Message in a battle: 9 things to know for August 30
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Israel media review

Message in a battle: 9 things to know for August 30

Israel is speaking louder than ever before about its military exploits, and pundits see an effort to signal Hezbollah, Lebanon and others that a bigger fight may be on the way

A graphic by the Israeli military showing the chain of command for a joint Iranian-Hezbollah program to provide the Lebanese terror group with precision-guided missiles, which was released on August 29, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
A graphic by the Israeli military showing the chain of command for a joint Iranian-Hezbollah program to provide the Lebanese terror group with precision-guided missiles, which was released on August 29, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

1. A warning wrapped in a revelation: Israel is continuing to drip, drip, drip out more information about its accusation against what it says is a program by Iran to manufacture rockets for Hezbollah inside Lebanon, accompanying the info with threats from up on high.

  • The Israeli military said Thursday it was taking the highly irregular step of releasing information about active members of a terrorist plot in order to push the Lebanese government and international community to take action to halt the project.
  • The release of the declassified information on the largely secret missile project targeting Israel, which was first highlighted by Netanyahu in a speech to the UN General Assembly last year, is also seen by some analysts as marking an effort to avoid the need for a large-scale military operation to destroy the program.
  • The revelation” should be seen as an attempt to put pressure on Lebanon to restrain Hezbollah or pay the price,” Yossi Yehoshua writes in Yedioth Ahronoth.
  • At the same time, the opposite is true: should the international community not deal with it (and there is little to indicate it will or can) then war is in the offing. The revelation constitutes a “potential casus belli,” Channel 12’s military analyst Roni Daniel says.

2. A message to Hezbollah: Channel 13’s Alon Ben David postulates that the real target of the message is Hezbollah: “The publication of the Hezbollah sites is an attempt to create the feeling that they are being chased, that they should understand they have been infiltrated by intelligence.”

  • Analyst Amos Yadlin tells army radio the announcement is an “initial signal to Hezbollah: We know and suggest you cut out the project.”
  • Also speaking to Army Radio, Foreign Minister Israel Katz says it was meant to “warn the sides and criminalize Iran.”
  • In Israel Hayom, Yoav Limor praises the IDF spokesman’s unit for weaponizing the information. “The point is to focus public attention in the right place: not (as Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah tries to portray it) on Israeli attacks and Hezbollah reprisals which will come afterward, but on the secret activities of Hezbollah that can lead the sides to war.”

3. Get ready for … something: The Kuwaiti newspaper al-Ghad reports that the Hezbollah response will come sometime over the weekend, though the paper is not known for being overly reliable.

  • In the meantime, Israel is taking precautions, putting both dummy soldiers on the border and canceling leave for flesh and blood ones.
  • The Kan public broadcaster reports that farmers have been told to stay away from the border and municipalities told to review security precautions.
    Asked by civilian leaders in the north if they should open shelters and prepare for war, Northern Command chief Maj. Gen. Amir Baram says no, but also that there may be war, so yes.
  • “You should be preparing not for Hezbollah’s response against the IDF, but for their response to our response” to such an attack, he quips, in comments unlikely to calm anyone.
  • But in Haaretz, Amos Harel reports that even if Hezbollah and the Quds force are raring for war, they may not get it: “Nasrallah and [Quds force head Qassem] Soleimani are both beholden to wider strategic interests. It’s hard to beleive Iran wants war with Israel when on the horizon is a real chance for direct talks with the US.”

4. Donnie don’t change your number: Channel 13 and Axios report that Netanyahu is not excited about the possibility of those talks and spent Sunday trying frantically to reach Trump to tell him not to meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the G7.

  • To Netanyahu’s dismay, Trump was busy in meeting with actual world leaders and Netanyahu got the P team instead: Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo.
  • “The Israelis were worried that Trump — who loves making a deal and relishes the drama of an unconventional meeting (think Kim Jong-un) — would let French President Emmanuel Macron talk him into holding an unscheduled meeting with Zarif,” Axios writes.
  • Netanyahu’s office declines to respond to the report, but his son has no such compunctions, claiming that “I know for a fact that Barak Ravid is boycotted in the American administration for his lies and fake news. Nobody there talks to him. Not even the person that makes the coffee in the White House. Fake news!”
  • Former US Ambassador Martin Indyk shoots back that the scenario is pure Netanyahu from his own experiences 20 years ago.

