Israel media review

The German is coming: 7 things to know for October 3

Angela Merkel may have bought doomed hamlet Khan al-Ahmar some extra time; Israel gets ready to deal with the S-300; and political bickering over Gaza continues

Joshua Davidovich is The Times of Israel's Deputy Editor

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gives a speech on her government's budget policy at the Bundestag (lower house of parliament) in Berlin, May 16, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Tobias SCHWARZ)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel gives a speech on her government's budget policy at the Bundestag (lower house of parliament) in Berlin, May 16, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Tobias SCHWARZ)

1. Dueling Weltanschauungs: German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to arrive in Israel Wednesday evening, for a trip that is already highlighting strained ties between Jerusalem and Berlin, even as the two countries attempt to patch things up.

  • ToI’s Raphael Ahren notes that the leaders are set to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the US administration’s increasingly tough policies vis-a-vis Ramallah, the Iran nuclear deal and European efforts to salvage the pact and continue trading with the Islamic Republic.
  • “Merkel and Netanyahu have deep disagreements on all of these issues,” he writes.
  • But the Israel Hayom tabloid, citing diplomatic sources, says despite Germany remaining party to the nuclear deal, it’s not doing so with the zeal of the European Union and Merkel herself doesn’t actually support it, despite public comments.
  • “Merkel is not [Federica] Mogherini. Unlike the EU foreign policy head, who is doing everything to the point of risibility to save the deal, Merkel won’t lay her life down for it. She is not pushing German investment in Iran and does not make comments like the EU foreign minister,” one source is quoted saying.

2. It takes a village: Also on the agenda will be the planned demolition of Bedouin West Bank village Khan al-Ahmar. Haaretz reports that Israel will hold off on evacuating and razing the hamlet while Merkel is in town, “due to diplomatic sensitivities.”

  • On Tuesday, children in the village aimed their pleas at Merkel, holding pictures of the chancellor and “pleading with her to pressure Israel to halt demolition plans for the encampment of shacks near Jerusalem,” according to the Associated Press.
  • Army Radio reporter Illi Schachar tweets that Merkel’s bureau told Israel she would cancel her visit if the village was evacuated, but provides no sourcing for the information.

3. On borrowed time: Visiting the village, ToI’s Jacob Magid writes that villagers are trying to maintain a sense of business as usual in the time they have left.

  • He also notes that though the Palestinian Authority and international community is raising a vocal ruckus, and residents have shifted blame away from the PA and fully toward Israel, the village has failed to garner the kind of support one might expect given the high profile protest against its demolition.
  • “Demonstrations on behalf of the Bedouin Jahalin tribe have attracted hundreds, not thousands, of supporters,” he writes, with a PA official acknowledging that the street was not galvanized like it was against the placement of metal detectors at the Temple Mount in the summer of 2017.
  • “It’s not that they aren’t with Khan al-Ahmar, but the people are tired and have lost hope,” he quotes the PA official saying.

4. Into the danger zone: After Russia on Tuesday said it had completed its delivery of the S-300 missile defense system to Syria, Army Radio reports that the air force will step up its use of F-35 fighter jets over the country in hopes of evading the air defense system.

  • The army refuses to comment on the unsourced report, but former IDF air defense chief Shahar Shohat tells the station that Israel has been training for dealing with the S-300 since before the F-35 even had wings.
  • “The air force has been training against the system for almost a decade. The plus of the plane — stealth capabilities — is significant in this case,” he says.

5. The army, though, may soon have smaller fish to fry. Seemingly ramping up the pressure on Israeli leaders to take a tougher line, Yedioth Ahronoth reports that Gazans are “targeting children” by launching balloons into Israel with both incendiary devices and toys or flashing lights attached to them, seemingly to lure kids in.

  • The paper says the phenomenon has spread over the last several days, with southern residents demanding the government do something to stop the threat, though that doesn’t necessarily mean breaking heads.
  • “I expect the prime minister to take responsibility and say ‘I’m going to do what’s needed to solve this,’” an official from Kibbutz Be’eri, near the Gaza fence, tells the paper. “That doesn’t only mean strength, but also to talk, to try things, to put in an effort, to invest resources, time, money, whatever he can. This situation cannot continue.”

6. Liberman-Bennett row slogs on: If Israel Hayom’s editorial choices are any indication of the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s thinking, though, it is force that is the main focus at this point. After another day that saw ultra-hawkish Education Minister Naftali Bennett and slightly less hawkish Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman sniping at each other over how to deal with Gaza, the paper’s front page features Bennett’s contention that Liberman is pushing “leftist policies” as its main headline.

  • Columnist Haim Shine, though, while saying he respects Bennett’s point of view and reasons for pushing for more action against Gaza, decries the bickering between the cabinet members as giving Israel’s enemies (the leftist media and Hamas, by his telling) ammo. He seems to back Liberman’s right to swat Bennett away and surmises that the fighting is really tied to electoral politics.
  • “Ahead of significant decisions regarding security and diplomacy, it’s important to listen to responsible voices. The background noise of others needs to stay in political advertising,” he writes.
  • In Walla news, Amir Bohbot writes that one thing is clear against the background of Liberman and Bennett’s scrap: “The IDF’s period of restraint and relative containment along the border with Gaza during the holidays is about to end.”
  • Bohbot also mentions, seemingly apropos of nothing and without any more details, that an Israeli citizen attempted to cross the border into Gaza a few weeks ago and was stopped by the army.

7. Lost history: Haaretz’s Nir Hasson takes a fascinating look at the mystery surrounding a priceless trove of pictures once held by Jerusalem’s American Colony, which disappeared in looting during the War of Independence.

  • The photos include pictures of Jerusalem’s history which included the surrender of the city to British forces in 1917 and German Kaiser Wilhelm’s visit years earlier, as well as other pictures from around the region taken by the Colony photo department, which employed 15 photographers.
  • While some of the photos have been recovered in the last 7 decades, including some 600 recently found in a London attic by curator Rachel Lev, who is trying to piece together the archives thousands of photos, many of them remain lost.
  • The most famous photos that are still around were given to the Library of Congress by the family of Eric Matson, who had run the photo department, though his thousands of photos are just one small part of the larger collection.
  • “Lev believes that additional footage from the American Colony collections will be uncovered in the future, and that each photograph encodes layers of complex historical information and real-time analysis,” Hasson writes.
  • Until then, it’s worth checking out the Matson collection, digitized by the Library of Congress, which features a stunning look at everything from daily life to Jewish-Arab riots to people getting around Jerusalem on skis during a snowy winter.
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