Your friendly neighborhood outpost: 8 things to know for October 23
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Israel media review

Your friendly neighborhood outpost: 8 things to know for October 23

Anonymous security officials compete with Yitzhar settlers over narrative regarding scope of internal tensions in northern West Bank, which spiked with assaults on troops

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

Neria Zarog (c) with his wife and child in front of their home in the Kumi Ori outpost, a neighborhood of the Yitzhar settlement in the northern West Bank. The IDF has issued an order barring him from the West Bank. (Avraham Shapira)
Neria Zarog (c) with his wife and child in front of their home in the Kumi Ori outpost, a neighborhood of the Yitzhar settlement in the northern West Bank. The IDF has issued an order barring him from the West Bank. (Avraham Shapira)

1. Mr. Rogers would live here: Amid a flareup in tensions between settlers in the hardline Yitzhar settlement and its surrounding outposts, journalists are rushing to the northern West Bank to see for themselves how wild things actually are over there.

  • Yedioth Ahronoth’s Elisha Ben Kimon is surprised to find a largely calm community. “There are no Border Police jeeps with their riot dispersal measures. Nor any masked hilltop youth hurling stones. Instead you could see a mother and daughter speeding by on their ATV, a group of toddlers strolling along the sidewalk, and boys shooting at each other with paintball guns.”
  • To be clear, Ben Kimon speaks to residents who do not shy away from pointing out the tense atmosphere, which has climaxed in recent days with incidents in which wayward youth hurled stones at IDF soldiers, who were in the area first and foremost to protect those same settlers.
  • In the Kumi Ori outpost where much of the recent violence has originated, Ben Kimon reports that it’s not just a wild commune for hilltop youth but seven young families also live there as well. Ariel Danino and his wife tell Yedioth that the residents had lived in peace with the army for a long time until a group of soldiers “violently” arrested a teenager there, in what he claimed is what sparked the tensions that boiled over during the weekend.
  • Inside Yitzhar proper, Yechiel Klein says responses from residents to the violence of the area youth for which they have long provided cover have been mixed. “When I issued the secretariat’s response [to the violence], I got reactions from all sides. Some said we shouldn’t elaborate too much, just condemn it and nothing more. Some argued that we should not have bowed our heads and surrendered because the conduct of the soldiers also played a role [in the tensions]. There is everything here. Because it’s Yitzhar — it’s diverse,” Klein said, apparently forgetting to include responses from those who demanded more than just a condemnation.

2. Aaaand cut! Channel 12 defense reporter Roni Daniel’s interview in Yitzhar with Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan gets dramatically interrupted when the settlement’s spokesman rushes up to the settler leader to inform him that demolition orders have just been handed out to several residents of the nearby outposts.

  • In reality though, these are simply a renewal of orders that already exist against dozens of buildings illegally erected in and around Yitzhar.  The orders handed out simply give the residents the opportunity to appeal. Moreover, these razings are rarely carried out, often after years of foot-dragging. But Channel 12 still made sure to get the whole scene on camera, including Dagan wrapping his arm around the spokesman and assuring him that everything will be okay, before going on to condemn “collective punishment” against Yitzhar in the tail-end of the interview.
  • The network’s Ofer Hadad later provides his own “exclusive” footage of hilltop youth cursing at soldiers as they announce a month-long closed military zone order over Kumi Ori. It isn’t exactly clear from the footage leaked by Border Police, but Hadad says one of the teens picks up a stone to hurl at the troops before one of them cocks his weapon and orders the gang to back off. Meir Ettinger, a Yitzhar resident and grandson of the extremist rabbi Meir Kahane, goes off on Hadad in a Twitter thread for “misrepresenting” the altercation, in which he claimed that the soldier had grossly overreacted.
  • The Kan public broadcaster reports that security forces have identified several youth suspected of having thrown stones at Border Police on Saturday, injuring one officer, and that they are just dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s before carrying out arrests. The network’s Roy Sharon expresses skepticism that the charges will be able to stick as hilltop youth rarely cooperate with investigations and make sure to cover their faces during incidents of violence, which are not often filmed.
  • Kan invites Yitzhar resident and former Otzma Yehudit CEO Tzvi Succot onto a panel with Sharon in which the latter reporter presses him on how  the settlement plans to rein in the violent youth from the surrounding outposts. Succot says the community has tried for years to provide assistance to the at-risk youth, but realized it had failed and was forced to ask them to leave the area. Sharon asks Succot if the troublemakers had indeed left and the latter responds that he hasn’t seen them of late. Whether they’re keeping a low profile or have moved on to a different West Bank outpost remains to be seen.

3. Lawless enforcement: While they’re not willing to go on the record, several defense officials feel the situation in the northern West Bank is dire enough to anonymously leak their frustration to the Haaretz daily.

  • Settler leaders ignore violence by their residents, denouncing it only when the people attacked are soldiers, and not Palestinians who are targeted far more frequently, senior defense officials tell the left-wing daily.
  • The officials say that settler leaders have placed heavy pressure on the government to prevent law enforcement from acting with an iron fist against suspects, “thereby undermining the army’s status in the territories and enabling violence against members of the security services.”
  • “It’s a handful that carries out the actual attacks, but the atmosphere that makes it possible doesn’t come from a mere handful. The settlement movement sees [those who attack soldiers] as part of itself,” a senior IDF officer who until recently served in the Judea and Samaria Division tells the paper’s Yaniv Kupovich.
  • Haaretz security analyst Amos Harel writes that administrative orders barring the lawbreakers from the West Bank aren’t being enforced “because police consider any entry of forces into the settlement a full-fledged military operation that requires a large deployment and SWAT teams. they rarely go there and so the hilltop youth feel safe.”
  • Moreover,  Harel speculates that it’s unlikely that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is still defense minister, will sign off on the execution of demolition orders in and around Yitzhar during this sensitive political time where he is likely to rely on continued support from settler leaders.

