The one story to make it to the front page of all the Israeli newspapers this morning covers yesterday’s resignation of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s bureau chief, Natan Eshel, after signing a plea bargain confessing misconduct toward a junior staff member. The affair, which was initially dismissed as “mere rumors” by the Prime Minister’s Office, turned out to have some truth to it as it led to the departure of Netanyahu’s closest aide, who preferred to admit to having acted inappropriately than to defend himself from criminal sexual charges in court.
While the headlines in Maariv, Israel Hayom and Haaretz tell the straight facts of the deal, Yedioth Ahronoth takes the prime minister to task over his praise of Eshel and lack of support for the three senior officials who initially took the matter to the authorities.
The second major story, which makes the front page of all but Haaretz, reports on the head-on collision between Transportation Minister Israel Katz and the labor union over a looming train workers’ strike. After Israel Railways workers held a one-day strike last week to protest management’s intention to outsource engine maintenance to an external company, an additional strike is now in the works. The union is now targeting Katz who recently approved the outsourcing measures to Canadian company Bombardier. Maariv’s top headline: “The Labor Union: The transportation minister has declared war on the economy,” indicates that next time the strike may not be as contained.
Haaretz’s top story reports on Washington’s assessment that while Defense Minister Ehud Barak is pushing for an Israeli strike on Iran, Netanyahu is still undecided. Amos Harel writes that the Obama Administration is worried about Barak’s hawkish stance and that the recent visits by top administration officials were supposed to pass on the message that now was not the time for an attack.
Israel Hayom and Maariv’s Iran-related front-page headlines report on rising fuel costs due to Iran’s refusing to sell oil to France and the UK.
Tel Aviv, Israel’s newest border town
Another story that’s making headlines in the media today is the IDF’s decision to place an Iron Dome rocket defense battery in the Tel Aviv area for the first time. The system, which is designed to intercept short- and medium-ranged rockets, has until now only been placed near Israel’s volatile borders. The IDF maintains that the decision to place a battery near Israel’s central metropolis is for training purposes only.
All the dailies also report on record-breaking snowfall on Mount Hermon. The 1.5-meter snowfall this year on Israel’s tallest peak is a cause for joy for Israel’s skiers, but is logistical headache for the site’s staff.
Yedioth Ahronoth features a story on page 8 revealing that one out of five women who underwent surgery to remove breast implants discovered that their implants had leaked. The risks of the implants of the PIP variety were exposed two months ago when a woman in France was diagnosed with a rare strain of cancer due to leakage from her implants. Since then thousands of women around the world and 122 in Israel have had their implants surgically removed.
Yedioth Ahronoth also reports on an Education Ministry decision that within three years there will no longer be separate schools for children of Ethiopian descent. The decision, which states that after the allotted time, the maximum percentage of Ethiopian children per school will be 40%, follows a series of high-profile protests by members of the Ethiopian community who have accused the state of racism against them and their children for allowing what they call “Ethiopian ghettos” to exist.
Maariv reports on a new decision by Deputy Health Minister Yaacov Litzman to waive qualification exams for doctors from OECD states who wish to practice in Israel. The controversial move aims to draw new physicians into the health system, which is badly in need of additional manpower. The Israeli qualification exams are considered very stringent, with a mere 22% pass rate last year, and local practitioners are worried that waiving it would lead to a lowering of standards in the field.
Maariv runs a headline on page 13 that reads “World leaders in incomplete legislation.” The article reports that Knesset members lead the world in private members bills, with 12,725 of them filed in the past decade (compared to 582 in Britain and 155 in Finland), and argues that Israeli legislators are too trigger-happy when it comes to proposing bills that have little chance of passing into law. According to Knesset statistics, only 5% of more than 4,000 private members’ bills have become law in the past three years of the current Knesset’s rule.
Israel Hayom, on page 9, reveals the contents of the memorandum of Palestinian demands from the recent round of talks that took place in Jordan last month. According to the report, the Palestinians demanded that 98.1% of the West Bank be turned over to them, including East Jerusalem, ignoring the Israeli position on settlement blocs. A source in the Prime Minister’s Office is quoted as saying that “no agreements were reached.”
Haaretz reports on the Cabinet’s decision yesterday to pass a bill authorizing the forced hospitalization of people suffering from advanced stages of anorexia. According to the article, doctors will be free to subject anorexia patients to involuntary hospitalization in cases when their lives are in imminent and immediate danger.
The left-leaning paper also features an article about the ongoing incitement against Israel in the Palestinian media. The article quotes Nan Jacques Zilberdik, an analyst at Palestinian Media Watch, saying, “The new Palestinian generation, which watches Palestinian television, does not hear that Tel Aviv or Ashkelon are Israeli cities. It hears about occupied cities that must be liberated. There is no discourse on compromise or concessions. In the Israeli media, on the other hand, one does see such discourse.”
Eshel’s resignation generates much commentary
Haaretz columnist Yossi Verter slams Netanyahu for his weak moral stance vis-a-vis the Natan Eshel affair and predicts chaos in the country’s top office. “It is impossible to know what position Eshel will fill, if any, after he recovers from this blow. He was Netanyahu’s confidante for many years, his intrigue maker, executor, hangman and chief avenger. He was also Sara Netanyahu’s liaison and servant. Even without Eshel, the roller coaster that is the Prime Minister’s Bureau will continue on its endless, tortured ride,” he writes.
In Israel Hayom, Dan Margalit writes that though he can understand Eshel’s desire to conclude the affair as quickly and easily as possible, without causing harm or embarrassment to his family, he finds it harder to fathom why Eshel would agree to never again seek public office. “I perceive it as something akin to admitting moral turpitude,” writes Margalit.
In Yedioth Ahronoth, Sima Kadmon laments Netanyahu’s lack of support for the three senior aides who complained on the victim’s behalf to the State Attorney’s Office. “But the lack of support by the prime minister should not only trouble them, it should trouble all of us. That is not the way we would expect our prime minister to behave,” she writes.