The Plesner Committee’s recommendations were submitted to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu yesterday, along with an ultimatum from Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz that threatens to lead to a coalition breakup — either accept the committee’s recommendations in full, or Kadima will quit the government.
Haaretz leads its coverage with an opinion piece by Yossi Verter under the headline, “Netanyahu in an effort to prevent Kadima from quitting.” Verter writes that over the next few days the pressure will be on Netanyahu to fix the coalition, since he doesn’t want to be perceived as caving to the ultra-Orthodox on the universal draft issue. “However,” Vertner writes, “if Mofaz quits at least he will have an agenda, something to run with to the elections.”
Maariv gives the story two pages with the headline, “Share or quit.” In addition to the main article Maariv also includes a preview of an interview that will appear in its weekend segment with the chairman of the Knesset Committee for Equal Share of the Burden, Yohanan Plesner. “Netanyahu chose the ultra-Orthodox,” he told the paper. “In our first meetings, we saw eye to eye. But soon afterwards, Bibi started to speak differently.” Plesner blames the prime minister’s change of heart on pressure from ultra-Orthodox leaders over the past two weeks.
Israel Hayom’s headline is more foreboding, “Searching for a formula, with suspicion.” Inside, its coverage focuses on Netanyahu’s response to the recommendations: “We stand at a historic moment in Israeli society. Ultra-Orthodox must integrate into the army, and Israeli Arabs must integrate into civil service.”
“We’re fed up,” reads Yedioth Ahronoth’s headline, which today focuses on the reserve soldiers and officers who protested for an equal draft law. “I feel this has gone too far,” reservist Yuval Hadari told Yedioth. “I have no motivation to continue serving in this situation… We are speaking about my children’s future.” The group has planned a protest this Saturday night demanding a law that will ensure all would be drafted. But, as the paper points out, “Reservists that are guarding us in the north and south won’t be able to join the protest in Tel Aviv because they will be busy, but they hope we can cover for them.”
Digging up the past
The question of whether Yasser Arafat was poisoned or not continues to intrigue and now the Palestinian Authority has granted permission to exhume Arafat’s body to investigate further. Israel Hayom quotes Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas explaining why permission was granted: “There is no religious or political reason to prevent the exhumation in order to investigate for signs of poisoning.” Mustafa Barghouti was more direct in a statement he gave the paper, “Everyone knows that Israel poisoned Yasser Arafat, and the time has come for the truth to come to light and have an international investigation.”
Yosef Shapira was sworn in as the new State Comptroller yesterday, replacing Micha Lindenstrauss. Yedioth reports that at the official ceremony Lindenstrauss made what the paper characterized as an “extravagant speech in which there were words not heard in long time from the State Comptroller’s Office, like ‘modesty’, ‘public service,’ and ‘social justice.’” Shapira promised in his speech to “engage in substance and not be swept away by hysteria.”
It looks like there won’t be any hysteria over a university in the West Bank as the Budgetary Committee for Higher Education decided against upgrading the status of the University Center in Ariel to an actual university. The issue made headlines last week when the heads of Israel’s universities spoke out against upgrading the center. Maariv reports that the president of Ariel’s University Center, Professor Dan Meirstein, blamed the decision on two factors, “One is political and the second is the opposition of the other university presidents.” In its decision, the committee stated it would revisit the issue in a year.
One holy particle
The discovery of the Higgs boson particle made the front pages of all the Israeli papers, with Haaretz giving the most prominent coverage to the discovery. Its Page 3 story was complete with a description of the particle and an explanation about why it was so difficult to discover. Yedioth also devoted a two-page spread to the story, complete with a listing of Israeli scientists around the world who were also working to discover the very elusive particle. Almost all the papers used the same headline, “There is a God,” in reference to the particle’s pop culture moniker, “the God particle.”
In the opinion pages, Maariv columnist Shay Golden writes about the possibility that Israel assassinated Arafat. “Assassinations have been a favored policy of Israeli governments for decades,” he writes, recalling that over 400 Palestinian terrorists were assassinated during the intifada and that former prime minister Ariel Sharon called Arafat a terrorist many times. “Israel will be implicated in this no matter what, so better be prepared for the consequences…. If Israel assassinated Arafat we have assassinated the chances for peace with the Palestinians for another generation,” Golden writes.
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