Sunday, January 27, 2019

7 Things To Know For January 27

Talking heads: 7 things to know for January 27

1. Long-winded terrorist: Breaking a relatively long silence, Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group, gave an interview to a Lebanese TV station Saturday. Clocking in at over three hours, Nasrallah covered a wide range of topics, many of them related to tensions with Israel.

  • He dismissed the IDF’s anti-tunnel operation, said the passsageways were old and called it a media campaign.
  • But he also confirmed that Hezbollah does have plans to attack and conquer the Galilee.
  • He threatened that the “axis of resistance” could start responding to Israel’s airstrikes in Syria.
  • He claimed that Israel had failed to stop Iranian entrenchment and that Hezbollah had as many precision missiles as it needed.
  • He told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to make a election-related miscalculation and start a war, and told Israelis they should want Hezbollah to have precision missiles, so that when they fly they only hit soldiers and not civilians.
  • He confirmed he is not dead or dying.

2. Hezbollah Shmezbollah: If his performance was meant to scare Israelis or warn them off, it seems it didn’t work, judging by reactions in Israel.

  • “There’s really nothing new here,” an anchor on Army Radio says Sunday morning.
  • Israel Hayom’s Oded Granot, noting a Saudi claim that it was actually a body double in the interview, writing that it seems the whole point of the thing was just to prove he is not dead or wasting away in some hospital:
  • “Someone in the Hezbollah higher-ups understood that keeping quiet for two months could be troubling for someone who normally gives speeches on current affairs,” he writes. “There are a lot of reasons to assume that without this consideration he would have preferred to stay silent for as long as possible. Developments in the region in the last few months have not been kind to him, and unpleasant things are hard to explain even in a fancy speech like this.”
  • “Had aliens landed in the region and listened to Nasrallah’s interview without prior knowledge of the balance of power between Israel and Hezbollah, they may have believed that in a future war it would be Israel’s existence that would be in danger, not Hezbollah’s,” Avi Issacharoff writes in The Times of Israel. “In fact, Hezbollah remains a dangerous organization capable of inflicting immense damage on Israel, but it does not pose an existential threat to Israel. In the next war, however, Hezbollah’s future and its very existence will probably be in question…”

  • 3. That doesn’t mean war isn’t in the offing, though.

    • “The military and verbal provocations flying back and forth between the two have all the hallmarks of an unintended and miscalculated disaster waiting to happen. It doesn’t help that all of this is taking place amidst election fever in Israel, where the current prime minister, who is also the defence and foreign minister, is battling both to survive in power and to avoid going on trial over corruption allegations. As a vote winner, Netanyahu might be tempted to increase his ‘Mr. Security’ image with a ‘splendid little war’ against Iranian forces and their allies in Syria,” Yossi Mekelberg writes in Saudi-based Arab News.
    • Lebanon-based journalist Elijah Magnier reports, based on what he calls well-informed sources, that Iran et al are no longer content to not respond to Israeli bombings. And he claims Syrian dictator Bashar Assad has already drawn up battle plans to go to war against Israel with Hezbollah’s help.
    • “Logistic-technical-military planning and command and control between Hezbollah and Syria is today united. Nasrallah knows how to fight Israel, how much fire power to use and when. Assad and Nasrallah will both be running any future battle against any Israeli aggression when the decision to engage will be taken,” he writes.
    4. Qatar qualms: What Israel did seem much more concerned about this weekend was violence breaking out in Gaza after Hamas rejected money from Qatar.
      • But Haaretz’s Amos Harel warns that Qatari money or not, quiet in Gaza may not last long, with the new arrangement giving Hamas an upper hand over Israel.
      • “ All aid to Gaza is now provided by official channels; it’s not a Qatari handout. For Hamas this is another step toward de facto international recognition of its rule in Gaza. Rising frustration in the Palestinian Authority over this arrangement comes as no surprise,” he writes.
      • As for Israel, “Since the United Nations is now involved, it will be harder for Netanyahu to halt the money transfers at will. And since Hamas doesn’t receive any money directly for its officials, it may be less committed to the agreement.”
      • The upshot: “There’s less incentive for Hamas to maintain calm for an extended period.”
      5. Ya’alantz or Gantzon? The lead story in Yedioth Ahronoth reports that Benny Gantz and Moshe Ya’alon are on their way to combining forces.

        • The paper reports that the two are trying to reach an agreement in time for Gantz’s Tuesday’s silence-breaking press event by Gantz’s Israel Resilience Party.
        • According to the report, the two have already agreed in principle, but Ya’alon still wants Gantz to commit to not joining a Netanyahu-led government.
        • “The two seemingly moved past the disagreement, helped by Gantz clarifying that he intends to run as a candidate for prime minister against Netanyahu.” the paper reports.
        6. Ice-breaker: A Gantz-Ya’alon union would make this picture that looks like Ya’alon is sitting on Gantz’s lap all the more relevant.

        7. Caracas in the Middle East: Channel 13 reports that Israel is being pressured by the US into publicly backing its stance in Venezuela, supporting Juan Gauido over Nicolas Maduro for president.

        • According to the report — and an earlier report in Ynet — Israel would happily oblige, but fears doing so could put the country’s remaining Jews in danger, and so prefers to remain silent.
        • That behavior is familiar to Jews living in the Middle East and according to Hussein Ibish, writing in UAE-based The National, Caracas is looking an awful lot like an Arab capital these days.

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