It’s not spin if you believe it: 6 things to know for October 17
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It’s not spin if you believe it: 6 things to know for October 17

PM has religious slates sign pledge never to join a Joint List-supported minority government with Blue and White and left-wing parties, which they were never considering anyway

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

Negev and Galilee Minister Aryeh Deri (left), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center) and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman  at the weekly cabinet meeting in the Prime Minister's Office, Jerusalem, December 20, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Negev and Galilee Minister Aryeh Deri (left), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center) and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman at the weekly cabinet meeting in the Prime Minister's Office, Jerusalem, December 20, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

1. We don’t just write the news, we make it too: A top story leading the Netanyahu mouthpiece Israel Hayom daily is the pledge signed by religious slates not to join a Blue and White-Democratic Camp-Labor minority government with outside support from the Joint List and Yisrael Beytenu.

  • “A storm following the publication in Israel Hayom regarding the concern in Likud of a minority government of [Blue and White chairman Benny] Gantz with the support of [Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor] Liberman and the Arab MKs,” reads the main story’s underline.
  • Gantz has never expressed the remotest interest in such a coalition, Liberman has repeatedly vowed that he is only down for a Likud-Blue and White-Yisrael Beytenu unity government, and the religious slates (Shas, United Torah Judaism, Jewish Home and National Union) are as far as ever on the political spectrum from the left-wing parties. But that doesn’t stop Netanyahu from pouncing on the opportunity conveniently provided to him by his favorite newspaper to focus the national conversation on the unlikely possibility of a Joint List-backed, Gantz-led minority coalition.
  • Those unwilling to play along are New Right MKs Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked. While Netanyahu’s spokesman says the reason Bennett didn’t sign is because he’s in the US, Channel 13 reports moments later that he could’ve verbally approved the pledge over the phone if he really wanted, but the real reason Bennett didn’t is because he and Shaked think it’s “unnecessary.” The New Right leader himself had tweeted against the idea of a minority government just two hours before news of the latest loyalty pledge broke.
  • “There’s no reason to sign a new document every other week,” Shaked tells the Kan public broadcaster. The second clause in the pledge signed by the religious slates included another vow to only join a right-wing government led by Netanyahu.

2. “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!” Those words were written by the president of the United States in a letter the White House has released six days after the fact in which Donald Trump warns his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan not to continue his invasion of northern Syria

  • While the language might have seemed… unusual to some, Republicans Overseas Israel chairman Mark Zell tells Army Radio that Americans like his matter-of-fact speaking style. “It’s true that he’s not an academic, a doctor, or a professor, but he is a businessman who does what he promises.”
  • Former US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro points out: “Oh, by the way, the letter’s a week old. Erdogan laughed it off and sent the troops rolling in.”
  • Shapiro wasn’t too far off as Erdogan’s office confirms to BBC Turk that when he received Trump‘s letter, he “thoroughly rejected it, threw it in the bin” and launched the Syria operation the same day. 
  • The ex-Obama envoy goes on to imagine how the conversation between Netanyahu and Pompeo will go when the US secretary of state arrives in Israel later today for talks on Syria following the pullout of American soldiers and Turkey’s launching of a military offensive against Kurdish fighters.
  • Pompeo: “Mr. Prime Minister, but the Turks understand very clearly where the US stands.”
    Netanyahu: “I’ll be honest, Mike. I’m not sure the rest of the region understands where the US stands. The Kurds fought ISIS alongside the US. Now the President is comparing them *to* ISIS.”

3. What’s a guy gotta to do to prove his love? Shapiro joins many analysts convinced that the US could very well turn on Israel just like it did to the Kurds. The Embassy move, the Jerusalem and Golan Heights recognitions, the green light on settlements, the cutting of aid to the Palestinians — none of that is enough to convince these mostly Trump-skeptics that Washington has Israel’s back.

  • “The American withdrawal raises questions about the extent of Trump’s commitment to Israel when push comes to shove,” writes Amos Harel in the Haaretz daily.
  • This does not stop US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman from throwing the latest bone to Israel. In an interview with the pro-settler Israel National News website, where he once pitched guest columns, the Trump envoy says that the ever-approaching US peace plan will not call for the uprooting of even a single settler.
  • “Having seen the experience of the evacuation of Gaza [in the summer of 2005], I don’t believe that there is a realistic plan that can be implemented that would require anyone — Jew or Arab — to be forced to leave their home.”
  • Top Palestinian official Saeb Erekat says in response that Friedman’s interview reaffirmed “the ideological commonalities between the Trump team and the Israeli settlers’ movement.”

4. Clash crop: On the ground in the West Bank, things are less than peaceful, with rights groups reporting that a gang of masked settler youth brutally assaulted a group of activists — among them an 80-year-old rabbi — as they were helping Palestinians with the annual olive harvest.

  • The elder activist, Moshe Yehudai tells Army Radio that he “feared for his life” during the attack, perpetrated by those wearing tzitzit religious garments.
  • “I told them I’m 80 years old. Leave me alone,” he adds, lamenting that the assailants refused to do so.
  •  After an IDF jeep was seen from a distance making its way to the field, the settler youth ignited a brushfire and retreated toward Yitzhar. At which point, the army vehicle turned around, an NGO staffer says. The army has not responded to request for comment.
  • A statement from the Yitzhar settlement blames the incident on “provocations caused by extreme-left activists,” who together with Palestinians approached the settlement, which the statement said created “a security hazard.”

5. Foul news day: With apparently little else to cover during the Sukkot holiday, the Hebrew dailies and TV networks turned much of their attention to the hospitalization of two Aroma customers due to food poisoning from the tuna sandwiches they ate at one of the cafe’s Tel Aviv branches.

  • Yedioth’s full page story includes an emotional apology from the shop manager, who vows to “learn lessons” from the incident.
  • Army Radio boasts being the “first to report” that Health Ministry employees have raided the warehouse of the company which supplies Aroma with its tuna.
  • The Walla news site provides its own scoop, determining that the food poisoning was “likely” caused by poor storage of the tuna.
  • Meanwhile, the two who were hospitalized have since been released.

6. Non-natural disaster: The major outlets also provide prominent coverage of the death of 14-year-old Asher Hazut, who succumbed to his wounds after being struck by lightning during a family outing at the Zikim beach a day earlier.

  • Israel Hayom reports from Hazut’s funeral attended by thousands in Beersheba, where the head of Asher’s yeshiva recalled how the boy never missed a prayer service and was ascending to heaven a pure soul.
  • The Hazuts released their family WhatsApp conversation to the media in which one of the family members asks “who was critically injured” before the rest had even heard about what had happened.
  • Four other family members were injured in the strike and were all still recovering at the Barzilai Medical Center.
  • Itamar Hayut, who was not with his brothers at the beach, told Yedioth that his relatives were walking together in a line back to the car when the lightning struck. “Somehow my older brother Elazar managed to do CPR on his wife when he saw she was unconscious. At the same time and while he could not feel his hand or leg, he also helped our little brothers and called for help.”
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