Nobody is immune: 7 things to know for January 12
Israel media review

Nobody is immune: 7 things to know for January 12

A downed jet in Iran sparks a possibly new type of anger against the regime, an Israeli minister won’t get a pass for his latest controversy, and a fight over immunity takes shape

People gather for a candlelight vigil to remember the victims of the Ukraine plane crash, at the gate of Amri Kabir University where some of the victims of the crash were former students, in Tehran, Iran, January 11, 2020. (AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)
People gather for a candlelight vigil to remember the victims of the Ukraine plane crash, at the gate of Amri Kabir University where some of the victims of the crash were former students, in Tehran, Iran, January 11, 2020. (AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)

1. Going down: Israel is closely watching protests in Iran against the regime that broke out after Tehran admitted to downing the Ukrainian jetliner that crashed near Tehran last week.

  • “Iranian lies,” cries out a top headline in tabloid Yedioth Ahronoth. “The lie that sparked a protest: Death to Khamenei,” screams the front page of fellow tabloid Israel Hayom.
  • Iran finally admitting that it took down the Ukraine plane also makes it to the front page of broadsheet Haaretz, where it is the top story, but in less sensationalist terms.
  • Yedioth calls the protests “very extraordinary,” but doesn’t really explain how they differ from other protests against the regime. Whether or not they are in fact extraordinary appears to be a point of contention, as seen in this tweet and reactions to it:
  • Army Radio reporter Noa Moalem notes that Iranians are comparing the scandal to the Chernobyl disaster. The connection? “Chernobyl exposed the corruption and decay on the eve of the collapse of the Soviet Union — the protesters in Iran are saying, this is our Chernobyl,” she writes.
  • Iran expert Raz Zimmt also uses the Chernobyl analogy in a column in Yedioth, writing that “the plane was hit by one missile, but public trust was hit by many.”

2. Lies and the lying Iranians who tell them: Channel 13 reporter Hezi Simantov calls the fact that Iran shot down the plane “testimony to the hysteria that ran rampant in the upper echelons of Iran’s leadership after they shot at the US embassy in Baghdad.” (He presumably means after they shot missiles at American bases.)

  • In Israel Hayom, columnist Oded Granot focuses on the fact that Iran lied (which should not be news for a paper that regularly prints that claim). “Logic dictates that Khamenei received a report on the plane being shot down and perhaps even ordered it be covered up, which has now turned out to be dumb and unsustainable given the methods the West has to find things out, even without the black box,” he writes, though he does not back it up with anything beyond speculation.
  • Also writing a check reality cannot quite cash is Channel 12 news, which reports that Iran began shutting down the internet as protests broke out. As far as anybody else has reported, that has not occurred and the channel may have been duped by some unverified tweets.

3. Israeli fingerprints: Israel does seem to know some stuff that’s going on, at least according to foreign reports.

  • NBC News reports, based on unnamed sources, that “intelligence from Israel helped confirm the details” of when a plane carrying Qassem Soleimani would be arriving in Baghdad.
  • The single sentence is picked up nearly across the board in Hebrew language media.
  • The New York Times reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may have been one of the few people outside Trump’s inner circle tipped off about the strike. Its reporting isn’t based on any source, but rather what it describes as a cryptic statement made by Netanyahu hours before the strike, as he boarded a plane for Greece.
  • “‘We know that our region is stormy; very, very dramatic things are happening in it,’ Mr. Netanyahu told reporters, unprompted, on the tarmac in Tel Aviv before departing for a visit to Athens. He went on to offer support for the United States ‘and to its full right to defend itself and its citizens.’”
  • In context, though, the comment appeared to be referencing support for the US given the raiding of the US embassy, which was the topic of discussion when he spoke to Mike Pompeo a day earlier, according to an official readout.
  • Haaretz’s Amos Harel notes that Pompeo, who has Trump’s ear, had led the most hawkish line on Iran and had acted as cheerleader for such a move, according to reports. Still, it’s clear, he says, that Israelis were happy to have Trump kill Soleimani instead of them doing it.
  • “As the Israelis see it, Trump has done a great service: The Americans’ assassination of Soleimani has spared Israel similar pondering about the man who was the brains behind Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria, the smuggling of arms to Hezbollah and the (failed) attempts to shoot rockets into Israel. Possibly the fact that an American hand pulled the trigger (actually, remotely activated the drone that did the firing) put Israel out of immediate range of Iran’s revenge actions. But in light of the nearly universal enthusiasm in Israel for the U.S. president’s greatness, it seems we should equip ourselves with a pinch of skepticism.”

