Israel media review

Getting ready for the title fight: 6 things to know for December 11

The Knesset is sending Israelis back to the polls for another bruising round, Netanyahu is set to punch out Sa’ar, and a Title VI battle rages in the US, far from Israeli eyes

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepares to deliver a statement at the Knesset, on December 19, 2018. (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepares to deliver a statement at the Knesset, on December 19, 2018. (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)

1. March 2 destiny: The Knesset has a few hours of life left before it melts into a bubbling stew like the wicked witch of the west and new elections are called, but the idea of miracles is already out of sight and out of mind.

  • In a final act of seppuku, the parliament is expected to make its most important decision later Wednesday, allowing new elections to be held slightly ahead of the legal window in order to meet the Talmud-esque calendrical requirements of the various parties.
  • “A painful day, a certificate of disgrace for Israeli politics,” reads the top headline on Channel 12 news’s website, quoting from Blue and White MK Penina Tamano-Shata during a committee meeting to approve the measure.
  • Yedioth Ahronoth prints a picture of said legislation on its front page, under the headline “On the cusp of elections,” which is just another version of the same headline it and other news outlets have been running for weeks.
  • The paper runs down the 22nd Knesset’s lawmakers’ other notable achievements, such as working only 69 very short days, convening almost no committees, passing zero laws, and getting a bonus of NIS 1,600 for their troubles.

2. But what would this be without some last-minute drama? Israel Hayom, which on Tuesday declared the game over, on Wednesday changes its tune slightly, reporting that efforts to avoid elections will continue “until the last moment.”

  • With Likud’s hopes resting mostly on the unlikely chance that Avigdor Liberman and his Yisrael Beytenu faction will decide to join up with them, columnist Gideon Alon makes a last pitch by saying that Wednesday “could be a big day” for him.
  • “Many Israelis, even those who don’t like Liberman, will applaud him since they recognize the fact that he saved the country from another round of elections, unneeded, costing NIS 2 billion, which will again deepen divisions in Israeli society,” he writes.
  • The plea comes after the paper and others in Likud lashed out at Liberman, apparently giving up on trying to convince him, and a statement from Liberman Wednesday morning makes clear that he isn’t jumping to get in bed with Netanyahu.
  • Walla’s Tal Shalev writes that the mission for both major parties in the next elections will be to get to 61, without counting on Liberman.

3. Just keep the clicks coming: Others are pumping up the drama in other ways, such as the clock counting down until midnight on the top of the Haaretz homepage.

  • Hopeless optimist Blue and White MK Chili Tropper says the party is still making last ditch efforts.
  • “I don’t want to get any hopes up, but here and there, there are still some phone conversations. We are trying,” he says.
  • The Kan broadcaster notes that lawmakers will have a busy day trying to push through the legislation by midnight in order to allow the earlier date, injecting some urgency into the process, though in reality they should have no trouble shoving it through.

4. Gideon gets his chance: In the meantime, Likud announces that it will hold its party leadership contest on December 26, in just two weeks time.’

  • ToI’s Raoul Wootliff, who spoke to Sa’ar this week, notes that he thinks he has a good shot, given internal polling, but he still has his work cut out for him.


  • Channel 12 news quotes Sa’ar saying he plans on running a “positive, clean and on-message campaign.”
  • Netanyahu is not expected to do the same. In Zman Yisrael, Shalom Yerushalmi writes that the prime minister, trying for a third time to get support for immunity, will run an “no-holds-barred battle against Gideon Sa’ar, pollsters and anyone who stands in the way of his Promised Land.”
  • He’ll be helped by a Channel 13 poll that shows that Likud with Sa’ar will get only 29 seats as opposed to 33 with Netanyahu. However, Sa’ar’s unlikely takeover would also bring down Blue and White from 35 to 33 seats, the channel finds. Plus you can’t trust polls.

5. But is anything ever good for the Jews? With Knesset/election madness gripping the country, there is little room for two major stories getting the attention of American Jews: the inclusion of anti-Semitism (and some anti-Israel language) into Title VI anti-discrimination rules, and a deadly shooting in New Jersey that looks increasingly like it may have been a hate crime.

  • The disconnect between the Jewish state and US Jews is somewhat fitting, given the furor sparked by reports that US President Donald Trump will declare Judaism a nationality, thereby allowing the Department of Education to step up its fight against anti-Semitism on college campuses.
  • With the decision, the age-old debate of whether Judaism is a religion or nationality rears its head, and everybody is wrong.
  • Business Insider writes that “notably, the group most vocally against Trump’s measure appears to be Jewish people themselves.”
  • David Halbfinger, the Jerusalem correspondent for the New York Times, writes on Twitter that “Sort of does feel like being pointed to the door, no?” referring to American Jews being defined as a nationality other than American.
  • Haaretz’s Amir Tibon writes, “While the executive order will likely please Trump’s supporters within the right-wing parts of the Jewish community, the White House said on Tuesday that its text was in fact based on a piece of legislation that had previously won the support of many prominent Democratic members of Congress.”
  • However, he notes that that 2016 bill also faced opposition from those who worried it would stifle free speech among anti-Israel activists.
  • A new version of that act, by the way, is now moving its way through Congress. Last week, one of its sponsors, Ted Deutsch, wrote in The Times of Israel about its importance.
  • “The goal was to create a tool to help educate people about this form of bigotry, make it easier to identify anti-Semitism in everyday situations, and aid governments in developing effective responses to it,” he wrote.
  • The signing is slated to take place at a White House Hanukkah party and will leapfrog the Congressional legislation, JTA reports.
  • “Republican lawmakers are expected to attend the signing of the order, but Democrats, including those who pushed for the legislation, are not likely to attend,” writes Ron Kampeas.

6. Questions after a killing: News of the bill came out just as officials were beginning to point to anti-Semitism as a possible motive behind a still blurry shootout at a kosher market in New Jersey,

  • Despite the story leading many US news sites, it gets only a bit of coverage in Israel, though more than the Trump executive order.
  • “Moshe and Leah were killed in a shooting at a New Jersey Kosher market. ‘The store was targeted,’” reads a headline on Channel 13 news’s website, using a familial tone common in Israel.
  • The ultra-Orthodox Hadrei Haredim does give the story wide play, but while it claims to offer a picture of “what really happened,” it has all the same questions as everyone else, though mostly focused on the amount of weapons and ammo the shooters had: “What did they plan to do with all those weapons, because if they were just drug-related criminals and killers they wouldn’t have had all that ammo. And another question. Did the killers plan to massacre Jews, or plan a massacre somewhere else, or simply go around with all that ammo for some other reason?”
  • While not linking it to either the shooting or executive order, David Caspi writes for Israel Hayom that things for Jews — especially Israeli Jews like himself — in the US are not good. “Living as a Jewish Israeli in the US today means taking extra caution on a daily basis, and always remembering that the threat is lurking outside and really has shown no signs of disappearing.”

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