually assaulted by Netanyahu spokesman David Keyes, and then deleted the post before being named in the press, she has come out with the story.

  • Salazar says she was prompted to do so after conservative news site The Daily Caller led her to believe they were about to out her, and indeed they posted a story about it soon after, including an email sent to her.
  • Keyes, who denied the accusations in 2016, does so again, telling ToI that “This false accusation is made by someone who has proven to be repeatedly dishonest about her own life. This is yet another example of her dishonesty.”
  • As of this writing, he has not yet responded to a subsequent claim by a Wall Street Journal reporter.
  • When the accusation was first made in 2016, “sources” had made sure the press knew about Salazar’s anti-Israel activism, though it was never clear what that was supposed to have to do with her claim.
  • Many Israeli news outlets knew Salazar had been the one to make the claim in 2016, but declined to report on it even as she made the news for her political campaign, since it’s considered bad form to out a sexual assault victim, even after she made herself a public figure.
  • It seems somebody, though, had begun leaking the story to American news outlets it the hopes of getting a bite, which they did.
  • Defending his decision to report the story, the Daily Caller’s Joe Gabriel Simonson claims Salazar never asked them not to run it, but instead tried to spin the story against the publication.
  • Meanwhile, Salazar tells Jezebel that she never wanted to discuss the allegations.
  • “There are reporters who I spoke to at great length on background about it, but never I[sic] wanted to speak publicly about it, never wanted attention on it, so for people to tie to it anything else in my life, or to try to conflate me being sexually assaulted with anything else that’s been reported, is really, I think, it’s really cynical and really just appalling,” she’s quoted saying.

7. Fire in the hole: While religious Jews were praying about who will die by fire for Rosh Hashanah, a nature reserve near the Dead Sea was being ravaged by a blaze.

  • The fire at Einot Tzukim, a little known oasis near Qumran on the shores of the Dead Sea that boasts unexpectedly cool sweet-water springs and sylvan plant life, left many animals dead, Haaretz reports.
  • The reserve, also known by its Arabic name Ein Fasha and one of the few Israeli national parks in the West Bank, contains an area where access is tightly controlled and another area where humans are almost never allowed in.
  • Yedioth reports that three people were arrested on suspicion of setting the fire and calls it a “terror attack” timed for the Jewish new year and meant to send a message that “this year will also not be known for quiet.”
  • The danger of matter-of-fact claims like the paper’s is evident from a previous fire that destroyed swaths of the park in 2008.
  • According to guides there, several years ago, that fire was started when the army got a report about a suspicious person who snuck in from Jordan at night. Flares fired by the IDF to light up the night ended up setting fire to large swaths of the reserve, killing a number of animals. The “suspicious person” was never found.
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