The Israeli press seems to be in a holding pattern the last few days, covering the same two stories in depth over and over again. But do they have anything new to report?
Israel Hayom leads with the shocking news out of the Sinai Peninsula that 25 Egyptian soldiers were brutally killed in an attack on Monday. In “Attacked, bound and executed,” the paper relates that the soldiers, who were on leave, had their vans hit by RPGs, then were pulled from the rubble, had their hands bound and were executed. Three of the wounded men were able to escape the attack and were being treated for their wounds.
In an accompanying op-ed piece, Yoav Limor writes that the attack shows that “in the eyes of Muslim fundamentalists every target is legitimate.” Now, he says, Egypt is at a fork in the road. It can react rationally and secure the major cities against terrorism and then systematically move into the Sinai, or shoot from the hip and go into Sinai now. “Jerusalem hopes that they take the first option, fully or partially,” he writes, as Israel would be able to methodically authorize the increase in Egyptian troop buildup and monitor the situation closely.
The question of what to do about the Sinai Peninsula has been nagging Israel for a while now and Haaretz reports that the Shin Bet (which is responsible for internal security in Israel and the West Bank) is creating a special unit just for Sinai. According to the report, the new unit is on par in terms of manpower with the unit charged with preventing Palestinian terror attacks from the Ramallah region.
While Egypt dominates two of the papers, the vaccination of Israel’s children against polio takes center stage in both Maariv and Yedioth Ahronoth, only papers don’t have too much new to report.
With three pages of real estate, Yedioth Ahronoth gives the most space to the vaccination effort. This time it provides on a follow-up to an earlier piece that pointed out that 400,000 Israelis suffer from problems with their immune system and are therefore more susceptible to catching polio. This means that children who couldn’t receive the vaccination may have to stay home from school next week.
Moreover, Yedioth reports, an 8-month-old infant may have died from the disease. However, the Health Ministry investigated the death of the infant (who died last month) and issued a statement that contradicts the paper’s supposition. “Through testing it was discovered that the infant was a carrier for polio. However, there is no sign that it was the disease that killed her.”
Polio also earns top billing in Maariv, with the paper announcing that 134,000 children have already been vaccinated so far. Following the traditional format for reporting on this story, the paper also includes pictures and profiles of people who are pro-, anti-, and undecided. However, this time Maariv asks people in the medical community and, not surprisingly, the the pediatricians are for it. The only one who is on the record against the vaccinations is homeopathic doctor Miri Tahan, who thinks the whole thing is an economic ploy and there is no real danger.
Nice work if you can get it
Haaretz’s front page also features an expose on the salaries of municipal rabbis of small- to medium-sized communities throughout the country. Calling these times “The golden days for rabbis in Israel,” the article covers rabbis who have high salaries regardless of the level of services they provide. Leading the way is Rabbi Meshumar Tzuberi of Gan Yavne (a town of about 22,000 residents) who earns annually just over NIS 928,000 (about $260,000). Coming in second is Rabbi Yehuda Stern of the West Bank settlement of Elkana (3,800 residents) who earns NIS 765,000 annually (about $214,000). The paper points out that once appointed, these appointments are usually for life, as municipalities rarely fire rabbis and a rabbi is only replaced when he resigns.
While small-town rabbis may be riding high on the hog, Israeli families are readjusting their budgets starting Tuesday. Israel Hayom reports that the child allowance benefits, the monthly amount every family receives for each child will be substantially lowered and is expected to save the government NIS 2.7 billion ($755 billion).
Finally, Maariv seems to delight in reporting that former Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has no love for Israel Hayom. In an interview on Jerusalem Radio, Liberman equated the free daily to the former Soviet mouthpiece Pravda. However, he drew a distinction: Israel Hayom doesn’t espouse an ideology but rather supports only one person: Netanyahu. “There’s no doubt it represents only one candidate, not an objective opinion or political approach, but a clear interest,” Liberman said.