Readying to rumble: 6 things to know for October 25
Israel media review

Readying to rumble: 6 things to know for October 25

The army is apparently girding for war with Iran, which may be planning to respond to Israeli attacks. Just don’t expect there to be a government to deal with it

IDF chief of staff Aviv Kohavi holds a meeting around a camp fire with senior Air Force officers on October 23, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF chief of staff Aviv Kohavi holds a meeting around a camp fire with senior Air Force officers on October 23, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

1. This time he’s serious: The winds of war are blowing into Israel again, an event as common as an eastern Mediterranean “medicane” is rare. On Thursday, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi warned that Israel is facing a threat of conflict in both the north and the south, forcing the military to rapidly prepare for war.

  • While it is the job of military leaders to keep their guard up and constantly warn of conflict (you don’t want to be the general who says everything is fine before war breaks out — just ask Eli Zeira), Kohavi was described by Channel 13 news as “very worried” following the announcement, and some are taking him a little more seriously than usual.
  • On Friday morning, his warning is splashed across the front pages of all of Israel’s major dailies.
  • “The level of alarm varies according to the person speaking, but the underlying message is the same. It doesn’t matter if it’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, or Mossad chief Yossi Cohen (who recently used an event for retired Mossad officials to sound the alarm over the Iranian threat) – all are warning of the looming danger rising up against us from the northeast,” writes Yoav Limor in Israel Hayom.

2. What has Kohavi and Co. in such a tizzy? The answer is Iran and its proxies, in the north mostly, but also possibly in Gaza.

  • Several military correspondents write that Iran has changed the rules of the game and now seeks to counter every Israeli action with one of its own, and fast. (There is no source for the information, meaning it was almost certainly given to them by the army with the stipulation that they write it as fact, with the reporters following those orders, as always, as if they were still in uniform.)
  • “A possible conclusion is that the next round of clashes between the two sides is imminent. This could be a result of pre-emptive Israeli action against an Iranian retaliatory attack or a deliberate IDF strike against growing Iranian power in the region or the smuggling of weapons to Hezbollah,” Haaretz’s Amos Harel writes.
  • “The period in which Israel could act in Syria without an Iranian response has ended: Tehran is not willing to take it any more and is planning on responding with retaliatory strikes in Israel. It’s possible that Qassem Soleimani is already planning his next response,” writes Alon Ben David of Channel 13.

3. Tense calm: Correspondents are not in agreement, however, about whether the war clouds are amassing against an already overcast sky or a clear one.

  • “The calm before the storm,” reads a headline in Yedioth Ahronoth, with correspondent Yossi Yehoshua describing the warning coming at an unusually calm time for Israel.
  • Israel Hayom, however, writes that the region has been heading toward an all-out fight: “The intensity of the threats against Israel and the scope of the security tensions on the borders over the last period are beginning to become clearer.”

4. Talk to me: As far as Israel is concerned internally, the war drums couldn’t come at a worse time, with an actual government able to make major decisions seemingly still a far-off dream.

  • Blue and White head Benny Gantz was handed the mandate Wednesday to get his shot at forming a government, and several news outlets report that the party is setting up meetings with other parties. Sunday will be the first meeting which will be with Likud.
  • According to Yedioth Ahronoth, Likud and Blue and White are also in talks to set up a face-to-face meeting between Gantz and Likud head Benjamin Netanyahu.
  • Tal Shalev in Walla news writes that the mandate may have moved but the calculus remains the same: “From a political standpoint, this was a technicality which has not changed the power relationship or caused any shift on the map: The demands are known, the Likud is just digging in its heels further and further with its rightist bloc, Blue and White is still refusing the rotation deal that the president suggested and [Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor] Liberman is continuing to bounce between the two. The element of time stands before them, and if a compromise is found, it will only be at the last moment.”
  • But there are signs that some may be open to compromise already. According to a Thursday Channel 13 report, Blue and White is looking at different scenarios around the possibility of Netanyahu taking a leave of absence to fight his legal challenges, which point to the parties considering President Reuven Rivlin’s proposed compromise for a unity government with a rotation of prime minister, in which Gantz would replace Netanyahu if he needs to step down.

5. The would-be king’s speech: Gantz is at least drawing praise for his speech on Wednesday in which he accepted the mandate.

  • “While Gantz’s political plans remains vague, in his speech alongside the president he did offer a clear moral stance: The time has come to bring to an end the era of Netanyahu and all the divisiveness he sowed, and to lead a process of national reconciliation among all parts of Israeli society,” reads Haaretz’s lead editorial.
  • Yedioth’s Nahum Barnea calls the address “statesmanlike, conciliatory and welcoming,” but still concludes that “it’s very doubtful it can crack the wall Netanyahu has built.
  • Haaretz’s Yossi Verter quotes a party leader from one of Netanyahu’s bloc buddies also praising Gantz and his speech, though the unnamed politico stops short of entertaining the possibility of joining him, at least for now.
  • “He gave a perfect speech,” the party head is quoted saying. “His task in the coming month will be to be the Benny from that speech: sympathetic, an advocate of the good, a man of consensus, so the Likudniks can get used to him, the Haredim can stop fearing him, and all of us can see that the devil isn’t so terrible. Apparently it won’t bring him a government, but it will bring him to an excellent point of departure in advance of the third election, in March.”
  • On the other side, Israel Hayom quotes an unnamed Likud member heaping praise upon Netanyahu, and pooh-poohing Gantz’s chances of gaining a defection.
  • “The prime minister looks good, sharp, encouraged, and mainly sure of himself,” the source is quoted saying. “No scenario exists that would see someone defect from the right-wing political bloc. In this current situation, Gantz will most certainly be unable to form a government. We hope he moves toward a unity government and doesn’t drag the country to a third round of elections.”

6. Medicane for all: Israel is battening down the hatches for a rare “medicane,” a Mediterranean style low pressure weather system that brings high winds and heavy rain, kind of like a mini hurricane. Common in Greece and Italy, the storms rarely spread this far east, and it’s unclear where it will go next.

  • “With a storm this unusual, the computer models that meteorologists use for forecast guidance are struggling to capture how it will behave,” notes the Washington Post.
  • While the storm is mostly battering Egypt, Israelis are girding for Medicane Scott to spread some havoc their way as well.
  • “Very strong downpours are expected in the abnormally powerful rain system,” Walla news predicts.
  • Channel 12 news reports that the Nature and Parks authority has closed several hiking trails that run through dry riverbeds which are liable to flood, and the electric company has upped its readiness.


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