Readers of Friday’s Hebrew newspapers now have enough snow-related puns to last them until next winter. Thursday’s record snowfall in Jerusalem left motorists stranded, schoolchildren happy, and made for some pretty pictures.
Yedioth Ahronoth revels in the winter wonderland, giving four pages of coverage to the storm, complete with pictures, recommendations for snowy hiking trails, and even a winter recipe to keep warm. There’s not a whole lot of news about the snow itself, but the paper does provide a general roundup of what Israel experienced in Thursday’s storm. “Yesterday’s storm brought an abundance of floods, traffic accidents, power outages, blocked roads, and stranded motorists,” the paper writes.
Israel Hayom gives a good three pages to the newly white Jerusalem, commenting how “Jerusalemites awoke and found their city looking like a full-fledged European capital.” The paper also includes a map of how much snow cities across Israel received by Thursday. Israel’s only skiing venue, the Hermon Mountain, got 80 centimeters (about 31 inches), while of the places people actually live, Jerusalem got about 10 centimeters (about 4 inches) of the white stuff.
While Jerusalemites were having fun in the snow, the rest of the country was getting drenched, and flash flooding in the Negev caused some pretty hairy situations. Israel Hayom reports that a vehicle carrying nine children got stuck in a flash flood near Kibbutz Urim and it took the elite army rescue unit, 669, to rescue all the passengers unharmed.
Haaretz’s front-page has a rescue of another kind, that of the peace talks. While the paper has a cartoon of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara taking a selfie in the snow, it pushes the snow talk to the inner pages to focus on an aid package the EU is offering both Israel and the Palestinians. The plan, which is expected to be announced on Monday, promises both economic, political, and security assistance in exchange for signing a final status agreement.
However, Israel Hayom reports that getting to that final status agreement is harder than it seems. The paper writes that Mahmoud Abbas rejected most of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent proposals. Kerry, who is in the region again, met with Abbas Thursday night and the two discussed security arrangements and other core issues again. Earlier in the day though, Abbas told Jordanian officials that the Palestinians reject most of Kerry’s ideas. There might be a glimmer of hope though: Abbas said in a press conference after the meeting that while he was opposed to the interim agreement Kerry is seeking, he was open to a full agreement being applied in stages.
While the EU and Kerry are trying to unfreeze peace talks, Netanyahu has frozen the controversial Bedouin resettlement plan known as the Prawer Plan. Like Haaretz, Maariv pushes its snow coverage to its inner pages and instead reports on the surprise announcement by Benny Begin that the plan had been shelved. Begin sounded disappointed that the plan wouldn’t be moving through the Knesset anytime soon and blamed a misrepresentation of the facts for its failure. “The left and right, Arabs and Jews, joined together — while taking advantage of the plight of many Bedouin — to bring the situation to a boil for a political gain.” However, Begin acknowledged, “We did our best, but sometimes you have to face reality.”
Israel Hayom columnist Dan Margalit also weighs in on the canceling of the Prawer Plan, praising the legislation. “Begin brought the perfect proposal to the government,” Margalit writes and calls the shelving of the bill a “missed opportunity.” He supports the plan because most Bedouin residents want it, he says. But Margalit writes there are sectors of the Arab community that “do not want to let the Arab public reach an understanding with the state.” Margalit goes on to say that the cancellation only serves one side of the argument, but that it doesn’t serve them well. “Most Bedouin were hoping for economic and social progress that the understandings of the Prawer Plan could solve.”
Things falling down?
With all the rain that has fallen this past week, Yedioth reports that water prices may soon be falling. While the timing is coincidental, the paper writes the price hike for water that started three years ago is finally over and Israelis will be paying slightly less now for water. In 2013 prices hit their peak at 14.65 shekels per cubic meter of water (about $4.15), but they are now expected to drop slightly to 14.31 shekels (about $4.05). Part of the reason for the price decrease is a reduction in the use of the more costly desalinated water.
The head of the Jewish Home party, Naftali Bennett, is preparing for a different type of fall — that of the current coalition. Maariv reports that Bennett sent a message to Netanyahu informing the prime minister that if coalition partner Yesh Atid, headed by Finance Minister Yair Lapid, left the government Jewish Home would stay. Bennett’s message asked Netanyahu to include the ultra-Orthodox parties in a coalition if Yesh Atid leaves. The message sent fresh signs that the once close coalition partners, Jewish Home and Yesh Atid, who basically forced Netanyahu’s hand in forming the government early in 2013, are now at odds.
In the opinion pages, former cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser writes that any peace agreement with the Palestinians needs to also take into account the Golan Heights. He writes that the coming decades will most likely see a power shift in the region, with Iran being a regional power and a fractured Syrian state. Peace with Syria is not an option now, and won’t be for the foreseeable future, and Israel’s presence there will continue for a while, he says. And while security agreements are being discussed with the Palestinians for the Jordan Valley, Hauser writes that security agreements should also be discussed for the Golan Heights.
“The Golan’s topography and the absence of any effective buffer zone require certainty about Israel’s continued presence on the Golan Heights,” he writes. He concludes his piece saying, “Israel, for its part, is entitled to demand a more tangible ‘carrot’ for taking courageous decisions in this age of uncertainty.”