A day after the somber marking of Holocaust Memorial Day, the Hebrew press goes back to business as usual and the results aren’t uplifting.
The only story that unites all three papers is the sentencing phase for former prime minister Ehud Olmert. Israel Hayom provides a complete rundown, reporting that prosecutors asked for a sentence of 6 years in jail for Olmert (who was convicted in March for accepting bribes), saying, “The punishment needs to reverberate far and wide.” Obviously, Olmert’s spokesperson thought this was ridiculous and called the request “unfounded.” Aside from the six years in jail, the prosecution is also seeking to fine Olmert 1.3 million shekels (approx. $370,000).
Perhaps Olmert can find consolation in the fact that he likely won’t be alone in jail. Others convicted alongside him also received long sentencing requests. Uri Lupolianski, who succeeded Olmert as mayor of Jerusalem, also received a recommendation of 6 years.
While Israel Hayom marks the end of Olmert, Yedioth Ahronoth marks the end of peace talks with a warning from John Kerry that Israel could become an apartheid state. The paper quotes from a report in the Daily Beast, where Kerry said in a closed-door meeting, “A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative. Because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second-class citizens—or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state.”
The paper conveniently provides a definition of apartheid for its readers. “Apartheid: racial segregation, where one race receives more rights than other groups. The world comes from South Africa, where it was used to describe the racist regime instituted by the white minority.”
Alongside its coverage of Kerry’s comments, the paper includes a report that during the negotiation, building in the territories reached its peak. During the nine-month period, the government advanced the building of 13,851 new units across the Green Line. Of those, 5,044 were in East Jerusalem and the rest were in the West Bank.
Haaretz’s front page also reports on the building in the territories, as Israel is claiming more land in the West Bank for state use. The paper reports that overall 28,000 dunams (6,919 acres) has been appropriated over the last year and that the largest single area of land is around the settlement of Ariel. The paper says, “In the past 99% of the state land was allotted to settlements.”
Dershowitz to the rescue
Israel Hayom brings out a legal celebrity to defend itself against a Knesset bill that seeks to essentially shutter the free daily. Alan Dershowitz pens a piece that comes to the defense of the paper, saying that if the law was passed it would constitute government interference in the press. The bill would make it illegal to distribute papers for free and Dershowitz argues that government deciding the price and model of distribution of the press constitutes interference. He concludes, “Anyone who recognizes the unlimited freedom of the press and anyone who is afraid of supervision government of the media must treat it with skepticism.”
While Israel Hayom defends itself against the Knesset, Ehud Barak goes on the attack. The bickering between former defense minister Barak and former IDF chief Gabi Ashkenazi is yet again playing out in the press. Barak, who was testifying in relation to the Harpaz Affair, said that Ashkenazi threatened him after Barak declined to extend his term as IDF chief of staff. He said that Ashkenazi told him “You are going to war,” and that he took the words as a threat. Barak spent 10 hours testifying about the affair, in which a fake document was used to try and influence the choosing of Ashkenazi’s successor. Perhaps Ashkenazi can get Dershowitz to write an op-ed supporting him?
New and old memories
Israel Hayom follows up on its Holocaust Memorial Day coverage with an article about the March of the Living in Poland. The annual event took place on Monday with about 12,000 people (from 42 countries) marching from Auschwitz to Birkenau. From Israel, groups of high school students, survivors, and Supreme Court Justice Asher Gronis participated. Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, the former chief rabbi of Israel, said he was unafraid for the day after the last survivor died. “Who is alive today from the days of Moses and Aaron, from the slavery and the Exodus? No one. A few days ago, all the Jews sat down at the Passover Seder table and ate the same meal our ancestors ate in Egypt. We will never forget.”
Over in Haaretz, the op-ed writers take a different focus and urge Israel to reciprocate Mahmoud Abbas’s recognition of the Holocaust by recognizing the nakba — the Palestinian term for the “catastrophe” surrounding Israel’s establishment. The paper writes, “The uniqueness of the Holocaust as the worst crime ever doesn’t mean that Israel must ignore crimes committed against other nations, be they Armenians, Palestinians, or African tribes.” It goes on to say that the Israel’s responsibility in the nakba is a question for history but that doesn’t mean Israel should ignore that a “national and human disaster befell the Palestinians.” The paper’s solution is to study the nakba and include it in the school curriculum, since by doing this the two sides can start going “down the path to understanding and mutual recognition.”