Wednesday is just one of those days where there isn’t one big news story to unify the various front pages, so the papers give their readers what they want.
Likud-loving Israel Hayom gives its readers a reason to nod their head in disapproval as it puts former prime minister Ehud Olmert on its front page accusing him of obstructing justice. The paper charges that Olmert is still exerting influence over Shula Zaken, a former top aide, and preventing her from turning state’s evidence. Why the sudden push? The verdict in Olmert’s trial for involvement in the Holyland affair is expected on March 31.
But in columnist Dan Margalit’s column another twist to the tale is revealed, that of a secret informer codenamed “the raven.” Margalit writes that no matter the outcome of the trial, the testimony of “the raven” must be made public. “The public has right to know what happened, whether in court or outside it,” he writes.
Populist Yedioth Ahronoth’s front-page story is a reaction to the latest allegations of gang rape of a 13-year-old girl. The paper reports that nine young men/boys between the ages of 14 and 17 were arrested for the attack. Included in the coverage is a timeline of a growing trend in Israel of minors sexually assaulting other minors, with the paper highlighting five incidents since January 2011.
Education Minister Shai Piron was disgusted at the news of the attack but blamed all of Israeli society, not just the education system. “We as a nation take a moment to look into our soul; if we don’t and blame this only on the education system, we will be making a great mistake.”
If all this has gotten you so disgusted that you want to get on a flight out of here, one of Haaretz’s top stories is about the new scanning machines at the airport. Why is a piece of airport equipment top news at Haaretz? Don’t let Israel’s Gray Lady fool you: it too plays to its audience with a headline reading “New system at airport eases checks on Arabs.” Now instead of digging through luggage in the departure hall, luggage is sent through a scanner which has all but eliminated the “invasive and humiliating security checks” for Israeli Arabs and Palestinians flying through Ben-Gurion Airport.
In another travel story, the paper dashes the hopes of Israeli tourists hoping to enter the US without a visa. The reason, according to the US State Department, is Israel’s treatment of visiting Arab-Americans. The State Department warns Americans of Arab descent that they may face discriminatory practices when entering Israel.
Closed or closing
It looks like Sivan Shalom can breathe a sigh of relief as Yedioth reports that the brief investigation against him will be concluded without any charges filed. The paper states that unless another complaint is made against the energy and water minister, the case will be closed. The original complaint against Shalom was that he sexually assaulted a woman in a hotel 15 years ago, a charge that Shalom denied.
Haaretz reports that the attorney general has shot down a major part of Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s new housing initiative. AG Yehuda Weinstein said that IDF service could not be the basis for eligibility for receiving a tax exemption for the purchase of a couple’s first home. Lapid’s new plan was designed to rein in housing prices and make buying a home more affordable for middle-class families. But with the AG not on board, no word from Lapid on if he’ll change the plan or still try to push forward with it.
While the door is seemingly closing on Lapid’s plan, the window of opportunity for peace may also be closing. Israel Hayom reports that Mahmoud Abbas refuses to discuss recognizing Israel as a Jewish state and the current situation has really worried the Americans. So much so that Kerry is expected to fly to Amman on Wednesday to meet with Abbas, who seems set on not budging.
Columnist Boaz Bismuth writes that Abbas actually wants reconciliation, but with Hamas. He writes, “Abbas has yet to decide what was more important — Israel or Hamas.” Bismuth references a speech Abbas made last week in which he stated the PA would never recognize Israel as a Jewish state. That speech “showed that although he is perceived as moderate (relative to the Hamas leadership) he is still not a partner (for peace).”
Yedioth decides not to take any chances on that whole innocent-until-proven-guilty thing — when it involves Israelis arrested in Peru, its front-page headline, “Disgrace in Peru,” says it all. The paper reports that 60 Israeli backpackers were arrested for having a trance party at an archaeological site outside the city of Cusco. The police stated that the Israelis stole archaeological artifacts and used drugs at the site. However, not everyone takes the charges seriously. One of the arrested told the paper, “They just exaggerated the charges. I believe they’ll let everyone go.”
While Israelis are accused of stealing ancient stones in Peru, the Rolling Stones are officially coming to Israel. But if the prices published in Yedioth are any indication, people may have to start stealing to see these stones. Prices for lawn seats will start at NIS 695 (about $200) and a VIP seat will cost NIS 2,850 (about $820).