Scared you at Sinai: 7 things to know for April 23
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Scared you at Sinai: 7 things to know for April 23

As Israelis stream toward Egypt, a security official pleads with them to head for safer climes; perhaps URWP will just demand that Israel retake the peninsula in coalition talks

Illustrative photo of a resort in the Sinai Peninsula, October 16, 2016. (Johanna Geron/FLASH90)
Illustrative photo of a resort in the Sinai Peninsula, October 16, 2016. (Johanna Geron/FLASH90)

1. Peninsular panic: Israelis flocking to the Sinai Peninsula are being told to skedaddle out, and fast.

  • Israel’s counter-terror bureau issued a “concrete threat warning” for the Sinai ahead of the holiday, its second highest level of warning, but despite that tens of thousands of Israelis are flocking there — 30,000 according to Yedioth Ahronoth and even more according to other estimates in the press.
  • “They are not listening to our warnings,” complains a senior security official to the paper.
  • While most Israelis point out that they keep to the resort-laden south of the peninsula and not the more restive north, where jihadist groups, including one linked to Islamic State, are active, the official dismisses that idea out of hand.
  • “Just two weeks ago they carried out an attack … near a tourist area. It’s the same distance to Taba. If they want to go to places where Israelis are gathered they know how to do that.”
  • It’s not just Israelis who are worried. Egypt’s Mada Masr writes that security forces in the peninsula are on high alert and fear attacks from north to south.
  • “A host of militant attacks in the past two weeks have led to tighter security measures throughout Sinai, capped by the shutdown of the capital city of Arish, where security sources say fear is mounting that escalating violence may lead to a repeat of the deadly attack on the Sheikh Zuwayed marketplace on April 9, and extraordinary security measures on military construction sites in the south of the peninsula,” the site writes.

2. Life’s a beach, betches: Online, at least, some people are noting a sort of warning fatigue, given the fact that Israel issues warnings before every holiday against going to Sinai and other locations.

  • “It’s the funnest place in the world, there’s nothing to be afraid of,” one reveler tells Channel 12 news.
  • Commenting on viral Sinai vacationer Hadassah NoLastName, Haaretz TV critic Rogel Alpher grumbles about her slap-happy and unpolitical correct demeanor and jokes that don’t quite land being representative of the typical Israeli, especially as she dared to make religious references in some of her allegories.
  • He describes her dismissal of a question about terror fears by saying there are more Israelis than Egyptians in the Sinai as “narcissistic, crude, imperialistic, filled with nationalist haughtiness and self-love.”

3. Terror, terror everywhere: Sri Lanka is also under fire for seemingly ignoring terror warnings ahead of the Easter Sunday attacks.

  • The Associated Press quotes a minister saying several foreign intelligence services warned Sri Lanka, but authorities did not heed them. It’s not known which agencies issued the warnings, and while Israel often is involved in such intelligence activity, the Israeli counter-terror bureau did not issue any special warning for Sri Lanka ahead of the holiday.
  • Israel Hayom’s Yoav Limor writes that Sri Lanka proves that Islamist terror is alive and well even places where you think it might not be, like Sinai.
  • “Those who thought the defeat of the Islamic State would mean the defeat of terrorism were very, very wrong. The Islamic State might have died, but the idea at its foundation is alive and kicking all over the globe. Whether it is followers of al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, National Thowheed Jamath in Sri Lanka or the Bedouins working for IS in the Sinai, all of these people share a common radical ideology, which is based on the idea that infidels must die,” he writes.

4. Like a Kahanist in a candy shop: URWP is refusing to officially enter into coalition talks until after the holiday, but a laundry list of demands that would put most Passover shopping lists to shame, broadcast on Channel 12 news and confirmed by The Times of Israel, shows that the party is not content to wait.

  • At the top of the list, put forward by slate No. 2 Bezalel Smotrich, is an offer to push an immunity bill for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and any other lawmaker in trouble in exchange for the annexation of West Bank settlements.
  • While one of the demands is to get control of the Justice Ministry, Israel Hayom reports the party will also settle for control of the Public Security Ministry, mostly so it can pick who gets to be the next police chief instead.
  • Ynet reports that Jewish Home, the part of URWP headed by slate leader Rafi Peretz, is livid over Smotrich, of the National Union faction, seemingly taking control of the coalition negotiations, apparently without coordinating with others.
  • “Smotrich presented demands that don’t exist. He should remember that we’re four and he’s two,” an official is quoted saying, referring to the number of lawmakers the Jewish Home and National Union have in the parliament, respectively.
  • Jewish Home has traditionally been the leading part of the faction’s union, but Smotrich has tried to up National Union’s cache since Naftali Bennett left Jewish Home.

5. Waivering on Iran: US President Donald Trump’s decision to cut oil sanctions waivers draws praise in Israel Hayom, with writer Eldad Beck noting that the move is natural for someone who comes from the business world and not from a political or policy background.

  • “Trump’s path to making America great again [… passes] through using his country’s considerable economic might against its adversaries. Trump doesn’t plan on launching wars. He is wielding a different type of weapon to bludgeon countries and regimes that pose a threat to American interests: Economic sanctions,” he writes.
  • Al-Monitor’s Laura Rozen reports that Europeans think the administration’s real end goal is to force Iran to abandon the nuclear deal, which will allow allies still beholden to the pact to also leave it and re-align with the US.
  • “I think the [US administration’s] goal is to have a worldwide coalition against Iran, and to do that, they push Iran to default,” she quotes a European diplomat saying.

6. Conspiracy journalism? Channel 13 morning host Avri Gilad is under fire after insisting on his show Monday that the Notre Dame fire was set by Islamists and that French officials are covering it up, along with other crimes by Muslims, spreading conspiracy theories popular among the European far-right.

  • Reporter Emmanuelle Elbaz-Phelps was sitting across the table and did not let Gilad’s comments slide, with him calling the Europeans “liars” in response.
  • Gilad’s comments were widely criticized on social media. Noting that this is not the first controversial comment Gilad has made (in 2017 he backed collective violence by settlers against Palestinians, including firebombings), media commentator Tomer Persico notes that “Gilad’s world is made up of Muslims that are always violent, Europeans who always lie and Jews who have the full right to commit arson.”
  • The backlash also apparently sparks a debate at the station.
  • “Much respect to the awesome Emmanuelle Elbaz-Phelps who was not silent in the face of the lies and conspiracy theories spread on the morning show of Reshet TV and who put things right,” tweeted the network’s Barak Ravid.
  • But reporter Akiva Novick asks “how liberal are we that we would fire a host for refusing to believe authorities.”
  • Seffi Ovadia, another reporter, responds that he doesn’t think Gilad should be fired “but the debate over where the line is between legitimate journalism and anti-journalism conspiracy theories is among the most important we’ve had here.”

7. Play your part: Haaretz’s Bradley Burston, who for years has written biting and pointed columns in English about life in Israel, government wrongdoing and various other ills here, writes a farewell column, announcing his retirement and urging journalists to keep on keeping on in pursuit of truth and justice.

  • “In the end, if authoritarians are to be defeated, it will be in part because the endangered species called journalists refused to roll over and be domesticated or eradicated, because newswomen and newsmen were willing to take the heat inherent in committing the crime of just doing their job,” he writes. “Accurately. Fairly. And despite their real fears, fearlessly.”
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