1. Rough and tough and strong and mean: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has broken his silence on Iran, threatening to deal it a harsh blow if it hits Israel.
- This comes after Iran fired over 20 missiles at bases housing US soldiers in Iraq. In a notice about the attack carried by Iran’s Tasnim news agency, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps threatens a larger response to any US reprisal and adds that “We in no way consider the Zionist regime (of Israel) to be separated from the criminal US regime in these crimes.”
- Several Israeli news sites interpret the Iranian comment to be a direct threat to hit Israel: ”IRGC threatens to attack Israel if US responds to missile attack in Iraq,” reads a headline in Israel National News.
- NBC News’s Ali Arouzi tweets that Iran threatened it would destroy Haifa and Dubai specifically if the US responds.
— Ali Arouzi (@aliarouzi) January 8, 2020
2. Get ready, all you lonely Israelis: The mutual threats come after Israel essentially tried to place itself outside the simmering tensions.
- The Iranian mess doesn’t even make it into the pages of Yedioth Ahronoth until Page 22 on Wednesday, but Israelis are suddenly paying attention again, and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s comment that the Iranian attack was a “slap in the face” to the US leads most Hebrew news sites Wednesday morning.
- In Ynet, Ron Ben Yishai writes that the IRGC’s threats against Israel “were meant to warn Israel from taking part in any American reprisal, if there is one… For now Israel is standing on the sidelines, and Iran is only slinging warnings our way.”
- Channel 12’s Roni Daniel writes that even though Israelis don’t actually expect Iran to attack it, the army is girding just in case, especially its air defenses and air attack systems: “This could last a while. The Iranians have patience and will wait until the best time for them, which means a not short time of being on alert for all relevant army apparatuses and the State of Israel as a whole.”
3. Leave those rocket launchers at home: But more than the timing, the question now is whether the US will respond and if Iran is planning still more attacks.
- Signaling that it may let things just go, the US, in the form of President Donald Trump, says “so far, so good,” indicating no US troops were harmed in the reprisal.
- And signaling that it could still try to save face and walk away, Iran claims it killed some 80 US soldiers, though Khamenei follows it up by tweeting “such military actions are not enough.”
The 'will they, won't they' continues pic.twitter.com/a0f0tBictD
— Judah Ari Gross (@JudahAriGross) January 8, 2020
- Most in Israel are not buying that the Americans are hiding 80 dead: “The Iranians are liars,” former Israeli general Amos Gilad tells Army Radio. “The US can’t lie because it has a free press, but Iranians can lie. If there are no casualties, it’s possible the US will choose not to respond.”
- In Haaretz, Zvi Bar’el notes that Iran is being careful no matter its response not to give the US a reason to launch a large-scale attack or start a war: “Iran is still restrained by the same dilemma it has faced ever since the United States withdrew from the nuclear agreement and imposed painful sanctions on Tehran: What is the limit of effective response that could cause an American turnabout but not turn Iran into a legitimate battle target?”
- Israel Hayom also appears to be betting on the donnybrook blowing over, running a top front page headline that calls Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Syria a bid to rein in Iran.
- “Putin isn’t just a world champ in finding opportunities for political gains, but is also expert in identifying dangers. And the president of Russia, after the assassination in Baghdad, smells danger.”
4. Out, from the damned spot: Another day, another false report about US troops pulling out of somewhere in the Middle East: This time it’s in Kuwait, where the state’s official news agency says news of a withdrawal is the result of a hacking operation.
- The last false report was actually real, courtesy of a draft paper sent by accident, and in Haaretz, Amos Harel notes that even if not in play, it still “expresses an idea that the administration is seriously contemplating – expedited withdrawal of the 5,000 soldiers remaining in Iraq, whose presence is a remnant of the US invasion in 2003.”
- “In the spirit of the advice President Lyndon Johnson received during the Vietnam War – declare victory and get out – Trump might reach the same conclusion: Depict Soleimani’s killing as a historic victory and take advantage of the opportunity to limit the U.S. military commitment in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq,” he adds.
- In Walla, Guy Elster also writes that it would make sense for Trump to start pulling personnel out of the region as elections near. “A possible retreat, together with the hurt he put on Iran with the hit on the second most important person in the regime, can play in Trump’s favor ahead of elections. He put down a red line and enforced it, unlike his predecessor, and did not send troops off to a faraway war to be the police of the world.”
5. Apres Iran, le deluge: Perhaps Iran’s real dastardly plan is to send oodles of glorious rain to Israel.
- With a major weather system starting to wallop the country, and with six flood deaths already recorded this season, Israel has all eyes on the wet stuff coming down.
