While still a day away from the official start of the election season in Israel, politicians are jockeying for position and the papers give them all the coverage they need.
The front page of Israel Hayom reads, “Tomorrow: the Knesset will meet in order to go to elections,” and features some high-ranking political bickering, this time between two former IDF chiefs of staff. Inside, the paper reports on current Likud politician, Moshe Ya’alon, warning against Ehud Barak joining the Likud. “The defense minister strung us up on a tree on the subject of Iran — and then ran away,” Ya’alon remarked. Barak chalked up Ya’alon’s comments to his trying to position himself for the Likud primaries. “[Ya'alon] has primary-itis, a disease that causes Likud politicians to suck up to right-wing voters,” Barak countered. If so, from reading today’s papers, it doesn’t seem as if Ya’alon is the only one affected.
Yedioth Ahronoth gives some insight into another party facing some decisions (and who also may be affected with primary-itis). Shas’s founder and spiritual adviser, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, has yet to decide if Aryeh Deri will return to the party, or if he will stick with Eli Yishai as the current head of the party. Deri was convicted and imprisoned for accepting bribes in 2000, but has since been released and is weighing returning to Shas or possibly starting his own party. The rabbi is expected to announce his decision once elections have been officially declared.
Yedioth Ahronoth also provides a general update on the elections — on what to expect in the coming month. First up on this week’s schedule is the dissolution of the Knesset on Monday. On Wednesday, the Likud will meet to set a date for its internal party primaries to choose its Knesset slate. By the end of November, Likud and Labor will hold their primaries, former Kadima leaders Tzipi Livni and Ehud Olmert will have decided their political future, and Yair Lapid will announce his party list for the Knesset.
Maariv reports on another possible political shake-up, this time in Kadima. The paper reports that Kadima head, Shaul Mofaz, has agreed to vacate his position for Olmert. While Olmert has not stated anything publicly, the paper states that sources who spoke to the former prime minster got the impression that he was planning a return to political life.
Kadima is not the only one trying to woo Olmert: Maariv also reports that Livni, too, is weighing a return to politics and establishing a new centrist party with Olmert as her No. 2.
There is one other group also trying to get Olmert: the police. As the front-page of Haaretz reports, police chief Yohanan Danino is urging the state to appeal the acquittal of Olmert in connection with the Rishon Tours investigation. Danino was the head of the investigation branch of the police and oversaw the evidence collection against Olmert; he is urging that the state appeal on the basis of what he believes is the solid evidence. Olmert’s lawyers responded, “Filing an appeal would be perceived as persecution.”
Assassinations and rockets
Yedioth’s front page updates the situation along the border with Gaza as “Assassination and preparedness.” The paper warns of another round of rocket fire in the south after a Grad rocket slammed into a house in Netivot on Friday, damaging the wall of a child’s bedroom and injuring one person. The paper reported that it was the third rocket that landed in the city over the past week. In response, on Saturday night Israel assassinated two members of the World Jihad working in the Gaza Strip. The IDF has raised the alert level in the area in preparation for more rockets in retaliation.
While the IDF has raised the alert level in the south, it is also preparing for joint exercises with the US military at the end of October. Maariv reports on an article appearing in the Sunday Times, which claims that the drone sent by Hezbollah was able to photograph military bases, ballistic-missile sites and possibly even the Dimona nuclear reactor. The goal of the drone may have been to collect data on the upcoming military exercise between Israel and the United States which, according to Maariv, Martin Dempsey, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is expected to attend.
Israel Hayom reports on the possible cyber threat from Iran hitting the banking industry. Basing its reporting on a Wall Street Journal article, the paper states that Iranian hackers were trying to attack banks, American oil companies and even stock exchanges. The US defense secretary warned that the US could face a “cyber Pearl Harbor.” As Israel Hayom points out, the defense secretary also told reporters that the US could launch a preemptive cyber attack if it felt an attack was imminent.
Rabbi in trouble
Haaretz includes on its front page an update on the ongoing investigation into Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, one of Israel’s most influential rabbis. According to the article, Pinto attempted to bribe a police commander with 200,000 shekels in order to view a confidential police file into Pinto’s activities. Rabbi Pinto’s attorney responded, “The rabbi has answered all the investigators’ questions, and given all the information he has, in order to speed up the investigation and refute the baseless suspicions against him.”
Finally, Israel Hayom reports on the tragedy of Gilad Vetory, a 16-year-old who collapsed last Thursday and was pronounced brain-dead on Saturday. The death came as a complete surprise to friends and family, as the teenager was a gifted athlete who played soccer for Hapoal Kfar Saba. The family of Vetory has decided to donate his organs; his mother, Michal, stated: “I am positive that Gilad would be proud and happy that he could give life to others.”