Sunday’s verbal kerfuffle between President Shimon Peres in one corner and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman in the other makes the front page across the board in the Hebrew-language press Monday.
Maariv leads off with Peres’s offending statement to the effect that there is a clear majority in favor of a two-state solution with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, which included a less-than-veiled put-down of Netanyahu and Liberman. Israel Hayom (which is said to be close to Netanyahu), on the other hand, takes the Likud-Beytenu response and runs with it, splashing “The president shouldn’t get involved in political matters” across its front page. (It also calls Peres “disconnected” from the nation.)
Maariv details that most of the center and left parties unsurprisingly took Peres’s side, as does commentator Uri Avnery, the far, far left founder of Gush Shalom, who writes in the paper that for once he agrees with Peres, and defends his right to speak his mind, even though the president, who fills a mostly ceremonial office, traditionally stays out of politics.
“I don’t think that President Peres loses his standing as a concerned citizen just because he is president. He still has his opinions, and if his compass tells him it’s time to speak his mind — it’s his full right, and maybe even his obligation,” Avneri writes. “You need to reject the criticism hurled at the president because of his statements, especially the criticism of MK Michael Ben-Ari, an avowed fascist and student of [Meir] Kahane, whose movement is outside the law. If Ben-Ari has the right to speak his mind, then of course the same right should be extended to President Peres.”
Israel Hayom’s Dror Eidar, however, contends that, right to speak or no, Peres has no idea what he is talking about:
“Tzipi Livni was quick to say that Peres ‘spoke the truth to the public,’ but the truth is that 20 years is enough time to know that there is no Palestinian leader that has a mandate to sign on an end to the conflict. You need to know the Palestinian culture — even Fatah [Abbas's party] — to understand that they don’t intend to reconcile themselves to our existence. These things are published more fully at Itamar Marcus’s great Palestinian Media Watch site. It’s recommended for Peres’s bureau to take a look there.”
Haaretz’s Yossi Verter also weighs in, writing that Sunday was a field day for Likud-Beytenu, which got to slam both the High Court, for letting Hanin Zoabi run, and the president, for speaking his mind. Peres didn’t even say anything new, Verter contends, but Netanyahu and Liberman’s joint list couldn’t hold back from the opportunity to win some election points:
“It seems they expected Peres to strictly follow the list of slogans the campaign headquarters of the joint slate put out. But when the president dared to speak his own mind, the violent Pavlovian reaction came quickly: Peres is ‘disconnected’ from the Israeli public. It is easy to understand Likud-Beytenu. They have a problem: They have no opponent in these elections. Netanyahu is the next prime minister, definitely. This rare situation is causing many right-wing voters to run after other parties in the right-wing bloc, or even in the center. Anyone who is attacked by the Likud only grows stronger.”
Looking for money, getting rockets
The government’s national priority isn’t only putting down Peres, it’s also funneling money into the settlements. Yedioth Ahronoth reports that a new National Priorities Map, which determines what towns get special government development funding, includes more than half the settlements, but nearly no parts of the rocket-slammed south of the country. Though the map is not intended to provide funding on the basis of how many rockets hit a given city, but rather how poor and how far away from the Gush Dan center of the country it is, Yedioth is still incensed, noting that Ashdod, Ashkelon and Kiryat Malachi, which took on nearly 400 rockets during Operation Pillar of Defense last month, are left off. The paper says that Ashkelon and Kiryat Malachi both score poorly on the socioeconomic scale, and both have become the front line with Gaza, yet the Finance Ministry refused to include them.
Ron Yedai, a resident of Ashkelon, writes that his city is everybody’s punching bag. “We took on hundreds of rockets in a week, and that, Mr. Finance Minister and Mr. Prime Minister, you didn’t manage to prevent. Now tell me: Are we good enough to absorb Hamas rockets, but not good enough to get financial help to buy land?”
Ashkelon is looking for a pot of gold, but it’s probably not willing to kill a Jewish ambassador to Yemen to get it. A new video clip, Maariv reports, put out by the arch-terror group al-Qaeda, offers three kilograms of gold, worth some $150,000, to anybody who kills the “Jew” ambassador to Yemen Gerald Firestein. The paper notes that anti-American and anti-movie unrest is once again rearing its head in the Arabian nation, this time for the release of “Zero Dark Thirty,” a Hollywood blockbuster that deals with the assassination of Osama bin Laden. The story says that the offer is only good for three months, and is available to any Muslim, religious or not. “This is a big mitzva [the word Maariv uses to translate from the Arabic] that is on every Muslim, until all the American forces leave Arab lands.” I’ll stick to chasing leprechauns, thanks.
Whatever happened to that Iran thing?
In Haaretz’s op-ed page, Uzi Benziman wonders why Netanyahu’s campaign, once so focused on Iran, has now left the hot-button issue off the table. Benziman isn’t sure what’s up with that, but he knows it doesn’t sit well.
“There is something unreasonable about so extreme a development – from putting the Iranian issue at the top of the national (and international) agenda for many long months to its almost total banishment from the public discourse, including the election campaign,” he writes. “A normal society cannot dismiss the fact that its leader sets a national objective, unusual in its audacity and scope, decides on a military method to confront it, enlists tremendous resources to do so (evident in the country’s severe deficit), spreads an atmosphere of oppressive doom over the nation, overwhelms the world with gloomy predictions, and then suddenly distances himself from the whole thing without providing any sort of explanation for his behavior.”
Israel Hayom’s Eyal Zisser takes a look back at 2012, and writes that the year saw the Arab spring turn into the Islamic winter, as many had feared. As for 2013, he’s not much more optimistic.
“One way or another, all the signs show that next year will continue with the discontent and lack of stability of the struggle, which is partially a violent struggle, against the rulers of the Arab countries around us,” he writes.