Israel media review

The truth comes out (no, not that): 6 things to know for September 7

Israel's arming of rebels and Iran's nuclear ambitions are no longer big secrets; the biggest mystery seems to be why The New York Times published that op-ed

Syrian rebel fighters from the Quneitra province walk with their rifles as they wait at the Morek crossing point to be transfered in the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo on July 21, 2018. (AFP Photo/Aaref Watad)

1. Rebel yell: A report in Foreign Policy confirms what many have long suspected, that Israel’s relationship with rebels in southern Syria extended far beyond occasional medical aid at the border.

  • The report by Elizabeth Tsurkov details not only the military aid received by the rebels from Israel — including assault rifles, machine guns, mortar launchers, and vehicles — but also Israel’s refusal to help the rebels once the Russian-backed hammer came down this summer.
  • Tsurkov reports that the military and financial aid “created an expectation among the rebels that Israel would intercede if troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad tried to advance on southern Syria.”
  • “This is a lesson we will not forget about Israel. It does not care about … the people. It does not care about humanity. All it cares about is its own interests, the magazine quotes a rebel saying.
  • There’s a lot more in the actual report and in this Newsweek report that one won’t see in Israeli publications.

2. Solving Iran’s nuclear puzzle: On the other hand, Israel is not shy about letting secrets out from Iran’s filched nuclear archive, with Yedioth Ahronoth’s Ronen Bergman reporting on a smattering of the 55,000 pages of documents taken, by his count.

  • Bergman reports that Mossad agents had only been after a few binders of info when they stumbled upon a room filled with disks. Wondering whether to grab the whole lot, which could risk endangering the operation, they were told to grab everything they could.
  • The documents contain everything from selfies to plans for nuclear warheads, Bergman writes, and though there was much pooh-poohing of the info as old news when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed it, a western intel source tells him it actually was quite important.
  • “For years we saw all sorts of projects, but we did not always understand the links between them. … These papers that Israel got solved all the mysteries.”

3. Just nuke it: The nuclear archive also makes a cameo in a cute self-effacing clip put out by Netanyahu to celebrate the New Year.

  • The video shows him visiting a family celebrating the new year with a pot of rice, and then boring them to death by trying to talk about all of his achievements. At the end, when they taste the rice, he tells them it’s a Persian variety, and when they ask for the recipe, he pulls out a binder from the nuclear archive to find it.


4. Better left unsaid: There are still plenty of mysteries surrounding the nuclear archive, but the world, including Israel, is more obsessed right now with the who-wrote-it surrounding the anonymous New York Times op-ed, as well as the political kerfuffle it has sparked.

  • Haaretz, which has a content sharing deal with the New York Times, runs a Hebrew translation of the op-ed in full, but in the same paper columnist Chemi Shalev writes that the Times was mistaken for running it, playing right into US President Donald Trump’s hands.
  • “Trump can convince himself that the New York Times op-ed proves there’s a leftist putsch against him. His anger will grow, his paranoia will strengthen, his frenzied state will peak and his predilection for quick revenge, necessarily haphazard, will burn like a fire with all its might,” he writes.
  • In Yedioth Ahronoth, Nadav Eyal follows the same line of thinking, writing that end the result will be Trump surrounding himself with even more extreme figures.
  • Pro-Trump Israel Hayom also takes the columnist to task, albeit for being a “coward with an agenda,” in the words of editor Boaz Bismuth.
  • “The obsessive and never-ending battle against the president of the US has reached new heights. Now ‘anonymous soldiers’ are being drafted into the fight Is anything legitimate in order to push out an elected president?” he writes, largely echoing White House talking points and oft-repeated defenses of Netanyahu.

5. Sara suspicions: There may be more of the latter, with Haaretz reporting that so-called case 4000 has raised fraud suspicions against the prime minister’s wife Sara Netanyahu.

  • The paper’s Gidi Weitz writes that while Sara Netanyahu was named as a possible suspect for receiving bribes from Bezeq owner Shaul Elovitch, she’s unlikely to actually be charged over that. Rather, the more solid case against her is that she secretly used the services of former media adviser Nir Hefetz, which may have been a gift.
  • “Suspicions have arisen that Sara Netanyahu pretended to be paying him out of her own pocket, when in reality he continued working for free. If evidence is found to support these suspicions, Sara Netanyahu could be charged with fraud against the state comptroller,” he writes.
  • What’s left out, however, is what Hefetz, who has since turned state’s witness, got in return for giving away his services to the Netanyahus, if anything.

6. Unbearable wait: The legal troubles for Netanyahu are likely not to be as embarrassing as the time he was caught on camera waiting outside 10 Downing St. for British counterpart Theresa May to open the door for him a couple of years ago.

  • Netanyahu now has an empathetic shoulder to cry on after buddy Jared Kushner suffered the same fate outside a NAFTA meeting Thursday.

  • Netanyahu was mercifully only left waiting a few moments, while Kushner agonized for several minutes outside the door as he pretended not to notice a reporter yelling questions and cameras rolling.
  • Awkward doesn’t even begin to describe it.


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