Weeding through the competition: 9 things to know for March 13
Israel media review

Weeding through the competition: 9 things to know for March 13

Israeli media’s still high on Moshe Feiglin’s up-and-coming Zehut party, focusing almost exclusively on his pro-pot policies on a day chock-full of marijuana-related stories

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

Zehut chairman Moshe Feiglin speaks during a demonstration held following the murder of 19-year-old Ori Ansbacher, in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, February 9, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg / Flash90)
Zehut chairman Moshe Feiglin speaks during a demonstration held following the murder of 19-year-old Ori Ansbacher, in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, February 9, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg / Flash90)

1. The Feiglin effect: Now that Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut party is seen in polls crossing the electoral threshold, Israeli media is scrambling to know what the other party leaders think about the main issue that ostensibly has returned Feiglin to political relevancy: marijuana legalization.

  • Yedioth Ahronoth and Haaretz both map out how each faction stands on the issue, with the answers sorta kinda falling along party lines.
  • The left-wing Meretz, Labor and Hadash-Ta’al parties say they support the measure, as do the self-described “sane right wing” Kulanu party and the hard-to-put-a-label-on-it Gesher faction of Orly Levy-Abekasis.
  • The Union of Right Wing Parties and United Torah Judaism assert they oppose legalization, as does the similarly religious, but Islamic, Ra’am-Balad party.
  • The largest camp, of course, is made up of parties still waiting to see where the wind blows or if they can make it to April without offering an opinion at all. This includes the two front-runners, Blue and White and Likud, joined by New Right, Yisrael Beytenu and Shas.
  • As Feiglin tells reporters that he is not “in the pocket” of either Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Benny Gantz, Haaretz’s Yotam Berger lays out Zehut’s platform, which all but suggests the former Likud MK wouldn’t be caught dead in a left-wing government.
  • His platform includes encouraging emigration of Palestinians and refusing them the right to vote after annexing all of the West Bank — policies for which the extremist Otzma Yehudit party has come under fire in recent weeks. This is in addition to moving the Knesset and Supreme Court next to the Temple Mount.

2. Not legal yet: Another weed-related story taking up headlines is the police bust of a major cannabis-trafficking network, which included the arrests of 42 of its top members in Israel, the United States, Ukraine and Germany.

    • The operation effectively shuts down Telegrass, one of the country’s largest drug sale networks, which had been operating via the Telegram instant messaging app.
    • Yedioth manages to interview Telegrass founder Amos Dov Silver just hours before his arrest in a telephone conversation during which he confidently states that his company isn’t going anywhere.
    • “If you think the police can take out Telegrass, you’re mistaken,” Silver boasts before being taken away in cuffs. He asserts that authorities won’t be able to touch any of his company’s dealers because all of their information is encrypted. Some, however, are a bit skeptical of that claim.
    • Nevertheless, loyal Telegrass users are planning a protest at Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, assuming that they don’t get high before and sleep through it.
  • Channel 12’s Moshe Nussbaum predicts that either the app will be back up and running within a matter of months or another forum will replace it.

3. Weed in Morocco: Keeping with today’s theme, ToI’s Ziv Genesove reports on touring marijuana plantations in Morocco, where he manages to find quite a few Jewish angles for his story.

  • Before getting to them, though, Genesove explains the drug culture in Morocco, where 50,000 growers have an arrest warrant hanging over their heads. They manage to stay out of jail by bribing police, but those bribes are not all-encompassing.
  • “My bribery only allows me to travel around a limited area of several villages without being arrested,” one grower tells Genesove. “If I have a family event in Casablanca or Marrakesh, for example, I have a problem.”
  • Between puffs, the grower’s relative tells the reporter that “Jews were the best hash dealers in Morocco.” While they might not have been growing the marijuana themselves, many Jews were responsible for selling it because of their ability to speak multiple languages, including the dialect of the Berber farmers in the Rif Mountains where weed is most prominently grown in Morocco.
  • Raphael Attias of the Center for North African Jewry says that while Jews weren’t heavy smokers centuries ago, they did consume the drug every now and again. Namely, during pre-wedding or bar mitzvah celebrations where shakshuk dal-ashub was served. The famous couscous dish contained hashish — to help them get into the mood before the big day.

4. Terror spotting: In non-weed-related news, the IDF says it has exposed a fledgling Hezbollah terror cell established in a border village on the Syrian Golan Heights in recent months.

