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Media Summary

Trade union leader says Israel created Labour antisemitism to distract from its ‘atrocities’

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The Independent, BBC and The Times report that a trade union leader suggested Israel created the antisemitism row that has engulfed the Labour Party. The Independent reports that Mark Serwotka, who leads the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) and is a staunch supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, told a fringe event at the Trades Union Congress (TUC) conference that the Jewish state could have “created a story that does not exist” in order to distract attention from “atrocities” it has committed. Speaking at an event organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Sertwoka said he “deplored” antisemitism but claimed accusations against Corbyn were the result of “something sinister going on”. The BBC reports that Labour Against Anti-Semitism said Serwotka had brought the entire TUC into disrepute and he should resign. The PCS said he had made the point that antisemitism must be opposed. The Times reports that Jennifer Gerber, director of Labour Friends of Israel, said that the comments were despicable, adding: “For a general secretary of a major trade union to allude to conspiracy theories and blame Jews for their own persecution shows the extent of the problem we now see on the left.”

Reuters reports that the Trump administration is prepared for Israeli criticism of elements of its coming Middle East plan for Israeli-Palestinian talks. In an interview with Reuters, Jason Greenblatt, US envoy for international negotiations, said US negotiators had entered the “pre-launch phase” of the plan, despite a boycott by Palestinian leaders. Pushing back against widespread perceptions among Palestinians, Arab officials and independent analysts that the peace plan is likely to be decidedly pro-Israel, Greenblatt made clear that both sides can expect parts they will like and dislike.

The Telegraph and the Daily Mail report that Tel Aviv is to host Eurovision 2019. The Telegraph reports that Eurovision will take place in Tel Aviv for the first time next year, as Israel hosts the song contest for only the third time in the competition’s 62-year history. Tel Aviv’s mayor Ron Huldai said: “The Eurovision is perfect fit for our city, which has been internationally acclaimed for its vibrant energy, creative spirit, its lively cultural scene and its celebration of freedom. We are looking forward to host a joyful and non-stop event.” The Daily Mail reports that the Israeli government had initially insisted on holding the popular event in Jerusalem. But following a backlash over the US recognition of Jerusalem as its capital and a subsequent fear of boycotts it dropped the demand to host the world’s largest live music event.

The Daily Mail reports that Israeli company Masada-Armour has developed a bulletproof backpack that transforms into a bulletproof vest. The company developed the item to protect against the threat of school shootings. Masada-Armour says its backpack also deploys a protective vest in less than two seconds by flipping out an armored plate from a concealed compartment. The standard protection claims to stop handgun bullets while upgraded versions can block rifle fire.

The Times, BBC and ITV News reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s aide David Keyes has taken a leave of absence to fight accusations that he is a serial sexual predator. The Times reports that Keyes, the foreign media spokesman for Netanyahu, said he was taking time off to contest claims from up to a dozen women. The BBC reports that in a statement on Thursday, Keyes said: “In light of the false and misleading accusations against me and in order not to distract from the important work of the prime minister, I have asked to take time off to clear my name.” ITV News reports that Julia Salazar, a candidate for New York’s state senate, accuses Keyes of sexually assaulting her five years ago. Others have since come forward. Wall Street Journal reporter Shayndi Raice tweeted she too had a “terrible encounter” with Keyes. She described someone who had “absolutely no conception of the word ‘no’”. Keyes has denied the allegations, saying all “are deeply misleading and many of them are categorically false”.

The Daily Mail reports that Israel has announced it is ending an operation aimed at providing Syrian civilians with humanitarian and medical aid. Israel has had a policy of offering aid to Syrians who reach its lines, saying it was doing so without getting involved in the conflict. “This humanitarian aid has ended with the return of the Syrian regime in the southern part of Syria,” the Israeli army said a statement. In the past five years, 4,900 Syrian civilians including 1,300 children have been treated in Israeli hospitals, and 7,000 at a field hospital near the UN ceasefire line, it said. Food, medical equipment, medicine, tents, generators, fuel and clothes were provided to them as part of what the Israeli army dubbed “Operation Good Neighbour”.

