Dueling in Davos
Hebrew Media Review

Dueling in Davos

Netanyahu and Rouhani joust verbally at World Economic Forum; Israel grieves over children killed by pesticides

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.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Thursday, January 23, 2014 (photo credit: AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Thursday, January 23, 2014 (photo credit: AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani face off in Davos, providing the press with plenty of material to dissect.

Off the bat, Maariv takes to Rouhani’s “smile offensive” at the World Economic Forum like white on rice. The paper reports that the Iranian president spoke to a crowd packed to the gills — standing room only — and his bottom line was enticing investors.

“Rouhani might not be trustworthy, but that’s not what will distance world tycoons. The Iranian president spoke finely and said exactly what investors want to hear,” the paper says, namely that he was elected democratically, that Iran wants peace and that its nuclear program is not aimed at making weapons.

Netanyahu’s speech, however, had far from a full hall and the prime minister — “no longer King Bibi” — touched on all the familiar tropes, particularly calling out Rouhani for his “fraudulent display.” A Swiss official told Maariv, though, that “99 percent of those sitting in the hall didn’t buy a word of [Rouhani’s]. It’s clear to them that the Iranian nuclear program is not intended for peaceful purposes. It’s good that Netanyahu told the truth.”

Israel Hayom runs a headline quoting the prime minister saying that “Iran continues to cheat the world.”

The prime minister, writes Haaretz, branched off from his speech about economics to discuss Iran and the Palestinians. It quotes Netanyahu saying that Iran “says one thing and does another. They say they’re opposed to intervention in Syria? Iran itself is intervening in Syria.”

When not talking about Iran, Syria and the Palestinians, Haaretz reports that Netanyahu encouraged international money-holders to invest in Israeli business, saying “I think this will not only be good for you and for us but for peace.”

“Investment in economic peace assists the development of political peace — especially with the Palestinians,” Netanyahu said, noting that economic peace does not come at the expense of the peace process.

For the tabloids, Israel Hayom and Yedioth Ahronoth, the fallout from Wednesday’s death of two children from pesticide exposure in Jerusalem still makes front page news. The parents, Michal and Shimon Gross, buried their four-year-old and two-year-old girls Thursday. Yedioth Ahronoth quotes the grieving parents imploring their dead daughters to “ask the Lord almighty to say ‘enough!’ to our hardships, not to give us anymore trials.” It reports that hundreds turned out to the funerals of the two girls, among them, Israel Hayom reports, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. 

Yedioth Ahronoth reports that during the police investigation of the incident, the exterminator who fumigated the Gross’s home told officers that “the pesticide was not supposed to leak outside the room.”

“I put the permitted amount of phosphine tablets in the room,” he said, although inspectors found exceedingly high levels of the poison in the house. “I sealed the room well with strips of nylon and masking tape.” The paper reports that the suspect’s remand was extended by another day and that on Friday he would be released to house arrest.

Despite his busy schedule in Davos, Israel Hayom reports that the prime minister managed to call the family to express his condolences.

“The nation of Israel cries with you and hugs you,” Netanyahu is quoted saying. “We’re all holding you tight in this difficult hour. We’re crying over the deaths of Yael and Avigail and praying for the welfare of the sons” who remain hospitalized in critical condition.

Maariv reports that the Palestinian Authority is launching a new campaign to strengthen the Muslim presence in Jerusalem by boosting Muslim and Arab tourism to the al-Aqsa complex on the Temple Mount. According to the report, “the PA believes that by bringing thousands of Muslim visitors to Jerusalem, the city’s status as the Authority’s capital will be set.” The paper notes that the PA contends that Israel is attempting to Judaize Jerusalem through settlement expansion around the city.

On the home front, Yedioth Ahronoth reports that the IDF is weighing the possibility of reducing the length of mandatory service for non-combat soldiers. According to the paper, the plan being considered by the military would reduce service for non-essential male personnel from three years to two years.

It says this issue is one of the most sensitive and explosive issues in Israeli society in general and the IDF, but “according to senior army sources, the time has come to address it with gravity in light of the collapse of the peoples’ army model in recent years.” The bottom line: cutting expenses. 

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