  • Israel Hayom leads its paper with the story, which includes pictures of four of the cells top leaders in crosshairs.
  • “The network is new and currently focused on becoming familiarized with the Golan Heights area. It is intended to eventually control teams of Syrian operatives who will launch attacks against Israel,” the IDF says.
  • Military action against Hezbollah could lead to a retaliation by the terror group or its Iranian patron, but IDF officials say the army is prepared to risk such a conflict in order to avoid the larger threat posed by this cell.

5. Treading very carefully: Israel Police have reopened the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif compound this morning, roughly 24 hours after shutting down the holy site in response to a Molotov cocktail that was hurled at a police post there.

  • Haaretz’s Amos Harel reports that Israel with the help of Jordan and Egypt is trying to prevent the situation from escalating.
  • In an effort to buy time until after Israel’s elections in April, Harel says, an Egyptian delegation to Gaza has been briefing Palestinian media about “the gestures the Palestinians can expect if only they can keep the peace.
  • “A possible escalation in Jerusalem is worrying in itself, particularly in light of the religious element of the tension there, but also because of the growing danger that it could fan the flames in Gaza, as has happened many times,” Harel writes.

6. Jexodus: US President Donald Trump tweets a quote from an interview Jexodus spokeswoman Elizabeth Pipko gave to “Fox & Friends” in which she claimed that the Democratic party is anti-Semitic, and Jewish media has been scrambling to find out what exactly Jexodus even is.

  • Founded a few weeks ago, Jexodus aims to pull support away from the Democrats, whom the vast majority of American Jews have long backed.
  • While the group professes to cater to disillusioned Democrats, its members appear to be exclusively conservative, including Pipko herself who worked as a staffer on the 2016 Trump campaign.
  • JTA’s Ron Kampeas argues that the insinuation that Jews are bolting the Democratic party is fake news.
  • Despite his strong support of Israel, the US president remains deeply unpopular among many American Jews and his close ties with Netanyahu could be more of a liability than an asset, Kampeas writes.
  • Anti Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt wasn’t too happy about Trump’s tweet either.

7. ‘Expert’ witness: The Australian Jewish News reveals that the expert psychiatric witness called by Malka Leifer’s defense team to provide testimony at this morning’s hearing on whether the alleged sex predator is fit for extradition has long made his feelings on the matter clear.

  • In 2017, Dr. Brian Trappler posted on Facebook about a petition in favor of extraditing Leifer to Australia. “Anyone who signs this petition without full knowledge is placing themselves in (danger). I suggest that before the lynch mob commits the ultimate crime of (turning a fellow Jew to the authorities), they pause to realize that this case is not what you’ve been told.”
  • It was Trappler’s testimony in 2015 that played a role in the court’s decision to freeze the extradition proceedings after deeming that she was mentally incompetent. However, after an undercover investigation showed the former high school principal roaming around her community with no apparent difficulty, Leifer was rearrested last February and legal proceedings against her have resumed.
  • Plus61J reports that in the past year, “Trappler has made several posts against vaccinations and fluoride in water on his facebook page. He endorses the chemtrail conspiracy theory, rothschild genocide theory and believes climate change is a hoax ‘manufactured to rationalize depopulation’ of the earth.”

8. Worse than Ilhan Omar(!): The LA Times writes a scathing editorial on Netanyahu, saying his comment last week that Israel “is not the state of all its citizen” was worse than the controversial dual-loyalty insinuations made by Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar — a real gut punch given how much media frenzy the latter’s tweets caused.

  • “For years, he has manipulated fear and anger to dominate the Israeli political stage. He has been divisive and demagogic. He has been, on balance, an enemy of the two-state solution that has been the only realistic path to peace between Palestinians and Israelis. Not its only enemy, to be sure, but an obstacle nevertheless,” the editorial board writes.
  • “In the end, we hope for an Israel that is secure — but one that makes peace with its neighbors. And an Israel that is not a two-tiered society, but is egalitarian, liberal and democratic, and treats all its citizens fairly.”

9. Mazal tov! In one of the more unlikely of matches, the daughter of Yesha settlement umbrella council chairman Hananel Dorani has become engaged to the son of Peace Now’s Settlement Watch director Shabtay Bendet.

  • In wishing the happy couple well, Yesha deputy chair Yigal Dilmoni tweets out the obvious: “We’re all Jews.”
  • Kan public broadcaster reporter Roy Sharon quips that wedding guests will include Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich and ex-settler leader Daniella Weiss from the bride’s side along with Joint List chair Ayman Odeh and Hadash candidate Ofer Kasif from the groom’s.
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