News Roundup for September 4, 2019

September 4, 2019

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Top News and Analysis

The Secret History of the Push to Strike Iran, New York Times
Trump’s withdrawal from the deal, compounded by the events of recent months, has revived fears not just that the United States could take military action against Iran or quietly bless an Israeli strike but also that all the parties could stumble into a conflict out of hubris, miscalculation or ignorance. A strike on Iran, however limited in its design, could unspool widespread chaos in the form of retaliation by Iranian proxy groups on American forces in the gulf region, escalating attacks on commercial ships that could send oil prices skyrocketing, waves of Hezbollah terrorist strikes against Israel, cyberattacks against the West and ultimately more American troops being sent to stamp out fires wherever Iran has influence — from Lebanon to Syria to Yemen to Iraq.

Netanyahu in 2012 nearly ordered Iran strikes in defiance of Obama — report, Times of Israel
Israeli officials are considering the possibility of conducting a military strike on Iran, with or without the approval of the United States, believing that US President Donald Trump could elect to not stand in the way like his predecessor Barack Obama did, The New York Times reports in an exposé that reveals many details on the Israel-US relationship over the past decade. Jerusalem has been actively pushing and preparing for a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities for many years, and in 2012 came extremely close to giving the Israel Defense Forces a green light to carry that out, the report says.

Scandals, Rivals and U.S. Tarnish Netanyahu’s Aura of Invincibility, New York Times
David M. Halbfinger writes, “Younger rivals in his Likud Party are circling overhead. Bombshell exposés on the nightly news have returned his looming indictment on corruption charges to the forefront. Even Benjamin Netanyahu’s undisputed advantage over every challenger, his primacy on the international stage as Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, has lately been a source of as much embarrassment as luster. With two weeks until a do-over election that was forced on the country by his inability to form a government after coming out on top in the April ballot, Mr. Netanyahu’s larger-than-life persona has lost something that made his re-elections once seem inevitable. The aura of indispensability has faded.”


Netanyahu says Trump peace plan to be released ‘immediately’ after elections, Times of Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that US President Donald Trump’s peace plan will be released “immediately” after Israel’s elections later this month. Netanyahu made the remark at a Likud campaign event in the northern city of Kiryat Ata, while assailing his political rivals for their positions on Iran and an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

Harvard student denied US entry arrives in time for classes, AP
“The last ten days have been difficult and anxiety filled, but we are most grateful for the thousands of messages of support and particularly the work of AMIDEAST,” his family said, referring to the academic organization that provided their son a scholarship to attend Harvard. “We hope now that everyone can respect our and Ismail’s privacy and he can now simply focus on settling into College and his important class work.”

Yair Netanyahu Accuses Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel of Trying to ‘Destroy the Jewish State’, Haaretz
Yair Netanyahu, the son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk engaged in a snarky game of one-upmanship on Twitter over the weekend, culminating in a charge by Netanyahu’s son that the former diplomat sought to “destroy the Jewish state.”

Netanyahu calls off planned trip to India, less than a week before takeoff, Times of Israel
Less than a week before he was set to take off, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday canceled a planned trip to India, setting off speculation that he’s eyeing a different high-profile visit before this month’s election.

Netanyahu’s Party to Spend Millions on Door-to-door Canvassing as Election Looms, Haaretz
With two weeks remaining until the election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party is channeling millions of shekels into door-to-door campaigning by activists, instead of buying media time and producing video clips.

Shifting strategy, Gantz puts kibosh on coalition with ultra-Orthodox parties, Times of Israel
Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz on Tuesday appeared to rule out forming a coalition with ultra-Orthodox political parties, as his campaign sought to sharpen the contours of a possible government he may look to form after elections on September 17.

Tune Out the Incitement, Israel’s President Urges Public After Netanyahu Attacks Media, Haaretz
In a speech at the Mahanayim Yeshiva in Gush Etzion, where Dvir Sorek, who was murdered three weeks ago studied, Rivlin said, “Particularly on the eve of elections, when the mood is stormy and the discourse gets ugly, I urge you – don’t believe incitement and insults.”

France seeks $15b letter of credit for Iran to keep nuclear deal alive, Times of Israel
France has reportedly offered to extend a $15 billion letter of credit to Iran in exchange for the Islamic Republic’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Opinion and Analysis

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu is Playing a Dangerous Game With Iranian Allies. What if He Loses?, Newsweek
Jonathan Broder writes, “With Israel’s recent attacks against Iranian proxy forces in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has significantly widened his war against Tehran. He’s also lifted the veil from the covert conflict in advance of Israel’s elections, scheduled for September 17.”

The Israeli Election – Through the Eyes of Palestinians Who Can’t Vote, Haaretz
Hagar Shezaf and Judy Maltz writes, “A visit to the West Bank finds Palestinians fearful that the next Israeli government will be extreme, no matter who wins on September 17.”

For a week, Israel and Lebanon seemed on the brink of war. But neither has the appetite for it, CNN
Tamara Qiblawi, Ben Wedeman, Ghazi Balkiz and Jeffery Kehl writes, “Sunday’s brief exchange ended as quickly as it began. Neither Israel nor Hezbollah appears to have the appetite for a war.”

Gantz’s Sleeper Campaign Could Be the Secret Weapon That Fells Netanyahu, Haaretz
Chemi Shalev writes, “Despite the apparent disparity in his political skills and talents, time may be working in Gantz’s favor.”

How to tell the stories of the siege when you cannot enter Gaza, +972 Mag
Lital Firestone writes, “In a new podcast, I hoped to capture the impacts of the Gaza blockade that are mostly invisible to the outside world. There was just one problem: I can’t go there.”