- Flooding in Haifa and elsewhere and snow in the north make top news.
Channel 13 runs videos showing swollen rivers in the north, children in the Golan evacuating school as the white stuff begins to pile up and a street in Haifa suburb Nesher pretty much underwater.
- “And the storm is getting stronger,” the channel warns.
- Many other places focus on Nahariya, close to the Lebanon border, which is experiencing some of the heaviest flooding. Despite the emergency services promising to do everything to make sure there are no more fatalities, Hebrew media reports that a person who disappeared after a car was inundated and overturned was found dead in the city.
- A video published by the site shows a tractor being used unsuccessfully to try and snag a car being swept away.
הצפות בנהריה | דובר כבאות מחוז חוף, חזי מוצפי: רכב נסחף ברחוב שפרינצק, מחפשים אחר גבר בן 32 pic.twitter.com/5ljcoGaHPG
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) January 8, 2020
- Ynet reports that residents of the city are being told to stay in their homes because of city streets flooding. A video shows people not listening and wading through waist-deep water to cross streets.
- If it’s bone dry where you are, or just drizzly, just wait/ A Meteo-tech meteorologist tells the site that “the storm will focus every few hours on a different area. Today the north is getting large rain amounts. … This could cause huge damage. In a few hours Tel Aviv will also be in the line of rain.”
6. The (water level in the) south shall rise again: South Tel Aviv saw some of the worst flooding already this week, with two people drowning after getting trapped in an elevator.
- Haaretz looks at why South Tel Aviv always seems to get the worst of it, specifically the area where the deadly incident occurred, and notes that a drainage plan for the city points out that the specific area is in need of significant upgrades, which apparently have yet to take place.
- “The plan says that many parts of the system can’t keep up with the flow. The narrow streets and lack of open public spaces, and an anticipated urban renewal plan, demand extensive infrastructure work along the neighborhood’s main streets,” the paper reports. “Six years later, few of the recommendations have been implemented. The city said that it intends to advance a plan to upgrade Hatikva Park to help manage surface flow, but the plan has been delayed because the area is designated as a staging area for construction of a branch of the light rail.”
- Walla reports that the city, which is attempting to clear itself of any responsibility, sent letters to residents of south Tel Aviv telling them to cooperate with a city assessor and to sign a document stating that the city has no responsibility because of the large amount of water.
- Not only that, but a resident tells the news site that despite pleas for authorities to send workers to clear out flood drains to make sure that there is not a repeat of the flood, they instead sent a sanitation worker with a vacuum truck “who didn’t fix anything.”
- “We’re heading for another storm and this is just chutzpah,” she says.
7. Labor’s logic lost: With a week to go before party lists are finalized, there have yet to be any major mergers as the country slouches reluctantly toward elections.
- A plan released by Labor-Gesher leader Amir Peretz to unite the center-left in one big party sparks some initial excitement, but is quickly shot down.
- “It’s spin,” reads a headline in Haaretz, quoting “political operatives,” who say Peretz is just trying to make Blue and White head Benny Gantz, who will have to reject getting together with far-left Meretz, look bad.
- By Wednesday afternoon, Gantz has come out publicly against the plan, (“it’s spin,” he’s quoted saying in Haaretz) seemingly permanently burying it.
- Channel 13’s Raviv Drucker reports that Gantz already made up his mind to break right and try and steal votes from that side of the political spectrum. “An internal study found that the party could grab yet more votes from the right, and so their decision was made to reject any possibility of a minority government with the Joint List.”
- He also says Gantz and co. don’t want to steal votes from likely partners on the left.
- “After he got rid of his mustache he also got rid of any logic,” writes Zman Yisrael’s Shalom Yerushalmi, savaging Peretz for putting the idea on the table.
- “Lots of right wingers will cross the aisle over Netanyahu’s actions and the charges against him, but they won’t be willing to vote for a party that includes Meretz as a part of it,” he writes.
8. Poor choice: That’s just one of Labor’s terrible ideas. On Twitter, Yedioth’s Yuval Karni notes that a new ad by the party tries to gain the pensioner vote by promising to fight for poor pensioners. The only problem? Their poor pensioner is a member of the Hod Hasharon city council who has a large house on a 2.5 dunam plot in the middle of the city.
- “Look they already saved one poor pensioner,” tweets jokester Ronel Adani in response.
- It’s a joke, but it’s also serious, writes Hagai Amit in The Marker: “An election campaign isn’t just an ad for something. For Labor-Gesher, and all the other parties, the name of the game is being able to win the voter’s trust.”