Israel media review

See no evil: 10 things to know for November 29

A suspected killer is found in plain sight after a manhunt, a former flack accused of sexual misconduct has case closed, and Tel Aviv is warned its coffee-sipping days may be over

Joshua Davidovich is The Times of Israel's Deputy Editor

Police and medical personnel outside the home of Sylvana Tsegai, after she was found dead on November 26, 2018. (Flash90)
Police and medical personnel outside the home of Sylvana Tsegai, after she was found dead on November 26, 2018. (Flash90)

1. Hiding in plain sight: After a nearly-48 hours manhunt, the main suspect in the murder of a 13-year-old Eritrean asylum seeker in Tel Aviv was collared late Wednesday.

  • Despite police saying they were searching for him, Tesfebarhan Tesfasion was captured in a neighborhood not far from where the murder took place, after a passerby spotted him sitting on a bench out in the open. Surveillance footage aired by Hebrew media showed him buying food from a corner store a few minutes before he was caught, disguised in nothing other than a hat and jacket, and apparently evading detection, despite his face being plastered all over the news.
  • “He had a hat, nice guy,” the cashier at the store tells Israel Hayom. “I didn’t recognize him, despite seeing his picture.”
  • Even the person who saw him and alerted police admits he was only tipped off by his winterwear on a relatively balmy night: “He had a hat and a rain jacket and it’s not cold enough to go out with a hat and jacket like that. That’s what caused me to pay attention,” he told police, Haaretz reports.

2. More terrible details emerge: Most press reports, though, focus on new details of the case that have emerged, including suspicions that Tesfasion raped Sylvana Tsagai before strangling her to death.

  • According to security camera footage first aired by Channel 10, he got to the house the girl shared with her mother a short while before she returned home from school.
  • “According to police, Tesfasion waited for her in the house and after she arrived, locked the door behind her and murdered her in horrible fashion in the place that should have been safest for her. After some three hours, he was seen leaving the place and not hurrying to escape,” Ynet writes.
  • According to Hadashot news, he took out a large amount of money before the killing, leading to suspicions it was planned. Police also thought the money meant he would try to flee the country, according to some reports.
  • Israel Hayom reports that police think he was among the more well off asylum seekers in the Eritrean community, and made his money bringing foreign workers into the country.
  • Yet Yedioth quotes a neighbor saying Sylvana had been beaten before by her mom’s partner over a money issue:
  • “The mom’s ex-husband would send her money every month through the girl. One time, he gave her NIS 2,000 and she took NIS 100 to buy herself something. When the boyfriend found out, he beat the girl and she ran to us to tell us. After she returned home. There was constant violence in that house. Sylvana was a terrific girl,” the neighbor is quoted saying.

3. No problem found: Months after ToI’s Raphael Ahren reported on over a dozen women accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s foreign media adviser David Keyes of sexual assault and harassment, the single official inquiry to arise from the case has been closed.

  • The Civil Service Commission says it has closed a probe into whether Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer acted improperly by not passing along a warning about Keyes from then-Wall Street Journal editor Bret Stephens, saying no wrongdoing was found. Ditto for an informal probe into any wrongdoing by Keyes (almost all the accusations were from before he worked for the prime minister and were therefore not investigated by the commission).
  • Channel 10 correspondent Barak Ravid, who also reported on accusations against Keyes, intimates that the probe was a farce, and writes on Twitter that closing them “sends a very bad message to women working in government offices and a green light to all the sexual harassers and especially those who protect them.”
  • Keyes took time off after the affair broke in September, and a recent report said he had resigned, but there has been no official word. The Prime Minister’s Office has not responded to a ToI request for a clarification on Keyes’s status.

4. Bibi over easy: Haaretz’s Gidi Weitz reports that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has recently expanded his legal team, tasked with looking into possible indictments for Netanyahu.

  • Rather than indicate that this means he is taking the case more seriously, Weitz says it may be a prelude to Mandelblit going easy on Netanyahu and only charging him with the most minor crimes, while noting that his analysis is merely speculation based on circumstantial evidence.
  • “The attorney general has huge influence over the fate of criminal cases against the Netanyahus, but he will not have the ultimate say. Mandelblit needs an inside support group, especially considering that he’s shooting for lessened charges or to close the file that’s oozing with suspicion,” he writes.

5. Coffee burn: A speech by Home Front command head Tamir Yadai that Tel Aviv will be under fire in whatever the next war Israeli fights is raising some hackles.

  • Specifically, Yadai said, “In future events, there won’t be a situation in which they are fighting in the north and Gaza, and in Tel Aviv, they are drinking coffee — that’s the heritage of the past.”
  • The comment, which is the Israeli equivalent of calling Tel Avivians out-of-touch coastal elites, riffs on Tel Aviv’s well known cafe culture. For years, people have stereotyped the city as out of touch, calling it “the state of Tel Aviv,” and that feeling apparently persists, even after it was targeted by many more rockets than Jerusalem during the 2014 war.
  • After some people complained, the army released a statement later Wednesday, saying it was not meant as a criticism of Tel Aviv, Hadashot news reports.
  • Yedioth’s Yossi Yehoshua, while indicating that Yadai should “stick to rockets, not cappuccino,” says criticism over a lack of tact in warning the country about dangers should go to his bosses, who set the agenda, and in any case, people should be worried, especially if war breaks out in the north.
  • “Hezbollah can shoot 1,500 rockets a day in the first four days, and after that 1,200 a day,” he writes. “And we are not talking about a rocket with a 20 kilogram warhead, like that which destroyed a house in Beer Sheba on October 17, but also those with warheads of 200 kilograms, 300, or even more.”

