News Roundup for December 4, 2018

December 4, 2018

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Top News and Analysis

Netanyahu’s Obsession With Image Could Be His Downfall, The New York Times

David Halbfinger observes, “[T]hroughout his political life, his detractors have discerned in Mr. Netanyahu an unseemly obsession with his public image, even for a politician. And his present troubles arose out of what amounted to his most audacious attempt to gain control over that image: a long-term offensive on the news media itself….Israelis love a good victim, and his base, in particular, nursed ethnic and class resentments that Mr. Netanyahu has stirred adroitly and consistently over the years. Long before working-class whites fell in behind President Trump, anti-elitist voters outside Israel’s big cities were cheering Mr. Netanyahu’s hard line against the Oslo peace process and his visceral campaign slogans like ‘Bibi is good for the Jews.’….The question now is whether it will work again if Mr. Netanyahu is charged with bribery and the accusers are his own former right-hand men, the prosecution is led by an attorney general he appointed, and the evidence against him is the work of a right-wing former police chief whom Mr. Netanyahu also named to the job.”

Netanyahu’s Meeting With Pompeo Is a Warning to Iran and Lebanon – Before Israel Takes Military Action, Haaretz

Amos Harel writes, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s unusual trip to Brussels – the announcement in the morning and the flight in the afternoon to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – is an Israeli attempt to quickly utilize this diplomatic channel to deal with the increasing security problem in Lebanon….he prime minister has started the diplomatic clock. His trip signals to Iran, Lebanon and Hezbollah, through the Americans (and perhaps also the French), that there’s an urgent need to deal with the problem before Israel considers using military means.”


Israel’s Top Court Will Decide Whether Netanyahu Should Resign if Indicted, Attorney General Says, Haaretz

The High Court of Justice will have to decide if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has to resign if he is indicted in the corruption cases against him, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit said on Monday. “In the case of a cabinet minister, there is a clear ruling of the Supreme Court to the effect that after a decision is made to file of an indictment against him, the minister must resign from his post. As for the prime minister, this is a not simple question, it certainly will reach the High Court, and then it will have to decide on this matter, too,” Mendelblit told the committee.

Israel launches operation to destroy Hezbollah tunnels on northern border, JTA

Israel’s military launched Operation Northern Shield, to destroy tunnels constructed by Hezbollah that reach from Lebanon into Israel. The Israel Defense Forces announced the discovery of the tunnels and began destroying them on Monday night. The IDF said that the tunnels were not complete and did not pose an immediate threat, but that they did stretch into Israeli territory.

Pope, Abbas discuss Jerusalem at first meeting after U.S. embassy move, Reuters

The Vatican expressed concern over the status of Jerusalem on Monday as Pope Francis and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas held their first meeting since the United States stirred international anxiety by moving its embassy there.

Israelis see left-right struggle, not differences with Arabs, as most significant conflict, JTA

For the first time, Israelis said the main point of conflict in their society is between left and right and not between Jews and Arabs. That’s what an annual assessment by the Israel Democracy Institute found in its annual survey. Meanwhile, nearly half of Israelis again said they believe their democracy is in “grave danger.” In the survey of 1,041 Jewish and Arab respondents, some 36 percent held the view that tension between the left and right is the main point of contention in society, with 28 percent saying it is the conflict between Jews and Arabs. Twenty-four percent said the main conflict is between religious and secular Jews.

Over 300 Israeli Institutions Back Strike Over Violence Against Women, Haaretz

Over 200 institutions including the Knesset, the Social Security Administration, Civil Service Commission, the Social Workers’ Union, the Histadrut labor federation, the Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO) and the Na’amat women’s organization have announced they will join Tuesday’s strike in protest of violence against women. The Interior Ministry and Tel Aviv Municipality have instructed their employees to wear black in solidarity with the strike. Universities, the Israel Airports Authority and the Israeli post office have also joined the strike, as have over 70 businesses and dozens of major corporations including Google Israel, Facebook Israel, Bank Hapoalim, Yes satellite television, Nespresso Israel and many others.

Rashida Tlaib to Head Congressional Delegation to West Bank, Endorses BDS, Haaretz

Democratic Representative-elect Rashida Tlaib plans to lead a delegation of lawmakers to the West Bank, the congresswoman-to-be has told The Intercept. Tlaib told The Intercept that she personally supports the movement to boycott Israel, confirming speculation that emerged when she called on the United States to cut military aid to the country.

Opinion and Analysis

Expect drama as attorney general weighs Netanyahu indictment, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit writes, “Anyone who knows Netanyahu knows that he is not capable of giving up or admitting defeat. His nature is to fight to the last bullet, to burn down the house and incite his own people against each other. On the other hand, there is a chance that Netanyahu will at some point understand his situation and realize that he might end his career like former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: in a prison cell. Perhaps it’s not too late for him to make a deal with the attorney general that will put an end to his political life but extricate him and his wife from imprisonment.”

How to fix Gaza, Brookings

A joint report by Hady Amr, Ilan Goldenberg, Kevin Huggard and Nathan Sachs.

The Trump Team’s Fawning Over Saudi Arabia Is Getting Ridiculous, Politico

Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky write, “MBS has played the Iranian card to justify his concentration and abuse of power and rally Saudi nationalism. Paradoxically, the Saudis have pursued a number of regional policies—from the Yemen fiasco to the failed campaign to isolate Qatar—that have helped expand Iran’s influence in the region rather than contract it. Far from providing the bulwark against Iran as Pompeo and Trump maintain, MBS has been the great enabler of Tehran’s regional reach….The Trump administration has yet to fully face up to the reality that Saudi and Arab state support for its peace plan will turn on whether its positions on substance, including Jerusalem, borders and refugees, pass muster in the Arab world.

Unless there are real surprises in the works, A Saudi embrace of the Kushner peace plan is not in the cards.”

Attack Tunnels From Lebanon: Israel Robs Hezbollah of Major Offensive Asset, Haaretz

Amos Harel observe, “The events on Tuesday morning now allow to state out loud what could only be hinted at recently due to the heavy restrictions imposed by the military censor: The Israeli army has embarked on the public phase of a wide-scale operation to find and destroy attack tunnels that Hezbollah has dug under the Lebanese border with Israel. This is the immediate backdrop to the growing nervousness on the northern front in recent weeks, to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lightning visit to Brussels on Monday, where he met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the situation in the north, and also apparently to the hints that Netanyahu made about two weeks ago about an emergency security situation that he said required the Habayit Hayehudit party to remain in his faltering government coalition.”