News Roundup for January 22, 2019

January 22, 2019

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Top News and Analysis

Israel Confirms Attacks on Iranian Targets in Syria, The New York Times

“The Israeli military said on Monday that it had attacked Iranian military targets in Syria, capping an exchange of blows in a rare, direct confrontation between the two antagonists that risks escalating the fight over Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria. Israeli military officials said the latest strikes, most likely the broadest wave in months, were in retaliation for Iranian forces launching a surface-to-surface missile from the Damascus area on Sunday toward the northern part of the Israeli-held Golan Heights. They said that the missile had endangered a ski resort and other areas where civilians were present, but that it had been successfully intercepted by Israel’s air defenses. The Iranian missile, in turn, was fired shortly after a strike against a weapons store in Syria, for which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel strongly hinted that his country was responsible.”

Israel and Iran Are on a Collision Course in Syria – and the U.S. and Russia Don’t Care, Haaretz

Amos Harel observes, “Israel and Iran are now engaged in direct and open conflict in Syria – which is perhaps not so surprising, considering how the events of the last eight years since Syria was plunged into civil war have led to this moment. What is remarkable is how this latest development is happening without either of the world powers – the United States and Russia – trying to exert any significant influence on the outcome….Neither side, Israel or Iran, seems to want to go all the way to all-out war, but without any restraining hand that could well happen.”

Palestinian Authority Tells U.S. It Will Stop Taking Aid to Avoid Multi-million Dollar Lawsuits, Haaretz

“The Palestinian Authority informed the Trump administration that it will stop taking any form of government assistance from the United States at the end of the month, as a result of legislation passed last year by Congress. The law that led the PA to make this decision is the “Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act”, known as ATCA, which makes it possible for U.S. citizens to sue foreign entities that receive U.S. assistance for past acts of terrorism….Only after the bill passed Congress and was signed into law by President Trump, senior administration officials became aware of its possible impact on security coordination. In recent months, the administration tried to negotiate a ‘fix’ to the law together with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. As reported in Haaretz two weeks ago, these efforts have stalled because of the ongoing government shutdown.”


Netanyahu’s Party Escalates Attack on Media With Billboard Blasting Journalists, Haaretz

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party took ownership Sunday over a controversial billboard attacking leading Israeli journalists as the party ramps up criticism of the left and the media ahead of the April 9 elections. The billboard, which was erected Sunday morning at a prominent intersection in the center of the country, depicts prominent journalists who regularly report on Netanyahu’s corruption cases. Signed by Likud, it bears the slogan: “They won’t decide. You decide. In spite of it all, Netanyahu!” Also on Friday, a Facebook page also titled “They won’t decide” was opened. “The media has been trying for years to systematically drip to us messages of hate against Netanyahu,” a post published on that page read.

‘Only the Strong Wins’: Netanyahu Rival Gantz Touts Gaza Destruction in New Campaign Ads, Haaretz

Former Israeli military Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, considered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s top rival in the upcoming Israel election, published four videos on Sunday under the headline “Only the strong wins.” In the short videos, published on his Hosen L’Yisrael party’s YouTube channel, Gantz takes pride in the assassination of Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari, bombing 6,231 targets in the Gaza Strip and killing 1,364 terrorists, The data is written on the screen against the backdrop of images showing the destruction of Gaza and accompanied by dramatic music. In the final video, Gantz expresses hope for peace and ends the video with the line: “Things could be different here.”

IDF: Palestinian tries to stab soldiers in northern West Bank, is shot, Times of Israel

A Palestinian man attempted to carry out a stabbing attack on Monday evening against Israeli troops near the northern West Bank city of Nablus, the Israel Defense Forces said. The soldiers subsequently shot the assailant at a junction outside Nablus, near a military base, the army said. There were no Israeli casualties in the incident. The IDF said it was investigating the attempted attack and sending forces to the scene.

Attorney General, Netanyahu Legal Team Discuss Request to Delay Indictment Decision Until Election, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s legal team met Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit on Monday to discuss the timing of his announcement regarding possible indictment of the prime minister. Netanyahu has requested the announcement be postponed until after the April 9 elections. At the meeting’s conclusion, Mendelblit said the defense’s claims were heard, and their case would be considered properly. The statement added that Mendelblit will make his decision in the coming days and pass it on promptly to the defense team.

Expect trade activity boost between Egypt, Gaza Strip, Al-Monitor

Egypt tentatively plans to build a commercial crossing that would eliminate the Gaza Strip’s need for such trade with Israel and bypass the Palestinian Authority (PA), according to Hamas. Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar revealed the plan in a TV interview Jan. 11 on Al Jazeera, saying such a crossing would liberate Gaza from the need to “trade with the Israeli occupation or with anyone else.”

Opinion and Analysis

Firing at Golan, Iran seeks new balance of deterrence with Israel; it may fail, Times of Israel

Avi Issacharoff writes, “The rocket fire at Israel from Syria is probably better understood as an Iranian attempt to create a new balance of power on the Israeli-Syrian front — to generate the expectation that an Israeli attack in Syrian territory will result in fire on Israeli territory. In other words, it marked a new effort to create deterrence against Israel. Yet those who fired the rocket clearly were trying to avoid getting dragged into a larger war; otherwise they would have launched dozens of projectiles. The goal, it seemed, was to begin to construct a new architecture of deterrence, while limiting the chances of sparking a broader confrontation.”

Now Trump’s Shutdown Threatens Israel’s Security, Daily Beast

Neri Zilber writes, “For over a decade the strongest pillar of stability in the volatile Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been the close cooperation between the Israeli military and the Palestinian Authority’s security forces, who work together to maintain order and keep terrorists in check on the West Bank. Now these Palestinian forces—primarily American-trained, -equipped and -funded—look like they may be the latest casualties of the Trump government shutdown.”

Time to Break the Silence on Palestine, The New York Times

Michelle Alexander writes, “Reading King’s speech at Riverside more than 50 years later, I am left with little doubt that his teachings and message require us to speak out passionately against the human rights crisis in Israel-Palestine, despite the risks and despite the complexity of the issues. King argued, when speaking of Vietnam, that even ‘when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict,’ we must not be mesmerized by uncertainty. ‘We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.’”

The Unbelievable Story Of The Plot Against George Soros, Buzzfeed

Hannes Grassegger reports on how two Jewish American political consultants helped right-wing leaders create a massive anti-Semitic conspiracy theory against George Soros.

Who’s Trying to Kill BDS on Campus?, Jewish Currents

An interview with Forward journalist Josh-Nathan Kazis, who has written several investigative pieces on the funding practices of Jewish institutions and their campaigns against BDS activists on college campuses.