After the storm
Hebrew media review

After the storm

Sandy weakens but leaves massive destruction; Kahlon thinks about returning to politics; and Iran is said to have taken a step back from the brink

Yair Lapid reveals more of his platform at the Ariel University on October 30 (Photo by Yehoshua Yosef/Flash90)
Yair Lapid reveals more of his platform at the Ariel University on October 30 (Photo by Yehoshua Yosef/Flash90)

Hurricane Sandy and the destruction it wreaked on the eastern seaboard of the United States is still the top story in the Israeli press on Wednesday. Pictures of burned homes, submerged taxis and buckled roads were plastered across the morning’s dailies.

Yedioth Ahronoth headlines its front page “Natural disaster.” Inside the paper gives a quick two-page update on the damage caused by the hurricane, including a sidebar of stats (15,000 flights canceled; 1,000,000 people evacuated from their homes; 8.2 million without electricity). A short first-person piece article from an Israeli living in Manhattan shares her experiences, including waiting on long lines for food before the storm and receiving updates from TV and Facebook. She concludes the piece with the words every mother wants to hear, “Mom, don’t worry. I am OK.”

“Destroyed and gone,” Maariv says, providing pictorial evidence of the damage in Sandy’s path. The effects also reached Israel, albeit only through flight cancellations. “For three days there have not been any direct flights from Tel Aviv to New York, but last night at 12:40 a Delta flight took off with 403 passengers,” Maariv relates. The joy was short-lived as the flight was diverted to Detroit, but despite the setback, the paper reports, more flights are scheduled to depart on Wednesday for the East Coast.

Aside from the destruction and the flight cancellations, the papers also focus on the other question on everyone’s mind: what about the presidential election? Haaretz‘s headline addresses the question: “Fatalities and widespread damage in the US freeze the presidential election.” and its teaser calls the situation “a political fog: no campaigns, no polls.” Nevertheless, Haaretz uses the majority of the article as a general recap of the damage, and only in the second half of the article does the paper highlight some political developments, including the announcement that Gallup was ceasing its daily polling due to storm damage.

Israel Hayom provides the most coverage of the storm, also including an update on the American campaign. Boaz Bismuth offers insight (or maybe advice) to Obama about his handling of the storm. “Obama is experienced enough to know that storm can also damage him. In America, unlike in Israel, people are not quick to blame the government in a natural disaster. The problems start later when things don’t always work out.”

Although Bismuth concedes that Obama has the advantage, Romney can go out and campaign, while Obama can’t. But Bismuth seems to revel in the tight race and notes that since Gallup stopped polling the race is even more unpredictable. “Sandy came and devoured everything in its path — even polling.”

Another party?

Gallup may have suspended polling due to Sandy, but back in Israel a new survey states that Likud heavyweight Moshe Kahlon could get up to 20 seats in the next Knesset if he established a social activist party. Haaretz reports that the poll was conducted by an anonymous group (though Yedioth reports it was conducted by Rafi Samit) and found that the popular recently-resigned communications minister could win up to 20 seats if he decides to break away from the Likud and establish a party for social action. There was no official word from Kahlon on what his next move would be.

While Kahlon contemplates setting up a social action party, Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid outlined his foreign policy stance on Tuesday. Maariv reports that Lapid favors returning to the negotiating table with the Palestinians and that Yesh Atid “will not be part of a government that does not renew negotiations.”

Red lines almost crossed?

The political situation may be heating up but one front that may be cooling down is the Iranian nuclear threat. That’s according to Israel Hayom, which reports on statements made by Defense Minister Ehud Barak to the Daily Telegraph that the Iranian situation almost came to a head this past August. Barak told the paper that the regime diverted 30 percent of its fissile material to civilian usage, delaying “the moment of truth” by eight to ten months.

Maybe a strike on Iran wouldn’t be so bad, according to Prime Minister Netanyahu. Maariv paraphrases Netanyahu’s statements for its headline, “Netanyahu: An attack on Iran would not undermine the Middle East.” Netanyahu, speaking to French newspaper Paris Match, he said that contrary to what skeptics say, “five minutes after [an attack] the streets in the region will feel relief. Iran is not popular in the Middle East.”

Something that turns out to be very popular in Israel is pesticides. Maariv reports on an OECD survey that found that among Western countries, Israel uses the most pesticides per thousand dunams. Sweden uses only 40 kilograms per thousand dunams and Switzerland 320 kilograms, while Israel uses a whopping 3,500 kilograms per thousand dunams. The article gives no reason for Israel’s extremely high use of pesticides but the results of the survey are under review at the Agriculture Ministry. In the meantime, be sure to wash your fruit.

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