6. Civil unrest: Settlers and right-wingers are fuming, after a report by the Kan public broadcaster on a letter sent by a Civil Administration official calling for the freezing of projects in the hardline settlement of Yitzhar, until the community halts incessant cases of violence against Palestinians and Israeli security forces.

  • ToI’s Jacob Magid reports that the woman who wrote the letter is senior official Idit Zargarian.
  • “Inconceivable that the most senior IDF officials seek and assist in the development of the settlement, while blatantly ignoring the actions of (Yitzhar) residents and the residents of the surrounding outposts, which have included attacks on security forces,” she wrote.
  • Following the letter, settler leader Yossi Dagan called for her to be fired, and MK Bezalel Smotrich urged the Civil Administration, which deals with civilian issues in Area C of the West Bank. be shuttered altogether.
  • “This document reflects a political agenda that is hostile to communities and residents of Judea and Samaria, which unfortunately has been spreading in this unnecessary body,” Smotrich said in a statement, Magid reports.

7. Saying goodbye is so hard to do: In that, Smotrich would likely be joined by most left-wingers, who would like to see Israel shut down the Civil Administration, and any other body operating in the West Bank, as part of a total withdrawal from the settlements.

  • Former IDF spokesman Peter Lerner, though, writes in Haaretz’s op-ed section that ending the occupation is easier said than done.
  • “The challenges in 2018 are threefold. Leadership, geography and trust,” he writes, referring to weak PA President Mahmoud Abbas; the strategic value of the West Bank’s mountain ridges, which hover over much of the country; and the ability of both sides to even get to the table.
  • “We must look at the issues with open, but realistic and practical eyes. We have to explore a path for Israel that recognizes our Jewish heritage here – but also admits that insisting on a ‘Jerusalem eternally united’ under sole Israeli sovereignty, and maintaining the Jewish settlement in the heart of Hebron, may well mean we end up a minority in a one-state Holy Land,” he writes. “And we know what happens to minorities in the Middle East.”

8. Press squeezed in Gaza: In the left-leaning 972 news magazine, Dina Saeed writes about the often overlooked plight of journalists in Gaza, who are restricted by Hamas and shot at by Israelis.

  • “According to [freelance photographer Hosam] Salem, lack of personal security is the most common problem that freelance journalists encounter. For example, the Israeli government prevents the entry of helmets and protection vests, under the pretext that Hamas uses them for terrorist purposes. The protective equipment that is available within the Strip is often too expensive for journalists to buy independently,” she writes.
  • “Some have found it more affordable to simply sew their own press vests. Others, like Salem, can only do their jobs if and when colleagues are willing to share their gear.”
  • “Whenever I come closer to the borders, I borrow the vest and helmet from my colleagues to take good and clear pictures. I do not have another choice; taking pictures is my only income,” Salem tells her.

9. Into Africa: Amid a flurry of diplomatic activity regarding Chad and other places, Israel Hayom reports that Israel and Rwanda are close to establishing a direct flight route.

  • According to the tabloid, the route would be only the third between Israel and Africa (aside from one to Addis Ababa and one to Johannesburg) and would only be run by the Rwandan national carrier, and not El Al, since “it is not expected to be profitable.”
  • Meanwhile, Channel 10 news reports that ties with Chad, supposedly about to get restored, may have hit some bumps, with Chadian leader Idriss Deby insisting on a laundry list of demands, including significant arms sales.
  • Déby and his entourage were “extremely aggressive” about their demands, and hinted they could condition the resumption of diplomatic ties — which were severed in 1972 — on them being met, according to the report, which cited foreign ministry officials.

10. Do you even plan, bro? You can keep your giant cows. In Israel, social media is obsessed with giant biceps, after Yesh Atid bro/leader Yair Lapid, tweeted a video showing him pumping iron, with the text, “It said in my planner ‘Exercise.’”

  • Likud MK Anat Berko responds with: “It said in my planner ‘Legislative panel,’” and President Reuven Rivlin tweets pictures of himself observing a special forces exercise with the text — you guessed it: “It said in my planner ‘Exercise.’” (Lapid retweets Rivlin, showing he’s not bitter)
  • The Beitar Jerusalem also gets in on the fun, with a picture of their players working out, and others take it to the extreme, like Twitter user Her Schreibt, who posts a picture of them tweeting, “Tomorrow is Wednesday” and the text “It said in my planner ‘tweet tomorrow is Wednesday.’”
  • On a more serious note, Lapid on Facebook tackles a much more disturbing incident, after he mentioned in an interview that he does not celebrate his birthday, because it was also the birthday of his sister who was killed in a car accident at age 24.
  • Lapid writes that some sleuths looked it up and found a document that listed a different birthday for his sister, accusing him of lying to try and score political points, and the media picked up the story and ended up smearing him.
  • “I wonder what the man at the news desk responsible for the article said to himself,” he writes in the heartfelt post. “Had it really not occurred to him that there were things no one would lie about? No one, not even someone who went into political life.”

"This is the post I didn’t want to write:————My sister Michal was born on the 5th of November, 1960. I was born three…

Posted by Yesh Atid on Tuesday, November 27, 2018

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