Why can’t we be friends: 6 things to know for July 5
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Israel media review

Why can’t we be friends: 6 things to know for July 5

Israel and Poland make up in the media after months of strained ties over a controversial Holocaust law, but not everyone is happy

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Holocaust survivors protesting Poland's new bill on Holocaust rhetoric in front of the Polish Embassy in Tel Aviv, February 8, 2018. (Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP/Getty Images/via JTA)
Holocaust survivors protesting Poland's new bill on Holocaust rhetoric in front of the Polish Embassy in Tel Aviv, February 8, 2018. (Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP/Getty Images/via JTA)

1. As Israel and Poland seek to put months of frayed ties over Warsaw’s controversial Holocaust law behind them, a joint declaration by both governments officially ending the diplomatic standoff appeared in local newspapers, sparking accusations that Israel absolved Poles of their roles in the Holocaust and handed the country a hard-fought PR victory.

  • Major Hebrew newspapers — Yedioth Ahronoth, Haaretz and Israel Hayom– featured the full page statement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki that squarely placed the blame on Nazi Germany for “the most tragic part of the Jewish national experience.”
  • The joint declaration said “the term ‘Polish death camps’ is blatantly erroneous and diminishes the responsibility of Germany for establishing those camps.” It went on to “condemn every single case of cruelty” against Jews perpetrated by Poles, but also “rejected actions aimed at blaming Poland or the Polish nation as a whole for the atrocities committed by the Nazis and their collaborators of different nations.”
  • The statement was released last Wednesday, minutes after the Polish government backtracked on a law that criminalized accusing Poland of perpetrating the Holocaust, but the full page ads placed by a government-linked Polish group did not appear in the press until this week.
  • The statement drew some backlash in Israel, where Netanyahu was accused of capitulating to the Polish narrative of the war and minimizing the country’s role in persecuting Jews and perpetuating the Holocaust.

    A copy of the Polish-Israeli agreement appearing in Yedioth Ahronoth on July 5. 2018. (Joshua Davidovich/Times of Israel)
  • Israel’s leading Holocaust expert, Prof. Yehuda Bauer, penned a scathing criticism of the statement in Haaretz, calling a betrayal of historical truth. “I don’t know what was going on here – ignorance, stupidity or the clear amoral victory of transient interests that will remain with us as an eternal disgrace. And perhaps it was simply betrayal,” he wrote.
  • Meanwhile, opposition MK Yair Lapid slammed Netanyahu for “conducting negotiations over the memory of those who perished,” while Zionist Union MK Itzik Shmuli called the entire campaign “grave and embarrassing,”

2. Hebrew-language media reported Wednesday and Thursday that Syrian regime forces are poised to enter the demilitarized buffer zone between the two countries as part of President Bashar Assad’s offensive to retake the southern part of the country from rebels.

  • An Israeli defense official told Channel 10 on Wednesday the IDF had deployed units from the Combat Intelligence Corps near the border to track Syrian forces, and said that Israel considers any regime soldiers who would enter the buffer zone to be legitimate targets.
  • On Thursday, Yedioth reported that regime forces are days away from New Quneitra, located some three kilometers from the Israeli border. The daily said that Israel is worried that Assad will not abide by the 1974 ceasefire agreement, leading to a violent flareup with Israel.

3. An Arabic newspaper on Thursday reported that Germany is facilitating indirect negotiations between Hamas and Israel over a possible exchange of Israeli captives and the remains of soldiers held in Gaza for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

  • The London-based Al-Hayat reported that German envoys have visited the Gaza Strip to hold discussions with senior Hamas officials. A source told the paper that German negotiator and former intelligence chief, Ernst Uhrlau, was working to negotiate a deal.

4. On Thursday, the trial of a former Israeli minister accused of spying for Iran started at the Jerusalem District Court behind closed doors.

  • The indictment against Gonen Segev, part of which has not been made public, reportedly includes 50 clauses relating to espionage on behalf of Iran and assisting Iran in its war against Israel.
  • Although unlikely, Segev could potentially face the death penalty for a series of charges amounting to treason against the state.
Gonen Segev seen at the Jerusalem District Court on July 5, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

5. Tremors could be felt in northern Israel on Thursday, after two minor earthquakes rattled Galilee residents overnight. According to the Geofon seismological institute, the tremors recorded after midnight some nine kilometers north of Tiberias were a 3.2 on the Richter scale.

6. Yedioth leads its Thursday paper with stories from residents of southern Israel who have been the target of arson attacks form Palestinians in the Gaza Strip for 100 days.

  • Weary residents of Israeli towns and kibbutzes adjacent to the Gaza border told the daily the airborne incendiary devices flown over the border were starting around 20 fires a day, and had so far destroyed 6,000 dunams of local forests and agricultural fields.
  • “We really believed that by now the government would have found a solution to this so that we can live in peace and quiet,” Michal Gal-Borgan told the paper. “But in reality, every single day we losing more peace and quiet.”
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