Israel media review

Higher prices, gutted hopes for peace: 9 things to know for August 24

In the West Bank, Jewish homes -- as well as home prices -- are going up, and peace prospects are down to zilch; even Washington is said scaling back the 'deal of the century'

The first caravan is placed on the grounds of the new Amichai settlement for evacuees of the illegal Amona outpost on February 21, 2018. (Courtesy: Amona evacuees)

1. RIP Oslo: It’s nearly 25 years since the first part of the Oslo Accords was signed, but according to Yedioth Ahronoth, they “are dead.”

  • The fullest proof of that, according to the paper, is the building of the settlement of Amichai, the first new Israeli town over the Green Line since before the pact.
  • “Israel is deepening its hold on Judea and Samaria. Amichai in the future is supposed to annex neighboring outposts,” first Adei Ad and then others. “The significance is two-fold: Giving the illegal outposts legitimate standing, and striking a territorial arrow of settlements deep in the West Bank, cutting off contiguous Palestinian towns,” the paper’s Oded Shalom reports.
  • Settler and fledgling far-right politician Moshe Feiglin tells Israel Hayom he yearns for the days before Oslo “when it was like heaven” in the West Bank. On Twitter, media analyst Tomer Persico wonders if Feiglin has heard of the saying “One man’s heaven is another’s hell.”

2. Educational malpractice? Haaretz reports on another move deep in the heart of the West Bank: the building of a medical campus at the University of Ariel.

  • According to the paper, citing minutes from a meeting of a funding body within the Council for Higher Education, “the decision to approve the new department was rushed and made without answering hard questions on funding and educational standards.”

3. A smaller peace: American officials tell Israel Hayom that the Trump administration has decided to back off presenting a full peace plan for now, and will at first go for something more modest.

  • The paper says sources close to the White House report the full plan is still not completed and so “the first stage will be the presentation of a ‘peace agenda’ and not a full detailed plan. Only later on, when the work on the full details are completed, and if it’s justified, will the full plan be presented,” the paper reports.
  • The sources blame “issues with the negotiating team over the last few months” specifically the Palestinian refusal to meet with them on the plan.
  • The paper also says President Donald Trump will likely roll out the general outline of the plan at the UN General Assembly next month, perhaps during a Security Council meeting.

4. The other ‘higher price’: With peace prospects dim as ever, JTA’s Ben Sales reports that housing prices in the West Bank are skyrocketing, with homes in the settlement of Ofra, for instance, doubling in 20 years, to some 1.5 million shekels, or $411,000.

  • “The country’s festering housing crisis, which has seen home prices balloon for a decade, is moving across the Green Line. The safer settlements feel, the more their home prices rise to meet the national average,” he writes.
  • The report cites a 2016 study that found that settlers needed 152 salaries to purchase a house — up from 87 in 2003 — just 10 salaries less than the national average.

5. Bloc-blocker: There will be another 1,000 homes on the market across the Green Line soon, after the Defense Ministry gave the go ahead to put them up for sale pre-construction (a common practice in Israel).

  • While the US stays mum, the European Union puts out a pro-forma condemnation: “If implemented, these plans would further jeopardize the prospect of a contiguous and viable future Palestinian state.”
  • The statement came as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was visiting Lithuania as part of what he is presenting as a drive to build a pro-Israel bloc within the EU.
  • “Israel is often mistreated by the EU in Brussels. There are many distortions that are leveled at us and it’s refreshing to see that you take a stand of clarity, of truth and of courage. And we discussed how that can be expanded,” he told his Lithuanian counterpart.

6. Enemy of commuters or enemy of Shabbat: Back home, Netanyahu is still facing domestic pressure over the decision to halt the building of a bridge over the Ayalon freeway in Tel Aviv, after the Ultra-Orthodox protested that the work would be done on Shabbat, though Transportation Minister Israel Katz is taking the brunt of the blame.

  • Writers in both Haaretz and Yedioth surmise that the whole play is part of some sort of attempt by Katz to garner coalition support in his eventual hopes to replace Netanyahu.
  • “Katz took this outrageous step because he sees himself running for the Likud leadership in the post-Netanyahu era and believes he needs the ultra-Orthodox parties at his side. He preferred his personal interests to the public good, and Israelis will be forced to wait in massive traffic jams if the work on the bridge over the Ayalon Highway takes place during the week. Even on regular days the highway is clogged most of the time,” Haaretz’s lead editorial reads.
  • “There’s no dispute that Katz wants to be prime minister. He’s said as much himself. It’s possible he feels it can happen with a certain constellation, even soon. The last thing he needs in that respect is to turn into an enemy of Shabbat in the eyes of the ultra-Orthodox.”

7. She’s a grand ol’ flag: Half the front page of Israel Hayom is taken up by a column by Miriam Adelson, wife of publisher Sheldon Adelson, giving full-throated support to the controversial nation-state law and proudly waving nationalist symbols.

  • “It’s of utmost importance to display [the flag] every day. We at the newspaper also do it every day, to honor our readers, our nation and the state of Israel,” she writes.
  • Haaretz reporter Chaim Levinson points out on Twitter that Adelson, who was born in Israel but left and now lives in the US, isn’t quite backing up her words with her actions. “Is there anything more pathetic?” he asks.

8. Black and red: A New Yorker report sheds more light on a campaign by Israeli firm Black Cube to collect data on Iran deal architects, apparently at the White House’s behest.

  • The magazine writes that the Trump administration drafted a memo claiming that Iran deal backers had moved into the private sector and were mounting a campaign against Trump.
  • “In May, 2017… Black Cube provided its operatives with instructions and other briefing materials that included the same ideas and names discussed in the memo. The Black Cube documents obtained by The New Yorker referred to [Ben] Rhodes and [Colin] Kahl, arguing that they were using allies in the media to undermine the Trump Administration,” the magazine reports.

9. Julia and Julia: With Julia Salazar being taken more and more seriously as a candidate for New York state senate, the Jewish press is taking a hard look at the former far-right Christian Zionist turned Israel-bashing Jew.

  • A piece in Tablet traces her transformation, cleverly listing the media outlets she appeared in and other activism in reverse order.
  • “Going in reverse chronological order, Salazar has also been a contributor to Mondoweiss, an IfNotNow demonstrator, a Bridging the Gap fellow through Brooklyn College Hillel, a World Zionist Organization campus fellow, a co-founder of the Columbia University chapter of J Street, an AIPAC Policy Conference student attendee, and founder of the university’s Christians United for Israel (CUFI) chapter.”
  • Where the report breaks new ground, though, is casting doubt on whether she is actually Jewish and did not invent part of her background. According to the report, she claimed during college to have undergone a conversion to Judaism in just two months. Yet she also claimed at various times that her mother and father were Jewish.
  • Her older brother tells Tablet: “There was nobody in our immediate family who was Jewish … my father was not Jewish, we were not raised Jewish,” and the report brings a slew of other evidence showing the parents were apparently not Jewish.
  • She has also claimed to have been born in Colombia, yet a separate, more straightforward profile of her published by JTA late Thursday has her saying she was born in Miami.
  • JTA reports she told the outlet that she was raised in a “secular and mixed family, Catholic and Jewish.”
  • Her use of Judaism as a way of fending off critics and building an identity, draws some comparisons to Rachel Dolezal.

  • Others, though, have jumped to her defense, noting that journalists shouldn’t be questioning the religious outlook of another person.

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