Arguably the most important election in the world this year (sorry, France and Russia) has the Israeli press going all out with copious amounts of analysis and background on the candidates.
Israel Hayom, Maariv, and Yedioth Ahronoth each offer 12 pages of coverage on the American elections, with Israel Hayom leading the way with the boring headline “America votes.” Its reporting covers all the bases, including last-minute campaigning by Obama and Romney, problems that voters still face in New York and New Jersey, and profiles of each candidate titled, “Who are you, (candidate name)?”
Israel Hayom also includes an article on its owner, American businessman Sheldon Adelson, and reports on an opinion piece he wrote for the Wall Street Journal. The article quotes heavily from the piece, in which Adelson explains why he is no longer a Democrat and discusses the anti-Israel bias he sees in the party. Adelson provides results from a Gallup poll in March to prove his point, saying “Only 53 percent of Democrats stood by Israel, the sole liberal democracy in the region. By contrast, an overwhelming 78% of Republicans sympathized with Israel.” The article ends with a quote from Dr. Miriam Adelson, Sheldon’s wife: “We again need such leadership [referring to Reagan], strong, confident, proud, committed to the fundamental principles of our nation. We citizens need to believe again in America.”
Maariv goes with the more creative headline, “Who will get the last laugh?” The final page of its coverage plays on the humor factor of the campaigns, as the paper lists “the moments they don’t want you to remember.” Included are “the noise of Donald Trump,” Herman Cain, the controversy over Big Bird, Vice President Joe Biden’s “chains” gaffe and Clint Eastwood’s Republican National Convention speech. Maariv also includes all the wacky superstitions that are said to predict the election, like the recent score of the American football team Washington Redskins game (if the team wins its last home game, the challenger wins), which candidate sold more Halloween costumes (Obama), and the Olympics (each time a country that has previously hosted the games is host, the incumbent party wins).
The paper’s swing state coverage includes a full-page map, with the latest poll results showing Obama leading in all the swing states except Florida.
Yedioth Ahronoth includes a similar map, but plays it safe and doesn’t call the swing states for anyone, instead reporting that there are just 85 Electoral College votes up for grabs. The paper also includes an article on residents of the Israeli settlement of Efrat, whose large American population is mainly pro-Romney.
“No one here voted for Obama,” Bob Long, head of Efrat’s religious council told the paper. However, there in fact are some, like the leader of the Democratic Party in Israel, Sheldon Shorer, who told the paper, “We are urging people to remember the contributions that Obama has made to Israel.”
While Israelis, both in Efrat and across the country, may prefer Romney, Yedioth includes an article that the rest of the world prefers Obama. According to the article, which draws its results from an MSN poll, if the citizens of the world could vote for the American president Obama would win by a “knockout.” Among the countries that support Obama: Russia (73% for Obama), UK (85%), Greece (82%), and India (64%). The paper lists one country that where Romney does win: China (52% for Romney).
Haaretz is the only paper to include local news on its front page (it has only two and half pages of US election coverage) and one of the stories is a detailed account of all the pesticides used on Israeli produce. The Israel Union for Environmental Defense found that there are 105 different types of pesticides used on Israeli fruits and vegetables, with one third of them banned in Europe. But not all of Israel’s produce is contaminated with pesticides. The reports finds that avocados, sweet potatoes and onions are the cleanest produce, while celery and apples are the most contaminated.
While most will be looking to the US on Tuesday, Maariv reports that some in Israel will probably keep an eye on what’s going on in Istanbul as the trial of Gabi Ashkenazi, the former IDF chief of staff, and four other Israeli generals over their alleged role in the Mavi Marmara incident of May 2010 gets under way without their presence. The Israeli Foreign Ministry issued a statement calling the proceedings “a show trial that has nothing to do with law or justice.”
The other election
Yedioth reminds readers that Tuesday’s election in the United States isn’t the only game in town, as the right-wing religious party Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) holds primary elections to choose a new leader. The paper reports that the contest between Naftali Bennett, who wants to bring a young feeling to the party, and Zevulun Orlev, a veteran who helped establish the movement, is still undecided.
Israel Hayom reports that after the US elections, the Palestinian Authority is expected to move forward with its request to be recognized as a nonmember observer in the UN, which would be an upgrade to its status. The paper points out that the upgrade, while not full membership, would allow the Palestinians to file suit at the International Criminal Court of Justice at the Hague. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman came out against the move, saying it “ruins the chances for a renewal of negotiations.”
Renewed negotiations is exactly what Israeli novelist David Grossman wants. Writing in a special opinion piece in Haaretz, Grossman poses a question, “What are you waiting for, Benjamin Netanyahu?” In the piece, he concedes that Abbas’s quick clarification does damper the power of the statements about the right of return. “We are familiar with this Palestinian minuet: one step forward in English, two back in Arabic. Still, there is something new here, there is a hint.” Grossman writes that he understands Netanyahu’s hesitation as a politician, but closes the piece with another question, “If you do not respond seriously to this fraction of a chance, I find it a little difficult to understand why it is you want to be elected prime minister.”