Israel media review

Missile warnings: 8 things to know for May 7

Israel says Iran may be planning a revenge missile attack on the north and starts issuing threats of its own, adding even more tensions to an already unpredictable month

Joshua Davidovich is The Times of Israel's Deputy Editor

Iranians walk past a Ghadr-F missile displayed at a Revolutionary Guard hardware exhibition, marking 36th anniversary of the outset of Iran-Iraq war, at Baharestan Sq. in downtown Tehran, Iran, September 25, 2016. (AP/Vahid Salemi, File)
Iranians walk past a Ghadr-F missile displayed at a Revolutionary Guard hardware exhibition, marking 36th anniversary of the outset of Iran-Iraq war, at Baharestan Sq. in downtown Tehran, Iran, September 25, 2016. (AP/Vahid Salemi, File)

1. Fears are ramping up in Israel that Iran is planning on carrying out a missile attack against Israel in response to reported Israeli airstrikes in Syria over the past several weeks.

  • The military broadcast these fears via various media outlets Sunday night (albeit through unnamed sources), with news reports indicating that the army thinks it has identified plans already in “advanced stages” for launching a barrage of missiles at military targets somewhere in Israel’s north.
  • Israel is already starting to plan defensive measures, Haaretz reports citing defense officials, including deploying anti-missile batteries.
  • Yedioth reports that Israeli sources say there will be a harsh response to any missile barrage. Thus Israel thinks Quds force commander Qassem Soleimani, the man seen as behind the plan, wants to use local Syrian forces or militia members and not risk his own men, and Hezbollah is seen as also not wanting to get involved in the plan, though they think the terror group has a part anyway.
  • Israel Hayom reports that Iran is also searching for a way to get revenge on a more limited scale in the hopes of not sparking an all-out war.

2. Despite the fact that the military did not make an announcement, but insisted on anonymity to reporters, Israel Hayom reports that the point of getting the info to the press was not necessarily to warn the citizenry, but rather to warn Iran that Jerusalem knows what it is up to.

  • That line of thinking follows many who believed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s revelation that Israel captured Iran’s nuclear archive was a way of signaling its intelligence capabilities to Tehran and telling it to back off.
  • Further attempting to warn Israel’s enemies off the missile attack plan, Yuval Steinitz tells the Ynet news website Monday that Israel could kill Syrian President Bashar Assad if he allows the attack from his soil.
  • The threat, extraordinary by any standard, comes days before Netanyahu is set to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, a stauch backer of Assad, and could cast a heavy shadow over it.
  • Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman is also defending a bill that would allow the prime minister to unilaterally launch a war as a way of sending a warning. “All our enemies, like [Hezbollah head Hassan] Nasrallah, don’t have an attorney general or Supreme Court to go through, they have no limitations and we need to have the option of responding immediately,” he says at a faction meeting, according to a reporter on Twitter.

3. While things are heating up in the north, they may be cooling down in the south. Haaretz reports that Hamas is sending signals to Israel that it wants to negotiate a long-term detente.

  • “Hamas wants to tie the cease-fire with an easing of the siege on Gaza, permission to embark on large-scale infrastructure projects and a prisoner and body exchange deal,” the paper reports.
  • It’s not clear if Israel has responded to the messages, according to the daily.

4. Yedioth’s Alex Fishman also notes Hamas seeking a hudna, in a column advocating a way out of what seems to be an unstoppable escalation in violence.

  • Fishman sees two possible outcomes after expected wide-ranging violence planned for May 15:
  • a. So many Gazans are killed that Hamas sees no choice but to declare all-out war.
  • Or b. A plan takes shape to address the closure and improve the lives of Gazans, including unprecedented infrastructure projects and a drive for international funding. Fishman says that plan is already being pushed by the Israeli Defense Ministry body liaising with the Palestinians, but is opposed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
  • “In the twilight of his political career, the weak leader has decided that if he can’t make a Palestinian state a reality, Israel and Hamas should torch each other,” he writes.

5. The May 15 violence is expected to be tied to the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem, slated for a day before.

  • It’s still a week away, but the city is already getting gussied up, with Mayor Nir Barkat sending out pictures of him putting up signs leading to the embassy (which will just be the converted consulate for now.)
  • On Twitter, the US embassy changed its handle to @usembassyJLM, though its name is still USEmbassyTelAviv for some reason.
  • Some 800 mostly American and Israeli visitors are expected at the May 14 inauguration of the new embassy, though few officials from other countries have been invited to the event.
  • What few non-Israeli and non-US officials have been invited, though, are being encouraged by the Palestinians to stay away, reports The Times of Israel.

6. Even before hell breaks loose thanks to the embassy being moved, May 12 is expected to see US President Donald Trump kill the Iran nuclear deal.

  • In the Walla news website, former Israeli official Ronen Dangor looks at the chances that the US is purposefully trying to ramp up tensions with Iran to have an excuse to put more pressure on the regime and eventually make regime change happen there.
  • The site notes that hawks in the administration like Mike Pompeo and John Bolton are likely to be pushing for such a strategy, with Israeli support. Once the deal is killed, the US may insist that Iran is not interested in renegotiating the deal and ramp up pressure until the regime is pushed out, one way or another.
  • “Only an escalation in tensions will bring pressure, and only pressure will spark a revolution. A new deal would give the Iranian legitimacy, a return to the mistakes of Obama,” he writes.

7. Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker reports that Black Cube was the company hired to spy on former Obama officials to push against the Iran deal, though the sources say it was contracted by a “private-sector entity” and not Donald Trump’s campaign, as a British report on Sunday claimed.

8. Israel is one day away from competing in the Eurovision song contest, with Netta Barzilay’s “Toy” still the all-around favorite of bookies to take home the prize.

Unsurprisingly, the Boycott Divestment Sanctions campaign is targeting Barzilay and the contest, calling for voters to give Israel zero points in the contest and sink its best hope in years.

ZERO POINTS to Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest! Take Action and Share!Hashtags #Eurovision and #ZeroPointsIsrael…

Posted by Eurovision boycott of Israel – ZERO points to the song of Israeli Apartheid on Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Barzilay, in Lisbon for the first round of the contest, tells Yedioth that the campaign is not bothering her: “I hope to get all Europe dancing,” she tells the paper.

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