1. Missing Haley already: US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley’s sudden departure from the Trump administration has left many shaking their heads, with as many theories over why she’s decided to leave, why now, what she’ll do now and who will replace her as stars in the sky over Turtle Bay. For mainstream Israel, though, there seems little question that they are losing one of the state’s staunchest supporters in one of the world’s most anti-Israel bodies.
- Haley has long been a rock star for the pro-Israel community within the administration; at times of extreme dysfunction within the White House she was called the only positive thing happening. As one pro-Trump Israeli-American friend remarked half-jokingly after Tuesday’s surprise announcement: “I was only it in for Haley. You can do with him what you want now.”
- Echoing the same sentiment, Haaretz’s Amir Tibon notes that for American Jews who loathed most of Trump’s policies, Haley was still “a favorite.”
- Both pro-Trump tabloid Israel Hayom and populist tabloid Yedioth Ahronoth call Haley a “friend,” among other nicknames for her, like “Diplomatic Iron Dome,” “UN Security Council flak jacket” (both Yedioth), “Goodwill ambassador,” (Israel Hayom) and “Trump’s sanity translator” (Haaretz).
- In Israel Hayom, Haley’s Israeli counterpart Danny Danon thanks the outgoing envoy and credits himself with building close ties with her “and building joint policies in a number of fields.”
- Even though he never worked with her, in Yedioth, former Israeli ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman writes that he already misses her: “Her departure comes too soon both for the US and Israel,” he weeps. Gillerman, who served from 2003 to 2008, also laments that “two years as UN ambassador is too short.”
2. A pro-Israel pro: Danon’s job may be about to get a lot harder if Haley departs.
- ToI’s Eric Cortellessa notes that even though whoever replaces her will probably also be staunchly pro-Israel and defend the Jewish state at the world body, they probably won’t have the same status as Haley.
- “Haley’s predecessor, Samantha Power, also spoke out loudly against anti-Israel bias at the UN, but it was a smaller part of her role as envoy, and she never earned the kind of cheers Haley did from the pro-Israel community,” he writes.
- In Haaretz, Chemi Shalev writes that “Unless he appoints a successor who can instantly capture Haley’s popularity and stature, Trump will have lost his most effective front-woman, the mouthpiece that made his policies a bit more palatable to the rest of the world. Her absence will leave a void.”
3. Ivanka or Dina? Much as in America, there is a fair amount of speculation in Israel’s press as to who will take her place.
- Yedioth handicaps the front-runners as Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and Dina Powell, whom Trump himself mentioned as a possible candidate Tuesday night (along with saying his daughter would be dynamite.)
- Powell would be an interesting choice, given her background and history with the administration’s peace efforts as a close ally of Kushner.
- In December 2017, as she left the White House, The New York Times speculated that she could replace Haley (who was then thought to be a candidate for secretary of state) at the UN, and noted that she had “helped mitigate the perception that the Trump peace team was stocked with staunchly pro-Israel figures.”
4. Banking on academic experience: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday ended speculation about who he would nominate to head the Bank of Israel after Karnit Flug departs, naming Wharton professor Amir Yaron.
- Former BoI deputy head Zvi Eckstein, who taught Yaron way back when, tells Calcalist that the economist is an excellent choice, noting his expertise in the field of risk-return strategies.
- “This could be one of the most important fields for a central bank chief in this new era, how the financial market deals with macroeconomic changes,” he says.
- Some, though, express concerns over the fact that Yaron does not live in Israel and doesn’t have as much experience as other possible candidates, with his background mainly in academia.
- “He’ll need to learn deeply the Israeli economy. He doesn’t live in Israel and his know-how is not enough,” Prof. Rafi Melnik, another former BoI official, tells Israel Hayom.
- In financial magazine TheMarker, Roi Shwartz Tichon notes that Yaron will also need to deal with Israeli politics, including populist treasurer Moshe Kahlon.
