A series of dramatic accusations of betrayal take top billing in Friday’s Hebrew papers — the ultra-Orthodox charge the prime minister with unfaithfulness on the draft bill; two alleged arms dealers to Iran are deemed traitors; and the Kiev bloodbath pits a state against its protesting citizens.
Yedioth Ahronoth emphasizes the Haredi MKs’ angry response to the Shaked Committee’s approval of a universal conscription bill that includes criminal sanctions against ultra-Orthodox draft dodgers, to be implemented in 2017.
Committee member MK Meir Porush, of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, told the paper that Netanyahu had promised no criminal sanctions would be instituted. On February 3, according to Porush, “Netanyahu told me in a conversation that, during his term, there would be no criminal sanctions against the Haredim.” Other Knesset members said that during last Monday’s Likud faction meeting, the prime minister was asked about this, the paper reports. “I will not see people sitting in prison because of Torah study,” he replied.
In light of this breach of trust, Porush maintained, the Haredi MKs will do their utmost to prevent a Likud candidate from securing the presidency in the upcoming elections.
“Bibi [Netanyahu] was elected into office twice by the Haredim, during the elections of 1996 and 2009. We also recommended him to the president. But yesterday we discovered he is an ingrate. He is not a fair man. We decided to evaluate ruling out [supporting] a Likud candidate for presidency. If we are third-class citizens, why must we support a Likud president?” Porush said.
Maariv specifies that the Haredi MKs intend to boycott all candidates who vote in favor of the draft bill, and not exclusively those from Likud. “If all the presidential candidates who serve as Knesset members vote in favor of the bill, we will be forced to decide to support a candidate from outside the Knesset and vote for him,” an unnamed Haredi MK told the paper. “If we don’t find a fitting candidate, we won’t hesitate to abstain. It’s preferred over supporting a nominee who will vote in favor of the [conscription] bill.”
But Israel Hayom reports that while outwardly seething, the Haredi MKs have privately rejoiced over the softened formulation of the bill’s terms.
“In every conversation with them, they say this bill is the best thing that has happened to them, better than all previous committees. But despite that, they still dare attack us,” a senior member of the right-wing Jewish Home party said of the Haredi response.
In an op-ed for Haaretz, Yossi Verter lambastes the newly approved terms of the bill for being unbalanced in favor of Haredim, and mocks Yair Lapid’s premature declaration of victory. “It is advisable to drop the PR slogan of ‘Equality of the burden.’ We’ll leave that to Yesh Atid’s electoral propaganda campaigns… Yesterday [Lapid] held a press conference and in characteristic understatement, as if he had just redeemed Jerusalem from a conqueror, declared that ‘Zionism is back.’ A little proportionality, a modicum of humility, wouldn’t hurt. The new bill is everything but ‘equality': There will never be equality between Haredim and the secular.”
The Enemy Within?
After the military censor on Thursday lifted the ban on publishing the names of the two Israelis accused of selling aircraft parts to the Iranian military, the Hebrew papers give more background on the two suspects, Avihai Weinstein and Eli Cohen, and their previous infractions.
According to Israel Hayom, the two were investigated — in 2000, 2002, and 2004 — on allegations that they were transferring mechanical parts to the Iranian military, but were never charged.
Yedioth Ahronoth highlights a statement from Haim Misgav, the attorney for the accused.
“They deny any involvement in the case and clarify that, contrary to the reports. they were not interrogated and have not been arrested,” he said.
Maariv reports that the brothers-in-law were raised in national religious homes, but since 1998 have been affiliated with the Przemysl Hasidic dynasty in Bnei Brak. “They were joyfully received,” a source in the community told the paper. “They are an inseparable part of the community.”
Violence in Kiev
The Hebrew papers also highlight continued bloody riots in Ukraine. Israel Hayom’s headline reads “Sharpshooters vs. Citizens”; Yedioth Ahronoth dubs it a “civil war”; and Maariv calls it “Ukraine’s day of blood.”
Both Israel Hayom and Maariv stress the local Jewish community’s response to the violence.
Moshe Reuven Azman, a Chabad chief rabbi of Ukraine, issued a ruling for the Jewish community to steer clear of the riots, Maariv reports. “I told my congregation to leave the city center or the city altogether, and if possible, the country,” Azman said. He also reported that there have been multiple warnings of possible attacks against Jewish institutions in Kiev.
“I’m worried,” the head of Ukraine’s Jewish Federation told Israel Hayom. “So far there hasn’t been any particular anti-Semitism, but if there is a general wave of harsh violence, I fear that a lot of the violence will be directed at the Jews.” The federation submitted a request to the Israeli government to send in experts to direct tightened security at the local synagogues, but received no response, the paper reports.
A Yedioth Ahronoth correspondent describes the mayhem in Kiev, as residents brace themselves for a full-fledged war and businesses shut their doors. “In Kiev and other cities, there was genuine panic,” he writes. “The long lines in the capital’s supermarkets were reminiscent of scenes from the Soviet Union era. People pounced on the shelves and grabbed everything they could: flour, sugar, spelt, bread, toilet paper. Long lines extended behind the ATMs, but after an hour in line it became clear that the money in the ATM had simply run out. At the gas stations, too, the situation was similar.”