News Roundup for June 14, 2019

June 14, 2019

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Top News and Analysis

U.S. blames Iran for tanker attacks in Gulf of Oman, Iran rejects assertion, Reuters
The United States blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday that drove up oil prices LCOc1 and raised concerns about a new U.S.-Iranian confrontation, but Tehran bluntly denied the allegation.

Oman Attack: Iran Is the Immediate, but Unlikely, Suspect, Haaretz
Zvi Bar’el writes, “The Iranian regime is in the thrones of a major diplomatic struggle to persuade Europe and its allies, Russia and China, not to take the path of pulling out of the 2015 nuclear agreement. At the same time, Iran is sure that the United States is only looking for an excuse to attack it. Any violent initiative on Tehran’s part could only make things worse and bring it close to a military conflict, which it must avoid.”

Witnesses describe ‘miracle’ as Gaza missile barely misses Sderot students, Times of Israel
Most students had already left for the weekend, but several people at a religious school in Sderot had stuck around Thursday night. Three of them were just sitting down to study Biblical psalms when a rocket alarm rang out just before 9 p.m.


Pompeo blames Iran for ‘blatant assault’ on oil tankers in the Middle East, Washington Post
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran for a “blatant assault” on two ships in the Gulf of Oman earlier Thursday and said the United States would defend itself and its allies against Iran’s actions in the region. Speaking to reporters for four minutes and taking no questions, Pompeo offered no evidence of Iran’s involvement in the explosions aboard two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz. He said that the assessment of blame is based on intelligence, the type of weapons used and the level of expertise needed, and that no other Iranian-backed militia in the region has the resources or proficiency to pull off such a sophisticated operation.

Israel Strikes Hamas Targets in Gaza After Rocket Hits Building, Haaretz
The Israeli army hit targets in the Gaza Strip Thursday overnight, hours after a rocket fired from Gaza hit a building in the southern Israeli city of Sderot.

Sderot rocket strike prompts calls for major military operation in Gaza, Times of Israel
Israeli politicians on the right and center called for serious military action against Gaza Thursday, after a religious school in southern Israel was hit by a rocket launched from the Palestinian territory.

Jew, Arab in Joint Meretz Leadership Bid; Labor Chairman Quits Political Life, Haaretz
Meretz’s leadership battle took an interesting turn on Wednesday as MK Esawi Freige and former MK Mossi Raz announced that they would run together for the party’s chairmanship. Meeting with a group of Jewish and Arab Meretz activists, the two said they wanted to give the party a joint Jewish-Arab leadership.

IfNotNow Made An Impact With Its Birthright Protests. Now It’s Stopping Them., The Forward
The campaign was so successful that on Tuesday, The New York Times published a front-page profile of it. Yet the previous Friday, IfNotNow leaders had sent a private email to members apologizing for the way this signature, headline-catching operation was run.

Hoping to Thwart New Political Initiative, Israel’s Arab Parties to Announce Joint Knesset Run, Haaretz
The four Arab-majority parties in Knesset – Hadash, Ta’al, Balad and United Arab List – are expected to announce a joint run in Israel’s September 17 election within the next couple of weeks, senior Hadash offical told Haaretz Wednesday.

US says video shows Iranians removing unexploded mine from stricken tanker, Times of Israel
The US released video Thursday that it said showed Iranians removing an explosive device from the hull of a Japanese oil tanker that was one of two ships attack earlier in the day, as tensions skyrocketing over the incident.

Opinion and Analysis

Iran will get the blame, but the Gulf of Oman truth is likely a lot murkier, CNN
Nick Paton Walsh writes, “Iran doesn’t appear to have a lot to gain. Say what you like about Tehran’s malicious intent, these incidents heighten the global drumbeat for greater isolation and boosts those who seek to apply military pressure on Iran. Its economy is in a bad condition. Before President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the JCPOA (colloquially known as the Iran nuclear deal), Tehran was at its peak of regional influence. With diminished economic resources, its potency is likely to wane.”

With Netanyahu vulnerable ahead of elections, Hamas ups the pressure, Times of Israel
Avi Issacharoff writes, “Like a recurring nightmare, the next round of the war between Israel and the Gaza-based Hamas terror group is almost upon us. With no distinct reason, no unusual actions by either side — but simply part of the ordinary run of chronic escalations that seem to be the sad fate of the two adversaries.”

Trump and Bibi Are Evil Twinsies, The Nation
Eric Alterman writes, “Both men rule as aspiring autocrats in increasingly illiberal democracies, and in this respect, each is a cause as well as a symptom of the same degenerative disease that afflicts the political cultures of the United States and Israel.”

If you think we’re too quiet, then be our megaphone, Times of Israel
Yair Lapid writes, “Benjamin Netanyahu has two newspapers working for him, he has his own TV station and has radio broadcasters who get their messaging directly from the Prime Minister’s close aide Natan Eshel. He has unlimited funds (although no-one is quite sure where they come from) and pours hundreds of millions of shekels into social networks.”