1. Where is the love? US President Donald Trump spoke to the Israeli American Council Saturday night, regaling the little-known but growing group — funded by right-wing American Israeli tycoons Miriam (Sheldon) Adelson and Adam Milstein — with tales of moving the US embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing the Golan Heights.
- It wouldn’t be a Trump speech without some controversy, and he provided it — though only dribs and drabs compared to some of his other speeches — by saying that some American Jews just don’t love Israel quite to his liking, and predicting that Jews would vote for him even if they hate him because their wallet is what matters at the end of the day (in not so many words.)
- “Speaking to Israeli-American group, Trump slams Jews who ‘don’t love Israel enough,’” reads JTA’s headline, which notes that “He twice called out Jews who he said did not adequately support Israel.”
- Haaretz notes that “Trump also said that international law does not prohibit Israeli settlements in the West Bank, echoing a comment by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, during the speech, which was punctuated by cheers and chants of ‘four more years’ from the audience.”
- ToI’s Eric Cortellessa writes that Trump trafficked in some other anti-Semitic stereotypes as well, telling the Jewish group that they would vote for him to protect their wealth.
2. Where’s Bibi? Almost as important as what Trump did say is what he didn’t mention, namely Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
- “Trump gave a speech Saturday thanking many people for positive Israeli-American relations, but did not mention one prominent supporter: Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” notes USA Today.
- “Nor did Trump discuss whether he would grant Netanyahu’s major request to back an Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley, a strip of land that includes nearly a third of the West Bank,” the paper goes on to note.
- The two are still best friends on a ridiculous Lamborghini Aventador that was parked outside the conference, drawing gawks.
- Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer, meanwhile, notes that Trump is really like another politician.
Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn, two antisemitic politicians who believe most Jews are money-grubbing capitalists who only care about Israel
— Anshel Pfeffer (@AnshelPfeffer) December 8, 2019
3. I just flew in and boy are my tropes tired: While the Americans were staring slack-jawed at Trump’s latest, Hebrew-language reporters were eating up every word.
- Both Channel 12’s Amit Segal and Yair Sharki call Trump’s monologue about moving the US embassy to Jerusalem “great stand-up.”
- “The stand-up act of the year,” gushes Segal, who apparently has never seen a Trump speech before (the embassy bit features regularly in his many and sundry speeches).
- The channel’s Mako website uses the same headline as many in English, Trump saying some Jews don’t love Israel enough, but couches it as a “pro-Israel speech.”
- Channel 13’s coverage of the speech leads off with the sweet Shalva Band playing in front of Trump, and him praising them.
- And of course the Adelson-owned Israel Hayom has nothing but praise, calling the speech “historic.”
- “Trump reiterated his government’s deep commitment to its alliance with Israel,” reports that paper’s Yoni Hirsch, who translated a large portion of Trump’s 45-minute address.
- The print edition’s coverage of the event, which preceded Trump’s speech, includes a picture of none other than editor in chief Boaz Bismuth.
4. Bet the trifecta: The Trumpstravanganza was just a sideshow, though, to the main event, which is swiftly approaching Israeli elections.
- The date that seems to be chosen is March 3, which means the third election will be on 3/3, which dovetails nicely with the 333 witnesses lined up against Netanyahu.
- “All paths lead to the ballot box,” reads a headline in Israel Hayom.
- “The estimation in both Likud and Blue and White is that without something totally unexpected happening — a ‘real miracle’ in the words of one MK over the weekend — there will be no choice but to go to new elections.”
- Army Radio reports that the right-religious bloc allied with Netanyahu decided unanimously to dissolve the Knesset and call elections for March 3.
5. Last gasps: Despite that, several news organizations are still apparently holding out hope, or trying to drum up some drama, with headlines heralding the start of the “decisive week.” They have trouble seeming convincing, though.
- “Four days is a decent amount of time to find a magic bullet or last-minute flexibility behind the scenes. All the parties launched ‘gevald’ campaigns over the weekend and promised that they are ready to do ‘everything’ to avoid more elections,” writes Walla’s Tal Shalev, though she admits “optimism is low across the political spectrum. The only thing they seem to have agreed on is the March 3 date.”
- Labor MK Omer Bar-Lev, who has pushed for Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein to get 61 signatures to form and head up a government, with the idea being that this is a way to get someone other than Netanyahu into a rotation with Blue and White, tells Ynet he still thinks the idea was a good one, even after his party disowned it.
- “Labor-Gesher will never sit under Netanyahu as prime minister, nor will Blue and White. So the only way to do this is with something different. I have no personal issue with Edelstein, I didn’t ask him what he thinks. I have disagreements with him over diplomatic and security policy, but that’s not the point,” he says.
6. Direct marketing: Netanyahu, meanwhile, is seen as trying to torpedo a party leadership challenge by calling for direct elections between him and Blue and White’s Benny Gantz instead of a third general vote.
- “Let the people choose,” is suddenly his new mantra.
- The idea doesn’t have many takers, for a bevy of reasons. Speaking to Kan radio, main challenger Gideon Sa’ar says “Likud always objected to the idea of direct elections, it caused great damage and was rightly canceled after several years … We shouldn’t hastily change the system of governance to try and solve a momentary political situation.”
- ToI’s Raoul Wootliff notes, “The proposal would likely face a formidable legal challenge from the High Court of Justice as it would entail sweeping reforms by a caretaker government during an election campaign.”
- “While a direct election for prime minister would automatically determine who would form the government, it would not change the coalition arithmetic, and the winner would still need to form a coalition from the same parties elected in September,” he adds.
- Haaretz, though, notes that Likud is banking on the fact that smaller parties would rather not press their luck by going back to the polls: “Labor-Gesher and the Democratic Union are concerned they won’t pass the electoral threshold, and Bennett and his partner Ayelet Shaked won’t want to risk the possibility that their party would remain outside the Knesset like it did in the April election.”
- Even in Netanyahu-backing Israel Hayom the idea doesn’t get much traction. A column by Mati Tuchfeld is headlined “Direct elections won’t solve the problem,” but he actually argues that primaries are also futile.
- “There won’t be any Likud mutiny. Even if there are primaries, Netanyahu will beat everyone. The media will drum up drama, try to pump up any candidate against him, giving the feeling that it’s an open game, but in the end the result is known in advance. Netanyahu will lead Likud to the next election with or without primaries.”