The death of Israel’s seventh prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, was the top headline of three out of four Hebrew dailies this morning. Shamir’s passing at a geriatric facility at the age of 96 (or 97 if you read Israel Hayom) elicited words of praise and remembrance from across the political map and today’s papers are packed with testimonies of the man’s life and deeds.
Yedioth Ahronoth, the only paper that doesn’t feature Shamir’s death most prominently, leads with the tragic drowning of two youths off the Ashdod coast on Friday night. “It was the alcohol that killed them,” reads the massive headline, a quote by the father of one of the drowned youths, 19-year-old Yivgeni Baskevitch. Evidence indicates that the two, along with a group of friends, had been drinking heavily at a beach party prior to drifting out to sea and drowning under the large waves.
Haaretz is the only one of the four to give a highly prominent place to Saturday night’s large social protest in Tel Aviv. Drawing roughly 15,000 people, the protest was the largest since last year’s massive 400,000 strong rally. Though there were no reports of widespread violence or vandalism, some of the protesters did block traffic and a garbage dumpster was set on fire.
Finally, an Israeli connection to Europe’s soccer celebration. The front page of both Yedioth Ahronoth and Maariv feature photos of Italian soccer sensation Mario Balotelli alongside reports of the Manchester City FC striker’s connection to the Jewish people. The articles report on how the son of immigrants from Ghana was raised by a Jewish Italian foster mother from the age of three and gives Israeli fans a reason to support the Italian national team in its championship battle with Spain tonight.
Israel Hayom offers up on the front page a report on the start of the Holyland corruption trial. The trial kicks off this morning with testimony by an unnamed state witness, who was party to what is suspected of being one of the country’s most shady real estate deals, involving millions in bribes in exchange for municipal approval of the Jerusalem eyesore. Among the suspects in what has been decried as “Israel’s most severe corruption case” are former Jerusalem mayors Ehud Olmert and Uri Lupolianski. The scale of the case and the information that is expected to come out of the trial will likely make headlines for months to come.
Maariv reports on its front page about threats by Kadima to quit the coalition it only recently joined over the much anticipated universal draft legislation. According to the story, Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz said he would not compromise on a clause of the law that would place individual sanctions on ultra-Orthodox draft dodgers. Kadima is so invested in the new law, which has become its flagship cause, that Mofaz feels he has to go all the way with this issue, telling party members that if Prime Minister Netanyahu capitulates to the ultra-Orthodox political parties on the highly sensitive issue, their newly formed partnership will be severed.
On the inside pages Shamir’s death gets major coverage with all the papers dedicating double- and triple-page spreads to eulogizing the man who started off as a militant activist for the Jewish underground during the pre-state years, was a longtime opposition member, and later became the prime minister who started the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Prime Minster Netanyahu praised him as “one of the founders of the state” and a man of profound loyalty “to his people and to the land.”
International news, including the swearing in of Mohammed Morsi as Egypt’s first democratically elected president, the announcement of a new plan by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan to bring peace to Syria, and the raging forest fires in Colorado, round up today’s papers.
Just bomb them already
In Haaretz’s opinion section, Elia Leibowitz asks, “Who wants Israel to bomb Iran?” The answer, surprisingly, is “everyone.” Leibowitz writes that Israel would solve many of the world’s dilemmas by initiating a strike on Iran, making way for Iranian retaliation and finally letting the international powers sink their teeth into the ayatollah regime. “If a certain two people in Israel don’t control their urges and willingly join the world’s desire for Israel to attack Iran, the international accord will be complete. For the first time since God stopped the construction of the Tower of Babel, the entire human race will get together with the same goal in mind. It will be up to us Israelis to regret that we’re the ones to pay the price for this rare human harmony,” he writes.
In Yedioth, Smadar Peri urges Israel to treat its failing relationship with Turkey like a marital dispute. Peri says that though things are bad, there is enough benefit in the relationship to both sides for them to make it work. “If both sides are interested in finding ways to make amends, they will succeed. We have not lost Turkey, and Erdogan and Netanyahu aren’t going anywhere soon. Nobody is about to move Turkey’s shared borders with Syria, Iraq and Iran, and it would be a shame to relinquish intelligence briefings from there and the potential to unite against Egypt’s new regime, Hamas, and Jordan’s internal troubles. After all, both Ankara and Jerusalem see the same picture,” writes Peri.