Refusing to look back: 7 things to know for August 29
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Israel media review

Refusing to look back: 7 things to know for August 29

The Hebron shooter has no regrets, lawmakers are okay using fake news to bash Arab MKs, and Iran and Russia are refusing to retreat in Syria, setting up a potential clash

Former IDF Sgt. Elor Azaria is squeezed between his father, Charlie (R), and Likud MK Nava Boker, as they hug in the courtroom at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, on July 30, 2017. (Avshalom Sasoni/Flash90)
Former IDF Sgt. Elor Azaria is squeezed between his father, Charlie (R), and Likud MK Nava Boker, as they hug in the courtroom at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, on July 30, 2017. (Avshalom Sasoni/Flash90)

1. A new hope/fear: A decision by a Jerusalem District Court judge on Tuesday that illegal West Bank outposts can be legalized even if there is no identified owner to compensate is seen as a major step that could pave the way for dozens more hilltops to get a government stamp of approval.

  • Haaretz says the decision to rely on a legal tactic known as “market regulation” is “precedent-setting.” The case involves the outpost of Mitzpe Kramim, which was established on land granted to the settlers by the semi-state Settlements Division of the World Zionist organization, which oversees settlement building, and before they apparently knew about Palestinian claims to it.
  • However, the paper also reports that the case will now go to the High Court, which will have the final say on whether the tactic is kosher.
  • It’s not clear how many other outposts may be given a retroactive green-light by the ruling, but voices on both the right and left hope/fear it will affect “settlements across the West Bank and may also have ramifications for other settlements as well,” in the words of Israel Hayom.
  • “It’s very reasonable to assume that the High Court will not annul the District Court verdict and thus will be found salvation for many hundreds of homes built in good faith in the heart of Judea and Samaria, and which are affected by Palestinian ownership claims,” Israel Hayom columnist Haim Shine crows.

2. Shin Bet killing it online: “You don’t solve anything with a sledgehammer,” Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman is quoted telling associates in Yedioth Ahronoth, which lays out the security service’s shift away from assassinations and toward pwning terrorists online in recent years.

  • The paper says under Argaman the service is much more focused on cyber activities, like fighting Hezbollah hackers and “thwarting terror attacks” via social media.
  • Former Shin Bet head Avi Dichter calls the shift a “revolution.”
  • “We haven’t had changes of this magnitude for years,” an unnamed former Shin Bet official tells the paper.

3. No regrets: One thing that hasn’t changed is Elor Azaria’s lack of regrets for shooting and killing a wounded and disarmed Palestinian attacker in Hebron in 2016.

  • Months after being released from jail after serving a reduced 9-month sentence, Azaria tells Israel Hayom that “I have no doubts. Take me back to those same seconds of the incident in Hebron and I would act in exactly the same way.”
  • He also says that despite everyone up the chain of command telling him he did not act correctly, he “knows” he did the right thing, thuggishly blaming his woes not on him killing another person, but on people complaining about it.
  • “Nothing would have happened if everything had been straight. If they didn’t distort things in court, and all sorts of senior people didn’t open their mouths and say nonsense,” he says.
  • The right-wing paper mostly makes do with giving him a soapbox and leaving out context or counter-arguments (the full interview will be published over the weekend) and includes a milquetoast IDF response at the bottom.

4. Iran confirms minister was spy: Iran’s intelligence minister said late Tuesday that it had arrested dozens of “dual-national” spies, without specifying where they were from.

  • In the comments to the ISNA semi-official news agency translated by Reuters, Mahmoud Alavi also appears to confirm for the first time that it had recruited former Israeli minister Gonen Segev, saying, “You have recently heard that we brought under our control a member of a cabinet of a powerful country.”
  • Though Alavi’s initial comments about the arrest were reported late Tuesday, it has taken until Wednesday morning for the media to pick up on the signal about Segev.
  • Iran’s Tasnim news site, which is closely linked to the regime, speculates that the statement referred to Segev — which is a possible signal of confirmation that it did refer to Segev.

5. Gearing up for Russia vs. Iran: Haaretz reports that Israeli officials think Iran and Russia are gearing up to battle each other for control of Syria’s post-civil war future.

  • “Israeli officials believe the two countries are at odds on some issues related to Syria’s future. The contracts for Syria’s reconstruction, for which both countries are vying, will likely include some of Syria’s oil reserves – at least those that have survived the war. A behind-the-scenes battle over who will control the Assad regime in the ‘new Syria’ is now already under way,” Amos Harel and Amir Tibon write.
  • The news comes as Russia apparently plans to send more military hardware to the country. The AFP news agency, citing Russian media reports, reports that Russia sent two warships and an additional anti-aircraft missile system to the Mediterranean in August and plans to send “several more” warships to Syria.
  • Iran, meanwhile, is remaining firm that it is staying in Syria, with Brigadier-General Abolghasem Alinejad saying the continued presence of so-called “advisers” is part of the defense cooperation deal signed this week.

6. The US is talking with Assad: A Tuesday report in pro-Hezbollah daily al-Akbar claimed the US was negotiating with Syria a deal by which US troops would leave in exchange for Iran’s withdrawal.

  • While not quite confirming the story, Reuters seems to pin down that a meeting did in fact take place, quoting two senior US intelligence official who say there is “ongoing dialogue with members of the Assad regime” about fighting Islamic State, chemical weapons use and captive journalist Austin Tice.

7. Fake ax to grind: On the other hand, ToI’s Jacob Magid debunks a report aired on Hadashot news earlier this week claiming that Arab MKs were working with the Palestinians to push a UN resolution condemning Israel for the nation-state law.

  • Several people involved say the story appears to have been invented from whole cloth, with even Israel’s UN ambassador, who had raised an initial stink about the resolution, quietly walking back part of his condemnation.
  • A person at Hadashot indicates they didn’t want to upset a source by questioning the story, and so let the fake news run, without even including a denial by the Arab MKs.
  • Coming off looking just as bad are all the lawmakers who used the fake story as a cudgel against their fellow lawmakers, including several from the opposition.
  • Despite all indications that the story was made up, no lawmaker has retreated from their condemnation. Asked about it, a spokesman for Zionist Union head Avi Gabbay, who was among those to condemn the Joint List, says it’s justified because they still might push for a UN resolution.
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