While the information released by the government about the upcoming prisoner release is sparse, the Israeli press focuses its reporting on what Israel Hayom calls the “difficult decision” by a special ministerial committee to approve the release of 26 Palestinian prisoners.
The papers all reiterate the same talking points about the prisoners being inmates from before the 1993 Oslo Accords, 21 of whom are from the West Bank and five from Gaza, and that the handoff will be made at some point within 48 hours after the list of prisoners is published. (The list was published overnight, too late for the dailies.)
What the media find more interesting, however, is the sparring between coalition members over the prisoners’ release. The party that ostensibly stood in the way of the deal was Jewish Home, both in the committee and by proposing a bill blocking the release of Palestinian prisoners.
According to Haaretz, Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar launched a tirade against Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett. Sa’ar lashed out against the hard-right party saying, “If the prisoner release bothers you so — resign!”
Lapid accused Bennett, without naming him, of pushing for the aforementioned bill in order to curry public favor. Yedioth Ahronoth says that at the end of a “tempestuous” debate, the committee rejected the bill, which would have prevented releasing prisoners in the future as part of negotiations with the Palestinians.
It reports that the Jewish Home party said it would appeal the decision.
Israel Hayom reports that during an earlier meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “launched a harsh attack” against Bennett, telling the Likud ministers that “Bennett is trying to create by improper means a route to bypass the government.”
Yedioth Ahronoth calls the release of prisoners “the circle of pain,” and its coverage focuses on the families of prisoners’ victims and the “storm of emotions” with which they reacted to being notified of the release.
“Esther Caspi, widow of David Caspi, a cab driver murdered in 1985, related her difficult feelings: ‘It brings it all back and we are hurt and broken. We must not release murderers with blood on their hands, because they’ll do it to other people. It will only bring about more murder. I understand why [the government] is doing this, even though there’s no one to talk with [on the Palestinian side],” the paper writes.
Maariv’s top story, quite surprisingly, is an expose on possible election fraud in last week’s Beit Shemesh mayoral race. According to the paper, some town residents who came to the ballot box “found that someone, apparently with a counterfeit ID card, voted in their stead.” It adds that volunteers at the town’s polls recounted that ultra-Orthodox voters who came to vote were caught trying to vote with ID cards that weren’t their own.
In an adjoining op-ed, Ruti Russo writes that when it comes to voting in Israel, the sacrosanct laws of democracy are not always kept. When she visited a voting station in Tel Aviv last week as an official observer, “No one asked me for an observer ID when I entered the room in which they counted one of the ballots. I was shocked to see eight men in the room opening envelopes in complete disorder. No one was counting, no one was organized.”
“I wondered how it could be that they don’t count the envelopes first, and they replied that it’s enough to count the slips. I asked how it’s possible to keep track of everything happening — they replied that what I was there for, to monitor that everything is to my satisfaction,” she writes.
“That’s how it is,” a friend of hers tells her.
Israel’s return to the UN Human Rights Council after 18 months of boycott gets the attention of Haaretz, which not only reports on the decision by Netanyahu to give diplomats the order to go to Geneva for a hearing on Israel’s human rights, but also dedicates its op-ed to the issue. While the paper acknowledges that the body’s decisions are “more prone to politicization than those of other institutions,” it calls the decision of former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman’s decision to sever ties with the council in March 2012 a mistake.
“Even if the UNHRC discriminates in an unfair manner against Israel, that is not enough to negate its right to establish a committee on the settlements — which are an indivisible part of the discriminatory regime and the dispossession of the Palestinian population — or to justify a rupture with such an important body as the United Nations,” it writes.