Grim tidings grace the front pages of the papers Sunday morning, as reports of impending massive layoffs, anti-democratic legislation, and insanely expensive produce make top headlines. The only upside is that Israelis can stop holding their breath: we may have a governor of the Bank of Israel by Sunday.
Yedioth Ahronoth reports that a series of right-of-center proposals seek to disarm the Supreme Court and prevent “activist judges” from making decisions contrary to the will of the Knesset. The bills to be brought before parliament “seek to change the manner in which judges are elected in Israel and harm the power of the court system in the State of Israel.”
Among the bills, the paper continues, are proposals which would legislate that “the Knesset will elect the Supreme Court president, Supreme Court will lose two representatives on the committee to nominate judges, and MKs will be able to re-legislate laws struck down by the High Court of Justice with a majority of 61 MKs.” The Supreme Court president is presently elected by the committee for the nomination of judges, which is composed of judges, MKs and members of the government.
In short, it’s the end of judicial review and checks and balances and “restricting the power of the Supreme Court,” the paper writes.
Who stands behind these bills? According to Yedioth, none other than Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett and coalition chairman and Likud MK Yariv Levin. MK Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) tells the paper that “the Knesset as the ruling power in a democracy retains the right of the final word in fundamental ethical issues.”
Less interested in the undermining of democratic institutions, Maariv reports that budget cuts to the Defense Ministry may result in the layoff of tens of thousands of defense industry employees. According to defense sources cited by the paper, “the layoffs will already begin at the end of 2013, and will include, in addition to thousands of career soldiers, thousands of workers in the defense industry’s large, medium and small factories, who are used as alternative contractors for various projects, most of whom are located in the periphery [outside Israel's major cities].”
The paper reports that Defense Ministry officials argue that there is a gap of at least NIS 3.5 billion ($1 billion) between the minimum budget necessary to run the defense establishment in 2014 and the planned budget set to be voted on by the government. The Finance Ministry tells the paper that there is no intention to change the budget for the coming year.
Turning east, Haaretz reports that the US, UK, France and Germany spoke to Israeli officials about last week’s nuclear talks with Iran, and an Israeli official who spoke to the paper said the Iranian proposal was “general and left many question marks” but included willingness to limit uranium enrichment. According to the paper, the Iranians said that, after trust-building steps and further negotiations, they’d be willing to halt enriching uranium to 20 percent purity, and convert the remaining material at 20% to fuel rods for their research reactor. They also expressed willingness to come to an agreement about quantity and scope of enrichment permissible to 5% purity.
“The Iranians said they can’t cancel the entire project, but conveyed that it was possible to reach a settlement about this,” the Israeli official told Haaretz. “They’re not willing to close these facilities completely, but reduce and limit them.”
The paper also reports Turkey’s dismissal of the Washington Post report published Thursday which claimed Ankara blew the cover of some of Mossad’s Iranian assets. Haaretz quotes a Turkish intelligence official who spoke to Hurriyet saying that “we see this media campaign as an attack, and it’s possible that there’s Israeli effort behind these shots.”
For Israel Hayom, the hot issue facing Israel today is the nomination of a Bank of Israel governor by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid. While three main candidates are still in the running, the paper writes that “evidently, because of disagreement over one of the three contenders, once again they are seriously considering the appointment of Dr. Karnit Flug, after they had already ruled her out in the past.”
Until recently Flug served as deputy Bank of Israel governor under Stanley Fischer, and “sources in Jerusalem” tell the paper that “Netanyahu is seriously weighing appointing Flug to the position of Bank of Israel governor. According to reports, Netanyahu will meet at 5 p.m. with Flug and tell her: ‘You did great work, you are certainly appropriate like the rest to be Bank of Israel governor.’”
According to the PMO, however, the meeting is a standard working meeting with Flug on her return from Washington.
Yedioth Ahronoth also reports on the outrageous prices of vegetables in markets across the country right now. Almost NIS 13 per kilo of tomatoes? Have you gone mad? They’re normally selling for around NIS 4 per kilo! Outrage! Let’s hear it from a ticked-off vegetable buyer interviewed by Yedioth: “Zucchini we can still give up on because it’s still hot outside and we haven’t started making soup, but tomatoes are harder to give up. Why does their price need to be sky high?”
Greengrocers who spoke to Yedioth Ahronoth confirmed that there’s a shortage of squash, tomatoes and cucumbers, resulting in a price hike. The Agriculture Ministry explained to the paper that every year, between July and September, there’s a shortage of several types of vegetables due to a break in their growing season and increased demand.