The London Olympics have not been the kindest to Israeli athletes so far. Already one week into the Games with no medals, and it seems that the papers are losing hope.
Some expected that Israel’s best chance for an Olympic medal rested with judo master Arik Zeevi, who is participating in his last Olympics. Zeevi, the current European champion, lost his match to Dmitri Peters of Germany in under a minute, prompting the papers to lament the opportunity lost while highlighting his career.
“Leaving in tears,” reads Yedioth Ahronoth’s headline accompanied by a picture of Zeevi and his daughter after the loss. Inside, Yedioth recounts Zeevi’s career, which included four European championships and a bronze medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
“Defeat and honor,” writes Maariv and includes a picture from the end of Zeevi’s match. “Thanks, Arik,” Israel Hayom writes sympathetically, while listing Zeevi among the other Israeli athletes who have failed to bring home medals. Even Haaretz tugs at the heartstrings with their headline: “Four years of preparation, 43 seconds of battle.”
But not all the news from the Olympics is bad. As Yedioth points out in its coverage, swimmer Yaakov Toumarkin made Israeli Olympic history in Thursday’s swimming final. Twice before in Israel’s history a swimmer made it to the final but each time finished in eighth place. Toumarkin finished yesterday’s final in seventh, which thrilled everyone including his mother, who received a last-minute ticket to the event.
“You promised us medals,” reads the headline of one of Maariv’s articles about the Olympics thus far. While the title may seem a bit whiny, the paper hasn’t given up hope yet for an Israeli medal, and points to men’s gymnastics and wind surfing as possible medal opportunities for Israel.
Be afraid, be very afraid
The other front page stories for both Israel Hayom and Haaretz followed new developments on the Iranian front. Israel Hayom led with a quote from Efraim Halevy, the former head of the Mossad, who told the New York Times, “If I were an Iranian, I would be very worried for the next 12 weeks.”
Israel Hayom quotes a Bloomberg report that said Iran is losing $133 million per day since the sanctions went into effect on July 1.
Haaretz’s main headline describes new estimates that an attack on Iran would only delay Iran’s nuclear program. The article states that with current assessments, the Islamic Republic would be able to rebuild and overcome the effects of an attack within a year or two at the most. The article also states that an Israeli attack will likely not happen before the US elections in November, since it could drive up fuel prices and strain US-Israel relations.
Yedioth publishes the details of a supposed American attack plan against Iran. The graphics-heavy article shows Iranian nuclear sites on a map and fighter jets from the Persian Gulf attacking them. The paper reports that the details of the plan were given to Israel during Leon Panetta’s visit here earlier this week.
While not the calm destination it once was, some Israelis still vacation in Sinai, and to those hundreds of tourists the government issued a very urgent terror warning. “Severe travel warning: danger of kidnapping,” is Maariv’s page six headline. The paper reports that about 250 Israelis crossed the border into Sinai last week, mostly to the resort towns of Taba and Sharm el-Sheikh. The government urged all Israelis to leave Sinai immediately.
The ongoing investigation into Jerusalem Police Chief Niso Shaham continues to bring more allegations of sexual misconduct by the commander. Israel Hayom reports that Shaham is suspected to have sexually assaulted seven women under his command. Shaham’s deputy, Nisim Edry, who knew of the allegations but did not investigate them, is still on forced leave but is not expected to be prosecuted for his silence.
Elsewhere in Jerusalem, Thursday’s Gay Pride parade marked ten consecutive years that the parade was held in the capital. As Maariv reports, over 1,500 people participated in the event, including some Likud politicians. Adam Russo, who was stabbed seven years ago by a Haredi youth, told the paper, “Society has undergone an unbelievable change. We’ve achieved almost all of our goals.” Not everyone was happy about the parade, as religious and right-wing demonstrators held a rally against the pride parade.
Israel Hayom commentator Boaz Bismuth writes about Kofi Annan’s resignation in a piece titled “Good intentions shatter the new Middle East.” Bismuth writes that while Annan is not innocent in the failure to bring peace to Syria, the lion’s share of the responsibility belongs to Russia. “The Russians, even if they do not admit it, do everything so Assad will gain time… It still does not guarantee victory for Assad, but assures us of more days of fighting and hundreds of other victims.”
Bismuth balks at the idea that Assad would leave on his own. “Kofi Annan had so many good intentions just like those sitting at the UN headquarters in New York. But it’s amazing to see once again how they conduct foreign policy in our region.” Bismuth closes by stating the next UN envoy may come with more words, but what is actually needed are deeds.
Haaretz commentator Yossi Sarid asks not about Syria’s leader, but rather about Israel’s PM in his piece, “Who can replace Netanyahu.” Sarid counters the popular recent argument that there is no candidate who can replace Netanyahu as prime minister. “Have we forgotten that Golda Meir, Yitzhak Shamir, Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert, Ariel Sharon and even Netanyahu himself, were selected randomly by circumstance rather than for their qualifications?”
Sarid goes on to say that instead of new politicians entering the arena, existing politicians are just branding themselves as reborn which makes them seem new. He points to Tzachi Hanegbi, Ehud Barak and Aryeh Deri as “new” politicians who have been reborn. The phenomenon is not entirely Israeli either: he points to George W. Bush and Mitt Romney as candidates who did the same. Sarid then takes the rebirth metaphor a bit too far in his conclusion, “The rebirth is a breech birth: not head first but bottom first, and the whole world and Obama are invited in for a kiss.”