Going for a spin around the bloc: 7 things to know for August 29
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Going for a spin around the bloc: 7 things to know for August 29

While Israel waits for northern tensions to explode again, the electioneering machine revs back up to full speed

Aryeh Deri (left), leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, seen with head of the Yisrael Beytenu political party Avigdor Liberman at the "Sheva Brachot" of Deri's daughter. December 23, 2015. (Yaacov Cohen/FLASH90)
Aryeh Deri (left), leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, seen with head of the Yisrael Beytenu political party Avigdor Liberman at the "Sheva Brachot" of Deri's daughter. December 23, 2015. (Yaacov Cohen/FLASH90)

1. Waiting for a spanking: Stuck in a holding pattern and awaiting whatever attack Hezbollah is planning on sending its way, Israel has suddenly found itself in the news doldrums, opening the door for a dog’s breakfast of sports, electioneering, foreign news and other assorted bric-a-brac.

  • “There are no rockets so let’s dance,” pop star Eden Ben Zaken told a crowd in northern frontier town Kiryat Shmona Wednesday night, Channel 12 news reports, noting that “despite the tensions in the north, thousands came out” for the show.
  • The pronouncement seems particularly ballsy given the fact that just days ago, Gazan rockets threatened a concert in Sderot, scaring attendees who had no shelter.
  • The army has apparently resigned itself to being attacked and is just trying to minimize the damage, or have some stand-ins take the brunt of it. A Lebanese Twitter account publishes pictures of an IDF jeep parked near the border with dummies dressed as IDF soldiers stationed inside, apparently meant as a decoy to attract the Hezbollah response.

2. Eat it up: Saying there is no news is not meant to downplay Sagi Muki’s latest judo gold, though, which makes him the first male Israeli to be named world champion and sets up his run to the 2020 Olympics.

  • Pictures of Muki pinning his Belgian challenger and celebrating the win grace the front pages of all of Israel’s major dailies Thursday.
  • Yedioth, which seems to have a thing for judokas biting medals, has a massive picture of Muki doing just that on its front page, dubbing him “Golden Boy.”
  • “While others were busy with politics, he was focused on history,” reads a celebratory headline in Haaretz.
  • Some are already hungry for more. “Are we on the way to another medal,” Army Radio reporter Oren Fadida notes on Twitter, pumping up hopes for judoka Li Kochman.

3. You were defrauded how? Israel Hayom reverts to baldfaced electioneering, filling most of its front page with an interview with Shas head Aryeh Deri, who claims Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman “is pulling a fast one on secular people.”

  • Deri, whose ultra-Orthodox party has only the best interests of secular people in mind, is allied with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, which is backed by Israel Hayom and which has come out swinging against Yisrael Beytenu this campaign season.
  • “Unfortunately, there was fraud on a level we’ve never seen before, Liberman led us astray and we only discovered it very late,” says Deri, who served time in jail for fraud and is under investigation for more fraud, but who apparently thinks being the head of a secularist party fighting ultra-Orthodox hegemony is the real crime.
  • “To Netanyahu’s credit, I will say that he identified it right away a day or two after elections. I admit I thought it was paranoia.”
  • What the heck is he talking about? Readers will have to tune in Friday for the full interview to maybe find out.
  • Ynet reports that Liberman is holding talks with senior members of Likud to prepare for the day after Netanyahu.
  • Liberman is quoted telling confidants that in the view of those he spoke with, “at least two-thirds of the party are praying Netanyahu won’t have 61 seats. This is creating a space for another Likud candidate to build the government.”
  • Responding to the report, Netanyahu apparatchik David Bitan tells Ynet that “Liberman is making stuff up.”

4. Rejecting Yamina: Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected going along with Liberman’s idea of a unity government, but Haaretz reports that his son Yair told people connected to Yamina party chief Ayelet Shaked that his pops plans on joining forces with Blue and White’s Benny Gantz to stymie her.

  • “We’re gonna close a deal with Gantz. We’ll go hard after Shaked’s head and expose her leftistness,” reads a note passed from Yair to the emissary, which the paper says it got its hands on.
  • The stories, likely yet more election spin, fails to make any major waves in the media. “Shaked: This is the height of chutzpah and brainwashing,” reads a headline on the Israel National News website, though she was responding not to the report but to a campaign by Mobileye against the deportation of the children of foreign workers.
  • Also facing fire is Yamina No. 2 Rafi Peretz, after Channel 13 news aired controversial excerpts from lessons at a pre-military academy that the education minister founded and led until he became the head of the Jewish Home party earlier this year.
  • According to the channel the lessons encouraged a fear of secularism and called for converting the secular to a religious lifestyle.
  • During one lesson, Peretz himself said: “I’m telling you we are in the middle of gigantic steps, gigantic steps toward the return of prophecy to Israel…. Instead of universities, in that period [in the past] there were schools of prophecy. We will slowly return to that.”
  • Responding to the report, Peretz says “My academy taught love of the land of Israel. I will bring that love into Israeli schools.”
  • “At least it’s all out in the open now,” Channel 13 reporter Nadav Eyal tweets.

5. Hack attack: Channel 12 reports that intel firm CGI, hired to investigate leaks within Blue and White, found evidence of a major breach by Russian actors.

  • Responding to the report, CGI head Yaakov Peri confirms that a hack was found, but denies it was necessarily carried out by the Russians, specifying only an Eastern European country.
  • Gantz himself denies that any hack was found and blames the report on more spin, telling Army Radio that “there are more than a few political figures who are trying to harm us. I don’t want to think that the Russians are acting against us and I don’t want to think that there is an entity here that is activating them against us and there are no findings to support that.”
  • Whether or not there was a hack, his rivals are already trying to jump on the report. “Regev: What does Gantz have in his phone that interests the Iranians and Russians so much,” reads a headline on the right-wing Srugim website.

6. It’s not the size that matters: And what, one might ask, does Israel have that Nauru is so interested in forging positive ties.

  • The tiny island nation on Wednesday joined the tiny group of countries recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
  • “The country you’ve never heard of that recognized Jerusalem,” reads a headline on Channel 12 news’s website, insulting its readers’ intelligence.
  • Nauru in fact may already be known to Israelis as one of a handful of tiny South Pacific nations that essentially sell their votes to Israel at the UN, under the guise of development aid.
  • In 2017, Israel sent Nauru a sewage treatment plant, and many noted that the move occurred days before a UN vote on Israel.
  • “We do not decide on doing development activities only by the voting, it’s not a measurement for doing development,” Ilan Fluss of Israeli aid arm Mashav told Tablet in 2017. “But the Pacific Islands are countries with great need, and development actions there have proven themselves to be effective in voting in the UN.”
  • Israel and Nauru are also buddies in that they both face existential threats, though in the latter case, it is from being reduced to little more than a husk by mining.

7. Hebrews in Jordan: In ToI, Amanda Borschel-Dan reports that the earliest written use of the word “Hebrews” may have been found upon an inscribed Moabite altar discovered during ongoing excavations at the biblical site of Atarot in Jordan.

  • Researcher Adam Bean says new inscriptions found on a cylindrical stone — the earliest extant evidence for a distinctive Moabite script — could be Moabite records of tallied booty and a description of the conquered peoples.
  • “If his reading is accurate, those peoples could potentially include the Hebrews,” she reports.
  • Don’t expect Jordanian researchers to necessarily back that reading though. As the AP reported earlier this month, a fictional movie being filmed in the country was ordered shut down because it was about a boy finding a Hebrew inscription in Petra.
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