1. Friday’s protests along the Gaza border were smaller, but it seems Israel is concerned about the large number of ways Hamas now has to push Israel’s buttons, moving from rockets and tunnels to the more low-tech incendiary kites/balloons, wire-cutters, mass protests and now bomb kites.
- Israeli jets actually took preemptive action and fired warning shots at kite-launchers over the weekend. These weren’t just fire kites, however, but what is being described as kite bombs: kites and balloons with IEDs attached to them.
- Israel Hayom reports that “the IDF made clear that despite the shooting, they have no intention of sending planes to chase every kite flyer, and no decision has been made to do so at the political level.”
- In Yedioth Ahronoth, though, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan is quoted saying that there’s no difference between “those who launch rockets and those who launch kites … and so I expect the IDF to take out the cells launching them.”
2. The army appears to be of the mind that Friday marked the end of the season of organized border protests that began March 30, and the relatively small number of people who came out (about 15,000), along with the fact that not a single Israeli was even injured over the whole period, is read as a failure for Hamas.
- “From Land Day to Nakba Day, through Ramadan and until Naksa Day, which was pushed off in favor of Quds Day marked by Iran, week after week, Hamas proved how lacking it is in any deep strategic policy thinking,” Daniel Sirouti writes in a column in Israel Hayom.
- Pundits, though, are in unison believing that Hamas’s failure will push it to extremes that can extend the conflict (and the seeming confluence of several pundits in different papers writing versions of the same idea bears the hallmark of IDF-fed groupthink).
- “Through trial and error the Hamas leadership arrived at a formula for its struggle against Israel that is not entirely ineffective. Hamas now has at its disposal a new mixture of instruments — mass protests that turn violent as well as incendiary kites, sometimes together with rockets — to keep the flame of resistance burning,” writes Haaretz’s Amos Harel.
- “This is a group in a crisis of governance, but it remains on its feet. It didn’t suffer any real blows from Israel to make it feel like its hold on power is in danger,” Alex Fishman writes in Yedioth. “So the failure of the Marches project over the last few months has turned it into a more extreme organization, looking for a way to the Iranian axis. The result: The anarchy on the border will continue.
3. TOI’s Avi Issacharoff writes of an iftar fast-breaking meal in Gaza last week thrown by Hamas (with money from Iran) to thank Iran for its support “which shows how close Hamas wants to be to Iran.”
- Issacharoff reports that Hamas is looking for any way to repair the damage done when the group abandoned Assad and left Damascus at the start of the Syrian civil war.
- Why now? “It seems it’s money,” he writes. “Hamas is facing no small number of challenges including the dire humanitarian situation in the Strip.”
4. Meanwhile, it seems cracks may be forming in the Russia-Syria-Iran axis.
- “Because there is a war and because there’s high dynamism now in the region, it’s natural to have differences between the different parties, whether within our government or other governments; Russia-Syria, Syria-Iran, Iran-Russia, and within these governments, that’s very natural,” Assad tells the Mail on Sunday, denying that Russia had any part in reported Israeli attacks on his country but admitting that they don’t see eye-to-eye on everything.
- However, the Associated Press reports that Iran-backed Hezbollah and Russia butt heads over who will control an area near the Syria-Lebanon border. “The Russian deployment and subsequent withdrawal shows that as rebels are being defeated in different parts of Syria, frictions could rise between Assad’s main foreign backers — Russia and Iran — and the militias Tehran backs throughout Syria,” AP reports.
- “It’s better if they don’t come back. There is no work for them there. There is no Daesh or any other terrorist organization,” an official with the “Axis of Resistance” (read Iran/Hezbollah/other Shiites) tells the AP about Russian forces.
- Fawaz Gerges, professor of Middle Eastern politics at the London School of Economics, tells the agency: “There is an increasing evidence that shows that Russia has turned a blind eye to Israel’s airstrike in Syria against Iran’s military presence. This is a direct message that Russia does not want Iran to have a hegemonic position in Syria.”
5. Meanwhile, Washington is looking to cozy up to its own despot, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, with US President Donald Trump leaving scorched earth behind him at the G7 and heading to Singapore for the historic summit.
- While it doesn’t directly affect them, Israelis are closely watching the summit, with Israel Hayom and Yedioth dispatching reporters to cover the meeting, which will happen at 4 a.m. local time. Without an Israel angle, though, much of their first dispatches are spent describing their hotels and the fact that the flight will be the longest Kim has taken in a while.
- While the Israelis don’t seem too interested in how North Korea could affect Iran and vice versa, others are. George F. Will writes in the Washington Post that Trump is unlikely to come away with much non-proliferation from talks with either country, since his demands are akin to asking a leopard to “become vegetarian” — though there’s no such thing as losing when it comes to this president.
- “The ‘art of the deal,’ according to the supposed Rembrandt of this art (a six-time bankrupt), seems to be this: Ask for the universe, settle for one of Jupiter’s minor moons, claim that the moon is actually the center of the universe and was the real goal all along, and that only he could have plucked this flower, safety, from the nettle, danger,” he writes.
6. When things don’t work out, there’s always the option of blaming the other side. Thus it’s little surprise that with Israeli-Palestinian peace talks stagnant, Trump envoy Jason Greenblatt has penned an op-ed in Haaretz basically telling the chief Palestinian negotiator that he’s delaying peace and needs to make room for other voices.
- “We have heard your voice for decades and it has not achieved anything close to Palestinian aspirations or anything close to a comprehensive peace agreement. Other Palestinian perspectives might help us finally achieve a comprehensive peace agreement where Palestinian and Israeli lives can be better,” he writes.
- The op-ed is in response to one in which the Palestinian Authority’s longtime chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, slammed Greenblatt and other administration officials for toeing the Israeli line on the violence on the Gaza border.
- As TOI’s Eric Cortellessa notes, Greenblatt does not mention who he would rather see, but he does write that he has heard many Palestinian voices that don’t agree with Erekat, but “most will only meet and speak honestly and openly in private because they are afraid to speak publicly.”
7. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is visiting Israel Sunday, for the first time since taking power.
- I-24 News’ Eylon Levy reports on Twitter that one thing Kurz will do in Israel is ask the government to end its boycott of the far-right FPOe party, which is in his government.
Austria's chancellor Sebastian Kurz has arrived in Israel. He'll ask Netanyahu to reverse Israel's boycott of the far-right FPO, his junior partner. ???????????????????????? pic.twitter.com/duEJvdTFxs
— Eylon A. Levy (@EylonALevy) June 10, 2018
- On that isuee he’ll have at least one ally, Likud MK Yehudah Glick, who has also pushed to bring the formerly Nazi party in from the cold.
8. Things are going the other way in Britain. With an annual anti-Israel march planned for London Sunday, the Zionist Federation is asking some people to come out for a counter-rally, but not everybody.
- In an extraordinary move the ZF is telling far-rightists to go find their own counter-rally, attempting to avoid being sullied by fans of far-right activist Tommy Robinson.
- “Whilst we are proud to stand against this hate, we are acutely aware that elements of the far-right and neo-Nazi groups have been encouraging their members and supporters to also rally against the Al-Quds Day march,” the ZF says in a statement, according to the Jewish News. “Let us be clear: the ZF, as well as our partners, do not support, encourage or condone any far-right or neo-Nazi groups or messages, either from outside our community or inside it.”