The snake you know best: 8 things to know for September 6
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Israel media review

The snake you know best: 8 things to know for September 6

While Washington searches for the White House mole, diplomats from DC to Jerusalem to Asuncion are busy contradicting their own selves or government policies

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, left, and US national security adviser John Bolton, visit the US Embassy in Jerusalem, on August 21, 2018. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Jerusalem)
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, left, and US national security adviser John Bolton, visit the US Embassy in Jerusalem, on August 21, 2018. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Jerusalem)

1. Mystery man: The US is obsessing with hunting for the mystery man or woman in the Donald Trump White House who penned the anonymous New York Times op-ed about undermining the president.

  • Israel’s press, which always pays pretty close attention to US politics because of its possible bearing on Israeli policy, also covers the op-ed, but regards it mostly as a curio.
  • “Quiet rebellion,” reads a headline in Hadashot news’s website.
  • Haaretz’s Dafna Maor reports on the race to uncover the author (which insanely will include New York Times reporters trying to uncover an identity their colleagues across the opinion firewall have sworn to protect), writing that “Washington is in turmoil trying to figure out the writer.”
  • Her item mostly relies on the theory that the writer is Vice President Mike Pence, thanks to a textual analysis of the un-ordinary word “lodestar,” by Panoply editor Dan Bloom.

2. Golan sovereignty? Depends who you ask: Not everybody who points to chaos in the White House does so anonymously or even knowingly. Ambassador David Friedman delivers the latest confusing policy turnaround by the administration, telling Israel Hayom that he sees “no situation in which the Golan Heights is not part of Israel.”

That statement comes just weeks after National Security Adviser John Bolton said recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan was not being discussed.

The paper also reports that the Israel Defense Forces briefly considered taking military action inside the Syrian Golan, until Russian police and troops showed up to secure the border.

Meanwhile, in a sign everything is getting back to hunky dory, Ireland has announced it’s sending 130 troops back to UNDOF observation posts, after being chased out of the area four years ago by jihadist rebels.

3. Everything is fine: Maybe it’s just a thing with envoys being behind the loop. Hours after Paraguay announced it was moving its embassy back from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, envoy to the US Ron Dermer gave a speech in which he said Palestinians are losing their influence.

  • Haaretz reports that Dermer specifically said the Palestinians have lost their influence in the Arab world, as proven by the tame response to the US moving its embassy to Jerusalem, though it’s hard to imagine an assessment of the world in which South America cares more about the Palestinian cause than the Middle East does.
  • “Opponents of recognition argued that it would harm America’s standing in the Arab world and undermine America’s relationship with Arab states,” Dermer said, according to Haaretz. “They warned that it would lead to widespread violence throughout the region. Now when President Trump has gone ahead, we can see that those dire predictions proved predictably wrong.”

4. Asuncion about-face: Though Haaretz reported Wednesday that building on the success of the Paraguay embassy moving to Jerusalem was among the New year’s resolutions listed by the Foreign Ministry in an internal planning document for 2019, Yedioth Ahronoth reports that Jerusalem actually knew the reversal was coming.

  • Though the Palestinians said that they convinced Asuncion to reverse course two weeks ago, Yedioth reports that Jerusalem smelled trouble brewing at the end of July, and Netanyahu asked President Reuven Rivlin to travel to Paraguay for the inauguration of new president Mario Abdo Benitez. When asked why he didn’t go himself, Netanyahu said he would be in Colombia for the inauguration of Ivan Duque then.
  • “Rivlin asked why Paraguay is so important and got this answer: The outgoing president Harcio Cartes moved the embassy but conditioned it on decided within six months whether to move it back to Tel Aviv. It’s important that the new president leave the embassy in the city. A visit by the president will help convince him.”
  • The paper reports that Rivlin thought Netanyahu was setting a trap for him, since if he went and they moved it anyway, he would be blamed.
  • In the end, Rivlin refused and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat went instead.

5. Bogota blues: Netanyahu also canceled his trip to Colombia, blaming southern tensions, and Bogota has since decided to stick with its recognition of Palestine, which was granted as Juan Manuel Santos left office.

  • In Israel Hayom, Ariel Kahana writes that Israel needs to look into what is going on with “the blinking light” from Latin America, all but writing that it should be grateful for Israel even glancing in its direction.
  • “A friendly country like [Colombia], with a president that Netanyahu personally bothered to visit on the other side of the world, gave him a parting gift of recognition of Palestine. It’s not only that our influence there is limited, and as proof Netanyahu didn’t even try to change the problematic decision, he didn’t even punish Colombia for the PR hit to Israel.”
  • This time Israel did take action, closing the embassy in Asuncion, though Yedioth notes that the Foreign Ministry never thought it should open in the first place, and there were some shady money dealings with former Netanyahu aide Ari Harow, who is now a state’s witness.

6. Demolition derby: Haaretz leads off its print pages with the news of the High Court decision to allow the razing of Bedouin hamlet Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank.

  • Columnist Mordechai Kremnitzer in the paper calls the decision “unsurprising” and says the court simply confirmed legal abuses allowed under the West Bank’s unfair planning regime, which discriminates against Palestinians.
  • “The system works to push out the Palestinians as much as possible. Instead of allowing them to plan and build, it chokes them with zoning that doesn’t meet their basic needs and the denial of building permits. Its main function is to demolish homes that residents build without permits because they have no choice and to remove them from the land,” he writes.

7. Courting the right: Nonetheless, the right wing is celebrating the win, the latest in a series of rulings from a High Court once reviled by the right as an anti-Zionist enterprise that should be crushed by a D-9 bulldozer.

  • In an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked from the pro-settler Jewish Home party crows that the court “is no longer a branch of Meretz.”
  • Shaked credits herself for nominating judges that are more “conservative,” and seems to indicate her goal is to serve right-wing interests, not the state or justice.
  • “Most citizens see that for the first time there is an effective justice minister who is carrying out right-wing policies. Democracy in my era hasn’t been ‘weakened, it’s just getting stronger.”

8. The new blue dress: The press in Israel is not taking in stride the news that Monica Lewinsky has a new movie coming out in which she talks about her relationship with Bill Clinton, with the news coming days she refused to talk to Hadashot news’ Yonit Levy about Clinton and walked off a stage mid-interview earlier this week.

  • Hadashot news says its only agreement with Lewinsky was to not discuss the movie, which it upheld, even after she stormed off.
  • Haaretz calls the movie “the real reason Lewinsky cut off her interview.”
  • Its own news report on the matter is dripping with sarcasm. The channel’s news website writes that “This is the first time Lewinsky will speak about her personal experiences — i.e., what she wouldn’t tell Yonit Levy … the Hadashot news company can’t wait.”
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