With no major news breaking as the weekend begins in Israel, the only consistent theme across the front pages of the dailies is — you guessed it — Iran.
Maariv doubles down on the Iranian story with its main headline paraphrasing Defense Minister Ehud Barak, after his meeting on Thursday with the deputy head of the American Joint Chiefs of Staff, James Winnefeld: “Barak: the American preparations for the Iranian challenge – impressive.” Barak told reporters after the meeting that he was impressed by the scope of preparations, but he emphasized that the challenge is that “there are two different clocks ticking in two different paces.”
Maariv’s second piece of front-page Iran-related news is an exclusive interview with Tzachi Hanegbi. The paper quotes him as saying, “The next 50 days will be crucial to our fate.” Unfortunately for Maariv, the majority of the quotes included from the former Likud politician were actually plucked from a press conference yesterday (and not from the interview itself), so Israel Hayom ran the “50 crucial days” quote, too. Both papers convey how Hanegbi believes that the next 50 days are the most critical in Israel’s history since “the Yom Kippur war, and back then we had tens of crucial days.” Hanegbi also states that whatever decision is made on Iran, “it will be made by a person who sees long-term, who has a vision of history. Who comes from an ideological base.” Feel better?
Though Iran may have dominated most of the front pages, the top news once you opened the papers was the resolution of the crisis on Israel’s southern border involving a group of asylum seekers from Eritrea. Haaretz gives a gruesome headline about the conditions in Eritrea: “Lifetime conscription, torture, forced labor, and legal systematic rape.” The feature article describes the horrific conditions in the eastern African country that drive its people to seek refuge in Israel.
While Haaretz describes the reasons why the refugees are leaving, Yedioth Ahronoth focuses on the agreement itself, for 18 men to return to Egypt, and for two women and a teenager to be granted entry into Israel. The agreement was reached on Thursday and Yedioth quotes Prime Minister Netanyahu saying, “It is important that everyone understands that Israel is not a destination for infiltrators. We are determined to stop the flood of infiltration that was here. For that reason we created a fence.”
What about the soldiers who guard that fence? Yedioth also includes a small article in its coverage about the difficulties the soldiers face. One solider tells the paper, “There have been terror attacks in this area. What happens the next time that soldiers are guarding Sudanese people and a terrorist slips in?” And regarding the situation at hand, a soldier remarked, “It is not a good feeling…They are returning to Egypt and we don’t know what will happen to them. We were trying to make them feel that everything will be all right.”
If you can’t do the time…
Maariv reports that Yana Gorelik, the 30-year-old Canadian-Israeli imprisoned for desertion will potentially remain in jail for several months. The article reports that Gorelik was expected to be released yesterday but instead the army is indicting her for desertion and is seeking a five-month sentence. Gorelik moved to Canada with her family when she was 17. She claims that the Israeli consulate in Canada told her she did not need an exemption when traveling to Israel for her cousin’s wedding.
While Gorelik remains in jail, Yedioth reports that one of three people arrested for sexual assault at an IDF technical school has been released to house arrest. Three soldiers who taught at the school were arrested on suspicion of trading sexual favors from teenage girls in exchange for good grades. The issue came to light after a teacher learned about the assaults from a student and the paper reports that the assaults were known amongst the student population for months.
The Holyland Affair — the state’s last chance to convict Ehud Olmert of something substantial — continued on Thursday with Israel Hayom reporting that former Olmert aide Shula Zaken received gifts including jewelry, art, and shoes. The state witness testified yesterday that Zaken and he would go to the Azrieli mall and shop, with him paying. This is the latest in the case in which the State is accusing former prime minster Ehud Olmert and 16 others for accepting bribes in exchange for approvals on real estates projects.
If the Holyland Affair isn’t enough, Yedioth gives us the latest from the Harpaz Affair. With a picture that’s bigger than the article, Yedioth reports that former state comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss did not have time to complete his report on the affair, and that now that duty falls to new Comptroller Yosef Shapira. Lindenstrauss was given a three-month extension to finish the report by October 1, but now it appears that he will not finish by that date. If he does not, the job will be passed on to Shapira, who has spent the past month speaking to witnesses involved, just in case he needs to pick up the slack.
Writing in the opinion pages, Haaretz’s editors go on the attack against the state prosecutor’s decision to ask for only six months of community service on Olmert’s conviction for breach of trust. Arguing that the government could have asked for more, the paper goes on to say, “Moral turpitude is not merely a technical catalyst to deny him benefits. It is intended to keep a law-breaking official who is morally tainted away from public service for a long time.”