4. Riff-rafi: Indeed Israelis have their own messes to worry about. One of the biggest ones Sunday comes courtesy of Education Minister Rafi Peretz, he of the erstwhile ostensible support for gay conversion therapy, who indicated in comments published Friday that gay parents were not natural or healthy.

  • With anger simmering, Haaretz takes the rare step of running its house editorial on the front page, dubbing Peretz the “minister of racism,” (though it seems a bit weird to call homophobia a form of racism, and in English they change it to “ignorance”).
  • “The distance between Peretz’s Zionist-Haredi worldview and anyone who cares about public education and liberal, democratic values is so vast as to be unbridgeable. On previous occasions when his comments drew sharp public criticism, Peretz claimed that they were misunderstood and he was forgiven. This time, he must not be pardoned for his remarks,” the editorial reads.
  • Yedioth itself makes do with a victory lap, patting itself on the back for the expose and the storm and reprinting some of his most controversial comments, which also included support for Kahanist Itamar Ben Gvir (though that comment was not new) and West Bank annexation (also not new).
  • Israel Hayom, which is backed by a Likud party that supports Peretz and the far-right Otzma Yehudit and all the other right-wing parties getting together, ignores the hubbub completely. What coverage it has of Peretz surrounds unity efforts on the right and his meeting with National Union head Bezalel Smotrich.

5. Teach your children well: Much of the fight against Peretz is being led by the kids (and their parents, and teachers), given that he is the minister in charge of educating them.

  • Channel 13 news reports that parents are attaching notes saying “Kahanists out of our schools,” and other slogans against Peretz to their kids’ bags, in protest of the comments.
  • “We’ll never stand by when kids are being made to feel that they don’t have a place in society or they are being delegitimized,” Channel 12 quotes the national student union saying in a statement. “Any kid in Israel is legitimate, everyone needs to be accepted for who they are.”
  • Kan reports that a number of mayors around the country (but mostly in the center) have instructed schools to devote time Sunday to teaching about tolerance in order to combat Peretz’s remarks.
  • The head of one of the teachers unions tells the outlet that their stance is “live and let live.”

6. Race for rejection: The upcoming fight over immunity for the prime minister is also snagging headlines, with Netanyahu stuck in the strange situation of wanting immunity but not wanting it to be discussed yet, since it will almost certainly be turned down.

  • Too bad so sad, Channel 12 writes that Blue and White plans on pushing for a meeting of the committee needed to set up the panel that will discuss immunity as soon as Monday, with Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon expected to publish an opinion Sunday supporting the move.
  • Speeding things along even more, they will tackle both Netanyahu’s immunity request and Haim Katz’s at the same time, the channel reports.
  • Committee head Avi Nissenkorn tells Kan that he thinks there is plenty of time still to take care of business in an orderly manner, with some 50 days until the election.
  • Channel 13 reports that Likud will still try to stick a wrench in the spanner or at least slow things down by going court crazy: “Likud’s main weapon will be petitions to the High Court, ‘and lots of ’em,’ according to MK Miki Zohar. They will petition every detail, and look to wear down the judges,” the station reports.

7. Busted speaker: According to Kan, Blue and White is in the meantime putting major pressure on Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to okay the committee convening and even threatening him. According to the station, if he tries to put the kibosh on the committee, he will find himself out of a job.

  • “His future is in a fog,” reports Army Radio.
  • It’s not just Blue and White going after him. “Once we have 61 MKs who want to convene the plenum on a subject, you can’t stop it,” Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman tells Channel 12. “So this week, with the Knesset speaker or without him, we’ll convene the committee.”
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