• irvsafdieh

Strike 3, Digging for Gold, Checkmate


Israeli Police Recommend Indicting Netanyahu in 3rd Corruption Allegation

NPR.org, December 3rd 2018

Recap:

Police recommend that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted for receiving bribes— the third and most severe corruption case he has faced this year. Netanyahu denies wrongdoing and accuses the police of orchestrating a witch hunt. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit will decide whether or not to indict Netanyahu.

The Context:

  • In February, police recommended that Prime Minister Netanyahu and his wife Sara be indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in cases dating back to 2007 and 2016. This week’s recommendation involves Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Israeli telecommunications company Bezeq. Police allege that Netanyahu advanced regulation favoring Elovitch in exchange for favorable news coverage in Walla! News and the ability to control its hiring of editors and reporters. Avi Alkalai, former chief editor of Walla! News said, "there was an attempt to paint all that had to do with the Prime Minister's household in a positive light."

  • Netanyahu responded saying the police recommendations have no legal basis, and that the findings are not surprising, given the media’s tendency to unfairly target him [1].

  • According to Israeli law, a Prime Minister does not need to resign if he is indicted and Netanyahu previously indicated that if charged, he would stand trial without stepping down. It is unclear whether Netanyahu’s coalition partners will remain by his side in that scenario especially since the coalition now only holds a razor-thin majority of just 61 in the 120-seat Knesset [2].

  • In the past, Attorney Generals have dismissed police recommendations, although a decision will likely take months and Israel is due for elections in 2019.

Conversation Points:

  • With Israel's economy strong and Palestinian violence relatively low, will Israeli voters overlook the charges leveled against Netanyahu during the upcoming election?

  • If previous investigations yielded no convictions, is Netanyahu right to deem these probes a witch-hunt?

  • Will Netanyahu’s supporters jump ship if a conviction is imminent?

  • Who is next in line to be Prime Minister?

Israel Begins Anti-Tunnel Effort Along Its Border with Lebanon

David M. Halbfinger and Isabel Kershner, New York Times, December 4th 2018

Recap:

Israel launched Operation Northern Shield to thwart Hezbollah terror tunnels along the Israeli-Lebanese border. "We see Hezbollah's activities as a flagrant and blatant violation of Israeli sovereignty," said Lt. Col Jonathan Conricus [3].

The Context:

  • Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war in 2006 resulting in the deaths of 1,100 Lebanese and 159 Israelis [4].

  • Since then, Israel's border with Lebanon has been relatively quiet, although Israel continues to identify the Shiite militant group as a major threat. Israeli officials accuse Iran of helping Hezbollah build underground factories in Lebanon and upgrade their arsenal of 150,000 missiles. Hezbollah’s weaponry can reach nearly every part of Israel [5].

  • Since 2015, Israel has constructed fences, cleared vegetation and created steep cliffs to deter invading forces along a roughly seven-mile stretch of its border with Lebanon. Israel constantly detects and destroys cross-border attack tunnels from Hamas run Gaza and although the tunnels from Lebanon are not yet operational, Operation Northern Shield is taking place inside Israeli territory [6].

Conversation Points:

  • Is the calmness of the Norther border attributed to Hezbollah’s preoccupation with the Syrian Civil War?

  • With Syria's civil war winding down, will Hezbollah refocus itself on Israel?

  • Will the next battle between Hezbollah and Israel take place in or outside of Israel?

Saudi Arabia Loses Right to Host World Chess Championship After Barring Israeli Players

Anthony Harwood, Haaretz, December 3rd 2018

Recap:

Saudi Arabia was stripped of the right to host an international chess tournament after Israeli players were barred from the event. The World Blitz and Rapid Championship venue will be relocated to Russia.

The Context:

  • Saudi Arabia touted its hosting of the tournament as an example of how the country’s new leadership has sought to modernize the country and make it more inclusive [7].

  • Last year, seven Israeli players were denied visas by the Saudis, preventing them from competing in the championships. Two Qatari competitors were unable to fly their country’s flag.

  • In response to the Saudi policy, the World Chess Federation issued a statement saying it will “no longer stage its official events in countries that deny entry visas and fair treatment to all eligible players.”

  • In October, Israel’s national anthem sounded for the first time at an international judo competition in the United Arab Emirates [8] and, this summer, the Tunisian Chess Federation allowed a 7-year-old Israeli prodigy to compete in the international chess tournament despite initially denying her a visa [9].

Conversation Points:

  • Did the murder of Jamal Khashoggi have any bearing on the organization’s decision?

  • If human rights are of concern to the World Chess Federation, why was the championship moved to Russia?

Notes:

  1. Israeli Authorities Recommend Charges of Bribery, Fraud for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Bruno Nota, ABC, December 3rd

  2. ‘What A Hanukkah Gift’: Bitter Pm Slams Police Call to Charge Him with Bribery, Raoul Wootliff, Times of Israel, December 2nd 2018

  3. Israel Targets Hezbollah Border Tunnels, Jalaa Marey, NBC, December 4th 2018

  4. Israel Launches Military Operation Against 'Hezbollah Tunnels', Al Jazeera, December 4th 2018

  5. Israel Targets Hezbollah Border Tunnels, Jalaa Marey, NBC, December 4th 2018

  6. Israel Begins Operation To 'Expose and Thwart' Hezbollah Tunnels, Andrew Carey, Oren Liebermann And Michael Schwartz, CNN, December 4th 2018

  7. Saudis Disqualified from Hosting Chess Match After Israelis Complain, Rick Gladstone, New York Times, December 3rd 2018

  8. Saudi Arabia Loses Hosting Rights for Chess Contest After Israeli Exclusion, I24news, December 3rd 2018

  9. Ibid.