An embassy of peace
Hebrew media review

An embassy of peace

The Hebrew-language media can't figure out if the US mission will relocate from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, or what consequences such a move would have

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

The US Embassy in Tel Aviv (photo credit: CC BY-Krokodyl/Wikimedia Commons/File)
The US Embassy in Tel Aviv (photo credit: CC BY-Krokodyl/Wikimedia Commons/File)

As the Israeli government prepares for US President Donald Trump’s visit to the region, the Hebrew-language papers take distinctive stances on the White House’s apparent walk-back of pledges to relocate the US Embassy to Jerusalem, after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson questioned whether the move would help or harm the peace process.

Trump had promised while campaigning to move the embassy to Jerusalem, but appeared in the months after being elected to retreat from that vow as Arab and Western officials warned the move could inflame tensions and spark fresh violence.

“Moving the embassy will promote peace,” reads Israel Hayom’s headline, but while the statement was made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the daily attributes the quote to “Israel.” The Netanyahu-allied paper, which has long rallied for the embassy move and had all but officially endorsed Trump for president during the 2016 US election race, shows a bit of discomfort about how to deal with the White House’s change of tone. The daily is careful not to explicitly criticize the Trump administration at any point, but at the same time, makes every effort to repeatedly state that the prime minister is pushing for the relocation of the US mission. Reporters Shlomo Tsezena and Erez Lin go as far as stressing that the Prime Minister’s Office vehemently denied any rumors according to which Netanyahu had been concerned over the international community’s reaction to moving the US Embassy, and had therefore secretly requested of Trump to reconsider this particular election pledge.

Meanwhile, left-wing Haaretz gleefully characterizes the rift over the embassy relocation as a “public dispute,” and highlights the fact that the “rumors” about Netanyahu’s reservations concerning the move did not just appear out of thin air but were actually hinted at by Tillerson. “The president is being very careful to understand how such a decision would impact a peace process,” Tillerson said in an interview Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” He said Trump’s decision would be informed by feedback from all sides, “most certainly” including “whether Israel views it as helpful to a peace initiative or perhaps a distraction.”

In Yedioth Aharonoth the embassy kerfuffle is not top priority and is buried deep within the pages of the publication. Instead, the daily leads with a photo of a masked man strangling a doll by the neck, and another of several other masked individuals carrying what looks like a coffin. No, this is not a still from an Islamic State video but a shot from a “funeral” for the Israeli soccer team Hapoel Tel Aviv, organized by fans of nemesis Maccabi Tel Aviv. Hapoel was demoted yesterday from the Israeli premier league, for the second time in its history, after a particularly dismal season, and some hardcore Maccabi fanatics saw the downfall as an opportunity to ridicule their rivals.

“A rally of hate,” Yedioth titles the scene, and scolds the fans for “having no shame.” But the truth is that as nasty as a mock funeral for a sports club may be, such a display is also harmless. Dedicating more than half the front page of a major newspaper to the whims of a few bored soccer enthusiasts, on the other hand — that’s just plain stupid.

Haaretz reports that migration of African asylum seekers from Israel to other countries has spiked in the past year, with many individuals leaving to Canada, specifically, where laws concerning refugees are considered to be fairly lax. “There is less fear here than in Israel,” one refugee tells the paper.

Israel Hayom reports that IDF soldiers operating security cameras in the West Bank will from now on begin to keep an eye out not just on possible hostile activity but also on animals in distress, as well as on poachers. The new initiative, dubbed “Nature Defense Forces,” will be run alongside environmental protection organizations. As of today, there are more than 100 security cameras scattered across the West Bank, Israel Hayom reports.

“The cooperation assists greatly in the protection of nature, as well as on the preservation of wildlife which are being defended from poaching and injuries,” says Motti Sheffi, the head of the Samaria division of the Nature and Parks Authority.

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