EU de toilette
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Hebrew media review

EU de toilette

Something stinks in Brussels, but papers are undecided on whether Israel or the Europeans are to blame

An illustrative photo of workers building a home in East Jerusalem's Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, June 2011. (photo credit: Gili Yaari/Flash90)
An illustrative photo of workers building a home in East Jerusalem's Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, June 2011. (photo credit: Gili Yaari/Flash90)

The EU is set to issue a set of directives that will limit its relationship with Israel to areas inside the country before 1967, and will force Israel to relinquish, on paper, any connection to areas over the Green Line. Confused? Of course you are. But what better way to understand, says every editor of the Hebrew press, than to throw oodles of oodles of words at you to clear things up.

All four papers go top with the story, each playing it slightly differently. Yedioth Ahronoth runs the headline “European boycott.” Purported Benjamin Netanyahu mouthpiece Yisrael Hayom records the words out of Netanyahu’s mouth with the A1 headline: “Netanyahu to Europe: We won’t accept the directives.” Maariv tries to take the story forward a bit by reporting in its hed that “Israel is considering limited Europeans’ movement in the West Bank.” And gray ladylike Haaretz, which reported this whole mess in the first place, leads off with the “Harsh crisis between Israel and Europeans, damage feared for the economy.”

The paper calls the crisis between Israel and the EU “unprecedented,” and toots its own horn by saying it got the scoop on most of the government’s most senior members, who only read about the new directives in its august pages. Diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid then quotes an American official saying the sanctions will only worsen if US Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace talks bid fails.

“The Europeans are giving us time and allowing us to try and get the talks going,” the official said. “But if we don’t succeed, they would want to go in other directions and take steps. The Israelis know it very well.”

That may be a foregone conclusion, reports Maariv, which writes that right-wing cabinet ministers are loading up their slingshots to prepare for a counterattack against Europe for the measure. According to the report, Jewish Home head Naftali Bennett and Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin have urged Netanyahu to get the EU to back down, telling him he’s got a real nice thing going with Kerry and it would be a real shame if something were to happen to his nascent peace process, like a torpedo accidentally hitting it. Capice?

“Until now we were willing to go along quietly with the limited gestures toward the Palestinians, but if Europe is going to hit us so severely and talks were to start without lessening the international pressure, we see no need for the gesture,” the paper quotes the two (saying in unison? Writing? Telepathically messaging? Writing on a note attached to a brick thrown into a window at the Prime Minister’s Residence?).

The paper’s Nadav Eyal, though, writes that this whole mess is the fault of the extreme right, for being so extreme and so right-wing even when it was so clear that Israel had no place in the territories and the EU began to threaten sanctions. “Everything was published, everything was transparent, but our decision-makers preferred to stick their heads in the mud of denial. The reports are exaggerated, leftist. Garbage, mocked the Likud. Ridiculous, said the Kissinger of the national religious, Naftali Bennett. By the way, every time Bennett calls it ridiculous, he just strengthens the European camp that wants to show Israel that it is serious. Danny Danon, Ze’ev Elkin, [Avigdor] Liberman — they get the credit for this new directive. The far left should send them a bouquet.”

Israel Hayom fills its front page with four, yes four, “analyses” on the situation, and not surprisingly, each falls firmly on the “these directives are a load of bullcrap” side.

Haim Schein takes inspiration from great leader Netanyahu’s criticism of the EU that it is wasting its time on demonizing Israel while Syria is roiling and Iran is, well, Iran. “European leaders believe Arab-Israeli peace will bring world peace. Time after time, Israel has been forced to pay the price of this delusional illusion. It’s a shame that the Europeans are taken in by the magic of this desert mirage,” he writes

The paper also reports that Israelis aren’t the only ones stinking mad over the European diktat, with Palestinians also crying foul over how the decision may turn off the flow of money into the territories. “We’re not only talking about Israelis that will be hurt economically, but in the process there will be a financial disaster for the Palestinians,” the unnamed source says. The story goes on to report that the sanctions are expected to cost tens of millions of euros, though most other papers put the figure at hundreds of millions.

Yedioth is the most forward, calling the new directives a European boycott (but also reporting on its front page that Ikea is coming to Ramallah). Borrowing an outdated term Ehud Barak used to warn of the impeding diplomatic doom should Israel not change its ways, the paper’s Shimon Shiffer says the “tsunami” can still be avoided, if Netanyahu makes historic moves. “It’s too bad Netanyahu prefers to respond aggressively with nothing behind him. Let’s see what happens, if it turns out the European actually carry out the measures which stand to hurt research budgets by hundreds of millions of euros as aid to Israeli industry. What is Netanyahu actually offering us? Blood, sweat and tears, a return to the days of rationing, international isolation.”

Killing the slaughter ban

As if Israelis didn’t hate Europeans enough now, Haaretz notes that Jewish leaders on the continent have organized to fight a decision by Poland to ban kosher slaughter. “The European Jewish Congress, the Polish Jewish community and the Conference of European Rabbis are lobbying the Polish government and selected MPs of EU member states in an effort to reverse the decision, or at least make exceptions for religious purposes. Representatives of these organizations are scheduled to meet tomorrow in Brussels to discuss the course of the struggle,” the paper reports.

Yedioth writes about the Israeli who made the final table of the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Amir Lehavot, who moved to the US over two decades ago, still plays as an Israeli and has asked organizers to play the Israeli national anthem should he take home the $8.3 million prize in November, both for pride and as a little F-U to the US of A. “I want to respect that place I was born, and this is also a way to bring up my protest against the US for making it illegal to play poker online.”

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