Benjamin Netanyahu has a lot on his plate this week. He’s trying to negotiate peace talks and avoid European boycotts, and then there’s the ever-present Iranian threat. But what seemed to really tick off the PM was his coalition partner Naftali Bennett taking swipes at him. On Wednesday, channeling his inner Peter Finch, he gave Bennett an ultimatum: apologize or you’re fired.
And sure enough, “Bennett apologizes,” as Israel Hayom’s front page headline announces. Speaking at an education ceremony at the Dead Sea, Bennett said sorry. Sorta. “There are those who are trying to turn a substantive conversation about the future of our land and our security into a personal attack that never was. And if the prime minister was offended, that was not the intention.”
Dan Margalit, a columnist for the paper, writes that the basis for the coalition crisis was not the substance of the debate but rather Bennett’s style. But in the end, both sides achieved their goals with this crisis — Netanyahu proved that he was in control and Bennett nixed the idea that Jews could be allowed to live in a future Palestinian state. Margalit quickly does the math and realizes that if both men took this further both the Likud and Jewish Home parties would suffer. Still, he says, this is far from over: “The story is just beginning, and this week’s incident is no more than the first episode in a series.”
Yedioth Ahronoth seems to agree with Margalit, with its front page headline predicting pessimistically: “Until the next crisis.” Yedioth includes in its coverage Bennett trying to save face by saying he didn’t apologize but simply only clarified that he didn’t mean to cause Netanyahu to take offense. The PM for his part said “Apology accepted,” and everything seems hunky dory (until the next crisis, of course).
Haaretz also features the Bennett-Netanyahu spat on its front page, alongside an article on how the IDF is planning to change its structure for reservists. For nonessential units, the military will begin releasing thousands of reservist soldiers over the age of 35, five years before the current age limit of 40. While there will be fewer reservists, those who do serve will spend more time training than in the past. According to the article, the IDF has already begun releasing reservists in armored units who use antiquated tanks.
In light of Maariv’s front page headline, the IDF might want to reconsider: “Military Intelligence Chief: For the first time the enemy has the ability to fire a large number of missiles at Israeli cities.” Speaking at the Institute for National Security Studies’ conference at Tel Aviv University, Major General Avi Kochavi said that Hezbollah posses an arsenal that not a lot of other countries can match.
In the opinion pages of Maariv, Yael Paz-Melamed has some tough words for the prime minister as she recaps how Bennett ruined Netanyahu’s week. She writes that people must get rid of their dreams that Netanyahu is going anywhere or will change his coalition. “It’s not going to happen. Netanyahu is a coward and a conservative,” she writes. She criticizes the PM for knowing that a boycott will cause extreme harm to Israel, but said he is too afraid of the settlers and extreme right to do anything about it. “We should all internalize it: Netanyahu does not want to change anything. He does not want to make any decision.”
What’s the plan?
Aside from Netanyahu and Bennett’s bickering, the other big news in the dailies is that oft-discussed, little-seen framework agreement. All the papers take their information from a Thomas Friedman piece in which the star columnist details what’s expected in the plan. Haaretz reports on the piece and highlights that the plan is expected to include: an end of the conflict for both sides, borders based on the 1967 lines, a shared Jerusalem for the capital, and recognition by Palestinians of Israel as a Jewish state. Didn’t we know all that already?
Over at Maariv, alongside their report on the agreement, is a short article quoting President Shimon Peres to the effect that the only issue at stake is “maintaining a Jewish state.” Peres went on to say that in 1948, “We were a few hundred thousand, no navy, tanks or planes, and we all fought 40 million Arabs. Israel today has one of the finest armies in the world and a peace agreement with two Arab countries. The situation has changed in our favor.”
Too close for comfort?
Lately, most of the news regarding Iran has been about the nuclear agreement between the Islamic Republic and the West. But Israel Hayom reports that the US National Intelligence Estimate that was presented to Congress on Wednesday states that Iran can make a nuclear weapon any time it wants. Thanks to recent advances in technological and ballistic missiles, it said, the Iranian regime in on the threshold of becoming a nuclear state. Iran has not decided that it wants one, but that is the only thing preventing it from becoming a nuclear power.