Dearly departed
Hebrew media review

Dearly departed

The Plesner committee and a former prime minister are laid to rest

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

The Knesset's Committee for the Advancement of an Equal Burden, headed by Yohanan Plesner (center) (Photo credit: Miriam Alster/ Flash 90)
The Knesset's Committee for the Advancement of an Equal Burden, headed by Yohanan Plesner (center) (Photo credit: Miriam Alster/ Flash 90)

A potential coalition crisis grips the press. As quickly as the unity government came together, the papers reckon, it could fall apart because of disagreements over drafting a universal enlistment bill.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Tuesday he would dissolve the Plesner Committee, spelling the end for a panel tasked with coming up with legislation for universal conscription.

“Unfortunately, the committee couldn’t reach common ground and isn’t able to form a recommendation that would receive a majority in the Knesset,” Netanyahu was quoted in Haaretz saying.

Kadima party head Shaul Mofaz responded by saying the issue could spell the end of Netanyahu’s broad national unity coalition. Yedioth Ahronoth quotes the deputy prime minister saying, “Netanyahu hoodwinked me and chose the ultra-Orthodox.” Maariv emblazons its front page with Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz’s blistering assault on Netanyahu: “Netanyahu violated the coalition agreement.”

Yedioth Ahronoth’s cartoonist Yotam Fishbein snipes at the failure of the Plesner committee. MK Yohanan Plesner is depicted at a conference table with empty seats for representatives of Yisrael Beytenu, the ultra-Orthodox, Likud, and the Arab parties.

“I am still positive that together we will come to an arrangement that will be accepted by all sides,” he says.

Photo of Yedioth Ahronoth's political cartoon from July 3.
Photo of Yedioth Ahronoth’s political cartoon from July 3.

Israel Hayom cartoonist Shlomo Cohen stylizes the Plesner committee as a doomed stork losing its feathers mid-flight as it bears the nascent bill for universal enlistment to the IDF.

Photo of Israel Hayom's political cartoon from July 3.
Photo of Israel Hayom’s political cartoon from July 3.

Yedioth Ahronoth columnist Nahum Barnea says the prime minister “has a golden opportunity to fix several mishaps that prior coalitions couldn’t touch. This opportunity he apparently prefers to pass up, simply in order that the ultra-Orthodox parties don’t regard him as deal-breaker.”

Kadima’s joining the government was packaged with four promises that Netanyahu gave Mofaz, “including the draft issue.” Given Netanyahu’s dissolution of the Plesner committee on Monday, Barnea writes that “Mofaz is wavering on the seriousness of the remaining three. In other words, a month after he believed Netanyahu, now [Mofaz] doesn’t really.”

Ben Caspit virtually reiterates Barnea’s stance. Netanyahu could have turned to the ultra-Orthodox, he argues, and said “No, we will not send you to prison if you don’t enlist, we know that’s not realistic. We will simply cease financing you,” referring to the individual sanctions that were proposed in the Plesner committee.

Nehemia Shtrasler writes in Haaretz that the only judicious and non-discriminatory way of dealing with the issue of military and national service in Israel is “drafting every Jew (and Druze) to the army, at 18, without differentiation between secular, religious, and ultra-Orthodox.”

“That is the only way to achieve real equal sharing of the burden,” but such a thing will never happen, Shtrasler says. “The moment that Yisrael Beytenu, Jewish Home, and the ultra-Orthodox rejected the [Plesner] committee’s recommendations, Netanyahu broke it up.” Netanyahu’s aim, Shtrasler argues, is not achieving equality but rather keeping his position as prime minister.

Yehuda Schlesinger writes in Israel Hayom that “the ultra-Orthodox understand that something must change, that that which started as 400 yeshiva students receiving an exemption because ‘Torah is their trade’ has turned into 65,000 — of which only a few thousand actually devote night and day to studying Torah — cannot continue.” The real challenge for the ultra-Orthodox parties in the Knesset, he says, is “finding a real solution without games.”

Haaretz reports that the prime minister’s decision prompted National Student Union chairman Itzik Shmuli to call a meeting of all student body leaders to discuss protesting Netanyahu’s “inconsistency towards his commitments to the public — firstly on social issues and now on the issue of shared burden,” i.e., universal enlistment to the IDF. The student leaders will discuss joining the activities of the renewed social protests.

Haaretz also features an article on the layout of the new detainment camps for illegal migrants. The compounds, which can reportedly house up to 4,000 migrants, are equipped with educational, medical, and religious facilities as well as electricity and showers. The author emphasizes that there is a shower for every 10 inmates. It quotes the Defense Ministry confirming most readers’ reactions to reading about the camp (including this author’s) that it features “better treatment than the current conditions on most IDF bases.”

Saying goodbye

Israel paid its last respects to former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir on Monday as he was laid to rest at the Mount Herzl national cemetery in Jerusalem. The papers feature pictures of the seventh prime minister’s flag-draped casket and quote the eulogies of Israeli politicians and Shamir’s family.

Haaretz quotes President Shimon Peres: “We were of different populations, but of a single rootstock.”

Yedioth Ahronoth highlights Shamir’s son Yair’s praise for his departed father’s tenacity and warmth: “We will remember you as a man of principle worthy of admiration. You were an eagle without and a dove within.”

Israel Hayom prefers Netanyahu’s last words for his predecessor: “He sought not glory; rather, the best for Israel.”

Photo of Maariv's obituaries from July 3.
Photo of Maariv’s obituaries from July 3.

Maariv leaves eulogies out of the headlines, but reports that during the funeral thieves broke into Shamir’s daughter Gilada’s Ramat Aviv apartment and stole jewelry and artwork.

The death notices in Yedioth Ahronoth and Maariv were a patchwork of last dedications to the departed prime minister Yitzhak Shamir.

Photo of Yedioth Ahronoth's obituaries from July 3.
Photo of Yedioth Ahronoth’s obituaries from July 3.



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