Syrian President Bashar Assad’s massacre of men, women, and children in Houla this weekend didn’t hit the front pages in Israel till Monday because of the holiday weekend.
Haaretz reports at least 108 killed, including 32 children, in tank and artillery shelling in a town outside Homs. Its headline announces that US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin are discussing a plan to remove Assad in the same fashion as Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh in November. Under the plan, Assad would sign away his presidential powers to a subordinate and leave the country.
Haaretz calls on the UN to employ military force against the Assad regime. “It is no longer possible for the world body to make do with feeble declarations of censure,” it writes. Rather than be hobbled by international power struggles, the UN must take action.
“The United Nations has the authority and capability to employ peacekeeping forces not merely as observers but also as a military force able to intervene. This authority must be applied without delay.”
Maariv calls the weekend’s slaughter “The butchery of children in Syria.” Yedioth Ahronoth calls Assad a “murderer of children.” As in Haaretz, a photo showing the bodies of the victims (also the featured image of this media review) covers their front pages. Maariv’s main article’s headline emphasizes the paper’s outrage: “He also massacres children.” The piece notes that the Houla massacre was the greatest bloodbath since the uprising began 15 months ago.
Maariv’s political cartoon shows a plane labeled “world powers” dropping leaflets entitled “Shame!” on Assad riding in a tank. The paper’s commentary is clear: the world powers are mishandling the Syrian revolution.
Yedioth Ahronoth’s political cartoon shows Assad wading in bloody corpses, brandishing an M-16, and talking on the phone with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Assad asks “How goes?” Ahmadinejad’s response employs a Hebrew play on the term for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA or סבא”א, pronounced saba’a) and a slang term for “cool” (סבבה, pronounced sababa).
Nadav Eyal writes in Maariv that Putin realizes that he risks landing Russia on the wrong side of history. On the one hand he does not want to concede Russian influence by letting the US or NATO begin military operations against Assad. At the same time he does not want to risk losing a key regional ally with the dissolution of the Alawite regime, as Moscow did when Muammar Gaddafi fell.
The “Yemeni option,” Eyal writes, is a win-win solution for Washington and Moscow: “Ousting President Assad and perhaps his close family but preserving the established circles of power.”
Eyal Zisser writes in Israel Hayom that Assad might agree to a Yemeni option, but the opposition won’t. “The revolution has passed the point of no return, and its doubtful whether Assad’s resignation can end the civil war.”
Israel Hayom also reports that Iran admitted that its forces are operating in Syria. Gen. Ismail Koani confirmed that troops from the al-Quds Brigade of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards were there: “If it weren’t for the presence of Iranians in Syria, the slaughter of the Syrian people would have been several times greater,” he told the Iranian Students News Agency on Sunday.
Yedioth Ahronoth’s lead article is about the calling of Iran’s bluff in international talks. “The negotiations failed, and the Americans understand: Iran fooled them in a bid to gain time,” its article reads. Yedioth Ahronoth also quotes the prime minister saying, “I prefer that the Americans do the work, but if there is no other option we will do that which is necessary.”
Maariv shows a photo of a large group of Sudanese and Eritrean migrants who recently crossed the border from Sinai into Israel over the weekend. They are escorted by an IDF soldier and jeep. According to Maariv, the migrants are instructed by their Bedouin guides to sit beside the border road until an IDF patrol comes by, at which point they will be taken to a detainment camp. After a few days of questioning and screening, they will be released in south Tel Aviv or Beersheba.
Israel Hayom reports that Israeli authorities have started to arrest African “infiltrators.” Interior Minister Eli Yishai’s program of arrest and detention of illegal immigrants goes into effect on Monday, and he plans on approving the construction of additional detention facilities and prisons to meet demand.
Merav Michaeli writes in Haaretz that Israeli authorities should start accepting refugee applications and review them individually. “Illegal migrants can be returned to their countries, while refugees should be allowed to stay in Israel and be issued work permits, allowing them to take jobs that Israelis won’t do,” she says.
The IDF reports that the fence along the Egyptian-Israeli border will not be completed for another year. Haaretz’s political cartoon jabs at the Israeli workforce and political opposition to the growing migrant population.
One officer says, “We need more workers, fast” to complete the border fence, and his compatriot points at a group of migrants and says, “We’ll take those.”
Gelfand on the cusp
Israeli chess Grandmaster Boris Gelfand faces off with reigning world champion Viswanathan Anand of India on Monday in the final match of the World Chess Championship. The two are now even at 5.5 points each, and should they stalemate they will face off in four lightning rounds to decide a clear winner.
Maariv calls the final round “the duel of kings” and Gelfand and Anand “gladiators of the world of chess.” If Gelfand wins he will be crowned the first Israeli world chess champion.
Israel Hayom visualizes the nation’s anticipation in its political cartoon. A government official whispers to Gelfand that the Eurovision song contest slipped away from Israeli band Izabo, and that the country’s hopes depend on him.