- “In a period when the finance minister fears confrontation with anyone, the role of the BoI governor will be very important,” he writes. “His main challenge will be to be the responsible adult in the economy, and wear the hat of the government’s financial adviser. He’ll need to be the one that moderates and suppresses bills and hasty populist measures regularly proposed by MKs and ministers.”
5. He can talk! A press conference by the head of government, a thing that would normally barely be a blip, is major news in Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the extremely rare step of giving one Tuesday after announcing Yaron as his pick.
- In a sign of just how shocked the press was that it got to ask questions in a public setting, most stories about the press conference lead with the fact that it was given and not anything that was actually said.
- “Netanyahu’s show,” reads a headline in Israel Hayom. “Netanyahu presents: An answer for every question,” reads Yedioth’s, speculating that the conference could have been a sign of early elections.
- Walla reporter Tal Shalev, who previously led a campaign for Netanyahu to give interviews to the Israeli press, writes on Twitter that last week, after Trump gave his own rare press conference, she asked Netanyahu why he doesn’t give interviews to Israel’s press. “I suggested he do like Trump and he actually got excited. Maybe it helped?” she writes.
- Haaretz reporter Noa Landau writes that she sees “no reason for Netanyahu to hide behind briefings,” referring to the partially on- and partially off-the-record conversations Netanyahu has with reporters during trips abroad. “Netanyahu is great at taking questions,” she says on Twitter.
6. Backing Alqasem, not BDS: Even if the State Department gave scant backing to US student Lara Alqasem, detained in Israel as she fights a deportation order based on her supposed support for a boycott of the very state she is trying to study in, she’s getting more and more support from Israelis and American Jews.
- A day after Hebrew University joined an appeal on her behalf, Haaretz reports that other university heads have also voiced support for letting her in to study in Jerusalem, and warned that the case could end up hurting Israel’s image.
- The paper’s lead editorial calls on Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who decided to bar Alqasem, to apologize to Alqasem and not the other way around: “The real damage to Israel’s image and the encouragement of boycotts is by Erdan, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and the rest of the thought police and political persecutors who constitute the ugliest government this country has ever known.”
- In The New York Times, columnists Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss, neither of whom are close to liberal on Israel, team up to pen a column also supporting the student.
- “Societies that shun or expel their critics aren’t protecting themselves. They are advertising their weakness. Does the Jewish state, which prides itself on ingenuity, innovation and adaptability, really have so much to fear from a 22-year-old graduate student from Florida,” they write.
7. Closing a cold case, kinda: Yedioth Ahronoth reports that the Israeli intelligence community is planning on closing the case of three Israeli soldiers who have been MIA since 1982.
- The paper reports that there may not be an official move, but sources in the intelligence community say that for all intents and purposes the case file of the search for the fates of Yehuda Katz, Zvi Feldman and Zacharia Baumel, missing since the battle of Sultan Yakoub in the First Lebanon War, is being closed and they are urging that the trio be recognized as soldiers whose burial place is unknown.
- “The army won’t say it outright … but in actuality we’ve exhausted our efforts to locate their bodies. There’s a certain point where you need to say ‘enough, we’ve done enough,’” and intelligence source tells the paper.
8. Scottish soccer and sex before the Six Day War: Israel’s national soccer team on Thursday will play against Scotland in a UEFA qualifier. While the game is considered the fourth contest between the two teams, after three matches in the 1980s, The Scotsman newspaper recalls another match, in May 1967, when a depleted Scottish team visited Ramat Gan.
- The article notes that the players got there and, apparently unaware of geopolitical tensions which would boil over into the Six Day War just days later, were surprised to see so many soldiers and an army escort to take them to their Tel Aviv hotel, with a curfew in place.
- The story also notes that after beating Israel 2-1, the Scottish players visited a nightclub in Tel Aviv run by Mandy Rice-Davies, who had been at the center of a high-level sex scandal in Britain a few years earlier, and who made sure to party with the squad.
- “I have to say she seemed charming,” player Jim McCalliog says. “All the boys took to her and her place was lovely.”