Falling stars
Hebrew media review

Falling stars

Papers cover Avigdor Liberman's drop from big bear to lowly defendant, and everything you ever wanted to know about meteors and meteor movies

In this photo taken with a mobile phone camera, a meteorite contrail is seen in the Chelyabinsk region of Russia on Friday. (photo credit: AP Photo/Sergey Hametov)
In this photo taken with a mobile phone camera, a meteorite contrail is seen in the Chelyabinsk region of Russia on Friday. (photo credit: AP Photo/Sergey Hametov)

Some editors are (Prisoner) X-men, some are Syrian fighting/Russian meteor men, and some are Liberman… er men (and yes, it’s a sad fact that none of Israel’s four main Hebrew newspapers have a woman at the helm).

Maariv and Haaretz both lead off with news about former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman. But while Maariv pushes the straight news that Liberman will stand trial to the top, Haaretz runs its headline with the words of Liberman’s former deputy Danny Ayalon that the former foreign minister pressured him to make inappropriate foreign service promotions.

Strangely, none of the three other papers even report this bombshell, even though it came from the main witness in a trial against Liberman on inappropriate promotions. Maariv, the only other paper to even cover the speech, mentions other damning words by Ayalon, namely that Liberman isn’t cut out to be foreign minister, but doesn’t mention the quote that Haaretz runs with.

Shlomo Yerushalmi writes in Maariv about the absurdity that is Netanyahu’s reserving the Foreign Ministry portfolio for Liberman should he come out of the trial in one piece.

“In the meantime, everything is frozen for the sake of Liberman’s trial, including internal dealings within Likud-Beytenu,” Yerushalmi writes. “It’s not clear if the two parties will stay together or separate. … It would be interesting to know what the prime minister plans on doing if the wheels of justice turn slowly and Liberman’s trial takes a while. Will he reserve the portfolio forever?”

Meanwhile Yedioth Ahronoth is the only paper still obsessed with the whole Prisoner X affair, sending a correspondent to spend a weekend with the nice Jews of Melbourne and report on what she sees. She comes back with a few blurry pictures of the Zygier family home (it has a strip of grass between lawn and the street! and a car parked out front!) and the news that the community is not so happy with the whole deal, fearing it will turn into their Jonathan Pollard spy case, in which the whole Jewish community is accused of having dual loyalties.

“I fear the Zygier affair will hurt long-term ties between Australia and Israel,” one Melbourne resident tells the paper. “Australia already kicked out an Israeli diplomat after the passport affair and they don’t vote for Israel in the UN like they used to… Media analysts are using the opportunity to criticize Israel, even on matters unrelated to the case, to prove that Israel doesn’t respect human rights. It would be interesting to see if they would attack the same way if Australia jailed somebody that threatened its security.”

Lastly, Israel Hayom start things off with stories about the meteor that injured over a thousand people in Russia, and the news of seven Syrians winding up in an Israeli hospital. The Russia meteor package contains a hodgepodge of stories, including a historical look at the Tunguska meteor of 1908, a story about Israeli astronomers trying to catch a glimpse of an asteroid, and for some reason (and I wish I were joking) a column recounting the plots of the 1998 blockbusters “Armageddon,” and “Deep Impact.”

On the Syrian front, the paper reports that seven injured citizens made it to the border with Israel and requested medical help. Despite the fact that Israel is the only of Syria’s neighbors to not take in refugees, the seven were admitted into the country and taken to Sieff Hospital in Safed. The paper quotes unnamed military sources noting that this isn’t expected to become a regular thing: “This was a one-off event that does not change our policies, which does not allow the border to be crossed, notwithstanding special humanitarian requests.”

With the visit of US President Barack Obama fast approaching, Nahum Barnea writes in Yedioth about his trip to the White House, where he grilled everybody he could find on what Obama will do in Israel. His column contains little news (a public speech, Iran, Palestinians, Syria, eating NIS 10,000 worth of ice cream with Netanyahu) but does note that not joining President Obama will be Michelle Obama. “I asked why she isn’t coming. ‘In the Obama family there is a rule,’ they answered me [as a Greek chorus]. ‘Michelle only joins in when the girls are off of school. No vacation — no Michelle.’” Aww, shucks.

Comes the defense

Haaretz’s editorial comes to the defense of a clan of about 60 Bedouin whose ramshackle settlement is being threatened by the residents of nearby Nofit in the north. The paper quotes a linguist comparing the racist attitudes of the Jewish neighbors to those of Beitar Jerusalem fans and says their rejection of a plan to allow the clan to build homes cannot stand: “The most consistent opponent of the Bedouin’s proposals is the Zevulon Regional Council, under whose aegis Nofit and its Bedouin neighbors fall. The council is in no hurry to act on the recommendations of national planning bodies, which have called in the past for a local plan that addresses the needs of the Hawaled clan. It seems that the regional council, headed by a member of nearby Kibbutz Yagur, would prefer for the Hawaled clan to give up or magically disappear, as if it hadn’t lived there for decades. “

Maariv’s Adam Raz, on the other hand, comes to the defense of Israel’s military censor, saying that sometimes things need to be kept hidden, not from the enemy but from Israelis themselves, though his argument falls somewhat short: “There are ‘secrets’ that the ‘government’ is not interested in the public knowing, even if it’s known around the world. For example, there have been books published outside Israel that say the reactor in Dimona is financed, among others, by Germany, but in Israel it’s impossible to write that without prefacing it with ‘according to foreign media reports.’”

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