 

  • Ilan Goldenberg, another former US official, appears to confirm Indyk’s account.
  • Yair Netanyahu also proves he either can’t take a joke, or is terrible at making them.

5. Back to the table? It’s no secret that Israel is less than enamored with the possibility of talks with Iran, just as it was a decade ago when the first nuclear talks began to germinate. Yedioth’s Nahum Barnea notes that “as things stand now, on the military front Israel is managing significant achievements. The diplomatic front has been a painful failure.”

  • Iran also is not exactly gung-ho about talks, but the New York Times reports that they are increasingly seen as inevitable on the Iranian side and even supported by some hardliners, who view an opportunity to squeeze some more concessions out of the US.
  • The paper says that a meeting called by First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri to discuss the possibility of talks concluded that, “If Mr. Trump wanted a ‘more comprehensive’ deal than the existing accord, then Iran would consider his demand — and even discuss parts of its ballistic missile program and Iran’s role in the region — but in return Iran, too, would seek a more comprehensive guarantee from the United States for long-lasting economic relief, the people at the meeting said.”
  • Israel Hayom’s Ruthie Blum, though, contends that Iran won’t ever actually come to the table.
  • “No, it’s not Netanyahu who needs to fear a flip-flopping Trump at this stage, but rather the Iranian people. It was they who were just sent a loud and clear message from the White House that the United States would not help them overthrow their evil regime, even indirectly,” she writes.

6. Not down with FDD: Also less than enamored with Iran are Mark Dubowitz and Reuel Marc Gerecht of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which was recently blackballed by Iran.

  • In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, the two urge the international community to stop “indulging” Zarif over Iran’s threat to their think tank.
  • Dubowitz tells the Atlantic that “he believes that the statement gives Iranian operatives a green light to target him and his analysts, and noted that the regime has conducted assassinations on foreign soil in the past,” in the words of Kathy Gilsinan, who looks at why the FDD was singled out.
  • “Iran specialists of varying degrees of hawkishness are scattered throughout D.C. think tanks such as the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Brookings Institution, and the Council on Foreign Relations. But no place else has made an institutional specialty of recommending hard-line Iran policies and offering detailed proposals for how to implement them the way the FDD has done,” she writes.

7. Battle scars: On the domestic front, the media jumps all over an “incident” at a Blue and White rally Thursday night, as it termed some people shooting a few BB pellets at the crowd.

  • Channel 12 news shows off pictures of the slight welt (which does hurt, but c’mon) as if it is some massive battle scar.
  • “We didn’t know what happened. It was in the back of the event, and so hysterics began,” Rehovot mayor Zohar Blum tells Walla. “We are at the police, [party leader Benny] Gantz has changed his plans after the incident and he’s on his way to the city’s campaign headquarters.”
  • Naturally, the incident is linked to “incitement.”

8. Half-baked deal: The media is even more enamored with the Zehut party dropping out of the race after leader Moshe Feiglin was offered a cabinet post and some other goodies from Netanyahu.

  • Some have questioned whether the move is even allowed. In Yedioth Ahronoth, former Likud minister Limor Livnat says that “even if it is legal, there are some things that just smell bad from afar.”
  • Haaretz’s Yossi Verter casts doubt on whether Feiglin will even get what’s coming to him, noting that the Zehut head made Netanyahu hold a public press conference as an insurance policy against him going back on his word, but that didn’t stop the prime minister from reneging on a public promise to Moshe Kahlon in 2013.
  • “[Netanyahu] should be very happy with what he got: To pay with a postdated check … and get cash now — that’s a feat.”

9. Welcome to gevalt season: A snap Channel 12 poll shows, though, that he may not have gotten all that much by having Zehut drop out, with Likud getting 31 seats, about what earlier polls showed, to Blue and White’s 30.

  • Another poll, slapped across the front page of Israel Hayom, has even worse news: Gantz with 32 seats to Netanyahu’s 30.
  • Why would the paper, seen as a Likud mouthpiece, play up its own demise? It’s called “gevalt,” (“woe”) and it’s what Netanyahu uses in every election to scare supporters into making sure to go to the polls and not be overconfident or apathetic.
  • The paper does not even entertain Zehut votes going to Likud in any significant way.
  • “Otzma Yehudit is sure it will get stronger,” writes Yehuda Shlezinger, “but the other estimation is that the weed legalization backers won’t stay on the right at all.”
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