1. Call of duty: The killing of Islamic State terror leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is carrying the news agenda in Israel.
- “No. 1 terrorist ASSASSINATED,” “Settling the score,” read the front page headlines in the country’s two main wide-circulation tabloids, Yedioth Ahronoth and Israel Hayom, respectively.
- US President Donald Trump’s pronouncement that Baghdadi “died like a dog” also plays prominently, with the tabloids and some other news outlets doing little to hide their most jingoistic tendencies.
- Even ultra-Orthodox daily Hamevasar devotes major front page room and a full page to the raid, though it plays up Trump’s quote about Baghdadi’s dying “like a coward” — dogs being nonkosher.
- Coverage by some outlets includes breathless computer animated re-enactments of the raid on Baghdadi. Among those is Channel 12 news which uses its stock of animated Israeli soldiers and a single figure with Baghdadi’s actual face crudely pasted on top and some bystanders who look like corporate pencil pushers to recreate the scene.
- Not to be outdone, Channel 13’s animation includes him blowing up his three children.
2. October surprise: Trump earns more than a dollop of kudos in the Israeli press for the operation, and even those who don’t normally offer praise to the president allow that the victory is indeed a big one for the US leader, who will be able to ride it to 2020.
- “Trump brought Baghdadi’s head and it’s even bigger” than criticism over the Syria pullout, impeachment proceedings and the lack of progress with Iran and North Korea, gushes Channel 13’s Nadav Eyal.
- “Now nobody will dare say that he doesn’t know how to play with the big boys,” marvels Yedioth’s Orly Azulay. “He could not have hoped for better timing: Exactly a year before the election in which he will run for a second term, he can bask in a victory that the whole enlightened world will praise him for. His political base will continue to give him even more and more appreciation and keep the faith, and liberal America will have a harder time calling him a novelty or a joke. The operation turned him into both a leader and a doer.”
3. Gone, but still here: Some also see the raid as somehow making up for Trump’s widely reviled decision to pull out of Syria.
- Walla’s Oren Nahari claims that the raid proved “to any doubters” the correctness of Trump’s move: “It seems great intel, the use of special forces and American technology can keep American secure from its enemies without needing forces in Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria.”
- In Israel Hayom, columnist Avraham Ben Tzvi writes that the “central message of the killing of Baghdadi … is that the American superpower is still far from disengaging from the Middle East.”
4. Still dogged: Others, though, are less willing to hang on Trump’s every word and forgive him for abandoning allies.
- Chemi Shalev dismantles Trump’s announcement, writing in Haaretz that he had “all the finesse of Sasha Baron Cohen in Borat and Dictator combined.”
- He adds that the operation “is likely to give Trump only a brief respite from the relentless impeachment proceedings in the House. … Trump has a few days to bask in unusually warm spotlights, but if there’s one thing for sure, it is that within a few days he will explode over Democrats, experts and the lyin’ media not giving him the respect he’s sure he deserves, now more than ever.”
- Writing for Channel 12’s website, Efrat Lichter, who has spent time with the Kurds fighting the Islamic State, writes that Trumps’ declaration that Baghdadi’s death means the organization is dead as well could not be further from the truth.
- “The loss of control in Syria is an opening for IS to rise up again,” she warns. “Ideology does not depend on one man alone.”
5. Dead and alive: Other Israeli writers are also under no impression that this means the end of the Islamic State.
- “The organization’s modus operandi will not change dramatically and its operations are more likely to be constrained by larger military and financial issues than by the death of one man,” writes ToI’s Avi Issacharoff.
- “He may have been the caliph, and Muslim zealots from China to the Sinai may have been sworn to him, but everyone can be replaced. … one man does not raise or raze or a whole structure,” writes Walla’s Amir Oren.
- “This is the end of a chapter, not of the battle,” writes Israel Hayom’s Eyal Zisser.
- Noting the re-emergence of Arab Spring-esque protests against corruption and other ills which have yet to be solved, Kan’s Roi Kas warns that “ we must not forget the ground which sprouted this rotten fruit, this murderous terror machine which cannot be countenanced, from which Baghdadi grew. … even without Daesh, its reincarnation can take advantage of these protests and grow the next Baghdadi.”
6. And the name died before the man: On the other side, former national security adviser Yaakov Amidror tells Israel National News that the death of Baghdadi is symbolic precisely because the group was already eliminated.
- “The organization has no significant operational capabilities anyway and the point of change will not be in that regard but rather in the organization’s symbolism,” he’s quoted saying.
- In Yedioth, Shimrit Meir agrees, writing that “the assassination of the head is just a symbol of the almost total destruction of the body. The idea mostly died before the leader, and in actuality for the last two years the Islamic State has gone back to being a run-of-the-mill Salafist terror group, much like al-Qaeda from which it came, thanks to the determined effort of the Western coalition with the help of the Kurds.”
7. Bribeshead revisited: Baghdadi’s demise isn’t the only thing being covered, thanks to a second batch of leaked recordings of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yedioth publisher Noni Mozes trying to hatch some sort of deal.
- “What are you planning for the  elections, are you going for my head? Seriously, yes or no? You are hurting me,” Netanyahu asks Mozes in the new batch of recordings, which have once again thrown the premier’s efforts to secure positive press coverage, and Mozes’s possible dirty dealings, into the spotlight.
- Haaretz’s lead editorial asks how the case, in which Netanyahu may be indicted only on relatively light breach of trust charges, could not be considered bribery. “In these conversations there was no mention of cash-filled envelopes, nor were there any promises to funnel funds through obscure bank accounts. But on the table throughout were benefits worth millions of shekels in exchange for sympathetic, or at least less critical, coverage.”
- Israel Hayom’s Ariel Kahane also asks why Netanyahu’s deal for positive press coverage from Walla is considered bribery, bit this not.
- The paper is in the awkward position of being Netanyahu’s de facto mouthpiece but also being the sacrifice which Netanyahu seemed willing to offer up on the altar as part of a deal with Mozes, and Ariel Kahane appears to try to walk the tightrope, writing that “everyone was part of this system, but such a deal would have turned Israel into an “advanced North Korea.”
- “On the left would be Yedioth, ‘doing everything so you stay [in power] as long as you want,’ in the words of Mozes to Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office,” he writes. “And on the right would be Israel Hayom, which supports Netanyahu as the leader of Likud and the nationalist camp. This is already a major blow to our democratic foundations.”
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