Breaking Bashar
Hebrew media review

Breaking Bashar

The chemical imbalance up north has Israeli papers in a tizzy, but don't expect help from the US any time soon, one columnist says

Syrian President Bashar Assad in an image from video broadcast on Syrian state television Wednesday, April 17, 2013 (photo credit: AP)
Syrian President Bashar Assad in an image from video broadcast on Syrian state television Wednesday, April 17, 2013 (photo credit: AP)

“Chemistry is the study of change. Electrons change their orbits, molecules change their bonds. Elements combine and change into compounds. That’s all of life, right? The constant … The cycle. Solution, dissolution, over and over. Growth, decay. Transformation. It’s fascinating, really.”

Walter White, of the awesome TV series Breaking Bad — if he could read Hebrew — would be happy to see his favorite subject making top news in the Israeli press Monday morning. The rest of Israel? Maybe not.

While there are few stories of meth labs or drug cartels in the Hebrew papers, they are chock full of Israel and the West’s Mexican-style standoff over Syria’s chemical weapons, something the fictional ailing chemistry genius could likely get behind, before blowing the whole thing to bits somehow.

Should Walter pick up Maariv first, he will see the paper reporting that Israeli planes struck a chemical weapons site in Syria recently, like a DEA agent with an F-16. The information comes from an opposition report based on a video of smoke rising from a site in the distance which the rebels say is not a Lag B’Omer fire but actually a chemical weapons site. According to the report, Israeli planes buzzed the presidential palace and other key sites in Damascus before hitting a major chemical weapons facility in the capital. The IDF declined to respond.

Opening up Haaretz, the man known as Heisenberg would discover that the Israeli cabinet is split over how to deal with Assad’s chemical weapons, which could be turned on Israel or end up in cartel rebel hands. The paper reports that Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz, most likely to support missile defense if his history with Iron Dome is any indication, called on the US to get involved in Syria to end the bloodshed, breaking a longstanding ban on cabinet ministers speaking publicly about the troubles up north.

The paper’s Amos Harel handicaps the chances that will happen, and says not to expect American boots on Syrian soil any time soon. “In briefings recently for American media representatives, administration officials have said that removing the chemical weapons threat in Syria would require ground operations involving no fewer than 75,000 US troops, probably with assistance from other countries,” he writes. “The lack of enthusiasm in Washington for a new military undertaking is apparent both when it comes to Syria and in connection with the lengthy discussions with Israel over how to deal with the Iranian nuclear threat. But Iran at least looks like a challenge that some of the experts believe could be overcome with a targeted air operation lasting only a few days. No one has illusions that an assault targeting Syria’s chemical weapons could be wrapped up so quickly.”

In Yedioth Ahronoth, Nahum Barnea writes that the issue for Israel and the West is way more complicated than just chemicals, since it also involves the cancer that is Bashar Assad plus Islamist elements among the rebels who are fighting him (much like Walter White’s cancer, to stretch the metaphor well beyond its limits). “Supporting Assad is a nonstarter, and supporting the rebels could create a jihadi base in the heart of the Middle East. The West doesn’t want that and Israel doesn’t want it even more,” he writes.


As Israel isn’t likely to get into the meth cooking business anytime soon, some belt tightening seems to be in the works, with Histadrut labor union head Ofer Eini threatening a two-week general strike that would bring the country to a standstill, Israel Hayom reports. To stop his plans, the government is considering a law that would clamp down on some workers’ ability to strike. According to the story, the law would make it so that workers at the seaports, airports, electric company and other essential bodies would only be allowed to strike in cases where their pay were suspended, and only after entering negotiations with management. The measure, which would essentially emasculate the Histadrut, has been suggested twice before, by Yaakov Neeman and Benjamin Netanyahu when they were finance ministers. In both cases, ironically, the Histadrut struck and the law died.

Parents aren’t allowed to go on strike (or so we’ve been told by our Pinkerton goon kids) but if they could, they surely would have done so years ago over the lengthy summer break, which puts many working moms and dads in a bind (and turns offices into temporary day care centers during August). Yedioth reports that the Education Ministry, hearing their cries, is looking into the possibility of making Friday, when most don’t work, a day off of school and shortening summer break by three weeks. However the paper reports that teachers may not be game. Currently teachers teach five days a week and get a day of their choosing off. Changing the system will force them to take Friday off.

“It is unnecessary to note,” the paper notes unnecessarily, “that an initiative like this, if it is accepted, will damage collective agreements and it’s reasonable to assume it won’t get past the teachers unions.”

It is unnecessary to note that papers should not be assuming, unless they want to make an ass out of u and me.

In Haaretz, Yitzhak Laor bemoans the left’s new assault on “tycoons” and strong unions, saying unions are the best, and last, example of true Israeli solidarity. “The welfare state is dying. The public health care system is disintegrating. Quietly disintegrating. Two weeks ago, Clalit normalized its own private medical service and you heard very little about it. From time to time, you hear about the situation of cashiers in Mega supermarkets or some other retail chain, but these are only the final throes of a dying Israeli society that is trampling its own framework of solidarity.”

In Maariv, Brig. Gen Amos Gilboa, an intelligence adviser, writes about the line intelligence operatives must straddle between telling the truth and dealing with politicians, who aren’t always upfront. Gilboa says it is the agent’s job to always be honest to the best of his ability, regardless of political motives: “In a public setting, intelligence brass need to tell the truth the same as they would behind closed doors, albeit with one caveat. For subjects especially sensitive, they need to clear what they will say with those above them and get their okay. The leaders above can agree or forbid it. If they forbid it, the things will not be said. If they allow it, the truth should be told, unvarnished.”

read more: