Memorial Day begins Tuesday evening, but the Israeli press began setting the mood in the morning papers. The front pages of Haaretz, Israel Hayom, and Yedioth Ahronoth show painfully familiar images of Israelis beside graves of the fallen. Maariv features a photo of the IDF’s Memorial Day ceremony.
Articles providing information about times and locations of commemoration ceremonies are interspersed with personal accounts of those who died. Statistics published in the papers do little to dull the pain. “22,993 fallen” reads Israel Hayom’s headline, and Maariv writes that there are 10,524 grieving Israeli families.
Yedioth Ahronoth features a series of short articles about soldiers currently serving and their family members who were slain in uniform. Maariv features the story of a woman whose husband was killed in the Second Lebanon War on Tu Be’Av, the Jewish day of love. “The day of love is my day of mourning, she says.
Haaretz writes about the architect who designed Israel’s main military cemetery at Mount Herzl. Dr. Asher Hiram (who also made Jerusalem’s Davidka Square) conceived the standardized, uniform, and modest design of the nation’s hallowed ground. All soldiers, regardless of rank or unit, rest side by side, their headstone etched with the simplest of epitaphs recording their name, rank, and place and date of birth and death. National heros like Lt. Col. Jonathan Netanyahu, the prime minister’s late brother, are buried alongside corporals whose names are only remembered by their families.
Yedioth Ahronoth publishes American Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro’s condolences to Israel on behalf of the United States for “the price of freedom.”
“America knows Israel’s pain,” Shapiro says. “Generations of Americans fought and gave their lives in war to safeguard our land and in attempts to halt the spread of tyranny.” He continues, “The feeling of loss and pain is shared by the United States and Israel, just as they are committed to the values of freedom and democracy. Protecting these values and our citizens cost a terrible but necessary price in reality.”
Striking a deal
New developments in the deal between the government and convicted criminals who claimed to possess information about the whereabouts of missing soldier Majdi Halabi make headlines ahead of Memorial Day.
Amos Nahum, sentenced to 33 years for murder, offered the information he claims to have in exchange for a pardon for him and his cellmate, Elias Dali, a convicted drug dealer. The government consented and signed the pardons.
What came to light is that Nahum obtained the purported location of Halabi’s body from Mordechai Moshe, a man sentenced to two life sentences for two murders. Moshe agreed to give Nahum information regarding “the product — i.e.– the corpse” in exchange for financing Moshe’s legal fees, prison canteen bills, and mother’s living expenses. When Nahum received his pardon, Moshe refused to uphold his end of the bargain and demanded more money.
The government and the prisoners are now in a standoff — Nahum and Dali won’t leave prison, Moshe won’t get his money, and Halabi remains missing.
Yedioth Ahronoth and Israel Hayom are outraged by the text of Moshe and Nahum’s contract to swap “the product: a corpse” for financial obligations. Both express their disgust in their headlines.
Yedioth Ahronoth lists three reasons why Moshe was likely conning Nahum and doesn’t possess the information: 1) he upped his demands at the last minute, 2) he didn’t claim the NIS 10 million reward for information regarding Halabi, and 3) he’s already tried to swap information for leniencies with the police.
Dan Margalit writes in Israel Hayom that even if the scheme was fraudulent, it was nonetheless worth a try for the state. “Israeli society did not lose anything in trying to solve the mystery of Halabi’s disappearance,” he says. “He is still missing, but the three prisoners gained nothing.”
Professor Emmanuel Gross argues in Maariv that although the deal between the government was legal, it wasn’t necessarily moral. “Is the current deal, which seeks to bring an MIA Israeli home for burial, proportional or moral?” he asks. “Difficult to say.”
Although it possesses no legal weight, MIA navigator Ron Arad’s late mother’s dying statement, “Don’t release living murderers for my son’s body,” carries moral weight in this situation, Gross says.
Building a precedent
Haaretz reports that GOC Central Command Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon issued an order whereby buildings can be constructed in the West Bank for four years in locations that will be determined to be “important and of justifiable reasons.” After four years, the builders of the structures will have to tear them down or face suit.
The move is said to ease the transfer and construction of residences for the population of Migron, who have until July 31 to leave the present settlement’s site. In a letter to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, however, military prosecutor Col. Eli Baron said the order set a dangerous precedent, “a slippery slope of exemptions and facilitations” for planning and construction.