In the Israeli media the top story in all the newspapers is the decision of Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan not to extend the term of Police Commissioner Insp. Gen. Roni Alsheich for a fourth year. In their headlines, both Israel Hayom and Maariv declare “Alsheich is sent home” while Yediot Ahronot focuses on the three candidates that could replace him.  According to Channel 2 news Erdan and Alsheich met yesterday morning for a two-hour meeting during which Erdan informed Alsheich that he had decided not to extend his term. They described the meeting as courteous and professional. Erdan laid out specific targets he had set for the police that had not been met including reducing violent crime in the Arab sector and domestic violence. According to Maariv, another issue was the police position that the investigations of the Prime Minister should conclude with recommendations, while Erdan joined the coalition in trying to pass a law to prevent police recommendations. There was also the interview that Alsheich gave to the Uvda-Fact programme, which elicited harsh public criticism.  Erdan denied the allegation that political considerations were behind the decision. “Anyone who says that, and I’ve heard peeps from certain MKs, are simply trying to reap political capital from this. I examined the issue from all sides, with only the good of the police and the public in mind. I did not share my decision with the prime minister or others in the political establishment.” Alsheich went back to work after meeting with Erdan. “He didn’t say much, but appeared calm and relaxed,” said senior officers who met with him yesterday. “He said that he was happy that a decision had been made and as far as he was concerned, any decision was legitimate. He isn’t angry or disappointed.” The paper also includes harsh criticism from Zionist Union Chairman Avi Gabbay, who said: “There is a heavy cloud over Minister Erdan’s decision. While the Israel Police is doing its job and fighting suspicions of governmental corruption by the prime minister and his aides, the Likud ministers are waging war against the rule of law and democracy.” Yediot Ahronot quotes Yesh Atid MK Mickey Levy, a former police commander: “The decision reeks strongly of political corruption. This has absolutely nothing to do with the good of the public. People who are familiar with the details knows that Alsheich began several important reforms in the police and that it will not be possible to complete them within three years.”

Yediot Ahronot reports on the ongoing violence on the Gaza border. Yesterday it was released for publication that over the weekend, under the cover of the demonstrations in the southern Gaza Strip, Palestinians placed a powerful bomb at the fence that was supposed to be activated against IDF troops and could have caused fatalities and casualties. According to an IDF official, “placing the bomb under cover of the violent disturbances is further proof that the terror organisation Hamas is working to preserve the confrontation in the fence area, and [seeks] to harm IDF soldiers while using the Gaza Strip civilians as a human shield and as a cover for terrorist activity. The IDF is prepared and operates against terrorism that seeks to harm its troops and defensive infrastructure—and will take action against it as necessary.”

Maariv and Haaretz report that IDF Ombudsman Maj. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brik has criticised the IDF’s state of readiness and preparedness for war. Maj. Gen. Brik calls to appoint an external committee headed by a retired judge that will examine the army’s state of preparedness. The 200-page document is classified as secret, elaborates on two previous documents sent by Brik, in which he asserted that the IDF faces a severe personnel crisis, which is affecting the state of alert and readiness in the units.  In previous reports, Brik focused on the situation of the emergency warehouses, stating that according to the findings he holds, the situation continues to be dire today. Maj. Gen. Brik’s criticism focuses on the ground forces, whose state of readiness for the next war he says is insufficient. In response, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot sent a special document to the security cabinet members and to the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, signed by relevant IDF major generals, each in his own field, about the state of readiness in the various branches of the army. In this document, the chief of staff effectively attested to the fact that the army’s state of readiness for the next war is very high, on all fronts.

Yediot Ahronot reports the Egyptian Ambassador to Israel is calling on Israel to cancel the travel advisory against travel to Sinai, insisting it is safe. The National Security Council has been issuing a regular travel advisory against going to Sinai and for years, many Israelis have been ignoring them. According to Ambassador Kamel Galal, the number of Israelis who visited Sinai this past summer plus the number that will come during the ‘High Holidays’ season will be close to 100,000. He said that Egypt had deployed thousands of soldiers in the last few years to the area in which the terror cells of the extremist Islamist organisations are concentrated, mainly ISIS and al-Qaida. Thousands of other police officers provide security for the beaches and even if the tourists are not aware of them, they provide a second layer of security. Galal said that as a result of the changes, a number of Western states were likely to soon lower the level of their travel advisories for Sinai.

Haaretz reports on further testimonies of sexual assault and harassment against David Keyes, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson to the international media. Yesterday Keyes announced he was taking a leave of absence. According to his statement: “In light of the false and misleading accusations against me and in order not to distract from the important work of the Prime Minister, I have asked to take time off to clear my name. I am fully confident that the truth will come out.”

Kan radio news reports that Czech President Milos Zeman announced this week that he would visit Israel in November to open the Czech House in Jerusalem, a cultural and business centre that Czech officials called the first stage on the way to opening an embassy in Jerusalem. A Czech Foreign Ministry official said that the Czech Republic would indeed open an embassy in Jerusalem but only with the consent of Israel and the Palestinians and only after there was a peace agreement. He said the Czech Republic might block anti-Israel resolutions in the EU if they were unwarranted. He said the Czech Republic has always tried to be balanced. It further revealed that in the course of his visit, the President will not visit the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.