The fallout from yesterday’s political escapade — the attempted splintering of Kadima by former MK Tzachi Hanegbi — continues to make front-page news this morning, despite its failure.
Both of Israel’s most widely read newspapers, Yedioth Ahronoth and Israel Hayom, feature the botched late-night deal as their lead story, augmenting their reporting with a good measure of commentary and analysis, adding to it a layer of guesswork and interpretation, and as a result inflating the story immeasurably.
Yedioth pretty much builds its six-page coverage of the non-event that was the threatened breakup of Kadima on the foundation of a short sentence out of Shaul Mofaz’s press conference yesterday. During a five-minute lambasting of the deal that was reported to guarantee high-level political posts for defecting Kadima members, Mofaz said his party would not set out on “operational adventures” that would endanger the country, hinting that the real reason behind the failed breakaway deal was to shore up support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to attack Iran.
A hint was enough for Israeli journalists to grasp at. Today’s papers are already treating the matter as solid fact and have taken to calling it the “Iran-Duan Deal” — Avraham Duan being one of the quartet of would-be Kadima defectors.
The bargain, according to Yedioth, was that in exchange for Hanegbi convincing seven little-known Kadima MKs (among them Knesset newcomer Duan, whose sole distinction is possessing a name that rhymes with Iran) to split from their party and join the Likud by offering them cabinet roles, Hanegbi himself would receive the post of home front defense minister, a job he would ostensibly use to garner popular and political support for a pre-emptive Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Adding to the political turmoil are reports that another former Kadima MK, Haim Ramon, is trying to engineer a party split of his own. Ramon, who is known for his close ties to former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni, is reported to be securing the names of seven Kadima MKs who are willing to break away from the crumbling party and form a new party to be led from outside the Knesset by Livni. Israel Hayom’s lead headline stating that “Everybody wants to break up Kadima,” may sound like wishful thinking on the part of the right-leaning paper, but today seems pretty apt.
Haaretz meanwhile all but ignores yesterday’s political tempest on its front page and chooses instead to revive a raging debate many believed had been long set aside. “Social protest affected Netanyahu’s decision on Shalit deal,” reads the paper’s main headline.
Gilad Shalit has been free of Hamas captivity and at home for more than nine months, but information that leaked from a closed lecture given by Israel’s representative to the prisoner exchange negotiations with Hamas, David Meidan, reveals that one of the reasons the deal went through after years of failed negotiations was that Netanyahu wanted to gain a popular achievement in the wake of last year’s summer social upheaval. Meidan said that other factors were also part of the decision, but confirmed that political considerations played a role.
The statement revives the lively debate that took place in Israel during the years of Shalit’s captivity over the question of what is the just price to pay for freeing a kidnapped soldier. No doubt critics of the deal, who believe that Shalit’s freedom was not worth the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners — many of whom were convicted on terrorism charges – will now scream blue murder learning of the political motivations for the deal.
Haaretz also reminds readers on Page 1 that in case Syria launches a chemical attack on Israel, as it more or less threatened to do if attacked yesterday, half of the public will be unprotected. “47% of the population have not received protection kits,” reads the headline, reporting that budgetary issues, bureaucratic rifts and slow pace of production are behind the fact that nearly half the citizenry is without gas masks. The article also reports that demand for the kits, which normally stands at 2,000 a day, has gone up 50 percent in recent days because of the reports coming out of Syria and suggests that Israel should think about that when threatening to attack its neighbors to the north.
In Maariv, Syria’s belligerence makes the top story, with reporting on the Damascus Foreign Ministry’s announcement yesterday that the Assad regime is protecting the country’s non-conventional stockpiles and has no intention of using them against local rebels, but would use them in the event of a foreign attack.
On page 12, Maariv reports on a growing “trend” in the religious community of arranging marriages between male and female homosexuals in order to maintain a family life and produce offspring as encouraged in the conservative community. The article reports that three such marriages took place last year, but justifies the use of the word trend by stating that two other couples have gotten engaged and dozens more are currently dating.
Keeping with the theme of weddings, Maariv reports on page 13 of a new bylaw in the city of Lod prohibiting the celebratory firing of guns that is customary in many Arab weddings and occasionally leads to injuries and deaths. The article states that the local police chief has ordered every prospective Arab bridegroom to sign a document promising not to engage in the dangerous practice, refusing to grant permission to hold weddings to those who don’t.
Tired of cynicism
Frustrated by yesterday’s political fiasco, Aviad Kleinberg writes in Yedioth’s opinion section that the Israeli public should send all its leaders home. “Politics isn’t dirty, narrow-minded, obtuse and unjust because of its nature. It is that way because we voted for politicians like Mofaz, [Ehud] Barak, Hanegbi, Netanyahu, and lest we forget [Shimon] Peres, to rule over us,” writes Kleinberg. “It is possible and necessary to create politics of a different sort, politics by people of principle and not only interests… Simply vote for people who share your values.”
In Israel Hayom Oded Tira blasts what he calls the “cynical” use of Moshe Silman’s self-immolation as a tool of the social justice protest movement. “Moshe Silman is now being used as a symbolic torch to rally portions of the social protest movement, whose goal is to topple the government. Apparently anything is kosher to achieve this end, even the use of a tragic self-torching to cynically ignite a false protest,” writes Tira.