While most front pages play up news of mortal combat in Egypt (over death sentences handed down over deadly riots a year ago), it’s clear that the Hebrew press’s heart is still in reporting all the election jibber-jabber from the flim-flam men and women elected into the newest Knesset.
While it seems everybody has the same information that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is keen as a catfish to partner up with the ever-telegenic Yair Lapid, the verdict is still out on whether he wants rival Naftali Bennett and all the baggage of his Jewish Home in the ruling coalition.
Israel Hayom reports that Netanyahu, the presumptive choice to put together a government, has placed Lapid as A1 on his list of dudes to coax in, effectively giving the cold shoulder to the Haredi bloc that would have attempted to show itself as an alternative to Lapid’s moderate band of untested MKs. Only after he secures Lapid’s okay will Netanyahu start negotiating with the ultra-Orthodox parties and Jewish Home, among other also-rans, who will have to consider whether they want to sit in a government with the two. The paper estimates that Bennett has a good chance of getting in, quoting senior members of Likud, who say that the tiff between the prime minister and his former chief of staff shouldn’t get in the way of coalition building.
Not so at Haaretz, though, which quotes that au contraire, Netanyahu, his wife Sara, Gilligan, Ginger and the professor are all doing everything they can to build a government without Bennett and his bucktoothed grin. According to the report, Sara is a big part of Bennett’s unwelcomeness, even being given a veto over his entrance into the coalition.
But the real bad blood is between the prime minister and Bennett. The paper, quoting separate Likud sources, offers two possible explanations for why Bennett likely will find himself in the opposition: Either Netanyahu is pissed because Bennett was the source of a number of leaks out of Netanyahu’s office that made him look bad, or Netanyahu wants to restart peace talks with the Palestinians and won’t be able to do that with nationalists in his government.
Over at Maariv, the question is still whether Lapid will even join up with Netanyahu, reporting that the Yesh Atid head has conditioned his participation in Netanyahu’s government on three demands: Drafting the ultra-Orthodox into the army, keeping the cabinet small and restarting peace talks. The paper also reports that, contrary to media rumors that Netanyahu offered Lapid the foreign minister position, former top diplomat Avigdor Liberman says that the portfolio belongs to his party, fraud charges or not.
Yedioth Ahronoth covers its front page with a somewhat dubiously reported story about a massive explosion at Iran’s Fordo nuclear facility. But on Page 2 it’s all local. The paper reports that the new government will have to hash out the difference between the [Moshe] Ya’alon plan for ultra-Orthodox conscription, drawn up last year during talks on the subject with Kadima, and Lapid’s own plan. While Ya’alon’s prescription would let Haredi would-be soldiers put off their army service until they are old enough to not serve, Lapid would like to see them report to the induction center at age 18 like everyone else, no ifs, ands or buts (though he leaves room for 400 exemptions in the community a year).
Netanyahu isn’t the only one doing fishing these days. Maariv reports on a delicious new trend: fishing for dinner in the Ayalon river, otherwise known as the cement swale running between the northbound and southbound lanes of the Ayalon freeway that sometimes fills up with brown water. After the storms of earlier this month filled and filled the river, a few brave fisherman have taken to standing on overpasses to catch themselves some mulletfish. The report explains that the river’s flow makes it a popular destination for the little fishies, and for the fisherman, well, there’s nothing more relaxing than standing on a bridge over one of the country’s busiest highways and casting a line.
If you want some lemon to squeeze over that Ayalon special, you better get thee to a tree nursery. Lucky for you, Israel Hayom reports that last week saw a flurry of tree plantings of the type never before seen in the country, with over a million future Ikea bookshelves put in the ground in the last week alone. The holiday of Tu Bishvat, the paper reports, brought hundreds of thousands out to plant and enjoy nature and the nice weather before the cold and rain comes back again. And of course the story contains the obligatory reference to the fact that Israel is the only country to have gained trees in the last century.
Sleep on it
Branching out (get it?), Haaretz wants the government to think well before making a decision on a bill to regulate Bedouin settlement in the Negev. The paper’s op-ed wonders aloud why the provisional government is in such a rush to push the measure through and warns that not giving the bill thought could have dire consequences. “A hasty and irresponsible Cabinet decision will assure unrest in the Negev and ongoing international condemnation. The prime minister would do well to forgo presenting the decision Sunday to the outgoing Cabinet. The complexity of the issue and the expected grave ramifications require more serious consideration and discussion in the new Cabinet,” the paper writes.
Giora Eiland, a retired major general, warns in Yedioth about pushing 18-year-olds not drafted into the army into national service, such as working at schools or painting firetrucks, saying it sounds like something old Stalin would do. “National service is a blessed thing, but you can’t turn it into another form of mandatory service,” he writes. “Democratic countries don’t make 18-year-old citizens work in hospitals or with the elderly.”