Eyes on Pyongyang: The Israeli media has been following the US-North Korea standoff quite closely in recent days. Several media outlets have sent special correspondents to report from Seoul and Guam. Most politicians, however, are keeping a distance from the topic, and have not issued any statements or responded to inquiries on the latest events. Likud minister Tzahi Hanegbi explained earlier this week that “we do not want to be dragged into the North Korea clash. We trust that the US leadership will know how to deal with the North Korean aggression, which is just like Iranian aggression.” Kulanu deputy minister and former US ambassador Michael Oren told Kafe Knesset today that “everyone is looking at the situation. We are and the Iranians are as well. Israel has an interest in the US taking a strong stand against the North Korean nuclear program. North Korea is an enemy country and supports our enemies. North Korea built the Syrian nuclear reactor. Syria is a close ally of Iran, therefore Iran is a North Korean ally. Israel has an interest in what happens because of the Iranian nuclear program. The North Koreans have violated international agreements just like the Iranians are trying to, and because it affects our allies Japan and South Korea.”
Warm welcome home: Before welcoming Jared Kushner and his high-level delegation on the Ben Gurion Airport tarmac later this month, Ambassador David Friedman had a red carpet arrival of his own. Friedman’s daughter, Talia, was among the 232 new olim which arrived this morning on a “Nefesh b’Nefesh” flight. Friedman, with tears of excitement, referred to his daughter’s Zionist move as a “dream come true” and expressed hope that Talia, who is a nurse, will bring “health to the people who need it in Israel.” Friedman was not the only celebrity to arrive at the airport early this morning. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid also welcomed the new Olim. Lapid shared memories of his late father’s decision to make Aliya after the Holocaust and said “a man who makes Aliya is a man who decided his life is not coincidental. That he is the architect of his own destiny. Your decision to come to Israel means that Israel is not just a location. It is an idea, a choice. Welcome home!”
Hostile takeover: If you wanted to sign up online to become a Likud member, your are out of luck. The Likud shut down its online registration in response to recruitment efforts by the “New Likudniks.” You may recall the days when Moshe Feiglin was a Likud MK. Feiglin devised a method to work within the Likud system by getting thousands of his backers to join the party, even though his extreme-right ideology did not quite align with that of the rest of the party. Today’s “New Likudniks” decided to be the Feiglins on the other side of the political spectrum. They are trying to pull the party more to the center, claiming they represent the true values of the party and that it has become too extreme. Their Facebook page is unabashedly critical of Netanyahu, and it has become a major political insult in the Likud to accuse a candidate of being a “New Likudnik” mole. The group claims that they have 12,000 registered Likud members, which would be over 10% of the members. Ma’ariv first reported that the online registration was shut down in response to the New Likudnik phenomenon. Likud legal advisors are looking into what can be done. Meanwhile, Likud members have petitioned the party’s internal courts asking to kick “New Likudniks” out of the party. They are also trying to expel those party activists who have spoken out against Netanyahu in the media.
Arrest of Salah: Israel, in the European tradition, does not have First Amendment style guaranteed free speech for everyone. There are incitement laws that can get someone in trouble for speech viewed as promoting terrorism, violence or racism. And that is why Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the Islamic Movement’s more radical northern branch, was arrested this morning. Salah is behind the contemporary incarnation of the “Temple Mount is in danger” blood libel. This accusation by Salah and his predecessors has been behind the deaths of many Jews at least since the 1929 Hebron Massacre. Salah preached in recent years, including during the latest round of violence surrounding the Temple Mount, that Israel plans to change the status quo on the site. Although the Temple Mount, which is the holiest site for Jews, they are only allowed to visit a small section of it and are forbidden to pray there. By contrast, Muslims have a mosque there and hold regular prayers. The site is administered by the Jordanian Islamic Trust (Waqf). Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said that “Salah spoke in a way that encourages extremism and understanding of violence and despicable murder, and therefore, in my eyes, he is a danger to the public. I hope that this time he will be brought to justice and he will be sent for a long time behind bars.” Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay put out a statement praising the move, saying that Salah “encourages hatred.” In the Joint List, however, MKs called the Salah arrest a provocation. MK Taleb Abu Arrar, of the Islamic Movement southern branch-affiliated United Arab List party in the Joint List, accused the authorities of “intentional and blatant political persecution” of Israeli Arabs.