The thousands of Israelis who flocked abroad for the Passover holiday to escape the turbulent political climate of the Middle East are unwillingly drawn back into the limelight in Sunday’s Hebrew papers, after a terror attack against Israeli tourists was thwarted in Thailand last week.
Statements regarding Iranian concessions for its Arak heavy water facility, and a report on possible Palestinian measures following the collapse of peace talks, also receive ample coverage.
Israel Hayom reports that the Israeli embassy in Bangkok has requested increased security around its offices, Jewish sites, and tourist areas frequented by Israelis. The paper attributes the terror plot to two Lebanese men in custody, and seven others still at large.
Haaretz and Yedioth Ahronoth, on the other hand, say a Hezbollah terror cell is behind the planned attack and that information provided by Israeli intelligence contributed to the prevention of this attack.
Yedioth writes that despite the news, and although “the threat of a mass attack has not yet subsided,” thousands of Israelis resumed touring the country, shopping, spending time at the beaches, and frequenting its nightclubs.
While some families abroad told the paper they have kept a low profile, and avoid speaking Hebrew loudly in public, most have not altered their trip plans.
“The atmosphere is very calm, and those who heard about the cell are unmoved,” Merav Mishan, a tourist from Tel Aviv, said. “It’s hard to get stressed here, what all you see around you is ocean, sun, music, and alcohol.”
The Hezbollah cell abroad reveals the extent of the Israel-Hezbollah conflict, which extends far beyond its borders, Haaretz reports.
The attacks aimed to serve as retaliation for the death of Hezbollah commander Hassan al-Laqis last December and an Israeli strike on an arms shipment headed to Hezbollah in February — both of which have been attributed to Israel, though the government has not issued any confirmation. The attack in Thailand would allow the terror group to avenge Israel, while it’s occurrence on foreign soil would assure that the outcome does not result in a renewed war between Israel and Lebanon.
Israel Hayom reports on the Israeli response to statements by Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi, in which he claimed disagreement regarding the contested Arak heavy water facility was “virtually solved,” with Western negotiators.
In an interview with the paper, Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz panned the remarks as an “exercise in deceit.”
The concession given to Iran on the issue, he maintained, meant that the Iranians would not be able to produce an atomic bomb every year, but rather every two years.
“What is this like?” he continued. “Like Iran is pointing two guns at the West and saying okay, I’m willing to put one down on the table. It’s meaningless if the second gun is still threatening. This is a step that doesn’t solve the problem.”
Yedioth Ahronoth offers a much brighter outlook, reporting that the Iranian atomic chief’s remarks “strengthen the hypothesis that the Ayatollahs’ regime is interested in respecting the agreements with the West,” and calls it a “breakthrough.”
Haaretz stresses that while Salehi is not himself a participant in the talks with the P5+1 world powers, he is nonetheless well informed on the proceedings, as many of his advisers are directly involved.
Yedioth leads its coverage with a report that claims that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is considering dissolving the PA and its security forces, halting all services to West Bank Arab residents under its jurisdiction, dissolving its Oslo Accords commitments to Israel, and declaring itself a “government under occupation.”
The paper reports that Ramallah officials are seriously considering the move, and will vote on it at a PLO meeting next Saturday — a mere three days before the present deadline.
“This suggestion will come up in the meeting, but it’s still not clear if it will be approved,” an official told the paper.
The paper’s Nahum Barnea paints a semi-apocalyptic picture of the “day after” peace talks. Should peace talks fail, the “diplomatic intifada” would likely ensue, which would result in laying off 40,000 PA workers, and forcing Israel to deal with education, health, security, water, sewage in the West Bank. The European Union and US will freeze its donations, forcing Israel to cover costs — amounting to billions of shekels a year. Increased international isolation is inevitable, construction in the West Bank will certainly be considered a crime, and all officials and politicians will be subject to arrest while abroad, he writes.
“This is an extreme scenario,” he concedes. “Other, less harsh scenarios are possible. Unfortunately, except for some statements by Tzipi Livni, no one in the government has clarified to the Israeli public about the price it is likely to pay if they [the peace talks] collapse.”