4. Gantz’s chances: Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz is getting ready to be handed the mandate to form the government from President Reuven Rivlin later today, but few in the media are confident about his chances.

  • The Yedioth and Israel Hayom major newspapers both report that the 55-member bloc Netanyahu formed  with the religious parties Yamina, Shas and United Torah Judaism is expected to hold strong in favor of the Likud leader, leaving Gantz with almost no options.
  • Nonetheless, Yedioth’s Yuval Karni says Gantz still plans to try and woo Netanyahu away from the religious parties and will make his first call to the transitional premier upon receiving the mandate from Rivlin. However, he also is planning to meet with the leaders of every party — except for the Balad hardline Arab slate — in an effort to cobble together a coalition.
  • As for the possibility of a left-wing minority government, Karni reports that Blue and White officials have chosen not to address the claim by Likud that this is the scenario they are seeking, so as not to give credence to the idea.
  • Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman seeks to break the allegiance to Netanyahu that has held within the ruling party, telling the Ynet news site that senior Likud members are already secretly “eulogizing” him but afraid to challenge him publicly.
  • Likud MK and Netanyahu ally David Bitan predicts in a Channel 12 interview that Gantz will fail at forming a coalition but that parties will subsequently ease their demands in the final 21 days remaining for any lawmaker to garner the majority of support necessary to build a government.
  • “All of the blocs — both on the left and on the right — will fall apart,” Bitan says, suggesting that after Gantz’s try is up, parties will act independently to prevent a third election.

5. Survey says: With politicians warning that yet another election could be on the horizon amid ongoing political deadlock, a Channel 13 poll indicates that very little would change in the event of a third round of ballot-casting.

  • Blue and White would remain as the largest party if new elections were held, growing from 33 to 34 seats, while Netanyahu’s Likud would also see a one-seat bump, rising to 33 seats. The Joint List would hold on to its 13 seats, and Yisrael Beytenu would also maintain its eight seats.
  • However, an Israel Democracy Institute survey appears to possibly contradict the last figure of the Channel 13 poll, finding that just 51% of Liberman voters plan to once again cast their ballot for Yisrael Beytenu if a third election were to be called.
  • The IDI poll also finds that 53.5% of the public feels that Netanyahu should step down now as Likud chief already while 65% believe he should do so if indicted. Twenty-four percent oppose him stepping down as party leader regardless.
  • Fifty-six percent of the public indicates support for a Gantz-Netanyahu prime minister rotation agreement to prevent the deadlock, according to the poll, while 32% oppose such an arrangement.

6. Bring her back Down Under: In Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison called on Israel to quickly put an end to extradition proceedings against alleged serial sex offender Malka Leifer, which have dragged on for over five years.

  • “We call for the matter to be resolved transparently and quickly. We also reaffirm our commitment to have Malka Leifer extradited to Australia to face 74 charges of child sexual abuse,” Morrison says in a statement he released after meeting with the former high school principal’s alleged victims Dassi Erlich and Nicole Meyer.
  • “I have previously raised this commitment with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and will continue to raise this issue with the incoming Israeli leadership,” Morrison adds.
  • Erlich tweets that her meetings in Canberra with Morrison and nine other MPs were “extremely productive and encouraging,” adding that it felt “very validating to have this strong level of support from the AU government.”
  • During a session in parliament shortly after some of their meetings, four MPs in a row raised the issue in their 90-second statements opening the assembly, Erlich tells The Times of Israel.

7. Enemies at the gates (again): Army Radio cites anonymous “Israeli sources” who claim the security establishment is readying for a direct cruise missile or drone strike by Tehran in response to recent attacks on Iranian regional proxies which have been attributed to the Jewish state.

  • As such, the security cabinet will be convening next Tuesday for the second time this month. Notably, the same reason was given in the lead-up to an earlier October meeting of the high level ministerial body.
  • No other outlets have picked up on the story, which is odd given the gravity of the report, but consider yourselves warned.

8. Not your savta’s Hebrew school: Reporting from California’s Bay Area, ToI’s Melanie Lidman shares the story of Beged Kefet, an innovative Hebrew-language program associated with the Jewish Community Center of Palo Alto.

  • The after-school program has provided a solution for many Israelis living in the US long-term or for good, who have struggled to find ways to help their children feel connected to their Israeli identity.
  • “We’re Israeli, and it’s critical that they learn to speak and read,” Tal Shay, the mother of birthday girl Aya and her older sister Zoya, tells ToI. The family has been in Silicon Valley since 2007 and doesn’t have plans to return to Israel in the immediate future. “It’s not just Hebrew, it’s also the Israeliness,” Shay says.
  • “Parents of the younger children also agree that the community aspect is one of the most important parts. The fact that Aya chose to bring the classic Israeli card game King of Falafel could have been strange at Aya’s regular school, said her mother Shay — but at Beged Kefet class, most of the children already knew the game.
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