Abortions and prisoner releases are the talk of the town after Israel handed over the third of four waves of Palestinian prisoners, and the government approved financing for abortions for women aged 20-33. In Jerusalem and Ramallah, politicians are gearing up for US Secretary of State John Kerry’s arrival and a drive for a framework agreement.
“Freedom of choice for women,” Israel Hayom writes in its headline; Yedioth Ahronoth calls it “great news.” Israel Hayom reports that the health committee responsible for determining which medicines and procedures are covered by the state’s universal healthcare, approved a NIS 15.6 million plan to give 6,300 women abortions at a cost to the state of about NIS 2,500 per abortion. Previously, only cases in which the mother or child’s life were at risk were funded.
Haaretz quotes a committee member, Professor Idit Matot of Ichilov Hospital, saying that while the sum may seem trivial, in many cases it prevents women from having an abortion for a child they may not desire or cannot finance.
“We’re talking about quality of life, not just saving a life,” Matot said. “It’s correct that in addition we must emphasize education in family planning, but a woman has a right over her body and money must not inhibit that.”
Israel Hayom quotes Dr. Elie Schussheim, an opponent of the move, saying it was a “political decision.” Schussheim, chairman of Efrat, an organization which describes itself as “pro-informed choice” regarding abortions, said, “Pregnancy is not a disease, and when the state has surplus funds for public healthcare, it’s better for them to be used for medicines to save lives.” He called the financing of abortions “an irrational waste of resources.”
Ronny Linder-Ganz writes in Haaretz that the decision to fund abortions is “feminist and even revolutionary,” and argues against the claim that the state should not finance irresponsible behavior. “First, not every pregnancy is the product of non-use of protection. A tear in a condom, a diaphragm that doesn’t provide full protection or two pills a woman forgot to take can do the trick,” she writes. Second, she argues, it’s not the woman’s irresponsibility because it takes two to tango, but the woman often gets left with the bill.
Curiously, Maariv’s reportage on the abortion issue is limited to a brief sentence embedded in a larger story about drugs approved by the committee. It instead focuses on how the committee’s decision hurts sufferers of Parkinson’s and diabetes.
Pictures of sons and daughters were held aloft in Jerusalem and Ramallah on Monday night, but not against abortion. Israel released 26 Palestinian prisoners — the third group of inmates let out as part of the terms of the American-brokered peace talks. Whereas Yedioth Ahronoth and Israel Hayom’s front page has the Jewish protesters in Jerusalem holding up pictures of slain kin, Haaretz features a photo of a Palestinian mother raising a portrait of her incarcerated son.
Yedioth Ahronoth shows 200 family members of those slain by the Palestinians marching in Jerusalem in opposition to the move. It reports that they held black umbrellas as a symbol of “submission to terror, referring to the black umbrella British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain held in 1938 after signing the Munich Agreement with Nazi Germany.” And because it was raining.
According to Maariv, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told US Secretary of State John Kerry that the fourth and final release of 26 Palestinian prisoners in March would not include Israeli Arabs imprisoned on terrorism charges, despite the insistence of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The paper cites a Channel 2 report which said that Netanyahu agreed to release the Israeli Arabs only on condition that the US release Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard. The paper also quotes Saeb Erekat, head of the Palestinian negotiation team, saying that the talks had failed and that the only way to confront Israel was international recognition of a Palestinian state inside the 1967 lines.
Haaretz reports that while Kerry is gearing up to sort out a framework agreement between the two sides, the prime minister is busy calming members of his right-wing coalition. Four ministers and MKs from Likud and Jewish Home told the paper that Netanyahu tried to downplay the significance of the future pact in conversations with them in the past week. Although the four got four different stories about the framework agreement, according to Haaretz the gist of it was that “it would be a document with no practical implications, and that its sole purpose was to prevent the negotiations from blowing up and allow them to be extended for another year.”
Israel Hayom quotes unnamed Palestinian sources saying that “we are not optimistic about the chances of Kerry’s success.”